Shawn Seufert, owner and farmer of Terra Bella Family Farm, spoke at Net Impact’s Sustainability Speaker Series on June 25. “Farmer Shawn” addressed a range of topics within sustainable farming, including the rise of community supported agriculture (CSA), the environmental impact of large and small scale farms, and the future of local and organic farming.
The origin story of Terra Bella Family Farm goes back to Seufert’s college days at the University of California, Santa Cruz and stealing fruit from an organic farm on campus. After a stint in sales, Seufret eventually returned to organic farming and founded Terra Bella Family Farm on a single acre of hillside in Pleasanton in 2006. Terra Bella has now blossomed into a vibrant 18 acres in Sunol, and has done so almost entirely through local, grassroots development.
“In the beginning we spent a lot of time knocking on our neighbors’ doors and back-dooring local chefs,” Seufert said. Since getting off the ground, the business model for Terra Bella has shifted, but it is still directly linked to the community. “We ask for an investment at the beginning of the season, then after harvest we deliver $25 or $30 boxes of produce to individuals, or make deliveries to restaurants and grocery stores. We started collaborating with other local farmers and minimizing risk; we’ve trimmed the acreage that we grow on so that we specialize in the crops that we grow best.”
Collaborating and community building is at the heart of Terra Bella Family Farms, Seufert told attendees. Terra Bella has established its own CSA and has partnered with seven local organic farms for the summer growing season. CSA is a vital component to locally produced food because it encourages dialogue between farmers and consumers, establishes a bond between food and the environment, and supports local business through regional food production.
“The next step is a regional food hub,” Seufert said. “Using local meats and local wines to put together a full package – to be able to collaborate with growers and establish a warehouse for packaging and distribution – that’s the vision. We would like to tie into the community any way we can.”
Seufert’s vision mirrors that of Net Impact, which strives to show the world that it’s possible to make a net impact that benefits not just the bottom line, but people and the planet as well. The School of Economics and Business Administration (SEBA) Net Impact Chapter empowers students to foster sustainability objectives and corporate social responsibility initiatives by partnering with local and global organizations, and engaging our community in projects with social and environmental impact while supporting SEBA's vision, “Think Globally. Lead Responsibly.”
Following his presentation, Farmer Shawn welcomed questions from students, offered samples, and invited attendees to get involved and pay Terra Bella a visit.