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Sep 23rd
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Briefs: To Market, to Market; Sack Attack

Specialty food conference in Watsonville, plastic bag ban roundup

To Market, to Market

County residents are spoiled for choices when it comes to shopping for specialty food products.

Numbers show the love we have for artisan breads and handcrafted cheeses is increasingly shared by consumers across the country. Americans spent $86 billion on specialty food items in 2012, a 22 percent increase over 2010—making the specialty food sector one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S., according to a 2013 report by the Specialty Food Association and Mintel.

And with such a storied history of agriculture in Santa Cruz’s South County, there might be something exciting brewing around Watsonville, amidst signs that growers and foodies are ready to take business into their own hands—and have an increasingly bigger toolbox with which to do so. Policy shifts, such as California’s 2013 cottage food law, should make life easier for people who want to go into business from their own kitchens. The cottage food law allows small-scale specialty food producers to craft certain products in their homes, enabling folks to make extra income, or build a hobby into a viable business.

These trends spell opportunity for locals who want to realize their dream of starting their own businesses, says Carmen Herrera-Mansir, who’s helping to organize a conference on May 28 in downtown Watsonville. Herrera-Mansir is the executive director of El Pajaro Community Development Corporation (CDC), a Watsonville agency that supports micro-entrepreneurs and is putting on the event, which will focus on business and marketing, and could provide platforms for entrepreneurs trying to move past the “cottage food” level. “Our role is to open up horizons for people, and to connect them to bigger markets,” she says.

El Pajaro CDC and agency partners are holding the conference and networking event for people interested in starting their own specialty-food-based business, or those who have a product and want to know how to go to market. People are invited to showcase their food products at the networking reception after the conference.

Specialty Food Conference: Micro Goes to Market will be held Wednesday, May 28, at Watsonville Civic Plaza, 275 Main Street, 4th Floor, Watsonville. 722.1224. Roseann Hernandez

Sack Attack

There are now ordinances banning plastic bags and regulating paper ones in all local jurisdictions except Scotts Valley. There, despite 76 percent support from Scotts Valley residents (according to Civinomics), city councilmembers voted down a proposed ban, 4-1, last month. Councilmembers cited concerns about the impact a possible 10 cent fee would have on people with fixed incomes, and said they would like to see what regulations, if any, state lawmakers come up with.

The state version, Senate Bill 270, passed the Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee this month, and would charge 10 cents per paper bag, while also banning plastic ones.

New Leaf customers who bring in their own bags can donate to an environmental nonprofit— thanks to the grocery store’s Envirotoken program. Voting for the token recipients runs through the month on New Leaf’s website. Jacob Pierce

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