With all the TLC that it takes to farm and ranch regeneratively, at the end of the day, to change the food system, there must be demand for people to eat it.
That’s where Kathy Webster, TomKat Ranch Food Advocacy manager, comes in.
“Without the demand on that side, we’re not going to have people shifting their practices, nor consumers buying the food that is raised for the planet, the people and the animals,” Webster said.
To build demand equitably for all communities to have nutrient-rich food, people need to understand the importance of how their food is grown and the impact it has on the environment.
The ranch believes the biggest influence they can have in changing the food system is integrating regenerative beef into large institutions. They’re doing this through a collaborative program with other local ranchers called Beef2Institution.
“We decided to expand it to work with schools and hospitals and change that barrier that hospitals and schools face to buy from local and small to mid-sized ranchers,” Webster said.
The inspiration for the program began at La Honda Pescadero Unified School District.
Seeing their limited budget, TomKat Ranch began donating beef while Webster helped transform their menu into a scratch cooking model.
Today, Principal Kristen Lindstrom’s students at Pescadero Elementary are eating grass-fed beef in their enchiladas and organic salad from a local farm.
“We were ready to make a transition to go from those little frozen trays to scratch cooking. And luckily, TomKat was able to support us monetarily so that we could actually make that happen and get it off the ground,” Lindstrom said.
Beef2Institution’s grass-fed beef is in more than 20 schools and several hospitals including UC Davis Health. That’s where Executive Chef Santana Diaz has built the No. 1 food procurement program for sustainability in the UC system, offering organic farm-to-fork meals to patients, visitors and staff.
“You’re securing the economic bounty of your region with the way you’re procuring, but you’re supporting every job, every California job that’s associated with that,” Diaz said.
The program focuses on food as medicine, and its success has gained interest from other hospitals around the country and the federal government.
“We want to take UC Davis’ work, chef Santana Diaz’s work and spread it across the nation, because if we do, we’ll be a much healthier America,” Becerra said.
Hospitals and schools are ideal buyers for farmers and ranchers because they can count on them for consistent business.
Webster’s work in building demand is the key to integrating regenerative agriculture.
“We do that with every pound of beef we sell. We tell the story of regenerative agriculture, and connecting the consumers, the buyers, the chefs, institutions to our network of regenerative ranchers,” Webster said.