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Red Horse Pizza Races Away With Newest Snail of Approval

Red Horse Pizza Races Away With Newest Snail of Approval

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Red Horse Pizza, a converted horse trailer — and the source of amazing organic pizzas — is the latest recipient of a Snail of Approval from Slow Food in Sonoma County. The award is presented to restaurants and artisan producers who adhere to Slow Food’s principles of Good, Clean and Fair.

Kendra Stuffelbeam is the chef/owner who “can’t think of any other way” to make pizza other than organic … from the flour for the dough to the cheese, meats, tomatoes and veggies that top her creations. She grew up in a household with parents who served only organic foods.

The Red Horse Pizza “food truck” is parked in front of Hen House Brewery on Bellevue Avenue near Stony Point in Southwest Santa Rosa. It’s only open on weekends. The operating hours are from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Fridays; 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturdays; and noon to 8 p.m. Sundays.

Kendra and her husband Nathan and Stuffelbeam converted a plain white, 1990s-era stock trailer into the cherry-red pizza kitchen in 2011. They gutted it, installed a propane gas oven, countertops, a serving window, sinks, a refrigerator, glass windows, solar panels and back-up batteries. Her pizza menu changes with the seasons and she scribes the day’s offerings on the chalkboard next to the ordering window. Your finished pies are delivered to one of the many tables under the gazebo in front of Hen House Brewery.

Red Horse Pizza joins eight other Sonoma County restaurants in receiving Snails of Approval in the program’s inaugural year. You can learn more about all the recipients at the Snail of Approval website.  And if you think one of your favorite restaurants should receive a Snail, encourage the owner/chef/manager to apply on the same website.

The pastries at Pâtisserie Angelica are made by hand and from scratch with organic ingredients and no artificial colors. They taste delicious and look like works of art.

Adieu to Sebastopol’s Pâtisserie Angelica

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Condra Easley is the pastry chef. Her older sister, Debbie Morris, keeps the books, runs the front end of the house, and does the all-important decor for the popular fondant cakes. Together they have owned and operated Pâtisserie Angelica in Sonoma County for 24-years.

Now, the two sisters are selling their business, moving to the South of France and fulfilling a lifelong dream. After decades of hard work, demanding schedules and close community ties they’re looking forward to a change of pace and retirement.

The sisters and their pâtisserie were recently awarded a Snail of Approval from Slow Food in Sonoma County, a joint project of two chapters, Slow Food Sonoma County North and Slow Food Russian River.

Angelica is the first bakery in Sonoma County to receive a Snail of Approval for its adherence to the Slow Food values of “good, clear and fair.”

Pâtisserie Angelica is located at 6821 Laguna Park Way, near the heart of Sebastopol and in easy walking distance from shops and stores on Main Street and around the plaza. Open Thursday – Sunday, 10am-5pm.

Pâtisserie Angelica is located at 6821 Laguna Park Way, near the heart of Sebastopol and in easy walking distance from shops and stores on Main Street and around the plaza. Open Thursday – Sunday, 10am-5pm.

For the first ten years Pâtisserie Angelica was located in Santa Rosa, and for the past fourteen years in Sebastopol, which the sisters have come to think of as home. They now live on the outskirts of Santa Rosa.

For years, Debbie served on the board of the Sebastopol Farmer’s Market and also on the steering committee for Cittaslow Sebastopol, the local chapter of the global organization whose mission it is to slow down the pace of urban living and encourage the preservation of local values.

“Sebastopol people really care about food,” Condra told me a few days before Easter, one of the busiest times of the year for the pâtisserie.

She added, “People here care what their kids eat. They also understand why we don’t use artificial flavors and colors and have no GMO products in our products.”

The word pâtisserie hardly needs translation, but for those unfamiliar with French, it means “pastry shop.”

Years ago, shops in France with a sign in the window that said, “pâtisserie,” meant that pastries were made in the traditional way. For croissants, that means the dough is folded again and again and again. It’s hard physical work.

Condra says that on her most recent visit to France (in 2018) she looked for the “pâtisserie” signs in shop windows and didn’t see them.

The vanished signs are signs of the times.

The pâtisserie is named after their mother Angelica who was a great baker the sisters remember fondly.

Pâtisserie Angelica sources local, organic, seasonal ingredients. The butter comes from Petaluma Creamery and the eggs from organic, pasture-raised chickens in Two Rock.

Angelica doesn’t use palm oil, though it’s the most widely used, inexpensive vegetable oil on the planet. In much of the tropical world, where rainforests are destroyed, palm trees are planted and cultivated in their place.

The environmental devastation has decimated much of the Orangutan population in Borneo.

“I’m a big fan of Orangutans,” Condra says.

She and Debbie are also big fans of the Earth itself. They compost, reuse, recycle, and waste little if anything in their shop.

The Snail of Approval certificate from Slow Food is displayed at the front counter of Pâtisserie Angelica. It means the world to Condra Easley and Debbie Morris who have lived and worked in accord with the philosophy and the principles of Slow Food.

The Snail of Approval certificate from Slow Food is displayed at the front counter of Pâtisserie Angelica. It means the world to Condra Easley and Debbie Morris who have lived and worked in accord with the philosophy and the principles of Slow Food.

Pastry and cake lovers—as well as fans of chocolate truffles, chocolate cakes and almond croissants—might visit the pâtisserie before Condra and Debbie hang up their aprons, pack their bags and begin a new life in France, around coming October.

Pâtisserie Angelica offers a wide array of pastries made in accord with French traditions and techniques that Condra learned in Paris from pastry masters. The pastries satisfy the sweetest of sweet teeth, but they’re not too sweet.

Pâtisserie Angelica offers a wide array of pastries made in accord with French traditions and techniques that Condra learned in Paris from pastry masters. The pastries satisfy the sweetest of sweet teeth, but they’re not too sweet.

“When we retire,” Condra explained, “I hope people in Sonoma County will say, ‘Remember those two sisters!’”

Indeed, that seems likely.

Their pastry shop is legendary in Sonoma County food circles.

Locals come for the pâtisserie’s “high tea,” which is inspired by the English version, but transformed into what the sisters call “West County” style. That means that their “high tea” starts earlier in the day than it normally would in, say, London, or in Paris, where high tea might mean champagne, live music and a chef’s trolley loaded with more sweets than a human could eat in an afternoon.

Still, there are English-style cucumber sandwiches and warm cream current scones at Angelica. West county high tea is served Thursday to Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm. Reservations are necessary.

“We have high standards and we’re picky and demanding, but we’re not mean to our employees and we pay everyone a living wage,” Condra said. “When they work more than forty-hours a week they’re paid overtime.”

Maggie Cortez, the lead baker, trained at the Culinary Arts Department of Santa Rosa Junior College and worked previously at a shop that made only cupcakes.

“Maggie is the baker of all things wonderful,” Condra said.

Condra Easley was born and raised in Iowa. As a young woman, she went to France and worked in pâtisseries, often without pay. She has been making cakes and pasties in the U.S. for decades, for the last 24 years at her Pâtisserie Angelica. A Francophile, she has a European sensibility.

Condra Easley was born and raised in Iowa. As a young woman, she went to France and worked in pâtisseries, often without pay. She has been making cakes and pasties in the U.S. for decades. A Francophile, she has a European sensibility.

There is no corn syrup at Pâtisserie Angelica and nothing much from far away, though Angelica imports unbaked croissants from Normandy, made with French butter that taste the way croissants are supposed to taste: billowy and buttery.

In the spacious kitchen at Angelica, the imported croissants are sliced open, dipped in simple syrup, filled with an almond-based cream and transformed into something new and different.

Christmas is the busiest time of the year for Angelica. Then comes Easter, followed by Valentine’s Day, when lovers want chocolate. Then there’s the Fourth of July when pies, made with peaches from Sonoma County’s Dry Creek, are one of the main attractions.

Condra doesn’t absolutely love pies, but she makes them with love and customers keep coming back for more.

June is big for weddings and that means wedding cakes. The pâtisserie also makes cakes for baby showers, corporate events, bar and bat mitzvahs and quinceañeras, celebrations of a girl’s fifteenth birthday, which are big in the Latino community.

The two sisters, who now seem inseparable, were born and raised in Iowa, where tasty, wholesome bread and genuine French pastries were difficult if not impossible to find.

As a young woman, Debbie Morris became a potter and worked in clay. Then she became a ski instructor in Aspen, Colorado, where she specialized in teaching women how to ski. She says that the training she provided helped to empower them.

As a young woman, Debbie Morris became a potter and worked in clay. Then she became a ski instructor in Aspen, Colorado, where she specialized in teaching women how to ski. She says that the training she provided helped to empower them.

As young women, they went separate ways. Debbie worked with clay as a potter and then became a ski instructor in Aspen, Colorado where she taught women how to navigate snow-covered slopes.

“I helped to empower them,” she said.

Condra worked in France as an apprentice baker. Her resume is two-pages long. Notably, she learned skills and techniques from Monsieur Pierre Hermé, who was awarded the title “Best Pastry Chef in the World” in 2016.

“He’s a real innovator,” Condra said. “I still look up to him.”

When she first arrived in Paris, Condra wrote to Hermé and explained that she wanted to learn the art of making pastries. When she phoned him, he told her to start the very next day.

“I was the only female in the kitchen,” Condra remembered. “I had to change from street clothing into whites in the broom closet. That was in 1986. I had been married with a husband. Now, I was young, single, free and in Paris.”

There’s still a “je ne sais quoi,” about her as the French might say.

The colorful tablecloth made in France, is a constant reminder to both Condra and Debbie that they’re on the brink of moving to France and settling there. It’s a longtime dream and it’s finally coming true.

The colorful tablecloth made in France, is a constant reminder to both Condra and Debbie that they’re on the brink of moving to France and settling there. It’s a longtime dream and it’s finally coming true.

At Monsieur’s Hermé shop, Condra kept her mouth shut and her eyes wide open.

“I was there to learn their way,” she explained. She made dough and turned it into tarts and puff pastries.

“I worked for free for sixteen-months,” she added.

Then she found a paying job at a place that only made brioches and where her employer didn’t speak a word of English. Her French was rudimentary.

She was also undocumented, and might have run afoul of the authorities for working without a permit.

Now, after all these years, she looks back at those days with a certain sense of nostalgia.

She’s also as much in love with France as ever.

“Yes, I’m a Francophile,” Condra said. “It’s pathetic. I think I was French in a previous life.”

When the sisters first came to Sebastopol from Santa Rosa, it seemed sleepy. But it grew on them, much as they grew on the town.

Debbie said, “We threw ourselves into the world of farmers markets and the farm-to-table-movement.”

Condra added, “There’s no point doing farm-to-table if you fall down on desserts.” Indeed, she’s made desserts a passion.

“We ‘ve had ups and downs,” Debbie said. “But having each other is the most amazing thing. I have enjoyed working with Condra’s creativity.

Alex, Condra’s 27-year-old son, works hard at Pâtisserie Angelica and plays an indispensible role at the patisserie. He carries on French traditions and techniques that his mother learned in Paris.

Alex, Condra’s 27-year-old son, works hard and plays an indispensible role at the pâtisserie. He carries on French traditions and techniques that his mother learned in Paris.

Some of Condra’s creativity rubbed off on her son Alex who was raised in the world of baking and who now works at the pâtisserie.

“I was in my baby basket and my mother would be making pastries,” Alex said. He’s definitely at home in a place that has brought genuine French pastry to Sonoma County, though he probably won’t continue as a baker when he moves to San Diego.

In retirement, Condra hopes to write her memoirs and include recipes. The working title is “The Pastry Apprentice in Paris.” Debbie plans to “poodle around” in her garden. The two sisters expect to visit UNESCO sites and Cittaslow Cities in Europe.

“It will be hard for someone to do what I’ve been doing at Pâtisserie Angelica,” Condra said. “But some things are attainable.” She added, “We’d love the space to continue to be a pâtisserie. ”

So would legions of loyal Sonoma County fans.

Pâtisserie Angelica 707-827-7998 6821 Laguna Park Way, Sebastopol, California 95472

Jonah Raskin at Pâtisserie Angelica

Jonah Raskin is the author of Field Days: A Year of Farming, Eating and Drinking Wine in California, and a member of Slow Food Russian River’s Media Team. The photos are his.

He learned heaps from talking to Condra and Debbie. He left Pâtisserie Angelica with a beautiful chocolate cake and two croissants. He ate one of the croissants immediately. The other items made it home with him. He enjoyed them later in the day.

The Rebirth of The Naked Pig: Culinary Adventures with Dalia Martinez and Jason Sakach

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Dalia Martinez and Jason Sakach, owners of the Snail of Approval restaurant The Naked Pig, have long been movers and shakers in the local food world. The Santa Rosa couple started with pop-up dinners where they also showed movies and played music with help from a DJ. Then, at the Santa Rosa Farmers Market they cooked and served breakfast and lunch under the banner, “Guerilla Foods.”

At about the same time, I met them at an event in Sebastopol where they were the caterers. The food they prepared was plentiful and beautiful.

Then, in 2013, Martinez and Sakach took a culinary leap forward and opened The Naked Pig at 435 Santa Rosa Avenue in a tiny space that had been the ticket office for Greyhound.

No wonder, Martinez described it to me as “a little shack of a place.”

Indeed, on my first visit, I saw that the kitchen was so small there was barely enough room for two people to turn around at the same time. Still, the size didn’t prevent The Pig from attracting loyal fans and receiving a Snail of Approval from Slow Food in Sonoma County. Indeed, it met the Slow Food criteria of good, clean and fair: food that is delicious and healthy, grown sustainably with fair wages for workers in the food chain.

Jose Ariaza, the sous-chef, cooking in the tiny kitchen at The Naked Pig. When he’s not making food at work, he cooks for his own family.

Jose Ariaza, the sous-chef, cooking in the tiny kitchen at The Naked Pig. When he’s not making food at work, he cooks for his own family.

The dining room at The Naked Pig is slightly bigger than the kitchen, but still tiny by comparison with the three dining areas at Dierk’s Parkside Cafe across the street where breakfast and lunch is served.

Customers could sit indoors or outdoors at The Naked Pig, and, while outdoors worked well in good weather, it didn’t work well in bad weather. Even Naked Pig regulars didn’t want to sit outside and brave the cold and the rain.

I know. I was a regular. I always sought an inside seat and asked for hot coffee and a biscuit to warm body and soul.

The pint-sized restaurant made up for what it lacked in space by serving uncommonly good food made from ingredients sourced locally from farmers and ranchers dedicated to growing organic produce and raising organic chickens and pigs.

With a name like The Naked Pig, there had to be a reliable source of first-rate pork. For a pastured-raised product, The Pig relied on Devils Gulch in Marin County.

Seating was communal at The Pig, and service was professional. Sakach was often in the dining room, while Martinez was often behind the scenes in the kitchen, though her presence was felt almost everywhere from the presentation of the food to the fresh-cut flowers on the tables.

Jason Sakach has been the link between the Naked Pig kitchen and the dining room. The menu seems perfectly clear to regulars, not so to newcomers. Here, Sakach explains the basics to a customer.

Jason Sakach has been the link between the Naked Pig kitchen and the dining room. The menu seems perfectly clear to regulars, not so to newcomers. Here, Sakach explains the basics to a customer.

In 2016, their culinary journey took them to 640 Fifth Street in Santa Rosa, where they opened Flower + Bone. The menu offered an array of dishes that originated in Eastern Europe and in Central and Southeast Asia. They have included a California version of Saag Paneer, the Indian classic made with spinach and cheese, and Nepalese-style dumplings known as “Momo.”

Now, Martinez and Sakach are once again on the move. This time, they’re going uptown to 544 Mendocino Avenue. There, The Naked Pig will be reborn, while the old Naked Pig closes its doors for good. While the new site is only eight-tenths of a mile from the old site and a third of a mile from Flower + Bone, it feels like a journey into another world.

Martinez and Sakach describe the old Pig as “1.0” and the new Pig as “2.0.” It might not be an actual quantum leap, but it has all the earmarks of a radical change.

For one thing, Martinez and Sakach own the building at 544. That’s a first and it’s big. With ownership, they both say comes the real possibility of running a sustainable business. Not surprisingly, Martinez and Sakach are stoked, though they were distraught that they were forced to leave the space they rented at 435 Santa Rosa Avenue.

Entrepreneur Eric Anderson scooped up 435, along with the adjacent property that was occupied for years by the seedy Astro Motel that now looks like an outpost of Beverly Hills or La Jolla.

Anderson’s partner, Liz Hinman, is the chef at The Spinster Sisters, an upscale restaurant just a block away from the Astro, and within walking distance of the newly reconfigured Old Courthouse Square at the heart of downtown Santa Rosa.

With a square to rival the plazas in Healdsburg and Sonoma, Santa Rosa might offer their tasting rooms and restaurants competition for tourist dollars.

Hinman and Anderson spent $10 million to renovate and remodel the Astro. Financially speaking, Martinez and Sakach aren’t in same league, nor is The Naked Pig, which might not look appetizing to elite guests at the Astro who pay $160 a night, and more, for a room.

For good reason, Sakach has been troubled about the gentrification of a neighborhood that he came to love.

On the cusp of the big move uptown, Martinez spoke of The Naked Pig, as “her baby.” Losing it, she added, would be “unacceptable.”

Fortunately, the property at 544 Mendocino came on the market at the right time and the right price. A modest bank loan, along with savings and the deal was done.

The space had long been occupied by El Capitan, a Mexican restaurant owned and operated for nearly one-quarter-of-a-century by Luis Castaneda. Fortunately, it has a bathroom, a kitchen and a dining room, though they’ll all be renovated

Large windows look out on Mendocino Avenue and the Unitarian Church across the street.

Before it was El Capitan, it was Evelyn Cheatham’s Tweets where one could eat some of the best downhome, Southern-inflected cooking anywhere in Sonoma County. (Cheatham went on to found WOW, Worth our Weight, our unique local non-profit that trains at-risk young adults to be food industry professionals and place them into jobs.)

El Capitan closed

El Capitan, the Mexican restaurant that sat for years at 544 Mendocino Avenue, was owned and operated by Luis Castaneda. Before El Capitan, it was Tweets, which served southern-style cooking that set the bar very high for good food.

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At the new Pig, Martinez and Sakach will aim for the culinary skies, even as they mean to stay close to the ground in a neighborhood in which they feel very much at home. It’s in walking distance of the house where they live, and just a short bicycle ride away.

Martinez grew up not far from 544 Mendocino. As a girl, she did arts and crafts at the Church of the Incarnation at 550 Mendocino, her grandmother’s favorite house of worship near the end of her life.

Sakach was raised in half-a-dozen places all over Santa Rosa, though he remembers a specific house that burned down last fall in Coffey Park.

The new Naked Pig will have a larger kitchen than the kitchen at the old Naked Pig. The new dining area will also be larger than the indoor seating area at the old Naked Pig, though the total number of seats will be about the same. No one will have to sit outdoors.

(There are plans to develop the space at the back of the restaurant.)

Sakach divides his time between The Naked Pig, Flower + Bone and the location for the new restaurant at 544 Mendocino Avenue. He stays in close contact with the craftsmen and carpenters on the job

Sakach divides his time between The Naked Pig, Flower + Bone and the location for the new restaurant at 544 Mendocino Avenue. He stays in close contact with the craftsmen and carpenters on the job

The farm-to-table concept will carry over. Purveyors will still be local and ingredients will be fresh, local and seasonal.

The Naked Pig's No tipping PolicyThe no tipping policy, which was adopted in 2017, will be in the new place. That means twenty-percent is added to each bill. No tipping, Sakach says, is the wave of the future.

Sous-chef Jose Ariaza, who has been cooking for years at the original Naked Pig, will take his culinary skills to the new Naked Pig. He’ll have a new stove from Bakers Pride that specializes in baking, cooking and pizza equipment.

When asked how he felt about the move, Ariaza smiled and said “Awesome.”

Like Martinez and Sakach, he has come a long way in a short time. He got his start as a cook at his father’s food truck in Windsor. Now, when he’s not cooking at The Naked Pig, he’s cooking at home for his family. Martinez calls him “my rock.”

She and Sakach are now remodeling El Capitan with help from craftsmen, some of them family friends. The walls, which have been covered with colorful murals that depict Mexican scenes and themes, will be repainted.

[In a Mexican restaurant, the murals made sense, but not in a farm to table restaurant like The Naked Pig that emphasizes the local. Martinez and Sakach have taken photos of the wall to preserve the historical record.

[In a Mexican restaurant, the murals made sense, but not in a farm to table restaurant like The Naked Pig that emphasizes the local. Martinez and Sakach have taken photos of the wall to preserve the historical record.

Sakach is building new tables; a potter is making new ceramic fixtures, and there will be refurbished chairs from an old bar in San Francisco.

The Naked Pig – Santa Rosa Then, too, the big, bold Naked Pig sign will be redesigned, repainted and installed anew.

Sakach says that the new space will have “an industrial look and an antique feeling.”

I’m curious to see the new improved Naked Pig. I’m also eager to taste the food at 544 Mendocino. Will it be the same? Or will it taste different? The new location might alter the sensory experience. Wouldn’t that be lovely!

Paul Swenson, who lives in Santa Rosa and who travels far and wide for his work, has long been a big fan of The Naked Pig. As a producer of food-TV programs, he looks at the restaurant with a critical eye.

“Their intentionality rivals the best in the business,” Swenson told me. He added, “And I’ve eaten in restaurants with Michelin stars.” He wasn’t boasting; just stating the facts.

The new, expanded Pig probably won’t receive a Michelin star. Still, for many Santa Rosa residents and Slow Food members, it will continue to be a Snail of Approval star in the culinary sky.

Sakach says that 544 will be his and Martinez’s “final destination.” But that remains to be seen.

Have the changes in their lives and their work taught them anything?

“We learned to deal with stress in a healthy way,” Martinez told me. “The key was not to be desperate and not to be afraid to express what we wanted.”

My first waffle at the old Naked Pig was also my last waffle there. I had to try it before the big move from 435 Santa Rosa Avenue to 544 Mendocino.

My first waffle at the old Naked Pig was also my last waffle there. I had to try it before the big move from 435 Santa Rosa Avenue to 544 Mendocino.

Jonah Raskin with his first and last waffle at The Naked Pig 1.0 Jonah Raskin is the author of Field Days: A Year of Farming, Eating and Drinking Wine in California. He is also a member of Slow Food Russian River and has covered the Snail of Approval program of Slow Food in Sonoma County for the Bohemian.

Marianna Gardenhire and Daniel Kedan, owners of Backyard

Slow Food in Sonoma County Launches Snail of Approval

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Healdsburg, CA (November 6, 2017) – Snail of Approval Launch. Fans of delicious food who are also concerned about social and environmental responsibility now have help when selecting a place to dine in Sonoma County. Slow Food in Sonoma County launched a new program, the Snail of Approval.

Seven restaurants from across the county received the first Snail of Approval awards:

“We’re delighted to recognize this initial group of restaurants that don’t settle for ordinary in the way they source their food, prepare their menus or run their businesses,” said Brad Whitworth, a member of the Slow Food Russian River board and of the Snail of Approval Committee, who presented the awards.

After a brief ceremony, the Snail-approved restaurant chefs served bites of their restaurant specialties to the crowd of more than 60, who attended the November 1 launch at the Modern Grange at Healdsburg SHED. To accompany the bites, Ethic Ciders, Jardesca California Aperitiva, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Thumbprint Cellars and Tilted Shed poured tastes of their artisanal beverages.

The program is a collaboration between two Slow Food chapters, Slow Food Russian River and Slow Food Sonoma County North. A joint committee evaluates establishments based on the Slow Food principles of Good, Clean and Fair food. Some of the criteria include: seasonal ingredients and menus; sustainable ingredients sourced from local producers; humane treatment of people and animals; investment in fair labor practices; and green business practices like composting and recycling.

Each restaurant went through an approval process that included a detailed questionnaire, followed by a rigorous interview and on-site review conducted by a team of three Slow Food volunteers. Each evaluator independently rated the restaurant, before arriving at a collective score.

Carol Diaz, the program committee lead, says the organization plans to add other restaurants and expand to include artisan producers and farms. “We’re looking forward to educating eaters about the benefits of Good, Clean and Fair food by engaging the entire Sonoma County foodshed in a comprehensive program.”