Sonoma State Alumni Tackle Sustainability, Food Security with 'Farmster'

table of vegetablesA group of Sonoma State University alumni have taken the next step in making their dream a reality with the creation of Farmster, a nonprofit dedicated to sustainable living and food security.

"When Farmster was created, we were 4 students in a garage," says Allison Jenks, Farmster's chief financial officer. The nonprofit has since expanded to a 5-acre farm in Rohnert Park's Sonoma Mountain Village and fiscal sponsorship through the Leadership Institute for Ecology and Economy. Perhaps most importantly, the idea is growing too. "At our last volunteer training, we already had 14 student volunteers," says Jenks.


Farmster began last year with a simple idea of creating an organization that would give back to the local community. The nonprofit's goal is changing the way people think about the food they eat and helping local communities gain an appreciation for the hard work that goes into growing fresh food.


"During our experiences as students, we saw the disconnect people have from the food they're eating," says Tomio Endo, executive director of Farmster. "We wanted to create a project that empowers people to reconnect with the food they're eating."


Endo and Jenks, along with fellow Sonoma State alumni Dustin DeMatteo and Jamal Edwards, created Farmster last year to help their community become more aware of what they're eating and engage in their local food systems.


During their time at Sonoma State, the four students were involved in multiple campus organizations dedicated to sustainability--something that inspired the idea for Farmster. For nearly half of her college career, Jenks served as sustainability senator in Sonoma State's Associated Students.


While at Sonoma State, Edwards was a recipient of the Growers Grant, a program that allows students to grow their own produce and sell it to Sonoma State Dining Services. Both Endo and DeMatteo were also involved in Sonoma State's Students for Sustainability Club--a role that prepared them for creating the nonprofit.


"Every person has a unique and valuable contribution to offer towards creating a better place to live," says Endo. "We want to inspire action and celebrate the potential that each person has to do their part in making our world a better place."


Farmster's latest endeavor is the launch of its Community Farm project on Feb. 19 at Sally Tomatoes in Rohnert Park's Sonoma Mountain Village. The fundraising event will feature live music, raffle prizes and food beginning at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door.


In addition to its five-acre farm, the nonprofit is creating an internship program to teach people in the community about agriculture and an education program where people can learn about health, nutrition and gardening.


"Our team carries a deep passion for doing something small but meaningful to tackle the toughest problems that we face as a community," says Endo. "The consequences of climate change continue to pose more increasingly urgent issues that we feel we must face with our community."


--Kayla Galloway

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