From Hawaiian Farm Upbringing to Petaluma Community Advocate
By Sheila Bride, Petaluma Bounty Advisory Board Member
I was fortunate enough to grow up on the Parker Ranch on the Big Island of Hawaii, where we had an abundance of fresh vegetables from a farm across the street from our home. Our elementary school had a garden that we tended to, and we sold the vegetables to teachers and staff and shared what wasn’t sold. A fisherman came by every Friday with the day’s catch, and the best meats were available from the ranch market. My mother used them sparingly with an abundance of vegetables. I didn’t realize how this shaped my desire for always having fresh produce and preparing them in healthy ways.
Opening a business and getting involved
In 1989, we opened the doors to Petaluma Coffee Company with the hope that it would become a gathering spot to meet and make new friends. It was important to us to be involved in, and support the community and its many organizations.
In 2004, I joined the forums sponsored by the Hub of Petaluma Foundation. Community leaders and citizens discussed the unmet needs of the community and found that food insecurity among seniors and low-income families was a priority that had to be addressed.
A few years later, Petaluma Bounty was formed out of this collaboration, and it had strong support from the citizens and business community to move forward. Early programs included the Bounty Hunters, Community Gardens, and Bounty Boxes.
The Bounty Farm begins
In 2008, the Bounty Farm was started with the generosity of the Stonitsch family who leased the land for $1.00 a year. The 2-acre farm that continues to thrive today is an impressive display of a community that comes together to volunteer and support efforts to provide organic, affordable, and healthy food for all.
On the education front, many school-age children have visited the farm. They can see where and how fresh vegetables are grown and learn to make healthier choices. Their excitement of learning and sharing the information with their families is evident when their parents return with them to purchase the healthy produce.
I was invited to join the Board of Petaluma Bounty in 2009 and was impressed by the breadth of the programs that were underway and those under development. Bounty Hunters were gleaning excess produce from backyard gardens and fruit trees and distributing them to food pantries and low-income senior housing centers. Bounty Boxes with fresh, healthy produce were being delivered to seniors and low-income households throughout Petaluma. Community gardens were formed, bringing neighborhoods together to work and share their healthy produce. Petaluma Bounty collaborated with the Petaluma Health Center to work with children with serious health conditions who could benefit from healthier eating. All of this was exciting to me as I wanted to be a part of this great organization that promoted easier access to healthy, fresh, and affordable food.
Support farmers and food access for all
I am proud to be a part of Petaluma Bounty which continues to seek funding for better access to affordable, healthy food; works to cut down on food waste by gleaning; strives to promote healthier lifestyles; and wages an ongoing battle against food insecurity among many of our citizens.
I have tremendous respect for our small farmers who continue to grow our food despite all the economic and environmental challenges, including the shortage of water, increasingly drier conditions, and seasonal wildfires. There is a growing demand for healthier food (which is a good problem to have). So it’s important to seek ways to help farmers through these difficult times by ensuring a living wage, supporting farmer’s markets and farm stands, and Petaluma Bounty’s ongoing advocacy for food access and food justice for all!
Sheila Bride is the owner of Petaluma Coffee & Tea Company and a Petaluma Bounty Advisory Board member since 2009.
More Board Member Blog Posts
Our board members come from different backgrounds and with different personalities. But one thing is for sure: They all care deeply about our community. Read more:
- Elizabeth E on going from shy and reluctant to showing up, signing up, and building communities.
- Jessica Vann Gardner on The Why and The How of Building A Sustainable, Organic Food Community.
- Dani Lipski on starting as a Bounty volunteer and blooming into a Board Member.
- Dory Escobar on the Bounty’s work and the UN’s Zero Hunger Challenge.