In August 2007, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors authorized the Department of Health Services to convene a Health Action Council (called “Health Action“} to work on improving the health of all Sonoma County residents. As one of 7 initiatives recommended by Health Action, the Department partnered with Ag Innovations Network, the Redwood Empire Food Bank and the Ag Commissioner’s Office to convene the “Sonoma County Food “System Alliance (SCFSA}.

The Sonoma County Food System Alliance is part of a California network of county Alliances and State Roundtables that foster consensus actions and policy recommendations from food and agriculture stakeholders. For more information, please visit the SCFSA website at


The Sonoma County Food System Alliance envisions a county in which everyone has access to affordable, nutritious food. Local farms and operations play a primary role in producing that food. Each part of the food system, from seed to table and back to soil, is environmentally regenerative, economically viable, and supports a healthy life for all members of our community.


The Sonoma County Food System Alliance engages diverse stakeholders: food producers and distributors, food security organizations, public health advocates, and other community stakeholders. These stakeholders work collaboratively to envision, advocate for, and create a vibrant local food system in Sonoma County that increases the viability of agriculture and access to healthy food in our community.


The following goals date from the formative years of the Food System Alliance, 2009-2010. They informed our work on the Food Action Plan, which supersedes them, but are included here for informational and historic purposes.

  1. Food Security and Access: Assure that residents are food secure and have access to sufficient affordable, healthful, fresh food
  2. Food and Agricultural Literacy: Assure that residents of all ages are food literate. They have 1) awareness of local and global implications of their food choices, and 2) skills and knowledge to acquire or grow, prepare, cook and preserve healthy food
  3. Demand for Locally Produced Food: Increase the demand for healthful, locally-produced food
  4. Local Markets and Production: Expand local markets and food production in order to provide consumers with nutritious foods produced and processed as close to home as possible, and create a resilient food system for all citizens of Sonoma County
  5. Local Distribution and Processing: Assure Sonoma County has a local distribution and processing system that effectively connects local producers, manufacturers, processors, vendors, and consumers
  6. Economic Viability: Assure that farming and food system work are economically viable, respected occupations
  7. Opportunities for Food System and Farm Workers: Assure meaningful livelihoods and opportunities for all food system and farm workers
  8. Environmental Impacts: Assure that local agriculture, food production, distribution, consumption and disposal are part of a food system that regenerates nature


The following criteria will be used to help identify priority food system issues and determine FSA actions and advocacy:

  1. Significant Impact. The issue has potential to significantly impact the food system and the health of our people, environment, and economy.
  2. Achievable: Realistic Scope and Scale. The scope and scale of the issue offer opportunities for feasible and effective local solutions. There is reasonable access to resources needed.
  3. Mobilizes Community Resources. Working on this issue can leverage strategic opportunities, partnerships, and new or existing organizations to align community resources for action.
  4. Significant Alignment Across Stakeholders. Stakeholders can work to achieve common recommendations and approach on this issue.
  5. Community Commitment to System Change. This issue generates and/or builds on a high level of community interest, receptivity, engagement, and commitment to create lasting, systemic change.
  6. Policy Impact. This issue creates opportunities for local, statewide, or national advocacy for policy and systems change to support a vibrant and resilient local food system.


The Sonoma County Food System Alliance uses consensus as its decision-making process. Consensus decision-making strives to reach an agreement among a majority of members and alleviate the objections of the minority to achieve the most agreeable decision. Thus, consensus is reached when all members agree to a decision, and each group member can support the decision, whether or not he or she prefers the decision, because all voices were heard and it was reached fairly and openly. 


SCFSA members agree to the following principles of engagement:

  • ­  Cultivate relationships across stakeholder groups and partners
  • ­  Encourage innovative and creative thinking
  • ­  Strive for a holistic and long-term solutions that honor the overarching purpose and goals of the SCFSA


Regular meetings of the SCFSA shall be held approximately ten times a year, alternating between Sebastopol and Santa Rosa. If an extra meeting is desired, the Alliance will schedule the meeting when desired by the Alliance. Meeting notices and goals will be distributed in the week prior to the scheduled meeting. Meeting notes will be posted for members in the week after the meeting.

Committees are formed based on the goals and objectives of the SCFSA. Committees work to develop specific objectives, actions and decisions in the SCFSA’s identified priority areas. The Coordinating Committee provides the leadership functions for planning and running Alliance meetings. A Membership Committee is active late summer and fall/winter. Committees develop their own structure and notes are kept from each meeting.

Committee members are jointly responsible for carrying out agreed upon actions as well as gathering feedback from full Alliance and broader community and networks. Committee members can be non-Alliance members who are key stakeholders in the issues of that committee.


Alliance Composition

­Alliance Member Criteria

  • Demonstrate the ability to engage in the Alliance’s activities, to commit adequate time to the Alliance, to engage in respectful dialogue, and to help move the Alliance’s initiatives forward.
  • Commit to the conditions set forth in the Membership Agreement Form (Appendix B)

­Member Responsibilities

The effective functioning of the SCFSA is absolutely dependent on the commitment and regular participation of its members. The SCFSA works only because its members voluntarily commit themselves to making it work. Each member will complete a Membership Agreement Form upon joining the Alliance, agreeing to 

  • Support the vision, purpose, and goals of the Alliance
  • Attend at least 8 SCFSA meetings per year
  • Inform the Facilitator/Coordinator if unable to attend regularly scheduled meetings
  • Actively participate on at least one SCFSA Committee or serve as a meeting facilitator, host or note taker
  • Engage in FSA meetings using agreed upon principles and actively work toward SCFSA goals
  • Champion the Food Action Plan and represent the Alliance in the broader community

­Friends of the Alliance:

The SCFSA shall maintain a pool of associate members – non-participatory but interested and supportive individuals who provide needed expertise, expand the diversity of the group, and connect necessary allies and resources.

These individuals will be selected by consensus of sitting membership and will not be subject to membership requirements. This list/group is called the “Friends of the “Sonoma County Food “System Alliance”.

Friends of the SCFSA will receive Alliance meeting notices, notes and other communications

Friends of the Alliance Criteria:

  • Former members that cannot attend meetings regularly
  • Active committee members (past or present)
  • Involved or expert community members

­Stakeholder Group Identification:

The Sonoma County Food System Alliance membership shall consist of primary stakeholder groups that have an active interest in and commitment to SCFSA vision, purpose and goals.

Ideally, membership should consist of representation from the primary stakeholder groups, including: Access/food security, ag support, community/civic, conservation, education, fisheries, food service, retail outlets, health, processing and distribution, production agriculture (including farming and ranching), urban food, food system workforce (labor)

Members will self-select primary and secondary (when possible) stakeholder groups. Secondary stakeholder group identification will be renewed/revisited in January of each year.

­Representing Individually or Organizationally (alternates):

Members may represent themselves as individuals or their organization, depending on their role.

Members may represent more than one organization on the Alliance.


  • Can attend to take notes/report back to member or organization but do not vote or

participate as ‘active’ members

  • Can step in immediately as an interim member if primary member must step down. Then, at appropriate time, alternates will go through application process for annual onboarding.

Guest Policy

Meetings are to remain open to guests with the following expectations:

  • Guests are welcome as observers (the SCFSA welcomes feedback after the meeting)
  • Guests are also welcome as invited speakers or to share/participate and provide expertise on relevant topics.
  • Prior notice is given to facilitator.

Alliance New Member Process

  • The SCFSA will complete an annual membership review process each fall. New members will be accepted only via the annual membership process. Additions may be considered at other times to replace members who resign or are removed.
  • Prospective members must attend at least one meeting prior to making mutual decisions about membership.
  • New members must be approved by consensus.
  • Each new member will be assigned a buddy, who will:
    • Review with them the SCFSA Charter, Food Action Plan and other major Alliances processes and projects to help them become a successful Alliance member
    • Remind new members of the importance of the on-boarding process
    • Give them a feel for the culture of the Alliance, so that they may respect the softer values and practices not articulated in this document, but which affect our working together.
    • Help them prepare to be an effective contributing member of the Alliance.

Alliance New Member Process


­Bringing On Board a Member Returning After Time Away From the Alliance. 

  • A buddy is assigned to provide an overview of the current Alliance work by directing  them to the current roster and relevant materials including minutes from the last several meetings. 
  • The buddy checks in with them before and after their first 3 meetings back to answer any questions
  • The membership receives notice beforehand that they are rejoining (including member background)
  • Returning members introduce themselves at the meeting and share their motivation for coming back to the Alliance. 

Annual Membership Process & Schedule (Timing may vary some years depending on the work the Alliance is engaged with)


  • Discussion about prospective new members; review of stakeholder representation and membership information
  • Prospective members are sent Membership Overview and attend as guests (see Guest Policy). Sharing the value of the FSA and Charter
  • Nominating member/buddy follows-up with prospective member before and after fall meetings to discuss any questions


Prospective members attend as guests, as above


Prospective members attend as guests, as above


Officially bring on board new members

All members sign membership agreement



A member who misses 3 meetings in a calendar year, without having informed the SCFSA Facilitator/Coordinator prior to their absence, and without having taken the time to inform themselves of the groups actions and activities shall be considered to have resigned. The SCFSA membership may decide on a case-by-case basis when to remove an inactive member from the roster. A member who is deemed by the core group to have failed to live up to the purpose and principles of the SCFSA Charter may be terminated by group consensus, less the affected member. Membership may be voluntarily terminated by submission of a letter of resignation to the SCFSA by submission to the SCFSA Facilitator/Coordinator or Coordinating Committee.



A consensus decision-making process at a regularly scheduled meeting of the SCFSA may amend this Charter provided the proposed amendments have been distributed to the full membership at least 5 working days prior to the meeting at which they will be considered for action.

Appendix A: Sonoma County Food System Alliance


Sonoma County Food System Alliance members will identify commonly held beliefs on an ongoing basis and populate this section as determined.

  1. We believe that all people in our community should have access to enough affordable, healthy, fresh and culturally appropriate food.
  2. We believe that community members benefit by understanding how their food choices impact their own health, the health of the community and world at large.
  3. We believe that healthy food and agriculture sectors are central to the long-term vitality of the local economy and community.
  4. We believe that farming and food system work should be economically viable and respected occupations.
  5. We believe that local agriculture, food production, distribution, consumption and food waste management should work in a way that regenerates nature.


While most SCFSA decisions will occur during meetings, some time-sensitive items may arise and require decisions between meetings. This process will require the following actions:

  1. Email to entire group outlining background and requested decision
  2. State the following in the email subject line: FSA: [insert topic] Please Respond by [insert date]
  3. Provide timeline for responses in the body of the email
  4. Decision made by passive consent. For this purpose, passive consent is assumed if SCFSA members don’t respond with objections to the proposed decision or action item. In other words, a non-response indicates approval.



SCFSA Members

­Attend SCFSA meetings. Share insight, provide knowledge, and work toward Alliance goals. Participate in committees. Represent SCFSA to the broader community, food system stakeholders and local policy and decision- makers. Provide innovative thinking, leadership and proactive engagement in furthering the Alliance vision and goals.

At meetings, members share the work of facilitation, note taking, and hospitality.

Co-Facilitators develop the detailed agenda, send out the meeting reminder with meeting goals and topics,  and send out and/or handout documents necessary for the meeting. At the meeting they share the tasks of guiding the conversation, keeping track of time, and recording on flipchart or whiteboard. Co-facilitators meet with the coordinating committee to develop goals for the upcoming meeting.

NoteTaker takes notes, reviews them and formats them after the meeting, and sends them out the week following the meeting. 

Host brings snacks to the meeting, arriving early to help with room arrangement, and staying late if necessary to assist with re-arrangement and clean-up. 

Coordinating Committee

Between full meetings meets to review any concerns or procedural matters which need the attention of the full meeting and set goals for the next meeting’s agenda. Currently meets the first Thursday morning of the month. 

Membership Committee

Convenes every late summer to guide the membership review and recruitment process as described in this charter. The committee would like to enhance member development, and find a variety of ways to hear the voices that are not represented on the SCFSA. Meets as needed.   

Policy Committee 

Currently in a process of redevelopment.