Don Weden: Santa Clara County must prevent remaining farmlands from being developed - San Jose Mercury News

Before it became Silicon Valley, the Santa Clara Valley was widely known as the Valley of Heart's Delight for its idyllic setting, the vast orchards and farms that carpeted the valley, and the fragrant fruit tree blossoms that perfumed the air in the springtime.

Although agriculture is no longer the county's primary industry, food and farmlands issues remain as important today as they were back when most of our residents derived their livelihoods from farming and related industries.

The situation today is a classic good news/bad news story. The good news includes greater public awareness of the need to eat healthier foods, and our increased access to fresh, healthy produce and meals. The bad news is that hunger and food insecurity persist; that fresh, healthy, affordable foods are not available in all of our neighborhoods; and that some of our remaining farmlands are threatened by development.

Buying fresh and buying local: The popularity of farmers markets shows that many of our residents value the flavors of fresh, locally-grown produce. That preference is mirrored in the increasing number of restaurants that feature locally-sourced ingredients.

Nutrition, hunger and food insecurity: Most of us take convenient access to food for granted. But, many here struggle to meet their daily food needs -- including families whose children go to school hungry. In addition, some of our neighborhoods remain food deserts where convenience stores and fast food restaurants predominate. Residents there have little or no access to fresh, healthy, and affordable foods.