SACRAMENTO (AP) — Like a scene out of the Wild West, several dozen wranglers on horseback herded more than 50 longhorn cattle down one of Sacramento's main thoroughfares Monday to kick off a weeklong celebration of locally grown food.
The cattle crossed the iconic Tower Bridge over the Sacramento River and marched alongside high-rise buildings down the Capitol Mall toward the state Capitol. Onlookers lined the street, cheering as cowboys tossed lassos toward spectators and, at the end of the route, nudged the livestock back into a trailer.
The urban cattle drive initiated Sacramento Farm-to-Fork week, a first-time event that celebrates the region's abundance of agriculture and restaurants serving those products instead of ingredients from faraway farms.
The week concludes with a festival Saturday on the Capitol Mall and a 600-person dinner Sunday evening, cooked by the area's top chefs and served on the city's bright-gold drawbridge.
Organizers have been planning the event since Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson proclaimed the city as America's farm-to-fork capital last fall. They say the region's long growing season and plentiful surrounding farmland help drive the now-flourishing local food movement.
The cattle drive was an effort to recognize the local meat that makes it to the region's plates in addition to local produce, said Mike Testa, senior vice president for the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau. He said residents can sometimes take that abundance for granted.
"I think so many of us are just spoiled," Testa said. "We have farmers markets seven days a week that we shop at, we go to restaurants that source their proteins and their produce probably that morning at the farm, and we export so much of this product across the country, but we get it oftentimes the day it's harvested."
Cotton Rosser of the Flying U Rodeo Co. in Marysville, about 40 miles north of Sacramento, provided cattle and cowboys for Monday's event. He said the weeklong series of events will help bolster appreciation of the region's agricultural roots.
"We want to show that it really is a cow town and we're proud of it," he said.
Central to the farm-to-fork week's organization were a number of local chefs, including Patrick Mulvaney, who owns Mulvaney's Building & Loan in midtown Sacramento.
In a phone interview, Mulvaney said that while chefs get to see approval from patrons as their restaurants incorporate local foods, farmers and ranchers don't get to see that feedback. He said the week's events will help them share that experience, as well as continue to boost relationships between local farmers and eating establishments.
"Our other focus should be on the things that we can do to get that food into bellies that it wouldn't otherwise," said Mulvaney, noting school cafeterias as one place to continue encouraging local food options.
Fans of Sacramento's locally grown food could be seen among the crowd Monday. As she and her 14-month-old son, Liam, watched the penned cattle mosey back inside their trailer, Lauren Crownshaw said the region's farmers markets are one of the things her family has enjoyed most since moving from Boston five years ago.
"We live within walking distance of the one in West Sacramento," Crownshaw said. "We didn't really have anything like it in Boston."