The Davis Farmers Market and the Davis Food Co-op, two iconic organizations that have earned this community national recognition at times, may never have existed had it not been for Ann Evans.
A former mayor of Davis and a UC Davis graduate, Evans played a key role on the team that established and grew both entities, literally, from the ground up.
For these accomplishments, and for decades of civic and community service in Davis, Evans has been given the 2013 C.A. Covell Award for Citizen of the Year, an honor that recognizes an individual who’s offered outstanding service to the community in a number of areas over time.
“(Davis) allows people to come in and make it their home and express the best of what humans have to offer,” said Evans, a Berkeley native and a Davis resident of more than 40 years.
“I think we’re blessed here. That’s why I’m so honored to receive this award.”
Evans will receive the award at the Davis Chamber of Commerce’s annual installation dinner in January.
What: Davis Chamber of Commerce Installation Dinner, featuring cocktails, dinner, awards and dancing to live music
When: 6-10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25
Where: Freeborn Hall, UC Davis
Tickets: Price not yet set; call the Chamber office at 530-756-5160 or watch www.davischamber.com
While Evans has served the community in many capacities — from her time on the City Council, to founding the Davis Farm to School Connection, to serving on the Davis Cemetery District board — perhaps her most acclaimed achievements are helping form and expand the Davis Food Co-op and the Davis Farmers Market.
In 1971, Evans and several friends from UCD took it upon themselves to form a food buyers club, which provided the natural, locally grown produce they preferred. That club was the first iteration of the food co-op.
With a strong belief in sustainable agriculture and natural foods, Evans, who would later earn her bachelor’s degree at UCD in consumer food science, saw the club as the opportunity to bring that organic food source and the general culture of healthy eating to Davis.
“At that time, also, that was a real time of consumer movements, movement around food and agricultural labor,” Evans said. “It wasn’t just me having these ideas, in this society it was a time of home back-to-the-land.”
The interest in affordable, high-quality organic food in Davis allowed the organization to grow rapidly and, naturally, the membership ballooned.
Eventually, after outgrowing two smaller stores, in 1984 the Davis Food Co-op moved into its existing home at 620 G St. By then, Evans, who began working for the state in 1976 — including a stint with the Department of Consumer Affairs, where she initiated changes in state law to advance consumer food cooperatives — had accomplished incorporating the co-op.
The buyers club, which at one point served only 400 members, has evolved into what’s now a full-line grocery store owned and operated by roughly 10,000 households.
“It feels really good (to see the success of the two organizations),” Evans said. “I walk into the Co-op, I buy my food, check out with the grocer, and they don’t know me from anybody, and I love that. You feel full-circle.”
As the Co-op gained popularity in town, so burgeoned the Davis Farmers Market, which was founded in 1976 by Evans and largely the same team who had cultivated the Co-op. After starting with only about three vendors, the market now has dozens of vendors selling to 7,000 people every week.
But it’s no coincidence that both of the former mayor’s seedlings blossomed at the same time. Evans and company knew Davis must have both organizations to sustain a natural and nutritious food market here.
“They grew up together, like brother and sister,” said Evans, who served on the market’s board for seven years. “We were building component parts of a local food system; I don’t think it ever occurred to us to do one without the other.”
The leadership Evans displayed with those organizations, while also effecting change locally and statewide in co-op and farmers market policy, enhanced her prospects for civic service in Davis as well.
After some prodding from community members, including those involved with the Co-op and the Farmers Market, Evans agreed to run for City Council where she would serve for eight years from 1982 to 1990, including a term as mayor from 1984 to 1986.
As an elected official, Evans helped install a set-aside or inclusionary affordable housing policy that obligates developers to build a certain percentage of affordable units into their projects.
“We had the best affordable housing policies in the nation,” Evans said. “We did, we were the model.”
Also while on the council, Evans assisted in establishing the city’s redevelopment agency, which was responsible for funding the development of many community amenities before its dissolution in 2012, including the construction of 2,000 units of affordable housing, the development of Davis Community Housing and construction of the Davis Farmers Market pavilion in Central Park.
In addition to her time on the council, Evans thinks fondly about her service on the Davis Cemetery District board. On that body, Evans ushered in changes with a focus on green practices, such as allowing green burials and enhancing the landscaping there.
But the list of committees and local boards stretches on.
Evans served on Davis Farm to School, the UC Davis Center for Nutrition in Schools Advisory Committee, and the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture Food Access Advisory Committee. The former mayor also served on the Slow Food Yolo Convivium and the Roots of Chance Council.
Meanwhile, in addition to the co-op and the market, Evans also has contributed to the community by founding the Davis Community Housing Corporation, the Davis Rural Land Trust — which is now the Yolo Land Trust — and Slow Food Yolo.
Evans also successfully convinced the school board to pass a parcel tax that included funds for a program to include more fresh, local produce in school cafeterias.
“We passed the first ever parcel tax in the nation that included money for extra purchasing of local produce,” Evans said.
After working for the state for 30 years, Evans continues to advance the local natural food market, as she now runs her own consulting business helping clients such as school districts and nonprofits develop policy for sustainable food and agriculture systems and lunch programs.
Delaine Eastin, a former state superintendent of public instruction and legislator (Evans was her chief of staff), adds that Evans also mentors many local young women and men in leadership skills at the local, state and national levels.
“I live in this community, in part, because of Ann Evans, who I believe to be visionary, compassionate, creative and steadfast,” Eastin wrote in her nomination letter. “She is one of the finest citizens I know and I am proud to nominate her for this award.”
The C.A. Covell Award for Citizen of the Year was created by L.N. Irwin in 1944. The criteria by which candidates are judged include leadership in civic activities, unselfish service to the community, reliability in following through on commitments and involvement in a variety of activities.
— Reach Tom Sakash at email@example.com or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash