The Water Tower Controversy

So I work for Visit Sacramento which is the major destination marketing organization for California’s capital city. We raised a bit of a stink this week when – without hardly any notice – we changed the words on the big water tower off I-5 from reading “City of Trees” to reading “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital.”

Now I’m not 100% sure I’m supposed to be talking about this because I’m sure we have an official organizational PR stance, but if anything, I’m just a guy who really likes Sacramento so I’m going to go ahead and roll the dice. Besides, no one reads this blog anyhow.

First off, here I am with the water tower in question last fall. You may be able to notice that I’m actually wearing an “America’s Farm to Fork Capital” hat, so I couldn’t be more on point.


I should also say that I didn’t know we were changing the water tower until the same time the general public did…which was like 5min before the guys with the paint brushes showed up.

Now the tower has changed and there is a group people who are not happy about it.

Clearly, if I took the time to pull off the freeway, drive past the soccer fields and take a selfie in front of the tower, I was a big fan of the “City of Trees” version. So my initial reaction was also of one of sadness because I like old-timey things and I figured the “City of Trees” slogan had been up there since like the 1920’s or something. Then I was reminded that the water tower was just blank until like 2004. I had completely forgotten about that. And I definitely forgot about the push to paint it all red like a big tomato. So at least we didn’t do that.

Apparently, as a community, we got really attached to that “City of Trees” sign quickly. I mean, we’ve been “The City of Trees” since way before it was painted on the tower and we are still definitely the City of Trees. I mean, the trees are everywhere and actual tree-counting scientists have confirmed Sacramento as a top tree city in the world.

Every Sacramentan remembers hearing the weird stat that “Sacramento has more trees per capita than any city in the world other than Paris.” I’m pretty sure this was just a made up thing to get us in the same sentence as Paris. I mean “trees per capita” isn’t a great stat anyhow because some guy living by himself in the woods would always have the advantage….just sitting there mumbling about how he has more trees per capita than all of Europe. Besides, it turns out we have a way better urban forest than Paris anyhow.

So we are the City of Trees still, the water tower doesn’t say it, but that doesn’t change the fact. Of course, according to Wikipedia, there are like two dozen other cities that also call themselves the “City of Trees.” That’s fine, I guess, but I’ve been to St. Louis and they should back off.

Then there’s the whole “America’s Farm to Fork Capital” issue. There is definitely a group of locals out there who are put-off by the trendy marketing brand. Maybe we should have gone with a less trendy name like “Food City USA” because – much like the tree thing – there is no denying it’s the real deal. There is absolutely no doubt that the Sacramento region has the best combo of farms, restaurants, agricultural education and all-around food community. Plus, the logo looks awesome on a hat.

F2F Logo [Badge] - 4 colors 300dpi JPG

Of course, there are also a bunch of other destinations who sell themselves as “farm to fork” or “farm to table” leaders. I spend a lot of my time explaining why it’s more important here. And it really is. I mean, we feed the whole dang world from here.

So I’m not mad at the Farm to Fork brand. I mean, I hope the “trendy” part passes and it settles in to just a solid nickname, but who knows? Also it’s important to note that “City of Trees” was never a slogan of Visit Sacramento. Visit Sacramento is not the City and vice versa. I mean, you can debate which words should be on the water tower, but you can’t really debate which “city slogan” is better because neither one has ever been an  official city slogan. One was just some words on the tower and the other is a marketing concept by Visit Sacramento.

When I’m selling Sacramento, I mention the food and the beautiful trees and a bunch of other stuff. Whatever is painted on the water tower won’t change that. And probably in like 15 years when they change the tower again to the “Flying Car/Hoverboard Capital of the Galaxy” people will be sad to see the Farm to Fork sign go.

So to sum up: I liked the old tower, I wish the public was given more notice of the change, and I think we may learn to love the Farm to Fork slogan up there. It looks kinda cool and we should definitely be proud of our food and agriculture community…and the trees. Room for everyone here.


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