Friday, July 31, 2009

Portland here I come...

I'm excited for loads of local foods, big bookstores, lots of coffee, and NO computer time. So I leave you with two exciting things in the world of the culinary...
  • Greens & beans recipe not to be missed: I was drowning in greens so I cooked up this giant chipotle white beans & greens recipe from 101 cookbooks. So. Good. My recommendations--leave out the breadcrumbs and go for the queso fresco.
  • In honor of the new movie Julie & Julia, Pollan has an article in the NYT magazine this Sunday.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Growing food : moving from demonstration to sustenance

A portrait of our first donation box.
It's contents: a bag of purple, green and fuzzy yellow string beans, the first pears, summer squash, two red cabbages, lettuce greens, rosemary, lemons, and finally
red and fingerling potatoes!

Most Saturdays you'll find me and my better half volunteering at Garden for the Environment--learning each week how to grow veggies in fog city. GFE is a demonstration and teaching garden in the Inner Sunset that helps Bay Area residents learn to grow food and perrennial plants without the use of pesticides and other chemicals in our unique climate. As the squash plants around the garden have begun to swell with more zucchinis, round rouge d'hivers, and fat patty pans than the volunteer crew could ever eat, we needed a new plan.

Now, each Saturday, through collaboration with Food Runners & G-House Traditional Housing for Youth—the food we've helped grow with many volunteers will be prepared into delicious meals for youth!

It's reinvigorating to see this project move from mere demonstration to real sustenance for people who will love these fresh veggies. I can't wait to help grow even more food at GFE!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Eat It To Save It.

Renewing America's Food Traditions is continuing to echo throughout the food world. Check out this blog post in the NYT.

RAFT was my initiation--into the world of food biodiversity, into the cult of food history addicts, and into a lifetime of food storytelling and delectable feasts of local foods. Working side by side with my mentor Gary Nabhan, and other amazing food advocates like Kevin Dahl of Native Seed/SEARCH, Kent Whealy co-founder of Seed Savers Exchange, Erika Lesser and Makale Cullen of Slow Food and Don Bixby of American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, I learned about the world of heirloom breeds and seeds. I learned about the importance of saving the biodiversity of our food--not just for the irresistible, infinitude of tastes, but for sustaining our rich cultural history, our dying farmlands and promoting sustainable agriculture.

I uncovered the stories of exquisite berries too fragile to ship on the brink of extinction (read more here.) I cataloged lists of endangered foods with names themselves filled with stories: lazy housewife bean (the first string less bean), amish paste and hungarian heart tomatoes, moon & stars watermelon. I found communities dedicated to revitalizing their food traditions in the name of cultural preservation and health prevention. A life-changing experience in every way.

But before I go full steam ahead off of the cliff of digression--one last word about the NYT highlights the often ignored heirloom breeds. You may well know the heirloom turkeys that have become a hot item on Thanksgiving tables, but there is a whole world of breeds from Rhode Island chickens to Navajo churro sheep and the precious Ossabaw Island Pig I saw at Mount Vernon just a few months ago. These breeds have cultural and ecological history that when sustained, will not only allow for place-based sustainable food production but tasty meals indeed (and this, coming from a self-ascribed aquatarian).

So go eat some heirlooms to save them.

Mount Vernon's resident Ossabaw Island pig captured my heart.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Farmers talkin sexy figs...

Fig fantasia on today's Morning Edition. Listen here. It will make you want a fig. Now.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Plants as Medicine

Herbalism is not something I grew up with. I used to know my way around a suburban drug store blindfolded. Tiny headache? Toss back some aspirin. Sore throat? Pop some pill that not only covers sore throats but body aches, congestion, and a trailing list of symptoms. Follow that with a menthol-laden, syrupy cough drop and you're good to go. I didn't think there was any other way.

Even when I became enamored with whole foods and started looking at the back of my cereal boxes to ensure I knew all the ingredients--I never hesitated taking a pill at the slightest sign of sickness. I was getting a little queasy about supporting big pharma...

Then I began to find myself in the company of people who love plants and love to use plants. I got the chance to interview the amazing ethnobotanist/herbalist Phyllis Hogan...and it was a revelation=Plants as Medicine?!

Alison Budner's amazing herbalism courses at Garden for the Environment have been a beginning for me, a chance to take charge of my own health, my own healing. Totally empowering.

So as you head out on your next summer hike check out Ali's beautifully hand-drawn info sheets on Herbal First Aid (download the full PDF here) -- remember an herb or two that you can rely on to relieve poison ivy or comfort a bug bite.

I'll share more info as I continue to learn more about these healing herbs--send me your suggestions too.

Thank you Ali!

Sunday, July 19, 2009


What a beauty! My first cherry tomato in SF!
Now I just have to hope she begins to ripen...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Potlucks get real

Check out my friend Lesley's article on the NYTs Bitten blog--Potlucks for the Planet!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A sonic picture of today's family farms...

Five Farms is an incredible new radio documentary follows five family farms through a year of their lives. Through planting, nurturing, stewardship, harvest and succession.

It brought me back to the never-ending mesas that dot the horizon on Hopi land. It made me think about the struggles and challenges of the people growing my food. It made me plant each new seed in my community garden plot with intention. It made me stop and pause for an hour each Wednesday night and think and dream of what it might be like to be a farmer.

A don't miss for everybody who eats.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Farmer Billboard...

LinkI love this billboard -- it's just outside Mission Pie, part of a Sky in the Pie public art project.
Whenever I get riled up about all the McDonald's billboards popping up around the city, I'll think of this...there should be more billboard activism!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Rural and Urban: Walkability matters

From the bustling streets of Bogota to the desert reaches of Central Valley farms people are people. And according to urbanist Enrique Peñalosa people need a few basic things to be happy...
  • To walk
  • To be around people
  • To play
  • To do these things without being afraid that the you are going to be hit by a car

But the places we live in rarely meet these basic needs....

When I heard Peñalosa speak last week at SPURs new digs, I couldn't help but think of my runs through Golden Gate Park. When I make it out during the week I dodge cars and tense up as I approach cross walks, but during the weekend when I reach JFK street that is completely closed to car traffic I feel this joy and relaxation come over me every time, it doesn't get old. I could walk up and down that stretch of carlessness all day and watch people: kids learning how to ride bikes, roller skaters dancing, people walking slowly back from a morning marathon run, it never gets old.

Peñalosa inspired crowds of fellow urbanists last week—in celebration of the new Great Streets initiative in SF--he talked about the way our streets and cities are built in terms of emotions and values. He spoke of how "a good city creates equality" this was at the root of his controversial turn as the Mayor of Bogota. He was almost impeached for kicking cars off the sidewalks and reclaiming them for pedestrians.

He created one of the most extensive bike network in the world connecting the cities poorest areas with public services like libraries and swimming pools and providing safe places for all of Bogota's residents rich, poor, children, and even the handicapped to get out of their cars and reclaim public spaces.

He created one of the most innovative transit systems in the world a Bus Rapid Transit system (see it in action on a NYT video here) in which buses get a dedicated lane and have improved boarding and payment systems to make BRT a faster, cheaper form of public transit than rail.

Peñalosa challenged all of us to again "think in utopias" to reclaim our streets. Right now, in San Francisco, it's hard to get around whether you're in a car, on a bike or a bus, or walking the streets. We must begin to dream of what our city will look like we begin to value people over cars.

And it's not just our cities--our rural areas are suffering even more from this same lack of safe, pedestrian space. A piece on NPR's Kitchen Sisters this week snapped me out of my urban tunnel vision. The Breadbasket Blues was billed as a piece looking at the effects of drought (both literal and economic) in the Central Valley -- a hot topic at my work these days...but instead, the story turned out to be remarkably parallel to the themes in Peñalosa's talk about cities--there aren't safe places to walk in the Central Valley because there aren't sidewalks, there aren't any public spaces for the community to gather. (aside from public space & walkability this story shines an important spotlight on the food desert and it's health impacts in our nation's breadbasket, a don't miss piece)

Urban or rural, we must begin to reclaim our communities, nurture them and make them livable again. I think Peñalosa pointed out a good first step: think in utopias. On that note, what does your ideal community look like?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What to do with the 5 and unders in the garden?

Calling all garden educators, community gardeners, parents, and people who love to garden with kids! A friend of mine wants to expose her city kids to veggie gardening...they're both under 5, and I'm at a loss...Help. I've planted flowers and built raised beds with some pretty rad 8 year olds, but my depth in this area is pretty limited. 

Know of any cool kid-friendly gardens in the Bay Area? Know of any fun activities for the little ones in a garden? Or at home? 

I'm thinking worm bins would definitely be a hit. Any other suggestions? 

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

SF Mayor Announces New Regional Food Policy

Today, from the heart of a new renaissance in food security City Slicker Farms, Gavin Newsom announced a sweeping regional food policy to be implemented within SF in the next 180 days...
  • all departments conduct an audit of land under their jurisdiction to create an inventory of land suitable for gardening, (a favorite of mine);
  • the introduction of new health and sustainability requirements for food sold by vendors under city permits;
  • "healthy meetings policy" requiring the purchase of healthy, locally produced foods for city meetings;
  • the introduction of a new law requiring that food purchased by the city has been grown regionally and through sustainable methods.
A great step in the right direction--let's make sure it becomes a reality. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Reading: Farm City

I first spotted it on the shelves at Kramer books in DC a couple of weeks ago...with it's graffitied wheelbarrow cover ....Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter, a story of Oaktown citysteading. A table of contents that reads as follows: Turkey; Rabbit; Pig. Basically irresistible, right? Except for the fact that it's a hardback, which made it at least as heavy as a Mission burrito and impossible to read with one hand while dangling from whatever I manage to grab a hold of on the Muni sandwiched between my neighbors and random strangers. So I told myself, hold off until this beauty arrives in paperback.

But then it began popping up everywhere I turned, bookstores, blogs, even the NYT Book Review. I read Novella's blog and was hooked. I bought the last copy at Alexander Books just last night and awoke this morning to a feature of the book in a CSA e-newsletter story from one of my favorite writers, who also happens to be a farmer, Andy Griffin.

Now it's time for me to stop blogging and keep reading--Novella's baby birds just arrived by mail...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

NYT Magazine 07.05 a must read

Two great articles: an urban homestead feast in oaktown & an inspiring story of urban agriculturalist/master composter Will Allen. And if you're into the drama of CA politics you'll love the cover story too.

One of my favorite quotes from the article on Will Allen's urban greenhouses, "Street Farmer":

"With seeds planted at quadruple density and nearly every inch of space maximized to generate exceptional bounty, Growing Power is an agricultural Mumbai, a supercity of upward-thrusting tendrils and duct-taped infrastructure. Allen pointed to five tiers of planters brimming with salad greens. “We’re growing in 25,000 pots,” he said. Ducking his 6-foot-7 frame under one of them, he pussyfooted down a leaf-crammed aisle. “We grow a thousand trays of sprouts a week; every square foot brings in $30.”

Happiness is... new neighborhood farmers' market on a foggy summer Sunday.

...discovering that blueberries are still in season.
And, in fact, the season is just beginning in the mountains of CA.

....splurging on local eggs. aren't they beautiful?!

Love the packaging too--check out that laid on date!
LinkFifth Crow Farm produce absolutely glows--and they sell flour and wheat berries too.
They're doing it right--it's worth a trip to the inner sunset.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A weekend to reclaim democracy

During this celebratory weekend of national Independence, it seems like a good time to tell the story of a recent talk by one of my food heroes, Raj Patel. Raj, author of Stuffed and Starved, has brought international policy into the consciousness of today's local food movement.

Don't get me wrong, I look for Fair Trade coffee, stay away from GMOs, curse those Monsanto ads that have become a national model of greenwashing, I consider myself a Vandana Shiva devotee and I've even forsaken my breakfast banana in the name of environmental stewardship and social justice...but until S&S came out in 2007, I wasn't paying enough attention to the connection between the food on my table and the international policies that put it there. Link
Maybe it's his witty delivery and dashing good looks...but I think it's really Raj Patel's ability to both embrace the complexity of these issues and explain it into digestible parts (without dumbing it down).

Here are some of the highlights/quotes from his talk at ATA:
  • It is an American illusion that we can buy ourselves OUT of this food crisis
  • Free markets are great, unfortunately they don't exist
  • Food crisis as violence against women.
  • We must Reclaim Democracy for we are its proprietors
Don't miss his speaking events--he's a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley, so he's around town, watch this space to keep up with him.

An intro: It's time to get this blog started!

I grow veggies in fog city, cook them up and can't stop talking about it. I'm a food politics/urban planning groupie and a farmers' market interloper; a cookbook collector and wannabe canner. I'm an environmental advocate by trade and a writer by nature.

This blog is the pursuit of making the invisible, visible--that is the connections between the stuff of our everyday lives and environmental resiliency. Following something from it's root to it's fruit. It is about a perspective on the world that includes us as humans as part of the planet, part of the ecosystem.

It is also the exploration of a new dialog and collaboration--I hope to include interviews and guest posts and other community based conversations I haven't even thought of yet.