Thursday, June 17, 2010

Urban Farming in SF: a tour begins

There's something I love about getting to know a garden, one garden, through the four seasons. You learn how the sun changes its arc in the garden throughout the year. You know how the finished compost feels, how the soil smells on your clothes after a long days work, you know the history of the place and you have a vision of its future.

But lately I've been inspired by farm touring, visiting and working on projects throughout the city. Workdays are where you really discover a place -- you put your hands in the soil, you discover where the weeds are hiding out, you turn the compost, you make a deal with a willow tree and prune it to shed much needed sunshine on the veggie plots. I get inspired by: garden design, new compost systems, problem solving, tool sheds, the people of the garden, the potlucks, and the bounty at every urban garden I visit.

School garden workdays are the best -- parents, kids, and garden teachers coming together to get the garden in shape for a new season. I recently made the trip to my friend Brooke's beautiful garden at the SF Community School. I came late in the day but I took on the big willow pruning project with Brooke's friends, met dedicated parents learning to help water for the summer, and got a tour of the garden.

a dad from the school MacGuyvered organization in the shed!

thanks for sharing your garden Brooke!!

stumbling upon urban farming interweb gems

I've spent the past few days of work delving into the world of social media. And I've stumbled upon so many good urban ag and food policy pieces along the's a couple worth sharing: check out this video of one of my inspirations: urban homesteader/author/comedian Novella Carpenter.

And Pollan hits the NY Times Book Review with an interesting perspective on the food movement -- yes, the first section is Pollan you've already heard, and yes, it is a survey of food mov't lit, but skim through to the second section and you'll start hitting new territory. (and I must admit, I'm enamored with the design of the NYT Book Review online, worth a visit unto itself...). What does the food movement look like? And where will it go? It's up to us to shape it...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I'm keeping up the calendar...

Hi all -- Yes, I've been a terrible blogger lately, my hope is to remedy that soon...BUT I am keeping up the calendar of events. Note I'll start to include a lot of biking adventures on the event list since I'm loving my bike right now--and it's such a natural extension of my evolution in living sustainably.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Meals on Wheels -- is more than just a meal

If you're in the Bay, pick up the latest issue of Commonground and see my article on Meals on Wheels! It was a really fun one to write despite the quick turn-around, I learned a lot and got to talk to the amazingly humble and inspiring Boulevard chef Nancy Oakes.

Good to stretch those writing muscles a little bit more...what's next?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Progress report: May is Biking There

36 miles logged, 280 minutes biked. And yes, I can feel it and it feels good.

BUT I'm officially stumped by my bag dilemma. Riding with my dying bagpack is just not going to cut it -- it's not comfortable, sweaty back and all. Many considerations follow: To get panniers or to not? New messenger bag or two strapper? A fold-able side basket or front. I want to stay light and airy -- hard for my Virgo tendencies to bring EVERYTHING with me everywhere. I want to be flexible. I'd like to have the same stuff for commuting and for casual rides around to see friends.

The search bike.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May is also: lots of great things to do!

Yes, I've been neglecting this little blog a bit -- but I'm back in the groove. LOTS of fun farming and food events hitting the city this month. Check out my 'Get Out' section for more details.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May is You Can Bike There!

I just started riding my bike about a month ago--it started very slowly, with a ride to the bike shop a mile away, then one or two rides to work and a night out on the town motivated and accompanied by friends (thanks Edna!) and now all of a sudden I've been recruited for the Team Bike Challenge for May?! As a member of the Garden for the Environment team, I've been officially challenged to get on my bike. So far, so good. Two days in and two days of putting about 7 miles on my bike each day. My goal: to be on my bike at least once per day 5 days a week. Go Team!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Inspired by: watching your garden grow

Love this video project by a fellow-Phoenician, Mathew Moore. This artist/farmer took time-lapse photos of different vegetables from seed to harvest. Watch broccoli, kale and squash seeds burst out of the soil and grow into gorgeous plants--to watch is to know what each broccoli head at the grocery store must go through before hardest. It is breathtaking to watch as the squash plant appears to breathe and move throughout each day following the sun. Bay Area based writer and urban farmer Jason Mark writes about this "ballet of biology" here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Garden for the Environment CSA gets a shout out!

The GFE weekly veggie box gets a shout out in SF Foodie and Urban Dirt! And read my gushing ode to this project here. Four months after we passed this project along to the next generation of Awesome Farmers, the garden is looking better than ever and a beautiful box gets donated to the Larkin Street Youth Services Center each week.

As the SF Foodie article points out that one box per week won't save the world, but it is progress. Progress is every person who tastes something memorable out of that box and is moved to eat more fresh vegetables. Progress is every person who helped put the box together contributing to something bigger than themselves--it is the long line of volunteers who planned, planted, tended, harvested, delivered, and prepared the produce that is donated each week.

It is amazing, this started with a just a handful of people, with a whole lot of doubt, and grew into something bigger than we imagined.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Report from a special 18 reasons event: A Diet for A Hot Planet

Food & climate change -- you don't hear much about how these two issues intersect -- Anna Lappé's new book A Diet for a Hot Planet will change this. Last Friday night, I attended a thoughtfully crafted, cozy meet and greet with Lappé' at 18 Reasons. With walls adorned in food art (in this case a wall painting made of curry inundating the room with smells and invoking food memories in us all) Lappé told great stories of..
  • why she started this book: despite the fact that agriculture is second only to transportation in generating potent global warming gasses, no major news outlets were reporting on this key issue.
  • infiltrating corporate food conferences to learn about the greenwashing skills of big food marketers
  • her public speaking debut at Bioneers in front of thousands of people, side by side with her mom, Francis Lappé Moore
I first came across Anna Lappé when I picked up a great cookbook called Grub. Lappé and her co-author Bryant Terry breathe new life into the cookbook genre creating not just a list of delicious vegetarian recipes but a guide to food activism resources and a party planner too. They embrace both the personal and the political of this new food movement.

Lappe continues this trend with a Hot Planet -- as she states on her website: "I plunge into the heart of this era’s newest food fight with a simple message: if we are serious about addressing climate change, we have to talk about food." I look forward to cracking open this book and seeing what she has to say.

A great event to be sure and I can't suggest going to 18 reasons enough. Yes, I will admit, I have balked at the $10 fee for many of their events, but pick one that features a little free food and it will be better than the six pack of microbrews you would've bought instead. 18 reasons, coordinated by the talented Rachel Cole, is a special place--a model to be shared in every city. Turn a quaint gallery space (big enough for one, long dining table) into a gathering spot around food/art/and community. Have cookbook swaps, author events, food classes, potlucks and feature farmer nights. Do it!

A Don't Miss Author Event 04/13!

If you're interested in the intersection food and climate change - go to the Commonwealth Club tomorrow night! Hear the mother and daughter Lappé duo talk, with my favorite, Raj Patel, as moderator. It is sure to be a great night, as my recent visit to 18 reasons was last Friday at the meet and greet for Lappé's new book - A Diet for a Hot Planet.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The price of cheap food = modern day slavery

No, I'm not exaggerating. I just finished watching a documentary called Immokalee
(from a free documentary site worth visiting) about the modern slave conditions of tomato pickers in southeastern Florida.

A couple of years ago, I began to hear the story of Immokalee from places like Grist, the NYT Magazine, and Raj Patel, but I didn't dig deeper to learn the real story: large corporate buyers for restaurant chains like Taco Bell are paying slave wages for their tomatoes.

The domino effect of cheap fast food quickly translates into poor living conditions and poor health of the primarily Latino, Mayan, and Haitian day laborers. Perhaps this story is all too familiar--cheap corporate labor leading to cheap consumer prices-- but what is different is that it's happening right here in the US. What is different about this story is that there is an organization called the Coalition of Immokalee Workers fighting against these conditions - an organization that has been a force for over 10 years.

So what are these slave labor conditions? (Quoted from the CIW website)
  • "Florida tomato pickers earn an average of 45 cents per 32-lb. bucket of tomatoes, a rate that has not risen significantly since 1978. At today’s piece rate, workers have to pick over 2 ½ tons of tomatoes just to earn the equivalent of Florida minimum wage for a 10-hour workday.
  • As a result of intentional exclusion from key New Deal labor reform measures, farmworkers do not have the right to overtime pay, nor the right to organize and collectively bargain with their employers.
  • In the most extreme conditions, farmworkers are held against their will and forced to work for little or no pay, facing conditions that meet the stringent legal standards for prosecution under modern-day slavery statutes."
In honor of the 04/18 Farmworker Freedom March, organized by the Coalition of Immokalee, I will dig up some more information on this story. For now, you can put images to these words here.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Monterey Fish Market's Paul Johnson weighs in on Salmon politics

The Salmon fishery in California has been closed for two years now & no one has really heard about it. That is about to change on April 1st with a summit on salmon @ Fort Mason.

To find out more read this blog post by Paul Johnson, founder and president of one of the nation's most sustainable local fish markets, Monterey Fish Market.

(disclaimer, on the water front is my 9 to 5 blog, I'm so excited that we got this special blog post I had to share)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pushing the bounds = home cooked Indian food

My next food adventure = Indian food. I love it - the flavors, the textures, the naan, the endless vegetarian options. My friends of the delicious homebrew are telling me I can actually cook it. I'm not sure I believe them. But I am excited about shopping for new spices at the bulk section at Rainbow and actually using the coffee grinder that has been especially set aside for the grinding of things like these beautiful coriander seeds.

Erin and Larry's lessons learned from years of experimenting in the kitchen are as follows:
  • garlic & ginger paste form the foundation for all good sauces - grind garlic and ginger in a food processor with a tiny bit of water to make a paste
  • whole black peppercorns are profound
  • must have whole cumin and cardamom at the ready - don't be shy - and don't forget the tumeric
  • 5 spice recipe (toast with oil in a pan and add to any dish for a taste of India): black mustard seed, whole cumin, whole fenugreek, fennel and nigella seeds

I'll keep you posted on my attempts in the kitchen! Please send me your recipes and advice :)

SF embraces urban agriculture...

There's a good reason to applaud Newsom today -- the Mayor announced new plans to open up city land to urban agriculture! That's right, SF will soon be growing food at our libraries, our parks and even our police departments. Read more here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Get Inspired: the Greenhorns

Lately, I've been delving into research on urban agriculture in a lot of ways and searching for inspiration in many others. In my searches, I revisited a project that has grown through it's many tendrils from a documentary featuring young agriculturalists to a young farmer/activist resource for all.

A beautiful film. An celebration of the movement. Get inspired by their blog the irresistible fleet of bicycles and their flickr page. lose yourself cause it's is the first day of Spring!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring time is seed time

Spring is on it's way! It's time to buy those seeds and get a new spring garden going. This is my favorite time--looking at all the different seed packets so full of potential. Going back to the seeds that were tried and true--trying something new. Finding your seeds is the beginning of an adventure, a setting of the stage.

I love to find heirloom varieties and local seed companies. Heirlooms will blow you away with their endless unique tastes and shapes and colors -- and they increase diversity in the garden.

Here are some resources to get you going...

Get your seeds close to home:
Local seeds are popping up everywhere! If you find a seed company nearby they will do better in your climate, not to mention helping your favorite local businesses. There's a new store on my street, Succulence, and they sell these beautiful baker creek heirloom seeds. One of Baker Creek's stoers is in an old bank. I love that. Sloat, Three Bees Nursery, Flowercraft, and even Cole Hardware are great resources for heirloom organic seeds in SF.
Starts - give your garden a jump start: A great way to get some momentum going in the garden is plant some starts. Farmers markets are great spots to look for healthy, unique veggie starts. In SF, try Alemany Farmers' Market and the Ferry Building Farmers' Market on Saturdays.

Other resource to find heirloom and organic seeds:
seed savers exchange
hudson valley seeds
native seed search
local seed swaps - look for your local ecology center or garden gathering spaces

Finally, learn how to save your own seeds for next year! There's a free class this Sunday at the new Hayes Valley Farm (see 'get out')

Dream big this spring--get inspired. If you've never done it before just try and plant one thing, one of your favorite veggies (you're officially warned, tomatoes are really hard in foggy climates like SF!). Because eating something you've grown from seed, something you planted and cared for and killed snails for, will begin to change the way you think about food, it will change the way you think about the afternoon sunlight, it will change the way you relate to your favorite farmer at your local market, it will change the way you look at your neighbors lawn. It will change everything. Here's to breaking ground!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

march in the garden...

Spent my Saturday with my hands in the dirt @ Garden for the Environment. Here's what March is looking like in the garden...

transplanting leeks

a bouquet for the weekly CSA box

a little spring cleaning

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Tacoshed Revolution is Now.

1 taco. 18 ingredients. 2.6 trips around the globe. This is where your Taco comes from San Francisco. This is your Tacoshed.
(image by the Tacoshed project)

The unveiling of the Tacoshed project took place to a standing room only crowd tucked into the Studio for Urban Projects last Thursday - complete with the exquisite earthy smells of stewing black beans wafting over us as we heard architecture students from CCA present their work. The assignment? Well, it started with a shared meal at a taco truck. As the students were eating tacos and burritos truckside, their teachers (David Fletcher and John Bela among them) tasked each one with tracking down the life story of a taco ingredient from it's origin to it's destiny from foodshed to wasteshed. From the salt that was harvested in the South Bay to the aluminum foil wrapper that began its life as a mineral tens of thousands of miles away.

I love nothing more than this kind of exploration. The looking beyond the surface of what is a very tangible, very simple part of our every day, a door into the complexity of the world we live in. An exploration of the ecology of the everyday as John Bela put it. Through this deconstruction of a taco--you can learn about about everything from the politics of food to international trade, from the seasonality of foods, to hi-tech agriculture (avocados are tested for ripeness with sonic waves. (Wait, can I get that again? Yes. Sonic waves.)), and finally, that corporations will sell the same exact pinto bean or rice in several different packages, each with a culturally appropriate image on it -- from the gringo brand to the one emblazoned with a sombrero.

And that's just scratching the surface of the many layers of this project. The compelling maps, graphics, and stories that these students collected will keep you thinking and questioning and talking about your Tacoshed.

That was just one taco, the economically efficient taco. But there are others to learn from. Like the taco from Gracias Madre, that we also heard about at the event. Gracias Madre is the new vegan taqueria where the tacos are made with love out of locally farmed ingredients. (Check it out--and take me with you--and get something with the cashew nacho cheese please.)

The evening wrapped up with the smells of frying homemade tortillas. We were served black bean tacos from the Spotted Rooster. They were, quite simply, the best tacos I've ever eaten. And you know how much I love me a good taco. I loved them so much I may actually start following something on Twitter. That's bold.

Follow the Tacoshed--it's going somewhere (maybe even into the old Oxford?) & explore your own world from the root to the fruit.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

For my New Yorkers...

Check out this panel talk by FoodPrint NYC this Saturday--it's where it's happening!

From the Civil Eats article I linked to above "The program features four panels, ranging in topic from policy and zoning to culinary history to food futurism....Foodprint Project’s trans-discipline approach melds both appreciation for and arguments against New York’s edible life." Wish I could be there...

Orach--a tasty beautiful cousin of the spinach..

I grew orach last year (a bit unsuccessfully I must admit, I was still learning how to transplant!) but it really is as easy and tasty as spinach and it adds some serious color to your garden! I'm excited to share that my photo made it into a seed catalog -- check it here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Well crafted beer coming soon to the Inner Sunset

Rich was featured in SF Foodie about his new brewery project: Social Kitchen in the Inner Sunset. Can't wait!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturdays start with the market

Alemany Farmers' Market, San Francisco's oldest, is just a 10 minute walk down the hill from my new apartment. It is the best way to wake up on a Saturday...many more photos and musings of that beautiful spot to come. But here's my loot for the day: crinkly kale, the sweetest mandarin and navel oranges on the planet, cilantro, cold-smoked wild alaskan salmon (yes, I'm back on the fish...I just couldn't do only vegetarian. I was waking up in the night dreaming of fish and craving a carton of eggs...I need it.) out-of-this-world colorful chard, rosemary ciabatta, butternut squash, and napa cabbage. & the pinnacle of it all, black bean and chipotle harissa hummus from the Hummus Guy--I'm completely addicted to this stuff.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A new one for the blog roll: Edible Geography

Does a blog name get any better than that? Check out this exploration of the intersection all things food/art/print/place. What captured my affections was the links to a photo project in GOOD Magazine -- of photos from people's fridges.

Bar Tender | San Antonio, TX | 1-Person Household | Goes to sleep at 8AM and wakes up at 4PM daily. | 2008 From You Are What You Eat by Mark Menjivar, “a series of portraits made by examining the interiors of refrigerators in homes across the United States.” Go here to see the full series--and the captions are almost better than the photos.

This could quite possibly be my favorite thing on the planet. It marries my voyeuristic tendencies with my obsession with talking to people about food (you'll frequently find me in the kitchen at work - at all hours of the day - stalking people at the fridge and peppering them with questions--ooh what is that you're eating? how did you make it? what else did you make for dinner this week? what food is your weakness? what's your favorite breakfast? It's never ending)

And for my New York dwelling friends check out this great project Foodprint NYC
that focuses on bringing events around food and the city.

a dinner emerges out of nothing

Or really out of the desperation of plummeting blood sugar....

I don't know if you're ready for this--I sure wasn't.

Moroccan ginger carrot salad with cilantro and lime from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Cooking. Then a sweet potato creation of my own: steam sweet potatoes, throw em in a pan with some olive oil, cashews (of the curried variety if you've got them, or just throw in a good dose of curry powder), add some chopped chard, salt, pepper -- then serve with lime and feta. Out. Of. This. World. Oh how you inspire me little sweet potato!

I ate it so fast I couldn't take a photo. Time for an IPA and some chocolate to make the night complete!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rosamunde on 24th & Mission doesn't disappoint.

I tend to over-hype when it comes to food -- I get so excited about going out to eat at a new place it is impossible for it really live up to my expectations. But Rosamunde on 24th didn't disappoint. 3 daily vegan sausages on the menu! (this is in addition to their many, many other meaty versions) 22 beers on tap? WINE on tap?! Baked beans, split pea soup, and fries as one of the many side options! Breakfast sandwiches and four barrel coffee? Beautiful wood communal tables. Just get rid of the tv's and I would move right on in. Go. Now. And if you don't live in SF, recreate this in your own hood. Please.

Oh, and did I mention I got a vegan sausage with grilled onions, sweet peppers & a tasty beer for $10? I can swing that.

PS without a doubt I will continue to frequent the original rosamunde. but it's a totally different experience.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A day digging in the dirt with friends..

Got back to Garden for the Environment for a workday on Saturday. It was so good! Working side by side with friends -- walking through the garden seeing January turn to February in the new blossoms and thriving greens. I love winter workdays--it's all about clearing away and preparing for the spring, it's the time of year for thinking and dreaming a new, and if you want to, it's about working so hard you have to peel away your bundled layers.

I'm trying to get better at taking photos of people...but for now here's a few shots of Saturday in the garden.

Look at you beautiful pink flowering currant!
Hello, you who show your best color in the midst of winter!

Remnants of the mushroom class...

Inspired by: let's go ride a bike!

Let's go ride a bike!
I've decided to take the jump, to take my transport on my own terms. I will still walk, I will still ride the cursed Muni, but a bike will now be part of my arsenal too. I can't wait.

I was a bike commuter in Phoenix many years ago because I couldn't afford a car--not a bike friendly place, the 115 summer days and 50 mph streets everywhere don't make it easy. When I moved to the Bay Area 4 years ago I sold my beater Nissan and embraced the beauty of public transit. But as the Governator raids public transit funds and MUNI slowly and surely cuts back service, taking the bus is no longer a trusted way to get around the city. Plus, I need the exercise and I can't commit to a gym...

Thanks for the inspiring blog and the bike loan Nicole! And yes, I will be relying on you my SF cyclist friends for a little mentoring!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A new soul food film...

Food security+ soul food+culture = a good documentary. Check this trailer out.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Epic. Underground farmer's market is ON.

Workshops, kraut, chicken coups, music, slow roasted wild boar. And more. Follow your imagination here. You know where to find me on Thursday people.

PS: great poster, no? It's by Philip Clark

Vote our own City Bees Cutest Beekeeper!

The Huffington Post is all over hot urban it's stingin hot beekeepers. Vote for SF's own Robert MacKimmie as the cutest urban bee keeper! Go Robert! (I gotta say there's some steep east coast competition...mmmm, beekeepers...)

Other recent beekeeping-related adventures include: hives discovered on a beautifully rain soaked Sunday hike through one of Bernal's hidden community gardens and this new Beekeeping Supply store on 20th & Mission.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A gem in the concrete jungle: little city gardens

I'm in love with Little City Garden's new website! Go here now for inspiration! Two women, one empty backyard ready for some love, endless creativity and passion and you get a beautiful little gem of a garden growing food for SF restaurants and residents. I hope to do an interview of these ladies and get it up on this blog soon!

Here's to dreaming of springs gardens after the rain!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Garden mentoring in Oaktown...

The thing I love so much about community gardening is that you learn everyday from the gardeners around you. You can get questions answered in no time, like: what the hell is eating my peas? and how do I kill it? or what seeds should I buy for this spring's garden?

As more and more people turn their yards from lawns to veggie gardens we all need a little help from our gardening friends. That's why I love this new mentorship program by City Slickers -- see more info below!

Are you an experienced backyard gardener enthusiastic to share what
you know? Please join us for a City Slicker Farms Backyard Garden
Program mentor training on Saturday, January 23rd, 2010 from 1:00 p.m.
– 3:00 p.m. at the West Oakland Woods Farm, 537 Lewis Street (corner
of Peralta and 7th Streets) in West Oakland.

The City Slicker Farms Backyard Garden Program helps low-income
residents of West Oakland build and maintain organic vegetable
gardens, providing ongoing support, seedlings, seeds and compost.
Volunteer Backyard Garden Mentors make follow-up visits to assist and
support participants and bring them supplies (provided by City Slicker
Farms) quarterly.

Garden Mentors can mentor one family or many. We encourage
longstanding mentoring relationships but request at least a one year

The garden mentor training will provide new mentors with information
on our program and how to be a successful mentor.

If you would like to attend, or if you have any questions, please
contact Julie Pavuk at (510) 763-4241 or

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Anticipation = SF Beer Week 02/05-14!

I've been a big slacker on this blog the past few weeks--I'm still settling into my new place in Bernal Heights...and I look forward to gearing up this blog soon!

In the meantime, get psyched about the Bay Area's Beer Week here! There's really too much to choose from--go fancy and hit up one of the Beer + Farm to Table dinners at places ranging from Chez Panisse to Bison Brewery, experience the beauty of beer and cheese tasting (arguably a better pairing than wine and cheese...) at Thirsty Bear, meet countless brewmasters from the Trappist in the East Bay to the Lagunitas celebration at Toronado. Other than my shrinking wallet, I don't know how I'm going to decide what to check out!

Monday, January 4, 2010

A New Year & a new way to commute to work

Read all about my friend Thomas' Wednesday Walks to Work--a positive story about taking back the streets for people! Go T!