Posts tagged public health
Posts tagged public health
As part of CUESA’s Growing Inspiration Farm Tour, the afternoon found us at Swanton Berry Farm. The swift change in climate from Hollister’s heat to the cold wind of Santa Cruz county was noticeable, particularly for the strawberries that grew on earth at Catalan Family Farms but were engulfed in plastic to retain heat at Swanton.
To begin with, we were served a scrumptious salad made of romaine lettuce with pinto beans, grilled squash, corn, onion and poblano chile with tomatillo creme fraiche dressing, prepared by the CUESA market chef Sarah Henkin. As the salad was being mixed, I grew more and more excited. It looked absolutely delicious and I was not let down. I still surprise myself when I notice myself looking forward to vegetables, but it’s the truth. The salad was accompanied by a cauliflower soup made of Swanton produce and a sinful but utterly tasty strawberry shortcake. Mhh mhh mhh!
With our bellies filled to the brim with organic delights, we began receiving an intro to Swanton. The farm has a fascinating history proving the conventional wisdom that you can’t grow strawberries both organically and in a commercially-viable way wrong. Thank you for paving the road for the abundant organic berries we get to eat now! What a huge, historic achievement, particularly because strawberries are part of the infamous dirty dozen.
Faced with the difficulty of limited access to water on the California central coast, the farm continues to grow berries on self-sustaining land with reservoirs, a little waterfall, etc. We toured different plots including canopies of cane fruit such as blackberries, olallieberries, and loganberries, as well as kiwi trees, broccoli, cauliflower and mustard seed, and again were granted an inside look into the challenges of and lessons learned in organic farming. Who knew there were people an hour from San Francisco losing sleep over protecting their livelihood from wild pigs?
A few interesting take-aways from the afternoon:
If you’re in the area, you should check out Swanton Berry Farm and indulge in some u-pick action. This farm deserves special recognition for offering their employees a merit-based retirement plan option and addressing some of the physical hardship of manual labor, which has resulted in them retaining employees for 30+ years instead of the regular 4-5 year turn-over after which most individuals switch from farm work into a different industry like serving at a restaurant or washing cars. Swanton Berry Farm makes it a goal to humanize this very tough business and to make the faming business sustainable not only for the environment, but for the individuals choosing this line of work.
Kudos, and thank you for the tour!
In many ways, I am out of touch with where my food comes from. I can admit that I used to prefer meat in a shape completely unrelated to its natural form (think nuggets or patties instead of bone-in meat) and only touched vegetables with a sweet undertone or the faintest of flavors. Iceberg lettuce and I, to the horror of my holistic medicine Dr. mother, used to be real tight. Though now I make a substantial effort to eat locally, non-packaged foods, and am eating less meat instead of only that which doesn’t tell the story of its origin, I have always been a city mouse and have never had any connection to farming. In recent months, as I’ve found myself drawn more and more to farmers markets, organic foods and have even (gasp!) started to cook, though, I’ve become entirely fascinated with how we can individually and at large reconnect with our food, our roots and our health.
When I stumbled upon a tweet about CUESA’s Growing Inspiration Farm Tour, I signed up immediately. After much excitement on my part in weeks leading up to the event, we arrived at Catalan Family Farm on Sunday morning. The Catalan family welcomed us to a degree almost unheard of, allowing us to prance through their fields as they taught us the ins and outs of their farming practices in Hollister. In between trying lemon cucumbers in total disbelief (“What is that? What? Cucumber? No - it couldn’t be!”), eating a leaf of dandelion green straight from plant to hand to mouth (arugula spicyness x10) and feasting on the most vibrant, colorful spread of freshly picked, sliced and diced watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, tomatoes, salad, grilled corn, a variety of agua fresca, chips and homemade tomatillo salsa (another first!), I picked up so many different tidbits of information about farming, organic foods and general attitudes about eating and working. Without further ado, here are a few of the points that I wanted to share:
Catalan Farm & Family
Of course, I have several pages of notes from this tour, but I’ll cut it short for now.
Above all, this fascinating farm tour allowed me to see things I had never seen before. I didn’t know how a pepper plant looked or that a cold Northern California summer would do wonders for strawberries but leave tomatoes green. Granted, I was one of very few individuals in their 20s or 30s that had joined the tour. I think that’s precisely the problem. Yes, my mother would surely know these things, but I had never seen them with my own eyes. Have you? Has your child? I think it’s about time.
My extensive thanks go out to the Catalan Family Farm for welcoming the tour group with open arms, providing the freshest produce I have ever eaten, and sharing their wisdom with us. I cannot say enough positive things about this experience. They enabled me to learn with my ears, hands and tongue. “Try it!” was the response to every question about their produce. Hospitality at its absolute best.
During my mother’s recent visit from Germany, we spent countless hours soaking up food culture and nutrition information, waxing poetic about our family heritage and how much appreciation of and approach to food differs between generations. We watched mind-blowing documentations about the food industry, and cooked up a storm with our much-anticipated California farmers’ market produce.
Other than changing how you yourself eat, though, my mother raised an interesting question: What can we do to change the food culture that permeates America and most of the world? What can we do to contribute to a return to natural, healthful eating that allows us to listen to our bodies as we were always intended to?
Enter some fabulous and worthwhile projects on Kickstarter.com. For those of you who haven’t heard of it before, Kickstarter is a terrific online avenue for projects of all kinds to raise awareness for their idea and funding to make that idea become a reality. You donate to the cause in exchange for a creator-defined piece of the project. It’s like getting to try on the shoes of an angel investor for a day, minus the billion dollar price tag.
I’d like to share a few of the projects that piqued my interest due to their potential for positive influence on different public health areas - whether further increasing our appreciation of fresh and seasonal meals at a new city-rooted restaurant in San Francisco, providing access to fresh fruits and veggies in the now infamous food deserts across America, or documenting the struggle of farmers in Oaxaca, Mexico to maintain the diversity of their crops. In addition to supporting projects you are interested in, campaigns on Kickstarter actually give you cool things in return. Do good, feel good, be rewarded? Alright!
Without further ado, here are a few interesting initiatives to check out:
Please watch the video above to learn more about this exciting new restaurant, scheduled to launch in San Francisco in the fall of this year. The menu will change with the season, with ingredients sourced fresh from local, California-grown farmers’ markets. Basically, you’ll be eating just like nature wants us to. You’ll get to look forward to a fabulous root vegetable menu in the fall, and regain the excitement of the first fresh strawberries next year rather than grabbing the ever-ready and ever-half-frozen strawberries from your supermarket. Need I mention that the fresh, seasonal sourcing will lead to full-bodied flavor explosions? Yes, explosions. That’s right.
If that’s not reason enough to support AQ, consider some of the benefits you could ream from showing your allegiance: May I interest you in a free drink at opening ($10), your name on a brick in the restaurant ($25), a culinary class at the restaurant ($50) or for those who are truly swept away, twice yearly dinners at the restaurant for as long as it is in business ($1500)?
AQ restaurant needs ca. another $21,000 to realize their vision. You can contribute anything from $1 here.
Stockbox aims to address the challenge that families living in food deserts - areas of the US where there are no grocery stores or markets selling fresh produce, but only convenience stores or big-box stores selling packaged foods - face. While many of us California residents are surrounded my organic farmers markets and have the salaries to cover the associated costs, many individuals involved in harvesting the produce do not have access to these luxuries. The same goes for many rural and urban parts of the country.
The Stockbox project is about $11,000 away from being able to open a test pop-up store and food education center in a parking lot in Delridge of Seattle, WA, where many residents must currently go without access to fresh foods or take two different buses to reach the nearest grocery store. I’m particularly impressed with this project because it combines two of the most important factors of changing the way we eat - we need both the education and access to be able to make healthy choices. Without both, we’re stuck in a fruitless fight, pun intended.
Though this truly is a charitable support you should consider giving, there are also perks if interested - reusable grocery bags, limited edition food-focused art prints, exclusive dinner with the founders of Stockbox, etc. Go take a look here.
Support one woman’s quest to document the shift in farming practices as they contrast with the interest of preserving cultural history in Oaxaca, Mexico. Erica Bacon’s journey will result in an essay, photo essay and be suplemented by a collection of native recipes. In exchange for your support, you can choose to receive a postcard from Erica’s travels, a hand-bound copy of her completed documentation, or a home-cooked Oaxacan meal served by Erica herself. To learn more, click here. Erica needs about $400 more to make the documentation of her trip a reality. I can empathize with this cause because doing something similar one day is a passion and a dream of mine. Go Erica!
Certainly, Kickstarter is full of interesting ideas to address the topics of food, public health and travel. Have you seen any particularly though-provoking or entertaining ones? Are you considering supporting any of the above?