Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Food Shortage at Charitable Food Banks

Just a quick post regarding a very troubling story in the LA Times about the food shortage at local food banks/pantries.

As I mentioned several posts back, I am working on putting together a network of local gardeners to donate their excess produce to those who need it, or to "Plant a Row for the Hungry" another great campaign by the Garden Writers of America.

This article clearly points out there's a need to help. Here's an excerpt:

"The supply of donated food is at its lowest level in recent memory, largely because of a steep decline in government surpluses. In California, since 2002, donations of cheese, canned corn and beans, all longtime food bank staples, have been cut by more than half, from nearly 100 million pounds a year to 40 million. The difference, say officials from the California Assn. of Food Banks, translates into 44.7 million fewer meals for hungry people around the state.

But just as food bank cupboards have grown emptier, more families are asking for help putting dinner on the table, providers say.The problem is acute in Los Angeles, where housing and transportation costs, both of which rose sharply over the past year, gobble up much of a low-income family's budget.

The number of Los Angeles County households whose food supply is shaky increased 17% between 2002 and 2005; hungry families with children grew at an even faster clip, according to a report released last fall by the county department of public health."

The rest of the article can be found here, http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-foodbank21jan21,1,2216788.story?coll=la-headlines-california&ctrack=5&cset=true

Please, contact me if you would be interested in joining me in helping get fresh food to those who need it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Book Cover Finally Done!!!

Well, for those who have been following the trials and tribulations of my book, I received some good news on Tuesday. The last photo I submitted has been accepted and we now have a book cover!

Yay, this means that things will be moving forward and I have to get busy collecting the rest of the photos I need to complete the book. No easy task, since I still need about eighty.

So, if you know of anyone who has photos of farms, nurseries, fields, etc. from the South Bay area, please let me know.

Here's the photo that's going to go on the cover (a low quality version)

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Just a quick note to let everybody know that on Saturday, I am leading a book discussion on Barbara Kingsolver's fabulous book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. And, I sure could use some help and support since I have never led a book discussion before.

My friend Jamie who works at Santa Monica Public Library asked me to do it a few months ago, and not thinking, I said "sure." Now, I am panicked so hopefully the questions I came up with are going to be OK.

However, following the book discussion, there's a great opportunity to buy a wonderful book from a passionate farm advocate, Amelia Saltsman, who has written the Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook. She knows her produce and how to cook (something I do not).

The book discussion takes place this Saturday, Jan. 26 from 2-3 p.m. and then Amelia will come at 3 p.m. to talk about and sign copies of her book. Its at the Ocean Park Branch Library in Santa Monica.

Check out the event details here at Slow Food LA http://www.slowfoodla.com and of course, at the Santa Monica Library site: http://www.smpl.org/

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Survey Shows That Local is a Hot Restaurant Trend

Interesting survey in my local paper today, The Daily Breeze (aka Daily Fish Wrapper). The survey of American chefs conducted by the National Restaurant Association showed some interesting veggie trends in restaurants which came out in their overall, "What's Hot, What's Not" trends.

Here's what they found.

Percent of American chefs surveyed who said these vegetables are in vogue at restaurants:

Locally Grown Produce 84%
Organic Produce 76%
Fresh Herbs 67%
Exotic Mushrooms 65%
Arugula 53%

Check out their site for more interesting stuff http://www.restaurant.org/pressroom/pressrelease.cfm?ID=1523 including a quote by chef Dawn Sweeney who says, "restaurant trends are driven both by consumer demand and chef creativity."

So, as I have been saying, we get what we ask for, so using our dollars to demand local ingredients truly can make a difference.

Friday, January 18, 2008

New Certified Farmers' Market List Added

Sunday Hollywood Farmers' Market

One of the most popular, and easiest ways to eat locally is to shop at a local certified farmers’ market. There are certified markets in over 500 California communities.

A “certified” farmers’ market means that only “real” farmers can sell their produce directly to the consumer and are certified by the local county that they are only selling the products that they have actually grown themselves.

So, that's why I added a new element, a list of certified farmers' market in LA County, at least those that had web links and that I was familiar with.

See, despite being certified, the way a market is run, managed, and supported by the governing body and the community, really makes a difference in how good a market it is.

If you have a favorite farmers' market you don't see listed here, let me know. Conversely, if there's a market I do have listed that you don't like, let me know that too and why.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Giving Gardeners Name Vote Update

I thought I'd just drop a quick post on here to let everbody know how the voting is going for my idea on creating a giving garden network.

So far the leader is "The Giving Gardeners" followed by the close second place "Giving Gardens," and I only heard one person say they didn't think I should add network or campaign after it.

So, please if you haven't emailed or posted your comment here, please let me know what you think. And again, if you have a better choice, let me hear it!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Last Day To Apply To Become A Master Gardener

I just wanted to remind everybody that today is the deadline to apply for the 2008 Los Angeles County Master Gardener class. For more information, go to the website at: http://celosangeles.ucdavis.edu/Common_Ground_Garden_Program/

Hopefully, those are interested already applied or at least read the requirements, because you needed to get LiveScan fingerprints and complete their very thorough application packet!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Help LA Farm Girl Help Others

Well, I have spent the past few days working on an idea I have and I was hoping for some input on it here. So, here goes.

Basically, I am going to set up a local network for backyard/home and community gardeners who grow their own produce and who want to do something good with the extra that they have, to have a place where they can give their excess produce to those who need it, basically using the Plant a Row For the Hungry Model.

But, I also want to include another component to give flowers to those in the hospital or hospice. So those who grow flowers can donate them in a kind of "Bedside Bouquet" program to local hospitals, convalescent homes, and temporary care centers/transition care centers.

I am hoping that by offering them garden classes and workshops, tips, and classes from local garden experts (hopefully including my fellow Master Gardeners), along with local cooks and maybe even flower arrangers, they will be as excited with this idea as I am and want to get involved. And, it will also be a way for them to help green our local community and we can have people give them ideas and information on that as well, maybe even get some good freebies donated.

I figure with all of my years of community and volunteer involvement, I will put my connections to good use to make this a reality.

Here's where you all come in. I have some names I am thinking of calling it, that I hope will explain what the project is. What I have come up with so far are all related to the concept of "giving."

Here's what I have, please give me your vote, or, suggest something else if these are too lame:
  • The Giving Gardeners
  • The Giving Gardens
  • The Giving Garden
  • Gardens for Giving
  • Gardens of Giving
  • Gardens That Give
  • And, do I need to add the word, network or campaign?

That's it so far, let me know if you have any opinions or ideas. I will keep you all posted on my progress.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Redondo Beach Farmers' Market

After spending all day yesterday at the Library and the Torrance Historic Museum, I thought I should get out and go shopping at the farmers' market. And, luckily for me, Thursday mornings the Redondo Beach Farmers' Market is in full swing.

Not only do they have some of my favorite farmers, Ha's Apple Farm, Zuckerman's Farm, MB Farms, and Smith Organic Farm, but it's located in such a beautiful place, overlooking the Pacific, how many other farmers' markets can make that claim?

So, here are a few shots of the market (although not that high quality since I took them with my cell camera). If you are interested in going to the Redondo Beach Farmers' Market, it operates year-round on Thursdays, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., just above the bike path, next to the Pier and alongside Veteran's Park, http://www.redondo.org/depts/recreation/facilities/farmers_market.asp

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Can You Go Home Again?

I know it's been several days since posting, but I think that's because I haven't been very motivated to write about farms. Why you might ask?

Well, yesterday I attended a funeral for somebody I didn't know but who indirectly has always been a part of my life. First off, it's a very sad story, the man who passed away was only 44 years old (only a year younger than LA Farm "Girl," yikes) and was full of life and love for his family and community, and he died on New Year's Eve.

While I didn't know him, I know his mother and I know his brother, and apparently I did know him when I was a little girl because his mother has lived on the same street for the past 39 years, the street where I lived until my parents divorced and we moved away when I was starting the 4th grade.

But, when I grew up, I came back to my "hometown" and I now live in the house next to my parent's old house and I had the opportunity to "re-meet" this woman several years ago and we developed a new bond and an adult friendship.

This has been one of the nicest parts about returning to my roots, reconnecting or rediscovering people I knew when I was very young. But, it's also brought about some sadness for me, something I never really thought about when I decided to return to my hometown.

Instead of feeling connected to the past, it makes me feel disconnected and I feel a sense of loss because I was so young when I left. I don't remember people, and I just sort of stare blankly as they reminisce about things that happened and I feel left out when they talk about things that happened once I left.

It even connects to my farm writing at times, especially the book I am writing on our farm history, as they look at me incredulously while saying things like "well don't you remember the pig farm at such and such," or "the dairy on so and so."

So, it got me to thinking, can you really go home again? I mean, the place is familiar, comforting and feels natural to you in so many ways, but is it really "home" when you feel like an outsider there?

It’s interesting what funerals can do to us; it hits on emotions and feelings we don't usually think about. I mean, I am a very active member of my community and have so many connections here; it's odd that this has made me feel that way.

But, it's also made me realize yet again, how precious and short life is and that I have to be true to who I am and pursue my passion no matter how hard it seems at times.

There are so many things I want to do to help our farmers, to promote sustainable food systems. For example, I am even thinking of starting my own Victory Garden Network for urban farmers and backyard gardeners to connect and to find ways to get excess produce to those who need and want it. More on that later.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Become a City Farmer---Grow Your Own

Nasturtium are Yummy in Salads

As I mentioned yesterday, community gardens and gardening are a big component of urban agriculture. Think about it; what could be more local than growing your own fresh fruits and vegetables?

As you will see by some of the links I have under LA Farms, most of them are urban gardens, which are basically just small urban farms.

Some of them have the traditional components of "real" farms, i.e. CSA's or Community Supported Agriculture, or farm subscriptions, meaning you can receive a box of produce weekly or biweekly by signing up and paying a fee. Your box is usually delivered to a convenient location or in the case of our own city farms, such as CSU, Earth Works, and the Vet's Garden, you can get your produce at their location or at a farm stand on their site.

If you want to try and grow some of your own produce, consider this. Being a city farmer is good for you because you will be eating the freshest produce possible, and if you grow it organically, you know exactly what's been done to it, namely, that there's no pesticides or non-organic fertilizers added to it. And, if you practice good, basic gardening techniques, you won't need them anyway.

But growing your own is also good for our environment. You are helping to absorb greenhouse gases, greening up the local environment, you are providing a natural habitat for beneficial insects and other critters, and you are cutting down on your need to travel to get your food and for transportation of your food to you, cutting down on gas use.

You might be thinking you don't have the time, the space, or the knowledge to grow your own food. That's why I have included plenty of upcoming workshops and classes under the Farm & Garden events. And, I will be updating these continuously. You don't have to start with your whole yard or patio, start with one pot, grow something you love to eat, have fun and experiment.

I will also be including other links to some great places to get seeds and plants and some hand-outs and information from the UC Master Garden/Common Ground Garden Program as well, starting with this one on Ten Beginning Steps for Every Home Gardener, http://celosangeles.ucdavis.edu/garden/articles/10steps.html.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Become A UC Master Gardener

Columbia Park Community Garden Demonstration Area
Given that the deadline is almost here to apply to become a University of California Master Gardener here in LA, I thought I'd take this opportunity to explain how the UC Cooperative Extension Master Garden Program works.

First off, the UC Master Garden program is awesome (disclosure, I am a UC Master Gardener so I am biased). Here in LA, we do have a UC Extension Office that's part of the main UC Davis Ag. and Natural Resources Division.

Here in LA, our program, the UC Cooperative Extension Common Ground Garden Program, focuses on helping low-income residents become successful gardeners, and has been doing so for over 30 years and is run by the very wonderful Yvonne Savio.

According to our newest brochure: "The purpose of Cooperative Extension’s MG Program is to extend to the public UC research-based information on home horticulture, pest identification, landscape management, and other environmental and natural resource issues. The program provides volunteers with more than 78 hours of intense gardening and outreach training.

The curriculum covers vegetables, fruits, flowers, shrubs, trees, soils, composting, fertilizing, irrigating, pests and diseases, and tools—all based on organic methods and utilizing hands-on techniques.

Upon completion of the training program, volunteers must give back at least 50 hours of service within one year at local gardens or respond to gardening questions on the phone or email helplines. In addition, volunteers must earn at least another 15 hours of continuing education time."

That's basically it, you get UC research and training and become a better gardener in exchange for doing something good by helping others learn to grow their own food and become more successful gardeners. It's a win-win.

And, of course community and backyard gardens are a big part of urban agriculture, which I will talk about in more depth later. I just wanted to make sure you all knew the deadline to apply is January 15th, click here for more information: http://celosangeles.ucdavis.edu/Common_Ground_Garden_Program/