Monday, December 31, 2007
And, since my purpose in creating this blog and writing about farming is to emphasize a sustainable food system, I thought I should try and make resolutions that will help to do this.
For starters, sustainable agriculture has some primary goals: environmental health, economic profitability, and social and economic equity, so I think that my resolutions should somehow match these.
I am not a farmer, a producer, or even a food professional, but I am a consumer. And as a consumer, I (like you) have more power than I often think. How so?
One of the most basic ways to help meet the goals of creating a sustainable food system is through your purchases. According to the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, "Consumers can play a critical role in creating a sustainable food system. Through their purchases, they send strong messages to producers, retailers and others in the system about what they think is important."
So, first off when I shop, I resolve to make it clear that I don't want my food outsourced, I don't want my food processed, and I will do all that I can to support small sustainable farmers, so I will ask where my food comes from, who grew it, and how it was grown.
One way to do this is by buying locally whenever possible, which for me, means shopping at the farmers market. There, I can meet the people who grow my food and learn all about it.
I also have some other food resolutions that I have been thinking about for some time. First, I write about fruits and vegetables, and I really need to buy more of them, try more of them, and cook with them, this is a goal I have; to educate myself more on how to use the wonderful bounty we have in California. I also need to wean myself from my processed, junk food addictions, i.e. Cheetos and chips, a habit I have had since I was a kid, very tough to kick but I need to.
As for my other farm related resolutions, as a writer, I need to visit more farmers' markets and local farms to see what's new, what's available, in order to do a better job. Related to this is the goal of having more of my work about sustainable and local/urban agriculture published. So, hopefully my renewed focus here will help that.
Happy New Year to you all and may '08 be a great year for our local farms!
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Today is Wednesday and this morning, just like each Wednesday for the past year-and-a-half, LA Farm Girl was awakened about 6:45 a.m. by a familiar and comforting sound: my milkman's truck.
That's right, the milkman still comes and delivers farm-fresh milk (from Rockview Farms) to my house. And to top it off, I order Good Heart Organic Milk, that is CCOF certified (California Certified Organic Federation), none of that watered down USDA Certification stuff for me.
My milk man is a lovely gentleman named Don Limon, who has been delivering milk for Rockview Dairies for the past 40 years and he lives right here in the South Bay and is a sweetheart.
If you're interested in having your own milk and other items delivered (I also get cottage cheese and chocolate milk for my hubby), check out their website: www.rockviewfarms.com. They are still headquartered in Downey and family-owned, it costs a bit more than going to the supermarket, but to me, it's worth every extra penny to support them.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Despite it being the shortest day of the year, the good news is that every day from now until late June, the days get longer until we reach the summer solstice.
It’s also traditionally considered a "pagan" celebration so that's probably why it's so appealing to me, (not surprising for those who know City Farm Girl).
In all seriousness, I think I like to observe all of the natural rhythms of the seasons because it's a reminder that since ancient times, we have been dependent upon them, they have determined what can grow when and where, and what we eat.
Sadly, we have lost that. We shouldn't be able to eat stone fruit (i.e., nectarines, peaches, plums) in winter if we live in the northern hemisphere, they don't grow here. But, we have disrupted nature's rhythms out of convenience and our ability to "control" it. It just makes me wonder though, but at what cost? That's why for me, it's nice to take a day like winter solstice to remember how things are truly meant to be.
And following the seasons doesn't mean we won't have good produce to eat. Just because we can't get peaches, etc. now, there are actually some produce favorites coming into season now so watch for some of these items at your local farmers' market.
As winter arrives you will find apples, pears, and citrus varieties including navel and blood oranges, tangerines, and tangelos, as well as greens including kale, kohlrabi, cabbage, chard, broccoli, and lettuce, spinach, and turnip. Through the end of the year, you can also still find kiwifruit, cherimoyas, almonds, walnuts, and dates.
Don’t forget that produce availability, variety, and yield are based on California growing seasons, the weather, and amount of rainfall each year.
Another way we live with the seasons.
Friday, December 21, 2007
First off, this information came to me courtesy of a wonderful woman, Cynthia Werner, of the Department of Agricultural Commissioner
Weights and Measures, Los Angeles County. She's not only an Ag. Inspector, but she also serves as the agency's Public Information Officer and she truly is a fountain of knowledge. I owe her a huge debt of gratitude for helping me with my book.
Anyhow, she had sent me a copy of the 2006 Los Angeles County Crop and Livestock Report which just happens to feature some great photos from the past because the Department is celebrating their 125th anniversary. You can download a copy online here to see some of them: http://acwm.co.la.ca.us/scripts/publications.htm
Some of the information in the report is hard to believe considering that most of us don't see any evidence of any agriculture in our day-to-day lives. However, there's still plenty here and our history is so interesting.
For example, Los Angeles County was the nation's top farm county from 1909 to 1950!!!! That is an amazing statistic to me. And, citrus was the San Fernando Valley's biggest industry, with at least four packing houses producing annual shipments of nearly 500 rail cars of lemons and oranges.
What happened of course is that post-World War II residential development replaced acre after acre of groves with suburbs although there were still 54,000 acres of citrus in LA county in 1970, until we let our agricultural land be almost completely replaced.
Today, there are 1,923 acres of fruit and nut crops, and 5,959 acres of vegetable crops. The largest agricultural commodity in the county is now nursery products which make up 3,496 acres.
Another interesting fact is that the first Certified Farmers' Market in the County opened in 1979 in Gardena, and continues today as one of over 90 operating in LA County, which make up about 25% of all farmers' markets in the state.
The last statistic that I was really surprised at was the fact that we actually have a pretty fair amount of sustainable agriculture ventures in LA County. In 2006, there were a total of 111 acres of organic farmland including 22 acres of vegetables, 24 acres of citrus, 27 acres of grapes, 13 acres of peaches, and 1 acre each of apples and cherimoya.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
Not sure what it's about? This documentary tells the true story of lifelong (and maverick) Midwestern farmer John Peterson and his struggle to create the kind of farm and community he wants, despite being demonized and viewed as a criminal in his community, he ultimately transforms his farm despite nasty gossip and rumors about him, a sagging economy, and more, creating Angelic Organics. Check out his site to learn how more about the film, and about his farm, Angelic Organics, http://www.angelicorganics.com/.
So, that means I am back at square one and not sure what to do next. Any ideas? Suggestions? Tips? I sure could use some helpful advice and support.
Anyhow, life goes on and there's plenty of other work and wonderful projects to be involved with including writing some entries for the Encyclopedia of American Environmental History and updating the newsletter for the Torrance Certified Farmers' Market.
More later once City Farm Girl gets over this latest setback.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Well, I just have time for a quick post tonight because (and here comes the shameless plug) I spent the better part of the past two days working on some photo choices for the cover of the book I am working on.
I am doing a pictorial history book for Arcadia Publishing and it's called Farming in Torrance and the South Bay and it will tell the story of the importance of agriculture and family farms here in the South Bay. As I keep uncovering these wonderful stories I will share them here.
So, I thought I'd show you at least one of the possible choices and see if you all think its book cover worthy (although it's lower quality here).
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Very intrigued, I asked them what their booth was all about and they told me that this was part of a project that they were doing for their class about sustainable agriculture and gender, and doing a public program at the market was their idea and how they chose to fulfill their class requirement.
Basically, their goal (as is mine) is to point out that it's better to eat locally and if possible, organically. Why? Did you know that food typically travels between 1,500 to 2,400 miles from farm to plate in the United States?
Think about the effect not only on the food itself, which loses taste, freshness, and overall quality, but about the energy required to transport that food.
The Solution? Eat locally! For those of us living in California, this is much easier since we have a bounty of fresh food to choose from, and we have over 300 farmers' markets to shop at as well.
Eating locally has become an important tool in helping to promote better eating while helping the environment and has become so popular that the Oxford University Press chose Locavore as its 2007 Word of the Year.
As Oxford outlines, "a locavore is somebody who uses locally grown ingredients, taking advantage of seasonally available foodstuffs that can be bought and prepared without the need for extra preservatives. It encourages consumers to buy from farmers’ markets or even to grow or pick their own food, believing that fresh, local products are more nutritious and taste better."
Locavore was coined two years ago by four San Francisco women who proposed that local residents should try to eat only food grown or produced within a 100-mile radius. Since then, other groups have adopted the same motto and the "movement" has spread.
In fact, that's one of the reasons I started this blog, to not only inspire myself to try and increase the amount of locally grown food I use, but to show others how to do the same. So, that's what I will do here, point out local sources, resources, and show how important and easy it is.
Monday, December 10, 2007
First up, is a flower arranging workshop with the Senior Gardeners at Torrance's Bartlett Senior Center. Then, it's home to get ready for the Torrance Public Library Commission Meeting.
I do have a super photo to post though, of my friend and Torrance Farmers' Market Manager, Mary Lou Weiss who had to bundle up on Saturday since it was quite chilly. Enjoy!
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Happy Hanukkah! Since tonight is the first night, and one of the classic dishes served throughout Hanukkah is potato latkes, I thought it was a great time to remind everyone to buy farm fresh potatoes.
Where to buy them? Your local farmers' market of course! And, my favorite farm that has yummy potatoes; Zuckerman Farms.
Roscoe Zuckerman farms 1,300 acres on Mandeville Island just outside Stockton. Zuckerman’s Farm was started in this location by his grandfather in the 1940’s.
His almost entirely organic peat soil is perfect for potatoes and he grows many varieties, year-round, most not found at your local grocery store. Some in vibrant colors of red and purple, and the ever popular Yukon Gold and fingerlings.
Some of the farmers' markets where you can find Zuckerman's include Torrance, Hollywood, Encino, and Pacific Palisades.
Check out their profile on this KQED site when they were chosen Farmers' Market Farm of the Month: http://www.kqed.org/topics/home/cooking/farmer-month-apr.jsp.
Monday, December 3, 2007
While I know my blog is called "LA Farm Girl," I am going to bend the rules a bit here to highlight an awesome outing in Ventura County; the Christmas Tree Train at Fillmore and Western Railway.
This Railway runs through the beautiful agricultural scenery of the Heritage Valley to the Santa Paula Christmas Tree Farm. There, you get off in search of that perfect tree which you choose and cut yourself. Then, you take your tree back with you on the train while enjoying the relaxing ride back.
It's perfect for all ages, Santa even makes his way through the train. You get a fresh-from-the-farm tree, and you get to remember what the holidays are really about for a brief time.
Check out their site for more information and to make reservations which are a must since the trains are filling up quickly! http://www.fwry.com/tree_trains_2007/Tree_2007.html
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Just look at the colors, the variety, and the beauty of heirloom corn. It's sure a far cry from the processed corn used in most of the food bought by consumers and put into our food as high fructose corn syrup. Small farms and farm projects like Not a Cornfield point out the need to value and preserve the biodiversity of agriculture.
Consider this: Farmers produced roughly 80,000 species of plants before the advent of industrialized agriculture. Now they rely on about 150. 150! That is frightening, and if left up to the big agri-businesses, there will be even less as they sue farmers for violating "their" patents on produce varieties. Sad indeed.
Sustainable agriculture can help insure biodiversity and that is critical to us for many reasons. Click here to learn more about the issue from the Union of Concerned Scientists: http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_environment/sustainable_food/industrial-agriculture-features-and-policy.html
Monday, November 26, 2007
Hope everybody had a wonderful Thanksgiving! It's hard for me to believe that the holidays are really upon us, especially since Hanukkah starts next week! Yikes, I better get busy shopping!
A couple of years ago, I got to thinking about how I could make my holiday shopping not only less stressful and commercialized, but have it make a difference to our family farmers, while still providing my friends and loved ones with meaningful gifts.
That's when it hit me: shop fresh from the farm; it's a great way to help support our farmers and get some great gifts. Some of these include specialty meats, vinaigrettes, oils and herbs, ciders, olives, honey, cheeses, sauces, chocolate, candy, baked goods like breads, cookies, and cakes, kitchen utensils, bake-ware, cookbooks, kitchen linens, and wine.
Most farm gift shops also feature non-food items relating to food and agriculture including children’s toys and games, books, household and outdoor furniture, clothing, collectibles, garden products, statuary, pottery, fresh cut and dried flowers, wreaths, plants, videos/DVDs, t-shirts, stationery, art, wool, cashmere, candles, body products including soaps, lotions and shampoos, and arts and crafts.
For those who have the time to actually visit a farm, here's a link to a story I wrote that I have posted on my website listing some of the farms you can visit http://www.californiafamilyfarms.com/placesevents.html.
For the rest of us, there are some great local, farm fresh options available at your local farmers' market.
Many farmers offer special pre-made gift baskets or boxes just for the holidays containing everything from natural dog treats and dog toys, to fruit baskets, and fresh flowers and plants. There are even hand-made soap baskets, pre-wrapped chocolates, or pre-packaged, boxed-sets of specialty grilling and cooking sauces.
It’s also easy-to-make a gift box, basket or gift pack and fill it with specialty olives, spreads and cheeses, jams, jellies, and dried apples, pre-packed or bulk nuts and dried fruits, or a bakery basket filled with bread, cookies, pastries or muffins.
Do you have a friend who loves fresh organic produce but can't always get to the farmer's market herself? You can give her a yearlong subscription to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm.
A CSA is a farm that allows people to support local growers by subscribing to a farm that supplies locally grown, seasonal fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers. The CSA delivers weekly or bi-weekly boxes right to a customer’s front door or to a centralized location.
Tierra Miguel Foundation CSA has pick up locations all over the southern California area in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, www.tierramiguelfarm.org/csa.htm.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
(Daily Breeze, Nov. 27, 2002)
By Judith Gerber (aka LA Farm Girl)
This week, millions of Americans will gather around the Thanksgiving table with family and friends enjoying the harvest from the most bountiful food source in the world. But, did you know that this week is also National Farm-City Week? It’s a week designed by the National Farm City Council to highlight the important roles that urban and rural partnerships play in food and fiber production.
Did you know that the state of California produces more than 50 percent of the nation’s fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts? That it does this using just 3 percent of the nation’s farmland? That California farmers and ranchers produce nearly $30 billion a year and support more than 1.1 million jobs?
That California is the top agricultural state, a position it’s held for more than 50 years?
For most people, the answer to these questions is no. That’s because there are usually no big, headlining agricultural stories in the media. There is no constant coverage on the fact that thanks to California, we have the safest, most affordable food supply system in the world.
What about the people who grow your food, fiber and flowers? It might surprise you to know that California is still dominated by family and small farms. Approximately 97 percent of California farms are run as family farms or partnerships.
If farm issues are covered on the news, most stories usually cast a negative light on farmers. However, many of our farmers practice sustainable agriculture and work toward preserving our natural resources, protecting the environment and conserving water. They are the largest stewards of our land and are working to preserve what little open space is left.
But each year, their very existence is jeopardized by the unchecked growth of development, competition and dominance by large corporate farms, over-regulation at the state and federal level, and the apparent lack of concern for their survival by the general public.
American Farmland Trust says that every minute of every day, America loses 2 acres of farmland. And from 1992 to 1997, California’s agricultural lands decreased by an average of 256,000 acres annually.
Maybe you think that because you live in the South Bay, you are so far removed from agriculture that it doesn’t affect you. Have you ever stopped to count the number of times during the day that agriculture touches your life? From the time you crawl out of the cotton sheets on your bed in the morning to the time you brush your teeth at night, agriculture is there. If you use products like paper, shampoo, crayons, buttons and shoes, then you are affected by agriculture.
You might also think that Los Angeles County doesn’t produce agricultural products anymore. In 2001, L.A. County had $15 million commodities including ornamental trees and shrubs, bedding plants, peaches, dairy products, strawberries and table grapes.
As you sit down at the table this Thanksgiving and give thanks for all of the good in your life, take the opportunity to thank our farmers. Remember that agriculture is part of our lives, so we must help to protect it.
You can make a difference by asking where your food is grown, who grew it, and when and how it was grown. Shop at your local farmers market; look for “Buy Local” campaigns at your local market, showing that the food was made in California.
Take your children to petting zoos, pumpkin patches, Christmas tree farms, “u-pick” orchards and farms, and teach them where their food comes from. Initiate a farm day at your school, or invite a farmer to talk at your school or community organization.
When you go on vacation, travel through California’s heartland and experience for yourself the beauty of areas like San Joaquin’s Blossom Trail, Fallbrook (The Avocado Capital of the World) and the countless farm trails of Northern California.