Wednesday, November 28, 2007

This Why I Love Sustainable Farms

Traditional corn grown at Not A Cornfield in Downtown LA (2005)
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:

Monday, November 26, 2007

Farm Fresh Holiday Shopping

Torrance Farmers' Market

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

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,

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving! Give Thanks to Farmers

(Downtown LA Cornfield)
Thanks for
(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.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Why Should Angelenos Care About Farms?

Forneris Farms Mission Hills

To many of my friends and family members it seems strange that I have chosen to focus my life and work writing about farms since I am an LA native and they say, "LA doesn't have any farms."

Well, for starters, Los Angeles has a rich agricultural history. Did you know that the first wine country in California was in downtown LA? Or, that it was also home to the first commercially planted orange grove? That Venice was once the celery capital of California, or that the South Bay was the strawberry capital?

But, it's not just history, there are still farms here, some of them are actually traditional farms, but most are urban "farms" small pieces of land carved out in the urban jungle, you just have to know where to look.

That's what this blog is all about, exploring these wonderful places so that we can support them by buying their produce, attending their events, and spreading the word about them.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Welcome to LA Farm Girl!


Welcome to my new blog. I hope you will enjoy hearing all about urban agriculture here in L.A., (like the farm at Pierce College pictured here).
Through this blog, I will share all the latest news, events, and information about farming in the L.A. area so please come and visit often!