Tuesday, December 23, 2008


American Farmland Trust Points Out How Christmas Trees Help The Environment

Santa Paula Christmas Tree Farm

I received an interesting little item in my mailbox this a.m. from American Farmland Trust and thought I'd share it.

They indicate that there are 21,904 Christmas tree farms throughout the country. And they point out that Christmas tree farms can help sequester carbon dioxide, prevent erosion, protect water and provide habitat for wildlife; for every tree cut down, two to three seedlings are planted.

They also point out that some tree farms are taking extra steps by adopting integrated pest management or organic practices to reduce pesticide use and by planting buffers to prevent runoff.

They point to an article in the NY Times http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/04/garden/04garden.html?_r=1&ref=garden about these growers which asks a great question, How many of us give the same kind of thought to locally grown, pesticide-free, fresh, healthy trees that support area farmers?

The article talks about the different farms that use sustainable practices like planting buffer zones near wetlands and streams and keeping records of pests, diseases and pesticide application.

And, they talk about the tree farms that have become certified organic by the Department of Agriculture. Or those that are Certified Naturally Grown trees, which meets the same basic requirements: it was raised without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, using sustainable methods like composting and erosion control.

Certified Naturally Grown, http://www.naturallygrown.org/farm-list.html a national organization with 500 members from 47 states, was founded in 2002 (the same year as the Agriculture Department’s organic certification program) by small farmers looking for an alternative that didn't require a licensing fee and complicated record keeping.

It's great to hear that there are sustainable options that allow people to still celebrate with a fresh tree. To find one near you, check out Local Harvest, localharvest.org it lists sources for Christmas trees and wreaths, both organic and conventionally grown.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Hanukkah: Make Potato Latkes

Well, at the risk of repeating myself, I am re-using most of the post I did last year for Hanukkah because it still works.

For those who haven't read it, here goes: 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.

Here's a bit of the history of 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. I buy them nearly weekly at the Torrance Certified Farmers' Market and I used the yukon golds for mashed potatoes this Thanksgiving and they were wonderful!

Friday, December 19, 2008

South Central Farmers' Cooperative CSA Option

Since I posted about giving a loved one fresh produce, I realized I had forgotten about the South Central Farmers’ Cooperative (SCFC). As most of you probably know, the South Central Farm was located near the LA Food Bank and was dozed since the landowner wanted to develop it.

Well since then, the group has reformed and has created a non-profit organization and now farms on leased land up in Bakersfield. Community members from Los Angeles travel to the Bakersfield farm each week to plant, clean, and harvest the produce.

As they state, they are "committed to engaging and empowering community members around attaining food sovereignty and access to high quality organic produce." That means the SCFC Farm is certified organic by the CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers). They ask that you please consider giving a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription to friends and family this holiday season.

Click Here http://www.southcentralfarmers.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=358&Itemid=49 to order and purchase a gift certificate to e-mail a friend or family member.

Another great thing you can do is to sign up to give a weekly box to a family in need.

The good news is that there are pick-up locations all over LA County, even in my neck of the woods in the South Bay. Drop Off Locations:

Farmers' Markets --

Sundays: Hollywood and Atwater
Tuesdays: Sherman Oaks
Wednesdays: Lawndale
Thursdays: LA City Hall
Saturdays: Leimert Park and Watts

Non-Farmers' Markets --

Long Beach, Every other Sunday
Pasadena, Sundays
UCLA, Wednesdays
Culver City, Saturdays

Click here to learn more about the wonderful work they are doing to create a sustainable food system http://www.southcentralfarmers.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogsection&id=10&Itemid=49

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Farmlab Seed Harvest Give Away

Come to the Metabolic Gallery at Farm Lab this Saturday, December 20 at Noon for a free seed give away. As they note, all of their seeds are from heirloom stock. They ask that you bring your own containers to take your seeds home.

There is a potluck as well so please bring your own eating and drinking utensils and your favorite dish to share so please RSVP so they know what food to expect.
Farm Lab is located at 1745 N. SPRING AVE., L.A. 90012. The phone number is (323) 226.1158, and for more information, info.@farmlab.org.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Give Farm Fresh Produce & Help Others Too

Veteran's Garden West Los Angeles

With the holidays around the corner you might have a friend on your list that loves fresh local produce and that is an avid supporter of her local farmers' market.

Even if she is, you might want to surprise her with a very special gift, one that not only helps her to eat better, but that helps others as well.

A great option is to give her a yearlong subscription to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) enterprise. A CSA allows people to support local growers by subscribing to a farm that supplies locally grown, seasonal fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

Typically, the CSA delivers weekly or bi-weekly boxes right to a customer’s front door or to a centralized location.

To give your favorite Angelino a "traditional" CSA subscription, you can join Tierra Miguel Foundation CSA. It has pick up locations all over the southern California area in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, www.tierramiguelfarm.org/csa.htm.

But, since we are in LA, we have what I will call "atypical" CSAs, those that have their own "farm" stands or locations where you can pick up the produce or that have a weekly farmer's market of their own.

But they also have something else, something I think that's even more important. Most of these city farms are also in business to help those in need, usually providing job training to youth or others, or that are in need of fresh healthy food, and subscribing to them or visiting their location can help them to thrive and grow.

One of my favorites is the Vet's Garden at the West LA Veteran's Hospital, http://www.losangeles.va.gov/patients/vetsgarden.asp. While they don't have a subscription program per se, you can buy their plants, flowers, and vegetables each Thursday at the Farmers' Market, or on Fridays at the Lobby of the Main Hospital. The Vet's Garden provides a wonderful horticulture therapy program and job training for our veterans.

Another great city farm is operated by CSU (Community Services Unlimited) http://www.csuinc.org/. CSU has a weekly farm stand on Thursdays at Exposition Park and a produce subscription program. This wonderful nonprofit has programs that provide youth of all ages experience in urban farming and in healthy eating and even has an apprenticeship program for at-risk youth where they learn not only farming and gardening, but entrepreneurship skills and leadership development.

Another great project is the Earthworks Community Farm, http://www.ewent.org/. This project is a part of the LA Conservation Corps and Earthworks provides job, life skills, nutrition and organic farming training, employment, and leadership development for youth at an organic urban farm at the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area in South El Monte. Their produce stand operates every Saturday from 9 a.m. to Noon.

Although these options require more effort than visiting a local farmer's market, the payoff is worth it and something to consider since these urban farm models are growing and becoming much more common with the way our economy is going. Supporting them supports the green economy and green jobs of the future.

And, it just might be a great new way to spend some quality time with your friend by giving a gift that allows you to go to these places together each week and to actually see how your gift helps those in need.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Buy local and Homegrown at GOOD December

This weekend there's a unique event taking place here in LA called the Local World's Fair presented by GOOD Magazine.

As they say on their site, http://awesome.goodmagazine.com/december/
GOOD presents an alternative to the fast and anonymous shopping we’ve come to expect in the holiday season. Shop, eat and make local! Ongoing DIY workshops throughout the weekend. Plus special guest Evan Kleiman of KCRW’s Good Food.

Here's the Details:
Saturday & Sunday, December 6 & 7
Time: 12 p.m.-5 p.m.
Location: GOOD's Office and Community Space, 6824 Melrose Avenue, LA 90038

Free and open to the public!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Never Forgotten: World AIDS Day

December 1st is World AIDS Day, a day where individuals and organizations from around the world come together to bring attention to the global AIDS epidemic.

2008 marks the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. Although we have come a long way since 1988, there is still much more to be done.
Take this opportunity to not only honor and remember those we have loved and lost, but to educate yourself about the epidemic as it stands today, http://www.worldaidscampaign.org/static/en/

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Farm City Week!

This is a flower centerpiece I just finished making using locally grown flowers and a locally grown pumpkin. Thanks to my local farmers for making this possible.

Last year at this time, I posted a column I had written about Farm City Week, which is always the week before Thanksgiving. This year it runs from November 21 through November 27. Its purpose is to foster a stronger relationship between the urban and the rural and to highlight the interdependence of those who produce our agricultural products and those who consume them.

It was started by the National Farm-City Council and promoted nationally by the American Farm Bureau who encourage all Americans to recognize farmers, ranchers, and all those who contribute to the strength of America's agricultural industry.

As I mentioned in my column about Farm-City Week, remember, Thanksgiving would not be possible as we know it, if it were not for our farmers and ranchers. And, I ask that you look at the products you eat, consume, and use each day keeping these things in mind:

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?

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.

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. 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.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Eat Local Challenge

I have been meaning to post about an effort that the Eat Well Guide and the Consumers Union (the publisher of Consumer Reports) have put together challenging consumers to "Eat Local and Organic" for Thanksgiving.

They are not asking consumers to completely change their way of shopping or preparing for Thanksgiving but to just try to make one small change and are challenging everyone to use at least one local/sustainable/organic ingredient in their Thanksgiving meal.

For those who have been reading my blog since I started it last year at this time, you know that I advocate doing this year round by shopping at the local farmers' market, local farms, and asking for locally, sustainably grown produce at the supermarket. You might also know I have had a link to the Eat Well Guide since I started the blog.

So, you can start there http://www.eatwellguide.org/i.php?pd=Home to find a local farmers’ market if you aren't sure about one near you and you can also check out Eat Well's Green Fork Blog that will list all of the recipes people submit using these wonderful ingredients, http://www.eatwellguide.org/i.php?pd=Home.

Monday, November 17, 2008

An Overview of Obama's Views on Agriculture

I got this from one of the many groups I am on (Organic Consumers Association) and it outlines Obama's policies on agriculture. It sounds like some good things will finally be happening for sustainable agriculture!

Here's the main points:

1) Support for hunger and conservation programs in the Farm Bill.

2) Expand Country of Origin Labeling requirements on food products.

3) Support for organic farmers and transition to organic programs.

4) Increase farm extension service programs to attract more youth to farming as a career.

5) Encourage the use of technologies to produce power from animal wastes, and farming practices that reduce energy use and maintain soil health.

6) Increase incentives for farmers to plant trees, restore grasslands and managed the land in a way that better absorbs CO2.

7) Campaign pledge to support mandatory labeling for genetically engineered foods.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Another Shameless Plug

Well, I haven't posted for about a week since I have been super busy with book events and also attending some great sustainable food events like the Aaron French talk on Sunday at the Natural History Museum.

Anyhow, at one of the events, my monthly Master Garden Meeting, I was given a chance to chat a bit about my book before our featured speaker, Russ Parsons, the LA Times Food Editor spoke about the history of farmers' markets.

Not only did he give a fascinating talk about how farmers' markets developed, he was nice enough to buy my book and actually read it because yesterday he emailed me to let me know he was going to blog about it on the LA Times Daily Dish blog and sure enough, it's in there this morning http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish/2008/11/los-angeles-far.html.

Not only is he a great writer and strong supporter of farmers and farmers' markets, but he's a super nice guy and was very complimentary. His only criticism is the one that I myself have and it's really about doing a book for Arcadia, the fact that they are short on text. Which is why I am working on developing the stories of our farmers into a longer narrative form.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sustainable Sundays at the Natural History Museum

Don't miss the "Eating Greener" program this Sunday at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, as part of its Sustainable Sundays program, http://www.nhm.org/weekends/sustainable/index.html .
At 12:30pm, "eco-chef" Aaron French will present “Eating Greener: The Ecology of Food and Why It Matters," a 40-minute lecture, 20-minute cooking demonstration, and a 15-minute Q&A session.

It will offer participants an integrated framework for our food systems and provide context for current buzzwords such as "local," "organic," and "sustainable." Participants will learn steps each person can take to foster and promote sustainability in their local food region. Chef French holds bachelor's and master's degrees in Ecology, is the chef of The Sunnyside Cafe in Albany, California, writes the EcoChef column found in ten Bay Area New Group newspapers, and was a participant in Slow Food Nation, both as a contributor to the Slow Food Nation blog and as host of a Slow Breakfast at The Sunnyside Cafe.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Natural History Museum, 900 Exposition Boulevard in Exposition Park, Los Angeles (across from USC between Vermont and Figueroa)Cost: Tickets are $9.00 for adults and $2.00 for children (5-12) and can be purchased at the door

Friday, November 7, 2008

Organic Consumer's Association: "Organic Transitions"

I have finally had time to read some of the e-newsletters I get and one of them was from the Organic Consumer's Association. It was pretty good timing for me since I am working on putting an application together (and developing a project for it) for a fellowship in urban issues and I am going to call my project "Promoting Sustainability Through Urban Agriculture." This means focusing on urban issues such as increasing entrepreneurship, dealing with rising transportation and gas costs, economic development, food security, etc. through urban farms/locally grown. Gee, maybe I will be using that M.P.A. again after all!

Anyhow, I digress (not a big surprise for those who know LA Farm Girl). The point is that OCA has organized what they are calling the "Organic Transitions" Campaign, also calling it the next House & Garden, Solar & Transit Revolution.

Here's how they describe it:

"The Organic Consumers Association is proud to announce the launch of our new long-term North American campaign: "Organic Transitions". As the planet descends into a global economic crisis, battered by global warming, resource wars, and Peak Oil, we need to prepare ourselves and our communities for survival and revival in hard times.

Organic Transitions is designed to mobilize organic consumers and local communities to plan and implement food, transportation, energy, and education strategies that will enable us to survive and thrive in the turbulent times ahead.

Organic food and farming will provide the healthy cornerstone for a new, more localized, green economy. Check out our new "Organic Transitions" website and contact the OCA about organizing an Organic Transition committee in your local Torrance community here."

Well, given that they challenged me to organize a committee in "your local Torrance community," I am accepting the challenge! I have already done some preliminary groundwork, working towards installing a demonstration Victory Garden, working to increase healthy food in health care by using locally grown, sustainable farms/farmers, and other things. I will keep you posted on!

So, if anybody wants to get involved in my South Bay focused Organic Transitions project, let me know. And, check out the link above for the resources they have available to undertake an Organic Transition.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ask President-Elect Obama to Support Your Food and Farm Priorities

American Farmland Trust has posted a very brief and quick survey asking Americans to rate the food and farm priorities they think that our new President should focus on in '09.

They have selected 8 key issues of their policy work that they believe connecct with our country's greatest challenges. They are asking us to select those that mean the most to us and rank our priorities.

Just click here to make sure that your views are included and also spread the word to your friends and family about the importance of "Food and Farm in '09." http://action.farmland.org/site/Survey?ACTION_REQUIRED=URI_ACTION_USER_REQUESTS&SURVEY_ID=2080

Monday, November 3, 2008

Farm Aid Says Vote For Family Farmers

This is the message I received this morning in my email box from Farm Aid reminding us to think about our family farmers when we vote. I have cut and pasted it here so you can see exactly what they say:

Vote for Family Farmers

"Tomorrow's the day when you can shape America's future: Election Day 2008! Each of us has issues that we feel are important to our country, state, county, and town or city. For all of us at Farm Aid, family farmers and the good food they grow are our top priorities. Election day is your chance to pick the candidate that cares about the things that you care about - like family farmers and good food.

If you haven't already read it, check out our Ask Hilde column to find out where John McCain and Barack Obama stand on family farm and food issues.

Visit CanIVote.org for information on your polling location and local voting rules. Make your voice heard!'

Now, how can we ignore Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Dave Matthews and John Mellencamp? We can't!!!! They have been working to help our family farmers for 23 years and we can help them through our vote.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Screening of Food Fight at the AFI Fest

I am helping to spread the word about a wonderful and important documentary that will be screened at this year's AFI Fest: Food Fight.

Food Fight looks at how American agricultural policy and food culture developed in the 20th century, and how the California food movement has created a counterrevolution against big agribusiness.

As the filmmakers say: "When we walk into a supermarket, we assume that we have the widest possible choice of healthy foods. But in fact, over the course of the 20th century, our food system has been co-opted by corporate forces whose interests do not lie in providing the public with fresh, healthy, and sustainably produced food.

Fortunately for America, an alternative emerged from the counterculture of California in the late 1960s and early 1970s, where a group of political anti-corporate protesters--led by Alice Waters--voiced their dissent by creating a food chain outside of the conventional system. The unintended result was the birth of a vital local-sustainable-organic food movement, which has brought back taste and variety to our tables."

I just literally finished watching it since I was lucky enough to get a copy to screen so that I could write about it. And, I have to say that it is a not to miss film!

As somebody who has focused on these issues for the past decade, I thought I knew everything but this film showed me I was wrong. It traces the rise of our industrialized agriculture system in both an informative and entertaining way, using old film clips, interviews and stories. Just one example of what I learned, I never realized the connection between our industrial military complex and the food system and how so many of the same companies are involved in both: Monsanto, Dow Chemical etc. But, it talks about the most important reason of all to eat local, fresh food, it simply tastes better.

If you want to learn about the sustainable food movement, and what great taste is all about, this is a great way to do it because it features the leading voices in that movement, the best teachers you can have: Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, Will Allen.

Do your best to catch the screening at the AFI Fest:

When: Saturday, November 8, 2008 at 3:15pm
Where: Mann Chinese 6 Theatre, 6801 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles
No Cost: It's Free!!!!

Watch the trailer on the Food Fight website, and visit the AFI Fest page for more information.

And for those of you on face book, you can also join their group (like LA Farm Girl did) http://www.new.facebook.com/group.php?gid=40070554427

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Farmlab Featuring The Politics of Food

Join Next American City at Farmlab for lunch and the first talk in their URBANEXUS lecture series featuring Mark Vallianatos, co-author of The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City. The lecture will focus on Los Angeles’ politicized food landscape—-from the city’s agricultural heritage, food justice and the fast-food ban, to the future of food in a city transformed by immigration and global trade.

When: Friday, October 31, 2008 at noon

Where: Farmlab, 1745 N. Spring Street, Unit 4, Los Angeles

Cost: Admission is free and includes lunch provided by Farmlab and a special politics of food exhibit.

RSVP: Reserve your place at the event at the Next American City website.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

LA Farm Girl Says Barack Obama is the Best Presidential Candidate for Farmers

Here's a quote from today from Barack Obama that sums up what I am going to post about: "America's farmers are America's future" ~ Barack Obama, Indianapolis, IN, 10/23/2008

In my inbox this a.m. I got a regular email update from Farm Aid. You know them, they have been around since the "first" farm crisis of the 1980s, started by Willie Nelson and John "Cougar" Mellencamp (Uh-Huh) to aid our family farmers by putting on concerts. Well guess what? They are still around and still working on behalf of our family farmers, not only performing but the organization provides all kinds of aid from loans to health care assistance, a great organization, http://www.farmaid.org/.

The email contains a question posed to them, "Where do John McCain and Barack Obama stand on agricultural issues?" The answer provides a side-by-side comparison and lets you decide which presidential candidate is the best choice to look out for the needs of both our family farmers, and a sustainable food and agriculture system.

Now, Farm Aid is non-partisan and doesn't make a recommendation. But, when going to the link which lists each candidate's stated positions on issues such as farm subsidies, country of origin labeling, the Farm Bill, bio- fuels, farming and the environment, and looking at the comparison, in my opinion, it clearly shows that Senator Obama is the best choice for our nation's food and agriculture system. Check it out here: Ask Hilde - Farm Aid

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My Farmer Hero: Tom Ishibashi

Here's a shot of me with Tom Ishibashi from last Saturday. He is one the "stars" of my book and he graciously let me come and do a book signing at the farm stand. The best part was watching all the people ask him for his autograph!

They literally let me set up smack dab in the middle of the farm stand, what wonderful, generous people they are.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

LA Farm Girl Book Signing at Ishibashi Farm this Weekend

I just thought I'd post to remind everybody that Ishibashi Farm has pumpkins and corn for your Fall and Halloween decorations and they are going fast!

Also, I am going to be at the farm stand this Saturday, October 18 from 10 to about 11 or 11:30 a.m. selling and signing copies of my book, Farming in Torrance and the South Bay (that is if the books I bought come in time)!

Stop by and see this wonderful farm and say "hi". The stand is located at 24955 Crenshaw Boulevard, alongside Torrance Airport.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Food Is A Political Issue

This weekend's issue of the NY Times Magazine focuses on food and agriculture and why it is so critical that it should be one of the issue's discussed by the presidential candidates.

They are calling it "The Food Issue" and say that: "International food prices spiked almost 40 percent last year, indicating that the monetary price is finally catching up with the true costs of cheap food: obesity in the U.S., malnutrition in developing countries and environmental degradation everywhere. This issue is devoted to these problems and some possible solutions, many of them sprinkled throughout the essays and reports."

One of the most powerful and informative of these essays is the one written by Michael Pollan, noted UC Berkeley professor and author, his newest book is In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. It's called Farmer in Chief, here's the link http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/12/magazine/12policy-t.html?_r=1&ref=magazine&oref=slogin.

Its very long but important and the gist of it is that the next president will have to deal with our food system and the issue of food. As Pollan says, "But with a suddenness that has taken us all by surprise, the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close. What this means is that you, like so many other leaders through history, will find yourself confronting the fact — so easy to overlook these past few years — that the health of a nation’s food system is a critical issue of national security. Food is about to demand your attention."

And, he says that the food issue is related to issues that they are campaigning on: health care, energy independence and climate change. For example, how the food industry uses more fossil fuel than anything except our individual cars. But he says, the good news is that now it seems it is the time for big changes in the food system to be possible.

The way to do this: "We need to wean the American food system off its heavy 20th-century diet of fossil fuel and put it back on a diet of contemporary sunshine."

As Pollan says: "Since enhancing the prestige of farming as an occupation is critical to developing the sun-based regional agriculture we need, the White House should appoint, in addition to a White House chef, a White House farmer. This new post would be charged with implementing what could turn out to be your most symbolically resonant step in building a new American food culture. And that is this: tear out five prime south-facing acres of the White House lawn and plant in their place an organic fruit and vegetable garden.
When Eleanor Roosevelt did something similar in 1943, she helped start a Victory Garden movement that ended up making a substantial contribution to feeding the nation in wartime. (Less well known is the fact that Roosevelt planted this garden over the objections of the U.S.D.A., which feared home gardening would hurt the American food industry.) By the end of the war, more than 20 million home gardens were supplying 40 percent of the produce consumed in America. The president should throw his support behind a new Victory Garden movement, this one seeking “victory” over three critical challenges we face today: high food prices, poor diets and a sedentary population."

There is a group that has been advocating for this and is led by Kitchen Garden International creator Roger Doiron, they are calling their project, Eat The View. Check out their site here and sign the petition to get a Victory Garden put at the White House http://www.eattheview.org/.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Worthy Project Requesting Support

Hi all,

As you know I usually do not post or talk about things other than farming and local food issues or things you have to vote for, surveys, etc. but I received a request to support this project that will help feed children around the globe. Here's the info. I received from Chessia Kelley, International Medical Corps:

"My organization, International Medical Corps, is in the final 5 of the American Express Members Projects. "Saving the Lives of Malnourished Children" was chosen out of 1,190 projects and is now eligible to receive up to $1.5 million to help feed hungry and malnourished children, but I really need your help to let everyone know to vote for us. We are currently in 4th place and are just a couple of hundred votes out of 3rd. The difference between 3rd & 4th place is $200k. Imagine how many children we could help with that amount?"

You can check out their organization and the project here http://internationalmedicalcorps.smnr.us/.

I do think this is wonderful project but I would also love to see a group focus on the issue here specifically in the US. As I have been writing about, the hunger issue here is increasing and will get worse given our economic issues.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

It's Eat Local Challenge Month

This may be unprecedented in the brief history of this blog, but I am posting twice in one day. Yep, I will do anything to avoid writing!

Basically, Eat Local Challenge 2008 is all about eating locally grown. Duh, but in case you are unclear, here's the scoop from the Eat Local Challenge folks themselves, http://www.eatlocalchallenge.com/2008/08/announcing-the.html

"The traditional Eat Local Challenge is a basic concept: commit to eating only locally grown foods for a period of thirty days. Declare "exceptions" that you will not be eating locally, and try as hard as you can to have everything else come from your local food shed. "Local" is traditionally a 150-mile distance from your home, but can really be defined as any area near you. Some locavores choose their county, state, or region."

Check out the site for info. on ways to make it easier and on explanations about making exceptions for things we don't grow locally, i.e., coffee and chocolate. As they suggest, at least try to buy fair trade items for the things you can't live without like spices. One alternative is to buy local herbs and seasonings.

Since I am concerned about preserving California farms, I try to focus on California grown and if possible, grown within 200 miles of me since I live in LA and our farm space has dwindled. Let me know if you are going to participate and we can try to help each other!

National Food Bank Week, October 13

Being on so many email lists, this week I have received several about a week that I had never heard of, National Food Bank Week. It's designed to coincide with World Food Day and since 1987, a week has been set aside to promote the importance of food banks across America.

This week is a good time to highlight the fact that most local shelters face a lack of fresh fruits and vegetables, or, if they do get produce, it's in a deplorable condition.

So, I am urging everyone to help get the much needed fruits and vegetables to these families in need. Make a change for the better at your local food bank during National Food Bank Week, take in fresh produce from your garden or a local farmers' market, or help educate those who run the food bank and those who need it abut the importance of fresh fruit and vegetables to their diets!

Monday, September 29, 2008

California Adopts GE Protections for Farmers

Good news came this weekend (which is amazing considering all that's going on). AB 541 was signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger on Saturday, September 27. The bill, a landmark piece of legislation, brings much-needed regulation to genetically engineered (GE) crops.

AB 541 indemnifies California farmers who have not been able to prevent the inevitable - the drift of GE pollen or seed onto their land and the subsequent contamination of non-GE crops. Currently, farmers with crops that become contaminated by patented seeds or pollen have been the target of harassing lawsuits brought by bio tech patent holders, most notoriously Monsanto. Further, if their contaminated crops cause harm to other farmers, the environment or consumers, they have not been protected from that liability. AB 541 provides protections for farmers from such liability.

The bill was unique in that it had some unlikely sponsors all working together including the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Earthbound Farm, California Certified Organic Farmers, and the California Farm Bureau, that has opposed any regulations or restrictions for GE crops in the past.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Its Pumpkin Time!!!

Well, the book talk went pretty well I think, there were only a few people who seemed to drift off to sleep!

Since I was talking about the wonderful Ishibashi farm last night and how they might still have corn left, I wanted to give everyone an update. They do have corn left and they also have the first of the season pumpkins! I took home a couple of "munchkins" for my table and am going to go back when they get more. Just don't wait too long, they will go fast since they not only have their sign up (see below) but I saw the guys moving the big pumpkin decoration out of storage and getting ready to set it up!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

LA Farm Girl Book Talk Tonight

I just thought I'd post a note to let everybody know that tonight I will be giving a brief talk and book signing for my book, Farming in Torrance and The South Bay. I will be talking about our wonderful farm families and their many lasting contributions to our community. I am finishing up my Power Point now and I hope it comes out OK!

Let me know if you are a blog reader, I'd love to actually meet somebody who reads it.

Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Katy Geissert Civic Center Library Meeting Room
Address: 3301 Torrance Boulevard, Torrance, 90503
Phone: (310) 618-5959

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Number of Farmers' Markets Continues to Rise

I got a blurb in my email box this morning about a survey conducted by the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Services (AMS) that indicates that as of August 2008, there are 4,685 farmers' markets in the United States. This represents a 6.8 percent increase from August 2006, when there were 4,385.

When they first started tracking markets in 1994, there were about 3,500. AMS maintains a database of nationwide markets, so for those traveling out of California, you can check it out before you go: http://apps.ams.usda.gov/FarmersMarkets/

And for those of us living here in LA, according to the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner/Weights and Measures there are over 100 certified farmers' markets in the County, meaning there's bound to be one near you. Check them out: http://acwm.co.la.ca.us/scripts/CertifiedFM.cfm
We also have some of the most diverse markets in the nation. We have the almost carnival-like atmosphere of the Sunday Hollywood Farmers' Market:
And, the relaxing and beautiful coast alongside the Thursday, Redondo Beach Farmers' Market.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Honoring Our Farmers

Well, I haven't really wanted to "use" my blog to "sell" my book. But then I got to thinking, I did the book to tell the stories of our South Bay farmers and unless I talk about it, and sell it, then I can't talk about them.

So, as you can see by the little announcement at the top of this blog, my book officially went on sale on Monday (it should be at most local bookstores by the end of the week and I am giving several presentations and signing books so check out the event section to find them). It's called Farming in Torrance and the South Bay and its a pictorial history book that tells the story of those who made up our once thriving agricultural industry.

It also includes modern urban agriculture in the last section. And, one of the few people in my book and in our area who actually bridges both our farming past and present, is Tom Ishibashi (pictured here in February).
He is not one to boast or to brag about himself, but since my new Farm Aid T-Shirt asks the question, "Who's Your Farmer Hero," I will brag for him by saying that my answer is "Tom Ishibashi."

He is part of a family that has farmed in the South Bay for the past 100 years and that has contributed to our local economy through the hard work of farming, starting first as dry farmers!

His farm at the Torrance Airport is the last "traditional" farm in Torrance and the long lines at his produce stand on Crenshaw Boulevard that start forming when his first strawberries appear in spring attest to the fact that we are appreciative of his life's work and hope that he continues to farm.

If you haven't been fortunate enough to try his wonderful produce, make sure you stop by the stand at 24955 Crenshaw Boulevard. He has strawberries in spring, and the sweetest corn you ever tasted starting in summer and he also grows a variety of veggies including tomatoes, carrots, zucchini, and coming soon watch for pumpkins.

He is also one of the quickest and funniest men I have ever meant and is always good for giving me a laugh. I want to thank Tom for telling me his story, taking me out to the fields to take photos and actually posing for me even though he is camera shy.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Declaration for Healthy Food and Agriculture

One of the most important things going on at Slow Food Nation this weekend, is the distribution of the Declaration for Healthy Food and Agriculture for groups and individuals to support and endorse.

This document is aimed at changing the current model of our food system, comprised of industrial food production reliant on cheap fossil fuels and (once) abundant land and water resources with a focus on providing cheap calories globally.

The Food Declaration was developed to change this and the purpose of the Declaration is not only to establish a healthy food and agriculture policy, but it's an "invitation to all Americans to join in the improvement effort by taking action in their own lives and communities and by offering them a way to call on policymakers to comprehensively support change."

It has 12 principles that should frame our food and agriculture policy to ensure it will contribute to the health and wealth of the U.S. and the world. Check these out http://fooddeclaration.org/. and if you support them, please endorse the Declaration!

To me, the main reason for supporting this declaration is outlined in this paragraph: "We believe that the food system must be reorganized on a foundation of health: for our communities, for people, for animals, and for the natural world. The quality of food, and not just its quantity, ought to guide our agriculture. The ways we grow, distribute, and prepare food should celebrate our various cultures and our shared humanity, providing not only sustenance, but justice, beauty and pleasure."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Reminder: Slow Food Nation This Weekend

I just wanted to post a reminder that Slow Food Nation kicks off in San Francisco tomorrow and I would love to hear from any of you that are able to attend. As I said, unfortunately I can't go and am hoping to find online resources to follow the events.

Here's a link to a SF Chronicle article outlining how to make the most out of the event: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/08/26/FDC912F043.DTL&type=food
As they note, although many of the events have already sold out, there's still plenty to do! For me, the thing I am most disappointed about not being able to see is the Victory Garden at City Hall!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Happy Women's Equality Day

August 26, 2008 marks the 88th anniversary of Women’s Equality Day. Following more than 70 years of peaceful civil rights protests, the United States Congress finally ratified the 19th Amendment in 1920 and granted women the right to vote. In 1971, the Joint Resolution of Congress established August 26th as Women’s Equality Day in recognition of the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment.

In addition to celebrating the voting rights of American women, Women’s Equality Day also symbolizes the continued fight for equality, justice, peace, and development for women from various nationalities, ethnicities, cultures, religions, economic and political backgrounds

Friday, August 22, 2008

Cornell Study Finds: Eating Less, Eating Local and Eating Better Could Slash U.S. Energy Use

I got an interesting tibit this morning in one of my many emails. Seems that if we eat locally, and go back to using traditional farming methods we can help save fuel.

Here's the gist of it: How much energy we use to produce food could be cut in half if Americans ate less and ate local foods, wolfed down less meat, dairy and junk food, and used more traditional farming methods, says a new Cornell study.

"We could reduce the fossil energy used in the U.S. food system by about 50 percent with relatively simple changes in how we produce, process, package, transport and consume our food," said David Pimentel, professor emeritus of ecology and agriculture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell.

Pimentel's analysis, co-authored with five former Cornell undergraduates who were in Pimentel's Environmental Policy course in 2006, is published in the academic journal Human Ecology.

Pimentel says that about 19 percent of the total fossil fuel used in this country goes into the food system -- about the same amount we use to fuel cars. His analysis details how changes in the food system could reduce energy. The recommended changes are:
  • Eat less and cut down on junk food. To produce the typical American diet requires the equivalent of about 500 gallons of oil per year per person, (according to the study).
  • Eat less meat and dairy: We use 45 million tons of plant protein to produce 7.5 million tons of animal protein per year, according to Pimentel. Switching to a vegetarian diet, he says, would require one-third less fossil fuel than producing the current animal-based American diet.
  • Eat more locally grown food: Food travels an average of 1,500 miles before it is eaten. "This requires 1.4 times the energy than the energy in the food,"Pimentel said. A head of iceberg lettuce, for example, which is 95 percent water, provides 110 calories and few nutrients. Irrigating the lettuce in California takes 750 calories of fossil energy and shipping it to New York another 4,000 calories of energy per head, according to the analysis. Locally grown cabbage, on the other hand, requires only 400 calories to produce and offers far more nutrients, not to mention it can be stored all winter long.
  • Use more traditional farming methods: Pimentel's team also shows how using methods to reduce soil erosion, irrigation and pesticide use, through such things as crop rotation, manure and cover crops, could cut the total energy now used in crop production.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Slow Food Nation: 10 Points For Better Health

I have mentioned the upcoming big food event in S.F. called Slow Food Nation, http://www.slowfoodnation.org/. It's basically a celebration of food that is billed as the first ever U.S. event on the viability of sustainability, the benefits of eco-friendly farming, and the flavors of artisan foods.

It's being held over Labor Day weekend, because as the event organizers put it: "We chose Labor Day weekend in homage to the harvest season and because farmers, who are the soul of the event, told us this was one of the few times of the year they could spare. But if citizens are the heart and farmers the soul of Slow Food Nation, political leaders are the target."

It will include the Slow Food farmers' market, specialty food pavilions, workshops and talks by renowned authors, nutritionists and activists.

Sadly, I cannot attend but I am doing my best to follow all of the goings on from here. One of the things they are going to do there is unveil a Healthy Food and Agriculture Declaration, orchestrated by Roots of Change as a response to the farm bill, which will be posted on August 28 at www.fooddeclaration.org for public comment.

Another cool thing is to focus on ways to improve what you eat. The following is a list of 10 things you can do to improve your health that was in last Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle, and includes tips that also help promote a sustainable food system, something we critically need.

Ten points to better health
1. Know what you're eating. Find out where it comes from and what's in it. Think about what's in season now - what's ripe, not just fresh. A lot of these foods will turn out to be local.

2. Get cooking. And try making things from scratch. You'll save money and rediscover skills you forgot you had.

3. Plant something. It could be an herb pot on your kitchen counter or, if you have space at home, a small kitchen garden, or a communal plot in your neighborhood that you tend with family and friends. (The Victory Garden on Civic Center Plaza is a landscape of ideas, staffed by experts who can guide your hands to the soil.)

4. Pack a bag lunch.

5. Drink tap water. It's healthier for you, and it's free.

6. Learn about and celebrate the food traditions your family still possesses. These are like seeds, long stored and just waiting to be planted.

7. Invite someone to share a meal. Strengthen the bonds of friendship and community by cooking and eating together.

8. Learn about endangered foods and how we can bring them back to our tables.

9. Conserve, compost and recycle.

10. Vote with your fork.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Buy Heritage Foods to Ensure Species Diversity and Survival

If you don’t already subscribe to the daily Ideal Bite, http://www.idealbite.com/ a green email list with great tips, you should. Yesterday’s was all about buying heritage foods in order to ensure that they survive. Here’s what they say:

The Bite

If we start a heritage foods revolution by eating 'em, they'll stick around (sounds crazy, but by creating a higher demand, it gives farmers more motivation to raise them). Go for meat from farms raising these select heritage breeds instead of conventional 'stock, and you'll help keep biodiversity alive. By, um...George, we think they've got it.

The Benefits
Benefits that aren't just allegorical fiction. Preserving heritage animals preserves biodiversity - and they may have beneficial genetics (disease resistance, climate adaptability) that more common breeds may not.

Saving species from total(itarian) extinction. Most livestock originate from just a few breeds. Example: Right now 75% of U.S. pigs come from three main species; about ten others are close to dying out.

More variety than your 10th-grade required reading. With heritage foods, you'll taste flavors you're not gonna find with conventional meats, which are bred for uniformity.

Wanna Try?
Schmancier grocery stores (such as Whole Foods) often let you know via signage whether a meat is heritage or not - or try asking your butcher.
Heritage Foods USA - order select heritage foods online (prices vary).
American Livestock Breeds Conservancy - find out which species are at risk.
Slow Food USA - nonprof dedicated to preserving biodiversity in our food.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

LA's Own Slow Food Nation-Type Event

Well, even though it's no Slow Food Nation, there's a very cool event coming up on Sunday, August 17. Its part of the Downtown LA Film Festival and it's called, Sustainable LA.

Its a free event at MOCA and The California Plaza in Downtown LA, it runs from Noon to 10 p.m. and there will be environmental-themed films and related events.

The best part for LA Farm Girl is the scheduled Farmers Market and Slow Food Court on Grand Avenue between 2nd and 4th, that runs from 12 noon to 6 pm. http://www.dffla.com/press.asp#sustainablela

It will feature over 60 food, farm, green business, craft and green not for profit booths. And there will be fresh salads, ice cream rotisserie chicken, fish, juices, cobbler, and more. There will also be an opportunity to talk to local growers about their farms and sample their produce.

The foodie part also includes a panel discussion: "Buy Local, Eat Slow: A New Way of Thinking About Food," from 2:30 – 3:30 pm featuring the Path to Freedom Folks and cookbook author Amelia Saltsman moderated by Russ Parsons.

I am hoping to be able to go but it depends on how my Dad is doing after his hip replacement on August 8th, I don't want to leave him alone if he's not able to be up and about yet.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Can You Help? Flowers Needed!

Well, the very sweet woman who runs the AIDS Circle of Life Program phoned me this a.m. and she is heartbroken. One of her clients passed away and she would love to fill up the place with flowers for his funeral service.

So, if you or somebody you know has extra flowers, please let me know so that I can get them to her. I sure wish I had my network better set up for things like this.

You can email me at FarmWriter@californiafamilyfarms.com, or even phone me at (310) 543-1917.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Farmer's Share

I received this very eye-opening link in my email box this morning from the National Farmer's Union (NFU). Did you know that farmers and ranchers receive only 20 cents of every food dollar that consumers spend on food at home and away from home?

According to the US Department of Agriculture, off farm costs including marketing, processing, wholesaling, distribution, and retailing account for 80 cents of every food dollar spent in the United States.

Here's what they found farmers received for some goods:

Fresh Carrots (2 pounds): Retail, $2.99, Farmer $.84
Lettuce (2 pounds, 1 head): Retail $1.99, Farmer $.37
Fresh Potatoes (10 pounds, Russet): Retail $3.00, Farmer $.72

"The Farmer’s share is derived from USDA, NASS “Agricultural Prices,” 2008. Retail based on Safeway (SE) brand except where noted."

How sad is this? It makes you wonder why we have any family farmers left. How can they survive and what keeps them going?

Remember: this is just one example that demonstrates what's wrong with our large, consolidated food system and it illustrates why direct marketing ventures such as farmers' markets, CSA's, and farm-to-institution programs are so vital. Please, whenever possible, buy directly from a farm or farmer and help support them.

In case you are interested in learning more about the NFU, which was founded in 1902 to help the family farmer address profitability issues and monopolistic practices while America was courting the Industrial Revolution, http://nfu.org/.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Meals on Wheels Needs Fresh Fruit!

Again for those who read both of my blogs, sorry about the repetitive posts but this is very important and I wanted to get the word out to as many people as possible. I received this on my Master Gardener list and thought I'd pass it on in case any of you have extra produce to donate.

Meals on Wheels West out of Santa Monica is interested in receiving fresh fruit to supplement the diets of their home bound disabled and elderly clients.

They say that with the increase in food costs, fruit has been eliminated from the meals prepared by their food suppliers. But, their clients say they want to receive fresh fruit!

They will deliver the fresh fruit within one day of receiving it, so I will be glad to deliver it to them if you get it to me since we are still in the process of organizing The Giving Gardeners more formally. Just drop me an email: farmwriter@californiafamilyfarms.com, or leave a comment here.

Please consider helping. I am also going to be checking with the Meals on Wheels here in the South Bay to see if they would like some fresh fruit as well.

Friday, June 27, 2008

San Francisco City Hall Victory Garden

Photo courtesy the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

Sigh...yet another reason I often think I should be living up there instead of here since San Franciscans have been promoters and developers of sustainable food systems for so long. Now, they are creating a Victory Garden right in front of City Hall, calling the project The Slow Food Nation Victory Garden that will replace the lawn at City Hall.

They have the full support of Mayor Gavin Newsom and it is designed and built by the Garden for the Environment’s Victory Garden 08+ Program, CMG Landscape Architecture and City Slicker Farms, using seeds donated from Seeds of Change and numerous individuals from around the country.

Here's the scoop from a Press Release I received:

Beginning Tuesday, July 1, the lawn in front of San Francisco’s City Hall will undergo a transformation from grass carpet to edible garden, as dozens of Bay Area organizations join together to plant the Slow Food Nation Victory Garden. On Saturday, July 12, Mayor Gavin Newsom, Slow Food Nation founder Alice Waters and more than 100 volunteers will plant the first edible garden in the City’s Civic Center since 1943.

The Slow Food Nation Victory Garden is one more way to showcase the City’s tangible commitment to sustainability and, as in the past, confront some of the most challenging issues of our times,” said Mayor Gavin Newsom. “For many urban residents, access to healthy and nutritious food is as important now as it was during the Second World War.”

Slow Food Nation, the largest celebration of American food in history, takes place in San Francisco over Labor Day weekend (August 29 to September 1, 2008). The Slow Food Nation Victory Garden in the Civic Center will serve as a demonstration and education centerpiece leading up to and following the Labor Day weekend event, providing visitors the opportunity to learn about urban food production. Bounty from the garden will be donated to those with limited access to healthy, organic produce through a partnership with local food banks and meal programs.

It would be so awesome to have a project like this here, I can’t even imagine the chuckles and looks I would get if I even approached my local elected officials with such an idea. These are the kinds of projects that have inspired me to want to do something, like my Giving Gardeners idea, which I thought would be something that would be palatable to people here, but something like this could help so many more people and help us on our way to sustainability. Sigh…maybe one day.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Another Shameless Book Plug

Exciting news for me, I happened to be looking for something on Barnes and Noble.com and so I thought I would see if by chance the publisher did what they said they were going to do and I searched and lo and behold there's a link to a page where you can pre-order my book, "Farming in Torrance and the South Bay." Its coming out in September, they told me September 8, but here it says September 3rd.

How cool is this? I mean I have had my work published so many times in books, magazines, encyclopedias, the Farmer's Almanac, etc., but there's something about having "my own" book that has me acting like a teenager.

Anyhow, here's the link: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Farming-in-Torrance-the-South-Bay-California/Judith-Gerber/e/9780738559308/?itm=1

Monday, June 23, 2008

Does Growing Up Around Farming Help You Live to 100?

I just received my July copy of Sunset magazine, and it featured a very interesting little story. The story was designed to find out why people are living longer in the West, particularly California, which has more centenarians than any other state.

They asked: How much of it is genetics? How much is lifestyle? After researching and doing the story, they say the debate continues but that they noticed some common traits in those they talked to.

These included the following: "They lived "slow" and took their time doing things. They walked, not drove, to school and work. They grew up on farms. They grew vegetables. They lived among walnut groves, avocado trees, and strawberry plants."

What, they grew up around produce and ate vegetables and lived slowly? Isn't that what the sustainable ag., Slow Food, and organic movements are all about? Are we finally learning to value what came before us?

As they summed up in the story's introduction, "So maybe, just maybe, going back to our roots, back to the earth, back to our community----a lifestyle the West not only promotes but also leads in---is the secret."

It sure makes me feel like I am on the right path, and that I have been part of something that has deeply connected roots to our history. I have been reflecting on it this afternoon with my own family. I had grandparents on both sides of my family who gardened, who grew fruit, and who lived fairly long lives. I even see it in my father, who gardens and is in amazingly good health at 78. And, I think my work somehow makes me feel connected to my grandparents still and is slowly spreading to my lifestyle.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Off-Topic? Electric Car Film Screening Today

I just wanted to post a quick note about an event that The Torrance Public Library Commission (my commission) is co-sponsoring with the Environmental Quality and Energy Conservation Commission this afternoon at Torrance Public Library it's a screening of the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?”

The film is a 2006 documentary exploring the development of the fuel-efficient, environment-friendly electric car and its demise.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion on alternative energies. The panel will consist of individuals featured in the documentary including Zan Dubin Scott, Paul Scott, and Chelsea Sexton members of Plug In America. Electric cars will be on display!

This program is co-sponsored by the Torrance Library Commission and
the Environmental Quality and Energy Conservation Commission.
Saturday, June 21, 2008 at 2:00 p.m.
Katy Geissert Civic Center Library
Community Meeting Room
3301 Torrance Blvd., Torrance

I will be there along with some goodies I got at the Farmers' Market this morning, and it will be air-conditioned, plus we have some hand-outs from the South Bay Energy Center and from our wonderful Recycling Coordinator, Allison Sherman all about water and energy conservation, important to us all.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Happy Summer Solstice!

Ken Lee's Awesome Pluots, He's at Torrance Farmers' Market

Well, this afternoon at 4:59 Pacific Daylight Time (which is my time so it is all about me), the Summer Solstice officially begins!

What does this mean? Well, aside from being the first day of Summer, its also an astronomical event, caused by Earth’s tilt on its axis, and its motion in orbit around the sun.
(Note: LA Farm Girl is not a scientist, nor an astronomer, and couldn't possibly explain this so its understandable, the following wonderful description comes from Earth & Sky: Clear Voice for Science, http://www.earthsky.org/).

"Because Earth doesn't orbit upright, but is instead tilted on its axis by 23-and-a-half degrees, Earth’s northern and southern hemispheres trade places in receiving the sun’s light and warmth most directly. At the June solstice, Earth is positioned in its orbit so that the North Pole is leaning 23-and-a-half degrees toward the sun. As seen from Earth, the sun is directly overhead at noon 23-and-a-half degrees north of the equator, at an imaginary line encircling the globe known as the Tropic of Cancer. This is as far north as the sun ever gets.

All locations north of the equator have day lengths greater than 12 hours at the June solstice. Meanwhile, all locations south of the equator have day lengths less than 12 hours."

OK, it’s me again. So, that means for us, it's the "longest" day of the year, in terms of daylight at least. And since ancient times most cultures have marked the solstice because it's a day to celebrate this time of warmth and light, which we should all do. And, what better way to do that than to celebrate and recognize the importance of our family farmers?

Take this weekend to go and visit your local farmers' market, farm stand, or farm (we do have a few left still) and thank them for the bounty that starts coming in full force with the Summer Solstice including stone fruit (you know, apricots, plums, pluots, nectarines, peaches), melons, summer squash, and of course, tomatoes.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

I posted the same thing on my Giving Gardener's Blog, but I wanted to pay proper tribute to my Dad, the most awesome gardener I have ever seen. He is Mr. Green Thumb. I snapped a couple of shots of his freakishly tall sunflowers yesterday. They are literally over 7 feet tall!

Happy Father's Day to all and thanks Dad for being my inspiration for so many things!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What Do You Think Should Be California's Agricultural Vision?

If you are like me and have ideas on how you think our agricultural system could be improved, we have a unique opportunity to provide our input directly to the CDFA (California Department of Food and Agriculture).

They, (along with the California State Board of Food and Agriculture) are hosting Ag. Vision Listening Sessions next month that provide a forum for agriculture and the public to give their input into a California agricultural vision. This vision will be used to guide public policy and investment priorities at the state and national level for the next 20 years.

They want to know:
  • What do you have to say to these questions?
  • What is your vision for California agriculture by 2030?
  • What will be the biggest challenge in achieving that vision?
  • In 2030, how has public perception of agriculture changed?
  • What is a "must have" in an Ag Vision for California?
Let them hear your ideas and come to one of these sessions:
July 1st - San Luis Obispo: 12 p.m. - 3 p.m.
July 2nd - Tulare: 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
July 7th - Oxnard: 12 p.m. - 3 p.m.
July 8th - Escondido: 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.

For more information or to RSVP, visit www.cdfa.ca.gov/agvision.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

It's Stone Fruit Season

I finally had the chance to go to the Torrance Certified Farmers' Market yesterday and found some great seasonal stone fruit, including cherries, apricots, peaches and plums. Just remember, if you are a cherry lover, you better get them quick since the season is very short.

Here's a couple of shots that I took as I was walking through the market
Erickson Farms of Fresno, has several different cherry varieties in the bing family.

These yummy apricots are from MB Farms (Mark Boujikian's farm).

Monday, June 2, 2008

Inspired Idea: Tax Breaks For Victory Gardens

If you aren't familiar with the group Kitchen Gardeners International, you might soon become familiar with them as they have been in the news a lot lately thanks to founder Roger Doiron, http://www.kitchengardeners.org/

His group advocates growing your own via "Kitchen Gardens," and his newest idea is brilliant, he asks the question: "Which Will Be First State to Offer Tax Breaks for Victory Gardens?

As he says: "We provide fiscal incentives to people to encourage them to put hybrid cars in their garages and solar panels on their roofs, so why not offer incentives for solar-powered, healthy food production in their backyard? With wars still waging, food and oil costs rising, and paychecks stretching to the breaking point, now is the time for a home-grown revival. What better way to usher in this revolution than by marrying two great American traditions: vegetable gardening and tax cuts?"

As Doiron points out, the wartime "Victory Garden" campaign was a huge success, with over 20 million gardens growing 8 million tons of food by 1943. He also points out that more home gardens would offer us victory not only over rising food and health care costs, but also foreign oil dependency and climate change.

His ideas consider local, state, and federal breaks for home gardeners such as removing sales tax on seeds, fruit bushes, and seedlings and even giving an income tax break for people similar to the deduction with home offices that allow you to deduct based on square footage. As Doiron suggests: "The bigger your garden, the better the tax break. Those with no yard could deduct the rental fee for a community garden plot."

Monday, May 26, 2008

Good News: Locavore Movement Helping Revive Family Farms

An interesting and hopeful article appears in the May 20, online edition of Business Week. www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/may2008/db20080520_920283.htm

It discusses the fact that the trend toward eating locally has led to both an increase in the number of farmers' markets in the U.S., (The U.S. Agriculture Dept. indicating the number of markets reached 4,692 in 2006, its most recent year of data, up 50% from five years earlier. Sales from those markets reached $1 billion,), but also an actual increase in the number of small farms.

According to the article: "After declining for more than a century, the number of small farms has increased 20% in the past six years, to 1.2 million, according to the Agriculture Dept."

As somebody who has been writing about farming for the past decade, I can't say how exciting and encouraging it is to see statistics that indicate small farms are on the increase.

Unfortunately, the good news is tempered with more of the same sad news, the large food retailers are also now "cashing in" on the local movement, much as they have done with the organic market. However, I guess to see the positive side to even this trend is to recognize that many consumers who would not normally have access to any locally grown fresh produce now do.

Lastly, the article points out that local produce is now starting to show up in all kinds of unexpected places aside from schools, like cafeterias of companies such as Target, Oracle, and DreamWorks.

My goal is to see more farm-to-school and farm-to-hospital programs and am doing my own small part to help make that happen.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Big News: Book Has On Sale Date!

While I am still recovering from my wonderful trip to San Francisco, I was very excited when I got home to receive word that a tentative date for my book to go on sale has been selected.

Ready? It's Monday, September 8. It sure does make it seem real now! So, being technologically impaired, I couldn't figure out how to turn the PDF of the cover into a photo so dorky me just took a photo of it and I am posting it here, (clicking on it makes it bigger but it does look way lame)!

It's titled: Farming in Torrance and the South Bay and is being published by Arcadia Publishing.

I am going to be posting stories about our wonderful farmers and history here in the weeks ahead.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

LA Farm Girl Taking in San Francisco Ag.

Just a quick post to let you all know that I am alive and well visiting San Francisco for my birthday this week.

I wasn't able to visit the awesome Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market since I missed it, but I did visit the Ferry Building that offers plenty of locally grown fruits and vegetables from farms mostly in Marin County across the bay.

These include Capay Organic Farm that offers fresh produce at the farm, the Ferry Building Marketplace, and via home or office delivery, http://www.farmfreshtoyou.com/.

The photo of the sign here is from them and of course there's a photo of the Ferry Building from the Hyatt Regency across the street. If you haven't visited since its been renovated, make sure you see it, http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/ There's also a McEvoy Olive stand, Cowboy Creamery Artisan Cheese Store, Hog Island Oyster Company and Scharffen Berger Chocolate Company.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Ask Congress to Cut Subsidies to Big Agriculture

I received this from the great local group, Hunger Action Los Angeles, a group that focuses on providing sufficient, affordable, healthy food to all, http://www.hungeractionla.org/. and thought I 'd pass it on here verbatim since they can say it best. It's about the seemingly endless struggle to pass the "2007" Farm Bill and how there's an opportunity to help family farmers and address the worldwide food shortage all at once:

"Congress has once again passed a two-week extension to the 2002 Farm Bill so they can continue working on the “2007” Farm Bill.

The main issue now are billions of dollars in ag subsidies. President Bush has weighed in, with suggestions that he would veto a bill that didn’t cut the huge payments to U.S. farms.

'Americans are concerned about rising food prices,' President Bush said. 'Unfortunately, Congress is considering a massive, bloated farm bill that would do little to solve the problem. The bill Congress is now considering would fail to eliminate subsidy payments to multimillionaire farmers.

'America’s farm economy is thriving, the value of farmland is skyrocketing, and this is the right time to reform our nation’s farm policies by reducing unnecessary subsidies. It’s not the time to ask American families who are already paying more in the check-out line to pay more in subsidies for wealthy farmers.'


Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard (1-202-224-3121) and ask to speak to any of our California representatives below. If you’re not in their district, remind the person you talk to on the phone that this is a national issue:

Rep Maxine Waters (South LA): Rep Henry Waxman (West LA): Rep Brad Sherman (San Fernando Valley)
Rep Howard Berman: Rep Joe Baca (San Bernardino): Rep George Miller: Rep Dennis Cardoza

“Thank you for passing $10 billion in nutrition increases in the Farm Bill. This is desperately needed as food stamps only average $3 a day in benefits and food prices are rising.”

“Please support the effort to reduce the huge ag subsidies. This will allow farmers in poor countries to be able to look forward to getting realistic prices so that they can expand their own production and feed their own people."

(Currently the subsidies allow the US to sell its products cheaper overseas and put local farmers out of business.)"

Me talking again, let's see if we can make a difference by getting involved!!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

LA Farm Girl in Shock

For those of you who know LA Farm Girl, what I am about to say might shock you. But, rather than say it myself because I simply can't get the words out, I will let Sustainable Table say it for me as follows:

"Sustainable Table fully supports the creative solution suggested today by President Bush to buy food from local farmers as a means for communities to be more self sustaining. The nonprofit program adds that purchasing sustainably-raised local food is the best option for all Americans."

That's right, W. actually said something that makes sense during his Rose Garden Speech.

President Bush said, "We are deeply concerned about food prices here at home” and the “creative policy is to buy food from local farmers.”

As Diane Hatz, Director of Sustainable Table points out:
“Sustainable Table agrees with President Bush’s statement made today that large subsidies to multimillionaire farmers should be cut."

Wow, if that doesn't tell you that something needs to be done, I don't know what will.

The food crisis has been greatly exacerbated by the huge subsidies for corn and grains that go to the large agri-businesses.

As Hatz points out: "Today’s industrial form of agriculture is funded by tax payer subsidies which can push small, family farmers out of business and pollute the environment. That’s why it is better for people to purchase foods grown locally, on sustainable family farms or at farmers markets."

Saturday, April 26, 2008

LA Farm Girl in Daily Link

Just another brief shameless post to let everybody know that LA Farm Girl was featured in the Daily Breeze's Daily Link section both in the paper and on their Daily Link blog, I am hoping it will help people want to get involved with The Giving Gardeners.

Check it out here: http://www.insidesocal.com/dailylink/2008/04/la_farm_girl_dishes_on_where_t.html#more
And, as I mention in the blog entry there, I am working on putting together a What's in Season feature here on LA Farm Girl so you will know what is and what's coming soon at your local farmers' market!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Eat Well Guide's New Green Fork Blog

The wonderful folks at The Eat Well Guide have created another awesome site, its called the Green Fork Blog and it is the new "official" site of The Eat Well Guide. The Guide is "your resource for finding thousands of farms, grocery stores, restaurants and other "green" food outlets throughout the US and Canada." If you've never used the guide, it's a great place to find out the latest food and farming news, and get farm tour and seasonal food information, book reviews, and interviews with the leading voices in the sustainable food movement.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pledge to "Go Local" For Earth Day

Earth Day is here once again and for those who may be hesitating or who need a "reason" to become a locavore, Earth Day might be just the thing.

Started in 1970, by Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin as the first nationwide environmental protest, its goal was "to shake up the political establishment and force this issue onto the national agenda."

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment. That first Earth Day saw a rare alignment of all kinds of groups and political parties, including farmers and urban dwellers alike.

Ultimately, it resulted in the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

This history is a reminder that we do have the power to make a difference. And, one way to make a start is to eat local, buy local, and consider how your purchases affect your local community and environment.

Eating foods that are produced locally or grown nearby reduces transportation fuel four to 17 times (according to the Rocky Mountain Institute). That means four to 17 times less carbon dioxide pollution.

And, when you buy locally, every dollar spent in your community adds about twice as much value to the local economy than it would if it were spent at a chain store.

All of those super "bargains" we get at those big stores, aren't so wonderful, they do come at a higher cost, the loss of local businesses, the fact that we don't really produce anything any more, more use of fuel, and that we get tainted foods and other products, even toys.

Even focusing on just eating locally can make a big impact. Here's a link to a list on the PBS website about how to start eating locally, developed by the folks at the Eat Local Challenge, http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/344/locavore.html

And for more information on the Eat Local Challenge, visit them here: