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 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:

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,

"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

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,

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."