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Farmers learn, connect, tour and taste in Sacramento

Running a small-scale farm or ranch isn't easy; it requires hard-learned skills, innovative marketing and a supportive community. Farmers and ranchers from all over California will join with farmers' market managers, educators, small farm advocates, and some of the most creative of Sacramento's Farm to Fork chefs at the California Small Farm Conference, held this year at the DoubleTree Hotel in Sacramento from March 5 to March 8, 2016.

For three days, about 400 attendees will join workshops, explore with field courses, network with colleagues and enjoy a few social events. The now-annual conference was started by the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) Small Farm Program in 1982 as a unique opportunity for small-scale farmers to learn, network and grow their businesses. UC ANR specialists, advisors and staff continue to contribute to the conference as members of the board of directors and as educators presenting science-based information at workshops and field courses.

Vonita Murray
The conference offers workshops in five different themes. This year, among many other speakers, UC Cooperative Extenison (UCCE) small farms and agricultural economics advisor Ramiro Lobo will lead a workshop on risk management strategies for farm enterprise diversification; Alda Pires, UCCE Cooperative Extension specialist in urban agriculture and food safety, will speak at a workshop on food safety on bio-diversified small-size farms and the FSMA Produce Safety Rule; and UCCE advisor Paul Vossen will teach about both growing cider apples in California and irrigation management for olive growers in a time of drought. In addition to UC and other educators, each of the 25 workshop sessions includes the perspective and practical experience of at least one small-scale farmer or farmers market manager.

Sunday, March 6, features all-day field courses and short courses, giving participants a chance for deeper understanding and multiple perspectives as they explore their choice of four different topics. Two of the courses this year will be led by UC ANR educators or staff.

For the on-site short course, "Starting a SUCCESSFUL Specialty Food Business," Shermain Hardesty, a UCCE specialist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis (and leader of the UC Small Farm Program) teams up with Linda Harris, a UCCE specialist in Food Safety and Microbiology at UC Davis, Dan Sullivan, a specialty food business expert and specialty food producers, Jason Poole of Preservation & Co. and Courtney Smith of Bloomingcamp Ranch. UCCE Agritourism Coordinator Penny Leff will lead a field course named, "Direct Marketing: Farmers' Markets, Farm Stands, U-Pick and Wine Tasting," that will visit and learn from some of Sacramento region's expert practitioners of these various direct marketing venues.

Sacramento region food and beverage fans are invited to attend the "Taste of Sacramento" Tasting Reception on Monday, March 7, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The Tasting Reception is the culinary and social highlight of the California

Small Farm Conference and showcases the beautiful bounty of the region. Attendees will taste the creations of Sacramento's best Farm-to-Fork chefs, brewers, winemakers and artisan food and beverage producers. Local farmers, including Riverdog Farm, Full Belly Farm, Heavy Dirt Farm, Dragon Mushrooms, and others are providing meat and produce for the chef's cook-off contest (you vote for your favorite) featuring chefs from Mulvaney's, Magpie Cafe, Localis, Federalist Public House, the Culinerdy Cruizer, and Sacramento's Food Literacy Project. Proceeds ($50 ticket - purchase here or at the door) support the Small Farm Conference scholarship program.

Online registration for the conference has now closed, but on-site registration is welcome! For more information, see the California Small Farm Conference website, or phone (888) 712-4188. See you there!

Posted on Tuesday, March 1, 2016 at 1:56 PM

Community Produce Stand opens March 2 in East Oakland

A farmers market in downtown Oakland may be too far for East Oakland residents to travel to shop for fresh produce.
For senior citizens who don't drive, it can be difficult to get to a grocery store or farmers market to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.

To improve access to fresh produce for low-income seniors who live in a food desert in East Oakland, UC ANR Cooperative Extension in Alameda County, in partnership with Oakland Housing Authority and Mandela Market Place, will be opening a Community Produce Stand.

The Community Produce Stand will be open on the first Wednesday of every month, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., at 6401 Fenham Street in Oakland.

The produce stand will be located in the gazebo at Palo Vista Gardens, a low-income senior housing complex, and available to neighboring residents as well as people in two other Oakland Housing Authority sites, reaching more than 950 Oakland Housing Authority residents.

At the grand opening from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2, a health fair will feature UC CalFresh representatives sharing healthy eating tips and recipes. La Clínica Dental, City Slicker Farms, Fresh Approach, Alameda County Community Food Bank and California Telephone Access Program will also participate and share resources. 

The Community Produce Stand will accept CalFresh Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, said Tuline Baykal, UC CalFresh supervisor with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources in Alameda County. “Being able to buy fresh, affordable produce with EBT is important,” Baykal said, “because seniors and other residents may be tempted to opt for less healthy options to stretch their food dollars.”

Food deserts lack vendors that carry fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthful whole foods, and are usually found in poor parts of town. The supermarket closest to Palo Vista Gardens is 1.5 miles away. Between the housing site and the nearest store are half a dozen fast food restaurants and three liquor stores. Six convenience stores are in the vicinity, but they stock mostly processed, sugary and fat-laden foods.

“Low-income seniors often experience multiple barriers to healthful foods,” said Jaime Manalang, resident services coordinator with Oakland Housing Authority. “The lack of grocery stores and farmers' markets within close proximity to home, limited transportation options and their own physical mobility restrictions limit seniors' access to food, especially fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Healthful nutrition is critical for reducing the risk of disease and managing chronic health conditions, and is an important factor to living independently.

Posted on Thursday, February 25, 2016 at 8:00 AM

Got chickens? Backyard poultry workshop offered in Oakland March 12

For tips on raising healthy chickens in your backyard, attend the Backyard Poultry Workshop in Oakland on Saturday, March 12. Poultry experts will share valuable information for experienced poultry owners and for those just getting started.

The workshop is sponsored by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Cooperative Extension in Alameda County and the California Poultry Federation.

Discussion topics will include:

  • Poultry behavior in backyard chickens
  • Backyard biosecurity
  • Backyard poultry cleaning and disinfecting
  • Backyard flock pests and management techniques
  • Using the California Animal Health and Food Safety Lab (CAHFS)

Speakers include Maurice Pitesky, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist in the School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, Richard Blatchford, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis; Amy Murillo, UC Riverside Ph.D. candidate; and Nancy Reimers, poultry veterinarian. Rob Bennaton, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, will be on hand to answer questions about urban agriculture.

The workshop will be held 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 12, at the Trans Pacific Center at 1000 Broadway in Oakland. The building is on the corner of Broadway and 11th Street, near the 12th Street BART Station.

Registration is $20 and includes lunch. To register, call or email Monica Della Maggiore at (209) 576-6355 or

Based in Modesto, the California Poultry Federation represents the state's diverse poultry industry and is the official state agency for the National Poultry Improvement Plan.

For more information about raising poultry, visit For information about urban agriculture, visit


Posted on Friday, February 12, 2016 at 2:57 PM

'Four Little Pigs' blow the house down with a super bowl of chili

Jaxson Ivie of the Pleasants Valley 4-Club listens intently to the panel of evaluators. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Their first time proved to be the charm — just as Super (souper) Bowl Sunday beckons.

Using a grandmother's favorite recipe and all locally grown ingredients, the Four Little PIGS (Pork in Green Sauce) from the Suisun Valley 4-H Club swept the five-team competition at the Solano County 4-H Chili Cook-Off. The event took place at the Solano County 4-H Project Skills Day in the Community Presbyterian Church, Vallejo.

The quartet — Spencer Merodio, 10, Alexis Taliaferro, 11, Natalie Frenkel, 12, and Kate Frenkel, 10 — drew a round of applause as they appeared on stage to accept the award, movie tickets to the Brenden Theatre. It was their first time entering the annual competition.

The Suisun Valley 4-H'ers opted for Spencer's grandmother's recipe, “Chili Verde, aka Pork in Green Sauce,” using cubed pork shoulder, tomatillos, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, garlic cloves and black beans. The condiments: sour cream, cilantro and diced radishes.

“We made it from scratch with vegetables purchased from Larry's Produce in Suisun Valley,” they told the evaluators, Solano County Supervisor Linda Seifert of District 2 and James Luka and his son, Jim, of Vallejo. “Nothing from a can.”
Competition proved keen, as all the dishes were delicious, the evaluators said.

Suisun Valley 4-H'er Alexis Taliaferro smiles as her team is announced the winner. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
“It was almost impossible to decide  among the five outstanding chilis,” said Seifert. “They varied from pork and chicken to vegan.”

“I could eat any of the five chilis any day of the week,” said James Luka,  a retired network administrator for the U.S. and Europe stock market in Illinois.

Son Jim, a maintenance worker at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, agreed. “They all did an amazing job.”

The evaluators praised the flavor and texture of the champion chili, but also the enthusiasm of the presenters and their eagerness to share the recipe and answer questions.
For the occasion, the youths wore special pig costumes. They decorated their long-sleeved pink T-shirts with pig drawings and lettering on both the front and the back. An added touch: little chef hats, complete with pink pig ears.

The members of the championship team are enrolled in their club's food and nutrition project and other projects, including Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) and outdoor adventures.

“They're all close friends and competitive swimmers,” said Spencer's mother, Heather. They swim competitively with SASO of Fairfield-Suisun, which holds practices at Solano Community College.

The other teams competing were:

Chili Peeps of Suisun Valley 4-H Club (Irma Brown, Arianna Henriquez, Enrique Henriquez and Clairese Wright) who made “Chipotle Chicken Chili”

The Chilibaccas of Dixon Ridge 4-H Club (Brayden Gish, Shayley Gish and Maya Prunty) who made “2/2/2 Chili”

Los Verdes of Pleasants Valley 4-H Club, Vacaville (Coleman Ivie, Jaxson Ivie, Kyndal Kelly and Justin Means)  who made “Los Verdes Chili”

ExtraVEGANza of the Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo (Jarred Burkett, Halle Newell, Megan Torres and Julietta Wynholds) who made “Mama B's Vegan Chili.”

Valerie Williams serves as the Solano County 4-H Youth Development Program representative.  Some 500 members are enrolled in Solano County 4-H. For more information on the 4-H program, contact Williams at or access the web site at

The recipes:

The Four Little P.I.G.S. (Pork In Green Sauce)
Chile Verde  
Suisun Valley 4-H Club

Sauce Ingredients
10 fresh tomatillos (firm, medium sized)
4 jalapeño peppers
2 bunches of cilantro (about 2 cups)
Small garlic clove, peeled
Salt and pepper to taste

Other Ingredients
6 pounds pork shoulder cubed
Salt and pepper to taste
2 yellow onions
Garlic to taste 

Peel and rinse tomatillos. Add tomatillos and jalapeños to sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a rolling boil and watch for tomatillos to change color. Add garlic and cilantro to a blender followed by tomatillos and peppers from boiling water, reserving water. Blend with up to 1/2 to 3/4 cup water from pan depending on the consistency desired. Set sauce aside. Season cubed pork generously with salt and pepper. Sear meat over high heat and par cook. Sauté onions and garlic until golden and caramelized. Add sauce to pan and scrape pan bottom to release cooked ingredients. Stir in onions, garlic and pork. Simmer for two hours and serve with minced onions, radishes, and cilantro on top, and a warm tortilla as desired.

Suggested condiments:
Crema (sour cream)
Diced radishes

Chipotle Chicken Chili
By the Chili Peeps
Suisun Valley 4-H Club

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole onion, diced 
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into a small dice
1 bottle (12-ounce bottle) Good Beer
1 can (14-ounce size) diced tomatoes 
1 whole chipotle pepper in Adobo sauce, minced (more can be added, up to 3)
1 can (14-ounce size) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (14-ounce size) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (14-ounce size) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1/4 cup masa harina 
1 lime, juiced

Condiments, for serving 
Grated sharp cheddar cheese
Lime wedges

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat then add the onions and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until onions soften. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned. Add 3/4 of the beer, reserving the rest, then cook for a couple of minutes to reduce.

Add the tomatoes, chipotles, beans, chili powder, cumin and salt. Stir to combine, then cover the pot and cook for 1 hour.

Combine the masa harina with the rest of the beer and stir to make a paste. Add this into the chili, along with the lime juice. Stir and cook for 10 more minutes or until thick. 

Serve with sour cream, cheese, cilantro, and another squeeze of lime!

The Chilibaccas Recipe
2/2/2 Chili
Dixon Ridge 4-H Club

2 pounds pork shoulder cut in 1/2-inch chunks
2 pounds ground beef
Olive oil (as needed to brown meat)
2 cans of tomatoes (chopped or diced work best)
2 cans of beans (1 kidney and 1 pinto), drained
2 Pasilla peppers      
2 Serrano peppers
2 Anaheim peppers
2 green bell peppers
2 onions
2 cloves garlic
Water (approximately 1 cup)

Seasonings to taste:
Beef bouillon  
Chili powder              
Ground cumin 
Garlic salt 
Black pepper

In a large stock pot, brown pork in the olive oil. Add in the ground beef and continue cooking over high heat until beef is browned (about 30 minutes). Add the water and seasonings. Cook an additional 30 minutes. Add tomatoes and beans. Turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. While mixture is simmering, coarsely chop onions and peppers and finely chop garlic. Add these to the pot and continue cooking until pork is tender ( about another 30-45 minutes). Check flavor and add seasonings to taste. If needed, thicken chili with cornstarch.

Mama B's Vegan Chili
Sherwood Forest 4-H Club, Vallejo

3/4 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed and drained
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 ­ 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup bulgur, rinsed
1 medium purple onion, diced
1/2 jalapeño pepper, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground saigon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4  teaspoon cayenne powder
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 ­ 15-ounce can organic black beans, rinsed and drained
1 ­ 15-ounce can organic red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 ­ 15-ounce can organic pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon Ghirardelli cocoa powder, unsweetened

In a large heavy skillet, roast corn kernels over medium­high heat, stirring constantly, until beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet over medium heat and cook eggplant, red bell pepper, and green bell pepper with a pinch of salt until golden, about 10 minutes. Add the bulgur and stir until well combined. Set aside. 

In a large saucepan, heat remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in jalapeño, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in tomatoes, beans, vegetable broth and lime juice. Bring to a simmer. Simmer 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in corn and eggplant. Add chocolate and stir just until melted. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Los Verdes Chili Recipe
Los Verdes, Pleasants Valley 4-H Club

3 pounds pork shoulder roast
1 pound pork sausage
3 large cans green enchilada sauce
2 cans white beans
2 white onions
3 green bell peppers
2 poblano peppers
1 serrano pepper
2 bunches cilantro
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons cumin
3 tablespoons chicken stock powder

Brown the meat, add spices and sauce, then onions, peppers and cook on medium high in a large pot on the stovetop for about 2 hours or until meat is done. Add corn starch to thicken. 

Posted on Wednesday, February 3, 2016 at 8:27 AM

Exotic citrus for marmalade

I have a fondness for marmalade. It's slightly tart flavor and sunny disposition is always a happy addition to breakfast on a rainy winter morning. Each winter I make at least one variety of marmalade and recent batches have been a bit out of the ordinary.

Last winter, a box of citrus appeared at the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) headquarters in Davis after the annual citrus tasting event at the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center

Buddha's hand
Among the treasures in the box was Buddha's Hand, an especially fragrant variety of citron. Buddha's Hand is often used decoratively; but cooks who can think beyond the fruit's strange shape will find a complex flavor without bitterness, making it perfect for candied peel, Lemoncello or simply zesting over a salad, pasta or fish.  Of course,  I promptly turned mine into "Buddha-lade." Buddha's Hand has little flesh or juice, so cooks need to augment their recipe with juice from another citrus. Meyer lemon is a nice choice because of its relative sweetness.

A few months ago I splurged on a jar of yuzu marmalade and immediately fell in love with the flavor, if not the price. So I was delighted to find yuzu available at the Davis Farmer's Market this winter. 

Yuzu (left) compared to mandarin (right). Photo from Wikipedia.
Yuzu is a tart citrus prized by Japanese cooks. It forms the base flavor of ponzu sauce. Mine of course, is destined to become marmalade!

As with Buddha's Hand, Yuzu has little to no juice so it is not well suited to a more traditional marmalade recipe. Japanese cooks make yuzu marmalade by quartering the fruit then separating the peel, membranes and seeds.  

Sliced yuzu peel.
As with any marmalade, the peel is thinly sliced. Since the fruit contains so little juice, you can hand squeeze the membranes to extract any juice. The separated membranes are boiled to soften, then chopped. The chopped membranes then become the base of the marmalade. 

Marmalade is equally delicious with lemons, oranges or grapefruit; and is only slightly more difficult to make than jam, which is to say it's easy. If you'd like to try your hand at marmalade, UC ANR has published a free publication Oranges: Safe Methods to Store, Preserve and Enjoy that includes a recipe for citrus marmalade.  The publication also covers tips for selecting citrus at the grocery store, safe handling and links to canning and preserving resources.

Whatever recipe you choose, always follow the safe preserving procedures from the USDA and the National Center for Home Food Preservation. If you are interested in learning more about safe home food preservation, find a UC Master Food Preserver Program near you. 

Posted on Tuesday, February 2, 2016 at 8:09 AM

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