UC Food Blog
This growing season, I've taken a more philosophical approach to weeding. It's all about falling in love with gardening, again, every time I work in one. You take the good stuff – vegetables and flowers – along with the weeds.
Most of my professional life has been spent in garden-based education: the practice of it, the teaching of it, and the history of it. When my daughter was younger, I spent six years as a garden volunteer for an elementary school. I moved on to working with middle schoolers, and have worked with high school students to plan and implement garden projects. I've also worked with community gardeners. My professional (and also a highly personal) mission is this: “A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden.”
Recently, I've found great joy in helping my church begin a congregational gardening project. It's a small and simple effort, but it has the wonderful feel and rhythm of summertime: longer days, a more leisurely pace, casual and unplanned meetings with new friends in the garden, and the feeling that there is more time to focus on tasks.
I live in an area where we are blessed with the ability to garden year round, but summer gardening has a particular feel to it that evokes wonder and memories of other summer gardens. (Cupping in my impossibly small hand a sun-warmed tomato grown in my grandparent's garden; eating that tomato with them that night at supper with cornbread. A summer I was in high school, when I grew watermelons in the desert; it took a lot of water, and all sorts of creatures liked the vines. Container gardening with my husband on the back stoop of our first small apartment. Helping my daughter plant carrot seeds and holding her small hand in mine after, the way older hands held mine).
Our congregational garden is tucked away behind a gate and a block wall, a small oasis of quiet in what in recent years has become a busy urban neighborhood. It's a good sunny spot, a great place to grow vegetables . . . and weeds. Saturday morning, I arrived early to beat the heat and pull a few weeds. I was somewhat dismayed when I surveyed how quickly they'd proliferated. Truth: overwhelmed.
But I got down to it and focused on weeding, pulling one at a time. My busy mind began to slow down. Alone in the garden, I listened to the sound of birds, the muffled city traffic and got some much needed exercise. Weeding provided an opportunity to reflect, to look at how the garden is progressing, to ponder about how we might grow our efforts, to consider that the pace of garden development is a season (not a day), and to anticipate the harvest we will reap. Weeding also provided a quiet time for me to think about what I want to accomplish over the summer months. At the end of an hour, I felt a sense of accomplishment and peace. And I realized that the weeds had not been an obstacle, but rather, had provided an opportunity for me to just be in the moment.
We plant gardens, and they produce wonderful things for us. Invariably, they also produce weeds. Whether we view them as obstacle or opportunity is our choice.
The author's latest book, Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War I, is available on the McFarland Publisher's website. Anyone who orders the book can message Hayden-Smith via her website, http://rosehayden-smith.com, to receive a signed WWI-design bookplate.
This is due to the efforts of James Lohry, director of Farmersville Unified School District Food Service. Lohry completed a program called “Smarter Lunchrooms,” sponsored by the Cornell University Behavior Economics Center, the California Department of Education, the Dairy Council of California, and the UC Cooperative Extension Cal Fresh nutrition education program.
In essence, the Smarter Lunchroom Movement uses evidence-supported product placement and signage to entice students to make healthier food choices. Lohry's initial exercise was to remove fruit from the traditional plastic bin and put it into a tiered basket, complete with cloth napkin liners. Overnight the elegant display increased fruit consumption by 20 percent.
UCCE nutrition education staff serve as certified technical advisors for the Smarter Lunchroom Movement. Before implementing changes, Lohry astutely gained support for cafeteria/lunchroom changes by including not only his staff, but the student population as well. The AVID class at Farmersville High School has been instrumental in determining menu choices. (AVID is a program that seeks to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness.)
Lohry and his staff/student team established surveys and guidelines about acceptable nutritious meals. When asked if the typical lunches are filling for this age group, the students' answer was “no.” The high school now offers a “deli bar” with healthy sandwich options at least once per month. This option is a huge hit and when asked if this meal is filling and satisfying, students overwhelming answer, “YES!”
Lohry's determination does not end with serving more fruit and adding sandwiches. He is working to increase healthy options without breaking the school district's budget.
Have you thought of trying to sell your homemade jam, granola, pies, or candy? Do you have fruit from your orchard or vegetables from your farm that would have more value processed than sold fresh? Maybe a Cottage Food Operation is the place to test your product and your market and start your new business.
UC Cooperative Extension educators are offering two-session Cottage Food Operations Workshops at six different locations in Northern California. This hands-on workshop series is designed especially for farmers of fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, and honey interested in making value-added products in home kitchens as Cottage Food Operations (CFOs). The workshops are open to everyone. Classes will be small, with a maximum of 35 participants. Sign-ups are coming in fast, and some workshop locations are almost full, so anyone interested is encouraged to register soon. Registration is available on-line. Each two-session workshop costs $25 in advance, or $40 at the door, space permitting.
Workshop participants will learn multiple aspects of starting a safe and profitable home food production business, including the details of the Cottage Food Law, planning, processing, food safety, packaging & storage and marketing. Instructors will be UCCE nutrition educators, economists and farm advisors. Representatives from local environmental health agencies will provide information about the local application process. Each workshop will also feature hands-on demonstrations and tastings by current Cottage Food Operators making a variety of products.
Another big challenge to producing a commercial food product in a home kitchen, according to Hardesty, could be all the time that the producer will have to take properly sanitizing their home kitchen before and after they do the production work.
Although the new state law requires that Cottage Food Operations be permitted in all counties, with permits issued by the County Department of Environmental Health in each county, fees for registration and permits vary from county to county. Counties and municipalities may also vary in other restrictions and conditions required before Cottage Food Operations receive their necessary business license. Some counties or cities may place limitations on the number of customers per hour to a home business, limitations on open hours for sales from home, and parking space requirements for customers. The workshops will help participants understand how to navigate the registration and permitting process.
A Cottage Food Operation can be a good testing ground for a farmer to assess the marketability of a new product on a small scale. It can also be a low-cost way for a farmer to assess his or her own ability to produce and market a new product. Due to the restrictive nature of some aspects of the Cottage Food law, and the limited scale of production possible in a home kitchen, most producers may have to scale up eventually to be profitable. However, at least one farm family that is currently using a commercial kitchen for jam production is taking the class to decide whether a Cottage Food Operation would be an economical addition to their production capacity.
- Fairfield, May 13 & May 20, 2014
- Ukiah, May 15 & May 22, 2014
- Eureka, May 28 & June 11, 2014
- Redding, May 29 & June 10, 2014
- Jackson, June 12 & June 16, 2014
- Sacramento, July 1 & July 9, 2014
Cost: $25 in advance/ $40 at the door, space permitting
Register online: http://ucanr.edu/cfoworkshops
For more information: Shermain Hardesty, UC Small Farm Program, 530-752-0467, email@example.com
About 35 percent of the food we eat depends on the assistance of bees to pollinate plants and trees so they will produce fruit, nuts or vegetables. It takes 1.6 million colonies of honey bees to pollinate California's 800,000 acres of almond trees.
Our food choices would be dramatically reduced if bees weren't around to pollinate. To illustrate what the produce section of a grocery store would look like in a world without bees, Whole Foods Market removed the products that depend on pollination from one of its stores and took a photo. See the difference: http://ucanr.tumblr.com/post/84164840510/kqedscience-whole-foods-shows-customers-the. Without bees, more than half the fruits and vegetables were eliminated.
Honey bees and other pollinators are being threatened by the drought, disease, mites, loss of habitat and food sources, according to Eric Mussen, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Entomology at UC Davis and bee expert.
Beth Grafton-Cardwell, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Entomology at UC Riverside and director of Lindcove Research and Extension Center, talks about the role of pollinators in California agriculture in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8suOt5PnzWc&feature=youtu.be.
To see photos of different kinds of pollinators and to learn more about how to help them thrive, visit our pollinator page. On May 8, help count the pollinators in your community and add them to the map at http://beascientist.ucanr.edu.
You're famished. The potato chips look good. The glazed doughnuts look even better. And that chocolate candy bar? To die for.
Bring ‘em on!
No, wait a minute. Let's get real, let's get green and let's get healthy. And let's save some money.
Nutritionist Amy Block Joy, Cooperative Extension specialist emeritus, teaches a University of California, Davis, freshman class on “Eating Green” and we asked her for the 10 best ways to save money and eat healthier.
Joy, who holds a doctorate in nutritional sciences from UC Berkeley, specializes in nutrition and health disparities of diverse populations and nutritional ecology, as well as workplace ethics.
Her advice needs to be posted on every refrigerator in the country. (Along with that shopping list!)
- Shop with a list: Using a list will keep you focused on meal planning and reduce the temptation to buy unneeded items.
- Don't shop when you're hungry: Temptation is high when you're hungry. Eat first and you'll be less inclined to spend extra dollars on those food items placed near the check-out stand that are high in calories and fat and low in nutrition. That would be snacks! Try shopping after a meal and you will find yourself less tempted by those chocolate-covered pretzels!
- Read the nutrition facts label: When shopping for the healthiest foods, you should read the nutrition fact labels to check out fat, calories, fiber, carbohydrates and sodium. Aim for low-fat, high-fiber foods that have essential vitamins and minerals. For example, if you want the best source of fiber - buy fresh oranges and eat them raw rather than selecting orange juice. However, if you want juice, be sure that you are getting real juice. And, some juices are now fortified with calcium - a big plus for increasing your calcium intake if you are not drinking milk.
- Read the ingredient lists: The ingredient list will provide important clues on products that you'll want to include in your diet. One of them is to look for whole grains. The information on the product may make you think the product is "natural" but what does that really mean? Not much because the phrase you want to look for is the "USDA organic" label. With so many choices of breads these days, you'll want to find ones that have whole grains and fiber. Find the information by reading the label (compare fiber amounts) and ingredients (look for "whole" grains).
- Compare prices: Supermarkets provide price-comparison information located by their products. You can compare the "unit" costs so that you'll be able to determine the lowest cost of the product. Two words of caution: products "on sale" may not be the best bargains.
- Shop the perimeter of the store: Marketing experts have placed the healthiest foods at the farthest corners of the store so that the shopper has to stroll through the other items before finding fruits and vegetables, protein sources (poultry, meats), dairy products and cereal products.
- Think protein: Buy meat and poultry on sale and use these foods to make stews, soups and chili. This way you can stretch these more expensive food sources. Beans are a great source of protein and are low fat and high in fiber.
- Plan meals ahead: The best way to save money is to plan your meals in advance. Buying unprocessed foods will improve your health and also save money. It costs to add preservatives, food additives and packaging of products that you, the consumer, are paying for. It's much cheaper to buy rice in bulk rather than already prepared rice products. Brown rice contains more fiber than white rice.
- Cook! Your grandmother was right. Food prepared from scratch will taste better, be healthier and save money. Research has shown that cooking not only saves money but improves nutrition.
- Enjoy! Food is meant to be a pleasant happy experience. Don't forget to enjoy it!
So, the next time you're racing out the door on your way to the supermarket, be sure to eat first so you're not tempted by foods that you know aren't good for you.
And that shopping list? You can also key that in on your cell phone so neither the list, nor your phone, will get left behind.
Meanwhile, we all ought to follow Amy Block Joy's great advice on saving money, eating green, and being healthier.
As I wrote on one of my college essays, "We have a choice in the matter and it matters that we have a choice."
The produce aisle is a good place to "go green and eat healthier." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Grocery stores usually place fruits and vegetables around the perimeter. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Broccoli--a food everyone should love. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)