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Photo courtesy of Daphne Hougard
Recently, I've been playing with a soapbox idea about the misunderstanding behind the meaning of CSA. And for good reason...Just the other day, I saw a poster where a farmer was promoting their CSA program but no where on the poster did it explain what CSA meant or stood for.

Why? Because most people associate CSA with meaning "the delivery of a weekly box of vegetables" where a person pays in advance to share in a farmer's risk and celebration of that season's harvest.

But...CSA stands for "Community Supported Agriculture" which is a lot richer and goes lot deeper than just a  vegetable subscription. I'm not knocking veggie box programs and farmers' markets. They are responsible for the sustainble, food movement in this country but its time to take it to the next level and truly support our local agriculture by providing small-scale farms with a variety of distribution models beyond direct-to-consumer but to wholesale markets like restaurants, grocery stores, schools and hospitals. The whole purpose of the food movement is to get regionally produced, ecologically grown food to more people. To do that we have to make it available. Veggie boxes don't work for everyone and farmers' markets are only one day a week. The answer is not more farmers' markets. Farmer's markets require a lot of a farmer's time and money. And only 5% of people shop at farmers' markets. We need to get good food in more places everyday! By opening up wholesale markets to farmers and ranchers, we start to build a regional food system and we  rely on what's available within 100-150 miles. Small farms can't compete on price and volume in a national food system but they can compete on a regional level. It creates new opportunity for them, more healthy food for us and money circulates locally for stronger, more resilient economies.

...That was meant to be an introduction for an article I wrote about how veggie box programs kick-started the food movement. It just hit newsstands in the recent issue of edible Reno-Tahoe. Read the article, "Behind the Box" by clicking here. When I was writing the article, it got me thinking about this misunderstanding of CSA's. I've developing this theory "behind CSA's" ever since. And I've realized that the essence of "Community Supported Agriculture" is building a regional food system. Similar to what we are doing at the Tahoe Food Hub. The introduction above is really the third development of this theory. The second draft appeared on the food blog Handpicked Nation on January 3rd.

 
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Candy Belsse's 5th Grade Class - Truckee Elementary
It might be a little corny, but Whitney Houston pretty much hit it spot on, "Children are our future!" And in keeping with the kids theme of the past few weeks, I wanted to share some pictures from two, recent, kid-driven harvests at the Truckee Community Farm.

Last Friday, twenty-five 5th graders from Truckee Elementary came out to the Growing Dome and in the matter of one hour harvested, weighed, washed and packed 16lbs of greens and rooted vegetables. About 8lbs will be used to make a soup for a cafeteria meal. But the kids got a special surprise for the weekend when they learned they would each be taking home a bag of lettuce greens to share with their families.

Three weeks before that, students from Tahoe Expeditionary Academy in Kings Beach came to do a harvest helping us prepare a food donation for Project Mana, our local hunger relief agency. Not only did the kids harvest 8lbs of veggies but they got to deliver the food to Project Mana taking their field trip to a whole other dimension and demonstrating the connection we all share with food. Check out the video and photo gallery below.

 
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One complaint about organics is that it too expensive. I'm not so sure about that...I just made an awesome organic, meal for six people under $35! I'm calling it, sweet potato wrapped chard enchiladas. And was accompanied by a lovely, green salad with slices of blood oranges. I made the dish last Friday after first having it the day before on Thursday. That's how much I loved it...I had to taste it again. and quick! It was that good!

When I handed the clerk my credit card to pay for the ingredients, I thought to myself, "A family of six probably couldn't get out of McDonald's for much cheaper at $5/person." Not only is it price comparable but it is healthier, organic and made in a kitchen hopefully with family and friends laughing and talking as the meal gets assembled. That's exactly what happened on both of my recent cooking occasions. The first occasion was with a group of kids who were learning about one of the fundamental principles to having a sustainable food system...eating seasonally and as locally as possible. The second occasion was with a group of friends that i wanted to share this culinary delight.

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The kids, were the real inspiration! They are part of a program which studies the monthly lecturers hosted by the Squaw Valley Institute. The next speaker is farmer, Joel Salatin! One of Joel's suggestions for re-normalizing society...is to get our hands on our food coming together in community to tell the story of our food and make a wonderful meal which can be shared together.

Want to make this amazing feast? First I have to give props to Aaron at New Moon Natural Foods in Truckee, CA. This incredible combination of flavors and textures is his own creation crafted on the fly when asked to participate in this worthy program. He led a group of 9 kids through the gastro-technical process each taking pride in their contribution later licking the platter clean. Had these children been fed blanched chard leaves with no connection to the meal, they would have probably snubbed their noses. But having all participated in the preparation, they wanted to savor their hard work. Not longer was it wilted green leaves but green pockets with yummy filling. Get cooking in the kitchen and brings lots of people with you!

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SWEET POTATO WRAPPED CHARD ENCHILADAS:

1 bunch         rainbow chard
3 medium       sweet potatoes
2 large           leeks  
1 small           block of parmesan
1 ball              fresh mozzarella
2 cans            crushed tomatoes
1 head           garlic
1 bunch          parsley
1 cup              pine nuts
1 TBSP           sugar
To taste          salt & pepper

Boil and mash the sweet potatoes (optional: add butter and cream). Chop and saute leeks adding them to the mashers. Grate parm into mashers adding salt & pepper to taste. In a large sauce pan, saute whole garlic cloves adding crushed tomatoes. Add in chopped ends of the rainbow chard and parsley. Finish with sugar and salt & pepper to taste. Blanch the chard leaves then wrap them with a large serving spoon full of masher filling. Place in a large casserole dish stacked tight like enchiladas. Pour the tomato sauce over top. Grate mozzarella over top and sprinkle with pine nuts. Bake for 20-30 minutes @ 350°.          

 
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The Kompost Kraft table at Tahoe Truckee Earth Day celebration.

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Last Saturday the 21st marked the 42nd Earth Day! Hopefully, you all got out to hug Mother Earth and honor her magnificence! The Tahoe-Truckee Earth Day Foundation has been hosting a ragingly, successful celebration for the past eight years in the village at Squaw Valley, CA. I wore two hats running back and forth between our Slow Food Lake Tahoe booth and the kids' zone where the grow dome had a craft project to decorate compost buckets...

At the grow dome, we will be embarking upon a relatively large, composting program. We will be collecting yard waste from an eco-friendly landscaper, Green Envy, and organic coffee grounds from Sierra Pacific Coffee Roasters. To feed enough greens and nitrogen to the compost pile, we will be recruiting the veggie and fruit scraps from friends and family. We are supplying each contributor with a 5gl pickle bucket to keep their food scraps smell-tight. We will schedule weekly pick-ups and feed the compost pile the organic waste collected. To make it fun and encourage participation,we wanted to have kids decorate the buckets. Each art piece was transferred to a sticker which could be applied to the bucket so it provided an easy to clean surface. We got a variety of great submissions, see below.

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How to make paper seedling pots: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VW4t_6dTAvA
Over at the Slow Food booth, we had a festive seedling table where we helped kids make seedling pots out of newsprint! Each child got to take home at least one seedling in a cute caring case made out of milk cartons. This is a great project for all kinds of events from birthday parties and school projects to just a fun way to brighten up a rainy day! Kids and volunteers had a blast and got way into it!


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Seedlings planting seedlings!
Paper Seedling Pots Recipe:
  • Strips of newsprint cut to 4"x10"
  • V-8 Juice can and a golf ball. Roll the newsprint around the can to shape the pot and use the golf ball to twist and lock the 1" of paper hanging off the bottom. Or, buy a wooden pot maker.
  • Large bowl of organic, potting soil
  • Variety of organic, seed packets
  • Spray bottle for giving seedlings a drink after planting :)
  • Crop stakes for labeling the seed in the pot. Fun Note: make a seedling wish on the other side!
  • Single serving milk cartons cut in half for carrying the seedling pot. Or, use a 1/2gl carton to carry six

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The compost bays outside the grow dome and more happy artists decorating compost buckets.

 
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The Slow Food snail
I pulled out my wooden, travel utensils; opened my reusable container; and began eating my seasonal, organic broccoli and asparagus tossed in pasta and olive oil. Admittedly, I sat smugly enjoying  my pack lunch and the cacophony of crunching that filled my head. When I looked up, my green balloon quickly deflated. The man sitting across from me in the airport waiting area at Gate B16 wore a polo shirt with the Monsanto logo emblazoned in the upper left-hand corner…the enemy! I smirked at the irony. I looked down and admired my version of a happy meal and kept eating. My neighbor to my right was reading a newspaper. The headline read, “Fast Food on the Rise.” I looked to my left thinking I was maybe on candid camera. But instead, I saw a heavyset man hand his overweight mother a large, Ziploc bag full of prescriptions. She was slouched in a wheelchair. Her skin gray and sunken and dark bags hung heavily from her eyes. She fumbled with the bag. With shaky hands, she gave the bag back to her son and in exchange, he gave her a 6-Piece Chicken McNuggets.

She was dressed nicely in blue capris and a tailored, jean jacket. Her red Mary-Jane shoes matched her red cap and her white blouse stood in bright contrast. I lowered my fork and slowed my chewing. They didn’t notice my anthropologetic stare (I made that word up). But the social commentary was flashing in neon lights…Taking pills for the poison she is about to consume. Really?

It is hard to believe she doesn’t see the irony in her actions or make the connection between her health and nutrition. Is it apathy, education, denial, economic status? Comparing her outfit to her health, it is obvious that being treated for a disease seems to be more socially acceptable than not sporting a fashionable style. People will spend $100 for a pair of jeans but spend only $2.22 for a sandwich. Where are the priorities? A healthy meal will help you live a long life, a nice outfit will get you to the next season.

The real irony is…I was headed to the Slow Food National Congress in Louisville, Kentucky (pronounced Loul-ville). It was this past weekend.

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Going through airport security on the way home, this sign made us chuckle.
Slow Food is an international organization which advocates for "good, clean and fair food;" and the systems we need to fulfill that vision. Slow Food celebrates the pleasure of the table, community and the responsibility that comes with being an informed eater. Essentially, it is the opposite of fast food as depicted in the photo to the right. The movement got started in Italy in 1989 when the founder, Carlo Petrini, was appalled to see a McDonald's at the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome.

There are Slow Food chapters in over 150 countries and roughly 2000 members in the United Sates alone. The National Congress is an opportunity for elected delegates from U.S. chapters, typically board members, to gather, share ideas, learn new organizing skills, vote on amendments and pull from our collective power to be successful back at home in our shared pursuits.

Slow Food is seen by many to be an elitist, affluent group of foodies looking more like a scene out of Sunset Magazine than an engaged group of activists seeking fundamental change in the food system. I knew my own chapter was a progressive group of go-getters who saw the potential of a national organization to give a voice to food justice in our small, mountain community. But what I found is that the feeling is mutual and universal among all chapters. I discovered genuine, motivated people inspired by Slow Food's mission to restore the connection we share with our food. The conference reinforced that Slow Food is an organization focused on serious issues aimed at fixing our broken food economy from pushing legislation in the 2012 Farm Bill and protecting SNAP benefits for food insecure populations to petitioning to get GMO foods labeled, educating children about good nutrition and unveiling the true cost of food.

All assembled, there were 150 delegates united and dedicated to making ecologically grown food a right not a privilege. It makes sense that Slow Food is comprised of grassroots activists. Otherwise, we would be just as disconnected from our food system as the ones we hope to transform. Sauteing Swiss chard, having a developed palette and postering over the latest issue of Food & Wine does not make a person better than someone who does not share or know these interests. Having the knowledge is one thing. Doing something with it is another and that is what Slow Food is all about; channeling that passion to make a difference.

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a blurr of swing dancing to Kentucky bluegrass the night of our barn dinner
During closing remarks on the last day, the floor was open to comments. A gal named Eve from Chicago raised her arm and was handed the mic. She stood up and shared a story about meeting the hotel's parking lot attendant earlier that day. The employee asked what conference they were attending. The gave a concise description of Slow Food not expecting it to resonate. Quite the contrary. His eyes lite up and demonstrated that he understood the basic issues, "That's good work! You're helping to make food healthier with less chemical pesticides and fertilizers, right?"

It proved that people get it! They know! They know that much of the food out there is bad for us and the environment. It affirmed the good work they are doing and that all the volunteer hours are worth it because they are fighting for people like that employee of the hotel. Eve finished with this simple and profound statement. I think it is my favorite from the weekend, "Change is hard, but the need is universal!"

Executive Director, Josh Viertel, closed the conference reminding us to celebrate! Celebrate food with music and friends. Without, our work is meaningless! We need both both the pleasure and the responsibility to have balance and be effective.

It reminded me of one of the first potlucks I attended after college. During college I took food for granted and after graduation, I didn't want to spend the money. That all changed the night I was invited to a dinner party by my friend Mel. It was at the house of Byron and Shalley. People I did not know, yet! I was greeted by the wafting smells of salmon being smoked on the back deck as I arrived. The meal was an explosion of flavors I had never tasted. I remember we started calling Byron's food Byranian because it was so unique; a fusion of Asian, Thai and Hawaiian. We still reference that moniker to this day. As the dishes piled up in the sink, an array of instruments started emerging from cases and behind chairs. A 3-hour jam session ensued. I had never experienced anything like it before, twenty or more people making music on the fly just feeding off the energy and direction of their fellow players. I have no musical talent but i played a pretty good set of wood sticks. I struck the wood sticks to the beat smiling from ear to ear. I was so happy to be apart of this gathering, this celebration and new friends! I didn't know it at the time but it was when I first learned about Slow Food!

 
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I'm brushing up on my environmental education for the Gardens-to-Hospitals program that I'm building for Lisa's Organics. It's a program where school gardens partner with hospitals on collaborative projects which galvanize both school and hospital to provide healthy meal programs. Students and children at the hospital will come together for an interactive growing activity or art project. The projects need to be meaningful and impactful.

So I went to straight to the source, The Center for Ecoliteracy, in Berkeley, CA. I ordered one of their books, "Ecological Literacy," in order to immerse myself in the language and produce thought-provoking and policy changing events. The book is a compilation of essays and visionary thought from today's foremost authorities on progressive education.

David Orr of Oberlin College laid the groundwork, "all education is environmental education." And founder for the Center, Fritjof Capra, explained that further to mean, "Education for sustainable living fosters both an intellectual understanding of ecology and emotional bonds with nature that make it more likely that our children will grow into responsible citizens who truly care about sustaining life, and develop a passion for applying their ecological understanding to the fundamental redesign of our technologies and social institutions so as to bridge the current gap between human design and the ecologically sustainable systems of nature."

Amen Fritjof! It's all about building connections! And school gardens reconnect kids to the fundamentals of food. Systems-based learning helps young people see the connectivity of relationships in their environment and surrounding ecosystems. Another contributor, Maurice Holt, points to the essential role that school gardens play in "understanding, not just memorizing, ecological principles."

Lisa’s Organics wants to foster these types of educational opportunities. Gardens-to-Hospitals will help young people understand how food unites us culturally and socially enabling them to make a deeper connection to where their food comes from and the impact that food availability has on their whole community not just in their own lunchroom.

 
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Building blocks to a Sustainable Food Community
I've often referred to my independent study on sustainable food systems as my un-accredited PhD program. Over the past seven months, I've handcrafted an education program that brought together learning experience and opportunities that would be the most meaningful to me...interning on organic farms, taking short courses and workshops and interviewing experts in the field.

Last night, I had the chance to present my findings and solutions for building a sustainable food community at the Tools for the Table speaker series in Truckee hosted by the Genesa Living Foundation. It felt like I was defending my thesis but fortunately, the audience took it easy on me and didn't challenge my proposal ;)

The pyramid to the left sums up my theory in a nutshell. To have a sustainable food system, you must have the building blocks to support it. First, you need a foodshed assessment in order to measure your community's food security against its dependence on the national food system. A foodshed assessment will provide a food policy council the information they need to develop a food plan for their society. The formation of a regional food hub will provide a market which will encourage more local food production. And those new food producers will be born from farmer and specialty-food incubator programs.

Once there is a solid foundation, equity will start to be seen in the supply chain starting with the grower all the way to the consumer. As more land is put into agricultural production and partnerships are developed with food, abundant, regional neighbors, the community will become more food secure. Financial incentives which encourage consumers and businesses to spend money locally will be implemented to build the regional food system. Regional networks  keeps money circulating locally. When money stays local it stimulates the local economy to make it more prosperous and resilient. Whatcha get is a sustainable food community!

 
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One of the venues at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival
Six years ago, I went to my first Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City, CA. At the time I was there representing festival sponsor, Patagonia. During one particular film, Broken Limbs, I was hit with an a-ha moment..."I had to take these films around the county." Eight months later, I quit my job at did exactly that. Over the next five years, I watched 1200 or more films as tour manager using the stories presented on screen to inspire audiences nationwide.

I went back to Wild & Scenic today as a spectator and had another one of those moments. I chose one of the seven venues and arrived just as the film, From the Mara Soil, was starting. I felt my way through the dark hall to a vacant sit against the back wall. The film's message quickly became clear, "sustainable food systems are possible anywhere."

Using subtitles to translate his heavily-accented English, the native dread-locked, Tanzanian spoke directly to the camera and said, "In Tanzania, we don't have a dictator, we don't have war. We just have poverty!" With conviction, he continued, "we must change the way poor people live."

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Tanzanian permaculture at Kinesi Orphanage
For years, Tanzania has been gripped by the inherent woes of its harsh environment making them dependent upon global support. Permaculture and better management of their natural resources is turning the tide. People have mostly eaten rice and beans because a short rainy season makes it nearly impossible to grow vegetables. At the time, vegetables had been grown using western, monoculture methods which left the soil dry and a nutrient deficient. Permaculture is demonstrating that the lack of rain and hot sun are not the problem, it is the farming practice that were wrong. Now they harvest water holding it in ditches next to their crops, they interplant a mix of vegetables to cycle nutrients in the soil and employ dry farming techniques which utilize ground covers like straw and green manure to insulate the soil keeping moisture locked in and conserving the precious, collected water.

With the help of Global Rescue Alliance, small villages are evaluating everything they do through a new lens...solar ovens are replacing indoor, open-fires for cooking; and wells are finding the rain from the rainy season water trapped in bedrock near the ground surface. Instead of feeling like victims on a hot continent, they are finding ways to grow and cook food by harnessing the the sun's energy and the water delivered once a year..

Every growing region comes with its own host of constraints, it is a matter of working within those constraints to figure out how to stabilize a community's food security. In Tanzania, it requires working with the sun not against it. In the mountains, it requires working with greenhouses, low tunnels and cold frames to extend the season or better yet, grow all year long.

Tanzania, however, is acting out of necessity and survival. In America, we just go to the supermarket. Our survival is not as visceral or palpable. Any vegetable we want is available anytime we want it throughout the year. Western cultures have little incentive to change because we are disconnected from the repercussions of our broken food system. Ironically, developing countries could be more sustainable if they so chose because they can adapt faster to sustainable farming methods and be rewarded immediately with better health, improved lifestyle and a more resilient community.

American communities, however, don't have to be victims of their inequitable food system. They too can be empowered to take control and address their own food security needs and build a stronger local economy in the process. It starts with community!

 
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The last few weeks have been a crash course in Northern Nevada's growing food movement. I've had the great fortune to meet many of the people involved in helping to protect and facilitate the agricultural potential of the area.

I've interviewed local compost experts for an article in Edible Reno-Tahoe, got wind of the dirty business of Waste Management Inc., spoke at a town council meeting opposing the the rezoning of agricultural land to light-industrial and most recently, attended a one-day workshop to learn more about subscription farming for small farms, aka community supported agriculture (CSA). Here are a couple of those stories...

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Craig Witt of Full Circle Compost checking the core temperature of the compost windrow.
GARBAGE GUYS
For the magazine article, I interviewed two fascinating characters. Each own and operate their own regional, composting facility in Northern Nevada. With every master composter I meet, one thing is clear...they intoxicate others with their knowledge. Soil is their caffeine driving them to share the secret they hold, that compost can transform our depleted soils naturally. They understand the innumerable ecological benefits that compost can have not only on our soil but the environment. They root tirelessly in hopes that their theories become accepted and embraced by the mainstream. With my affinity for the stuff and aspirations to understand as much as I can, I'm like a disciple in their presence; listening to every word like a child hinged on the tale of a bedtime story. See Craig' vermicomposting video at the bottom of this post.

Craig Witt of Full Circle Compost in Minden has been composting professionally for over 20-years and farming since he was old enough to walk. He is the Joel Salatin of Soil. Energetic and evangelic in his passion for soil's biology. We easily blew six hours one afternoon talking about compost recipes, books on the subject, philosophies and more. When I left, he loaded me up with his homemade jalapeno jelly and zucchini relish. Yum! His composting site is located at the Carson City Correctional Facility where inmates on good behavior learn the trade and basically run the compost operation. I was equally impressed with the prison itself. I had never been to one before. As we checked in at the guard house, a prisoner who was in the yard just outside the building, came up to a drive-thru type window asking the guard about the "big dude" who had arrived the day before with seven others. Eegh! It was quite exciting.

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Burlap coffee sacks from ALL the Starbucks in Northern Nevada. Whoa!
Alongside the compost site is the prison's organic dairy which feeds all the prisons in Northern Nevada and next to that is the Saddle Training Program. Here, 600 Wild Mustangs captured by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), wait to be gentled and later adopted by regular citizens. It serves as a rehabilitation program for the inmates who are assigned a mustang to break and make ready for adoption. Prison is sounding pretty good these days. Wonder if they are taking applications? Just kidding ;)

Tom Donovan with RT Donovan Landscape in Sparks on the other hand has only been composting for 2-years. Tom carries a Clint Eastwood-cowboy quality and speaks with a subtle, western drawl. His no-nonsense approach to composting wrangles all my loose-ends on the subject. He speaks compost in terms that a layman can understand and I appreciate.

In an effort to diversify their family's 50-year old sand and gravel company, they repurposed a portion of their property for collections and composting of organic material. Sand & gravel was a multi-million dollar business for RTD but it has whittled down significantly over the past few years due to the housing crash. Composting is proving to be promising business.

SUBSCRIPTION DRIVE
As I entered the conference room on the Western Nevada College campus in Fallon, I was delighted to see a packed room of 65-participants for the CSA workshop. Only a handful currently ran a CSA meaning the majority where there to learn the basic steps to incorporate a subscription program into their farming business. Phenomenal!! More farmers!

A subscription program, or CSA, is where people pay a farmer up-front for food grown and in return, receive a box of veggies every week from Spring to Fall. CSA's are happening all across the United States. They are the easiest way to become better connected to  where our food comes from while at the same time giving farmers a fair price for their hard work but cutting out the middleman.

All the speakers were fantastic but Wendy Baroli with Girl Farm really sent people home with something to think about. Unscripted, she commanded the room with a presentation from the heart. Whether one implemented her alternative CSA model or not, she provided excellent take-away's for everyone; namely, know your customer! Her customers are working owners meaning they are not just members and they are more than volunteers. Each pay $2500/year for 14-months to be part owner in Girl Farm. In return, they get loads of vegetables plus eggs, lamb, pork, chicken and turkey. As owners, they are required to work one day every two weeks. It may seem like a lot of time and money but it would cost a lot more to own your own farm. As Wendy puts it, "You don't have to own you own farm, you can get together with your neighbors and own a farm together." That is in essence what they are doing. In its purest form, a CSA member shares in the risk with his/her farmer. But until you are part owner, is that risk tangible. Their co-owners are invested!

Craig Witt with Full Circle Compost of Minden, NV explains Vermicomposting!
 
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Me sailing to my blue sky dreams for a new food future :)
As I've moved through this food journey, I've called upon my blog to help me clarify my thoughts and work through perplexing questions. Now that I'm back in Tahoe and building a career around food, I find myself calling upon my dear friend "sustainability" way too much in order to explain what it is I'm doing. I know it's an overused word and in the moment before I say it, I'm hopeful that I will think of a new word or phrase. But alas, out it comes.

WHAT IS SUSTAINABILITY?
Regardless, it's a great word and I believe in what it means! In its solitary form, sustainability represents "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (as coined by the World Commission on Environment and Development). Toss in food and my favorite definition for sustainable agriculture is...and I admit, I forget where I got this from..."land management practices which balance food production with the conservation of ecosystems through soil biology and biodiversity." Therefore, I conclude that the sustainable food systems we build today will create an equitable supply chain from grower to consumer both now and in the future. Equitable being the operative word!

Let me develop that a little further...If the land, the farmers, the workforce and the consumers are treated fairly and with respect to their needs and services there will be equity in the marketplace. When there is justice in the food system everyone wins! The soil can sustain itself and support a healthy and vibrant ecosystem. And the marketplace can take care of its workers and customers because the economy will realize we are all customers. And it is in our valued interest to meet the needs of the people first before profit. By taking care of our ecosystem services, the return on investment will be a thriving community not a dividend.

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My vision for a new food paradigm
SO WHAT EXACTLY AM I TRYING TO DO?
I want to build food-focused communities. Communities that are invested in their food security. It begins with how and where the food was grown. To be food secure, you first must know the land can provide indefinitely. Only sustainable agricultural practices can provide that. Once we secure the food and the land is happy, we need to make it accessible by creating an equitable marketplace for farmers to sell their food at a fair price and at a price the community can afford. Food access includes educating people about diet, scratch cooking skills as well as food buying decisions at the home, school and institutional level. An informed eater will realize the positive impacts that buying local can provide and that sustainable agriculture is as much about sustainable, economic development. Food sovereignty is when food security and food access coalesce. It results in communities that are engaged in food policy. They come together to design a system that works for them ecologically, culturally and economically.

When I hear, "How are we going to feed the world?". I say, "We first need to think in terms of building self-reliant communities that can feed themselves." If ever community did that, we will have fed the world. Start by evaluating all available land resources to see how each region can grow as much of their own food as possible. It will require saving farmland from development, creating more urban gardens, using greenhouses to extend the growing season and establishing vertical gardens in re-purposed vacant buildings. In the process, it will have created jobs for new farmers, new specialty food producers and all the people along the supply chain. Trade with other areas will of course still exist but local economies will be stronger and more resilient if able to provide more for themselves.

CLOSE TO HOME
In my community, I want to leverage all available food services in the Sierra Nevada in order to build a regional food system that can support the majority of our food needs. It will increase trade regionally between communities bolstering local economies. Money will circulate in the region encouraging more, small farms and area food producers but it w will also spark job growth and new business in other industries because that's what happens when money stays local. Economic drivers that promote a 25% shift to buying local will be implemented. By keeping money in the region, it will stoke the fire to ensure the model's longevity. I've quoted Mother Jones magazine on this one before and I'll do it again..."Fix the food...fix the country."

That's my BHAG: Big-Hairy-Audacious Goals! Gotta have'em!