Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rescheduled Events: A Busy Saturday

As you all know, many local events were canceled or postponed due to the tsunami and rain over the past few weeks. Two of them have now been officially rescheduled.
The Future Farmers of America are going to hold their garage sale on April 2nd. Details can be found in the original post. They are still looking for donations to help them travel to the state-wide meetings of FFA. If you've been working on some early spring cleaning and have saleable items, this is an easy way to get them out of your house.

The Crab, Wine, and Cheese Fest has also been rescheduled for April 2nd. The festival will celebrate our local foods and provide music and fun for all ages. More details can be found here.

You may have noticed an addition to our side panel this week. We are starting the process of adding links to other (mostly local) online resources for local food and farming. If you think there's a link we should add, please let us know!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Where Do You Buy Lettuce?

Shortly after I moved to Crescent City, I was at BC's Lake Earl Market waiting for sandwiches when a young boy came into the store. He was probably 9 or 10 years old and lived close enough that he had walked. When the young woman behind the counter noticed him, he put three quarters on the counter and asked if he could buy 75 cents worth of lettuce. The young woman looked puzzled, but the man making my sandwiches nodded and told her to put some washed lettuce leaves from the sandwich prep area in a ziplock.

This was clearly not the first time a transaction like this had happened. Other than the young employee (and me), nobody seemed surprised by it. The store was fairly generous in the definition of "75 cents worth" and both sides seemed satisfied.
Now maybe this boy's parents were making a dinner full of fresh veggies and realized that they had forgotten lettuce when they were at the grocery store. Maybe the lettuce was just a small part of a healthy meal fulfilling the USDA suggestion to fill half your dinner plate with vegetables.

Or maybe the transaction I witnessed is symptomatic of our community, where many people lack adequate transportation to stores that offer a full range of fresh produce. In urban areas, neighborhoods lacking in full-service grocery stores are often described as food deserts. We have them, too. Residents of Gasquet, Hiouchi, Klamath, Weitchpec, parts of Smith River, Fort Dick, and other small outlying communities have to travel considerable distance to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. For low-income residents, that can be a significant financial burden.

The good news is that there are a lot of resources for making our "corner stores" healthier. Nationwide, communities are focusing on having produce replace chips, sodas, and especially alcohol in the often small stores in underserved neighborhoods. You can learn much more at the website for the Healthy Corner Stores Network.

So where do you buy your lettuce? At a corner store? A supermarket? The farmers' market? Your kitchen garden?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Growing Community Gardens

What do you get when you combine this empty lot:

...with this pile of lumber?

In the right amounts, and with a great deal of volunteer labor, you get a new community garden! Lumber was delivered two weeks ago to Sunset High School where the geometry and shop students are now cutting, drilling, and routing away to create raised beds for the community garden being installed at the Del Norte Wellness Center this spring. Water lines will be the first improvement made, followed closely by a greenhouse and the first wave of raised beds.

This is the culmination of a great deal of hard work by many community partners and future community gardeners. Community Assistance Network joined the Del Norte Health Care District board and Open Door Community Health Centers in a grant application to The California Endowment and the Tides Foundation to expand the Wellness Center campus in ways that improve community health. The grant was awarded last year and will not only fund the garden, but also a playground, walking paths, and exercise stations for adults.

We may not have water or a single raised bed installed, but we already have ten gardeners signed up for beds in the new garden! There's room for many more, so if you or someone you know needs space to grow some of your own food, please call Angela at 464-7940 ext. 107 to request a Community Garden application.

If you'd like to try growing your own food, but don't know how, we can help with that, too! CAN organizes a Successful Gardening series of classes to teach people how to garden. The first class is coming up on March 19th from 10 to noon, and will be taught by Joe Gillespie. Space is limited, but we have room for a few more students to learn about starting seeds and growing seedlings. You can call Angela at the number above to register for the class.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mark Winne's Events Canceled!

As I'm sure you all know, Crescent City is currently under a tsunami warning and evacuation. They are currently reporting significant damage to our harbor and the potential for a larger surge later. The people affected by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan are in our thoughts.

Locally, this does mean that we are canceling Mark Winne's visit to Del Norte this weekend! All scheduled events are canceled, including tonight's book reading. We have asked Mark to stay in San Francisco because hotels are either evacuated or full of evacuees, and the school, where our events were scheduled, is Crescent City's official evacuation site.

We plan to reschedule Mark's workshops for later this spring. If you know of anyone planning to attend, please spread the word. I will attempt to contact people, but cannot get to my office because it is in the evacuation zone.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Working Together To Overcome Challenges!

One thing our community does very well is work together. In some places, organizations, public agencies, and private businesses jealously guard their corner of whatever market they are in. But not in Del Norte! Since moving here, I have been continually impressed by how well people come together when there's work to be done. Today's post highlights another of these stories.

Future Farmers of America (FFA) provides agricultural education, often through classes and after-school clubs, as they do at Del Norte High. FFA provides leadership and research training, and helps young people learn how to plan and execute individual projects. You can read more about the organization here.
In Del Norte, our local FFA chapter is actively engaged with the larger community. Students have been working with Porters Pots and Plants to grow fresh veggies for Our Daily Bread Ministries, which serves hot meals to our low-income and homeless neighbors. Like most supplemental food programs, Our Daily Bread is seeing an increased need for their services at a time when many former donors have been hit hard in the pocketbook themselves. This is a great example of a public (schools)-private (Porters P&P)-charitable (Our Daily Bread) partnership. (And even goes beyond our community thanks to a massive seed donation by Territorial Seed Company of Oregon!)
Nineteen of our FFA students have been selected to go to the California State FFA Conference in April and they are in need of travel funds. They are working on a variety of fundraisers and will be holding a big rummage sale on March 19th. The garage sale will be at the Chetco Federal Credit Union parking lot. There are three ways you can help:
  1. If you have unwanted, saleable items sitting in your house or garage, you can donate them for FFA to sell. These funds will help send our students to the state conference.
  2. Come to the FFA Garage Sale on March 19th and turn someone else's trash into your treasure, knowing that the money will send a student to Fresno.
  3. Bring a donation of fresh fruits and vegetables to the FFA Garage Sale. The produce will be donated to Our Daily Bread and you will receive a free gift of vegetable starts grown by the FFA chapter. It's a win-win situation!

Our strength is much greater when we all work together. We can all support our FFA students, not just by helping them go to the conference, but by showing that we appreciate their community service and the work they do. These are potential future farmers right here in Del Norte -- we will need them in years to come.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Crabs! Wine! Cheese!

The 2011 Crab, Wine & Cheese Festival is this weekend and it will be a six-hour celebration of some of our local foods. From 3 to 9 pm at the Cultural Center on Front Street, the Festival will have something for everyone. Live music will keep the atmosphere festive, many crabs will be consumed, and a few lucky crabs will have the opportunity to race back to their ocean home in the World Famous Crab Races.

This local festival celebrates some of our most-famous food offerings and gives local residents and tourists alike a chance to kick back and enjoy good food. The event itself is free and all proceeds from food and wine sales goes to the Northcoast Marine Mammal Center.

This year will be very different from years past. More food offerings will be on hand, ranging from blue cheese mashed potatoes from Bistro Gardens to chowder from the Chart Room. Albers will be providing the ocean's bounty -- half-crabs will be available for $7. The many side offerings can be mixed and matched for $3 each. Rumiano will be providing samples of many of their local cheeses -- don't miss out on their award-winners! Wine-lovers will have a hard time choosing their $15 bottle -- there are 30 wine sponsors providing the choices.

One major difference between last year's event and 2011's is how the World Famous Crab Race will be run. It is a Race to Freedom this year, with the crabs scurrying across South Beach toward the water. The Fun Bus will take visitors from the Cultural Center to South Beach at 5pm for the start of the race.

As always, kids' activities will keep the small ones busy. Radio-controlled "crabs", face painting, coloring, and more will be on hand. Last year, the three-year-old set took over the dance floor for a while and I'm sure that will happen this year as well.

I might be most looking forward to a demonstration of "crab shaking" by the Chefs Morgante of Vita Cucina. This is a new-to-me technique, but I like the concept, as explained here. I didn't find out what time that is happening, but for this and other questions you might have, you can call Shannon at 541-254-0328. She is your source for all things Crab, Wine & Cheese Festival this year.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Local Food Events -- Movies, Book Signings, and More!

March is here and it brings with it a number of food-related events you might want to add to your calendar!

On Saturday, March 5th, a spring meeting and party will be held for all the CANGrow and associated community gardens from 10:30 to noon at the Del Norte Family Resource Center. All current and future gardeners are welcome. We are about to break ground on a new garden at the corner of Northcrest and Washington in collaboration with the Del Norte County Health Care District and Open Door Community Health Centers. Almost 50 new beds will be looking for gardeners! Coffee, healthy drinks, and snacks will be provided by Champions for Change Nutrition Program and our local Starbucks.

On March 11th and 12th, Mark Winne will be in town to work with our fledgling Food Policy Council planning group. Mark is the Food Policy Council director for the Community Food Security Coalition. He has a new book about people challenging existing food policies called Food Rebels, Guerrilla Gardeners, and Smart-Cookin' Mamas: Fighting Back in an Age of Industrial Agriculture. Mark will read from his book and sign copies (available for sale that night) at the Del Norte County Library at 5:30 on Friday, March 11th. The event is organized by Del Norte Reads and is free and open to the public. Mark will also be running Food Policy Council workshops on Saturday.

Del Norte Reads and the Del Norte County Library are actively promoting sustainable food and agriculture this year through their monthly Meaningful Movie Nights. Each month, on the last Monday of the month, they are presenting free screenings of films focused on food and agriculture issues.

They started in January with Dirt! The Movie, a sometimes-amusing, but also serious look at the literal base of all our agriculture and the effects of industrial agriculture on the health and well-being of this precious resource. February's movie was Permaculture: The Growing Edge. Permaculture is a form of sustainable intensive agriculture closely tied to place and climate. Bill Mollison, one of the two Australian founders of the permaculture concept, always looked at problems as opportunities. I happened to be growing up in Australia during the time permaculture was being developed, and my mother's favorite Bill Mollison quote is "You don't have a slug problem -- you have a duck deficiency!" I think here in Del Norte, we ALL have duck deficiencies!

On March 28th, the Meaningful Movie will be Fridays at the Farm, a beautiful film about community supported agriculture (CSA). Richard Hoffman, the filmmaker, documents a year of his family's involvement with a CSA farm on the outskirts of Philadelphia. The film is short, so Karen Rath of Del Norte Reads is putting together a local panel for a post-viewing discussion. Ocean Air Farms, our local Del Norte CSA, will be represented, as will CAN's community gardens. If you've ever wondered what it's like to be part of a CSA, this film will answer all your questions in a moving and caring way.

Finally, I am very pleased to announce that Joe Gillespie, the force behind Crescent Elk's wonderful school garden, will be teaching the first of this year's Successful Gardening Series classes, co-sponsored by Community Assistance Network and College of the Redwoods' Community Education program. The class will be held at the Crescent Elk garden on March 19th, from 10 to noon and will focus on understanding seeds and seed starting. Students will be getting their hands dirty and taking home planted seeds (there will be a $5 materials fee). RSVPs are required because space is limited!

For information about the community garden event, the Successful Gardening class, or the Food Policy Council work, please call Angela at 464-9190 ext. 107. If you'd like to know more about the book reading/signing or the Meaningful Movie Nights, you can call 464-7072.

If you are organizing or know of other food or farming events in Del Norte and surrounds, please let us know! We want to support the work that is happening here.