For almost six years, I cooked at a farm-to-table restaurant that bought a whole lamb every week, locally raised, sustainably grown.
We butchered down the lamb into meals and made salumi and sausage with the scraps. Bones went into our Brodo, a mixed meat stock. We cooked and sliced kidneys and tongues for salads or antipasti dishes. Every part of the lamb was used and appreciated.
I also worked for restaurants and catering companies that relied on industrial produced lamb cuts, racks and deboned legs, shipped from Australia or New Zealand, where the animals were brought to slaughter in mass for lower cost.
One afternoon in my community college English classroom, four students arrived with an assortment of Fiery Hot Cheetos, Skittles and sodas. Students aren’t supposed to eat in classrooms, but it was lunchtime. I knew the students were hungry and didn’t interrupt their snacking before class.
No surprise, by our 1:30 p.m. break, the students who devoured vending machine snacks were lethargic and barely able to participate.
The trends are horrifying and unmistakable. Forty percent of California fifth graders are overweight or obese. A disproportionate number among them are minority students. We know young brains need nourishment. The mind-body connection is under-addressed in our schools.
The Food Literacy Center wants to change how kids eat, teaching them about nutrition and how to prepare culturally relevant, nourishing foods.
When I visited Chateau Davell in Camino, the Sierra’s incremental unfolding of redbud, dogwood and lilac blossoms just reached the small vineyard at 3,100 feet elevation. As Emily Hays invited me into the tasting room, I could see the Sacramento Valley unfold across verdant grass and opening buds.
Eric and Emily Hays started Chateau Davell in 2007 with a land purchase. The couple wanted to spend time with Eric’s mom and dad, and raise their family in a healthy place with a sustainable environment.
At Chateau Davell, the couple uses biodynamic methods to nourish the land and the people who work the vineyard and enjoy its bounty. Southdown sheep prowl the vineyard to graze down weeds between the rows. They aerate the soil with their hooves and fertilize with nitrogen rich manure, the owners tell me.
Imagine living in a state where every resident, child to elder, has access to farm-fresh, healing, life-sustaining produce.
For decades, access to nourishing produce has been associated with more privileged lifestyles. In poorer areas, adults suffer diet-related health conditions. Children are often malnourished. Ten percent of Californians have diabetes.
People with the least amount of money often travel long distances for healthy produce.
In recent months, I’ve learned about the California Office of Farm to Fork and its Farm to School Program. I began to see threads pulling together the farm-to-fork movement. Each link forms a chain of relationships.
When I stumbled onto Fiery Ginger Farm in West Sacramento, I thought I must be in the wrong place. Just off a main drive choked with cars, behind a motorcycle shop, an agricultural oasis beckoned.
The confluence of urban and rural, the contrast of cement and steel with compost and budding broccoli, struck me as an oddly poetic but fitting combination as I considered the food many of our kids eat.
With rows of organic salad greens, rooting pigs, digging ducks, greeting goats, and a field of cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli, I was in homesteader heaven just blocks from Downtown.
Imagine our kids’ school lunch trays packed with fresh, organic salad greens, pastured pork, braised turnips, broccoli heads kissed with Meyer lemon zest, and strawberries with green crowns still attached.