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.
From an acidic kick to the warm taste of pears and apples, each sip of cider reveals the history and bounty of local agriculture.
Hemly Cider offers organic, unfiltered, flash-pasteurized nourishment in every can. No concentrates or additives. Sarah Hemly, founder and president, adds fresh juices of cherry, kiwi, Meyer lemon and mandarin orange after pasteurization. When she finishes, flavors of each fruit step forward.
Pear trees take up to eight years to produce. Hemly uses fruit from Courtland pear and apple trees dating from 1860. The land was bought by a relative of Sarah’s husband Michael Hemly for $600 in 1850. The cider company began in 2015. The family has farmed and nurtured this delta land for six generations.
On a winter’s afternoon, golden light casts shadows over a fence that marks the Harper Junior High School garden. I walk with Meghan Covert Russell, executive director of the Davis Farm to School program, and Garry Pearson, who coordinates garden volunteers. Green tips and soft leaves of garlic, spinach, beets, sugar snap peas, broccoli, radishes and cauliflower unfold on the ground.
As we walk the garden rows, wider than normal to allow access, Pearson says he sees kids with their counselors come to the garden to “just veg out.” Covert Russell explains how the garden, “especially after COVID, connects students to each other and their school sites again. They get their hands dirty, and have the best time pulling weeds.”
Relationships distinguish the farm-to-fork movement. While farmer-to-chef seems like the obvious partnership, one joy I get from this column is digging beneath the surface to see a myriad other relationships that bring food to our tables and connections to our neighborhoods.
Researching last month’s column on the city’s Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone Program, I met Earl Withycombe, a landowner, community activist and incentive zone pioneer.
He told me how as a landowner he collaborated with city officials to help develop the zone program and work out details so other landowners might benefit.