No Sloppy Joes
Fiery Ginger brings farm-fresh quality to kids’ meals
By Gabrielle Myers
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.
Replace the “as cheap as you can get it” pizza slices, fries, squashed hamburgers, nitrate-filled hot dogs, and out-of-season apples and bananas from faraway lands with local, organic, vibrant food to nourish young bodies and minds.
On my visit to Fiery Ginger Farm’s lush plot, co-founder Shayne Zurilgen makes the connection clear: “Our kids should have the same produce as we have when we go to Mulvaney’s. The more kids eat healthy food when they are younger, the more they will eat it as adults. We need to show them how to eat healthy, locally grown and nutrient-dense food. If the veggies are of better quality, they will eat them.”
Fiery Ginger began in 2015 with the goal to transform food access for students in kindergarten through high school. The farm shows kids how to grow, harvest and use farm ingredients. Fiery Ginger also works to deliver food picked and harvested at peak ripeness.
Zurilgen and co-founder Hope Sippola met via the Center for Land-Based Learning’s California Farm Academy. Zurilgen, a former middle school science teacher, and Sippola, a former garden coordinator at Davis Farm to School, each have a passion to get the best food possible into our schools.
Fiery Ginger serves as a training site for Davis Farm to School garden coordinators. The farm wants to help more school districts learn how to be leaders in the farm-to-school connection.
The drive to ensure quality food and meaningful connections to the earth enabled the pair to develop a revolutionary organization, Spork Food Hub, which pulls produce and products from about 30 local sustainable farms and ranches.
Spork Food Hub acts as a direct link between these farms and ranches and local schools. The hub allows cafeterias to work with the best produce, eggs and meats around, the same products high-end restaurants enjoy.
The hub serves 12 school districts from Placerville to Vacaville and Yuba to Stockton. With food equity and access as its mission, the venture wants to help prisons, universities and hospitals gain access to quality, sustainably raised food at reasonable costs.
Now the hub wants to find a facility to process fruits and vegetables, and make good food easier to handle at understaffed and poorly equipped schools and institutional kitchens.
Fiery Ginger has two garden plots, one in West Sacramento and another in Davis. The farm hosts school field trips where students learn how plants grow, what plants need to develop to full potential, how soil productivity works, and how to harvest and preserve the bounty. With 40–50 field trips each spring and 25 or more each fall, the farm makes life-changing impacts on many kids.
The mind-body connection, the most important aspect of our ability to learn, gets addressed when we look critically at the food our kids eat. We can give them access to nourishing food and show them how to grow, prepare and love that nurturing of the physical and mental self.
You can find Fiery Ginger produce and transplants at the Davis Farmers Market, Talini’s Nursery, Davis Farmer’s Kitchen and in many school lunches.
Gabrielle Myers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her latest book of poetry, “Too Many Seeds,” can be ordered from fishinglinepress.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento