EcoFarm: 34 Years of Bringing the Organic Farming Community Together

Thirty-four years ago the very first EcoFarm conference took place in Winters, CA. It was called “To Husband, The Earth” and was the brainchild of Amigo Bob Cantisano. At the time, he was running the only organic farm supply company and thought it would be valuable to create an event for farmer friends to gather. So he sent out a mailing and 45 people showed up for a big potluck. Read more

A Farmer’s Almanac for the Young, DIY Set

If you’re up on sustainable farming, chances are good that you’ve heard of The Greenhorns. But, if by some chance you have not, let me fill you in. The non-profit organization was founded in 2007 by Severine von Tscharner Fleming with the primary goal of promoting and supporting the young farmer movement in America. Their first project, the eponymous documentary The Greenhorns brought attention to the plight of young farmers and introduced viewers to a myriad of grassroots endeavors. Through new media production, events, publications, workshops, and actual farming, The Greenhorns aim to organize, build, and bring attention to a network of budding agrarians. I’m happy to report that the latest Greenhorns project has arrived and it’s an impressive body of work that deserves some attention. The 2013 New Farmer’s Almanac is an adventure. Read more

Eating for Life: Review of “The Longevity Kitchen” by Rebecca Katz

Of all the life changes that having a baby brings on, perhaps the most pivotal is that it makes you examine what would happen to this new little being if you were suddenly gone. Our own mortality is abruptly mirrored back to us with the entrance of offspring, so some of us sign up for life insurance, talk about creating trust accounts, or set up legal documents and wills. I think that to truly take care of our children and create a stronger sense of security, separate from the paperwork and bureaucracy, parents need to take care of themselves first. And there is no better time like the fresh spring season to start. Luckily, we have Rebecca Katz’s  newest book, The Longevity Kitchen , to guide us. Read more

Awards Season 2013…Not Just Movies!

It’s hard to believe, but this year marks the third annual Good Food Awards, in which American food producers are celebrated and recognized for their work towards responsibly crafted and delicious edibles. The 2013 finalists in nine categories: beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections (new addition!), pickles, preserves and spirits were announced at the end of November, and will gather at a gala awards ceremony coming up at the Ferry Building in San Francisco on January 18th. The following day, all of the winners will present their goods at a bustling Marketplace, an exclusive chance for the public to access this bevy of products in one place. Read more

Get Your Jam On

Before Whole Foods, Martha Stewart and Anthropologie got wind of Anarchy In a Jar, Laena McCarthy’s jam, jelly and preserves company was simply a way to put her passion into practice.  She grew up watching her mom can food, and then in college, made the connection between those early impressions of DIY sustainability with a new curiosity for food politics.

A botched batch of strawberry jam eventually led to launching her own company in 2009, amidst what McCarthy describes in her new cookbook, Jam On, as “a food-production renaissance blossoming in Brooklyn.”  Perhaps it was luck, as she says, or perhaps her key to success is her innovative ingredient combinations, sourcing directly from small farms, or choosing to recreate recipes with less sugar than usual. What began as a revolutionary idea against the norm, to share with the public pure, concentrated, clean flavors, is today flourishing from coast to coast. Although somewhat ironic, from “anarchy” to popularity, the wide approval is a heartening sign that the consumer is primed for knowing more about where their food comes from. And in this case, that food happens to be quite delicious. Read more

A Meatless Celebration: Thanksgiving Without The Turkey

I’ve been a vegetarian since I was seven years old, which means that my choice to not eat meat has been a less conscious decision than some, due to the fact that it is so ingrained. I’d like to claim that my ethics and morals have resulted in a studious stance against meat-eating, but that would be overdramatizing the simple notion that it’s just easier for me to do what I’ve always done. Yes, I do agree with carrying a lighter load on the planet, and have sympathy for animals who are treated cruelly (my seven year old heart was sad when I made the link between the Big Mac I just ate and our neighborhood cows…hence becoming a vegetarian.), but ultimately for me, cooking without meat is way less of a messy hassle than learning to.

Kim O’Donnel, author of the brand new cookbook The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations: Year-Round Vegetarian Feasts (You Can Really Sink Your Teeth Into), has come to eating less meat from the opposite direction than me. Read more

Educating Kids Through 101 Gardening Projects

There are things you just don’t think about before you have kids. I am currently in the transition between a childless lifestyle and preparation for motherhood, being over 7 months pregnant with my first child. I am realizing that things are about to change, big time. My brain space is now filled not only with typical work obligations, meeting dates, business decisions, and homeowner responsibilities, but also with questions about how this little one-to-be is going to fit into the picture–how my life is going to become our life.

Of course, one of the biggest baby preparation questions is, how will we all fit? Not only are our lives about to change, but our physical space is too. I guess if you have a rambling home with multiple bedrooms, this issue isn’t as important. But we happen to reside in a tiny 700 square foot space, 100 of those as a separate bedroom that is detached from the main living room, kitchen, and bathroom.

But we do have two acres of wild and blackberry-tangled land, and the baby part of my brain is wondering how I am going to integrate our new child into this garden setting. How will we balance maintaining safety to our lovely rows of crops while ensuring that this kid gets maximum exploratory joy and pleasure from the space? And will we even have the energy to keep the garden going when we are dead tired from feeding, and changing, and adapting to becoming three?

Luckily, there is a new book about how to educate children through the lens of a garden, no matter what size, capacity, or setting. It’s aptly called “The Book of Gardening Projects for Kids: 101 Ways to Get Kids Outside, Dirty and Having Fun.” The authors, Whitney Cohen and John Fisher, are both parents of young kids and have worked as teachers and garden education directors for quite awhile. Much of that time was spent at Life Lab, a non-profit organization based in Santa Cruz, California which was founded in 1979 to teach people to care for themselves, each other, and the world, through farm and garden-based programs. Read more

Building Community at the Homesteader’s Convenience Store

Lately I’ve been realizing that I married well. Not in the typical, societal ladder, Downton Abbey kind of way. Far from that. More like in a homesteader’s kind of way. Forget investment accounts and family crests, when it comes to spring water, pickles and chicken coops, we are set! And most recently, we hit the jackpot. My husband just landed a job at our local feed store, which in itself doesn’t sound like the most lucrative position, but this isn’t your basic feed store. Read more