January 2017

“… is to free someone else.” – Toni Morrison #nobannowall #sanctuary_for_all

For quite some time now, I’ve been pondering this question: “What does my duty to fight for freedom really look like?” It is a value I live by but I am constantly evaluating on whether or not I am truly making progress. In times like this where discriminatory executive orders are being legalized and destroying families, I cannot help but feel that I’m not doing enough. Last night, I had a conversation with my parents about fear, greed, and power and we correlated a lot of Trump’s actions to the mindset of Zionists in Israel who have occupied and displaced so many Palestinian families. This was a surprisingly good conversation considering that my dad is a long-standing Republican and gets free stuff from the Heritage Foundation (smh :0!). There is power to dialogue and I appreciate it for what it can bring. However, I still feel this defeat inside me that I should/need to contribute to the movement even more.

At my former job, rethink, we organize through 5 platforms based on the concept of:

Free the Mind. Free the People. Free the Land.

While I’ve only been with Sarvodaya Farms for a short time, I feel that their work also aligns with this fight for freedom.

Free the Mind: We had Elinor’s first nutrition class this past week and it helped to reconfirm my own beliefs around the need to decolonize our diets. She showed us data from the diets of hunters and gatherers and Dr. Prices’ teeth data. Modern technology and imperialistic greed have pushed unhealthy foods into the traditional diets. We were never meant to eat so many white things!

Free the People: I cannot speak for all, but I believe Sarvodaya Farms serves as a sanctuary for many people. I’ve had the honor of having some deeper conversations with my fellow trainees and it’s super awesome to see how we evolve and transform together. The work here is important as the people who learn from here will go to other places and help transform other communities. This week I just finished my graduate school application and fingers crossed I get in so I can continue to spread and share knowledge around sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty.

Free the Land: We all live on stolen land in this country. Therefore, it is that much more important that we give respect to the land and also to those who tended the land with mutual respect for nature. The work of this farm is vital because we are engaged in farming that does as much as it can to give back to the land. We as farmers are not just extracting from the land but tending to the land so that we can build micro-climates of diversity and more lush eco-systems. This is how much of the farming world used to sustain each other and the land before the injection of the green revolution and the push for big machinery and chemical fertilizers.

Cooking Project: I’ve realized that my body isn’t as superhuman as I imagine it to be and that it needs its rest. So- nothing really new this week.

-But, I’ve been working on a new salad item for the restaurant I work at… it’s been a work in progress. Still experimenting with different salad dressings.

– I made my best friend, SK, almost vegan cinnamon rolls and sweet and spicy garlic edamame for their revolution around the sun.

I have long had a contentious relationship with food. A couple of months after I began college, I started vomiting regularly. My regular bouts of nausea made it difficult for me to eat, and I began to feel weak and malnourished. After many tortured nights on WebMD with a wastebasket situated securely within reach, I was finally diagnosed with gastroparesis.

Like many other chronic diseases of our modern era, gastroparesis is a disorder whose prevalence has been increasing over time. Gastroparesis is a disease in which you have a slowed digestive system, making it difficult to digest food. My gastroenterologist, as is typical with the medical profession, wanted to treat me with pharmaceuticals. When my mother asked, “but what about dietary changes?”, he simply waved her concerns away insisting, “just take the medication and you’ll be fine.”

While the medication did help me stabilize my digestion in the short-term (I had lost a significant amount of weight during this time), I was determined to figure out a lifestyle that would work for me and my body. After much trial and error, and developing a much keener awareness of my body’s reactions to various foods, I came to realize that I couldn’t just think of my body in an isolated way. Improving my digestive health meant more than just eating well, but also exercising and managing my mental health. I began to see my body and health less as individual isolated organs, and more of an interconnected ecosystem, each with an important contribution to the whole.

Now in the first week of Eleanor’s nutrition class, I feel like I am making another step on a long journey to understanding the relationship between my body, the food I eat, and now the conditions which we grow it in. In this ever expanding web of interconnections, I am beginning to understand that we cannot separate the ideas of our personal health and environmental health.

Although I had always understood that the farmer plays an indispensable role in helping their communities survive and thrive, I was struck by Eleanor’s insight that in some ways we are also fulfilling the roles of doctors and psychologists, in keeping each other healthy through nutritious food. From the increased nutritional content of pasture raised eggs to the ‘happy signals’ sent by Lactobacillus, a microbe that grows on fermented vegetables, it’s clear that our human health is not limited to our own bodies, but everything we are connected to in our vast ecological web. And it’s hard for me to wonder that if it were not for the industrial practices of modern capitalism, the sacrifices and shortcuts we make to our food in the name of efficiency and profit, if I would have been afflicted by gastroparesis at all. And as ‘advanced’ of a society as we think of ourselves, often it was our ancestors who understood better of how to care for themselves, each other, and the Earth around them. And now I can situate my training as a farmer as more as just a grower of food, but also as someone with the power to heal and uplift the ones I feed.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth”.

There is so much to learn at Sarvodaya; I am learning about the farm, I am learning about myself. It is becoming more and more apparent to me that I need to slow down. Over the last few years, I’ve somehow made my life fast paced, busy, and tired but I know that I’ve been chasing after wind. Initially, I didn’t realize how farming could be so healing, but it absolutely is. Farming is so contrary to so much of what I have been taught! Its humbling, that instead of me doing something to the earth, it is the earth doing something to me. I need to slow down.

I have been pondering meekness lately. As best as I can understand, meekness is the combination of two qualities. The first is to have a simple posture, approaching things with distinct kindness and gentleness. The second is to have a type of patience that waits to be taught and guided by something greater than myself. My last few weeks at Sarvodaya have left me thoughtful and desiring of these qualities, and I can see myself growing into it.

Alongside learning about myself, I’ve been learning about the farm too. I have quickly fallen in love with taking care of the chickens. I am noticing a sense of compassion welling up inside me for the birds, and I can notice them starting to become familiar with me. It is special to dote over these sweet birds, to share with my friends candid pictures of the chicken, and to smile at the thought of this newly found friendship.

There are very technical aspects to foraging with chicken. The birds are temporarily stationed in a designated row between the stone fruit trees. Once the row has been totally foraged and fertilized, we move them over again to forage the next row. This type of rotation has significant impacts on the orchard ecology and soil fertility. As wild grasses become overgrown in the aisles between the trees, they begin to fix nitrogen into the soil. Nitrogen is a plant macronutrient, meaning that it is one of the most essential elements for plant survival and development. For the trees specifically, the soil available nitrogen will be taken up through the root system and then will positively impact the photosynthetic process; nitrogen is a major component of chlorophyll. Once the low-level vegetation has become overgrown, we allow the chicken to scratch and forage the area. The greens that they eat add nutrition to their diet, and the greens that they scratch will decay and contribute carbon to the soil. In addition, the insects that are foraged from the land is a source of nutrition for the chicken. When the chicken poop on the landscape, it also contributes nitrogen to the land. Therefore, when chicken are utilized properly, they can make drastic impacts on the ecology and nutrient cycling of an area.

“It’s all about your roots”

 

Ah…this week has been a beautiful week for me.  Monday I hibernated at home due to the muddy conditions at the farm, which allowed for a ton of space for reflection and stillness.  As the last few drops of the rainstorm sprinkled down, I nestled myself in a cozy corner of my house and began reading a new book about intuition.  I was drawn to this particular book for several reasons, but the main being my inconsistency with hearing and/or following the wisdom that lives inside of me.  I do feel like I have a strong intuition (women in general seem to be more aware of this ‘super-power’), yet I have noticed that I am very quick to dismiss it.  The book, aptly titled ‘Intuitive Being’, goes on to explain how it becomes increasingly difficult to hear or trust your intuition when your root chakra is all out of whack.  (At this point you might be thinking…”wait, how does this have anything to do with farming….just keep reading I’ll get there.”). Our root chakra is located at the base of our spine and when it is balanced we feel secure, more capable, smart, and in control of our life experiences.  If the opposite is true we can feel in fight or flight mode or like we are always on the move.  We actually began creating our roots the moment we were born up until the age of six or seven.  When we were this age, our security came from having our needs met and from the relationships we had with those who cared for our safety and survival.  These relationships have taught us, knowingly or unknowlingly, to trust or distrust the world and our own safety.  However, in order to be in touch with our deeper intuition we must develop strong feelings of safety and protection, otherwise we will be stunted and unable to connect with deeper truth that lives inside of us- like the feeling when you know something but you just aren’t sure why.

Our human roots connect us to all of life.  Damaged roots stunt you and me just like they stunt any vegetation that we grow on the farm.

 

Recently the farm has been under attack by some very devious vermin, namely gophers.  Somehow they have gone undetected, maneuvering under radar of the feline farm brigade.  Daikon is the food of choice for these rodents, munching on most, if not all, of their mild-flavored white roots.  I was surprised to see how sad I was at the loss of so many beautiful daikon.  What were once proud, shiny leaves, now looked wilted and formless, mere hanging leaves now burdened by the force of gravity on them.  But how else is a daikon supposed to act when its lost its roots?

I know its sort of strange to compare a vegetables roots with my own, but for me this week, this made a lot of sense.  Sometimes I try to build too high, when I am not even connected to the ground.  Our roots are like our own flushing system that help us eliminate what we see and know through our intuition.  Sometimes we don’t let go of the past and we end up taking with us our own stories or the stories of others.   This damages our own roots and disconnects us from reality.

In some cases I could tell which daikon had become gopher food just by looking at the leaves that were beginning wilt.  Without even looking at the root itself, it was obvious to see which leaves were suffering from a loss of available nutrition.  Our roots are everything, whether we are a reddish or a human being.

Man it has been one crazy week for America and me personally. But, seeing everyone united and speaking out reassures me that everything will be ok. Recently, I enrolled into two courses on Coursera: What A Plant Knows and Agriculture, Economics and Nature. For those of you who are not familiar with Coursera, it is basically an educational technology company that offers massive open online courses from universities around the world.

So far in What a Plant Knows course I learned about what plants can see and smell. For instance, plants can detect the direction of light, the intensity and when it should be flowering. For example, blue light initiates phototropism which means a plant growing in the direction of light. Charles Darwin was actually the first person to discover this and created an experiment that is similar to the following picture:

Red light initiates flowering but a darker shade of red will inhibit that action. Also, plants do not measure the length of day but rather the length of night which I find fascinating. I also learned that plants are highly sensitive to smell. When a fruit ripens, it emits a chemical called ethylene which signals to the other fruits to ripen. Ethylene is particularly important for plant aging and is the regulator for leaf senescence meaning autumn foliage. This lecture was pretty cool because I was introduced to a plant called cuscuta pentagona aka the dodder plant. Now the dodder plant is really interesting because it cannot carryout photosynthesis like most plants can. Instead it acts as a parasitic plant by attaching itself to another plant and lives off of their nutrients. But, the dodder plant does not attach itself to any plant no no no. It is highly selective and makes a decision by sniffing out its prey. If you do not believe me check the following video out! It’s pretty cool!

https://youtu.be/yb_9X3I38N0

This week I learned about what plants can feel. I am not finished with this week’s lecture but so far it is pretty awesome. They introduce a little bit about neural communication and electricity. These concepts are very evident in mimosa pudica (sensitive plant). Check it out!

Lastly, in my Agriculture, Economics and Nature class I learned a bit about supply and demand. Furthermore, the various resources used in farming production. It is basically an agriculture economics course and so far I have learned about the 2007 food crises and that wheat prices have been falling since the 1850’s. Here is a brief summary of their course:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_IeYGpeqV8

If anyone is interested in these courses I highly suggest that you join Coursera. It is a wonderful website and they have many courses in various subjects. I hope everyone has a good night! Thank you!

Friday was awesome! I never knew I could have so much fun and feel a great sense of accomplishment transporting mulch to expand the walkway and garden beds. It was such a great sunny day, not too cold ,not too warm. But anyways back to the mulch. That pile was pretty substantial, not too big , not too small but a good amount. They said it couldn’t be finished all in one day. Me and my team rose to the challenge and decided this will be done today !

I think the determination to finish gave us all the strength to take on this pile together . I have never shoveled so fast in my life ! As the pile diminished we started to falter and we took several small breaks. Some more people got involved and helped as we took our breaks in rotation. It is important to keep hydrated. Burst of energy would come and go but the determination and persistency was there. A quarter to 12 pm stuck and the pile was diminished . High five team ! And to those who helped along the way you rock too! Hooray for mulch !

Week two started out with rain on my side. I knew beforehand I had to miss Monday, so I was relieved when that morning’s training was canceled anyway due to rain. Oh and not just rain, buckets and buckets of it.

Wednesday was the usual frenzy with getting the C.S.A. baskets ready for the customers. Someone asked me what C.S.A. meant and I realized that while I knew it referred to produce boxes the farm sells to local residents, I didn’t know the actual translation: Community Supported Agriculture. I’m glad I goggled it, because I had a second person ask me later in the week what it meant. It was nice being able to answer their question with such conviction. I must have sounded like a real Urban Farmer in Training.

I found this week’s harvesting day more challenging than last week.  Rishi bought these miniature scales for us to take out to the fields to weigh the produce without having to walk all the way back to the tent. While these scales are cute and friendly looking, I found them fickle, giving different readings every time I placed the same item on the scale. The mini scales still gave me a ball park estimate, but in the end, it will still be necessary to develop the ability to “eyeball” the amount and later verify it on the larger scales.

Some of the weight issues can not be blamed on the scales though, but on human error. Mainly mine.  Chika and I went from thinking we had double the amount of spinach we needed, to thinking we didn’t have enough, to finally coming out so much ahead that all the interns were able to take home fresh spinach that day. Some mistakes have their benefits, beyond the learning that takes place.

I’m becoming more confident with regard to the harvesting of the vegetables, well most of them. I’m very clear on when the root vegetables (like the daikon, carrots and beets) are bolting or where there are too many growing in one place and room is needed. But I am still unsure about the broccoli, and exactly what leaves to cut when trying to preserve the plants and point the energy to growing the master head. It was nice to come home to my own garden and know to pick the kale leaves at the stem by moving left to right or right to left. I harvested some backyard broccoli and cauliflower too. But I wondered if I picked the broccoli too soon or too late as it was not nearly as tasty as my cauliflower. I see the benefit to comparing my farming skills in both my backyard and at Sarvodaya Farm. It helps to practice what I know and clarify what I am still in need of learning.

Friday was both the best and most challenging day on the farm. This was the first day my four person team was all at the farm working together: Chika (pictured above in all her shoveling splendor) Melissa (who was recovering from strep throat) and Maya, the homeschooler. For I think three hours straight, we shoveled, hauled and dumped freshly delivered mulch out to the north side of the farm to make the existing swale into a path. Here’s the finished path:

 

The mulch will also make it possible to lengthen the veggie beds. This was hard work, especially on the hands. We all struggled in our own way. But dang if we didn’t get to the bottom of Mulch Mountain together. Apparently the mulch was from a pine tree, but it smelled like straight up lavender to me.

 

Special thanks to Krista, a trainee from last session who was our fearless leader on Mulch Mountain. She took the above picture of me (with Melissa and Maya in the background) from the top of the hill.

Lunch never tasted so good as it did on Friday at the farm. Elinor’s cooking and nutrition class with locally sourced food was our reward for a hard day’s work. I’ve been craving root vegetables doused with coconut oil, salt and pepper and baked at 375 degrees ever since. Ready for week three!  (Sorry for the sideways photos, I’m not sure why wordpress is switching them back after I correct them.)

Monday morning rolled in with a splash.  I got up wondering if training would go ahead.  Heading towards the door I thought to check my email.    Well, well, well,  class cancelled.  Immediately thoughts of line dancing, exercise class and lunch at the “Brick” was dancing in my head.  Then the grown up part of me kicked in and decided to take the recommendation of the email and use those four hours to read.  Into the office/living room I went, settled in with a notebook, the book and pen.  Facing the front window, looking out at the rain I started to read.  As I got to page 5 and 6, anger filled my gut. Finally,  I know a little history of how grapes became seedless.  That is one of my serious food pet peeves is seedless fruit.

Approximately at 9 a.m. the sounds of leaves rattling and birds chirping distracted my attention.  I noticed doves and small tan birds digging in the leaves and the hummingbirds were zooming around, with the sun peaking through.  I followed suit and sat in the yard  reading until it started to rain again.  Back to the book.  I am reading “The one-straw Revolution” by Masonobu Fukuoka.  Within the first few chapters, there were feelings of anger, intrigue, amazement, joy, and despair.  I am encouraged to read more on this subject of natural farming, the history of farming, and why grapes and watermelon are seedless.

Wednesday,  I learned about how some vegetables go to seed also known as bolting.  The process starts when a vegetable such as a daikon radish, or beets decides it will longer concentrate on growing the root but instead produce seeds.  The stalk starts to thicken and distance itself from the top of the root.  It also starts to curve indicating it is time for a new purpose and direction.  The bolting plant has edible and quite tasty stems to enjoy.

Friday morning we were greeted by a huge pile of steaming mulch.  It looked very inviting, given how cold it was outside.  Our nursery crew worked with Tyler to assemble a couple of large tables for the nursery.  The work involved measuring, cutting, and attaching strips of wood to the frame.  My job involved using an impact screwdriver.  The screw had to go in at an angle and then drilled in. It looked simple but I had trouble.  With the help of Traci and the encouragement from Anne, my task was completed.  That’s one of the things I enjoy about the farm.  It has constant movement with positive and focused goals. By the end of the morning, sweaters, jackets, scarfs, gloves, and knit hats were no longer needed.  Thanks to the sun and good ole manual labor.

 

Farmers’ Note

Hello Growing Club Members & CSA members!

Hope you all have stayed safe and dry despite the wet and wild weather. The new interns usually come to the farm, rain or shine, freezing or sweltering. That’s just the nature of farming. However this week, Mother Nature gave us a few surprises! As many of you are aware, LA is experiencing its wettest winter in years, with 14.33 inches of rain since October, or more than 200% of average! The rain keeps on falling, but the farm keeps on growing.

On Friday, even though the rain descended in torrential spurts, it did not stop interns from assembling seed tables, taking down beds, organizing seeds, and planting. The new interns are a great addition to the farm, and it is amazing to see the diversity of personality and interests that enrich the farm.

Regrettably, flood-like conditions and pouring rain caused interns and staff to stay home on Monday. Despite the unusual events, the interns are still in high spirits and are learning more each week. It is empowering to see the old interns teaching and instructing the new interns – demonstrating the knowledge they have acquired over their internship. It is great to see how far they have progressed in just a few short months. I look forward to seeing the growth we will have over the coming weeks, with both plants and people.

Until next time,

Farmer Rishi
Founder/Director, The Growing Club

Photos of the Week

Ice ice baby.

Frosty arugula.

Farm intern Cheryl, teaches other interns how to tell when a daikon radish is bolting.,

Freshly harvested carrots wait to be cleaned.

Susan, an intern, listens to Manju teach about different harvesting practices.

Farmer Trainee’s Journal

This week’s CSA Box

(Please click each item below for a larger photo, description, and preparation instructions.)

Notes for This Week’s Box

Large Box

Vegetables:
– 1 bunch red russian kale
– 1 Sarvodaya salad mix
– 1 large bok choy
– 1 bunch large daikon radish (eat roots and leaves)
– 1  bunch sweet potato
– 1 bunch fingerling potatoes from Weiser Family Farms
– 1 bunch red mustard
– 1 bunch pea greens

Herbs:
– 1 bunch cilantro
– 1 bunch parsley

Fruit:
– 2 lbs assorted citrus fruit

Small Box

Vegetables:
– 1 Sarvodaya salad mix
– 1 bunch red russian kale
– 1 large daikon radish
– 1 bunch bok choy
– 1 bunch root medley (carrots, turnips, beets) *not pictured
– 1 spinach box *not pictured

Herbs:
– 1 bunch cilantro

Fruit:
– 1 lb assorted citrus fruit

Storage Instructions

Leafy Vegetables
In case your greens are wilted by the time you pickup your box, please follow these instructions:

– Fill a small bowl or tub with 1 inch of water
– Cut a 1/2 inch of the bottoms of the stems of your leafy greens
– Place greens, with stems down, into the bowl of water
– Leave the greens in the bowl overnight and by morning they should be rehydrated

Wrap your rehydrated greens in a towel and store the in the fridge. Summer greens like water spinach, moringa, and yam leaves don’t last long either way, so eat those as soon as you can.

Herbs
The best way to store your herbs so that they keep longer is to cut the stems a little and place them in a glass filled with about an inch of water. Cover the leaves loosely with a bag and keep them in the refrigerator. Replace the water inside when it gets cloudy. This works great with basil, mint, cilantro, parsley, and many other herbs.

Please feel free to share your recipes with us and also any storing tips you may have. 🙂

My path to Sarvodaya Farms’ internship program was completely unexpected.

I’ve always been an environmentally conscious person, though mostly through personal decisions. Five years ago I started my baking business to encourage sustainability to others through carefully sourcing the best organic and locally grown ingredients, create something with my hands, and to be my own boss. Having no formal culinary education or work experience, my business started apprehensively at a local craft show and grew organically over the years.

Yet the more my business grew, the greater I felt a disconnect between what I originally set out to do—promote real, organic ingredients and highlight the flavors of local and in-season produce. I knew I couldn’t educate my customers on the importance of the where, why, and how’s of my ingredients until I understood what it took to grow them myself.

When I learned of the internship program I took it as a sign. I nervously applied again, feeling the same emotions I felt when I applied for the craft show that started my business. This was definitely out of my comfort zone. But as soon as I met every employee, current intern, and intern hopeful, I immediately felt at ease. When they shared their stories of how they got there, why they’re there, and what they hope to accomplish, it was inspiring to say the least. I am so grateful for this opportunity.

I can’t exactly say what will happen after the 18 week internship. One day I want to open a zero waste cafe and accompanying farm, and the first zero waste grocery store in Los Angeles. Until then, I know that the knowledge I gain from this internship will help me in the future!

Sara T.