May 2017

Farmers’ Note

Hello Growing Club & CSA members!

This past Saturday, Sarvodaya Farms celebrated the graduation of our 6th Farmer Training Program class. This class was our largest (at 12 trainees) and included our first family of participants. The last 18 weeks with this group has truly been special. When we first selected this group, we were concerned whether we had made the right choices from our group of applicants (over 20 people had applied for this training class), but any doubts have long left our minds. Each trainee brought something special to the group, which I hope was obvious to all of you from their insightful and creative journal entries.

At the graduation party, we took the time to praise each and every trainee as a group (as we always do), and share stories of our times together. Each trainee was then presented with a graduation certificate. The graduation parties are always really fun, and this one was no different. What was different was that for the first time, the Sarvodaya Farms staff was presented with a class gift. One of our trainees, Chika, took the time to make a beautifully wood-burned plywood picture depicting a farm scene, and each trainee wrote a message on the back of the piece. Kids from the Poareo family also made cards for each of our Farm Staff, and Sara, the impeccable baker, made a celebratory graduation cake! We were all so happy to receive such warmth and care from the class. I think the training was something special for each of them.

Until next time,

Farmer Rishi
Founder/Director, The Growing Club

Photos of the Week

Farmer Trainee’s Journal

Recipe

Millet and Sarvodaya Farm’s Vegetable Salad
1 1/2 cups cooked millet
1 zucchini, diced
3 leek scapes, diced
1 egyptian onion, diced
3 carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 kohlrabi, cut into matchsticks
microgreens
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp dijon mustard
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, olive oil, and salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, pour dressing over chopped carrots and kohlrabi and set aside to marinate.

Sautee zucchini, leek scapes, and egyptian onion until cooked and lightly browned. Add cooked millet, then marinated carrots, kohlrabi, and dressing. Toss together and season with additional salt, pepper, or other spices if you prefer. Finish off with microgreens. Can be enjoyed warm or cold.

This Week’s CSA Box

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

Large Box

Vegetables:
– 1-2 zucchini
– 1 bunch kale
– 1 bunch carrots
– 1-2 leeks
– 1 box lettuce with snap peas and edible flower petals
– 1 bunch red mustard
– 1 bunch beets
– 1 lb cabbage

Fruit:
– 2 lbs peaches

Herbs:
– 1 bunch cilantro
– 1 bunch parsley

Small Box

Vegetables:
– 1-2 zucchini
– 1 bunch kale
– 2 leeks
– 1 bunch carrots
– 1 bunch red mustard
– 1 box lettuce with snap peas and edible flower petals

Fruit:
– 1 lb peaches

Herb:
– 1 bunch cilantro

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 team partner recently asked, “So, what do you do when you’re not here?” With NO hesitation I said, “Dream about being here!” At the risk of sounding lovesick and infatuated, I LOVE THIS PLACE and I miss it when I’m not here. The labor, although tough at times is so rewarding. For this reason, I feel useful but not used. And because I learn something every time I’m here, I’m eager to do more.  It’s even hard to pull away at noon, so I usually keep working until a natural stopping point occurs. I’m living the dream. Mine, anyway.

 

I feel as though I have been initiated as a farmer, yet another reason I feel all warm and fuzzy inside. “Why,” you ask? Well, last week my fingertips began splitting. First, my right index, middle and ring finger developed small painful fissures. I thought, perhaps I had cut myself while preparing a meal. It wasn’t until later in the week when the same fingers on the left hand started cracking in the same way, that I thought differently. After doing some surface-level research, I learned that I have farmer’s hands. Well, that’s not really a condition but, I just made it one. The sweet pain of hardworking hands. Although I try to keep gloves on, sometimes they just come off. Apparently the soil and various amendments are drying to the skin and can cause this condition. While I appreciate this experience, I will be mindful of gloves and moisturizer.

 

My team partner Reshama and I, are like children in the nursery. Pun Intended. We are actually being trained in the plant nursery in this first rotation. I love it! The nursery is so full of budding new life and potential. One can’t help but to be excited in this environment. As a result, any given farm day we can be found sharing and laughing and learning from the great Farmer Rishi, of course!

Gilbert Gottfried was an ordinary gopher living in the land they call Pomona. Here it is not an easy life for a scavenging rodent; Gilbert had to scrounge around the bleak landscape of concrete and waste to find a meager sustenance, and competition with rats and other large birds and mammals made for a tough existence. One day (or rather night, as gophers are nocturnal), Gilbert was scurrying around the city, when he stumbled upon an impossible surprise: Sarvodaya Farm, an oasis in the concrete desert. Gilbert could not believe his eyes. Plants of every edible variety stood before him, stretching as far as the gopher eye could see; a veritable gopher paradise. “My troubles are over!” Gilbert thought to himself, “I shall live like a gopher king until the end of my days.” He did not know how right he was…

So Gilbert set out immediately to scope out a new home. Eventually after much thought, he decided on burrowing under one of the tomato beds. “These shall make a fine meal!” he thought. After a couple days, the construction of his burrow was well underway. One night, much to the consternation of Gilbert, the other resident gophers made their presence known. They were generally very friendly, welcoming Gilbert to the farm (although gophers are normally solitary, these found utility in forming communal relations in order to survive in the harsh Pomonan landscape). But Gilbert, hoping to have found a territory for himself, was not happy. He did not show his displeasure, however, and instead feigned a cordial demeanor. “I’ll just steal their food when they aren’t looking,” he thought to himself. After many introductions and welcomes, the resident gophers gave Gilbert a single warning: “This place is abundant and very habitable for the gopher kind, but do not get greedy. If you take too much from the land, the iron snake will enter your burrow and remove you from the earth.” Gilbert thought this was nonsense, believing that the other gophers simply were greedy and trying to scare him from having plenty of food. Gilbert pretended to heed the advice, said farewell, and went on his way.

A few days passed, and by this time Gilbert’s burrow was completely dug out. He had several corridors leading throughout the tomato bed, and even a couple venturing into neighboring ones. “The land of milk and honey!” Life was good, he thought. So good, in fact, that he decided to have a private celebration. “I will need to stock up on several tomato roots, and after I have collected a bountiful larder, I will feast on my good fortune.” On the first night, Gilbert ravaged a single tomato plant. Taking a small bite, he rejoiced in the delightfully swell taste of the roots. On the second night, Gilbert took another plant. At this point, he could have survived for days without further scavenging, but he could not stop himself from taking even more. On the last night, Gilbert took a third and final plant. “Hah! I now have collected the delicious roots of three tomatoes! And not once has a silly iron snake given me any trouble.” As Gilbert finally began to feast on his hoard in the safety of his main feeding den, he noticed a peculiar smell. “What’s that?” he querried, “It almost smells like…peanut butter?” Intrigued by the possibility of a novel food, Gilbert dropped his roots and followed the scent. Scurrying around for a few minutes, he tracked it to one of the longest corridors in his burrow. Facing him was a plate smeared with a fat helping of, as he guessed, peanut butter. “What luck! This will make a terrific desert!” In one swift movement, the thrilled gopher lunged forward and sunk his teeth into the scrumptious mass, and as soon as his little rodent brain was able to process the taste of the treat, two great iron fangs snapped together, embracing Gilbert’s throat and removing him, as the other gophers had warned, from the earth that he so willingly pillaged.

Among the Sarvodaya gophers, Gilbert’s fate is well remembered. As legend has it, his corpse was fed by the great giants to cats. His story is enshrined in the local culture as a warning to all, that gophers must live in balance and harmony with the land, lest they should face a cold, sudden death at the hands of the iron snake.

Things are definitely getting better folks! I was apprehensive about spending 6 weeks with the chickens, but as I was working with them on the first day, I realized that I was in love with them! 😀 They were just like my dogs at home, wanting to be fed and hating to be contained! My partner, Darren heard me making chicken noises the other day as I was taking care of them while he was in the orchard. He asked me what I was doing and I said that I was talking to them! (He found that strange, by the way!)

During the week, I go to Starbucks every day to pick up their used coffee grounds. I was finally able to share with one of the employees about the farm, what we do there and how the coffee grounds are used. He found it very interesting. By the way, they LOVE us at Starbucks because we make it easy for the to dispose of their grounds responsibly.

Then every other week, I stop off at the Supercuts Academy and pick up hair. They give free haircuts and are happy to save the hair for us. Again, I was asked about what we do with the hair. I shared that we use them to feed it to our composting worms. Everyone in the shop was interested in hearing about the farm!

I even talked to a woman who worked at Wal-Mart who was interested in applying for the farmer training program. She said she had been looking for something like that in the area, but didn’t know where to start. All because of me having to buy a wide-brimmed hat! What an impact we are making in our neck of the woods!

What I’m learning as I’m talking to people about the farm is that people are interested in knowing how to be responsible, but have no clue where to turn to to get this valuable information. I think I’m going to collaborate with Rishi and develop some marketing material for the farm to help promote the farm and build interest and awareness.

That’s all for this week!

This week, I pruned and trellised tomatoes for the third time.  On one of my very first days on the farm, I learned how to remove the lower branches that touch the ground and to select one strong shoot and trim the others, so the plant can put its energy into producing more tomatoes.  So far, I have a (very imperfect) experiment going: my two tomato plants at home (which are unpruned) and the farm tomato plants.  The farm is winning.  In one of those first days, I also learned how to use string to wrap the plant loosely and provide it with support as it grew toward the trellis.

In that very first session, I was unsure of myself.  Was this a branch or a shoot?  How low is too low for a branch before I prune it?  Was I wrapping this plant correctly?  This last week, I found myself noticing on my own when the tomatoes needed more pruning and trellising, and leaping in with doing the task.  It felt gratifying to be able to complete it on my own, and I also noticed that I was less clumsy in doing it: my body was beginning to have its own memory of the task.

Young man tying string to squash plants.

My teammate Will trellises squash.

As this sense of knowledge – in both mind and body – washed over me, it dawned on me that farm labor is skilled labor.  So often, in the justification of the exploitation of migrant farm workers and physical laborers in general, the argument is offered that it is somehow justifiable to pay them so little because they are “unskilled” labor.  But this is not true.  They are skilled labor.  Take it from anyone who has ever tried to garden or farm: even without factoring in efficiency and overall productivity, gardening and farming involves many tasks that mobilize an array of knowledge and embodied skill.  I have a doctorate degree, but it still took me a few weeks to feel like I really understood how to prune and trellis tomatoes.  There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of tasks on the farm I still do not understand well enough to do independently – and at which my body is still clumsy.  These are skills I am just beginning to learn.  We need to stop justifying low wages and poor benefits for farm workers with the argument that they are unskilled.  Aside from the questionable ethics of arguing that some workers deserve to live in poverty (for any reason), the argument is a false one.  It takes skill to farm, and food is the foundation of human life.  It’s time we recognize and value it!

I got sick and missed being on the farm this Friday. It’s only been three weeks since I started Urban Farmer Training at Sarvodaya and I feel the effects of my absence. I feel it in my body. The disconnectedness of not touching leaves of dinosaur kale or “baking” fresh potting soil in the nursery or greeting the chickens in the morning really got to me. It just took one day, and all this happens. The upside is that this is only one feeling that comes with being cut off from something. One of many, such as that feeling of being totally alive and happy when you’re cut off from something that doesn’t work. And then I thought of the tomatoes on the farm.

Manju told us that to help the tomato plants grow strong, you have to cut off those in-between “sucker” appendages. The ones in between two strong arms of the plant are those parts that actually suck away nutrients that could have led to the head of the plant, the main artery, if you will. I started to think about how cutting away distracting parts of the plant actually benefits the life of the main stem. It enhances the stem, reorganizes the nutrient supply chain, and delivers much needed vitamins and minerals needed to make that plant thrive from head to toe. As I cut off each “sucker”, I thought of all those times I held onto unfulfilling relationships, useless habits, and worthless possessions which I thought were so vital to my survival and happiness. Instead, they were actually the “suckers” in my otherwise thriving tomato plant self. And so they were the first to go, along with many other people, ideas and things that didn’t bring value to my main stem. Instead of profound loss, I felt uncharacteristically light and happy. How could this be?!

Well, the difference lies in what you cut away from. Even though it seems scary or crazy to cut off a relationship that you’ve hung onto for a long time, when it’s done, it’s surprising how quickly that wound heals and how little it hurts. Inversely, there are those days when missing out, sends a subtle, but real shock through your body that says, “Something’s not right!? You’re missing something you love! Go get it!” (It’s usually the subtle feelings that are the toughest to process). Problem is, you can’t predict how you will feel. You have to just cut that sucker off, trust you made the right move, and wait and see. It’s not so bad considering it’s just another ending (among many) and what started out sour and green will turn juicy and red.

Farmers’ Note

Hello Growing Club & CSA members!

As the weather has finally warmed up in the last two weeks, the farm crew has been.busy clearing beds of the remaining spring crops and planting in the main summer garden. In the last two weeks, we’ve transplanted over 200 tomatoes, a variety of peppers, eggplants, squash, cucumbers, and more. We also planted in our two-sisters garden (we can’t fit the third sister in our skinny beds) of corn and pole beans, which is really exciting since our corn planting last year did so well. Since we got a good start on them this year, we may even be able to fit in 2 or 3 crops of corn if we time it all right. This will be our 3rd summer season on this farm, and we are excited to see what will come with all of the additions we have made to our space in the last year (extensive trellising, extended beds, lots of compost. and plenty of seedlings from our very own nursery!).

Our graduated Farmer Trainee Krysta is also helping us to do some long-term plantings for the fall at The Growing Commons, our garden in Claremont. At that garden, we will be planting Growing Home landrace kabocha squash, sunchokes, and sweet potatoes. These crops don’t need much care all season, and we can just harvest everything at the end of the season for distribution throughout the winter.  Krysta has also been taking care of the now 63 trees and 10 grape vines planted at The Growing Commons, which are growing oh so beautifully. It’s only been a bit over year since all those plants were put in the ground, and it looks like we will already be getting a grape and pomegranate harvest this year.

I’m so excited for all this delicious produce and excited to share it all with you. Thanks to everyone who is supporting us in this adventure!

Until next time,

Farmer Rishi
Founder/Director, The Growing Club

Photos of the Week

Farmer Trainee’s Journal

This Week’s CSA Box

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

Large Box

Vegetables:
– 1 kohlrabi
– 1 bunch red mustard
– 1 zucchini
– 1 bunch kale
– 1 bunch carrots
– 1 bunch egyptian onions
– 1 broccoli
– 1 box microgreens
– 1 box lettuce with edible sunflower

Fruit:
– 2 lbs peaches

Herbs:
– 1 bunch flowering cilantro
– 1 bunch leek scapes

Small Box

Vegetables:
– 1 kohlrabi
– 1 bunch kale
– 1-2 zucchini
– 1 bunch carrots
– 1 bunch red mustard
– 1 box lettuce with edible sunflower

Fruit:
– 1 lb peaches

Herb:
– 1 bunch garlic chives

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. 🙂

I’ve so often been told that there is no way to feed the earth’s people through organic, small-scale horticulture.  How would we feed 7 billion people (or more) without the bread basket states’ monocultures?  The rice paddies in China?  The plantations of Central and South America?  Farming is so land intensive, and there isn’t enough land for everyone… right?  On Sarvodaya Farms, I am beginning to see a vision for the future that bends these commonly assumed parameters, and that vision begins in the nursery.

Using a nursery, the farm can propagate plants under ideal conditions for the first half of their lives so that most plants spend minimal time in the vegetable beds, thereby maximizing the space available for close-to-mature crops.  In doing these, they manage to support produce for dozens of families on only a half-acre.  Planted seeds are carefully tended in the nursery, which provides diffuse sunlight, protection from excessive heat and cold, regular fertilizing with organic materials (using seaweed and fish), and frequent efficient watering (both by hand and by misters).  This womb-like space keeps the plants as protected and nourished as possible, ensuring that more of them start growing and reach an age for transplantation.  In this way, the garden beds are maximized for close-to-maturity crops – but there also is minimal loss of seeds, which reduces cost.

Person in plant nursery looking at baby plants

Rishi talks about how the nursery functions to maximize yield as he looks lovingly at baby plants.

Rishi explained that no process is perfect, however.  In propagating plants this way, the selective pressures that would usually operate on the plants, causing weaker plants to fail to come to maturity, are removed.  Therefore, the mature plants that result may harbor genes that are suboptimal for surviving in harsher conditions.  Rishi emphasized that there must be different selective pressures on plants you save for seed than those you eat.  There is an elegance to such a system that is striking to me: we can imagine many home and community-based urban farms that use small spaces and individual or collective nurseries to maximize food production, while nearby, a larger community seed farm and seed bank could ensure the maintenance of the strongest, most resilient plants.  Working on Sarvodaya Farms is more than providing me with knowledge and skills I didn’t have before.  It’s providing me with a vision of the future that I hadn’t thought possible.  We need to dream big through dreaming small, knowing that we could be much more self-sufficient in urban areas if we use our space carefully and efficiently, keeping in mind all the goals important to farm (and ecosystem) health.

Last week wrapped up the bulk of our orientation as new trainees at Sarvodaya. We got a rundown of the nursery, assisted in building a big, beautiful compost pile, and learned how to take care of the chickens and their grazing rotation in the orchard. The first position bestowed upon my team and I is field operation, and I am excited to take on this new responsibility. I feel like a real intern already!

Some days, when I am around friends and family who are less aware of the problems (and likely solutions) that I see in our world, I get down about the prospects of our culture remedying its errors. But I am always re-heartened by individuals who are showing us how we can live in harmony with the earth through creative example. One such individual, Ernst Gotsch, was the subject of a video that Traci shared with us last week (thanks again Traci!). He is actively involved in restoring Amazonian rainforest in Brazil, using dynamic agroforestry techniques to turn denuded mining and logging land into productive, healthy, and life-supporting food forests. This was one of the most inspiring regenerative agriculture projects that I have seen to date, and I hope that one day I will be a part of a similarly incredible endeavor to heal the earth. Ernst says that this type of agriculture can be applied anywhere on the planet…why not here?

Having such grand dreams for the future, however, mixed with an unfortunately American sense of rush and urgency, can make me feel impatient. I often feel as though I am not developing my knowledge quickly enough to “save the planet,” as it were. I must remind myself that I am still at the beginning of my journey, and that these things take time. Trees do not grow to full maturity in a season, and a lifetime of work, study, and dedication may be necessary to truly master the skills I am after. I must let go of my human limitations, and accept that not all is up to me. Perhaps that is a good thing, lol….In the meantime, however, working at Sarvodaya satisfies my thirst for meaningful action. At the farm, I am centered and grounded in place where the universe works through me to achieve its purpose. Here I belong. Already I am gaining confidence in my abilities and intutions. Every day, the plants grow inside me a new sense of connection, and I as well in them; I am sure of it!

Well, it’s now been 2 weeks and I am surviving, BARELY, but I am surviving! We’ll see what happens after taking care of the chickens, which I am afraid of, by the way! They just seem to KNOW and sense fear! I’ve been pecked before when I was a child, so I have some anxiety.

The composting worm bin has been doing great! My goal is to have a thriving one by graduation (this will be my legacy to the farm). I, myself started with a handful of worms at my house. Now I have 3 thriving bins that I am always in need of giving my worms away. They make GREAT gifts! 👍😀

I’ll keep y’all updated on my progress…at least that’s what I’m hoping for! Until next week…