Category: Chika Kondo

Just this past week, our favorite bantam chicken was attacked by what we think was some kind of animal. She was the smallest of the chickens my team tends for in this current rotation. Her name was Holly named by Sabriel and she was beloved by almost anyone who visited the chickens.

When we found her, she was half eaten or pulled apart. Sorry this photo is graphic! But perhaps it will help us further investigate the causes of her untimely death.

Silvia helped to facilitate a gathering and ceremony to mourn the loss of Holly and also help her transition. I’m really glad she helped us hold a circle, because frankly it all happened so quickly. We were rushing to put away the chickens in time for weekly check in and then we found her and called Manju over. While we were late to check in, the chicken team+ Sabi, Manju, and Silvia were able to share memories and collect wildflowers as we buried her.

Losing a life is never easy, and I don’t think it ever gets easier. However, I am thankful that we as a group could hold space for one another. It’s kind of funny how we as a team celebrated the death of 2 gophers we were able to catch while on the fields team, while the death of Holly was very sad. I guess this is all a part of nature and the cycle of life or the cycle of death, depending on how you look at it. All those that died on the farm continue to feed our eco-community whether it is through cats eating the gophers, or the remains of Holly giving back to the soil and the microbes that will break her down and build the nutrients there. When I was working on a farm in New Orleans, we were raising ducks and there was a morning where we found like 5 dead ducks spread out throughout the back plot. They were killed by dogs that roam the neighborhood. We buried them throughout the farm and that summer those spots were buried them in had seriously some of the most lucious soil I had seen throughout the farm. Crazy how something like dogs took their life but they continued to give back past its death.

I know I can be more conscious of keeping my giving and taking to be more harmonious and in balance. everything is like a relationship- you can never take too much or give too much- theres always gives and takes for relationships to be healthy.

While I know I’m behind on my weekly posts, I do a lot of reflection on my commutes back and forth to the farm.  At first I used to listen to a lot of NPR, so much so that I would catch repeats of different segments since I was driving very early in the morning and then in the late afternoon. One of the main reasons I was listening though was because it was the first 30 days of the Trump administration and I was in need of some ammunition in direct relation to current events. I know that very few people hold the same beliefs and values as I do so intellectual ammunition is needed when I need to defend and counteract to comments coming from mostly old men like my dad and my old boss. While some would say NPR is very liberal biased- at least they try and interview people from the opposite side. I think it’s always important to understand, study, and analyze those in power and who/what they are controlling.

A few weeks ago, Sarvodaya Farms encountered an enemy… the parasitic nematode! They had some significant root damage on the beets!

While it was sad to pull up the beets and see their roots turn into cyst like beaded curtains (lol side tangent: I feel like Maya would have beaded curtains in her room); what an incredible teaching moment I encountered with Manju. (side tangent: For anyone who is looking to apply for the internship- Manju is an incredible teacher- she verbalizes her thought process in her observations and makes sure that everything she does is a teachable moment- it’s very inspiring and also has taught me so much in how I can be a better teacher. Rishi is an equally amazing teacher- his lessons are literally mind blowing- every Wednesday I leave the farm questioning everything related to life, find myself saying this a lot “dang this makes so much more sense!”)

I had never witnessed nematodes before and now that I’m writing this post I will remember them forever and hopefully can teach someone else around me as I continue and build my farming super powers. What an incredible teaching farm Sarvodaya Farms is!

Back to the enemy. I think when studying any opposition, one good and effective strategy is to study their life. Where did they come from? What are their daily habits? What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? When it comes to pests I think questions like when do they breed? What kind of environments do they seek out? These questions can then hopefully lead to answers since lets face it Bt isn’t the miracle pest bacterium for all pests. I wouldn’t want nature to work like that anyways.

Here are some things I found out about the life of the nematode:

LIFE/EVOLUTION of Nematodes

  • from the diagram you can see it has 6 stages: egg, 4 juvenile stages, and adult. Production of the eggs completes the cycle and nematodes can produce anywhere from 50 to 1,000 eggs
  • there are 1 million different kinds of nematodes and are 1 billion years old and are the most numerous multicellular animal in the world.
  • In terms of species relation, they are relatives of insects, arachnids, and crustaceans and have soft bodies.
  • It is said they were first microbial feeders in the primordial oceans but nematodes have evolved their ability to parasitize animals and plants several times
    • They are highly equipped to take on their hosts!
  • Nematodes have evolved to fill almost every conceivable niche on earth that contains some amount of moisture. (important to note: maybe drying them out is a potential solution!)
  • Nematodes are free living: 40% of them feed on bacteria, fungi, and protozoans, 44% on animals, and 15% on plants.
  • In plants, nematodes were first discovered in 1743 on wheat seeds and since then a whole field of nematology has formed.

PLANT PARASITIC NEMATODES

  • They are tiny worms 0.25-3 mm long, cylindrical, and taper towards head/tail
  • They have no respiratory or circulatory system- they use diffusion to get its nutrients
  • They move in snake like movments and at its head have hollow mouth spears to puncture the plant cells and secrete protein/metabolites to paralyze the plant
  • They thrive in warm soil temperature: 80-90 degrees and can complete their life cycle in 4 weeks.
    • Sarvodaya observation: there were quite a few temperature fluctuations in February/March, hot and cold days. I couldn’t decide if I would need shorts or pants at the farm some days.

SURVIVAL TACTICS

  • Since their predators are bacteria, fungi, and other nematodes, they live inside the plant tissue and make very little movement
  • Temperature extremes and moisture extremes is also a big enemy to nematodes but it seems that they have developed some mechanisms to tolerate bioextremes.
  • When females die, they will leave behind 1000s of eggs.
    • These parasites really know how to give to the next generation!

HOW TO DETECT

  • They attack at the root so it is difficult to see the symptoms above ground but some signs are yellowing, stunted top growth, and more weed growth around since the plant has been weakened.
    • I think at the farm they were detected when we harvested beets, but maybe someone noticed it before that, not sure.

REMEDIES

  • There doesn’t seem to be that magic nematicide like there was with Bt sprays but lots of farmers face nematode issues and therefore there is a lot written about some remedies.
  • Tillage: exposing soil to dry and temperature extremes will significantly destroy nematodes and their environments
    • One article said that tilling in crustacean shells would also help.
      • Interesting! Crustaceans are a species related to nematodes so this must have something to do with taking them down. They say to keep your enemies closer…
    • Washing your equipment! This will reduce the probability of spreading nematodes infestation to other parts of the farm
    • Crop rotation
      • One article recommended rotating with cotton but they didn’t specify where they were doing this
      • Other articles recommending rotating with crops that are not closely related to each other
      • Asparagus, corn, onions, garlic, and small grains will reduce nematode growth
      • Velvet beans and grasses like rye will build nematode resistance
    • The Mustard Effect!
      • The allelopathic properties of mustard and rapseed have nematode-antagonist energy to them!
        • At Sarvodaya, they decided to plant red mustard after taking out all of the beets from that bed
      • Soil amendments
        • Neem oil cake or neem seed cake- I wasn’t really sure how you make the cake but its like cluster of neem seeds I think
        • Sawdust
        • Bone meal
        • Green manure
        • Compost!
      • Nematophagous fungi is an enemy to nematodes, however current nematicides are highly expensive and haven’t really been tested.
        • Although 1 article stated that having perennial crops will increase the growth of nematophagous fungi.
        • I also then read in another article that marigold is a good thing to plant to resist against nematodes.

Conclusion:

  • For Sarvodaya Farms, since part of one bed was infested with nematodes, I think in addition to the red mustards, planting some marigolds would be helpful! As well as thinking about the next crop rotation and avoiding planting anything from the beetroot/amarynth family in that bed and neighboring beds. I never had velvet beans but something legumous sounds like it would be good?
  • In my short farming life history, I have never been successful at growing beets– it’s always been the one crop I’ve wanted to grow and also carrots! The beets that have been harvested at Sarvodaya have truly taken my breath away. I hope that one day I’ll be able to grow beets from start to finish. I think I have a leg up in my knowledge now thanks to the people at Sarvodaya. One of their beets weighed in over 3 lbs!

https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/viewhtml.php?id=149 (I liked this one the best!- most comprehensive.)

https://www.researchgate.net/figure/278965921_fig2_Fig-2-Life-Cycle-of-Root-Knot-Nematode

http://mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/lso/SCOUT/Nematodes.htm

Whenever people ask you in an interview, what is your biggest weakness? Everyone is usually encouraged to bend the truth on this one because you want to show them only the perfect parts of yourself. If I were to truly answer this question, it would be time management. Not that I can’t plan things out in a timely fashion but rather I have the problem of believing that my desire to want to do everything can be achieved. While having Hermoine’s time turner would be dope (I own a knock off lol!), it’s not actually real. So instead sometimes I wish I could be a fungus! ….if I were a fungus I could potentially be in 2 places at once…(since you know they are the world’s largest living organism and are miles long)

Ever since I started at Sarvodaya Farms, I feel myself slowly evolving  into one of those microbe groupies… although to be honest I’m not the biggest fan of the Hidden Half of Nature but I will admit that I have significantly deepened my respect and appreciation for the hard work these “closest thing to a zombie” put in to keep our ecosystem in balance.

A long time ago, Rishi sent everyone an email suggesting that we look into Bt and neem oil. With my slow and steady pace with these posts, I was sure someone would have already posted about one or the other. But since I haven’t seen anyone write on it, I did a quick google scholar search on Bt hoping that I would find more history on Bt… Unfortunately SCIENTIFIC articles and journals spend very little typing space on history… go figure- could be one of the ways science is white washed…(check out Alexis’s teach in on this with the Free Radicals https://freerads.org/events/)

However I did come to find that Bt is also part of the microbe family! woohoo- who knew science research could have moments of joy 🙂 Anywho here is some bulleted summary points and my commentary sub-bulleted from my findings.

  • Bt aka bacillus thuringiensis is a bacterium that carries insecticidal properties thanks to sporulation and targets lepidoptera (butterflies/moths), coleoptera (beetles), or diptera (flies/mosquitos)
    • my interpretation: Bt is part of that trendy microbial family (Bacillus: our favorite soil bacteria fam) and can produce the insecticidal crystalline proteins (ICPs) that kill the target insect such as these common agricultural pests: bollworms, stem borers, budworms, leafworms, gypsy moth, and the cabbe looper and diamondback moth. The specifics of its killing have to do with something called midgut epithelium where once its ingested Bt can create a leak in a insect’s midgut and lead to paralysis and then death. The killing takes hours to days (reminds me a bit of the brutality of  the sarvodaya cats preying on the baby gophers…)
      • Sarvodaya Farm side anecdote: there was a cabbage moth takeover in D7 in February 2017 and we sprayed Bt spray on it and the next week- there seemed to be no more holey cabbage!! And lucky CSA buyers- I think we just started harvesting our first cabbages of the season this past week; they look beautiful. (sorry I forgot to take a picture of the cabbage moth worm but it was green and squishy and Laurette is one fine hunter of them! Also another point: they lay these green elongated eggs on the underside of the leaves that when combined seriously are bigger than the cabbage moth itself. imagine birthing so many babies that aggregate to a size bigger than yourself! crazy.)
  • Egyptians were the first to recognize the insecticidal properties of B Thuringiensis. In 1901, Ishiwata Shigetane isolated Bt from dead silkworm larvae suffering from a disease called flacherie. Then a decade later a German dude named Berliner isolated the same thing from diseased flour moth larva and officially named it Bt. It wasn’t until the 1950’s that the insecticidal crystal proteins were identified.
    • I think I clicked on at least 8 articles before I could find any mention of the Egyptians and even then it was 1 line! Also turns out Shigetane named it Bacillus sotto but not sure why thuringiensis won the title. (Thuringiensis is closely linked to the German state of Thuringia where the flour moth larvae was found… at least it wasn’t called Bacillus Berliner… lol so Bt it is. I wonder what the Egyptians called it?) I don’t really understand why we need this “modern science” to make up new words and convince the institutions in our system that something works when indigenous people or people from the past have been doing it for centuries.
  • By 1999, the EPA had registered over 182 Bt spray products but they only constituted 2% of the insecticide sales.  In 1987, scientists demonstrated that the Bt gene could be introduced and expressed into plants. By 2001, 69% of cotton, 26% of corn, and 68% of soybeans in the US were genetically engineered.
    • I’m not sure of the prices but I would guess that a Bt spray is probably much cheaper than buying genetically engineered seeds every season… since you only need to purchase the spray if you have an insect infestation in your crops. However thanks to the mechanics of our capitalist system, it is obviously much more profitable for industrial ag corporations to market and push for farmers to purchase GE seeds and these plants already equipped to destroy any of the target insects that might be eager to feed on them. Since like netflix and spotify, you make more $$ if you have subscribers instead of 1 time purchasers. genius… if your intentions and goals are profits over common sense or promoting healthy ecosystems. This is actually my biggest issue with genetically engineered crops- academic institutions continue to receive and rely on funding to do this research where corporations often times patent the knowledge and force farmers to develop a dependency on their products. And this dependency is almost too often encouraged by a farmers’ local government farm agency (aka USDA’s FSAs) and their local university ag extension officers who are there to support farmers. okay clearly I could keep going on and on so I’ll stop here. I hope I don’t become a hypocrite when I go to grad school in the fall… hold me accountable people!
  • Btw, there is a ton of diversity within Bt- there are more than 60 serotypes and hundreds of different subspecies.
    • with so much diversity I doubt microbes have such a concept as white supremacy or monoculture in their communities- I could be wrong though.

Overall conclusion, if you’re a farmer who is conscious about the ecosystem and still need to produce food for people, then I think Bt is a good short term solution to when your crops come across a moth, worm, or beetle problem. The longer term solution being you need to maintain and promote high soil fertility/health and strong, resilient ecosystems in your farm. Then you won’t have to go to the store to purchase this spray, unless you know how to cultivate this bacterium yourself. (anyone know how to? wouldn’t it be cool if we could make our own Bt like kombucha lol)

These are the 2 articles I sourced my bullets from. sorry was too lazy to use MLA or APA citation style, but hey this is just a blog so who cares!

http://ipm.ifas.ufl.edu/pdfs/100_years_of_bt.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21327125

“I think what we owe each other is the celebration of life and to replace fear and hopelessness with fearlessness and joy.” –Vandana Shiva

For a while, I’ve been struggling with the concept of stability.  It’s never really been my style but as I grow closer to yet another birthday I do get concerned about balanced health and financial stability and things like: will I be able to take care of my parents and aunt/uncle (they don’t have any children) when they are much older? Suburban lifestyles seem to center on stability as the thing I should be doing and what I should be aiming for.

However, I came to the realization that maybe my ups and downs in intellectual thought, emotional health, physical well-being, and spiritual reflection isn’t such a bad thing. They oscillate back and forth like a sine or cosine curve and so maybe there’s a sense of stability in the oscillation; it just keeps flowing. The joy and fulfillment I feel at the farm intertwines with the struggle of how do I come up with the $$ to buy land and make farming a viable livelihood for myself and help take care of my family + future family. Or at work, there is this contrast I feel between the struggle of feeling beat down with tiredness as a minimum wage laborer + dealing with passive aggressive co-workers + the high influx of orders and the learning I’m taking in as I think about how to build a cooperative restaurant enterprise that can still be financially solvent when the success rate of most restaurants is like less than 30%.

Even though thinking about all of this can turn into a headache, I’ve been trying to take the approach of stepping away from the word “should” and moving into a place of “be.” I’ve been super grateful to my teammates at the farm: Laurette, Melissa, Maya, and honorary member Sabriel.

The amount of laughter and chuckling over just the smallest things creates so much joy. We’ve created a whole other world for ourselves at the farm. We’ve slowly been establishing our underground radio network WHOO 37.1 centered on whoo.. is coming to the farm or is already at the farm. We got a special segment called ooo D2 we listen to you… So much beauty that comes from imagination and the plethora of streams, tributaries, and side segments it gives birth to. Just the other day we had a little circle gathering where Sabi prepped us some daikon we found in the pasture as we shared our taste buds and experiences.

I’ve never really engaged in that kind of fun on a farm. It makes me regret some moments I’ve had on the previous farm I was working at where I was much more focused on the work that had to be done or felt overwhelmed with how much had to be done.  However there’s also a kind of “productivity” that also happens with just having fun and enJOYing each other and the farm. What a sanctuary and sacred place Sarvodaya Farm is. Thank you to all who have contributed to its magic. Joy and the celebration of life are active pieces in the future I am working to bring to reality. The more I stay my course and engage and leverage resources from what is around me, I’m confident I will slowly keep building towards a future that hopefully will benefit generations beyond me.

 

(there was also a video but the file size was too big… sorry!)

Happy International Women’s Day. I chuckled at this Vandana Shiva quote: “Patriarchy is based on appropriating rights and leaving responsibility to others”- I think she’s being too polite here when really it tends to lean towards appropriating rights and taking credit while leaving the responsibility and burden/work to women; or it’s something I’ve definitely experienced in many settings including work and home. 

“…is also a way for us to learn to see clearly.” –bell hooks

WARNING… it’s a long post so I’ve decided to save the reader’s need to scroll forever to get to other people’s lovely posts.

 (more…)

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to go to the Compost/Coffee/Heart medicine workshop and the facilitator Celena de Luna walked us through a dope tea ceremony where we sat with the tea and imagined what the herb looked like and what our hearts looked like. She later asked us what did we see in our hearts and I was too embarrassed/ felt kind of too vulnerable to share. But lol I’m willing to share here.

For me, this particularly tea and looking into my heart was actually kind of scary/painful. At first I felt a big bold jolt maybe a boom and I could sense that that was the first barrier being released. Then, I felt a silent stillness and slowly all I could feel and see were scars, some old but some new. Those scars slowly pulsed into a sort of grounding rhythm. I had no idea what the herb was or looked like, I assumed it was like a berry/flower thing and felt that I was just trying to project that into my vision… I have a horrible habit of pressuring myself to think or act in a certain way, I have a very hard time just letting myself be free. It’s almost like the more I try to be free, the more I analyze and judge myself for how free was I really being… (a very strange mean girls-esque habit that I’m working on).

Later in the class we learned that the herb was hawthorne and is in the rose family and helps to protect our heart. It can replace aspirin and helps lower blood pressure and allows for focus as it clears our arteries and holds a strong energy that helps to bring us to safety. We learned about so many other herbs and their relationship to the heart and I was just blown away with how all of these plant medicines work together to give so much to us humans. Each plant she explained has so many characteristics and healing properties. It was also very cool to learn things from other people in the workshop that also shared their different knowledges about the herbs and plants. The CCC was enlightening in that the space created for synergistic relationship building. Synergy is a key theme in Elinor’s nutrition class where we are learning about how everything in the ecosystem works together to bring nutrients to one another.

I often hear the phrase, Food is Medicine, but this week this phrase has deepened its significance and roots inside me. even though I’m sure corps like Whole Foods commodify the phrase to boost its profits… remember that food as medicine doesn’t have to be inaccessible! it never was in the past…

Cooking Project:

I’ve been a bit behind/ to tell you the truth… exhausted. My heart and compassion goes out to all the servers, busboys, cooks, dishwashers, and service workers who work that min. wage/hardly no tip/40+ hours life. These past few weeks I was presented the challenge of cooking for my family while my mom worked late… my family in particular my dad, is one hard person to please. His palette despises garlic and anything that veers away from traditional Japanese flavors… (even though a lot of Japanese food is adapted from other cultures!) I love garlic and love to eat other cuisines and my cooking just kind of reflects that.

But here’s some things that passed my dad’s taste test:

  • Sara-udon: originally a Chinese dish. In Japanese it just mean plate noodles. lol so lame. In Vietnamese it is called mỳ xào tôm thịt– which translates to bird’s nest with shrimp and pork- which totally makes better sense. The noodles create a birds nest and on top you have your stir fry that is thickened with starch water. For this dish I feature pak choi from Sarvodaya farms!
  • I tried to make braised pork: Buta-no-kakuni 豚の角煮 which translates to cubed pork lol another lame one. I used garlic chives from the farm as a substitute for green onions to stew the meat. The dish also uses ginger. So because I was using loin and not the belly…. the meat wasn’t as soft as I would have liked it but it was eaten.

  • Still working on that dressing… haven’t had time to be creative.

“…is not the growing of crops but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” – Masanobu Fukuoka

One thing that I truly appreciate about Fukuoka-san was his determination and drive to live out his philosophy of nothingness and humanity knowing nothing through farming. I agree with him that the significance of natural farming goes beyond producing high quality food but also inevitably changes your perspective and allows for greater clarity in seeing how modern society is destroying mother earth.

The role of the farmer and farming is invaluable and many will say it is the reason for the birth of modern civilization.  While I applaud the invention of farming and humans’ ability to cultivate the land and provide its own food source, farming/agriculture carries a dark history. I’m only going to provide a very loose chika’s perspective on the dark side of agriculture, so bear with me… (so don’t quote me on any of this..) Basically, as farming turned more into a science and as scientists and researchers began to dissect and specialize in different parts of the big picture, they began to break down and concoct various synthetic replacements. This helped lead to the birth of the green revolution, as the prized solution to the problem of how farmers were going to be able to feed the “exponential” growth of human beings.

In reality, I believe the green revolution was just another market for war weapons/chemical weapons manufacturers post WWII. Companies like Dupoont and Monsanto started as war chemical manufacturers and took leftover bombs and created fertilizers. (side note: this is why weapons like agent orange (which was used in the Vietnam War) were manufactured by Monsanto.)  Anywho, this green revolution also went hand in hand with the creation of the World Bank and IMF who were giving out loans and credits to developing countries particularly in Latin America.

I had the opportunity last summer to go to Nicaragua as part of a food sovereignty delegation and I learned that many of the farmers there only know how to grow with chemicals because long periods of war had killed many of the elders who had knowledge of natural farming. Consequently, these young populations were introduced to the fertilizers and pesticides to grow the coffee, bananas, and tobacco to feed the western world. There’s more to the story and things like the Latin American Debt Crisis also play a role but long story short… money and politics play a significant role in how modern farming became like this. Even today, many of the top officials in the USDA have direct ties to Monsanto and many universities and research institutions are funded by these multi-billion dollar corporations to push for the R+D of GMOs, super sterile seed, etc. to boost their markets. This is dangerous because this technology is then pushed down to the local levels where your local FSA agency only carries posters about GMO rice or university agriculture extension programs assist farmers by recommending which pesticide spray to use. This was particularly the case when I lived in the south.

I think what is interesting in all of this is that Monsanto would probably agree with Fukuoka’s quote above and full-heartedly stands behind the notion that their products also aim to cultivate and perfect human beings. Their rhetoric is all about sustainability and providing food for the people. However, Monsanto only provides a narrow perspective and therefore a dead-end product that actually creates more negative impact than positive. I believe that the ultimate goal of farming is the cultivation and perfection of human beings so that we can become more fully aware and clearly see the greater whole. The greater whole including how we learn from nature, how political/economic/historical/social/etc. connections impact our reality, and how we as people react and interact with each other and different institutions.

“… 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.

This week marks my first official week with sarvodaya farms! As I’m sure the same might be true for a lot of folks who become part of the sarvodaya farm, I really feel as though so many of my prayers, intentions I’ve been trying to set for myself, and dreams have catalyzed here. This isn’t some hyperbolic statement I’m making; I believe it to be very true.

I grew a passion for farming back in college when I did a short stay at an organic farm in the sierra nevadas during a winter break. Back then I was just excited to be away from home and wanted it to continue even in my time off.

Back at school, I became more involved with issues around environmental justice, rights for people of color, waste sustainability, etc. (my friends say I was a hyperactive type in college). To further add to my overstimulation: I worked up the courage to do an honors thesis during my senior year. My thesis was on the USDA’s  discrimination against minority farmers: Black, Native American, Latinx, and Women farmers. Even though I thought it was absurd to spend a whole year writing, it is the one paper I am most proud of and have continued to build upon to this day.

Post graduation is where I have most thrived in my non-conventional, unorthodox style. My mom wrote otherwise in her responses to her friend’s New Years letters asking if I was a (社会人/ literal translation: society member which translates to does she have a career yet). I spent a summer in Japan and had the opportunity to wwoof for a month at a small farm near Kobe. It was my first time experiencing a more rural lifestyle. (My grandparents moved from rural to urban and my parents have only experienced an urban lifestyle). While the summer was hot and the work was never ending, I had never felt so much joy, intrigue, and mystery all at the same time.

After returning, I moved to New Orleans. This time I made a choice, not because I didn’t want to go back home, but to extend a commitment I had made while in school. During the last 3 years of my time in school, I was organizing service learning trips to New Orleans since the school’s public service center had made a 10 year commitment to helping rebuild New Orleans post Katrina. During my short stays in New Orleans, I developed a strong bond with one of our community partners, Mack McClendon, who was just an “ordinary” resident in the Lower 9th Ward: the hardest hit neighborhood of New Orleans. After losing almost everything including 10+ antique cars, he and his community members turned his warehouse into a community center. He envisioned it to serve as a hub to help bring back his neighbors who had been displaced all over. During my senior year, we exchanged long phone conversations and I decided that I wanted to find some way to give back to him and I knew somehow that I needed to keep learning from him. He held more knowledge and wisdom than any professor I had ever talked to. So I applied for some fellowships  to pitch projects centered around building community resilience and disaster recovery. I didn’t get any of them as many organizations felt that my project was too grassroots and therefore unreliable. Actually I didn’t get into any of the other types of fellowships I applied for. So I moved to New Orleans, inspite of. I moved in with Mack and another friend, Becka, who was on a similar journey as me. The 3 of us worked hard to continue the project of documenting/interviewing people who had been displaced from the storm and building the template for a blueprint that could be shared with people around the world as a way to never repeat what had happened in the Lower 9. We also worked on a food access campaign to bring more fresh produce into the hands of neighbors who would take 3 different buses just to reach the closest grocery store… Walmart in the racist parish of St. Bernard.

The food access work was a collaborative effort that came about kind of organically. I randomly met someone at a dinner party I had crashed and she was working with a Lebanese urban farmer in the neighborhood. At the same time I was getting to know Daniel from the VEGGI farmers cooperative (in New Orleans east with the Vietnamese population) better and we all kinda came together and joined forces. New Orleans East faces similar issues to the lower 9 and is part of the same neglected district. We threw block parties, carried out surveys, and was working with a man who was trying to build his own grocery store. We weren’t entirely sustainable in our efforts but that same man does now operate a small grocery store.

I don’t remember when it was but Daniel had offered me a job to work for VEGGI and also another organization rethink, a black youth organizer org as they were starting to collaborate on a youth farming project. It was hard to say no but also hard to share the news to my mentor Mack. When I told him he said, “you really are my adopted daughter, always trying to do your own thing.” We still lived together but I soon started working with both rethink and VEGGI. Shuffling between the farm and 2 offices and always driving young people places, we somehow managed to build a curriculum and youth cohort ages 13-22. We built a multiethnic youth of color farmers cooperative and studied solidarity economies, natural farming, food justice, white supremacy, capitalism, decolonization, financial literacy, etc.  and put it to practice through our Monsanto free zone campaign and tending to a small plot as a way to generate revenue for the cooperative.   We called ourselves fjc: food justice collective, now named: maroon seed collective :). My time with fjc, rethink, and VEGGI created countless moments of growth, compassion, patience, ingenuity, and self analysis. The people I worked with were truly amazing, especially the young people. Mack and I always talked about that and I firmly realized that young people hold the future and we as adult supporters must help support and foster their growth and ability to carry things forward for 7 generations to come.

Mack passed away during my time in New Orleans; I had the great honor and privilege to serve as one of his caretakers as he endured the pains from 3 cancers. It was my first time I had helped someone transition, and never to a best friend like Mack.

For a number of reasons, I decided to move back home. It was almost 8 years since I lived with my parents. It was different this time around though. I’m not as irritated (I still get annoyed that they don’t rely more on my little brother) when they ask me to call this bill company or doctor… learning English as a second language is hard work and even harder when you must navigate your survival with it. I’m trying to start a family book club with them and the first book we’re going to read is about a farmer who spent over 10 years trying to get his apple orchard to produce through natural farming techniques to aid his sick wife. It will be my first time trying to read a book in Japanese. Thankfully there’s also an English version. It’s called the miracle apple.

My time with fjc and the young people also has deepened my passion around cooking. There was a simple bliss and joy that came when we took the mornings harvest and made food that we could share with each other. Eating together built the strongest bond in our cooperative and helped to bridge across our different cultures and ways of being. Nothing can surpass the level of taste from nutrient rich produce.

I’m working at a Japanese restaurant now. It’s been a good learning space for me to understand the mechanics of a restaurant: food ordering, prep, coworker teamwork, marketing, customer base, and knife skills! I wish to one day help structure a farmers-restaurant worker- cooperative. Even though I work late, usually until 2, I always feel energized as I drive to Pomona watching the sun rise through the clouds. I am eternally grateful to be a part of the growing club and sarvodaya farm fam. It’s really dope that it is majority women.

This week is the whole country will be marching together for, by, and with women. I will dedicate my marching to all women farmers in the world. 80% of farmworkers (globally) are women, yet less than 2% are farm operators, owners, or managers. We can be a part of changing those numbers. Excited for what’s in store.

Peace,
Chika

Cooking project: I’m also going to try and make it a weekly goal to make at least one thing from as scratch as I can get.

Week 1:

fresh squeezed orange juice with honey + veg stock + pea tendril soup. #eatyourcompost

Sourcing:
-oranges: from an orange tree in Granada Hills tended by an elderly Japanese lady: Noriko-San.
-honey: from a small farm in Nicaragua working to produce value-added products to sell to foreigners. (They struggle with value added because of cost of containers and no customer base locally)
-pea tendrils: Sarvodaya farms D-5. These tendrils were cut to thin out the row and were cut from the bottom side branches.
-veg stock: daikon (s). kabocha- (s). burdock. carrots. tomatoes. dried shiitake. frozen corn. onion. shallots. green onions. celery. bay leaves. salt. parsley. peppercorns. thyme. (Most produce from conventional ag some organic)