Here are some snapshots from the farm over the last six weeks!
When I first started the nursery team, I was admittedly not terribly excited. I grew up thinking I did not have a green thumb and now I had to grow them from seed? It seemed a little boring, like watching grass grow, to be honest (sorry Rishi!!). Now that our six week term has ended I’m a little sad to go. There were so many parts of the nursery that were unexpectedly satisfying and meditative. Watching the different ingredients of potting soil get mixed together, soaking and breaking up a block of coconut coir (seriously fun stuff), sifting a bin full of Lynn’s compost, and even the seemingly never-ending process of watering all the pots and seedlings could put me in a contemplative state. Even the smell of fish fertilizer became a part of our routine, though I can’t say I’ll be sad leaving that behind. It also helped that being in the nursery worked with my natural inclination to tasks that require attention to detail, like putting a single seed in each cell with an indentation measured to the correct fraction of an inch depth.
From feeling apprehensive and clueless to gradually gaining confidence as plantings grew, it dawned on me that I may not have a black thumb! Perhaps this whole time I didn’t have the right tools to put me in the right direction, like the nutrient rich compost, ample water, and a healthy dose of sunlight. The seeds have sprouted, they’ve been lovingly watered, and they will soon be planted into beds as we move along to the fields team. We will no longer be under the luxurious shade cloth but I’m excited to transplant and watch the plants grow to their full size.
Over the weekend an acquaintance of my husband’s (so, a complete stranger to me) shared his two cents on GMOs. His instagram post stated that GMOs are not inherently bad, and that “there are good ones out there like golden rice that are saving millions of people in the country of Africa.” Now, seeing this sort of information all over the internet is not new or news, but this person has a following as an exercise and nutrition expert and I could not turn a blind eye. At first, my mind could not decide on where I should even begin. I started out writing a short comment that ended up being 500 words. Whoops! There was just too much to cover! In the end, I simply wrote, “Golden rice is still in development and has yet to be commercially grown and distributed. It is being created for countries in Asia, not Africa, as their staples are tubers and not rice. Source: International Rice Research Institute, the organization behind golden rice (irri.org).” I felt that my response was unbiased and did not attack him in any way, but invalidated his argument that because golden rice exists, GMOs are OK. Yet only 30 minutes later my comment was deleted, while others that praised his thoughts stayed up.
This encounter frustrated me but also reminded me of a conversation we had on the farm during one of our Wednesday check-ins. No matter how you approach it, there will always be people who do not want to see or listen to any view points other than their own. What can you do? My response during check-in was to lead by example, which I obviously did not follow this time around. I wish their was a one-size-fits-all answer approach this, but for now I guess my best option is to put my head down and focus on what’s important to me.
A few weeks ago I moved from animal team to the nursery. While I was bummed to say goodbye to the chickens, I was eager to learn how to grow plants from seed. I’d say I have mild success in not killing plants, but sorely lack in helping them grow and thrive. It’s been a learning experience, to say the least! For starters, who knew such little pockets of soil could hold so much water? Now all I can think of are my poor houseplants gasping for a drink.
So far, planting seeds feels like a delicate process. Making little holes for the seeds, but not too deep or not too shallow, filling the holes with vermiculite so they can be covered but easily push their way through, gently watering with a sprinkling (not misting) stream three times a week. It can be a lot to remember for a gardening/farming novice!
This past week we focused on building a canopy for the nursery. In the morning we started with a pile of pipes and joints, and by the end of the week we had the nursery tables neatly covered with 30% shade cloth! It was incredibly satisfying to do a little math (can’t say I’ve used that part of my brain in a while), cut a bunch of metal pipes, and finally put together a simple framework to hold up the shade cloth. With the temperatures quickly warming up (I can’t believe it’s already hit 90 degrees!), this shade will be nice not only for the little plant babies growing up, but for myself and the fellow nursery team to work under in the following weeks.
Shortly after my first nutrition course with Elinor, I went home and decided to make something with soaked whole wheat flour. Elinor mentioned during our delicious meal that soaking whole grain flours aids in the digestion process. Soaking also softens the outer hull, making for a more tender crumb. After spotting a pair of beyond-speckled bananas on my countertop, I knew they were destined for soaked whole wheat banana bread. Chika and Tyler were both satisfied taste testers, so I thought I would share the recipe here.
Soaked Whole Wheat Banana Bread
2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, milk, and yogurt just until no dry lumps remain. Cover with a plate or plastic wrap and let rest on the countertop for 12-24 hours.
When your flour has completed soaking, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, mix the remaining ingredients until smooth. Add egg mixture to the soaked flour mixture and mix until combined. Grease and line a loaf tin with parchment paper then pour batter into pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top has begun to brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.
Two Wednesdays ago, Chika, Carolina, and I were appointed salad team. Harvesting, washing and drying, and assembling salad mixes is our task to complete for the CSA boxes. Some mornings the melting frost bites at our fingertips, but nevertheless we have a fun time from start to finish. It’s been such a joy putting the finishing touches on the boxes and garnishing with edible flower petals! They add so much color and excitement.
In addition to vibrance and nutrition, we learned that daikon radish pods (as well as their flowers) are edible when they’re young, and quite tasty! They add a light radish flavor with a bit of crunch. Just like everything else at Sarvodaya Farms, it’s been grown, harvested, and assembled with much love and care.
Last Friday I held a chicken!
At first I was too nervous to try. Knowing animals can sense fear I was certain they’d flap their wings and I’d get clawed. But after two weeks of tending to their coops I was ready. Before I knew it, I was using any free moment to pick one up and pet them! What can I say, I can get attached pretty quickly.
The more I’ve gotten to know the chickens, the more they remind me of my cats. Following us around for treats, trying to squirm away when you hold them but eventually settling in because it’s nice, and do a lot of eating, sleeping, and pooping! I’ve even nicknamed one Max after one of my cats because she reminds me of him. They’re both on the heftier side, and we just learned that she may be an egg eater. My cat Max looooves to eat like it’s the end of the world.
One hurdle we’ve come across is their sprouted feed. They don’t seem to like it much. I learned online that you can ferment their feed by soaking it in water for a few days to give them another layer of nutrition. It is also reported to be beneficial in helping them produce larger eggs. I think it’ll be a great addition to their diet of regular feed, sprouted wheatgrass, and various bugs and foraged greens.
Spending time and observing their behavior has been such an enjoyable experience. I learned that when they are close to laying eggs again, that when approached they will squat and slightly open their wings. Most of them have been exhibiting this behavior in the past week and we’ve gathered a dozen eggs each day!
While I only have three more weeks on animal duty, I forsee many more chicken hugs in my future.
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!