Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Food, What?!" GOING AND GROWING IN 2012!

From the incredible generosity of
our FoodWhat Community, 
$20,057.25 was raised to support 
FoodWhat from the GoodTimes 
Community Fund! 



Right now, every dollar will be matched!
  Now's the time...You give a buck, we get 2!
FoodWhat was chosen for the 2011 Good Times Community Fund!

Your Dollars Matched! Donate to Food,WhatThe Good Times Community Fund raises awareness of, and support for, local organizations that help youth through offering educational, leadership and career opportunities.  We have the goal to raise $12,500 through the Good Times Community Fund.  Right now every dollar donated will be matched.

(Note- to receive the matching grant, all donations need to go to the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County with FoodWhat noted as the recipient.)

Please Consider a Year-End Donation to Keep FoodWhat Going and Growing in 2012! 
Every bit counts--from $10 to $10,000--each contribution will keep us strong and supports local youth!

 Max (FoodWhat Youth) and Doron (Director)
 chat with you about this awesome opportunity!

Help us meet our goal!

Doron, Abby, and the FoodWhat Crew

All donations are tax-deductible.

2011 December Photo-of-the-Month

Photo of Abel, CC (center), and Geoleal

Words from CC:  "Working for FoodWhat I have accomplished beyond what I could ask for out of this program. I’ve gained a sense of what a community is. I have changed in ways that help me live healthier. I’ve grown personally. I have always taken things harshly and beaten myself up for silly things. In FoodWhat I’ve been able to focus more on the positive things in life. I’ve been able to do a really good job, work hard, complete it, and be proud of it. And that feels good--being proud of myself."

A BIG congratulations to CC for his recent acceptance into the Culinary Institute of America!

Wishing you a happy and healthy new year,
with love,

Doron, Abby, and the FoodWhat Crew

Click here for more posts of the Photo-of-the-Month
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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Food What Fall Leadership Program

Each fall, participants who have successfully completed the FoodWhat Summer Job Program apply to take leadership in managing one of the FoodWhat businesses. They go through an initial training for their job and then become the youth manager or co-managers for that business. Meet this year's crew:

Farm and CSA Management
Steven and Sam come to the farm every Monday to take care of all the farm needs -weeding, planting, trellising peas, prepping the farm for the winter, etc.

On Tuesdays they harvest, wash, and pack 10 CSA shares for low-income families and a day care center. Each bag holds eight to ten of the following crops we are growing: beets, carrots, onions, leeks, squash, cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, apples, beans, chard, kale, basil, radishes and more. Tawna, a UCSC intern, then loads the vegetable bags onto a bike trailer and delivers the shares to the families. Each bag is valued at $20 to $25 and is sold for $10 to help meet our goal of making healthy and fresh food accessible to all.

Flower Business Management

Mason and Jacques manage the flower business. Twice a week they harvest flowers and make bouquets to be sold to local businesses around town. You can find our flowers decorating The Filling Station, The Penny Ice Creamery, The Picnic Basket, Gabriella Cafe, Cafe Delmarette, Companion Bakeshop, and the Maple Street Clinic. We also sell bouquets at our farm stand at Gault Elementary School.
Many thanks to these businesses for supporting our program and the youth!

Each summer we plant sunflowers for a U-PICK Sunflower fundraiser at the UCSC Harvest Festival. Every year we try to time the planting perfectly (and hope for the ideal weather) so that the flowers bloom on the weekend of the festival. This year it worked and we sold over 200 sunflowers!


Farm Stand Management

Angel and Salvador co-manage our farm stand at Gault Elementary School. We partner with the Santa Cruz Ed Foundation, Freewheelin' Farm, UCSC Farm and Garden, and Happy Boy Farm to bring local organic produce to the parents and teachers of Gault at an affordable (subsidized) price. This year we were even able to accept EBT. Each week, Angel and Sal set up the stand, handle all of the sales, clean up, and do the accounting. Among many other skills, they are getting real job experience and training in customer service and money handling--skills that will serve them in future jobs.

Culinary Arts

Kayla and Irma are the Culinary Arts Team. They prepare meals for Life Lab's adult workshop participants, were the primary youth chefs for our Benefit Dinner: Harvesting Justice serving over 150 people, and they preserve our harvest by canning salsa, pesto, and tomato sauce for next season. They also helped to pilot our new Granola business! You can now find Food, What?! Granola at The Filling Station!

This fall Kayla also led a cooking workshop for other youth at the Walnut Avenue Woman's Center, showing them how to make tasty veggie quesadillas using whole grains and farm fresh veggies.

BLASTS! (School Garden Support)
Each week Edgar, Josh, Sal, and Irma go to a school garden or community center garden and bust out a big work project to support their garden. This fall we "Blasted" at Green Acres Elementary, Westlake Elementary, Bonny Doon Elementary, Gault Elementary, and Mesa Verde Community Garden. We moved compost bins, planted fruit trees, pulled out invasive grasses, painted trellises, dug beds, and cleared large areas of land for new garden beds to be built and for gardens to expand. The work we are offering these sites supports the education of youth and adults not only about food and nutrition, but also about math, science, history, observation, critical thinking and more.

Harvest Festival Planning and Management
This fall, as the youth event manager, Max planned and implemented the FoodWhat Harvest Festival. Starting from visioning the event to figuring out the details of getting the word out, arranging volunteers, organizing supplies for each station, making maps, setting up each station, talking to press, Max learned all it takes to put on a major event. As a result of Max's hard work and dedication, the event was a huge success. Click here to learn more about the event.

Max and Edgar harvesting pumpkins for the event for the pumpkin carving station. Each participant at the Harvest Fest gets to take home a pumpkin.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

2011 November Photo-of-the-Month (GoodTimes Community Fund Recipient!)

Please join Max (left photo) and Edgar (right) in celebrating some great news!  FoodWhat was selected as one of four Good Times Community Fund honorees!  This year's fund was created to raise awareness of, and support for, local organizations that help youth through offering educational, leadership and career opportunities.

View the Good Times Community Fund Video about "Food,What?!"

We get this exciting news as the farm is being put to rest for the winter and cover crop sown.  Our Fall Youth Managers have all wrapped up their projects (Flower Business, Gault Farm Stand, Beach Flats CSA, Catering, School Garden BLASTS!, and Fall Harvest Festival) and have completed a full cycle of programming with FoodWhat.  (Many have already started to lobby for their friends to get positions in the Spring Internship.)  There is a collective sense of accomplishment and tons of great stories.

We have the goal to raise $12,500 through the Good Times Community Fund.  Right now, every dollar donated will be matched.  Please Consider a Year-End Donation to Keep FoodWhat Going and Growing in 2012!  Every bit counts--from $10 to $10,000--each contribution will keep us strong and supports local youth!

Click here to read the article about FoodWhat and the fund in the Good Times.

Click here to make a donation directly to help us reach our goal.  (Note--to receive the matching grant, all donations need to go to the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County with FoodWhat noted as the recipient.)

with gratitude,
Doron, Abby, and the FoodWhat Youth Crew!

(Thank you to the Good Times, the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation for this awesome opportunity.)

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Harvest Fest 2011

On October 27th, 300 high school and middle school students from Santa Cruz to Watsonville came to "Food, What?!" for a morning of fall farm activities and food justice education: pumpkin carving, cider pressing, hay rides, mini apple pies, farm fresh pizzas, food justice wall, "the hydration station", a fair trade and food miles workshop, a skit about healthy decision making and more. See the video and great press below to get a feel of the day.

And some press from the day

Edible Monterey Bay  “You get to experience food you’ve grown and cooked yourself,” says Jacques Jackson, a 17-year-old high school senior who wants to study culinary arts at Cabrillo College next year. “I’ve learned how to cook, what’s in my food, what’s healthier for my body, and what will fill me up more.”
Jackson’s job this fall has been to co-manage the FoodWhat flower business. This involves harvesting flowers and arranging bouquets that are bought each week by local businesses and restaurants and sold at the FoodWhat farm stand at Gault Elementary School.

Hub Pages nice photos and a video of FoodWhat youth reciting spoken word on his FoodWhat experience.
“I used to smoke,” Salvadore said. “I used to drink. I worked here, I started thinking outside the box. People…who didn’t have a backyard to grow their own food…came up to me and asked me for vegetables and stuff. I’m the man.”

Santa Cruz Sentinel  Students also were able sample different varieties of apples, or most popular, fresh veggie pizzas wood-fired by Jamie Smith, Santa Cruz City School's director of food services. With a hot fire, Smith churned out pizzas in the farm's outdoor oven, using squash, peppers, beet, and other fresh organic vegetable. Hands grabbed for slices before he even finished cutting them.

Friday, October 21, 2011

FoodWhat Lavender Ice Cream?!

This week The Penny Ice Creamery used FoodWhat lavender to make Lavender Honey ice cream! Head down to the Penny Ice Creamery this week to try it out!

Monday, October 10, 2011

2011 October Photo-of-the-Month

Top Photo: Steven Valadez and Sam Gouveia harvesting youth-grown produce to feed our community.

Who gets this farm fresh organic nourishment?
-8 low-income families in Beach Flats
-1 day care center for neighborhood children
-and The Beach Flats Community Center for their brand new healthy snack program (inspired by our partnership)

For that past 22 weeks the FoodWhat Youth Crew has been growing, harvesting, and packing veggie shares worth $25 for an affordable (subsidized) rate of $10 each for folks in Beach Flats.  Today was the last day of the shares, and in total the crew harvested an impressive 1800 pounds!

Bottom Photo: Angel Chisholm and Sal Vasquez managing the Gault Farm Stand.

Yesterday was the final day of the farm stand that Sal and Angel have been running as their Fall Management Job.  Selling fresh, organic produce at the same cost of conventional produce at the local Esperanza Market, and accepting EBT, Sal and Angel have served many happy parents and teachers for the past 9 weeks.  Everyone who came was expressing how sad they are to see the market go and wished it could be there all year.

Angel reflected:  “I’m proud that I’ve had this job this long…that I stuck with it.  I learned how to hold down a job, do customer service, and accounting, and show up on time, and learned to schedule my (personal) appointments on days other than work.  You guys have really taught me a lot…"  Angel also spoke about how Brian King, one of his teachers, shared how proud he is of Angel for sticking with it, and finishing strong.

(Lots of thanks to our partners at Beach Flats Community Center, Gault Elementary, Santa Cruz Education Foundation, Freewheelin' Farm, Happy Boy Farm, and UCSC Farm and Garden!)

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

CC's Story at Civil Eats

In a recent Civil Eats post writer Amber Turpin interviews past Food,What Junior Staff CC:

...In 2009, CC was attending an alternative education high school. Doron Comerchero, director of “Food, What?!”, came to the school one day offering internships. His local program empowers youth through the growing, cooking, and sharing of food. Though CC signed up in order to get out of school early on Fridays, his hooky plan became a serious commitment.

“Doron pulled my ass out of the gutter. It was a really bad year for me,” he recalled in hindsight. That initial 12-week internship led to a “Food, What?!” summer job program in which he was paid to participate. Earning actual money reinforced the value of the life skills he was learning and cooking and catering turned out to be something that CC actually really loved.

The full circle process of growing, harvesting, menu planning, cooking, and presenting “felt like a lot more than a catering job, in a good way,” he said....

Read the full post

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Brandon's Ryhme

This poem is to capture what "Food, What?!" means to me personally. I came from a place where drugs and alcohol were the only thing filling my time. Now, I don't hate on the medicinal, but totally filling my life up with something so unproductive wasn't the business anymore. I'm lucky to have what I have. Thanks to Doron and Abby, for helping me accomplish what I want to do.

Brandon worked with FoodWhat as a first year in 2009 and a Jr. Staff in 2010

Thursday, September 15, 2011

SC Youth Food Bill of Rights!

In July, four FoodWhat youth went to Philadelphia for the Rooted in Community Youth Leadership Summit (RIC). While at the conference, the 150 youth participants from all over the nation gathered together, asked all of the adult mentors to leave the space, and then created the Youth Food Bill of Rights: 19 points demanding what youth believe our food system should look like. Read more and participate at

Kayla and Mason returned to FoodWhat after their experience at the RIC conference and brought this work back to Santa Cruz. They led us in a workshop where we created the Santa Cruz Youth Food Bill of Rights:


  • This document was produced by youth from Watsonville to Santa Cruz in August of 2011. 
  • These are the 10 goals that we are calling for to make our community a healthy place to grow up in. 
  • WE THE YOUTH who created this are all a part of “Food, What?!” – a youth empowerment and food justice project.  We invite you to partner with us to realize these goals.

1. The removal of genetically modified food from being produced on Santa Cruz County farms, or sold in local stores
2. The elimination of pesticides and other chemicals poisoning our land, farmers, and consumers
3. An increase of local and sustainably raised foods
4. Our local farmers and farm laborers to be paid more and treated with respect
5. Fast food to not be cheaper than healthy food—that’s unfair and more poor people eat fast food because it’s cheaper
6. Giving thanks to the earth—it’s not our world…we’re just borrowing this land and we shouldn’t abuse it
7. More education for our community about their food choices—about what they eat
8. The creation of more community gardens—more places where all people can grow their own food
9. The creation of more healthy food grocery stores in Watsonville and Live Oak to increase accessibility and availability to healthy food for all
10. More programs like FoodWhat to teach about sustainability, activism, healthy lifestyles, food awareness and nutrition—and a FoodWhat program for 3rd-5th graders to get this while their young

WE THE YOUTH want to know when we eat food, no one is being mistreated and the earth isn’t being harmed and we’re not harming ourselves.  We want food justice for all.

Join us at

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Harvesting Justice Benefit Dinner 9/10/11

Friends, Family, Partners, People,

Harvesting Justice Dinner Event
Saturday, September 10, 5-7pm
FoodWhat?! Farm
(@Life Lab on UCSC Campus--Santa Cruz)

Please join us for a farm fresh dinner grown, cooked, and hosted by the FoodWhat?! youth crew. Come have a delicious local organic meal on our beautiful farm run entirely by local teens.

The youth crew will not only serve your taste buds, but also your sense of hope, as they share their stories of personal growth and leadership development through organic farming and cooking.

Read about FoodWhat?! in the GoodTimes article: The Kids are Alright

100% of proceeds support a real job and job training for youth, and donations are fully tax deductible.

Thanks to a supportive community our 9/10/11 event is full. If you want to be contacted before our next event leave your information here.

Want to learn more ways to support FoodWhat?! Click here to learn how.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

2011 August Photo-of-the-Month

August 2011. Kayla, Jacques, and Angel offer reflections upon successful completion of their 8-week summer job with FoodWhat.

"I changed a lot since I’ve been with foodwhat this summer. It’s been a good place for me to be working then on the streets running a muck. I’ve changed my behavior a lot. Now I honestly know that the right thing to do in my life is work, stay positive, look up to a positive person, and do what’s right for me." (Angel, age 16)

"I’ve learned how to be a leader, flip a compost, trellis tomatoes, plant corn and beans together effectively, irrigate a crop, cultivate crops, how to be more professional, how to do well when applying for a job, and how to be a better person, and make better life and health choices. I am more confident and I have more knowledge and skills." (Jacques, age 17)

"I have successfully worked a regular hour workday. I wasn’t absent one day. I’ve learned how to speak to people professionally and really gained confidence in what I am capable of doing.
I have learned how to be a hard worker and how what I put into my body affects it more than I think. I have grown in ways that are hard to describe. For a while I was really unsure of everything I did or said. Now I’m more comfortable with myself." (Kayla, age 18)

Leave your email in the little form in the right hand column to receive the Photo-of-the-Month.

Summer 2011 Slide Show

Here are our highlights from the summer program. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

GoodTimes Talks Food Justice with Food What

GoodTimes readers get schooled on Food Justice.

Thanks GoodTimes Editor Greg Archer for an incredible look at Food Justice and our program!

Stay connected to "Food, What?!"
9/10/11 "Food, What?!" Benefit Dinner. Share a meal with the youth who cook up a life changing recipe of healthy food and personal empowerment. Learn more.

Sign up to receive the "Food, What?!" Photo-of-the-Month. (pssst, look to your right to join this list)

Learn more ways to support Life Lab. (life changing work could use your support)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

FoodWhat?! Farm Stand: Sharing Affordable Organic Produce with the Community!

Have you heard about the FoodWhat?! farm stand? Well trust me, you're going to want to check this out. For the past month, the FoodWhat crew has set up shop at Bay View Elementary to sell produce to the community. This farm stand makes organic fruits and vegetables accessible to families at an affordable cost. Thanks to a grant we received, we are able to sell our organic produce at a reduced price so that parents can really stock up on nutritious food for their families!

The farm stand allows the FoodWhat crew to practice their customer service skills. At the farm stand they greet customers, tell them about the produce, and handle money. The crew has learned what professionalism looks like: big smiles, ready for action, full attention on the customer, and managing money during sales. So far the crew has put on impressive farm stands. They are comfortable with customers, super friendly, and are pretty darn good at
math : )

Keep an eye out for the FoodWhat farm stand at Gault Elementary for the month of September! We will be selling produce at Gault every Wednesday!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

2011 July Photo-of-the-Month

Saturday July 16th. Rooted in Community Regional Youth Summit hosted by FoodWhat and the Farm and Garden Apprentices.

100 urban and rural youth from the Bay Area and Watsonville build community on our farm.

Three take homes (1) candles, salves, goat cheese, or some other farm-based product, (2) a full belly from the farm-based meals we made together, (3) and most importantly an understanding that each one is part of a larger movement for food justice.

Joining all the other youth in making personal comittments, Camri, a youth from the Growing Youth Project in Alameda, wrote "I will commit to gaining knowledge and passing it on to the younger generation--eat healthy--exercise."

To hear more, from our Youth Summit check out the Youth Summit Blog Post

Leave your email in the little form in the right hand column to receive the Photo-of-the-Month.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rooted in Community Regional Youth Summit!

Morning ice breakers!

On July 16th, the FoodWhat?! crew invited 100 teens to the farm for the Rooted in Community Regional Youth Summit to unite and educate fellow youth in the food justice movement. Teens traveled from surrounding areas, representing many youth organizations who are all about FOOD: how its grown, where it comes from, and the power young people have to change our food systems for the better.

We met some cool folks from the Growing Youth Project in Alameda, Farm Fresh Choice and Berkeley Youth Alternatives of Berkeley, FRESH Crew from Hayward, Pie Ranch of San Fran and Pescadero, Veggielution of San Jose, and Jovenes Sanos of Watsonville. The FoodWhat team learned a lot from these other organizations so make sure to check them out! The CASFS Apprentices on the farm also worked with us all day, leading workshops and sharing knowledge with all the participants.

From top left, counter-clockwise: 1) FoodWhat leader, Abby Bell and Irma Patino help wash up after the big pizza picnic. 2) FoodWhat member, Salvador, meets a fellow youth in the food justice movement. 3) Abel Johns, all smiles, eating pizza. 4) Cloth squares with commitments to food justice written by the teens. The pieces will soon be sewn into a quilt! 5) FoodWhat boys measure how much sugar is in energy drinks during a workshop.

This Rooted in Community Regional Youth Summit--aka Youth Day--was all about teens coming together and realizing their capacity to make change in the food justice movement. Youth Day proved that there are a lot of passionate teens who are not afraid to speak up about these issues and make positive change in their communities. It was really awesome for the teens, from diverse backgrounds and communities, make connections and exchange ideas.

The day opened with a welcoming introduction and ice breaker games to get the teens mingling. A few FoodWhat crew members stepped up and taught the newcomers all about FoodWhat's mission and role in the community. FoodWhat members practiced their leadership skills by leading groups in many workshops and activities. Workshops included goat cheese making, terrarium building, candle making, ice cream creations, fast food jeopardy, and more!

We also spent the day making farm fresh pizzas together from scratch, culminating in a giant pizza and pie picnic at the end of the day. We spread out colorful blankets under the pear trees and dug into the delicious pizza the youth made. There were endless slices for all and pies brought by Pie Ranch. The day was a huge success with the help and partnership of the CASFS Farm Apprentices and all the teens who are down with the food justice movement.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

BLAST!! : Week 3

From left: 1) Kayla Kropp uses an electric drill to assemble planter boxes at the Teen Center.
2) Thairie Ritchie and Angel Chisholm ready to double dig flower beds. 3) Sam Gouveia and Jacques Jackson help one another out with construction.

Every Wednesday the FoodWhat crew participates in a BLAST! A BLAST is an activity in which the FoodWhat crew visits a local school or youth organization and helps them along in developing their own organic garden. The crew builds gardens from scratch or restore existing, dilapidated ones that just need some love and care. During these BLASTS the FoodWhat crew share their knowledge and skills with the community and help others produce
their own food.

Last Wednesday, the crew went out to the Santa Cruz Teen Center located at the Louden Nelson Community Center. The Teen Center is a safe recreational space for teens to study, eat, and hang out. There is even an alternative high school that holds classes there! The directors at the Teen Center thought a garden would be a useful learning tool, so they called up FoodWhat?! for some help.

The team rolled up, ready to work. The task was to construct three, 8 x 4 foot planter boxes, so they carefully drilled the planks together, filled them with soil, and installed irrigation hoses. They worked like a team of professionals and got the job done with ease. Now whenever they pass the Teen Center, they can get a glimpse at their work and realize their tangible impact on the community.

Last week's BLAST was at Natural Bridges High School. The garden there was overgrown with weeds and needed some serious work, so the FoodWhat crew stepped in and cleared those beds! To show their gratitude, students at Natural Bridges High School prepared veggie burritos for the crew, with vegetables picked right out of the garden.

The finished product! Quality work from the FoodWhat crew.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Photo by Jan Mangan

Bioneers: Re-imagining How to Live on Earth in
Ways that Last

The Bioneers conference, October 14-16 in San Rafael, CA, will feature Doron Comechero, founder of Food What, and Brower Youth Award winner Hai Vo on the rights and power of youth; Nikki Henderson, Executive Director of People’s Grocery, and other young food justice leaders, Anim Steel of Real Food Challenge, and Yoni Landau of CoFed to share ideas on healthy food as a basic human right and to discuss strategies to empower people to create access to nourishing food.

Bioneers will also address colony collapse disorder with Biodynamic Beekeeper Gunther Hauk and pollinator-friendly garden designer Kate Frey, and genetically engineered crops with a presentation and an organizing meeting led by Andrew Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety with GMO expert Jeffrey Smith.

Other, presenters and events include beginning farmer networks Greenhorns, Grow Food, and Organic Valley’s Generation Organic; a farm tour led by the Agricultural Institute of Marin and the Bioneers annual seed exchange preserving biodiversity.

Dr. Elaine Ingham of Rodale Institute will present the latest science on the environmental benefits of organic agriculture. Paul Stamets’ astonishing work on how mushrooms restore ecosystems is simply brilliant. Check out the complete listing of the food and farming programming at the Bioneers conference:

Come join the “revolution from the heart of nature.”

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Reaching out at the Homeless Garden Project: Week 2

Here's the low down of how a typical FoodWhat?! week works...
Tuesdays and Wednesdays the crew is at the FoodWhat farm located at the UCSC farm and garden.
Thursdays we work at the Homeless Garden Project in Santa Cruz.
Fridays we head out to Freewheelin' Farm.

Each day is an awesome and different experience. Let's talk about

From left: 1) Don Lessard, an HGP employee, gave helpful guidance to the FoodWhat crew and worked with them side by side. 2) Abel Johns clears the way for garden beds. 3) Mason Melander bunches lavender for the CSA business.
4) Ana Sumano piles weeds into her wheelbarrow.

Every Thursday the FoodWhat crew goes out to the Homeless Garden Project to lend a hand on this unique Santa Cruz farm. The Homeless Garden Project is a program that provides job training and transitional employment to previously homeless individuals. The trainees of the program learn valuable job skills, gain confidence, and reach out to fellow community members during their time at the garden. Sound a bit like what FoodWhat has to offer?? (wink, wink). The mission of the Homeless Garden Project strives to:

- Bring Together people from throughout the community in the beauty and security of their certified organic garden.
- Practice and Teach principles of economic and ecological sustainability through classes and hands-on experience
- Provide homeless men and women job training and transitional employment

FoodWhat is lucky enough to work with the HGP and form new friendships with this community. Our first day at HGP, the trainees welcomed us and expressed thanks to the FoodWhat crew for all their hard work and youthful energy. When unfinished tasks pile up at HGP, FoodWhat and HGP trainees work together to get the job done.

HGP trainee, Michael Curry, laughs with FoodWhat crew during daily stretches.

Opening day of HGP, a seasoned trainee gave genuine advice to the crew of teens. He described the immense impact the homeless garden had on his life, at a time when his future seemed rocky. He told us how his work at the garden gave him a strong sense of purpose and confidence in his skills. The group of trainees will be valuable comrades to the FoodWhat crew and will show the teens how to get on a meaningful track and be be positive, pro-active leaders in their communities.

From top left: Sam Gouveia, Erik Bucio, Kayla Kropp, and Joan Enriquez on lavender duty for HGP.

It was really awesome to see the crew work so well under the direction of the trainees. They helped hack down weeds five feet tall, skim garden beds, plant onions, and cut hundreds of lavender bunches. The skill and unity of the FoodWhat workforce was an impressive sight to see, and by the end of the day they had made friendships with a crowd they had never gotten to know before. Hopefully the crew will overcome any negative stereotypes about those who have been homeless; because as the trainees have showed us, they are knowledgeable, skilled, and hilarious individuals who are pretty similar to the FoodWhat crew themselves.

From left: 1) Natasha Riordan clears weeds for a future flower bed. 2) Jacques Jackson plants onion seedlings. 3) Edgar Garcia helps Kayla Kropp build her own planter box out of old wooden palettes. Garcia was skilled in construction and helped the rest of the FoodWhat crew in building their boxes.

Link to Homeless Garden Project Resources:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

FOODWHAT?! Strong Start to Summer 2011: Opening Week

Greetings Readers! It's summertime in Santa Cruz! The sun is shining, the veggies are germinating and a brand new FoodWhat?! crew has stepped onto the farm. For Summer 2011 we have a motley crew of twenty-four hardworking teens, eager to learn job skills, grow in confidence and maturity, and develop skills in sustainable agriculture. These fresh faces hail from many surrounding high schools, including: Natural Bridges, Costanoa, Pajaro Valley High, Highlands, Star Community, and Delta High. Each crew member has a unique background and story to tell, and brings their own piece of personality pie to the farm. From all the laughter, chatter, and team building of the opening week, it's obvious this is going to be a summer to remember. This is one awesome group of teens who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty and take on new responsibilities as mature young adults.

Planting Seeds...

The summer started out with an opening ceremony. FoodWhat?! program leader, Abby Bell, gave each crew member a sunflower seed to plant and encourage them to use the seed as a symbol for the dreams and goals they wish to accomplish this summer. Some crew members had goals to save up their paychecks and put the money to good use. One teen hoped to use to money to travel to Brazil for the world cup, some wanted to save for college, and help support their families. Others wanted to use the summer to develop new skills in leadership, maturity, and farming.

Break the Ice and Build a Crew...

The Blob! Team members link arms and try to capture other players as a giant chain. This game involves lots of running, tripping, and laughter.
The first week meant a lot of strange faces for the FoodWhat?! crew so we played some crazy games and did some team building exercises. “The Sheet” was a name game in which two people stood on opposites side of a sheet, without knowing who was on the other side. The sheet was dropped, and the two facing one another attempted to shout the other’s name first.

Jose Rameno hops across toes during the ice breaker game, "The River."

"The River was a game that really stumped the crew and forced them to combine ideas and come up with a game plan. Junior staff member, Natasha Riordan, made an imaginary twenty foot river and told the crew they all had to cross BUT each person could only step into the river twice. After stubborn groans about the impossible task, the FoodWhat?! team finally made it out of the river together... relatively unharmed.

Digging In...
FoodWhat?! had an intense first day on the job, breaking ground for garden beds under the hot sun. It was sweaty, dirty work but the team managed to keep smiling and do some serious damage. One group cleared out piles of brambles and skimmed the tough soil for future planting. The other crew shaped a hillside for garden beds for the flower business that will take off in late summer.

Irma Patino rakes up brambles to make way for new garden beds.
The crew cleared a truck full of weeds and brambles. Jacques Jackson, Jose Rameno, and Angel Chisholm load the weeds into the truck bed.
Tommy Lopez and Abel Johns shape beds for the upcoming flower business.


Top: CC Parsons eats veggie chili with green chili cornbread.
Bottom: Josh Lozoya and Angel Chisholm cook quesadillas packed with greens and veggies!

After hard work its time to chow down on a delicious, veggie packed, home grown meal prepared by the FoodWhat?! crew. Nutrition and cooking are a big part of the work day. The group makes healthy meals out of the food they grow and harvest themselves. The crew is really enthusiastic about cooking and are pretty impressed with themselves when they make such bomb gourmet meals!