Thursday, May 26, 2011

FOOD,WHAT?! Week 10

Planting Sprouts, and Tacos from Scratch

The early summer sun beat down upon our brows this week at Food,What?! We planted rows of kale and spinach and cilantro, maneuvered blindfolded partners through an obstacle course, practiced straight talk, and cooked savory veggie tacos.

Ice Breaker

The day started with the lighthouse ice breaker; interns in pairs took turns donning a blindfold and walking through a obstacle course. It was up to the partner that could see to shout out clear instructions of how to maneuver through the course with out bumping into obstacles. Most of us made it through fine, despite the elastic nature of the course, as interns redesigned the maze while we were walking through it.


From games we went to work in the newly turned Food,What?! field. We planted spinach and kale in staggered triangulated rows, one foot between each plant. We used forks to turn rich compost into the field. After the seedlings were snug in the earth, we watered them and retreated to the shade of the circle tent.


In the garden shade Interns practiced straight talk; communicating with respect, confidence, and attention to the feelings of your audience and yourself.

We identified strategies, such as getting to the point, being kind and not aggressive. Instead of criticism, we discussed positives and improvables. By telling someone that they could make something better, rather than telling them they have done poorly, you can avoid insulting them and give them information to consider. In arguments, most people don't listen to any criticism. We learned that we can make our point much stronger when we are calm then when we are angry and reacting to what others say.

We listed the guidelines of Straight Talk:

Call it as you see it

Speak the details

Balance the scales

Pick and choose

Read the listener.

Then we practiced straight talk with partners, and identified ways to listen respectfully:

Open Up

Look Up

Listen Up

Store it Up

Listening is an important way to know how we affect others, but ultimately, its up to us to decide what we believe, what criticism we will accept, and how we will respond.


After the workshop, we ran to the kitchen for the highlight of the day; veggie tacos and homemade tortillas. We harvested cilantro, sauteed carrots, chard, garlic, and onion, and smashed beans. We used a wooden tortilla press to flatten balls of dough into tortilla shapes, then threw them on the grill. Soon the beans were smashed, the rice cooked, the veggies glistened and steamed in the pan, and the tortillas piled high on a plate. We loaded tortillas with veggies, beans, cheese and our salsa canned from last season, and bit in. Crunchy, warm and delicious.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Food,What?! Week 9

Potato Planting and Potato Patties

From week9_1

Food,What?! went to work on its organic field this week, where interns planted rows of potatoes and onion shoots, in clay-red soil. Potatoes were placed in the ground at the depth of about a foot, in a trench dug into the center of the row. Then we turned the soil back over the spuds. The eyes of the potatoes will sprout shoots that branch out, sending green leaves and stalks into the air, and forming new potatoes underground.

We cleaned off the spades and shovels, drank some of the wonderful farm water, and switched to planting young onions. The soil had to be amended with compost, then the onions broken apart and planted in staggered rows, five inches between each plant. We planted yellow bulb onions, candy onions, and olympic onions; enough to provide for forty families.

Team Exercise

We finished planting as the heat of the afternoon sun beat down. When the field was cleared of tools and the new crops watered, the group gathered in the circle tent to practice communication skills.

Doron asked us to give him every possible direction necessary to put an orange slice in his hand, into his mouth. The interns yelled commands all at once, and for a few confused minutes, Doron swung his arms about, and bent his elbows, and opened his mouth, and completely failed to eat the orange. Finally, interns Alyssa and Maribel slowly walked Doron through the steps to eat the orange.

The point of the exercise, Doron said, was that communication is something we take for granted. To practice listening and giving directions, we broke into teams of two. One person drew a shape that the other described; the first time we were able to ask questions, the second, only one person knew what the shape was and only directions could be spoken. The group was sharp though, and most of the drawings were nearly identical to the target shape.

Then we told each other short story's about our weekend. We had to recite our partner's story back to them, as closely as possible. To listen effectively, interns turned toward their partner, maintained eye contact, and didn't interrupt the story with comments out of turn.

Potato Pancakes

From week9_1

When we had cooled down in the shade, Abby called us to the kitchen to make potato pancakes. The recipe called for 5 potatoes, shredded with a cheese grater and squeezed dry. The potato mash was mixed with five eggs, half and onion, a half cup of whole wheat flour, and two teaspoons of salt. We took turns mixing the ingredients, then cleaned the counter and started frying pancakes. The potato patties were dropped into searing hot grape-seed oil and turned until crispy and fried on both sides. We made a tray of 17 potato cakes, which were scarfed down as soon as they were cool enough to eat.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Strawberry BLAST!

The Life Lab Garden Classroom and UCSC Farm played host to hundreds of Santa Cruz Teens during the "Food, What?!" Strawberry Blast. The local press was there to cover the event:

Santa Cruz Weekly Strawberry Blast An Eye-Opener for Students had this to say:

Hosted by Life Lab’s youth empowerment group, Food, What?!, the fourth annual Strawberry Blast took 300 middle and high school students from Santa Cruz County on a food education free-for-all on May 12, exposing surprising realities behind the food we eat and the equally surprising need for such outings...“Every time you spend a dollar, you vote. Every time you buy a Coke or a Rockstar or a Monster, you’re showing the world you believe in that product,” says C.C. Parsons, a Food, What?! staff member. His demonstration asked kids to guess how many tablespoons of sugar were in a Vitamin Water (12.5 tablespoons) and a Rockstar (15.5 tablespoons), but it was the visual representation of sugar in a cup that really seemed to stick. “When they hear these things and actually see the volume of sugar, they flip,” says Parsons. read more...

The Patch Teens Learn by Mouth at the Strawberry Blast shared the following:

“This event lets students see how nutritious food can be delicious,” said Abby Bell, coordinator of FoodWhat?! since the program began five years ago, an offshoot of Life Lab. "We don't necessarily expect them to go home and start composting with worms, but we want to show them high-quality food."

Driscoll's of Watsonville donated organic strawberries by the cartload. Strauss graciously provided the many gallons of yogurt. Amber Turpin, Allison O'Sullivan and Jessica Hoffmann encouraged students to make their own at the Strawberry Blast tart table. Shells were baked ahead of time, then set out with yogurt and strawberries for students to assemble into a tasty treat.

The smoothie station was always crowded, as students whirled strawberries with orange juice, milk and yogurt into a refreshing drink. Bell asked students how they liked the smoothies.

“They're awesome,” said one student. “Red fruits and vegetables are good for your heart.” Students found out that eating foods from the whole color spectrum is a sign they're getting all the nutrients for vigorous health. read more...

2011 May Photo-of-the-Month

On May 12th, 300 Santa Cruz County middle and high school students descended on the farm for one of our annual youth-organized events- the Strawberry Blast 2011! It was a hands-on day of harvesting berries in the field to taste the uncomplicated joy of eating fresh fruit; of combining milk, yogurt, and strawberries in the bike blender to pedal your own healthy smoothie; and of engaging in youth-led workshops such as Fast Food Jeopardy or Youth Dollar Power. The day was tasty good!

To hear more, click here

Friday, May 6, 2011

Food,What?! Week 8

Freewheelin' Farm

This week we visited Freewheelin Farms, a community-supported organic farm, 5 miles north of town on Highway 1. The industrious, Freewheelin farmers Kirstin, Darryl, and Amy haul hundreds of pounds of produce by bicycle from their field to homes and markets in Santa Cruz. They welcomed us with smiles and gave the group a task for the day, clearing weeds from a long tangled hedgerow at edge of the fields.

We used hula hoes to cut the roots of weeds out of the ground. The row was made up of native grasses, bushes and ground cover. In a few years it will be grown large enough to block out the wind, and provide habitat for native insects and birds.
Native birds and insects help control unwanted farm pests, without the use of pesticides. Similarly, the hedgerow can outcompete weeds, without herbicides. We had to weed with simple tools and our hands, but the work was finished while the sun was still low.
Pumpkin Seeds.

We walked to the north end of the fields, where Food,What?! had several rows to plant with squash and pumpkin. In the fall we will host our annual Harvest Festival at FoodWhat; interns have been planting pumpkin seeds in preparation all week. We broke into groups and planted winter squash, and a mix of different pumpkin types, petite to gargantuan. The winter squash is intended for a tamale business in the fall.
Marketing Manipulation
When the seeds were snug in the oil, Doron led the group into a comfy yurt to discuss advertisement, and marketing to teens. Companies brand their products; create and image and feeling about it through t.v. and print ads. Brands are aimed directly at teens and kids; The Nike Air Jordan ad campaign in the Bronx in the 1980's, for example, was so successful that people robbed and even murdered to get the shoes. Ironically, Nike was targeting young consumers while producing its shoes with sweat shop and child labor.
Food and Clothing Company's use celebrity figures, sex, fame and fortune in their ads to sell products to teens, at the cost of 12 billion dollars a year. The profits made by the nations top advertisers was 175 Billion in 2004.
We can respond by choosing to not buy from companies that use cheap ploys and exploitive images to get our attention.

The group made a quick pesto pasta to close the day. Interns went off one at a time to interview for the summer Food,What?! Program. The rotating cooking staff cut kale, carrots, onion, cabbage and garlic for the pasta. The noodles boiled while the ingredients were sauteed. The veggies were tossed onto the pasta, and pesto from last year's food,what?! mixed in. It was a little spicy, and hot as the morning sun.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Food, What?! Week 7

Food What Week 7
From week72011_1

This week we turned over garden beds, and planted rows of corn, pumpkin, and beans. FoodWhat interns cleared the ground of weeds and cover crop, then turned the soil with forks, and spread rich dark compost over the rows.

Squash, corn, and beans planted together is a field practice that comes from indigenous cultures, known as “the three sisters.” The corn provides a support for the bean vines, the roots of which take nitrogen from the air and and into the soil. The squash provides a ground cover and maintains soil moisture. The corn and bean seeds were planted an inch deep, every 3 or 4 inches. The squash were planted in rounded dirt mounds, made with upturned painter's buckets, 6 seeds per hill.


The corn in the FoodWhat fields is japanese hull-less popcorn, which will grow this year, for next season's interns to pop. We made popcorn from last year's kernels, lighlty sprinkled with salt, and a type of yeast as a substitute to butter.

Food Systems
From week72011_1

After the popcorn break, we gathered in the circle tent to discuss how food travels from producer to consumer. From the farm to our plates. For the consumer and the farmer, the most advantageous food system is the one with the least steps; like a farmers market, where the food is transported and sold by the farmer, and the profit goes to the farm and its workers. The produce that people buy at a farmers' market has often been picked that day or the day before, supermarket vegetables and fruits can be frozen for months before sale. The end product is less nutritious, more expensive, and near tasteless.

Processed products have more steps of production and delivery. Food must be grown and collected, transported to a processing plant; turned into a product, then packaged, shipped to a distributor, and shipped to a market, then bought by a consumer.

Interns played the parts of workers in the food system. Truck drivers, farmers, factory workers, supermarkets and corporations all look to make a profit in a commercial food system; leaving little for farmers. A dollar's worth of Pennies trickled between interns' hands, slowly diminishing, until five or six cents fell into the intern/farmer Brendan's palm.

From week72011_1

Foodwhat intern Tommy played the part of a strawberry, a fruit shipped across the globe and used as a ingredient in many processed foods. Tommy had to perform 50 jumping jacks to simulate the energy required in shipping a strawberry around the world, but only one for a farmer's market.

Sushi Making
From week72011_1

The meal of the evening was veggie sushi. We chopped carrots, sweet potato's, tofu, onion, avocado and cabbage into long slivers. When the rice was boiled, rice-vinegar, sugar and salt were added to give it the proper consistency and taste. The seaweed wraps were laid down rough side up, and rice spread evenly across about 1/3 of the surface. The veggies went on top of the rice, and then the seaweed was folded over and rolled tightly. Cut, dipped into wasabi, and devoured.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Food What Receives the Wellness Award from Santa Cruz Education Foundation

Doron and Abby accept the Wellness Award presented by the Santa Cruz Education Foundation.