Saturday, August 31, 2013

"Food, What?!" August Photo of the Month

Make sure to click "Display Images" above to check out a rad photo of Jaime on the farm!
Congrats to the 2013 FoodWhat Crew!

Each year, we are introduced to a group of youth that are willing to put in the time, energy and work to change their lives. In the Spring program youth start out by digging into food justice, nutrition and leadership. Throughout the season we watch those seeds sprout into awareness, self-determination and a desire to do something different. This is only the beginning.

Then the summer hits and we are blasted into our intensive programming - 6 hours a day, 4 days a week - farming under the hot sun and participating in empowerment workshops, team building activities and food justice action. Core job skills are locked in. We work together to get the job done and to tackle personal struggles and obstacles. In the summer, the youth learn who they really are, where they come from and who they want to be.

This year, we worked through more challenges than most summers. Many of the youth came into the program with long stories for such short lives and they were inspired to do the work needed to reconcile their past with their future.  On the last day of programming, Doron and Abby stood with the crew in front of all their friends and family. They spoke to each youth individually about the positive changes and progress they had made throughout the summer. As they went down the line, you could see the pride in each of their faces as they were publicly recognized for the work that they did and who they are becoming. This is what FoodWhat is all about. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Live Earth Farm

On Fridays FoodWhat rolls out to Live Earth Farm in Watsonville. This 75-acre farm grows a huge variety of fruits and vegetables for markets and CSAs and also hosts educational field trips.

Today we circled up to talk about the plan of attack for the day, then immediately hit the fields to work.  The first task was to plant dino kale - and a lot of it! We worked hard in the field focusing on how far apart to plant the seedlings and getting the whole field planted.


Edgar, Cy’Rae, Estephanie, and Rayna peeled off to pick blackberries. They learned the difference between an unripe berry, a berry picked at by birds, and a ripe berry to ensure a top-notch harvest to sell at the markets. The crew was encouraged to taste them to know what a tasty berry looks like.


Meanwhile, the lunch crew was busy in the kitchen. Every week, two people join Deonte, one of our junior staff, in the kitchen to prepare lunch. This gives everybody the chance to learn how to cook the delicious food they work to grow every day. Today our chefs worked hard to make enough veggie quesadillas, rice, and salad for the whole crew!

Back in the fields, we worked on irrigation systems, laying long pipes in the fields of kale we just planted. We also headed into the fields of peppers to clear out the weeds in the beds.

After all of this work, the lunch crew laid out a spread of beautiful quesadillas, rice, and salad with multiple types of dressing. After the morning’s work, some lunch and time to relax hit the spot.


Well-rested and fed, we hit the fields again to weed beds of kale, being careful not to pull out any plants that attract beneficial insects.

We finished the day off harvesting dozens of bunches of basil. We neatly bundled them to be market-ready and after filling crate after crate, the smell of fresh basil filled the air.


Today included a particularly great end to the day because every two weeks it's pay day! We collected our checks for our hard work in the past weeks and called it a day.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Movement building at Youth Day!

Over 140 youth from all over the Bay Area converged on the FoodWhat farm to spend the day learning how to grow, cook, and advocate for fresh, organic foods in their communities - and it was an incredible success!

Each year, FoodWhat partners with leaders from Rooted in Community and the UCSC Farm and Garden Apprenticeship to put on this movement building event that unites and educates regional teens about food justice.  In addition to providing educational workshops and delicious fresh food, the Youth Day event offers a platform for organizations statewide to share their voice with like-minded partners. Youth day offers a cross-cultural experience across geographic boundaries that creates unity between these partner organizations. These influential young leaders take this experience and learning back to their communities, families and peers.

The day starts in a HUGE circle, with FoodWhat youth leading the charge through team-building games and ice breakers. This sets the tone for a collaborative environment and starts the wheels in motion for youth to begin connecting across organizations and with the Apprentices. Once enough energy and momentum was built, the youth broke into groups and embarked on a Scavenger Hunt as a way to familiarize themselves with the farm, taste some farm fresh fruit, and begin to engage with concepts around food justice.

The scavenger hunt gets everyone moving and gave the FoodWhat youth an opportunity to flex their  leadership skills as guides. One of the highlights of the scavenger hunt was the Vision Tree--a manifestation of the Apprentices to physically show the food justice movement in a truly beautiful format. At the base of the Vision tree was an altar that paid homage to groups and individuals that have fought for justice over the years. The branches stretched out into pieces of string, where youth could hang a slip of paper that held their vision for food justice in the future. The Vision Tree was a powerful display and allowed the youth to soak in the experience in a meaningful way.

The scavenger hunt led straight into lunch, which was a feast of cultural dishes cooked by Brenda, a 2nd year Apprentice. Brenda said a moving Native American prayer that thanked the earth for providing us with such a bounty and then we dove in to an incredible meal! Everything was delicious.

After about an hour of eating, we started making the rounds through the workshops. Each youth was given a schedule, and they chose which workshops they wanted to attend throughout the afternoon. The Apprentices and FoodWhat staff offered an incredible array of activities from making your own lip balm, to fast food jeopardy, to making succulent gardens, to making your own farm fresh pizza! Each youth was able to find what workshop spoke to them and learn some new skills in the process.

At the end of the day, we all gathered on blankets to enjoy pizza, strawberry rhubarb pies courtesy of Pie Ranch, and a huge salad. The energy was high but contemplative as we heard from Maya and Gera from Rooted in Community about how youth are a powerful force that are changing the food system each day, each minute, with their actions. 

Thank you everyone for creating an amazing event!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Guest Chef: Kirstin Comerchero

FoodWhat understands the need for youth to be exposed to professionals in order to start the process of mind mapping and idealizing their future careers. Because our program is about farming, food, and nutrition we often pull in local chefs (from many of the top Santa Cruz restaurants) to cook a meal with our youth and talk with them about their jobs.

Each Wednesday of the Summer Program, the FoodWhat youth were joined by Kirstin Comerchero to cook an incredible farm fresh meal and learn a few tricks of the trade. Kirstin - a local farmer and cook - specializes in local, seasonal cuisine with a cultural twist and she led our crew in cooking up unique and delicious food each week!

This past week, we made breakfast burritos with eggs, cheese, and of course, tons of our own veggies! We also made a roasted tomatillo salsa, potatoes, and an amazing strawberry and kale smoothie.

Thank you Kirstin for hanging with us all summer! We had a blast - and it tasted good too!