Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “CSA”

September is Locovore Month

There is a lot going on in September, some of it heavy, some of it fun. 9/11 stands out this year of course. It is also back to school for children and students and sometimes there is a feeling that we spent most of the summer on snooze and now it is back to top gear. For the Jewish People, this is a time of preparation as we approach our New Year and soon after, Yom Kippur, which while known as a day of atonement, is actually the conclusion of a month of self-analysis (who can atone for all their sins in one day?).

Community Supported Agriculture

But I also discovered something else about September. It is Locovore (also spelled Locavore) Month. The Urban Dictionary defines Locavores as people who eat food that is grown locally. Food grown in your region not only results in fresher and tastier foods, but also reduces pollution, keeps dollars in the community and has fewer food safety risks.

So I thought I would brainstorm a few simple ways we could celebrate Locovore Month:

1) Consider joining one of your local Community Supported Agriculture programs, where you receive a box of veggies weekly from a local farm. I wrote about this model a few month back.

2) Go to a Farmers Market. Yes I am often critical of these because they seem so pricey, but you do make a connection with your local farmers.

Farmers Markets - making connections

3) Host a potluck and have all your friends bring dishes that include food grown in your area (allowing local microbrewery products is acceptable in my opinion).

4) Support a local community garden. One with a social justice message (as well as an ecological one) is Spiral Gardens in Berkeley. You can volunteer and get dirt between your finger nails or stop by at their stall on Tuesdays. I wrote about Spiral Gardens here.

I believe there is considerable merit in the Locovore philosophy. I am not sure that total adoption is the right way, given that there are clear advantages to having access to very healthy produce grown in climates different to our own, but becoming more aware of our local farmers and supporting ourselves with what grows in our region is a sound value.

Finally, a left coast perspective: I discovered in my research that the Locovre movement gives credit for its creation to Santa Cruz and San Jose. How’s that for some local pride!

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Only in Berkeley – Three Stone Hearth

It’s quite a stretch to compare Berkeley to Silicon Valley. At first glance they seem the opposite of each other, but these two areas share one important attribute: they are hubs of innovation. While Silicon Valley is defined (or defining) the hi-tech world, Berkeley is seeking new sustainable, environmental, community models.

There is no need to decide which is better or even which to join. You can run your CSA (Community Assisted Agriculture) business virtually from your iPad (1 or 2). And many companies in Silicon Valley are anxiously seeking ways to keep their staff fit and healthy by offering gym facilities and nourishing menus in their canteens.

Three Stone Hearth is a community kitchen on University Avenue in Berkeley. While it has been around since 2006, the move to this central artery of Berkeley (it is the main street to the university and town center, and in the other direction to the freeway).

It embodies the Community Supported Agriculture model – you pre-order whatever is on the menus – but it also offers a chance to work as part of a cooperative and is a teaching facility so that you can learn how to cook healthy food yourself.

Three Stone Hearth mainly uses natural ingredients such as:

– organically (and local) farmed produce, grains, and nuts

– pasture raised meats, eggs, and dairy products

– unrefined sweeteners

– traditional fats

Worker/Owners (l-r) Jessica Prentice, Porsche Combash, Misa Koketsu, and Catherine Spanger

Three Stone Hearth are sensitive to reducing their carbon footprint. Their food is packed in re-usable glass containers, and they compost their waste. They also make a conscious effort to buy their ingredients from local farms.

I was surprised when I looked at their menu by the variety and richness of their recipes. This is no bland ‘rice and beans or else’ menu. Neither is it a vegetarian haven – there are many meat dishes available. On the particular day that I saw the menu it included soups, desserts, and a variety of drinks and cheeses.

What I feel is great about this enterprise is the community kitchen model, whereby everyone can learn and participate. But it also serves an important role for those who cannot cook or don’t have the time. Being a member of this co-op allows you to easily serve nutritious meals a few times a week or more. And if it is expensive, you have the option of working some of the cost off.

Now excuse me, I must rush and throw some mac ‘n cheese into the micro for the kids.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

CSA: The Next Generation

On Monday, I blogged about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). I was pleasantly surprised to hear how many people are participating in a CSA program. What I also learned is that many farmers are going beyond the traditional box of organic produce.

Many farmers are now offering bread, cheese, chocolate, wine, olive oil or jam, whether made by them or from a local artisan. I understand that this is ordered on a regular basis. This is an interesting phenomena because it suggests that these local producers have recognized the business potential of CSA. Where a few years ago, CSA was the maverick in the marketing family, it has now become an attractive channel for other producers marketing plan.

Sarah Henry, who blogs at Lettuce Eat Kale found that in addition, the local artisans are experimenting with the CSA business model to sell their own goods. “The jury is still out on if this is sustainable, long-term,” said Cindy Tsai Schultz, co-founder of Fresh Bite, a baked goods start-up that began with a community supported approach, but has since put the idea on hold.

Other companies who are experimenting with the idea of partnering with, or harnessing the CSA model include Soul Food Farm (chicken and eggs), Marin Sun Farms (meat) and Massa Organics (rice), which partners with produce CSAs to provide its products. Bellwether Farms and Cowgirl Creamery have cheese clubs, which essentially work in a similar way to CSAs.

Others have had a more rocky experience. Pandora’s Box is a bakery that enjoyed initial success but was unable to sustain it financially. Fresh Bite used this business model to market their baked-goods, but moved their business into offering complete meals, but finally settled on developing a wholesale line of products in popular outlets like Monterey Market and Star Grocery and will expand to the Solano Farmers Market.

There are local businesses who have been able to make the model work. Wine enthusiasts can pick up a six-pack (can you use this word for wine?) at Vintage Berkeley once a month for $60. The advantage of this is to leverage the experience of an expert, in this case, owner Peter Eastlake and Vine Street store manager Brent Fraker.

By the way, Vintage on Vine Street also serves as a CSA pick-up for the Fatted Calf Charcuterie. “We just figured it was a good fit,” said Fraker. “People who like artisan salumi, duck confit, and pork terrine are probably going to want to drink some wine with their meat. It’s working out really well.”

I was able to write this article because of the research by Sarah Henry at Lettuce Eat Kale. You can follow her on Twitter and become a fan of Lettuce Eat Kale on Facebook.

Now, please excuse me. I am suddenly very hungry!

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a marketing model that has been around for a few years now. In Israel, my kibbutz was the first to introduce this approach of buying produce and supporting the local farmer.

The traditional model means that an astonishing two years can pass between the farmer buying the seeds and receiving money for the sold produce. Imagine the cash flow issues for even a large company and then imagine how the family farm has to manage.

The CSA system alleviates this issue because the consumer commits to buying the produce straight from the farmer. Usually the farmer drops a box of produce for each customer at a local collecting point (ours is at the local elementary school).

The farmer can now grow a wider variety of crops over a longer growing season and the money is coming in usually monthly. The consumer receives a box of extremely fresh produce, probably picked that day and not at the inflated prices often found at farmers markets.

Often, the family can visit the farm, receive updates of what is happening and cultivate a genuine relationship with the farming family.

To learn where there is a CSA in your area, check this link. Some of the successful CSA’a mentioned to me in the Berkeley area include: Full Belly Farm was one of the first farms to offer a CSA in Berkeley. Another farmers’ market regular, Riverdog Farm, also offers a subscription veggie box program. Capay Organic Farm, Eatwell Farm, and Terra Firma Farm are also popular CSA programs offering weekly pick-up at central locations.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

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