September 19th, 2014 by Wayan Kaufman
In August, Slow Food Orange County gave our third microgrant to help the UCI Palo Verde Organic Garden Club expand and serve more students. The funds will be used to help double the size of their garden. The following is a letter from the Club president.
The Palo Verde Organic Garden Club operates a small community garden within the Palo Verde apartment complex at UC Irvine, and nearly all of our 35 gardeners are graduate students at the University. Pursuing a graduate-level degree is often a stressful, hectic experience, and our gardeners appreciate the opportunity that gardening affords them to relax, slow down, and watch their plants thrive. In addition to this mental health benefit, the garden is also a boon to our gardeners’ physical health. The fruits and vegetables that our gardeners harvest provide a healthy, inexpensive alternative to the stereotypical college fare of instant noodles and potato chips. Several of our gardeners balance their studies with family life; currently there are eleven children under 12 years old who help their parents tend the family garden plot, all the while learning about how real food is grown.
Slow Food ideals about the value of good, clean food become deeply ingrained in many of our gardeners. One of my favorite stories to share is about a former gardener, Greg. When he completed his Ph.D. in chemistry about a year ago, Greg realized that his primary passion was not for the lab work or teaching that were common career paths among his colleagues; his passion was nurturing plants. So, he packed his bags and his new degree, moved across the country, and began working as a farmer on an organic farm co-op. Now, Greg lives Slow Food principles on a daily basis.
The Palo Verde Organic Garden Club is delighted and honored to be the recipient of one of Slow Food Orange County’s microgrants. Thanks in part to this generous award, we will be able to expand our community garden to more than double its current size! Because of the high level of interest in joining our Garden Club, there is currently a wait period of over one year to be assigned a plot. When the expanded garden opens later this fall, the wait period will instantly drop to only one or two months. That means that more UC—Irvine graduate students will have an opportunity to experience firsthand the health benefits and enjoyment of slow-grown food.
Thank you for your support, Slow Food Orange County!
President, Palo Verde Organic Garden Club
August 23rd, 2014 by Keith Schildt
The truncated state legislative session is winding down for the year as we approach election time. For the most part, Slow Food-friendly legislation victories in Sacramento were far and few between. Those pieces of legislation all had well-financed and organized opposition. For an example of this see the recent article in the Sacramento Bee (http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/17/6633523/big-business-wins-capitol-food.html).
That said, there is still some good news to report. AB2561 (The Neighborhood Food Act) will go to a full Senate for vote very soon. As reported in a past newsletter article, AB2561 would give people who rent or live in homeowner associations more rights in their ability to grow food on their properties. The bill has been diluted from its original language but is still a victory for home gardeners who rent or live in restrictive homeowner associations. The bill will most likely pass in the Senate but it is unclear whether Governor Brown will sign the legislation into law. The Slow Food California Policy Committee is drafting a letter in conjunction with the Sustainable Economies Law center (the sponsor of the bill) to Governor Brown in support of this legislation. The letter will be sent to local chapters for their support and use also. As a side note, when advocating legislation in the Governor’s office apparently the best grassroots vehicle is (and maybe apropos for Slow Foodies) “snail mail” as the Governor’s office reportedly does not track phone calls or emails.
AB1990 (Community Food Production) continues to be a confounding piece of legislation dealing with gleaning and small-scale “backyard” production. It attempts to set up a much-needed food safety regulatory scheme for this type of production but the language can be interpreted as too open-ended, which may have county health officers setting high fees for inspections that may negate any profit from these small scale production efforts. It also stipulates regulation for some types of production but not for other types. As written it could impact donations to food banks and have an adverse effect on the ability of small corner stores in low-income neighborhoods to sell fresh local food. The Slow Food California Policy Committee has not taken a position on this bill.
Lastly, legislation (AB1789) dealing with Neonecotinoids – an insecticide that many scientists feel is linked to declining honey bee populations – had a Second Reading in the Senate and is expected to get out of the Senate and be sent to Governor Brown for his signature. Similar to AB2561, the Governor has not given any indication whether he will sign this legislation into law.
August 21st, 2014 by Linda Elbert
The Irvine Outdoor Education Center (IOEC) was a recipient of our microgrant funds last January. This is a facility where many Orange County school children attend science camp. Our funds went to building additional growing space in the Life Science program for raising produce to sell to restaurants and farmer’s markets. This goal was to provide an ongoing source of funds to sustain the program. This area has been built and is waiting to be planted. Anna Maria, the Life Science instructor is working on an update for us!
The weekend of August 2 & 3 Slow Food OC organized a work weekend at the IOEC. The weekend was a joint project with Transition Laguna Beach and the Permaculture students from the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano. Although Slow Food OC was the organizer, most of the volunteer workers can from these other organizations. Hard work and a good time were had by all.
Anna Maria received a donation of 200 native plants from a nursery.” We planted about 50 plants along the orchard perimeter to begin to create a living fence and deer barrier which was part of a permaculture design plan as well as extended the bed surrounding a demonstration garden. It was a great service event that created a sense of community among the volunteers. We were also given the opportunity to try out the zip line and given a beekeeping demonstration. There were about 15 people as well as Anna Maria and the resident WOOFers. Slow Food was able to feed the workers who camped out overnight providing smore’s for dessert and breakfast the following morning using a Whole Foods gift card given to us by SEEDS as a thank you for the Ark of Taste event.