Tuesday, October 27, 2015

 Meet the 2015 "Food, What?!" Fall Crew

We are wrapping up an amazing fall season of events, activities, FoodWhat micro-businesses and fall leadership jobs.  In the Fall Program, the youth step up their leadership skills, solidify their professionalism, and assistant in managing one of FoodWhat's projects or businesses. The Fall Program is when the youth put their training from the spring and summer into practice. We wanted to highlight the amazing Fall youth crew who have been working hard these past two months to make each of these projects run.

Flower Business 

Leilani invited participants at the UCSC Harvest Festival
to cut sunflowers to support FoodWhat
Leilani and Grace run the fall FoodWhat flower business.  They came to the farm twice a week to harvest flowers, arrange bouquets, manage the accounting, and deliver them to local businesses. They take full ownership and responsibility of their work, learning the proper cutting and handling of each type of flower and delivering high quality and artistic arrangements.

We are grateful for the support and partnership from local businesses that buy our flowers each week: Cafe Delmarette, Lulu Carpenters, Penny Ice Creamery, Patagonia, and Charlie Hong Kong

Harvest Festival Event Organizers

Briana and Olvaerr are this year's FoodWhat Harvest Festival Planners. They are learning and implementing all the skills necessary to put on a major event hosting 300 middle and high school students. This year the Harvest Festival will take place on Tursday October 29th. Briana and Ollie are planning the stations and the event flow, doing outreach to partners and volunteers, inviting students from the different county schools, writing press releases, creating a pumpkin patch, and setting up and facilitating the day-of activities. The stations will include pumpkin carving, hay rides, popcorn shucking and popping, apple tart making, cider pressing, workshops such as Youth Dollar Power and Fast Food Jeopardy, Thank a Farm Worker letter writing, and a food themed Photo Booth. We will also have stations run by our partners at Watsonville Wetlands Watch, Community AgroEcology Network, and the Museum of Art and History (MAH). We are excited to roll out the event! 

Culinary Crew
Thalia                 Stefany                      Manuel
Salsa made from FoodWhat grown peppers, tomatoes,
and spices
Thalia, Stefany and Manuel are the Fall Chef team taking on all things culinary. They've honed their cooking and catering skills by preparing food for many events including a dinner for the  Equitable Food Initiative board members, appetizers for the Life Lab Fall Gathering, worked under the mentorship of the Penny Ice Creamery and 
Damani Thomas from Oswald Restaurant to create the meal 
for the FoodWhat Benefit Dinner, cooked meals for their FoodWhat peers, ran a bike-powered smoothie station at the UCSC Harvest Festival, and canned up some salsa for next year's programs. What a mouthful!

Santa Cruz Farm and Harvest
Bree getting down in the summer squash
Grace shows off the pepper harvest

Expert carrot harvester, Aaliyah
Sadie giving us some gold
Fall is when the farm is most abundant with food to harvest. Though we begin harvesting vegetables in June, September and October add tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, cabbage, and onions to our already bountiful fields of basil, lettuce, broccoli, squash, beans, cucumbers, cilantro, leeks, carrots, beets, and more. This fall Sadie, Grace, Aaliyah and Bree managed the harvest and post- harvest handling of all of our crops. They came to the farm every Thursday afternoon to harvest for the FoodWhat Farm Stand that takes place at Gault Elementary School each Friday. 

In addition the harvest management, Grace and Sadie are also the fall farm managers for the Santa Cruz FoodWhat farm site. They come to FoodWhat two days a week to take care of all the farm needs including weeding, planting, compost making, preparing the farm for the winter and planting cover crops. They are also responsible for making a harvest list of what is available to harvest for the Gault Farm Stand.  The fall farm management positions are geared to help each of them develop stronger "farming eyes", practice time and group management skills, as well as to improve the leadership skills of finishing a task with quality while looking ahead to think through the next project.

Watsonville Farm and Harvest

In partnership with Live Earth Farm and Live Earth Farm Discovery Program, Manuel and Antonio spend each Monday afternoon learning and practicing what it takes to manage a small farm. They walk the fields making lists of the work they see that needs to be done, learn how to prioritize that work, create harvest lists for the Tuesday harvest for Radcliff Elementary Farm Stand, and then tackle the work on their to-do list. They are learning about irrigation, crop rotation, soil health, time management and how to think through the different farm needs. 

On Tuesdays, Viri and Shin join the team to do the vegetable harvest for the Radcliff Elementary Farm Stand that takes place each Wednesday. They divide up the harvest list, harvest each vegetable, wash it, weigh it, and pack it up for the Wednesday Farm Stand. Each week they are practicing proper post-harvest handling techniques so that their customers at Radcliff Elementary are getting the highest quality produce. 

Farm Stands at Gault and Radcliff Elementary Schools

Shin and Nathan at the Radcliff Farm Stand

Each week during September and October, FoodWhat hosts two "affordable" farm stands, selling the produce that we harvested and grew this season. On Wednesday afternoons Shin and Viri set up and run the stand at Radcliff Elementary in Watsonville. On Friday afternoons, Aaliyah and Bree set up and run the farm stand at Gault Elementary in Santa Cruz. At each of the stands we sell our produce to the school and local community at discounted prices comparable to the price of produce sold in conventional grocery stores. We were also very excited to be able to offer EBT sales this year!
Aaliyah and Bree running the Gault Farm Stand

We believe that all people have a right to fresh, local, organic, healthy fruits and vegetables. Our goal is to support our community by helping to make this food more accessible and affordable to all and take an action step toward food justice in Santa Cruz County.

Adrian building garden beds
Each week Adrian, Stefany, and Aaliyah go to a different school or community garden to help "Blast" out some major maintenance and infrastructure projects. This fall they have worked at eight different garden sites and tackled everything from building garden beds at Amesti to composting and digging beds at HA Hyde and Chavez Elementary schools to mulching a community orchard with Mesa Verde Gardens and extraordinary amounts of weeding at all the sites. Their work helps deepen and expand the educational programs and hands-on learning opportunities for the students at each of these schools. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


FoodWhat attends the 2015 Bioneers Conference

FoodWhat Crew at Bioneers!
Ten of us were graciously awarded with youth scholarships to attend the 2015 National Bioneers Conference held in San Rafael, CA over the weekend of Oct 15th-18th. We spent the weekend together amongst hundreds of leaders and change makers who are taking action to "build a world that we know is possible". We engaged in workshops and talks related to climate mitigation, water management, racial justice, women’s leadership, personal identities, and indigenous activism. We spit poetry, made art, danced, listened, discussed, grew, and had our minds opened and inspired by new ideas. We are truly grateful and inspired. #Bioneers15

Adrian engaging in Art as Activism
Here are a few words that Adrian shared after his experience:

"Dear Bioneers,
My name is Adrian Nuñez. I recently attended the Bioneers conference due to the courtesy of a youth scholarship. I wish to personally thank Bioneers for giving us this wonderful opportunity to expand our knowledge to ensure a green future for my generation and the generations to come. Being native hispanic youth not really knowing my roots, it was very inspiring to learn about my culture and learn the ways that we forget to love the earth the way our ancestors practiced. I cannot be more thankful for those who attended the conference and interacted with me showing me the ways of my native blood. Going to the conference and listening to the speakers has inspired me to do three things: change the system of my schools policies, make my school more green and more earth friendly, and bring back the culture to my community. As a youth activist fighting for LGBT rights and food and water rights, being in that space made me want to fight even more for a better future..."

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Truly Special Night...FoodWhat Benefit Dinner

300 community members including teachers, education leaders, elected officials, local businesses, FoodWhat alumni and supporters from all over Santa Cruz County and the Bay Area came together to celebrate FoodWhat at our annual Benefit Dinner on October 4th! 

That night, Aaliyah, Antonio, Adrian, Ollie, Shin and Grace, FoodWhat youth from every corner of Santa Cruz County, stepped up to the mic to stand in their power and tell their stories of personal growth and transformation since joining FoodWhat. With the incredible food, beautiful scenery and many great conversations and connections, it was a wonderful evening on so many levels. 

Thanks to the generosity of the FoodWhat Family, we successfully met our ambitious $50,000 fundraising goal and triggered $30,000 in matching funds from sponsors. That's $80,000 in funding for youth empowerment, leadership development, job training, health and nutrition, and food justice work in 2016 and especially our Watsonville programming!

Thank you everyone who joined us for your presence and contributions -- together, we made the night a phenomenal success! Our hearfelt thanks to our Advisory Council and table captains who brought so many folks together to celebrate and support youth empowerment. Huge props to the FoodWhat alumni and stellar volunteers who came to help run the event smoothly. We are super grateful to our amazing chef partners - Damani Thomas from Oswald Restaurant, Chris LaVeque and El Salchichero, Penny Ice Creamery, Fran Grayson from The Truck Stop, and Ballesteros Catering Company for their talent and tireless work with the FoodWhat youth crew to prepare the meal. And many thanks to our sponsors and event partners without whom the Benefit Dinner would not be possible! We're so honored to be in this work with all of you!

Co-Sponsor                                                   Special Thanks To
    Friends of Santa Cruz Parks                      Damani Thomas, Oswald Restaurant
                                                                                  Chris La Veque, El Salchichero
Youth Power Champions                                     The Penny Ice Creamery
Myra and Drew Goodman                            Fran Grayson, The Truck Stop
                                                                         Crystal Birns Photography
Rainbow Chard Rockstars                                      Live Earth Farm              
Outstanding in the Field                                     Patagonia Provisions         
  Anonymous                                                     Earthbound Farm
                                                                                      The Center for Agroecology and 
         Job Preparedness Patrons                           Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS)
  Ken and Branwyn Wagman                                           Martinelli's                    
                                                                          Whale City Bakery
Healthy Kids Heroes                                               Pie Ranch          
        Lighthouse Information Systems               The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk            Jacobs Farm Del Cabo                                 Bay Federal Credit Union 

If you weren't able to join us this year, we hope to see you at our next Fall Benefit Dinner in September 2016! You can support the youth crew too by donating here.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Roof is Raised!

This past winter, the FoodWhat family came together to raise the funds for a brand new outdoor youth space. We surpassed our fundraising goal thanks to your incredible generosity and that of a few key local business partners. In the Spring Internship we began work on the site--pulling out the weeds, leveling the ground, getting our measurements in place for construction.  At the same time, County Office Of Education Alternative Ed students busted out 8 beautiful redwood benches for the space and most recently a crew donated by CenCon Construction assembled the structure.  At the Summer closing dinner, the youth crew, staff, and guests were beaming seeing the Roof Raised!  This fall we will be completing the final stage of beautifying the space around the tent with perennials and possibly some fruit trees!  It is our absolute pleasure to share with you these photos of the process, and once again, a great heartfelt appreciation to all of our donors and partners who helped make this space a reality that will serve youth for decades to come!

On Friday, the staff and Junior Staff sat in the cool shade of the tent and debriefed the recently completed Summer Job Training Program.  In our new space we were able to dig into the impact that each of our stellar Jr Staff had on the new crew and explore the details of how they saw their leadership grow this summer.  This was just one of many conversations that this space will hold far into the future... 

Thanks again to everyone who supported and contributed to this effort, to the County Office of Education, to Central Coast Construction, and to our local business partners below!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Live Earth Farm

We end our FoodWhat week in Watsonville at Live Earth Farm. Live Earth is a organic production farm that also hosts educational workshops and field trips in addition to selling their produce to local grocery stores, restaurants, farmers markets and through a CSA program. Not only does working here give the farm a helping hand, but it also helps us put our professionalism skills to work on a farm that means business.

We start each Friday circling up with Tom, Live Earth's owner and farm manager. He gives us the details on the harvest needed for that week and any other work out in the fields that would be helpful. Because our amazing crew is made up of so many hard-working hands, we can help make a big dent in the work that needs to be done out here.

Summertime means tomatoes and peppers! This means a big harvest for us. Tom sent us to the pepper plants and the rows sungold cherry tomatoes. They needed thirty flats of tomatoes and several crates of different types of peppers for the markets, so we hit the harvest running.

Because all of their produce gets sold to the public, we keep an especially close eye on our organization and the quality of our work at the farm. To make sure all of our harvest was the highest quality possible, we checked all of our tomatoes TWICE to keep our baskets looking and tasting delicious. The whole process required a lot of hands, organization, focus and and pushing through a tedious task, but that satisfaction of loading the whole harvest into the truck really paid off and made us feel good.

A lunch break was needed after such a accomplishment. We had chiles rellenos, black beans, and a salad made by the lunch crew on the menu. Plus, a sweet treat made by Abby for a birthday celebration!

Energized with full bellies, we headed back to the fields for a few more hours of harvesting before finishing off the day and calling it a week!