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!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Commercial Kitchen Incubator Project

FoodWhat visits the Commercial Kitchen Incubator Project in Watsonville to give our crew a taste of what it’s like to create a food business. The Commercial Kitchen Incubator Project is a community-supported kitchen that encourages people from the area to start small businesses and supports their success by providing a high-quality space that meets all the health requirnemts.

Cesario, the kitchen manager, gave us a tour of the kitchen and impressed us with all of their professional cooking equipment. He explained the varying businesses that work through the kitchen, ranging from a cold brew coffee business to The Ballesteros Catering Company, who came to cook with us at the beginning of summer. We popped in and saw the behind the scenes of El Nopalito prepping their nopales. 

We got the low down on the rules and regulations of selling food products to the public. He explained the importance of nutrition labels and the certifications businesses have to get to be able to sell their food to the public. He gave us a taste of the magic that happens in the kitchen with a jar of jam made in one massive batch to produce hundreds of jars!

Then we go into our own kitchen project making vitamin water. Farmer D busted out the mason jars, cucumbers, lemon slices, strawberries, fresh mint, and honey and taught us how to make the best mixtures.

Then we thought through all the elements that it would take to make this a real business. Cesario explained the importance of having stylish labels and business names to attract people to buy a product. We let the creative juices flow to design our labels and name our beverages.

We bounced out of the kitchen and let our water chill overnight to enjoy before heading back to the farm in the morning. Big thanks to the Commercial Kitchen Incubator Project for having us come out!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Biking with People Power

It turns out biking has A LOT in common with the work we do at the FoodWhat farm. First of all, the farm and our bikes get us outside and moving. They also help us live a healthier lifestyle and be environmentally considerate while teaching us enjoyable ways to be self-reliant. That's why Tawn from People Power (a bicycle advocacy group in Santa Cruz County) met up with us at the Homeless Garden Project with enough bikes for the whole crew to take a ride. 

We gathered up for Tawn's rundown on bike safety. First, we talked about helmets and how to make sure they fit correctly to protect our heads and faces. Then he taught us the hand signals to tell cars when we’re stopping or turning and how to communicate with other cyclists about traffic or any problems ahead on the road.  

We put our new skills to use biking in a FoodWhat squad all the way across town to La Semenza farm. Riding through different parts of town helped us get comfortable biking in various situations, ranging from bike-specific paths to higher traffic areas.

We made it to La Semenza in almost the same amount of time it takes to drive! We met Damian Parr, who gave us the tour of the space. He also shared his inspiration to develop the farm and explained what it's like living in such a rad place. For a refreshing treat to top off the ride, Damian led us to rows of blueberry and blackberry bushes to sample the different varieties. 

After snacking on the berries and exploring the farm, we learned how to graft avocado trees and each of us got to make some grafts. Time flew by and it was time to get back on our bikes to cruise back to the Homeless Garden Project for lunch! Fun day!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Every Thursday, FoodWhat heads out to different sites around Santa Cruz County to tackle some huge projects at various elementary school gardens. We call these projects “Blasts” because our crew knocks these projects out in no time. Our Blasts allow us to engage with the greater community and we help build spaces for other youth get involved in their own school gardens. 

This week we headed out to Amesti Elementary School in Watsonville where we had a HUGE challenge waiting for us. A jungle of weeds completely hid a rad school garden that hadn’t been worked with in years. First thing in the morning, we immediately jumped in and started clearing out the giant weeds.

It wasn’t a surprise that we had it completely cleared out before lunchtime. As we worked through the weeds, we uncovered abandoned planter beds that hadn’t been used in years. 

As the space became more and more clear, we jumped on building new boxes for the garden. We carefully measured out lumber to build 4 foot by 8 foot boxes. Then we busted out the power tools and hand saws to cut the pieces down to size. We drilled screws to hold the pieces together to assemble them and stapled chicken wire to the bottoms to keep gofers out. 

Complete with new boxes, this cleared out garden is ready for students to get planting when the school year starts!