I broke my painting wrist and decided to keep painting with my “wrong” hand (non-dominant) hand. The results became the theme of the gallery re-opening event and my birthday party. Art + Friends new and old + fried chicken and local craft beer made for a great birthday party!
It’s the first evening of summer, the end of a long, fairly hot day, but the community garden is a welcoming spot. Families, couples and single folks are strolling in for the third in a series of cooking classes at the tables in back of Oak Park Sol Community Garden on Broadway.
Tyler Wescott, a certified Food Literacy Center “genius,” is dividing up what can only described as beautiful fresh produce among the three tables. On the back, his T-shirt says: “Ask me anything.” So I do. Tonight the recipes adults and children will be learning to make are white bean hummus—with squash, cucumbers and purple carrots cut up to dip into it—and SunButter yogurt parfait with seasonal berries on top. SunButter is a brand made from sunflower oil, cane syrup and salt, to satisfy the “unsaturated rather than saturated fat argument,” Tyler says. A major thrust of the organization is to encourage children to eat more fruits and vegetables. And to prove to them that those things can taste outstanding. Tyler will be the instructor this evening for this all-volunteer endeavor. His second in command is Tara Martinez who is not yet through the academy but is savvy enough to lend a hand with teaching the creation of parfaits. Tara is working at Whole Foods in Davis but about to transition to a job in Sutter General’s café. Formerly she interacted with an Obama-supported program that introduced a fruit-of-the-day to schoolchildren. At recess, she would hand out, and teach kids how to eat, everything from oranges to papayas. “The kids didn’t know what half the stuff was,” Tara says. “It made me sad.” She discovered that the Food Literacy Center, which just happened to be next door to the restaurant where she was a cook, was hosting a volunteer orientation. She signed up. “I love everything to do with cooking,” she says. She soon added her name to the volunteer list, which is about a hundred strong now. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of good people who intensions are all the same.”
Pat (no last name given) has lived in the neighborhood 33 years and is sitting on a bench waiting for the cooking to begin. She’s glad that children are being given a chance to become familiar with vegetables. “They wash, cut, stir, mix vegetables they normally wouldn’t try,” she says. The last session she attended they shredded beets, carrots and onions and topped the slaw with vinaigrette they fashioned themselves. “They would never have tried any of that before,” she says. She likes to see the teens participating too. “It’s fun to watch them enjoy the results of their cooking. Particularly the veggie wraps they had us make one time.” She has picked up tips too. Last session she learned to cut a green onion and deposit the part in water that you are not using in your dish. “It keeps growing and pretty soon you have your own chives.”
Oak Park Sol Community Garden
Kids’ herb garden. Don’t pick yet, please!
Kids from the Oak Park neighborhood wait for food genius Tyler to blend their hummus.
You’re never too young to make and enjoy hummus.
Baby Gage Jones supervises from his Dad’s head while his family makes hummus from fresh produce.
Oak Park Sol Community Garden’s worm box.
Farmers with plots donate some of the produce for the classes although most of it comes from other natural food resources. Today the donor is Heavy Dirt in Davis. Honey used in recipes is local, with the thought that people with allergies to various regional plants will find relief. A crowd of all ages has gathered. There is room for about 10 people per table. Tyler introduces what they will be making today and points to a mouth-watering array on each table. Zucchinis mingle with purple basil. Yellow nectarines, plums and apricots call out to be eaten. Tyler talks about the white cannellini beans that people can find canned if they do not want to cook them themselves and describes them as a fun alternative in hummus.
People gather around the tables and begin. Mike Jones, holding baby Gage, looks on while his wife Gina and their other son dig in to help with hummus. The family lives a couple of blocks away across from McClatchy Park and heard about the events at the farmers’ market. Gina is a vegan, Mike says, so these vegetable-oriented foods really appeal to her. While he likes vegan cooking, he says he still likes his meat and dairy. It is the second time for Max and his mother Rochelle. “He is getting more adventurous,” she says with a laugh. “He tried a yellow zucchini and he liked the Asian lettuce wraps and stone fruit salad last time. It is really helping his eating habits with this exposure.” Heather is there with her two sons Elliot and Martin. Her younger son likes to “mix a bunch of foods together,” she says. “He’ll easily mix sweet and sour.” They have been to a few classes at the College Heights Library. Heather looks down at her son after he has sampled the parfait. “Is it amazing?” she asks. “OK, high five.”
Meanwhile, Randy Stannard is nearby showing people the worm box that Sacramento State Environmental Studies Program has made for the garden. Randy is president of the board at Oak Park Sol and works for Soil Born Farms. Soil Born promotes programs that encourage young people and adults to learn how to produce healthful foods, and it mentors future farmers. The focus also is on teaching people to cook what they and others grow, and transforming urban spaces into community gardens. In general, they focus on green space development, Randy says. “Transitioning vacant lots or any unused spaces—like funny empty corners on a block. We can turn these into productive spaces. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a community garden. Some spaces may be suitable for some sort of housing development. Or maybe a little park instead of dead grass and weeds.” A major focus in the garden is to spread the concept and practice of urban gardening throughout this low-income neighborhood. Individual family plots are 15×10 feet, but all the gardeners take care of other areas of the garden. Within the community space is a kids’ garden, a wheel-chair accessible garden, a shade garden and native bee habitat—to mention a few. A greenhouse on the premises supports native plant growth. The 11,600- foot perimeter is planted with native California shrubs and wildflowers to attract butterflies and native bees. Besides the cooking classes, anyone can come to free composting and gardening classes. Randy and other food activists worked to see an ordinance passed by the City of Sacramento that promotes urban agriculture and is giving access to land for farmers. People with homes of an acre or more can support farmers. The ordinance took effect in April with the “purpose to support production and sale of locally grown foods, build community, increase public health and well being” and provide economic opportunities in areas that have been vacant or underutilized. These types of actions must be a neighborhood-led process, he stresses. “This community garden was started by the residents, spearheaded by Cara Jennifer Solis. Earl Withycombe inherited the land a few years ago. His family had owned the land since the 40s. The house associated with the land had burned down and he wanted to make it into something meaningful.” Randy says that in 2011, dumpsters started removing debris from the area. “It was full of trash and drug paraphernalia. Now people are gardening here year-round.”
My printer asked me, “How grand was your grand opening?” (for F and Main Gallery at 36 Main Street in Isleton, CA). Well, it’s hard to be modest because last Saturday’s event really was pretty grand. The photos and paintings all looked great: art work from Greg Crawford, Keith Palmer, James Motlow and me. About 200 people came through the doors in the three-hour period.
The two tables were groaning with food from the local two groceries and four restaurants. Hahn Winery’s reds and whites were featured. Lots of locals appearing and some not so locals drove from Napa, Oakland, Sacramento and San Francisco. A good opportunity to meet art lovers and members of the community, and see them mix.
Rogelio’s restaurant next door brought in a Chinese vase with large white lilies. Friends from Sacramento and Kansas City teamed up to buy an enormous ikebana arrangement of orchids and ginger. My gratitude to all for such a tremendous kick-off. I feel welcomed—and successful already.
Gallery of Artists Work:
Delta Daze, Acrylic on Canvas by Sally Ooms
Gum Shan, stylized images of the Delta by Greg Crawford
Locke Slough, Photo print by James Motlow
Untitled, Photo by Keith Palmer
Greg Crawford created stunning mixed media pieces on paper that reflected the California Delta “as settled and reshaped by humans. I explored the motifs of mountain, river, levee, labor and fields to examine this archetype,” says Greg. He titled his six-piece work Gum Shan, the Chinese expression for Gold Mountain, in honor of the Chinese laborers who reclaimed the Delta.
Keith Palmer is drawn by patterns that, through his camera lens, abstract everyday images. In his series “Ribbons of Energy,” he invites us to see the commonplace in unexpected ways.
James Motlow, who co-authored the book on the Chinese town of Locke, Bitter Melon, provided black and white photos from that book and newer color prints of the slough area in back of the town.
My acrylic paintings also were a combination of new and old. Many represented my recent time in the Delta, others similar landscapes I’ve traveled through.
F and Main Gallery will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11 to 4 the first weekend in April through the last weekend in October and at Christmastime. Besides art shows, planned are storytelling events, music nights, community benefits, poetry slams and children’s art fairs.
Please drop by and see the new space and find out what’s happening.
Photos from the opening May 16, 2015: (Click any image to see a slideshow.)
That means by human beings. Human beings whom we rarely think about as we decide what to eat every day.
For me, this comes on the heels of having seen the movie Food Chains which now is airing in 50 cities in the country as well as being available to watch in iTunes for .99 cents. This is an important documentary about farmworkers in Florida who take on the supermarket industry. It is about their attempt to lead fellow farmworkers, who are suffering subhuman working and living conditions, out of poverty.
Maybe it’s a good opportunity for us this week to read a bit about what farmworkers are enduring and think about our sources of food. It doesn’t stop with the farmer. Someone has to pick it. The producers of Food Chains have done a great job with their website and social awareness campaigns. Check out their Take Action page to get involved.
Farm to Every Fork Dinner
To Relieve Food Insecurity
It’s one thing to get a good taste of the region at a local event (Sacramento’s Farm to Fork Festival, for example). It’s another to be offered an amazing regional meal with wine and entertainment at a dinner that benefits homeless and others with food insecurity. That’s Farm to Every Fork. An innovative coalition has put together an evening that will feature food from the best Sacramento regional restaurants and farms. For participants and supporters, it represents a chance to make a communal commitment to end hunger in the area.
The organizers are:
Homeward Street Journal
Slow Food Sacramento
Food Not Bombs
Alchemist Community Development Corporation
Fund for Urban Gardening
Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services
River City Food Bank
Loaves & Fishes
The Sacramento Natural Food Co-Op
Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee (SHOC)
Each $150 ticket for the Sept. 13 event will fund two dinners, one for the ticket holder and one for a neighbor who has experienced hunger and food insecurity.
Paula Lomazzi, head of SHOC, says the evening is designed so that “we can break bread together, share stories, and understand better the challenges facing our homeless and low income neighbors who are struggling with the cost of food, limitation and reduction in food stamp funding, and difficulties in access to emergency food programs.
Lomazzi says there are lots of opportunities to protect and strengthen food and nutrition programs locally and statewide. She said she sees new solutions employed every day in California communities. “We want to support the ordinary people growing gardens and working in so many other ways to end hunger.”
A few tickets are still left for this unique event, and sponsorships are welcomed as well. Visit sacshoc.org or call 916-862-8649. The dinner event also will include opportunities for tabling, an auction of eccentric valuables, lots of networking, good music, and…did I mention…delicious fresh food?
As of a few days ago, I am a member of the program committee for a benefit event called Farm to Every Fork in Sacramento Sept. 13. This will be a buy-one-feed-one dinner to raise money for homeless and food-scarce services in that city. Sponsors are Slow Food Sacramento (who will supply the fantastic feast), Sacramento Homeless Organizing Committee and Homeward newspaper, River City Food Bank, Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services, Sacramento Food Not Bombs and the Fund for Urban Gardening (homeless people farming in donated city lots).
My committee is tasked with asking musicians and other entertainers who have a soft spot for helping homeless people to come and play or entertain during the evening. (Poor musicians. How many times a year do they get asked to give their talents for free? But still……) Please contact me if you know musicians or entertainers would like to join in the fun.