Friday, November 13, 2009

Movin' On:

Dear, dear readers and friends,

Yes, it's true. I'm moving yet again. Not physically (at least right this minute) but virtually. To a new lovely site.

My mum has a special nickname for me: the new toilet girl. Not super flattering, but apt. It comes from a Chinese saying that has to do with a person who has to be the first to use whatever's new. Forget the old toilet. I'm jumping on the new squatter! (Don't even try to Google this -- you're going to have to take my word!)

It's called

and it's all about, you guessed it, FOOD and the PLANET. In the past 8 years I've gone from cheetos and coke to kale and kombucha and I'm still trying to figure out what it all means and where to go from here.

For those of you who accompanied me to the farm from Srok Khmer and maybe all the way back to my first half-hearted attempts at documenting life in golden SF, I won't promise that this is the last time. It may be a pain to update your bookmarks, but it's something of a solace to think I can't be selling my soul for a little web traffic if I'm constantly pulling this bait and switch.

Over the past year, I've been completely inspired by the experience of working on the farm and working with and meeting amazing friends who are changing the world by caring about the land and about each other. I've changed and I'm continuing to change and I'm going to keep writing about what I'm learning (plus a few delicious recipes and fascinating tidbits about food thrown in for good measure).

It's been lovely to share the farm experience with you, and I hope you come along to check out the new digs...

With joy,

Thursday, October 8, 2009

All stopped up (oh no! another whiny post!)

I have so much to say that it's all packed up inside there and I can't figure out a good place to start. I could draw this out into a really gross metaphor, but you get the picture.

Got back to Orange County and have been feeling dazed. I have a bunch of random projects that I'm working on: applying to graduate school, taking an econometrics class, planting a garden, working for my dad's startup, hanging out with the fam, reading articles, writing articles, cooking, trying to start this new blog, trying to exercise, looking into farms for next season.

But going in all these different directions, I'm not sure I'm getting anywhere at all.

Toys "R" Us by Andreas Gursky 1999

My general mood these days is like this Andreas Gursky photo. Bad, huh?

Last night, I went to listen to this farmer at the Fullerton Public Library. He talked about a lot of things that made me happy like picking ripe peaches and treasuring family and driving down roads that blow up so much dust that you have to turn your windshield wipers on. He talked about the number of frost hours that peaches require, and he talked about

continuity: the idea of being connected to a place in a deep way,

in turn nurturing and being nurtured. He was talking specifically about his family's farm in Fresno, but I kept thinking about much I feel out of context and how much I want to put down roots, make a home, invest in land, invest in community.

I heard a great show on the Canadian Broadcasting Network by a neuroscientist who studied the development of children's brains. She talked about how infants are taking in new input 100% of the time -- they are in constant learning mode -- open to new ideas, testing out theories, but not particularly good at focusing on a task. Not very good at letting go of some things to attend to one thing in particular.

I remember specifically that she said it could take up until a persons mid-to-late 20s for their brains to fully develop the capacity to focus in. I'm 24. Perhaps there's time (?)

All this moving around and jumping from this to that has given me an amazing breadth of experience to draw from, but now I'm ready to build something.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I haven't disappeared.

I'm still here, I promise.

I'm back in Orange County -- for over a week now, my God! And it's weird. So so weird. I love being with my family, but I'm not used to the freeways and the smog and the lawns and the hot hot heat.

Not to mention the pollen.

For the past four days, I've wiped my nose raw, I've sucked down Sudafed till no longer qualified to operate heavy machinery, I've hacked up green phlegm which seemed to smirk up at me and say "Welcome Home."

But despite all that, I'm excited because I've got plans for this here OC. I want to shake things up -- take what I've learned and plant it in the ground here and see what sprouts.

More on all that soon enough! For now, to bed and to recovery...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Cali, schoolroom, here I come!

I left the island today in the wee hours of morning. It was dark, but not too cold, as I hurried downstairs to put my last pot of water on to boil for tea and took out my last trash and stuffed my jar of kombucha (yes, really) and raincoat and hiking boots in the back of my car.

Packing turned the watertower into a maelstrom for the past few days and I've had no time to cook, and only a few hours of work on the farm -- just to help out with the harvest.

Instead, I spent all my free time saying goodbyes and preparing my 7-day itinerary for the drive home. I'm stopping at five universities to talk with ten or so professors in Sustainable MBA programs and MS/PhD programs related to food systems, sustainability and business.

Day One: UBC

It went well, but I'm too exhausted now to go into the details. Tomorrow, Bainbridge Graduate Institute, where they actually offer a food industry focus. Amazing. I cannot wait to chat with the folks there and with the alum who's offered to meet with me.

Here I go, back to school...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

How can I leave this island when there's Sunday morning coffee?

I think this is what it means when people talk about "community." In the past, I've studied and even written about community in the educational context: "community based organizations," "community-school collaboration" etc., but I feel now like I never really understood what it could mean to be in a vibrant, healthy, active community where a weekend in August means non-stop music and free food at the Island Village Barter Fair, Sunday mornings mean brunch and yoga at Sweet Earth Farm or coffee at Credence and Andreas, and there are so many potlucks you're always afraid you'll run out of enough quinoa to cover them all.

I guess that's a lovely small town for you.

And not just a small town, but a town that seems to attract a certain kind of individual who cares about his neighbor more than the average Joe.

I guess some folks come to the island to retire and hide out and lay low, but it seems like most people, especially the young ones, are looking to carve out a niche in a place that's different from your run-of-the-mill city. A place where you can go see your lamb being slaughtered, where you can work-trade a jar of jam for a haircut, where you know your server in a restaurant and the cashier at the supermarket and the teller at the bank, and so on.

I've only been here 6 months, but I already feel the island creeping under my skin. It's a beautiful place, but it's not just that. It's also that there's this overwhelming sense of connectedness and support and enthusiasm for each other that is like a super contagious mega-virus, the tropical kind that you think you've kicked, but that comes back to haunt you 10 years down the road.

I heard a story on NPR today about Flint, Michigan considering a physical downsizing of the city as a means to lowering costs and improving services to a core of city-dwellers. Interestingly, the story offered a community garden as an example of the potential benefits of this sort of plan, the idea being that as residential buildings were consolidated, it would leave more land for parks, gardens, and other shared community spaces.

I know this touches on many different issues: sprawl, infrastructure costs, homeowners' rights -- but I'm most interested in how this sort of change will actually affect interactions between people, everyday.

How do you experience community? In your family, in your neighborhood, through an organization or club?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Back to school: Workshop at the San Juan Library

Tonight Pritha and I are giving a presentation at the San Juan Island Library: an intro to Community Supported Agriculture and a farm-fresh cooking demo.

We've got a powerpoint.

But don't worry, it's mostly pictures like this:

If that's not enough excitement for you, click here to download all the slides. They really are spartan, though! Our notes are where the substance's at.

None of that nonsense of slides dripping with words so small they can't be seen. We're trying to keep it simple and charm people with our enthusiasm for small farms and chard and community love.

After we do a little indoctrination on the wonderfulness of community-supported agriculture, we'll try to further ingratiate ourselves by appealing to the audience's stomach.

Pritha's making a simple summer squash soup, and I'm going to do poached eggs on kale and tomatoes, and green beans in thyme and butter. I devoured my test run on the eggs as I started this post -- just a little tomato splashed on my screen as I shoveled from plate to mouth.

It's been such a very long time since I've done anything like this. I was over in the tackroom at Heritage Farm last night where Pritha works, both of us huddled over my little black macbook, walking through our "talking points" and feeling like we were in college again.

This morning before we headed out for the Friday harvest, I blanched the green beans and chopped the garlic and started to put together my bag of supplies:
  • knife? CHECK
  • cutting board? CHECK
  • veggies? CHECK
  • utensils, plates, napkins? CHECK
and so on and so on.

I love that it was so easy to make this happen -- all it took was an email exchange with the lovely library's programs coordinator, Adrienne. She even offered to pay for the supplies for the class. Only on this island!

Or maybe not? I should try to do this again when I return to Orange County. I feel like they would cite health code and tell me the fire marshall wouldn't allow an electric burner. Am I too cynical?

With all these foodalicious sustainabodacious, socially aware thoughts crowding my brain it feels good to force the thoughts into action and do something, not matter how small.

What kind of little actions have you taken lately on something you care about? Change a lightbulb? Plant a tomato? I'd love to know.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How to sharpen the grinder blade of my brain?

I'm applying for graduate programs in food & sustainability for 2010 and it is hard.

It's hard for your average smartie-pants and in nearly a year of operating outside of your traditional "get-it-done," information heavy, fast-paced, analytical work environment, I've definitely lost some of my so-called edge. My brain was never a knife -- more like an awesome antique grinder that chews up various pieces of meat and adds some spices and leaves it to age until it's spicy and delicious and totally new -- but now the grinder's dull and I'm feeling like I may never get back into any sort of game or groove.

I'm trying to juggle work here on the farm with packing up to go and setting up appointments with professors. And as if that wasn't enough, I feel like I have to go into these meetings with my future life already laid out in my mind's eye and my mind's eye has pinkeye or perhaps is permanently nearsighted and there's no lasiks doctor to be found.

So instead of impressing the hell out of professors with my intense focus and passion for just one thing, I'll have to settle for telling the professors the truth. The less sexy, and quite complicated truth that I'm not sure what I want to do, but I do know that it has to do with figuring out the role that social enterprise and social responsibility and business innovation plays in creating a more sustainable food system and using what I learn to do something.

Does that mean I want to open a french-fry truck that grows its own potatoes on the roof and uses excess fry grease as biofuel? Maybe.

Or perhaps I'd like to work as a program manager for someone like these guys. Or do research and teach and consult on the side for small food start-ups. Who the heck knows? If I'm honest, not me. At least not yet.

What I have realized is that I do know some things about food and sustainability and business and I need to start sharing what I do know with others instead of just piling up knowledge in my brain without really processing, organizing and using it for something.

This puts me in mind of a story I heard once (or maybe it was a dream?) about a hermit who holed himself up in a shack for years and years and years and read and read and read exhaustively, refusing to talk to anyone or engage with the world until he had figured out the meaning of life and secrets of the universe. Eventually, when he was old and wizened and barely able to stand, he emerged from his shack in the middle of the desolate woods, pronouncing triumphantly that he had solved the secrets of the universe. Then, if I recall correctly, he fell down and died.

Let me not be that hermit.