Waste Watching

This week we broke new records with over a thousand pounds of hecka local produce harvested and gleaned and distributed for free. What made up most of that weight were prune plums or sugar plums. On Thursday me and three friends drove to Vacaville (about an hour and 20 minutes away) where we “picked” 780 pounds of plums. I say picked when what we really did is shake trees and the plums fell into a tarp we held.

My friend Lauren with Produce to the People got an email from a woman who bought a 5 acre property up there that came with an old prune orchard. The trees were rather old and in poor shape, but  still producing a lot of fruit. The woman said she called around and couldn’t find anyone to pick the trees and she couldn’t even  get someone who would pick them and sell the fruit (apparently there weren’t enough trees to make it profitable). We picked for about four hours and filled all the 37 boxes we brought. I was told by our new friend Cathy with the orchard that there are a lot of fruit trees in the area that don’t get picked, that  many people buy property with orchards on them and people don’t know what to do with all the fruit. It is a lot of work to deal with the fruit and the trees. We only picked maybe 10—15 trees at the most and there were maybe 50 or more trees there that could be picked. A number of people have told me that they want to help glean if other opportunities come up. I would be happy to keep a list of possible gleaners with their contact information and what times they are available or not, if they drive or not or have a vehicle. There might even be another trip being planned to these trees, though I probably won’t go up again.

It starts getting hot early in Vacaville

our friend the French Prune Tree

It turned out that others brought more gleaned fruit to the stand. Bilkis brought apples and pears from trees in Marin and a neighbor dropped off two shopping bags of apples. Plus there were apples that I got from Produce to the People and Alen brought apples that she gleaned from Bernal Heights (word is out there that the Free Farm Stand is a place that is always looking for local fruit to give away because I got two emails about a craigslist ad for free pears and I was able to connect Alen, one of our faithful and eager gleaners, with the pear tree.)

I was just reminded again this week how abundant California is with fruit and vegetables and how much of it goes to waste. I feel grateful that I can help channel some of this abundant waste to people who are on tight budgets and could use it. It is a real dilemma in our world how to not only deal with the all the waste that is out there, but how we can all cut down on our own waste. Like in our backyard there are walnuts falling as I speak that I should be picking up and taking off the green husk.

This week besides the record amount of produce we had, both hecka local and farmer’s market local, we also had a record amount of people, with the line now going down Treat Ave and around the corner on 23rd Street. It was quite the scene. At the end of the day there was nothing left except some compost.

I think because of the large crowd there was unfortunately some tension that built up. Perhaps we have grown too large I don’t know. Despite the fact  that a few weeks ago I passed out fliers in English, Spanish, and Chinese trying to explain that we are all about loving our neighbors and we were not just your usual food give-away, there was still up tightness and people fighting with each other. When the second shift  of food came around some people that didn’t get food yet were rightly upset that some people who already gotten food had somehow gotten in front of them. I tried to explain that people in the end had to monitor themselves and not what the others were doing, but I get the feeling that the peace was disturbed. At least one woman who was asked to get in line when she came up to the table to get food got upset and said she was never coming back. While I was thinking about waste  yesterday also I thought what a waste it is for us to be harvesting negative thoughts and emotions, anger, and upsetness, especially over something like food, when there is so much. Though I realized, perhaps in our eagerness to get rid of all the food we collected, we might have given each person a bit too much, so at the end I noticed some people came up short. Or will that always be the case? Anyway, I need to think more about our program and to see if there is a way to make it less crazy. One beautiful thing I noticed that being such a nice sunny day, a lot of people were sitting on the grass chatting and eating the snacks from the bread table. On the whole the Stand had a real festive feeling.

handing out plums to people in line

Cristina handed out fall seedlings and flowers…everything except a few mustard seedling were given away

At the beginning we had a lot of soft fruit and tomatoes that we separated and many people picked through it to make sauce for themselves. The night before I canned a lot of fruit that was too soft to even transport to the stand and made more tomato sauce (thanks for the people who read last week’s blog and brought me some quart mason jars,  I put them to good use!).

I also discovered a fast way to deal with soft fruit by making a crisp by just putting the sliced or mushed fruit in a baking pan or dish and add a small amount of cornstarch and sweetener if you want. You can then make a quick topping made with oil or non-hydrogenated vegan margarine and flour or oil and quick cooking oats and sweetener, vanilla, some cinnamon if you want. I was thinking you don’t even need to make a topping, as Mike and Brittany were serving the crisp on bread (instead of creating more waste by using a paper cup and plastic spoon).  Kind of like a baked jam.

here is the Free Farm Special this week bread with humus, tomato, basil, and fruit crisp

Alen picked some berries from Bernal Hill  (I was up there today and it looks like many are ripe) and I had all this soft fruit so I made a crisp that was served at the stand.

beautiful lettuce from the Free Farm

our table was beautiful with squash

trombone squash a five pounder

My friend Varsha sent me this fascinating read, an article called “Toward the new garden of Eden:…” http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1134/is_7_119/ai_n58009359/. It is about this university professor who started a career as a scientist who became an expert in parasites. Due to funding cuts he wound up teaching Ecology 101 and Medical Ecology, “walking his class through the ways in which the world is collapsing.”  Long story short is he became an expert in rooftop gardens and vertical farming when he challenged his students to come up with solutions for the mess we are in. He and his student came up with statistics that the only way cities can really feed all it’s people is to build massive vertical farms on and in sky scrappers and buildings. Here is a quote I that thought was really interesting:

We are the only animals that farm far from where we live (I didn’t know that other animals farm, but apparently there are leaf -cutter ants and fungus-farming termites). In doing so, we have divided our world into the places that produce and, separately (in our cities), the places where we consume food and make waste. No other animals have ever chosen to live beside their waste rather than beside their food. If there were ever any ants, beetles, or termites that ran their cities in the way we do, they became extinct.



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