38 Years Old

Andrew Speaking at our August 23 SUSTAIN Farm Dinner

Andrew presented this talk to 75 guests at our SUSTAIN Farm Dinner. My name is Andrew. I came to Santa Cruz when I was 13,  and 14 was my first trip to Juvenile Hall. By 15, I was in rehab and by 16, I was in a group home until I was 18. I had a family that loved me and wanted me to succeed. I left for Colorado at 19, found my dad at 20 after 18 years of separation and came back to Santa Cruz at 22. By 25, it was all about drugs and alcohol. By 30, I had lost everything over and over again.

Homeless, I found sanctuary in the woods for years. Illegally camped.

I met Stacy almost five years ago. We had the same visions and dreams. It was easy to fall in love with her. I admired the love and friendships she had created with her two sons and still do. We were together. Shortly after we became a couple, the house she was renting went into foreclosure. The boys–her sons–ended up homeless for nearly two years. Shortly after “Occupy Santa Cruz,” we found out Stacy was pregnant. It became the motivation we needed to turn our lives around.

That Christmas, my mom brought us home and by New Year’s we were both clean and sober. A healthy baby girl was born August 1, 2012. Meredith Ann Marie Albright.

We live in a tiny one-bedroom apartment in the flats. We have Section 8, Food Stamps and a small amount of money through CalWorks. During this time, I had no idea how I was going to find a job, let alone support my family—family that I’ve always dreamed of having. All attempts at employment were unsuccessful.

April 20, 2013, I fought off a robber and was stabbed twice in the process. I was air-lifted to Stanford Hospital. Months of pain, anxiety and depression followed. I slept for months. I needed help and I knew it.  A social worker at CalWorks sent me to see a therapist. His name is Jim Sutherland. While getting to know me, he told me he was a former volunteer of the Homeless Garden Project. “You should go check it out. Ask for Darrie, tell her I sent you.” And I did. I started volunteering and was told about the training program. I filled out an application, turned it in, got an interview and was hired.

That alone meant the world to me.

Andrew at his second job with The Garden Company

 

So that’s how I got to this magical wonderful place. I’ve been very successful here. Through the help of the Project, I was able to get another job at the Garden Company. Being here is helping each other help ourselves. I had an opportunity to heal and grow. I’ve sown thousands of seeds here and left a mark. Most of the food we’re eating tonight came from seeds I sowed. I have the ability now to leave so someone else can do what they need to do here. It was the time I needed to fill in the blanks. I love this place. Thanks for sharing it with me.

Basically what I want everyone to know is that for those of us who are stuck and having trouble navigating our lives, this place has a way of getting us started that really works.

You know how magical Christmas can be to a small child. That’s how I feel about this place—like I’m getting ready to open a bunch of presents.

Andrew Albright is a trainee in the Homeless Garden Project’s transitional jobs and training program. He says, “In the past I was the destroyer of my life. Now I’m a student of my life, love, humanity and healing.”

 

 

 

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My First Month in Homeless Garden Project’s Transitional Job Program

 

The Homeless Garden Project is about growth, learning and starting new life. As a trainee, I’m learning so many valuable tools in gardening, planting and harvesting. Before I started working at the farm, I hadn’t worked in eight years. My self-confidence was low, but my hopes for my future were high.

From day one, Lindsay, our Supervisor, made me feel valuable, something I hadn’t felt in years. Darrie, the Project’s Director, told me that what I had to say was important and inspiring which shifted my confidence from feeling worthless to maybe I could make a difference.

Everyone at the farm is welcoming, loving, giving and overall beautiful people. I’m blessed for each and every day I get to absorb their knowledge and zest for life.

So the farm isn’t just a place where food and flowers grow. It’s a place where new life starts every day in the people that volunteer, work and visit this wonderful place we call the Homeless Garden Project.

–Traci Pierson: “I’m starting my new life in Santa Cruz, CA. My hobbies are reading, hiking, camping, biking–I love anything outdoors. I have a 14-year old daughter who is the joy of my heart and sunshine in my life. I am a child of God and He gives me hope for the future and teaches me His unfailing love which in turn I can give to others.”

 

 

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Guest Blog: From The Garden Company Owner, Charlie Keutmann

Charlie, Andrew and Maria at the Garden Company

 

In early February I was invited to give a brief presentation to trainees of the Homeless Garden Project to share some of the things an employer looks for in the job application and interview process. There was a lively exchange of questions and answers and further discussion of potential job opportunities in the local horticulture industry.

Immediately following the presentation I was approached by Andrew Albright, one of the trainees, who introduced himself and asked if there were any employment opportunities at my business. We only spoke for a few minutes, but there was something about his smile, demeanor and sincerity that left a very positive impression. I encouraged Andrew to come in and fill out an application.

Andrew submitted an application within the week and soon after we met for an interview. I was impressed with the honesty and sincerity with which Andrew spoke of his past experiences, present condition and outlook for the future. I saw a person who was humble, optimistic and determined to get back on his feet and provide a safe, stable environment for his family. I offered him a part time, seasonal position that would accommodate his continued participation at the Homeless Garden Project.

Andrew working in HGP's greenhouse

In the two months that Andrew has been with us my initial impressions have been absolutely validated. He arrives at work early with a positive attitude and an infectious enthusiasm which is enjoyed by both coworkers and customers. He is an attentive listener, follows directions closely, and finds projects to keep himself busy if none are assigned.

In summary, it has been a pleasure working with Andrew and a rewarding experience for me personally to be part of his journey. I am confident that he will continue to grow and achieve his goals and look forward to assisting where I can.

Charlie and Maria Keutmann have owned and operated The Garden Company Nursery and Gift Shop, on Mission Street in Santa Cruz, since 1986.

They bought the failing garden center after several years in the corporate world, based on Charlie’s horticultural academic background, Maria’s love of gardening, and an untapped entrepreneurial spirit. Their greatest rewards have come from the relationships established with customers and coworkers through the years.

For more information about hiring Homeless Garden Project trainees in your business, participating in one of our employer panels, or assisting with our employment and career search workshops, please contact Executive Director, Darrie Ganzhorn, 831.426.3609.12

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Guest Blog: Communion of Human Spirit & Land: Staying Rooted in Place


Work underway in the greenhouse for CSA

In early spring, we have planned our crops for the year–how many beds, how the beds will be rotated, how many plants to a bed. We are sowing seeds in the greenhouse and planting seedlings from the greenhouse in the ground. It is only natural to begin to think about WHO we are growing this food for.

A beautiful part of the CSA model is that we have a relationship through the entire harvest season with people who will be eating the food we grow at Natural Bridges Farm. Equally beautiful, is the possibility that our CSA members will create a relationship with the farmers at Homeless Garden Project and with the farm itself.

When HGP started Santa Cruz County’s first CSA back in the early 1990′s, this connection to the farm where your food is grown was a strong ideal of the CSA model. Since CSA has taken hold in our county and many farms now offer CSA shares, convenience and price have clouded this ideal. We hope Robert’s piece below about his relationship with the farm–his “communion with the farm,” in his words–will revive and make vivid this value of membership in HGP’s CSA program:  the opportunity and structure to connect with the farm each week for 23 weeks as you pick up your food.

Robert Foran in HGP's kitchen

Communion of Human Spirit and Land: Staying Rooted in Place

It was around 9:20 am when I pulled up to the Farm at Natural Bridges… it was Wednesday morning and it was my shift in the kitchen that got me out of bed that mist filled first light about 6:30.  I’m an early riser most often… giving myself time for a French Press full of good dark roast coffee, journaling and if the moment allows, a good sit in meditation.  It was an unusually quiet start to the day… Chris and Mike were the only ones there that I could see, other than Lily the farm cat prowling the back forty.  I wandered over to the ‘alchemist’s shack’, aka: the kitchen and started to take an inventory of what might be on the menu for the lunchtime gathering.  Hmmm… there was cabbage, a few carrots, lots of celery, rice, potatoes, and maybe some greens for a salad?  Sounded good.  Of course there were other items in the dry goods storage, but I wanted to use up the perishables first.  So, I took out my favorite cutting board, selected the sharpest knife that we had and headed out to the side of the kitchen to start slicing and dicing the items for my gourmet lunch du jour.

The fog was damp and cool on the back of my neck and the fields were covered with dewy moisture from the overnight exposure to the ocean mist drifting over the farm.  There was a serenity present that morning… something hidden yet salient as the farm slowly started to wake up from its chilled, damp slumber.  I looked out over the back forty as if searching for some kind of sign, but the only indication that I received of my presence being acknowledged, were the sparrows flitting about back and forth trying to grab a tidbit or two from the compost pail as I was throwing the discarded scraps of vegetables from my food prepping project.  Somehow, that was enough for me as their aviary chicanery brought a smile to my lips.  The trainees were at the Depot Station office taking in a workshop and I had the kitchen all to myself.  This gave me time to reflect on what keeps me ‘rooted’ here in Santa Cruz, California… to take stock in the elements that bring us into communion with the land around us.

Bob, Robert and Paul preparing lunch for trainees and volunteers

I referred to the kitchen as being an alchemist’s hut… and really, that’s exactly what it is.  The kitchen is the central forge of the community, and has been for thousands of years.  It’s where we cook our meals, washed our clothes long ago, gather for warmth and settle down with a cup of coffee to catch up with friends.  Although the hearth has changed over the years from fireplaces, to wood stoves to gas and electric stoves, the process and outcome is the same; it’s where we draw strength from, and nourishment, both bodily and spiritual, and it is where we find the flame that tends our souls.  Where else could one be in the present of ‘spirit’ within a community than an outdoor kitchen that takes in the harvest of the land around it and transforms it into physical, body-centered fare that is meant to sustain us?  If you ask some folks, being in the presence of ‘spirit’ involves putting one’s hands in the soil, or perhaps planting, cultivating and harvesting the rewards… but for me, it’s the process of taking the fundamental elements of fire, water, earth and air and combining them by means ‘alchemical praxis.’ The end result that which which nourishes both ‘spirit’ and body is food.

So, as everybody lined up to receive the meal, as they pile the food on their plates to feed their hunger, I am reminded of the power that emanates from the hearth, our kitchen in the field… our ‘alchemist’s hut’.  That is the best feeling on the planet for me and perhaps I inherited that trait from my mother, but the satisfaction that comes from filling someone’s stomach and quelling their hunger, whether by simple or complex savory means… is for me, an utterly spiritual experience.  Nowhere else am I myself, who I truly am, other than when I am in the kitchen, by the hearth.  That’s an interesting word ‘hearth’, right?  From its constituent parts we can parse out the words, ‘Earth’ and ‘heart’ and then begin to see those true connections that underlie the greatest mystery of all… that of the communion of the human heart with the Earth… and where does that take place?  Well, for me it’s the kitchen… the ‘alchemist’s shack’ in the middle of The Farm at Natural Bridges.  What better place than that to discover your own magic?

I hope that you hold fast to your memories of ‘earthly communion’ when you pick up your CSA box or gather your own harvest from the fields.  May your visit be pleasurable and your ‘spirit’ always nourished.  And if you ever find yourself passing by the kitchen, stop in and take a look around… talk to the people gathered there, find yourself ‘rooted in this place’, the little farm by the coast in Santa Cruz, California.  I believe that you’ll be glad you did.  Namaste.

Robert M. Foran is working to complete a BA in Cultural Studies with an emphasis on Environmental Justice as it relates to Race, Class, and Gender at SUNY Empire State College. He has worked in hospice care, with the New York Open Center, and with the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee, helping to restore 40 acres of native habitat as well as working with their youth outreach program to inspire them to learn about land stewardship and their role within the community. Originally from upstate New York he now resides in Santa Cruz where he volunteers with the Homeless Garden Project. Find more at www.spiritofcommonspace.wordpress.com

March, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Quiet Revolution

My name is Magalí Morales and I have had a really great time volunteering in HGP’s social work program. One of the many reasons why I love this agency is that it’s a place for positive change and empowerment from the grassroots.

There is nothing better than teaching someone who’s been hungry how to grow food.  And the truth is that it pertains to all of us to work toward food safety.  In the same way, I believe we all need to learn to heal ourselves and each other emotionally, and I wanted to have a conversation with HGP staff and trainees to better understand what they are already doing to that effect, and to add more tools to their toolkit.

Most people don`t know this, but there is a quiet revolution happening in the field of mental health, based on everything we have learned about how psychological trauma operates and how to heal from it.  It began in the 1980s, when professionals realized that survivors of child abuse and domestic violence had the same symptoms as veterans of the Vietnam and other wars.  Thus the term Posttraumatic Stress Disorder was coined, and a new way of thinking began.

In the words of Sandra Bloom, author of Creating Sanctuary: Toward the Evolution of Sane Societies, a way to describe this shift is that, instead of asking an afflicted person “What is wrong with you?,” we ask, “What happened to you?”  Which is to say, we need to start thinking about people who are emotionally injured, rather than mentally ill.  In fact, one of the things Sandra Bloom discovered when she was running an inpatient psychiatric unit in Philadelphia in the 1980’s and 90’s, was that 100% of her unit’s patients had significant histories of trauma, regardless of their diagnosis.

We define psychological trauma as the reactions to an event or events that are terrifying and life-threatening, and which overwhelm our ability to cope.  Survivors of trauma are not only individuals who have been to war, or who have survived the “war” of abuse and domestic violence at home, they include people who have been exposed to community violence, certain kinds of crimes and accidents, and also people who are worn out from the constant aggressions of racism, sexism, class discrimination, homophobia, and all the other oppressions around which our society is sadly organized.

With her Sanctuary Model, Sandra Bloom and her colleagues created a very simple acronym that functions as a guide to healing:  SELF.  Trauma survivors experience a lot of fear and anxiety, and feel like the traumatic event is happening over and over again because they experience flashbacks and nightmares which reenact what happened. The first step toward healing will be a return to Safety.  Not only physical safety, but emotional safety. This is one of the most healing aspects, I think, of the Homeless Garden Project mission, where people work as a team, and there is a culture of mutual respect and kindness, as well as support for resolving conflicts.

Trauma survivors also experience other overwhelming feelings, including sadness and anger, because they have sustained serious losses and injustice.  Since survivors are in emotional pain and they want to avoid remembering what happened—which is hard to do because of the flashbacks and nightmares—numbing is also common.  Another step toward healing, then, is to learn to manage overwhelming Emotions.  There are many ways to do this, and the HGP trainees gave abundant examples, but a common theme was gardening.  All activities associated with gardening—interacting with the soil, water and plants, being outdoors, doing physical work and using our hands—are soothing.  They return us to our bodies and allow us to reduce the intensity of negative emotions.

Once we learn to manage the intensity of our emotions, we need to do one more thing, and that is to grieve our Losses.  Every survivor of trauma has lost something.  And without knowing details, we can assume that every person who has experienced homelessness has had significant losses too:  a sense of being safe and cared for in the world, the human right to having basic needs met, a sense of belonging and kinship, and more.

We can look to our indigenous ancestors for guidance about how to grieve.  In my work leading trauma healing groups for the past ten years, we perform a very simple healing ceremony, that includes giving thanks for the good that we have, letting go of old feelings and things that no longer serve us, inviting new feelings and experiences into our lives, and creating positive intentions for all of humanity and our planet.  For each of these acts we perform an action, for example, lighting sage leaves with the flame of a candle as we let go of old things, or placing seeds in the earth as we express our positive intentions.

When facilitating this conversation at the Homeless Garden Project, I took a chance and created a little altar, with four ‘stations’ where each person could perform one of these actions in the privacy of silence.  We didn`t have much time, but I asked those who wanted to participate to concentrate on just one thing, and allow themselves to experience the process.  The result was wonderful!  Most people joined in, and they made insightful comments, saying they felt more peaceful, and light-hearted; sharing they felt very safe; and expressing that it was powerful to actually take physical actions rather than just talk or have inner dialogue.

The fourth step in this non-linear model of healing, is to recover our enthusiasm for the Future.  Survivors of trauma tend to feel like their life has never been the same after the emotional injuries.  They miss their old selves and wish they could recover their joy and positive expectations, but don`t know how.  Grieving our losses allows the wounds to heal, to hurt less and less each time, until our metaphorical ‘scar tissue’ is stronger than who we were before and there is no more pain.

Along this journey, one day we wake up and are surprised to feel excited, to look forward to the next chapter of our lives, and that is a surefire sign of healing.  Furthermore, we discover that we have more energy and want to contribute to the healing of others and building a world where nobody is homeless and nobody has to heal alone.  And that is what we have been doing at the HGP.

Magalí Morales is an Associate Social Worker, originally from Mexico, who recently moved to Santa Cruz and is passionate about creating social justice and holistic healing.  She has worked with survivors of trauma, including people who have experienced child abuse, sexual and domestic violence, and political torture, for 14 years, and helped found the Trauma Healing Project in Eugene, Oregon.  She can be reached at magali@crystaldharma.com.

 

 

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Mary Cherry’s Remarks for 2013 First Friday Holiday Store Celebration and Open House

Mary Cherry speaking at 2013 First Friday Holiday Store Celebration

Mary Cherry speaking at 2013 First Friday Holiday Store Celebration

Hello everyone. I’m Mary and I’m really glad to be here talking to you but also very nervous. I don’t have much experience being a public speaker and I’m kinda shy until you get to know me. So this is kind of a big deal. I came to HGP when it was still a three year program, and I’ll be transitioning out at the end of the month.
What brought me to HGP:
I grew up in foster care, moving from home to home often until I turned 18. At that point, I was on my own, without family support. So I turned to drugs looking for belonging. Luckily, it only took three years for that to get old for me, and at 21, I hit the road. Since I was six, I have dreamt of traveling the country, so I packed my bag, grabbed my dog and headed out hitchhiking and riding trains around the country.

I made some good connections in Santa Cruz and came back numerous times before I decided to stay. I was able to stay in a house with some friends until I got on my feet. I had to find a job but I had only worked four jobs or so in my entire life, and at that point, I hadn’t worked in years. Then I found the HGP and fell in love. I had always wanted to work on a farm. So I volunteered every day until they hired me.

What Did HGP do for me?
When I came to HGP, I felt a huge void in my soul and lacked confidence in my ability to live a stable and happy lifestyle. The positive nourishing community of people and plants helped fill that void. I found a family. These are people that I hope to know for the rest of my life. They have given me so much support through everything.

Including the GED, which because of my huge lack of confidence, I felt was impossible. But with the support of my community at HGP and a check put together by Franklin Williams and Paul Lee, (thank you!), I completed my GED, which was a huge boost of confidence.

Then there’s the knowledge I have gained at HGP. When I came I didn’t even feel like I was capable of learning. I have learned so much here at HGP about farming and our food systems and about living a productive life, being able to grow my own food and flowers is so empowering because it makes me feel very self-sufficient and resourceful. Having the support of the HGP community in my life and being able to see the process of growing vegetables and flowers from start to finish has given my life purpose and meaning. That has also contributed to eating healthy and being a part of the food revolution and to my son.

Thanks to HGP, I now have some goals for my life and that is to continue working with plants and people, and help kids growing up in unstable lifestyles to find grounding and purpose through gardening. Because I grew up in foster care and I know how hard that can be. Since I have gotten my life in order, I have wanted to help provide some kind of support to kids in that situation. Then I found CASA–”CASA is a child’s voice in dependency court, providing advocacy, stability, and hope to children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned.”

I have applied to be an advocate and am now about to complete the training program on Tuesday. It is just a volunteer position, so in the meantime, I am applying to nurseries and such places that involve plants. Just to put it out there, if anyone knows of any positions available that entail working with plants or gardening with kids or working with kids in the system, feel free to let me know after the speech. I have to do meaningful work in order to be happy.

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Chef Jenny Brewer at August SUSTAIN Dinner: Cooking for a Change

When people ask me what is the best thing they can do to improve their diet, my answer is always the same: to cook at home more often. It isn’t to exclude sugar, wheat, gluten, or dairy, to eat more leafy greens…  While all of those might be helpful, I think the best place to start is by getting to know your food and yourself a little better through cooking.

Watch and read Chef Jenny Brewer’s talk at our August Sustain Farm Dinner.

 

I wanted you to know that your meal was prepared with love and enthusiasm by two people who love food and cooking. This enthusiasm for cooking brings to mind something I saw on television not too long ago.

It was a commercial for Nestle Tollhouse Cookies. The commercial begins by showing an old fashioned kitchen with an apron clad grandmother, stirring a large bowl of made-from-scratch chocolate chip cookie dough surrounded by smiling children enjoying warm chocolate chip cookies. Fade out to the next part where a more modern looking woman is scooping chocolate chip cookies out of a plastic tub and putting them into the oven. The kids are still smiling. And the commercial concludes with the youngest of the three women taking her preformed cookie dough out of the plastic package and putting right in the oven.  And everyone is still smiling.

Nestle wants you to believe  this type of convenience is progress. But is it?

While on the outside this looks like a simple food commercial to sell chocolate chip cookies, the message they are sending is much more pervasive.  Food companies know they will be more successful (in other words, you will be a bigger consumer for a longer period of time) if they can sell you the idea that you don’t have time to cook. Or that as a young person, you have more important things to do than cook. Or that cooking is an activity reserved for older people with lots of free time on their hands. Or that grandma is the only one enough time and skill to crack an egg or two.

And when you consider that the average person spends 27 minutes in the kitchen per day, down from an hour in the mid-60’s and that Americans spend less time cooking than people in any other nation, it appears their message is working.

This idea that in this day and age we are too busy too cook or that it isn’t important enough to devote time to, is perilous for many reasons. First, our health suffers.  This decline in home cooking closely tracks the rise in obesity and all the chronic diseases related to diet. Convenience foods, or as Michael Pollan calls it, food-like substances, lack the nutrients our body needs for optimal health. Take a look at the difference in the two types of cookies from the commercial example. It is clear to see that if you are going to eat a cookie, you should go with grandma. This recipe is using real ingredients that are natural and pronouncable. When you cook at home, you can control the type and quality of the ingredients you use.

But this message that you are too busy or have more important things to do to cook isn’t just affecting our health.  It is depriving us of the opportunity to really connect.  First to connect to our food. When we get our food in neat and perfect packages, we are missing out on the opportunity of knowing where the food comes from. Seeing raw ingredients being transformed into a cooked meal reminds us of what food really is and that someone grew it—and that can give us a greater appreciation for it.

Speaking of appreciation, this meal you are enjoying tonight showcases the produce grown right here at the Homeless Garden. The padron peppers in your taco appetizer, the cucumbers filled with hummus, the lettuce in your salad, the squash that wrapped the fish, the basil in the pesto and the beautiful greens—all of it was grown right here where you are sitting. You too can have this beautiful produce at home by subscribing to the Homeless Garden Project’s CSA. There are two CSA’s available—One where You Pick the produce and one where they harvest and you Pick-up. Subscribing to a CSA is a wonderful way to deepen your connection to food, support your community and be inspired to cook a little more.

Cooking not only connects us to our food—it also connects us to each other.  The rise in convenience foods has undermined the shared meal. If we are too busy to cook, then we are too busy to sit down and eat with each other. When you take the time to cook, chances are much more likely that people will actually sit and enjoy it.

In his book, the Blue Zones, author Dan Buettner looked at the cultures with the most people living to 100. They are Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Sardinia, Italy; and Loma Linda, California. Not surprisingly, all four cultures shared similarities the author attributes to their longevity, one of which being strong social networks and family connections, very often strengthened over the shared meal.

When you sit down to share a meal like we are doing here tonight, you share more than just food. You share experiences of the day, ideas, opinions and emotions and you learn about each other.

The connection to food and our community starts with our connection to ourselves. And this is where I see cooking having the biggest benefit. I came to this conclusion through my own experiences with cooking. In an effort to heal my dysfunctional relationship with food—including years spent dieting and depriving myself, I decided to become a (what else?) nutritionist.

I studied nutrition for eight years, getting a bachelors and masters degree in nutrition and a certification from a well respected national institution. But the thing is, acquiring knowledge about food didn’t help my situation at all. While I had learned about food in my studies, I didn’t really know it. When I went to culinary school and learned to cook, it was as if I was learning about food and nutrition all over again. Except this time, I got it…

I’ve come to realize that knowledge and knowing are two different things. Knowledge is learning about something but knowing is really understanding it.

And to me, this is cooking’s ultimate gift: the ability to truly know our food. And since food is the nourishment for our bodies, isn’t it reasonable to think that this knowing can help us appreciate our body a little more?

When people ask me what is best thing they can do to improve their diet is, my answer is always the same: to cook at home more often. It isn’t to exclude sugar, wheat,  gluten, or dairy, to eat more leafy greens or to eat small mini meals throughout the day, or to stop drinking caffeine or alcohol (heaven forbid). While all of those might be helpful, I think the best place to start is by getting to know your food and yourself a little better through cooking.

As a cooking instructor, I am thrilled to witness the transformation in my students when they attend cooking classes. For example, a student who was convinced she wasn’t creative enough to cook, preparing a delicious meal without a recipe, or a student who was able to learn how to be more efficient in the kitchen so she could stop relying on processed foods to get her through her long nursing shifts, or my 70 year old student looking to get reinspired to cook more healthy foods for her and her family in the golden years of her life.

By attending this benefit dinner to support the Homeless Garden Project, I know that you are someone who is committed to making a difference in your community. When you think about change, we often overlook how it starts at home.

As Michael Pollan writes in his book, Cooked,

Even to cook a few more nights a week than you already do, or to devote a Sunday to making a few meals for the week, or perhaps to try every now and again to make something you only ever expected to buy—even  these modest acts will constitute a kind of vote. A vote for what, exactly? Well, in a world where so few of us are obliged to cook at all anymore, to choose to do so is to lodge a protest against the infiltration against commercial interests into every last cranny of our lives. To cook for the pleasure of it, to devote a portion of our leisure to it is to declare our independence from the corporations seeking to organize our every waking moment into yet another occasion for consumption. Cooking has the power to transform more than just plants and animals: It transforms us too…

So, as Michael Pollan suggests, if cooking is a Revolutionary Act, then I am asking you here tonight to be Revolutionaries by cooking more often. If you don’t cook at all, maybe it is simply substituting one meal a day with something real? After all, it doesn’t take any more time to put a sweet potato in the oven  than it does a frozen pizza. Or, if you are cooking occasionally, try as Pollan suggests to cook one more night a week than you normally do.

Or how about giving yourself the gift of a few hours on a Saturday morning to make a delicious brunch with all of your favorites? (and if you are serving cinnamon rolls, I’d like an invitation) or to spend a few hours on Sunday evening making healthy food for the week. Or, for those who are already cooking quite a bit, take it up a notch and make something completely from scratch.

But I don’t want you to stop there—share it. Take a picture of your Sunday night creations and post it on social media. Tell your co-workers about how wonderful your Saturday morning cookfest was. Offer your neighbors a taste of the fresh peach pie you baked from scratch.  Tell your family that you have started baking bread and how to work with sourdough starter. When we share our adventures in cooking with others, we are spreading the idea that we have the time to cook, and that it is important, and we are setting an example and inspiring others to follow.

And most important, our young people are watching and they will see that the key to real health and nourishment does not lie in the hands of the food corporations.

It is in the kitchen.

- Chef Jenny Brewer  is a Nutritionist and Natural Foods Chef on a mission to change the way people look at healthy food. Through cooking classes, interactive workshops, and her online Healthy Meal Plan, she educates and inspires individuals to prepare healthy foods that taste amazing so it is easier to stay committed to their healthy lifestyles. Join her for her next Natural Foods Cooking Program, October 25-27th, 2013 in Santa Cruz, CA.  You can find out more about it here: http://www.nourishingnutrition.com/natural-foods-training-program-2013/

 

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How HGP’s Training Program Works: A Look Inside

The training program at the Homeless Garden Project serves as a principle mechanism to ensure HGP achieves our mission, which states “in the soil of our urban farm and garden, people find the tools they need to build a home in the world”.

In interviewing prospective trainees, our staff looks at three central qualifying features in a candidate. A candidate needs to be homeless or in true need, be able to work as part of our team, and commit to creating positive change in their life. The change we seek to cultivate in partnership with our trainees, is the trainee moving out of homelessness and unemployment into a more self sufficient and sustainable living situation.

HGP’s training program is based off a model called transitional employment. Realizing we are a stepping stone or temporary position where people can gather themselves, settle into the rhythm of our farm, and gain skills that will propel them into permanent employment, we aim to structure our program in an efficient way. Each trainee is assigned to a certain “training post” or area of the farm where they will focus their learning and skill development over a 10 week period.

Examples of “training posts” include the greenhouse, farm stand, kitchen, vegetable fields, compost operation, and fresh flower production.  Within this 10 week period, trainees complete a curriculum of specific learning outcomes and skill development directly related to the post.  This structure ensures trainees’ involvement, and offers trainees a sense of “ownership” and pride in the culminating work accomplishment, such as our CSA harvest.  For instance, in the kitchen post, trainees learn to prepare a menu for lunch, coordinate with our vegetable production crew to harvest vegetables onsite, assign volunteers tasks such as rinsing and chopping, and serve a wholesome meal in a timely manner.  In the process they learn about nutrition, how to create a balanced meal, and develop cooking habits that they take with them for the rest of their lives.

As trainees develop through their posts, they receive increased responsibilities and operate more independently in key positions of the farm. They take on tasks such as leading farm tours, supervising and training volunteers, conducting classes, and developing site specific projects.  Mike Thornley, a trainee who began work with the project during the fall of last year, has made great strides in learning about our farm operation and systems of organic agriculture.

“Being homeless, there is a fear of taking the risk to make your life better, especially when applying for jobs.  In our posts and on the farm I’m taking risks all the time.  As I learn new things and take on more responsibility I’m in a place to teach others.”

In addition to in-field training and “posts,” each Wednesday, the entire crew participates in the farm’s weekly lecture series which covers a wide variety of topics ranging from building a resume and obtaining work outside the farm, to nutrition education, technical farming practices, soil science, and water conservation.  These lectures are taught by HGP staff and experts from the local community.

Success through the program comes not solely with completion of a post or attainment of a completed certificate.  Success is defined by each individuals’ progress along their specific exit plan or goal map.  When the barriers are broken down to obtaining self sufficiency, people can transition out of our program and live a healthy, balanced, secure life.  And it serves to inspire us all.

Chris Omer is Homeless Garden Project’s Farm Supervisor

 

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Kalefest Recipes

Got Kale?

Here are some fantastic Kale recipes from the 2013 Kalefest Recipe Contest and Cooking Demos–check back; there are more coming!

 

Nibby Bartle’s Award-Winning Sweet Kale Chips

1 bunch kale

3/4 cup  nuts (walnuts or almonds are good)
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Tear Kale into bite size pieces. Mix in food processor everything but kale, then mix this into kale, carefully spreading nut/syrup mix onto each leaf before spreading out single layer onto baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

Bake at 300 degrees  for about 10 minutes until golden but not too brown.

Some take longer than 10 minutes but keep an eye on them, they can go from golden to black in an inattentive minute.

Nibby Bartle of Two Dog Farm







Sandi Rechenmacher’s Purple Green Smoothie

Here’s another brilliant answer to the question “How do I fit more life-giving greens into my day?” The virtues of green smoothies are countless: chlorophyll, fiber, anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals,enzymes, amino acids…

All of these fine nutrients are those that strengthen one’s immune system for optimal disease prevention. If you want to pack a punch into your daily routine, dial in a green smoothie.While you are at it, make enough to share with a friend (or put one more serving in the fridge for later).

Makes 2-4 servings

Ingredients

2 ½ cups water
Large handful of greens (spinach, collards, kale, chard, or beet greens)
4-6 drops liquid stevia (and/or a small handful of raisins or dates for sweetness)
¼ section of lemon, peel and all
1” piece of fresh ginger, peel and all
2 oranges, peeled
1 apple, cored
1 banana, peeled
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (or frozen mixed berries, pineapple, or any other fruit you like)

Directions:

Blend water (some of this amount can be ice) along with the greens, liquid stevia (dried fruit), lemon, and fresh ginger for about 30-40 seconds, until smooth.

Add fruit and blend again for 30+ seconds, until all ingredients are blended and the color of the smoothie is uniform throughout. Simple as that. Making enough for now AND later is an idea fantastico! Cut this recipe in half if your blender is on the small side.

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Sandi Rechenmacher Nutrition Education & Consultation

Sandi’s next PCRM Food for Life Series starts September 9, 2013 at New Leaf Community Market. Eat for Disease Prevention: nutrition science, culinary presentation, and hearty samplings to enjoy each class. For info/registration go to: http://fflkickstart913.eventbrite.com

Contact Sandi at simplynutritious@gmail.com

RECIPES FROM CHEF JENNY BREWER
Kale and Tahini Salad

Miso: is a concentrated, savory paste made from soybeans mixed with a grain and fermented with a yeast mold (koji) and then combined with salt and water. It’s a good source of protein and beneficial bacteria. Light Miso (White and yellow) is lightest in flavor. It is well suited for salad dressings and sauces. Red and Dark Miso are strong and salty and generally used for stews, soups and braised foods.

1 bunch dinosaur or lacinato kale, stems removed and discarded, leaves thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup raw tahini
2 Tablespoons miso
2-3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼-1/2 cup water
3 plum or dry farmed tomatoes, diced
3 scallions, sliced
1 cup cooked brown rice (or any other grain)

Place sliced kale in a bowl, sprinkle with sea salt and “massage” for 3 minutes until kale starts to break down.

In a bowl whisk together garlic, tahini, miso, water and lemon juice. Add water to thin dressing. Stir tahini sauce into kale and add tomato, scallions and grains. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Kale Salad with Avocado

1 bunch dinosaur or lacinato kale, stems removed and discarded, leaves thinly sliced
2-3 Tablespoons lemon juice
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red pepper, deeded and diced
¼ to ½ medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 ripe avocado, cut into chunks
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds, optional

In a large bowl, combine kale, and a pinch of sea salt. Massage kale for a few minutes until it begins to break down and turn bright green. Add lemon juice, olive oil, pepper and onion and season to taste with sea salt and pepper.
Before serving, toss in pumpkin seeds and serve cold or at room temperature.

Recipes from Chef Jenny Brewer from www.nourishingnutrition.com

Look for info about Chef Jenny Brewer at our SUSTAIN Farm Dinner on August 24. Tickets and info here:http://sustaindinners.eventbrite.com/

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Supporters Advocate for HGP’s Programs

Supporters Advocate for HGP's Programs

The City of Santa Cruz is an important partner in our work of providing Transitional jobs to people who are homeless.  Here, several voices advocate to Santa Cruz City Council members  on behalf of HGP and the people we serve.

Dear City Council Members,

I met my husband, Eugene, right before he became homeless. Because I believed in him, I continued seeing him after he became homeless. He looked for work but couldn’t find it. The economy was horrible, and his own past mistakes lead him to this desperate place.

He is a person with a brilliant sense of humor, gratitude for whatever he’s given, and respect for others.

Unfortunately life threw him many challenges early on and he needed some time to catch up with the rest of the working force. There aren’t a lot of people with compassion, much less a place for people who are disadvantaged to go and feel accepted, part of the team, and valued as individuals.

Eugene found The Homeless Garden Project as a last chance. When someone finally hits rock bottom and reaches out for help and can’t find it, it has to be miserable.

People who find The Homeless Garden Project want to work. They want to improve their lives; they want that last chance to change. We all know sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom to finally want to change. This happened for Eugene. He stayed at the Project for one and one-half years, carefully rebuilding his dignity, resume and character. And also constantly looked for more work.

Finally he found a job at a hotel and has been there for a year now with no problem. We married this past December. I believe in Eugene. The HGP believed in Eugene, and the people who help fund HGP believe in others like Eugene. We all want people to improve themselves, society, and our city. We all want to help people without homes. Please do your part; you have an amazing opportunity to make a huge difference in our city, our society, and the personal lives of the individuals who go to the HGP for help, a last chance, a change. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Eliza Fry

Dear Vice Mayor Robinson,

You might well wonder why I, who do not live in Santa Cruz, am writing you regarding the Homeless Garden Project. The answer is simple: We here in Redlands, at the Redlands United Church of Christ, knew of the absolute and incredible success of your project and wished to replicate that project here in our city using your Homeless Gardens as a blueprint for our own.

To that end we had Chrissi Brewer, past coordinator of your Gardens come and spend an afternoon with us laying out specifics and general necessities. She was wonderful and we became more convinced than ever that as soon as the land we were waiting for became available we would act quickly. We already feed homeless youth in the area on a regular basis and this seems a logical next step. With Chrissi’s amazing knowledge and ability to see things transformed we became excited about a whole new city-wide ministry based on your Homeless Garden Project.

To think that the very prototype for our possible project is in danger of going under is heart-breaking. I would ask you to reconsider your position on this matter; the Homeless Garden Project has given life to many people who have worked there. I know- I have come and visited and seen how important this place, this work, is to them. It’s not just work. It’s the sacredness of digging in the soil, seeing things you have planted grow. I’ve seen broken people start their healing journey because of this Garden.

Please reconsider. Much more is at stake here than saving a few dollars in a budget.

Thank you for your time.

In Peace,

Susi Jacobsen

From a UCSC Esprit de Corps student volunteer:

I am going to incorporate everything I have learned at the Homeless Garden Project into my life. In fact, I want to transform my life to fit into the mission statement and purpose of HGP.

I have found a new love for gardening as volunteering there has taught me how to plant seeds, thin produce so it grows to the right size, weed and flip over old vegetation so it decomposes, wheel barrel compost and harvest flowers.

But more importantly, my placement has taught me how to be a part of a welcoming community and connect with strangers in a very compassionate way. I cannot repay HGP for the lessons they have taught me this quarter. I have now seen what true empathy and compassion looks like through the eyes of those who have truly struggled. The most amazing part about these people’s stories is the fact that they have had so many injustices thrust upon them, yet they stay some of the warmest, most selfless people I have ever met.

I realize I need to seek out these kinds of communities and organizations whereever I end up next, because this welcoming place with its meditative and collective qualities offered some of the most rewarding activities I did this quarter. It connected me to a vulnerable population of people I have wanted to interact with–but never knew how to get into a comfortable space for both of us; it has filled my mind with all the things I want to continue to do to make sure that there continues to be a safety net for people who have been mistreated.

I do not believe anyone is born evil. I think people come from different circumstances and must do what they have to in order to survive. If we gave everyone a chance regardless of their history, I think our society could be a lot more just, equal, productive and harmonious.

Thank you Esprit for offering this amazing opportunity to get involved with the community and teach me so much!

HGP is  so grateful for our relationship with Esprit de Corps and Abbey Asher!
We invite you to  add your voice to these statements in the comments section.
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