I am a firm supporter of locally grown food. I grew up eating produce grown in Sant' Erasmo, the biggest island in the Venetian lagoon, and bought almost daily by my mom. In a personal effort to reduce my carbon footprint, I try to avoid out of season produce grown in Mexico, and try to buy things grown within few miles from where I live. Even better, I grow few things in my garden and in the garden of a generous neighbor who has land to spare (can't get better than that). I am patiently waiting for zucchini, tomatoes, and green beans planted with my own hands (the bay area has been really cold lately so things are maturing very slowly, but there are lots of flowers!). Last June I made a simple pasta with peas, spring onions, and parsley, picked just few hours earlier from by garden, and that was utterly delicious. Local is the way to go, I am telling you. Soon I will have chickens, give me time to build a coop and I will order few chicks, I can't wait!
Growing my own food is one the most rewarding things I have done, and it makes me envision life on a farm, which is something I would do if I could. The sustainable grassroots movement that is growing in many communities across the country is so inspirational I want to talk about two upcoming documentaries you should all try to see. Food Inc., another movie that just opened, is also a must see.
Recently I went to hear and support East Bay Pictures, a group of filmmakers based in Berkeley who are in the mist of filming a documentary called Edible City, which depicts the booming of the urban farming movement. This grassroots movement of creating local gardens in backyards, or in communal areas is spreading like crazy in the Bay Area, and it is very inspirational to witness people going back to how things were done in the old days. Jessica Prentice, one of the creators of the term Locavores was there as well. I loved seeing many 20-something people who will be the next leaders mingling with some "old" folks like me, it is only going to be good!
The event was co-hosted at a house of a local resident and by a chef who cooked the dinner that was served before the show. She prepared the dinner with locally grown ingredients, and made an amazingly refreshing lemonade with eureka lemons and rose geraniums flowers. It was unique and so tasty.
On Friday I went to a screening of the movie Fresh, another documentary depicting few farmers who believe that sustainable agriculture is the only way to go if we want the planet and its inhabitant to survive, and who are becoming advocates for sustainable practices across the United States. It was an eye opener about the practice of growing animals in controlled overcrowded environments. Apparently, the animal farmers who grow poultry or hogs don't even own the animals, they just provide the space, and have to strictly agree with the rules set by the companies who provide and process the animals. The growers don't even know what is in the animal feed they dump into the tunnels where the animals are kept. Days old chicks get virtually thrown in a dark tunnel where they get fed constantly so they can grow very fast and be ready for slaughter in very little time. Because of the insane concentration of animals, these farms have ponds full of liquid waste that is so concentrated that it cannot even be processed into fertilizer (cow manure is the best fertilizer there is but in these places it cannot be used). Moreover, the waste is full of chemicals/pharmaceutical cocktails used to prevent diseases prevalent among the animals due to the overcrowding. This documentary can be seen in your own house, to request a house screening kit, click here. Warning: you might stop buying regular chicken, or start only eating grass fed beef after watching it.
The event was hosted by the visionary, and very passionate Ari Derfel, chef/owner of the soon to be opened restaurant Terrain, which will be the first fully organic restaurant in Berkeley. Michael Pollan was also there to inspire the audience talking about the right way to raise herbivores. If you are not familiar with Pollan's revolutionary books, run to your closest bookstore.
To all the people out there who are thirsty for change in the way food is grown I offer this lemonade, which wins the price for being super local as it was made with lemons from my little tree and rose geranium flowers growing in the garden.
There is an interesting story behind this rose geranium plant. Looking into a container of compostable scraps at a restaurant I worked at, I saw some steams of a geranium plant that had been stripped of the flowers and the leaves. I could not resist the idea of propagating them so I took some home where they successfully sprouted roots in a glass. I then placed the stems in dirt and few weeks later two had survived and fully rooted, very green indeed.
Rose Geranium Lemonade
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup rose geranium flowers
Juice of 4 lemons
Make a simple syrup with the water and the sugar, infusing it with half of the flowers. Mix the juice with syrup to taste (you will not need all the syrup), add ice and serve very cold. Garnish with extra flowers in each glass.
Take action, buy local, ask questions, support local farmers.