Thankful for what’s on our table

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California’s featured dish within the New York Times – Thanksgiving Recipes Across the United States. Select the picture for a link to the article

What’s on the table for the Thanksgiving feast is often a matter of household tradition. In my family, that means turkey with all the fixings! Maybe your traditional Thanksgiving is much the same, but it’s good to know that here in California our bountiful crops and agricultural products make the options pretty inspiring. Whatever is on your family’s table – including flowers – Californians are blessed to live in this beautiful, productive and diverse place, and consumers all over the world are thankful for what our farmers provide.

Protecting the long-term viability of our agricultural systems and the people who make up California’s farm communities is part of our job here at CDFA, and we are so proud to be a part of that effort. It takes a lot of hands to bring a crop to harvest, starting with the ranchers, farmers and farmworkers themselves. It has been heartening in recent years to see so many consumers paying more attention to where their food comes from and who grows it. Our farmers deserve our thanks for the care and attention they devote to our food supply. Let me also express my thanks for all of the other agencies, stakeholders, scientists, educators and representatives who, along with CDFA, play supporting roles in the achievements of our farmers and ranchers.

I feel fortunate to have been given such vital work to do, and such wonderful employees and colleagues to work with. Ranchers, farmers and farmworkers don’t shy away from hard work, and they have entrusted us at CDFA to be a partner in their efforts. Gratitude for what we have in-hand and what we have accomplished together is an essential part of the Thanksgiving spirit, but it is also important to be thankful for the anticipation of worthwhile work that remains.

I wish you and your loved ones a very happy Thanksgiving and a joyous holiday season!

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Silicon Valley Needs Farmers Too – Farm to Food Bank Month Spotlight

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Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties is centered in one of America’s wealthiest regions. But as the cost of living soars, nutritious food has become a luxury for the nearly 250,000 people who depend on us for food every month. A recent article in USA Today highlights this disparity.

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Second Harvest Food Bank volunteer and client

More than two-thirds of our clients purchase unhealthy food. They know the food is unhealthy, but it’s what they can afford. We’re on a mission to not only end local hunger, but to provide everyone with access to the nutritious food they need to thrive.  Local farmers are some of our strongest allies.

Thanks to generous growers throughout our region, Second Harvest was able to distribute nearly 30 million pounds of fresh produce last fiscal year, more than any other food bank in the nation. Much of this food was donated from family farms, demonstrating the deep connection that farmers have to local community.

Together, farmers and the food bank community can ensure that anyone who needs a meal—especially a healthy meal—can get one.

December is Farm to Food Bank Month. Help increase farm to food bank donations to 200 million pounds annually by making a product donation or future donation pledge today – contact Steve Linkhart, California Association of Food Bank at (510) 350-9916.

For our friends and foodies– tweet, Instagram or Facebook  – #CAGrown with a pic of California Grown produce and a pound of food will be donated to a local food bank.

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Growing California video series – What does California Grown mean to you?

With Thanksgiving coming next week, CDFA presents “What does California Grown mean to you?” It’s the latest segment in the Growing California video series, a partnership with California Grown.

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Veggie Trike brings fresh produce to streets – from the Sacramento Bee

Photo by Renee C. Byer, Sacramento Bee

Photo by Renee C. Byer, Sacramento Bee

By Sammy Caiola

“Fresh fruits and veggies! Fresh fruits and veggies!”

Like a jovial street merchant from days of old, a bearded Collin Samaan stood on Liestal Row between 17th and 18th streets Friday in Sacramento, vending healthy foods out of his newly christened West Sac Veggie Trike.

The pedal-powered produce-mobile has three wheels, one in front of Samaan’s bike seat and the other two behind him, supporting the bed of a miniature farm stand. In the back are stashes of persimmons, onions, Apple Hill apples, artisan garlic salts and even kiwis. A cooler holds carrots and rainbow chard, most of it harvested that morning.

Samaan’s haul comes from a handful of farms in the Sacramento area, including Abbott Organics, where he and wife Aimee Benner grow garlic and greens and where the tricycle lives when not in action. For the past six weeks, he’s brought seasonal goods like apple and pumpkin pies from Bodhaine Ranch in Camino and jars of honey from Arden’s To Bee Young Apiaries to the midtown spot, hoping to catch lunchers passing by.

During the summer months when days were longer, Samaan had been pedaling the tricycle, which weighs a few hundred pounds loaded, all over Sacramento and West Sacramento trying to sell produce on residential streets. It’s decked out with a megaphone that he uses to play gypsy jazz as he cruises by at 8 to 10 mph.

“I’m roaming, playing, announcing and catching the squint of blinds,” he said. “I’m waving, they’re looking straight at (the tricycle), and usually that person will come out. … Every single person gets a smile and a wave and positivity. It feels good doing that.”

Now that daylight is waning earlier, Samaan is shifting from the “ice cream truck” model to a slightly more stationary method. On weekday afternoons, he bikes the goods in from West Sacramento and parks them in front of partner businesses downtown, such as Edible Pedal bike shop and delivery service, where he was Friday, and La Bonne Soupe Cafe at Eighth and J streets.

The timing is ideal considering that several farmers markets held downtown midweek recently closed for the season, said Benner. The young entrepreneurial couple hope to fill the gap that those markets left and continue providing organic produce options to customers year-round.

Dan Best, manager of more than a dozen Certified Farmers’ Markets in Sacramento County, said he has to close some of his locations during the winter because demand drops below a point of sustainability. The pedestrian markets, as he calls the downtown markets, draw people less consistently than community markets, such as the Sunday market held under the freeway, which survive year-round because people drive there to do the bulk of their grocery shopping.

“At the pedestrian markets, people just come check it out and maybe don’t buy much or anything at all,” he said. “There has to be enough customer base. We know it’s not penciling out, so we sometimes make the decision that this market is not supporting the farmers.”

But Samaan, a part-time farmer and part-time bike-building enthusiast, said he believes he can at least break even with community collaboration and the right advertising.

One couple who stopped by Friday said they put off going to the grocery store so they could visit the Veggie Trike. Rick Houston, a regular at Edible Pedal, took a photograph of the produce display and posted it on Facebook, hoping to draw more people to the stand.

“It’s indicative of where our priorities and our ethos are headed, in terms of eating properly … now it’s more accessible,” he said. “Obviously you’re not going to be able to have enough food for 100 people to get their groceries, but it’s nice for people to be able to come pick something up. It’s close. It’s clever.”

The Veggie Trike, which is licensed as a business through the city of West Sacramento, was constructed by Cycle Trucks, a West Sacramento business specializing in cargo bikes that are made for carrying loads. Samaan said he intends to work with the company to build a coffee tricycle, which he’ll use to tote local brews around the Capitol in the mornings.

For many in Sacramento, the concepts of quality food and quality bicycles go hand in hand. In addition to its function as a bike shop, Edible Pedal handles deliveries for Magpie Cafe, Hot Italian, Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates and other “slow food” institutions around Sacramento. Edible Pedal owner John Boyer said the Veggie Trike fits perfectly into the shop’s mission.

“It’s probably senior to the bikes here, the delivery of good quality food, especially to the workaday world down here,” he said. “We want to feed them right so they don’t fall asleep on their desks at 3 o’clock.”

Link to story

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Cost of Thanksgiving dinner rises, but is still under $50 for 10 people – from the American Farm Bureau Federation

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The American Farm Bureau Federation’s 29th annual informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table indicates the average cost of this year’s feast for 10 is $49.41, a 37-cent increase from last year’s average of $49.04.

The big ticket item – a 16-pound turkey – came in at $21.65 this year. That’s roughly $1.35 per pound, a decrease of less than 1 cent per pound, or a total of 11 cents per whole turkey, compared to 2013.

“Turkey production has been somewhat lower this year and wholesale prices are a little higher, but consumers should find an adequate supply of birds at their local grocery store,” AFBF Deputy Chief Economist John Anderson said. Some grocers may use turkeys as “loss leaders,” a common strategy deployed to entice shoppers to come through the doors and buy other popular Thanksgiving foods.

The AFBF survey shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10. There is also plenty for leftovers.

Foods showing the largest increases this year were sweet potatoes, dairy products and pumpkin pie mix. Sweet potatoes came in at $3.56 for three pounds. A half pint of whipping cream was $2.00; one gallon of whole milk, $3.76; and a 30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix, $3.12. A one-pound relish tray of carrots and celery ($.82) and one pound of green peas ($1.55) also increased in price. A combined group of miscellaneous items, including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour) rose to $3.48.

In addition to the turkey, other items that declined modestly in price included a 14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing, $2.54; 12 ounces of fresh cranberries, $2.34; two nine-inch pie shells, $2.42; and a dozen brown-n-serve rolls, $2.17.

The average cost of the dinner has remained around $49 since 2011.

“America’s farmers and ranchers remain committed to continuously improving the way they grow food for our tables, both for everyday meals and special occasions like Thanksgiving dinner that many of us look forward to all year,” Anderson said. “We are blessed to be able to provide a special holiday meal for 10 people for about $5.00 per serving – less than the cost of most fast food meals.”

The stable average price reported this year by Farm Bureau for a classic Thanksgiving dinner tracks closely with the government’s Consumer Price Index for food eaten at home (available online at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/cpi.nr0.htm), which indicates a 3-percent increase compared to a year ago.

A total of 179 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 35 states. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey.

Shoppers with an eye for bargains in all areas of the country should be able to purchase individual menu items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages. Another option for busy families without a lot of time to cook is ready-to-eat Thanksgiving meals for up to 10 people, with all the trimmings, which are available at many supermarkets and take-out restaurants for around $50 to $75.

The AFBF survey was first conducted in 1986. While Farm Bureau does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation. Farm Bureau’s survey menu has remained unchanged since 1986 to allow for consistent price comparisons.

Link to full story

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Three-hundred tons of nutrition from annual food drive

Turkey donations at the Sacramento Food Bank.

Turkey donations at the Sacramento Food Bank.

CDFA knows food. We inspect it, we protect it, and we really enjoy it. So when the State of California came looking for a lead agency to coordinate the annual State Employees Food Drive, they didn’t have to look far. This year, CDFA is announcing a new partnership with Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) to help us surpass last year’s phenomenal collection of 621,644 pounds of donated food. Let’s make it all the way to 700,000 pounds!

SFBFS is Sacramento County’s largest direct food bank provider feeding approximately 40,000 food insecure individuals a month, including 15,000 children and with 8,000 senior citizens. In 2013, SFBFS distributed over 6.5 million pounds of food, including 2 million pounds of fresh California grown fruits and vegetables.

If this sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, there are several convenient ways that you can help:

  1. The annual turkey drop is this Friday, Nov, 21, from 4:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. at SFBFS, on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 33rd Street. (3333 3rd Ave.)
  2. Fill those bins! State offices throughout the region have staged colorful bins to collect donated canned goods and other items. Set a reminder on your smartphone today and you can bring a few items in tomorrow – easy!
  3. Rice Donation Program – monetary donations accepted – details on the food drive web site at http://www.fooddrive.ca.gov/Rice_Donation_Program.asp
  4. Individual departments, agencies and offices think up all sorts of creative ways to collect donations on-site, so keep an eye out for the posters, emails and other information sources at your workplace.

December is Farm to Food Bank Month . Help increase farm to food bank donations to 200 million pounds annually by making a product donation or future donation pledge today – contact Steve Linkhart, California Association of Food Bank at (510) 350-9916.

For our friends and foodies– tweet, Instagram or Facebook  – #CAGrown with a pic of California Grown produce and a pound of food will be donated to a local food bank.

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USDA and partners complete first-of-its-kind sale of carbon credits from working ranch grasslands

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant has helped initiate a partnership that is improving the environment, creating a market for carbon credits generated on working grasslands. Chevrolet, a division of General Motors, recently purchased almost 40,000 carbon dioxide reduction tons generated on working ranch grasslands in the Prairie Pothole region of North Dakota.

“This announcement is the first-of-its-kind. The amount of carbon dioxide removed from our atmosphere by Chevrolet’s purchase of carbon credits equals the amount that would be reduced by taking more than 5,000 cars off the road,” Secretary Vilsack said. “This public-private partnership demonstrates how much can be achieved with a modest federal investment and a strong commitment to cut carbon pollution.”

Robert Bonnie, USDA’s under secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, announced the purchase and USDA’s involvement in the project at an event today at USDA headquarters. He was joined by Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Greg Martin, executive director for global public policy, General Motors; Sean Penrith, executive director of The Climate Trust and Paul Schmidt, chief conservation officer of Ducks Unlimited.

Chevrolet’s first purchase of third-party verified carbon credits generated on working ranch grasslands was undertaken voluntarily as part of its commitment to reduce eight million tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted. This is comparable to the annual carbon reduction benefit of a mature forest the size of Yellowstone National Park.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) awarded $161,000 through a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) to Ducks Unlimited in 2011 to develop the necessary methodology to quantify the carbon stored in the soil by avoiding grassland conversions, resulting in the generation of carbon credits.

This is how the credit system works:

-Landowners voluntarily place lands under a perpetual easement but retain rights to work the land, such as raising livestock and growing hay.
-The carbon storage benefits of this avoided conversion of grasslands are quantified, verified, and formally registered resulting in carbon credits.
-The carbon credits are made available to entities interested in purchasing carbon offsets.
-The landowners receive compensation for the carbon credits generated on their lands. “Ranchers benefit from new revenue streams, while thriving grasslands provide nesting habitat for wildlife, are more resilient to extreme weather, and help mitigate the impact of climate change,” said Vilsack.

Besides the landowners, USDA, and Ducks Unlimited, other key partners that helped make this project a success include The Climate Trust, American Carbon Registry, The Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund and Terra Global Capital.

Link to USDA news release

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202 drought maps reveal just how thirsty California has become – from the Los Angeles Times

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It doesn’t take much to understand why California is so worried about drought. Reservoirs are ever-dwindling. Rainfall is sporadic at best.

More than 80% of California is in extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and the state’s condition isn’t expected to improve in the near future.

The Drought Monitor, which collects data from 50 different weather indicators, have shown an increasingly red California since 2011, the last time the drought map was clear.

Watch the 6-second snap-shot here.

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‘Explore Exporting’ seminar comes to Sacramento on December 9th

exploreexportinglogoSmall businesses lead the way in U.S. export growth, however many food companies never consider the prospect of going international. On December 9th, the Western United States Agriculture Trade Association (WUSATA), in partnership with California Department of Food and Agriculture and the Centers for International Trade Development, will provide an overview of export resources and training for interested food businesses.

This event will be held on Tuesday, December 9th from 9:30 a.m. to Noon at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, 1220 N Street – Main Auditorium, Sacramento, CA 95814. Registration  is required.

California is the largest agricultural producer and exporter in the nation with more than $18 billion in exports. On average, the state’s farmers and ranchers export approximately 26 percent of their production. Connecting farmers, ranchers and food processor to the opportunities available in the global marketplace helps support jobs throughout California’s economy.

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Flies Prefer Yellow – Art show includes work performed by CDFA scientists

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From the Kadist Art Foundation web site: 

Resulting from his three-month residency at Kadist Art Foundation, Flies Prefer Yellow is the North American debut exhibition of Singapore-based artist, Robert Zhao Renhui (b. 1983). Featuring installation and photographic works, the exhibition explores boundaries, systems, neuroses, and control through the artist’s encounters with one of the most inconspicuous insect species on earth–flies. Despite their ubiquity and adaptability (more than 145,000 species exist), flies remain nearly invisible to many humans. This dismissive outlook is attributed less to visual perception, and more to a psychological predisposition towards the insect’s lack of purpose—a manufactured negligence that determines what we see and what we do not. Rendering the unseen visible, and the ignored critical, this multidisciplinary exhibition amplifies the intersections of insect and human, natural and urbanized environments, and entomology and art practice.

During his residency, Zhao made multiple visits to the Sacramento insect lab of Dr. Martin Hauser, Senior Insect Biosystematist at the California Department of Food and Agriculture (and longtime acquaintance of the artist’s). Inspired by Hauser’s scientific impulse towards exhaustive taxonomy, Zhao began observing and cataloguing insects. Ranging from beetle-tracking within the urban core of San Francisco, to collecting the various insect carcasses from his windshield during road trips, the artist began accumulating observations about the indigenous insects, and in particular, the flies he encountered. In addition to the flies themselves, Zhao’s curiosity extends to the various traps and methods humans use to rid themselves of the pests.

The exhibition’s title, Flies Prefer Yellow, on the one hand refers to the artist’s affectionate imagination through its anthropopathic tone, implying a desire to be friendly with the insects. On the other hand, the preference is actually a statistical observation as most commercial flytraps are produced in the color yellow. Through the lens of flies, the exhibition invites critical reflection on human’s paradoxical relationships with animals and our organic world.

Through this collision with art, the insect world, long suppressed and diminished by the congestion and monumentality of urban life, is revealed in the full glory of its contradictions: the fly is both friend and foe, beautiful and repellant, known, yet never fully described. Through languages of humor, repetition, contradiction and juxtaposition, Zhao’s practice negotiates the process of image making and the proximity of vision that continue to blur lines between objective documentation and fictional narrative.

On the evening of the opening reception, November 19 6-9pm, Dr. Martin Hauser will join Zhao and Xiaoyu Weng in conversation within a pop-up laboratory of his scientific materials and specimens. Monica Martinez, of Don Bugito, will serve edible insect appetizers alongside a special insect cocktail by Helena Keeffe.

ROBERT ZHAO RENHUI: FLIES PREFER YELLOW
WEDNESDAY, 19 NOVEMBER, 2014 – SATURDAY, 10 JANUARY, 2015
Opening Reception: November 19, 6-9pm
Exhibition Dates: November 19 – January 10 
Kadist Art Foundation
3925 20th St. San Francisco, CA 94111
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