July 24, 2014

Farmers and Vintners

Come with us from farm to city to places in between! Read below to learn about a celebration of Oakland urban winemaking and another for a long-running farmers’ market. We honor a leader whose AgPark connects farms with urban neighborhoods and offer some good information on opportunities for farmers seeking organic certification. Our book reviews cover the latest titles on sustainable farming.


Photo courtesy of the East Bay Vintners Alliance

Photo courtesy of the East Bay Vintners Alliance


Urban-Wine-Xperience-(1)Drink Up!

Saturday August 2, 1–5pm
9th Annual Urban Wine Xperience
Jack London Square Ferry Lawn, Oakland

Once each year, Urban Wine Country gathers in one place, offering an easy opportunity for visitors and locals to taste some of the Bay Area’s best artisanal wines. At the Urban Wine Xperience, hosted by the East Bay Vintners Alliance (EBVA), more than 20 East Bay urban wineries pour a wide array of wines. Food pairings from local eateries and purveyors serve as a delicious accompaniment to these wine portfolios. Come enjoy great wine, food, and live music right by the water at vibrant Jack London Square.


A Good Time to Go Organic

At local farmers’ markets, we often talk with vendors who don’t use pesticides or other chemicals, but also don’t have an organic certification. Farmers will tell you that it’s expensive and time consuming to get the organic label. But getting certified just got a bit easier. FarmsReach and California Certified Organic Farmers(CCOF) have launched a new program that reduces the cost and offers help with the paperwork. Until September 30, any member of FarmsReach and their Farmers Guild Network can request an application fee waiver, which saves farmers $325. There is no cost to join FarmsReach, and farmers who attend a Going Organic workshop get assistance filling out the forms. “We’re trying to make it as clear and straightforward as possible,” says Elizabeth Whitlow, an inspection operations supervisor for CCOF. For more info and to request a fee-waiver letter, visit here.



Growing Green


Growing Green award recipient Sibella Kraus

Growing Green award recipient Sibella Kraus

Kudos to Sibella Kraus, winner of the 2014 Growing Green Awardin the category for Regional Food Leader! The honor is given annually by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Berkeley Food Institute. Kraus developed San Francisco’s renowned Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market and serves as president of the Berkeley nonprofit SAGE (Sustainable Agriculture Education), which helps beginning, immigrant, and established farmers grow food for local communities while conserving natural resources. The Sunol AgPark, a project of SAGE, is home to four small-scale organic farms; SAGE provides technical and marketing assistance for the farmers and has established an irrigation system, fencing, and farm roads on AgPark land. The park also offers hands-on environmental education for children, service learning and job training for youth, and volunteer opportunities for community members.




Fancy fruit tasting at the Bayfair Market

Bayfair Market Marks 20th Anniversary

The San Leandro Certified Farmers’ Market at Bayfair Center is celebrating its 20-year anniversary with special and tasty events on the third Saturday of each month. Enjoy a comparative tomato tasting on August 16. Learn to make fresh salsa on September 20. Visit the market on October 18 to celebrate the fall harvest with fun activities for the whole family. The market is open every Saturday, 9am–1pm, offering fresh, California-grown fruits and vegetables. More than 60 family farmers and food producers take part in this year-round market held in the Bayfair Mall parking lot.



Book Reviews

It’s climate change, stupid.
Reviews by Kristina Sepetys

Three new books use different lenses to examine climate change in the food and farming world. A fourth on summer grilling provides a recipe from a chef-author who lives the sustainability principles, working to restore our relationship with the ocean, the land, and community.

Local: The New Face of Food and Farming in America
by Douglas Gayeton
(Harper Design, June 2014)
Petaluma-based Gayeton, artist and co-director of the Lexicon of Sustainability project, examines local food movements and the way they can address climate change. Gayeton asked hundreds of thought leaders in sustainable food and farming like Alice Waters, Temple Grandin, Barton Seaver, Vandana Shiva, and Joel Salatin, along with farmers, fishermen, and dairy producers to give him one word to define the essence of their work. Their answers, more than 200 food and agriculture terms like “food miles,” “direct trade,” and “grassfed,” comprise this very readable, well-photographed dictionary of food literacy. Says Gayeton, “If people know what terms mean, if they can see complex principles rendered simply, in ways that apply to their own lives, if they can visualize not only a complex idea but its solution, then a transformative conversation about climate change will follow.”



Sustainable [R]evolution: Permaculture in Ecovillages, Urban Farms, and Communities Worldwide
by Juliana Birnbaum and Louis Fox
(North Atlantic Books, 2014)
Anthropologist Juliana Birnbaum and filmmaker Louis Fox examine permaculture activism to document the growing international sustainability movement. The authors present 60 innovative community-based projects in diverse climates across the planet to illustrate a variety of permaculture design approaches. They catalog successful design solutions at urban farms, indigenous villages, and suburban co-housing communities. 



Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey through Carbon Country
by Courtney White
(Chelsea Green, 2014)
Courtney White offers some easy suggestions for what we can each do to help combat climate change. Build topsoil. Fix creeks. Eat meat from pasture-raised animals. Soil scientists maintain that a mere two percent increase in the carbon content of the planet’s soils could offset 100 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions going into the atmosphere. In Grass, Soil, Hope, White shows how existing, low-tech, proven practices like composting, no-till farming, habitat conservation, climate-friendly livestock practices, biodiversity protection, and local food production can reduce atmospheric COwhile producing substantial co-benefits for all living things.



Where There’s Smoke: Simple, Sustainable, Delicious Grilling
by Barton Seaver
(Sterling Epicure, 2013) 

Barton Seaver, sustainability advocate, chef, National Geographic Fellow, and Director of the Healthy and Sustainable Food Program at Harvard’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, serves up a cornucopia of suggestions for using a smoking grill to prepare fresh, organic produce, fish, beef, and poultry. With how-to grill tips to capture all the benefits of heat and flavor, Seaver includes well-tested recipes like Wood-Grilled Snap Peas with Smoky Aioli, Grilled Pacific Halibut with Pistachio Butter, Flank Steak with Radicchio and Plum Salad, Meatloaf with Smoky Tomato Sauce, and Pickled Smoked Peaches, together with dozens of simple, flavorful vegetable side dishes and salads.



Grilled Spanish Mackerel
with Orange-Tarragon Salsa

Reprinted with permission from Where There’s Smoke © 2013
by Barton Seaver, Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
Photography by Katie Stoops

When cooking mackerel on the grill, it is best to leave the skin on to prevent the flesh from drying out. I like to peel it off before serving, but that is up to you.

Serves 4

Grilled-Spanish-Mackerel-with-Orange-Tarragon-Salsa2 oranges
1/2 red onion or 2 shallots, finely diced
Leaves from 6 sprigs fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt
One 1¼ -pound skin-on mackerel fillet, soaked in Fish Brine
Freshly ground black pepper

To make the salsa, peel the oranges and cut them into segments; cut each segment into thirds and combine these with the onion, tarragon, and olive oil in a small bowl. Season with the salt and toss well. Remove the fillet from the brine and pat it dry. Season the fish with coarsely ground pepper. Mackerel has enough fat that it will not need to be oiled before grilling if your grates are well seasoned. Place the fillet, skin side down, on the grill away from the coals of a small fire and add a few fruitwood chips to the fire. Cover the grill and cook for about 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish and the heat of the fire. The fish is cooked when it is no longer opaque, has turned an even beige color, and the flesh flakes under gentle pressure. Transfer it to a platter. Spoon the salsa over the fish and serve immediately.

Fish Brine

Fish deserve some salty foreplay just as much as pork and poultry. Every type of seafood is different in terms of density of the flesh, so different brine times are needed for different fish.

Makes enough to brine fillets for 4 people; for whole fish, double the recipe

2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Mix all the ingredients and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Submerge the fish in the brine, weighting it down with a plate if need be, and brine according to these guidelines:

Trout, shrimp, sardines, and other delicate seafood: 15 minutes.

Bass, barramundi, sablefish, and other flaky fillets: 20 minutes.

Halibut, mahimahi, bluefish, and other flaky, meaty fillets: 30 minutes.

Salmon, mackerel, Arctic char, and other meaty, full-flavored fish: 35 minutes.

Amberjack, cobia, swordfish, and other dense, steak-like fish: 40 minutes.