Sowing Change


Farms touch our lives in surprising ways. Opportunities are coming up this week to view a new documentary film about Occupy the Farm as well as to enjoy a local harvest dinner featuring dishes made with freshly harvested foods from farms in the Capay Valley.

Farmers clearing and tilling the Gill Tract on day 1 of Occupy the Farm, April 22, 2012. Photo by Kelly Johnson

In This Newsletter:

Occupy the Farm film premiere in Berkeley – Nov 7

● Flowerland and Standard Fare partner up – Nov 8

● Harvest Dinner at Benchmark Pizzeria – Nov 12

● Taste of the Nation at the Claremont Hotel – Nov 16

● Book Reviews: Go With the Grains

● Recipe: Benchmark Pizzeria’s Olive Oil Cake



Planting at the Gill Tract: screen capture from the film

One Plant at a Time

Occupy the Farm Comes to the Big Screen

Kids play on a grass house built at Occupy the Farm. Photo by Kelly Johnson

Kids play on a grass house built at Occupy the Farm.
Photo by Kelly Johnson

By Rachel Trachten

“We decided it was time not just to call on UC Berkeley to do something different with the land, but to actually do something different with the land.” These are the words of farmer Gopal Dayaneni, featured in the new documentary Occupy the Farm about activists who in April 2012 created an urban farm on Albany’s Gill Tract land owned by UC Berkeley. Directed by Todd Darling and produced by Steve Brown and Carl Grether, the film opens on Friday, November 7 and shows through November 13 at the UA Berkeley 7 on Shattuck Avenue.

This powerful and engaging film presents the voices of activists, University administrators and professors, community members, City of Albany officials, and police. Viewers learn about the competing interests for the land (14 acres in total), particularly the farmers’ imperative to grow fresh food for local residents versus the University’s research and real estate development plans (including a Whole Foods Market and retirement housing).

On Fall Community Day, 2014, Occupy the Farm producer Carl Grether shows his friend Dixie Pauline the newly planted medicine garden. Photo by Zach Pine

On Fall Community Day, 2014, Occupy the Farm producer Carl Grether shows his friend Dixie Pauline the newly planted medicine garden.
Photo by Zach Pine

The film offers a peek at the day-by-day challenges and victories of the occupation: 200 determined volunteers weeding and tilling a full acre on the first day; the group’s frustration when the water is turned off, followed by calm resolve as volunteers hand-carry huge containers of water; tense interactions with police; and the sheer joy of harvesting cucumbers. The farmers see themselves as the next step in the Occupy movement, with a shift from encampments and protest to positive, peaceful action and education.

The documentary raises important questions about the responsibilities of a public university as the steward of farmland in close proximity to food deserts where fresh produce can’t be found, but liquor stores are plentiful. It disputes the assertion by former UC Professor Damon Lisch that he is conducting “basic research” on corn plants at the Gill Tract, instead presenting the view that the research generates agribusiness income for the University. Although the story is seen primarily through the eyes of the activists, the variety of perspectives creates a window into the many layers involved.

More than two years after the initial occupation—with intervening arrests, lawsuits, petitions, City Council

Volunteers planting during Spring Community Day, 2014. Photo by Kelly Johnson

Volunteers planting during Spring Community Day, 2014.
Photo by Kelly Johnson

meetings, and the Whole Foods decision to pull out of its lease agreement—a tentative peace has been reached. The Gill Tract Community Farm website calls itself “a collaborative community project between the UC and the community, focused on issues of food justice and urban farming.” About an acre of land is devoted to an urban farm where community volunteers are warmly welcomed and the harvest is distributed for free to local nonprofits and individuals.

The film pays tribute to the energy and passion behind the movement. “When I saw urban farmers joining forces with activists from Occupy Oakland, I sensed an epic story about food justice,” says Director Todd Darling. “We ‘occupied’ the occupation with our cameras and followed these smart, passionate farmers as they defended the land with courage and creativity.” Occupy the Farm also opens this month in New York and Pasadena. Read the Edible Silicon Valley interview with Todd Darling and Steve Brown: here

Tickets and times: here

Moving the water tank at the farm: screen capture from the film

Moving the water tank at the farm: screen capture from the film


J2XB1kdSbvCcCJYYGGnPA3nhrKpQVHV9PC4zR_Gz8-XCn9CPAjFsmbd80vgd-qp9DFx8S9oB7LTcFSo-GQhVh-UECAaGUd3rIHQXuitgZmKF_nwLM75W_-MyD8IB4reoDWp8BL7uirfxgorrzfaI4EbkyxqQTif8lnydg1c=s0-d-e1-ftFlowerland + Standard Fare =
Scrumptious Snacks in the Garden

Standard Fare at Flowerland
Saturday November 8, 12:30–2:30pm
1330 Solano Avenue, Albany

Standard Fare’s talented chef-owner Kelsie Kerr turns out flavorful, hand-crafted meals from her beautiful kitchen at 8th Street and Carleton in Berkeley. Stop by Flowerland, the charming nursery and garden shop on Solano Avenue, this Saturday afternoon to sample some tasty Standard Fare nibbles, meet Kelsie and her team, and wander among the lovely plants and greenery. Standard Fare offerings, available for pre-order on their website, Standard-Fareare made from beautiful organic produce that Kelsie hand selects from local farmers and food artisans. Recent offerings include dishes like Nettle Polenta Torta with Winter Squash, Rapini, and Roasted Cauliflower and Eggplant, as well as Petrale Sole, Cardoons, Kale, and Peppers. Flowerland, together with Ordinaire Wine Shop, is a new pick-up spot for Standard Fare food. (Read Kristina Sepetys’ story “Flowerland Redux” here.)


The Séka Hills Olive Mill and Tasting Room Photo courtesy of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation

Taste the Harvest at Benchmark Pizzeria

Capay Valley Harvest Dinner
Wednesday November 12, 5–9pm
Benchmark Pizzeria
1568 Oak View Avenue, Kensington

Savor the harvest of the Capay Valley at a special event at Kensington’s Benchmark Pizzeria. The Capay Valley Harvest Dinner features both olio nuovo (freshly pressed olive oil) and honey from Séka Hills, the specialty food product line from the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. Fall produce from area farmers River Dog and Full Belly Farms is on the menu too. Fresh, bright, and bold, the olio nuovo from Séka Hills is produced with Arbequina olives from the Tribe’s ancestral homelands in the Capay Valley. To tempt your appetite, here are a few of the à la carte offerings available on Wednesday, November 12: Fettunta (garlic toast soaked in olio nuovo), Kale Salad with Honey-Chile Vinaigrette, and Braised Beef with Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes & Horseradish Salsa Verde. For dessert: New Olive Oil Cake with Honey & Citrus (see recipe below). Info: here or
Reservations: 510.647.9724  


Ending Childhood Hunger, One Taste at a Time

Taste of the Nation East Bay
Sunday November 16, 4–7pm
Claremont Hotel
42 Tunnel Road, Berkeley
Please note: all attendees must be 21 years of age

Taste of the Nation is coming to the East Bay, with a culinary tasting benefit at the Claremont Hotel. Chaired by Chef Tanya Holland of Brown Sugar Kitchen and B-Side BBQ, the event features more than 40 of the East Bay’s best chefs, mixologists, vintners, and brewers. Along with wine cellar and restaurant roulette games, a silent auction is on the menu this year. This event is put on by the No Kid Hungry campaign, a network of private citizens, government officials, business leaders, and others generating innovative hunger solutions in their communities. Through the campaign’s Cooking Matters program, low-income participants learn to shop strategically, use nutrition information to make healthier food choices and cook delicious, affordable meals. Cost: $85. Info and tickets: here

Go with the Grains

By Kristina Sepetys

Della Fattoria Bread: 63 Foolproof Recipes for Yeasted, Enriched & Naturally Leavened Breads
by Kathleen Weber
(Artisan, 2014)
Anyone who has enjoyed a meal at Kathleen Weber’s cozy café and award-winning bakery in Petaluma, Della Fattoria, will probably be excited by the arrival of her cookbook. It includes lots of photos, instruction, and resources to help you try your hand at some of her delicious rustic yeasted, enriched, pre-fermented, and naturally leavened breads and better known dishes like Della Panzanella, Tuna Melt Piadina and her signature Meyer Lemon–Rosemary Campagne bread.

Greens+Grains: Recipes for Deliciously Healthful Meals 
by Molly Watson
(Chronicle Books, 2014)
The author, a San Francisco–based food writer who honed her recipe development skills at Sunset magazine, presents 45 recipes for hearty, satisfying dishes combining greens and grains, alongside cooking methods for dozens of grains, from quinoa to rye berries. Prepare dishes like Polenta with Dandelion Relish and Soft-Boiled Eggs; Chard, Fennel, and Farro Salad with Lemon and Feta; and Greens-Stuffed Cornmeal Cakes. Many recipes can be prepared in one pot. Photographs of finished dishes are especially descriptive and appetizing.

Bread Revolution: World-Class Baking with Sprouted & Whole Grains, Heirloom Flours & Fresh Techniques
by Peter Reinhart
(10 Speed Press, 2014)
Baker and instructor Peter Reinhart is well known for his award-winning books (like The Bread Baker’s Apprentice), and the beloved Brother Juniper’s Bakery in Santa Rosa, which he sold before relocating to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he currently lives and bakes. His latest book explores new developments in bread baking and presents 50 recipes, tips, and techniques for using sprouted flours, whole and ancient grains, nut and seed flours, and alternative flours (such as teff and grape skin). Includes allergy-friendly and gluten-free approaches.

Benchmark Pizzeria Olive Oil Cake


Olive oil cake, served here with strawberries and cream rather than citrus. It's delicious either way.   Photo courtesy of Benchmark Pizzeria.

Olive oil cake, served here with strawberries and cream rather than citrus. It’s delicious either way.
Photo courtesy of Benchmark Pizzeria.

Makes 8 servings
Need: 1 9-inch round springform pan
Kitchen scale

100 grams citrus juice
Zest of 6–7 lemons/oranges
8 grams baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
200 grams sugar
219 grams cake flour
3 eggs
150 grams Séka Hills EVOO
110 grams whole milk yogurt (plain)

Preheat oven to 350˚. Spray springform with nonstick baking spray. Mix together wet and dry ingredients separately. Combine until smooth, then pour into sprayed springform pan. Bake 25 minutes, then rotate cake 180˚and bake another 25 minutes. Allow to cool for 1 hour. Serve with segmented citrus and whipped cream.