Yesterday, September 28, 2013 thousands showed up on Capitol Mall for Sacramento’s first Farm-to-Fork Festival, says the Sacramento Bee article by Richard Chang, "Farm-to-Fork Festival draws thousands to Capitol Mall." Lots of free samples from vendors made up for the high price of $175 per person for a meal on the Tower Bridge. The event is part of a week-long campaign aimed at promoting the city’s title as the “Farm-to-Fork Capital of America,” which regional leaders proclaimed last October. Thousands fill vendor bags with free samples.
For those without money to spend, the free samples helped fill bags for families looking for vegetables and other goods. Vendors also sold locally-grown and pressed olive oil. The Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau in downtown at 13th and I Streets sponsored the event. If you counted the vendors, there were about 100, and they didn't have to pay for space to sell or give away their wares. The Farm-to-Fork campaign is great for local restaurants, but what about for obtaining local organic produce if you live in a neighborhood where finding a large supermarket means traveling miles away by light rail or bus?
The Farm-to-Fork campaign, which included a downtown cattle drive on Monday, ends this evening, September 29, 2013 with a $175-a-plate dinner on Tower Bridge. Six hundred people are expected to attend. But so far nobody's donated food for a free dinner or lunch for Sacramento's needy and hungry to enjoy a taste of luxury. What's being emphasized in this campaign is the notion of farm-to-fork, which means eat more local produce. On the other hand, the Farm-to-fork does help local restaurants as well as the farms and the middle persons who are vendors.
If you walk into most Sacramento supermarkets, you'll see frozen fruit such as blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries stamped with product of some other country. This year frozen blueberries for example in some local supermarkets were stamped with product of countries varying from Chile, Argentina, the Ukraine, Peru, and other places in the word, frozen mango chunks from Mexico, and a mound of fresh produce on the shelves from almost anywhere on Earth, with not too many fresh vegetables and fruits grown locally, at least as far as mainstream supermarkets. You find lots of local fresh produce, though at the Sacramento Natural Foods Coop in midtown, at Whole Foods Markets, and in some of the natural foods aisles at some supermarkets.
What Sacramento needs, especially in the Arden Arcade area to complement the commercial produce found at Wal-Mart, for example is a natural foods store that sells local organic produce. The seasonal farmer's markets in the parking lot at Macy's in the Country Club shopping mall, for example, don't always carry organic produce and close too early in the afternoon, just when most of the senior citizen population begins to walk to shopping malls with their utility carts, usually between 1:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. By then, most farmer's markets are closed.
What people forget is that a lot of seniors can't get up early in the morning due to age-related insomnia at night and are most active between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. By sundown, many like to be at home feeling it's unsafe to linger at bus stops in the dark or walk through dimly-lighted neighborhoods after sundown. But few vendors are aware of the hours of many seniors who are not early morning risers, but afternoon activists and purchase organic produce more than younger people who frequent more eateries and restaurants instead of cooking most days at home and looking for organic, yet frugal produce.
The Farm-to-Fork initiative will be a boon for area restaurants and farms
The campaign also is focused on getting more people to eat at Sacramento restaurants rather than brown bag it to work or the park. For example, the California Restaurant Association hailed the Farm-to-Fork festivities as a rebirth for the region’s restaurant scene. The whole push of the campaign is getting you to eat more local produce and also to eat out at local restaurants. The focus is on reaching the working adult and not the low income senior who can't afford to eat outside the home but still wants access to fresh organic produce to prepare at home.
The campaign focuses also on putting Sacramento on the map as a dining destination, and not so much as frugal living and making your own food in your tiny apartment, home, or rented room or where you can buy, grow, or obtain fresh organic produce at a price you can afford. Growing your own food in urban gardens is seasonal unless you have access to a greenhouse with controlled temperature and light where you can grow vegetables or fruits all year.
It's fine to know local farmers have the best organic corn, but how do you sample it if you're a low-income senior in an assisted living apartment, a family member or student on a neighborhood budget, or homeless, hungry, and want to stay healthy? How do you grow your own organic produce when you live in a cramped apartment? And are there urban gardens indoors or hydroponic opportunities during the off-season? Consumers would like to know the answers and the services available while they focus on farm-to-fork local eating opportunities. What urban populations want is a way to make contact with local farmers when neither may have the transportation to meet one another.
The Farm-to-Fork Campaign could use more information for locals on hydroponic produce growing
Wouldn't it have been great if any given eat local campaigns had an exhibit of astronauts on a mission to Mars growing vegetables hydroponically in water and minerals? Check out the July 17, 2012 New York Daily News article, "What do astronauts eat? NASA builds menu for planned Mars mission in 2030s."
The menu must sustain a group of six to eight astronauts, keep them healthy and happy and also offer a broad array of food. Travel to Mars also opens the possibility that astronauts can do a little cooking of their own. The State Fair this week in Sacramento could have had an exhibit on this subject located in the agricultural exhibit section. But instead, it has an exhibit of houses insects and bats make.
Aquaponics combines aquaculture, which is fish farming, with hydroponics, which is growing plants without salt using minerals, nutrients, and water. An exhibit might have been set up showing how water from a fish tank nourishes plants, which in turn purify the water for the fish.
Since plants breathe out oxygen, it makes a fresh environment that the fish breathe in that oxygen under the water. For further information on the aquaponics exhibit, check out the Sacramento Bee article by Anne Gonzales, "Aquaponics in the spotlight at California State Fair." You might picture the scenario on Mars that could be in the future where fish tank water nourishes plants and plants nourish fish. In aquaponics, vegetables are raised for food in a water-saving system. Publicists could take a lesson in aquaponics or hydroponics when it comes to exhibits or vendors showing farm-to-fork creativity of what can be done with local produce.
And that's what Mars and the astronauts have to count on, a water-saving system. Sacramento also needs a water-saving system. You can grow healthier organic produce with up to 95 percent less water than conventional methods of farming when aquaponics is used. It's like a marriage between hydroponics and fish farming. Only NASA predicts the astronauts on Mars will be eating vegetarian meals grown on Mars in green houses.
Yet the topic of Mars and astronauts linked to vegetarian foods is a hot topic to attract more kids to eat their vegetables. And an exhibit would draw a lot of interest because it's fun and educational. Vegetables are 'in.' Also, the Sacramento State Fair this year does have a great farmer's market selling fruit in baskets.
Vendors could have emphasized pumpkin seed crackers. Or how about nonfat yogurt and coconut milk kefir instead of ice cream and sugary shakes? What if the fair went health food for one season to see whether attendance would increase? Maybe people are getting tired of deep-fried vegetables. When you ask someone what kind of fats or oils was that veggie fried in, chances are the food server may not really know because the manager didn't tell that person the name of the particular oil.
What local farm-to-fork type of campaigns need as far as publicity targets are real vegetables ready to eat for those who want them. Wouldn't you really like to see the organic foods you can eat at Whole Foods market or Sacramento Natural Foods Coop appear at concession stands? How about the ethnic restaurants and farmers giving more free samples of organic fruits or vegetables?
If you go to Arden Fair Mall, you'll find Fresh Choice moved away, and next door is a brewery selling pizza, burgers, and pasta. Also a new addition is a Starbucks at the Arden Fair mall. We need more raw vegan restaurants in Sacramento in areas easily accessible to bus stops and open for lunch as well as markets selling organic produce in areas accessible to seniors and others using public transportation, such as near the Country Club mall.
What exhibits some people wish would have been at various farm-to-fork vendor exhibits? How about NASA's astronauts growing vegetables on Mars. Now that's one way to get local produce moving far.
What if various farm-to-fork campaigns also featured an exhibit of NASA's astronauts growing vegetables on Mars using hydroponics (minerals added to water to grow produce), since food there will most likely be vegetarian. The State Fair could have set up taste-testing meals in anticipation of NASA's scientists working together with Lockheed-Martin to create and develop a menu to sustain up to eight astronauts for a trip to Mars that will last six months and feed the astronauts for 18 months on Mars before returning home to Earth.
An exhibit could have been set up of vegetarian foods most likely to taste good to astronauts under the low gravity conditions on Mars, as being in space six months each way impairs the taste buds so that most food tastes bland. Instead of only freeze-dried options, the Fair could have had an exhibit that would interest youth and educators alike. That's one way to encourage kids to eat more vegetables: Show how the astronauts could grow organic produce on Mars using hydroponics or aquaponics.
The exhibit might have included how hydroponics works
Since astronauts will be growing produce to eat on Mars using hydroponics, the process is done by adding nutrients and minerals to water so the vegetables or fruit grow in water instead of soil. A hydroponics exhibit could have been set up at various types of farm-to-fork type exhibits showing just how the Astronauts on Mars would be growing their own food and perhaps freeze-drying it themselves during the months they're on Mars.
In the future, trees planted on Mars might give off oxygen and breath in the carbon dioxide in Mar's atmosphere, if the trees survive, and if water is developed using H2O chemicals to make water, unless the ice cap on Mars is melted, and the runoff is actually water.
The astronauts would be growing their own vegetables. The astronauts might be eating the same type of carrots, bell peppers, and eggplant. Since the Mars mission probably won't be leaving Earth until 2030 or so, there's plenty of time, should the interest be piqued in such an exhibit promoting local farmers to the public and to restaurants. Somebody might be interested in linking astronauts to being vegetarian on Mars.
Growing vegetables is one way to encourage people, especially kids to eat their vegetables, by showing them action figures of astronauts growing produce for food on Mars
If you like raw organic produce, toss together a salad of kale, tomatoes, strawberries, red cabbage, celery, spinach, and an optional quarter cup of diced red onions. Then flavor with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. If you use oil on salads, try a teaspoon of cod liver oil that's lemon flavored. If you want sweet, mix a tablespoon of tart cherry juice into your lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and mix the salad.