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Stories and green tips related to nature, adventure, placemaking, and food systems, written by a beginning farmer/gardener and seasoned sustainability educator who loves to grow, cook, ferment, and eat local and ecologically happy food.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Saturday Morning Adventure

By 8:50 this morning, I was on my bike headed toward downtown. Last night's rainy residue lined my tires with a coat of water, and the crisp air flapped my long floral dress and my wavy hair. With two paniers attached to my bike and a "One Less Car" t-shirt over my dress, I made my way to sleepy Saturday morning Main Street and parked my bike near an Italian restaurant and Bank of America.

I walked across the street to where our Farmer's Market is held and began perusing the booths, looking for tasty food. I didn't really have any plan of what to buy, although I had seen some delicious-looking preserves last week and hoped to buy some today. There are these two guys (above, second tent down the street) who work at one of the stands who are always asking "Miss, would you like a sample?" Everytime I walked by, last week included, they called and asked this to everyone. "No thank you," I am always forced to say. Their sample has cheese. I wish I could say yes because their sample really does look delicious. Every time, "Miss would you like a sample?" He even said I could take his picture since I had my camera around my neck. Still, I had to say no thank you. Perhaps next week I'll see if they can make me a sample of something else that doesn't have cheese.

I did find the stand with the preserves and decided to purchase raspberry preserves from Fontana Farms (Ceres, California, $4.00). Then I wandered all the way to the end of the street and found a woman selling jarred jams and jellies. Over the summer when I was at my aunt's house, I had seen jalapeño pepper jelly at a small fruit stand in Gilroy. We hadn't purchased any because my aunt said she had some at her house. I forgot to try it when we got to her house and ever since have been wondering what such an intriguing food might taste like. Fortunately, the woman was selling some green jalapeño pepper jelly. I asked for a sample and it was delicious and spicy and perfect, so I bought a small jar. (Sister Sara's, Pleasanton, California, $7).I proceeded to purchase blackberries from Cortez Farms (Santa Maria, California, $4) and organic carrots and an organic onion from J&M Ibarra Organic Farms (Reedley, California, $4.50). I brought my own bags to hold the various things I purchased. I took a lot of pictures at the market and then walked into The Berry Patch, a great boutique to find local art, jewelry, children's clothing, honey, and greeting cards. I was looking at some lovely necklaces that have butterflies and lady bugs on them when I realized I had ten minutes to get over to the library for a meeting.I walked, since the library is only two blocks away, and made it to the workshop room (where I've been numerous times for different events: book sales, book readings, author discussions, SAT practice test) with about seven minutes to spare before the presentation began.

The meeting was a community workshop for our city's Youth Master Plan. My name tag said my name and underneath, "Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee." I hadn't realized that it said that until after the presenter mentioned my name as a representative for the committee, along with the names of many others present who were on various committees and commissions. I was surprised to hear my name announced and gave an awkward sort of wave, wondering how many people in the audience knew my dad or step-mom, who are both very active in the community.

After an overview of what the plan is and what its vision statement and proposed values and goals are, we broke into three discussion groups. My group was all middle school to high school students. The discussion was led by two teen Youth Master Plan Implementation Committee members with the help of one adult. Each group's task was to come up with some ideas of what we thought the vision and goals did well and what could be changed. We offered suggestions on how to make the community more supportive of its youth, meaning everyone aged 0-19 years old. We talked about how to get youth more involved in safe, fun activities and local government. We talked about prevention of unsafe activities or ways to make certain activities safer.

I suggested that there be more environmental awareness education for the elementary school aged students to help them become more conscious and to develop "greener" habits that they will take with them as they grow up. A girl next to me mentioned that 4-H has a piece of land on which they plan to create a community farm where youth could keep animals or learn about raising animals and farms. I was enthusiastic about that idea and talked to her afterward about it. A guy from my school who is president of the B-Boy Club (breakdancing, basically) suggested that existing facilities be available to his group and groups like his so that others in the community can join the club and learn to dance and become a part of a supportive environment that encourages friendship and self-confidence.

Communication is definitely an issue in getting event and activity information out to the youth. I suggested a Facebook page or putting a calendar of all events pertaining to youth in the schools' bulletins. Someone else suggested there be a central location, like the library, where a comprehensive list of activities will be available. A weekly or monthly calendar of activities could be posted in visible places like Starbucks and local restaurants or hangout places. Honestly, for those youth who are not already involved, the information needs to be brought to them. They aren't going to come looking for the information; those that look were at the meeting today and are updated by email lists and the network of people they know who are involved in the community. We really need to get these activities out to those students who have nothing else to do and who are bored and eventually end up doing nothing better than spending time with their bored friends and drugs or alcohol. There are always going to be those kids who don't want to get involved in something. But plenty of those who aren't involved now could find something they'd be interested in; it's just a matter of reaching out to them.

After our discussions, a person from each group reported back to the workshop. Our notes and discussions will be organized and submitted to the Youth Master Plan Implementation Committee, the City staff, School District and those who will help organize our input into the master plan. I suggested that ideas be prioritized and that in implementing them, smaller focus groups be created for each age group for the activities. That way, those who will be utilizing the outcome of the project and who have knowledge about it can sit down with planners to figure out how to implement it effectively. Rather than try to implement everything or plan everything, they should start small with one new idea for each age group and get further input from those who are involved, and go from there. There are so many wonderful ideas, but each needs to be taken one step at a time.

It was interesting and fun to hear others' ideas and to submit my own thoughts. I've had such a great experience being involved in my community, so I'm glad there's a way for me to give back and to help others have a similarly rewarding experience.

It was a lovely Saturday morning in my hometown, which feels smalltown despite being considered a "city." On my way home while riding past my high school, I saw that there was a wheelchair and crutches drive to donate to Haiti. There is so much going on in our community at all times--I'm so fortunate to have been raised in such a wonderful place.

See those carrots? I bought mine from that bunch. There's a basket of onions next to it from which I chose one. J&M Ibarra Organic Farm, Reedley, California. Unfortunately, that's 180 miles away from where I live, so it doesn't exactly meet the criteria for that 100-Mile diet. Fortunately, it's organic.

My bag-loaded bike after the meeting, next to our city's newest mural depicting a snapshot in time of our city's history. I suppose my photographs will some day be considered snapshots in history, as well.

1 comment:

  1. I wouldn't feel too guilty with buying carrots from 180 miles away. At this time of year the only local carrots we can get are the frozen ones in my freezer I saved from my garden. You are lucky to live so close to year-round agriculture! What I wouldn't do for a fresh local carrot right out of the ground, or even better a strawberry :) enjoy your produce!!

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