- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
The combination of programs that encompass University of California Cooperative Extension allow the organization to be at the forefront of the movement, said Terry Spezzano, UCCE nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisor in Stanislaus and Merced counties.
“We have farm advisors, nutrition advisors, Master Gardeners and Master Food Producers,” Spezzano said. “We have it all, so we’re in a really good spot to spearhead the farm-to-fork movement.”
When State Senator Cathleen Galgiani sponsored a farm-to-fork education day at the San Joaquin County fairgrounds in August, she invited UC Cooperative Extension to be involved.
The event was designed to link the community with fresh fruits and vegetables from local farms. Even though San Joaquin Valley residents live in the midst of a world-class agricultural industry, they may not know where to purchase the freshest produce, how to prepare it, and the importance of including it in their diets to promote a healthy lifestyle.
“This is to bring attention to the wonderful food we have here at home, in our own backyard,” Galgiani said.
Three local chefs were given one hour, one raw chicken and an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables that are typically distributed by the emergency food bank and available to WIC program participants. As an audience watched, the chefs quickly sliced tomatoes and onions, cut the kernels from corn on the cob, julienned colorful bell peppers, sautéed, braised and stir-fried their creations to be judged by a panel of tasters.
“This shows people how to make wonderful, healthy meals that are so good, we would think we could only get something so delicious in restaurant,” Galgiani said. “We have a farmers market here (at the fairgrounds) every Thursday. We hope that people will come and do more cooking at home with fresh products.”
The UC CalFresh and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education programs had booths at the event to showcase their year-round educational efforts that teach families and school children how to eat better, read labels and manage money.
Also present at the farm-to-fork day was Puentes, a non-profit organization that manages the 2.5-acre Boggs Tract Community Farm on land leased from the Port of Stockton. The organization has worked closely with the UC Master Gardeners in San Joaquin County to build the farm and teach interested residents about producing and marketing fruits and vegetables.
Master Gardener Susan Mora Loyko is chair of the Puentes Board of Directors.
“The Boggs Tract Community Farm is a prototype sustainable farming business,” she said. “We are educating local families to grow, market and sell the produce in the neighborhood, where there is no access to fresh produce, and get people engaged in eating healthy food.”
The program also markets Boggs Tract products via a community supported agriculture program that provides boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables weekly to Stockton subscribers.
“We hope to replicate this model in other parts of Stockton, and eventually throughout California and the Americas,”
To learn more about the San Joaquin County farm-to-fork day, view the video below: