Sunday, April 29, 2012

Voices of sharing food

2011 Crop Swap
Last year August marked the first South Berkeley/North Oakland Crop Swap at the historic Lorin Station at the corner of Alcatraz and Adeline. It was such a warm occasion to start new friendships and to engage in an age old tradition brought to life – sharing homegrown food. And, the day marked another chance to share, make new acquaintances, help others, and to remember that we all have some common touch points. We all have reason to remember to celebrate what we have by giving to others. It is with this spirit that the Victory Garden Foundation and Transition Berkeley share with you the voices from our previous Crop Swap. 

2012 Crop Swap starts May 20
We look forward to seeing you this year at the Crop Swap starting on Sunday, May 20, 1 – 2 pm. Since the 2011 Crop Swaps were such a success; this year, it will be held  Sunday. We want all backyard gardeners in the area to participate and we’re seeking volunteers to help manage the event – it’s an easy thing to do. And, as always, if you do not have produce to swap; please come out anyway and engage is inspiring conversations while meeting new and old neighbors and just enjoy the hour – pick up something to take home. It’s also a great place to learn what’s happening in your ‘hood.
Come on out and enjoy an hour of fun and music with The Crane and The Crow (formerly known as Gods+Others) -

The Crane and The Crow
These Crop Swaps are for you and you can shape the focus. We hope that the voices of sharing food will inspire and encourage you to participate in this community building and connection event. Here’s what people said last year and a glimpse into what happens at a Crop Swap:

“The event was beautiful and brought life to an underutilized corner. Setting this event amidst the native plant garden at Loren Station was ideal.”
Crop Swaps and urban agriculture are clearly catching on in a big way, reconnecting people to the earth and to each other, empowering people and making the community stronger. The large number of people interested in sharing home grown food is encouraging and their enthusiasm is contagious. People who came to the first Lorin Station Crop Swap were talking about their crops, how to grow them, their nutritional benefits, and how to prepare them. Patches of recipes could be heard in the friendly conversations between people meeting for the first time. 

“I am amazed by the variety of foods being raised by neighbors who live all around us from eggs to Asian pears, to cucumbers, hot peppers and summer squash. “
Green beans were the most plentiful in August and leftover produce was donated to a local Berkeley shelter. People who currently aren't growing food picked up produce, potted plants, flowers and seeds. They often had stories of their childhood gardening experiences. This tells us that to teach a child about vegetable gardening is to give a lifelong gift. Teachers, neighbors, grandparents and parents; let's all keep giving our children this precious gift.

“I liked the baskets and other containers people used to carry their abundance to market.  Some of the finer details, such as hand decorated clay pots allowed people to share their creativity as well as their bounty.”
“This is amazingly energizing! “
“Today I took about 10 bruised apples and 5 perfect, if green ones, and came home with a bunch of green beans, zucchini, Asian pears, one beet with beautiful greens, tomatoes, oregano...and all of my Gravensteins were snapped up!”
This location seemed to bring about the spirit of days gone by when we were all neighbors and friends and we met at the Lorin Station, the last stop before Berkeley along the Berkeley Branch line of the Central Pacific railway. This was the settlement of Lorin (before annexed to Berkeley).

 “I just met a lady today who said something nice. I stated I didn't feel worthy to take the painted clay pot when I just needed the basil to add to my herb spiral. She said I should think of it as a gift, but then plant something else in it next month and return it to the swap if I really don't need it. She also said she could use the adorned porcelain saucer that accompanied it. So we each took a piece.”
And the energy that emanated from Lorin Station moved some to write about their experience in their blogs. This is just the beginning of spread the word of sharing, engaging, extending and building community.
Kristi's meal
This amazing one hour meeting of like minds seems endless in time since so many that gathered at the first Crop Swap continue to communicate and share ideas and energy.

“I had the opportunity to share some of the oregano bruja I got at the Nuestras Raices farm last year and have been keeping going using cuttings. I have been making a lovely salad dressing using it, lime juice, olive oil and hot peppers, perfect on a tomato, cuke, corn & pepper salad. Everyone was so generous with their harvest, time and knowledge.”
This is just a sample of some of the impressions and conversations at the Lorin Station Crop Swap. If you want to contribute to this exciting meeting of neighbors; join in at the local Crop Swap at Lorin Station – an historical site bringing back the neighbors connecting for a common good. Plant some extra radishes and greens, glean produce in your neighborhood, and bring a recipe, something to help the gardeners continue to grow backyard food like seeds and planter containers. Experience a new vegetable, herb, or fruit.  And, just stop by to meet your neighbors and talk about ‘things.’ All are welcome – gardeners and consumers. 

“The remains of the day: many green beans, Asian pears, cucumbers, and oregano to the Berkeley Food and Shelter place on Dwight just a half block East of Shattuck."

Many thanks for Carole Bennett-Simmons and Barbara Edwards of Transition Berkeley for teaming with Victory V Lee, founder/president, Victory Garden Foundation to co-produce and co-sponsor the Lorin Station Crop Swap. 

For more information about the Lorin Station Crop Swap, contact Victory V Lee, founder, Victory Garden Foundation at Visit the foundation’s Facebook page ( and follow on
Or, contact Carole Bennett-Simmons at Be sure to visit for more information.

Local Heroes are everywhere

We don't always see local heroes; but we feel their presence and impact. And, many local heroes are not aware of their status. Ask any one of them about the work that they do for their communities and a common theme emerges:
'I just do what I do because of my passion for enhancing the quality of life for others.'

Isn't that something that we all aspire to do? That is, enhance the quality of life? Whether it's to enhance our lives or the lives of others; nonetheless, touching one person with compassion touches us all.

Local heroes seem to have  endless energy. Where do they get all the energy for helping others? Most will say:

'I'm driven just knowing that someone needs my help.'

If we could harness our local heroes' energy; there would be no worry about a worldwide energy crisis. Imagine walking up to a Local Heroes Filling Station, saying "fill 'er up," and leaving with a full tank of high octane of I'm Helping Someone Today?

And, where in the world do local heroes get the time to help others? It's a mystery. I know of local heroes who work a full time job, or support many social causes, or work to ensure their families are healthy and help countless people enhancing the quality of their lives - themselves and others.

'It seems that the more I do; the more time I have.'

Did you know that you are a local hero? Yes, it's true. You have done something good for yourself and others in your lifetime many times. No matter how large or small; your impact of inspiration has been felt by someone and that gives you hero status.

As we move into the May challenge month of this year's Victory Garden Transition Challenge; I thought I'd share with you a few facts about the challenge and some information from some of our local challenge heroes:

In the month of April:  
  • 85  local heroes registered for the Victory Garden Transition Challenge representing:
    38,222 square feet of Backyard gardens
    6,281 square feet of Frontyard gardens
    4,100 square feet of Sideyard gardens
    50,060 square feet of Community Gardening space
    13,136 square feet of School Gardening space
    223 square feet of Indoor Gardening Space
  • These gardens are feeding 1096 adults, 484 teens, and  630 young children
  • More than 1000 heirloom vegetable, herb, and flowers seeds have been distributed to individuals, community organizations, and community gardens in 16 states and 38 cities.
Eden Keeps Garden
And, this is just the first part of the Challenge!

From May 1 - 31; we want to double, triple, quadruple the outreach, inspiration, support, and education while thousands across the nation take the challenge. Transition US, Victory Garden Foundation, Marin Garden Challenge, our community partners and many, many more organizations and individuals have embarked on this challenge to raise awareness to growing food, saving water, conserve energy while building resilient and sustainable communities.

There are so many ways that you may get involved at home and in your communities. Here are some of the reasons why our local heroes say they are taking the challenge:

 My garden challenge project is:
"Building gardens at private residences, schools, community centers, churches, senior centers, and San Quentin State Prison."
"We love to garden sharing our products with our elderly parents in Florida, the UPS man, Fed Ex, our neighbors and every single week - the food bank.  We make sure they get at least a dozen cartons of eggs a week.  Last year we shared cantaloupes by the cart load, same with okra."
"I run the CCG garden and urban farms project ... All the food we grow is donated to the poor thru a home delivery system we have been running for four years now ... We grow year round and have begun an intensive diversification program . Last year , inspired by our home delivery of food, neighbors began to let out their unimproved properties to farm urban agriculture."
"fruits, veggies  and gourds for birdhouses"
"Adding one more bed and revitalizing old beds, crop swaps in Berkeley with seedlings."
"Strawberry Fields Forever"
"Plant veggies & herbs, maybe coordinate with Berkeley's Neighborhood Vegetables"
" I want to expand my garden to grow more vegetables"
  My water challenge project is:
 "thinking about watering drip system."
"hope to construct a fountain, want some frogs!"
 "Clean up Arcadia EcoHome's garden & street in front of the property so as to reduce impact of urban runoff on water quality in the ocean."
"Rainwater harvesting"
"greywater from washing machine goes out into the from yard with 2 fruit trees"
"we have a 250 gallon hot tub converted to rain barrel to water garden and worm bin"
My energy challenge project is:
"Solar backup lighting"
"a solar powered greenhouse"
"For my family, our car runs on Waste Vegetable Oil"
"We're researching alternative energy methods like solar panels to power our home with clean energy and to save money. We hope to be using sustainable energy by 2013."
"solar panel for the last 4 years"
 My community challenge project is:
"The whole yard is shared - we are a co-housing community with 8 families."
"Encourage community members who live in single family homes to grow their own food."
"At one point, I'd love to have a gardening club, kids included, since I know some children around here have two parents that work, or a single parent that works.  I would love to see this as a means to bring our community together, esp as there is some gang violence/activity in our neighborhood."
"We support the Urban Agriculture Text Amendments which are being proposed in our city. This will allow us to sell the food that we grow to our community (It's currently illegal). The amendment is important because we live in a food desert and we want to bring healthy local food to our community."
"Guerrilla gardening in empty lot adjoining property"
"People's Victory Garden volunteer"
"contributing money to a community garden in Berkeley"
"working with Richmond Grows Seeds"
"RPGG "Adopt the Public Way" garden grant program (in progress)"
"I am volunteering more often at the local community garden"
"I'm developing a program to plant gardens on synagogue property in the East Bay"
And, there are so many more projects. We'll share more with you in a blog update about the Challenge. But, you get the picture? These projects all come from Local Heroes - You're wonderful! We encourage you and appreciate you for spreading the love.

Will you help spread the word about growing food, saving water, conserving energy and building resilience and sustainability in your community? Just forward this blog to let others know that you are a local hero and they are too! And, while the transition to be more sustainable and resilient may seem like a big task; planting a simple garden is a big step!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pollinator Love

What’s all the buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz?

Pollinators are essential to our survival. Yes, it’s a fact! Without the help and work of pollinators such as bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, bats and thousands of different insects we wouldn’t be here. How you ask? This is how: 75% of the world’s crops require pollination. Without little bees and other pollinators buzzing around there wouldn’t be food! That is why it is important that we respect these little guys for what they contribute to the health of our planet. 

Here are some more fun facts to show you just how important pollinators are to YOU!

Did you know?:…

·         More than 200,000 animal species serve as pollinators. Most are insects — only about 1,000 are hummingbirds, bats, or other small mammals.

·         However, approximately 80 percent of pollination by insects is carried out by bees!

·         All of the world’s chocolate depends on midges, tiny two-winged flies, that pollinate the cacao flowers. Do you love chocolate? Thank a fly!

·         Approximately 1,000 plants grown throughout the world for food, beverages, clothing, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated by animals in order to produce these natural products. For example, the following foods depend on pollinators: apples, bananas, pumpkins, blueberries, chocolate, melons, peaches, vanilla, and almonds.

·         In the United States alone pollination by honey bees and other insects produces nearly $20 billion worth of products annually! Count that!

Unfortunately, pollinators and specifically bees are being threatened by the loss of their natural habitat and many other factors that scientists are still trying to understand. For example, the U.S. has lost more than 50% of its managed honey bee colonies during the past 10 years. Not good! But there is ACTION you can take!

Here are 5 things you can do TODAY to support the pollinators!

1.   Register your garden action in the 2012 Victory Garden Transition Challenge. Let’s help the pollinator’s one seed, one plant, and one garden at a time!

2.      Plant a pollinator friendly garden! Seed companies such as BBB Seed create special wildflower mixes just for pollinators! Check out these cool mixes for butterflies, bees, and more! BBB Seed is one of our generous supporters of the Victory Garden Transition Challenge supplying free heirloom seeds to any registered action.

3.      Garden organically without pesticides or herbicides. It is thought, the harmful chemicals used in these products kill the pollinators—and let’s face it, they aren’t good for us either.

4.      Teach children the importance of pollinators—they’ll get it and it’s fun!

5.      Support your local botanical gardens that typically grow pollinator gardens like The Gardens at Lake Merritt in Oakland CA. For a glimpse of the 'jewel of Oakland,' click here.

Don’t forget, you still have time to sign up for the 2012 Victory Garden Transition Challenge and receive free seeds through May 31st. Click here for more information. Today is the last day for your chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card! The sweepstake ends today. The bees will love you for it!

For more pollinator facts check out these websites:

Guest Blogger, Kristie Nackord is the 'herbalicious herb girl' behind Spirit Horse Herbals. She is passionate about growing her own food and medicinal herbs in the mountains of Colorado. For more information on Kristie please visit:

Thursday, April 26, 2012


I love to grow food.  I also love to eat the tasty, nutritious food that I grow! In addition to the joy I reap from growing and eating the vegetables from my own garden I also believe that edible gardening is an essential and vital survival skill.  For example, in hard times during the war in the 1940s, Victory Gardens sprung up all over the country as a way of helping people survive. The government encouraged people to come together and rally their resources, including their gardens.  In fact, in 1944, Americans produced 40% of their food from Victory Gardens because much of the existing food supply was shuffled to the soldiers in the war. This left the people in the U.S. with a food supply shortage and people sprung to action! 

Now in 2012 we are facing a similar crisis. With the climate changes, diminishing food supply, and the threat that genetically engineered crops have on our food diversity and health, there is even more of a reason to learn and prepare. 

So, what can we do? One powerful action is to ensure that there is good, healthy organic food on your table. I understand that it is not reasonable to expect that everyone grow their own food at home. That is okay! Collaborating with neighbors, knowing your local farmer, sourcing your ingredients from your community are all inexpensive actions you can take to supplement your grocery bill and ensure your health. Now THAT is resilience. 

What about active living? Are you able to give yourself some type of daily exercise?  Walking, riding a bike, or making your garden your gym are all fun and delightful ways to take action. Did you know that some of the moves you do in the garden are equivalent to weight training in the gym? The way you approach shoveling or sweeping should be the same as if you were doing a set of lunges. If you’re using your tools properly; you are working your muscles and avoiding injury.

How do you prepare yourself and family for a time when you need to save money or respond to a disaster? Where and how do you learn about overcoming these challenges? There are many resources and ways to learn more. Here are a few of my favorites:

·         Learn to garden! Learn your climate! I encourage you to get to know when vegetable plants grow best in your ‘normal/average’ climate. Then when the weather is winter when it is actually spring or in summer you are experiencing spring, adjust accordingly. Wait for a few days or weeks before planting your spring crop if the weather isn’t cooperating. Or, consider utilizing cover to protect your plants during ‘sketchy’ weather patterns.  Also, considering growing your plants from seeds indoors. Give them a head-start and protect them from unpredictable weather patterns. Please remember, you may need to transplant the seedlings into larger pots and wait until the weather is just right to plant outside. 

  •  Garden together! Do you want to grow food at home; but do not have the space outdoors? Ask a neighbor! Perhaps they will share their garden space with you.  Consider replacing some of your lawn or gardening in pots on the cement sidewalk or walkway. Really, you can almost garden anywhere Here are a couple of resources to look into: and 
  •  Join an open community garden – no plot assignments. Everyone works together to grow and harvest the food. Chat with the participating volunteers about different ways to overcome climate challenges.
  • Attend free classes about gardening, lifestyle changes, and selecting locally grown foods. Learn what foods grow in a particular season and select those to supplement your edible garden. Learn more about resilience and sustain living at the Spring of Sustainability discussions:
  • Connect with a transition organization to learn more about transitioning to resilient and sustainable living. Locate a transition organization in your community at Transition US:  . Two very active groups in East Bay California are Transition Albany:  and Transition Berkeley:
  • Contact our community partners to ask how you may get involved. These are on-the-ground, in your neighborhood organizations dedicated to improving local policies for food justice, food access, bringing organic food access to the community, and teaching how to be resilient. You'll find them at
While the times may appear challenging and at times frightening there is much each one of us can do today to build our resilience. Our resilience is our strength. Another way is by taking action and being counted in the 2012 Victory Garden Transition Challenge! At the least, you’ll receive non-GMO seeds to start growing your food today!

How will you prepare and cultivate resilience? …