SVGives 2016 & Veggielution
Monday I attended a PRNS study session at City Hall. If that acronym isn’t immediately familiar to you, pay close attention. PRNS stands for Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services, a City of San Jose agency that Veggielution counts among our strongest community partnerships. At the meeting yesterday, the PRNS executive team presented a great new video that showed all the ways in which they are accomplishing their goal to “build community through FUN.” Wow, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Over the past 9 months, the Veggielution team has been hard at work on a new strategic plan in which community building and fun take center stage. Veggielution was founded in 2008 with a clear sense of what we wanted to achieve. We’re excited to say that we have accomplished most of these goals: core projects like our Workday Leaders, Youth Garden, Internships, Farm Stand and Farm Box. As we look ahead, we’ve set our sights on strategies that will build on these successes in exciting new ways:
- We’ll deepen our relationships in East San Jose to increase our knowledge, effectiveness and capacity for collective action through Veggielution Cocina community cooking classes and our Urban Agriculture Entrepreneurship Incubator program.
- Eastside Explorers, our new experiential, hands-on field trip program for middle school students will offer on-farm ecology and nutrition education opportunities to students in grades 5-8.
- We’ll seek input from key stakeholders and community leaders to begin a visioning process for Eastside Grange, a commercial community kitchen and food hub at our historical location of Emma Prusch Farm Park.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be reaching out to you for your support of these efforts during SVGives. SVGives is an effort supported by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Microsoft to raise money for local nonprofits through a single online donation platform. During this 24-hour online fundraising effort on Tuesday, May 3, thousands of nonprofits like ours will have the chance to collectively raise millions of dollars.
Our participation in SVGives 2015 raised nearly $40,000 for Veggielution’s core program support. Thanks to $21,000 in matching funds from Veggielution Board of Directors, anonymous donors, The Knight Foundation, Susan Mason and Greg Leonard and Rebecca Morgan, we’re positioned to surpass that amount in 2016! On May 3, please support us through SVGives as we take bold steps forward to continue building community through food and farming in East San Jose.
Click here to support Veggielution during SVGives!
The weather for the first two Veggielution Cocina classes could not have been more different, but the mood inside the kitchen was exactly the same; vibrant, spicy, and a lot of bustlin’ and hustlin’. Our March class started out with a steady rain through the morning but that did not deter the 20 participants who made their way through the puddles and into our cocina. The head chef, Dulce Marin, lead the class as if she had taught the class a hundred times. The main recipe of the class was Tlacoyos con Nopales, but that certainly was not the focus. Veggielution Cocina is about making connections to each other and to the food we prepare together, and Dulce executed this perfectly from the start. She explained the importance of cooking to her and her family and how that has shaped the way she views food. The class then split up into three groups, and each group worked together to cook the dish along with creating connections between each other.
Longtime Veggielutionary, Diego Ortiz, led the second Veggielution Cocina class through the farm-favorite recipe here at Veggielution, the famous “Kale & Quinoa Bowl” re-creation from Good Karma in downtown San Jose. Diego put his own twist for the recipe and chose to add some of Veggielution’s own nopales to the dish. This part of the class required the participants to despine the nopales and without hesitation one of the class participants jumped in and showed the class how she does it at home. This was exactly what we were hoping Veggielution Cocina would encourage, spontaneous and meaningful interactions that help create both a sense of place and community. We hope these types of connections become stronger with each new class. The cocina is where we believe meaningful connections and memories are made, and we hope our cocina helps connect people who would have otherwise never met.
Our next class takes place on May 7th. The guest chef for this class is coming to us from Vitamina at the SoFA Market. Come out on our first Saturday to see what it’s all about! Veggielution Cocina is supported by The Sobrato Family Foundation
In the first four months of 2016, we’ve seen exciting growth in our community. On 1st Saturday, our pavilion is full of Veggielution Cocina families and volunteer farmers, hungry for potluck. Tiny tots explore in the Youth Garden during Somos Mayfair's Reading Circle on Thursday mornings. We’ve welcomed eight new Workday Leaders to our team in March to facilitate community farmers in the fields and orchard. Many of our new visitors are coming from nearby East San Jose. We’ve collaborated with Somos Mayfair leaders and promotores to bring our neighbors back to the farm for Kids in the Kitchen, Veggielution Cocina, Youth Garden activities, and more. From outreach extraordinaries to our guest chefs, we are thrilled to employ the talents and embody the stories of our community members.
Recently, we’ve realized that getting people to the farm requires finding the spaces where our community gathers on a daily basis. Working with a promotora, we’ve visited elementary schools, churches, and community meetings to share about Veggielution. What did we find? People are super excited to be a part of our cooking classes, bring their kids to our Youth Garden, or sign up for our CSA. And, they’re asking for more! Can we do programs once a week in the evening? What about more workshops for home gardeners? We are excited to hear from our community and incorporate their ideas in what we do!
Families of immigrant farm workers, backyard gardeners, and talented cooks are all ingredients in our story of connecting people through food and farming. Our roots run deep in East San Jose, and our team is excited to explore and tap into our energetic local community to support a sustainable food system.
Get involved: Veggielution is always looking for English Spanish/Vietnamese bilingual volunteers to support our programs. Email your ideas or talents to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How's it Growing
Last week was a rollercoaster of strange weather, including temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a warm but breezy Thursday, and a cloudy/rainy Friday. I guess the universe (jet streams? atmospheric pressure? I don't know my weather terminology) decided it needed to keep the farm crew on our toes. Although it doesn't feel like it right now, as I sit here writing on a rainy afternoon, spring is well underway and the past three months have seen the landscape of the farm dramatically transform as we head into the summer season. We mowed our first section of cover crop back in mid-February, and as the farm has lost it's lush green blanket of winter cover, the fields have opened back up and are now ready for the first rounds of summer planting. The farm looks so much bigger without the cover crop, and that visual transformation has allowed me to mentally prepare for the giant increase in our production capacity from winter to summer.
Since the last newsletter, we have not only put in many, many hours of work preparing the soil for summer planting, but have also invested time and energy into growing our new crop of Workday Leaders! We had a great group of passionate, committed Veggielutionaries in our 2016 class and I'm so excited to see them stepping into their new role as facilitators and leaders at the farm. This cohort has an abundance of skills and interests they bring to the table and are already proving themselves to be valuable assets to the Veggielution community.
While we are definitely feeling the time crunch of the busy spring workload, we are mostly on track and the farm is looking great. El Niño put us a little behind on our planting schedule, but not by much. With dedicated attention from master arborist and Veggielution supporter Nancy Garrison, Workday Leader Sally Moiseff, and farm intern Haji Hill, our orchard is looking better than ever. The trees are happy and healthy, and we can't wait to see all the fruit they'll produce this year! Also, projects with our native hedgerows, bioswale, No-Till plot, and irrigation systems are moving forward with some great momentum, so the farm is poised for its most successful season yet. I'm proud to be managing the farm and leading our incredible crew at this point in our organization's history, and excited for the road ahead as we continue building strong community partnerships, social networks, and resilience in East San Jose.
April 13th 7pm to 9pm - Barn Dance
Join us for our next monthly Barn Dance! What is a Barn Dance, you ask? Well, we do a series of lively and fun dances, led by a caller and accompanied by live music. You don't have to know the dances, since they are taught at the beginning of each one. You can come with a partner, or on your own. Either way, you will end up mixing around and dancing with lots of different people. We hope to see you there!
Location: Multicultural Center - The big red building at the main park entrance.
Entry: $12 at the door, kids 5 and under are free
(discounts available for Veggielution staff, interns, and workday leaders)
Hosted by the Prusch Farm Park Foundation
April 16th 9am to 2pm - Master Gardener Spring Plant Sale
Join Veggielution at the 22nd annual Spring Garden Market (SGM)!
Location: History Park SJ, 1650 Senter Road, San José
April 28th 5:30pm to 7:00pm - Envision Urban Agriculture
Join Garden to Table, The Health Trust, SPUR, La Mesa Verde, and other local food advocates to discuss San Jose's potential to expand urban agriculture, and how UAIZs can create a better local food system. Light refreshments will be served.
Where: Taylor St. Farm (next to Citibank), 200 West Taylor Street, San Jose, CA 95110