Our Food System Master Plan

Great news!  After much work and thoughtful input from many sectors of our community, we have published our revised Food System Master Plan and a summary of its key concepts.  If you would like to share with people what is happening to create a healthy food system in our region, and what our vision, goals, and needs are – then this is an excellent resource for that information.  These documents will also be always be available under the Articles and Resources tab on this site, The documents will be periodically updated.

Here is a link to the summary:  Executive Summary of Food System Master Plan

And here is a link to the complete document:  Food System Master Plan revised November 2013

 

Great News About One of Our Volunteers!!

Cookie Coleman, President of the Red River Coalition of Community Gardeners was chosen by Mutual of Omaha as a semi-finalist for a national ad. You can see the press release at:

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/mutual-of-omaha-announces-semi-finalists-for-national-ad-2013-09-18

 

And you can view her video describing the youth garden program at Valencia Park Community Garden at:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyCF2NREMU0&list=PL-ZWOp3HFbATgSZx9l7bOUiNbNFDRJDI0&index=5

Storytelling Workshop

by Sharon Collins
Annette Simmons led a great workshop on story telling, at the Broadmoor Library on Saturday. She outlined the elements of a good, effective story, gave examples by telling stories from her own life, and asked participants to pair off and share their own stories with each other.
She emphasized that a story will only be meaningful to the listener if it is meaningful to the person who is telling it.
Several women told very moving, inspiring stories of their experiences. One of those stories, told by Laura Flett, is featured on the WeGrowTogether facebook page.  Her story showed the lasting effects of young children experiencing the wonder of growing their own food in a school garden.  One of her students later became an Urban Youth Farmer at a nearby community garden,  at the Valencia Park Community Center.
Another woman told how, as a young girl, she discovered for the first time the wonderful taste of fresh vegetables. She said this was an experience that has forever changed her relationship with food.
Approximately 18 people participated in the workshop.  This was the first of two storytelling workshops being offered by the outreach committee of the Ark-La-Tex Regional Food Council.
The next story workshop will be held on Saturday, October 12th (the 19th date mentioned at the first workshop was an error).   It will be at the Bossier Parish Library Main Branch, in the History Center nextdoor to the library building.  This workshop will focus on collecting the stories of others, to help us find and record inspiring stories of farming and of growing and preparing healthy food.  The workshop will be from 2 to 4 p.m..  Check back with us for more details.

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From the Storytelling Workshop…

by Laura Flett

 

Life cycles.
Once upon a time I taught a science enrichment class at Stoner Hill Elementary. Nature Lab, we called it, a hands-on class for ECE (four year olds) to second graders. Every September and again in late February, the children planted an organic vegetable garden within a six foot chain link fence behind the classroom.
Eager little farmers dropped seeds and dug holes for seedlings along rows marked with Popsicle sticks and string. They weeded, watered, and waited as their tiny plants flourished. Mr. Brad, the custodian, once said the reason the vegetables grew so well was because children’s hands had tended them. Sweet.
At harvest time every class ate the vegetables they raised. Crunchy radishes, carrots, peppers and onions were dipped in ranch dressing, beans and greens were cooked with a little ham, potatoes and squash with a little butter. Most children agreed these were the best vegetables they had ever had. Some even volunteered to teach the cafeteria staff how to cook better.
But high stakes standardized testing was being developed. No child was to be left behind. Young students would need more reading and math minutes in their daily schedules. Nature Lab might be in trouble. After thirty years of teaching and wanting to hold on to the five happy years spent with children in their vegetable garden, I retired.
Nature Lab at Stoner no longer existed and the six foot chain link fence was removed. However, at the bottom of the hill, a community garden to be tended by children and youth at the Valencia Center was being planned.
The Valencia garden has seen many young gardeners in its five years of operation. And David Holmes, a high school Urban Farmer who has been with the community program from the beginning, was once upon a time a four year old in Nature Lab.
Life truly cycles.

 

It’s Thursday and I Have Nowhere To Go

by Leah Miller

Leah1 Leah2

After listening to my friends, Grace, Cookie, Erma and Laura talk about all the cool stuff going on with the kids at Valencia for the last three years I finally broke down and said I’d come.  After going for the last two Thursdays I’m really sad that they don’t meet today (the kids have some kind of conflict).  I think I was hesitant to become involved because, even though I’m a teacher, my experience has been with pre-school and kindergarten ages.  Imagine the feeling of pride I experienced when I got there and saw a former pre-school student “at large and in charge” of his group.  He’ll be a senior this year and is confident and capable when it comes to leading the other students in his group.  He, along with the others, use terms like julienne and chiffonade.   I watched as one of the girls rolled up basil leaves then cut across the roll.  I would have never thought of doing that and certainly didn’t know that it was called chiffonade.  The first week they capably followed a recipe that they had been given then evaluated the product assessing such characteristics as texture, color, smell, and taste.  The next week they were given access to certain ingredients and encouraged to make up their own dish.  They neither needed nor expected any help from me.  I wrote the recipe down as they measured, chopped, stirred and cooked all the while using cooking terms that would have been foreign to them at the beginning of the program.  Upon completion we all tasted our product as well as that of the other groups, and they eagerly awaited the forthcoming comments!  I left eager to see what the next time would bring and, now, I’ll have to wait another week!

 

 

 

My impressions – 1st Valencia meeting (digging potatoes and picking green beans)

by Karen P. Thomason

To witness the pure delight of children discovering buried treasures (potatoes) and distinguishing ripened from ripening green beans is a reward in and of itself.   It is impressive and heartening to see high school-aged children assisting and facilitating beneficial and meaningful  activities in the garden for and with younger children.   You can find inspiration and impact amidst grit and sweat.  Come and see!

Working Together On An Earth Day Event

by Annette Simmons

  • Demonstrating how to make a healthy salad
  • Healthy Food for all
  • The team works to plant healthy vegetables

I attended a volunteer meeting on March 23, 2013 that was unlike any other volunteer meeting I’ve ever attended. We were a mixed bunch except that everyone was interested in good food and building a place, process, and logistics for local farmers to grow vegetables and sell them for profit, so we can buy “real” tomatoes (and beans, and eggplant, etc.) You remember what real tomatoes taste like, right?
WeGrowTogether invited us to think, and do. Not to “meet” – except for meeting each other – there was very little that resembled a normal meeting. We talked about who plants the food, harvests the food, packages the food, we knew who would be eating the food and then who and how compost got back to nourish more planting. It was that simple. After a break, we got in groups and came up with whatever project we wanted, how we wanted, where we wanted and when we wanted.
We had lunch, visited and went home. Usually after a planning meetings you have another planning meeting and then another planning meeting…
Instead we got with the program. In my group Paulette Doiron, a medical student said she wanted to organize free health screenings and recruited three students from the Family Medicine Program to help. Mary Dumars suggested a food demonstration, and then Paulette said Sankofa Gardens (a community garden behind LSUMed Center) would be celebrating Earth Day on April 27, 2013. I offered to find some locally grown veggies – we left it open since we didn’t know what we could find – and that’s it. We were done. Jimmy offered to find a place to meet once before the event on April 6 to make sure we had our act together but other than that, a few emails and the rest we organized amongst ourselves.
On April 27, 2013 some of us (Michele) arrived early (7:30 a.m. on a Saturday!) to help Leia set up tables. Then the med students arrived. I found some locally grown mixed mesclun lettuce generously donated by Mary Nesbitt out of her local farm Keatchi Acres. A new recruit Jon Valdez (in the air force but an expert in nutrition) came up with a healthy salad dressing to make on the spot. Francine inspired us by suggesting we offer a salad dressing recipe and Jon provided a poster board comparing “ready made” and homemade salad dressing You can’t even pronounce some of the crud they put in Ranch Dressing. Mary Dumas brought some apples when she came to work at our table and brought tomato plants for the garden. Brookshires donated a gift card for produce including radishes, carrots, cilantro, and snap peas.
As people arrived to help Leia dig the dirt, and plant seeds and plants in Sankofa’s community garden, they wandered over to check out the medical screenings and food. While they were there, many checked their blood pressure and blood sugar. The salad and salad dressing was so good one person asked for thirds and everyone had a good time.
Amazing what you can do when no one is “in charge”…and everyone is interested in good locally grown food.
     Annette Simmons grows tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, and carrots. She makes her living delivering speeches and training based on her four books including The Story Factor named one of the “100 Best Business Books of All Time.” She lives in the Highland area of Shreveport. Learn more at www.annettesimmons.com