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Reducing food miles in California

IMG_3667On average food travels 1500 miles (2,500 kilometres) ‘from paddock to plate’ in the USA. However for at least 20 families, half an hour drive north of San Diego, it doesn’t.

Tucked away in suburbia Encinitas, I was impressed by Coral Tree Farm. I’m not sure whether it was the vibrant native flame flowers, the heritage breed chickens scratching in the dirt or the fruiting mulberry tree that first caught my attention. Regardless, once I entered the property, I became lost in an edible paradise of heirloom vegetables and organically grown tropical fruits.

Owner, Laurel Mehl, tells me the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm and nursery has been in her family for more than 50 years.

NB: CSA farmers produce fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers (and sometimes meats, eggs, fibre or preserves) directly for local community members; delivering the products weekly.

As we talk and wander through the magnificent vegetable garden packed with albino carrots (Holland), candy striped beets (Italy), red Romain lettuce (France) and Fava beans (Armenia), customers arrive to collect their farm share baskets bursting with produce picked by Laurel only hours earlier.

“Genetically altered seeds are programmed to produce greater volume and often at the expense of nutrients. Heirloom varieties have not been toyed with and therefore contain more nutritious,” Laurel explains.

As I study the beginnings of Laurel’s dry organic herb collection and the beautifully painted seed packages by a local artist, she confirms that her farm is sadly just one of several left in the region.

“There are few farms left has they’ve all been pushed out by the urban development along the coastline.”

Up the road you will find Luke and his two-acre urban farm in Oceanside called ‘Cyclops’. And here’s a tip, the organic strawberries here are AMAZING!

While discussing my national From Paddock to Plate (FP2P) Schools Program with Laurel, it’s exciting to discover that a food schools program is also being delivered locally.

Mim Michelove is the co-founder of not-for-profit Healthy Day Partners, which promotes community health by assisting schools, school districts and the greater community with environmental, wellness and food education programs.

Mim also oversees the ‘Farm Lab’ (Encinitas Union School District’s 10-acre farm), as well as a smaller farm nearby at Ocean Knoll Elementary.

Farm Lab, which aims to give hands-on lessons in science and ecology, began hosting student field trips a year ago. Murals of rain barrels and sprouting crops cover the portable classrooms. The next step is installing a nutrition lab where produce grown from the garden will be cooked to teach students the “science of nutrition.”

As I travel the globe on my ‘from paddock to plate’ tour, I am continually being inspired by food education initiatives like this one. My notebook is packed with new ideas and projects of which I will be adding to the FP2P Schools Program as soon as I return! Look out!

Louise FitzRoy | Founder
From Paddock to Plate


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