Locavore Livin’ and California Culture
by Wiepie Rojas
Undoubtedly a Texan entering the great unknowns of California lands with a suitcase full of preconceived images and stereotypes. Of course no one can beat southern Texas hospitality, but could the west coast be that terrible? My first destination was the UC Davis campus, I braced for my first encounters. One by one my assumptions were crushed as I was greeted, offered directions, and ushered around campus. Maybe I could live here after all. I toured the student farm dedicated to sustainability and a source for the campus cafeteria and coffeehouse-now that’s a novel idea. The farm also services 70 people with it’s CSA run by student volunteers. I felt encouraged by the passionate people who truly wanted to change the food system starting right with their very own school. I stopped to talk with the farm manager who gave me a tour and informed me of the internship available in the summer with either the medicinal garden or the market garden. While walking through the rows I stopped to talk to some of the students working in the garden who gladly volunteered information about UC Davis and how the farm functioned. Walking around campus I felt at home seeing the campus dotted with gardens and an abundance of animals. I’ve always been considered to be somewhat of a hippie/free spirit in my thinking and actions, but, I observed, all my quirks would seem perfectly normal here. After making the rounds on campus we made a reservation to eat at Chez Panisse a restaurant at the fore-front of farm to table sourcing and one of the top 50 restaurants in the US. The food was incredible and the aura was amazing. I was so excited that a restaurant with such high ethical standards for their food was also hugely popular-it’s slowly but surely catching on.
That night we staked out a camping spot at a California State Park nearby to the Fair Oaks conference and attempted to sleep as the night grew colder and colder. Needless to say the night was long and the sleep was non-existent.
The next morning we set out for the Biodynamic conference. As the Rudolf Steiner College came into view, I couldn’t help but notice how much of an anomaly the campus in contrast with the surrounding urban area. Sheep were meandering about with bells tinkling as they curiously approached the gates and chickens ran about pecking the ground and one another. Large compost piles lay inviting the natural processes of the earth to slowly warm and transform it. Universities were supposed to be places of order, highly organized landscapes, and perfectly manicured lawns. Steiner College did not qualify on any of these counts, but as soon as I entered I sensed great peace.
The instructor began with introductions and dove into the invisible world of microbes and organic matter. After morning lecture, we trailed outside to view the compost piles and learn some seed propagation techniques. I learned the compost piles must be made using the alternating patterns of brown organic matter and green organic matter in addition to being watered between each layer. I also learned about the best times to propagate seeds and that it was best to start all seeds in trays so as to be able to conserve both water and space and to be able to select the strongest seedlings for planting. At the conclusion of the conference we made our way back to Davis and checked out the local scene hitting a few coffee shops and a restaurant for lunch. The air was thick with college students fervently studying and downing drinks. Our second night camping was more successful as I wore every piece of clothing in my suitcase. When morning rolled in I felt refreshed and revived. I had to catch my flight at two so that left a bit of time for one more activity. We decided on keeping with the theme and wanted to tour the countryside looking at vineyards and farmers along the way. We stopped at one particularly beautiful farm that served as a CSA and had an orange orchard heavy with ripe fruit. We bought a bag and indulged in the juicy fruit on the way back to the airport. I had a strong feeling I would be returning soon, now that my fears of Californians had been assailed I felt confident that I could return.