Hi everyone! My name is Alex, and I am your resident gardener on this blog. Thought I should introduce myself. If you want the quickest intro possible, here’s the overview:
- Age 26
- Sacramento resident
- Bachelor’s degree in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems from University of California, Davis
- Farmer/gardener since 2014
- Spirit vegetable: Onion (I have layers)
For more detail, feel free to read on…
First of all, if you’ve never gardened before, don’t let that scare you away! I grew up in the suburbs outside of Sacramento where shopping centers seemed to be my natural habitat. I am not a natural-born green thumb. I actually caught the gardening bug in college. I was inspired when one of my biology professors shared about her personal gardening and how it allowed her family the ability to live more sustainably. I found her example extremely encouraging, and the idea of growing my own food and sustainable living have been linked in my mind ever since. #growyourownfood #sustainable
California (especially Sacramento) is a hotbed of agriculture. In fact, California is the largest food producer in the U.S. (California Farmland Trust 2019), and it exports food all over the country and the world. Due to the climate here, we can grow crops all year round. In my childhood, I remember taking family road trips through the heart of California to go visit relatives in Southern California. On these road trips, I would spend hours watching row after row of crops go by as well as thousands of acres of fruit and nut trees. These images stuck with me and eventually became the focus of my college studies.
I studied Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems at UC Davis. This very interdisciplinary major linked together the main social, economic, and environmental issues that I was interested in at the time. Turns out the food systems plays a very key role in all of these. Little did I suspect that my academic interest in such topics would lead me into the actual world of farming (you think I might have picked that up from the title).
While working towards my degree, I interned at the UC Davis Student Farm. The Student Farm is comprised of several acres of organic fruits and vegetables. The farm sells its produce to students and faculty through an on-campus CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and to the campus dining services. Farm work is performed by student interns and volunteers overseen by several experienced staff farmers and the faculty farm coordinator. Working on the student farm from 2014-2017 gave me a wide variety of hands-on experience with organic growing methods. I was hooked. #organic #womenwhofarm
Several other gardens I have worked at include a garden sponsored by the Placer County Food Bank which grew produce specifically for donation to Placer County residents in need. I also was the garden manager for several months at the Putah Creek Cafe Kitchen Garden in Winters, CA. The produce was directly garden-to-table. This also gave me a taste of floral arranging as part of my role was to provide flower bouquets for the cafe’s dining room.
More recently, I worked on the Google Headquarters Campus in Mountain View as the coordinator for their employee community garden program. I was contracted through Brightview Landscaping to maintain and advance the edible gardens program on campus. With nine garden sites and 300+ volunteers, there was a lot of gardening to do!
Another major piece of my story is my work with the Davis Farmers Market. I cannot say enough good things about the Davis Farmers Market. It is absolutely the heart of the Davis community. It is filled with college students, local residents, families, international visitors, and farmers, crafters, and food producers of all kinds. It is an oasis of nourishment! It is always a delight to visit the market, and I am almost always sure to buy more food than I intended to. The beautiful produce and sizzling food trucks are too hard to resist! I began volunteering at the market the summer before I transferred into UC Davis. The volunteer gig turned into a staff position that lasted for the next four years.
Many a meal has been inspired by farmers market finds. Most recently, my boyfriend and I made Chili Honey Garlic Lime Chicken (we’re working on a better name for it) with hot peppers and garlic from one of my favorite stands. Not only was our meal absolutely delicious, but we also had the added enjoyment of knowing the farmer who grew the delicious ingredients!
Admittedly, meals such as the Chili Honey Garlic Lime Chicken are a luxury for my boyfriend and me. As new homeowners, our food budget has gotten a little tighter, and we are likely to supplement wonderful farmers market ingredients with meats purchased from bulk stores. However, we are making it work! I also look forward to building up the garden in our new backyard, so that we can save money and time by growing fresh ingredients ourselves!
With the backyard garden plans in their development stage, most of my “gardening” work will be on paper and on the computer in the meantime. First garden tip- keep a garden notebook. It helps. A LOT. Even if you just scribble down dreams for a future garden, it matters. I like to write down things that I want to plant, supplies I might need, and ideas I will need to research before jumping into a planting. Research and preparation are key factors in successful garden management.
As I write this blog, I will be keeping you updated on my backyard garden plans, my awesome farmers market finds (and what to do with them), and I will be writing general garden topic posts that apply to the current season in Sacramento, CA. If you are reading from somewhere else, just keep in mind that gardening and seasonality of foods are dictated by where you live and conditions may differ where you are. Thanks for going on this journey with me! If you have any questions, feel free to post in the comments, and you may just see your question answered with a blog post!
Keep it green,