Food Forward Blog
Volunteer of the Month: Kathy Turk

Kathy Turk is a star. She knows every farmer personally, is easy to work with, and always wears a radiant smile. Kathy has an incredible ability to look at the big picture to provide useful insight to each aspect of our collection operations. Her experience is invaluable to Food Forward. She spent 3 years gleaning for Food Pantry LAX at the Santa Monica Farmers Market every Sunday, before approaching the Farmers Market Recovery Program to join efforts. Kathy is exceptional in what she does.

Kathy Turk is in the middle, surrounded by the Santa Monica Farmers Market Glean Team!

Here is Kathy’s Food Forward story:

How did you get started with Food Forward?

Anne Burmeister introduced me to Food Forward and Mary Baldwin in July or August of 2012 just before the FMR program began. I had been gleaning at the Sunday Santa Monica Farmers’ market since October 2010 and was so ready to team with someone for volunteer support and to build community. Our work together started in February 2013.

What else are you working on right now?

Other projects…hum. They happen in the moment. For instance, when I visit the Pantry on Tuesday mornings, I chat with the manager to see how the produce distribution is received by families. Sometimes they don’t know what fennel or frisée is or how to use it and that’s when tips and simple recipes are offered. I’m always concerned that food will go wasted when there is a lack of knowledge in how to work with it. Some clients of the Pantry do not cook but will happily open a can of something, so I suggest they toss in some fresh parsley or other simple herbs or greens. Our vendors generously donate boxes of fresh herbs and leafy greens which could easily stump individuals that are not used to such varied offerings.

What is your favorite Food Forward memory?

My favorite memory working with Food Forward was when a farmer sold the crooked Japanese cucumbers which he brought to market just for me. He thought nobody would buy them so was dumping them in the compost at the farm. He now sells straight and crooked cucumbers. In fact, some of his customers request the crooked ones!

Any wisdom to share?

Talk to the farmers and get to know them. They are really great people. And, once you get to know them, then the magic happens.

Read More: Posted in Farmers Market, Farmers Market Recovery, Uncategorized, Volunteer Organization, community action, urban fruit gleaning
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New FMR Markets featured on Harvest Against Hunger Blog

Farmers Market Recovery (FMR) has had a busy couple of months leading up to early spring! In February and March, FMR launched four new weekly gleaning volunteer events at the Brentwood, Larchmont, Pacific Palisades, and Torrance Farmers Markets, bringing us to a total of 11 farmers markets gleaned by Food Forward volunteers.

Since Food Forward participants in the AmeriCorp VISTA program Harvest Against Hunger (HAH), the new market launch was featured on the HAH Harvest Blog.  Take a peek to see what’s been going on in the FMR world!

FMR volunteers at the Torrance Farmers Market, Mar 13, 2014. Photo credit: Leah Boyer

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Produce of the Month: Cauliflower!

This month we are celebrating the delicate, nutty flavor of cauliflower. We’ll learn about where cauliflower comes from, the fun things you can do with it, and a yummy recipe from Farmers Market Recovery volunteer, Chef Alexa Grey. We are at the tail end of its season so be sure to grab yours this weekend at the farmers market!

Cauliflower IslandFarms.JPG

FMR farmer, Island Farms, sells beautiful cauliflower at the Studio City Farmers’ Market. Photo credit: Catherine Wall.

Background & History

Cauliflower is a member of the famed Brassicaceae or Cruciferae family and its brethren includes Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cress, bok choy, and broccoli. Known as a cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower  grows flowers with four petals that resemble crosses. The early cauliflower plant resembled its cabbage-like relatives and had much smaller flower heads than what we grow today.

Cauliflower originated in the Mediterranean region and was used in Asia for many centuries before being introduced to Europe in the 16th Century.  It did not become widely grown in North America until the 1900s. Today, with a ten-month growing season, California produces the 89% of cauliflower in the United States.

Characteristics & Types

A single plant has only a few heads of cauliflower anchored on a sturdy stalk. Large pale green leaves surround and protect its head from sunlight. All varieties are high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, folate, and Vitamin B6. White cauliflower, the most common type, has a white head (or curd) because its florets do not produce chlorophyll. Over the years of cultivation, hybrids and variations of cauliflower have emerged. They can have green, orange, or purple heads depending on the nutrients stored in the florets.

Orange or “Cheddar” Cauliflower: This variety has extra beta-carotene in the florets which means they have more Vitamin A than other varieties.

Purple or “Graffiti” Cauliflower: Purple cauliflower has flavonoid compounds called anthocyanins, which give it the purple color and may help to regulate blood lipid and sugar levels, as well as help to lower cancer risk.

Green cauliflower or “broccoflower:” The yellow-green color of this variety comes from the cross-pollination of broccoli and cauliflower. It is similar in nutrient value as cauliflower but has some of the chlorophyll of broccoli.

Romanesco: Sometimes called Romanesco cauliflower or broccoli, the origin of this variety is unclear and it may be more of a relative of cauliflower rather than a variety. The color is similar to that of broccoflower but the spiral shaped spikes of the head make it very different and unique when compared to either broccoli or cauliflower.

Tips & How to Enjoy

When selecting cauliflower, look for clean, compact floret heads that are not separating. It can be stored for up to a week in a paper or plastic bag in the refrigerator, with the stem side down to avoid the build-up of moisture on the head. Once cooked, cauliflower should be eaten within two to three days. Cauliflower can grow throughout the year in Southern California but hits its peak flavor from December to March.

It is suggested that sautéing or roasting, rather than steaming or boiling, preserves the most nutrients and flavor in its florets. Once sautéd or roasted, the cauliflower can be eaten as is or incorporated into another dish.

One of our volunteers, Alexa Gray, is a personal chef and has created recipes that use cauliflower cooked in various ways for her blog. One of our favorites is her Creamy Cauliflower Soup.


2 tablespoons butter (or olive oil)

1 large onion, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1 large head cauliflower

1 quart chicken broth


1. In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes, until onions are soft.

2. Add the garlic and the cauliflower. Cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, 20 minutes, until cauliflower is very tender.

3. Purée the soup in batches in food processor until very smooth in a food processor or blender.

4. Add salt and pepper to your liking and enjoy!

Photo credit: Alexa Grey

We also love LA Times food editor and columnist Russ Parsons’ cauliflower steaks with romesco sauce and The Lucky Penny’s cauliflower pizza crust recipe. Bon appétit!

Fun Facts

The name cauliflower likely derived from an early English term “colieflorie” or “cole-flory,” which combined the word cole (another cabbage-like vegetable in the Brassicaceae family) with flower.

Cauliflower was a favorite contribution to 16th Century French meat dishes, especially in the court of Louis XIV, and it was mentioned in cooking journals of French historians.


Champions for Change

The World’s Healthiest Foods


Specialty Produce

Mother Jones

Los Angeles Times

Alex Grey

The Lucky Penny

Read More: Posted in Farmers Market, Farmers Market Recovery, Food, Uncategorized, Vegetable, Volunteer Organization, los angeles volunteer, urban fruit gleaning, urban hunger Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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The Drought Chronicles: Fruit Trees Have a Fighting Chance

This is the first of a series of articles focusing on fruit tree care during a drought. This article offers advice from the perspective of the Master Gardeners program, backed by UC research.

Home fruit tree production provides numerous benefits to the community; a fruit tree offers sweet nectar for bees and other pollinators, relief from the sun, oxygen production, soil erosion prevention, a source for local food, a habitat for wildlife, and fuel to warm our houses.  Currently, the effects of drought are threatening the health of fruit trees.  Homeowners are already experiencing the effects through lower yields and poor fruit quality.  With the Sierra snowpack at a record low, scarce precipitation to refill reservoirs and rivers, and increased depletion of groundwater, Californians must make difficult landscaping decisions.  Luckily mature fruit trees are heartier than most plants, but there are several factors to consider when allocating water amongst one’s landscape.

California is in its 3rd consecutive drought year, and currently Los Angeles is experiencing “Exceptional Drought”, categorized by the US Drought Monitor. Water is precious now more than ever and homeowners must create a hierarchy in their yards to determine which plants are worth saving.  Master Gardener Janet Hardin, the UC Cooperative Extension Environmental Horticulture Advisor of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, firmly believes that mature fruit trees are at the top of the hierarchy in a home landscape.  Mature fruit trees have deep, established roots, which allow for longer periods of time between watering unlike many other plants.

The way in which one applies water to fruit trees can help maximize water efficiency.  Trees uptake the most water with deep, slow, and infrequent applications.  For sandy soils, apply water especially slow so the roots have time to capture the water before it drains through the soil.  Mulching around fruit trees will help with water retention.  Master Gardeners suggest 2”-3” of mulch about a foot away from the trunk of the tree.  If mulch forms a mound around the trunk, it will capture moisture, which attracts disease.  Mulching prevents weed growth by inhibiting photosynthesis.  With fewer weeds surrounding the tree, there is less competition for water.  When watering, be sure to apply water beneath the mulch to ensure ground absorption.  Applying too much fertilizer to fruit trees can also decrease water efficiency.  The more fertilizer a tree is given, the more water the tree will need.  Excess fertilizer does not get absorbed and becomes runoff, polluting waterways with dangerous amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus.

During a drought, a fruit tree’s yield will not only be less than expected but the quality of the fruit may be degraded as well.  Thinning will help establish fewer but healthier and tastier fruit.  Water and water-soluble nutrients will concentrate and develop lush pieces of fruit instead of stretching resources amongst many pieces of feeble fruit. It is imperative that the fruit is thinned and not the buds.  There is no way of knowing which buds will get pollinated and germinate so it is risky to clip buds for risk of losing potentially hardy pieces of fruit.  Pruning is also a way to cope with drought.  On a tree, the most water loss occurs via transpiration in the leaves. Water retention will increase with less foliage.

The Homeowner Quick Guide to Fruit Tree Care During A Drought

  1. Practice deep, slow, and infrequent watering
  2. Mulch around fruit trees one foot from the base of the trunk
  3. Minimize fertilizer applications
  4. Thin fruit to produce healthier and tastier fruit
  5. Prune trees to remove excess foliage

Here at Food Forward, we cannot speak highly enough about fruit trees.  We strongly suggest homeowners do what they can to save their fruit trees in such strenuous times- even if that means watering just enough to get by and not producing fruit this year.  Stay tuned for more helpful information!

For more information visit:

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Volunteer of the YEAR! Bethany Harris

Bethany Harris is a shining star that goes so far above and beyond the call of duty with Food Forward, that we would like to officially announce Bethany as our Food Forward Volunteer of the Year.  She joined Food Forward in September of 2011 and was trained to be a fully-fledged Pick Leader by December of the same year. Bethany volunteers in the Food Forward office, at special events, in the farmers markets, at Private Picks, and anywhere else there arises a need.

The Food Forward mission and Bethany’s personal passions and never-tiring motivation are a match made in heaven.

Beginning in October of 2012, she connected the wealth of resources at her fingertips and in her own neighborhood with her drive to relieve hunger with local abundance.  She launched the Starbucks fruit drive campaign that continued into spring of 2013, each month raising awareness and collecting over 1,500lbs every time.  Utilizing the help of her fellow co-workers, Starbucks stores became the launching pad for public outreach to bring backyard fruit, and doubled as the drop off locations for neighborhood fruit donors.  Bethany organized Starbucks employee fruit picks on donation days, overlapping first shift and second shift workers to pick fruit at multiple locations consecutively.  All of her hard work paid off, and she was able to contribute 7,500 lbs of fresh produce split between local direct-service agencies One Generation, SOVA, and MEND Poverty.

After so many years of service, she is now blossoming into her true inspirations and goals; to help children in Los Angeles connect with our nutritious resources.   We interviewed Bethany to give the fruit world a little more insight to the inner workings of a truly amazing volunteer.

What drew/draws you to the Food Forward mission?

Back east, my Starbucks location was actively involved with a local food pantry that had its own community garden. Most of our used coffee grounds and end of pastries went there. Customers and baristas that didn’t have their own plot were also able to dig in and help on monthly work days.

Around the same time a new farmers market came to town and I was hooked. My sister and I would faithfully go on Thursdays – have a picnic on the library lawn and have our time. We would tend to linger to the end of the market before heading home and in doing so we took notice that at the end of the market, a van from the food pantry would pick up what the farmer’s weren’t taking home.

There was a plum tree in front of our Starbucks, and one day a barista and I picked it clean, then shared it with coworkers and regulars. Talking to another barista, we discussed a recent article on ample harvest and we lamented that it would’ve been nice to share some of the plums with the food pantry (realistically there wasn’t THAT much to share, but it was the idea that stuck.)

The next time I did a drop off I asked administration about whether they accepted seasonal produce from neighbors and such, which they did, but it was hard to come by since the food pantry was kind of out of the way for most Falmouth residents.

Eager to do something, my manager, a few baristas and I started brainstorming ideas of ways to encourage customers to donate their produce.

Timing was as such that I was unable to see the idea thru, due to my planned move out to California.

However, once I got out here I started researching organizations with a similar mission to the work I wanted to do. I found Tree People’s Fruit Tree Program and Food Forward and started planning.

Our first pick we (Chris myself and one other barista) went on was September 11th, 2011 at CSUN. Starbucks was hosting a day of service downtown but with limited transportation, we were thrilled to find a local and accessible volunteer opportunity for that day.

After that event I was hooked and was trained as a pick leader, with the goal of engaging the Starbucks community to be involved. For Starbuck’s Annual Global Month of service 2012, we had 50 partners come out!

We started doing Friday Fruit Drives series (in-store backyard harvest collection with satellite picks at barista and customer backyards) from November of 2012 – April 2013 – finishing the six-month series with 100 partners and their families coming out for Global month of service 2013.

What are you working on? How does it work?

Realizing in order to make this partnership be sustainable, I stepped back and began focusing on fine tuning the Fruit Drive program – essentially an alternative to the traditional can drive – and have narrowed it down to three models: community fruit drive, school fruit drive and a version based on the Starbucks fruit drives for local business.

Community Fruit Drive – partnering with neighborhood councils to encourage stakeholders to sign up their trees and drop off ripe fruit at an event we are tabling at (farmers market/green living fair/etc.)

School Fruit Drive – doing a presentation about food forward, encouraging students to bring fruit from their backyards and talking about the local food system

Business Fruit Drive – tabling at a local business’ event – social media outreach to their customers to sign up their trees/volunteer/donate to food forward.

What are the successes that you’ve seen so far?

Between the Starbucks and community fruit drives, we have harvested/collected nearly 20,000 lbs – engaged over 300 baristas – with hopes of more at this years CSUN pick and our upcoming community fruit drives in Tarzana and Toluca Lake.

What are your future goals with the project?

My hopes are:

- To launch a Starbucks Green Apron Gleaning campaign in the fall – sending out information to each of the districts in LA and Ventura County encouraging partners to become pick leaders and bring the Fruit Drive program to their neighborhood.

- To work with LACGC, Network for a Healthy LA, City Year, LAUSD and Neighborhood Councils to set up equipment hubs in their communities so that parents and teachers have the resources they need to “share the abundance” – being trained as Pick Leaders and incorporate gleaning into their curriculum (food justice, environmental studies).

Next time you see Bethany out on a pick or glean, please giver her a big hug or high five for all her amazing efforts that have helped so much in the community around her!

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lbs. of fruit picked to date

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