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Jul 31, 2010 | posted in Press by seedlingprojects

Not Going Condo: The Farm at Walker Jones

There’s a lot going on around the corner of K and New Jersey Avenue. Sandwiched in between NoMa and Mount Vernon Square, it’s seen tall buildings sprout up on all sides, along a busy thoroughfare eight blocks north of Congress.

Through all that, about a half acre of land has sat grassy and fallow, lending the corner an almost pastoral feel, with the low rise of the Sursum Corda complex in the distance.

About two weeks ago, though, shovels disturbed its vacancy. Plowed rows appeared. And now, tiny seedlings have poked up above the dark soil, the first of what is to become a well-tended jungle of productivity. Come fall, tiny children will descend on the beds and learn how plants grow. It’s not just a garden—it’s an urban farm, meant to teach as well as fill peoples’ bellies.

The farm is a project of Walker Jones Education Campus, the new elementary and middle school constructed alongside the Northwest One library and recreation center directly north. Last year, the administration at Scott Montgomery Elementary several blocks north on P Street learned that their school would be closing and merging with Walker Jones to make a 400-student, pre-k through eighth grade campus. But they had recently planted a garden there, and the District’s unused lot on the corner seemed like a perfect spot to start another.

More factors converged to get the farm started. A pair of local restauranteurs,John Cochran and Sidra Forman, had helped with the Montgomery Elementary garden. Back in January, sustainable food icon Alice Watersconnected them with her assistant Rachel Weiner, another pioneer in the slow food movement and director of Seedling Projects, a “do-tank” for the food movement.

With that expertise, partnerships kept forming. Whole Foods donated the time of their regional farming manager—known to all as “Coach”—who introduced the crew to biodynamic agriculture, which involves mixing cow manure in water by hand. Starbucks and Chinatown Coffee donate coffee grounds to make fertilizer. Home Depot chipped in gardening implements, and Kaiser Permanente has agreed to fund a permanent farm director when the project is up and running.

When it does, the farmers expect they’ll be generating a lot of food—enough to share with D.C. Central Kitchen as well as the surrounding neighborhoods. Walker Jones’ 22 classrooms will each have their own small bed, with herbs and perennials to start out. The large beds will be filled with eggplants, tomatoes, beans, beets, collard greens, and fruit trees. When fully built out, there will even be an outdoor pizza oven, with a “pizza garden” to supply the toppings. In a few years, the school hopes to supplement lunches with their fresh crops, while tying the farming experience into science curricula.

Frances Evangelista, Walker Jones’ director of community outreach, can’t wait to see her students learning what happens when you plant a seed and come back later to see something grow.

“It is the happiest, most positive and joyful thing you can imagine,” she said. “It’s a real sense of accomplishment.”

Read more on the farm’sblog. Photos courtesy of flickr user The Farm at Walker Jones.

| posted in Press by seedlingprojects

New Awards to Salute Artisan Food Producers

Chefs, restaurateurs and winemakers all have competitions where they are recognized for their work. Now, artisan food producers are getting a contest to call their own. Starting today, nominations are being accepted for the first-ever Good Food Awards, honoring the nation’s makers of high-quality chocolate, coffee, beer, cheese, charcuterie, pickles and preserves.

The judging is for those producing food that is “delicious, tied to communities and cultural traditions, and is responsibly produced,” says organizer Sarah Weiner, executive director of San Francisco’s Seedling Project.

Those criteria are spelled out in more detail in the nomination procedure on the award website,, which goes live today. Nominations can come from anyone, including the producers themselves. Awards will be given to five regional winners in each food category.

Some of the country’s top food authorities are helping organize and judge the event, including Ruth Reichl, former editor of Gourmet magazine, Nell Newman of Newman’s OwnPaul Bertolli of Fra’ Mani, Alice Medrich, award-winning cookbook author, and Alice Waters founder of Berkeley’s Chez Panisse and the Edible Schoolyard.

“The modern heroes aren’t the chefs anymore; they’re the artisans. They’re the ones who are changing American food,” says Reichl.

The products will be judged in a daylong blind tasting in October at San Francisco’s Ferry Building, with awards given out Jan. 14, also at the Ferry Building. The Good Foods Marketplace takes over the next day, with the products, and their producers, available at a public tasting.

Jan. 16-Feb. 20 has also been designated Good Food Month, with dozens of Bay Area events showcasing the breadth of the nation’s artisan food production.

“Creating an award means being attentive to how a product is made, the impact on the environment, good flavor. We want to create an incentive to do things even better,” Weiner says.

“The awards will raise the bar, just like the James Beard Awards have raised the bar for chefs.”

The Good Food Awards are an outgrowth of the 2008 Slow Food Nation extravaganza, where thousands of attendees thronged the tasting pavilions at Fort Mason to sample some of the nation’s best foods.

Jul 14, 2010 | posted in Blog by seedlingprojects

The Good Food Awards Begin!

by Sarah Weiner

After months of plotting and planning with some of the most talented food crafters around, we are finally ready to start accepting applications for the first ever Good Food Awards! Beginning August 1, the simple form will be available on the gorgeous new Good Food Awards website.

Thank you designer Dava Guthmiller (whom was just nominated for 7 by 7’s top 20 under 40) and her Noise13 team, my favorite food photographer Aya Brackett and Sarah Rich for her great writing. Not to mention interns Emily Morgan, Shane Michalik and Amy Chu, without whom nothing happens around here.

Miriam Morgan, Food Editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, has the exclusive on announcing some of the incredible leaders in the food movement (and people who make darn delicious food) that have signed on to our judging panels, so keep an eye out for her article this Sunday, August 1 in the Food & Wine section. Then check out the website for full lists as the panels grow.

It has been fascinating to pull together criteria for “Good Food” – the sort of food we all want to eat – as pertains to our seven categories of beer, charcuterie, coffee, chocolate, cheese, pickles and preserves. We called on everyone from Alice Waters to Magnolia’s Pub brewmaster Dave McClean to Seneca Klassen, whose small batch bean to bar chocolates sold at Bittersweet Café are impossibly smooth.

We all wanted it to be as simple as no genetically modified ingredients anywhere, no pesticides, no herbicides, no hormones, no antibiotics. Yes to incredibly tastiy. To traditional recipes, yes to producers who know and respect everyone in their food chain, yes to food makers who are a lively part of their communities, to everything local, to wholesome, small scale  mom and pop production. But it got a little more complicated as we dived in.

Take chocolate, for example. It turns out that no one is spraying their cacao trees, because (as explained by Bittersweet Chocolate buyer David Salowich), cacao-pollinating midges rely on leaf litter for their habitat. However, unless the beans are certified organic, it is very hard for chocolate makers buying from cacao farms around the world to know if the walkways between the plants are being sprayed. By setting a criteria requires chocolate makers to certify this, we essentially would limit our pool to a dozen certified-organic chocolate bars before we even begin to look at taste and authenticity. We decided to word the criteria for chocolate so that it requires chocolate makers to be ‘seeking out ingredients free of pesticides and herbicides’ and free of genetically modified ingredients, such as GM soy lecithin.

All of our criteria can be found on the website, on the individual entry forms, and we hope that by setting the bar high while still considering the challenges faced by producers, we are able to celebrate and include producers on the path to full sustainability and also illuminate challenges and niches that need to be filled. And once a producer self-certifies that they meet the criteria, it is all about taste. Winners will be selected from all the entrants based on whose product is most delicious, as judged through a blind tasting by a dozen chefs, food writers, farmers, grocers, and passionate foodies for each category. Tough job, but somebody has got to do it.

Jul 13, 2010 | posted in Blog by seedlingprojects

Welcome to the Blog!


Welcome food lovers to the Seedling Projects Blog! So much is going on that I want to spill. Each week I’ll feature the latest news on projects that I’m most excited about. Check in for the occasional shout out to events happening in the Bay Area and around the country. Who knows what you’ll find here!

Who am I? I am Emily, the humble and hungry intern and Outreach Coordinator for Seedling Projects. I grew up in Alexander Valley and Healdsburg, fell in love with horses and Holsteins, and found myself immersed in the world of food and agriculture.

Kicking off the blog is my bread and butter, the 1st Annual Good Food Awards happening January 14th and 15th.

Food producers from around the country submit their goods for a blind tasting. Winners are recognized at a ceremony hosted by Alice Waters on January 14th at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. The public gets to meet the winners and buy their goods at the GFA Marketplace. the following day. Then we’re steam rolling into a Bay Area wide food party called Good Food Month. Key word here is month- a gastronomic fiesta for entire month.

Some of the committees are already brainstorming events for Good Food Month like a ‘Hands on Jam Salon’- a block party of jam tastings, making, and music. It’s still in very early stages, but my sweet tooth is already aching.

How about you? Inspired? Excited? Hungry for more information on Good Food Awards and Seedling Projects? Talk to me! My mouth is usually full, so I’m all ears.

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“Often it is hard not to agree that we are becoming culinary nitwits, dependent upon fast foods and mass kitchens and megavitamins for our basically rotten nourishment.” – MFK Fisher