Tag Archives: sustainable foods

The Secrets of Growing Great Tomatoes

By Carol Rossi, The Bounty Garden’s Seedling Instructor

The best thing about home-grown tomatoes (besides their delicious flavor of sweet sunshine) is that they can be grown pretty much anywhere you have a patch of reliable sunlight. You just need to know the attributes and requirements for your particular growing situation.

If all you have is a couple large pots on a balcony you are still set to produce some beautiful tomatoes. Just ensure the pots are located so they receive a minimum of 8 hours of direct sunlight – this is one growth requirement where tomatoes will not compromise. Next, replace the soil in the pots every growing season with a fresh batch of potting soil that is rich in nutrients and organic matter. Tomatoes are nutrient gluttons so you can use a mix that is high in nitrogen and phosphorus and without worrying about over-feeding them. Now select the proper variety for your pots. Look for dwarf (or patio) size, or small-fruited “determinates” such as cherry, grape, and pear tomatoes. Determinates grow to a certain size and then stop so they are perfect for small spaces and also don’t require much support. The small, cone-shaped tomato cages should suffice but instead, I recommend the heavy-duty kind instead of the spindly wire type. Train determinates to support their stems on the cage but don’t prune them. They will reward you by covering themselves with wonderful, tasty tomatoes.

If you are a lucky gardener with lots of room you definitely have more options!  Tomatoes come in early, mid-season, and long (or main) season varieties, so for an extended harvest period all you have to do is mix up the varieties. Choose early cultivars for half your plants, one intermediate, and the remainder long season. Because the early varieties put a lot of energy into quick production, the fruit tends to be smaller and less flavorful than the long season types that luxuriate long summer days on the vine. But put in some Early Girls and you can be eating tomatoes in late June or early July while looking forward to the August arrival of Big Boys, Mortgage Lifters, and Brandywines. You can also choose “paste” varieties, such as Black Plum and San Marzano, which make great sauces, but are less juicy and tangy than the “table” or “slicing” types. Just be aware that while small and intermediate size tomatoes can be grown in 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight per day the standard and big sizes require a minimum of 12 to 14 hours daily.

With all that room you may select indeterminate cultivars which, theoretically, can grow as large as conditions allow. They will require a strong trellis where vines can be tied, or a heavy-duty cage 5 to 6 feet high and 2 feet around. Google “tomato cages” and get some inspiration, but don’t skimp on support because broken vines result in far fewer tomatoes. Pruning an indeterminate will also reduce the amount of the crop, although some gardeners still trim them back to increase the size of individual tomatoes and keep the vines manageable. The choice is dependent on your philosophy!

Tomatoes like their space. You can plant dwarfs and cherry tomatoes 18” apart but all the others need at least 24” between plants. Don’t crowd them because they are heavy feeders and compete for soil nutrients. They are also sun lovers and sun blockers so you must ensure each plant gets the sunlight it needs.   They will produce well if grown in a single row (never in a block) where they each get an equal share of sunlight and nourishment.

Care and cultivation are the same for potted or in-ground tomato plants.  Tomatoes don’t need (and don’t like) a lot of water. Water them well at planting and you should not have to water them more than once weekly. One weekly deep watering is MUCH better than regular shallow watering. Uneven watering will also promote a condition known as blossom-end rot—consistency is key. Don’t get water on their leaves because this promotes disease.

Tomatoes are also the nutrient gluttons of the vegetable world, so you will need to supplement their feeding throughout the long growing season. Spray plants with compost tea, seaweed extract, or a similar fertilizer two weeks after transplant. Spray them again at flowering, after first fruit is set, and then weekly when plants start producing. You can use a foliar feed or a soil-soak to keep them happy. The mid to late season varieties should produce until the first rains of fall start in October. Then you can clip any remaining vines with green tomatoes and hang them in your garage to ripen.

Tomatoes define the summer!  There are no excuses not to get growing! Learn more about The Bounty Garden at https://thebountygarden.wordpress.com/  and Sustainable Danville Area at http://www.facebook.com/sustainabledanvillearea


Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News/Alamo Today:






Nora Pouillon’s Visit to THE BOUNTY GARDEN

Good evening Friends of the Bounty Garden,
Today, Michael Barnard of Rakestraw Books in Danville announced that Chef Nora Pouillon, a true visionary in the certified organic foods arena, will be visiting Danville to introduce her book, My Organic Life.  
Many may know of Ms. Pouillon and her infamous Restaurant Nora in Washington, D.C.  It was the first certified organic restaurant in the United States and one can only imagine the lengths to which Ms. Pouillon had to go to find farmers and ranchers who insisted on the same qualities of production that she desired long before certification became the norm.  She is a true inspiration and her visit is sure to be educational, charming and inspiring!
The Rakestraw Books event will be an evening gathering in The Bounty Garden where a refreshing drink and light hor d’oeuvres will be served before we sit down under the soft lights to enjoy Ms. Pouillon recount her colorful life from her childhood home in Austria to the bustle of Washington, D.C.  It is sure to be an adventure.
We are honored to host Nora Pouillon at the Bounty Garden.  And, we are extremely touched by Rakestraw Books creating this fundraising event to benefit the Bounty Garden and our efforts to grow organic, nutritious and fresh vegetables for the Food Banks of Contra Costa and Solano Counties.
If you would like to learn more about this special event, please visit Rakestraw Books’ link at  http://www.rakestraw-pouillon.eventbrite.com and remember that the price of a ticket includes Ms. Pouillon’s book, My Organic Life.
With best wishes from the Garden,
The Hive 
Vegetable Beds at The Bounty Garden

New Year, New Opportunity to Teach Your Kids about Healthy Choices


By Valerie Carlson Pressley

 Like many of us, you have made resolutions for 2016 and leading a healthier life is on the top of your list. So, what about nurturing that same idea in the minds of your children? It seems educating adults about the benefits of organic eating and living more healthy is one thing; exposing children to that same information and motivating them is quite another.

Fortunately, kids are sponges for new experiences and convincing arguments. Including your children in activities and discussions about the foods you eat and the reasons behind the earth-friendly choices your family makes may be easier than you think. Here are a few simple ways to engage kids at home and pique their interest in all-things-healthy in the New Year.

  1. Encourage child participation in meal preparation – Children as young as three years old can be big helpers around mealtime. With a rounded or plastic knife, kids can be shown how to slice fruits and vegetables such as watermelon or banana, or can be put in charge of shucking corn or snapping asparagus stalks. Odds are, if they help prepare it, kids may be more apt to eat and enjoy it.


Logan, age 10, carefully slices vegetables for a salad.

  1. Plant a seed, grow a garden – Even if your available gardening space is limited to a kitchen window sill, that is still plenty of room to start an indoor garden and watch the seeds of plant life take root. Planting anything from parsley to sunflower seeds in small pots or containers will do the job – within weeks, they will begin to sprout and demonstrate the power of good soil, consistent watering, sunlight and patience. If you have space in your yard to plant a larger vegetable or flower garden, then there is additional opportunity to teach children about safe pesticides, weed control and the benefits of nutrient-rich composting. Or consider volunteering for The Bounty Garden, a community-service garden in Hap Magee Ranch Park. The Bounty Garden donates organic vegetables to local food pantries that are grown by volunteers. No experience necessary. If interested send an email to thebountygarden@gmail.com.
  1. Get moving and grooving – On rain-free Danville days, it is time to leave the car at home and roll the bikes out of the garage. Not only is bike riding a great family activity, the exercise will make drinking water and eating juicy, refreshing fruit even more satisfying. If you see yourself embracing bike riding on a regular basis, invest in some sturdy bicycle baskets to attach to your child’s handlebars so they can help transport groceries or goodies home from your next outing.


Georgia, age 13, loves riding her bike to some of her favorite spots in The Livery and downtown.

  1. Support your local Farmers’ Market – Farmers’ Markets are a treasure trove of locally grown, organic produce, plants, flowers, jam, nuts, honey, fish and meat. They also serve as a fantastic outdoor venue for people watching, connecting with neighbors and enjoying local entertainment. Yet, one of the most valuable features of patronizing your local farmers’ market is exposing your kids to the growers of the food and items being sold. Saunter up to an apple vendor and ask why their apples are superior to the ones you can buy in the store. Undoubtedly, the vendor will eagerly share his/her reasoning, along with a tasty sample to reinforce the point. In that instant, your kids will have just witnessed learning outside of the classroom in its purest form.

As you can see, taking steps towards a more organic, health-infused lifestyle doesn’t have to be monumental to move mountains for children. Some very simple things—buying and discussing the benefits of organic foods, getting kids’ hands dirty in the kitchen and garden, promoting the thrill of exercise over a car’s carbon footprint, and supporting local farmers and their products—will leave a positive imprint on the minds and choices of our children, and hopefully for a lifetime to come.

Wishing you a happy and very healthy 2016! For more sustainable tips, visit SustainableDanville.com or follow us at http://www.facebook.com/sustainabledanville

Valerie Carlson Pressley is a marketing professional, freelance writer and mother of two in Danville. She can be found riding her turquoise Trek cruiser to the Danville Farmers’ Market on Saturdays with her stash of LOVE reusable bags. Email: vcpressley@gmail.com

Reprinted by permission: Danville Today News


Can I? Yes, You Can

Tip of the Month – July 2015

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

I have to admit I was jealous— toiling in my office when I received Carol’s text. The photo showed she was already testing her brand new Ball Fresh TECH Electric Water Bath Canner with Multi-Cooker. With urgency, I replied ‘whatcha cookin?’ I imagined early season peaches, green beans or even the first tomatoes. The possibility was endless and I counted the days until my new canner would arrive—or Carol shared some of her ‘to-die-for’ dill pickles.

Home canning is one of those passions that folks rarely talk about, but ardent ‘canners’ spend hours lovingly processing and ‘putting up food’. There are so many reasons to consider canning food at home, starting with its:

Love in a jar: For some, canning is a connection to their past—a reminder of time spent with family or a link to their heritage. Maybe it’s a jar of preserves based on a family recipe that brings you back to after-school snacks or a crisp dill pickle in the middle of winter that smacks of a summer’s picnic, but its right there in the jar no matter when you need a flood of memories.

A joyous gift: It’s hard to go wrong sharing the gift of food. There’s something special that comes from presenting or receiving home canned foods. I don’t feel the pressure to consume it immediately, but I also appreciate the love and caring that has gone into the preparation of the gift. I pack my pantry with jams, pickles, pasta sauces and apple pie-in-a-can and when the holidays roll around…well, I have a back-up plan to cover everyone on the list.

It’s a matter of taste: Let’s face it, locally grown, harvested in season produce or fruits, canned when just ripe, beats a commercial product any day. I know the quality of the organic, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables I preserve and it beats a supermarket’s effort any day. Best said by Eugenia Bone, avid food writer and author of Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods, “Preserving is an extension of the values that made you shop in the farmers’ market in the first place.” If asked, I’d agree and add…the values that bring me back to the garden again and again. The terroir sweetens more than the wine –

Health is wealth: My first choice is organic fruits and vegetables whether I’m growing or buying them. This way I can help my family avoid harmful additives and pesticides. Home canning also helps avoid BPA, a harmful chemical often in the plastic lining of metal cans, such as those used for tomatoes.

Eating for the planet: Canning your own food lowers your environmental impact. Mason jars are reusable and thus reduce the packaging associated with buying conventionally packed foods. Additionally, consuming foods that are trucked thousands of miles burns fossil fuels contributing to pollution and often delivers foods that are rendered tasteless from being picked and packed before peak ripeness. Simple home canning allows you to enjoy delicious ‘pantry to table’ food year-round from your own backyard.

Save a penny: Eating seasonally is not only good for the planet; it’s also good for your pocketbook. When you grow or buy produce in season, it’s bountiful and therefore cheaper—making canning an economical way to stock the pantry.

There are countless resources online, including Getting Started videos from Ball, the Preserving Authority. http://www.freshpreserving.com/tools/waterbath-canning You’ll also find recipes for everything from jams to pickles, along with one of my favorites I use as gifts:

Apple Pie-in-a-jar (7 16oz pints)


  • Submerge 12 cups organic sliced, peeled medium apples in 4 cups of water and ¼ cup lemon juice to prevent browning
  • 2 ¾ organic sugar
  • ¾ cup cooking starch
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 ½ cups unsweetened apple juice
  • 1 ¼ cups cold water
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 7 16oz pint size glass preserving jars, lids and bands


  1. Prepare water canner. Heat jars in water until ready for use. Do not boil. Wash lids in warm soapy water and set aside.
  2. Blanch apple slices (2 batches of 6 cups) in large pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Remove with slotted spoon & keep warm in covered bowl.
  3. Combine sugar, cooking starch, cinnamon and nutmeg in large stainless steel saucepan. Stir in apple juice and cold water. Bring to boil, stir constantly and cook until mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Add lemon juice and return to boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
  4. Fold apples into hot mixture. Before processing, re-heat, stirring until apples are heated through.
  5. Ladle hot apple pie filling into hot jars leaving 1 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rims of jars. Center lid on each jar and apply bands until fit is fingertip tight.
  6. Process jars in water canner for 25 minutes. Remove jars and set on kitchen towel on counter to cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex when center is pressed.
  7. Tag with date. Add your favorite pie crust recipe if preparing as gift.

Reprinted by permission: Danville Today News








Just Say No.

Tip of the Month – October 2013

By Cynthia Ruzzi

I’m on a diet.  I’m not alone – according to a Colorado University study, one third of all women and one fourth of all men in the US are on a diet. In fact, the American Medical Association states that 68% of Americans are overweight or obese. The US Department of Agriculture reports that average Americans consume 150 pounds of sugar in a year – perhaps explaining why dieting is a $60 million dollar industry in our country.  We rightly promote “Just Say No” to drugs, but we forget to say no to the drugs in our food and sugar is the cocaine of food!

Sugar is in everything.  In America we are eating about 22 teaspoons of sugar a day. Some might say it’s not our fault because our ancestors were programmed to seek fat and sugar for survival and we just haven’t grown out of it.  However, do we really need our food manufacturers to ‘support’ this glitch in evolution by adding sugar to everything?  We live with so much abundance and access to food, but we are still facing a famine – a nutritional famine.  We may be overfed, but we are starving to death for the nutrition our bodies need to prevent diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

For three years, my husband and I followed a 90LOV diet.  Ninety percent local, organic and vegetarian.  I was fond of saying that the other ten percent, I ate whatever I darn pleased. While you wouldn’t find me swigging a Coke, I wouldn’t turn down the dessert menu after a meal and I never met a piece of bread or a pint of ice cream that weren’t my friends.  What I didn’t realize at the time was that allowing myself 10% processed foods led to the addiction to desire more  and before you know it 10% became  12%, 14% _ 25%.  Add this to sitting at a desk all day, excuses for not biking and well, here I am facing an adjustment.

I want to strip MSG, Aspartame, Caffeine and particularly refined sugar from my diet. I’m targeting these items because this toxic mixture is what causes us average mortals to crave more and thus gain more. Manufacturers add these chemicals to food because of the affects they have on the neurotransmitters of our brain that trigger these cravings and thus we want to eat more and buy more.  I’m targeting refined sugar because when we consume conventional foods (filled with sugar) – I actually heard my body say, “Sugar rush! Hey, Pancreas quickly produce lots of insulin so this chick doesn’t kick it”.  The pancreas is very compliant (for now) and being the fat producing hormone does what it does and turns sugar into fat for use later”.  However by now we all know, I’m not running any marathons these days and my body says, “We’ll just put it here on your thighs for use later”.

I thought I had this figured out.  But if you think Eskimos have a lot of words for snow, then try to find those find my no-no’s – MSG, Aspartame, Caffeine and refined Sugar – on your average food label.  There are so many derivatives of these used in processed foods, that it takes a chemical degree to analyze each package.  We take our cars to the mechanic for regular tune ups, but rarely do we visit a doctor before we feel ill.  I’m on a diet for life learning how much protein and other nutrients I need for optimum performance and I’m basing it on simple, natural, local, organic food.  Join San Ramon Valley High School Environmental Club and Sustainable Danville Area for an evening screening of Hungry for Change on Wednesday, October 23rd 6PM at the SRVHS Performance Arts Center 501 Danville Avenue to learn more about feeding your body.

There’s a plethora of films and books to start on the path, but I’m ready to work with a health coach that will help me optimize my nutrition and life choices for best performance. I’ll be working with Four Quadrant Living, a Danville Area Sustainable Business. Dina Colman has just finished writing her first book,Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life, and will be holding a launch party Saturday, October 12, 3 – 5pm  at Rakestraw Books in Danville.  RSVP to Dina at dina@fourquadrantliving.com or to Rakestraw Books at (925) 837-7337.

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News

It’s Time for a Picnic

Sustainable Danville Area Tip of the Month – April 2013

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

Just two days past Spring Equinox and Mother Nature has spring fever.  The poppies are flourishing along with so many other colorful blooms and even after what has proven to be our driest winter, our hills are green.  The sun is warm and my concentration is so poor; I had to ask for a deadline extension for submitting this month’s tip of the month.  This month’s column has more than just one Sustainable Tip of the Month, but it’s a picnic – a smorgasbord of ‘Where to Find Sustainable Tips’.

For almost three years, we have shared tips on everything from the benefits of biking, local food, sustainable landscaping to home energy diets, eco-travel, raising chickens and eco-friendly art supplies.  These articles are still available to you online from Danville Today News/Alamo Today News and on the Sustainable Danville Area website

Often, I’m asked to describe what sustainable living is and simply it’s ‘making choices that allow our resources to continue to be available for our children and their children’, ‘living as though there’s no Planet B’ and remembering that ‘Planet Earth is the only one with chocolate’.  With this in mind and in honor of Earth Day, celebrated worldwide on April 22nd by hundreds of millions of people in over 184 countries, here are some of our favorite places for information and tips to care for our corner of this wonderful planet.

Gardening:  Hands down the Contra Costa Master Gardeners have it ‘going on’. These trained volunteers are residents of local communities that provide University of California research-based horticultural information to the citizens of California. Besides engaging local lectures, their website is filled with tips for school gardens, edible gardens and drought and native landscaping.

Composting & Recycling:  Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority offers terrific information on where to recycle just about anything.  You’ll also find a calendar for composting workshops, including worm composting too.

PG&E:   Saving energy in your home is not just good for the planet, it’s good for your pocketbook. PG&E has great tools to track your electric and gas usage online and they make it easy to do a self-audit of your home energy to find and prevent energy loss.

Environmental Working Group  This powerhouse site is our ‘go-to’ place for everything from their cosmetic database, the Dirty Dozen list (which recommends the best fruits and vegetables to buy organic to avoid pesticides) and guides on sunscreens, home cleaners and other daily products.

Earth Day EventWant more?  Well then, Picnic on the Green! The Town of Danville, The Danville Library and Sustainable Danville Area present the 3rd Annual Town of Danville Earth Day Event on Saturday, April 20th 12pm – 4pm on the Town Green, in  the Danville Library, at the community center and the Village Theatre Art Gallery.

The Town of Danville Earth Day event is a free, fun and informative way for residents and visitors of all ages to learn about green building, sustainable landscape design, solar power, home energy efficient products, waste reduction, recycling, water conservation, hybrid and electrical vehicles and much more!

Pack your picnic or purchase lunch and snacks al fresco from La Boulange Bakery while enjoying music from local band, Other People’s Money.  Play with our Giant Earth Ball, visit with hybrid/electric car and electric bicycle owners and participate in popular hands-on activities at interactive booths, including:

  •  Get ready to experience nature with Peanuts…Naturally! Fun, creative environmental crafts and activity stations presented by the Charles M. Schulz Museum.
  • Plant a seed to start your summer vegetable garden with The Bounty Garden and Urban Farmers.
  • Explore the Wonderful World of Worms and Composting for Busy People.
  • Make an Earth Day pledge to reduce, re-use or recycle. See how Every Choice Counts and help the Earth Day Tree grow!  Everyone who adds a ‘leaf pledge’ will be entered into an hourly raffle to win a “Get Your Green On” reusable book bag.
  • Afternoon speaker series will help you Green Your Home, Replace your Lawn with Drought Tolerant Plants and Enjoying Local, Organic Foods for a Healthy Planet.
  • Be inspired at Story Time with special tales and eco-friendly ideas to celebrate the Earth all year.
  • Measure your carbon footprint.Discover if solar energy is right for your home?
  • Be dazzled by art from local students at the Earth Day Student Art Show in the Village Theatre Art Gallery. (Students: click here for  details to enter contest before 4/5/13)
  • Try new veggies from Community Supported Agriculture Farms – Full Belly Farms & Doorstep Farmers.

Students from San Ramon Valley High School Environmental Club are hosting free bicycle parking for the event, so please consider two wheels or your feet as parking is limited for the event.  Hope to see you there!

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News

For Love of ….Chickens

Tip of the Month – February 2013 By Cynthia Ruzzi

To everything there is a season, even food. Incorporating seasonal, local, whole foods into your daily diet provides a healthy balance for you and the environment.  Eating vegetables and fruits soon after harvest maximizes the nutrients in the food.  Besides being better for the environment, seasonal, local food is usually more cost effective and generally tastes much better.  My husband and I certainly think so.

We love trying new, local foods and so, we were delighted when Jake, our 11 year old neighbor and self-professed Chicken Farmer invited me to learn more about ‘growing’ fresh, local eggs.  Jake has wanted to raise a brood of hens since 2nd grade when he hatched chicks as a classroom project.   Roadie, J.J., Chevy, Hazel and Fluffy make up Jake’s clucking crew.  He started off with six chicks, but Scrambles was retired to a rural farm when one morning, the family heard crowing.  Apparently, crowing is the first identifier that a chick is a rooster and not a hen.  Danville keeps the peace by banning roosters within city limits.

photo (25)Jake’s brood started laying eggs when they were just under 5 months old and will continue to offer eggs for about 2 years.  It takes a chicken 24 hours to produce an egg, and production is dependent on having at least 13 hours of daylight – so maximum production is 35 eggs per week. Jake basically knows which chicken has laid which egg because he has different breeds that lay different colored eggs; including a Rhode Island Red, two Brahmas and Hazel and Fluffy his Americana chickens.  These girls lay green eggs!  Yes, there really are green eggs – just like in the Dr. Suess book, Green Eggs and Ham.  The family picked these breeds because they can handle both our hot summers and cold, wet winters with aplomb. 

photo (26)

Jake spends between 10 – 30 minutes a day caring for his brood.  The chickens greet him when he opens the screen door to give them their feed or a special treat of cantaloupe (in season of course).  The girls mostly ignore the family when they sit out in the backyard.  Jake says the chickens have a great relationship with his cat, Nutmeg – especially since the chicks have grown larger than the cat.  Jake recommends adopting chickens all at one time to limit competition (pecking order) between the hens. 

jakeJake’s chickens have plenty of room to ‘eat local’ roaming around a large part of the backyard eating bugs.  Thanks to Jake’s dad, Chris, these hens have a chicken palace to rival anything offered in the William Sonoma catalog.  Chris admits he didn’t save much money ‘DYI’ – though he used reclaimed wood for all the construction.  Chris said one of the most important architectural elements for the coop is to include lots of ventilation in the design and to secure on all sides, including underneath the coop, to protect from raccoons and other predators.

As a ‘parting gift’ – or perhaps in exchange for the chocolate chip cookies I brought with me, Jake gave me eggs that were laid that day.  Excited, I picked some spinach from my garden and cooked up a simple omelet that very night.  Can you get more seasonal or local than that?

At EMBRACING THE SEASON FOR A HEALTHY, BALANCED DIET, Sustainable Danville Area’s forum – February 20th forum 6:30pm – 8:00pm  Veterans Memorial Building  400 Hartz Avenue – you’ll learn how to savor local flavors from our guest speakers as they talk about the inspiration they gain by embracing the seasons.  Sebastian Miller, Executive Chef of Piatti’s Danville, is known for bringing contemporary flavors to the plate using seasonal, local ingredients prepared in a simple, unpretentious manner.  Sebastian reveals how he creates the ever changing ‘market menu’ at Piatti’s and how you can do the same at home.  Angela Stanford, Registered Dietitian and Holistic Food & Nutrition Advisor, Vital Nutrition & Wellness, holistic approach to eating combines 20 years of working in the food and health industries with roots on her family farm and love for cooking and organic gardening. For more information, visit www.sustainabledanville.com and join us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/sustainabledanvillearea).

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News

Want to learn how to raise your own chickens?  Check out Papa John’s Chicken-Raising Workshops in Lafayette.

Chicken-Raising Workshops with Papa John
3d calendarFebruary & March

Raising chickens has never been easier. The popular workshops with Papa John Keifer are the best way to get started. Close to 300 people have attended in the past three years. Classes are on Sundays from 1-3:30 (2/10, 2/17, 3/2).  Free, but registration is required.See more information on our Chicken Workshop flyer or email Papa John at khkiefer@comcast.net.

Food For Thought

Tip of the Month – January 2013   By Cynthia Ruzzi

Food For Thought   Having just concluded the ‘Thanks-ukah-mas-year’ eating fest, many of us are facing the first week of our New Years’ resolution to stop eating convenience foods filled with empty calories, fats and chemicals. Perhaps our indulgence – or hard work – during the holiday makes us shy away from the thought of more family meals, but it is now more important than ever to eat together.

Eating as a family weaves the fabric of the relationship.   With everyone in the family heading in different directions during the day, family meals at home are a perfect time to work together to enjoy simple pleasures and connect on a regular basis. Family meals provide more than enhanced nutrition.  A shared family meal provides nourishment, comfort and support for those we love. Our children learn about the world every day from many sources and the dinner table is a perfect opportunity to provide a routine time to share within a family space.  Celebrate your family and come together at your table to explore family culture, food, teach your children dining and conversational social skills and get in touch.

Eating as a family is less expensive, more efficient and healthier.  Avoiding convenience foods and cooking at home is often more economical, healthy and tasty. Serving organic, fresh foods that are minimally processed and locally sourced guarantee improved nutrition and because they have more natural flavor, whole food can be prepared simply – saving time in the kitchen.  Incorporating herbs, vegetables and fruit from your garden or the farmers’ market enables a child to learn about where our food comes from.  You’d be surprised how much broccoli a kid will eat when the child has tended and picked it themselves.

Eating as a family teaches children food sustainability.  As part of the evenings’ blessing and discussion take time to recognize where the food on our table comes from to encourage understanding and appreciation of the bounty.  Few of us know where bananas come from or have traveled the distance one has to take to come to our table.  Exploring the origin of foods as part of the evening meal provides an opportunity to discuss everything from farming, to manufacturing, packaging and even disposal – or hopefully, composting.

Eating as a family takes practice.  With every new practice, there are sure to be some difficulties and adjustments.  Professionals say that the less time a family spends eating together at home, the more awkward those first few experiences will be, so first, try setting a goal for two times a week. Here’s two suggestions critical for success:

  • Turn off the mobile/texting devices.  View the family meal as a time to ‘plug into each other’ and avoid the distraction of phone calls and text messages that remind everyone of the world beyond the family.
  • Get the whole family involved in the planning, shopping and preparation.  Learning to plan, shop and cook a meal are invaluable skills for children when they leave home.  You’d be surprised how impressed girls will be when your son cooks a meal instead of going to a restaurant for a date.  Engaging everyone in the shopping helps each member appreciate what food costs.  Even young children can be helpful in the kitchen given a little direction. You’d be surprised how quickly the time flies when all hands are engaged making a family dinner.

FOOD FOR THOUGHTSustainable Danville Area feels so passionately about food that along with The Danville Library we present a three-part speaker series FOOD FOR THOUGHT to nourish our spirit, our mind, our body and the environment.  Our January talk Get Your Family Back to the Table – with Real Food – January 23rd 6:30pm at Veterans Memorial Building 400 Hartz Ave. brings you two speakers: Heather Clapp, Co-owner of Jules Organic Thin Crust Pizza who understands there’s time when you need to eat outside the home without forgoing nutrition. Heather, dedicated to educating her three active boys on where real food comes from, will provide inspiration to create organic vegetarian meals that will sustain and nourish your entire family and Lisa Evaristo, Co-owner of Back to the Table Cooking & Baking School, also a parent of three children, teaches families that spending time cooking together, then sitting down and sharing a great meal is where the magic happens.

Apple GYGSFood is also the topic of our first 2013 Green Your School SummitJoin us January 15th 4pm at SRVHS, special guest, Town of Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich kicks off the afternoon with speakers, Cindy Gershen, Founder of Wellness City Challenge and Dominic Machi, Director of Food Services, SRUVSD.  Cindy will share the importance of nourishing our children with whole, healthy food and Dom will update us on “What’s Cooking in the Lunchroom”.  For more information, visit events on http://www.sustainabledanville.com or join us on Facebook.

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News



Is it Scrumdidilyumptious?

Tip of the month – october 2012

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

I still remember seeing the movie Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory as a childThe magical world with a river of chocolate, a drink that made Charlie and his Grandpa float in the air and ‘the most amazing, fabulous, sensational gum in the whole world’ containing a three-course dinner captured my heart!

But would we chance such biotechnological confections if they were available to us?  Would you risk turning your child blue and blowing up like a blueberry, similar to the nit-wit character Violet in the movie, just to save time in the kitchen?  Dinner in a piece of gum would surely be the end to family meals and aren’t our teachers already dealing with ‘floating students’ on five hour energy drinks?

In my effort to eat healthier, I’ve been shopping the outside aisles of the grocery stores for the past few years.  The perimeter is normally where you find the ‘real food’ or at least where you find produce, the meat and fish counter, dairy products and breads.  Processed foods like sugared cereal, bottled juices and sodas loaded with corn syrup, packaged cookies, chips and even power bars dominate the middle aisles of most stores. Entering this dominion I need to arm myself with reading glasses to check labels for sugar and fat content and use a ‘chemical-speak’ dictionary to understand the rest of the packaged ingredients.  But recently, Prop 37, the GMO Food Labeling Initiative has me wondering whether my shopping technique is the best defense for purchasing the healthiest foods.

GMOs or ‘genetically modified organisms’ is the term for plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology.  Biotechnology, also known as generic engineering combines DNA from different species, mixing plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding. Nearly 80% of processed foods available in the US contain GMOs.  These include products that contain ingredients with corn, soy, canola, flax, rice – even sugar beets, papaya, zucchini and yellow summer squash. However, it’s not always obvious since ingredients listed in ‘chemical-speak’ may be derived from these crops like (but are not limited to) Xanthan Gum, Sucrose, Monosodium Glutamate, Maltodextrins, Citric Acid and of course High-Fructose Corn Syrup.  Even milk, meat, eggs and honey can contain GMOs because of feed for animals and other inputs.

Most GMOs are designed to produce their own insecticide to fight bugs or survive the farmer spraying herbicide to kill competing weeds. GMOs promise drought tolerance and increased yields to make food more plentiful.  Opponents connect GMOs with environmental damage and site cases of large seed companies going after farmers for growing crops that have been hybridized by wind and/or birds.  I’d love a solution to end world hunger, but I’m worried about the unknown, long-term impacts of GMOs on people and the environment.  If nearly 50 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan and all of the countries in the European Union have restrictions or bans on the production and sale of GMOs, then why do US manufacturers’ consider GMOs safe for us to eat?

I depend on my food producer to be transparent about their ingredients. We ask the farmer how they fertilize and combat pests, the butcher if antibiotics or hormones were used raising the meat, if the fish is sustainable and we definitely check labels on packages carefully before purchase. If a manufacturer can list sugar, fat and ‘new and improved’ then certainly they can list GMO-derived and allow me the choice to decide if the product is right for my family.  Currently, the Non-GMO project offers the only third party verification for US products. Their website, www.nongmoproject.org  and their nifty i-phone app offers a complete list of Non-GMO verified foods which I use to decide what trade-offs to make when shopping.

Interested in learning more about GMOs & food? Join SRVHS Environmental Club and Sustainable Danville Area for a filming of the documentary, Future of Food on Wednesday, October 10th at 6:30pm in the San Ramon Valley High School Performing Arts Center 501 Danville Blvd.  Suggested donation $5.


Help Breath of Hope Chiropractic and Sustainable Danville Area fight local hunger. Now there are two places in Danville to donate fresh vegetables and fruits to our local food pantries:

Wednesdays 7:30am – 3:00pm 822 Hartz Way (Inside lobby of the office building behind Burger King)

Saturdays 9:00am – 1:00pm Loaves and fishes at Danville’s Farmers Market, Prospect and Railroad Ave.
Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News


FOOD: Local, Free-Range or Organic?

Tip of month – june 2012

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

Doesn’t it seem like feeding ourselves and our family has gotten a lot more complex in the last few years? Deciding on the best food options at the grocery store is time consuming and sometimes difficult. Is the fresh, organic broccoli trucked from thousands of miles away better for you than the conventional broccoli grown and frozen 200 miles from your home?

We want to feed ourselves and our family well. We want to do right by our farmers and their workers, our environment and our local economy. Yet, if we’re going to spend more of our paycheck on food, then don’t we want to make sure that there’s a payback in taste and nutrition? Hence the dilemma: when shopping, should you buy local, free-range or organic food?

So why is eating local a big deal?  According to the WorldWatch Institute, food consumed in the U.S. typically travels 1,500-2,500 miles to reach our plates.  In fact, the energy used for food production accounts for about 20% of all fossil fuel used in the United States.  A local-eating pioneer, Joan Gussow, once said that shipping a strawberry from California to New York requires 435 calories of fossil fuel but provides the eater with only 5 calories of nutrition. Based on that, what you eat may be as important as what you drive.

When you shift your diet toward local foods, you are protecting nearby farms, reducing carbon emissions and supporting your local economy.  Besides being better for the environment, local food generally tastes much better because it is picked when it is ripe and is much fresher when we eat it.  Eating fresh, local food allows you to capture nutrients that will have otherwise diminished over the many miles conventional foods normally take to reach your plate.  However, it seems to me that if the ‘fresh, local food’ is grown conventionally using chemical pesticides (or in the case of meat antibiotics and hormones) it defeats the benefits of buying ‘fresh’.

When I shop at local farmers market, I ask vendors, ‘How do you grow your vegetables (or raise your meat)?  These open-ended questions (instead of ‘do you spray pesticides on your crop?) usually reveal which farms are passionate about sustainable, healthy growing practices.   And let’s face it, if I’m going to pay more for farmers’ market products then I want to make sure I’m not just paying for atmosphere.

Is free-range the ‘wild west’ of eating? The term ‘free range’ implies that the animal is allowed to roam freely instead of being contained in any manner.  However, USDA regulations apply only to poultry and indicate that the animal has been ‘allowed access to’ the outside. The USDA regulations do not specify the quality or size of the outside range, nor the duration of time that an animal must have access to the outside. So cowboy, free-range isn’t a guarantee that your chick has ever left the hen house – where they have been trained to find food and water.  Hence, that grass stomping hen may only be more nutritious for you when the term free-range is partnered with ‘no antibiotics, no hormones, organically-fed and/or grass-fed’.

Do you need to eat only organic food?  Did you know that if your food doesn’t say 100% organic it can contain unhealthy chemicals? If a product label says ‘Made with Organic Products’ it means that only 70% of the products need to be organic in that food item.  However, organic products can be twice as much as conventional items, so if you must make a trade-off between which products to buy organic then use a resource like the Dirty Dozen List from the Environmental Working Group.  They offer a downloadable list for your wallet and you can find the complete list at http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list/.

In the end, it’s pretty basic.  The more you know about your food sources and the more you eat whole, unprocessed foods, the healthy you’ll be. If you are interested in learning more about how our food choices affect ourselves, our family and our community, then please join us Thursday, June 21st 6:30 pm.

The Danville Library is sponsoring this month’s Sustainable Danville Area Forum with two special speakers.

Linda Riebel, author of ‘The Green Foodprint: Food Choices for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet’ will talk about the main guidelines to environmentally wiser food and share many options, so you can tailor Earth-friendly eating to your own lifestyle.  Linda Riebel, Ph.D., is an environmental educator on the faculty of Saybrook University, where she helped create the sustainability program. She serves on the board of Sustainable Lafayette (helping create the farmers’ market, Earth Day and Food Day events, among other things), and has published and lectured about sustainable food for over ten years.

Danville Area Sustainble Business leader Joey Mazzera from Green Apple Acupuncture (www.greenappleacupuncture.com) will reveal the ten most important herbs to integrate into your diet for a holistic approach to healthy living.  Joey is a licensed Acupuncturist and received her Master’s Degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine from The American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco.  For more information visit us at www.sustainabledanville.com and https://www.facebook.com/SustainableDanvilleArea.

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News