Ajo CSA and Ajo Community Garden Open House a huge success!After a morning citrus workshop with Mike Mekelburg, attended by 17 people, about 70 people joined us for an afternoon of fun on Saturday, November 21 at the Ajo Community Garden. Gardening and planting tips were given out by garden members, Karen Johnson held a workshop on soil preparation, Christine Johnson talked about permaculture design, and a workshop on how to make home-made solar ovens was given by Aaron Cooper. Afterwards, everyone present came together to attend an energetic and engaging food demonstration by Cheralyn Schmidt of the U of A Agricultural Extension Office. With the help of dedicated CSA members, Cheralyn cooked, prepared and served 5 dishes featuring the beautiful greens from Crooked Sky Farms, and everyone agreed that it was one of the highlights of the day (with some people suggesting that Cheralyn should have her own cooking show!). The CSA pick-up and farm stand were held afterwards as the light waned. Later that evening about 30 people got together at The Lounge at 100 Estrella (thanks to Mara and Tom for hosting us at the last moment!) to attend a screening of the real and local food movie Fresh. A lively debate was held afterwards, and living consciously and sustainably in Ajo was discussed over more food and drinks. Many thanks go to a lot of people: the Ajo Community Garden members for preparing the garden for the event and cleaning it up, all of the presenters, and last but not least, Farmer Frank and his crew at Crooked Sky for all the produce donated to the event.
Ajo CSA solar oven and mesquite demonstration at International Day of Peace!
On Sunday, September 20, 2009, Ajo CSA participated at a free community breakfast organized by the International Sonoran Desert Alliance as a part of the opening festivities for the International Day of Peace celebrations in Ajo. Using solar ovens, we were baking and serving mesquite sweet potato and whole wheat cookies and mesquite sweetbread, as well as a refreshing cucumber lemonade. We kicked off with two solar ovens, one commercial one kindly lent by Christine Johnson and one home-made which was made for ISDA by Sue Reiman. Both ovens warmed up quickly and we were baking away by 9 am. In the middle of the day, Aaron Cooper brought in 4 more home-made ovens that were made by his students at San Simon High School on the reservation. These ovens looked very straightforward, made from scrap materials, using an aluminum baking tray with black-painted bottoms and oven bags, and Aaron was quite skeptical about how well they would work, so after placing the first batch of cookies into the ovens we didn’t check on them for a while. How shocked we were when we found we had actually burned one batch, i.e. blackened all the way through! Sun power really works! 2 solar-powered modified golf carts were running kids around the plaza by then, demonstrating that as well! Later on, Christine brought in another home-made solar oven, made out of a pizza box, so we had a total of 7 ovens glittering in the sun! It was quite a spectacle. It was a typical very hot day in Ajo, and by noon we had baked and given away over 20 batches of cookies and 2 batches of sweet potato bread, accompanied with fliers with info on mesquite, Ajo CSA and recipes. The organizers estimated that about 450 breakfasts were served, and at least half of those people tried something from us, too. For most if not all, this was their first taste of mesquite, which used to be the main food source to the Native Americans in this region (for more info on mesquite see the Recipes page on ajocsa.com); however, both of the restaurants on the plaza expressed interest in incorporating mesquite and even solar power into their menus and operations, too, so watch out! The solar ovens attracted a lot of wonder – both kids and adults were peering in, amazed that it can be done!
End of the Season Potluck
The end of the season potluck was held after a short shower, so the air was clear and cool, at least for a little while! Farmer Frank came down from Glendale looking like a true gentleman farmer. He brought organic compost for all of the CSA members, and any leftovers will be donated to the Ajo Community Garden and the Ajo Elementary School Garden. Before we all dug into the potluck, Frank gave us some insights into what to expect during the Fall season. For Frank, the Fall is the most fun season: while we can expect to continue receiving summer crops such as melons (into November if all goes as planned), corn, cucumbers and tomatoes, the first cooler crops will find their way into our weekly shares as well. The first greens have been planted, and should be ready to harvest by the end of September. According to Farmer Frank, we should be receiving some interesting varieties this year! We will be getting more pears, and the first oranges and grapefruits. The winter squash and pumpkins have also been planted, and should be ready for our harvest food demo before Thanksgiving. Thanks to everyone who came and contributed to the potluck, and we're looking forward to a delicious fall! In addition to great food, what else can we expect this session? Ajo CSA will be holding a screening of one of the top “real food movement” movies of this summer, Fresh (date and place to be announced). On November 21, Chef Cheralyn Schmidt of University of Arizona Agricultural Extension Office has kindly offered to prepare a harvest food demonstration especially for us, including the glorious greens, just in time for the beginning of the holiday season. In addition, the Ajo Community Garden Consortium and Ajo CSA are planning to hold an educational week during the third week in November, including lectures at the library, tours and workshops, and Frank has already agreed to come back to Ajo and give a talk on sustainable farming. But first, don’t miss our stand during the community breakfast as part of the Ajo International Day of Peace celebrations on September 20! Our group will be baking healthy cakes using wheat and squash from the farm in solar ovens, so come grab some for yourself! In addition to produce from Crooked Sky Farms, Ajo CSA is proud to offer an option to sign up for a meat share once a season. We are starting with grass-fed beef from Double Check Ranch in Winkelman, AZ. Check out their website (www.doublecheckranch.com) or come and tour the ranch! On September 27, Paul is opening his ranch to visitors, so if anybody wants to attend the tour, please sign up during the pick-up! If you have already signed up, your meat share will be here in the third or fourth week of September. You can also order frozen old-fashioned, natural, free-range pasture-raised chickens from Josh’s Foraging Fowls in Wilcox, AZ (AbarHfarm.com). Josh’s is a small family farm and no antibiotics or growth hormones are used. The hens are fed high quality locally raised grains and an organic mineral mix. And just in time for Thanksgiving, you can also order Josh’s turkey! The price is $4.20/lb and the birds weigh between 15-18 pounds. The sign-up will be open until the end of September.
Eating healthily and locally in Ajo: On Friday, August 14th, the Desert Senita Community Health Center held a food demonstration as part of National Health Center Week. Before the demonstration started, event organizer and Ajo CSA member Jane Canon led a group of about 17 people in a fun session of laughter yoga. All relaxed, chef Cheralyn Schmidt of the University of Arizona Pima County Extension Office then prepared two dishes featuring the new Women Infants and Children (WIC) food package, using tofu and brown rice. Cheralyn was also very excited to be able to cook with Crooked Sky Farms’ Glendale Gold onions, emphasizing the beneficial effects of onions in general, as well as the importance of preserving heirloom varieties and eating seasonally and locally. The theme of eating locally was then further expanded by Ajo CSA Coordinator Nina Altshul, while serving a Sunshine Rice dessert with a tasting of 5 different melons provided by Crooked Sky Farms. Nina listed reasons for eating locally, from nutrition and taste to the effects on farm workers, communities, and the environment, and introduced the community supported agriculture model and the Ajo group. Fran Driver, Public Health Nurse for the Pima County Health Department in Ajo (and Ajo CSA member) then introduced another option for eating locally: gardening, and specifically the Ajo Community Garden. Listing the successes members have had so far with growing vegetables during the fall, winter, spring and even summer, she invited all interested to tour the garden after the demonstration. Then she invited the participants to use the prepared milk cartons filled with dirt and plant some seeds of their choice from a great variety provided by Cheralyn. Handouts with recipes, tips on eating locally, and copies of the Ajo CSA newsletter were given out, and everyone left happy, with bellies full of laughter and good food, and hands full of Glendale Golds and seeds. Thanks Jane and thanks to all involved for the great work!