Food Forward TV

A show about people changing the way we eat in America

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Special LIVE Social Screening for Food Day Oct 24 6 PM PST

leave a comment »

Come meet and talk to Food Rebel Abeni Ramsey and the creators of Food Forward in a special LIVE online social screening in celebration of Food Day Wednesday, October 24.

One of the stars from the episode, Abeni Ramsey-Masey, a single mother-turned urban farmer in Oakland, CA. will be joined by the show’s producers Greg Roden and Stett Holbrook to answer your questions and share more about urban ag around the country and future episodes of Food Forward.

What exactly is a “social screening?” you may ask. It’s a way to watch a TV show using a special online video player with real-time interaction. This player will run the episode along with a “chat window” to the side of it that displays the conversation. You’ll be able to see your questions, the panelist’s answers and enter a dialogue with other fans of Food Forward. There will also be icons that you can click on to express how you feel about the content the show itself as it plays.

All you need to do is go to:

1. Make sure you are using the most current version of your favorite browser: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Internet Explorer

2. Check that you are using the current version of the Flash Player.

3. Run a test to make sure OVEE works properly on your computer.

This special social screening is hosted by the Independent Television Service (ITVS) and PBS. ITVS funds, presents, and promotes award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television and cable, innovative new media projects on the Web, and the Emmy Award-winning weekly series Independent Lens Monday nights at 10:00 PM on PBS.

Now let’s watch together and chat! And please tell your friends to join us.


Written by Anna Marie Piersimoni

October 23, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

She Sells Seaweed

leave a comment »

Kacie harvests wild seaweed by hand!

Like the majority of Americans, seaweed is not a major component of my diet. Before interviewing Kacie Loparto, a hand-harvester of wild seaweed, the salty, slippery vegetable was, to me, something that occasionally wrapped around my legs while swimming in the ocean and held the contents of my sushi roll in one piece. Though seaweed may be new to me in regards to food, it has been utilized as food source for a very long time, and traditional methods of harvesting it have been passed down through generations. In 2007, after completing her degree at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina, Kacie decided to continue her hands-on education in agriculture and found somebody to apprentice with in Maine to learn seaweed harvesting. Harvesting of seaweed, like any wild food, is a craft that must be learned. So, she traveled to Maine to learn from some of the best, from somebody who had been out on the ocean for almost 40 years.

As the consumption and growing of seaweed is quickly increasing in popularity, sustainable methods of harvesting this wild source of nutrition are becoming more and more crucial. There are many things about seaweed harvesting that may only be learned by apprenticing with somebody who has sufficient knowledge about the practice. There are things like California Frond Tip harvesting–not taking a whole plant from the stem, but just a portion of it in order to ensure that it can replenish itself. And, how to monitor seaweed patches to determine if they are healthy enough to harvest from in consecutive years. Kacie has traveled from the East Coast to the West Coast learning different methods and seeing what it really takes to run a seaweed business. Whether in California or Maine, the best months to gather seaweed are June and July, and she always uses boats to get out to the seaweed, either row boats or kayaks. Her day usually starts around 3am, at which time the tide is the lowest and she has approximately two hours of prime time harvesting. If the tide is low enough, she may even be able to reach the seaweed by foot. After the seaweed is gathered and brought back to shore, it is hung out on lines to dry before it is ready to be eaten,

Kacie hangs seaweed out to dry after harvesting!

So, you ask, why seaweed?  Seaweeds are extremely high in iodine and magnesium and thus, good for protecting the thyroid and protecting us from different kinds of cancer that are caused by environmental pollutants. Kacie also told me that seaweed is a good alternative for people who don’t live by the ocean thus are not able to absorb the proper amounts of iodine through breathing the ocean air. Studies have suggested that, if used as a healing food, it can slow the growth of cancer cells.

Six years after Kacie began her apprenticeship, you can find her selling her seaweed at different farmer’s markets and blogging about her adventures on her website, She Sells Seaweed  She educates people about different ways to eat seaweed, and is attempting to figure out how seaweed gathering is going to fit into her life. In the future she hopes to get into something like botany, lead plant walks, learn/teach how to use plants medicinally as well as food, and most of all, to educate people about wild foods. When asked why seaweed is so important to her, Kacie said that above all, she appreciates seaweed as a food source and likes harvesting for the adventure of the work. The interview ended with Kacie admitting, “I just love to eat seaweed.”

A 1 oz bag of Sea Palm

While Kacie uses seaweed in practically everything she cooks, her favorite recipe, also one of the best ways to soak up the most nutritional value from the seaweed, is miso soup! This recipe can be found on her website along with many others:

“To make the vegetarian dashi broth, boil 3 cups of water with slices of fresh ginger root. After about five minutes add a few strips of kombu, turn off heat and cover. Covering pot helps retain iodine and infuses broth with the healing alginates. Steep for 10 minutes, and then pour through strainer if you want only the broth.

To make the broth into miso soup, add a teaspoon of miso paste, sliced scallion, and grated carrots and daikon radish. You can also add umeboshi plum paste and coconut oil to enrich the soup even more.”

Written by Yvette Cabrera

August 10, 2012 at 8:17 pm

The Heat of Summer in America’s Heartland

leave a comment »

Roadside attraction inviting visitors to a local farm stand and a place to stay in the Coon Valley, WI.

There’s a lot I love about the Midwest, but mostly it’s the people. And summer. Despite the worst drought on record raging through much of the lower and mid-region corn belts, you wouldn’t notice it at first glance in and around the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul

Train running alongside of the Mississippi.

Out here in support of the Twin Cities Public Television debut of Food Forward, all I can see is lush green grass surrounding smaller suburbs and rural enclaves as I make my way down the Mississippi river valley and over to La Farge, Wisconsin, headquarters for our founding sponsor, Organic Valley.

Lodging at OV’s unofficial rural HQ – The Kettle.

After meeting up with the team in the main offices, we head through Amish country and over to Spring Green, WI for a picnic dinner and to see Shakespeare’s Richard III. Afterwards, I’m invited to stay at ‘The Kettle’ for a restful night of sleep below a bright and shiny milky way, deep in the back woods of rural Wisconsin and I’m reminded of how lucky and thankful I am to have these opportunities.

Back to civilization and its straight to the St. Paul farmers market in search of food rebels. Amidst a sudden mid-summer downpour we amble through the aisles and met up with several local pioneers, including Mary Falk of Love Tree farmstead selling her artisan sheep milk cheeses and Dean Schwake of Big Woods Bison, offering low fat, high protein meat.

Dean Schwake of Big Woods Bison at the St. Paul’s farmers market.


Then it was across the street to meet with Lenny Russo of Heartland Restaurant and Farm Direct Market. Lenny is a true visionary focused on supporting small-scale and local family farms. We spent a good day of filming with Lenny and look forward to sharing more about his operation soon.

Friendly midwestern service with a smile at the 1029 Bar, NE Minneapolis.

Finally, I watched the airing of Food Forward yesterday at legendary local hot spot, The 1029 Bar in Northeastern Minneapolis.


At this popular Sunday sports bar, we were able to coerce our lovely waitress into switching two monitors from the British Open to our episode on urban agriculture, sans sound. Sure, I’ve seen it literally hundreds of times now, but to watch it far from home, with just the crisp high definition picture, amidst an amazing display of really good food from the Smack Shack with none other than local host Doug Utter, was a real treat. Even though they are nationally known for their lobster rolls, it was the roasted leg of lamb sandwich with harissa, saffron aioli and fennel seed slaw that I’ll remember and will come back for again. Out of site, really.

Written by greg.roden

July 23, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Food matters

with one comment

In our episode on urban agriculture in America, urban ag pioneer Will Allen says, “food is the most important thing in our lives.” That’s quite a statement. I conducted the interview with Allen on a windy day in Milwaukee and that sentence has stuck with me. “Food is the most important thing in our lives.” It’s important, sure, but the most important thing?

Urban agriculture pioneer Will Allen.

I wasn’t sure I believed that at the time, but I do now.

Of course we need food to survive and eat three meals a day if we’re lucky. Food has a direct impact on our health and well being. It doesn’t get much more fundamental that that. And food production has a profound impact on water quality, soil health and the climate–little things that we depend on for survival. But food, or lack of it, can have global implications.

I read a column by Thomas Friedman on Easter Sunday that drove home not just the the importance of food in our lives, but its importance to global peace. The Arab spring, Friedman wrote, had its roots in the rejection of corrupt and authoritarian rule, but in at least in three countries–Tunisia, Yemen and Syria–the uprisings can also be traced to conflicts over food and water.

Friedman writes: “Isn’t it interesting that the Arab awakening began in Tunisia with a fruit vendor who was harassed by police for not having a permit to sell food — just at the moment when world food prices hit record highs? And that it began in Syria with farmers in the southern village of Dara’a, who were demanding the right to buy and sell land near the border, without having to get permission from corrupt security officials? And that it was spurred on in Yemen — the first country in the world expected to run out of water — by a list of grievances against an incompetent government, among the biggest of which was that top officials were digging water wells in their own backyards at a time when the government was supposed to be preventing such water wildcatting?”

I’d say that’s very interseting indeed. Food can be revolutionary. Literally.

If we can get this right–if we can produce food in a more socially, economically and environmentally just way, it will have an unparalleled impact on the common good. Because like Allen I believe food is the most important thing in our lives. My hope is that Food Forward can help show we might go forward as we collectively try to get it right.

Written by stettholbrook

April 20, 2012 at 8:38 pm

The origins of Food Forward

with 2 comments

It started with a phone call.

Filming inside of the Hoop House at the old Love Apple Farm for our first trailer on David Kinch, Ben Lomand, CA - © 2009 Photo by Greg Roden, Food Forward Productions

I had just finished A Language Older Than Words by Derrick Jensen and it had a powerful affect on me. Like most of Jensen’s books, it detailed the toll industrial civilization was taking on the planet and it had me wondering what I could do about it.

I’d been writing about food for more than a decade, spotting trends, finding new restaurants and telling stories about people passionate about cooking and eating. But the more I learned about our food system’s impact on the earth, writing about where to find a great burger or a hot new restaurant started to feel pretty trivial. How could I bring a greater environmental perspective to my role as a food writer? Most food journalists steer clear of unappetizing subjects like agriculture’s impact on global warming, CAFOs, the farm bill, and hunger. I wanted to do something different.

That’s when the phone rang. It was Greg Roden, an old college friend who had connected with television producer Brian Greene. They wanted to know if I was interested in creating a TV show about food and did I have any ideas. Yes and yes.

I’d never been a fan of the Food Network. I’ve never seen a single episode of Top Chef. I knew I didn’t want to do anything like that. In fact, I don’t even own a TV. Meanwhile, Food Inc. had just been released and Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser had done excellent jobs of detailing what was wrong with the way we eat so I didn’t want to cover that ground again either. How about a show that picked up where Food, Inc. left off, a documentary program that profiled the innovators and pioneers—food rebels creating a healthier food system? We wanted to educate and inspire people, but also entertain them with compelling characters, animated segments and cool music. I could get excited about a show like that and we hoped others would, too. We called it Food Forward.

Food Forward cinematographer David Linstrom shoots beekeeper Andrew Coté on top of the oldest wooden building in Manhattan at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge, NYC © 2010 Photo by Greg Roden, Food Forward Productions

That was three (long) years ago and this month we are excited to say Food Forward will debut on PBS stations across the country, premiering in L.A. April 5 @ 10:30PM on KOCE and then rolling out nationally from there. Click here for local air times.

Our premier episode explores the urban agriculture phenomena growing across America. The lively, 30-minute program crisscrosses the country to profile rooftop gardeners and beekeepers in New York City, urban farmers planting crops and economic opportunity in the low-income neighborhoods of West Oakland, Calif., innovative fish and plant farmers in Milwaukee, Wisc., and up-from-the-ashes city farmers in Detroit, Mich. All of the characters are engaged in practical solutions to green their cities and grow fresh, healthful food right where most of us live—in cities.

The urban ag episode is the pilot for a 13-part series in development, scheduled to go into production later this year. Future episodes will focus on school lunch reform, fishing, alternative agriculture, soil preservation, grassland agriculture, the Farm Bill, and much more.

This is Food Forward and these are stories America needs to hear. Tune in and see what you think.

Written by stettholbrook

April 4, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Happy New Year!

leave a comment »

Hello again, Stett here. Happy post-holidays. I’ve been quiet the past few months, but a lot has happened since you last heard from me.

After the Food Forward road trip came to an end, my family and I moved to Sebastopol, Calif. Santa Cruz was great, but if ever there were a Food Forward town, it’s Sebastopol. Local food abounds. There are more than a dozen cheesemakers nearby, great local farms, talented chefs, and a thriving livestock industry. We even connected with a cowshare and now get our milk from a sweet Jersey cow named Dalila. 

In addition to my work with Food Forward and Metro Silicon Valley, I’m now the food editor for The Bohemian in Santa Rosa.

While Greg still lives in Berkeley, he’s been spending most of his time working with editors, our excellent animator Justin Ridge and fundraising, fundraising, fundraising. And Food Forward co-creator Brian Greene has jumped back in to lend his steady hand and expertise.

The big news of the year was that PBS officially picked up Food Forward! San Francisco’s KQED is our presenting station, but PBS will be our distribution partner. The national debut of our pilot episode is set for April. Watch for it!

We couldn’t have come this far without our four big sponsors: Organic Valley, Annie’s, International Studies Abroad and Animal Welfare Approved. We’re a new show and given the lowly state of the economy, many companies are financially tapped these days, but these businesses believed in our mission when it mattered most. And now we’re thrilled to announce that Stonyfield Farm has come aboard as a sponsor, too.

Stonyfield is a true leader in the organic arena and a model for socially and environmentally responsible business. They help to support hundreds of family farms and keep over 200,000 agricultural acres free of persistent pesticides and other chemicals commonly used on non-organic farms and known to contaminate soil, drinking water, air and food. Check out Stonyfield CE-Yo wrapping down about the benefits of organics. Thanks and welcome.

Two thousand and eleven was a big year for Food Forward and 2012 is going to be even bigger with the national premiere of our first episode. We’ll also begin producing new episodes on subjects like sustainable fishing, school lunch reform, food policy, and alternative agriculture. Going forward, I will be in touch about our progress and interesting  food rebels I meet along the way. The good food movement continues to grow and I’m convinced a better food system is being born. Stay tuned for more.

Written by stettholbrook

January 4, 2012 at 12:32 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Up close and personal with Bill Niman

with one comment

I spent most of Sunday morning (5/15/11) tagging along with Bill Niman on his morning chores and bumping around his ranch in a red Toyota Tacoma with his great Dane Claire, along for the ride in the back. Our conversation covered a lot of ground.

Bill Niman

Niman (correctly pronounced nigh-man) has done more for humane, ecologically minded meat production in the United States than anyone else I know of. He was part of that of a cadre of Bay Area food reformers from the 1970’s who, while they didn’t know it at the time, were revolutionizing the way America eats and drinks. Alice Waters, Kermit Lynch, Alfred Peet, Paul Johnson, and Niman all came of age during the 1970’s and blended the counter-culture’s sense of idealism and politics with a downright old fashioned, pre-industrial view of food production.

Niman moved to California from New York in the 1960’s to teach in an underserved school district near Los Banos, Calif. The gig kept him out of the Vietnam War. He was part of a small community of like-minded social reformers (or agitators depending on your politics) in the small Central Valley town who sought to shake things up. That didn’t go over too well with the locals and soon he and his fellow draft dodgers found themselves unwelcome and out of work.

Niman later heard about a teaching job in Bolinas, a tiny town in west Marin County that locals have long tried to hide from the rest of the world by studiously removing road signs. Bolinas was also filled with 1960s idealism, only this time the newcomers stayed put and displaced the old guard. As part of the new order, Niman and his townsmen aspired to feed themselves with wholesome, locally grown food. Niman, who found himself living on the vast mesa that rises above Bolinas’ rocky coastline, gravitated toward meat production; first goats, then pigs and chickens, and eventually cattle. The first six cattle came from an established family’s ranch in exchange for his first wife’s tutoring services. The descendants of those black and white cattle still live on Niman’s ranch today.

In 1978 journalist Orville Schell joined Niman, creating Niman-Schell Meats, which then became just Niman Ranch. Shortly thereafter the feds condemned the struggling farm by eminent domain in 1984 to make it part of the Point Reyes National Seashore. Niman and Schell got $1.3 million in compensation and continued grazing cattle on the property for nominal rent.

Niman  didn’t know it when he started out, but he had created a new model of meat production that continues to roil the industry. Niman Ranch became America’s first brand of humanely raised beef and pork, but in Niman’s estimation it grew too fast and took on too many investors. Soon, Niman felt dissatisfied with the company’s management and in 2007 he quit.

Today he lives in Bolinas with his wife, Nicolette Hahn Niman who is a force to be reckoned with as well. She was the senior attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance where she was in charge of the organization’s campaign to reform the concentrated livestock and poultry industry, and, before that, an attorney for National Wildlife Federation. She is also the author of “Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms” and is at work on two other books. She’s a vegetarian but also a strong advocate of the benefits of well managed pasture and the cattle’s role in a healthy grassland ecosystem.

Niman is still very active in the beef industry, raising cattle he’s helped breed over the years on 1,000 acres in Bolinas on some of the most beautiful land in the world. He’s building a new brand of beef, BN Ranch, featuring a line of grassfed beef that carries more fat than a lot of lean pasture-raised beef in America, much of which Niman says doesn’t taste very good. BN Ranch’s slogan is “Eat Like It Matters.”

With the price of oil and alfalfa rising, many ranchers are turning to grassfed beef not because it restores grasslands and is kinder on animals meant to eat grass not corn, but because it makes more economic sense: why buy costly hay when you can just let cattle eat grass watered by the rain and fueled by the sun? In his more than 30 years of creating an alternative vision of meat production, Niman has helped create a robust body of knowledge that points to a better way forward–and not a minute too soon.


Why did you devote your life to producing good meat?
What really hooked me on all this was after killing our first animal, actually after the first slaughter on the farm, I stayed up all night trying to figure out how to put the animals back together and bring it to life again, but after getting over that and tasting the meat and sharing it with this community it was incredibly gratifying and really for the first time I understood this whole chain, this whole miraculous ability of animals to convert national occurring cellulose in the form of grass and other forage into wonderful, wholesome food for human consumption. As they were intermediaries between the sun, soil, rain, and photosynthesis and human consumption, I was the intermediary between that gift, that miraculous occurrence and the people who were consuming it. I became the clearinghouse for that. It instantly helped me overcome the pain of raising the animals and later killing them… For me that was the genesis of everything that followed.

What impact do you think you’ve had on the meat industry?
The easiest one to recognize is the amount of meat that is being raised antibiotic free. When we first started talking about antibiotic and hormone-free beef and describing the methods, the industry just laughed and thought we were radicals and lunatic fringe and didn’t pay any attention to us. Fast forward to today and everybody wants to get into that… It’s only a matter of time before there will be legislation that will outlaw the use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics, hormones and other man-made compounds. I feel I have been instrumental in pioneering that thinking.

What’s it like to see Niman Ranch on restaurant menus and not be associated with the company anymore?
It’s much easier than people expect. I’m proud of that creation. Of course I learned lot and hopefully will be able to learn from my mistakes of not maintaining complete control. I’m a start-up guy and a serial entrepreneur. It was getting too big… I walked away from the company and never looked back.

What grass-fed beef taste like?
To me great grass-fed beef should taste just like grain finished beef, but when you eat it it’s clean and you don’ t feel your mouth coated with grease and you don’t have to go to sleep after eating too much. It’s just clean. So much of the grass-fed beef has an acidic taint and flavor that it really doesn’t have to have. I like the beefiness not the gaminess.

What’s your favorite way to cook beef?
It’s somewhat of a moveable feast for me. Most of the time it’s a great burger with at least 20 percent fat or braised brisket or short ribs. And I’m absolutely, insanely in love with great hot dogs.

Written by stettholbrook

May 22, 2011 at 1:30 am

A night of adventure

with 2 comments

Someone once said the real adventure doesn’t begin until things start going wrong. Well, if that’s the case last night we had a little adventure.

Yesterday began with a miserable night sleep. We were parked in Mill Valley in front of a friend’s house. With the spring wind rocking the trailer, a still wonky bed and too-much on my mind  I slept all of 30 minutes. We planned to do some last errands before heading out to Marshall in west Marin County to stay at the Straus Home Ranch. The ranch was the childhood home of my friend Michael Straus whose brother Albert now runs the excellent Straus Family Creamery. We were going to stay there for a night or two and soak up all that west Marin has to offer. With places like Straus, Marin Sun Farms, Hog Island Oysters, and the excellent Osteria Stellina restaurant, west Marin is definitely food forward.

Before we could head out Deirdre spent another hour with AT&T in what had become a multi-day effort to get her business line switched over to an iPhone. After much browbeating she finally left with a new phone in hand. Meanwhile, the trailer was parked at Brandon’s tires in San Rafael. The sidewalls of the tires were cracked and worn and driving around I couldn’t help worry about the inevitable blow-out. In spite of our tight budget we had to get new tires.

Everett checks out a big tire while we wait at Brandon's.

I called around to half a dozen places and Brandon’s was the cheapest and had tires in stock. Apparently trailer tires often require a special order. They quoted me $341 for four tires, but when they saw the old school split rims on the trailer they said it would cost a bit more and take longer. They called the rims “widow makers” because they can be dangerous to work with and especially dangerous in a blow out. We also needed new tubes because the ones we had were cracked and worn. More blow-out fodder. So the tires cost a bit more, but they really put my mind at ease.

New tires and new iPhone in hand, we lumbered west on Sir Francis Drake Blvd., the gateway road to west Marin County and the Point Reyes area. It was about 5pm by the time we got underway and I wanted to go to the Straus ranch first to get set up and then go to dinner. I do not like pulling the trailer into unfamiliar places after dark. But the kids were hungry and the lure of Stellina in Point Reyes Station was strong. Stellina is one of my favorite restaurants anywhere with a locally derived menu of west Marin-influenced Italian food. Lagunitas IPA on tap, too.

Mmm, beer. Cool wide mouth mug, too.

With full bellies and the sun setting through dark clouds over Tomales Bay, we wound north along a very narrow Highway 1 to Marshall. Our instructions were to take a right turn up a dirt road right before Nick’s Cove restaurant. Now that it was pretty much dark I missed the turn. Since Highway 1 is a single lane road in these parts, flipping the trailer around is no easy task, especially since the highway threads a narrow path between Tomales Bay on one side and hills on the other. But I was able to turn around and slowed down to look again for the turn off. Deirdre spotted what she thought was the turn but I wasn’t willing to commit to a narrow dirt road in the dark so I drove past it. Turns out it was the right turn. Now I had to find another wide spot in the road to make another u-turn. Eight or so miles later I found one and headed back and found the turnoff once again.

It was close to 9pm at this point and very dark. My instructions were to park in front of the big barn. I found the barn, but I didn’t find a place to park. There was very little flat land for the trailer. I spied on a spot up a little hill that I thought could work. By this time the rumble of my Dodge 2500 turbo diesel had brought a neighbor out of her house. Sorry. She was kind enough to give me the lay of the land. I did my best to back the trailer up the hill but the spot was too narrow and not level enough for the trailer. So we left.

Dead tired, my Lagunitas IPA buzz long extinguished and Everett and Ava sleeping in the back seat, we limped down to Olema to stay at an RV park. It was a welcome sight after a long day and night. Full hook-ups and plenty of flat ground, too. A long night sleep followed.

The Airstream and Dodge after a good night's sleep.

Written by stettholbrook

May 13, 2011 at 6:30 am

Recipe of the week: Strawberry and rhubarb pie

leave a comment »

On my last morning at Pie Ranch I got up early to meet with Jered and gather the ingredients for one of the ranch’s signature pies: strawberry rhubarb. As you can imagine, this involved a lot more than going to the  refrigerator. First, we milled the flour. Pie Ranch used to grow an heirloom variety of white flour (Sonora white) before rust blighted the crop. But Jered still has plenty of wheat berries on hand and he mills the wheat in a beautiful, wooden contraption imported from Austria.

After milling the flour, we walked up his strawberry field to pick half a dozen baskets. Do you know how strawberries got their name? To keep weeds down and hold in moisture farmers spread straw mulch around the berries. Now most use plastic. Not quite as picturesque.

After plucking a bunch of berries, we walked up toward the top of the sloping farm to the rhubarb crop. The leaves of rhubarb are poisonous but the tart red stems are a real treat.

Fresh rhubarb!

The recipe that follows is adapted from the San Francisco Chronicle’s recipe back in 2007 when Janet Fletcher wrote up Pie Ranch. If you can make the trip down to Pie Ranch you can buy some of the Sonora flour, but a good brand of flour like Bob’s Red Mill will do fine, too.

Strawberry-rhubarb pie

Makes 1 double-crust pie. Serves 8 to 12


The Crust

2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces

Approximately 1/3 cup ice water

The Filling

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 cups mixed berries (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries)

3 cups rhubarb stems chopped into half-inch pieces


To make the crust: Put the flour and salt in the work bowl of a food processor and pulse to blend. Add the butter and pulse until all the pieces are coated with flour and about the size of peas. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

Alternatively, you can incorporate the flour and butter by hand: Put the flour and salt in a bowl and stir well to blend. Add the butter and massage it into the flour with your fingers, working until all the butter is flattened into thin, flour-coated flakes. You should not see any large pieces of butter, but don’t over blend the dough or it will be tough. The flakes of butter will produce a flaky pastry.

Add the water gradually, tossing with a fork until all the flour is moistened and the dough begins to come together. Divide the shaggy dough into 2 mounds, one slightly larger than the other. With your hands, gather each mound into a ball, kneading it gently if necessary to help it adhere. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap, then flatten each ball into an evenly thick disk resembling a hamburger patty, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400°.

To make the filling: Just before rolling out the pie dough, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together until well blended in a small bowl. Put the berries and rhubarb in a large bowl and add the sugar-cornstarch mixture. Toss gently but well.

Put the larger disk of dough on a lightly floured surface, or between 2 sheets of parchment paper. With a rolling pin, flatten the disk into a round large enough to fit your pie pan and overhang the pan by about a 1/2 inch. Transfer the round to the pie pan. You may find it easier to transfer if you fold the circle in half first, then place it in the pie pan with the fold in the center and unfold it. Gently press it against the bottom and sides of the pan.

Repeat the rolling procedure with the second disk of dough, flattening it into a circle large enough to cover the pie. Place it over the berries. Fold the overhanging edges of dough under and use your thumb and forefinger to crimp the rim of the dough decoratively, sealing the top and bottom doughs together. With a paring knife, make 6 to 8 slits in the top of the dough to allow air to vent.

Put the pie in the oven and lower the temperature to 375°. Bake until the crust is golden brown and crisp and the filling is bubbly, about 1 hour. Transfer the pie pan to a rack to cool, and cool completely before slicing.

Written by stettholbrook

May 9, 2011 at 5:42 am

Pie Ranch

leave a comment »

While Pie Ranch is only a half an hour drive from Santa Cruz, it’s been a great first stop. Not only are Jered and Nancy great hosts, what they’re doing in this beautiful stretch of coastal California is truly food forward. While my head is still swimming from the move, a few days here is just what I needed to affirm what this trip is all about.

Jered grew up in LA and had always longed for a more rural, land-based existence. Whenever he went to a park or on a camping trip he knew the cleaner air and open space were what he needed. So he devoted his life and education to sustainable agriculture. He went to UCSC’s agroecology program. He worked on Covelo’s pioneering Live Power Farm, California’s first CSA and a true pioneer in the good food movement.

While living in San Francisco he and his wife Nancy Vail and co-founder Karen Heisler conceived of the idea of an outdoor educational farm that could serve city-bound youth like Jered once was. Pie Ranch,  which calls itself “a rural center for urban renewal,” takes its name from the wedge shape of the property. The farm’s pie business connects kids with the source of the land, the earth, and ultimately where they come from. Jered wants kids to have the same eye opening experience he did when he was young.

“Kids need to be exposed to the outdoors and nature because it’s just part of what it means to be alive and to be intimately aware of the things that keep you alive,” Jered told me. “Food production and farming provides that connection, that really great tangible way of connecting with nature.”

My kids have a pretty good sense of where their food comes from, at least I try to get them to understand. One of my greatest pleasures during our brief time here was watching Everett milk Sylvia the goat. We got up at early and he was cranky, at first and didn’t want to do it. But he did and then couldn’t wait to try some of the milk. He doesn’t generally like goat milk, but when it’s fresh, it tastes just like cow milk and he loved it over his granola that morning. If that’s not a tangible connection with nature I don’t know what is.

Written by stettholbrook

May 7, 2011 at 4:06 pm


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.