« back to current blog

Blog archive: May 2010

Veteran garden healing

I’ve recently come across two organizations who are helping veterans from the US military experience the healing that comes from growing food.

The first is the Farmer Veteran Coalition, a California based non-profit that aims to help veterans get employment on farms in rural California. Farmers find it hard to get high quality workers for many jobs, including growing and harvesting. Organic farming is by definition more labor-intensive than chemical farming, so organic farms need more workers. Organic farms are also more healing places to work, as they don’t spray poisons, so it’s an ideal match. Veterans are super disciplined workers because of their rigorous training, and benefit immensely from working on the farm. It’s truly rewarding work, and it helps them make ends meet on their post-military pensions.

Another project that links veterans with the healing power of gardening is Strawberry Flag. Founded by artist Lauren Bon, Strawberry Flag is an art project run by veterans at the Veteran’s Association of West Los Angeles. The concept is a stars and stripes American flag made up of strawberries and vets. The strawberries are grown hydroponically in long white tubes that make up the stripes, and the stars are, of course, the vets themselves. All the strawberry plants have been donated by local commercial strawberry farms, who always discard the plants after the first year of use, as they become less productive. However, there are plenty of strawberries left in them, especially if they’re grown hydroponically. The veterans them pick and preserve the strawberries, and sell small batches of strawberry jam to raise money for their own care. It’s a beautiful project.

Celebrate Memorial Day by buying veteran-made strawberry jam from Veteran’s Preserves.

And if you’re in the position to employ veterans in agricultural work, come meet them at the first Southern California Food and Farming Veteran Career Fair in Santa Monica. It’s June 30th at 10 a.m.

Not all insects are pests!

Organic gardeners are happy to see bugs! Non-organic gardeners reach for the chemicals, but organic gardeners know that where there’s bugs, there’s life. It’s called an eco-system for a reason… it’s a community of living things, plants and bugs and birds and mammals, all living as a vibrant community in the great outdoors.

One man’s pest is another man’s dinner, and that man might well be a ladybug. This caterpillar is generally a reason to pull out the Roundup, but for me, it’s proof that my soil is fertile, the plants are delicious, and that either this spooky guy is going to become a beautiful pollinating butterfly, or another beneficial bug is going to have a big fluffy caterpillar dinner real soon.



The blueberry bush is a native American plant, and although it has a reputation for being difficult to grow, I’ve found it to be easy peasy to grow here in Los Angeles. They like sun, and we have plenty of that. They like warmth, and they like an acid soil. You can make your soil acid by mixing an organic acid planting mix into your existing soil, such as a bagged soil that’s made for azaleas. You can also use pine needles and oak leaves as a mulch, as they both raise soil acidity simply by living on top and decomposing into the soil.

I’ve planted many different varieties of blueberries, and while there’s some variation in when they start producing berries, and in the shape and size of the bushes, they’ve all ended up with tons and tons of delicious berries at a height that’s perfect for the children to pick. As the blueberry bushes I grow are never ever sprayed with nasty chemicals, they’re safe to eat without washing. The berries on each buch ripen at different times, so you have a generous supply of berries over a long season, from March until October here in Southern California.

Just reach out, pick and pop in your mouth, or add them to salads, muesli and pies. Blue-tastic!

Blog archives

^ back to top

© 2014 OrganicFoodee.com All Rights Reserved. Website by: Get Lucas