Systems Thinking at the Florida Local Food Summit, September 9-10, 2016

I am honored to be presenting at the Florida Local Food Summit 2016 about a passion of mine: systems thinking. Here is the workshop description:

Knowing about the pieces of the food system and having a vision for improving it is one important tool; however, an imperative skill set that can help elevate our results is systems thinking. Systems theory helps us look at problems holistically, avoid unanticipated consequences, and target small successes that lead to the long-term goal instead of astray. This presentation will cover the key concepts of systems theory through the work of MIT systems theorists, Peter Senge and David Peter Stroh. It is the hope that this interactive workshop will encourage attendees to recognize the ways they contribute to the problems they are trying to solve, think long term, recognize discrete relationships, create concept and systems maps, and move forward with a clearer vision in their work with complex problems through systems thinking.

If you are a farmer, gardener, eater or otherwise involved in the food system in Florida, please consider attending the Florida Local Food Summit. Summit Info:

The Local Food Movement is alive and kicking in almost every urban and rural center around our state. Yet, there have been few opportunities for collaboration, learning, networking and sharing in order strengthen our movement and have a greater collective impact at a statewide level. The 3rd annual Florida Local Food Summit does just that. The event is a weekend gathering September 9th & 10th our state’s top food and farming entrepreneurs, policy makers, chefs, foodies and local food fans. The Summit is your one stop shop for all things local food and farming. With on-farm workshops, panel discussions, farm-to-table dining, farm hack demonstrations and so much more, you aren’t going to want to miss it.

To Find Your Path, Look Under Your Feet

I still remember a funny interaction that took place when I worked in the Thomas G. Carpenter Library at the University of North Florida. Because I was a student employee, when I would request books to be purchased by the library, they usually arrived. I ordered books like Food Not Lawns, Toolbox for Sustainable City Living, and The Urban Homestead; they were books about food, gardening, and permaculture. One time, my boss who processed the requests asked, “Is this your major?” I was confused, “What?” He searched his mind for an explanation to encompass all of the foodie-gardening books I was requesting. After a pause, I said, “I wish!”

Now, I’m glowing to declare that sustainable food systems is my major at Green Mountain College. The program has been impressive beyond belief, and there are more and more out there each year. Here’s a recent review of food systems programs in higher education from Civil Eats.

I waited five years after graduating from my undergraduate degree in nutrition to begin my master’s degree. I knew when I graduated from undergrad that if I were to go on to grad school, I wanted to specialize and not get another degree in general nutrition, which is what my major really was. Through those five years I learned so much. I worked for the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program and began to understand why it is people choose to have kids. I did my internship at Virginia State University, lived outside Florida for the first time, and became a dietitian and a barista who appreciated the quirky independent coffehouse. I quit my first job post-internship to become a wwoofer, one of the best experiences of my life so far, and I got plenty of mountain dirt under my nails that somehow worked its way into my heart. I told myself I was in the school of life. I went to herbal classes and completed a special yoga teacher training to learn about true preventive health. I sold some homegrown vegetables at a farmers’ market, moved to a new city, worked at WIC again, and finally got a job I could sink my teeth into as the farm to school liaison. I have endless gratitude for all those who helped me on my path.

As I’ve told my wonderful boss, my job as farm to school liaison has been a life changer. The opportunity gave me the confidence to finally begin my master’s program, which has shaped my life tremendously. I finally feel the purpose in my work that I felt in that drive to order all those books from my college library, an unquenchable desire to learn more and more about not only food and sustainability, but humans’ place in the world and “how we ought to live” (to quote Daniel Quinn). Somehow, being patient and authentic has allowed me to find a bite of sustenance on the path I’ve been walking for so long without knowing I was on it. Nature’s forms of efficiency are not usually straight lines, and the path of authenticity can be quite curvy.

river

This is just my story so far. As a wise person once told me, the way to move forward is one foot in front of the other. If the next step brings you closer to who you want to be, it’s the right one. And if it doesn’t, you can take a step back and you’ll probably learn even more about yourself in the process.

Fermentation Fervor!

One week from today, will be a day of Fermentation Fervor at the Florida School of Holistic Living! I chose the name to honor my fermentation mentor, Sandor Katz, who enjoys the term. I have been looking forward to this all-day intensive for some time now, and I’m so excited to share it in only one week! All of my classes at FSHL have been super fun, and I always meet the greatest folks. I expect this class to be extra fun because we’ll get to spend all day together and do much more tasting (see lunch menu below) than we do in the shorter Fermentation Fridays classes. Hope to see you next week!

ferm ferv

 Schedule:

AM Session: 9am – 12pm
Kraut-chi: Become a master at the classic vegetable ferments – sauerkraut and kim chi! It’s not the canned, bland kraut you’ve seen at the store, and kim chi just might become your new favorite condiment.
Tempeh: Learn to make the fermented delight loved by vegans and carnivores alike – tempeh! Store-bought tempeh will never taste the same again once you see how easy and delicious it is to make yourself. We’ll discuss the tempeh-making process, demonstrate it in class and taste fresh tempeh. Soy-free tempeh is easy and delicious.
Sourdough Bread: We may not be in San Francisco, but you can learn how to make real sourdough by enticing our wild Central Florida yeasts. We’ll go over the intriguing American history of this ferment, experiment with flavors and a variety of recipes to pack a new flavor punch in your homemade breads and pizza crusts. Gluten free recipes too!
 
Lunch: 12pm – 2pm
Vegan Tempeh Sourdough Reuben
Fresh Green Salad with a homemade dressing
 
PM Session: 2pm – 5pm
Ginger Beer: Real fermented ginger beer is a bubbly, refreshing and delicious soda beverage originating from Jamaica.
Water Kefir: Extremely versatile in flavor, depending on your choice of fruit, water kefir is another refreshing bubbly probiotic soda you can make at home.
Jun: If you like kombucha, try this version made with green tea and honey!

Sign up here!

About Classes

Classes delve into a variety of topics surrounding natural eating and health. Check the class calendar for upcoming classes! Here is more information about what to expect for my classes:

Venue:   My goal in choosing a venue is that it be as inspiring as the contents of the class and facilitate students’ blooming into the ideas communicated and discovered during the session. I currently teach at The Florida School of Holistic Living and I am looking for a venue in Sarasota.

The Florida School of Holistic Living is in downtown Orlando. A hub for herbal medicine, natural health, and sustainable living in Central Florida, I am honored to be hosting classes at the School! The classroom is a cozy, bright room with comfortable seating. Check out all of the wonderful classes offered at the School here!

Tempeh and Sourdough class at FSHL May 2013.

Tempeh and Sourdough class at FSHL May 2013.

Content:   The aim for the content of my classes is to be a springboard for further learning. Content includes discussions on nutrition, history, new and interesting ideas, and at least as many questions as answers. I will bring to the table what I have learned through my training as a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) and what I have discovered through personal research and experience.

class 1

Aged hot sauce and sour pickles class at FSHL June 2013.

Interaction:   Classes tend to be highly interactive, each person bringing to the class their expertise and experience with the relevant topics. In a very casual manner, discussion is encouraged and new discoveries are made by students and teacher through the sharing of anecdotes, experiences, research and stories. I attempt to connect with all types of learners during the class: auditory, visual and, always, experiential.

Class usually begins with introductions.  At the beginning of class, I will ask everyone to introduce themselves and say a little about what they do or are passionate about in life and what part of town they reside in. This helps me to get a sense of my audience and also for members of the class to connect with each other. Many fun and important connections are made through these classes! I will have a handout with relevant notes and recipes for those visual learners, and we will begin going over the topic at hand verbally. If you attend a food-related class, we’ll likely be creating at least one recipe during the class. (Hands-on learners rejoice!) Group discussion helps to further our learning, so please feel free to ask a question or share a relevant story at any time!

class 2

Making sauerkraut at Empath Yoga Teacher Training April 2013.

Results:   My hope is that after the class, you will feel inspired and equipped to try it on your own. Whether you learn to make sauerkraut or keep a food diary, I hope by the conclusion of the class, you will feel ready to take action and make positive developments in your life by starting a new practice, recipe or thought pattern. I also hope that taking my class is just the first step in a  series of new and interesting discoveries in your life of learning.

class 3

Kombucha, aged hot sauce and kim chi class at the Food Forest March 2013.

Nutrition for You: Bio-Individuality

With all of the fad diets out there, what’s a person to eat? The one true diet is the one that’s right for you, makes you feel strong, and satisfies you to the core. Learn the components of eating for bio-individuality, the theory that you are a unique individual in bodily requirements, constitution, and preferences. We’ll discuss ways to turn inside to find out what your body’s ideal fuel consists of, the rules of balance, and how to stay on the right track with some simple food rules. Check the Class Calendar for upcoming sessions of Nutrition for You!

Homemold Chickpea Tempeh

And now for a short introduction on homemold… I mean homemade tempeh. I’m teaching a Fermentation Fridays class on May 10th where we’ll be making sourdough starter and tempeh, and since I already blogged on sourdough, I thought I would give a quick picture story of tempeh to whet your appetite! The following is chickpea tempeh.

The tempeh is a success - see the white Rhyzopus oligosporus?

The tempeh is a success – see the white Rhyzopus oligosporus?

There it is!

There it is!

Neat slices make it look more like what you're probably used to seeing at the store. The darker points are where the mold has begun to sporulate.

Neat slices make it look more like what you’re probably used to seeing at the store. The darker points are where the mold has begun to sporulate.

Too bad we ate all the sourdough bread, we could have had a delicious homemade tempeh reuben with sourdough, chickpea tempeh, kraut and garden-fresh greens. Time to whip up another starter!

All sauteed up! Too bad we ate all the sourdough bread; we could have had a delicious homemade tempeh reuben with sourdough, chickpea tempeh, kraut and garden-fresh greens. Time to whip up another starter!

If you’re in the Orlando area, I hope you can make it to my tempeh class May 10th. If you’re in the Groveland/Clermont area, keep an eye on my class calendar, as I’m planning a new slew of classes at the Food Forest for the upcoming months.

Food Fermentation at the Food Forest

The second food fermentation workshop at the Food Forest was small, cozy, and… awesome! Due to the wet weather we’ve been having (thankfully!), I decided to hold the class inside this time. There were some new and some familiar faces, which was great to see. We made sauerkraut, sour pickles and sourdough, and I did receive a suggestion that I should have had some fresh-baked sourdough ready for the class to try. Definitely next time! It was wonderful to be able to pick fresh dill from the garden and oak leaves from our trees for the pickles. It will be amazing to hold fermentation classes again the late summer, when we can use our farm fresh cucumbers, peppers and whatever else we can find to ferment! Thank you to everyone who came out to the first and second classes –  you are what made them awesome! Check out the pictures below to see how the sourdough ended up…

Marsha, Jay and I working on pickles.

Marsha, Jay and I working on pickles.

Look at all that kraut-to-be!

Look at all that kraut-to-be!

Thanks for taking the awesome pictures, Anthony Pagillo!

Pickles! Thanks for taking the awesome pictures, Anthony Pagillo!

The onion caraway sourdough sponge.

The onion caraway sourdough sponge.

Check out those bubbles!

Check out those bubbles 24 hours later!

The final sourdough rise in the loaf and cast iron pans.

The final sourdough rise in the loaf and cast iron pans.

The finished loaf! It is pleasantly sour, crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle.

The finished loaf! It is pleasantly sour, crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, all with the help of the wild yeasts living in our home and on the organic local strawberries added to the sourdough starter!

I’m greatly anticipating the next series of fermentation classes I’ll teach at the Florida School of Holistic Living beginning April 19. It should be a fun, relaxing Friday night of fermentation learning and practice! I am also busily brainstorming future classes to be held at the Food Forest. What interests you in the realms of food, nutrition, sustainability and gardening? Leave a comment to make a suggestion or contact me. Thanks and enjoy the the lovely cool spring weather!

Introducing Fermentation Fridays!

I am so very honored and excited to announce that I’ll be teaching at another venue – The Florida School of Holistic Living! In April, we will begin the Fermentation Fridays series. It will be so perfect to relax into the weekend with a fun evening of  talking fermentation and making delicious aged foods. We’ll be making two new ferments during each class, and participants will get to take home samples of our mouth-watering creations! You can register for the classes through the School at their site. Make sure to bring your jars! See class descriptions below.

For the love of fermentation! Photo credit: Sherry Boas

For the love of fermentation! Photo credit: Sherry Boas

Vegetable Ferments: Sauerkraut and Kim chi, Friday, April 19th, 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Become a master at the classic vegetable ferments – sauerkraut and kim chi! It’s not the canned, bland kraut you’ve seen at the store, and kim chi just might become your new favorite side dish. Fermenting foods adds flavor and eases digestibility, supplies probiotics, and preserves the harvest. Learn the benefits of traditional fermented foods and how to create them in your own kitchen. Bring two pint glass jars and lids and take home the kraut and kim chi we make in class.

My crock of homemade kim chi!

My crock of homemade kim chi!

Cooked Ferments: Tempeh and Sourdough, Friday, May 10th, 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Learn to make fermented delights tempeh and sourdough! Store-bought tempeh will never taste the same again, and your homemade breads and crusts will pack a new flavor punch with sourdough. Fermenting foods adds flavor and eases digestibility, supplies probiotics, and preserves the harvest. Learn the benefits of these traditional fermented foods and how to create them in your own kitchen. Bring a pint glass jar and lid and take home some sourdough starter of your own.

Tempeh we made at my food fermentation apprenticeship with Sandor Katz.

Tempeh we made at my food fermentation apprenticeship with Sandor Katz.

Condiments to Savor: Fermented Pickles and Aged Hot Sauce, Friday, June 14th, 6:30pm – 8:30pm

Spice up your dishes with delicious fermented condiments – fermented pickles and aged hot sauce. Many store-bought pickles aren’t fermented at all, but preserved in vinegar. You’ll learn how to make dill garlicky pickles the fermented way! All the best hot sauces are aged, and we’ll learn the techniques for making a savory, spicy treat. Bring a pint glass jars and and cup-sized jar and lids to take home the ferments you’ll create!

What will become aged hot sauce.

What will become aged hot sauce.

I hope to see you at one or more of these fun new classes, especially if you’re near the Orlando area. Don’t worry, we’ll still be doing classes at the Food Forest regularly, but it is fun to be able to teach at a new place and get the chance to meet new folks. Check out my class calendar to see the details on all of my upcoming classes!

Teaching My First Food Fermentation Class

Another dream came true this week. I finally taught my first food fermentation class! Held here at the Food Forest, we made kombucha tea, kim chi and aged hot sauce. With about twenty-five people in attendance, I was a bit nervous to begin, but once folks started talking a little, questions popped up, and before long I felt as though we were all friends learning together.

What a great crowd!

What a great crowd!

Ever since I did my first fermentation workshop/apprenticeship (of two) with Sandor Katz, I have wanted to share this knowledge and my ever-growing love of fermented foods and the culture that surrounds and is exuded by them. It seemed that I was always too busy, distracted or off on other adventures to do it. Finally, with the timing and setting ripe, it was easy to plan and execute, as well as being extremely gratifying. You know how it feels when you finally get to check a long-procrastinated item off of your list? This was like a life-goal check mark off my list! I feel so honored that the wonderful attendees were receptive to what I had to share and were willing to listen, ask questions and share their own experiences and knowledge. Thank  you to all who shared your presence; you are amazing!

Beginning the aged hot sauce.

Beginning the aged hot sauce.

And the best part… I have already planned fermentation class number two! March 23rd (my younger brother’s birthday) it will be sauerkraut, sourdough and fermented pickles. I hope to see some familiar and some new faces then, and I can’t wait for the new insights you share with me that day.

Photo credit: Liane Brust. Thank you for all your awesome help!

Photo credit: Liane Brust. Thank you for all your awesome help!