Backyard gardener and mother, Gina Gold, shares her story with us and her family's favorite kale recipe
My name is Gina and I am a backyard gardener. Adesina here is a backyard garden mentor with City Slicker Farms. We’re writing to tell you why we care so much about being a part of City Slicker Farms and their Backyard Garden Program.
I’m originally from New York and in 2005, I moved to the Bay Area because, as a new single mother, I wanted to be closer to my support network here in California – nowhere else would I able to find the support I found here in Oakland, including an organization like City Slicker Farms and its volunteers, like Adesina.
Growing up, it was my mom who taught me: you always respect people and you always respect the environment. Despite this, I grew up hating vegetables. That’s because they were always frozen from a bag and heated up. They tasted nasty. I was motivated to get my own backyard garden because I didn’t want my daughter, Ariel, to grow up ignorant. I didn’t want her hating vegetables too. I want her to have a different experience.
I want her to understand the importance of organic produce. Instead of lecturing her, I am showing her hands-on; this is how you do it. It’s not just about wanting her to eat healthy, it’s also about Ariel having respect for her food and where it comes from.
Food justice seems like, sometimes, it’s only accessible to those who can afford it. Gardening is extremely important. This is not a frivolous thing -- that everyone be entitled to organic, healthy food. It’s not fair that not everyone can have this. If more people were aware, they would care. I’m writing to you because I know you do.
You play an important role in all of this. That’s why we want to ask you to make a gift today. A donation of $50, $100, $250, or $500 will go towards building more gardens and setting families like ours up for success to grow our own food.
When I moved into my place, I knew there was a lead problem in West Oakland but it was the only neighborhood that I could afford. Not being able to be outside in the yard or being scared to let Ariel walk around there – well, that was the first time I felt poor.
After learning about City Slicker Farms through a documentary project I was working on, I applied to the Backyard Garden Program. City Slicker Farms came through and pimped out my garden! They laid down cardboard, put down wood chips, installed planter boxes with soil and compost, and set me up with seedlings. Now it looks like a real garden. It’s lush; it’s a little oasis in the middle of our neighborhood. I don’t have to worry about Ariel walking around, worry about her being exposed to lead.
I continue to garden because I try to only eat organic vegetables and that’s expensive, so gardening makes it affordable and it calms my nerves. Sometimes I’ll feel like I’ve got this, I’ve got that, and I’ll tell myself: go out to the garden for a little bit, and I’m instantly calmer. It also makes me feel like I’m fighting back a little bit. Sometimes when I see big companies like Monsanto, I feel helpless, but having a garden makes me feel like I’m fighting back just a little tiny bit.
Through the Backyard Garden Program, I am taking the power of growing food into my own hands and Adesina provides the one-on-one and ongoing mentorship that helps me and other gardeners succeed.
In our neighborhood, most folks end up leaving Oakland to neighboring Emeryville or Berkeley to buy groceries. And that’s when they have the money to spend on, not only food, but transportation too. City Slicker Farms notes that one in three participants lack money each month to buy their groceries. That isn’t right.
But we know that food is so much more than it’s cost at the grocery store -- food has the power to heal, to nourish, and to make us smile. When you visit my house, you know that this is true. Amidst the sun and shine of summer, you’ll find kale, tomatoes, chard, beans, spinach, and carrots growing in my garden.
I am grateful to volunteers, like Adesina, who mentor backyard gardeners, like me. Adesina was born and raised in San Francisco, where her mother still lives. She first moved to the East Bay in 2002 and now lives with her husband in Oakland. She says that she continues to volunteer because she enjoys teaching others and learning from others too. “I’m able to connect and spend time with people I would otherwise not meet. I didn’t expect it, but I have ended up hanging out with backyard gardeners that I mentor. We just enjoy spending time together,” says Adesina.
My garden brings me more than just food – it brings me peace. Adesina tells me that she, like myself, believes that gardening is important for the soul. She says, “when I’m gardening, it is one of the only times I don’t think about bills that have to be paid or jobs that have to be found, all of that chatter that happens in our daily lives.”
What I appreciate most about the Backyard Garden Program is the opportunity to teach my daughter how to organically grow foods that will help keep her healthy and growing.
You may know this already, but nothing beats fresh picked greens from the garden. And you don’t need to tell my daughter that. Ariel knows, even at the age of 6 going on 7, that this kale is special. That’s because her hands were the ones that watered it, nurtured it, and pruned it into a healthy plant that now provides her with, what seems like, a never-ending supply of tasty kale chips.
Every Sunday it is greens day at our house and that’s when we prepare our favorite green vegetable -- you guessed it -- kale, which I never thought I would like until I made kale chips. Ariel loves them. I put nutritional yeast all over them and then bake them. It’s one of the most nutrient dense foods and it’s great to be able to make them at home, because they are so expensive at the stores.
With gardening, it can sometimes be frustrating to deal with bugs and pests, but that’s where volunteers, like Adesina, come in. It’s great to have support from mentors, who share their time, skills, and knowledge. When she visits, she brings soil, compost and seedlings. She also has been gardening for much longer and is able to help me figure out how to deal with aphids when they’re on my kale, how to grow certain plants, and figure out why some plants are struggling.
I am proud to be a part of the network of 1,488 individuals who participate in the Backyard Garden Program. Adesina is one of 20 volunteer mentors. And each year there are 150 backyard gardens that City Slicker Farms supports!
Despite the challenges that we face in West Oakland, this work of gardening and growing our own food is having a direct impact. That’s why your donation matters. It matters to me and to the families and children that participate in this program. It matters because your donation is guaranteed to make a difference in someone’s life.
Your donation today, of $50, $100, $250, or $500, combined with Adesina’s mentoring, will go to support my family and so many others who have yet to experience the pride of growing their own food. If you’ve supported us in the past, thank you. If you are about to make a donation, thank you. And most of all, thank you for taking the time to get to know us.
Yours truly in gardening and good food,
Gina Gold, Mother and Backyard Gardener
Adesina Cameron, Homesteader and Garden Mentor
P.S. By making a donation today, of $50, $100, $250, or $500, you will directly support West Oakland families and children throughout Alameda County in experiencing the pride of growing their own fruits and vegetables.
Gina and Ariel’s Kale Chip Recipe
What you’ll need:
- a bunch of kale
- handful of nutritional yeast (or to your taste - we like a lot)
- olive oil
- sprinkle of salt
To make kale chips:
- Wash and dry your kale. If you have a salad spinner, use that. Otherwise you can towel dry it. The biggest secret is to get the leaves as dry as possible.
- Remove the stalks (optional)
- Pour a little olive oil in your hands, and then rub it onto the leaves. You don’t need much (too much oil and they won’t get crispy). Lay them on a baking sheet in one layer.
- Sprinkle salt over your kale.
- Sprinkle nutritional yeast over your kale. We like a lot.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. Turn leaves over half way through. Be careful; you’ll want to get them crispy – not chewy (underdone) or burnt (overdone). If it’s your first time, watch them so that they don’t get burnt.