Grub In Chico - From Garden To Plate
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Good GrubOctober 2014
By Claudia Mosby
Photos: Michelle Smith
Anthropologist Margaret Mead once said that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens could change the world, that indeed it is the only thing that ever has.
For the folks behind the grassroots movement Growing Resourcefully Uniting Bellies (GRUB) Chico, the seeds of local change were planted in early 2007 as a handful of young visionaries
bicycled toward a sustainability conference in Santa Barbara.
“During the trip they griped to each other about the state of the world,” says Stephanie Elliott, executive director of the GRUB education program. “After hearing about gardening at the conference, they started thinking about what they could do to make a difference.”
Upon returning to Chico, the group put together gardening presentations for the local Boys & Girls Club and area preschools. They also set aside “open hours” for interested community members to talk about gardening and share locally grown foods.
Soon they were sorting and packing the harvest from backyard gardens into boxes and making home deliveries by bike. When they were offered a lease on some property in 2008, Elliott says the growers were finally able to consolidate their efforts and concentrate on farming in
It was also in 2008, after meeting GRUB members at the Chico Peace and Justice Center, that Elliott started volunteering at the farm. With a background in child development, she was soon writing grants so the group could expand its school outreach. A grant from First 5 California enabled her and a GRUB partner to create 10 preschool gardens and tend to them weekly for two years.
“We installed the garden and brought curriculum, ideas, books, seeds to sort and just tried to have fun with nature,” says Elliott. “Many of the children were unaware of where their food came from or how it grew. Our goal was to make everything in the garden edible, so they would try it.”
As the vision expanded, the GRUB Education Program became a 501(c)3 nonprofit and the Community Supported Agriculture Farm became a private enterprise, supported by members who invest financially in the farm for its April – December season and in return receive a weekly share of its bounty.
While the farm seeks to promote sustainable agriculture, reconnecting people to the food they eat and fostering a relationship between the farm and those it nourishes, the GRUB Education Program focuses on community education via public gardens, workshops and school visits.
“As part of a cultivating grant, we established more than 30 community gardens, varying in size and location,” says Elliott. “The most successful were those installed in areas where there was already a high concentration of people present, like apartment complexes.” Program volunteers have also installed gardens in Paradise and Oroville.
Plot rental is a model of community gardening that has proved successful in many areas, says Elliott. “The buy-in helps with commitment and when you get these plot projects going, the (community) collaboration kind of trickles in.”
The GRUB organization used a second grant on specialty crops from the USDA to fund a certified mobile bike kitchen for its cooking demonstrations. “We would show people how to grow food, but many would then ask, ‘Now what do I do with it?’” says Elliott. “The purpose of the bike kitchen was to demonstrate how to make quick, delicious and nutritious snacks, the idea being to go from garden to plate.”
Elliott has applied for another USDA grant this year, which she hopes will expand the number of GRUB community gardens and educational opportunities.
“Our funding is minimal,” she adds. “We operate on a small budget, offering what we can, when we can. A lot of our work is done by volunteers who have a passion for good food and the outdoors.”