2023: International Year of the Millets

The United Nations declared 2023 the International Year of Millets, which got us pretty excited about this little grain. There are a number of reasons why the United Nations is shining a spotlight on this little-known nutri-cereal including millets’ suitability for cultivation under adverse and changing climate conditions.

 

Wait, what is millet?

Millets are a group of grains referred to as “nutri-cereals” because of their high nutrition content compared to more common cereal grains like wheat, rice and corn. Millets are a genetically diverse group including pearl, proso, foxtail, barnyard, little, kodo, browntop, finger and Guinea millets as well as fonio, sorghum (or great millet) and teff. Millets were some of the first plants to be domesticated and serve as a staple crop for millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia to this day. These grains can grow in poor soil with few inputs, are resistant to many crop diseases and pests, and can survive harsh climatic conditions. So far, everything is coming up millets!

Millet is a nutritional powerhouse

  • Gluten free
  • Low Glycemic Index
  • Good source of fiber and protein
  • Excellent source of Vitamin A, Vitamin B, phosphorus, potassium, antioxidants, niacin, calcium and iron

More Reasons to Love Millets

  • Adaptable to different production environments, without high fertilizer or pesticide needs
  • Deeply tied to ancestral traditions, cultures and Indigenous knowledge
  • Good for animal health as feed
  • Diverse in taste and applications in the kitchen (recipes follow)
  • Quick cooking time
  • A source of income for marginal production areas in rural, urban, regional and
    international trade

You can read more about the International Year of the Millets here.

Find millet products including whole grain millet and millet flour on Co-op shelves year round! Not sure what to do with it? You can swap it out for rice or quinoa in most recipes. I like to toast it and add it to granola, chocolate chip cookies and other bakes goods. Check out some of our favorite recipes below.

Perfect Stovetop Millet

  • 1 cup whole grain millet
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Rinse millet under cold running water for about 30 seconds. Add to a pot with 2 cups water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat but DO NOT remove the lid. Set a time for 10 more minutes for the millet to steam. When the timer goes off, remove lid and fluff with a fork.  

Vegan Millet Pancakes

  • 1 cup millet flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt 
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • ½ cup nondairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • vegan butter
  • For serving: maple syrup, fresh or stewed berries, peanut butter, toasted coconut, banana slices, etc. 

Combine millet flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Mix well. In a separate bowl, combine mashed bananas, milk and vanilla. Add the dry to the wet and whisk until no lumps remain. 

Heat vegan butter in a skillet over medium heat. Once hot, spoon about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan. You can do more than one at a time, but don’t crowd the pan. Reduce heat and cook until you see bubbles coming to the pancake’s surface and the bottom is golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook another 2-4 minutes. Keep pancakes warm in a 180 degree F oven until ready to serve then top with your favorite things! 

Maple Pecan Breakfast Bowl

  • 1 cup cooked millet
  • roasted pumpkin or squash
  • maple pecans*
  • ground flaxseeds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • hemp seeds 
  • ground cinnamon
  • maple syrup
  • ½ cup warmed milk of choice

*To make maple pecans preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toss raw pecans with a little maple syrup, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool at room temperature before eating or using in a recipe. Store at room temperature for up to 5 days in an airtight container. 

Heat milk over low heat until steaming (hot but not boiling). Add cooked millet to a bowl. Top with roasted pumpkin, maple pecans, seeds, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup. Finish by pouring warmed milk over everything. 

Spiced Millet and Dried Apricot Salad

 or Salad

  • ½ cup uncooked millet (or 2 cups cooked millet)
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped almonds, toasted
  • ¼ cup pistachios, chopped
  • 6 dried apricots, chopped into small pieces
  • ¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons walnut oil (or EVOO)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses (or balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon ras el hanout seasoning blend 
  • ¼ teaspoon maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon salt or to taste
  • a grind of black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Rinse millet in a strainer until the water runs clear.  Add to a small pan with 1 cup of clean water and a pinch of salt, put the lid on, bring to the boil and turn the heat right down to low. Leave the millet simmering for 10-15 minutes until cooked. Remove from the heat but do not remove the lid. Set a time for 10 more minutes for the millet to steam. When the timer goes off, remove lid and fluff with a fork.  Cool at room temperature for about an hour or in the fridge for 20 minutes. 

 

Mix the cooled millet with the rest of the salad ingredients in a large salad bowl. Combine dressing ingredients in a mason jar with a well-fitting lid or in a small bowl. Shake or whisk until combined. Pour over the salad and toss. Allow to sit at room temp for 20 minutes before serving as this will allow flavors to really come together. 

Sweet Potato and Millet Falafel

  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 1 cup cooked sweet potato, mashed*
  • ½ cup red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt plus more for sprinkling
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup cooked millet, at room temperature
  • Avocado or grapeseed oil for frying

*Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment. Cube 1 medium sweet potato (no need to peel – lots of nutrients in the skin) and toss with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and generous pinches of salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, flip, and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes. Cool slightly then mash with a fork.

Place the chickpeas, sweet potato, onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, coriander, salt, cumin, cayenne, and black pepper into the bowl of a food processor and pulse, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally, until all of the ingredients are uniform in size, but still slightly grainy in texture. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and fold in the cooked millet. Roll 2-3 tablespoons of the falafel mixture into a small patty with your hands. Repeat with the rest of the falafel mixture placing the uncooked falafel on a large plate or baking sheet until ready to cook.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of frying oil in the skillet and swirl to coat. Place the patties in the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until crispy and brown. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to absorb the excess oil and sprinkle with salt.

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Fairtrade Farmers are More Resilient

A 2022 study finds fair trade farmers experience increased economic resilience, social wellbeing, environmental sustainability and governance of their cooperatives, particularly in times of global crisis.

The Fairtrade System uses 2 price mechanisms, the minimum price and the premium, to ensure farmers earn a reliable and, well, fair income. These price mechanisms represent a safety net not only for the farmers who grow the food, but for their co-ops and communities more broadly. From 2012 to 2022 Fairtrade farmers experienced increased earnings, the ability to withstand periods of financial instability and boosted savings. In the case of Fairtrade certified La Florida cooperative in Peru, farmers reported incomes 50% higher than those of non-Fairtrade farmers. 

The study also found Fairtrade cooperatives enjoy

  • stronger governance

  • greater transparency

  • more democratic decision-making

  • increased gender equality

  • improved workplace health and safety

80% of the world’s food comes from 608 million family farms, with one third of those farming less than 5 acres of land. Not surpisingly, the overlapping global crises of recent years have hit smallholder farms in Global South countries the hardest. With pressure from consumers to keep prices low in the United States, costs are often passed back to small farmers and the land itself. Renato Alvarado, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock in Costa Rica, explains, “producers bear the production costs on our shoulders and the profits remain in the hands of others.” 

Carmen is a member of the CONACADO cooperative, and by joining the Fairtrade certified co-op, she has been able to tap into their collective bargaining power when it comes to pricing. Through the co-op, she has secured a better price for her cocoa making it possible to achieve her goals of scaling production and diversifying her crops. And for Carmen, cocoa isn’t just about her own business. It’s about the community working and thriving together. Shoppers in the US are directly participating in this community by purchasing products made with ingredients from Fairtrade certified farms like Carmen’s.

The findings of this study underscore our continued commitment to carrying and promoting as many fair trade products as possible at the Co-op. Purchasing fair trade products at the Davis Food Co-op not only helps support our store and local economy, but ensures that we are also being good global stewards by supporting the fair treatment of small farmers and producers worldwide.

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Gift Ideas Under $10, $20 & $50

Find gifts for everyone on your list at the Co-op! Check out our ideas for budget-friendly gifting or go for a sure thing: a Co-op gift card! You can purchase in store or online here

Under $10

Salt Crystal Tea Light Holder $6.49

Aside from glowing in stunning sunset hues, salt lamps release negatine ions into the air which studies show may help lessen anxiety and stress. 

Aura Cacia Aromatherapy Foam Bath 2/$5 thru 12/13 (reg. $3.99 ea) 

Scrunchies $4.99

Instant Plant Food $8.99 for 2 tablets

The perfect gift for plant parents, green thumb not necessary.

Rishi Teas $8.99

Delicious? Check. Beautiful packaging? Check! Tea is a great gift to pair with a mug or insulated tumbler. To keep costs down, choose a tea on sale!

Assorted Enamel Pins $9.99 and Assorted Stickers $3.99

Mini Calendars $7.99

Pocket Sized Decomposition Book $5.99

Under $20

House Plants $17.99+

We have a good variety of house plants in the store, including easy to grow ZZ plants and succulents and this stunning rattlesnake calathea. 

Maggie’s Organic Socks $9.99+

Maggie’s Organic Socks are the BEST. And there’s something for everyone: urban hiker socks, mountain hiker socks, hand-dyed rainbow socks, extra thick cozy socks, etc. 

Aura Cacia Essential Oil Kits $12.49 thru 12/13 (reg. $19.99)

Pachamama Coffee Beans $15.99

Bonus: Pachamama’s new packaging is compostable! 

Assorted Books $15.99+

Fat and the Moon Bath Soak $18.99

Herbalist crafted, small batch skincare made in Grass Valley, CA. 

Assorted Puzzles $18.99

We have tons of puzzles from 400 to 1000 pieces. 

Truffle Honey $14.99

For the gourmand in your life~

Silicone Baking Mat $13.99

This is perfect for the person on your list who loves to bake or for the person trying to go zero-waste. 

Felted Wool Animal Kits $19.99

For the crafty person in your life. Or for the person who wants to get crafty – these kits are pretty easy to do! We have a variety of animals to choose from.

Assorted Calendars $14.99

Under $50

Teaching Kitchen Cooking Class $30-45

Gift someone on your list a cooking classes from the Davis Food Co-op. Our classes are highly rated and often sell out weeks in advance. Get info and buy tickets here!

Crystal Witch Earrings $39.99

Made by local artist and Co-op Owner Jen of Davis, CA. 

Essential Oil Diffuser $33.99

Get this for the person on your list who loves making their home/space luxurious and cozy or for someone who works from home to make their space better. If you have the budget, get an essential oil to go with the diffuser. Peppermint is a festive pick! 

Fair Trade Headband $23.99

Gift warmth and cuteness with these fairly traded headbands. 

Slippers $29.99

Faux-sherpa lined for coziness with hard soles for indoor and outdoor wear! 

Prickly Pear Body Whip $27.99

Made locally with ethically sourced ingredients!

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Reclaiming Indigenous Food Sovereignty

What was once a rare disease, type two diabetes is now the highest amongst Native American and Alaskan Native adults and children than any other racial and ethnic group in the United States. Those children, particularly living on or near reservation and tribal lands, are more likely to experience type 2 diabetes, food insecurity, and obesity in comparison to all other children in the United States. Food access is an issue at multiple levels: access to seasonally available wild foods, financial access to fresh, whole foods, and access to the cultural knowledge to prepare and preserve traditional foods. The biggest contributors to this loss in food access were forced removals from native lands onto barren reservations, forced assimilation in Native American Boarding Schools, and the government-provided commodity food that was then distributed to those on reservations. Those foods commonly included white flour, lard, sugar, dairy products, and canned meats- a major contrast from the unprocessed, whole, traditional foods they were use to.

It is because of this epidemic, people within the Indigenous communities are working towards an indigenous foods movement as a means of cultural renewal, environmental sustainability, and a way to reclaim Food Sovereignty.

“Indigenous food sovereignty is the act of going back to our roots as Indigenous peoples and using the knowledge and wisdom of our people that they used when they oversaw their own survival. This includes the ability to define one’s own food sources and processes, such as the decision to hunt, trap, fish, gather, harvest, grow and eat based on Indigenous culture and ways of life.”

Below, is a TedxTalk from Sean Sherman, who further discusses where the traditional knowledge got lost, and how himself and many other indigenous folks are taking matters into their own hands, reclaiming their Indigenous Food Sovereignty.

Here, we will be listing just a few of the many Indigenous people/ Indigenous-led Organizations reclaiming Food Sovereignty within the United States.

Indigikitchen

An online cooking show dedicated to re-indigenizing diets using digital media. Using foods native to their Americas, Indigikitchen gives viewers the important tools they need to find and prepare food in their own communities. Beyond that, it strengthens the ties to their cultures and reminds them of the inherent worth of their identities while fueling their physical bodies.

Brian Yazzie “Yazzie the Chef”

A Diné/Navajo chef and food justice activist from Dennehotso, Arizona and based out of Saint Paul, MN. He is the founder of Intertribal Foodways catering company, a YouTube creator under Yazzie The Chef TV, a delegate of Slow Food Turtle Island Association, and a member at I-Collective. Yazzie’s career is devoted to the betterment of tribal communities, wellness, and health.

Sean Sherman, The Sioux Chef

Sean Sherman, Oglala Lakota, born in Pine Ridge, SD, has been cooking across the US and World for the last 30 years. His main culinary focus has been on the revitalization and awareness of indigenous foods systems in a modern culinary context. Sean has studied on his own extensively to determine the foundations of these food systems which include the knowledge of Native American farming techniques, wild food usage and harvesting, land stewardship, salt and sugar making, hunting and fishing, food preservation, Native American migrational histories, elemental cooking techniques, and Native culture and history in general to gain a full understanding of bringing back a sense of Native American cuisine to today’s world.

The Sioux Chef team works to make indigenous foods more accessible to as many communities as possible. To open opportunities for more people to learn about Native cuisine and develop food enterprises in their tribal communities.

Three Sisters Gardens

Farmer Alfred Melbourne is the owner and operator of Three Sisters Gardens and a long time resident of West Sacramento. Based on traditional native teachings, Three Sisters Gardens is an Indidgenous-led organization with a mission to teach at risk youth how to grow/harvest/distribute organic vegetables, connect Native youth back to the land, build connections with community elders, and reclaim food sovereignty. They donate food to the Yolo Food Bank, and also hold a “Free Farm” stand where they offer their veggies free to to the community.  

 

Linda Black Elk

Linda Black Elk is an ethnobotanist who serves as the Food Sovereignty Coordinator at United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, North Dakota. She specializes in teaching about Indigenous plants and their uses as food and medicine. She teaches classes like “Food Preservation and Storage” and “From Farm and Forage to Fork.” She also uses her wealth of knowledge and charismatic ways of connecting through her YouTube channel, covering topics like making homemade cedar blueberry cough syrup, drying squash varieties, and how to make plant-based medicines at home for various health support.
Black Elk’s drive to make wild plants and plant medicine accessible, applicable, and relevant is so strong it resonates throughout all she does. She is also a founding board member of the Mni Wichoni Health Circle, an organization devoted to decolonized medicines.

Reclaiming control over local food systems is an important step toward ensuring the long-lasting health and economic well-being of Native people and communities. Native food system control has proven to increase food production, improve health and nutrition, and eliminate food insecurity in rural and reservation-based communities, while also promoting entrepreneurship and economic development.
This is Indigenous resilience, moving through the era of disconnection to their foods and traditions and reclaiming their intergenerational knowledge.

The Davis Food Co-op occupies land that belongs to three federally recognized Patwin tribes: Cachil DeHe Band of Wintun Indians of the Colusa Indian Community, Kletsel Dehe Wintun Nation, and Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation.

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Co-ops are Climate Change Leaders

Since 1880, Earth’s temperature has risen by 0.14° Fahrenheit per decade, increasing to more than twice that (0.32° F) per decade since 1981. Each of us sees and feels the effects of climate change nearly every day with BIPOC, low income, and migrant communities feeling the effects more deeply. Co-ops offer a path forward. The cooperative business model, a solution that is tried and tested, addresses climate change while also confronting inequality, advancing democracy, building resilient economies, and confronting poverty.

Since it’s Co-op Month, we’d like to explore ways in which co-ops are climate leaders and how our co-op addresses environmental sustainability.

WHY Co-ops?

We’re not just bragging; co-ops are special. At the most basic level, cooperative businesses serve the needs of their Owners, whatever those needs might be, rather than delivering profit to investors. All cooperatives follow the 7 Cooperative Principles which serve as the model’s code of ethics. Let’s look at how these Principles affect the fight against climate change.

 

1. Voluntary and open membership
  • Effective climate change mitigation will only be achieved by complementary and collective action. Cooperative businesses are collective endeavors (the DFC is owned by more than 8,000 people!) with a lot of experience driving collective action. 
4. Autonomy and independence
  • Co-ops answer to their Owners, not to CEOs in boardrooms thousands of miles away. With the ability to make and execute decisions in store, co-ops can and do implement meaningful climate solutions. 
5. Education, training and information
  • Cooperatives have well developed information sharing channels among staff, their communities, and with other co-ops.
  • Many co-ops have a staff position or department specifically for Community Outreach, Education, or Sustainability 
7. Concern for community
  • According to this principle, all co-ops care about the wellbeing of the people, land, air, water, and animals in their communities. 
  • Co-ops stay rooted in their communities through good times and bad, offering strength and stability. 

Co-ops know how to plan for the long term

Cooperative businesses have no requirement for delivering short-term profits other than remaining commercially viable, which allows them to better plan for the long term. Co-ops are more likely to consider intergenerational solutions to climate change. 

Co-ops are the most resilient form of enterprise 

Co-ops survive, often finding creative solutions, when other businesses would simply close. As a result they are more stable businesses in communities. Stability and resilience will be key in communities increasingly affected by extreme weather. Similarly, co-ops establish their own supply chains which further insulate their communities from market shocks.

What does this look like at the Davis Food Co-op?

“The production, transportation, sale and consumption of food are significant contributors to global climate change and the degradation of our collective land, air, and water resources. For this reason, it is incumbent upon DFC to become a local leader in sustainability and environmental stewardship.” – Davis Food Co-op Strategic Plan

As laid out by the Co-op’s Board of Directors in the Strategic Plan, Strategic Priority #5 is “Be a Model for Environmental Sustainability.” Together our Board and General Manager work to implement changes in store to meet these priorities. Here are just a few ways the Strategic Plan made the co-op more sustainable. 

Energy
  • The Co-op uses 100% renewable energy from Valley Clean Energy
  • The most recent store remodel (2018) saw the installation of energy efficient coolers and other equipment
Water
  • Drought tolerant native landscaping around the store and Teaching Kitchen
  • Drip irrigation systems prevent water loss and runoff
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • 21% of items on our shelves are made by 378 local vendors (within 100 miles of the Co-op)
  • Our Buyers favor local products partly because the carbon footprint from these items is smaller
  • The Co-op incentivizes staff to bike or walk to work
Plastic
  • Our Buyers increasingly pay attention to product packaging to reduce single use plastic in the store
  • The Co-op’s Bulk, Produce, Wellness, and Dairy Departments offer hundreds of items free of plastic packaging
  • When supplies are available, we package Deli food in compostable containers
  • In 2019 we conducted an internal review of plastic use in the Meat Department and found pre-packaging meat significantly cut down on glove use so we started pre-packing most of our meat ultimately keeping more plastic out of the landfill
  • Participate in Plastic Free July providing education for staff and shoppers all month
Organic Waste
  • Learn about our extensive Food Rescue program here
Landfill Waste
  • We divert as much from the landfill as possible by making 4 waste streams available to shoppers and staff at all times
  • Educate staff and shoppers on waste sorting through signage and events
Recycling
  • We work with Recology, Terracycle, and others to offer personal care product recycling and battery recycling to everyone
  • Cardboard boxes in good shape get put in the Box Bin for anyone to use for shopping, moving, etc.

In addition to baking sustainability into our co-op’s Strategic Plan, Ends, and Principles, our staff, owners and shoppers are, let’s say, deeply passionate about the survival of the planet. 

The DFC will continue to implement changes which make the store and our community more sustainable. 

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Back to School Mental Health Tips

Tips for Parents of Students

Establish school day routines early in the year (meal times, homework time, bedtime, etc.). It may help to maintain these routines, like what time lunch is, on the weekends too. Practice any new routines with your student before the year starts. No need to be nervous biking to a new school if you’ve already traveled the route. 

Give children a safe space to share their feelings. Mirroring, or reflecting back a child’s experiences, is an important parenting skill. If your child seems troubled, pick a quiet moment and say, “I’m noticing a different vibe lately. I feel like there’s more going on than you’re sharing.” Engaging children in creative activities, like playing and drawing, can help them express any difficult feelings in a low-key, supportive environment. 

Children often take their emotional cues from the adults in their lives, so it’s important to remain calm, listen to children’s concerns, speak kindly and reassure them. Let your child lead the conversation. 

Acknowledge that anxiety is completely normal. Point out that everyone feels down now and again. Learning to tolerate uncertainty is a developmental skill. Remind your kids that when they have a problem you are there to help them work toward a solution.

Tips for Parents

Model healthy stress management whenever possible. When you feel overwhelmed, share that information with your kids. Say, “I’m not handling my stress well right now.” Remind them that emotions change, and it’s okay not to be okay all the time.

Tag in a trusted partner. This could be your child’s sibling, therapist, guidance counselor, teacher, clergy, family friend, or another parent. It’s okay to say, “I’m noticing that my child is really struggling, but I’m having a hard time connecting with them because of how overwhelmed I am. Can I ask you to play a game with them or take them for a walk?”

Set boundaries around energy zappers. Determine what drains your emotional, physical, and mental energy on a daily basis and change or limit the behavior. For example, limit doom-scrolling your favorite breaking news feed to 15 minutes a day or put your phone in a drawer when you’re with your kids, or maybe swap your afternoon coffee with a big glass of water. These small changes can make a big impact.

Tips for College Students

Create a bedtime routine that you really enjoy. Whether or not you have trouble falling asleep at night, creating a bedtime routine will help relax you and get you ready for sleep. This can be something small, like changing into pajamas, brushing your teeth, and washing your face (and going to bed at basically the same time everyday). It can be more involved with incense, moon milk, reading a chapter, taking a batch, etc. Give the practice a few weeks and you should have an easier time falling asleep. 

To a similar end, don’t do homework or work in bed. Working in bed can make getting to sleep harder. Keep your work space separate from your sleep space to keep insomnia at bay. The author of this blog doesn’t allow jeans or work clothes in bed to keep the space extra sleep-sacred. 

Cut back if you need to. Sometimes students overwhelm themselves with everything they have going on. If you’re feeling like you’ve got too much on your plate, cut back work hours, drop a class or cut out some extracurricular activities to make your schedule more manageable.

Keep in touch with family and friends. You can help ease feelings of homesickness and loneliness by keeping in touch with friends and family members. 

Expect things to change. Things will change both at home and in your school life, so expect things to change over time. You will grow with the changes and so will the people around you.

Tips for Educators

As life returns to “normal” for many of us, don’t pressure yourself to provide the same learning experiences as the pre-lockdown period. You are one single professional and doing your best to adapt to change. 

Create clear boundaries between home and school. Set a reasonable time for leaving school each day and stick to it. Create a ritual to help you transition from teacher mindset to home mindset. This ritual may include changing your clothes when you get home, listening to your favorite podcast on the way home, taking an afternoon walk, or playing a quick board game with friends or family.

Make self care a part of the classroom to benefit yourself and your students. Mindfulness Mondays or Thoughtful Thursdays are a great way to introduce students (and you!) to self care practices like belly breathing, rainbow relaxation, or laughing yoga

Express gratitude. Practicing gratitude is a great way to give yourself a more positive outlook. Try to name three things you’re thankful for each day. I like to start my day thinking about that list before I’ve even opened my eyes and gotten out of bed. Thank your coworkers when they do something to help you out or make your day a bit easier and let your students and their parents know you appreciate their hard work and flexibility. This kind of gratitude practice will boost your mood, make others feel appreciated, and help you all feel more connected to your community. 

Normalize caring for each other. There is a lot of power in shared experiences. People need social connection, and mutual feelings of vulnerability and stress often create some of the strongest social bonds. Start a weekly support meeting or video chat with friends, grade-level teachers across your district, or all teachers at your school. Planning for this makes it a priority and gives you all a safe space to vent, listen, and problem-solve together.

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In the Face of “Extreme Drought”

In May my partner, Jonny, and I drove to Ashland, Oregon for a friend’s wedding. It was a hot May, with eight days above 90 degrees and we were grateful to escape to cooler Pacific Northwest temperatures. Dry creek beds broke up fields in shades from green to yellow as we drove north through the valley. Orchards stretching endlessly away from the highway baked as California experienced its driest spring on record.

Bridges carrying us over Lake Shasta revealed a pale “bathtub ring” around the lake, in some places hundreds of feet thick as water levels drop. Lake Shasta, California’s largest reservoir, is currently holding 36% of its total capacity, which is 56% of the historical average for this time in August, according to the California Department of Water Resources.

Closer to home, things look similar. All 200,849 (100%) of Yolo County’s residents are affected by drought. 94.73% of the county is experiencing “Extreme Drought” (the remaining 5.27% are experiencing “Severe Drought”). During extreme drought conditions, the state’s second extreme drought in ten years, livestock need expensive supplemental feed; cattle and horses are sold; little pasture remains; fruit trees bud early; producers begin irrigating in the winter; fire season lasts year-round; water is inadequate for agriculture, wildlife, and urban needs; reservoirs are extremely low; and hydropower is restricted according to the National Integrated Drought Information System

For Yolo County, who’s 2019-2020 agriculture outputs represent 711.8 million dollars, extreme drought conditions are especially hard on our farmers and farm workers. 2021’s drought conditions saw California’s agriculture industry shrink by an estimated 8,745 jobs and shoulder $1.2 billion in direct costs as fields were fallowed and growers were forced to pump more groundwater, the LA Times reports.

Additional environmental impacts of drought include losses or destruction of fish and wildlife habitat, lack of food and drinking water for wild animals, increase in disease in wild animals, migration of wildlife, increased stress on endangered species or even extinction, loss of wetlands, wind and water erosion of soils, and poor soil quality. 

And although we measure rainfall and pass water restrictions by county and state, drought knows no borders. In fact, it may be more useful to put our current drought conditions and experiences in the greater context of our watershed. A watershed is an area of land that channels rainfall and snowmelt into creeks, streams, and rivers, and eventually to outflow points such as reservoirs, bays, and the ocean. The watershed is also the air we breath, animals we raise and animals we don’t, our food crops, and our communities.

BriarPatch Co-op in Grass Valley defines “local” as products coming from the Sacramento River Watershed because of the deep, central role it plays in shaping our local environments and everyday life. They made an excellent video explaining the interconnectedness of communities within the watershed.

Davis, along with most of Northern California, is a part of the Sacramento River Watershed. Within the Sacramento River Watershed is the Cache Creek Watershed, draining Clear Lake in Lake County into the Sacramento River before it flows into the Delta and beyond to the Pacific Ocean. Davis is located inside the Cache Creek Watershed that is a part of the larger Sacramento River Watershed system. Lands within the Sacramento River Watershed are diverse, with snow-covered peaks, low-lying agricultural lands, large areas of forested mountains, many small urban areas, and the Sacramento metropolitan area, the largest urban area in the watershed. Human activity, mainly 19th century gold mining and transforming grassland to agriculture, has significantly modified flows within the watershed.

In truth, my drive north this last spring was a tour through the Sacramento River Watershed, starting in the valley’s wetlands and low agricultural lands and climbing to its snowy peaks in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, although I didn’t think of it that way then. Dry creeks in Yolo County, low lake levels in Shasta County, and fresh burn scars in Siskiyou County all show the watershed as a whole is hurting.

Of course, we cannot talk about extreme drought and watershed sustainability without acknowledging the role climate change plays in amplifying the frequency and severity of drought. Climate change, like drought, is uncaring of borders and requires collaboration and cooperation to begin reversing. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities as well as poor and migrant communities feel the effects of climate change more deeply (read the EPA’s report published last year examining climate change’s effects on four socially vulnerable groups: people with low income, minorities, people aged 65 and older, and people without a high school diploma).

Watershed management and sustainability should be a collaborative effort between individuals, community organizations, and local, state, and federal agencies. Action individuals can take include water conservation at home. We can also call on state officials to listen to Indigenous voices – voices carrying expertise gained by stewarding this land for thousands of years. I urge you to read this article about the history of Indigenous water rights in California and this one about the Hoopa Valley High School Water Protectors Club in Northern California.

You can also support local organizations that take care of our watershed like the Cache Creek Conservancy and Yolo Basin Foundation, who were Round Up organizations in May and June of this year. Many of our local wineries, including Great Bear in Davis and Alexander Valley Vineyards, prioritize maintaining riparian habitat on their properties to the greater health of the watershed. 

If you’re like me, confronting the scary realities of climate change causes you a lot of anxiety, stress, frustration, and dread. In fact, more than two thirds of Americans experience some climate anxiety. Since climate anxiety is characterized by feelings of loss of control, the best treatment is to take action. On an individual level, it’s therapeutic to share your worries and fears with trusted loved ones, your therapist, or by joining a support group. You can also make changes to your lifestyle consistent with your values. This may be deciding to take fewer flights, joining a protest, or increasing public awareness about climate change through advocacy.

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August Gardening To Dos

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August is a productive time for our Northern California gardens. Keep harvesting ripe fruits and vegetables. Failure to harvest can hinder production. 

For flower gardens: put on some Grateful Dead and deadhead your garden, which should be done on an on-going basis if you have plants blooming. As plants fade out of bloom, pinch or cut off the flower stem below the spent flower and just above the first set of full, healthy leaves. Repeat with all the dead flowers on the plant.

Water regularly during our scorching summers. Water in the early morning or after the sun sets to avoid water waste. Water the soil near the plant’s roots and avoid splashing the leaves, which can spread disease or intensify sunlight to burn the plant.

Inspect

The heat and humidity of summer leaves your garden more susceptible to plant diseases. Check for diseased foliage and remove it. Do not add diseased plant matter to your compost pile as the disease can spread to the rest of your garden. Disinfect tools like pruners in between each plant to avoid spreading disease as well. 

Treat affected plants with Arber Bio Fungicide, OMRI-listed for organic gardening and available at the Co-op for $11.99 plus tax. Arber controls and suppresses gray and white molds, downy mildews, black spots on roses, leaf spots, root rot, botrytis, and more.

Keep a keen eye out for insect pests including thrips, tomato fruitworms, tomato hornworms, spider mites, chinch bugs, scale, snails, and slugs. Remove them from foliage if you find them. 

Make your garden more attractive to beneficial insects and/or treat with Arber Bio Insecticide. Protect your garden from aphids, fungus gnats, mites, mealybugs, leafhoppers, tent caterpillars, grubs, leaf beetles, thrips, whiteflies, stink bugs, fruit flies, and more. 

Pinch back poinsettias and mums before the end of the month to allow time for buds to form for a winter bloom.

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