2017 Community Reflection #2

Dear RFRS Community,

Monday night, we gathered for the third meeting of our book club, for both new and returning members, discussing Dan Barber's The Third Plate.

As the person who handles the logistics and curation behind RFRS storytelling gatherings, I'm typically buzzing around the room, making sure the evening is running smoothly--that cups are filled, food is hot, and the setting is ripe for conversation and connections.

During the book club, I get to put my logistics cap down and sink into deep listening and conversation, which are two of my favorite things. Our book club feels so immediately intimate, though the majority of us begin as strangers, but I leave feeling not only more connected to our food web, but to my own humanity. 

That night we also excitedly huddled around a laptop to watch the video Chef Dan sent, responding to our questions centered around the future of food. You can also watch his thoughtful message on our Facebook page

From the video:

"If we don't have an eating culture that enables [positive] ecological decisions, then it breaks down. You could be the most thoughtful and concerned farmer, but if you don't have a public that is...literally eating the right kind of rotations that prop up the right kind of farming decisions that create this healthy environment, we are cooked. The call of The Third Plate is to say, we need to learn more about what does our region produce well, and what is it about our ecological niche that makes our particular region thrives with certain grains, vegetables, and meats."

- Dan Barber

Thank you Chef Dan for challenging us to connect with our ecological surroundings and to explore the wealth of food that grows in our region.

We hope you will join our book club, always open to any and all eaters interested in discussing more about where our food comes from. 

 

Sophia Lorenzi, Storytelling Program Manager

"Real Food Real Stories hosts an amazing book club full of thoughtful individuals who enter the food space in diverse ways. I always look forward to gathering in the community, each time coming away with new ideas, knowledge, and personal connections." -Jessica K., returning book club member
"I always appreciate the dynamic groups that RFRS events attract and the wide range of experience and engagement in the food space.  I got a lot of interesting points of view and also a real sense of the level of concern, earnestness and also hope for what change in the food system can make for the world and ways that we might be empowered and target areas where we might be able to effect change. I left the event feeling more engaged and also felt as though I had wider lens looking towards areas where I can try to make a difference.  I'm looking forward to the next event!" -Christopher W., RFRS storyteller and new book club member
"I haven't had a lot of exposure to places like the Real Food Real Stories' Book Club, but it was incredibly inspiring to see people in the industry that are passionate about having such intellectual and meaningful conversations about what issues they see in the food industry, and what they can do to help solve them." -Kat H., new book club member
"On a blustery winter night, what better way to warm up than with a heated conversation with 12 new "foodie" friends at RFRS' Book Club at The Perennial. We gathered to discuss Dan Barber's book, but much of the evening's inspiration came from sharing our own stories and ideas while sipping cocktails and nibbling on exquisite snacks. Thanks, RFRS, for putting together an evening of great food, great people, great conversations."
-Marie B., new book club member

2017 Community Reflection #1

Dear RFRS Community,

This letter begins a new tradition for RFRS. In response to your request, we are adding more insights from the food and agriculture communities, and storytelling as a part of our communications.

We will begin by sharing stories from the field and what is happening with the RFRS organization. The goal is to keep you, as a part of our community, in the loop, and to build a practice of transparency and vulnerability. We invite you to write back with any comments, feedbacks or stories of your own. We will share honestly and candidly - like all our storytellers do at each RFRS gathering - and invite in other voices from the food chain as well. How does that sound? Let us know!

What's on our mind this January? How does living in the city disconnect us from the meaning of the rain? For some, it might get distilled into complaints about slower commute times or for others, gladness about the end of the drought. We asked our storyteller Nikiko Masumoto of Masumoto Family Farm to share with us what the recent rain has meant for her and her family's farm. 

Rain in the Central Valley means many things - it clears the air, it soaks the fields giving a deep gulp to the trees that have been parched throughout the drought. For farmers, equally as important (and possibly more important) than the rain is the snow in the neighboring Sierra Nevadas. The snow acts as its own reservoir of water, in the spring and summer as snow melts and runs down to our Valley, it fills our watershed with precious water when the temperatures rise and the plants need water the most. 

But, there are also simultaneous challenges: the rain has been accompanied by warm temperatures. As of now, we have a lower amount of "chill hours" than is ideal for the trees to sleep deeply. In the past, this has meant fewer blossoms and fewer fruit. It is alarming to think of this, our daily reality, in the backdrop of another report of the warmest year on record.

Perhaps it is better to think of the rain less as "good" or "bad," and more like an important member of our collective dance with nature. We must look in the mirror and ask, what kind of partner are we?
- Nikiko Masumoto//

Thank you Nikiko for connecting us to the greater picture and our dependence and connection with nature. 

What does the rain mean to you?

Pei-Ru Ko

We Still Need Hands: A Reflection for Holiday Meals

While you share many meals among loved ones this holiday season, consider this poem: a meditation and reflection on the stewards of the land from which our food grows, those who pick, cut, chop, slice, pull up from the ground the vital ingredients that nourish our bodies and spirits.

Written by a steward herself, Nikiko Masumoto, fourth-generation peach farmer, and one of our storytellers.

Consider sharing this poem around your holiday dinner table.

Happy Holidays from Real Food Real Stories.


Handmade

by Nikiko Masumoto

We still need hands
to pick a peach
to search the tree
not too green
not too hard
peach fuzz dancing in all directions
with the right amount of give

We still need hands
that know the feeling
to pick a bunch of grapes
heavy with sugars
laid to rest in the sun
while waiting, they make raisins

Give me your hand
I know how to pick a peach
to cradle them between fingertips
not too green
not too hard
I know the feeling

Hold my hand
Feel the calluses and rough spots from work
Feel the warmth

Close your eyes
We still need hands
to feed us
Can you imagine all the hands that made your last meal? 
What are the names of the people who feed us?
How are they?  
bring them to the light
the people that work the fields
to feed us
their hands carrying fruit to the temple of our bodies
 

Community Letter: What We Stand For

Dear community member,

We were scheduled to send out a newsletter today reminding you to register for the upcoming RFRS Homecoming Celebration, sharing all the delicious food and amazing activities we’ve lined up with the generous sponsors. Yet, we are not able.

We are not able because the past few days calls for a time to step back and reconnect with our purpose and values, re-examine who we are serving, and re-envision a future we want to create. We have a long, hard road ahead, and only with honesty and clarity will we be able to create a regenerative, equitable and just shared future again.

Our work is not just about the food system. Through the common touch point of food, we are standing for deep listening, trust, community, inclusivity and safe spaces to show up as our whole, authentic selves.

In the midst of introspection, YOU, our community, are our beacons of hope. You have shown us that you believe that everyone’s story matters, and you believe in slowing down and listening to each others, taking time to connect with where our food comes from, and taking personal steps to support the good food movement with your dollars, your time and your heart. We will keep standing for space for listening, understanding and authenticity and bringing you the positive, inspiring stories from the Bay Area and beyond.

We are all eaters and everyone deserves to have their voice heard and be part of a just food system. You are integral; you are hope.

Sincerely,

Pei-Ru Ko + RFRS Team

Quiet and Transformational

What a memorable evening! In Peiru’s hands, food leaders reveal their deepest truths. Her sensitive approach to community-building is exactly what the food movement needs right now - this will bring us closer together, strengthen our personal networks and inspire us to dig deeper.
— Haven Bourque, Haven B Media

We are constantly asked by our attendees what they can do to support the good food movement and to support our storytellers. Moved by their eagerness to participate, we always ask our storyteller to offer some tangible actions people can take to strengthen their work and engage within the food movement. 

On Sept. 8th, we tried a new experiment: after we presented Brahm Ahmadi of People's Community Market and his personal story, we passed out these empty postcards during the Q&A session. We asked Brahm a deceivingly simple question, "How can we help?" After hearing the several answers he gave, including becoming a share-holder of the forthcoming market or to simply share the significance of his work with our own communities, we charged our audience members to write a note to themselves, describing how they felt most inspired to create change given the impassioned story of which they just listened.

The results were inspiring all on their own, ranging from deeply personal to budding food activism, see below for a few beautiful examples. We informed our guests that we would be sending off these postcards in three months, so that they may receive a gentle snail-mail reminder of how this evening made them feel.

We hope to see you at a gathering soon so that you may be inspired to incite some kind of change in your life. 

Getting My Hands Dirty

August 22, 2016

By Sarah Cabell, Associate Director

Originally shared live at Real Food Real Stories’ Two-Year Anniversary Party StorySlam at Mission Pie.

Almost 2.5 years ago, I decided to leave my full-time job with a food tech startup as Director of Business Development to follow my heart and venture out on my own.

I was newly minted with a Sustainable MBA, a breadth of experience in funding the sustainable food & ag world, a lot of ideas, and a giant pile of student loans. As someone who has always struggled to balance financial security with following my passions and making a difference in the world, leaving my job without anything concrete lined up was a huge risk. But I mustered the courage and took the leap.

I started consulting for local food businesses, mostly new organizations wanting to create new models that had never been done before. Throughout my various projects, the same theme kept coming up: at the core of change work is a need for cultural work to support the people and organizations making that change. The inner work, self love, healthy interpersonal dynamics, vulnerability and communication are so important to our ability to create change. Because change is hard. People get stressed out and discouraged. They get shut down. There is so much to be done and so much pressure to do it right because the stakes are high when we want to make a difference. We need each other to do this work— we need support, love, collaboration, and trust. I recognized that this was where I wanted to go to work.

That’s when Anthony Chang (founder of Kitchen Table Advisors) introduced me to Pei-Ru Ko - He said, “Pei-Ru is looking for someone to help her build an organization that’s at the intersection of food and culture. I think you two should talk.”

At that point I was already doing another half-time job and wasn’t wanting to settle into another long-term project, but I was deeply drawn to Pei-Ru and the idea behind Real Food Real Stories, so I said yes. A new job, a new organization, and a new adventure were born.

When starting a new organization, you don’t know how it will go. Your job never existed before, so you don’t have someone training and mentoring you, telling you how to do it or if you’re doing a good job. I brought a lot of experience in some areas and a lot of knowledge in others, but all in all I had never done this before. None of us had. I just had to dive in and get my hands dirty. And it hasn’t been easy.

Along the way I’ve encountered all the elements I previously recognized in others who were struggling to create change, on the leading edge of something that has never been done before:

  • Trying to figure it out but not knowing what it will take to succeed.

  • Pressure to make it work and a deep fear of failure.

  • Self doubt - can I actually do this? I don’t know if I can do this. Maybe i’m not cut out for this.

  • Not being enough -- good enough, smart enough, skilled enough, driven enough...

Fortunately, I have a partner in Pei-Ru and am surrounded by friends and community who encourage me to keep going and to focus on the wins along the way. We still don’t know how it will go, but we keep getting better at this, and we get to do it together.

I also get to keep reminding myself that life is about getting your hands dirty. All the rest -- the self doubt and fear --I know isn’t true. But it is an important reminder to check in with myself, make sure my heart is full, and to stay connected to the bigger picture of what we’re out to create in the world: a new way for people to connect, a place for nourishment, and contributing to a food system we can all get behind.