By Susan Whitesell
If you attended the Slow Food Festival last year you may have nibbled on Sundoggie Organics delicious grilled summer squash. This year’s June 21st festival may feature more of the same or other vegetables may be incorporated into a tasty salad or side dish. (The food committee is still working on the menu.)
Toni sees the Slow Food Festival as “a wonderful opportunity for the community to celebrate the really great food that is grown all around us. The festival encourages people to try produce, such as Tuscan kale, and present it in such a way that people say, ‘I can do this.’” Toni feels that now is the time, despite the drought, to celebrate the agricultural bounty of the Delta. “Promoting the idea that we have access to great food right here and how important it is to hang on to it while at the same time recognizing the threat posed by our lack of water and the declining water quality. We have a lot of issues pulling at the heart strings of the Delta.” The couple is planting, in Toni’s words, “full speed ahead” in order to have plants well established before the projected dry months ahead.
Jeff Hart originally purchased Delta EcoFarm over 15 years ago to support his Delta habitat restoration business. Growing food crops has always been Toni Hart’s passion because she loves to cook. A few years back at the urging of friend Marsha McBride, Executive Chef at Café Rouge in Berkeley, the couple converted the nursery to grow organic vegetables free of chemicals, such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
Many varieties of kale, collard greens, cabbage, lettuce, bok choy, radishes, broccoli, and potatoes can be found thriving on the farm. The couple also produces colorful eggs from healthy free range chickens at the back of the property. Between rain showers Toni is actively planting tomatoes for summer harvest, and in the shed are hundreds more tomato, eggplant, peppers, squash, leeks and summer squash seedlings just waiting to be planted.
“There’s a growing interest in knowing where your food comes from, understanding how it’s grown, and expanding your vegetable intake. Consumers understand, appreciate and enjoy the vibrancy of freshly grown vegetables that haven’t been treated and haven’t been stored before they reach the grocery store or places such as the Slow Food Festival.”
Sundoggie Organics sells produce directly to Revival, Venus and Café Rouge restaurants in Berkeley, Lucca restaurant in Sacramento, Townhouse restaurant at Wine and Roses in Lodi, a few other event centers and the Grand Island Mansion. They are working with Stanford University on an innovative way to deliver organic produce directly to bay area neighborhoods using portable vegetable stands. Check their web site at www.deltaecofarm.com for information about the farm and Twitter (@Sundoggietoni) for announcements of upcoming special events, such as their seasonal farm stand and culinary events at the farm.
Come meet Toni Hart at the 3rd Annual Slow Food Festival Saturday, June 21, and learn tips about eating and growing organically. The Slow Food Festival is currently in the planning stages. Contact Tom Surh at 374-5282 to volunteer or Janith Norman at 374-6118 for information to be a vendor.