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A BERRY GOOD ORGANIZATION

The Berry Good Food Foundation is on a mission to make high-quality, sustainably and locally produced food available to everyone

BY WENDY LEMLIN

You could say the Berry Good Food Foundation was born when Michelle Ciccarelli Lerach (see Person of Interest on page 16) went to Sonoma County to live and work on a goat farm some years back. She became inspired by that community’s overriding support for sustainable food production and consumption and wondered why that was missing in her San Diego County home.

BGFF founder Michelle Ciccarelli Lerach and Ranch Coordinator and education leader Jack Ford of Taj Farms
BGFF founder Michelle Ciccarelli Lerach and Ranch Coordinator and education leader Jack Ford of Taj Farms

“We have access to more family farms around San Diego than any other place in the state,” she explains, “yet there wasn’t cohesiveness between producers, and there wasn’t large-scale interchange between the local farms or ranches and the chefs, artisans and others in the culinary field. High-quality, local food should be central on every restaurant menu, in schools and business cafeterias and in home kitchens.”

Always the activist, Michelle decided to address the conundrum in 2010 by hosting the first annual, invitation-only Berry Good Night Dinner. Part think tank, part gourmet feast, its aim was to promote dialogue and cross-pollination between some of the best minds in sustainable food, from many disciplines. In subsequent years, it has become the most sought-after foodie invitation in the San Diego area.

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In 2015, the Berry Good Food Foundation (BGFF), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was founded out of the success of those dinners. Its mission is to advance a healthy, integrated food system by educating, connecting and supporting food producers and consumers. The goal is a region where all people can easily choose local, sustainably produced food.

To that end, BGFF runs a variety of programs and events designed to educate and entertain, support area family farms and, in some cases, raise funds for initiatives to bring quality food to all communities. These programs include:

• Future Thought Leaders Panels. These summits present knowledge on food-related topics, from preventing food waste to the importance of healthy soil. They are free and open to the public. Past panels, available through UCTV, have garnered over one million views and won six Excellence in Journalism awards from the San Diego Press Club. The next panel will be Let Food Be Thy Medicine, on May 20, from 1–3 pm at the UCSD Student Services, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla.

• Berry Good Food Academy. Led by BGFF Ranch Coordinator Jack Ford of Taj Farms, these hands-on classes include fun  subjects such as cheese and bread making, canning, preserving and cooking.

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• School Pilot Program. BGFF is working with schools, including Mesa College Culinary Arts Program, and with the non-profit Olivewood Gardens & Learning Center to provide various food, gardening and farming curriculum modules. BGFF recently planted a rooftop garden at Mesa College.

• Farm Dinners. Held throughout the year on local farms, the modestly priced dinners promote the enjoyment of wonderful food, an opportunity to learn about sustainable food production and connection to a community of local culinary producers and enthusiasts.

• Microdairy. With a “pay it forward” focus, BGFF has founded a sheep and goat microdairy. The milk from the herds is used in cheese-making classes, and provided to Queso Diego, a San Diego cheese club, to donate to community organizations. Notes Jack Ford, “Baby goats and cheese are two of the best portals to open a conversation about ‘good’ food!”

To learn more about Berry Good Food Foundation, upcoming events and how to become involved, visit BerryGoodFood.org. Find them on Facebook (Berry Good Food Foundation) and the group “Friends of the Berry Good Food Foundation.”

 

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