Friday, January 30, 2009

Faatma's Solar Glow

A Q&A w/Faatma of Solarlivity

Q1- What inspired you to found Can you tell us how the Supper club started (Do you really do all of the cooking if the food expenses are covered)?

Solar is a cafe & community space we as a community are working to open. I have spearheaded the efforts but it would be arrogant of me to assume credit for all the work that is being done every day. is the webspace for the work Solar does in our city around food and urban agriculture.

The Supper clubs are house party fundraisers that were sparked because I would continue to get emails from folks asking me when we were opening and leaving messages like “hurry up I'm hongry!” so this is a way for us to raise funds, party and for folks to get they eat on.

Yes I (Faatma) prepare all the food... for larger parties I recruit my brother ...mostly its just me. At a Supper Club there will be an entree, two sides, two desserts and a mix tape... good times. Its Local fare and is all plant based, so Vegetarian, Vegan and Raw/Live food. Usually the host will provide some libations and it gets wild. We strive to keep it all fun and easy so that everyone can stay engaged in the longer dialogue around food security and local community & economy building.

Q2- How does the 'harvest after the harvest' Eastside cannery operate? Are locate residents invited to gather as well as learn to can food? Can you tell us more about this project?

Basically, on many of the farms here (whether organic or not), as the season is coming to a close and they have sold all that they can to markets and people, and the CSA (consumer supported agriculture) programs are done for the season there is still usually quite a bit of food left in the fields. Its not cost effective for large farms to hire folks to pull the remaining crops so they either till the soil and let it return to the earth or they open up the farm to the public and let them come in and “glean” the farm.

So we reached out to five neighborhoods which are part of a larger neighborhood dubbed “the east side” in Denver which are historically Black and Latino and historically underrepresented and disenfranchised communities with a lot of history and knowledge to offer Denver, We identified leaders in these communities and asked the community if they were interested in a project like this... and guess what...they ARE. We travelled out to Grant Family Farms, which is a local organic farm, and harvested vegetables ( Collards, Beets, Onions, Potato s, & Broccoli). We brought our little people with us and they were most def the best teachers, just natural as can be while they are harvesting, laughing, playing.

The next piece was to teach ourselves to can food. Most of us have an elder in our family who is familiar with the process, yet there are also those of us who don' well as no memories of food that doesn't come in a box and no memories of a garden. This was most evident while we were considering the process of taking these vegetables that were caked with earth and make them into food. It was jarring for some folk and we had to do some inner work with each other around what food is and what we want it to be for us long term. Acknowledging the environmental racism that affects communities of color, the lack of access and the effects of the industrial age with regards to farming, marketing and family structure. Its a hard walk but a good one.

We did get some assistance in “how to” from elders in our communities to give us the rules and we also got guidelines from experts on saftey issues and all the rest was done by trial an error... we did have a few errors, and one minor injury (!!!) and a whole lot of laughs.

In the end, everyone came away with new skills and an appreciation for the role of conserving for the winter and many many cans of collard greens, pickled beets and potato soup that should last them an entire year. I think most of the folks involved will probably participate in community or backyard farming and/or local CSA programs.

Q3- Is there a cookbook in the future, and will the OG Lunchbox return?

There absolutely is a cookbook in the future of our Community and its a natural progression for people who love food to come together with their favorites in mind. However for now I think our work in the dirt is most important and that we'll let that project be a natural process.

The OG lunchbox is a produce share we started in the hood as an answer to the ongoing problem of lack of access to healthy food. The OG lunchbox will return fo sho...we are striving to restructure the process so that we aren't buying from a food distributor and there is also an option for a farmers market of sorts. We want to be able to include EBT payments and/or have folks to have the means sponsor boxes for those who don't. Our growing season here only runs thru November and so we'd like to run the OG Lunchbox in conjunction with the canning project and incorporate community classes on food prep based on what is in your box for the week. More on the OG Lunchbox here:

Q4- When did you become aware of the importance of how your food is prepared and grown, and how do you feel about urban foraging?

I was in awe the first time I saw one of my peers or elders in their own vegetable garden, which sadly wasn't until I was in my teens. I come from an immigrant home so I had a sense of preparing food from scratch but because of my desire to fit in with “American” kids, I was also enamored with eating food out of a box... until I realized that food comes out of the ground. After high school I went to school for herbal therapeutics and went veg, which was the beginning of a conversation about preventative practices through nutrition, which then turned into a long journey thru wild food identification and harvesting, urban foraging, survival-ism & vegan-ism, raw food-ism and I'm now in a space where I would absolutely advocate urban farming, backyard and front yard farming, guerrilla farming, vertical gardens, permaculture and sustainable community building.

To answer your question about urban foraging, I think there is a place for it, its an act of freedom and rebellion at the same time. Its important to acknowledge wild food, but its also important to do the knowledge to the locations in which we forage. Meaning that food that grows out of extreme situations where soil is contaminated or heavily sprayed is not safe to eat no matter what. I think the answer to that is to be familiar with the history of the neighborhood you are foraging and/or make sure you roll with someone who does. Do your research.

Q5- How can other conscious eaters become involved in food co-ops and permaculture in their communities within and outside of Denver? Are there any resources you can recommend for further research?

Honestly, this is part of community building, Its my fantasy that community organizers who work in social justice will see how food security is a n issue that is related to all the work they do and step in and work as advocates of food justice. This is a community building peace and a local economy building peace. We have to do this work together or its just gonna get co-opted and industrialized like the so-called fair trade model and the so-called organic certification. Grow your own food and support folks who do. Buy food at farmers markets and encourage your corner store to carry produce. Grow food on your yard, windowsill, patio and colander on your kitchen counter. Throw your seeds in the dirt in empty lots (so they'll grow wild). Compost.

Some placed to start your research:

National guide to organic farms, CSA programs and greenhouses.

National directory of food cooperatives:

Q6- Is there anything we haven't covered, you'd like to share? Are there new projects in the works, you'd like to spread the word on? Where can interested investors/partners contact you?

There are always new projects in the works and new partnerships in the works within and surrounding the Solar community. Its important for us to be inclusive and offer space for a natural progression in community building. We all deserve, need and are better served by clean food and access to it. We love your guts!

I would encourage folks to register on the site and stay tuned for events and openings. We do take donations in the form of trade, service, advice, referrals etcetera as well as DOLLARS which can be done via paypal, by check, money order(or cash )which can be sent to 2615 Welton Street Denver, CO 80205. We are interested in talking to investors about developing our space and program work in the community and for further conversation about how we can build together I can be reached at

Thank you



Vegetable Nerd & Mudslinger

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