Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Heart of the Harvest: A Weekend Fundraiser for Olivewood Gardens

photo courtesy of Cass Green Photography
When I was growing up there weren't many kids you could call fat. Most of us were fed well by (primarily) our mothers and were always shooed outdoors to play unless we were to do homework. TV was a treat. There were no computers, iPads, play stations, or other distractions--except books.

Today, of course, children run a greater risk of becoming obese. Life is more sedentary, both parents often work outside the home, and the ease of fast and packaged foods has made home-cooked meals from fresh fruits and vegetables much rarer. The result is today's kids aren't learning how to eat well, aren't learning where their food comes from, how to grow it, or how to prepare it. And, they run the risk of getting obesity-related diseases like diabetes.

There are a number of programs in San Diego that are working to address this crisis. My favorite is Olivewood Gardens & Learning Center, a seven-acre oasis in National City that teaches children and their families (primarily low-income) how to raise organic produce and then how to prepare the fruits of their labor in the kitchen, creating delicious and nutritious fresh meals. The side benefits are that the kids are educated about nutrition, and the programs support math and reading skills and their science studies, and help them become more self-sufficient. The students are introduced to foods that may be unfamiliar to them and activities they've never tried.

Planting a three-sisters garden (corn, squash, and beans)
My days volunteering as an instructor in the kitchen are the most fun I have and the most rewarding. Julie Darling--who recruits the kitchen instructors--has gotten many of San Diego's best chefs to participate. They include Amy DiBiase, Chad White, Andrew Spurgin, Hanis Cavin, Sara Polczynski, Marguarite Grifka, and more.

Chef Chad White and his students
Molding the perfect Olivewood Garden Burger patty
It's a moving experience to help elementary school kids who have never dug a trowel into the earth to plant a seed or crack open and beat an egg learn these skills--and then also enjoy the dishes they create, trying fresh vegetables and other ingredients that may be totally foreign to them -- and then falling in love with their flavors.

All this is to say that we want to be able to continue to do this work -- and even expand it to bring in more children. So, we're repeating last year's successful fundraiser this fall on Oct. 1 and 2. Our theme is Heart of the Harvest and it's going to be even better than last year's events!

The first event: A Moonlit Soiree, will be an intimate, multi-course gourmet dinner Saturday, October 1 at 6 p.m., with each course prepared by a different prominent San Diego chef (please see below for list of participating chefs) and served under the stars at Olivewood Gardens on tables individually decorated by many of San Diego’s top designers (please see list below). Chef Andrew Spurgin of Campine will be our Master of Ceremonies. Chef Amy DiBiase of The Shores is organizing the chefs. We will also have our first garden-themed art show and opportunity drawing. The 10 participating artists are listed below.

photo courtesy of Cass Greene Photography
The second event: A Day of Play. Art of the Harvest, held Sunday, Oct. 2, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., will be a lively outdoor family day with garden tours, games, swimming, crafts and children’s garden projects, food demonstrations with both local growers and chefs, “Olivewood Garden Burgers” by SoNo Trading Co., and custom Olivewood Garden paletas (Mexican-style fresh fruit popsicles) from Viva Pops. And, we'll be featuring student art work, which will be for sale.
  
Moonlit Soiree Chefs (list anticipated to grow)
Chad White: Sea Rocket Bistro
Katherine Humphus: Bo Beau
Daniel Manrique:  The Red Door
Hanis Cavin:  Carnitas’ Snack Shack
Ricardo Heredia:  Alchemy
Joe Magnanelli:  Cucina Urbana
Craig Jimenez:  Craft and Commerce
Sam Burman and Aldo Negrete:  Quality Social
Anthony Sinsay:  Harney Sushi
Chris Powell:  Bali Hai
Rachel Caygill and Scott Caygill: Banker's Hill

A Day of Play
Zach Negin and James Magnetta : Sono Trading Co (OWG Burgers)
Lisa Altmann: Viva Pops

Table Designers List
Thomas Bui Lifestyle
LaVonne of Adorations
Wedding Elegance by Nahid
Amy Vargas of First Comes Love
Frankie of Hartworks Floral
Wyn Austin Events
Helena Parker
Swan Soiree
Bradley of Fun with Jack
Ana of Floral Works and Events
Dawn of Embellishment
Arturo of ArtQuest Floral and Fine Gifts

Artists
Pablo Aztlan Acevedo
John Baldessari, signed exhibition poster
Lynn Cyi
Helen Shafer Garcia
Jim Gibson
Cassandra C. Greene
Tom Hatton
Suda House
Wendy Kwasny
Patricia Patterson
(Note: a preview of the artwork may be seen at www.olivewoodgardens.org)

Activities for Sunday's A Day of Play include:
Paint pots and plant succulents
Make seedballs
Pinecone art
Self-guided garden scavenger hunt
Garden Art - Harvest Themes (sketching, drawing, painting, oil pastels, and sun prints)
Singalong with Pablo & Friends
Eat This, Not THAT!
Lavender Wands
Rock Painting
Croquet
Swimming in the Pool

A Moonlit Soiree is for adults, with tickets priced at $200 per person. Tickets for A Day of Play. Art of the Harvest cost $15. Free admission for children age 12 and under. We really want to encourage families to come down on Sunday and have a great day playing in the gardens and just having fun outside! Tickets may be purchased online at olivewoodgardens.org/heartoftheharvest.

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