This group of backyard farmers is one of ten finalists in our One-Block Party contest. The winner will be announced on October 2, 2011, at Sunset's Savor the Central Coast wine and food event.


Newman, CA

A team of teacher-gardeners. From left: John Paiva, Elsa Juarez, Rosaura Briones, Karen March,Anne Reiswig, Mark Malmberg, and Cheryl Beaty.In the Yolo Middle School staff room, the talk often turns to soil and seeds. A lot of these teachers like to garden—not surprising, given that they’re in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, surrounded by orchards and fields of produce. And agriculture is a big employer in their town of Newman, population 10,000.

“The idea of a one-block feast seemed just the impetus for a celebration of gardening, and a rally point for the staff,” writes Karen March, team leader. She and her fellow teachers put their heads together and decided to share recipes, grow vegetables, herbs, and fruits in their home gardens, use hand-cranked ice-cream makers for berry sherbet, and collect fresh eggs for hors d’oeuvres and potato salad. “Among our staff, we discovered that we had talented cooks and bakers who could make everything from jams and jellies to pesto sauces, sourdough potato and herb bread, and the simple but delicious dried fruits and vegetables,” Karen continues. “Veteran gardeners volunteered to mentor the less experienced gardeners on our staff so that they too could share in the joys of backyard farming.” Then they came up with an extra-fine idea: If their team wins our contest, they’ve decided to donate the $500 to a deserving student group “in a satisfying pay-it-forward gesture.”

We love the sound of their rock-solid, crowd-pleasing menu, which will have savory casseroles, pastas, pizzas, deviled eggs, fruit salads, and ice cream, fruit crisps, and cobblers. It’s like a PTA meeting in heaven.

The coop at Anne Reiswig’s house. Guess who has to play nice with the chickens?

Karen’s future herb garden. The basil is coming soon, she says.

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