Hidden in Plain Sight

Despite the dense population, the infill, the condo complexes and packed freeways, we still have something fresh, green and so special here in the San Gabriel Valley.

 Perhaps you’ve been there to pick out a pumpkin or perhaps you’ve driven by and said to yourself, “That looks interesting. Some day I’m gonna stop in.”

Finally, I decided to make the effort and found something special. Here’s Cal Poly’s Farm Store

 What’s so special, yoiu may ask? Well, drive over and see for yourself. Set to the west of Temple Ave on the Cal Poly campus, the store features produce grown onsite, available seasonally, and all organic. This is probably as close to the farm experience as we are likely to get, living as we are in a vast megapolis which everyday swallows up yet more former farmland or, in our particular case, orchards.

You are hardly likely to buy all your groceries there as available seasonally means just that. Right now, there’s hydroponically-grown lettuce, giant purple or green spring onions, oranges, lemons and amazingly sweet strawberries. Speaking of strawberries, you can pick your own if that is your desire. Later in the season, as tomatoes, green peppers, beans and all of summer’s crops ripen they, too, will be featured. Can we pick our own corn? Don’t know…
And, did I mention they have meat? By this time, after weeks on the New York Times bestseller list last year and the year before, the message of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma has begun to sink in. Our factory food production system is not working any more, if it ever did. Eric Schlosser’s famous Fast Food Nation also helped to point out the obvious. Our meat and poultry production methods are not healthy, not clean and not good for us. Pollan unforgettably describes how cattle, which are ruminants and biologically prepared to eat grass and only grass, are, instead, forced to eat corn for most of their lives. He describes a wonderful farm in Virginia where the livestock and poultry live their lives eating grass. People come from miles around to purchase their meat from the farmer because they know it is safe, it is healthy, entirely natural and the taste, according to Pollan, is much better than what we have come to call beef.
Where to get such meat around here? Try finding it. For a short while, Trader Joe’s had a few cuts of grass-fed beef, but, as so frequently happens there, has stopped stocking it. Whole Foods offers some meat and produce it calls “locally grown.” That’s great if you live in Pasadena which now has two stores.
Usually the suburbs must settle for less, but now we have a great source for  meat similar to what Pollan described right here.  Cal Poly has a meat cutting program, so students slaughter and butcher livestock-cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens-grown on the campus or bought from organic farms. Cal Poly sells this meat at the Farm Store. People can even order custom cuts or save money by ordering entire carcasses, all frozen, of course. From what I was able to gather, this meat is not entirely grass-fed, but is rather “grass-fed and grain-finished” in the parlance of the trade.
The Farm Store is not perfect, far from it. The day I visited, May 1, the place was closed, a couple of handwritten notes fluttering in the breeze. No mention on the website. Hey, Farm Store students, that’s why we have websites. Apparently, it had also been closed April 31st, again with no notice. It’s hard to get information about the produce, the meat or even the plants which are also offered there. But, if you’re in the vicinity, drop in and look around.
Anybody know anywhere else to buy onsite-grown produce or grass-fed meat?


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