Sustainable farms of the future will be designed by data.
FareStart has invited me to participate in Guest Chef Night on Aug. 27. If you're not familiar with FareStart, it's an incredible nonprofit that provides training programs to empower homeless and disadvantaged people to achieve self-sufficiency and find employment in the food service industry. FareStart runs a catering service and also operates a restaurant in downtown Seattle where diners can enjoy delicious lunches. The restaurant is also the venue for Guest Chef Night dinners – which take place on most Thursday evenings throughout the year. GCN generates proceeds that benefit FareStart's programs in addition to providing practical experience for the students. Local restaurant chefs volunteer their time and resources to organize these dinners.
For my Guest Chef Night appearance, the menu theme, naturally, is based on "Chinese Soul Food":
Hot and sour soup, with crispy scallion pancakes
Grass-fed beef brisket braised with soy sauce, spices, ginger and garlic. Served with jasmine rice, pickles and aquaponic lettuces from This Is Odd Urban Farm.
Almond cake with Frog Hollow peach compote and whipped cream
$29.95; all proceeds benefit FareStart's training program
WHY ATTEND THIS DINNER?
- Supporting FareStart is important.
- You get to try some of my food AND taste the special, aquaponically grown lettuces from This Is Odd Urban Farm in Port Angeles. It's delicately sweet! (Pictured above and below.)
- You get to support the future of sustainable urban agriculture.
FareStart has held Guest Chef Night dinners for many years and wanted to change it up a bit. In July 2014, I agreed to join Sara Dickerman and Rebekah Denn to organize the inaugural "food bloggers" GCN. We collaborated on a menu that drew from our respective culinary influences and the guests loved experiencing GCN from a different perspective. For this year's food blogger dinner on Aug. 27, I will be taking on all three courses – with the help of the FareStart team – and sharing some of the comforting Chinese soul foods that I have featured on this blog. What is perhaps unusual is that I will be representing not only myself as the author of mychinesesoulfood.com, but I also will be representing Institute for Systems Biology, where I have served as the communications director for the past four years.
ISB is a nonprofit research organization founded in 2000 by renowned visionary scientist Dr. Lee Hood, who pioneered systems biology, an interdisciplinary and holistic approach to deciphering the complexity of biological systems. Systems biology is based on an understanding that the networks that form the whole of living organisms are more than the sum of their parts. Most of ISB's research covers the gamut of diseases – dozens of cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, infectious diseases, Lyme – and how the human body transitions from wellness to disease and back to wellness. We also have some work focused on environmental sustainability.
ISB's SVP Dr. Nitin Baliga is launching the marquee Project Feed 1010: A crowdsourced project to revolutionize sustainable agriculture while driving systemic change in STEM education.
The 1010 represents 10 to the 10th, or 10 billion, which is what the global population is expected to reach by 2050. By 2030, the demand for water will exceed the supply. The consequences are wide-ranging, not the least of which is the fact that the amount of arable land is shrinking and we will have to figure out how to produce enough crops in dense, urban areas to feed a population of 10 to the 10th.
The big question: Can we develop a better urban farming model capable of feeding the world and be a driving force in the future economy? The answer will come from an exciting culmination of science, food, STEM education, and entrepreneurship.
One potential solution involves scaling aquaponics, which combines hydroponics and aquaculture. Instead of using soil, crops are grown in water that's enriched by fish effluent and the plants, in turn, clean the water for the fish. It's symbiotic and uses about 90 percent less water than traditional farming.
Our researchers have begun to establish a network of high school science teachers across the country to help us study every aspect of aquaponics. The teachers are using curriculum developed in the Baliga Lab, so they and their students will become "citizen scientists." Our engineers are developing a mobile app for data collection. We will be launching a crowdfunding and awareness campaign for Project Feed 1010 soon, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, I hope to see you all at the FareStart dinner so we can chat Chinese soul food and about Project Feed 1010 or what I'm dubbing "farm-to-table 3.0" – because sustainable farms of the future will be designed by data.