by Tom Sims
I have a range of feelings as I stroll through the Organic Stone Fruit Festival grounds. I think back to the number of times I have attended, the fruits I have tasted, the people I have met, and the first story I did on the experience some years ago. With that in mind, I decided not to give a comprehensive report. There was just too much to observe, digest, and regurgitate (to use and abuse a digestion theme). I decided to simply offer some impressions, observations, and reflections.
The Organic Stone Fruit festival just celebrated its 10th anniversary with another feast for the eyes, the mind, and the taste buds. Sponsors of the event are the California Dietetic Association, Ecological Farming Association (EcoFarm), Food Commons, Kristina’s Natural Ranch Market, Slow Food Madera, Mary’s Chicken, and MOA. MOA refers to the Mokichi Okada Association. On June 24, Bruno Luconi once again generously opened his Mokichi Okada Oasis Garden to vendors, educators, and the public to celebrate the Central Valley’s bounty and the joy of organically grown fruits.
In 1935, Mokichi Okada actually founded a Japanese religious movement. In 1936, growing out of his philosophical and religious system, he introduced an agricultural concept and practice originally called “no fertilizer farming” or “Nature Farming.” The Mokichi Okado Association (MOA) follows his practices, and they are demonstrated at the event. According to their website, “The philosophy and practice of Natural Farming arose from Mokichi Okada’s research, in the late 1930s and 1940s. He discovered that if our agricultural methods respect the soil and enhance its innate power, then our food will always be rich in natural energy and will nourish and support our health. Human beings can thrive only by living in harmony with Nature.”
It seems appropriate that such an exposition should take place on a 10-acre parcel devoted to practicing the art of growing food without pesticides, herbicides, or chemicals. Other farmers and advocates come to their commitments to organic methodology from different philosophical directions. All believe that the healthiest, tastiest, and most responsible way to grow food is in naturally cultivated, healthy soil without artificial chemicals, or practices that fail to respect and preserve creation for our generation and future generations.
All organic fruit growers are welcome to participate in Organic Stone Fruit Festival. Stone Fruit partner profiles can be read on their website. Among the participants were Abundant Harvest Organics, Blossom Bluff Orchards, D.E. Boldt Family Farms, MOA Oasis Garden, Naylor Organics, Sweet Home Ranch, Valliwide Organic Farms, Cardenas Farms, Juarez Farms, and Eldon Thiesen Farm. Each offered tastes of their fruits included in the $5 admission price and an opportunity to purchase bags of fruit. The event program included a whole page of instruction as to how to know when to pick fruit and what to do with the fruit purchased that day.
For those who wanted to eat healthy prepared foods, the choices included La Boulangerie Bakery, Casa de Tamales, Mattie’s Wood Fired Pizza, Taste Kitchen, Ampersand Ice Cream, Two Dudes Brewing, and La Reina De Michoacan. It was possible to taste over 60 varieties of peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, and pluots and to talk with their growers. Tara Hamilton provided fresh fruit pies. There were farm tours, presentations, a Japanese Tea Ceremony, a kids craft corner, live music, and local food vendors.
Frank Sipes and Good Medicine, from North Fork, Mariposa, and Fresno brought a new level of musical sophistication to the fair. They call their style “Folkadelik, a combination of Blues, Rock, Folk, Country, Jam and whatever else they hear.” I had to stop and listen for a while. The depth of their music seemed appropriate for the occasion as we savored deep flavors and participated in the profound commitment of the organizers and vendors to encourage healthy growth and consumption of natural foods.
Miniature horses could be seen roaming the grounds. Not everything needs to be oversized.
Abigail Paxton shared a sample of her mother’s jams and jellies, and I gladly received it and savored it. That warmed my heart and soul. It only took a tiny spoon full. I met Sarah Escareno and her brilliant 13 year old daughter, Jessica Revis, representing Valliwide Organic Farms and Valliwide Marketing. Founder and owner, Tod Parkinson is on a mission. He says, “We grow organically so that we can give generously.” I had to stop and talk with Sarah and Jessica and take their picture. They had something that I needed to inquire about further.
Parkinson explains it on his blog. “We love what we do and we believe that making money isn’t the most important thing. We believe in respecting the need for sustainability and the livelihood of our health, not just for ourselves, but also for our employees, our consumers, and the generations to come.” The project for which he is most passionate is When I Grow Up. “When I Grow Up is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering children out of extreme poverty. Through effective global partnerships we have opened up effective channels for people in the Western world to be able to give and serve directly hundreds of hurting and helpless children around the globe who are now no longer beyond our reach.”
As I heard Jessica enthusiastically telling the story while pushing the peaches, I knew that I was hanging out with a group that can communicate passion and infect others with it. 13 years old! I also visited their blog and learned how to prepare grilled peaches on the Farmer’s Blog.
Presentations by Bill Fujimoto and Dr. Renee Kinman were educational and motivating. The ice cream hit the spot. Seeing old friends always warms the heart. Making new friends enlivens the spirit. Only the unfriendly will find it difficult to find a new friend. Everyone is willing to talk. So am I.
According to the Fresno Bee, “The 10th Annual Organic Stone Fruit Jubilee welcomed hundreds of attendees on June 24 to explore all things peachy.”
If I had more time and space, I could tell much more. For now, my mouth will be watering, and my soul will be yearning for next year’s festival.
The event takes place every year at Mokichi Okada Association’s Oasis Garden, 5790 N, Indianola Ave, Clovis, CA 93619. Adult Admission $5, Children under 12 Free. Official website: www.fruitjubilee.org.
You can check out some of Good Medicine’s music in this video: youtu.be/XKAGmCRfunU.