The word “drought” is part of our vernacular here in California. You can’t live west of the Rockies for any length of time without experiencing water rations or seeing signs that say “Food Grows Where Water Flows” placed atop cracked, parched dirt while driving through the Central Valley, which spans nearly the length of California and happens to be where the bulk of our agricultural land is. The ingenuity of men like William Mulholland and Fred Eaton, the minds behind California’s water infrastructure, have afforded our state the auspicious title of agricultural powerhouse. But our precarious network of aqueducts, canals, and dams, and our increasingly long dry season have placed growers in dire straits.
In January of this year, Governor Brown declared a drought emergency and asked Californians to cut water usage by at least 20 percent. “We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities…” Brown said in his announcement. But this historic drought that has only just been announced by the state capitol, has persisted for three years.
Reservoirs are running low, tributaries are drying up, and farmers are paying for water in the middle of the rainy season. Ranchers are selling their livestock to pay for feed and irrigation; farmers are worried about retaining their crop yields. While the government offers low interest rate loans for farmers in need, those loans do little to help small growers with diversified crops, going instead to large producers of staple crops like corn and rice. California still holds its title of leading food producer in the nation, but food prices are feared to increase around the country because of the dry weather.
Because of its historic status, the drought and its effects on agriculture have garnered the public’s attention and this awareness should be a catalyst for change and will at least bring appreciation to the ever important and oft forgotten farmer.
The Big Awesome Veggie Bowl
This meal uses ingredients that are less taxing on the tap. Animal product-free meals require less water to produce than meals that are heavy on animal proteins, but you can customize this meal to your liking. There are endless possibilities and you can enjoy this meal throughout the week once all of the components are prepared.
- Classic Homemade Hummus (recipe below)
- Marinated Kale Salad (recipe below)
- 2 small beets, scrubbed and trimmed
- ¼ avocado, sliced
- ½ sweet potato, sliced into rounds
- 1 carrot, peeled and julienned
- ¼ bell pepper, diced
- ¼ cup cooked quinoa or millet (Both are good sources of protein. I make a big pot and keep the leftovers in the fridge to use later in the week)
Prepare the hummus and marinated kale salad. These can be made in advance and stored in the fridge. Preheat your oven to 375˚ Fahrenheit. Wrap the beets tightly in foil or parchment paper and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 40-45 minutes, or until tender, then peel and cut into quarters. While the beets are roasting, prepare the sweet potato. Slice the sweet potato into rounds ¼-inch thick. Place on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes. Cook the quinoa or millet according to package directions. Peel and julienne the carrot, chop the bell pepper, and slice the avocado. Arrange the kale salad, raw veggies, roasted beets and potato in a bowl, garnish with a generous dollop of hummus. If you like a little extra dressing, you can drizzle the entire bowl with some lemon juice and olive oil and sprinkle some coarse salt and pepper over the top.
Classic Homemade Hummus
- 2 cups cooked garbanzo beans
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ¼ cup tahini
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 garlic clove
Place everything into a food processor and blend until smooth. Store in the refrigerator for
up to 5 days.
Marinated Kale Salad
- 1 bunch kale, stemmed and washed
- ¼ red onion, finely diced
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
Chop the kale. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Massage the dressing into the kale with your hands. Add the red onion and toss to combine.