Today we achieved a major milestone in our efforts: we submitted a complete first draft of the book as our deliverable for the Dolkas award. This is the culmination of efforts that began not just in November of 2014 when we got the grant, but in the spring of 2012 when the idea first presented itself.
In early 2012, after the discovery of an old family recipe book, we (Sierra and Jody) started working on the book. We spent the spring and summer outlining the idea and getting input on the focus, the selection of crops, people to talk to, and archives to visit. We had a great plan: start the real research in fall, and it will take a couple years to complete the book. We were pretty sure we’d be published – or at least close – by early 2015.
So what happened? We are hard-working, reliable people. We can be depended upon to complete what we start. And, we were (and remain) enthusiastic about and dedicated to telling the story of local food.
I know exactly where the blame lies.
You see, we had a vision in our minds of how our research would go. We would be sitting in the Ag History Project sipping tea and looking through old documents as we heard the rain pouring down on the roof. We would hunker down in the windowless archives of the MAH as the winds blew noisily outside. We would wear our winter coats to venture to the library where we would find it toasty and warm inside.
But, as you are aware, 2012 was a drought year. And so was 2013. And so was 2014, and 2015. From an ecological standpoint, the drought has been absolutely devastating to Santa Cruz County. The ecosystems that rely on seasonal rains have slowly dried out, to the point that it will take years of average or above average rain to recover. The impact on threatened fish and amphibian species may be beyond repair. It has also wreaked havoc on our local water supply, especially in the North of the County where rainfall provides 95% of the water we drink.
The drought also had an impact on the book. We love archives, and spending a cold winter day surrounded by history is a great fun. But, when the winter days are sunny, warm, and absolutely beautiful, suddenly there is an unexpected opportunity cost to the research. We could be hiking, or walking along Westcliff, or picnicking. When you already work in an office during the week, it’s hard to spend a beautiful weekend day indoors when the outdoors looks like this:
I am very proud of our accomplishment this week and I think things will move more quickly from here on out. But if anyone ever asks why it took us so long to get this far, I’ll always answer the same way: “I blame the drought”.