In "the nation's salad bowl," as California's Central Valley is often called, fresh produce grows in abundance.
But for many area residents, healthy food is out of reach.
"Here we are in this agriculturally rich area and yet people who live here and work here are hungry, are impoverished," said Sarah Ramirez, an educator who grew up in the area.
"(Some) are working in the fields that feed the entire country and then they don't have the resources to support them and their health. It's heartbreaking."
For the last two years, Ramirez has been on a mission to build a healthier community in her impoverished hometown of Pixley.
Editor's note: The Southern Foodways Alliance delves deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of Southern food. In honor of the SFA's featured oral history project, Women Who Farm: Georgia, we’re sharing “She Spoke and I Listened” by Sara Wood, the group's oral historian.
The evening I met Haylene Green, an urban farmer in Atlanta, Georgia, rain mercilessly poured on midtown Atlanta—and on me. I squeaked across the lobby of Ms. Green’s apartment building and followed her to a small room in the basement. There, she opened a thick photo album with pages of fruits and vegetables from her West End community garden. And she started talking. I put the recording equipment together as fast as I’ve ever assembled it. My job was simple: She spoke, and I listened. All of her answers were stories.
Speaking of his book "The Storied South" on a radio program, folklorist Bill Ferris recently said something that stopped me in my kitchen: “When you ask a Southerner to answer a question, they will tell a story. And embedded in that story is the information that they feel is the answer to the question.”
Oral history, like the most satisfying literature, relies on listening and observation. The way people speak, how they tell stories, where they choose to pause and scratch their nose, to me, is the greatest part of listening. Being an oral historian or a writer requires you to listen as though your life depends on it. What seems like a simple acts is actually the heart of the work. To that end, I share an excerpt from my interview with a farmer who also happens to be a storyteller.
Haylene Green’s Story
When it comes to food movements, the word “local” is a rarity in Okinawa. That's because restaurants in Japan's southernmost prefecture have been doing the local thing long before it was trending - or even just trendy.
World-renowned for promoting health and longevity, traditional Okinawan cuisine uses primarily local ingredients. What's more, it's easy to find.
Do you try to eat ethically? Do you only eat local produce, using nothing that’s been transported via air travel? Avoid certain products or grow your own?
The concepts of eating ethically and watching where our food comes from are hot topics in the food world.
CNN’s forthcoming Freedom Project documentary examines the cocoa industry and the work undertaken to combat exploitation of workers throughout the journey from “bean to chocolate bar,” shining a light on the often challenging issue of eating ethically.
Broadly speaking, eating ethically can cover anything from vegetarianism to eating only local produce and boycotting products which are considered wasteful or exploitative.
iReport asked CNN readers if they think about where their food comes from.
Brian Maloof knows it sounds crazy. Why would a small business build a chicken coop on its roof?
Maloof’s father, Manuel Maloof, opened his namesake watering hole in 1956. Manuel’s Tavern has been an Atlanta institution for decades, a place where journalists and cops rub elbows with legislators, carpenters and college students as they belly up to the wooden bar. The same portrait of JFK has hung over the bar since the days when “unaccompanied women” were not welcome. It's surrounded by pennants of Atlanta sports franchises, past and present
But things haven’t been easy lately. So Maloof “put it out there in prayer” and waited.
“I just said, ‘Father, I don’t know what it is that you want me to do, but it sure has been tough. I need some help here,’” said Maloof, who left his paramedic job in 2001 to work at Manuel’s.
The response he got back was "chickens.”
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