Can the food movement save the environmental movement?


Sitting out on a sun-dappled hillside, looking out over the fruits, flowers and vegetables growing in abundance at Star Apple Edible Farms, it is easy to imagine living a healthy lifestyle, eating local food, in season. What happens to the sustainable dream when you head back to the City?

According to Stefani Bittner and Leslie Bennett of Star Apple Edible Farms, one can’t live in the City with the sustainability bar set at 100%. What can happen as one becomes more attuned to the benefits of the food revolution is that you grow what you can, and make a habit of visiting one of the many local farmers markets in the area. Says Leslie, “the more you know, the better choices you make.”

The simple farmers market has become a source of civic pride. Alice Waters is invited to the White House to plan a vegetable garden. Stefani and Leslie see these events as evidence that the people living in suburban and urban areas are quite literally, hungry for connection—with their neighbors, their communities and their food. At Star Apple, the owners are on a mission to demystify healthy growing and healthy eating, one garden at a time.

For more information, go to

Companions in your garden

Companions in your garden

Why do the words “companion planting” bring fear to the home gardener? According to the Star Apple Edible Garden’s Leslie Bennett and Stefani Bittner, companion gardening brings out the best in a garden’s beauty and its own ability to stave off plant-threatening insects without the use of poisons.

Leslie reminded The Real Story that the most alluring gardens that are the ones that are beautiful, aromatic and yield fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables. Companion planting is all about matching up nature’s own pairs, like tomatoes and basil (anyone for mozzarella?), carrots and onions (the carrot fly can’t get a scent of its favorite meal when onions are planted nearby) and lettuce and radishes. Not only does companion planting help create a lush landscape of healthy plants, but it means the home gardener has some delectable dishes in the making, just a few steps from the kitchen door.

While The Real Story was touring the Star Apple Edible Garden’s own organic raised bed plantings, the sound effects of chickens punctuated the conversation. Chickens, says Leslie, are the perfect animal component to the urban garden—unless of course, one lets them run free, and discovers that nothing loves organic salad makings as much as a vegetarian chicken.

Part Four of this four-part interview gets posted right after the Fourth of July weekend.  In the meantime, take a look at and give their blog a read.

Year-round gardening for a healthy kitchen

Year-round gardening for a healthy kitchen

Last month, The Real Story took to the road to visit the founders of Star Apple Edible Gardens in a backyard planted for year-round harvesting. Leslie Bennett and Stefani Bittner took us up to a deck overlooking a colorful and sustainable landscape, and talked about their business.

In today’s podcast, Leslie and Stefani talk about how edible gardens provide both a beautiful and productive setting with a varied plantscape that responds to the seasons. In California, edible gardens are productive year-round; the trick is to mix up fruit and vegetable plantings with flowering plants, matching low-spreading plants with those with some height and structure, and understanding that some plants actually protect the plants around it.

As a bit of advice to the home gardener who buys a six-pack of plants and ends up with too much of a good thing during its harvest, and then a bare spot in the yard, the women suggest dividing up that vegetable’s growing area into three sections. In the first go the already-growing plants. Seeds go into the next section, and the last section is left unplanted until all of the first section is harvested and the second section showing growth. Then the last section is planted in seeds, and the cycle of succession planting keeps the home gardener in the green all season long.

Stefani and Leslie provide some welcome advice about planting the kitchen garden close to the back door, so that the plants that one needs on a daily basis are literally within snipping distance, and not out in a far corner where the raccoons can feast.