Cultivating Togetherness: Slow Food partners with local artist, Love Andreyev
Did you know you can tell time from your shadow? Slow Food volunteer Michael Raffaeli does. And he wasted no time sharing with a reporter from the Sierra Sun, on her first day on the job, how clocks aren’t necessary when you’ve got your shadow.
According to Raffaeli, as the sun ascends, shadows will initially stretch westward, reaching their shortest length around midday. Subsequently, they will extend eastward, gradually lengthening until sunset. This consistent shift in length serves as a reliable method for estimating the time. At the Slow Food community garden at Truckee River Regional Park, you never know what valuable knowledge you might pick up.
Slow Food Lake Tahoe is dedicated to fostering a self-sufficient food culture in the community. Their goal is to educate people about cultivating, preparing, and obtaining local and sustainable food, emphasizing the importance of good, clean, and fair food accessibility to everyone.
Recognizing the high costs in Lake Tahoe, Slow Food is actively working to make organic, affordable food a reality for all. Rather than opting for fast food, individuals facing food insecurity have the option to provide themselves and their families with nourishing meals at no cost.
Slow Food continues to produce tangible results with the help of big-hearted volunteers. In the last three weeks, Slow Food has harvested over 240 pounds of food, averaging around 700 pounds annually. Additionally, 284 children have participated in composting education this season, with each receiving a seed pod to take home. Volunteer hours have seen a 29% increase, with 2022 totaling 339 hours and 2023 reaching 436 hours.
Patti Taggart, Slow Food Board Member since 2019, and co-director of the community and food bank gardens, truly believes in the power of their work.
“Educating the community so they can become more self-sufficient in growing their own food is the best part. I’m also very fond of our mission for feeding people who can’t afford good, clean, fair food. All of the food goes to the Sierra Community House Hunger Relief Program. Instead of eating potato chips, someone could eat carrot chips,” Taggart said.
Slow Food’s garden manager, known as Farmer Joe, Joey Eberhardt, has been instrumental in the success of the Slow Food movement. His expertise in high-altitude farming has been shared with community members to ensure bountiful crop yields. Cultivating food at high altitudes can be uncertain, particularly in Truckee where frost is a year-round possibility. As Eberhardt puts it, “There’s no safe period.” Nevertheless, this year, Slow Food’s crops remarkably avoided frost for a continuous 90-day period.
“The connection is the best part. To bring this back to my community that I grew up in brings me a lot of joy. You never know what to expect,” said Eberhardt.
Volunteers drawn to Slow Food tend to stick around for years. Michael and Jen Raffaeli, a husband-and-wife team, have been devoted volunteers at Slow Food for three years. They relocated from Alaska in April 2020, amid the height of the COVID pandemic. Michael’s particular focus at Slow Food is composting.
“It’s the trash to treasure concept. Taking what would be waste and turning it into something that is usable in the garden but more importantly a gift to the community. Compost grows to fortify the food we are growing to give to people in need. And from an ecological perspective, compost reduces greenhouse gasses that would be emitted if food waste went to the landfill,” Michael said.
Jen Raffaeli sees pruning as a meditative practice. She enjoys engaging in conversations with people about their planting and pruning methods, learning the hows and whys.
“The best part is seeing that transformation from week to week in the garden and the collective knowledge that’s here. You see change all the time,” Jen said.
Even Tina Biteler and her daughter Jovie stopped by. From a young age, Jovie has been assisting her grandmother in harvesting beans from her garden in Minnesota.
“We spend many days here,” Jovie said.
Tina and Jovie make it a point to volunteer every week or every other week. Additionally, they cultivate herbs like mint and basil at their own home to keep their green thumbs alive.
Recently, Slow Food organized a community event led by Love Andreyev, inviting community members and volunteers to contribute to an artistic project. The goal was to paint the walls of the garden container shed together.
Local artist and Russian transplant, Love Andreyev, epitomizes the Russian word for love – lyubov. She’s a free spirit who DJs at Dark Horse Coffee Roasters and has an eye for photography. Her most recent photoshoot was for local doulas looking to revamp their website (check them out at Doulacoop.org). That’s all to say, Andreyev is remarkably open-minded and has a distinct vigor for life.
Andreyev first got involved with Slow Food as a receiver.
“Since I’ve been a volunteer and received the food grown in the garden–I see what an interconnected web this is.” Volunteers show up here to plant and harvest and the food is donated. You can be part of that loop and then benefit by actually receiving it. There’s no shame in being in need,” Andreyev said.
Teaming up with Slow Food, Andreyev set out on a mission to transform the walls of the garden container shed into an unforgettable mural. What initially was a lackluster, weathered steel box will metamorphose into a statement piece. The mural will feature a scannable QR code, which, when activated, will lead individuals to the “Get Involved” page on Slow Food’s website. Community members were also invited to add to the mural by trying their hand at what Andreyev refers to as “doodle gridding.” Doodle gridding involves using tape to outline painting areas, leading to greater precision in the process.
Amy Fagel, current President of Slow Food recognizes and appreciates Andreyev’s undeniable passion for social change through art.
“We are so grateful that Love is doing this. For her to step in and see the need to make the garden container shed beautiful, and to combine her passion with a need in the community, is really special,” said Fagel.
Slow Food Lake Tahoe is ripe with crops (and opportunities) to get involved and make a positive impact. You can volunteer at the food bank or community gardens, take part in educational programs for growing your own food, engage in community skill-sharing, join the salmon buying club, participate in compost collection, and raise awareness through art with the “Don’t Drop the Top” project, which repurposes plastic lids and caps into benches. Explore all these opportunities for impact at Slowfoodlaketahoe.org.
Andreyev initially started volunteering at Slow Food and the Truckee Roundhouse, a non-profit makerspace that fosters the teaching, learning, and practice of various crafts, skills, technologies, and arts within the Truckee-Tahoe community. This choice was a tribute to her grandmother, an avid gardener and seamstress who practically raised her.
Little did she know, Slow Food would evolve into much more than a homage to her grandmother, but a community that embraces her for every fiber of who she is. Andreyev emigrated from Russia to the United States when she was only eight months old. While her parents have never been supportive of her involvement in the LGBTQIA+ community, at Slow Food, she finds a space where she can freely express her identity.
“There’s a community out there and we aren’t meant to go it alone. I feel like I found my chosen family here,” Andreyev said.
Andreyev turns to art as a means to manage chronic pain and address mental health challenges. Her relentless pursuit of learning and personal growth led her to establish the California Creative Corps Grant. This initiative directly compensates artists for their creations that tackle crucial topics such as social justice, public health, civic engagement, and environmental concerns.
“I don’t want to be creating in isolation. We are made to be curious and play,” Andreyev said. “To anyone who feels isolated or is losing hope–showing up is the first step. Once I show up I’m like, ‘This is giving me life. This is where I want to be and I’m so grateful.'”
Andreyev also initiated The Art MART, which stands for Art Mutual Air Resource Trade, a free art supply pantry for the Tahoe-Truckee community. It will open monthly, stocked with community-donated supplies and potentially new purchases through monetary contributions. Currently, two shelves are dedicated to the project, with expansion plans. Visit her Instagram: @artmartattal.
Here’s a mock-up of the final mural product:
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