Interview with Chef Dave Schmit

Interview and photos by Carolyn Eicher

Photo by Carolyn Eicher

Photo by Carolyn Eicher

Living on the Central Coast, Chef Dave Schmit enjoys being surrounded by fields and farms and getting to know farmers who grow all kinds of varieties of fresh produce. Dave, originally from Minnesota, and trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Minneapolis, has over 15 years of experience cooking at some of the finest restaurants including the Brentwood Country Club, Hotel Bel Air and The Beverly Hills Hotel. He has cooked for celebrities including Oprah, Robert Redford, Nancy Reagan and Michael Jackson among many others.  Dave and his wife Dana visited the Central Coast from Los Angeles numerous times on vacations, and jumped at the chance to move here in 2012 with Dana’s job at Rosetta.


In 2012 he decided to take a different turn in his work and applied for a part-time position as chef for the Maxine Lewis Homeless Shelter through CAPSLO (The Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County), cooking dinners for 100. To prep for the meals, Dave shops weekly at the Food Bank’s Oceano warehouse, selecting fresh ingredients, some of it donated and rescued by GleanSLO, all the while thinking of the nutritional needs of the clients.


Photo by Carolyn Eicher

Photo by Carolyn Eicher

In his role as shelter cook, he commonly uses a “flash/scratch” method which combines whole foods and large amounts of fresh produce with already prepared foods. Dave makes a variety of meals, both vegetarian and with meat, always trying to maximize the use of rescued and donated produce. During one of the interviews at the commercial kitchen where he works, I talked with Dave as he washed, prepped, chopped and stirred up a pot of lentil soup in a 64-quart pot with the same effort as someone making a meal for a family of four. Anyone who sees him in action and listens to him talk quickly grasps how talented he is, and how lucky we are to have him in our county.


“…whether for fine dining or the shelter, he said his focus is the same, on people enjoying food.”

GleanSLO manager Susan Singley asked Dave about the differences in cooking for the shelter compared to fine restaurants, and what he misses from his former positions. He shared that it’s the support and camaraderie from a team. The shelter cooking, however, is a one-person operation. But whether for fine dining or the shelter, he said his focus is the same, on people enjoying food. He likes the challenge of the shelter job as he comes up with new meals inspired by the variety and fresh produce available at the warehouse. He cooks intuitively, is well versed about food and can talk extensively about “food anthropology.”


Photo by Carolyn Eicher

Photo by Carolyn Eicher

Dave shared that he wishes people would see the complexity of living here with the abundance of food grown in our rich agricultural area and the importance of taking care of and feeding people in need. He would like to see more effort placed on better nutrition for the needy and awareness that more nutrient-dense food could help reduce health problems among them. He predicts that as resources diminish, there could be increasing demand for services and the importance of considering the needs of all people in our community.


Grilled Baby Leek Ravioli, Carrot Romesco Sauce, Cyprus Grove Chevre created by Chef Dave

Grilled Baby Leek Ravioli, Carrot Romesco Sauce, Cyprus Grove Chevre created by Chef Dave for the Winemaker Dinner at Wine, Waves & Beyond












Along with his part-time job for CAPSLO, Chef Dave caters private events, weddings, and special functions.  He will be a featured Chef in the Wine, Waves & Beyond Winemaker’s Dinner on May 2 to benefit GleanSLO. He can be reached at


Maxine Lewis Homeless Shelter

Welcome Susan Singley, our new GleanSLO Program Manager

Interview and Photo by Carolyn Eicher

Welcome Susan! Please tell us about yourself and your background:_MG_8803

My name is Susan Singley and I am incredibly happy to be the new Program Manager for GleanSLO! I recently relocated to SLO County from Fort Collins, Colorado. Simply put, my passions are community and food! I have had many incredible opportunities to work, learn and live in great places, with great people, and couldn’t be happier to have landed in San Luis Obispo County.

Most recently, I was working for a Food Bank, handling local food donations (including farms, gardens and gleanings) at the Food Bank for Larimer County.  I have a Master’s in Sociology from Colorado State University and did my undergraduate work in Sociology and Psychology at California University of Pennsylvania (It’s in a little town called California, PA, which was a Pittsburgh-area steel boom town, no relation to the UC or CSU system!).

When and how did you hear about GleanSLO?  What interests you about the work we do?

I learned about GleanSLO by accident!  I was researching the Food Banks in the Central Coast and reading more about the work they do, just to get a feel for where I might fit if I moved here.  When I found out about GleanSLO and the SLO Food Bank, and after reading the mission and vision I said out loud, “That is exactly what I want to be doing!”  The Program Manager position was not posted at the time, but when I checked back a couple weeks later, it was, and I sent out my resume and cover letter the next day. I’m really attracted to the gleaning movement because of all the needs that it meets for the community. Gleaning meets immediate food needs for those struggling to make ends meet for their families.  But that is just the beginning.  It also meets needs for people who want to help out and get connected to the land and just help out in some way – human beings have a strong need to feel deeply connected to the earth and to each other. And the act of gleaning is a very fulfilling for people who do it.  Gleaning also meets needs for farmers and backyard growers who invested time and resources into the food they grew.

Every grower I’ve ever met has one thing in common – they want to see their food eaten and not have their efforts go to waste!

The fact that the food is there – it’s being grown and resources are being invested in it – is incredibly motivating to me.  I believe that it is unacceptable that thousands of people (1 in 6 people in SLO County) struggle to put food on the table, while an estimated 58 million pounds of food goes unharvested.

Please tell us about the work you did in your last job. Anything that you hope to incorporate into your position at GleanSLO?

The deeper issues of poverty and inequality are complex, but there is one thing I have been convinced of since starting this work: I believe that hunger is a solvable problem.  Communities can come together to help meet needs of our most vulnerable populations, just by gathering the food that is already out there.

My last job involved working with all of the Food Bank for Larimer County’s local food donors – retail/grocery stores, food manufacturers, as well as farms, farmers markets and backyard gardeners.  I had been working really hard to build relationships between growers and backyard gardeners with that Food Bank, and part of the impact of that was helping change the community’s perspective on what a Food Bank does.  There is still sometimes an outdated idea that a Food Bank is a musty old food pantry full of outdated cans!  Modern Food Banks are amazing fresh food rescue organizations with a lot of logistical expertise!  Food Banks across the country have worked incredibly hard to build their own capacity and that of partner agencies to distribute fresh produce, dairy, meat and other healthy, nourishing foods.  The push for fresh food in Food Banks is driven by respect for the needs of our local families. If we really want to help, we need to provide them the best food possible to help nourish their lives.

I love helping growers and gardeners realize that they are making a real difference for people in need.

Do you have any ideas about the future of GleanSLO and the vision for a healthy community? How can we improve our work and our reach?

There is so much potential for GleanSLO. The founders, Steering Committee, staff and volunteers have done an incredible job of building a strong and sustainable program.  I’m so impressed with everyone I’ve met here!  I see the potential for community connections increasing as we see where the greatest needs are and how we can keep our program grassroots and flexible enough to see what the needs are and how to meet them. I definitely think there are more opportunities to partner with farms and do farm gleans more often, so I’ll be looking into how we can keep making those connections. I think our Neighborhood Harvest Leader program is a great way to empower our volunteers and expand our reach, and hope to see us training more harvest leaders as well. I think it’s important to take time to grow thoughtfully so I will be taking a lot of time to get settled in and find out where the community feels we need to focus next.

Will you share one of your favorite recipes?

I’m a huge fan of cooking in large batches (often over the weekend) and saving time on weeknights when I have less time to cook. I love making simple dishes like sautéed greens and roasted roots.  When I’m looking for new ideas, I love and

Carrots are one of my favorite foods, and the recipe below is one of my favorite ways to make them if I’m feeling like making something special. This is a dip/spread that I loved buying from the deli at the Fort Collins Food Cooperative. My friend Adam was also a huge fan and he asked the co-op for their recipe, so here it is:

Spicy Thai Carrot Insanity

First, shred about 1.5 pounds of carrots in a food processor and set aside.

Then mix up the following ingredients in the food processor:

2 cups peanut butter
1 cup peanuts
1 little jar of red curry paste
¼ cup (or to taste) tamari
¼  cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup organic coconut milk
2 cloves garlic mashed up
About an inch of ginger, mashed up with the garlic in the food processor
¼ c dried basil
Then add:

1 small bunch of scallions, sliced thin
1-2 colored bell peppers, chopped
The pre-shredded carrots from above
Mix one more time in food processor and add whatever you need to get it to a texture you like.  Enjoy in sandwiches, as a dip, with crackers, or by the spoonful!

Hand picked oranges at a Senior Farmers’ Market

Interviews and photos by Carolyn Eicher. 

Our GleanSLO interview this month features two residents in San Luis Obispo from Judson Terrace Homes which provides affordable housing for seniors 62 years and older. The Food Bank’s “Free Farmers’ Market Style” distribution is being held in the courtyard of Judson Terrace on a monthly basis since September of 2014.

photo by JenMost seniors are living on a fixed income and find it difficult to adjust to the ever increasing cost of living. Low income seniors comprise 20% of the Food Bank’s consumers. Senior farmers’ markets will help increase access to nutritious food to keep the fastest growing demographic in our community healthy and strong.

The day of our interviews, gleaned navel oranges from a local property in Arroyo Grande were being distributed, only 4 days after the glean, along with bunches of spinach, broccoli, onions, potatoes, carrots and more. Judson Terrace residents gathered and perused the tables of assorted produce, loading bags and push carts with the fruit and vegetables of their choice. Volunteers helping at the farmers’ market distribution enjoyed telling the story of the gleaned oranges and recipients gladly bagged oranges, hand picked, just for them.


“I like the variety of produce offered and think the program is excellent.” ~Paul

Paul, pictured here, shared his enthusiasm for the produce he receives from the monthly distributions which often includes local produce from GleanSLO. He particularly enjoys local, and preferably organic produce. During the interview, Paul shared his interests in healthy food and used the term, “health nut” to describe himself, as he takes pride in being healthy and physically active and eating well.



Maria has also been receiving food distributions from the Food Bank and enjoys cooking for herself and her husband as well as other residents at Judson Terrace. Maria frequently makes soup from the produce she receives and shares often with ill residents or those who may not be able to make their own meals or get out easily on their own.

The farmers’ market style distributions are the SLO Food Bank’s fastest growing model to distribute fresh produce. The farmers’ markets have been extremely successful, offering a wide range of produce and the option for consumers to choose which items they prefer.


Check out the Food Bank website to find a food distribution near you or to learn more about the Farmers’ Market Distributions.

Gleanin’ for the Holidays!

Guest blogger: Emma Phillips, GleanSLO intern from Brown University

Emma harvesting radishes at Talley Farms

Emma harvesting radishes at Talley Farms

After finishing up another semester of college on the colder coast, I was glad to head from East to West for winter break and a break from winter. Most of the vegetables I’ve been eating lately in Providence, RI have been flash frozen, and not always intentionally. As an urban studies major, I focus on urban agriculture, and how community gardens can serve to revitalize neighborhoods, provide nutrient dense produce, and gainful employment for refugee communities. As I drove from San Luis Obispo to Talley Farms to glean, Orcutt Road’s rolling vineyards quickly made it clear I’d left the urban behind, and was headed back into the heart of Central California agriculture land I was raised on.

We began the morning harvesting lettuce, a quick and easy crop that left us feeling accomplished as we filled crates faster than we could unpack them from the truck. After leaving lettuce behind, and heading over to the leek field, we quickly learned the extent of our expertise, though. Leeks proved much trickier, requiring skilled paring skills that we slowly mastered. Gradually moving to fill even one box collectively, I couldn’t help but grin as Talley Farm’s employees left the adjacent field for their lunch break, as they must have found our novice attempts at leek harvesting quite comical. Nonetheless, after a mid-harvest secondary tutorial on proper leek harvesting methods, we managed to scrape up enough produce for leek soup, or stone soup at the very least.

Our last glean before Christmas, also at Talley Farms, brought together a tenacious crew. A preschool teacher, recent college graduate, an aspiring flight attendant, young professionals, and retirees all stooped over and got nice and dirty in a mud thick enough to rival the heartiest holiday eggnog. As we clipped away bunches of arugula, our biggest worry was tying the stems tight enough to survive transit. At the peak of the holiday season, the red and green of the radishes was fitting, and along with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads, were the visions of fresh picked veggies making their ways onto the tables of local families.

SLO Creek Farms, first GleanSLO partner

Interview with Robyn Gable of SLO Creek Farms, by Carolyn Eicher

“Working with GleanSLO was one of the best decisions we’ve made.” ~Robyn Gable

2015 will mark the 5th anniversary of working with SLO Creek Farms. GleanSLO has had the privilege to work with the Gable family (Blythe, Robyn, Ashley, Brandon, Taysia) over these years. They are generous, open and always willing to support our work. GleanSLO is happy to partner with SLO Creek Farms!

Robyn and Blythe Gable at the farmers' market.

Robyn and Blythe Gable at the farmers’ market.

Robyn’s interview:

“Blythe and I were raised and met in Simi Valley, California. We moved to Las Vegas in 1973, got married and raised our family there. We had a thriving construction company and would occasionally come to San Luis Obispo to visit.  We loved the area, and eventually bought our apple orchard approximately 14 years ago. We leased it back to John DeVincenzo, until he passed away 5 years ago.”

“At that time, we decided to open up the farm as a U-Pick, so people could come enjoy the orchard. The previous accounts John had with produce buyers were not available to us, and we had an abundance of apples that we did not know what to do with. We decided to call the food bank to see if they would be interested in a large donation of apples.  GleanSLO  came out with some volunteers and harvested an abundance of apples. That was the beginning of our continuing relationship. That was the one of the best decisions we made, teaming up with the most amazing organization, workers and volunteers.  We are very thankful for the food bank and all the great work they do.”

“One of the things I really admire about GleanSLO is how innovative they are in figuring out different ways to get harvested food to the people in need. I recently heard about the farmers market they set up for people to come and shop for what they need for their families at no cost. They are very passionate about what they do and how they can get more fresh produce to less fortunate families.”

Donating Greens

In this season of giving, we look to you, our friends to help us through the next year of harvesting nature’s bounty…

Gleaning is a viable part of the solution to hunger. 

Thank you for being part of the change!

Photo credit: Carolyn Eicher

Photo credit: Carolyn Eicher

GleanSLO is a volunteer powered program of the Food Bank, harvesting and sharing food for the benefit of our community. Since our modest roots in 2010, we’ve harvested 559,000 pounds of fresh, local produce for families and individuals in need.

What can you get for one dollar at GleanSLO? Every dollar you donate equals roughly 14 pounds of healthy produce for families and individuals from the Food Bank. How about that bin of fresh apples in the photo below… equivalent to a donation of $50! Thinking of something a little bigger? A donation of $1,250 would equal an entire truckload of produce for those in need.

GleanSLO uses existing Food Bank resources and overwhelming volunteer support to minimize overhead and leverage donations to have the greatest impact possible.

15347978341_e6a44e37fe_kReady to help? Follow the link to make a secure online donation to support GleanSLO’s work.

donate now


Checks can be made out to the Food Bank Coalition of SLO County (GleanSLO in the memo) and mailed to:

Food Bank Coalition of SLO County

P.O. Box 2070

Paso Robles, CA 93447

Meet Nell Wade, a gleaner with vision!

Interview with Nell Wade by Carolyn Eicher
Nell Wade joined the GleanSLO Steering Committee this year and we are so happy she did!  Nell is a woman of many talents and offers her expertise, enthusiasm and passion for gleaning and giving back to the community. Nell spends her time involved with many local groups – she is a VP for Master Gardeners, a local group of Seed Savers, and is involved with helping revitalize the SLO Grange. Additionally, she is a member of Slow Money, the Food System Coalition and the local chapter of CRFG (California Rare Fruit Growers) where she is the Market manager for the free Annual Scion Exchange at Cal Poly in February (3rd Saturday). At this event Nell wants to share that homeowners can learn to graft fruit trees and items such as root stock are sold. Nell brings so much wisdom and experience to our committee and is helping us expand the vision of gleaning for our county.

Nell harvesting thousands of pounds of tomatoes for the Food Bank.

“My name is Nell Wade.  I’ve always been interested in growing plants and became a Master Gardener in 2002.  Since moving to the area, I’ve also become interested in growing food, our local food climate and our local food system.  I started volunteering with GleanSLO a couple of years ago as a way to not only get fresh produce to those in need, but also to have a chance to sample different varieties of local produce.  I’ve dried apple chips; made fruit leather, and made freezer jam from the produce we’ve gleaned that are ‘seconds.’  I’ve also been experimenting with drying herbs from my garden.”
“My favorite thought is that from my labor a child or family can have nutritious produce several times a week.  It also gives me a better perspective of what it takes to harvest a crop and I’m less likely to waste it.”
“I now treat organic produce, whether I’ve bought it, grown it or gleaned it with respect as I want to honor the people that have picked my produce.  It’s exciting to me to see how I can use every bit of the produce, whether that’s feeding ourselves, our chickens or worms or feeding the soil – by composting it.  My vision for GleanSLO as well as the Food Bank is to insure that all in need have the capacity to help themselves to quality food.  That can be done not only by giving them weekly allotments of food, but also to teach them how to garden, preserve (canning, freezing and dehydrating) and build community, so that they have the tools to help themselves and their families.”

Farm Spotlight: Talley Farms in Arroyo Grande, CA

“The Talley family and our employees are pleased to ship weekly fresh produce to the Food Bank.  We believe that providing the opportunity for GleanSLO volunteers to come in and glean our fields is another way to care for those in need.  The enthusiasm of the volunteers from Glean SLO makes working with them a real pleasure as we come together to support our community. “ 

Todd Talley, CFO, Talley Farms

Pictured above are Brian Talley, Olivia Talley (center photo), Mission College Prep students, Charlee Bunnell (SLO Food Bank employee), Andrea Shapiro Chavez (Manager, Talley Farms Fresh Harvest).

Pictured above are Brian Talley, Olivia Talley (center photo), Mission College Prep students, Charlee Bunnell (SLO Food Bank employee), Andrea Shapiro Chavez (Manager, Talley Farms Fresh Harvest).

The Talley family has been donating harvested weekly fresh produce to the Food Bank for more than 4 years, donating more than 300,000 pounds of food since 2010. The Oceano Food Bank warehouse team has been receiving this produce and sharing it within 24 hours with Food Bank agencies and recipients. In 2012, the Talley family generously welcomed GleanSLO and Mission College Preparatory Catholic High School students for a bell pepper glean. Hosted by Brian and Johnine Talley as well as their daughters, this glean opened the door to future opportunities. GleanSLO is grateful to the Talley family, both family members and employees, for their generous spirit in not only allowing us into their fields, but by additionally believing in the importance of supporting a healthy community and donating already harvested produce each week. We want to thank the Talley family for their generous contributions!


Interview with Andrea Shapiro Chavez by Carolyn Eicher


Please share information about you and your background:

Andrea Shapiro ChavezManager, Fresh HarvestTalley Farms

Andrea is a Cal Poly graduate, earning a degree in Economics in 1980.  She has spent the last 30 years working at various levels in the produce business from Western Regional Sales Manager for Dole Fresh Vegetables, to being a Buying Broker, shipping produce all over the world, to owning her own business for 13 years delivering fresh produce and gourmet food to homes and offices in Southern California.  In February of 2012, Talley Farms hired her to create a new, local, consumer program for them called Talley Farms Fresh Harvest.  As a mother, wife and cook who loves fruits and vegetables, her passion in life is to “GET PEOPLE TO EAT MORE PRODUCE!”


We would love to know more about the Talley history! 


For over three generations, Talley Farms has been growing high quality fruits and vegetables.  It all started in 1948, when Oliver Talley began growing vegetables in the Arroyo Grande Valley on California’s Central Coast.  Talley Farms is now a diversified family-owned farming operation that grows, packs and ships a variety of fruits and vegetables, including bell peppers, wine grapes, napa cabbage, lemons, avocados, cilantro and brussels sprouts.  Brian, Todd, Ryan and Rosemary Talley are active in all aspects of the day-to-day operations of Talley Farms, following the company’s vision to strive for “Excellence in Everything.”


What is your connection to gleaning and GleanSLO?

I first heard about GleanSLO from participating in the SLO County Food System Coalition.  I always think of calling Jen Miller, GleanSLO Program Manager, when we have extra product in our Fresh Harvest fields and don’t have the labor to harvest it.  Jen is so enthusiastic about life and her job with the food bank.  I love communicating with her!  If we have the labor, we’ll go ahead and harvest the product and then donate it directly to the food bank.


What do you like about GleanSLO?

What I like the most about GleanSLO is we don’t have to use our labor to harvest a crop that we have chosen not to sell.  And it doesn’t get wasted!  All the volunteers are so positive and energetic.  It’s great to see them out in our fields!


Can you share ideas with us about the future of GleanSLO and the vision for a healthy community?


As the word gets out about GleanSLO and your ability to gather your volunteer troops to harvest, more and more growers will be calling you to finish up certain fields that they may not want to sell due to market conditions.  There are three of us at Talley Farms that communicates with Jen about fields available for gleaning.  As Jen gets to know more and more growers, there will be more product available for the food bank.


Any messages you’d like to share with other farmers who might be considering working with GleanSLO? 

Jen Miller is the key to having a warm and consistent relationship with GleanSLO and the food bank.  We are also happy to see volunteers who are aware of food safety standards that we follow in our fields.  We do not usually allow volunteers or strangers in our fields.

50 volunteers gleaned over 6,000 pounds of bell peppers and onions in less than 2 hours at Talley Farms.

50 volunteers gleaned over 6,000 pounds of bell peppers and onions in less than 2 hours at Talley Farms.