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Category Archives: Food Warrior Winter 2012

Explore Natures Strength – Wild Edibles Demystified

When a chef tells me, he or she prefers ingredients via a particular farm, I don’t just ask why but also quickly be-line to that farm stand. Chef Angus just purchased a few vegetables from Crack in the Sidewalk Farmlet, when I encountered him at the East Atlanta Farmers Market. Angus, who’s previously incorporated local farm goods from Many Fold Farms at Miller Union, has come up with a deliciously distinct late night menu for Octopus Bar in East Atlanta Village. Who says your taste buds don’t need indulgence at 3am!

While browsing the vegetable selection at Crack in the Sidewalk’s stand, bags of small leaved, dark green salad mixes, topped with wood sorrel flowers catch my eye. My senses tell me this is what I want! The wild edible salad mix includes next to Wood Sorrel, Henbit, Dead-nettle alongside other Georgia native greens. The flavors are so potent and nutrient dense it can be used as a garnish, mixed in with cultivated lettuces or as an added spice to soups, terrains, simply let your creativity run wild – pun intended.

Coincidentally, Chris & Isiah who run the 2 acre Farmlet are offering a Wild Edibles workshop the same weekend. The farm is nestled next to a golf course and an array of sporadically populated and foreclosed homes. The couple moved to the location roughly four years ago. Since then next to cultivating plants via traditional agricultural methods, the lands native plants have become part of their harvest. A quite genius approach to farming utilizes the adaptable strength of wild plants to create an ecologically balanced & diversified approach to winning food from the land.

‘With Foraging’ , as Chris explains, ’there is a significant amount of opportunity, to connect with the areas around you.’ Once you become aware of edible wild greens, berries, pecans etc. you can find them everywhere, even in downtown major cities, parks or the middle of neighborhoods. Miseducation throughout generations, however, has perpetuated the stigma of wild foods being poisonous and/or polluted. In reality the amount of poisonous wild edibles is rather small and wild foods that might even kill you are proportionally speaking even smaller. The advantages of wild foods next to promoting health and self-sufficiency, also include:

  • Easier to cultivate due to plants strong sense of adaptability and resistance to bugs (seed saving)
  • Incredibly nutrient dense
  • Healing properties
  • Young leaves are most tender and delicious
  • Take little to no work
  • Free

While nature creates abundance and can in fact include poisonous species, it is important to study plants in order to know how to identify them correctly. Nevertheless, the healing compounds of plantains for instance can aid bee stings or snake bites or consider the super food characteristics of Mulberries, which can literally be found anywhere in Atlanta, making wild foods a worthwhile study for the adventurous urban or suburban dweller.

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100% Heirloom with Georgia Natives on its sleeve

Noring Farm is nestled at the end of a slender country road mainly populated by horse pastures. Newton county, as farmer Andrew Norman mentions, an agrarian county, provides a tremendous network. Neighbors are exchanging wheat straw, manure, advice – whatever fits their needs as they arise. During my visit a neighbor takes her dog for a walk down the farms’ long wooded driveway, a regular occurrence, illustrating further what a healthy, sharing community looks like. As simple as it sounds, coming from Atlanta , where people fight over parking spots & BBQ smoke, this strikes me as a small miracle.

The farm is in its second spring and soil amendments are still shaping up to their nutrient dense potential. Andrew grew up on a farm & knows well how to perfect the ground that not long ago served as horse pasture. I get a  chance to try a few of his heirloom vegetables. Immediately, my taste buds are engaged by their savoring complexities. Heirloom produce reminds me of an exquisite handcrafted piece of chocolate. The purple asparagus I taste comes straight out of the ground and incorporates various flavors as you keep eating it. The original carrot, Andrew enlightens me, was almost black due to its nutrient dense pigmentation. Every vegetable you can think off has numerous sub-varieties, each with its own flavor, colouring and shape.

Noring Farms, however, doesn’t just harvest exotic plants and French Copper Maran chicken eggs but is also home to a variety of Georgia native fruit trees, such as the Mayhaw & Chicken Saw Plums. The unique character of the farm reflects the individuals who own it, show casing and preserving varieties that are inspiring to any chef, whilst incorporating an indigenous variation of produce along side. Check out the full interview & take a peak at the farm during its early spring planting face below.

~ Live Well & Be Merry ~

Food Warrior Winter Internship 2012

Arepa Mia – Simple from the Heart kinda Food

Happy Stomach    Warm Heart

Arepa Mia‘s slogan resonates loud & clear with any hungry soul. For good reason, this simple scrumptious dish, prepared by Venezuelan Native Lisbet Hernadez, hits the spot every time!

An arepa is a traditional South American dish, originated in Venezuela, prepared & used much like bread. Instead of wheat, arepas are made from the base of ground corn and are often served in street side stands, restaurants or at home.

Liz Hernandez prepares her arepas by hand with locally sourced ingredients. The meats she uses come from Riverview Farms, vegetables are sourced via Woodland Farms among others. Learn more about Liz & the story behind her Arepas in the following clip.

~Live well & Be merry~

The Funny Farm – Sustainability for Suburbia

How do you run a fully functioning farm in a suburban neighborhood setting? Duane Marcus would certainly know. He’s been implementing a completely unique farming model over the past five years. Duane is well known in the Atlanta gardening community & has over 30 years of organic farming experience. Currently, he manages the Decatur Farmers Market, while selling his own harvested vegetables & herbs. A personal favorite of mine: the Funny Farm’s braising mix that includes edible flowers, blossoms & a simple variety of dark greens, excellent if flash-sauteed with a hint of braggs or even as salad mix.

When I show up on the coattails of a warmer than usual Georgia Winter everything in his garden is starting to or already is flowering. I find him in the back of his house, prepping seedlings for soil transplanting.

Astoundingly, the 3 acres surrounding his home in Stone Mountain, Georgia are producing a large variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, woody flowers – you name it. Hard to believe it was only five years ago Duane plowed & dumped a truck load of compost on the ground of what looked like a typical suburb front yard, mostly commuter grass & a few perennials here and there. He really knows how to utilize the setting of his land! On the edges near the road where it tends to be more shady, mostly fruit trees have been planted. He explains that location and environment resemble the trees natural habitat. The harvest success of last years manking cherry tree of over 5000 cherries, echos his statement. In addition, the economy of planting manking makes even more sense for suburbanites, not requiring a second variation of cherry tree to pollinate. Maximizing space usage is what this type of gardening is all about.

One gardening bed was in fact over planted with a secondary crop. Duane explains that once he puts carrot seedlings in the ground it takes a couple of weeks for them to germinate; meanwhile he plants arugula on top, utilizing the rich organic properties of his soil, enabling him to harvest 100 lbs of arugula before the carrots get pulled out.

Farmer Marcus’ bag of farming tricks seems limitless. I listen closely to him describing adequate water usage. Most people, he notes, tend to over water, killing their plants faster in fact than not watering enough. He typically waters very little and during drought seasons he hand waters so he can put the water right when & where he needs it. Luckily, this particular suburb was designed with a .5 acre pond as well, situated conveniently next to Duane’s backyard. Every fully functioning farm will contain a body of water or be able to access one nearby, a crucial element necessary for livestock and crops to flourish.

If you need more advice, inspiration or just want to see what happens at the Funny Farm check out their blog or sign up for a gardening class. Hurry they sell out quickly! As a big coffee & tea drinker, for example, I am learning how to use these compounds for growing mushrooms. (read more – here) Neat – right?!

My favorite aspect about visiting the Funny Farm has to be the application of permaculture principals to a suburban setting. The amount of adaptability and creativity we can employ when it comes to growing food is solely dependent on our drive. With resources present in our communities of people, land and nature we have what it takes. One of the most reiterated common sense principals every farmer will tell you: Use what you got & make it work!

~Live well & Be merry~

Food Warrior Internship Winter 2012

Many Fold Farm – Part of a new generation

Many Fold Farm is located in Palmetto, Georgia in a beautiful country side with a total of 101 acres, 28 acres of which are dedicated to pasture. Rebecca & Ross Williams have run their farm near Fayetteville for about three years. Mostly East Friesian sheep are making up the herd at Many Fold Farm, along with 80-150 chickens, 150 adult sheep and their 75-80 (and more every day) lambs that get moved to a different field once a day.

The husband & wife team are in full swing of their lambing season at Many Fold Farm. They are getting ready to start a sheep creamery this summer, inevitably kicking the work load up a notch with milking the sheep every two to three hours.

A typical day starts out by feeding the chickens and moving the sheep. Emergency tasks arise as with any business, in this instance a waterline busted in one of the fields & needed to be fixed.

One of their biggest challenges is finding and connecting to the right vet that’s accessible not necessarily in the same area, although preferred but that could even be reached via skype while out on the field.

Farmer Ross Williams went to Warren Wilson College, right outside of Asheville North Carolina, a work college that in addition to class room studies offers 15 hours of work studies out on the farm. Farmer Rebecca’s family has had a garden ever since she can remember and she since then has jumped right in and learned everything she knows out on the field.

The farming system they incorporate can be described as grass based system, with some stacking of different type of life stock in a rotational grass zone. The grazing follows a pattern of disturb and then rest. First disturbing an area by letting sheep graze, followed by a rest period of many weeks or months to help maximize the grass and growing.

Sheep have their very own species specific characteristics and associated prejudices. What some people may mistake as meek or weak, sheep farmers call a timid curiosity. They are quiet animals that are very smart in their own way. Although smart as individuals, Farmer Ross tells me, they are really smart as a whole. Sheep, true hurt animals, operate as a unit when they come together.

What I found most intriguing besides the very calming ambiance produced by the chewing noise of the sheep grazing, is that the milk sheep produce is very rich in property, perfectly suited for certain skin type products and cheeses that I am only imagining to taste as of now. I will certainly check back once the creamery is in place and am looking forward to more Many Fold Farm goodness.

co·ex·ist

The very definition of the verb (to) coexist is to exist together or at the same time; also to live in peace with each other especially as a matter of policy. Our local food system coexists next to the dominant industrialized food production system in part as a matter of policy. This becomes especially apparent as I pass traditional livestock farm land, some of which has been foreclosed on or is for sale, on my way to Darby Farms in Good Hope, Georgia.  The weather is beautiful, with temperatures again in the upper 60s. I couldn’t have wished for a better day. In the driveway, I am greeted by a couple of chickens and a curious black cat. Daniel Dover, owner and operator of Darby Farms is close to follow.

The farm is in its last weeks of off-season with preparations taking place for the 9 month on-cycle starting at the end of February/ beginning of March, Daniel Dover explains. He uses the three months off to adapt his malleable farming system and also to switch into a different mode. “Everything has its season”, Daniel tells me,” pastured poultry has its season really at the beginning of March.” The months prior, the weather is simply too crazy for laying hens. The fluctuations of temperatures and conditions stress them out. They tend to eat more without gaining much weight.

A lot of people may mistake farming for a constant overload of strenuous work. Darby Farms does run on a management intensive farming system but with more flexibility and a less rigid approach. He moves animals, trailers, fencing, composts you name it all for good reason, to not cause environmental damage and to diversify the land. Rotation of different species on the land is much like rotating different crops. Diversification simply helps keep the land fertile. Whereas, conventional farmers work day in and day out because they don’t feel like they have any other choice, locked in by loans for up to 30 years in some cases. Some commercial farmers have committed suicide due to the industrial farming standards, loan entrapment, or upgrades demanded by for instance the poultry industry that will cost them their contracts if avoided. Others bulldoze down their farms and sell off the scrap metal, once the loans have been repaid. Daniel Dover fittingly describes it as a system of indentured servitude; not a system anyone wants to particularly participate in but farmers just don’t know any other way to run their farms. Ironically most of these industrial farmers can’t make enough money farming, forcing them to go into construction or other fields to make up the difference. In short, it doesn’t make any sense.

Daniel says, his farming style is more productive per acre than any industrial farm, due to him running multiple species over the same amount of land. Rather than focusing on efficiency and regarding human costs, including health insurance, as an adjustable variable, Daniel Dover doesn’t regard anything on his farm as a single use but multiple use application. He intentionally goes below market demand to ensure that he doesn’t sit on stock pile of goods in his freezers. Big AG. on the other hand constantly over produces , forcing them to go into other markets, shipping meat goods to China inevitably clouding the real cost of making meat.

A fellow farmer stops by during my visit. He raises next to chickens also cubbies of quail, hardly ever seen in the wild anymore, especially not as a cubby. The two farmers’ exchange of ideas and resourceful approaches seem to amplify once they start talking. I hope to come back to visit the cubby of quail and learn more about the species and its farmer. At this point a few of my previous conceived notions have been thrown out of the window. The farm including deep litter compost, meat compost, the animals and ground they live on smell earthy and natural to me. Farming seems ultimately rewarding, joyful and connected to the land, animals and people, keeping one intellectually engaged by having to find solutions and adaptability to problems that are sure to arise.

At the end I post the question “If you could envision anything for the future of the American Food System, what would that look like?” Daniel Dover swiftly replies: “Decentralization, spreading out the food system into the regions & the regions feeding themselves, not only would that create a greater more robust economy, we would have traceability on food borne illnesses.”

On my way back to Atlanta countless of semi-trucks are passing me by. I am too quickly reminded of the more powerful agricultural industry. The only difference is now I know there is room for other farming methods to not just make a viable living with but that enrich our bodies and communities – that coexist.

H & F Bread – A Glimpse into the Process

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H&F Bread Co. runs a 24 hours operation involving scaling and measuring ingredients for making the bread dough.

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This is one of their two industrial ovens that helps create the deliciousness called H&F Bread Co.

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Here is the baker loading the ciabatta dough onto the trays for another round of baking. H&F in its current location only houses two ovens, hence the 24 hour work cycle.

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A constant buzzing of work.

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Need an H&F Bread fix? You can find these goods at markets such as Emory Farmers Market, East Atlanta Village Farmers Market, Peachtree Road Market, Grant Park Farmers Market & Dunwoody Green Market!

H&F Bread can as well be located on the Farm Mobile and they got a pop up market every Saturday Morning at Holeman & Finch Public House!

Decimal . Place Farm – 18 Acres of Goat Heaven

On the outskirts of the East side of Atlanta lays the popular Hipster landmark the Starlight Drive In; once passed, the eye meets billboards, gas stations and neighborhoods sprawling of a main road. Inconspicuously tugged away in the midst of a sleepy neighborhood are 18 acres of goat country – white Saanen dairy goat ‘country’ to be exact.

It’s a dreary day when I pull up to Decimal Place Farm. I know I am at the right place when I see a line of white goats standing on the higher ground looking towards me. Nestled at the end of a cul da sec Mary Rigdon has appropriately named her farm Decimal Place Farm.  She walks swiftly towards the car and directs me to the gate that leads to the goats and milking facility. I notice the acres of land surrounding us as the car slowly follows behind her steps in the mud.

Mary has been a dairy goat farmer for over 20 years and the land in Conley, Georgia for 17 years in her possession. It took patience and perseverance to acquire this land. Once she owned it, a milking facility had to be built and the right dairy equipment needed to be purchased. The process required assessing her resources critically, understanding how power lines were laid out & addressing functionality by getting the goats in and out of the buildings most efficiently. All of which she accomplished by using the means she had. In a time of credit defaults Mary’s sensible approach makes her somewhat of a modern day hero.

Her goats are having babies during the first few months of the year and I get a brief look into just how busy she gets. Mary is feeding the babies and checking on the becoming mothers periodically, meanwhile the rest of the herd still has to be milked. The days have a rhythm. She takes me outside to one of the grasing areas, while telling me how her lifestyle approach may be more of what people are talking about now and farm life is seeping into the mainstream but she has been living this way since the early 80s. She explains that in order to build the herd and utilize the land fencing had to be done. Grazing plots, comprised of clover, rye grass, a nitrogen fixing grass mix were created for limit grazing spans also called mammoth grazing. Mary tiled a few rows of soil for crop mob to come in and finish the sowing for new grazing plots. Crop Mob will also fix one of her fences and help get debris out of the creek.

Crop Mob, an initiative of young farmers and land enthusiasts, come together to help local farmers with a variety of projects around their farm. It builds the type of community interaction less reliant on monetary exchange. Being outside and learning some hands on farming know how, derived from years of experience, are plenty of reward for getting your hands dirty. At the end of each crop mob-tastic work day a dinner is shared between all the volunteers and farmers.

At the end of our excursion through the 18 acres of Decimal Place Farm, she hands me back my seven month old, that’s been carefully observing everything from her arms. She tells me about groups of children coming to the farm to learn about dairy goats, land preservation, gardening and making a living in this manner. When I ask her if she could envision anything for the future of the American food system, what would that look like, she takes time to think before answering. In her point of view we all receive the same amount of hours in the day. What we do with them is up to us & ultimately defines who we are. She questions peoples ingenuity or lack thereof. When a neighbor gives you grits in exchange for some of your goods, you learn how versatile that item can be. Furthermore, she adds she doesn’t like okra or rather the way most people in the south cook it but its an awfully space conducive and high yield type of vegetable. Therefore, she researched how to prepare Okra resulting in a dish sans a slightly gooey texture and utilizes its properties on her farm.

Did I mention just how delicious Decimal Place Farm goat cheese is? Seriously, you can’t go wrong with trying some of the creative flavors (i.e. amaretto orange chevre, pecan craison chevre, and cracked peppercorn chevre) either at a local health food stores such as Rainbow Grocery Market or Pine Street Market. During the summer time, Decimal Place Farm chevre, tuma or cheddar style goat cheeses can be located at the East Atlanta Farmers Market, Peachtree Road Market and Grant Park Farmers Market.

~ Enjoy, live well & be kind to one another

C.H. – Real Time Farms Winter Food Warrior, 2012

A busy week’s (local) little helper

Every mother will tell you sleeping in is like a gift from God & the runner up well that’s coffee. In a week filled with WIC appointments, Farmers Markets visits & tax preparations discovering the deliciously wholesome Blue Donkey Iced Coffee made my week. It’s the little things they say & ‘they’ are right!

This past Saturday Blue Donkey Iced Coffee held a tasting at Urban Cannibals, a bodega grocery store run by a beautiful couple, the two self-proclaimed head cannibals Doria Roberts & Calavino Donati. The place is charming. You can pick up your CSA via Destiny Organics & Riverview Farms there, along with a quick bite to eat and other local items anything from candles to cleaning supplies. A one stop ‘loconomy’ shop.

Honestly, in this day & age I judge businesses by their online presence. Thankfully Urban Cannibals is on top of their social media game. It was their facebook page that alerted me to check out how delicious Blue Donkey Iced Coffee truly is. The tasting had me convinced as soon as the creamy, lightly coffee flavored & just enough sweetened substance hit my tongue. Blue Donkey’s products are simple. Three ingredients, coffee, milk & sugar – carefully sourced. Arabia coffee beans are roasted in a small-batch roaster at the company’s facility, combined with Sparkman’s milk and a little sugar – voila.

You can currently find them at Urban Cannibals and Candler Park Market. Surely it won’t be long until they’ll be right under your nose at farmers markets, co-ops & natural food stores. I am not going to tell you what to do or anything but in twitter terms:

Blue Donkey > insert can of popular soda.

live well & be kind to one another

C.H. – Real Time Food Warrior, Winter 2012

Post Apocalyptical Farming – PodPonics

Do you ever walk past a vacant building & think about what else it could be? Surely, in the post housing bubble apocalypse we call today, vacant buildings aren’t hard to come by. Why not just tear them down & use the land differently – like growing food?  In order for land to be reverted to arable land, the process due to having to expel mercury, sulfates etc., the byproducts of constructing & maintaining a building, requires extensive and expensive solutions. As a matter of fact fertile soils take thousands of years, requiring a combination of climate, geology, biology and a smidgen of luck.

I attributed my vision of a hydroponic farm land in form of vertical inner city farms housed in old Macy’s buildings or Ford plants, more to the heavy duty Science Fiction & Fantasy influence my grandpa and mom put me through as a child. As it turns out, thinking outside of the box couldn’t be more timely, even if it puts the thinker right back into one. The box more specifically a shipping container and the visionaries: the entrepreneurs of PodPonics.

PodPonics came into existence in 2010, Matt Liotta, founder and CEO of the company tells me. The motivation behind the endeavor: to create pesticide free, locally grown lettuce that laughs at the carbon footprint comparison to California grown lettuce not to mention its incredible freshness, texture and taste. Don’t be fooled by labels mentioning fresh. PodPonics will have the first bite of lettuce savoring in your mouth within hours after harvest. The only way to get fresher than that is grassing on an edible wall perhaps?! What originally started out as a couple of shipping containers on Ponce de Leon has now grown into a total of 16 containers, located near Hartsfield International Airport.

Matt’s done his research & knows his main competitor well. Conventionally grown California lettuce produces eleven and a half tons per acre versus 989 tons per acre that PodPonics patent pending systems can bring forth. In a test market Whole Foods priced PodPonics Spring Mix at $3.49 per bag, a lucrative slot between $3 priced California lettuce and the $4 organic brand. It’s hard to imagine our local stores without hydroponically grown goods from here on out. The benefits are too stark to miss. Hydroponics applications can be highly controlled & independent from climate changes. While tied to the grit PodPonics has figured out how to run operations with off-peak energy.  Simultaneously, the minimal amount of space it takes to grow a vast amount of crops has attractive implications for highly populated dense urban areas.

There was one realization amongst many standing out from my visit at PodPonics. As beautiful as a traditionally set farm is, as beautiful and serene can a perfectly acclimated shipping container be in its very own zen filled way, housing NFT systems filled with crisp green lettuce with skinny T5 bulbs illuminating a future of farming quite possibly.