Green – Mean – Cuisine
Tag Archives: farming
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 ~
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.
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.
In commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day I decided to do a quick re-cap of some of the recent+current food documentaries out there. Since this week will also consist of gearing up for the food warrior internship at real time farms the timing is right. The food movement has received a great dose of attention with the help of first lady Michele Obama and too many people to mention that have worked tirelessly to influence the American psyche away from its fast food culture. In my own neighborhood, thanks to Boxcar Grocer bringing local grown produce to Castleberry Hill, people are staying more connected to the food produced by the land around it. Everybody should be this lucky! Check out some of the documentary clips in relation to food growing practices and lifestyles.