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Tag Archives: fresh food

Monsoon Season

You can’t have a Farmers Market without the land & crops getting an adequate amount of rainfall. However, conducting a market while it rains can prove to be a real challenge.  During yesterday’s East Atlanta Village Market a storm hit the east side of town…hard. Heavy rainfall started only seconds after I had received my SNAP & Wholesome Wave tokens. Baby in tow, I rushed underneath Little Tart Bakeshop’s tent, alongside one of the market’s musicians, a violin player wearing her tip jar cleverly strapped as a backpack.  What happened next can only be described as an accelerated storm front whipping across us, with continuous heavy rainfall accompanied by strong winds, ripping on all of the vendors tents. Every now and then sunshine peeked in the distance, toying with the hope of all market participants that this could end any second now.

Peek the pictures of the treacherous down-pour:

The market manager, noticeable in part in the distance, is checking the sky to look for signs for market to be continued or broken down.

Vendors lowered their tents to keep wind and rain at bay. Regardless of the storm, a few shoppers continued to show up.

Children and their parents stayed at the market even during the hardest of rain

Children running in the distance.

Arguably my favorite shot. Collected water collapses from Lil Tart shops tent, at this point we were soaked holding on to the tent’s posts to keep it from being blown away.

Istill managed to buy a few items; thankfully & due to the help of various folks, who scrambled to get me a feasible umbrella, kept my baby & I entertained, dry & save for a couple of hours at the market, plus of course the farmers who nourish our lives!

Furthermore, did you know that you can use the same tokens from East Atlanta’s market at Grant Park Farmers Market on Sundays? If you ever forget a few items & have left over tokens to spare, you don’t have to wait a whole week to make use of them.

I thought my experience at the market was yet again a real testament to community and how well people can work together and stand their ground. It is certainly something we need more of in today’s times.

~ Cheerio

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.

Spring Gardening – the Urban Outdoors

Its 1 pm and already 76º outside. The South is getting their summer early apparently. If you believe in climate change or not it doesn’t change the fact that its unseasonably warm at this time of the year & since the Mayans ended their calendar in 2012, why not take a look at a couple survival tactics, starting right here in your spring/early summer garden – 2012 style. If you are a ‘profesh’ hobby gardener or venturing from the occasional house plant into a more daring territory – the outside, here are a couple ideas.

If you didn’t make it to the ALFI Fruit Tree sales earlier this year (Atlantans), its not too late to pick up a berry, vine or any other fruit tree you might enjoy. I chose a black berry bush since it doesn’t require another bush for cross pollination, ‘just’ bees. So far the plant seems happy.

Pick out a few different soils and see which one work best for your garden environment. I usually go with Farmer D organic compost but in this case I was far from a Whole Foods & thought why not opt for Whitney Gardens instead of Miracle Grow. It reminded me of Whitney Houston but mainly I like to diversify when it comes to buying different brands rather than going for the dominant brand on the market.

Get a bird feeder – with birds currently migrating you might attract a few interesting species. I am a Finch fan & got Finch specific food, the rain has been keeping them away, well & perhaps the shady, hidden location of my garden.

Pick out your favorite plants. What a no-brainer right?! Don’t just select for cooking, this baby lavender can be used in a soothing eye mask or bath water as well.

Don’t be shy or slow – if you see something on the side of the road, pick it up. It’s free or as the saying goes: One man’s trash is another (wo)man’s treasure. How do you think I got this giant orange plastic beaut’?!

Get your grill ready for making your summer even more awesome with your friends and neighbors. In the mean time find a cover to keep the rust away during the rainy season. Be inventive – use what you got & save your hard earned bucks. I used the packaging from a pillow top mattress cover for instance.

Finally, invest in a solar powered outdoor light – it won’t increase your power bill plus gives your garden the 21st century update to go with the ancient knowledge of using coffee grinds & kitchen scraps to fertilize your plants.

~ Live well & Be merry ~

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.

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.