Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Byrd House Renegade Market

This just in from the librarian at the William Byrd Community House:

Oh Frabjous Day, Calloo, Callay! - Spring has almost sprung and our renegade farmers and crafters are ready to start the BHM this week!
NO this is not an April Fool's Day trick; some of our hardy vendors will be here at the BHM on April 1, from 3:30 - 7. Come and get back into the habit of shopping weekly at the BHM, pick up some fresh and local seasonal produce, farm fresh eggs, grass-fed meats, free-range chickens along with all the yummy baked goods. Come and see what are crafters have been creating over the winter!
Our official BHM opens on May 6.
Mark your calendar for the following dates:
Official BHM opens on Tuesday May 6
BHM Appalachian Spring Family Festival, Saturday April 12 - bring family and friends to celebrate all the aspects of spring and the renewal of life! Shop for fresh produce, explore local traditions, or bring and instrument and join the live music. Anndrena Belcher, will share traditional Appalachian storytelling, music, art and dance. This event is free and open to all our friends and/or soon to be friends.

Vendors participating this week are:
Bill's Produce
Byrd Farm
CCL Farm
Faith Farm
Victory Farms
Mica Hill Farm

Plants and Flowers
Mustard Seed Farm
Perennial Pleasures

Prepared foods
Back to Earth Foods
Bernies Baked Goods
Bread For the People
Simply Delicious

Kismet's Kloset
Pure light Candle Company
Trail's End Farm
Seashells and Beads
Wildwood Carver

See you at the market!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

John Jeavons workshop

Biointensive gardening expert John Jeavons will be coming to Harrisonburg VA this year to teach a 3-day intensive workshop on GROW BIOINTENSIVE mini-farming. I have been reading Jeavons' book How to Grow More Vegetables, and am becoming increasingly interested in this style of agriculture. Quoting from the brochure on the workshop, "All of life on Earth…depends on six-inches of topsoil and the fact that it rains! The soil is a living organism that must be fed and nurtured to keep it feeding us. This basic understanding is not a major focus of most current forms of conventional agriculture. In this workshop John will share eight essential aspects of GROW BIOINTENSIVE including: Deep Soil Preparation, Raised Beds, Composting, Intensive Planting, Companion Planting, Carbon Farming, Calorie Farming, The Use of Open-Pollinated Seeds, and A Whole-System Farming Method. John will also provide time for questions and answers concerning northwest small-scale farming, long-term sustainable soil fertility, and specific crops." The workshop will be held October 23-25. Yes, this is a little early, but put it on your calendars and we'll make sure to post an additional reminder. These workshops are popular and it pays to sign up in advance if you know you can make it!

Also, visit the Ecology Action website for more information -- biointensive methods are a great way to maximize the yield in any backyard garden, and are perfect for those who have limited space. Even if you're not a fanatic, attending Jeavons' workshop will definitely help deepen your repetoir of organic gardening techniques. For those who are seriously interested, Ecology Action provides apprenticeship and teacher training opportunities.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Food as love

I am the kind of girl who listens to cosmic direction, and believe me- I get it where I can. Last week, my lovely page- a- day Joy of Cooking calendar (thanks, Mom!) had this quote from Ethan Becker, one of the authors of that classic cookbook: "Whether you are feeding your family, friends, or even strangers, cooking can be an expression of affection and connection, both of which are good for the mind and body." Lovely sentiment, and obvious perhaps, but then I received a very wonderful gift this weekend (thank you, Jeff!)- it is the quintessential seventies cookbook, so earnestly named, Earth Water Fire Air. One of the first pages reads, in huge block letters these instructions: "Knead love into the bread you bake." That got my attention.

Ok, so eating is a biological act turned cultural. It is an extremely intimate act- we take something from the outside, bring it inside, and it becomes us. Eating, indeed food, is very sensual. It is a gift- hopefully one we are able to share. Thinking of my food's origins, seed, plant, fruit- farmer, market, cook, all of that work and energy- for me. It takes months to produce even a bite of food, and that deserves a moment of reverence and gratitude.

For a while last summer, I was obsessed with the book, Alice Waters and Chez Panisse; The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution by Thomas McNamee. (I even made a pilgrimage and everything...) Anyway, the book is fantastic because it reaches beyond the business of food to the consciousness food brings and fosters. McNamee quotes Alice Waters saying: "It’s important to encourage all the other values that are beyond nourishment and sustainability and the basic things. Beauty. When you set a table, you know, take time to do that- teaching the pleasure of work- that’s probably one of the most important lessons. It’s also about diversity. It’s about replenishing. It’s about concentration. It’s about sensuality. It’s about purity. It’s about love. It’s about compassion. It’s about sharing. How many things? All those, just in the experience of eating, if you decide you’re going to eat in a very specific way. It changes your life, and it changes the world around you."

What and how we eat does matter, just as the words we choose ultimately matter. Food, whether we like it or not, is biological, cultural and political. How we choose to interact with food is a personal choice that affects others- those we know and those we don't (yet) know. This point was driven home when I passed a billboard with a photo of a breakfast burrito that said: "This is what I would make at home. If I cooked." Yikes! Choose not to be removed from your food's production- choose instead to participate in a way that gives you joy. Then share.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

King Corn

Just saw this on the SPROUT CSA blog -- as part of the James River Film Festival, the Richmond Moving Image Co-op will be showing the documentary King Corn for free at the Firehouse Theater. A description of the film on the website for the festival says, "In this film by Aaron Woolf, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, two East Coast college roommates (Cheney and Ellis) move to the Iowa heartland to learn more where our food comes from and the processes it goes through before it arrives." After reading a lot about corn in Michael Pollan's books, it's hard not to feel a perverse interest in the plant, particularly because it is such an integral part of the industrial food chain. And, of course, the King Corn website claims, "what [Cheney and Ellis] find raises troubling questions about what we eat -- and how we farm." The film will show at 7:30PM on March 31st.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Locavore's Dilemma

So, you've heard about the Omnivore's Dilemma -- Michael Pollan's life-altering treatise on the world of food.

But what about the Locavore's Dilemma? Yes, you heard me right. So what is it? Well, if you're a fan of eating local, you probably already know. The locavore's dilemma is this: what the heck do you eat in mid-March?

Well, I hope to inspire you. In spite of the continuing lack of fresh veggies, Erin and I were able to do some good cooking this week, proving that March can be just as interesting (and possibly more creative) than June. And no, not all of it was done with local ingredients. That's okay. In my opinion, being a locavore and an activist for sustainable agriculture is all about doing what's possible. For your own health and sanity, I recommend eating well, no matter what day of the year, and sometimes that means using ingredients from afar (another locavore's dilemma -- should you forever renounce Florida oranges?). The point, here, is to try as hard as you can, or are able to, with promises to 'do better next year!' March, I believe, is the hardest time of the year for maintaining a local diet -- even those of us who did canning and freezing in the summer (I didn't) are probably running low. So here's a sampling of what we're cooking and eating during one of the most frustrating months for food.

Local Frittata

Relatively, we used a lot of local ingredients for this one, so I feel justified in calling it a 'local' frittata. The mustard greens were available in a big bag for $7.99 at Ellwood Thompson's, from Just Picked Farm in Montpelier VA. We had goat cheese available through Faith Farms from Goats R Us, a farm in Green Bay VA. And our eggs came from a generous co-worker who has her own chickens!

4 cups mustard greens, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons diced sun-dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons diced olives (use your favorite kind)
1/2 white onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
8 eggs
1 tablespoon of mayonnaise.
1/4 cup goat cheese
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In preparation for the final step, set your oven to broil. Then, using a medium-sized cast iron skillet, brown the garlic in olive oil for a few minutes. Add the onions and cook until they are slightly soft. Then, add the mustard greens. Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a bowl and stir them together with mayonnaise. This step is optional if you don't like mayonnaise -- it is simply to get a fluffier egg texture. When the mustard greens have wilted, add the sun dried tomatoes and onions and heat through. Season with salt and pepper, then add the eggs. Cook until the eggs have mostly set. Sprinkle the goat cheese on top (use as much or as little as you like) then put the whole skillet in the oven for a few minutes, checking periodically until the eggs have completely hardened. Serve with buttered toast. Serves 4.

Pan-Fried Tofu with Citrus Salsa

All of the ingredients used for this recipe are available at Ellwood Thompson's. I got the idea from my #1 favorite site for recipes, RecipeZaar. Check out the recipe we used here. I followed most of the instructions pretty closely, except we used roasted red peppers from a jar instead of a fresh red pepper because peppers are out of season right now. It was easy to get up early one morning and set up the tofu to marinate. The results were really good, and the salsa tasted fresh and summery -- a preview of things to come!

Minimalist Pizza

Erin claims to be a 'pizza purist' -- crust, sauce and cheese is all she needs. And while I've always been the type to overload my pizzas with piles of toppings, this pizza was great! The key, of course, was the quality ingredients. Our crust was based on a recipe from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food. We opted to let it rise in the refrigerator overnight, and the consistency turned out great. The sauce was pretty simple, just Pomi tomatoes-from-a-box (these are amazing), garlic, and a custom blend of italian spices. Cheese? Ellwood Thompson mozzarella, and a bit of parmesan.

So go on and cook. Now is the time to be creative...right as you're hitting the utter low of the cooking year, tired of potatoes and kale and heavy winter stews, not yet in possession of the spring veggies your'e dying for...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Homeplace Earth

A very good friend of mine (my mother-in-law) filled me in on the great work being done by her former teacher Cindy Conner. Conner has formed Homeplace Earth to share her vast knowledge and her philosophy about sustainable agriculture. Cindy is a farmer and a teacher, and has now been certified as an Ecology Action GROW BIOINTENSIVE Sustainable Mini-farming instructor after studying under John Jeavons in California. As Cindy says in her site's introduction... "Since we all eat, we are all responsible for how the earth is used to produce our food." Nicely put. Click here for her website.

Martha's In the Weeds

In the introduction to Barbara Kingsolver's wonderful book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Kingsolver declares that unlike some recent authors on eating local (the authors she was referring to are Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon of the equally enjoyable book Plenty) she would not allow herself to fall so low as to feed her children dandelions from ditches. Well, to that I say, if Martha Stewart can do it, so can we all (well maybe not from ditches).

Yes, Martha has a wonderful article on edible weeds, including a nice edible weed identification photo and lots of recipes. Some of these "weeds" were available at local Richmond Farmer's Markets last summer. Some plants we now consider weeds were originally grown for food and medicinal uses. The dandelion was actually introduced to America by the early English settlers who grew it in their gardens. I would of course suggest that you know for sure what it is you are picking and that you harvest only from your own garden or the garden of a friend who knows the history of chemicals used for turf, etc. Or, just buy these healthful and satisfying additions to available greens from your local market.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Broad Appétit

After hearing about this from Tanya Cauthen at Belmont Butchery, you'd think we would have posted a link by now...but here it is: the website for Broad Appétit -- Richmond's upcoming food festival, set to be held on May 18th! Bill Foster will be there, and so will Joel Salatin, of Ominvore's Dilemma fame (if you haven't gotten around to reading that lovely book yet, Joel is a local food / sustainable agriculture activist who runs a farm in Swoope, VA). One of the events will be a "Locavore Marketplace," which will "feature Virginia's “best practice” local farmers, growers, bakers and food purveyors who will all feature Virginia's May bounty including strawberries and a spate of spring flowers. Event goers can meet and get to know the growers who are producing farm-fresh products, as well as learn their growing and preparation methods through interactive and educational demos." If this goes well, I imagine we'll be seeing a big increase in people attending the farmer's markets this season!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Good Magazine on Buying Organic

Check out this chart by Good Magazine -- an enlightening look at the true origins of so called 'small' organic brands. You may be surprised to see that some of your favorite companies are owned by huge conglomerates like Kraft, Heinz and Coca-Cola.

So should you stop buying Muir Glen salsa or Cascadian Farm cereal because both companies are owned by General Mills? That's up to you, but it's certainly important to be well-informed about where your food is coming from. In general, it's more healthy to buy organic instead of traditional produce. However, many organic brands use large-scale industrial processing to distribute their products in quantity, and if that idea bothers you (as it does some locavores), you may change your opinion of some familiar 'health' foods after looking at this chart.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

2M Mediterranean Market & Deli

Lift a piece of baklava, a Mediterranean dessert of finely chopped walnuts and layers of pastry, dripping with honey. Dip a crisp cucumber into a bowl of creamy, heavenly chickpea dip called hummus. Bite into a hot chicken shawarma—and let the tender meat, freshly made wrap, lettuce and yoghurt sauce take your tastebuds far, far away from rainy Richmond to a coastline of white sand and wind and the brightest blue water.

You won’t, at that blessed moment, give a thought to eating healthy. But you don’t have to because the people of 2M Mediterranean Market & Deli already have.

“This is good stuff,” Denis says in English made slightly exotic by a Bosnian accent. “We cook it all fresh.” He points to the foods under the deli counter—a large bowl of tabouli (a salad made with cracked wheat, tomato, onion and chopped parsley), tempting rounds of spinach or meat pies, stuffed grape leaves in neat rows. “Olive oil, olives, garlic,” he lists ingredients of Mediterranean food. Another counter, another list, “Figs and dates are full of fiber,” he moves past the bowls of both dried fruits, “chickpeas and lentils—more good sources of fiber, protein. Red lentils we use in our soups; they are high in B12.” He points to the tubs of spices on display and for sale in the racks that line the deli and make up the store. “Fennel seed is good for digestion. Ginger, also.”

“I can tell anyone about the healthy side of this food.” He boasts with perfect honesty.

I ask about the desserts, taking in the mouth-watering sight of baklava triangles and the Kataif rolls (shredded wheat stuffed with walnuts).

“Made with nuts and honey,” he says and I nod knowingly. More good stuff. And only $1.99.

The deli owners and chefs take pride in fresh, well made food.

“The hummus,” Denis shows off the tubs full of the delicious spread, “is good for a week—well, good for two, but fresh for a week. We make a little every day, to make sure it is fresh.” he goes on to the counter full of the cuts of lamb, “The meat we use is all lean meat. The pita is fresh made and low carb.”

“You go to any restaurant around, go to the back, and you will find a freezer. The food is frozen, taken, put in a deep fat fryer—whatever. And the ones that are supposed to be authentic food—like Chinese—it is not something the ones who cook it eat. It is full of fat and bad stuff.”

Denis promises he eats the food he sells. I don’t blame him. Anyone tucking in daily to fresh hummus—good with any sort of raw vegetable—and fine feta cheese in a pastry pie or perhaps Greek salad would be well satisfied for life. Carnivores will love the wraps made with lamb, chicken or beef. Every ingredient is as fresh as it can be; so good, your eyes will roll back into your head in happiness as you take each bite. For those who are new to Greek or Mediterranean cuisine, the menu reveals the details of the food, down to the lemon juice or tahini (sesame seed paste that adds a creamy tang).

I recommend the chicken Shawarma wrap (a half is 3.99 and very filling; a whole is 6.85 and heats up well for lunch the next day),

And, of course, the baklava.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Manakintowne Farm at the Market

Manakintowne farm's recent newsletter was full of great news. If you are not familiar with Manakintowne farm, they have been reliably serving an abundance of fresh, organic produce to Richmond area restaurants and markets for years. Bill Foster of Zed Cafe described this family owned and operated farm as a great source for fresh local produce long before many consumers began to think about such things. I visited their stall at the William Byrd Market every week last summer and was always rewarded with the makings of a wonderful meal. (A favorite to have upon returning from the market last summer was Manakintowne arugula, with cubes of the "No Wonder" Rosemary Focaccia, red onion, goat cheese from the "Faith Farm" stall, and some balsamic vinaigrette! Yum!)

My friend Pete was usually working the Manakintowne table, and as a gardener and a chef he always had great ideas for preparing their fresh produce. This year Manakintowne Farm plans to be at the Goochland farmers market every Saturday and also at an as yet undisclosed Richmond market.

In addition, they have gone through the licensing process to sell prepared foods, and so I am sure they will have some delicious homemade offerings.

Jo at Manakintowne Farm was kind enough to send me a short list of things we can all look forward to seeing at their stall this May. It includes...

salad mix
chicories, including radicchio and dandelion shoots
micro greens
fresh herbs
flowering herbs
baby carrots
baby beets
baby leeks
heirloom tomato plants
baked and prepared goods from our produce (new this year)

Sound too good to wait for?

You can also find a variety of Manakintowne Farm micro greens and shoots right now at Ellwood Thompson's. Hope to see you at the market this May!

Thoughts at the end of winter

I can hardly be called a purist at anything. I am not political, I totally distrust statistics, and dig in my heels whenever anyone tells me what it is I should be doing. Morality, like love, is an evolutionary, dynamic force. Food is a moral choice, yes. But, what I love about food is its life, not its rules. I love that the French are really good at wine and cheese- that it is a huge part of their culture, who they are. I love the artistry that so many other countries celebrate in their food life, in their life together. Food is a daily gift, an agricultural ancestry. It is living history.

That is why I disagree with so many articles that call local food a trend. Eating locally is getting back to eating healthfully and appreciating the work and the time it takes to produce food. It is noticing what we have been ignoring- that which sustains us.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Spinach Salad Savory, or Sweet

Here are two of my newest favorite ways to utilize nutrient rich Spinach. Both are super easy and both mix local and non-local ingredients. This time of year you can find local spinach at Ellwood Thompson.

White Bean and Wilted Spinach Salad
Serves 4

4 large hand fulls of de-stemmed baby spinach
2 cups Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 large sweet white onion... (a sweet white onion makes all the difference here)
Fresh grated Parmesan to taste
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

1. Quarter the onion and then slice one quarter into medium (about 1/8 inch) slices
2. Saute onion in butter or olive oil (about one tbsp) over med heat just until soft and somewhat translucent
3. Add the rinsed Cannellini beans and continue cooking just until beans are warm through
4. Add the spinach and cook until evenly wilted, grate Parmesan over spinach once it is close to being done.
5. Salt and pepper to taste.

That's it. You're done. This is a very quick, but wonderful salad. I like to serve it still slightly warm, but room temperature or even cool is fine too. It's great with warm, crusty bread.

Variation: Saute onions and beans but use arugula and wilt with lemon juice and garlic

Wilted Spinach with Cranberries, Pecans, Walnuts, and Feta

This is a nice mix of sweet and salty, you can play around with the balance by adding more cheese, nuts, or berries depending on if your feeling like something on the sweeter or more savory side.

4 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach, destemed

1/2 cup dried, sweetened cranberries
3/4 cup whole pecans and walnuts (50/50)
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp Kosher or sea salt
Feta, or Goat cheese
1/8 red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
Orange dressing ( recipe below)

1. Saute pecans and walnuts in butter and salt over med heat until hot (Roasted pecans or walnuts would be better if you have them or the time)
2. Toss in the spinach and cook until evenly wilted
3. Drizzle orange dressing just to coat nuts and spinach once spinach is about 1/2 wilted
4. Once spinach is wilted, add dried cranberries, mix ingredients well and turn off heat
5. Mix with thin slices of raw red onion
6. Top with crumbled cheese

Orange Dressing (Enough for 4-6 individual salads)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup OJ concentrate
1-2 tbsp dry white wine
Blend and serve


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Bee's Needs

Honey bees need our help. The list of diseases and pest they face is a long one and of course man is right up at the top of one. More bee keepers are needed. The number of beekeepers in Virginia has dropped from about 3000 in the 1980's to about 2000 today. However, the number of hives have dropped more than those numbers would suggest because the type of beekeeper has also been changing. More and more of the beekeeping population represents hobbyist with a few hives and not large scale commercial beekeepers with hundreds of hives. In addition, last year Virginia lost 40% of all it's hives to disease and pest.
Hobbyist, and small commercial beekeepers are on the front lines of the fight for honey bee health and they need your support. Human fear and lack of understanding create a host of problems for the hardworking bee.
Working outside as a gardener I run into bees quite a lot, sometimes literally. I work right in the middle of great buzzing masses that have flocked to the blossoms of a fennel, Vitex, Butterfly Bush, borage or other tasty bee treat. Over the several years and all of their falls, springs, summers, (and even winters) I have Never been stung by a bee. Okay, I take that back there was that one time I accidentally grabbed one up with a deadheaded flower and squished it into the palm of my hand. So that's one sting, and still every year countless people see me near a bee and exclaim in horror that I should jump up, run away, grab some spray, and on and on.

I used to think this fear of bees just rather silly, but now I understand that it is actually a real problem both for the beleaguered bee and beekeepers. Just last week I met a man who started beekeeping 20 years ago, but gave it up after a couple years because his neighbors were so afraid of his bees. Finally, after living near those same people for so long and having built a relationship with them he was able to pick up where he'd left off 18 years before. This is a positive story. In other examples keepers were forced to give up their hives because of frightened or unsympathetic neighbors. Another keeper friend of mine lost a good deal of his bees after his farmer neighbor sprayed his crops with an unfriendly pesticide. Fortunately in this case it was brought to that farmers attention and he agreed to stop spraying, or change his spray time to evening hours when the bees aren't active.

As a home owner you can do the same. Be patient with your beekeeping neighbor, and hopefully you'll be rewarded with some wonderful free honey. Watch what you spray and when you spray it. Some very familiar vegetable plant dusts are Not bee friendly. Many products will specify that they are highly toxic to bees in particular and those products will indicate that you are not to spray any flowering plants or areas with flowering plants close enough to catch drift. So always read the label, or of course better yet, just go organic.

Virginia Kiwis!

I am currently enrolled in Beekeeping for Beginners through Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and among the many things I've learned is that Kiwis grow in Virginia. This was news to me and as someone trying my best to eat as local as possible, it came as good news indeed. As it turns out, just like most other plants, Kiwis come in multiple species and varieties. A great site to check out and view photos of just a handful of many colors and forms kiwis can take is

According to the Virgina Cooperative Extension website the form of Kiwi most commonly sold in grocery stores is the species Actinidia chinensis. According to other sites including NCSU Actinidia deliciosa is also very common among the supper market Kiwis. Most of these come all the way from New Zealand, although apparently South Carolina has been growing some commercially.
In class Kiwi was referred to as one of the Virginia crops dependent upon bees for pollination. I need to learn more about just how much and where kiwi is grown as a crop in Virginia, but for now I am excited about the possibility of growing kiwi in my own garden to satisfy my kiwi needs.

Hardy Kiwi A. arguta can produce as much as 150 Lbs of fruit per plant. These vining plants are dioacious, meaning they need a male and female plant to produce fruit ( although according to Edible Landscapes a female A. arguta can produce fruit without a male, but in limited quantities). The kiwi requires a sturdy trellis and also a long warm period of 150 frost free days to set fruit, but for most of Virginia that's not a problem.
Kiwi vines produce fragrant white flowers in the spring and yellowish-green fruits in late summer. These fruits contain twice the vitamin C as an orange and as much potassium as a banana!

If you are interested in trying to grow your own, or just want to learn more, check out the Edible Landscapes site for available varieties and their growing requirements.

Lakeside Market

What will we do with so many markets to choose from!? I know I will definitely be at the Lakeside Ave. Farmer's Market that opens this May 3rd! Very exciting! The location will be in the lot next to the Lakeside Town Center right near the corner of Lakeside and Hillard rd.

The market will focus on fresh produce and some prepared foods and plans to operate on both Wednesday and Saturday of every week through November.

Don't forget, more markets mean a need for more vendors and more market shoppers. If you haven't made a habit of shopping your local farmer's markets for fresh meats and produce, this spring will be a great time to start.

RFC will keep you posted on more specifics as they become available.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sprout Richmond and CSAs

Last year, the Sprout Richmond group, "an all volunteer community supported agriculture group committed to the growth and success of local, sustainable, artisanal farming" worked with Charlie of Victory Farms to begin a 100-member CSA. For our readers who aren't in the know, community supported agriculture is a GREAT way to support your local farmers. Basically, members buy a 'share' in the CSA (usually costs between $350-$500, depending on the farm), paid upfront. Throughout the season, the money contributed allows the farmer to grow produce for you, providing you weekly (usually for pickup at a local farmers' market) with a good amount of seasonal produce (it's usually enough for 4+ people). You can always visit the farmer's market and just buy what's there, but farmers will often reserve their best produce for CSA members, because a sum of money paid upfront hugely reduces the risk placed on the farmer -- the sum of the shares sustains the growing season, so the farmer doesn't need to worry about making enough money selling vegetables piece-by-piece.

It's too late this year to join a CSA. They're hugely popular, and the two CSAs in Richmond -- Amy's Garden and Victory Farms -- had huge waiting lists, and as far as I know have already determined their membership lists for 2008. However, you can still get involved! Sprout Richmond has a new blog, and they are looking for volunteers to help with their 2008 project: the development of a small plot of land off Robious Road for CSA-style farming and other sustainable practices! Sprout asks you to email David at if you're interested. And check out the Sprout blog -- it looks like a great source for information on sustainable eating in Richmond.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Support Edible Garden

I just recieved an email notice from the lovely Brookview Farm. In addition to reminding me they still have great products available at the weekly Farm Market, they also had a notice about supporting the restaurant Edible Garden. Haven't heard of Edible Garden? It's another restaurant dedicated to cooking with organic foods and supporting local farmers, with a beautiful, quaint location in Goochland a few minutes away from Brookview Farm. Some of the produce used is grown in the garden around the restaurant! Check out the menu -- it looks delicious, and changes often to reflect the seasons. We are planning to make an RFC visit to Edible Garden when it gets warmer, so look for a post in the upcoming months. In the meantime, you can support Edible Garden by attending the Goochland Country Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, March 4th, at 7PM. The restaurant seeks to renew its special use permit and get approval for extended hours, and they are hoping community members will speak out at the meeting in favor of the restaurant. If you can make it to the meeting (more details are at the Edible Garden website), Edible Garden invites you to dessert afterwards! Another option, if you can't make it, is to email one of the Goochland supervisors, whose email addresses are also listed on Edible Garden's site. This is a great way to be an activist for your local food movement, and don't forget the best part...dessert is included!