Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Manakintowne Farm Update

Ran into Pete from Manakintowne Farm and he says that if you haven't seen them at the market it is because they haven't been there... just their food has. Manakintowne Farm has been selling some of their produce through other vendors including the Rural Route CSA. We caught him unpacking micro greens at one vendor's booth at the South of the James Market this Saturday. They are still working on the prepared foods side of the business as well, but don't appear to be selling these at the markets as of yet.

Strawberry Picking Clock is Ticking

For all of you who had your heart set on picking strawberries this spring this week may be your last chance. We are at the end of our area's prime strawberry harvest. A few of us from RFC went on Memorial Day morning and it seemed a great way to start this holiday. We wanted to check out Dodd's Acers Farm on Market Road in Hanover County. A friend of ours had been a few weeks before and thought that the farm may be organic. We are pretty sure this is not organic produce, based on certain activities we witnessed. Nonetheless, we had a nice drive and passed a cute produce and flower market and country store complete with cafe all nearby off Market St. I walked away with 7 pounds of strawberries for $10.50.

I froze some for future daiquiris, smoothies, pies, etc. That night we had chocolate dipped strawberries for dessert and thanks to a productive fellow harvester I also was treated to strawberry scones for breakfast!

We at RFC have not heard of any organic pick your own farms. Please let us know if you are aware of any or if you have any more information on this farm or your own favorite farm for pick your own fresh produce.

Vegetarian Food Festival

This June 21st it will once again be time for Richmond's Vegetarian Festival at Bryan Park. My sister in law invited me to join them in their annual bike ride to the festival. Sounds like a potentially educational and tasty way to spend a few hours whether you are vegetarian or not. Food vendors listed are limited, but include India k' Raja, Ginger Thai, and my current favorite Indian restaurant, the Lakeside Ave newcomer, New India Restaurant. There is also a reference to a "Farmer's Market" that currently lists two vendors. The festival runs from noon until six, and there is a rain date of July 12th set. Find out more details at

Monday, May 26, 2008

Opinions -- Organic Fast Food

The commercialization of organic foods continues its steady march, made apparent by developing businesses centered around 'quick-casual' organic dining -- in other words, fast food with an organic label. I just read this article on several chain restaurants: O'Naturals, Organic To Go and EVOS. The first two offer a menu that looks a lot like Panera Bread's: sandwiches, pizza, wraps, salads, even asian noodles; EVOS is more like a traditional fast food menu, with burgers, wraps and 'Airfries,' french fries that have been air baked instead of deep fried. All restaurants claim to use organic products, and feature classic 'supermarket pastoral' (thanks to Michael Pollan, who else, for this term) marketing, wherein the menu is described as eco-friendly, down-to earth and, most importantly, good for you.

It's true, 'organic' has long-since become a buzzword, and this is merely the logical progression of our newest dietary trend. Still, I find it embarrassing and a little sad to see this new generation of fast food chains coming into prominence. I was hoping that along with America's newfound appreciation for pesticide-free produce, there would come a revolution in the way we think about cooking and eating. Instead, we seem to expect that fixing one small aspect of our diets or our lives is sufficient for a better daily existence, refusing to look at the overall picture of diet, environment and economy.

Organic fast food will encourage the current unsustainable organic farming practices (large scale industrialized farms practicing input subsitution and shipping organic produce long distances) already in place, continuing to damage the earth and jeopardize our future food supply; it will also give people a false sense of 'doing the right thing' as they eat grass-fed burgers and eco-friendly salads. It also allows us to continue unhealthy habits in terms of how we eat, engendering the sense that it is okay to eat on the run and pay little attention to what goes into your meal (as long as it says Organic, it's okay, right?). No matter what's on your plate, if you eat too fast and too much, you're still going to suffer unpleasant consequences, and the environmental repercussions for eating an unsustainable diet should not be ignored.

I do admit that if I were trapped in an airport terminal, I'd probably visit any of these restaurants if it meant I could avoid eating at McDonalds. At least for now there will be a few better options. But let's not forget this is a 'band-aid' mentality -- it will not fix America's ongoing dietary issues, or improve the structure of our national food system.

On a more upbeat note, at least people are beginning to look at food as a whole. We are more aware of the overall quality of the food we eat, not just the nutritional details. We want foods that are pesticide free and responsibly grown, not just low-calorie, low-carb and low-fat. I wonder if we could follow this progression towards a set of even more sincere eating establishments, where locally obtained produce is the norm and each location is unique, family-run and singularly delicious. That's a nice dream. Still, I'm not sure whether or not organic fast food is a small step in the right direction, or a big false start.

'tis the season for Mulberries

I have a totally romantic relationship with the mulberry, thanks again to Alice Waters. My friend Casey and I start fantasizing about them on the first warm day of the year. Mulberries woo us early on with their promise of summer, and then deliver close to Memorial Day weekend. Mulberries definitely have a wilder flavor than other berries, but that is part of the fun. Plus, anyone with a mulberry tree will be more than happy to share in the bounty. So, look around- I was surprised to find that I have one growing right across the alley from my house!

I have been playing with mulberries all week, and have come up with some fun recipes.

The first is a:
Mulberry Upside Down Cake

The best thing about this is that it is the kind of cake you can have for breakfast. You know, if you do that sort of thing...

1 3/4 cups flour
8 tablespoons butter, divided and cut into 1 tbs pieces
2 eggs
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
at least 2 cups (enough to cover the entire bottom of the skillet) fresh mulberries, stems removed.

-In mixer with paddle attachment, mix flour, first six tablespoons of butter, eggs, baking powder, sugar, salt, almond extract and milk to form a lumpy batter.
-Melt and combine the remaining two tablespoons of butter and brown sugar in cast iron skillet on low heat.
-When sugar and butter are melted, sprinkle in the well-drained fruit. Pour batter mixture on top so that all the fruit is covered.
-Bake in center of oven at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes until center of cake test done. The sides will be brown.
-Remove skillet from oven and immediately invert the skillet onto platter by putting platter on top of the skillet and turning them both together.

Next is:
Mulberry and Toasted Almond Ice Cream

The quality of your ice cream comes from the quality of the cream. (Right?) I really like Trickling Springs Heavy Cream, which is available at Ellwood Thompsons.

4 cups fresh mulberries, stems removed
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 honey
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 cup sliced, toasted almonds


-Put all of the mulberries in a thin meshed sieve with a bowl underneath to catch the juice. With a rubber spatula, mash the berries until you release 1 cup of juice into the bowl.
-Wisk the mulberry juice, cream, honey, and extract until well combined and airy.
-Pour into ice cream maker, and proceed under maker's instructions, adding almonds in during last 5 minutes.

Note: I make this in two batches- there is slightly more than will fit into my tiny ice cream maker. Then I can share!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Companion Planting -- The Three Sisters

Just recently I heard about this ancient method of companion planting, so-called "the three sisters" by the Native Americans. As depicted in the illustration above, the 'three sisters' are corn, beans and squash; in this planting style, each corn plant is paired with a climbing bean, while squash are planted in between. Corn stalks provide a trellis for the beans to wind around, while the squash becomes a ground cover. Corn needs a lot of nitrogen to grow, and since beans are a heavily nitrogen-fixing plant, the two are ideal companions (though this year's bean will contribute nitrogen for next year's corn). The squash acts as a mulch, preventing the growth of weeds.

The 'three sisters' planting method has been passed down through many Native American tribes, and it's fascinating that they developed this agricultural practice without an understanding of the science behind it. They believed there was a spiritual match between the three vegetables -- corn, beans, squash -- and this belief was both engendered and supported by the success of the plants as they grew together.

Here is a link to a more detailed description of how to create your own three sisters garden. There are also many books and websites to look into if you are interested in companion planting, which I believe is an important part of every garden and something everyone should be aware of as we move toward a future of smaller-scale, sustainable agriculture (I hope).

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Social Networking With FarmFoody

Thanks to Jonah for the tipoff on FarmFoody, a social networking site devoted to connecting farmers with 'foodies,' people who love food and care about the quality of what they eat. The site aims to help farmers by providing them with an easy way to communicate with customers, without spending money on a web designer or other forms of advertising. Foodies can develop relationships with growers and other foodies, exchange recipes and create local groups for appreciating and obtaining produce.

According to this article, FarmFoody was created by Tom Davenport, a 68-year-old farmer and filmmaker who lives in Fauquier County, Virginia. Davenport, who also created, a repository for American folk documentaries, says 'The Internet allowed audiences to connect with niche films, so I thought, "Why couldn't they connect with niche farms?"'

FarmFoody is a great resource for anyone looking to become more involved in their local agricultural community. Davenport says, 'Agriculture is related to land, so we had to create a mapping system that allows people to find and link up to farms near them.' The point is to use the internet as a means to developing real relationships with farmers and other food fanatics in your area. I believe this is the Internet at its best: a tool for strengthening real-life relationships and creating friendly, well-informed communities.

I was not surprised when Davenport mentioned, 'The ultimate local thing would be gardening, because you don't have to go very far. People should be plowing up their lawns. Around World War II, everyone had a garden and dried their clothes in the back yard. It's interesting that the phenomenon of local victory gardens and seeds is taking off like crazy now. Part of it is the price of food and gasoline. Even if you live in a suburban area and you only have one-quarter acre, that's a lot of ground. If everyone in a neighborhood tears up their yard, people can exchange foods. FarmFoody would be ideal for this. You can have a community, just like in the old days, and people get to know each other through a market system: "I've got zucchini; you've got raspberries. Let's trade."'

Pesticide Ranking Chart

I just found this chart on, a project put together by the Environmental Working Group. It's a ranking of 43 fruits and vegetables in terms of detectable levels of pesticides. According to the FoodNews website, the ranking was "based on the results of nearly 43,000 tests for pesticides on produce collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration between 2000 and 2005."

The chart is a good reference for shoppers who feel the need to buy some traditionally grown produce. It appears that onions, avocados and frozen sweet corn are some of the safest vegetables to eat if you're worried about pesticides. However, I would advise you to remember that 'organic' is not the only yardstick by which to judge growers. There are many farms, both traditional and organic, that are damaging the earth and threatening the future of our food supply by using unsustainable farming methods.

I think the best use for this chart would be as a guide to which fruits and vegetables you should ALWAYS buy and eat organic. In particular, remembering this chart when you are eating at a restaurant could save you from continued exposure to toxic chemicals.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Hoo Rah for the Farmer!!!

Hooray for the farmer who grows our food. For all those organic growers who have crops fail and frustrations a plenty and still produce beautiful, brightly colored fresh delicious food in bounty.

I came home from three days away from my garden to find so many wilted plants, far too many holes eaten into my lettuce and broccoli. And one tomato, two eggplant, and one cucumber plant all eaten to complete non-existence except some roots below the soil! What would do this? Eat whole tomato plants? I do not have deer and as far as I know these greens are poisonous.

On the bright side I also harvested my first radish and it was my first plucked straight from the ground and eaten directly after a quick rinse. It was also by far the spiciest radish I've ever tasted. We have found a recipe for sauteed radishes with their greens and I will let you know how it turns out. I am also planning a spicy radish slaw.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Broad Appetit -- Rain or Shine!

Sunday's on-and-off rainy weather didn't seem to prevent anyone from showing up at Richmond's inaugural Broad Appetit festival, held from 12-5PM on Broad Street between Monroe and Adams. As you might expect, the RFC was in attendance at this lovely event, and we had a great time talking to vendors, networking, eating and listening to a speech made by Joel Salatin, farmer of Omnivore's Dilemma fame.

Street decorations -- the festival's logo is a spork.

The atmosphere at Broad Appetit was reminiscent of other street events in Richmond: the National Folk Festival and the Watermelon Festival came to mind. Everyone was there to relax and enjoy the weekend, and there were the usual beer trucks, cotton candy stands and musical acts performing on the sidewalks. In addition, the underlying focus on quality food, driven by the presence of the 'locavore marketplace' and Joel Salatin's speech gave the festival a sense of fervor and purpose that made it different from other gatherings in the Richmond area.

Salatin speaks.

Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm showed up on-stage at 2pm to give a rousing lecture on industrial food systems and food as art. He talked about the three identified vulnerabilities of our current national food system: centralized production, centralized processing and long-distance transportation, making the very reasonable claim that these weaknesses could be avoided by relying on local means. Salatin's theme, very appropriate for the festival's location (right in First Fridays art walk territory) was 'Let Them Eat Art:' in other words, imploring us to view food and eating as a meaningful, creative endeavor. "We are painting a landscape of resource stewardship for our children," said Salatin. "We want to build stories and memories that can move all the way to the dinner plate."

Conical cabbage from Victory Farms.

Among the many vendors, we saw our usual friends from the weekly markets: Victory Farms, Amy's Garden, CCL Farms, Faith Farms (pardon me if I am pluralising your farm incorrectly), Bill and Joyce, Simply Delicious, and lots of others. There were also booths from area restaurants and other organizations: Tricycle Gardens was in attendance, as was Bill Foster from Zed Cafe. It was interesting to see some of the more traditional food options mixed in with booths offering selections like vegetarian deli items from Ellwood Thompson's and Zed Cafe's fresh strawberry and spinach salads. Is it possible there was a dialog going on between the food establishment as it stands and the revolutionaries?

Eli sells cut flowers, seedlings and fresh produce for Amy's Garden.

Maybe people were just having fun. Either way, it was exciting to see people (and lots of them) participating who weren't weekly marketgoers. It will be interesting to see if market attendance increases as a result of the festival -- check back here, of course, for our periodic market updates. In any case, the festival was a great time and certainly an important event for food culture in Richmond. I was glad to be there and, believe it or not, I was having such a good time celebrating food that I almost forgot to eat.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Just a reminder...

Don't Forget, Broad Appetit is tomorrow! Get hungry and join us for fun and FOOD! Joel Salatin will be speaking on the main stage starting at 2:00 pm. There will also be a locavore's market featuring many of Richmond's favorite vendors, as well as prepared food by several local restaurants. See you there!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


In an attempt to gain perspective on the world and my place in it, I attended a retreat last weekend where the focus was on contemplation and inward reflection. Both of those acts take a lot of quiet to achieve, so much of our time together was spent in silence. This included our mealtimes, spent together but in total silence. Now, what I want to tell you is that it was amazing to eat this way- that all of my other senses were heightened, and that I had some deep epiphanies that only come when one takes herself out of a situation has time and space to reflect.

But, it was awkward.

I know this is only MY experience. The monk leading the retreat was clearly fine, having done this three meals a day, seven days a week for goodness knows how long. It was the rest of us who were trying to get there, and probably only me who was fidgety in the process. I felt that the food went unappreciated, like it was there for the nourishment of our bodies only and not really for our enjoyment. How can we enjoy something fully without the ability to share it?

What was funny, too, was that the normal cues for ending a meal were lost. One had to just get up from the table and leave. I felt like I left the table in a snit, got up, turned around and stomped off without a word.

Clearly, I need more practice.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Heritage Harvest Festival

Just passing along a reminder and link for those who would like to plan for the Heritage Harvest Festival in the Charlottesville area. I went last fall and had a nice day of food sampling, and learning about organic pest control, new and old plant, preserving and planting endangered local plant species, and a great lecture on the use of medicinal plants.

Here is link for those who are interested

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Excitement in the Air!

This week has been a great week for local food in the Richmond area. With so much going on, it is hard to keep up. Farms for berry picking, great lectures, new markets and much more are on the horizon.

We at RFC decided we wanted to celebrate the bounty of the spring with a potluck. The idea was for everyone to visit their local farmers market, see what wonderful treats they could find, and turn them into great dish to share.

The result? So many delicious new dishes to try and a wonderful group of people who could all share stories about their market's opening day or what their market had this week. Backyard croquet, bocce ball, good people and good food. I think we all had a great time and some people were encouraged by the event to try the market for the first time. Not everyone you know and care about will be in the same place you are when it comes to exploring and supporting local foods, but in the spirit of a great day with good friends you may be surprised by how many people will want to participate! I think a potluck that celebrates the best of the season is a great way to spend time with friends while encouraging greater knowledge and appreciation of your larger community.

Oh yeah, the pumpkin in the photograph is a leftover from this past fall, still in perfect condition. It was valuable addition used for holding down the flyaway napkins.

Why Bother? -- Michael Pollan Article

We love Michael Pollan at the RFC, and his book The Omnivore's Dilemma was one of the motivating forces in my decision to start eating local and organic. Pollan came out recently with an article discussing climate change. Thanks to the Tricycle Gardens blog for the tip-off on this article:

Why bother? That really is the big question facing us as individuals hoping to do something about climate change, and it's not an easy one to answer. I don't know about you, but for me the most upsetting moment in "An Inconvenient Truth" came long after Al Gore scared the hell out of me, constructing an utterly convincing case that the very survival of life on earth as we know it is threatened by climate change. No, the really dark moment came during the closing credits, when we are asked to . . . change our light bulbs. That's when it got really depressing. The immense disproportion between the magnitude of the problem Gore had described and the puniness of what he was asking us to do about it was enough to sink your heart.

You can read the full article here.

Later on in the piece, Pollan notes,

But the act I want to talk about is growing some--even just a little--of your own food. Rip out your lawn, if you have one, and if you don't--if you live in a high-rise, or have a yard shrouded in shade--look into getting a plot in a community garden. Measured against the Problem We Face, planting a garden sounds pretty benign, I know, but in fact it's one of the most powerful things an individual can do--to reduce your carbon footprint, sure, but more important, to reduce your sense of dependence and dividedness: to change the cheap-energy mind.

This makes me feel great about the garden I just planted yesterday.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Perfect Strawberry

Hello again from Hannah, RFC correspondent and self appointed blogger in search of the perfect strawberry. As soon as the calendar hits May I'm ready for a taste of red and pure sunshine in a ripe, seed studded body. As I child, I grew up filling my own green cardboard quarts with Sweet Charlies and Early Glows. Now I can't stand to pass a farm with a sign marked "U-Pick." If I haven't picked a flat and gotten a farmer's tan by at least Mother's Day, I'll be eager to hit the field.

Still, this year my search began in Mechanicsville, at Pole Green Produce off of Pole Green Road. This highly evolved farmer's stand offers local produce in addition to items shipped from (gasp) out of state. There are flowers and melons, jams and Montana Gold Bread products in addition to the local salad greens and onions. But I walked past it all for the green quarts of berries, still encrusted with local VA dirt, and not a bad price. I ate half for breakfast.

But I wasn't satisfied. Not until my knees bear red marks from an hour leaning over a row of berry plants (and on a few squished berry guts) will my quest end. I perused that excellent publication: Virginia Grown Guide to Pick-Your-Own and Select-Your-Own Farm Products. Hanover has some prospects, which I soon hope to review. Also listed is Mount Olympus Berry farm, out on US 1 (or I-95 North) in Carmel Church, past King's Dominion.

The sun was out the day my sister and I trekked up to the home of the gods. It had been sunny all weekend-- which is great for the berries. The more sunlight, the more flavor packed into each juicy bit. The smaller berries are often my favorite, for the flavor is more concentrated. Mount Olympus offers Sweet Charlies as an early variety and Chandler for a later one. The season, I'm told, can last six weeks, depending on heat or rain. Strawberries dislike both.

The Charlies at Mount Olympus were very happy berries. We picked two flats, enough to make jam. While we were there, we looked around the extensive market offerings: vegetables, herbs, potted plants, flats of flowers and landscaping shrubs. There's a green house on site, as well as a field of blueberries, a row of blackberries, and three ponds (no fishing allowed).

In addition to strawberries, an avid picker can stock up on berries of other shades (blue, black), corn and melons, or vegetables like heirloom tomatoes and twenty varieties of pepper. I was told that folks are welcome to pick their own vegetables, but this has never been a popular option. The farm also supplies an impressive list of farmer's markets around Virginia, if working in the fields is not your style.

I hope you will try to at least visit some local farms. If you can be tempted, go ahead and fill a quart with nothing but the reddest fruit you can find. You'll be sure each one is the perfect strawberry.
Information for Mount Olympus Berry Farm is available at Or call 804-448-0395.

Arugula Walnut Pesto

I'm not sure if I've mentioned yet that I am (jointly, with my parents) a member of Victory Farms' CSA this year. Since the markets are open and Victory's CSA has begun, it's officially the season for...are you ready for it? Yes: solutions to your bulk produce problems!

This week?

On my first trip to the market, I picked up a massive bunch of arugula from Victory's table. I thought I'd just use it in my salads for the next few days, but it turned out to be WAY more arugula than I had anticipated. Even using a LOT on my salad every day at lunch, I realized most of the bunch would go bad before I could eat it. And, come on -- you can only eat so much arugula in one day.

Solution? Arugula Walnut Pesto!

Pesto doesn't have to be confined to basil -- you can use any fragrant green as a base. There are plenty of recipes online for pestos made from arugula, mint and cilantro. I found this recipe on RecipeZaar and doubled it; the result was wonderful, a spicy, garlicky spread with a variety of potential uses. One idea is to make toast and use the pesto as a spread; pesto pizza is an option, and then there's always pasta. Pesto is a great way of preserving greens that wilt and go bad quickly -- I highly recommend making arugula pesto if you have extra.

More Evidence that Food Can Change the World...

Who knew that food is one of the most important components to successful design of public spaces? Last night, Natalie, Shannon and I, along with other interested Richmond citizens and civic leaders, gathered last night to hear Lynden Miller speak about the importance of beauty in public spaces. Miller has been behind much of the great transformation of New York city parks, including the restoration of the venerable Conservatory garden in Central Park, the Perennial Garden and Ladies Border at the NY Botanical Garden, The Gardens at Bryan Park and the campus of Columbia University along with many others. Amazing transformations- noble work indeed.

So, back to food. Miller says that there are three ingredients to designing a public space that will be used and enjoyed by people. One is an element of nature- trees and plants are not just beautiful, they help us breathe, physically and emotionally. Another interesting aspect of spaces that attract people is movable chairs. Giving people the freedom to eat alone or linger with a group of friends also gives the space the malleability to fit its constituents. And, finally- the essential component to all gatherings- the food. Successful design incorporates good food for people to enjoy while they take pleasure in the space.

Of course, the statistic for crime reduction, business productivity and general generosity in beautiful public spaces are staggering. Yet, my favorite phrase from Lynden Miller's gorgeous presentation on the importance of beauty in public spaces was, "We did this for you, and you are worth it."

So, Richmond... Aren't we worth it? Shouldn't we get to work?

Urban Gardening -- A Great Way to Meet Your Neighbors!

Erin and I have decided to make our first foray into urban gardening.

With our shady Northside lot, a backyard garden is not really an option. However, one of the unique qualities of this neighborhood is that several of the people who live here maintain gardens in the 16 foot median we have in the middle of our street. Some people have nice ornamental displays; there is at least one with a small vegetable garden. I got it into my head that it would be fun to do the same thing, since I've been dying for my own garden since who knows when. And of course, growing your own vegetables is the next step up from buying at the farmer's market or joining a CSA.

I've been picking up seedlings from all over the place this past week, and I finally got official approval yesterday from the City of Richmond to dig a vegetable bed in the median directly across from the house. The median is city property so I made sure to ask before revving up the tiller. In this post I'd like to tell you about how I made this garden, in hopes that I'll inspire you to make your own urban plot. Please keep in mind that I am no expert -- this is my first vegetable garden, ever! I plan to blog all about this garden as the season progresses, hopefully with pictures of luscious vegetables and pesto creations as I harvest the fruits (and vegetables) of my labor.

I started out with a shovel, a tiller, a pile of pots full of nice, black compost, and a pair of gardening gloves. I marked off the area I wanted dug for my bed, allowing enough room for a ride-on lawn mower to pass on either side. My contact at the City asked that I leave at least 65 inches.

My dad was kind enough to lend me his tiller. This is a really nice model for small-scale use, easy to operate and pretty effective. I used it to break up the grass and loosen up the soil in the bed. I was happy to discover that the median was not full of clay -- I wonder if the city hauled soil in when the median was created, because I found it fairly easy to dig. After I was finished doing the initial till, I went back over the bed with a shovel and dug about a foot down, further turning the soil over. Then I added all the compost and mixed it in with the soil using the hoe. This process took most of my afternoon.

Then came the fun part -- planting. Tomatoes are clustered on one side (closest to the camera); the other side has a metal structure for three bush bean plants to climb on. I also have peppers, basil, lettuce, kabocha squash, eggplant, cucumbers, butternut squash, sunflowers and a giant pumpkin. I planted the lettuce and basil in a kind of 'border' on the right side of the bed (closest to the house) because they will be easy to access as I walk out to the bed. I am also anticipating removing the lettuce plants before the tomatoes become enormous. Most of the vine plants are in the middle of the bed, where I hope they will have room to grow. The sunflowers will provide a backdrop to the metal pillar, hopefully growing up above the giant pumpkin vine, which I have planted on the far side of the bed.

I am positive that there are too many plants in this bed. I don't care! I was really excited about all the seedlings I had accumulated, and since this is my first garden, I'm just going to let everything grow and see how it turns out. Not the most scientific attitude ever -- but I am doing a big experiment.

Here is everything all planted (except for that one pepper in the middle -- I put that one in after I took the picture)! I'm looking forward to working in this garden all season. I'll be watering it with a long hose from the side of the house, and I hope to mulch with compost sometime soon.

So why is urban gardening a great way to meet your neighbors? Because I met three new people this afternoon, all really nice individuals who were eager to chat with me about what I was doing, and their own plans for backyard horticultural improvements. Our next-door neighbor was kind enough to let us use his hose, since we don't have one long enough yet to stretch across the street. It was clear that everyone I talked to was eager to support my urban gardening effort. A neighbor across the street even invited us to a party. I think one of the most interesting and fun aspects of gardening is its reliance on communities of friendly, generous individuals. It is clear there is a huge opening in the public mindset for these kinds of endeavors.

As evening descended, Erin and I walked out to the garden barefoot for one last look before dark. The plants looked happy in the cool air, full of potential, green and alive. I can see the garden from my bedroom window, and when I'm not out pulling weeds and watering, I plan to watch as my tomatoes ripen and my beans wind their way up towards the sky. Gardening can be spiritual and full of joy -- I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Reader Recommendations

Reader Lea Marshall was kind enough to e-mail us a link to her list of resources for meat and dairy in Virginia. I was happy to see Brookview Farm listed as a source for beef! Lea also hinted that Everona Dairy is really worth a visit: she says, "My friend and I broke the bank stocking up on their cheese." The Dairy produces a variety of sheep's milk cheeses, freezer lamb, tanned sheepskins and wool socks. The cheeses are the specialty, and the best is supposedly the 'Everona Piedmont:' it won the Farmhouse category for sheep's milk cheese at the American Cheese Society's annual competition in 2005, and has a 'nutty flavor, even flowery, with a slight tang and earthy aftertaste characteristic of good sheep's milk cheese.' It also sounds like there are several vineyards in the area, so a trip out to the Piedmont would definitely be worth your while!

Once again, thanks for the recommendation, Lea! We are always looking for local food resources beyond the immediate Richmond area. I think Virginia has an amazing collection of hidden food (and wine) gems scattered throughout its rural areas. Do any other readers suggest visits to particular farms, dairies, shops or wineries? We'd love to know!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Video Showing: The True Cost of Food

Thanks to Buttermilk & Molasses for the tip-off on this event: the Goochland Center for Rural Culture will show the Sierra Club's 15 minute video called 'The True Cost of Food' on Monday, May 12 at 11AM. It will be held at the Parish House of Grace Church, 2955 River Road West, Goochland, VA 23093. More info can be found in the original post here. Be sure to check out the homepage for the Center for Rural Culture as well -- they are a good resource for local eating and sustainability, and the site has more info about the Goochland farmers market.

Two Local Markets: Opening Day Experience


Yesterday morning was all about the two new Richmond area Farmers Markets. Both South side and Northside were representing and I had to check out the scene both had to offer.

First, my husband and I got up bright and early, had some coffee, and cruised on down to my local South of the James Market at Forest Hill Park. Everything was perfect. Props to Karen and Erin and James and all of the vendors and other people who worked so hard behind the scenes to put this market together.

The site is perfect for a market, with the calm park setting, but tons of parking and wide open space for all of the vendors. There were more vendors than I bothered to count... and at only 8:30 we estimated maybe 250 people were already there shopping, chatting, catching up with neighbors and old friends, munching on fresh baguettes or sweet rolls and sipping fresh brewed coffee. Even with all those people the market was comfortable, and easy to shop. Parking couldn't have been easier, but I really enjoyed seeing people from the surrounding neighborhoods having a nice morning walk to the market, sometimes with a dog in tow.

We saw lots of our favorite vendors from the Byrd House Market and plenty of new ones as well. I headed out with two bags full of organically produced veggie plants for my garden, fresh greens, and tasty steaks and sausages for my husband. And of course a giant sweet roll for us to share.

After all of that I didn't arrive at Lakeside Market until about 10:30. I was greeted by two friendly faces at the entrance and handed a free bright yellow mesh shopping bag displaying the Virgina grown and Lakeside Market logos. Some vendors were already sold out or selling out of produce. Everyone I spoke with was very excited about this great new shopping option and about the future of their new market. Although this market is smaller due to some restrictions, once I got up close I found plenty of wonderful things to choose from. Despite the array of vendors at South of the James my trip to Lakeside Market was well rewarded. Again I ran into some great people, and more to the point I found terrific plants and the fresh asparagus, spinach, and baby beets I had been looking for!

I know that this market has taken a huge amount of persistence and hard work over the last few years to put together... (This is as I understand it the very first Farmers Market in Henrico county! ) So if your on the North side of Town, please make sure to stop by Wednesdays and Saturdays and check it out. I think that you too will feel well rewarded.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Mini Market to Kick Off Season TONIGHT!

Join the members of the market umbrella for a mini- market from 6-8 pm at First Fridays Art Walk. We will have several vendors set up behind Quirk Gallery, 311 West Broad Street, between Adams and Belvedere. See you tonight!

South of the James Market

I picked this up from the "Hills and Heights" blog for southside.
posted by Phil Licking at April 7, 2008 1:59 pm :
(passing along info received from David Hathcock in Kathy Graziano’s office)
SOUTH OF THE JAMES MARKET UPDATE: The numbers are in from Council Member Kathy’s Graziano’s poll, and the results are clear. People overwhelmingly want a farm market in our area. In response, it looks likely that we will have a farm market in operation this year. The South of the James market, as it will be called, will bring the same expertise and contacts that have made the Byrd House Farm market a success. The market is scheduled for Saturday mornings, from 8 to noon, and will start the first week in May. It will be located at the end of New Kent Avenue and 42nd Street, at Shelter 2 in Forest Hill Park. It looks like more than a dozen vendors of fresh, locally grown produce will be selling, including Amy Hicks from Amy’s Garden, and Carol the flower lady from the Byrd House and the Thursday 17th Street Market. In addition, some growers who participate in Community Supported Agriculture will use the market as a delivery point for community partners. The market is not associated with the city government. The vendor is renting space from the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities. The Market Manager is Karen Atkinson. She can be reached at 513-3100 or it has not been announced, it is understood that Fourth District Council Member Kathy Graziano paid for the rental space with personal funds.

If that is true about Graziano , that is very cool news.
other info...
In addition to the vendors mentioned above Victory Farm, Faith Farm, and 7 Hills Market will all be at the South of the James Market.
Hope to see you there!!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Brookview Farm Update

Brookview farm has an e-newsletter and I thought I would pass on the most recent updates.

Brookview Farm
P.O. Box 126854 Dover Road
Manakin-Sabot, VA 23103
Website -
Tel: (804)784-3131
Fax: (804)784-2697
SATURDAY HOURS 9 A.M. - 1 P.M. Credit cards accepted

MISSION STATEMENT To sustainably produce the highest quality food and farm products, in a manner that preserves and enhances our community and natural resources.

Saturday, May 3, 2008
Dear Customers, We hope all of you who joined us last Saturday during our Earth Day Celebration enjoyed the day as much as we did. Everyone seemed to be having fun, especially the little ones. For those of you who had to wait for the burgers, we apologize for the delay due to our grill not working properly. Thank goodness our friend Freddie showed up and helped get the grill going. We appreciate all of you who came out and supported your local farm. If you missed this year, we hope you can make it for the next one.

BEEF We still have plenty of your favorite cuts of beef in stock as well as a few you may have missed such as the flat iron. We are very pleased with the new thicker cut filets which look very delicious. If you are cooking grass-fed beef remember it is best cooked slowly and try not to lose any of the juices which keeps the beef tender. Many of us like to squeeze the juices out of the burger when cooking on the grill, but you don't want to do this and dry out the burger. If you are cooking a roast, a crock pot set on low all day is perfect for a delicious tender meat for dinner. Sandy likes to throw in a few pieces of rosemary, some orange slices and a few potatoes to add flavor to his roast.

We carry in our market The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook by Shannon Hayes - Healthy cooking recipes with grass-fed foods which is full of recipe ideas. The internet is also a great source for tips on cooking with grass fed beef. Remember we are here to help answer any questions.

The egg situation seems to be improving tremendously. We are now getting almost as many eggs daily as we were getting in a whole week this past winter. The new pullets have started laying which has helped. To those of you who hate to drive out just for one dozen eggs, we are happy to say that the limit of a dozen per customer has been lifted until further notice. Sandy says the chicks we received in the mail on April 1, at two days old are growing quickly. Stop by and see them when you come out. Keep your fingers crossed that most of them are not roosters, because that will determine how many pullets we will have laying eggs this fall. Sandy says it will be a couple more weeks before he will be able to tell.


We will have the following in the market this Saturday:

Organic Grass-fed beef - New Arrival with all your favorite cuts
Eggs from our free-range chickens (NO LIMIT) - new price $5.00/doz.
Raw honey with or without the comb - also whipped honey great for spreading on toast or bagels
All-natural, free-range chickens produced by Shenandoah Valley Family Farms
Fauquier's Finest Country Butcher Shop Products: Sausage (Sage, Maple & Sweet Italian), Pork Chops and Bacon
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon - full of nutritious & healthy eating ideas
The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook by Shannon Hayes - Healthy cooking recipes with grass-fed foods
Brookview Farm logo items - hats, t-shirts and tote bagsGoat's milk soap & lotion from Breeze Hill Farm - These scented soaps and lotions make great gifts
Old Dominion Root Beer and Ginger Ale
Goochland County Chamber of Commerce 2008 Directory (with Sandy and Bunny on the cover) - free
GOOCHLAND RURAL MARKET - OPENING This Saturday is the opening day of the Goochland Rural Market. Brookview Farm, along with the Center for Rural Culture, is proud to sponsor the market again this year. After visiting our market, why not drive just 10 minutes further west of Brookview on River Road West (Route 6) and you will find the market, located on the lawn of Grace Episcopal Church, across from the Goochland County Courthouse. The hours are 8 a.m. - 12 noon. If you have never visited the market, you will enjoy the rural experience while shopping for fresh, local, sustainably grown produce and artisan crafts. Visit the Center for Rural Culture's website for more information. EDIBLE GARDENThis week Chef Ed is again featuring Brookview Farm's beef. You will find on the lunch menu a Warm Sliced Rare Roast Beef, Sautéed Onions, Munster Cheese & Seasonal Lettuce on a fresh baked Toscana Hero. Also on the lunch menu, you can order a delicious, rich yellow quiche which is made with Brookview Farm's eggs. The quiche is always a good choice for a light lunch. What a wonderful place to visit after you leave the farm. On the dinner menu, you will find a Grilled 1/2 lb. Beef Burger with Charred Onions, Blue Cheese, Lettuce and Cajun Aioli made with our Brookview Farm ground beef. For more information, click on their link below.

If your family and friends would like to be notified of news about Brookview, please pass this email along to them. We would love to share our farm with everyone and spread the word about providing local food to our customers.

PLEASE VISIT SOME OF OUR FRIENDS Edible Garden - serving local fare for lunch and dinner Center for Rural Culture Hill Farm www.breezehillfarm.comGoochland Land Alliance www.goochlandlandalliance.orgGood Foods Grocery Remember, local food is miles better! See you on the farm,The Fishers and the Brookview Gang Brookview FarmP.O. Box 126854 Dover RoadManakin-Sabot, VA 23103Tel: (804)784-3131Fax: (804)784-2697Website: