Saturday, February 28, 2009

Local Spirits

This weekend is the Virginia Wine Expo, which sounds like a lot of fun. The RFC has been enjoying some great Virginia wines with our local dinners, namely from Williamsburg Winery and White Hall. More on those later.

Today I was inspired by this story on the NY Times website on local spirits. Check it out- it is a beautiful story on the transformation of a landscape, and thus a consciousness.

Friday, February 27, 2009

RFC Visits the VABF Conference

I will be representing the Richmond Food Collective today and tomorrow at the Virginia Association for Biological Farming conference at the Richmond Sheraton West hotel! I didn't get to participate in this conference last year, so I'm excited to see what it has to offer in 2009. Speakers include Will Allen of Growing Power Inc., that exciting nonprofit organization from Milwaukee centered around urban gardening, community education, organic growing and food systems work. Check out my post on Will Allen here, where I talked about his MacArthur fund Genius Grant. I will be attending workshops on permaculture and year round production of naturally grown vegetables today, and tomorrow hope to check out workshops on farm systems, mushrooms and growing organic produce for restaurants. Check back here for photos and details about the conference -- or stop me and say hello if you plan to attend the conference as well! I will be wearing a Richmond Food Collective badge.

Books we Recommend

Read up on sustainable agriculture, the local food movement, whole foods, organic agriculture, food systems, and more! These books have been placed in loose categories to try and serve as a guide... but many of these books have all kinds of crossover between nutrition, gardening, cooking, food politics and local food and on.

Got a book to suggest? Email us!

 Food/ Food Culture/ Nutrition:
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (also gardening/ politics.)
Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket by Brian Halweil
 Food in History by Reay Tannahill in 1973
Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Plank (Nutrition) 
The Happiness Diet:  Tyler Grahm and Drew Ramsey MD. (Nutrition)
In Defense of Food , by Michael Pollan
Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon

Gardening and Working With Nature: 
Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations by David R. Montgomery
 Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman
Second Nature by Michael Pollan

Politics of Food :
In Defense of Food , by Michael P
Full Moon Feast: Food and Hunger For Connection by Jessica Prentice
In Defense of Food , by Michael Pollan
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Culinary/ Cookbooks
The Art of Simple Food A cookbook by Alice Waters
Food52: Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs
How to Pick a Peach;The Search for Flavor From Farm to Table: Russ Parsons


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things...

I will admit that I have not been taking as much pleasure in grocery shopping as I used to. Maybe this is because I have less time to spend at the grocery, which makes shopping more of a chore these days. Maybe it is because I was spoiled by the variety of fresh foods at the markets last season. Anyway, I am trying to get out of that myopic, all business habit at the store and enjoy it a little more. Lucky for me, Richmonders have become quite industrious in the food realm. Take Zaydies Granola for example. Mother and daugther Janice and Shelley Freed have started quite a business with their "naturally delicious and not too sweet" granola. I was lucky enough to try their Cranberry and Walnut, and well as the Blueberry and Almond Granolas, and they are both amazing. The fruit is dried but not hard, and the cereal is well spiced- you won't even miss the sugar. Zaydies is available in generous sizes at Ellwood Thompson's now, and will be at several area markets next season.

I also discovered that my favorite coffee in the world, Blanchard's, is now available at Ellwood Thompson's. My favorites are the espresso blend and the Dark as Dark. The Blanchards know what they are doing, and we are lucky to have them. They have a shop on Forest Hill Avenue, and they'll make you a darned good latte there.

You know who else makes me gush? I know that Shannon mentioned Chocolate Cravings in a recent post, but this is worth mentioning again. In fact, this vendor is known to all of my friends as 'The Chocolate Lady', because really there is no other. Aside from her imaginative combinations, (my favorites are ginger and cardamom and sea salt with almond, though I have also tried jalapeno with cinnamon. Yes, IN the chocolate!) the chocolate she makes is the best I have ever had. No hyperbole- it is the best. Her chocolates are available at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Shop, and will be at various markets next season.

Hope you make some fun and tasty discoveries on your next trip to the store. Maybe you'll be inspired to share them with us!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

School Milk Campaign

Alex Beauchamp, of the Food and Water Watch School Milk Campaign sent us this information on a movement to take rBGH out of school milk. Read on to find out how you can help.

Join Food and Water Watch's Effort to Expel the Hormones from School Milk!

Our kids deserve the healthiest food possible, and parents deserve to have a say in what their kids eat. Milk is a staple for many of our nation’s youngsters, and it’s crucial that the milk served Richmond schools be safe, healthy and free of artificial hormones.

The artificial growth hormone rBGH, used to increase milk production, is unhealthy for cows and may be linked with some types of cancer in humans. RBGH is already banned in some countries, and US consumers are increasingly opting for milk produced without it. In fact, big retailers like Starbuck's, Wal-Mart, and Kroker have already decided not to serve milk with rBGH. Now, companies may be looking to school lunch programs as an outlet for milk consumers don’t want.

We can’t let pharmaceutical companies and corporate agribusiness dictate what’s best for our kids. That’s why Food & Water Watch’s School Milk Campaign is working to give all schools the option to choose milk that is free of rBGH. The Child Nutrition Act is up for renewal this year, giving us a great chance to give schools the option to purchase rBGH-free or organic milk.

Congressman Bobby Scott is a key vote to give schools the choice to purchase rBGH-Free school milk in the Education and Labor Committee, so the Richmond area is particularly important for this issue. We'll keep you informed as the campaign continues to move forward, but for now, can you take 2 minutes to sign Food and Water Watch's online petition?
Sign here.

Interested in working locally in your school district, click here to find out what you can do to ensure your school's milk is rBGH-free.

Thanks again,


Food Democracy Needs You Now!

Help Send a Message to the USDA – 100,000 Americans for a Sustainable America
Next week the organization Food Democracy Now will be delivering a list of signatures and comments to Secretary of Agriculture, Vilsack . Many of you may have already signed this petition. I know I have posted information and a the link to this organization once already. For this last push I decided to forward on their latest appeal for help.
The organization's goal is to get over 100,000 signatures from Americans who recognize the importance of a USDA that implements policies to support sustainability. According to the Food Democracy Now e-mail over 84,659 people have already signed the letter calling for sustainable change at the USDA.
Original signers to the letter include Michael Pollan, Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, Marion Nestle, Francis Moore Lappé, Bill McKibben, Alice Waters, Dan Barber and Rick Bayless among many others. .... A good group of folks to join, I'd say. Click Here to see the original letter with it's signers and sign on yourself.

Food Democracy Now ends their call for signed support by saying that... "So far we know that we’ve had success in changing the debate in how agriculture is being discussed in the 21st century. Since his confirmation, Secretary Vilsack has made a number of forward-thinking statements that prove he understands the urgent need for change in our nation’s food policies. Let's make sure the administration understands how much support the idea of sustainable practices in U.S. food and farm policy we’re asking that you forward this message to 5 friends to have them sign the petition and help put us over the top.
Thanks again for all your help, we look forward to creating a sustainable food system for the 21st century. "
Best,David MurphyPaul WillisLisa StokkeAaron Woolf
Food Democracy Now!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Goochland Area CSA

I just received word from Steve and Chris Ault of Ault's Family Farm and Apiary that due to farm expansion projects they will not be able to participate in the Goochland Farmers market this year. I love these guys, and am very sorry that they will not be able to be at the Goochland Market, but it sounds like they have plenty of great things ahead for those us who enjoy great, local, pastured meat. They promise that after these renovations are complete they will will be better able to serve our local community with fresh, thoughtfully raised pork, poultry and beef. We got our perfect Thanksgiving turkey from Ault's this past year, and they will have thanksgiving turkeys available for order again this year.

The best news is that Edible Garden restaurant of Goochland will continue its Co-Op program with their Summer Season Farm to Family Co-Op. , and that Ault's Family Farm will be participating.
Fall Line Farms Farm to Family Co-Op
Here is an excerpt from a message sent out by Edible Garden....
"Fall Line Farms Fall Line Farms, LLC is a farm to family Co-op program designed to connect family owned and operated farms serving the Richmond area with local customers in search of local food year round.
Fall Line Farms represents more than 25 local farms and businesses serving the falls of the James River region. Our Winter Season opened in November of 2008 offering a full line of locally produced products to over 100 founding families weekly. "
This Co-Op offers a wide variety of organic and naturally grown products as well as hydroponically grown tomatoes, locally made candies, goat cheese, Bison meat, and fresh berries are just some of the items you could purchase on-line and pickup. As a member you select the items you would like to purchase each week and place your order all on line.
The Summer Co-Op runs May 1st through October 31st on a weekly cycle with orders placed over the weekend for Thursday pickup from 3:00-6:00. The pickup location has been, and I believe still is at Edible Garden in Goochland. In addition to your actual food cost there is an $85 fee to participate in the Six month Co-Op. However, if you can afford it they have lined up a fantastic list of participating farms.

Here is the run down of participating farms from their e-mail...

Ault’s Family Farm, Pamplin, VA : Pastured Pork, Lamb & Poultry, Honey, Brown Eggs
Beulah Land Fruits, Southampton County, VA : Figs, Muscadine Grapes, Persimmons, Asian Pears
Birdsong Farm, Wakefield, VA : Mesculan Mix, Sunchokes, Leeks, Elephant Garlic Blanton Garden, Suffolk :Tomatoes, Figs, Peppers, Carrots, Beets, Tatsoi, Potatoes Bradshaw Garden, Southampton County, VA : Beets, Carrots, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Peppers, Brussel Sprouts, Radishes, Mesculan Mix, Japanese Eggplant
Breeze Hill Farm, Powhatan, VA : Goat’s Milk Products, Yarns & Finished Items Brookview Farm, Manakin-Sabot, VA : Grass-fed Beef & Pork, Free-range Chicken Eggs, Honey
Cavanna Pasta, Richmond, VA : Homemade Fresh Pasta, Sauces
College Run, Surry, VA : Strawberries, Butterbeans
Cromwell Farm, Virginia Beach, VA : Broccoli, May Peas, Sugar Snaps, Lettuce & Beets Cullipher Farms, Virginia Beach, VA : Berries, Vegetables, Lettuces, Beans and Squash Dave & Dee’s Homegrown Mushrooms, Sedley, VA : Varieties of Fresh Oyster Mushrooms
Dodds Farm, Hanover, VA : Tomatoes, Black Beauty Eggplant, Zucchini, Squash
Deblyn Farm, Dinwiddie, VA Piedmontese Natural Lean Beef
Drewery Farm, Wakefield, VA : Blueberries
Goats R Us, Blackstone, VA : Artisan Goat Cheese Products
Herban Avenues, Lovettsville, VA :Organic Herbal Teas
Manakintowne Specialty Growers, Powhatan, VA : Specialty Greens & Herbs and Baked Goods
March Garden, Southampton County, VA : Potatoes, Melons, Cabbage
Mount Vernon Farm, Sperryville, VA : Pasture raised Beef, Lamb & Pork, Blackberries Shenandoah Farms, Mount Jackson, VA : Apples, Hydroponic Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Bibb Lettuce
Shire Farm, Surry, VA : Free-range Chicken and Duck Eggs
Tuckahoe Plantation, Goochland, VA : Cut Flowers, Free-range Chicken Eggs
Turner Garden, Southampton County, VA : Heirloom Tomatoes, Beets, Carrots, Celery Root, Fennel, Parsnips, Melons, Radishes, Spring Onions
Velatis Caramel Candies, Maidens, VA : Specialty Candies
Whitener Farms, Suffolk, VA : Tomatoes, Asparagus, Squash, Watermelon, Arugula, Onions, Eggplant, Okra, Radishes
Wild T Bison Farm, Haynesville, VA : Pasture Raised Bison Products
Williams Garden, Goochland, VA : Heirloom Tomatoes, Spring Onions, Carrots, Arugula Questions, Contact:

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Locavore's Landscape

Matt Goldman of the Virginia Berry Farm will be teaching a class in edible landscaping next Friday at the Maymont Flower and Garden show. Learn what fruits you can grow in your own backyard- from blueberries to figs to kiwis! For more info on the show, which promises to have a very green emphasis, look here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Local Flour in Ashland

Leave it to my friend Melissa to find local flour! Ellwood Thompson's and Ukrop's are selling their products in town under the name Patrick Henry, which is milled by Ashland Milling Company. I have used their cornmeal, both for polenta and to dust breads and pizza dough, and like it a lot. So, if you'd like to take a field trip and save some money on bulk flour, check out Melissa's notes from her recent trip to the Ashland Milling Company:

So - the Byrd Mill is on the left side of Route 1 going north in Ashland. If you cross the Anna River you've gone too far. It's tricky to find - it's labelled 'Ashland Milling Company' rather than 'Byrd Mill', and to get to the office you have to turn in at the previous drive way, take the middle of three forks and drive over a scale. Then you drive back on to route 1 and in the other driveway to the loading bays to pick up your flour.

It's not clear what, if anything, is organic. BUT they have a functioning mill, and the whole wheat and corn is from Hanover County. I think the bread flour is from Pennsylvania wheat but is processed here. They sell all manner of other things, like coffee and chocolate and baking mixes, and supply mostly bakeries and whatnot. You can order online here but I think the weight would make postage prohibitively expensive - you can get flour in bags from 2 lbs to 50 lbs. I bought 50 lbs of bread flour, 5 lbs wholewheat (I'll probably just get the local wholewheat next time and add gluten for bread) and 2 lbs cornflour since I don't use it so much - and I spent less than $25. That is, less than 50 cents a pound.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Dirt! The Movie

Am I allowed to be this excited about dirt? Absolutely!! Soil is what gardening is all about, and it's also the subject of a new and (at least for me) exciting documentary called Dirt! The Movie. Dirt is definitely one of those ignored issues (especially when we're all up in arms about economic insanity), but it is without question more important than most people think. Check out the trailer for Dirt!:

Chris Lawrence, State Agronomist for the National Resources Conservation Service, recommended this movie at a recent horticulture conference.

Also, co-blogger Shannon recently recommended a book concerning similar topics: Dirt: The Erosion of Human Civilizations, by David R. Montgomery. According to a review on the Amazon website: "Montgomery...argues persuasively that soil is humanity's most essential natural resource and essentially linked to modern civilization's survival." I haven't read the book yet but I'm excited. When I went to see John Jeavons (GROW BIOINTENSIVE guru extraordinaire from California) speak at EMU, I remembered hearing him say 'peak soil' all the time. I was eager to hear more science and hard facts concerning the current situation with our total agricultural land and whether or not we have really reached a peak...

In any case, both of these resources sound like good motivation for getting your own compost bin cooking. Just because you're cutting down on 'discretionary' spending doesn't mean you can't afford a compost thermometer!

Friday, February 6, 2009

This just in From William Byrd House Market! My friend and former Coworker John Wise will be running a set of gardening classes called Urban Garden Gurus! Here is the e-mail that Byrd house sent out...
"Popular horticulturist, teacher, and woody plants expert, John Wise, returns to William Byrd Community House with a series of classes entitled Urban Garden Gurus or UGGs. John designed the master class especially for WBCH and has invited some of Richmond's expert gardeners or “gurus” to share their knowledge.

UGGs begins February 25 and runs until April 8
on Wednesday evenings from 6 –8 p.m.
The gardening classes will cover topics such as organic gardening, propagation and nursery production, plant materials, pests, diseases, garden design, edible plants, and gardening in small, urban spaces.
The classes will cost $45 for all seven classes and will take place at William Byrd Community House at224 S. Cherry Street, Richmond, VA23229 adjacent to Oregon Hill, Randolph, and VCU.
Classes will fill up quickly so reserve your spot by calling (804) 643-2717 or email

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Humane Certification for Egg Producers

Our friend Krissi from Vegan Action sent this press release today, and I am thrilled.

Humane Farm Animal Care Now the Nation's Leading Certifier of Cage Free Eggs

Majority of Cage Free eggs are Certified Humane Raised and Handled

(Herndon, VA, U.S.A., January 22, 2009) - Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC), the leading non-profit certification organization improving the lives of farm animals in food production, announced today that at 1.5 billion cage free eggs per year,
Certified Humane is the leading certifier of cage free eggs in the United States.

The current list of egg producers which come from farms that have earned the Certified Humane certification are:

- Abbotsford Egg Products (Papetti Liquid Eggs), Wisconsin
- Ayrshire Farm, Upperville, Virginia
- Braswell Eggs, North Carolina
- Egg Innovations, Wisconsin
- Eggology, California
- Farmers Organic Foods International, Wisconsin
- GCB Foods, North Carolina
- Giving Nature Foods, Pennsylvania
- Glaum Egg Ranch, California
- Herbrucks/Green Meadow Organics, Michigan
- Hidden Villa Ranch (Cage Free), California
- Nellies Nest Eggs, New Hampshire
- Pete & Gerrys Organic Eggs, New Hampshire
- Phils Fresh Eggs, Illinois
- Radlo Foods (Born Free Cage Free), Massachusetts
- R.W. Sauder, Inc. (Cage Free), Pennsylvania
- Soncrest Egg Company, Texas
- Stiebrs Farms, Washington
- Wilcox Family Farms, Washington

Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals by certifying their humane treatment. Supported by more than 33 humane organizations, the Certified Humane Raised and Handled program is nationally recognized as the Gold Standard for certifying animal welfare from birth through slaughter. Since the program was unveiled in May 2003, more than 65 companies, representing hundreds of farms and millions of farm animals,have been certified. HFACs Animal Care Standards were developed by a veritable Whos Who of national and international animal scientists and farm-animal welfare experts. Producer compliance with the HFAC standards is verified through annual on-site visits by HFACs third-party inspectors.

For more information visit HFACs website here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

CSA Sign Up Season

CSA Sign up Season is in full swing with some interested parties getting more than a little antsy about both the prospect of first pick fresh produce, and the fear of not making the list for their favorite or most convenient CSA. Most of you know Amys Garden and Victory Farm, but for new, or new to you, CSA options check out the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services page dedicated to Virginia CSAs. Listed by County, the details, including contact info and area served, are included for each.
CSAs are definitely a great option for those who may only be able to get to a market towards it's close due to work, or who just want to get that box of food and are less interested in "The Market Experience." And they are definitely a benefit to the farmers themselves. The upfront money CSA members provide helps to guarantee a bountiful and varied harvest. I personally enjoy shopping around from vendor to vendor and market to market way too much, but I know I miss out on some great treats particularly those early season items that are often only abundant enough for CSA members and those harder to grow specialty items.

For those of you who like to go to the Byrd House Market on Tuesday Evenings, and were using Victory Farms as your CSA in past years, there will still be the Rural Virginia Market CSA, the
Fertile Crescent CSA ttp:// .
Rural Virgina Market CSA offers food from a collection of small farms in Hanover and Goochland. The CSA Shares are divided so you can purchase an Early Spring, Summer, and Late Summer/ Fall Share to suit your needs. The Share prices seem higher than the CSA shares of farms like Victory Farms, but Rural Virgina Market CSA supplies eggs, poultry, honey, cheese, and produce from some of the areas best farms including Manakintowne Specialty Growers, Goats R Us, Homestead Traditionals, and 4 Season Farm. The Rural Virginia Market contains links to all of these farms plus more. They even include an assortment of Cavanna Pasta biweekly! If you are just looking for veggies, they have a veggie only share as well. You can view all of the items you could expect to receive, categorized by season, on their website. Even the veggie CSA may include a larger share of produce, but it is listed at the same price as the full share making it more costly than other area CSAs for produce.
The Rural Virginia Market CSA will also have pick up at Lakeside Farmers Market and The Whole Foods out in Short Pump.

Homestead Traditionals, by the way, is a great farm with a superior expert bee keeper and a wonderful place to visit if you get a chance.

Fertile Crescent farm is one of our favorite produce vendors. They have a blogsite as well. Although this link looks like it hasn't been updated since July it will give you a good feel for the owners of the farm, Adam and Darbi. The produce they offered all of last year was always incredibly fresh and clean. Unlike my purchases from some other very good vendors(or the grocery store), I never found anything from Fertile Crescent that was not perfectly fresh. Adam is always friendly and happy to help with suggestions for storage and preparation. If last year repeats, Fertile Crescent is also at the South of the James Market on Saturdays.

If your big on Fresh Fruit then don't forget Agriberry CSA . This link will provide you with contact information as well as a link to their local harvest page. I believe they will be at the Lakeside Market again this year and when I spoke with them this fall they were excited to start off the 2009 spring season with fresh Asparagus! It is my understanding that several of the items in this CSA, which come from a variety of area farms, are not organic so be sure to ask if this is a concern for you. None the less this is a great CSA to work with and if you don't join the CSA be sure to stop by their booth at market. I picked up all kinds of great treats ts from them last year.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Free Back Issues of Organic Gardening

Our friend Eric just filled us in on a great opportunity for all those who enjoy Organic Gardening Magazine. Google Books has site where you can view and read back issues of this informative publication free of charge. Click Here to check it out.

Monday, February 2, 2009

New Area CSA

A new farm (they've just moved their farm closer to our area) is in town. According to their site Frog Bottom Farm uses sustainable farming practices. Their Website says they".. do not use pesticides or harmful fertilizers on any of [their] crops, [and] use trace amounts of a seawater-based foliar fertilizer." They also say they irrigate from a springfed creek.

For more detailed information about this wonderful sounding farm, visit their website . They provide lots of good information.

Here is the run down of their expected CSA share contents...

Early summer possibilities (June - early July): beets, carrots, chard, cucumbers, eggplant, endive, fennel, fresh herbs, lettuce, scallions, shallots, summer squash, tomatoes
Late summer possibilities (late July - early September): cantaloupe, carrots, chard, cucumbers, eggplant, fresh herbs, onions, sweet and hot peppers, potatoes, radishes, shallots, summer squash, tomatoes, turnips, watermelon
Fall possibilities (late September - October): beets, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collard greens, cucumbers, eggplant, fresh herbs, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard greens, onions, sweet and hot peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, rutabagas, summer squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips, turnip greens, watermelon, winter squash
How much does it cost?
A full share costs $550 (equivalent to $25/week). A half share costs $300 (equivalent to just over $13/week). Some folks split a full share with a friend or neighbor - you’re welcome to do that. We accept checks and money orders.
Where do members pick up their weekly shares?
You can pick up your weekly share at the farm or at one of several drop sites in Charlottesville, Roanoke, Lynchburg or Richmond. We’re still determining exact pick-up days and locations, and we’ll post that information right here as soon as we know it.

What a "Foodie" Can Love About Winter

This weekend I was emailing a friend of mine and started thinking about all the great new things I have tried and/ or cooked up so far this winter season. The cold winter offers up the perfect excuse to stay in, turn on the oven, and cook up some wonderful warming comfort foods. Thinking back just since Christmas I have tried quite a lot of new things. This winter I made my first home made brownies from scratch, my first homemade quiche crust ( several times now), my first poached chicken for a chicken pot pie, my first whole mustard tarragon vinaigrette, my first cranberry orange bread, first ginger snaps, first biscotti, first from scratch pancakes, first lentil soup, first split pea soup, 2nd ever beef stew (with grass feed beef). I also ate mackerel, rock fish, conk, sardines, roasted duck and bluefish for the first time. Thanks to Natalie I had my first taste of freshly fermented kimchi, and yummy homemade lentil cakes. Tiny things really, but I grew up on boxed cake and wonder bread! Breaking outside of old patterns can be hard if your on auto pilot... but so much fun when you do! I am still taking small steps of sorts in the quest for kitchen knowledge and culinary um... prowess .... defined as (Superior skill or ability. Superior strength, courage, or daring, especially in battle!) but, this is one quest that guarantees reward.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Food Democracy Now

For those of you who didn't hear about the campaign to convince President Obama to name a sustainable agriculture proponent to the position of Secretary of Agriculture, I apologize. As I am sure you know that position has been filled and Obama's choice of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack was not someone on the sustainable ag. list. (Vilsack attempted a run for the Democratic Party Presidential candidate. When he had dropped out early in the race he threw his support behind Hillary Clinton and campaigned heavily for her. Once Obama won the primary Vilsack supported him. )
However, Food Democracy Now is not giving up on getting someone dedicated to sustainable agriculture in the department. They have moved on to the Under Secretary position, stating that it is there belief that the Under Secretary of Agriculture may actually have a bigger influence over the day to day operation of the department. Food Democracy Now was founded in Iowa by a handful of experienced supporters of sustainable farming including Aron Woolf, the producer and director of King Korn, and Paul Willis who among other things is of Niman Ranch. Niman Ranch offers pork from hogs raised outdoors. These are not luxury grazing, foraging farms, but sadly in the world of Iowa farming simply being able to promote and maintain hog farms that are anything but indoor confinement operations is a bit of a feat.
To view their website, links to dozens of articles about them and their movement, and to cast a vote of support for their list of potential candidates, which they refer to as "The Sustainable Dozen" please click Here.

On the Road to Victory

This year looks to be another big year for Victory Farms. Charlie has set out once again to Double the number of people participating in the Victory Farms CSA! In addition, he has been in the running for White House Farmer... an idea put forth by Michael Pollen in an NPR interview and similar to the eat the view campaign to turn White House Lawn into productive fruit and vegetable gardens. Well, thankfully for us in Richmond anyway Charlie did not end up in the finale three. However, I am certain that the Nation would have benefited greatly from his expertise and enthusiasm for sustainable and wildly productive farming. If you are interested in checking out the White House Farmer site and viewing the final voting results (polls closed last night), click Here.

Given, their goal of doubling their CSA memberships Victory has extended the application deadline to join. It's not too late. Visit their website for more info.
In addition, several of us were rather holding our breath to see what would come of Charlie's plan to open a local store front to sell his produce. It looks like those plans have been put off for now anyway. Here is short excerpt from their latest e-mail...

"After much searching and contemplation, we have decided to hold off on opening a retail storefront. Weighing economic and family feasibility as well as logistical considerations, we have decided to focus on the tripling of the garden and the doubling of the CSA membership. We do not want to increase our overhead at this point nor compromise the CSA experience for anyone.
So, the plan is now to do the two markets we've mentioned previously -
Tuesdays at Bryan Park from 3-7pm and
Saturdays at the South of James in Forest Hill Park from 8am-1pm (NOTE: new ending time!) - The 17th Street Farmers Market on Thursdays from 9am-1pm.
Please note, though, that the month of April is going to be a different plan. Due to the city's insurance restrictions, we cannot setup there until May. For April only, we will be at either the Crossroads Art Center Market or at the 17th Street Farmers Market on Thursdays. We may also do the 17th Street Market on Saturdays just for April, but that is TO BE DETERMINED and we'll let you know for sure soon when I hear back from them. We will have more space at all three markets as well as more staff to help serve our customers. We are working on new efficiency methods to speed checkout. And we will purchase a refrigerated box truck to aid in the transportation and short-term storage of the produce.We are still entertaining the idea of a case in one or two strategic locations around town and we'll let you know if that becomes available."

The Bryan Park Market (Off of Lakeside Ave) may be a new one to many of you.
As well as the extra hour for The South of the James Market!
It is promising to be another exciting market season for us all with other new markets planned including two new ones in the west end of the city (not the short pumpy west end, but west end old school style). We will keep you posted!

February and Chocolate

Happy February!

This time of year there is always a lot of focus on Chocolate, particularly good and fancy Chocolate, and here I am to add to it. Having just recently finished Nina Planks great book , Real Food: What to Eat and Why, (Everyone should read it)I was inspired to pass on what she has to say about Chocolate. Click Here to check out Nina's own blog and specifically her valuable information on chocolate. I also like her suggestion of using the nutritionally valuable chocolate Nibs in place of chocolate chips in some of your culinary pursuits. Treat yourself to some delicious, and nutritious chocolates this season, and don't look back!
For local creators of chocolate confections check out ....
1. Chocolate Cravings : ( I personally recommend their dark chocolate bark with smoked almonds and sea salt). A regular Market Vendor at the Lakeside Farmers market, their sturdier items such as the chocolate barks are available at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Gift Shop. She also offers such items as Guniess Brownies, Fancy Boxed Truffles, and Chocolate Tarts.
2. Seven Hills Confections : This is a new branch of Seven Hills Market on Forest Hill Ave. A regular vendor at the South of the James Market, Seven Hills seems to specialize in boxes (6 piece or 12 piece) of specialty chocolate truffles.
3. Gearhart's Chocolates : In Charlottesville, this is a well known local producer of fancy chocolate confections of all sorts.
4. Cocoa Mill Chocolatiers : In Lexington Va... apparently the Wall Street Journal selected their Heart shaped box of truffles as "best over all."
And Here is another good resource for quality chocolate.
Know of any other local chocolatiers that specialize in fresh, hand made chocolates? Let us know!

Secret Suppers

This week I just finished reading Secret Suppers: Rouge chefs & Underground Restaurants in Warehouses, Townhouses, Open Fields, and Everywhere In Between. This exciting book by LA based food journalist, Jenn Garbee is well worth the small amount of time it will take you to breeze through each fascinating chapter. In Secret Suppers, Garbee ( dedicates each chapter to a different underground dining experience, taking you right along with her to experience everything from unsatisfying $200 6 course meals in open fields. To truly gratifying, and inspiring 6 course meals for $40 in D.C. (specialty cocktails included)! Every element of these undergrounds was interesting to me, including the varied ways each selects their lucky dinner guest. Some of these underground restaurants focus on fresh local fare, but most focus solely on trying to create interesting and delicious meals.
To visit the only "Virtual" Underground Restaurant she covers, check out Sub Rosa. This micro-distillery! and virtual restaurant is worth a visit.

This book is perfect for anyone interested in experiencing or even creating great food, amazing culinary feats, and social adventure.