Thoughts on Food as a Resource, Not a Commodity

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Nothing will give you an appreciation of summer’s bounty like the cold, gray creeping of winter. The clocks have turned back. The night begins early.

Even in a warmly lamplit kitchen, rife with root vegetables and hearty cold weather greens, it’s easy to dream of the plentiful season that’s passed. Perhaps curiouser is how under-appreciated the wealth that nature provides can be.

I think of Atlanta in July. Astride many urban streets are trees, trees laden with fruit. More startling than the presence of fruit in a city setting are the number of pedestrians who walk past without even an exploratory pluck. On occasion, these fruits are on private property, often times not.

But no one has time for anything in the city, let alone picking available food, right?

Does anyone contemplate where their food is coming from? People who never question where their organic avocado or tomato come from are just as guilty of food-related ethical blindness as their grandparent who never questioned what a loaf of white bread was made from.

On a hillside in Chile, a single blueberry is picked and placed in a basket with other blueberries that make their way onto a tractor that dumps them onto a generator-powered conveyor belt that eventually drops them into boxes that are loaded onto a truck that is driven to a port where they are loaded on a boat that delivers them to Florida where they are again moved to a truck where they are delivered to a grocery store that is powered by electricity created at a dam that is slowly changing the ecology of a region.

How much fossil fuel was used to get that berry to the person who bought it at a remarkably low rate, considering the amount of ecological and environmental damage that spun off of the single berry, sold with a pint of other berries?

As we walk down the street past blackberries, blueberries, serviceberries, apples, peaches, pears, figs and muscadines, we should consider that we are presented with food, local food. The earth is gracious in its use of fairly obvious cues. If you see tomatoes growing on someone’s porch or blackberries growing in an abandoned lot, it is time to eat tomatoes and blackberries.

The complications of food ethics are vast. Do you abandon the farmer in Argentina who made a small profit from the grapes he shipped to the grocery store chain on your street? The food is there, should you buy it? Should you only support farmers markets? What about in the winter when there are only winter greens, cabbage and sweet potatoes?

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How you approach the purchase of what you eat is as subjective as what tastes good to your tongue. But the next time you are on a walk and you notice some fruit that seems to be falling to the ground and rotting, why not return with a bag, fill it up and explore the various ways that the available food can be stored and used (i.e. freezing, jamming, preserving).

Further, when you buy anything, and I mean anything, think about what it took to get that item to you — the amount of fuel burned, the rivers that were stopped to create power, the nuclear waste from the plant that powers the distribution center, the amount of plastic (wrap, binds, twist ties, gloves, containers, packaging) used to get the product to you.

Food tells us a lot about the earth, the places we should and should not be. There are places in the world where water is scarce, and yet people abound. Likewise, in places where food is scarce or difficult to grow, people should alternatively be scarce.

As we continue to consume more of the world around us, why not think a little more about taking what is right in front of us, for free, willingly sprouting from the earth. Think about what it takes to get an item to you. And remember, food is a resource, not a commodity.

Story by Gresham Cash
Photos by Paige French

An End of Summer Reading List

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Now that summer is coming to a close, the sweet taste of vacation still on the mind, you can ease back into your favorite chair and travel again with a great new book. Tyler Goodson of Avid Bookshop in Athens, Ga., has a few top picks for the season to share. A staple at the bookshop for five years, Tyler hand-picks the latest and greatest literary works for adults, but his recommendations across the board will take you away.


HARDBACK FICTION

 

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

This book is outrageous, hilarious, and a jolt to the system—the opposite of what our main character is after. I don't know how a book about someone wanting to sleep for a year is so compelling, but it feels somehow necessary and like I've needed it all along.

 

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler

Clock Dance is a novel about time; how it moves and how it can get away from us. It’s sweet, warm, and funny, without ever sacrificing sharp writing and well-observed characters. It’s readable comfort food that reminds us it is not only possible to make a new way in life, but it’s never too late.

 

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

This novel is the kind of book you make time for, the kind you cancel plans and turn your phone off for. It's utterly believable, heartbreaking, and beautiful. In Makkai's hands, this generation devastated by AIDS are not victims, but fighters, resisters, and believers. I am thankful for this book. 

 

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

A harrowing and compelling story of a mother serving two life sentences in prison, this novel is dark, but somehow full of what makes life matter. I love Kushner's writing, and her newest book does not disappoint. 

 

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PAPERBACK FICTION

 

The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

Tana French comparisons are constant (and usually wrong) but The Ruin measures up. With great plotting, characters, and writing, McTiernan has created a vital new series.

 

The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder

Sometimes you want to read a book about characters who have it together even less than you. I loved this book. The characters are flawed but trying to figure it out. 

 

Ill Will by Dan Chaon

Ill Will is frightening and very unsettling.  It's a rare horror novel that is both well-written with great characters.  Don't read it alone at night.

 

Stephen Florida by Gabe Habash

Spanning a college wrestler's senior season, Stephen Florida is unlike anything else. Eerie and unsettling, it can be hard to live in Stephen's head, but it is impossible to stop reading, or forget what you find there. As a character, Stephen is unpredictable, sympathetic, focused, frenzied, cold, and tender. He is hard to love and yet I love him. We are lucky to have a new novel like this: something you haven't seen before, that makes you remember what good fiction is capable of.

 

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

Katherine Heiny has a voice unlike anyone else. Her writing and characters are smart and fresh—full of precise, hilarious commentary on marriage, parenting, friendship, and dinner parties, etc.

 

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

There is a reason this novel won Jesmyn Ward her second National Book Award. This story follows Jojo and his mother Leonie as they travel to Northern Mississippi to pick up Jojo's father from prison. It is haunted and powerful. 

 

 

YOUNG ADULT FICTION

 

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

This YA novel is The Secret History meets Agatha Christie. Stevie attends a private boarding school, and wants to solve the school's decades-old murder, but has to turn her keen eye to the present when one of her classmates winds up dead. This feels like a classic. Fun and suspenseful.

 

I Felt a Funeral, In My Brain by Will Walton

On the first day of summer, Avery brings home a stack of poetry. Later that summer, as he tries to navigate crushing loss and disappointment, he turns to that poetry again and again; the reading and writing of it. This book is Avery's bold and thrilling record of his heartbreak, love, grief, and family. It's about creating art through pain, and dealing with pain through art. It blew me away.

 

 

NON-FICTION & TRUE CRIME

 

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

I'll Be Gone in the Dark is a story of obsession and violence, a woman and a killer. As much a book of true crime as it is a book about a time and a place. And a person: Michelle McNamara. She is a streak of good in the darkness, and how fortunate we are to have this record of her perceptiveness, honesty, and humanity. Go ahead and plan to stay up all night. It's that good (and that scary).

 

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Words by Tyler Goodson

Photographs by Erin Wilson

How City Pharmacy is Recreating Community in Covington

For seventy years, City Pharmacy was a place where people could gather in downtown Covington, Georgia. It was a true functioning pharmacy when Phil Stone worked there as a teenage soda jerk in the late 1950s. The experience inspired him to go to pharmacy school, and later he returned to buy the building. 

After the space took on different shapes and names a few times since the mid-90s, Phil's son Tedo re-opened City Pharmacy, this time as a farm-to-table restaurant with chef Christian Perez at the helm. New owner Tedo Stone shared what the experience and business means to him.

What was the inspiration for City Pharmacy?

The idea of reopening City Pharmacy as a restaurant/bar grew out of conversations amongst my siblings over the years. There was always that simple idea in the back of my head, but it was touring around with my band that allowed me to experience tons of bars and restaurants across the country to draw inspiration from. Every town has that one place we sought out based on recommendations from locals and visitors alike. The establishments I was particularly drawn to were those rich in history and unique to that community with a comfortable and friendly energy. Those intangible energies of a gathering place that locals cherish and passersby seek out is something that can't be replicated, but I knew City Pharmacy had been that place for Covington before closing it's doors in '96. I wanted to bring that energy back into the space — the energy that once lived within the pharmacy and soda fountain. 
 

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What does it mean for you personally to restore life in a place that has been vital to your community for so long?

It feels like a rite of passage to be opening a business on the square in Covington. In addition to my dad's business, his mom and sister owned a dress shop across the square. My grandfather on my mom's side owned Covington Furniture store a few store fronts over from City Pharmacy, where there is now an Irish pub. Covington is a quaint, picturesque city that is currently experiencing a lot of growth. Revitalizing the pharmacy will hopefully preserve some of the town's history not only with its namesake, but with the stories that can be retold within its walls for years to come. With all the challenges I've faced opening a restaurant, its these things that make it an extremely fulfilling endeavor. 

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How did you facilitate such a convivial atmosphere?

For the duration of the pharmacy's life, "Where Friends Meet" was painted on the side of the building. I believe there is an energy in the space that facilitates communion, and has for many years. The pharmacy was much more than a place to get your prescription filled, like we think of today. At the time it was much more. It was the place where individuals would congregate on the square before there were restaurants or bars. 

I also believe excitement and joy derives from creation. We want the menus to be ever-evolving with the seasons, products, and the hands that create them. Encouraging our culinary team and bartenders to create and explore brings excitement into the food, drinks and atmosphere. 

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Which historical elements of the space did you think were most important to maintain?

To me, the ceramic tile floors make the space. Mike, the gentleman who repaired the floors, was the first one in and last to leave during the renovation. They no longer make the particular size of tile, so he hand-scored over 2,000 tiles to restore damages from years of installations and walls being nailed into them. Another staple feature is the stained glass windows. We discovered a picture from the 40s displaying the stained glass on the facade, but it had been covered up for decades. The most exciting day of renovations was uncovering it to discover it intact with just one pane damaged. 

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What's been the most rewarding part of opening this restaurant?

Seeing my dad, who worked his first job at City Pharmacy and eventually purchased it as his his first business, sitting at the bar in conversation or going table to table to speak to old friends and strangers alike brings me a lot of joy. All my life I've been approached by countless people my dad filled prescriptions for and the people who worked along side him. Stories of the service he provided to customers far exceed the big box pharmacies that have now replaced small, family owned operations that once lived in our downtown. Employees who admired him and his style of leadership now drop by the restaurant to introduce themselves and share their stories. To see those relationships carry on while new ones are created are what's most rewarding about reopening the pharmacy.

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 How have you engaged/included the community with your new space?
   
 We did a community supper with The Giving Kitchen and Sweetwater Brewery in the spring and look to continue those seasonally. It was a different dining experience than the typical night at City Pharmacy. Inviting the community to come together to learn about such an awesome organization as the Giving Kitchen intertwined with Chef Christian speaking on her dishes created a unique and enlightening experience, educating our community on some things that excites us. We hope to continue to showcase organizations and purveyors, local and statewide, that we love and that are doing amazing things.

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What is your vision for the future of City Pharmacy?

Above all, I want to see the story of City Pharmacy continue to attract likeminded creatives, bringing new food and drinks to our community. I want to continue providing Covington a place where friends can gather and share in conversation. My hope is City Pharmacy will carry on as the special place it's always been for Covington and its visitors for years to come. 

Video & Stills by Ethan Payne
Score by Gresham Cash
Interview by Jodi Cash

Archival Photos Courtesy of City Pharmacy

The Mindful Nutrivore: Ryan Monahan Finds Purpose in Wellness

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After enduring years of chronic illness, Ryan Monahan had almost forgotten what it was like to feel good. He battled the kind of exhaustion that made it hard to get out of bed. He celebrated the days when he managed to brush his teeth or send an email. He was so tired that it made him depressed, and being depressed only made him more tired.

The Athens, Georgia, based musician was trapped in the hell of bad health and running out of places to turn. He saw countless doctors. He researched endlessly. He even presented his case to a group of doctors at Yale. He got no answers. He began to lose faith in Western medicine.

“During that winter of my life, I spent countless hours doing all this research and trying to understand how I might be able to approach this differently,” Monahan says. “Because I'd visited so many doctors and just wasn't getting answers.”

It was hard to explain the gravity of his symptoms, and he suspected that many doctors, not to mention friends weren’t taking him seriously. He came close to giving up.

“I was like maybe this is just how it goes; maybe this is just how I feel. But at a certain point I was unwilling to accept that as the baseline. I thought life could be so much better than how it was at that time. I just got fed up and decided to take my health into my own hands.”

He began to research functional medicine, and he sought a more open-minded practitioner. This pursuit led him to Dr. Moon, who is licensed in both Chinese medicine and as a traditional M.D.

On a hunch, Dr. Moon tested Monahan’s thyroid function and discovered what then seemed so obvious — he had Hashimoto Thyroiditis.

This inflammation of the thyroid gland causes fatigue, brain fog, weight gain, digestive issues, muscle aches, and depression — and Monahan had suffered through it all. But the diagnosis alone brought him hope; now that he’d identified what was wrong, he could begin to deal with it.

Dr. Moon placed him on a prescription medication, and at first it brought him enormous relief. For the first time in years, he felt like himself again. He had the energy to do the things he loves. He was able to play music again, and to engage with his friends and community.

But his improvements plateaued and soon his health began to spiral back downward. He returned to his research.

He read “Hashimoto’s Protocol” by Izabella Wentz, and it changed his life. “The revelation that I had is that the thyroid malfunction is not the problem, it's the symptom. It's the result of the problem,” he says.

He learned the hard way that his own body must be treated like the complex, interconnected organism that it is. He discovered a truth that the medical community is embracing more and more: his illness originated in his gut.

“Once your gut becomes permeable through either infections or a poor diet or a combination of those diet and lifestyle factors, suddenly you've got toxins and undigested protein and bacteria leaking through your gut, and it causes your immune system to go on red alert,” he says. “Your immune system can become so overactive that it becomes confused and it starts attacking your body's own tissue — and that can manifest as fibromyalgia; it can manifest as cirrosis; it can manifest as arthritis; it can manifest as an autoimmune thyroid condition — but it all starts in the gut lining.”

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Monahan attributes leaky gut (in his own case and the general prevalence of the condition) to our modern lifestyles being far from the how our bodies were meant to exist. “Our genetics are programmed over millions of years to expect certain kinds of food and expect a certain amount of movement and expect to be in line with our circadian rhythms, with cycles of light and dark. So the problem is now we're all sitting in chairs and eating Doritos and staying up well past when the sun goes down and that totally confuses the body.”

Using Izabella Wentz’s book and further research, Monahan began to heal his body. He cut grains, processed foods, and sugar out of his diet. He started eating grass-fed meat and butter, bone broth, sauerkraut — many foods we’ve culturally dismissed in the generations since agricultural industrialization.

“One of the reasons that we're seeing higher instances of chronic disease is that we're just not seeing the same amount of nutrients per calorie as we used to,” Monahan says. “What would happen if you put sand in your gas tank? Your car doesn't run on sand. But that's what we're doing to our bodies.”

After making some big changes, Monahan got his life back. In fact, he felt better than he ever had. He picked back up his musical endeavors and restored his relationships. It impacted everything he did. “Your health is at the bottom of that needs hierarchy. You can't fulfill those mental, emotional, spiritual goals until you have that physical health as the foundation.”

But he observed a pervasive culture of unwellness, and wanted to catalyze a much broader change than just his own. “Most people don't even realize that they could feel so much better, even if you're relatively healthy,” he says.

He became a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner and launched a business, The Mindful Nutrivore. He guides clients through intensive diagnostics and helps them reset their lifestyles and diets.

He’s had a profound impact on many of his clients, taking them on the same journey he endured from chronic, crippling illness to better health and energy than ever before.

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There are many paradigms Monahan hopes to break as his practice grows. He hopes to open eyes to how our daily choices impact our health. He hopes clients with chronic illness will be treated as a whole person, with all of their systems taken into account.

But perhaps most importantly for his own holistic existence, he hopes to shatter the illusion that being an artist, and especially a musician, means that you have to be unhealthy.

For many professional musicians, there’s no getting around that opportunity comes from a life on the road. Playing dingy bar venues late into the night, for little to no pay, spending hours a day in a van, and sleeping on floor makes healthy choices seem infeasible. But Monahan questions this status quo.

“I really hope that I can do my small part to remove the stigma that you go on tour and eat Taco Bell and drink beer, because it's stupid, and it's not sustainable. And if you want to be a career artist, sooner or later those choices are going to catch up to you,” he says. “To people in the music world, it's almost seen as kind of like a joke. And it's just not funny.”

Monahan is defying the odds himself. He tours the country with his band Easter Island, and he still manages to prioritize his health, even though it isn’t always easy. He packs food thoughtfully, he scopes out places where he knows he can eat well in every city they visit, and he does whatever he can to get good sleep. He even manages to consult his clients while on the road, which serves as a great motivator to walk the walk himself.

“If your goal is really to be a musician, then truly your goal should be to try and share that music with as many people as possible. It takes a lot of stamina,” he says. “You have to be pretty healthy to go on the road and tour and constantly be performing and interviewing.”

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Ryan Monahan makes health his top priority. He bravely embraces a lifestyle that flies in the face of what our culture tells us to do. Although at first glance it seems restrictive, it’s actually life-giving.

“I guess what it comes down to is that I'm all about getting the most you can out of life. I don't know what happens after we die, I don't think any of us can answer that for sure, so that kind of motivates me to want to experience everything I can.”

Story by Jodi Cash
Photos by Elliott Fuerniss
 

Mike Cunningham's 7 Steps to Organic Gardening

 Mike Cunningham of Country Gardens Farm talks to Alice Rolls, executive director of Georgia Organics. (Photo by Jodi Cash.)

Mike Cunningham of Country Gardens Farm talks to Alice Rolls, executive director of Georgia Organics. (Photo by Jodi Cash.)

“Growing a little bit of your own food is easier than you think,” Mike Cunningham of Country Gardens Farm told us at a recent Georgia Organics Organic Vegetable Gardening Workshop. Many people think that growing a garden can be difficult, but what about an organic garden? Doesn’t that take a lot more time, money and effort? Mike has been farming organically for 10 years on his farm that has been in the family since the 1940s. He reassured us that it is not only more simple than you might think but very affordable to have your own organic garden. Here are seven steps to having your own successful organic garden.

1. Choose the right location. Your garden will only be “seven steps from your door” if you have a location in your yard that receives ample sunlight. If you are building a raised bed, your soil is composed as you desire, and thus, you only need to set it up in a location that has proper sun. Otherwise, you can till and amend your native soil that has complete sun coverage. 

The majority of garden plants require around 6-8 hours of full sun. This can be tricky in yards with heavy tree coverage, but Mike gave us a good way to remember how much sun your plants will need: “If you grow it for the fruit or the root, you need full sun.” This means that tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, radishes, potatoes etc. will need to be planted in full sun. If your lawn restricts this need, try to find a community garden near you.

If you still want to try it out on your own land, you can follow Mike’s second rule: “If you grow it for the leaves, partial shade is all you need.” Lettuces, kales, etc. may be more appropriate for your yard if sun is limited.

 Elm Street Gardens, Sparta, Georgia.

Elm Street Gardens, Sparta, Georgia.

2. Make beds and garden containers. The advantages of where you plant your garden depends on your environment. Say you only have a porch at your apartment. Good news, many tomatoes and peppers will grow well in pots. However, it is important that your vessel is around five gallons in volume (approximately one cubic meter). Some peppers, cucumbers and other plants can adapt to less soil, but most tomatoes will need at least five gallons. 

In general, your plants will need enough soil to excel and produce the most fruit. If you have a yard but you want to contain the soil and disruption to your landscaping, a raised bed is an appropriate option for your garden. Raised beds can be built with just about any material (wood, stone, tin, etc.) except for pressure treated lumber. Four by eight feet is about as large as you want to build your bed; this ensures that you can always reach to the center of the bed. 

Generally, the soil should be around seven inches thick, so it is best to build your bed about twelve inches high. If you choose not to build a bed, your plants will still benefit from a raised bed. This encourages proper drainage and gives your plants the most available topsoil to grow in.

3. Focus on the soil. Mike Cunningham said, “The most important thing for organic farming is the soil.” He explained how the soil acts as the stomach of the plant. In a handful of soil, there are billions of living microorganisms, and much like those found in your stomach, they help to convert nutrients and other elements into energy. 

Essentially, there are two options for your garden soil. The first is starting with the mineral soil (native soil) of your area. If you are using this, you will need to take a core sample of your soil and have it tested to determine the amendments you will need to make. 

The ideal garden soil pH is 6.5. If your soil is too acidic, you will need to add lime. Furthermore, your mineral soil will likely need added organic fertilizers, compost and worm castings (act as a probiotic). 

If you opt to build a raised bed and establish your soil from scratch, you can purchase many of the premixed bags of potting soil that contain peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite (elements that aid in water retention, aeration and nutrient retention). 

You will still need to add compost, worm castings and organic fertilizer to your bed [see bottom for “Mike’s Mix,” a suggested soil mixture]. It is important when adding fertilizers and other soil additives to keep in mind what constitutes an organic garden. For example, organic gardens cannot use synthetic fertilizers. Many of these have chlorine and acids in them that are harmful to mycorrhizae and other fungus that aid plant growth. 

Compost can be composed of cow manure, chicken manure, mushroom compost and others. Furthermore, mulch and leaves can be added on top of your beds to slowly add organic material but also to aid in water retention. 

 Full Moon Farm, Winterville, Georgia

Full Moon Farm, Winterville, Georgia

The process of soil correction and optimization can take years if you are using your own mineral soil, but it is still important when using potting soil and compost to keep a vigilant eye on the quality and composition of your soil.

4. Know what to plant, when. It’s not just about location, timing is everything in farming. A beautiful, sun-drenched plot with perfect soil could be for naught if plants or seed are in the ground at the wrong time. 

Planting times are completely contingent on where you live and on the predicted weather for that specific year. For example, Atlanta is in Zone 8a and 7b according to the USDA’s Hardiness Zones. Thus, you should consult weather, temperature and other predictable factors before you plant your garden. 

In general, cool season plants should be planted from March or August to November. Warm season plants should be planted in April. Winter or cool season plants should be planted with protection (plastic covering) in October. Each “season” indicates when the crops are harvested, not planted.

Regarding the approaching warm season garden, check the soil temperature with a thermometer to ensure that it is 65℉ before planting. 

5. Keep your garden hydrated. Leaves and mulch should be added to the top of the soil around plants and in walkways to slowly add organic material to soil, aid in water retention and promote fungal growth. 

Simply using a ground covering that has not been sourced organically makes your operation not organic. For example, hay or straw can have residual synthetic herbicide treatments on it that could harm your crops and decrease the quality of your produce.

A plant should never be watered arbitrarily. Use your finger. If the soil is dry and light, water your plants. If the soil is damp and water can be squeezed from it, wait to water. 

For most open-field plantings in Georgia, the sun will do a pretty good job of drawing the majority of moisture from the soil, so water your plants daily unless a summer thunderstorm soaks them for you. 

6. Protect your garden from harmful pests and diseases. To grow a healthy plant, you need 6-8 hours of sunlight a day, productive soil, compost, mulch and proper watering. But what if you do all that and then the insects and critters decide they want a taste of your crop too?

Plants that don’t need to be pollinated (i.e. leafy greens or plants without flowers), can be covered with a fine mesh to prevent insects and animals from eating them. But if they need to be pollinated, there are a few options for predation prevention. 

Enclosures of chicken wire or fencing are often the only defense against squirrels, rabbits and other small animals that will nibble your plants to death. However, if deer are your public enemy number one, you have a bigger battle to fight. Deer are able to clear fences that are nine feet tall. And yes, by “clear” I mean jump over. “Fly” may be more appropriate. So, tall fences need another layer, a very literal other layer. Mike Cunningham has found that a double fence system seems to work best if you can’t afford a twelve foot fence.

As your garden grows, constant observation of growth is necessary, but further than that, constant monitoring of what insects are interested in your garden is important. Around 90% of insects that you will see in your garden are good for your garden (pollinators, wasps that eat caterpillars), but there are also the enemies that will destroy your garden. Once you have identified the presence of malicious invaders, an attack plan will be needed, and soon.

Even still, it is good to plant flowers that attract beneficial pollinators and insects (try buckwheat, basil, clover, daisies and many others). 

Most synthetic insecticides are blanket killers. This means that when you spray for plant eating moths, you are likely also killing honey bees and good insects as well. But you need to stop the pest before they destroy your garden. There are a few organic options that can be found: organic sprays, dusts, insecticidal soaps, diatomaceous earth, spinosad, organic pyrethrum, neem oil. Always check for target species and proper application. 

Disease can still be a problem in your garden if you’ve effectively controlled all of these other elements. Solutions can range from application of copper, soap and milk to potassium bicarbonate, natural fungus blocker and sulfur. 

7. Enjoy your harvest! Once you start to see your garden begin to produce fruits and vegetables, you will likely rush out to your garden and rip the produce off to show off to your neighbor or wife. But it is imperative (and the reason that harvest is a step to having a successful organic garden and not the end) that you put as much care into your harvest than the rest of your steps.

As soon as your plants begin to produce, harvest in the morning and often. Use a knife or scissors to clip the fruits and vegetables away from the stems. Treat the plants delicately. Don’t allow the fruits and vegetables to get overly large as this is not only taxing on the plants but also diminishes the potentially delicious flavor of your produce. 

Be consistent in your care. Who among us doesn’t like taking care of their pets other than vagrants, criminals and angry old aunts? Your organic garden is your new pet. You can’t just plant it and leave it like you may do with your kid at summer camp. 

Having an organic garden is a lot of work, but presumably you are interested in having your own because you care about where your food comes from, you desire to have a smaller footprint, you hope to minimize the amount of synthetic materials added to the environment at your behest and you love to eat delicious fruits and vegetables. Perhaps, the seven steps necessary to build, plant and tend your organic garden will make you think about all of these things while you discuss life’s big issues over a fresh heirloom tomato and cucumber salad—that you grew.  

This story was made possible by Georgia Organics and based on Mike Cunningham's presentation about the 7 Steps to Organic Gardening. You can learn even more from his book. Check out the Georgia Organics events calendar and the Country Gardens events page for more opportunities to learn about organic food and farming. 

Story by Gresham Cash
Photos by Paige French (except where otherwise noted)

 

What's in Season: April in the Southeast

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This is a bountiful moment in a shoulder season. As the weather waivers between cold and hot, staple winter crops remain and favorite summertime foods appear.  But it’s worth appreciating spring for its own distinctive merit — a time when the natural world comes alive again, marked by the chirp of baby birds and flowers in first bloom. It’s fitting that this prolific season can be celebrated with a myriad of produce.

This list includes foods in season in the southeastern region. We are big advocates for eating locally (and this is the time — farmers markets are back in full swing!), but mindful shoppers can also feel at ease when purchasing foods that are at least regional. When in doubt, phone a farmer.

Fruit

Bananas
Citrus
Cucumbers
Ground cherries
Melons
Peaches
Strawberries

Captivate the height of strawberry season with our Gluten Free Tomato-Strawberry Pie. We’re not being hyperbolic when we say it might just change your life.

Vegetables

Arugula
Asparagus
Basil
Beets
Bok Choy
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Carrots
Celery
Celery root
Chard
Chicories
Chili peppers
Chives
Cilantro
Collards
Corn
Eggplant
Endive
Fava beans
Fennel
Garlic scapes
Green onions
Kale
Lamb’s Quarters
Leeks
Lemongrass
Lettuce
Mint
Morels
Mushrooms
Mustard greens
Nettles
New potatoes
Okra
Onions
Oregano
Parsley
Peanuts
Peas
Pea Shoots
Peppers
Potatoes
Purslane
Radicchio
Radishes
Rapini
Rosemary
Sage
Scallions
Shallots
Snap peas
Snow peas
Sorrel
Spinach
Sprouts
Summer squash
Sweet Potatoes
Taro
Tarragon
Thyme
Tomatillos
Tomatoes
Turnips
Watercress
Watermelon
Winter squash
Yams
Zucchini

While cauliflower, radishes, and greens are still around, try our Roasted Cauliflower Salad.

Story by Jodi Cash
Photo by Paige French

 

Meet Miss Ethel, Athens Vegetable Apostle

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“I believe in my vegetables,” says Ethel Collins, the 79-year-old visionary of the West Broad Market Garden, who can be found most any day of the week with her hands deep in the community.  

Collins has had a lifelong love for produce. She was born and reared on a farm in the Wilkes County town of Rayle, where her parents were sharecroppers. When she was old enough to cook for herself and her parents, she departed from their normal biscuits and gravy and started working vegetables into their meals. She moved to Athens in the early 1950s and has been an active member of the community ever since. 

Her belief in vegetables took a stronger hold late in life, when she was diagnosed with leukemia. Her doctor suggested that she reevaluate her meal plans to achieve a balanced diet. And it worked. Collins has long since been in remission and attributes her health entirely to the power of eating well.

When Collins caught wind of an organic garden in her Rocksprings neighborhood three years ago, she stopped by to see what she could learn. “What brought me into this garden was the word ‘organic,’” she says. “I wanted to find out what is organic—what’s going on with organic?”
At the time, Fenwick Broyard, now the executive director at Community Connection, was running the West Broad Market Garden that she stumbled upon. The half-acre of land is Athens’ first community-based urban farm (soon to be joined by another Athens Land Trust farm in East Athens). Here, produce is Certified Naturally Grown through bio-intensive growing methods like composting and companion planting.

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Along with his colleagues from the Athens Land Trust, Broyard helped Collins become a fundamental part of the operation, and he taught her how to grow crops organically. As she tells it, “I came in the garden one morning, and I met Fenwick at the gate, and I said to Fenwick, 'You mean to tell me you take all these weeds and all these vines and all this stuff that you can’t sell, you take it and you ground it back up and you mix it up and put it back in the garden, and that’s what you use for fertilizer?' And he said, 'Yeah, that’s what organic is all about.'”
She was astounded. The West Broad Market Garden verified her love for vegetables, and the organic practices pointed toward a higher belief. 

“God didn’t make no junk,” says Collins. “To take what we call junk and to turn it into real life, to put that into the ground and vegetables will come out of it, healthy and ready to eat, that’s what it’s all about.” 

Collins has helped to grow the garden in every way, since it began in 2012. In this time, the garden has produced more than 3,000 pounds of produce, and over 600 of these pounds have been donated to the food ministry of its neighbor, The Light Christian Church. On Saturdays 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and Thursdays 4–7 p.m. during the market season they sell what they’ve grown at the West Broad Farmers Market, 1573 W. Broad St.

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The garden now hosts a composting program where about 400 pounds of vegetable waste and other compostable trash is dropped off by Athens residents and picked up from local businesses, diverting it from collecting uselessly in a dump.  

The garden also provides a place for learning. “Miss Ethel” and her fellow West Broad gardeners teach Classic City High School students involved in the Young Urban Farmer Program how to grow food and run a farming business. Younger local students often visit on field trips to learn what’s going on, and people of all ages are welcome to volunteer in return for learning experiences and produce.

Collins hopes that organic farming can bring good health to her Rocksprings community. “It brings something positive to this neighborhood,” she says, “and I’m gonna be the one to voice that what we need is a clean street.”

Collins says she has witnessed a transformation already and sees fewer people causing trouble in the nearby streets. Instead, people are taking an interest in what’s growing in their backyards. 
The West Broad farmers make a distinct effort to grow foods that their neighbors will enjoy, but they also try to expand their horizons to unfamiliar foods, like kale and eggplant. “But I’ll show them and teach them how to do it, what it’s for, you know?” says Collins. “They’ll get it.” 

Collins also shares vegetables with fellow church members. She cooks for them twice weekly and gives demonstrations of new, approachable ways to prepare what comes out of the garden. She uses these opportunities to take a stance to change the norms of eating in her community. 

“You can do your fast food or whatever, but please for God’s sake keep that balanced meal whole and wholesome,” she says. “Pay attention to what God gave us and how to use it.”

This story appeared originally in Flagpole Magazine

Story by Jodi Cash
Photos by Paige French

 

What's in Season: March in the Southeast

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For those of us in the Southeastern U.S., March can be a fickle month. When the first day of spring rolls around on the 20th, there’s little telling whether it will be balmy or snow-laden, and often it varies throughout the region. Just before true spring crops are ready for harvest, this month you can count on hearty winter produce to remain in strong supply. And as farmers markets open back up, it's well-advised to simply check with your local growers about the best things to eat this month. (Remember that this is a month, straddling two seasons, in which there are especially drastic differences between what’s growing in Florida versus what can be found in Virginia, etc. ) 

Fruit

Apples
Bananas
Citrus
Cucumbers
Ground cherries
Melons
Strawberries

For an exotic take on a favorite snack, try our Carrot Hummus with Gochujang and Hemp Oil.

Vegetables

Arugula
Asparagus
Basil
Beets
Bok Choy
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Carrots
Celery
Celery root
Chard
Chicories
Chili peppers
Chives
Cilantro
Collards
Corn
Endive
Eggplant
Fava beans
Fennel
Garlic scapes
Green onions
Horseradish
Jicama
Kale
Kohlrabi
Lamb’s Quarters
Leeks
Lemongrass
Lettuce
Mint
Morels
Mushrooms
Mustard greens
Nettles
Onions
Oregano
Parsley
Peanuts
Peas
Pea Shoots
Purslane
Radicchio
Radishes
Rapini
Rosemary
Sage
Shallots
Snap peas
Snow peas
Sorrel
Spinach
Sprouts
Squash
Sweet Potatoes
Taro
Tarragon
Thyme
Tomatoes
Tomatillos
Turnips
Yams
Zucchini

What's in Season: February in the Southeast

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February marks a turning point in the winter. The dreariest, shortest days fall farther behind with Christmas and winter solstice. But, it's still cold, gray and the crowns of trees are completely transparent. And yet, the earth still provides us with a unique variety of fruits and vegetables. Trucks of citrus stream out of Florida and Texas like milk from a nursing cow. Greens, true winter greens, are widely available. The roots of many of those greens are colorful compliments to any meal. Don't make the mistake of wallowing in self-pity as you dream about the soft fruits and berries that will be available as soon as late-March. Pick up a piece of produce at the store and consult the sticker to find out where it is from. If no sticker is visible, use the encyclopedia in your pocket to determine if that eggplant is in season ("Not yet, put it down"). Most importantly, continue to enjoy the many vegetables widely available in the Southeast in February, and remember to feast on the flood of citrus from Florida to spare it from rotting on the ground.

Fruits
Clementines
Grapefruits
Lemons
Limes
Oranges

Lighten up the last of the year's dark winter days with our quick, simple Roasted Cauliflower Salad

Vegetables
Bok Choy
Broccoli
Brussel Sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Collards
Green Onions
Kale
Lettuce
Mushrooms
English Peas
Sweet Potatoes
Radish
Spinach
Turnips

Story by Gresham Cash
Photo by Paige French

The Sustainable Kitchen: A Guide to Reducing Culinary Waste

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Eating has always been a joy of mine; cooking not so much. Times were simpler when I made food solely to feed my own budding appetite — my naïveté in both the kitchen and with the more insidious workings of the food industry made sure of that. You see, so much of our household waste happens in the kitchen, and an inexperienced home chef is an easy culprit for short cuts that quickly add up — negatively impacting both her wallet and the environment. 

Today, after one too many food-based Netflix documentaries, I quell my anxiety by keeping my waste to a minimum and my choices as sustainable as possible. Some choices are easier than others, but bear in mind that we’re always learning and growing. With enough practice, certain inconvenient behaviours will become second nature.

I studied Anthropology at The University of Georgia, so I’ve always felt somewhat in-tune with the concept of sustainability as a community-based endeavour. However, much of what I learned at university wasn’t applicable — or even tangible — in my life until I ventured outside my comfort zone, i.e. the American Southeast. Something that I learned early on in my freshman year is the multi-faceted concept that it’s not just finances that shape your food choices, but also your culture and immediate environment. Take for instance my middle-class childhood: my mother, raised in the Midwest, never once cooked fish in our family home. Assume that we had the resources to purchase such a healthy staple, but understand that even if fresh seafood were readily available that far from the coast, my mother would shy away from preparing it for her children due to her personal aversion. Just as our culture defines our relationship with food, so too does it shape our attitude in sourcing, preparing and consuming it.  

My love of seafood and the marine environment has grown steadily over the last five years, and my affinity for the ocean can be traced through my multiple moves to tropical locales. Grand Cayman is a gem of an island, picturesque with turquoise waters and lush vegetation, located just an easy flight from Atlanta. Super yachts and cruise ships frequent the harbour, and the Ritz-Carlton boasts the Caribbean’s only five star restaurant; the rampant luxury makes this country a true “millionaire’s playground.” Convenience and conformity were the order of the day, however. Recycling facilities were non-existent and conservation wasn’t encouraged. The juxtaposition of a near-obsession with water sports and marine life and a blatant disregard for pollution (the dump caught fire no less than three times during my stay) sat like a lump in my throat; no one made an effort, so why should I? I wanted to, but I didn’t. I had no agency, no outlet and no support.

Australia posed less of a threat to my conscience, as I soon discovered that the country known almost exclusively for its unique coral ecosystem would be more inclusive and encouraging towards a slew of progressive environmental practices and legislation. The friends I made in Sydney were also less apt to toss a cigarette butt on the beach or a beer bottle out of a boat; surrounding myself with like-minded individuals made my attempts at sustainability much more concerted and certainly more frequent. I suddenly found myself cooking and eating with both vegetarians and vegans, and exchanging recipes and banter over dietary choices. Whether for animal rights concerns, environmental sustainability or financial reasons, the choice to consume less meat was a common one in my diverse expat community.     

Making the decision to move back to my partner’s home country of New Zealand was an easy one; how could living in the land of Middle Earth be anything less than magical? Fairy bread aside, Aotearoa is home to some of the most wholesome food in the world. Known for its dairy and agriculture industries, it’s not unusual to receive milk bottles at your doorstep or to serve lamb as a casual weeknight meal. Farming and fishing are more revered than religion, and with such esteemed status comes a nationwide respect and understanding of the complexities of each pursuit. Massive swathes of coastline are marine reserves, and the Department of Conservation has very strict guidelines on bag size and limit. Cattle — both beef and dairy — are grazed in grassy, eternally-green meadows, and supplemented in winter with silage, not corn. There is a general, underlying respect for the welfare of the animals that we consume and a subconscious understanding that we are all operating as an ecosystem; this intimacy with nature limits the detachment (food vs. environment) that I so often see in most western countries.  

While our 100-year-old farmhouse is no off-the-grid ecolodge, New Zealand farmers may have been the original hippies. We aren’t equipped with solar panels (yet!), but we are too far outside of town to be on the water or sewage lines. All of our water is derived solely from rain and piped via gutters into hulking plastic tanks behind our home. My access to a precious resource — once an intangible understanding that it was simply there — has been severely limited. Perhaps more painful, the glaring visual of the water tanks reminds me daily of our dwindling supply.  

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Water has never once — save for a brief trip to West Africa — been a pressing concern of mine. However, wasting is easy when you don’t know where it's going. Or where it came from. The Eco Pulse Report on Water (2016) sums it up perfectly: “It's not just that consumers underestimate how much water they use — it's that they simply don't make the connection between the way they personally use water and the potential for a water crisis.  In fact, they have a tough time connecting their own behaviors to their environmental impact in general.”                                                                 

Similarly, I hauled bags and boxes of post-party detritus to the dump recently and was unexpectedly horrified at the sheer ugliness I witnessed. Have you been to a landfill? I don’t mean the sanitized, tidy tours you go on as a primary school student. I mean a 50-acre lot of stained concrete stalls of organised debris. It was utter chaos. The tip was smoggy, and the sound of screeching, belching machinery and hungry, warring seagulls was almost more unbearable than the sight of people’s leftovers. Dozens of obsolete TV’s with once-convex screens, furniture missing vital appendages, and a sea of broken glass as far as I could see. Everything we did — used, ate, wore or read — amalgamated in this hideous collection. It felt desolate, Blade Runner-esque.

I resolved to amend my part in this cycle — to no longer be complicit in the willing degradation of my immediate environment. How could I do this? In what way could I possibly impact the sheer volume of rubbish? By not adding to it, for a start. “Reduce, reuse, recycle" — this is the eco-friendly mantra we are all so familiar with, but a simple starting point for going sustainable. Reduce your consumption, reuse what you can, and always, always recycle. But let’s add another vital step to the alliterative mix: refuse. Say “no thanks” to the plastic bag at the supermarket, or the plastic straw at the local bar. Again, remove yourself from the cycle; there is so, so much we can’t control — but what we can, we should.     

The constant deluge of global issues we are bombarded with can take one down a rabbit hole of consumer anxiety; while a post-apocalyptic world lurks on the edges of our collective imagination, it is important to focus on the enlightenment and progress we are seeing that is necessary to change the course of history. Being a part of such interconnected, grassroots movements can be a salve to the soul and perhaps slowly correct the human trajectory of a ruined planet. Find a local chapter of an eco-organization or have a conversation with a farmer at the local grower’s market; involve yourself in the conversation and be a part of the change.

While I commend those taking baby steps towards sustainability — such as swapping out household cleaners with a natural/biodegradable alternative (indoor air pollution is a thing!) or choosing glass over plastic — I encourage the bravest among you to roll your sleeves up on a weekend and put together a few projects that’ll benefit your home, garden and the wider world for generations to come.

 

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Turn Garbage into Gold: Compost

In Al Gore's eye-opening book "An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It," he highlights a startling fact: “when organic waste materials, such as kitchen scraps and raked leaves, are disposed of in the general trash, they end up compacted deep in landfills. Without oxygen to aerate and assist in their natural decomposition, the organic matter ferments and gives off methane, which is the most potent of the greenhouse gasses — 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide in global warming terms. Organic materials rotting in landfills account for about one-third of man-made methane emissions in the United States. By contrast, when organic waste is properly composted in gardens, it produces rich nutrients that add energy and food to the soil — and of course also decreases the volume added to our landfills.” I’d consider the previous quote a pretty substantial introduction as to the importance of eliminating food waste in your home.

Another staple of Kiwi households, the compost bin is a humble tool used to both rid the kitchen of scraps and boost nutrients in the garden. Admittedly, our compost bin is a pre-fab kit from the local hardware shop, but there are a range of styles and sizes to suit any budget or backyard. I’d steer clear of the snazzy tumbler option though, as it’s not significantly speedier at producing compost (as advertised) and doesn’t allow for worms to interact with the contents of the bin (a necessity, in my opinion) — plus it’s one of the more expensive options. A simple three-sided enclosure can be nailed together from a few pieces of scrap wood and you’ll be on your way!

Once your compost bin has been assembled or constructed in a distant corner of your backyard (beware its potential as a pest magnet), it’s time to get the fermentation process started. I keep a giant old Tupperware container under my kitchen sink and pull it out whenever I cook; anything from potato peels to egg shells gets chucked in. I save onion, garlic, carrot, and celery ends in a freezer bag for chicken stock, but most other raw fruit and veggie scraps are safe for the compost bin. Remember to never put meat or dairy products in your compost and avoid anything that’s been cooked in oil. While various yard waste is acceptable to throw into the mix, it’s an especially good idea to keep a pile of grass clippings nearby. This is particularly important if you are going with an open-air design; the grass clippings serve as a thin, protective layer between decaying food and pesky flies — so top it off when necessary. In addition to your scraps pail, another useful accessory for the home composter is a small pitchfork as compost needs to be turned. A few other random bits I toss in my compost bin include un-laminated paper (like newspaper or the toilet roll, but not cereal boxes), hair clippings, and vacuum dust; and while it should be self-evident, never, ever put pet waste in your compost bin. With a steady supply of organic material and a consistent turning, in a few months your compost bin should be producing a dark, loamy soil perfect for supplementing your veggie patch.

You’ll also notice the abundance of worms come to help out the decomposition process, as you have effectively created for them the perfect conditions in which to thrive. Worms have long been known as a gardener’s best friend, and it’s not just because they break down and aerate the soil. Worm poo, or ‘castings’ as they are politely called, are rich in nutrients. It is for that reason that my next eco-friendly home project suggestion is the construction of a worm farm. This is an especially exciting endeavour if you have young children, as it’s not often that you buy worms in a box — or treat them like pets! 

A homemade worm farm requires very little to get started and can easily be added onto later. We purchased two plastic tubs (minimum requirement), but were more concerned about the lid benefits than the size. The containers you choose need to come with sealable lids, and “stackability” is key. I also opted for lighter-colored plastic (but not clear!), as black attracts too much sunlight; too much sunlight means too much heat -and too much heat equates to shriveled worms. I even placed my worm farm in all-day shade (a prime location) when completed, stacked neatly on salvaged bricks (to prevent moisture from decaying the wooden deck underneath).

As for the construction of the unit, start with two same-size containers: one to hold the actual worm habitat and the lower level to catch the castings. As your worm farm grows, you can add upper levels, also full of soil and compost, for the worms to travel through. Again, make sure the tubs fit snuggly together when stacked on top of each other; this is not just for stability, but also to guarantee a more direct route for the castings to pass through the aligned holes in the bottom of the top tub/lid of the lower tub. When drilling holes in the tubs, I have a few trial-and-error recommendations: 1) Stack your boxes in the order that you want them and drill through the bottom of the top tub and through the lid of the bottom tub; this aligns the holes more accurately and saves time. 2) Complete your project on a smooth surface to allow for easy clean up; the abundance of plastic shavings might entice hungry birds/rodents if not disposed of properly. 3) Don’t bother with a precise grid pattern; I tired quickly of this and just made sure no hole was more than half an inch from another.

Once complete and cleared of any debris, I filled my upper tub with roughly ¾ potting soil and sifted a few handfuls of compost throughout (just to add extra nutrients — but you can skip this step if you don’t have any on hand — just don’t use solely compost to begin with). Further, make sure you don’t fill the tub to the brim — you’ll need room to feed your worms! Release your pre-purchased (or garden-sourced) worms into their new home, briefly water the soil (think moist, not wet), and cover with a “worm blanket” before putting the lid on the unit. Some worm farm kits come with a burlap rectangle to fit snuggly over the soil, but I simply moistened thin strips of cardboard from my recycle bin, and overlapped the paper until the soil was covered. The purpose of this step is to not only keep moisture in, but to keep the flies at bay. The warmth, moisture, and presence of decaying food is a big draw for other bugs, but as long as your soil/food scraps are covered, and the lid is closed snuggly, you should only see earth worms in your worm farm!

As for feeding them, I generally save the “better” food scraps from the compost container under my counter for the worm farm. Think sweet — fruit pieces or vegetable peels — not sour or harsh (i.e. no citrus or aromatics). The worms don’t need to be fed often, a handful once a week or so, but be sure to place food under the “worm blanket” or under a bit of soil; rotate the location of the feeding spot every time, just to get the worms moving throughout the bin. Check every few days that the soil stays moist, that there aren’t any stray worms floating in the lower bin, and that you aren’t growing a pumpkin patch by accident. After a few months, you should begin to see dark liquid collecting in the lower bin. This black gold is like magic in your garden -collect and distribute where required. When you’ve got your compost bin, worm farm, and chickens up and running — consider your home and garden a mini ecosystem; everything works in synchronicity.

 

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Keep Your Own Chickens

Over the past half-year, I have come to adore the four hens we call pets. They are clever, curious animals, and the blatant hierarchy amongst them is fascinating. Our recent move to the countryside allowed us the space to let our girls roam free; aside from the hesitation to go barefoot now, we don’t regret our decision. They have access to much more land — meaning shady spaces to scratch for worms and bugs, sandy spots to wriggle and nap in dust, and plenty of luscious grass to munch and scratch. The added nutrients — namely protein — from the multitude of discovered bugs gives their eggs a vibrant orange yolk. I am forever amazed at the daily uniqueness of each egg: in colour, shape and texture. There are the occasional abrasive calcium ridges or an interesting ring of white on an otherwise caramel-colour egg. Nonetheless, I find myself eager to collect the four eggs each morning and I’m forever scanning endless recipes for new and exciting ways to use eggs in the kitchen.

My partner and I were in agreement from the beginning about what to feed and how to treat our hens. We opted for a ‘scratch & lay’ mix, as opposed to the more commonplace pellets. We liked knowing what our girls were getting, and visually calculating the composition of ingredients. In addition to seeds and grains, chicken feed is recognizable for its calcium content — often in the form of crushed oyster shells. In addition to these rough pebble-sized bits necessary for shell development, they are accompanied by an insoluble grit. Lacking teeth, chicken require the consumption and brief storage of grit to aide in the digestive process. As our hens are free-range, they find small rocks and sand quite easily on their own. Equally as important as their food, chickens require a fair amount of water to survive. Quite meticulous in their cleaning process, I find that the girls not only drink water regularly, but they also use their water dispenser to rinse their beaks.

Chickens, though long domesticated, are quite hardy creatures, and often found wild and thriving in the bush. While some say we might spoil our birds, there are a few basic requirements I’d say are necessary for proper care. If you aren’t able to provide a fully “free range” environment like we’ve been able to do, at minimum I believe household chickens should have a ‘run.’ This is a relatively small, enclosed (but open-air) space outside the actual coop. While there are no natural predators here in New Zealand (leaving me a bit lax in their protection), I would strongly recommend making the run — and the henhouse for that matter — completely predator proof.

As for the coop itself, there is a relatively easy equation for deciding the dimensions of your coop relative to the number of chickens you want to house (consult Google), but I’m a firm believer in the more outdoor space they have, the less room they need indoors. Minimum requirements would suggest that the place where they sleep is separate from where they lay for the sake of hygiene; regardless of the size of your flock though, you’ll often find that they have a favorite nesting box — and that they’ll wait patiently for their turn in line. So do make sure that there are at least two nesting boxes, but more than adequate roosting space (their preferred sleeping location). Roosting space can also be provided in the run (in the form of large branches or logs), but chickens will need a safe, known location to sleep indoors. Twilight is an enjoyable time of day to observe your hens. As the light fades, they will slowly make their way to the henhouse and put themselves to bed — in order, of course.

While most of your kitchen scraps will make their way to the compost bin or worm farm, it is beneficial to get your hens familiar with fresh food as well. They often refuse anything other than feed in the beginning, but withhold a bit of their pellets or grains, and they’ll eventually be hungry or brave enough to eat offcuts of veggies or fruit. Unlike the compost bin, chickens can consume meat scraps (they love fish offcuts!), but don’t feed your flock anything mouldy or spoiled. Our girls are very well fed, between their feed, grazing, and bits and pieces from the kitchen; as such, they are very friendly and forward with their attention and affection.

Chickens aren’t an easy, self-reliant pet; they require daily feeding and watering, along with egg collection. Further, they are prone to minor hiccups that can quickly turn to major issues — things like mites or soft eggs can lead to more serious complications if untreated. Regular cleaning of the coop is also a commitment that many don’t anticipate, but like any labor-intensive endeavor — the benefits you reap make the effort worth it!

 

Waste Reduction in the Kitchen & Throughout the Home…

Applying sustainability practices in your own home can seem a bit daunting, as the learning curve is long and often painful — and living in a nation that finds caretaking your surroundings as a revolutionary concept certainly doesn’t ease the stress of going against the grain. Groupthink is a scary reality, but if you can start your own positive trends, you can see small, but meaningful change. Just note that what is often (initially) the most personally inconvenient choice may be the more conscientious or considerate option for the greater good; think of your actions as one of a global citizen doing good for his or her fellow earthlings.

What follows is a hodgepodge of advice and trial-and-error attempts (collected over years and across countries) at reducing my household consumption of resources and production of waste. Bear in mind that my partner and I reside in rural New Zealand; our immediate environment is most likely drastically different from the average reader’s — in physical landscape, policy decisions, and the pop culture approach to conservation. Apply what you can and alter what you need; what works for us may not suit your lifestyle, but we were once big-city dwellers too — the road to sustainability is a process!

 

My Kitchen Rules — basic guidelines that determine my shopping, cooking and waste disposal choices:

  • NO plastic.

  • Remember that water is a finite resource.

  • Make or take your own.

  • Plan and budget.

 

Breaking it down further…

 

  • This instead of that:

    • The less packaging the better!

      • Buy bulk instead of single-serve.

      • Choose loose produce (bring your own mesh bag) instead of pre-packaged.

    • Choose glass over plastic (for single-use containers/packaging).

      • It’s easier to recycle (glass can be recycled, whereas plastic can only be down-cycled),

      • healthier for you (plastic leaches chemicals into your food),

      • and a great option to reuse the container.

        • There’s a store-brand lime marmalade that I only use once in a blue moon (secret ingredient to a perfect Thai green curry!), but I purchase specifically for the cut-glass look of the softball-size jar

      • If you must use plastic, reuse an old take away container or washed yogurt pot — never buy new Tupperware; most new plastic is virgin, or newly made, as opposed to manufactured from recycled materials. Not only does this mean useful material that could’ve been repurposed is in the landfill, but also that resources had to be wasted in order to manufacture a brand new object.

    • Avoid aluminium:

      • Glass > canned food: better for you, better for the environment.

      • I always buy my tomato sauce or puree in a jar; not only is this better for your health (the acid in tomatoes breaks down the lining of the can), but the glass container is the perfect size and shape for large batches of chicken stock.

      • Make your own beans and lentils from a dried state — better tasting, no preservatives, less waste AND cheaper.

    • Metal, wood or silicon > plastic kitchen utensils: (better for you, better for environment, and they last longer).

  • Useful tools:

    • Containers: Again, avoid plastic and invest in glass if you can, or metal (I love metal bento boxes for lunches); however, I try to avoid buying new — either try to repurpose previously used containers or dig for unique treasures at a thrift store (some of my best kitchen utensils, cookware, and appliances are second-hand).

    • Serving dishes and tableware: choose ceramic, metal, glass, wood or other natural fiber over plastic; I realize picnic or camping use calls for indestructible items, but enamelware is a trendy alternative that I adore.

    • Standard kitchen rolls, such as cling film, baking paper and paper towels can be easily (if reluctantly) replaced with reuseable alternatives; thanks to beeswax wraps, a silicon baking sheet and an abundance of multi-purpose tea towels, my kitchen trash can is often empty for days.

    • Stock your purse, backpack, suitcase or car with the essentials to prevent any impulsive purchases: a (glass or metal) water bottle and coffee cup are key, but even having utensils (cutlery, chopsticks, drinking straw) on hand prevents unintentional wastage.

    • Reusable shopping bags — this is one of the easiest changes!

  • Accountability for waste:

    • Recognize that when purchasing anything from a shop, you are not just buying the product, but also the packaging. The onus to dispose of such waste (often hard to recycle soft plastics) is now on you, the consumer. Discuss with the shopowner or attendant, search for the better choice (i.e. loose onions vs. bagged), and declare your discontent on social media. We’ve all seen what organizing for action can do; don’t be afraid to exercise your voice. If you think something needs to be done in your community, weigh in.

    • Consider every dollar a “vote.” Companies and corporations generally have an ethos, albeit often for PR reasons; however, choose your allegiance wisely and make every effort to go for the product from the company who uses recycled packaging, sources local goods, keeps manufacturing as green as possible, and who supports progressive labor or environmental movements and policy.

    • Check with your local recycle center about whether or not they accept soft plastics (our supermarket here accepts old plastic shopping bags and other soft plastics), and whether or not they would consider it with enough support. With this service available to us, almost nothing in our house goes in the trash!

  • Seasonal and professional:

    • How many times do you hear “buy local”? It’s a good rule of thumb to follow, not just because it puts money into the local economy, but because the food didn’t have to travel far to reach you (meaning less resources wasted in transport AND much fresher because it travelled a shorter distance).

    • Americans have food — regardless of season — available at the drop of a hat. The proliferation of hothouse produce makes choosing seasonal fruit and veg a difficult endeavor, but give it your best shot. Buying produce in season saves your wallet, and also encourages experimentation in the kitchen when resources are low.

    • One of the best pieces of advice I have encountered in my voracious consumption of cook-books, food documentaries, and chefs’ biographies is that you should run your home kitchen like a professional kitchen: as in, like a tight ship. I don’t mean to say that only the best ingredients will do, but that you need to be smart about what you buy and how you cook. Use fewer random ingredients — or if you need something unique, make sure you put it to good use throughout the week. Use more of the food you buy — like peeling and chopping the stalk of the broccoli (as opposed to just consuming the florets), saving the rind of a hard cheese to flavor your risotto (chuck the parmesan rind in the freezer until needed, cook to recipe, and discard before serving), and using the stems of cilantro during the cooking process (vs. only using the leaves for garnish). Use meal planning religiously — this will prevent unnecessary purchases and also prevent wasted food down the track. Make your own — sauces clutter our fridges and are often a hidden source of sugar and preservatives. Master a few easy sauces (béchamel, gravy, aioli, balsamic reduction) and you’ll never buy packet products again! I am also a huge proponent of homemade spice mixes — try to buy one new spice jar on every shopping trip, and soon you’ll have an envy-inducing collection; I find spices can turn an otherwise sad assortment of pantry staples into a delectable meal. Don’t be afraid of frozen foods! Frozen foods are flash-frozen immediately after harvest, so they are often more nutritionally valuable than some fresh fruit and veg that have already begun the decomposition process on the shelf. This is often a more affordable option for certain foods (berries, for instance), and is a great back up when a last-minute trip to the supermarket for fresh produce isn’t an option. Some of my favorite frozen foods include free-flow spinach (for anything from smoothies to spaghetti Bolognese), frozen green beans (for curries), and peas or corn (a quick side dish in a pinch).

  • Resources:

 

In today’s ultra-modern world, it's incredibly time consuming and often inconvenient to “go green.” There are certainly companies out there that have jumped on the sustainability bandwagon and with clever marketing have made conscientious consumption more attainable. Do your research. Decide what works for you and implement small changes throughout your life where possible. I do believe that it is a process, so don’t beat yourself up for not being the perfect hippie just yet. The path of least resistance is just that — so make the unpopular choices and be a revolutionary in your own home, and perhaps you will influence the community around you.

Story and illustrations by Sarah Belcher

 

 

 

 

On Reading and Drinking to Be Seen

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When I was very young — probably about six or seven — my mother taught a life-drawing class at an all-female college. She was a single mother, and so I would often go with her across the mountain to model for the class. A group of about 30 women would stand behind easels in a circle around me as my mother arranged me seated, standing, and then laying down. When I told her that it was really, really boring, and therefore hard for me to sit/stand/lay still, she’d let me read while I posed. But then my hands, flicking pages, interrupted the sketch’s stillness. It was decided that I could have the book, but that I couldn’t turn the page. One day I remember I had my favorite childhood book — "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" — and I read of the same 7,000 fathoms over and over and over again. 


Ever tried to read at a bar? Perhaps due to my personal history of reading-to-be-watched, I can’t do it. The paper in front of my face makes all of the people around me all the more interesting. Even the baseball on the TV is suddenly so fascinating. And I hate sports. And I also love books. So this is saying something. Sometimes I can’t even read when I’m alone. I feel totally watched. I have to isolate myself, however insufficiently, like a cat retreating into a cardboard box that actually sits in the same house he’s scared of. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is — what if you were to embrace the performativity of reading? What if you were to drink not what fits the mood of the book, but to consider what beverage makes the most hilarious, apt or curious juxtaposition between you, the book and the drink itself?


A few months ago, I saw a photo of Paris Hilton reading Sun Tzu’s "The Art of War." It turns out that the photos were part of a promo shoot for the 2006 VMAs, which was the same year that I went as “dead Paris Hilton” for Halloween. I wore zombie makeup, a blonde wig and a pink miniskirt. I was 12. I digress. It’s a Gemini thing. Anyways, this photo of Paris had me thinking of all the ways in which books can act as props.

Towards the end of my time in high school I would recline in the direct sunlight of a UVA garden, drink black coffee, cross and uncross my legs in the shortest shorts and read the collected works of the Marquis de Sade from behind my extra-extra-large sunglasses. I wanted to be seen. No one saw me. But that’s a good thing; it turns out that de Sade’s a really nasty guy and the schoolmarms aren’t lying about that. Due to my pose-reading I read about a page per hour and that was enough. 


For pairing: Try "Lady Chatterly’s Lover" and a dirty martini. "The Ballad of the Sad Cafe" and a stout. "In Cold Blood" and, hell, a Bloody Mary.

Words by Ryan Murphy
Photographs by Jodi Cash

What's in Season: January in the Southeast

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If you’re anything like us, perhaps this New Year brought a resolution of eating both seasonally and locally. It’s not always easy, particularly in the winter months when so many of our favorite foods aren’t being grown in the Southeastern region. Nonetheless, it’s a worthwhile effort, and with a little planning and creativity, you can make the foods that January has to offer go a long way. As always, what’s available varies from state to state and even changes within the scope of a month.

Fruits
Grapefruit
Lemons
Limes
Oranges

An exceedingly cold winter in the South calls for soups, stews and other warming meals — we recommend our Winter’s Bounty Stew.

Vegetables
Arugula
Bok Choy
Brussel Sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots
Celery
Chard
Collards
Kale
Leeks
Lettuce
Mushrooms
Peanuts
Radish
Sweet Potatoes
Spinach
Turnips

What's in Season: December in the Southeast

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In days of old, oranges and grapefruits were exchanged as Christmas presents or hallowed as the centerpiece of a grand holiday meal. The bright, seasonal fruits were common stocking-stuffers, treasured for their sweetness and vibrant colors — so naturally flavorful that they were worth craving all year long. This holiday season, ask Santa for the gifts of nature's bounty and trade the candy cane for your favorite citrus fruit.  

Fruits
Grapefruit
Lemon
Lime
Oranges (Valencia and Temple)
Persimmons

Despite the holiday season's call to eat all things decadent and sweet, December remains an excellent time of year for leafy greens and root vegetables. We offer our Turmeric Turnips with Spinach Chimichurri as an exotic reminder that a well-seasoned vegetable is as good a treat as any. Plus, you'll redeem yourself for the extra holiday temptations to which we all inevitably succumb.

Vegetables
Arugula
Beets
Bok Choy
Broccoli
Brussel Sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots
Collard Greens
Greens
Kale
Lettuce
Mushrooms
Peanuts
Pecans
Spinach
Sweet Potatoes
Radish
Tomatoes
Turnips
Winter Squash

Words by Jodi Cash
Photo by Paige French

What's in Season: November in the Southeast

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Ready or not, the holiday season is upon us. Thus begins the time for Thanksgiving meal planning, and of course, we recommend you orient your menu around foods that are locally grown and in-season. This list reflects a general guide of what can be found in the Southeast, although it varies. On your next trip to the farmers market, ask what your local growers will be serving at their own Thanksgiving feasts. 

Fruits
Apples
Cucumbers
Grapefruit
Oranges (Valencia and Temple)
Persimmons

By little coincidence, we tend to drink our fruits rather than eat them as the weather grows colder. With this month's bounty of grapefruit, try this recipe for Clarified Milk Punch by Michael Clancy at The National in Athens, GA. 

Vegetables
Arugula
Beets
Bok Choy
Broccoli
Brussel Sprouts
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower
Collard Greens
Field Peas
Greens
Kale
Lettuce
Mushrooms
Peanuts
Pecans
Spinach
Sweet Potatoes
Radish
Tomatoes
Turnips
Winter Squash

Looking for a decadent dish to win Thanksgiving this year? This Butternut Squash Risotto is a guaranteed hit. 

Words by Jodi Cash
Photo by Paige French

Kate Van Cantfort + Lotta Mae's Supply Co.

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“They rode up on a bicycle,” Kate Van Cantfort recalls of one of the early days of Lotta Mae’s Supply Co.

It was a late summer day when Oscar Clarke and Casey Magner happened upon the newly opened farm, garden and home shop. Not minutes after they peeked into the small store, they proudly returned with some of “the most engineered, highest quality goods” Kate had ever seen. The professional team mechanic cyclists and childhood friends had been handcrafting practical, durable bags and packs under the moniker Magner Co. during their off-season.

“You think you can sell them?” they asked. “I think you can’t stop me from selling them,” Kate replied.

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Kate grew up in Milledgeville, Georgia, raised by parents who owned small market radio stations in Jesup, LaGrange, McRae, Gordon and Milledgeville.

“Their whole business was about the success of other small businesses, so I’ve always been small business minded,” said Kate.

Lotta Mae’s Supply Co. reflects this attitude in every hand-selected item displayed on shelves built by the hands of one in-town carpenter. On day one, Kate opened her doors to a line that lasted five hours to visit a shop stocked and designed with just local inventory.

This is Kate’s definition of community development – harness the multiplier effect made possible by supporting the local producers and thereby the local economy. “It’s been part and parcel to my life’s work,” she said.

Proudly, Kate already stocks three makers’ goods who have never had placement in a shop before. She’s coached them and helped encourage their brands. It’s only the beginning. The quality of the product is non-negotiable and the story of the maker, just as crucial.

The medley of goods that fill Lotta Mae’s all have that in common, that and the necessity of purpose. An axe is a tool, and if she’s going to sell a clutch, it better be durable enough to be tossed around a dirty truck bed next to a bag of feed.

Kate is a strong, confident woman. She drives a big pick-up truck. She doesn’t hesitate to tell it like it is, or like she sees it. Years of activism wouldn’t allow it. Her tall stature commands attention, and her life’s many turns along the way all somehow led to the space she has created in the semi-industrial corridor alongside the railroad tracks of Barber Street in Athens, Georgia.

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In one of the first photographs of Kate as a baby, you’ll find her wrapped in a carrier with her mother protesting the landfill in Gordon, Georgia leaking into the water supply. At a young age, Kate’s father sent her to record the news at the city council meetings.

“This is what happens when you do this with a child, when you force civic-mindedness at a young age,” Kate said. She grew up with the powerful feeling that she too could press on the levers of change.

In her 20’s and early 30’s, Kate bounced between gut-wrenching social work and quests of personal integrity. She ran a shelter until she couldn’t any longer, then lived in a cabin in Moose, Wyoming with no utilities. She worked for an anti-poverty and homeless organization in Colorado, then went off-grid on top of a mountain in New Mexico doing environmental work.

Through her first marriage, Kate found herself in Kansas. Despite feeling suffocated in the heart of Monsanto, she quickly gained a following as an informal greening guru, a lovingly nicknamed plastics conspiracy freak. In her husband's big agriculture machine manufacturing building, she found her space on Saturday mornings, having carved out a section in the front aisles to sell organic seeds and starts, gloves and magazines for farm wives, and coffee with muffins to be enjoyed while reminiscing on farming life long past. 

“These are crusty ass Kansas farmers, old guys. They would come in and look at stuff. The first few times they wouldn’t say much, just seeing what this Georgia lady was doing,” Kate remembered fondly. “Then they would sit and talk, and it was all memories of what their grandma had grown. They had me tracking down these seriously old fashioned cucumbers and melons.”

Kate was always the one asking what now, and developing community always resurfaced as her way of making an impact.

In 2004, back in Athens upon her mother’s request, Kate bought one of the first new construction homes on Peter and Arch Street, in the heart of the historically poor black “Iron Triangle”. Encouraged instead of scared by the old southern gentleman who warned her of the purchase, she was the second white person living on the block. A self-proclaimed companion gardener, Kate welcomed the afternoons when she would garden and tell stories with the widowed black women who had occupied that neighborhood forever.

“All this time [in social work] I’d been a gardener on the side. I’ve been calling it a farmender – bigger than a garden, smaller than a farm,” she said.

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In 2017, Kate finds herself again in a transitional neighborhood, wedged between a hipster coffee shop and a family shelter, with a chance to lovingly engage with her community and hopefully challenge barriers to diversity of race, age, income and lifestyle along the way.

“The first time you do something different it’s the hardest, and its easier every time after that. If the first time you go in here…and it’s not the perceived notion that its difficult, maybe we’ll make some change happen,” she said.

Before deciding on this space for Lotta Mae’s Supply Co., Kate literally backed her truck in. She did her homework. She researched. Kate Van Cantfort is thorough. While staying true to her vision, a vision she’d been cooking for years, she wants Lotta Mae’s to tap into what this community needs from it too.

“If [my customers] couldn’t pull in a dually to throw in 50 pounds of feed then I wasn't going to have that kind of clientele,” she said. “They needed to feel comfortable driving their truck down the road to get where I was.”

With Kate, the sky is the limit. She is constantly dreaming as she walks through her small, bright square footage, imaging more from classes and workshops, to community meetings, to bee-keeping out back, a tool co-op and maybe even a chicken hotel.

“I want to have functional items that are high quality, that are not for luxury. I balk at [the idea that] only people with certain income have the right to have quality items.”

The brilliant aesthetic of Lotta Mae’s Supply Co. may be accidental according to Kate Van Cantfort, but the positive consequences of one woman’s “second child” will all be intentional.

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Words by Erin Wilson
Photographs by Paige French

Celebrating Atlanta's Bounty at Concrete Jungle's Finders Keepers Dinner

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Take a walk around Atlanta during the spring, summer and fall, and you might notice ripe fruit, squashed onto sidewalks and crushed beneath your feet. It’s a bounty that often goes unnoticed. This verdant “City in the Trees” is home to thousands of fruit trees and bushes, many of which grow untended on residential lots and in public spaces. 

The founders of Concrete Jungle saw an obvious solution for the wasted fruit: Why not harvest it to feed the city’s hungry and homeless? Since the organization was established in 2009, they’ve donated more than 60,000 pounds of produce from neglected trees in the city and throughout North Georgia (as well as what's grown on their own small farm) to Atlantans in need. 

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Their ingenuity is worthy cause for celebration, and on Sunday, November 5th, lucky diners will have the chance to do just that. Local chefs Philip Meeker of Bright Seed, Ryan Smith of Staplehouse and Sarah Dodge of 8arm are working together to serve the Finders Keepers dinner, a 10+ course dinner featuring preserved fruits foraged by Concrete Jungle throughout the year. The meal will also be complemented by wine, beer and cocktails prepared by Julian Goglia of The Mercury and The Pinewood. 

To learn a little more about the inspiration behind the event, we spoke with Chef Philip Meeker.

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The Seed & Plate: What do you enjoy most about cooking with foraged fruits?

Philip Meeker: They have a taste that's different than the fruits you find in supermarkets. The flavor is not always better or worse; it's just different. It's always interesting to find those different flavors. Even on the same tree you get so many different flavors from one kind of fruit. It's interesting to play around with that because you can draw out subtle differences that you don't get from regular mass-produced fruits. For this dinner, the idea is to express the individuality of the fruits as much as possible in each dish.  

S & P: What drew you to work in collaboration with Concrete Jungle?

Meeker: I think the work they do is so cool. They not only try to make all of thsee old fruit trees around town an important part of the landscape; they also use them to help feed people who need food. It's food that would otherwise go to waste. I hate to see food wasted, and it's great to see people taking food that would otherwise just be laying on the ground and rerouting it to people who need it. 

S & P: Is there a particular dish you can’t wait to serve at the dinner?

Meeker: Not really! I look at the dinner more holistically, and I'm just excited about telling the story about this year's fruit harvest through the fruits collectively. But each fruit will be expressed individually within its own dish. I'm excited about each fruit and the way I've preserved each of them.

S & P: When did you begin preserving fruits for the dinner?

Meeker: Either May or April... I started getting serviceberries right around then and started to preserve those in different ways. Every now and again when a new fruit comes in, Craig (who sits on the board) will give me a call and I'll pick up a different bag of goodies from him or from Katherine, who runs Concrete Jungle. 

S & P: Do you hope that people will leave inspired? 

Meeker: I hope that the sparks people's imagination to think about what we can achieve through maintaining a diverse food system. I think food diversity is really important, and garnering support for the idea of having more varieties of fruits and other foods in the marketplace is important. Each one of these different varieties has a different genetic code that enables it to survive and thrive under certain conditions. Especially as weather patterns become less predictable, having these different varieties available to us for agriculture and for creating food — I think it'll be way more important. 

S & P: How did preparing for this event challenge your creativity?

Meeker: I think one thing that's interesting about all the fruits that I've preserved for the dinner is that I haven't made any jams so far in preserving them. Instead I've opted to use salt and vinegar fermentations. So they'll be a subtlety with the fruit that is interesting and uncommon and perhaps unfamiliar to some people. 

S & P: How do the values of Concrete Jungle align with those of Bright Seed, your own business of personal chef services, cooking classes and edible garden planning?

Meeker: I've always valued local food, especially when it's been grown in a responsible way, and I try to use it in my work as much as possible. Most of these fruits, they just grow on their own and they're thriving with little human intervention. I think being a good chef is about highlighting that beauty just as much as it is coming up with inventive preparations.

Tickets for the Finders Keepers dinner are $120 and can be purchased here. A $20 discount is offered to Concrete Jungle members. 

Story by Jodi Cash

Photos by Dessa Lohrey
 

Victory Hemp Foods is a Win for Kentucky

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When the 2014 Farm Bill passed, Chad Rosen knew the provisions for industrial hemp could mean good business. The bill provided that, for the first time in about 70 years, hemp could be grown legally in the state of Kentucky (as well as nine other states, all under a five year research period). The native Californian made a move from San Diego to the Bluegrass State to take root in the open field of opportunity. 

Hemp has long been a hotly-contested crop. It’s a member of the cannabis sativa family, just like it’s more famous relative, marijuana. The distinguishing factor is that hemp has an exponentially lower amount of THC. “Just like all dogs are canines, a lot of those canines have very different phenotypical traits,” Rosen says. “A greywolf has really long sharp teeth, a chihuahua is really annoying and has a sharp shrill bark, so those are phenotypical traits. So just like that cannabis sativa has this one phenotypical trait that we're looking for, which is the amount of THC. And if it's less than 0.3% THC, our government defines it as industrial hemp.” 

This important distinction allowed Rosen to found Victory Hemp Foods, a company that produces organic hemp products like oil, protein powder, flour, and de-hulled seeds. He launched the company in June of 2016, not just seeing opportunity for himself but for all of Kentucky. 

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Tobacco left a gaping hole in the Kentucky economy. The state once economically subsisted almost entirely on family tobacco farms, but between deregulation, buyouts and a drastic change in demand, it no longer offers a livelihood to Kentucky farmers. Between 1997 and 2015, the number of U.S. tobacco farms dropped by more than 95 percent — 93,330 to 4,268. What few tobacco farms still exist are mostly found in the Carolinas and Tennessee. But even before tobacco reigned supreme in Kentucky, hemp was a vital cash crop there, grown for use as riggings on naval ships since the late 1700s. 

In 1936, the movie “Reefer Madness” was released to frighten young people away from marijuana. A year later, as the intended craze swept the country, Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act, which criminalized the drug. This legislation ultimately meant that industrial hemp production also came to a screeching halt. It resumed in 1942 when the USDA produced the video “Hemp for Victory,” encouraging farmers to resume growing the crop to support the war effort. Farmers in Kentucky and elsewhere produced the crop, which was ultimately used to make parachutes, ropes, webbings, shoes, clothes and other vital products. Farmers who grew hemp for the war effort were dually rewarded. Yet still, in 1957, the crop was outlawed again as part of drug-related legislation. 

Rosen saw the possibilities, and he launched a business named in honor of hemp’s wartime purpose. “I started to see all the different uses for hemp, so that’s how I got focused on the hemp foods, because I saw that it's in 7000 retailers in North America and we import 98% of our hemp foods from Canada,” he says. “I thought that it was just the perfect place for an entrepreneur to sink his teeth in. And also given the potential impact it could have, I knew that if it wasn't done right, it would just be another failure of ag to have an impact where it really could.” 
When Rosen talks about impact, he’s got his eye on several factors. He wants to create products that are sustainable, in terms of how they were grown and how they’re commodified. He wants to offer foods that are nutritious. He wants to educate consumers on the value of hemp. And he wants to put fair wages in farmers’ pockets by providing a supply chain for a crop that could replace the revenue tobacco once provided. He’s only a little more than a year into his business with Victory Hemp Foods, but he’s succeeding on all fronts. 

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“We have such strong potential to create an enormous amount of demand and demand is always good for farmers,” he says. “If demand can outrace supply, farmers would be in good shape, right? And so if we don't talk about it as hemp, and we just look at the nutritional profile, it's absolutely amazing. It's got all nine essential amino acids, and proteins are just amino acids, so it's a complete plant-based protein, it has more digestible protein than, say, soy or flax or chia ... It's an amazing protein.”

It’s a matter of creating a demand for high quality products, made from a sustainably sourced crop. This is how farmers can receive parity, which is fair pricing that compensates for all inputs — something that hasn’t happened in Kentucky since the heyday of tobacco. 

“So, not that I've figured out a way for it to have this great impact and restore all our small family farms, but it definitely has the potential and I think that it's going to come down to the policies that processors and the philosophies that processors kind of build this industry through … I mean we have the most amount of small family farms in Kentucky, and you also have the highest declining rate of small family farms, and so how does hemp fit into that?”

It’s a deeply important question. All of the elements are in place for hemp to succeed in Kentucky: the farmers can grow it; there’s infrastructure for things like dairy farming, but the dairy farms are gone, so the infrastructure can be used for hemp milk; and it can be made into high end, highly-desirable value added products. Aside from oil, protein powder, flower and de-hulled seeds, Victory Hemp Foods collaborates with other artisanal food purveyors to create things like hemp chocolate, whipped hemp heart honey and hemp pasta. 

It’s too soon to say whether hemp will be the answer Kentucky farmers have been waiting for, but it’s likely to play a role in redeeming the rural economy. And Victory Hemp Foods is at the forefront of making that possible.

Story by Jodi Cash

Photos by Ethan Payne
 

Drinking with Literature: Richard Ford and Whiskey Neat

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When I was a first-semester freshman in college, I checked out an enormous hardbound copy of Richard Ford's entire Frank Bascombe trilogy from the school's library (I'm aware it's not a trilogy anymore, but I haven't accepted that in my heart). Every day, I would go to the gym and read Ford while doing cardio. I'm still not sure how I did that without vomiting from dizziness, but my point is that I can't process the brilliance, sadness, and mundanity of Ford without being at once physically exhausted and exhilarated. 

This habit caused a personal crisis. Ford is someone on whom you can think, but should never overthink. Thus to consume this work, you should relax rather than run, and sip rather than chug.

In case you haven't read it (and I really think you should): the Frank Bascombe series is about a man named, you guessed it, Frank Bascombe. He was a married sportswriter at one point, with a son, but he went through a bitter divorce and refers to his ex-wife only as 'X' throughout the series; later, he finds a career in real estate which is thrown out of whack by Hurricane Sandy. The books are very 1980s-2000s New Jersey, though Ford himself comes from a blue-collar Mississippi family. Frank is honestly an asshole, but that's besides the point. Richard Ford has made a life for him in these books (The Sportswriter, Independence Day and The Lay of the Land comprise the aforementioned trilogy; the complete Bascombe works include the fourth book, Let Me Be Frank With You), and it's incredible to imagine that this man exists only in another man's mind. There's no sense in a plot summary, because the books are moved by intimate detail rather than by story. That's something I like; again, that's a sip, not a chug. Feel the way the taste changes in your mouth the longer it sits. How it changes from the front of the palate to the back. You aren't here to get drunk. You are here to taste a drink, a tincture, a preparation.

That being said, I tried to get my grandma to read the series and she gave it up, said it "didn't go anywhere and didn't have a moral." Figures: her drink of choice is Pinot Noir, pronounced in her thick accent as Peanut Noor.

For a drink that you can (and should) drink as slowly and thoughtfully as you read Ford's masterful, Pulitzer Prize-winning trilogy, we recommend Swift Distillery's Single Malt Texas Whiskey, served neat. 

 

Story by Ryan Murphy

Photographs by Jodi Cash

What's in Season: October in the Southeast

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Autumn is upon us. This shoulder season brings about some of our favorite flavors of the year: baked goods made with warm spices, gourds that flourish in all shapes and colors and slow-cooked stews and soups. This guide is meant to inform your seasonal shopping and meal planning pursuits, though the best way to determine what you should eat this month is to check out your local farmers market to see what they’re selling. 

Fruits:

Apples
Cucumbers
Grapes
Pears

The crisp air of October calls for a change not only to the way we’re eating, but also to the way we’re drinking. In the height of apple harvests, enjoy the Old Man Smith, a seasonal take on the classic Old Fashioned.  

Vegetables:

Arugula
Beans
Beets
Bok choy
Broccoli
Cabbage
Carrots
Collard greens
Eggplant
Greens
Herbs
Kale
Lettuce
Mushrooms
Okra
Peanuts
Peas
Peppers
Persimmons
Pumpkins
Radishes
Summer squash
Sweet potatoes
Tomatoes
Tomatillos
Turnips
Winter squash
Zucchini

This is also the season to begin preparing food more slowly and thoughtfully, as in our recipe for Slow-Cooked Okra, Fennel and Carrots. And if you’re looking to reinvent a roasted vegetable dish this month, try our Turmeric Turnips with Spinach Chimichurri.

Words by Jodi Cash

Photo by Rinne Allen
 

What's in Season: September in the Southeast

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Here we are at the turning point of summer to fall, a time when fields are still verdant and bountiful but cooler winds begin to blow. The temperatures in September are particularly unpredictable, so as always, it’s best to go straight to the source and ask your local farmers what’s still growing in their gardens. This guide is meant to help you plan seasonal meals this month, and we highly recommend finding sustainable sources in your area for September’s fruit and vegetable offerings. (Naturally, what’s in season will also vary state to state.)

Fruits:

Apples
Cucumbers
Figs
Grapes
Ground Cherries
Peaches
Pears
Persimmons
Raspberries
Tomatillos
Tomatoes
Watermelons
Valencia Oranges

Peaches are on the last threshold of freshness in South Carolina, so be sure to preserve them while you can using our Peach Butter recipe. And while the warm days continue, cool off with our The 5 & 10’s recipe for Scuppernong Sorbet, one of our very favorite frozen treats. 

Vegetables and legumes:

Beets
Bok Choy
Cabbage
Collard Greens
Edamame
Eggplant
Chili Peppers
Chives
Garlic
Green Beans
Greens
Green Onions
Herbs
Kale
Lettuce
Leeks
Lima Beans
Mushrooms
Okra
Onions
Peanuts
Peas
Pecans
Peppers
Pole Beans
Potatoes
Pumpkins
Radishes
Shell Beans
Spinach
Sprouts
Summer Squash
Sweet Potatoes
Turnips
Winter Squash
Yams
Zucchini

With football season in full swing, there’s no better time to whip up our recipe for Classic Boiled Peanuts and win the favor of your tailgating friends. Our Heirloom Squash Pie is also sure to please for those who would rather enjoy vegetables as a dessert. 

Words by Jodi Cash

Photograph by Paige French