Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Little Common Sense

Regardless of any one's political persuasion, I think most everyone can agree that eating is a pretty important thing. After all - if we don't eat, we won't live very long, right? The simplest form of common sense. However, not everyone understands just how important, even critical, it is to eat healthy - and what exactly that means. I have a relative who is a living example of what poor diet looks like. How long can one sustain quality of life on sugar free this and that, diner food and microwave mystery meals? I'm hear to tell you, about 20 years. Then these fantastic and wonderful machines we live in begin to break down due to lack of nutrition.

I am in my last few months as the president of an organic garden club in Dallas, for those of you who may not know that. The DOGC is a group of wonderful people I was introduced to many years ago by the club president back then who was bringing in a group of local food producers to speak to the group on eating organic foods. She graciously invited me as a local organic garden supplies provider to join them. Now, you might think that organic gardeners would automatically eat that way, too. But, not all do and I attribute this to a variety of reasons, primarily I think is information - or misinformation. It is getting better I am happy to say. And that is evident of the snacks that are brought to our meetings. But let's look at one example of how we shop and maybe where some of America's priorities are a bit out of line.

Many of us in the garden club group may shop at boutique garden centers where the products are a bit more costly. But we do so in part to support local small businesses and to find the quality and selection of products we desire that support our hobby of gardening. Often this is not found in big box type places when it comes to plants and organic supplies. (Tho, I'm seeing the latter pop up in a few of them under names previously tied to miraculous products - ahem. I guess everyone wants in on the growing market of organic gardening.) And in other people's hobbies, they often pay a higher price for whatever gadget it is they need/want to have as well.

But where are we getting our food from? It is a common misconception that we must pay a high price tag at a boutique food store to find healthy, organic foods, though this is probably the easiest place to find an abundance of it - or is it? You may be surprised to find what is in your boutique grocery store isn't all organic, very local or without its hidden ingredients when it comes to processed "organic" foods.

We can grow some of the most healthy, nutritious food in our very own neighborhoods, in fact in our own yards, right next to the beautiful roses, cosmos, lavender and other most perfectly beautiful perennial gardens I've ever seen! And I think many of my fellow club members do raise the standard tomatoes and peppers, herbs and a few other select items at home and there is a growing interest to learn how to grow more. But last year we tried to get support of our group to maintain a local community garden plot up at Flag Pole Hill in central Dallas and found many people just honestly didn't have the time. And these are people who love to garden. I fear this is true of home gardens as well. I think we are all rushing so much, we've left out time to tend to an essential part of life. Which leads me to the answer of my previous question; we're buying our food from places all over the world or grabbing it on the run, thus contributing to our own demise and an endless cycle of nonsense. This is where local farms can and do help. We need more of them to really make a difference.

I'll get off my soap box, and let me say, I'm not a purist by far nor mean to be preachy or judging anyone either. Yes, I can be caught redhanded in the cheese fry basket at Snuffers from time to time. But, as Mr. Pollan suggests in the video I've linked below, a treat now and then is normal and perfectly fine. So long as we don't make it a regular ritual. And, I have my eyes opened every day at ways I can be doing things differently and better, too. But I do encourage you to watch the video of this author who was recently on a PBS show. I'm not sure this poor guy really wants to be secretary of anything, as has been suggested, but he does have a lot of good ideas that perhaps should at least be reviewed and considered. Maybe he can be on one of the committees anyway, to represent the eaters' side. We seem to have plenty of representatives of the large family farms and huge corporate farms. I think there needs to be some balance and see nothing wrong with that. We as a country could use a little balance in a lot of areas.

Small farms may not be very well represented on the Hill, but are learning ways to get started and support themselves with the likes of this CSA and more "direct to market" type selling - rather than getting the under priced wholesale values from the middle man. When government subsidizes farm prices to cheapen the cost of food to the wholesale purchasing agent - who pays for those subsidies anyway? Of course we know the answer. The cost is spread around among all who pay taxes. So food isn't really cheap, it is subsidized by everyone who pays taxes and profits those buying it cheaply and reselling it as higher priced processed food to the unsuspecting. In many cases it is nothing more than a box of chemicals with a few food products in the mix and a pretty picture on it. Hooray for the local farming and local eating movement! We can make a difference, right in our own neighborhoods and communities.

Watch the interview - it is actually in two parts so grab a cup of hot herbal tea and ponder over some of what is said. And be proud to know, Eden's Garden CSA members and CSA and local farm supporters everywhere, are already part of the solution!

I can't get the picture out of my head of very young little children who are grossly overweight and surely on thier way to health problems. I can't help but think the parents must surely not realize what kind of future they are setting their little loved ones up for. We all can do a little to help by teaching those around us of the importance of eating your veggies. And eating them grown locally, seems to be the most beneficial to everyone around us for many reasons.

Tell your kids' school you want to see healthy lunch programs. Tell your city council at local events where "free food" is passed out that it shouldn't be hot dogs or doughnuts but fruit or other healthy alternative. Bring a healthy covered dish to work for the potluck dinner and expose your peers to a tasty and healthful treat. If you don't know how to cook - go to one of the local organic or vegan diners that cater and splurge this one time for your co-workers. (Spiral Diner - all I can say is they really have a way with Vegan food, and I'm an omnivore.) Thanks for listening. See you soon on the farm. Things are growing in spite of the lack of sunshine and I may have a harvest week after next to share. I'll keep you posted.

Please keep fellow Eden's Garden CSA members' the Gordon family and the Walker family in your prayers as one family welcomes a very young son home from the hospital diagnosed diabetic and the other family sends an older young son off to Iraq.

Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

CBS News story on eating locally

Here is a great story about localvores in Texas - our friends Brad and Jenny were contacted but the newscrew apparently stayed in Houston. Good to see more urban farming going on somewhere, but it needs to spread even more!

Watch CBS Videos Online

Eat Your Food - Naturally!

CSA - All the Way!

Well, life on the farm it tastes pretty good! I know that isn't how the song goes, but we changed it up a bit today as members picked up their first share of Eden's farm's harvest. Due to many setbacks, it has been long delayed and somewhat truncated, but nevertheless, we harvested fresh greens including Swiss chard, collards, kale and beet greens, fresh oregano and the last of the basil this season.

Supporters of the CSA were also treated to a dozen eggs from JuHa ranch, a frequent participant at the Eden's Market Day event, as well as a baked item from Mama Jeani, the Bistro Mama, who also bakes for our market friends, through pre-orders. Man you should have seen the Thanksgiving pre-order goodies in my freezer for her customers! Mmm, mmm! Too bad everyone showed up to claim theirs - Jenice and I didn't get to split a pie! And from the east Dallas community gardens I was able to secure some tasty freshly harvested onions. Today's harvest was modest at best, but it was a good start to a great thing. And with over 2000 plant plugs on the way from a certified organic growing operation in CA this December, the future winter season is looking really good!

Probably the best part about today was the unified vision that we are building something awesome here in Balch Springs for the future. Thank you for the hugs and kind words of encouragement! I was a bit nervous what you all would say but it seems everyone is on board with the bigger picture about what we are doing.

With all of the talk of down economies, those participating in this CSA are doing something to help the local economy, which also helps each of us individually in several ways. Not only are CSA members helping support a local farmer that one day will enable the expansion of the farms’ potential for bigger and better harvests, but they are helping themselves by eating healthier. And, in the long run this is a win-win solution not only for the locavores and the farmer, but as a whole, the community in which the farm exists. Because as the farm grows, the farmer inevitably needs help - this means employment opportunities for local individuals. Simple economics tells you that is a good thing. And the more food produced, the more people who have access to local, organic food. Additionally, local food means fresher and less of a "carbon footprint" getting it as it isn't flown in from around the world.

One of my goals here at Eden’s Gardens is to produce enough food to more than satisfy the CSA members and have plenty leftover to sell at Market Day. In an effort to make sure no one is denied healthy food, I’ll apply for certification to accept food stamps, and we’ll set up a sliding scale for CSA members’ fees, including adding more working share opportunities that teach members the skills they need to grow their own some day. In this way I hope to make healthy, organic food attainable by anyone who truly desires it. Through free classes, skits and other activities, teaching kids the importance of vegetables in their diet, I hope to help create a generation of educated young people who appreciate food and its origins. So many of us have gotten away from that with modern food conveniences that we just expect to pop something open and eat it. So much is compromised that way.

If you are just visiting our CSA blog and want more information about CSA? Just Google Community Supported Agriculture or CSA and you'll find a bunch of great info. Or, check out the book by the late Elizabeth Henderson and Robyn Van En, Sharing the Harvest. Also for a great example of the important role a local urban farm can be on a community, check out Fairview Gardens website. Lamplighter school just hosted an appearance by Michael Ableman a few weeks ago and it was inspiring, to say the least.

Between the TOFGA workshop a few weekends ago, Henderson’s and Ableman's books I’m immersed in and the Lamplighter presentation and Michael's documentary, you could say I am a bit overwhelmed with inspiration and a sense of awe for what appears to be my calling. It is much more than a job, it is a way of life that I hope will inspire many people to eat healthier, get involved together as a community and take better care of the future in tangible ways. To Eden's CSA members - we're on the right track! Happy eating and a huge THANK YOU!

Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Monday, November 17, 2008

We're all in this Together

We had a great turn out Saturday afternoon and got much accomplished! Thank you to Sara, Leo and Emily and Jenice our volunteers and to Charity, Shana and Randall who are some of our regular workshare members - Hey, everyone, Shana just ran the New York Marathon! Go Shana! Jenice (pictured here as proof to her workout coach that she did workout Saturday) is the one we can thank for covering the story that brought Sara to us and Charity is part of Eden's Community Gardens, as well as our CSA community, which can all stay clean a lot more naturally with the soaps that Emily and Leo taught us how to make earlier in the day!

Someone mentioned community and its importance 3 times to me this weekend. What a great group we have and I can feel the commitment and the support for our project - thank you. I just read something the other day that said the majority of those forming new CSA's were not farmers previously, but came from an assortment of various careers - many not even agriculturally related. At least with this CSA the land is secured already, I do have a working knowledge of horticulture and soils (the life of the soil is the direct result in the life of your food), and I've been an organic gardener for the better part of 20 years, and most important of all - I have a great group of charter CSA members! I am really looking forward to the growing of relationships that this CSA will foster as I get to know everyone. I encourage you all to comment on the blog - talk to me - and perhaps we have someone who's a techie out there who can set us up a yahoo group or something. (I am sorry, I just really don't have the time to maintain it and the emails and this blog as well as my other electronic outlets, but would love to see you all connecting on line and I promise to chime in!)

We didn't get the shed framework moved Saturday as I planned, but more importantly, we did get all of the plants that are tender and still trying to bear fruit covered up and tucked in. (pic coming) It never actually froze down here, my thermometer showed 34, which is cold enough! - but we were ready! I would rather be prepared than panic. What is in there under that plastic are a few cucumber and several squash plants that I hope will give us some fruit and about 5 or 6 cherry tomato plants I threw in at the last minute this fall just to see if they'd grow. Most plants were among the things that were started way back in September on time - but couldn't get in the ground due to the irrigation issues. Thank you Herb - we're on track there now, too! (I promise, I'll get the renewable energy pics and info in soon!)

This first season has been both frustrating and exciting - and soon, rewarding. This week I look to see us bringing in some kale, chard and possibly, some cabbage. I harvested basil in anticipation of the weather (some came with permission from another local organic garden where no one from the school came to save it) and will try to keep it fresh for the week in vases of water and we'll cut fresh oregano, too. I've sent out a request for overages of produce from 2 other local farms and we'll see what they have - soon as I hear, I'll let you know as I'm sure you are planning your feasts' menu this week. I have a dozen eggs coming for you all and a surprise baked good item. Jeani baked her heart out - and into - these goodies and it is my gift to you this Thanksgiving. There are tarts, muffins and breads - mmm mmm good! I'll just cover my eyes and put one of something baked in each bag - you guys can feel free to swap out. They are in my freezer out in the garage so I don't have to be tempted to eat them myself! You folks that split a share may be arm wrestling over who gets what! (Nah, I'll put the muffins in those bags, we don't want any fights breaking out.)

Oh, that reminds me. I do have some cloth bags on order - 100% organically grown and made in Texas I might add - Eden's Organic tote bags. I've ordered enough so you can each have one to carry home your shares (and then please remember to bring it back next time) and I'll have one for the next week's share. I thought that would be better than a bunch of boxes - roaches like boxes anyway. This first share may end up in Whole Foods bags, since ours aren't in just yet, but we'll have them sooner or later.

I'm not sure if we're where we need to be to start scheduling a weekly pick up yet. Erica asked me about that this week and I just don't think it makes sense to do. Hang in there with me and let's get through the Thanksgiving basket - I really wanted you guys to have more local stuff for the holiday next weekend, but the season didn't go quite the way I hoped. However, we're on track now and that rain, man that rain was a delight! Did I already mention we got 3 inches!? Ahhh! It was just what the garden needed - thank you Lord! I am also planting more as a way to continue things so long as it will grow. I put in garlic, which is actually for next summer, and more radishes and some carrots! In just a few weeks, several trays of organically grown plant starts will be arriving for our winter shares. Trying to get lettuce going again - last batch still not showing itself : ( - and whatever else I think I can get to grow in the dark gloomy winter days that are on the way. Can anyone say greens?

What would you like to eat this spring? Now is the time to start thinking about that stuff. I'll be laying out the plan for spring over the next couple months. I'll start to secure seeds in December and January. I'll be putting out onion sets and potatoes soon as I can get them - do you guys like sweet potatoes? Let me know what you would like to see me try to grow.

Well, that is all for now. I don't have the camera handy or I'd put some pics up this morning from the garden this weekend. Check back later this week for pics.

Have a great week!
Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Growing - Physically and Spritually

Yesterday, I attended an all day farmers' workshop that was put on by our friends of TOFGA. The Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association is an organization of state wide farmers, ranchers, retailers and individual gardeners who share the same mindset about growing things naturally. Some are certified others are not. TOFGA's main goal is to educate those who farm and ranch and to encourage those who don't - to get busy!

Local farming really is an important part of our country's future. Some even say it is critical. Everything I read about our current food situation is pointing more and more in that direction for various reasons. Some parts of the country don't raise enough food to support their own people should there be some kind of natural disaster that kept food from being brought in - such as a severe snowstorm or hurricane, etc. They could feed on the corn raised that is stored in the silos - but I don't think they'd like it much. Heck, the cows are force fed that stuff. And you don't have to look far to see the deteriorating health of our kids and many peers. It is hard to sustain much of a quality of life on sugar free this and that, processed frozen food chocked with preservatives and chemicals and fast food diets free from fresh vegetables and full of sodium and who knows what else. But that is how a vast majority of America eats - and barely survives. Nutrition - it affects our bodies, our minds and every other part of our lives.

The point is that what we all are a part of here at Eden's, is actually on the cutting edge of what is coming. No, I'm not a doomsday person, not at all. I'm just a pretty practical girl. It makes more sense to me to grow what we can for ourselves, and export any extra perhaps, sure if there is any, - but why rely on others to import to us, what we can already grow here? OK - you want strawberries in January, or in August for that matter. Maybe we can cheat and get in a California shipment at the local grocery store. But to import things year round like meats, dairy, common veggies and such - all that does is lower the value of what is being grown at home - and put farmers out of biz. History has shown us that.

The saddest part perhaps of all is that what is being imported isn't nearly as fresh or valuable as what is now unavailable locally because the farmer couldn't survive on the lowered prices for his or her products and had to take a day job or lost their farm - or both. His or her crops were far superior to those imported from who knows where and in storage for how long? But, many people don't have an inkling about the importance of eating really fresh food. As long as it looks like a tomato it is one, right? Well, sorta. Unfortunately, the tricks they use to make things look fresh are unknown by many people and many more are sold by the pretty pictures on the boxes - even though the taste inside is far inferior to homemade freshness. Sadly, I think many have forgotten how good fresh, home made food really tastes and nourishes, not only our bodies, but our minds as well. Why does special Thanksgiving dinner really taste so good - probably because much of it is really food - not out of a box or can. (hopefully anyway)

At our workshop yesterday we talked all about the nuts and bolts of growing and ranching. Then, one speaker took us on an interesting path. Energy and Intent.

With what intent are we growing our crops? Many believe that plants grown by someone with a true respect for nature and a love for the process, are going to be far superior plants with less pressure from pests, disease and other problems. When you raise animals with respect and dignity, their bodies don't produce various enzymes or release natural chemicals that can make the meat less palatable as when animals are crowded and abused, scared or neglected. Sure, we still have to work hard and take necessary steps to grow plants and feed the animals, but doing so by using our energy and the energy that exists on the earth in various minerals, etc., in a positive way, can make a big difference in the end results.

I really think there is something to this theory; as "out there" as it may seem to some people. We all have energy - positive and negative. Everything puts off vibes or energy of some sort. These vibes or waves, etc., can be picked up by instruments and measured, so we know it is true. And, we know people tend to do a better job at something when they love what they do. Perhaps part of that is the belief in what you are doing is important, even a mission or a life calling. And perhaps part of that is the energy or vibes you send out are apparent in the final product for other reasons. All I know is that many people who follow a holistic way of doing things, tend to be pretty successful at what they are doing.

Having said that - know that I LOVE growing for you all! It is important to me to be successful for reasons that go way beyond the monetary ones. It pains me to see people unable to get the nutrition they need because they can't afford it, or can't find it, don't know how to prepare it or just don't know how badly they need it. This is personal for me and it is to many who farm. For some, it may be just what has been passed down and expected of them to carry on, although for those who have had a farm passed on to them and welcome it with open arms - they know how blessed they are. Yet for others, we chose to do this, to farm, and have found a way to make it happen, many of us amidst growing metropolitan areas and rising property taxes, pollution and other various societal pressures. It is very heartwarming to think that what is grown locally can have such a positive effect on the people's health and lives who are also local. Many of you are my neighbors! I know what isn't available around here to eat. That is in large part, why I decided to do this. To farm. And even though it has been frustratingly slow to get started, every time I come around that corner by the pond and see those plants coming along - I can't help but smile cuz I know the good stuff is coming! Yeah, there are some weeds out there among the fallow areas - feeding the birds; but the tomato plants, cucumber, squash, beets, peas (yep, guys, your seeds are up!), and the other various things we've planted are all growing and just as healthy as can be. And that is without much water as irrigation issues continue to plague us.

But, as I walk among the plants inspecting their growth (with a flashlight sometimes as it is often dark when I get up and out there especially before the time change), when that sunrise comes up over the horizon, I can't hardly think of anything else I would rather be doing at that given moment. Except wishing I didn't have to rush off so soon to sit at a desk for the next 9 hours. But, that day will come, too. More people need and want what our members are getting ready to enjoy - fresh food grown locally and with care, by someone they can see and get to know and someplace they can visit and feel a part of. Connecting to the food - especially when you have been able to help grow it - just seems to make it even more satisfying when you get to eat it. I can't wait either!

Growing with love and faith. Your prayers for healthy food to nourish your bodies and those of your kids are heartfelt and I believe they are heard and being answered in a positive way. I feel the positive energy through the notes, blog comments, and emails I get from you - and I thank you and appreciate them all as well. It reassures me I'm on the right track even with the setbacks. I can't tell you what all this project will net or who or how many it will ultimately affect, but with the good intentions that are involved by everyone participating, from the paying members, working members and unpaid volunteers who just want to be part of this - I can tell you - it is going to be great!

I'll be out watering soon - with a pump I'm going to rent soon as the store opens. We're still finessing the solar irrigation system (more on that soon) - trying to find a pump that will keep up with our needs till the shed is re-assembled and rain water system is in place. And then of course, we'll need rain...

Bless you and your families this beautiful Sunday morning.

Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ken Meter: Building a Local Food Economy (part 1)

I subscribe to Farmer Brad's blog because, in part, he always finds such good stuff to post! I think you'll find this interesting...

Eat Your Food - Naturally!