Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Barn Aid and Life on the Farm

Whew! I made it through September - but just barely. What a month filled with activities and fun! For those of you who missed the event, the 2nd annual Barn Aid & Dinner at Eden was a great success and lots of fun. The evening was captured in photos by James Edward Photography and I invite you to take a peak at the album.
Lorynn the Redhead wooed guests as they were arriving to the farm with her silky voice and magic guitar sound. While author Pamela Walker was educating our guests about some of the awesome Texas farmers and ranchers she profiled in her wonderful new book, (I'm almost done reading it and it is great!), we served over 40 dinners including the volunteers, the members of the band, and several scholarship dinners donated by some who purchased tickets to the fund raiser. Chef Gilbert wowed even the discriminating "non-beet" eaters with a gourmet, organic vegetarian dinner using almost exclusively locally grown, farm fresh foods, including;

Aunt Cindi's Organic Farm beets, 50 year old jerez vinegar, palm sugar, pickled onions from Eden's Garden;

Organic Provincial Vegetables from Aunt Cindi's, Thyme, confit tomatoes (sweet 100's and Juliets from Eden's), (served over cream peas)
Vanhuizen Farm Blue Cheese Foam w/Toasted Texas pecans, pomegranate seeds from Marie's personal pomegranate shrub, (that was a fun course to watch everyone eat!),

and topped off with a Lucky Layla Farms Yogurt Parfait Blueberry compote for desert!
And he put this all together in less than 2 days as most of the ingredients arrived in Chef's hands Thursday afternoon. Many thanks to Chef Dave and his fine assistant and friend, Steve Smith.

We held the DFW premiere screening of FRESH! and 90 people watched as Joel Salatin, Will Allen and others explained how and why it is so important to return our food system to smaller, sustainable operations. If you've never seen or heard (or read) anything by Joel Salatin, you will surely enjoy his positive outlook and dry, or maybe that is wry, sense of humor about our out of control food system and the legislation trying to reform it. He's a farmer, but also a great inspirational speaker. I had the pleasure of introducing him at last year's TCOOP event (hosted by TOFGA) and have now seen him live and in two movies about food. The man has a passion for what he is doing!

The Lucky Pierres performed some great songs and some folks even cut a rug out on the dirt dance floor. Organic popcorn was popped, natural sodas made believers of a few who tried it and Chef served up some tasty hoagy type Italian sausage sandwiches featuring Dominion Farm's all naturally raised meats. Everything was yummy, fun and fulfilling. The evening ended a bit later than we expected, but all good things do have to come to an end sooner or in this case, later.

It was a great afternoon/evening and I am pleased to say we raised $1,000 for the two beneficiaries and enlightened many people about the plight of others' need for the kind of food we are growing and enjoying here from Eden's. I got to meet many new fans of the farm and saw lots of kids enjoying themselves as well. I am very grateful for the opportunity to have shared this evening with so many great people. I can't thank enough those who volunteered, bought tickets, donated and participated. A special shout out to Edible DFW, The Green Spot, Dal-Tex Rentals in Mesquite, James Edward, Jenice Johnson, Saint Arnold and Lucky Layla Farm for their generous contributions and support of the event.

Back to the farm; September is planting time for many of the fall foods we'll be harvesting in the coming months, such as beets, radishes, carrots, turnips, lettuce, spinach, broccoli and much more! Sadly, after 15 inches of rain fell, (I never thought I'd be sad to see rain), we have to replant most of what went in as the first 2 1/4 inches fell in less than an hour and came down in buckets, washing most of the seeds away. The radishes seemed to survive the frog strangler, but I think they start to germinate as you plant them! Turnips, beets and the rest of the root crops were the most affected. The tomatoes, peppers, beans and cucumbers all seemed to enjoy the rain and except for the peppers, have all grown about a foot and a half in 2 weeks! I'm not sure about those peppers though this morning I did see a few blossoms, so maybe they will give us peppers but just won't be tall.

I also planted several varieties of cabbage, lettuce, kale and other greens. We have those strawberry plants and about 1500 other plugs on the way next week to get in the ground. So, if you wanted to volunteer on the farm, this and next week would be great weeks to come out! We still have some finishing to do on the rows, just smoothing out and weeding and then next week it will be a planting frenzy!

I hope we get gentle rains tomorrow, as they are predicting a pretty good chance of storms. It gives me a couple of days to catch up on paperwork and inside chores, but the heavy rains always set us back a few days as they flatten out our rows and wash seeds away.

Enjoy the fall weather we're having - thank you for supporting your local farmers and ranchers. Market Day this weekend at Eden's - come see us, and bring the kiddos.

Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Monday, September 28, 2009

What's Going on in DC - the Food unSafety Bill

For those of you who've asked me recently about the latest and greatest from DC - here is what FARFA has posted on their website currently.

Please, do keep yourselves informed, and call your local congress person - the health care issue is taking front seat, which may mean our legislation gets shoved through while no one is really looking!

FROM FARFA; (My notes in italics)

A food safety bill is moving through Congress! The House Energy & Commerce Committee has approved HR 2749, the "Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009." The bill contains many problematic provisions, including:

A food facility—defined as any establishment that manufactures, processes, packs, or holds food—would have to register and pay an annual $500 fee. Although farms are exempt, the agency has defined “farm” narrowly, and people making foods such as jam, cheese, or canned vegetables for local markets would be required to register and pay the fee. This could drive start-up and small producers out of business during difficult economic times. The fee is the same whether you are a small, local producer or a Heinz factory.

Facilities are also subject to extensive recordkeeping and paperwork requirements that could bury them in red tape without improving food safety. (Not to mention the part that allows the FDA to come on our property and have access to all records, including customer lists, whenever they want. These "facilities", are our HOMES!)

The FDA is authorized to regulate how farms grow, harvest, pack, sort, transport and hold raw produce and crops. The agency's track record shows that this is likely to lead to regulations based on the practices of huge, industrial facilities, and that will be impractical and counterproductive for small, diversified farms. (See what they are doing in CA - no animals on farms, no ponds/creeks/lakes on property, no border crops - must be mowed to dirt, must eliminate all wildlife from crop area or plow up 30ft surrounding animal tracks that are found.)

Establish a sliding scale for fees based on gross income, with an exemption for small facilities.

Limit the bill to food being shipped interstate, and explicitly exempt all farms and food processors who are selling only intrastate.

Exempt all farms and food processors who are selling directly to consumers. (This would mean us and farms like us, because we generally sell directly via CSA supporters and directly at market day.)

The industrial food safety system does need to be reformed. But a bill that harms small and local producers is not the answer!

Help protect both farmers and our food supply by calling your Representative today! Talk with the staffer who handles food safety issues. Explain how important local farms and local food sources are to you! Ask your Representative to push for an exemption for small farms and small food processors from these overly burdensome provisions.

To find out who represents you, go to

I'll post pics and such from Barn Aid soon!

Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food

Seems as though what I've been trying to share with you locally through events such as the upcoming Barn Aid & Dinner at Eden, is finally get more and more national attention. We're trying to spread the word to folks about the real cost of cheap food - essentially, sickness - and encourage them to eat healthier, local, fresh meals.

Time magazine did a great job with their story about cheap food - pointing out a good deal of issues, mentioning some of the more prominent authors covering the subject and even sharing some great pictures of what families around the world eat and urban farming projects, like the budding blossom here at Eden's Garden.

Take a moment if you will to pass on this article after you've read it.

Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food

We're looking forward to next Saturday - this weekend's rains seem to be washing the excessive heat out of the air and bringing in the cooler temps of late summer/ early autumn just in time for the event.

Come join us in the gardens, out on the farm for a gourmet dinner and wonderful treat, Pamela Walker, and watch with the rest of DFW, the premier screening of the new food movie FRESH!

We'll scoot some boots afterwards with The Lucky Pierres - till the cows come home...oh wait, Eden's doesn't have any cows......

Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cool Winds a Blowin'....?

Well, we thought it was going to cool down. I guess the good news is that the days are shorter and so that means the sun has less time to bake us and the plants and the ground they grow in. But boy, it is still hot out when it gets up there in the 90's. But, then I come in and finalize orders and plans for future crops, update the blog, send out emails and drink lots of water and green ice tea! After all, it was these nice warm temps in September that lured me to move to Texas in the first place. I know, what was I thinking!? Well, it is already too chilly up north for my liking so I'm not complaining about the lingering warm weather too much. Just glad we've started to see a bit of rain again.
In the ground, as we type, are tomatoes (Amish Paste, Yellow Pear & Cherokee Purple), peppers (Magnum Habanero Orange, Corno di toro and Black Hungarian), winter squash (Delicata), cantaloupe, another round of squash - yellow straight neck and dark green zucchini - Wax Beans, maybe they'll grow now that it isn't quite as hot, Provider Bush beans and a Chinese Red Noodle bean from fellow farmer, Carol Moss' farm. I had several other trays seeded - but I'm afraid a few hens found out there was corn meal in the potting mix this go round, and they messed up some of the seedlings on some of the other squash. We'll have a handful of plants that come up, and hopefully enough to at least put in the swap out box this fall. Silly chickens.....(no, that is not what I said at the time.) - we're hoping we get a nice fall crop of these short season warm veggies this year before it gets too cold. I'm hoping to find someone to teach a canning class, too, so we can learn how to preserve some of this goodness for the winter months. (I don't know how to can - do you?)

We've had to "cheat" a bit on our renewable energy plans, I'm afraid. I hate it - the stink of the pump not to mention the noise - and the fact that I have to burn gas to run it, but I also can't keep doing all of this work for the little harvest we've been getting and a few of you have said the same thing. The low harvest, we believe, is primarily due to low water input. We hope to be able to find a better combination of equipment when we attend the renewable energy roundup in a few weeks. Renewable energy is certainly the way to go, but it isn't a perfect system either. Until then, I'm using the gas pump only on days where we just HAVE to get more water on things and the sun/wind are not cooperating enough to recharge our batteries - not to mention, when our pumps have over heated and require cool down time, too. All of these things combined, do not make seedlings happy - nor do they put enough water down on crops with the pure sand we have in some areas of the garden, which drains faster than you can imagine. This will serve well for wet winters, but not for hot, dry summers. It will take several seasons under our belts to get that organic matter built up in the sandy parts of the gardens. But boy has the cantaloupe been sweet! (If you missed that week's pick up, we should have more soon if the aphids will leave these new plants alone.)
Eden's Garden is committed to growing "off the grid" and with sustainable practices. We're close to building our shed out back (out of the neighbor's old framework of a structure he used for covering his garden with shade cloth many years ago). Reuse! Recycle! We'll put tin salvaged from last year's tornado damaged barn roof on the roof of this new shed, and start to catch rainwater just as soon as we can afford a new rain barrel. This will help us rotate the use of pond water and rainwater - which will be nice to rinse off the mud this winter and when the pond gets low. By incorporating rain water, it only increases our sustainability goals.
Why we do what we do
Each time I read statistics about how many obese, diabetic children we are raising, it breaks my heart. It literally brings tears to my eyes to see a little one waddle behind his or her parent, who is also usually overweight. I am very blessed. My mom raised us on home cooked scratch meals for the most part. I learned to cook decently at a very young age and managed to maintain most of those good eating habits as an adult. But today, our school system FEEDS our kids junk in vending machines and cafeteria lines - the television, magazines, radio and every billboard you pass FEEDS all of us junk - how can we expect anyone, much less the children, to crave anything better, even when we choose to try to feed them healthy at breakfast and dinner? We have an opportunity to let our voices be heard. This Labor Day is the day set aside to call attention to what our schools are dishing up for your kids at lunch. is where to go in Texas to support an "eat in" event sponsored by Slow Food USA. Hey, whatever happened to packing a PBJ sandwich and an apple for the kiddos? That would be better than some of the junk they are feeding them. Geez.
By encouraging school aged kids to come out to the farm, get involved in school gardens, (see the great article in this seasons Edible DFW about Stonewall Jackson's program!), community gardens and even a pot of lettuce grown at home on the balcony, we take important steps to helping our children learn the important difference between real food and processed, packaged, pseudo foods. Devoid of nutrition, we are all left hungry, and craving the fat, salt and sugar that junk foods are packed with, to satisfy, not our hunger, but our taste buds. Take a week and fast from fast foods - and see if you're not left with more energy, clearer minds and a thicker pocketbook. Fast food is cheap - but it isn't really food or cheap if you have to eat twice as much of it to fill your body's needs.
Barn Aid promises to be a busy and fun event this year. I'm so glad to have the opportunity to show FRESH! here in the DFW area. I hope that many will come and be inspired to eat healthier foods, grow some of their own foods and, support local agriculture. The movie and concert are free - gates will re-open about 7:15 if you don't come to the charity dinner beforehand. There will be a panel of local food advocates discussing the movie with the audience afterwards. I hope you can bring some friends and join us. We'll have a free concert after the movie. Chef Gilbert will be serving up some gourmet sausages from Dominion Farms and we're looking at getting some organic popcorn for the movie! Thank you to all of those who are helping sponsor the event and make it happen.
We do have several new CSA members this year that have jumped on board to support our efforts here at Eden's Garden. I am so grateful for each and every one of you - and I hope in spite of the light harvests we had this first year, you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment for what you are a big part of. Please, come out to Barn Aid and see this other aspect of why it is important for there to be local, urban farms, too. There are lots of good reasons to be a part of local agriculture. Growing healthy food, preserving the land and protecting the environment, practicing community involvement, supporting the local economy and educating people all along the way are just the tip of the iceberg for the impact one single small farm can have on a community.
Welcome to a new farming year - and here's to a great one! Cheers!

Eat Your Food - Naturally!