Place Your Thanksgiving Turkey Orders Soon!

Can you believe Thanksgiving is less than a month away?! Neither can we. If you are going omnivore, this means it is time to get your orders in for birds. Local Harvest‘s Turkey Locator is a great way to find a free-range, heritage, natural, organic or whatever-your-fancy bird near you.

The honorary Compost2theMoon turkey, who we are calling Collin (after the famous chicken from the  “Is it Local?” Portlandia skit), is coming from our friend Farmer Tom in Reisterstown, Maryland (unless our snuggley-sides get the better of us and pardon him). Farmer Tom gives his happy birds twice the recommended space to grow and lots of water, yummy feed and and fresh air daily. Processing begins just five days before the holiday. The birds are fresh water-rinsed throughout the entire process and then packed in ice to guarantee a fresh, moist bird.

Maryland Dining Services Commits to 20% Sustainable Food by 2020!

Big news out of the University of Maryland today! Compost2theMoon’s very own Allison Lilly has been working hard to improve the sustainability of the food system within Dining Services and it is paying off in a big way! The department has created and launched a Sustainable Food Working Group, comprised of students, faculty and staff, which will collaborate to create a more sustainable and healthy campus. They will also be launching a Far-to-School series of planned activities including special dinners in dining halls, sponsored workshops, on-campus visits with local farmers, and off-campus farm tours.

The newest department goal, to reach 20 percent sustainable food purchases by 2020 (with a focus on local food), has grown from the Green Dining initiative – originated with DS Facilities Maintenance several years ago. The initiative also includes piloting recycle and compost programs in campus dish rooms and building gardens on the roofs of campus dining halls. Dining Services’ sustainable food commitment includes the following benchmarks:

  • 1 to 4 percent annual increase in sustainable food purchases
  • Annual, incremental increases in sourcing from local growers, with special emphasis on Maryland growers and harvesters
  • Annual, incremental increases in sourcing unprocessed, whole goods – 20 percent sustainable food by 2020

“Dining Services’ goals for sustainable food are well aligned with the University’s strategic plan and the President’s Climate Commitment. The Sustainable Food Working Group is a wonderful example of innovative cross-campus collaboration,” says Wallace D. Loh, University of Maryland president.

In addition to all this awesomeness, the gang at Dining Services will continue its participation in four on-campus vegetable gardens and the Farmers Market at Maryland.

Click here to learn more about UMD’s Dining Services Sustainable Food Commitment.

Way to go, Allie!

 

The Legendary Praying Mantis

Last week, a praying mantis made headlines after being discovered in the Washington National’s outfield during a game against the New York Mets. My sister, knowing my fondness for mantid-kind, alerted me to the story and assured me that the mantis was caught with a baseball glove, wrapped in a towel and carefully escorted from the field to be released elsewhere. A luxury that a mantis in close proximity to my sister may not have been afforded.

The news sparked quite a few discussions with friends regarding whether or not the insect is endangered and/or protected and if it is illegal to kill one. Nearly everyone I spoke to that day and night was certain it was a crime – albeit a difficult law to enforce. By dinner time, we Googled and found lots of hits with the terms: “myth,” “urban legend” and “$50 fine.” The short answer is: No, it is not illegal to kill a praying mantis BUT it should be because they are beyond beneficial for your garden, farm and outdoor life. Here’s why:

  • Praying mantises are 24/7 predators of harmful/annoying insects like mosquitoes, flies, aphids, roaches, beetles, grasshoppers and night-dwelling moths.
  • Even small, newborn mantises are hungry and will immediately begin feeding on the smaller pests.
  • They’re just plain awesome. Their triangular heads can turn 180 degrees and their compound eyes can detect movement up to 60 feet away.

An exact history of the myth is hard to isolate. It appears to date back quite a few decades (to the 1950s) and seems to have been born in the creative, collective imaginations of backyard gardeners. My best guess is that after witnessing the healing power the mantis and its prayer pose have on pest-ridden patches of produce, household rules about protecting them popped up.

While I feel some journalistic duty to report here that mantis homicide is not technically a crime, I’d like to propose that we continue to perpetuate this fantastic myth and protect these awesome creatures. If it means getting my sister a mantis-moving baseball glove, so be it.

*Special thanks to Rebecca Carter, John Rorapaugh and Jennifer Beidel for their thoughtful conversations that contributed to this post.

Bug-Lover Walks Onto a Production Farm

“Oooooohh look at this happy little caterpillar I found! I’m just going to move him over to the fennel where he will have plenty to eat, k?”

Not exactly. Although the pollinating butterflies these cuties become are very welcome at organic production farms, their larva stage is better nurtured in say… a nearby demonstration garden or conservancy. Lucky for me, I just landed a gig working in a new Loudon County, VA community, Willowsford, built around conservation, sustainable cultivation, real food, really cool farmers, and a really great garden.

Chances are, I will be doing a lot of posts born from experiences at Willowsford Farm throughout the 2012 growing season so for now, here are the top ten highlights from Week One:

10.) The masterminds behind this community are incredibly down-to-earth, determined, and committed to conservation as much as they are committed to the growth of the farm (in terms of acreage, value-added products, biodiversity, and profitability).
9.) The bees and their keeper are going to be producing local honey and educate the community on the importance of pollinators.
8.) The garden is bonkers amazing and already includes: tons of berry bushes, herbs, fruit trees, tomatoes, flowers, and gated entrances as adorable as the open-air structure slated for a classroom/market/shed.
7.) Somehow, I have not picked up a single tick yet – which leads me to number six…
6.) Not only is there deer fencing around the farm – it is around the garden too!
5.) There are tons of Mexican sunflowers, zinnias, and other butterfly-attracting plants in rows between tomatoes, peppers and other edibles which makes times spent harvesting extra beautiful.
4.) Pretty much all-you-can-eat  fresh and healthy “seconds” all day long.
3.) Everyone I have met is keen on bringing our beloved Eco-Goats out to help clear weeds!
2.) Fellow Farmers: Nick, Jen and Kathryn and Farm Manager Mike Snow are pure sunshine – even in the hardest, back-breaking moments, and have gone far out of their way to teach me tricks of the trade, welcome me to the team, and accept the fact that they may have to kill my share of tomato horn worms.

And the number one thing to come out of Willowsford this week (worthy of a photo):

1.) Husk Tomatoes. Sometimes called “Ground Tomatoes” because you harvest them from the ground once they have fallen off of the plant. If you have not yet tried one, step away from the computer and head to the closest farmers market.