Celebrating a Local Breakfast

Coming back to the blog has me in a very reflective mood. As does starting a new book Blessing the Hands that Feed Us, Vicki Robin’s experiment with a 10-mile diet. The book has been sitting on my shelf since it was given to me as a gift from a student a couple years ago. Robin challenges to us to reflect on our relationship with our food – a task I try to keep in my heart and on my mind each day.

With this reflection in mind, I am very proud to share my homegrown and local breakfast: West VA heirloom blue corn bread with homegrown eggs and greens frittata. The main ingredients were either grown/raised at my home or purchased locally. (Yes – those are blue eggs from our two Ameraucana chickens in the picture below, we are very proud) But, the most exciting part to me – the other ingredients were local as well – garlic and local WV salt for flavor and cooked with local, organic rapeseed oil.

I have an ongoing thought experiment to see if it is possible to meet all my basic culinary needs locally. Recently, my attention was turned to oil and I was pleased to see a number of local cooking oil options at Chesapeake’s Bounty. I am experimenting with local sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, and butternut squash. These oils have replaced olive oil in my cupboard this winter. I am sure there will be a dish that is diminished without beloved EVOO, but I haven’t found it yet.

Food and Farm Books to Pre-Order for 2013

As each chilly January day is ever-so-slightly longer than the last, I’ve found myself not only counting down the days until spring, but also the days until two incredible books publish and get into my library, mind and heart: Michael Pollan’s Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (Release date April 23, 2013), and Forrest Pritchard’s Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers’ Markets, Local Food and Saving the Family Farm (Release date May 21, 2013).

The Amazon.com summary of Pollan’s Cooked reveals that the book will explore the four classical elements of food and cooking – fire, water, air and earth – seemingly in the deep, co-evolutionary style of  The Botany of Desire. Pollan dedicates sections of the book and of himself to understanding the human relationship and dependence on the “primal magic” of fire, the “art of braising,” the transformation of grain and water into bread via air, and the genius of fermentation. All of which encourage we readers and food system reformers to continue our quest to bring our meals back to the basics.

“…Cooking, above all, connects us. The effects of not cooking are similarly far reaching. Relying upon corporations to process our food means we consume huge quantities of fat, sugar, and salt; disrupt an essential link to the natural world; and weaken our relationships with family and friends. In fact, Cooked argues, taking back control of cooking may be the single most important step anyone can take to help make the American food system healthier and more sustainable. Reclaiming cooking as an act of enjoyment and self-reliance, learning to perform the magic of these everyday transformations, opens the door to a more nourishing life.”   – Amazon description

While I hope each year welcomes a little more kitchen and cooking time into my personal food journey, the heart of my education and energy takes place on the farm. Lucky for me and all my fellow farmer friends, Forrest Pritchard, author of Gaining Ground and pioneering farmer at Smith Meadows Farm in Berryville, Virginia, captures the spirit of those experiences and lessons in his blog posts and speaking engagements. Just this weekend, he ignited applause from an audience of farmers at the Future Harvest conference with a pivotal comment during the panel discussion “Down a New Path  – Stories of Change and Transition.”

“We could be considered niche farmers… Or we could be considered early adapters in a new paradigm.” – Forrest Pritchard

A recording of the discussion will be airing this week on the Marc Steiner Show and the Gaining Ground is set to be released May 21st. Until then, Pritchard and Smith Meadows’ free-range meats can be found at several DC, Maryland and Virginia farmers markets.

‘Tis the Season…

…for Compost2theMoon to remind you about some simple ideas to help make the holidays greener!

  • Get a real tree. Ideally, one grown locally as opposed to say… shipped to a Home Depot near you. Not only will your home smell like lovely pine without any artificial sprays or candles, but you are contributing to a business that is good for the planet. I know, I know: Instinct dictates that cutting down trees = bad. But that isn’t exactly the case in the business of Christmas trees because higher demand = more trees planted.  Christmas tree farms are a big business. We’re talking about 56 million trees bought each year that grew and absorbed carbon dioxide for 5-16 years before getting tied to the roof of your car. Read all about it a previous post, “Purchase the Pine, People.” (By golly gosh, those are some cute sisters in that picture!) Of course, purchasing the tree – roots and all – to be replanted after the holidays is the absolute greenest of the green but not everyone has the land for that.
  • Re-use ribbons, gift bags, paper, baskets, jars and everything else from last year. If you didn’t hang on to them, be sure to do so this year! Simply pack them away with holiday decorations and you’ll be amazed at how little you have to purchase next year.
  • Make your own gift tags from last years holiday cards. This is our FAVORITE tradition. If you don’t think you’ll have time to make them on your own, feel free to donate them for next year’s re-purposing promotion. Email me for details and mailing address.
  • Buy local! Supporting local artisans, small business, farmers, grocers and organizations is a great way to keep wealth in the community and reduce the footprint of large manufacturers and shipping. For great gift ideas in our region, check out Foodshed Magazine’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide.
  • Give food! Yummy holiday treats rarely go to waste.
  • Consider purchasing gifts that give back through organizations like the World Wildlife Fund. Not only will you be donating to an important cause, you’ll get on the mailing lists for similar organizations that send out holiday-themed return address labels and wrapping paper made from recycled materials (and a request for a small donation).
  • As far as online shopping, Amazon is one of our favorites because of their eco-friendly, frustration-free packaging. If you can’t find what you are looking for on there, be sure and sign up for an account on your favorite sites so that you can save items in your cart until all your purchasing is complete and can be sent in a single shipment. Save yourself the shipping fees and save the packing materials and shipping miles.
  • Brighten your home and tree with LED lights and be sure to put them on a timer. If you aren’t fond of the bright-white, grab a colorful strand instead.

If you’ve got any tips for the season, please tell us about them in the comment section.

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!

 

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.

 

Happy Earth Day!

Hope everyone is having a beautiful Earth Week and has something enviro-friendly planned for the weekend to celebrate Earth Day. In case not, here are some local happenings:

The Science Center’s Earth Day celebration on Saturday: There will be container-garden making with Baltimore Contained, herb cooking with Carrie Murray Nature Center, experiments with the American Chemical Society and plenty more eco-awesomeness with local green groups.More info can be found on the Science Center’s site here: http://mdsci.org/events-calendar/events/EarthDay.html

Severna Park Earth Day on Saturday: http://severnapark.patch.com/articles/9th-annual-earth-day-expo-at-spms#pdf-9379365 Where the Eco-Goats will be!

Localize It: Baltimore Free Farm Block Party on Sunday: The second annual block party celebrating the value of local artists, musicians, food and social movements at its flagship project, the Ash Street Garden in Hampden. The event will include local craft and food vendors, street performers, live music and family activities. The block party’s special attraction is ChiliBrew V, a home-brew competition and chili cook-off organized by BaltiBrew. More info can be found on their website http://www.baltimorefreefarm.org/2012/03/11/localize-it-ii/

If you aren’t local, check out the Earth Day Network for information about events near you!

Honoring Farmworkers: A Celebration of Cesar Chavez

The Accokeek Foundation, Rural Coalition, and Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission co-present the 2012 Food Justice Series. The Series kicks off this Thursday, March 29th, at 6:00pm at Cesar Chavez Prep with “Honoring Farmworkers: A Celebration of Cesar Chavez,” which includes a brief film screening and discussion with members of the Chavez Family.

This four-part presentation of the Robert Ware Straus Lecture Series brings together farmers, policy advocates, community leaders, faith- and government-based initiatives focusing on building local, equitable and sustainable food systems. Topics include a celebration of the legacy of Cesar Chavez, farmworker justice, food access in Southern Maryland, and young and beginning farmers as well as a look at our diverse ancestral farming in this region.

Is Ice Cream Addictive?

Obviously! But just in case your personal research and case studies of friends and family (namely, yours truly) did not reveal enough evidence of the addictive properties of ice cream, a study performed by the Oregon Research Institute has confirmed it. Well, sort of. They confirmed the following:

  • Teenagers like milkshakes.
  • Study participants who ate ice cream the week before the study were less excited about eating ice cream during the study. Researchers associated this with increased cravings yet less derived pleasure associated with repeated drug use.
  • The more ice cream you eat, the more ice cream you need to get an ice cream buzz.
  • It is unlikely that a person would develop a “full-blown addiction” to ice cream but the addictive properties could lead to overeating and weight gain.
While it was my initial intent to poke fun at this study, I have to admit that I not only crave ice cream – I succumb to those cravings very often. Why? Because I love everything about ice cream! Who doesn’t?! I’ve never come across someone eating ice cream who isn’t happy. I don’t drink or smoke, I exercise regularly, I eat more vegetables than my garden can grow, but the hard-to-put-in-writing truth is that I have been known to consider a bowl of ice cream a great way to start my day.
However, in response to this study I have decided to give up ice cream for the remainder of the month of March in hopes to determine whether or not I am addicted. I will tweet cravings/confessions as I have them and report back on the topic come April.

Green Matters: Urban Farming Pioneers

“The essence of the pioneering decision is: Those who choose to change their paradigms early do it not as an act of the head but as an act of the heart.”
– Arthur Baker

This Friday, February 24th 2012, Brookside Gardens is hosting their third and final food-focused symposium titled: Green Matters: Urban Farming Pioneers. The all-day event will highlight innovative approaches to feeding the world’s population and feature the following speakers:

For more information and to register for the conference, visit the Brookside Gardens: Green Matters website.