Category Archives: General updates

Introducing…

… this year’s AmeriCorps Service Members!  Amy and Alex will be serving at the Polk County Office of Agricultural Economic Development for the next year and will work to preserve farmland, support beginning and experienced farmers, and strengthen ties between farmers and consumers in the county.

me

Amy DeCamp – Farm & Consumer Outreach Specialist

Amy grew up in a small beach town on Long Island, NY where she was taught to swim in the frigid waters of the Long Island Sound alongside prehistoric horseshoe crabs and gelatinous jellyfish. She was also lucky to have spent her childhood camping in the Catskill Mountains – floating down the Delaware River and singing songs while bald American eagles soared overhead. She developed a deep respect for the natural world at a young age as a result of these experiences. Amy went on to attend the University at Albany, State University of New York, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. From there, she spent several years working as an executive recruiter in New York. While recruiting provided Amy with valuable skills and experience, she ultimately realized that she wanted to transition her career to focus on environmental conservation and advocacy. Most recently, Amy has worked on small-scale organic farms throughout the South and in Western North Carolina to promote sustainable agricultural practices and to support local food systems. She is excited to be serving as Farm and Consumer Outreach Specialist this year!

alex

Alex Kazer – Conservation Education & Outreach Coordinator

Alex hails from the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. After graduating from the University of Georgia with degrees in International Affairs and Arabic, he spent two years researching and working on refugee issues in Jordan and another year teaching at the American University of Iraq –Sulaimani. Seeking a change of scenery, he left the Middle East to explore the hidden corners of Europe. During his wanderings, he discovered a passion for farming while working on a goat dairy in Sweden. Alex spent the next three years in Washington state learning to farm and gaining a deep appreciation for responsible land stewardship. He is excited to work with the farmers of Polk County to help preserve the agrarian traditions of the area and to bring more young farmers on to the land.

 

Restoring the Family Table 1.3

After a late and very satisfying lunch with good company, I was not very hungry when I went to the SlowFood Asheville Foothills quarterly gathering in Tryon. Of course I still found room to taste to fabulous offerings from community members.  I nibbled on Corn Pudding and Carolina Coastal Shrimp– fresh from the coast on NC. I consider that local for shrimp. To wrap up my day I snacked on a few hand made crackers from Wildflour Bakery with homemade pimento cheese from Meanwhile Back in Saluda with the remaining Naked Apple Cider.

If you haven’t attended a Slow Food event, I strongly encourage you to do so. They are free, food is always good, fresh, local and created by loving hands that are committed to conscientiously supporting  local agriculture. Potlucks are quarterly. Find out more at slowfoodashevillefoothills.org.  This event was held at the newly opened Community’s Kitchen located at 835 N Trade St Tryon, NC. the Community’s Kitchen is the hard work and dedication of community members and supporters, led by Carol Lynn Jackson of Manna Cabanna’s organic CSA and farm stand in Saluda.  Carol Lynn is a strong voice for local agriculture and entrepreneurial agribusinesses. the kitchen is a certified commercial kitchen and event space for community events and value added product production. The space is fabulous! Please check it out and use it.

For my local week- the first day was delicious and satisfying!

Restoring the Family Table 1.2

Lunch consisted of a Brined Turkey, scalloped potatoes, corn on the cob, grilled zucchini, purple beans stir-fried with garlic and onions, Homemade Peach Salsa and local bakery bread.  Dessert- Honey sweetened homemade yogurt with blueberries and blackberries and ginger mint.

It was nice to share lunch with family- 2 aunts, my mother, daughter and husband.

Brined Turkey- I had put a Restoration Farm Non-GMO fed heritage turkey in the brine Saturday about noon. The brine consisted of a Naked Apple Hard Cider, local peaches diced up, salt and peppercorns, rosemary and sage from the herb garden and an Italian herb mix from Meanwhile Back in Saluda, which is where I got the cider and salt.  The salt has been my most exciting find so far. It is from a company called Dickinson Salt Works in Malden, W Va.  Apparently in the early 1800’s an ancient sea ( Iapetus Ocena) was discovered deep below the Appalachian Mountains.  Today, two 7th generation descendants of William Dickinson are capturing this seawater, evaporating and hand harvesting a finishing salt. Very exciting to have an Appalachian Mountain salt.   I also found a wonderful condiment at Manna Cabanna in Saluda. It is a Caramelized Onion and Garlic jam from a local business- Happy Wife, Happy Life. Don’t you just love the name???   Just a touch really gave a pop to the brined turkey.

All vegetables and fruits were found at local farmers markets.- Tryon, Saluda and Columbus or Manna Cabanna in Saluda ( I got onions here), or my garden.  Butter and Milk for the potatoes from the Mill Spring Farm Store.  The Non-GMO wheat Bread came from Cool Mamas Bakery in Green Creek. Since I started making my own yogurt several years ago I have cut the cost of this purchase by at least 75%. It is easy to do and makes me feel very accomplished. We have bees on our farm and the honey, well…..it’s awesome too.   You can find local honey at most farmers markets, Meanwhile Back in Saluda, Manna Cabanna in Saluda and the Mill Spring Farm Store.

Gardening with Kids

This week marked the beginning of a new educational program run by Sydney and Alex, the AmeriCorps members at PCOAED.  The after-school program seeks to increase children’s understanding of where their food comes from, how to grow it themselves, and the nutritional benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

The program will continue until school lets out and will incorporate vegetable and herb gardening, cooking, and additional outdoor science education.  Heidi Ramsey, the after school director at Polk Central Elementary, has allowed us to visit the school once a week to provide hands-on, environmental education.

seeds

This week’s focus was on seeds.

Everyone was allowed to feel, smell, and explore a variety of seeds that are common in cooking and baking.  The children were excited and engaged as they realized they had eaten mustard, poppy, sesame, and dill seeds.  They were allowed to crush up coriander seeds and smell the fragrant, lemony odor.

The students then learned about seed growth and season extension.  In preparation for an early spring garden, the children planted broccoli, kale, kholrabi, mustard, and lettuce seeds in flats.

A large part of experiential education is open exploration.  As an educator you are there to answer questions as they arise, but not to hinder students from self-discovery.

I have spent the last three years teaching children about environmental conservation and gardening, and it is by far the most rewarding and exciting job one could ask for.

Children love dirt, worms, and most of all, eating.

Gardens allow a space for exploration and learning outside the traditional classroom.  Kinesthetic learners who may struggle in school, thrive, as they are able to learn through physical movement and self-guided problem solving.

Children also learn to prepare fresh produce, and often when they cook these things themselves, they are excited to eat them, and even ask for seconds!

I can’t wait to see how the students learn and develop as we progress through our gardening program.  I hope to provide a weekly update, and hopefully some funny stories, as we ourselves learn as we teach.

 

Relocalizing Food for Resiliency (Pt. 3)

“If you’re going to change a community, start with food, it transcends all ideologies” -Chuck Marsh

Above is a picture of Geneva, Switzerland.  The country began a program of “foodscaping”  to provide families with low-cost healthy produce from their own back yards.  Growing food provides not only food, but it is therapy, and there is a lot of research to back that up.

When a garden is brought into a home it increases fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity, and overall health.

Home garden promotion is just one step in a multidimensional process of relocalizing our food system.

This blog is the final post of a 3-part series covering our December Friends of Agriculture Breakfast, and will conclude with a discussion on the actual process and steps needed to relocalize the food system in Polk County.

foodscales

 The first step is to begin in the garden.

As you can see above, a food system has multiple scales, and each will require tweaking as the process continues.  Once home gardens become established you can move to neighborhoods, the town, the county, the region, the state, etc.

Some ideas could be:  Establishing small orchards in neighborhoods, planting fruit trees in town centers, or planting 1/4 acre plots at schools, hospitals, retirement homes, etc.  for in-house use and education.  The list can go on and on.

The trick is to model the food system after ecosystems by designing for:

  • Adaptability
  • Interdependence
  • Cooperation and mutual support
  • Diversity
  • Redundancy
  • Stability
  • Energy Conservation

Neighborhoods and homes could establish small-scale vineyards, orchards, herb gardens, vegetable gardens, small livestock shelters, and maybe even aquaculture.

It is very exciting to think the changes that could occur within our community if our food-system were to be rebuilt.  This of course will require re-skilling residents on growing food as well as cooking.  Thirty-five percent of Americans don’t even own a frying pan!

The trick is to understand that relocalizing food will not occur overnight and will require trial-and-error.  Failure is to be expected, but should not be a hindrance to progress.  Polk County will be working towards this in the upcoming years, so keep an eye out, exciting things to come.

As Chuck said:

“Have fun.  Savor the journey toward an abundant future.”

Beekeeping in Polk County

There are a number of beekeepers in Polk County. Many have just a hive or two and others have several. All of these hobbyist beekeepers have something to offer each other. In 2015, the Office of Agricultural Economic Development aims to network these beekeepers and link them with ongoing education.

A survey of beekeepers who have taken the Polk County Cooperative Extension Class (sign up for this year’s class if you haven’t had the course already) reveals a need to share information.

class poster

To accomplish this goal, we established the Polk County Beekeepers Facebook page. Additionally, we believe that the Spartanburg Beekeepers Association is a good club for Polk County beekeepers to join.

Join me at their next meeting on January 8th! Their President, Mark Sweatman, lives just over the border in Landrum, and the club meetings are entertaining, engaging and informative. Each meeting is the second Thursday of every month. The club meets at 6:30pm with the formal presentation at 7:00pm. The meetings are held at:

Spartanburg County Administration Building,

Conference Room #6,

366 North Church Street Spartanburg, SC 29303

(enter in the back of building on the left side)

If there is enough interest, I hope to organize a Polk County subchapter to go to their meetings every month. A more tightly knit group of beekeepers in Polk County would serve as a wonderful resource. If there is enough interest, transportation may even be arranged.

I look forward to the community’s input on the form of this local beekeeping group, and I am eager to meet everyone who keeps bees in our community. A group is needed for mutual support!

 

Diversity of a Pollinator Garden in NC

There are some lovely photos from Debbie Roos of Cooperative Extension fame at her website, Growing Small Farms, here are a couple of the pictures but click here to see many more.

If you find yourself in the Piedmont, she hosts monthly tours of the garden and you can find those dates on her website.

IMG_11273 V018

Feeding Nine Billion – Animated Video

The first video in this series is about 12 minutes long and is enjoyable to watch and learn a few things about food security and our future. Local foods play an important part in this role, check out all the videos below at:

http://youtu.be/raSHAqV8K9c?list=UUCuOvliEH9Zco3yKFHuwynA

Boat Building at the Mill Spring Ag Center

Check out this fantastic video done by Kirk Gollwitzer about the boat building classes at the Mill Spring Ag Center

http://www.youtube.com/embed/AXRFuhjK73w

 

 

New ‘Resources’ material

We are working to compile a place to go for a wide range of information. We will categorize relevant info and post it to the ‘Resources‘ page on the main site.

There you will find documents from the breakfasts, like speaker PowerPoints and audio recordings, regulatory guides, information for new and beginning farmers, and more! We will be slowly adding documents and coming up with a logical way to organize everything. 

Stay warm my friends.