Category Archives: News

Restoring the Family Table 3.1 and 3.2

First let me admit what I have not eaten this week that I probably would have- peanut butter. Late in the afternoons I usually have a spoonful-straight from the jar. My jar.  I also snack on prunes, I really like prunes.  But this week it has been peaches, blueberries, blackberries and melons. Oh the suffering :).

Breakfast today- A farm fresh egg, poached atop a slice of Spelt bread.  I have mentioned spelt bread several times.  The reason being, I have cut most wheat out of my diet.  The last few years I have dealt with a reoccurring, undiagnosed rash on my neck and upper back. Testing, changing soaps and lotions, nothing changed until I cut out wheat and gluten- No more rash, unless I eat a lot of wheat. And I paid lots of money with no diagnosis to figure this out for free!

Lunch- A paid $1 for a butternut squash at the Saluda Tailgate market on Friday. Today I roasted it, added a few teaspoons of sausage crumbles, some leftover grilled zucchini from Sunday’s lunch , a splash of locally sourced white balsamic vinegar from Giardini’s  FRESCA market and some Kimchi ( did I mention I really like Kimchi?)  I had never made that lunch dish before, might not again, just depends on the ingredients available,  but it was really good!!!

Afternoon snack: sliced peach with yogurt and a ‘Hunger Buster’ snack bar, locally made and available at the Mill Spring Farm Store.

I always bring coffee from home for my afternoon wake up call and I drink lots of water with mint. We have many mint varieties at the Mill Spring Ag Center so I can vary my flavors daily, sometimes I add a slice of cucumber too!

Restoring the Family Table 2.2

 

Monday lunch:
Leftover Scalloped Potatoes with sausage crumbles and Kimchi I made a few months ago. If you have never tried Kimchi I recommend it. It is naturally fermented vegetables of any combination, usually incorporating garlic, onions, ginger and cabbage of some variety. I added kale to mine as well. Before refrigeration, fermentation was a common method of preservation. Fermented foods are easily digested and in some cultures, it is always present-like we have salt and pepper on the table. I had a peach for an afternoon snack.
I had an appointment in Shelby in the late afternoon and I will admit- it was tempting to go through the Chick-Fil- A drive thru for waffle fries, but I DID NOT!
Home at 6pm- My dear Aunt from Florida was very willing to participate in the ‘ Eat Local’ Challenge and had prepared a wonderful meal for those able to attend- 2 Aunts, my mom, my daughter and 2 cousins. We enjoyed: Pork Chops with a 5 Pepper Coffee Rub from Meanwhile Back in Saluda, yellow and zucchini squash with onions, baked sweet potatoes, sliced tomatoes and kimchi on the side. I also added a bit of the very yummy Caramelized garlic and onion jam to my sweet potato instead of butter. That stuff is a great compliment to many food items! Dessert- fresh sliced Crenshaw Melon and blueberries. All vegetables and fruits came from Farmers Markets in Polk County. Pork Chops compliments of our farm.
I had a late night snack of Spelt toast with Rose’s Best FROG jam ( FROG- fig, raspberry, orange and ginger).

Restorting the Family Table 2.1

Breakfast Day 2:

A delicious smoothie( much needed after all the food from yesterday!) made from:

Homemade yogurt-plain/ blackberries from the backyard/blueberries from Fox Trot Farm in Green Creek purchased at the Columbus market Saturday/organic spinach from Beneficial Foods and scuppernong grape juice I made 2 years ago. No other sweetening necessary for this smoothie, but if needed I sometimes add a bit of honey or molasses.

Morning snack- a leftover Deviled egg

 

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.

Restoring the Family Table 1

So my week of eating local has begun.
I will start with a little background of myself and the family farm. After being away from Polk County for about 22 years, my family, husband, 2 of 4 kids and 3 dogs returned to my family home in 2008. First Christmas-

My dear husband says ‘ darling, what do you want for Christmas?” Me : A chicken coop.

Husband: A What?

Me: A chicken coop.

Husband: What is that and what is it for?

Me: Chickens and eggs. I want fresh eggs.

Husband: eye rolling…..

Me: I got a chicken coop- he really does love me doesn’t he???
Fast forward to 2015: Restoration Farm ( owner and operator Dawn Jordan) has some 200 heritage breed chickens and turkeys of various ages and purposes, pigs and a few cows, bee hives and a small garden. My dear husband manages the cows and will occasionally kill the snakes trying to eat my poultry( last night was interesting).
So, with that being disclosed, breakfast this morning consisted of:
Farm Fresh EGGS that dear husband collected from the side yard coop,
SAUSAGE from one of our pastured hogs recently gone to market, sliced TOMATOES from the garden, SPELT TOAST from Beneficial Foods bakery and HONEY from our bees. The COFFEE came from Openroad Coffee’s newly offered onsite roaster. It was very good.
:ooking forward to lunch. I’ll give you a hint- we recently processed turkeys

Sourcing Note: All of these items can be purchased locally, produced by local farmers or vendors. I will be making a list of items purchased, cost and breakdown of cost per person.

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.”

Relocalizing Food for Resiliency (Pt. 2)

The last blog emphasized that despite grocery stores shelves being packed full of products, and millions of dollars being distributed for food assistance programs, our world is actually quite food insecure.   Limited access to nutritious, affordable food is leading to rampant health problems and decreasing our societal knowledge of where food comes from.   The first step is acknowledging the fact that food insecurity is a real problem for Polk County, as discussed in part one.  This blog is part two of our series, and will discuss how we assess what we need in order to “relocalize” our food system.

“Food security is not in the supermarket. It’s not in the government. It’s not at the emergency services division. True food security is the historical normalcy of packing it in during the abundant times, building that in-house larder, and resting easy knowing that our little ones are not dependent on next week’s farmers’ market or the electronic cashiers at the supermarket.”
Joel Salatin

Just as Joel Salatin emphasizes above, it is clear that we must begin to address food system issues from the ground-up, rather than depending on outside agencies to be the fix-all solution.  In order to begin building a resilient local food system, we must first understand what our nutritional needs as humans are.  Then we must address the nutritional gaps in our local food supply and how to fill these at various scales within the community.

As humans we need: about 2,300 calories a day in the form of protein, fat, and carbohydrates; additionally we need vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and medicinal plants for healing.  All of these nutritional needs come from vegetables, herbs and spices, root crops, grains, animals and animal products, oils, nuts, fruits, berries, mushrooms, and products made from the above.  In order to build a resilient system, we must grow all of the above, and also produce value-added products.  That seems like a lot to tackle!  But if addressed at various production scales, it is actually quite feasible if the community is willing.

The first step is to identify regional staples that can be reliably produced in large quantities each year.

One example in Polk County would be sweet potatoes, or apples.  Next you ask:

  • “How many pounds of apples, sweet potatoes, ________, do Polk County residents consume in a year?”
  • “How many pounds do we currently produce…How many pounds are imported?”
  • “How can we increase local production to meet demand?”
  •  “How can we make these local products accessible in all markets?”

Other regional staples for Western NC include: potatoes, onions, beans, corn, pumpkin and squash, cabbage and greens, eggs, fruit, nuts, berries, wild plants and game, and small and large livestock.  Establishing a steady supply of products that are easily grown in your region is a first step towards stabilizing the food system.

 After we establish regional staples, we must look at growing the most nutrient dense foods.

The trick is to grow things that provide the most nutrition per square foot of production.  Some examples include: Cranberries, which are high in nutrient content and used to be native to NC, muscadines and paw paw which both provide cancer fighting potential and grow wild in our region.

We must also consider growing grains such as millet, quinoa, buckwheat, etc.  Additionally nuts have lots of potential to provide economic support to farmers, since now a large percentage of nuts produced in California are being shipped to Asia (70% of almonds are being shipped!).  Locally we can produce almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts, and pecans.  Seeds are also nutrient powerhouses and flax, sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame seeds could all be produced locally.

In terms of fats we must be able to produce oil and also obtain some from animal products.  Grapeseed oil has great potential in our region where viticulture provides grape skin waste that could be processed into oil.  Oil presses are not a high-cost equipment, and could be used on a co-op scale.  Other important nutrient powerhouses we can produce locally are mushrooms, herbs, goat’s milk and cheeses, as well poultry and eggs.

It is also important to grow Antioxidant Super Foods

Elderberry is a great example of a product that is native to this region and also possesses many medicinal properties.  Muscadine grapes, as mentioned above, are also a great source of antioxidants, boasting a higher antioxidant content that blueberries!  Vegetables such as kale, asparagus, red peppers, red cabbage, beets, etc. are also so called “super foods.”

 Muscadines Black

 

One we establish what we need to grow, it is important to understand how  we can grow enough food to support our community.  To do this we must:

Identify and plug local nutritional food gaps.

Chuck Marsh stated that the two hardest nutrients to provide at a local scale will be oils and minerals.  Mountain soils are old and typically lack many minerals, but can be re-mineralized with proper soil management techniques.  Oils on the other hand will require large scale supply of products, as well as the machinery to process and package.  Typically grain is grown in the cereal belt, but in order to address food security, we must promote grain farming for human consumption.  Finally non-grain staples and value-added products will be needed, which opens up the opportunity for local economic development and diversification.

The whole goal is to cut out the intermediaries who, by shipping the food 1000’s of miles, and spending large amounts of money on advertising, distort the true cost of food while also depleting the health of citizens.  By cutting out the middle-man we can provide great nutrients per dollar and rebuild our local economies.

This will not be an overnight change, nor will it come without its challenges  One insight I gained from the discussion is that we cannot learn or grow without challenges.  Challenge builds character and inner strength.  Working as a community to address food security will not only improve the physical health of citizens, but may also promote emotional and spiritual well being.  The final blog will discuss how we can begin to work towards filling the gaps in our system.

Thanks for reading!

Until next time…

Relocalizing food for Resiliency (pt. 1)

This month we were fortunate enough to have a presentation by Chuck Marsh at our monthly Friends of Agriculture Breakfast.  Chuck is the founder of Useful Plants Nursery and is the senior partner in Living Systems Design, a permaculture and restorative land design consultancy.  Chuck is currently working with Groundswell International to develop local initiatives to address rural childhood poverty and malnutrition through permaculture based garden projects.

At the breakfast we discussed how to rebuild community resiliency and nutrition through local food projects.  Because we covered so much, this blog will be broken into three separate posts.  First, we will cover food security issues on a global, statewide, and regional scale.  Next we will discuss key ingredients needed to develop a regionally “resilient” food system.  We will conclude with a discussion on how our county can begin to address food insecurity and build a resilient local food network.

Chuck began by stating there is a…

“critical need for local and regional food system design strategies to address the challenges we face from a fragile, risky, even dangerous corporatized modern food system”

A resilient food system is one that has the “ability to thrive and respond effectively to change.”  Our diet today consists of foods that travel on average 1500 miles, often being picked 7 days before even arriving at the store.  If shipments are hindered, our grocery stores only hold enough food to support a community for 3 days!  That itself is quite alarming, but doesn’t even touch on the issues we now face with health and access.

Food Insecure:

“lacking reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food”

Globally, food security faces many challenges.  For one, there is global competition for fuel, a resource that is unpredictable in its cost and availability for the future.  Additionally there is declining soil quality and productivity, increasing food and transportation costs, climate instability, reduced food diversity (increasing food vulnerability), and declining nutrient content of available foods.  Food grown in depleted soils and shipped long distances loses many of the valuable vitamins and minerals our bodies need.

Nationally, North Carolina was rated the 1st in local food insecurity in the USA, sourcing less than 5% of our food products locally.   One in four kids face hunger issues in NC, and one in three children are obese.  With our state’s strong agricultural heritage there is no reason for our communities to be malnourished or hungry.

On a regional level, food insecurity in Western North Carolina has some alarming statistics.

Based upon the 2011 Gallup Survey on Food Insecurity in 100 US Metropolitan areas, the Asheville Metropolitan Area  was the 7th worst in the nation in 2010.  In 2011 this area was rated the 3rd worst!  One in five people in Western North Carolina are food insecure (that’s approximately 106,000 people).  Poverty rates are soaring in Western NC, with the largest increase occurring in Polk County with a 73% increase from 2007-2012.  In 2010 44.9% of students in Polk County were eligible for free lunch.  Obesity rates in our county are also rather high, with 14.5% of children and 23% of adults being overweight (source: USDA).  In a county with a population around 20,000, nearly 3,000 receive Federal Food and Nutrition Services (DSS 2012-2013 annual report).  SNAP Redemptions for 2012 amounted to $88,659.95!  Yet even with federal assistance, 14.2% of Polk County residents are food insecure (source: Feed America),  Thermal Belt Outreach served 9,145 Polk County residents in 2013 alone!  Clearly there is a gap in food access and affordability.  Educating residents on how to grow even a small portion of their food at home while simultaneously scaling up local farm production and variety could begin to fill these gaps.

Other countries have addressed these issues, for example: Geneva, Switzerland; Angola; and the Ukraine.  Our own country used to be very food secure, with home food production intensifying during times of crisis; for example, Victory Gardens during World War II.  Is it because many do not realize the fragility of our food supply?  Or are we as a society, losing touch with our food and agricultural heritage.  We could not live without farms, and it is time for citizens to step up and make the changes they want to see, rather than being dependent on a broken food system.  Chuck’s presentation showed that addressing food security will require re-skilling, education, and community champions, but it is feasible.  Research shows that working in gardens can decrease depression, help with ADHD and Alzheimer’s patients, increase overall health, and lead to social bonding, neighborhood improvement, and increased volunteerism.  Creating a  strong regional food system would not only help to alleviate hunger in our region, but it could give us our identity back, empower citizens, and build community.