This weblog contains LocallyGrown.net news and the weblog entries from all the markets currently using the system.
To visit the authoring market’s website, click on the market name located in the entry’s title.
Athens Locally Grown: Availability for April 16
Athens Locally Grown
Asparagus and White Bean Salad with Feta and Lemon Dressing
Served with crusty bread, this salad makes a terrific meal. White beans provide a delectable hearty-tenderness, without overwhelming the delicate asparagus. Tangy feta, zesty lemon, and a touch of mint give this salad a bright and refreshing flavor. From the Farmer John Cookbook.
1 pound asparagus, cut on an angle in 1-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cooked or canned white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes
2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions
1. Place the asparagus in a steamer basket set over 1 1/2 inches boiling water, and cover. Steam until the spears are tender-firm, 4 to 7 minutes depending on thickness. Drain and place in an ice water bath (or under cold, running water) for a moment to stop the cooking.
2. Put the olive oil, lemon juice, fresh mint, lemon zest, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and whisk until well combined. Drain asparagus.
3. Combine the beans, feta, radishes, and scallions in a large bowl. Add the asparagus pieces. Pour on the dressing and gently toss. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
I’m trying something a little different with the email this week. Some of the other locallygrown.net markets (did you know that there are nearly 100 communities across the country now using our system to feed themselves?) asked me if they could send out “newslettery” emails instead of just the plain text ones like I usually do. I tweaked the system a little to make it easier to do just that, and thought I’d give it a try myself. What do you think?
I know I’m always talking about how the market is growing, but last week I actually dug up some old numbers to see how they looked. I noticed last Thursday that is was still a month before the traditional start of “farmers market season”, yet our availability and total sales hod more of a mid-summer look to them. So when I got home I looked through the records and saw that last week’s total sales were just about twice the same week from last year, and a full ten times larger than the same week just two years ago. By pretty much every metric, sales, number of growers, number of customers, and items available, we’ve been pretty much doubling every single year. Many of our growers have told me that they are planting even more than ever before this season, to try to meet the demand of Athens Locally Grown and the Athens Farmers Market. And when/if we move to a new location, I’ll have to make sure the new place can handle the growth too. It’s a challenge, but really it’s a good problem to have. Thanks to you all and your demand for locally produced food for making it all happen!
We will be doing our popular “farmer for a day” program this year, starting in May. We’re still working out the schedule, and we’ll announce at least the first one as soon as its set. We’ll do one a month, and for those of you not familiar with the program, we visit a farm, spend a couple hours pitching in to do simple but much needed work, have a provided lunch, and then take a full guided tour. Space is limited, and we’ll be taking reservations as soon as we schedule the dates. There’s no charge, and it’s a great way to visit the farms and get a better idea of the people, places, and effort behind your food.
As always, we thank you for your continued support! We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old market on Broad Street.
The Southern Seed Legacy is holding their 12th Annual Seed Swap next Saturday at the Agrarian Connection Heritage Farm in Oglethorpe County. Don’t let the name fool you — you don’t have to bring any seeds to swap. You can find many heirloom seedlings and seeds to try, for free or for a donation to the SSL. Or just come for the old timey music and the slow cooked barbeque. All the details are on their website.
Split Creek Farm (the goat dairy that offers the wonderful cheeses and fudge every other week) is holding their spring festival on Saturday, May 2nd. Spring means babies at Split Creek, and this even is a wonderful family affair. They’ll have tours and demonstrations throughout the day, and you’ll find details and directions on their website.
And finally the Athens Farmers Market is reopening for the season on Saturday May 9th at Bishop Park. It’s a totally separate entity from Athens Locally Grown, but you’ll find many of the same growers at both. And of course, you can learn more about that market on their website.
We thank you for your interest and support of our efforts to bring you the healthiest, the freshest and the most delicious locally-produced foods possible!
Athens Locally Grown: Availability for April 9
The growers have been using the break in the much-needed rain to work in their beds, get seeds and transplants in the ground, and otherwise try to get a little caught up. We’re expecting a couple nights of freezing temperatures this week, though, so don’t let the warm days fool you! Unless you’ve got some protection, you’ll need to hold off putting out those tomato plants just a little longer. The average last frost day for Athens is around the 15th of April, but local microclimates can make that date meaningless. At my place , for example, last year was the first year in the last seven that we didn’t get a frost in the second week of May. Backyard Harvest has a similar last date for their farm, so you just have to keep an eye on things, just in case.
Those of you who have been ordering breads from Black Cow Coffeehouse will notice something a little different this week. Black Cow has decided to stop making breads under their name, but their baker is continuing to bake, in the exact same ovens with the exact same recipes. You’ll now find the loaf breads listed under the name “Fred’s Breads”. Several of you also noticed the Crunchy Spelt bread hasn’t been available lately. The cost of spelt has suddenly skyrocketed such that the cost for ingredients alone would be near $10 a loaf. So, until either the price drops down or another supplier of equally high quality spelt can be found, that bread is off the list.
Many more of you have been asking about the progress toward finding a new location. I’ve been taking my time looking for a new place, since it looks like we have at least three months or so where we are (and actually, the sale process could drag on for years in this economy). I haven’t yet found a place that has everything we’d like, but there is one potential site that is close to perfect except for one little thing… it is out near the mall. If we were to move out there, how would that affect you? Would be be less likely to order from us if we were that far from downtown?
And now on to this week’s list. I see a number of new items this week, and I’m excited about the great variety of fresh herbs that are now again available. I hope you find a number of things you like, too.
Thanks for all your support! We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old market on Broad Street.
Athens Locally Grown: Availability for April 2
It took less than a week for Michelle Obama’s White House organic garden to draw official protests from industrial agriculture. For example, the Executive Director of the Mid America CropLife Association says the idea of an organic garden at the White House makes her “shudder”, and wrote a letter to Mrs. Obama expressing her organization’s desire for conventional agriculture to be represented in her garden.
Meanwhile, many of you have been asking me about HR 875, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009. The internet is abuzz right now with websites and emails saying things like this would outlaw organic agriculture, close farmers markets, and is about to be rammed through Congress by Monsanto. First off, let me assure you that none of these things are true. HR 875 is actually just one of several bills before Congress drafted in the wake of the salmonella outbreak tied to the peanut facility in south Georgia, and it may well be the best of the bunch. At its core is a proposal to divide the Food and Drug Administration into two agencies, one for drugs and the other for food. The legislation itself is somehow both very detailed about the authority the new food agency would have yet very vague about how its charge would be carried out. You can read the legislation for yourself here. It’s been referred to committee, but there has been no action taken on the bill. Its author, Rep Rosa DeLauro (her husband does not work for Monsanto, as some of the emails claim), has actually sat down with organic and small-scale farmers and is making sure amendments get written that would clarify and strengthen the legislation and make sure there is no undue burden placed on growers who sell locally. You can find a well-researched article about it all here. If you’re politically minded, it’s never too early to write members of the House Agriculture committee to let them know what sort of food safety law you’d like to emerge. Rest assured, something is coming down the pike.
In other news, the Athens Farmers Market is only a month away from its opening Saturday, on May 9th. A good number of our growers also sell there, so you’ll soon have another source for sustainably grown local food. Also, my cooking class covering “nature’s perfect food”, the egg, is next Monday, April 6, at Athens Rolling Pin. Registration is required, and it costs $35.
Now, on to this week’s bounty! There are quite a few new items this week as more growers come online. There are even veggie seedlings ready to go into your own garden is you want to give growing your own food a try. If you need a hand with that, Kevin Yates, a former grower at Roots Farm, has started an edible landscape business in Athens, Hungry Gnome Gardenscapes, that can help you get going.
Thanks for all of your support! We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30pm to 8pm at the old market on Broad Street.
Athens Locally Grown: Availability for March 26
I spent the past two days on the campus of Agnes Scott College in Decatur, attending the annual Georgia Organics conference. Both the conference and the organization has really grown and expanded since I first began going eight years ago, and as I say every year, this one was the best conference yet. The highlight was the keynote address by Michael Pollan. His talk was essentially a “state of the movement” address for local and sustainable foods. One take-away was a quote from President Obama: “Make me do it. Show me the movement.” This was in response to a long discussion about sustainable foods and the pressures opposing them from the industrial food industry and government policies that directly or indirectly support that industry. The president, while he supports what we’re trying to do, needs to know there is a cry from the populous to reform those governmental policies that have encouraged monocultures of corn and soybeans and factory meat farms at the expense of so many other things. By buying a portion of your food from your local farmers, and be spreading the word about who they are and what they offer, you’re adding your voice to the cry that the president needs to hear.
On a related note, after that conversation, President Obama turned to his wife Michelle and said, “This is your issue, baby”. She apparently took that to heart, with the planting of an organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn. If that or anything else has given you the urge to plant your own garden, but have some questions, please let us know. If we can’t answer them, we’ll point you to some resources that can. And no, we’re not worried about you growing all your own food and leaving Athens Locally Grown. It turns out that growing some of your own food changes your eating habits enough that gardeners often buy even more items from farmers markets than before :)
There are a few events coming up you might like to know about. First, I’ll be teaching a cooking class at The Rolling Pin in Beechwood on Monday, April 6th, from 6:30 to 8:30pm. The topic is all about the egg, and I’ll go through as many techniques for perfectly using eggs as two hours will allow. The cost is $35, and you can register at www.athensrollingpin.com. On April 18th, The Southern Seed Legacy will hold its 12th annual Seed Swap near at UGA’s Agrarian Connections Farm near Crawford. Even if you have no seeds to swap, come for the free seeds to try in your own garden, the great array of heirloom tomato and pepper seedlings, the bluegrass music, and the traditional barbeque. It looks like their website doesn’t show the current date yet, but you’ll be able to find out more at http://www.uga.edu/ebl/ssl/activities/seedswap/. This is on my short list of “don’t miss” yearly events.
Finally, on June 28th as part of AthFest, Craig Page, executive director of P.L.A.C.E. and myself will battle it out in an “Iron Chef” style local foods cooking competition. The event has just gotten approved and there are many details to be worked out, but I’m excited and already nervous.
Now, on to this week;s listing. I see several exciting things added this week, including the season’s first asparagus and a number of native wildflower seedlings ready to be planted. There are over 400 items in all. The farms are gardens are really starting to return to life!
Thanks for all of your support. We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old farmers market on Broad Street!
Athens Locally Grown: Availability for March 19
Athens Locally Grown has a reputation for always being sold out of a few certain items. I think really that’s not entirely true when seasonality is taken into account, since we’ll never have enough tomatoes for everyone in January, for example. Eggs, on the other hand, we’ve never had enough of. Never, that is, until the last few weeks. Many of you might have stopped looking months or years ago, but we’ve actually had quite the surplus of eggs the past few weeks. The chicks that pretty much all of the egg producers added to their flocks last year are now producing, and just like that we’ve gone from having a dearth to having a surplus. So, if you’re one of the many who gave up on eggs long ago, take another look. We now have plenty (for the time being, anyway)!
And speaking of eggs, many of you ask about returning egg cartons. The state egg handling laws prohibit the re-use of egg cartons for sanitary reasons (there’s just no way to sterilize cardboard). Many of our growers do re-use some of them for on-farm sales or as an emergency reserve for if they run short on new cartons. We don’t have a way of getting the cartons back to the exact farm they came from, but we do accept cartons from you if you wish to return them, and make them available to the growers who want them. If you’d like to return yours, first make sure it is clean and in good shape. Open it, and stack them flat if you have more than one. We can only take cardboard and plastic (so long as the plastic ones can be opened and stacked flat), but no styrofoam. A few weeks ago, we got one with the lid ripped halfway off and three cups torn out. I’m not sure what we were expected to do with that. We have no trash pickup at the market location, and I have to haul everything back to my house in Franklin County, where we also have no trash pickup or recycling program. So, make sure they’re clean and in good shape when you bring them in.
Finally, it appears we’ve failed in the attempt to save the market building. Athens-Clarke County was interested, but not enough to officially ask for the property to be given to them. They can’t afford to buy the property, and aren’t sure if they could afford the holding costs even if it was given to them free and clear (which the state probably wouldn’t have done, but I didn’t see any harm in at least asking). Our only hope is if the state decides to hold onto the property to wait for a more favorable real estate market, but all indications are they are in a hurry to dump all of their properties to make up for some immediate budget shortfalls. So, we’ll get to use the place for a couple more months, possibly for up to a year, but odds are it will get sold later this year to a developer who will want to use it for a more commercial venture. I’ll be keeping a close eye on it, and in the meantime will begin exploring other possibilities for us.
Now onto the list! There are many great things available from our growers this week. Thank you for all of your support, and we’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old state farmers market on Broad Street.
Athens Locally Grown: Availability for March 12
Nothing like a couple days of beautiful 80 degree afternoons to make you forget that just five days ago you were huddled in the dark by the fireplace for warmth, no?
I took advantage of the weather to get my gardens up and running for the year. I let them rest over the winter, but now it was time to wake them. Today I got the first seeds in: Amish Snap Peas, Oxheard Carrots, Rainbow Swiss Chard, Chioggia Beets, and several other varieties are all in the ground. None of them will be ready until May, but luckily many of our growers have been working much harder than I, and so we have a decent list this week.
The snow and ice did throw a kink in many of our growers’ plans, though. I know Roots Farm lost their main hoophouse, and several other farms had quite a bit of cleanup to do. The snow itself wasn’t all that bad for the plants, since it acts as insulation against even colder air temperatures, and the melt off gave the ground a much needed soaking.
There’s nothing new to report on the efforts to save the old farmers market from being sold, but I hope to have some more information and perhaps a clearer call to action later this week.
Thanks for all of your support, and we’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old state farmers market on Broad Street!
Athens Locally Grown: Athens Locally Grown Reminder
I just wanted to send out another reminder about the market being open this week. We got our power restored last night, and I know a good number of you, growers and customers, were also out of power for a time. Some folks still are, for that matter.
Some of the growers updated their listing for the week yesterday, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some still are today. I’ll keep the market open for a few hours extra tonight (until at least 10pm) to give you a chance to look the list over for things you may have missed. Don’t be afraid to place two or three or more orders — we’ll see them all on Thursday.
In other news, we’re making slow progress on at least clarifying the state of the farmers market structure. I’d still say it’s a long shot that it becomes permanently available, but the local legislative delegation (most notably Rep. Doug McKillip, in the state house) is aware of our desire to save it and get it re-dedicated. Individuals in the ACC commission are also aware, and have been individually supporting of the idea. I’ll have more details as they become available, and hopefully some action items too.
Thanks for all of your support, and stay warm! We’ll see you on Thursday, from 4:30 to 8pm, at the old state farmers market on Broad Street.
Athens Locally Grown: Availability for March 5
Hi all. We’ve lost power here, but I’ve got just enough juice in my battery packs to open the market early. First time I’ve powered my satellite connection via battery, but such is life out in the county.
The growers are still likely adjusting their items, so if you order now, check back tomorrow to see what you might have missed.
I’ll send out a proper update later. See you Thursday!
Athens Locally Grown: Availability for February 26
Firstly this week, thank you to everyone who has been calling and writing your elected officials regarding the old state farmers market building! It has made a difference, but there is still a lot to do.
It seems that for pretty much everyone involved, the sale of the property was pretty much a done deal, needing only a little bureaucratic i’s to dot and t’s to cross. That may still be the case, but now the Athens-Clarke County government, the Georgia Department of Agriculture, and the Georgia Surplus Properties Division all know of our desire to reclaim the property for permanent use as a farmers market once again. Various people in each of those places even agree that it would be a splendid thing. Trouble is, none of them can do a thing about it.
It will take an act of legislature for anything to happen, whether it gets sold or reclaimed. It was an act of legislature in 2005 that officially declared it surplus and ordered it sold, and that law is still in force. So, we need a new law passed that ideally would transfer the property to ACC for use as a permanent farmers market. Optionally, the new law could transfer it back to the Ga Department of Agriculture, but it’d be more direct to put it under more local control.
So, if you haven’t do so yet, could you contact your state representative and senator, no matter what districts you live in, asking them to propose and support legislation to do this? You can find contact info for your state legislative delegation by going to http://www.votesmart.org/official_state.php?state_id=GA&go2.x=9&go2.y=12 and typing in your ZIP code. I still think it’s a long shot, but I haven’t hit any hard walls yet, so you never know. We might just pull it off, and secure a wonderful resource for our community.
The longer days and warmer weather have started the spring greens rolling it. I see more spinach, lettuce, and radishes on the list this week, along with other great tastes of spring. Last week, for the first time that I can remember, we had more eggs than we could sell, so the larger flocks that our growers started last year are now beginning to produce for you.
Thanks for all your support! We’ll see you this Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old state farmers market on Broad Street.
Athens Locally Grown: Availability for February 19
I’m pleased to announce that thanks to the efforts of ACC Commissioner Doug Lowry and Rod Bowlden, Deputy Executive Director of the State Properties Commission, we’ve been given a bit of a reprieve and can continue to use the old farmers market facilities for a while longer.
Even with the reprieve, nothing has changed in the long term. The state is still moving forward with selling the property, and unless something changes on that front, we will have to move elsewhere later this year. However, this gives us an opening!
It turns out that an act of legislature is needed to determine the exact boundaries of the property up for sale. There are three state agencies that use the original parcel, and so it’s unclear what is actually “surplus”, and until that gets sorted out, it can’t get sold. This give us the opportunity to show that in fact none of it is surplus.
In my view, ideally the state would transfer the property over to Athens-Clarke County for permanent use as a farmers market and related activities. Other possibilities include the state keeping the deed, but letting ACC, or the local Ag Extension Office, or a non-profit such as P.L.A.C.E. administer its use as a dedicated market facility.
Once that is done, then the property would be eligible for grants from the USDA and other sources to repair the years of neglect and really make the place nice. As I mentioned last week, it could easily support several full farmers markets a week, and give a permanent home to Athens Locally Grown, the Saturday market currently at Bishop Park, and a place for the few remaining local conventional farmers to sell their produce.
Here’s what has to take place for this to happen, and it’ll take your help:
1. ACC needs to be willing to take ownership of the property. They currently lease the property, and have responsibility for it. They have in the past been interested in owning the property, but the state was asking too much money for it. If we can get the state to just hand it over, that wouldn’t be a problem, but the county would still be taking on a liability risk. They would need to be willing to do so.
2. The Department of Agriculture would have to be willing to donate the property to the county, or to hold onto the deed and permanently lease the property to the county or other administering agency. The people I have spoken to there have said they’d love for the property to be used again for its intended purpose. They feel that it is out of their hands, though, since it has already been declared surplus and been handed off to the state properties division. This may be true, but it couldn’t hurt to have them explicitly on our side.
3. An act of legislature will have to take the property off the surplus roster and legally transfer it to the county (or back to the Ag Dept.). This is probably the hardest part, and is what makes this whole thing a long shot. The truth of the matter is the state is severely hurting for money, and in good times this would be a prime piece of real estate for a developer. I think we could show that we’d have a better economic impact for the region over the long term than a quick sale now, but I think it’s safe to say law makers aren’t known for looking at the long term.
So, here’s what you can do. Those of you living in Athens-Clarke County, contact your commissioners and let them know you’d like them to do what they can to secure the property for permanent use as a locally controlled farmers market. Point them to the Anderson Farmers Market for a nearby example of what’s possible.
Write or call the state Department of Agriculture. Their phone number is (404) 656-3645. They have a “Markets Division” which is in charge of all of the state markets. They’ll tell you that it’s out of their hands, but if they knew just how many people wanted this to happen, maybe they’d find a way to get it back in their hands.
Finally, write and call your state representative and senator. This isn’t just about Athens — Athens Locally Grown serves over 30,000 square miles of Georgia, and that covers an awful lot of districts. The farmers aren’t just in Athens, so ALG provides an economic boost for all of NE Georgia. The customers aren’t just in Athens, either, so ALG is helping to feed people across NE Georgia. This is the most critical thing, for someone will have to draft legislation to make this all happen. Even if ACC, the Ag Department, and the governor himself wanted this, it can’t happen without legislation, thanks to the surplus process that started some time ago.
If you’d like some statistics to help you, here’s a few:
- As best as I can tell, ALG is the largest retail farmers market in the state
- Nearly 70 growers sell at the market
- Nearly 1700 households shop at the market
- About a third of a million dollars of food was sold through the market in 2008
- By pretty much every metric, the market doubles in size each year
- ALG is in its eighth year of operation and has operated year-round for the past four winters.
- The online farmers market model invented by ALG has now been duplicated by 75 other communities across the US (and into Canada & Australia).
- ALG & Athens, GA is seen by many as a pioneer and an inspiration for successfully incubating and preserving the small family farm
Finally, pass this along to anyone you may know who can also spread the word. Forward this email, or send them to the website, where this email (and every email I send out) is preserved on the “Weblog” page.
Thank you for anything you can do! We have a hard task ahead of us, but now that we’ve been using the old market for the past several months, I can’t imagine using any other space. And I’ve already seen Locally Grown cause legislation to get passed (a sales tax measure in Tennessee that exempted farmers using the LG system from collecting sales tax), so I know it can be done.
Thanks for all of your support. We’ll see you Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old (and hopefully soon to be permanent) market on Broad Street!