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5 Great Tips to Make Affordable Local Food for a Crowd

by Elizabeth Figgie, Durham Co-op Marketing Associate

Durham Co-op's $3 Dinners. Photo by Durham Co-op.

Durham Co-op’s $3 Dinners. Photo by Durham Co-op.

Who doesn’t like an affordable meal?  Nobody!  That’s who.  In Durham, the proof of that fact is seen every Thursday evening at Durham Co-op Market’s $3 Dinners.

Every Thursday, the co-op (1111 West Chapel Hill Street) puts out a spread where customers get a plate of good food for just three bucks.  Just last week the menu was Barbecue sandwiches with classic coleslaw.  Customers got to choose from BBQ pork or tofu on a bun and all the slaw they could eat.  And they liked it!  Over five hundred attendees come every Thursday.  And they leave with smiles on their faces and good food in their bellies.

What makes these nights so special?  It’s not just the price, it’s the community. Anyone can go to a fast food restaurant and eat cheap food. The co-op is offering affordable, simply-made dinners with real, wholesome ingredients, in a setting that celebrates diversity, fun and community. And, as it says over the entrance of the store, everyone is welcome.

Summer gives us the chance to combine lots of things we love: local produce, healthy food, and affordability. A bounty of local organic cabbage last week led to delicious coleslaw and happy customers. The volume needed to make dinner for 500 allowed us to support a local farmer with more product than he could sell, and offer really high quality ingredients to our customers.

$3 Dinner customers take of advantage of the deal for all sorts of reasons.  It’s a fun night, featuring live music when the weather is right, local food and beer demos, and lots of happy people. Groups of friends make it their thing, meeting every week to enjoy a meal together. Other customers come in to get to-go meals for their families, some buy ten or more dinners at a time. And others still, come in because there’s always a vegan friendly option.

While the reasons for their attendance vary, $3 Dinners customers have at least one thing in common; they’ve got Thursday night covered.

What about the rest of the week?  Read on for some tips on affordable ways to make food for a crowd!

 

Go Veggies

This time of year, the produce can be the star! No need to run up the bill with expensive proteins when veggies can be a tasty and wonderful crowd pleaser. Local yellow squash and zucchini are fresh and affordable for the summertime.  If you’re cooking out, try coating chunks of them with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Once grilled, they’ll be a little sweet and a whole lot of good. Great veg means you can keep the proteins simple, maybe something like chicken thighs in a spicy marinade.

Have you ever tried grilling peaches?  Local peaches are too good to miss these days, and a little fire makes an impressive presentation. Peaches Foster anyone (see recipe below)?

 

Couscous is Your Friend
When you’re entertaining on a budget, you want to choose foods that fill folks up without emptying your wallet.  Couscous is absolutely one of those choices.  It can be served hot or cold.  It can be combined with just about anything you have in your kitchen. It’s easy and quick to make. And it’s a more unique starch than just plain rice. You can also buy it in the Bulk section at the co-op to get only what you need at a much lower price than the packaged version. Mix in chopped nuts, dried or fresh fruit, or sautéed onions.

 

Be a Doctor
Don’t be afraid to doctor up simple items to make remarkable dishes!  You can take all-beef hot dogs, add some roasted veggies and Moroccan seasoning and people will think you’re fancy!  Mac & cheese can be a perfect platform for a certified food M.D. You can add everything from crumbled sausage to sautéed spinach to turn a basic meal into a treat for everyone!  Sweet corn on the cob is a seasonal summer treat that can be doctored all sorts of ways.  Try grilling it and making a seasoned butter with cilantro, lime juice and cumin!

 

Have fun!
No one needs a formal meal when it is this hot out. Keep it fresh, pile on the produce, and be sure to thank a farmer!

 

Peaches at the Durham Co-op. Photo by Durham Co-op.

Peaches at the Durham Co-op. Photo by Durham Co-op.

Grilled Peaches Foster with Gelato

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 fresh local peaches, halved (on sale at the co-op for $2.99/lb)
1/4 cup dark, spiced rum
4 scoops Talenti gelato (on sale at the co-op 2 for $7)

Directions:

Cut peaches along the seam all the way around and twist halves off the pit. Brush cut sides with coconut oil or vegetable oil.

Cook cut-side down on a hot grill until fruit has grill marks, 3 to 4 minutes. Brush tops with oil, turn over, and move to indirect heat. Cover grill and cook until fruit is tender, 8-10 minutes.

While the peaches are cooking, scoop gelato into serving bowls and set aside (or in the refrigerator)

Stir the butter, sugar and cinnamon together in a shallow sauté pan or frying pan over low heat. Continue stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the rum. Return the pan to the heat and cook to warm the rum. If you have a gas stove, tip the pan to ignite the rum. If using an electric stove, use a long match or fire starter to ignite the rum.

When the flame dies out, place the peaches over the scoops of gelato and top with some of the pan sauce.

Serve while warm.

 

You can visit the Durham Co-op Market at 1111 West Chapel Hill Street in Durham, NC or at their website.

My Eat Local Challenge: Compost in my Shoe

by Libby Williams, Plate South blogger

Reprinted with permission

For the month of April, I signed up to participate in the Eat Local Challenge. Run by the folks over at Lowcountry Local First, this challenge was designed to as a month long initiative to eat locally-produced food. For me, this was a no brainer. It accomplishes MANY of my goals in life like A) talking with farmers in the area; B) eating all the local foods; and C) eating at as many local restaurants as I can lay my paws on through the month of April. Pretty much all of my life goals in one challenge.

 

Compost in my Shoe – the farm!

Compost in my Shoe – the farm! Photo by Libby Williams.

 

As I started getting closer to this challenge, my first and most obvious choice of eating all things local was to share one of my favorite parts of local food culture – the farmers and food shares around the area. It is absolutely imperative to me that I have a daily dose of farm in every meal I make (I swear on my daily smoothie, this is not an exaggeration…I eat local eggs with whatever green I can sauté up for breakfast each day). And since I actually eat at home more than this blog makes it look like I do, I decided that featuring my weekly CSA farm share from Compost in my Shoe is a win for me. And that’s really what this blog is about. Me. Winning.

 

Compost in my shoe's CSA box

Compost in my shoe’s CSA box. Photo by Libby Williams.

 

If you are unfamiliar with Farm Shares (aka CSAs – Community Supported Agriculture), let me enlighten you to the many benefits of this. Basically it’s farmers that are farming directly for you and delivering you the freshest product you can get. According to statistics, our food travels an average 1,500 miles before it reaches our plates.

 

That.is.insane.

 

I don’t even see close relatives that live far away. And while agribusiness is SC’s largest industry, over 90% of our food is still imported. I just can’t even with those numbers. If we can tip those scales – even a little bit – then we have done a better job at not only supporting local farmers and our local economy, but helping the environment as well. Bonus points for seeking out organic farmers!

 

Hoop House, Compost in my Shoe

I love the hoop house tunnels! Photo by Libby Williams.

 

So all of this leads me to tell you, supporting farmers is a no brainer in the efforts of eating local.

 

As for me, I get my farmshare from my local farmer, Jim Martin of Compost in my Shoe. If you aren’t familiar with Jim….well take a seat, because I have got a lot to say.

 

Jim Martin of Compost in my Shoe.

Jim Martin of Compost in my Shoe. Photo by Libby Williams.

 

I have known Jim for about 10 years or so. I have watched him farm for most of that time – first in his backyard, then on to the fields and pastures of our lovely barrier islands. After a few moves, Jim is now settled into a lovely farm out on Johns Island where he grows and cultivates some of the most beautiful organic produce you will ever see. I have spent the past years photographing his process, and I can tell you why his produce is so good: it’s because he cares for it meticulously. They plant without heavy machinery, harvest by hand, and wash (actually, more like bathe. Those lucky plants get bathed!) every piece of produce that comes out of his farm. Everything is cultivated by organic methods – which is not only better for you…it’s better for the whole planet, people! It’s an entire process that yields the most tender and delicious vegetables I have ever tasted. This isn’t an exaggeration. Even my 14 year old knows the difference between his vegetables and everything else.

 

From hand planting seeds…

From hand planting seeds…Photo by Libby Williams

 

…to fresh lettuce! Get in maaa belly!

…to fresh lettuce! Get in maaa belly! Photo by Libby Williams

 

Compost in my Shoe’s shares runs year round. That means year-round veggies delivered straight to your door (or a pick up location if you should choose). Other benefits include the ability to put your farm share on hold for vacations and times when it might make sense to do so in your household. You can choose whatever size suits your family best – from Full Share (1-2 people) or Deluxe Share (3-4 people) are the options within each level of Grand Grocer, Budding Chef or Giddy Gourmet tiers of membership. They also offer a la carte items that can be added weekly as well as honey, flowers and chocolate for those of you who really want to be impressed.

 

More delicious stuff from Compost in my Shoe.

More delicious stuff from Compost in my Shoe. Photo by LIbby Williams.

 

With each share, Jim places a little sheet in your box to tell you what you have in your box this week. And with it, he includes a recipe or two for inspiration (just in case you aren’t as passionate as I am about kale chips or kale, cranberry and pecan salad each week). Today’s share came to me as inspired as any. I usually assess what we have and then start unwrapping items in the freezer to accompany my fresh veggies for the week. I start with what spoils quickest, like lettuce and herbs, and work my way to the end of the list with things like onions, carrots and cabbages that seem to keep a little longer. Last night we had steak fajitas with spicy coleslaw from our cabbage that has kept well for the past week. Tomorrow we are eating homemade barbecue with the rest of the slaw and some sweet potatoes on the side.

 

This is what was in my CSA box this week. Photo by Libby Williams.

This is what was in my CSA box this week. Photo by Libby Williams.

 

Shares start at $29 a week and go up from there. Each share has a hefty array of vegetables and culinary herbs along with offerings of chocolates and the occasional arrangement each week – depending on your level of participation. And the veggies are all fairly familiar so you aren’t pulling out mystery veggies or something you’ve never heard of. It’s all stuff you can use.

 

Eggs with swiss chard from my weekly box from Compost in my Shoe. Photo by Libby Williams.

 

I always feel good about my farm share with Compost in my Shoe. It’s the best way for me to shift some of our weekly household spending to something good, local and healthy! WINNING!

To find out more about Compost in my Shoe visit their website. They offer year-round shares of fresh, local, organic produce as well as honey, chocolates and fresh flowers. To ready more of Libby’s adventures in local eating in the South, visit her blog, Plate South. 

How To Shop the Farmers Market Like a Pro

by Amy Armbruster, CFSA Communications Coordinator

NC Farmers Market

Summer’s bounty at the Farmers Market, Photo by Debbie Roos

Ah, the delights of early summer, that much-anticipated time of the year when the farmers market is brimming with fresh, colorful, ripe, and delicious fruits and vegetables. If you haven’t ventured out to your local market yet this year, now is the perfect time. Shopping at the farmers market is easy and fun, but it’s worth the effort to do a little research and make a plan before you show up at the first farmer’s stall. Our best strategy: Before jumping in, take a stroll around the market. Scope out what’s for sale and who has the best looking fruits, veggies, and other goods. Compare prices. Go early for the best selection, try the samples, and don’t be afraid to take home something you’ve never heard of – that’s part of the fun. You’ll want to know how to select the very best, so we turned to Stephanie Turner (ST), the Farmers Market Manager at the Uptown Market in Greenwood, SC, for more insider tips.

CFSA: There are so many amazing fruits in season in July! Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, melons, and watermelon are all ripe and delicious at this time of the year. Can you give us some pointers on how to select the best from the farmers market?

ST: For berries, you are looking for firm fruit; not wrinkly (which indicates dry) or bruised/dimpled (overripe). Cantaloupe you want a little give at the stem end and mild fragrance. Watermelon: a nice yellow patch at the bottom and a deep sounding thump.

 

Colorful summer vegetables at the farmers market

Cobblestone Farmers Market in Winston Salem, Photo by Salem Neff

CFSA: And, what about summer vegetables? What do you look for when selecting summer treats like corn, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, peppers, squash, tomatoes and zucchini?

ST: Often you can tell if something is fresh by the condition of the skin of the vegetable: wrinkly, bruised or dull in color all can indicated older produce. Corn husks/tassles, for instance, will be drier to the touch on older ears.

 

CFSA: Share your tips for a great farmers market experience. What should shoppers bring to market? What should first-time shoppers expect to find?

ST: Go first thing when they open for the best selection, if you can. Bring your own basket or reusable bags. Bring a large tote if you know you’ll shop several stalls, we often have patrons leave their purchase from one farm on a table elsewhere, and if you have a good size bag to carry everything you won’t leave things behind as you shop. A large, wide bottomed basket is very handy, and helps keep fragile things from getting squished. Bring a cooler bag for frozen meats, eggs, dairy and cheeses. Look up the market online and check out which vendors/products will be there so you can have a game plan. If there is something you know you want, and you’ll be later in the day to arrive, call or email the farmer to see if they will hold something for you. Many will do this, especially if you are a regular or introduce yourself ahead of time.

 

Shopping at the Uptown Market.

Shopping at the Uptown Market. Photo credit: Uptown Greenwood

CFSA: What’s the word on haggling for a better deal with your farmer: bad etiquette or acceptable practice? Other good tips for farmers market etiquette?

ST: Good manners are good manners anywhere you go. Certainly ask politely if you can get a better price per pound if you buy at least $25, for example. If you taste a sample and don’t like it, say “Thank you, have a nice day”, and walk on. There’s no need to insult the vendor. They KNOW if, for instance, other vendors have squash at a lower price. They all watch each other. No one appreciates the “You’re proud of that squash aren’t you?” comments. Certainly, you could say- “Tell me about your squash?” and you might learn it’s organic or a special variety, or it’s the last of their crop.

 

Pitt County Farmers Market

Pitt County Farmers Market

CFSA: If you were throwing a party for friends in July, what would be in your farmers market shopping bag? On the menu?

ST: Roasted vegetable salad – this can be anything thrown in a pan with olive oil and roasted in the oven and then cooled, tossed in vinaigrette and put on top of greens/lettuce. Add some goat cheese or your favorite local cheese, if you like. This sort of dish is flexible to what is available at the market that week and can include, corn, tomatoes, and squash or sweet potatoes, onions and beets. I’m a vegetarian, but several of my farmers recommend stuffing zucchini or delicata squash with pork sausage as a hearty entrée. I’m also a fan of the good old cucumber/tomato/onion salad. Watermelon for dessert! Or a berry cobbler, if I was feeling ambitious.

 

CFSA: If you were interested in doing a big summer project, like canning tomatoes or making jam, and needed to buy a large quantity of produce, how would you do that at the farmers market?

ST: I wouldn’t suggest just showing up with a large produce need without doing a little research and finding some farmers to contact directly to discuss your needs. Sometimes you can request their bruised tomatoes for instance, for sauce, and get a better price and help the farmer move produce they might not normally even bring to market.

 

CFSA: Why is it important to ‘know your food, know your farmer?’

ST: I think what we choose to eat is the best way to show ourselves some love. Knowing your food is in our roots, and hopefully now a bigger part of our future. Many folks are now getting away from the industrial era, processed foods and back to basic, real food. It used to be that for most of what you ate, you either grew it, raised it yourself, or one of your neighbors did. I think it is a privilege these days to have access to locally produced foods, and we all should get to know the farmers, cheer on their successes, and lend support wherever we can. They don’t take many ‘days off,’ let alone a vacation, and for most, their farm is their passion. It is not an easy profession, and certainly not a way to get rich. So, when someone’s purpose in life is to produce REAL food for you and your family, and to keep money in the local economy, how can you not support them?

Stephanie Turner is the Farmers Market Manager at the Uptown Market in Greenwood, SC. Learn more about this market at http://www.uptowngreenwood.com/uptown-market.

 

Farm Dinners, Cooking Workshops, Tastings & Tours – At a Farm Near You this Summer!

By Marianna Spence, CFSA Membership Coordinator

Many CFSA Member Farms offer their patrons farm-to-fork experiences right on their farms! These agritourism events give participants the chance to visit the farm, support their favorite farmer, share in the agricultural heritage of their community, and learn a lot more about the farmer who grows or raises their food. Some farms combine a farm tour with a lovely al fresco dinner; others invite you to cook with them using produce harvested only a few feet away.

Check out these farms and their upcoming farm-to-fork events. We can’t think of a better way to spend a summer or fall evening! If you don’t see your favorite farm or a farm near you on the list, visit their website to see if they have any upcoming events. More than 1,000 farms engage in agritourism in North and South Carolina, so chances are you can deepen your relationship with a farm near you by signing up for their next event. As you plan your visit, make sure to visit the farm’s website for any scheduling changes and instructions about how to reserve your seat.

 

The Inn at Celebrity Dairy

The Inn at Celebrity Dairy

The Inn at Celebrity Dairy | Brit and Fleming Pfann
144 Celebrity Dairy Way, Siler City, NC 27344
http://www.celebritydairy.com/
https://www.facebook.com/InnAtCelebrityDairy/

The Inn at Celebrity Dairy hosts Monthly Third Sunday Dinner. We invite you to share our passion for seasonal and local food with a three- or four-course dinner on the Farm.  Enjoy socializing and try our Goat Cheeses and seasonal appetizers followed by a delicious dinner right before a farm tour, all finished by dessert. Truly a special and unique experience! Contact us for more information, pricing and menus.

Upcoming Events:

July 16, starting at 1:30pm – Third Sunday Dinner
August 20, starting at 1:30pm – Third Sunday Dinner
September 17, starting at 1:30pm – Third Sunday Dinner
October 15, starting at 1:30pm – Third Sunday Dinner
November 19, starting at 1:30pm – Third Sunday Dinner, Thanksgiving Dinner
December  17, starting at 1:30pm – Third Sunday Dinner, Christmas Dinner

 

Copeland Springs Farm

Copeland Springs Farm

Copeland Springs Farm | Kristin Bulpitt
145 Ryan Rd, Pittsboro, NC 27312
http://www.copelandspringsfarm.com/
https://www.facebook.com/copelandspringsfarm/

We have teamed up with Yolanda Carney (Southern Eats & Sweet Treats) to gather folks together around seasonal food. Our Spring Gathering was a smashing success and we hope you’ll join us for our Summer or Fall Gathering. We tour the farm to see what’s growing, cook together, eat together and learn together. Menu for the Summer Gathering is being finalized, sign up for our newsletter or join us on social media for updates.

Upcoming Events:

July 23, 3 – 6 p.m. – Summer Gathering
October TBD – Fall Gathering

 

Goat Lady Dairy

Goat Lady Dairy

Goat Lady Dairy | Steve Tate, Carrie Bradds
3531 Jess Hackett Rd, Climax, NC  27233
http://www.goatladydairy.com/

We offer an on-farm dinning adventure, Dinner at the Dairy, monthly during Spring and Fall. Each meal event is a special opportunity to enjoy a farm tour and a gourmet meal served in the unique atmosphere of the post and beam, passive solar dining room of our dairy barn. Our menu features our handcrafted award winning cheeses plus local seasonal produce and pasture raised meats.

Open Farm Day is a free event open to all families each Spring and Fall. We host these Sunday afternoons with our neighbors down the road, Rising Meadow Farm. Come explore both farms, meet the staff and animals, tour the gardens, taste the cheese, feel the fleece and learn about local sustainable agriculture.

Upcoming Events:

September 24 – Open Farm Day
September 15 & 16 – Dinners at the Dairy
October 20 & 21 – Dinners at the Dairy
November 17 & 18 – Dinners at the Dairy

 

City Roots & Farm to Table Event Co.

City Roots & Farm to Table Event Co.

City Roots | Eric McClam & Farm to Table Event Co
1005 Airport Boulevard, Columbia, SC 29205
www.cityroots.org
farmtotableeventco.com

Butcher Paper Dinners promise to become your favorite way to spend Saturday afternoons this summer at the farm! This series of sustainable dinner parties center around one communal table at City Roots; surrounded by the farm’s beds of vegetables, friends, and music from our favorite local bands. Covered in a roll of butcher paper, the table becomes the centerpiece for family style feasts from some of our favorite chefs in Columbia.

And join us to celebrate the solar eclipse with a Low Country Boil and Paella Party! Enjoy chicken and sausage paella and a Lowcountry boil, as well as a vegetarian paella option. There will be live music and viewing glasses will be provided.

Upcoming Events:

July 8, 5 – 8 pm – Butcher Paper Dinner Series
August 12, 5 – 8 pm – Butcher Paper Dinner Series
August 21, 12 – 4 pm – Solar Eclipse Low Country Boil and Paella Party 

 

The Well Fed Community Garden

The Well Fed Community Garden

The Well Fed Community Garden | Anya and Arthur Gordon & The Irregardless Café
1321 Athens Drive, Raleigh, NC 27603
http://www.irregardless.com/garden/

The Well Fed Community Garden is a multi-faceted, financially sustainable urban agriculture venture which grows organic produce for the Irregardless Café and Catering, as well as donating 20% of its bounty to volunteers and neighbors.  The WFCG is committed to building community by offering Raleigh residents innovative workshops and volunteer experiences that demonstrate healthy life styles and strives to become one model of urban agricultural production.

Upcoming Events:

July 15, 9 – 11 am – Intro to Veggie Fermentation
July 19, 6:30 – 8:30 pm – Farm Dinner in the Garden
July 22, 10 am to 1pm – Art in the Garden, with lunch
September 20, 6:30- 8:30 pm – Farm Dinner in the Garden
September 30, 10 am – 1 pm – Art in the Garden, with lunch
October 7, 11 am – 2 pm – Family Farm Lunch

 

Peaceful River Farm

Peaceful River Farm

Peaceful River Farm | Lee & Larry Newlin
7125 New Light Trail, Chapel Hill, NC 27516
www.peacefulriver.farm

Our farm dinners are the pinnacle of our daily efforts. There is a great emphasis on our farm-fresh vegetables and berries as we hearken back to simpler times of enjoying a “pass the bowl” meal that is emblematic of a true farm meal. Guests will also take a tour of our farm and learn more about sustainable farming. Your beautiful dinner will overlook the market gardens at a communal table where conversation and friendships blossom. And during Lee’s Healthy Cooking Classes we’ll demystify how to cook successfully with fresh, sustainably grown farm vegetables. Lee teaches in an upbeat and lively manner with extremely helpful information and discussion as well as delicious dishes to sample. All classes are plant-based and health and allergy conscious.

Upcoming Events:
September 23, 10 am – 1 pm - Lee’s Healthy Cooking: Mediterranean Foods
October 1, beginning at 5:30 pm – Farm Dinner with Chef Cate Smith
October 8, beginning at 5:30 pm – Farm Dinner with Chef Joseph Gailes
October 15, beginning at 5:30 pm – Farm Dinner with Chef Caroline Morrison
October 22, beginning at 5:30 pm – Farm Dinner with Chef Bob Compton
October 28, 10 am – 1 pm – Lee’s Healthy Cooking: Introduction to Ayurveda Cooking
November 11, 10 am – 1 pm – Lee’s Healthy Cooking: Vegan Holiday Survival Guide
Greenbrier Farms

Greenbrier Farms

Greenbrier Farms | Roddy Pick, Chad & Amy Bishop
766 Hester Store Rd., Easley, SC 29640

Every Wednesday, drop in at the farm from 5-8 pm for our weekly Porch Series. Enjoy live music, festive, farm to table snacks and yard games. Bring your family, your friends, your co-workers or just yourself for a perfect way to end your day!

Upcoming Events:

Wednesdays, March – October, 5 - 8 pm - Weekly Porch Series
October 26, 6:30 – 9:30 pm - Fourth Annual Campfire Social Charity Event

Protecting Pollinators

by Preston Peck, Toxic Free NC

Advocating for Pollinators

Rally outside the NC State Capitol to protect bees from toxic pesticides in September 2015

 

Many pressing issues facing today’s ever-changing regulatory atmosphere leave consumers, growers, and other “agtivists” questioning, “What is the most important issue facing our food system and how I can make an impact?” The first thing to recognize is something my mentor told me: “Advocacy is an art, not a science.” Nevertheless, I would like to offer some broad suggestions to agtivists on effective issues-based advocacy and communications based on my experience working on Toxic Free NC’s agriculture-related campaigns, especially our fight for the Pollinator Protection Act.

 

Know your issue and your strategic entry point

Many times people try to know a little about a lot without diving deeply into an issue. I encourage people to learn, research and talk to as many people affected by the issues as possible. Getting a firm grasp on the issues, BEFORE reaching out to decision makers is crucial. Sustainable, effective policy decisions start from the grassroots, and if we are to create policies that benefit our communities, we need to fully understand how policy decisions will impact multiple stakeholders.

 


Ready to take action for fair food and farm policies? Sign up for CFSA’s Action Alerts.

 

It is equally important to understand political context. What works in California will not necessarily work for the Carolinas. I saw this most recently through our work with the Pollinator Protection Act (HB 363), introduced this legislative session in the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA). This bill would restrict the sale and use of neonicotinoid insecticides (neonics) to licensed pesticide applicators, farmers, and veterinarians. Prior to the introduction of this bill, I worked with legislators and other decision makers to educate them on the harmful effects of pesticides, relative to the perceived benefits. Specifically, I concentrated my efforts of neonics because they are the most widely used pesticides in the world. This chemical class was hastily brought to the market in the mid-1990s, so the science is just now catching up to how they are being used.

The bottom line: know your issue and think creatively about how it impacts your community, then leverage that for sustainable policy change.

 

Pollinators are getting a lot of attention as the USDA continues to publish information about declining honeybee populations. Pollinators (including native bees, birds, beetles, etc.) contribute more than $29 billion to our agricultural system every year. Agriculture was an $84 billion industry in North Carolina in 2016. These factors, along with similar legislation being introduced and passed across the U.S., allowed for a strategic point of entry to engage legislators about the importance of a bill like the Pollinator Protection Act. 

 

Cultivate champions and know who can give you what you want 

Build relationships with decision makers now.  I cannot stress this enough. The process of getting a good idea into policy is long and arduous, and you will need people directly involved in the decision-making process to help carry your issue. These people may be legislators, council people, agency heads, or others in a decision-making position. If you are unsure where to start, begin building relationships with council people, county commissioners, or state legislators that represent your district. These folks need to hear from you, as they cannot know everything about all the issues that matter to you. Let them know how you feel, that you are paying attention, and holding them accountable.

 

Preston Peck, Policy Director at Toxic Free NC

Preston Peck, Policy Director at Toxic Free NC, speaks to reporters alongside bill sponsors of HB
363 during the bill’s introduction in March 2017

 

Equally as important as cultivating champions is to know exactly who can give you what you want. My mentor also used to joke, “Who is your target?” and if anyone said, “government”, then they had to go sit in the corner.

 

It is extremely important to have a firm grasp on the process of policy development at whatever level you are working, so that you are being efficient and effective with your time. That being said, it is also important to think about secondary and tertiary targets, those who influence your main targets. Think about their golf buddies, family friends, religious leaders, etc. These people are not necessarily involved in government or in a position to make decisions, but they greatly influence the perspectives of those that you are trying to influence.

 

In the case of the Pollinator Protection Act, Toxic Free NC worked with the NC Pesticide Board, which is the regulatory authority on pesticides in North Carolina, for more than two years, educating those seven members on the impact of neonics on North Carolina’s waterways, aquatic species, and pollinators while simultaneously building relationships with state legislators. When the Pesticide Board refused to take action, the advocacy strategy pivoted and leveraged relationships that were built in the NCGA though years of educating legislators on issues relating to pesticides. This allowed the bill to be introduced with bi-partisan support and 20 bill sponsors during the 2017 Legislative Session.

 

It’s not just legislators or city council people that you will need on your side. You will also need a strong communications plan to help spread awareness and build support.

 

 

Define and build your narrative 

A strong communications plan is essential to any successful advocacy campaign. There is a tool in policy advocacy that was developed by the Center for Story-based Strategy called The Battle of the Story, which forces advocates to think about their issue in the frame of telling a story. This is crucial as most decision makers and the general public will not be as informed as you are on the issue. Telling a strong story is essential to involving your local media. Relationships with reporters and news media can help amplify your story as well as help to define the narrative that you want to tell.

 

When developing your story, think about your messengers, the spokespeople for your issue. Identify relatable experts that can speak confidently to the issue, but also convey the importance in a way that is digestible and trustworthy. When developing messengers, think about a diverse group of people that can build a case for your policy initiative from multiple perspectives.  You never know what sort of support you will need to garner from decision makers or what their backgrounds might be, so it is important to have a wide array of options in your communications arsenal.

 

Farmers, beekeepers, health advocates, mothers, children, and many more supported the Pollinator Protection Act and thought it was a reasonable step forward on curbing the unknown, long-term effects of neonics on human and environmental health. Every storyteller played a role in messaging for support of the bill. Also, I worked with reporters at local papers across the state for many months leading up to the introduction of the bill to place editorials, opinion pieces, and other articles in outlets with a wide, diverse readership. This allowed people to become familiar with the issue prior to the bill being introduced. 

 

Enjoy the process and be creative 

Advocacy can be hard work, no doubt about it. However, the policies that are put into place by the North Carolina General Assembly, or in Washington D.C. affect us on a daily basis whether we notice the direct impacts or not. It is crucial to stay informed and take action on issues in addition to signing online petitions. Although policy development is serious business with serious effects, advocacy efforts can allow you to connect in a meaningful way with your community, bring folks together, and develop sustainable policies from the ground up.

 

Charles McNair, Program Manager with Toxic Free NC

Charles McNair, Program Manager with Toxic Free NC, addresses a crowd at a Keep the Hives Alive rally in June 2016

 

Know your issue, know who can give you what you want, passionately tell your story while allowing others to tell theirs, be creative with your strategy, and celebrate your victories, no matter how small you may think they may be!

 

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately, The Pollinator Protection bill did not make crossover this year, which means the General Assembly will not consider it in this legislative session. But, Toxic Free NC is currently exploring study options within the Environmental Review Commission to be put in the House version of the budget. It’s an up-hill battle, but they are not giving up. To get involved, visit their website: Toxic Free NC.

 

Preston Peck is the Policy Director at Toxic Free NC, based in Raleigh. Toxic Free NC continues to fight pesticide pollution for over 30 years, working toward the transition to a toxic free society through initiatives that promote human and environmental health.

Peaceful River Farm: Our Journey to Sustainable Farming

by CFSA Members, Lee and Larry Newlin of Peaceful River Farm in Southern Orange County, North Carolina

Preparing a farm dinner at Peaceful River Farm

Preparing a farm dinner at Peaceful River Farm

 

A Diagnosis Leads to Education

It was a personal concern for health that unexpectedly led us into sustainable farming. We are Larry and Lee Newlin of Peaceful River Farm, and we purchased an 18-acre tract on the Haw River in southern Orange County in 2010. But it was Lee’s 2005 diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that started us on this journey.

In January 2005, we met Lee’s oncologist for the first time at Greensboro’s regional cancer center. He didn’t bother to look up from his clipboard as he apologized for keeping us waiting. “What do you know about your prognosis?” he asked.

“We were told by the surgeon who performed the biopsy that the cancer is not aggressive,” we responded.

“Oh no,” he replied curtly, “it’s aggressive non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and we’re going to treat it aggressively.” When the shock wore off, Lee asked how she could have gotten cancer. The doctor matter-of-factly responded, “Blood cancers are on the increase, and research is showing a linkage to pesticide exposure. A minority of patients don’t have a recurrence; most do, and some do not respond to treatment and die.”

Needless to say, we soon left that doctor and found a wonderful healer, a nationally recognized researcher at the Duke Cancer Center, who has guided 13 years of Lee’s rebound from the bombardment of earlier chemotherapy while remaining cancer-free.

Lee studied a ream of books about cancer-prevention and nutrition, and was inspired to begin teaching healthy cooking classes from our home in Greensboro. It was overwhelming how few people knew about this connection in battling disease. As part of the educational experience, participants learned more about organic gardening practices from our small kitchen garden.

 

Journey into Sustainable Farming

We began a quest to learn more about organic gardening. We attended a Sunday afternoon organic gardening class hosted by Fred Broadwell, former Education Director of CFSA, and taught by former CFSA Executive Director, Tony Kleese. Fred pointed Larry toward Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro as one of the best sustainable ag programs in the country. That spring we attended our first Piedmont Farm Tour, followed that fall by Larry taking classes at Central Carolina Community College and attending our first Sustainable Ag Conference.

 


Don’t like feeding your family harmful chemicals? We need more organic production in the Carolinas and CFSA is leading the way. Join us!

 

We caught the organic farming bug and began thinking seriously about moving from our suburban Greensboro home to a small farm. The Triangle beckoned because of its appeal and because of our ancestral roots in the Snow Camp/Saxapahaw area.

Larry giving a farm tour

Larry giving a farm tour

We viewed a number of small farms for sale and happened one weekend on a former retreat center. It was more house and more land than we were looking for, but its location on the Haw River and its natural beauty spoke to us. We could envision Lee’s healthy cooking classes taking place in the building adjacent to the house. It also had the appeal of having five applications of alternative energy.

Yet, the house and soon-to-become Education Barn needed much work. Before we sold our Greensboro house, Lee spent the year overseeing remodeling work, and Larry began landscaping around the house, deer fencing, and cover cropping. We installed irrigation and cleared the streams of invasive undergrowth. We renovated the deck on the back of the house where we now host farm dinners, and below that installed a 1,200 square foot demonstration garden to show visitors what an intensively managed vegetable garden might look like in their own yard (potential savings of $4,000 in annual grocery bills).  We added a quarter acre market garden each season.

Demonstration Garden at Peaceful River Farm

Demonstration Garden at Peaceful River Farm

Soil health is at the forefront of our farming activities today. We add compost and incorporate cover crops to improve moisture and nutrient retention, improve drainage, and stimulate microbial activity.  The Haw had once been declared “dead Nature” from textile pollution, agricultural runoff, and suburbanization. By following National Organic Practices we help ensure the continuing rebound of the Haw’s health. We are surrounded by small towns and villages (Saxapahaw, Pittsboro, and Hillsborough) who are robust today in part because of their support of small farms and their care of their respective rivers.

Our crop selection is based on nutrient density, profitability, consumer demand, and the visual appeal both while growing in the market gardens and on the farmers market table for sale. Our packing room has stainless steel tables and sinks to keep the harvested produce clean. We spend a lot of time processing – washing, spinning, and packing and then to the produce cooler to ensure the freshness and health of our product. We drip irrigate many of our crops to reduce pathogen and weed pressure, seek to maintain an aesthetic in our market gardens to inspire visitors and to also aid in efficient maintenance and harvest of crops, and generally, train and encourage our staff to use care in how the produce is handled to ensure it arrives safe and fresh to our customers.

Sharing the Journey with Others

Lee’s Healthy Cooking Classes are engaging and fun. Participants learn about healthy recipes, what makes them nutritious, and helpful kitchen tips. They get a chance to tour the farm and when they return to the Education Barn get to sample the recipes discussed. They also have an opportunity to purchase farm-fresh produce to take home. Often, there are visiting chefs, authors, or medical professionals to lead the class. Sometimes classes focus on a regional cuisine – South Asian, Southwestern, Chinese stir-fry, and Mediterranean. Classes have also focused on fermentation, nutrition and methods for reducing joint pain, microbiome, and disease preventing recipes. Some of the recipes developed for these classes are on our website, www.peacefulriver.farm.

Lee's Healthy Cooking Class

Lee’s Healthy Cooking Class

Similarly, our farm dinners are primarily plant-based and are prepared by a visiting chef. The dinners begin with a welcoming reception in our Education Barn featuring plant-based appetizers and a cool and unique beverage, prepared by Lee, followed by a farm tour, and dinner on our back deck overlooking the market gardens. The evening ends with the visiting chef discussing the menu and fielding questions. Folks leave with a new appreciation of farm-to-fork eating and an understanding of why fresh, sustainably grown produce is more nutritious and delicious than what is trucked in from 3,000 miles away.

We also discuss the impact that buying local produce will have on the health of our state’s economy (tens of thousands of new jobs) and especially our rural communities, many of them in economically distressed counties where manufacturing loss coupled with farm loss has hastened the exodus of their young people. We point to the burgeoning interest in sustainable farming among young people and encourage folks to consider how we can make our food system more sustainable by assisting young people to make farming a viable career option.

 

Standing for What We Stand On

They say that as you grow older, you need to learn new things. We’ve been on a steep learning curve these past few years and have stayed busy by…

  • holding over a hundred healthy cooking classes
  • welcoming over 3,800 people visiting the farm
  • hosting dozens of farm dinners and celebrations
  • providing our nutrient-dense produce to some of the top restaurants and niche grocers in the Triangle
  • employing and guiding a number of young people wanting to farm or homestead or simply wanting to do something congruent with their values (Central Carolina Community College alumnus, Andrew Mayo, is our team leader and oversees several part-time staff)
  • making a number of wonderful new friends
  • welcoming our daughters, Meredith and Kathryn, and their spouses to the area from their homes in Greensboro
  • babysitting in our “spare time” for our three grandchildren, Eleanor, Oscar, and Evangeline – the thrill of our lives

We are voting with our feet and sweat equity that we want a future for our children and grandchildren that is healthy and joyful, free of pesticides and pollution, and where the perils of ecological collapse are less ominous than today.

In our younger days we wanted to change the world. Now that we are wiser and more experienced, we want to change the world more than ever. Paraphrasing Wendell Berry – we’re standing for what we stand on.

Collage

Good for the Farmer; Good for the Land

by Stephanie Campbell, CFSA’s Outreach Coordinator

Will Metts of Metts Organix

Will Metts of Metts Organix was featured on Channel 7 news bringing gorgeous heads of lettuce to market

“Seven years ago my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer,” shares Will Metts of Metts Organix in Greenwood, SC. “He passed away in February, 2016, at the age of 58. He is the reason why I’m farming today. And he is the reason I’m farming organically.”

 

Will’s dad, Bill Metts, grew up on the family’s conventional farm in the 1960s and 1970s. The conventional practices included lots of chemical herbicides and pesticides. Bill spent his youth working in the fields, often in clouds of these chemicals. While the link between these products and prostate cancer has not been proven, higher rates of prostate cancer have been shown in farming communities, and Bill believed his cancer was related to his exposure to the chemical sprays.

 


WANT MORE ORGANICS IN THE CAROLINAS? GIVE TO CFSA.
We’re on a mission to bring local, organic food to your table from a farmer you can trust.

 

By the time Will was born, the Metts family was no longer financially able to farm the land.  Will also grew up on the land, but during these years, the 100 acres were given over to wildlife and to hay production. Will went to college at Lander University in Greenwood as an Economics-Finance major. It was his senior year when his father was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

 “I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want to use chemicals,” says Will.

 

“I had always told Dad there should be a way we could return the land to farming,” Will says. “I knew I wanted to farm but I didn’t know how.” With his father’s encouragement, Will put that Econ-Finance major to work and developed a farm business plan. Turning the land back into farmland wasn’t easy, especially using organic practices. “I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want to use chemicals,” says Will. “I did a ton of research on organic practices, companion plants, beneficial insects, and soil health.”

 

Will started developing the farm in the fall of 2011 by planting a field of Daikon radish and purple top turnips because their extremely long, strong roots (up to 24 inches deep) are a natural way to open up the soil. In the following spring, with a loan from the Farm Services Agency, he tilled the land and began growing. Like many young beginning farmers, Will worked full-time during the day and farmed full-time at night and on weekends.

 

Harvest, Metts Organix

Bringing in a bountiful harvest from Metts Organix fields

 

In 2015, Will was able to quit his day job and farm full time. “It takes a whole support team to be able to do what we do as farmers,” says Will. “The workshops and programs of Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA), the New and Beginning Farmers program at Clemson, and the network of agricultural professionals and resources in the Carolinas have been essential for me.”

“For me, it’s not all about profit or money, but rather peace of mind. Am I providing the healthiest food for my community and producing it in a way which is healthiest for the land?”

 

With the technical assistance of CFSA, Will was able to develop an organic Conservation Activity Plan (CAP-138) for his farm which provided lots of practical learning, as well as access to funding for practices which will improve his production and increase the biodiversity of the farm. “Increasing the biodiversity of the farm is my number one goal,” says Will, “because this is what will improve the wildlife, the soil, and the environment for generations to come. One of the commitments I’ve made is to devote at least 10% of my gardens to habitat for pollinators and beneficial insects.”

 

Creating a profitably sustainable farm that provides as much good for the community as it possibly can is Will’s overarching purpose. That Econ-Finance background shows up again when Will shares that his strongest advice to other new farmers: make sure the market for products is there first. “I will not plant anything until I know it is already sold or dedicated to a particular sale. Extras then go to the farmers’ market.”

 

Winter lettuce in high tunnel, Metts Organix

Metts Organix winter greenhouse. It was 16 degrees on the night this was taken and the lettuce is still looking great.

 

Will got married last November and a friend gave the couple two goats as a wedding gift, helping to jump start their plans to increase the biodiversity of the farm by incorporating livestock. They have since added chickens and rabbits. The chickens work for the farm by providing rich manure and cultivating compost into the beds. “Following the chickens with months of cover crop and then planting the market garden provides rich soil and incredible biodiversity,” says Will.

 

Up until two months ago, Will did all of this farming on his own. In March of 2017, he was able to bring a full-time employee onto the farm. With four acres of market garden under production (and an updated business plan!), Will knows that the two of them will be able to increase the efficiency, use of space, and production of the farm. Metts Organix grows a wide variety of vegetables and herbs and sells at the Greenwood Uptown Market and to restaurants.

 

This farmer, steeped in Econ-Finance and business planning, sums up his farming: “For me, it’s not all about profit or money, but rather peace of mind. Am I providing the healthiest food for my community and producing it in a way which is healthiest for the land?”

 

You can find Will and Metts Organix at the Greenwood, SC, Uptown Market. And you can visit the farm on June 10th or 11th as part of the Uptown Market Upstate Farm Tour. 

PHOTO ESSAY: A Week in the Life of a Beginning Farmer

Raw Logic Farm is starting its first season in the Farmer-In-Training Program at the Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm.  An organic farm specializing in vegetables, Raw Logic Farm is run by Chuck Danielka who believes farming should be a logical way of life! Chuck shares photos from a week in his life as a beginning farmer.

early-morning_web

Up at 5am driving to the farm to water transplants and then to the day job and back to the farm. Total driving a day is 120 miles round trip and 840 miles a week.

 

watering_web

After getting off work at the day job, I water tomato transplants before working in the field.

 

chuck-washing_web

Washing and packing produce for the market. This takes about 12 hours on Friday to complete unless weather is an issue.

 

veggie-table_web

Raw Logic Farm sell produce Wednesday and Saturday mornings at the downtown Hickory Farmers Market!

 

tiller_web

After our Saturday market, we go back to the field to get the beds ready to put transplants into the ground. 

 

behind-tractor_web

Bed prep for the transplants normally happens on Sunday at Raw Logic Farm.

 

raw-logic-fields_web

We round out the weekend with planting the transplants on Sunday.

 

Think you’ve got what it takes to be a Farmer In Training at Lomax Incubator Farm? We are accepting applicants now. 

Handing Down the Farm

by Stephanie Campbell, CFSA’s Outreach Coordinator 

Ashley, Jarrett and baby Tyler.

Ashley, Jarrett and baby Kayleigh Tyler.

 

Jarrett Tyler grew up on Tyler Farms, the fifth generation on this land in Galivants Ferry, South Carolina. He and his twin sister, Whitley, loved being immersed in the family farm and life in this small community on the Pee Dee River just inland from Myrtle Beach. Jarrett spent summers working with his dad, Greg Tyler, in the fields. “What do I love best about farming?” Jarrett considers. “I enjoy being outdoors, the satisfaction of watching something grow, working as a family, and accomplishing something important.”

 

Handing down the farm from one generation to the next seems as American as apple pie. The younger generation has the advantage of learning how to farm seemingly by osmosis through years growing up on the farm and learning alongside the wise elders. There is a deep tie to and love for land which has been in the family for generations.

The average age of farmers nationally is 58.3 years old and fewer than 30 percent of farmers have identified a successor.

 

Current data, however, paints a different picture. In the mid-twentieth century 1 out of 3 Americans grew up on a farm. In 2016 less than 2% of the population farmed for a living. The Carolinas have lost almost a million and a half acres of farmland since mid-1990. The average age of farmers nationally is 58.3 years old and fewer than 30 percent of farmers have identified a successor.

 

Tyler Farms almost became one of those statistics. Greg and Jarrett’s story highlights some of the barriers which must be overcome and how CFSA is working to ensure that farmers have the training, resources and support they need to farm in new markets.

 


Give to CFSA to help us grow the next generation of organic farmers!

 


 

After high school Jarrett tried some off-farm work. His dad, Greg, quit farming tobacco in 2004 because he could no longer make a living at it. Tyler Farms seemed destined to join the statistics of failed family farms and lost farmland in the Carolinas. Jarrett, however, missed farming and convinced his dad to try again together. “I knew where my heart was and I just had to get Dad back into farming,” says Jarrett.

 

Jarrett-on-a-tractor

Jarrett with a load of transplants ready to go in the field. 

 

They grew peanuts in 2012, tobacco and peanuts in 2013, and then began growing organic tobacco for Santa Fe Natural Tobacco in 2015. To grow tobacco organically, a farmer has to rotate the tobacco crop, which takes a heavy toll on the land, with another organic crop.

 

Jarrett knew that the market for organic vegetables is expanding and he wanted to try to grow them. His vegetable business, Sandy Hill Organics, is the only USDA certified organic vegetable producer in the county. “We have generations of conventional farming friends in the area,” Greg says, “and they all think we are crazy.”

 

Organic broccoli fields at Tyler Farm.

Organic broccoli fields at Tyler Farm.

 

Jarrett and Greg began growing organic broccoli and cabbage. They quickly learned that in order to sell into wholesale markets, they needed to become certified in Good Agriculture Practices (GAP)/Good Handling Practice (GHP). GAP/GHP certification are buyer-driven, voluntary audits that verify that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled, and stored as safely as possible to minimize risks of microbial food hazards, positioning small growers to compete with mainstream supply chains. Greg heard about a workshop being offered by CFSA at Greenbrier Farm in Greenville, SC, in November 2016.

 

“The GAP workshop and then the individualized on-farm consulting from CFSA was a lifesaver!” said Greg. Greg and Jarrett worked to thoroughly review and standardize all of their food handling practices and were successfully GAP certified in December 2016. They agree that, “Vegetable handling is so much more complicated than tobacco. We could not have passed our audit without this professional help from CFSA.”

 

Jarrett-and-crew-in-the-fields_web

 

Growing vegetables is one part of the business of farming, but finding good markets is another important piece. CFSA introduced Greg and Jarrett to GrowFood Carolina, a regional food hub which aggregates, markets and distributes source-identified food from local farmers to wholesale, retail and institutional markets. GrowFood provides local farmers the sales, marketing, logistics, warehousing and distribution functions they need that have previously been available only to large-scale industrial farms. CFSA helped the Coastal Conservation League launch GrowFood in 2011 and since its opening GrowFood has returned over $3 million to South Carolina farmers.

 

Jarrett’s farming business, Sandy Hill Organics, grows on about 6 acres now and his goal is to grow more varieties of vegetables on 20-30 acres in coming years. He has ideas about accessing the Farmers Markets nearby in Myrtle Beach and possibly selling on-farm someday.  “It means a lot to me that my Dad feels comfortable turning the farm over to me,” says Jarrett. Greg echoes that, saying, “I always hoped Jarrett would be able to take over the farm and … carry on the tradition and care for the land.”

 

Jarrett’s wife, Ashley, had never farmed but now it is “all she wants to do” says Jarrett. “She helps with all the paperwork of the farm and hopefully, she can join the business full-time someday.”  Jarrett and Ashley are new parents with a four month old daughter, Kayleigh, and they look forward to giving her a farming childhood and life. “Ashley and I live on the farm, my sister lives next door to Daddy across the street, and other family members live nearby. It’s the life we love,” says Jarrett.

 

“Organic farming is not easy,” says Jarrett, “but we hope it will provide us with a living.” He circles back around and emphasizes again what he loves about farming, “I love watching things grow; it makes you feel good, like you’ve done something important. We’re feeding America.”

Member Spotlight: Lauren Small

This Columbia, SC Mother, Gardener and Small Business Owner is Passionate about Eating Healthy, Local Foods

Lauren-and-baby

 

CFSA’s Amy Armbruster:  Why are organic foods important to you?

Lauren Small: I used to have no knowledge of the importance of good nutrition and organic food. I ate terribly. Cheese fries between jobs, a candy bar for a quick snack, fast food late at night. I never thought it was affecting me; I was thin and thought that “healthy eating” was only for people trying to lose weight. Fast forward a few years and I was in a health crisis. To be honest, I had health issues for years, but it took me quite some time to put two and two together and realize that the food I was eating was contributing to my quick decline in health. I started studying up on nutrition and “clean eating”. I transitioned to a much more holistic lifestyle, cutting out toxins from all areas of my life. I started by buying organic produce if it was on the dirty dozen list. Now I prefer to buy everything local, organic, and in season when possible. When I began eating a paleo diet I learned the importance of organic meat. I had been buying organic produce and putting meat on the back burner, but I learned that grass-fed, organic meat is very important, especially for people trying to cut down on inflammation.

 

CFSA: Why are you a member of CFSA?

I think it is vital to support our local organic farmers. Without them,  fresh, organic food would not be as easily accessible. My husband’s family has been farming in South Carolina for years and wouldn’t have been successful without the support of the community. One day I hope to have a small homestead of my own and I like knowing there is an amazing support system in place at CFSA.

 


Join Lauren in becoming a CFSA member. Together we’re working toward a vibrant, sustainable food system in the Carolinas! Join CFSA today!

 

CFSA: Tell me about your ‘aha moment’ when you realized that eating organic foods was an important choice for you and your family.

My health had hit an all-time low. My body was chronically inflamed and I was struggling to get through each day. We were also wanting to start a family and I realized that something had to change. I had a lot of knowledge regarding food and nutrition but I wasn’t applying it to my everyday life. I realized that with every bite I was either feeding disease or fighting it. It was like a switch went off in my head. I started eating a very nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory diet full of organic veggies, organic meats, grass-fed beef liver, bone broth, and healthy fats. The change was like night and day. My health took a 180; I felt so alive and like I was thriving.

 

CFSA: Tell us a little about how being pregnant and breastfeeding your baby changed your thinking about what is safe and healthy to put in our bodies.

Before I got pregnant with my son I started priming my body to give him the best start to life that I could. I avoided inflammatory foods and ate nutrient dense, organic meats and veggies. I thought it was amazing and so crazy to look at my pregnancy app and see how quickly my baby was growing each week. My body was providing this little pea with everything he needed to grow! That was a big motivator to be careful of what foods I ate. Breastfeeding has been an amazing journey and I’m so grateful that I’m able to nourish my baby in this way. I find it incredible how little we actually know about breastmilk though. I can tell a difference in my son’s overall mood and sleep habits when I eat certain foods. Especially food containing dyes, excessive sugar, preservatives or other yuck ingredients. It has definitely helped me stick to my own goals of eating healthy by seeing the negative effects he experiences when I slip up.

 

CFSA: Your son is just starting to eat solid foods. What does he like so far?

We are giving him super nutrient dense, gut healthy foods, cooked how we would eat them instead of mushed up like purees. So far he has had chicken bone broth, avocado, sweet potato and egg yolk. He really loves the sweet potato and egg yolk! He loves drinking from a cup so broth has been a big hit because of that. Avocado he doesn’t seem to be a huge fan of, I think it’s the texture. I plan on only feeding him organic, non-processed, nutrient dense foods for quite a while.

 

CFSA: The food and farming community in Columbia is really taking off and now there is a new fresh-from-the-farm delivery service – perfect for moms! Tell us about it.

I just found out about this local farm that delivers and I am so excited about it! Leesville Aquaponics Homestead will deliver for free on any orders over $20. This is a great option for families with young one especially, or the elderly! I am expecting my first order this week. I ordered a little bit of all the veggies they have available, some eggs and a rabbit. I’ve never cooked or even eaten rabbit before so I’m excited to try something new. A friend of mine recommended this farm when I was asking where to buy eggs from pastured chickens fed soy free feed. I love the farmer’s market but I’m not able to make it out there that often with a little one. My plan is to order from this farm each week and hit up the farmer’s market about once a month to stock up on my other meats.

 

Lauren's-garden

CFSA: You are an avid organic gardener. When did you first start gardening and what got you interested in organic gardening?

I love gardening! I’m not really that great at it, but that’s not what matters to me. I like getting out in the sun and dirt each day and putting my time and energy into something that gives back. My first garden was in a pallet with dollar store soil and seeds. Needless to say, not much grew. But with some guidance from my best friend, I learned enough about organic gardening to get a nice little garden started. My husband built me a 4×10 raised bed and my father in law built me a big ole barrel composter. It’s been a learning experience and each year I learn a little more. It’s been mainly a hobby but I am hoping to produce enough veggies this year to offset our grocery bill a bit. I’ve heard the quote, “Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes,” and it’s so true! I’m so excited to teach my son about gardening and have him out there helping me pick veggies!

 

CFSA: As a mom myself, I know what a challenge it can be to put food on the table every night. What’s your go-to organic dinner ?

I love soups for those days when I’ve waited until the last minute to throw something together. We always have some homemade bone broth in the freezer so I’ll throw that, some meat and fresh veggies all together and let it do its thing. Sometimes I’ll do chicken broth, chicken, carrots, celery, and onion. Or I’ll go with a heartier soup with beef broth, ground beef or stew meat, potatoes, and carrots. But you can really throw in whatever you have fresh at the moment. Also kale or spinach, those bulk up the soup and add a little bit of green in. During the summer I’ll just go pick some lettuce out of the garden for a super fresh salad also.

 

CFSA: Would you share a recipe?

My chicken soup is a go to in our house for sick days, freezer meals, or anytime we need an easy meal. It’s easily prepped the night before and just throw it in a pot or crockpot the next day.

 

1 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts

2 cups carrots, chopped

1 medium yellow onion, diced

3 stalks celery, chopped

4-5 cloves garlic, minced (or more, I don’t think you can overdo the garlic)

3 Tbsp EVOO

½ teaspoon dried thyme

1 bay leaf

6 cups chicken broth (homemade is best)

1 cup water

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp black pepper

3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)

A bunch of spinach or kale

 

Put all ingredients in a 6 quart crockpot and cook on low 6-7 hours. Remove chicken and cut into bite size pieces or shred. Put the chicken back in the pot and add the spinach or kale. Cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the greens have wilted.

 

CFSA: Dreams for the future?

I grew up wishing I could live on a farm. I still do. My dream would be to move to the country and have a little self-sustaining homestead. I’d have a huge garden, free range chickens, a pig (for fun not to eat), a goat for the milk, some rabbits, and a few grass fed cows. I would love to have a large family. I’d have all my children outside each day, learning about life through nature. Who knows, maybe that will happen one day. But if it doesn’t I will still teach my son how to garden, care for whatever animals we may acquire and hope that he grows up with a passion for organic, holistic living like his mama. I would be thrilled if he grew up to be a farmer. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit. My husband grew up in the country, feeding cows and taking care of turkeys. He has a work ethic like a farmer. Rain or shine, he’s always the first one to roll up his sleeves and get the job done and get it done right. I would be proud for my son to turn out the same.

 

CFSA: Anything else you’d like to share with the good food and farming community in the Carolinas?

It is my passion to spread awareness of the chemicals that we put in our bodies and my hope that we can arm the next generation with the knowledge to make healthy decisions for themselves and our planet. With this knowledge we can have happier and healthier children. I’ve put my passion to work in planning this year’s Children’s March for Humanity in Columbia, SC. Our goal is to ignite desire in the hearts of the masses to yearn for more information on topics such as glyphosate, GMOs, and various chemicals. Through inquiry grounded in love, respect, and empathy, our goal is to tear down the defensive walls which: divide, hinder sparked curiosity, and discourage the masses from seeking the truth. The main march will take place in Washington, D.C. and we will be rallying at the South Carolina State House on June 17, 2017 10am-2pm.

Please visit https://childrensmarchforhumanity.com/columbia%2C-sc for more information and to get involved.

 

Lauren Small is a work-at-home mama to a precious little chunk of a baby. Her passions include babywearing, breastfeeding, studying holistic health, gardening, long baths, and fair trade chocolate. Check out her all natural and organic oil cleansers at www.mindyourownskincare.com.