Love Offering

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Last week at farm camp I had the kiddos share family traditions surrounding food.  Many reflected the norms of American culture: Friday night pizza, a cake purchased from a local grocery on Sunday and a stop for chicken wings every Wednesday after football practice.  There were a few that spoke about the coming together of extended family and friends, foods that have rich roots in their family history. One girl spoke about her family routinely eating vegetables like callaloo and sorrel from her parents’ homelands in the Caribbean. A boy spoke of picking vegetables at his family’s garden with his siblings.

One of our camp kiddos enjoying a blueberry on the farm

One of our camp kiddos enjoying a blueberry on the farm

This summer I’ve simplified my relationship with food: I just eat what feels right.  My office is located on a farm so food surrounds me. One of my greatest joys a nabbing a perfectly sweet tomato from the vine and plopping it directly into my mouth. It is the best.  Project Generation Gap has also been growing wheatgrass in our aquaponics system so cutting a plug pure nutrition and chewing on it is a daily treat for me.

Wheatgrass grown just steps from my desk!

Wheatgrass grown just steps from my desk!

Working at the markets this summer has provided routine access to this summers harvest. Squash, zucchini, blueberries, peaches… just a few steps away from my booth.  My weekly meals include tabouli from my new friend Fikret, A bountiful salad with vegetables from Grow Where You Are, and micro green wraps from Farmer George. Every now and then I will indulge myself with a sea salt and chocolate popsicle from Wholly Pops or an iced coffee from Java Genesis but my typically dessert is a peach out of the scratch and dent box or a few slices of watermelon given to the Stone Mountain market manager by a local resident.  Actually, the ceremonial slicing of the watermelon and sharing it with  shoppers and vendors has become a highlight of my week.

Lovingly presented to me by Nicole Bluh of Grow Where You Are

Lovingly presented to me by Nicole Bluh of Grow Where You Are

The focus of the famers market are the farmers and the shoppers; as it should be. However, I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of the “pit crew”; The behinds the scenes folk who help the market flow like a well oiled machine. Market managers, volunteers, and other callaborators work tirelessly  to pull off a seamless 4 hour experience for their community.  Seeing it from this angle has given me such a wonderful perspective of what is possible when communities come together.

Outside of the market, there have been tremendous highs and some pretty significant lows this summer.  On the low end, we lost a large portion of our livestock at the High Garden Center due to an attack by a neighbor’s dogs.  George and Krista are seeing this as an opportunity to take a step back a re-group; illustrating the spirit of farming.

On the high end, I’ve been working feverishly with Brennan Washington of Phoenix Gardens to launch the Georgia Farmers Market Association. Brennan is an icon in the Georgia agriculture scene and has been working for six years to establish a state-wide resource for farmers, market managers and shoppers. It has been a pleasure to join him on this mission! We’ve pooled together many of the rock stars of our food system; from every nook and cranny of Georgia. More details to come. 🙂

Personally, summers have always been bittersweet and this summer is no exception. I am preparing to send my youngest son off to college and processing all of the emotions that go along with it. I am excited about this new chapter for all of us but watching your boys grow into men is gut wrenching on many levels.  The second time has been no easier than the first.

Next week I prepare to leave for my farmer intensive at SoulFire farm.  Actually I’ve been preparing all summer. My trip to get to know Arcadia Mobile Market early in the summer came with a  heaping serving of what I call “the good”. My soul sisters Dawn and Juju; have set the bar high when it comes to faith, family, sisterhood and community.  I sopped up all they offered.

Me and Juju

Me and Juju

She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.
Toni Morrison

It is so very, very good.

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Getting to Know: Grow Where You Are

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It is my favorite time of year: Market Season!  Woohoo!

This year, Project Generation Gap is implementing two community based incentive programs:  Wholesome Wave and My Market Club. We are doing this in partnership with Lilburn Farmers Market and Stone Mountain Farmers Market.

I reached out to growers in the Metro-Atlanta urban agriculture family and asked them to join us as vendors. I was seeking produce vendors who have ethical growing practices. Grow Where You Are answered the call!   They are highly respected in the Atlanta local food community.

Grow Where You Are's booth at the Lilburn Farmers Market

Grow Where You Are’s booth at the Lilburn Farmers Market

Although I met Eugene Cooke some time ago, I recently had the pleasure of visiting him and Nicole Bluh at their garden project located at Good Shepherd Church in Southwest Atlanta.  Oh my!!!! They are growing glorious food and therefore supporting growth in this community in many ways. Check out this arial shot of the space they transformed into The Good Shepherd Agro Ecology Center:

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They also raised the funds needed to create an outdoor laboratory located on the historical Atlanta Black Cracker Field. Their Indiegogo campaign explains:

We are creating an outdoor laboratory to explore the revitalizing influence of a living growing space and observatory in the Bush Mountain Community…. In the 1920s and 1930s during the height of the National Negro League and deep segregation in the south, the Atlanta Black Crackers utilized this site. Serving as a community center this space created an atmosphere of connectivity and fellowship through outdoor recreation. 

Development of this currently under-utilized 2 acre site will include an interactive native planting and historical vegetable and fruit mini-farm. Additions will be made to the existing campground which holds the annual Great American Backyard Campout. There will be information about the historical significance of the land as well as an art installation tribute to the Atlanta Black Crackers Baseball Team.

In addition to growing quality food and serving as a community advocate, Eugene is a contributing writer for Mother Earth News.  His wife, JoVonna, is owner and co-founder of MaituFoods, LLC, a vegan meal delivery service and vegan nutrition education hub. I purchased one of their really cool t-shirts. Get you one!

Nicole is a woman after my own “food as medicine” heart. Through ThirdMoon Botanica, she educates people about the powerful and necessary nutrition available in wild plants and how to harvest them.

I am so excited to have Grow Where You Are with me at the Lilburn Market. I scored a batch of their fresh green beans last week and they are to die for! This week I hope to bend Nicole’s ear and talk tinctures and oils. I’m heading to visit with the fine folks of the  Arcadia Moblie Market next week and I’d love to bring some southern comfort with me.

Come see me at the Market this season!

Tuesdays, 4-7pm,  Downtown Stone Mountain

Fridays, 4-8pm, @Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Lilburn.

One more thing:

The GWYA team is hosting an event that got my attention so I thought I’d share.

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Feening For Fennel

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It is quite common for people with lupus to have digestive issues and  last  Wednesday was the beginning of a nasty bout for me.  The timing was pretty bad: I had scheduled an aquaponics training for the very next morning and I  had some very excited farmers looking forward to it.

There was no way to mask the pain so it was great that I was in the company of likeminded  ‘food as medicine’ people: High Garden Center farmer George,  Dr. David Epstein, and Lois Peterson; a PGG board member who is currently furthering her study in  nutrition.

Dr. Dave suggested that I consider adding digestive enzymes pre-biotics  and pro-biotics to my supplement regiment. I was experiencing a flare (an auto immune crisis) so that was sound advice. Fortunately I have all of that on hand… including kombucha of course.  🙂

Lois suggested I go gluten-free and dairy free completely until things calmed down.  She also reminded me of the importance of bone broths when trying to  heal the gut. I grabbed Nourishing Traditions out of my office for reference.  Good thing I did! I had never considered putting wine in my broth! While I didn’t go there this time (with the turmoil in my belly I’ve decided to stay away from alcohol for the moment), I have filed that away under things I will certainly do in the near future. I cooked an organic bird slowly over the course of two days.  In addition I added loads of extras: a cinnamon stick, several garlic bulbs, onion, about 2 inches of ginger,  2 inches of turmeric, carrots and celery.

George sent me into the garden.

Grinning and Bearing it.

Grinning and Bearing it.

He mentioned a few plants that I might want to steep and drink as tea but for some reason I went right to the fennel, popped a few sprigs into my mouth. I have had fennel before in salads but have always remained pretty neutral on it. On this day, however,   I was actually craving it.  And I’ve been noshing on it every day since. Fennel has a licorice like flavor so it taste like candy to me. Eating it, was soothing.

After several days of running into the garden for my fennel fix, I decided to see why my body was asking for it.  After researching it further, it turns out it makes perfect sense.  Here are some of the benefits of fennel listed on juicingforhealth.com:

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Anemia:  Since fennel is rich in iron and histidine, it serves as a good natural remedy for anemia. The production of hemoglobin is increased as a result of the consumption of food containing iron.

Breast milk, secretion:  Lactating mothers can consume fennel juice regularly to increase the secretion of nutritious milk for their infants.

Cancer:  The high content of vitamin C, flavonoids and essential oils in fennel bulb all provide synergistic healing properties for the prevention of cancer.

Colic:  Colic happens because of an imbalanced intestinal flora.  The essential oils found in fennel are useful for rebalancing the flora for remedy of renal colic.

Constipation:  The roughage in fennel seeds act as a stimulant in the clearance of bowels.  By taking fennel juice regularly, it helps to rebalance the digestive tract, thus promotes regular bowel movement.

Diarrhea:  The essential oils in fennel like Cineole and Anethole help to remedy diarrhea. By taking fennel juice regularly, it helps to rebalance the digestive tract, thus promotes a healthy bowel movement.

Diuretic:  The diuretic property of fennel helps in the removal of toxic substances from the body through frequent urination. Thus, it helps to reduce inflammation that causes rheumatism and swelling.

Flatulence:  Excessive flatulence happens due to the highly imbalanced intestinal flora in the digestive tract.  Fennel has the capability to reduce the bad bacteria while increasing the good bacteria that help rebalance the digestive flora.

Hair health:  The sulphur content together with all the right amino acids and essential oils in fennel help strengthen hair and reduce hair fall.

High blood pressure:  The high potassium content in fennel helps reduce high blood pressure and thus decreasing the risk for heart attack and stroke.

Indigestion:  The essential oils in fennel increases the secretion of digestive juices, helping in reduction of stomach inflammation and in the absorption of nutrients from the food eaten. Since fennel also has anti-acidic qualities, it is used widely also as an antacid.

Menstruation disorders:  As fennel is an emmenagogue, it helps regulate the hormonal action in the female body, easing menstruation flow.

Vision health:  Fennel has unique properties that can help protect from eyes inflammation, as well as with other eye disorders which are directly or indirectly connected to muscular degeneration and aging.  Due to the anti-oxidants and the necessary amino acids in fennel, they help rejuvenate and prevent aging. The juice of fennel leaves when externally applied on the eyes may help reduce eye irritations and fatigue.

I am on the mend! Was it the broth? Kombucha?  Fennel?

I’d say all three.   I’d also say that I am healing my body with  comfort food, soda and candy.  Except it’s real food. And that just makes me giddy.

 

 

 

 

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Making Marmalade

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Something went terribly wrong.

Christina our 'senior focus' volunteer brought her cadillac juicer over for a spin

PGG volunteer, Christina (our senior specialist) brought her Norwalk (the cadillac of juicers) over for a spin

Not sure what, but after countless hours of prep and stewing, we just were not pleased with the finished product. The oranges were too bitter for our liking and we want to give our best to our friends at SaraCare.

I was pretty bummed but Krista simply said  “Well… not everything goes exactly as planned.”  A gentle reminder that man plans and God laughs.

And just like that, we switched gears and came up with a plan B. As it turns out, we feel it to be an even better representation of the farm: a garden in a jar.  Each senior will be presented with a jar full of rich, organic soil (with worm casting)  and seeds; an invitation to be a part of our Project Generation Gap family.

Why didn’t we think of this in the first place?

Through it all, the smile never left Toni's face!

Through it all, the smile never left Toni’s face!

Sometimes it’s all about going through the process.  While the garden in the jar is awesome, it is not nearly as labor intensive as making the marmalade.  The investment made last week in preparing the marmalade has tremendous value even though it will never make it onto a single piece of toast.

Funny how things work out right?

 

Our Fall Events were created to kick off our senior programming;

So George made mixed fruit and fresh carrot juice-ritas (our version of lemons to lemonade)

So George made mixed fruit and fresh carrot juice-ritas (our version of lemons to lemonade)

specifically our adopt-a-grandparent program.  We’ve identified senior care facilities, churches and community centers who work with our elders. We are partnering with them to provide an extra layer of support to our aging population. In addition to periodic gifts, we plan to bring our grandparents to  the farm to grow with us; we are even creating a garden with them in mind.  We know we will learn so much from them!

We are asking our friends near and far to donate toward our efforts. We’ve determined that a donation of $15 will cover the expenses surrounding this holiday gift and the next… Valentine’s Day. <3.  If you’d like to donate click here.  All amounts are hugely appreciated.

Can’t wait to see many of you next weekend at the farm.  S’mores, corn hole, live music… all with our favorite people. Can’t wait!

Figured I'd end this post with the beautiful fruit and mascarpone tart I brought to share. Why not?

Figured I’d end this post with the beautiful fruit and mascarpone tart I brought to share. Why not?

If You Build It….

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Some time ago I wrote about starting a health, wellness and community revolution.  After spending years hoping ‘somebody’  would show up and step up, I realized that person was me. 🙂 My close friend, client, and colleague Janice had a similar epiphany at about the same time; we were both overwhelmed with the need to do something.  With that, Project Generation Gap was born.  We incorporated our non profit organization in December of 2013 with the goal of supporting an accessible, healthy, sustainable food system. As we see it,  the key to it all is community; placing a high value on our elders and nurturing our children.   We learned early on that we had to create an organic experience through relationship building.

While our efforts are not new to most of you, this major, exciting announcement is!

The vineyard at The High Garden Center

The vineyard at The High Garden Center

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Real food abounds here!

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The original barn

Project Generation Gap has partnered with The High Garden Center.  Our office will be housed at their farm along side a community center we are building together.  We will work together to bring quality nutrition and food education to our community. In my next post I will introduce you to  the dynamic duo behind HGC, George and Krista. They have been quietly working on their garden center… they seriously have their hands on a little slice of heaven.

One thing I have learned in the last year working with farmers/growers is that they rarely see the magnitude of what they offer. I am blown away with how humbly they work the land and then graciously share the fruits of their labor with their neighbors.  In addition to the supporting the growth at The HGC,  we have identified other farmers, growers, and tradesmen/women to support.  We sent 11 kids to farm camp, facilitated  (along with our partner firm Atlanta Food &Farm) an opportunity for The High Garden Center to create 10 rooftop self watering planters  at the Pittman Park Community Center and  we’ve organized/ participated in volunteer work days on area farms.  Each of these efforts engaged the community, provided education, and supported farmers directly.  Our work is just beginning!   We are  creating a comprehensive internship program  that will provide an array of services to our farmers (we just brought on our first official intern to help us at the High Garden Center and she is AWESOME) and we have partnered with like minded businesses and other non profits to provide the funding and manpower needed to create quality programming. We have family and community events planned and ultimately (through our partner farmers/providers) we will provide access to array of seasonal, local fresh vegetables, humanely raised and  processed antibiotic free meat, and minimally processed prepared food.  It is our goal to make our neighbors aware of the importance of supporting local growers and the value of good quality food.

Equally as important to the work we will do to support the farmers and consumers is our outreach work.  We have found a great fit coordinating  food demonstrations for preschoolers. Such FUN!   We will continue to offer programing to children and adults of all ages  in the form of classes and seminars.  We will be in local schools, at community centers, and presenting at events across the community.  We will also share all that we know and learn about nutrient dense food and self-sustainability to our friends and supporters across the country.

So how on Earth are we going to do it?

Well, it’s a family affair! We’ve been working hard at establishing relationships in our community. The outpouring of support has been incredible.  Our  vision started with a small board of directors and has grown include the ideas/work of  farmers, business owners, other non profits, and agencies.  No need to re-invent the wheel!  We also  did outreach at local farmers’  markets during the summer in order to get to know our community better.  As a result, our network of volunteers has blossomed. The PGG team has  social workers, registered nurses, college students, nutritionists, chefs, social workers, teachers, accountants, health/wellness professionals, horticulturalists, artists, a graphic designer, saleswomen, consultants, a cosmetologist, engineers, stay at home moms, homesteaders, general contractors, a fireman… I am sure I am forgetting something!  We are Caucasian, African American, Columbian, Indian, Mexican, Biracial, Vietnamese, West Indian. We range in age from 9 months to 70+.

The point is, we are the community.

Look forward to getting to know our team better. You are going to love them!

Here are few ictures from our recent work weekend at The High Garden Center.  Magical things are happening there. If you’d like to be a part of it, please email us here. We’d love to have you! Next up:  a community bonfire!

Taking it down to build it back again!

Taking it down to build it back stronger!

Malik and Clarke are smiling!

Malik and Clarke are smiling!

The inside crew had more fun then should be legal. lol

The inside crew had more fun then should be legal. lol