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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For Heaven’s Sake, Pack a Lunch

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The eating considerations in my household consists of: two asthmatic sons, a daughter who doesn’t eat meat (for ethical reasons), a husband who is a laser focused athlete who doesn’t eat pork and me…well… I consider all of the above with a heap of auto immune dysfunction.  To say that we give our food serious consideration is an understatement.

So why is that when I read this in an email about a workshop I was scheduled to attend at a local college did I find myself doing a fist pump?

We will provide all materials and lunch as well. Pizza, salad, and drinks will be provided.  Please feel free to bring a bagged lunch if you need to accommodate dietary restrictions.

This is what it said to me:

Get over yourselves. Our goal is to provide you with what you need to write a good grant. We are not going to even attempt to address the over the top food expectations Americans have come to find normal to request. 

Well, because the mother of said children who houses one really funky gut is over it.

I probably won’t eat your bacon or your burger if I don’t know the story behind it and I bring new meaning to the word ‘gut check’ when it comes to eating breads and such. But you will never find me making a food request or insulting the choices made by others.  I will eat what’s prepared or I’ll offer to bring my own with enough to share.

My oldest son did an internship at Elm Street Gardens last summer.  A beautiful organic farm in one of the poorest areas of our state.  He was able to see first hand how limited access to food affects people’s decisions.  He harvested vegetables and processed chicken and meat. He and his fellow interns were given a share of eggs and as much vegetables as they wanted but very little meat. There just really wasn’t any extra meat.  A few of the students with him identify as vegan and they actually had a hard time being limited to just vegetables in the garden. They were used to buying prepackaged items at the grocery store.   “Ma… Have you ever considered how much of what people eat is a complete indulgence?  Hungry people just don’t have that privilege.”

That's my boy!

That’s my boy!

As I find myself experiencing different aspects of our food system,  I understand better why it was important to my parents that I graciously accepted food that was prepared for me by others.  A screw face response to something I found distasteful most assuredly got me ‘dealt with’ later.  In some cases, giving to me meant less for their family.  If I didn’t like it/couldn’t eat it I’d better come up with a creative way to make sure they never knew it!

This face? Not even allowed when I was growing up.

This face? Not even allowed when I was growing up.

How on Earth did we come go from that to making food request when we accept an invitation?

Regardless of our specific choices surrounding food, we should be thankful for the loving intent that comes when people  share.

I decided not to brown bag it and graciously accept the lunch selection at the event mentioned above. Actually… I was running late and only had time to grab a bag of trail mix.  When it was time to eat, I was thrilled to see a glorious salad prepared by the culinary students with vegetables grown by the urban agriculture students.

YESSSSS!

But wait… Did he just say let’s let the vegans go first because there are just a few shiitakes?

Well, damn. lol.