Brooklyn Farmers Ball!

October 19, 2009

 

The Brooklyn Farmers Ball!

The Brooklyn Farmers Ball!

Come out to the Brooklyn Lyceum on Tuesday, October 27th, to help the Food Security Roundtable raise funds to send a delegation of urban/rural farmers and food justice activists to the Growing Food and Justice for All Initiative gathering in Milwaukee, WI from October 30th – November 1st at Will Allen’s Growing Power.

How do we start a food democracy (now)?

September 8, 2009

 

The Nation Food for All

The Nation Food for All

 

Are we preaching to the choir? Who is listening? When are we going to start taking action to make this food democracy happen? I am confronted with questions like these when I talk to fellow food justice activists, urban and rural farmers, and other friends. I mean they get, they just do. For a long time, I just thought it was all pretty simple – buy farm, fresh food, then cook it up, and eat it, enjoy it with friends. Be healthy. What else is there to say?

Then, I started to encounter people who were not of this mindset, meaning they shopped at grocery stores, didn’t think about whether or not a tomato, pepper, strawberries were in season. Or to take this conversation further – they didn’t think about whether or not the cow that their steak, hamburgers came from was raised on pasture and ate grass like nature intended it to do. Or whether or not the cow that their milk was coming from was raised on pasture and ate grass. I mean these are questions you must face when shopping at a grocery store because a grocery store is like a confusing maze of abundant looking aisles upon aisles of . . . food? Or is it? Are those aisles really filled with what we could call food?

Yes, I know that Michael Pollan has written In Defense of Food and that Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis moved to Iowa to grow corn for their documentary King Corn. Okay, these texts and pictures definitely got the ball rolling and the conversation moving. The White House has planted an organic garden on it’s front lawn partly due to the fact that Roger Doiron from Kitchen Gardeners International and Daniel Simon Bowman, who drove the White House Organic school bus cross country, campaigned to make this garden happen. The Nation’s latest issue “Food for All: How to Grow Democracy” offers up many articles by many food activists including: Dan Barber (chef/owner of Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Blue Hill in the city), Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, author/journalist Michael Pollan, Anna Lappe, LaDonna Redmond – many of whom attended the Brooklyn Food Conference this past spring. Change is happening; change is evident. Now what? What’s next? How many more books, movies can we read, see?

If you are like me (and you live in Brooklyn, a city, in an apartment), perhaps you have some herbs growing in pots on your door-stoop, fire escape, backyard, community garden, urban farm. So I can feed myself some herbs, great. But, what I am doing to educate my community about why & how to eat farm, fresh food? Why it’s important to talk to our farmers? Why it feels good to get your hands dirty and plant, weed, compost – I could go on.

Gardening, farming is about community. Eating is about community. Sharing. What could be better than sitting down at a table with you neighbors? Family? Friends?

What I want to know is – where is the action, the movement in all of this? Is it the Slow Food movement? Is it the victory garden resurgence? What is it? Where is it? Are Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, Dan Barber community gardeners? Do they go out and work with their hands? Well, I know Michael Pollan is a gardener, Alice Waters has made major changes in the Berkeley school system’s cafeteria menus and her book Edible Schoolyard details growing the garden at the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, and Dan Barber’s restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns works with the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. Who am I leaving out? Will Allen.

In 1993, “Will Allen was a farmer with land” and “Growing Power was an organization with teens who needed a place to work.” (Growing Power). Wow. I am in awe of Will Allen and all that he has accomplished in such a short time. This fall marks the 2nd annual Growing Food and Justice for All Initiative gathering in Milwaukee, WI from October 30 – November 1. This year’s gathering focuses on Food and Spirit: Building Cross Cultural Understanding for Systems Change.

In my opinion, this is the movement. Join the movement, join this movement. Find other to join with you. Grow. Farm. Garden. Eat. Teach. Share. Come to Milwaukee in October. Help us grow food and justice for all. Write me and tell me what you are doing. What else you know. I will write more in the coming months about upcoming plans for farming at a community farm up in Wassaic, New York with farmer Ben Schwartz. I will write more about my work with the Food Security Roundtable. Next year will be an exciting one, but this fall I have plans to attend the Growing Food and Justice for All Initiative gathering, as well as planning a film screening at City College in Harlem on October 2nd, and assisting with a food shipment donated to Mothers on the Move. All of this as well as working at farmers’ markets in Brooklyn and Manhattan four days out of the week.

I will keep you posted on all of the exciting goings-on . . . keep me posted on food & farming events that you would like me to share. I look forward to hearing from you!

Canning Strawberry and Rhubarb Jam

June 30, 2009

I’ve been wanting to do some canning since at least last year. For some reason, I never got around to it. I think in part because I felt a little intimidated by the whole process. Putting food by doesn’t seem like the best thing to jump into as a novice. There are so many steps and to be honest sterilizing glass jars sounds like a daunting task to me. Luckily this year, I’m getting started early in the season and have a couple of friends who were willing to lend a hand in teaching me how the make strawberry & rhubarb jam last Friday night.

First, I went out to pick up a dozen Ball jars from my local hardware store in Brooklyn. I was able to get about a dozen pint sized jars for around $12.00. The pint jars are a good size but the hardware store also carries quart size and freezer ready jars as well. 

Ball Jars

The best way, in my opinion, to figure out what to can is to stop by your local farmers market and shop for whatever fruit and vegetables are in season. In this case, it was strawberries and rhubarb. Yes, the rhubarb is green and looks a little more like celery. 
Strawberries & Rhubarb

Pectin is another necessary ingredient when making jam. Brooklyn Kitchen carries it and sells it for $4.99/per box. Helpful instructions come with the box, so make sure to refer to them and follow them closely when trying this at home.

Pectin

While we were bringing the pot of strawberries to a boil with sugar, pectin, and calcium water, a few empty Ball jars and lids were boiling in a pot nearby. 

Strawberries

Then, it was time to can. The trickiest part was removing the extremely hot glass jars out of the boiling water with a pair of tongs, but somehow we managed to do it and ended up with at least 6 jars of strawberry jam and 6 jars of rhubarb jam.

Strawberry and Rhubarb Jam

For more information on canning and a great article “Preserving Time In a Bottle (Or a Jar)” by Julia Moskin, check out The New York Times.

Brooklyn Food Conference

April 20, 2009

Brooklyn Food Conference

Save the date, mark your calendar and register now for the first Brooklyn Food Conference taking place on Saturday, May 2, 2009. This conference provides an opportunity to get involved in our local food system by offering a wide-range of workshops. The workshops cover such topics as policy, economics, hunger, community supported agriculture, co-ops, urban agriculture, health and more. Featured speakers include Dan Barber, Anna Lappe, Raj Patel, and Ladonna Redmond. I’m very excited about one discussion in particular:  “Our Sustainable Restaurants: A Roundtable of NYC Chefs” which will be moderated by Leonard Lopate of WNYC. Chefs and restaurant owners joining in on this conversation are Dan Barber (Blue Hill), Peter Hoffman (Savoy & Back Forty), Bill Telepan (Telepan), David Shea (applewood), and John Tucker (Rose Water). Don’t miss the Conference Film Program or the Kids’ Food Fair. The conference concludes with dinner and dancing festivities. Did I mention the conference is free? Dinner and dancing will cost you $20.

Brooklyn Victory Garden

April 14, 2009

 

Plant a Victory Garden

Plant a Victory Garden

As I was walking to the garden store the other day, I passed by a poster outside a community garden that caught my eye. If you live in the neighborhood, you might be interested in attending the Boerum Hill Association’s Annual Greening Meeting. Sandra McLean, Chair of Slow Food NYC, will be there making a presentation on the Slow Food Movement.

Where: Belarusan Church (Corner of Atlantic & Bond)

When: Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 7:00PM

Support Your Community Garden

March 27, 2009

beds

Yesterday marked the groundbreaking ceremony at the Phoenix Garden in Ocean Hill, Brooklyn. Even though the air was chilly and the sky was grey, a sizable number of people turned out to celebrate the community garden. A pair of garden gloves was handed out as people entered the garden. Of course, I scored a cute pair of purple ones. Apple cider, muffins, and pretzels were served by Daniel Strecker, Youthmarket Operations Coordinator for the CENYC, as the crowd waited for the ceremony to begin.

Marcel Van Ooyen, Executive Director of the CENYC introduced Adrian Benepe, Parks & Recreation Commissioner. Mr. Benepe gave the students from PS 155’s garden club, who were in attendance, a pop quiz with questions like where do apples grow. In unison the students responded “on trees!”. Christine Quinn, City Council Speaker, then spoke about the city’s combined mission of ending both hunger and obesity through projects like the Phoenix Garden. The redevelopment of the garden was made possible by capital funding from Ms. Quinn and the City Council. Darlene Mealy, District 41 Council Member, offered up words of encouragement to the PS 155 garden club members. Robert Kafin, CENYC Chairman, covered a number of exciting additions that will be made to the garden including: a gazebo, a trellis for climbing plants, picnic tables, 1,000 gallon rainwater harvesting tank, enhanced compost site, and an outdoor classroom. This year the garden will have 50 individual plots.

wheelbarrows

Jerry Summers, Phoenix Garden Member, said he had been gardening for 10 years and elicited several laughs when he said he wanted to share that black eyed peas don’t always come in Goya cans. Ed Fowler, Director of Neighbors Together, a soup kitchen located down the street,  spoke about his organization’s mission to end hunger and how participating in a community garden is part of the solution. If you are interested in volunteering at Neighbors Together, they need help Monday – Friday. The serve lunch 12pm-3pm and dinner 5pm-7pm. Call ahead first to find out if they need volunteers on that day. 718-498-7256.

compost

I later met two of the members of the garden – Marcia Denson and Anne Serrano – who had been actively involved in the planning meetings for the garden renovation. The meetings were a collaborative process with a 15 person committee let by the Green Guerillas. When I asked Ms. Denson and Ms. Serrano what they were looking forward to growing this year, they replied with a number of vegetables like broccoli, tomatoes, eggplant, collard greens, cabbage, okra, spinach, and basil. Last year, membership to the garden was full and there was even a waiting list of 10-15 people. Ms. Serrano pointed out that you can still join the community garden even if you don’t have a plot.

garden

The space, the dirt, the people at the garden were brimming with enthusiasm for all of the potential this new renovation would bring. The community had watched as an abandoned plot of land had been transformed into a garden over the past few years. For more information on community gardens, please visit Green Guerillas and Green Thumb. Feel free to share what is going on at your community garden, what you are growing, and how it is going.

Phoenix Garden

March 25, 2009

While the country is abuzz with the exciting news of the new vegetable garden being planted on the White House South Lawn, local New Yorkers are doing their part to recognize a variety of landscapes as gardening plots. There are 600 community gardens in the city and one in particular, the Phoenix Garden, is being recognized tomorrow by the Council on the Environment of New York City. If you can make it, swing by the groundbreaking ceremony taking place at the garden.

The Phoenix Garden truly means a great deal the community with 45 members who grow everything from zucchini to collard greens. In addition to the members being able to enjoy the garden’s bounty, they also share their harvest with Neighbors Together, a soup kitchen serving 500 people daily. The Phoenix Garden represents how growing food locally can create a more sustainable community and how members of the community can directly invest it their community’s success and future. For more information on the event tomorrow, please visit: cenyc.com.

Phoenix Garden

2037 Fulton Street

Somers Street and Rockaway Avenue

Brooklyn, New York

Groundbreaking Ceremony:

Thursday, March 26th at 11:00am

Union Square Mondays

February 8, 2009

Since the year-round Brooklyn Greenmarkets are only open Tuesdays & Saturdays, I’ve been hitting the Union Square Greenmarket the past few Mondays. The set-up there is a little different right now due to some construction going on off of Union Square West. For the most up-to-date list of producers, swing by the CENYC tent & grab a map detailing who’s there on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. This list will help you plan for future trips but may be updated when more producers return in the springtime. If you decide to go to Union Square on a Monday, you will find: Bread Alone, Patches of Star Dairy, Greener Pastures, Buon Pane, D&J Organic, Red Jacket Orchards, Central Valley Farm, Martin’s Pretzels, Body & Soul Began Bakery, Madura Farm, Queens County Farm Museum, Berkshire Berries, Troncillito Farm, NY Beef Co, Tello’s Green Farm, Healthway Farms, and Race Farm.

During my first walk through, the greens at Hydrogarden Farm, D&J Organic caught my eye. I paid $6.00 for 1/4th of a pound of baby spinach and frisee. I was too excited by the thought of the greens and decided to splurge. My next stop was at Patches of Star Dairy for goat cheese. Their goat cheese is so smooth and creamy that it needs little else to be enjoyed. They also have ice cream but it might be until summer before I get up the nerve to try it. I also picked up half a dozen eggs at Central Valley Farm. 

Queens County Farm at Union Square Mondays

Queens County Farm at Union Square Mondays

I was almost headed home until I spotted the Queens Country Farm Museum’s stand. I had no idea they were at the Greenmarket, and as of right now they only have a stand there on Mondays. What really caught my eye were the free samples of hot tomato soup being handed out on a really cold day of walking around outside. The soup was made from the farm’s frozen Brandywine tomatoes. Other notable edibles included: fresh local eggs, microgreens, broccoli sprouts, and honey.

 

Herbs and Microgreens and Honey

Herbs and Microgreens and Honey

 

And now for a bit of history. The Queens Farm can be traced back to 1697 with only eight owners of the farm since then. The museum opened in 1975 and became a historic landmark in 1979. For more information on the farm, check out their website www.queensfarm.org where you learn more about events starting up in the spring, renting out the farm, educational programs, sustainable agriculture, and more.

Tomato Soup

Tomato Soup

Make sure to stop by their booth the next time you’re in the neighborhood for a tomato soup sample and to learn more about the farm’s historic origins. You will also now find pasture-raised heritage pork – could there be a better reason to go to Union Square.

Going green

February 3, 2009

The New York Times article “Praise the Lord and Green the Roof” reports on a group of unlikely trendsetters: Episcopal sisters going green. What was inspiring to me was the sisters’ devotion to local and sustainable eating. The sisters shop at farmer’s markets, pick up a produce share from Roxbury Farm at a neighboring church, and even compost their food detritus. The sisters are now working on a new green home which will be built in West Harlem.

This eco-conscious move underscores the correlation between knowing where your food comes from and knowing where your roof comes from. One green idea, shopping at your farmer’s market, leads to the next green idea: understanding your surroundings and registering the implications of consumption on a variety of levels. While I currently do not have the opportunity, like the sisters, to build a new green structure from ground up, I do have the opportunity to start with just a few, small green thoughts: carrying my own bags with which to shop at farmer’s markets, drinking tap water, consuming less in general but being more thoughtful when I do. Recycle your green thoughts here and share the ways in which you and your community are going green.

Last Saturday at Brooklyn Borough Hall

January 27, 2009

Last Saturday, I decided to head down to the Greenmarket at Brooklyn Borough Hall. With only three stands open, my trip was relatively short and made even shorter by the below freezing temperature and biting wind. First, I stopped at Bread Alone because I was in dire need of their nutty granola mix only to find out that an early-to-rise shopper had bought out all of their granola first thing that morning. 

I then headed over to Not Just Rugelach where I picked up some of their granola instead. Not Just Rugelach is at Borough Hall both Tuesdays and Saturdays and offers a wide array of savory and sweet baked goods. Highlights from the savory side included: Foccacia (available with three different toppings: tomato, tomato with garlic, and onion), knishes (potato, spinach with feta and dill, and sweet potato), quiche, pot pies, brioche, whole wheat, seven grain, rye, and challah bread. If you’re in the mood for dessert, there were: brownies, danish, old fashioned pound cake, carrot cake, pies, muffins, scones, cookies and donuts. In addition to the granola I had picked out, I also settled on a zucchini cake and an apple cider donut – which seems to be a standard farmer’s market offering.

I found the best offerings of the day at Wilklow Orchards, a family farm located in the Hudson Valley. The ample selection of apples included over one dozen varieties: Winesap, Empire, Jona Gold, Mutsu, Cameo, Macoun, Candy Crisp, Red Delicious, MacIntosh, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Rome and Honey Crisp. Wilklow also offered a nice array of baked goods: banana bread, pies, cream cheese poundcake, donuts, and muffins. Since I was already covered in the baked goods department, I picked up an acorn squash (the only vegetable/gourd I saw that day), apple cider, tenderloin, and bacon. Wilkow’s free range beef and pork menus are shown below and if you eat meat – they offer something for everyone.

 

Wilklow's Free Range Beef

Wilklow's Free Range Beef

Wilklow's Free Range Pork

Wilklow's Free Range Pork

I will report back on how the tenderloin turned out and think I will roast the squash and either make a soup or risotto with it. Which reminds me, I also decided to pick up a few apples in case I go with the soup.