Man in Overalls helps you #GrowYourGroceries!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Will Allen's Coming to Town: 12-6:30pm, Sun., Mar. 6th

"2011 Thriving, Beyond Sustainability Workshop"
Featuring Growing Powers’ Will Allen
DATE:   March 06, 2011
HOURS:    Noon- 6:30pm
LOCATION:   FAMU Center of Viticulture and Small Fruit
 6505 East Mayhan Drive (Hwy 90)

FAMU StateWide Small Farm Programs, local small farmers, and a coalition of sustainable food advocates including Tallahassee Sustainability Group, Man in Overalls with Tallahassee Food Gardens, Greater FrenchTown Revitalization Council,  Damayan Garden Project, Project Food, and Sowing Seeds Sewing Comfort Ministry, have worked together to provide a wonderful opportunity for the community to come out and learn from  innovative urban farmer, Will Allen,  founder and CEO of Growing Power, Inc.

Will Allen, "Farmer, Founder, CEO of Growing Power" will be in Tallahassee for sometime in March for an all-day workshop to discuss the work and success of Growing Power's Community Food Center as well as lead a hands-on soil-building workshop focused on composting and vermicomposting.  Additionally, Will's presence will serve as a gathering force to network the many spokes of the Tallahassee, north Florida, and regional food movements for collaborative strategizing.  Mark your calendars.  Additional Info here (re: registration, etc). Email Jennifer Taylor with registration questions.

The cost is $60 with a healthy (organic?) lunch provided. (That's less than the cost of a ticket to the UF v. FSU game). As Louise from Turkey Hill Farm wrote: "WELL worth the price of admission. If you are interested in community food systems, urban agriculture, aquaponics, sprouts, composting, organic agriculture, livestock, healthy affordable food.... then Will Allen is the man to see." Click to register.

Growing Power's work is truly remarkable.  On three acres in the heart of Milwaukee's northside they've got six green houses, two or three 10,000 gallon aquaponic (fish + hydroponic plants) systems, 20,000 plants, micro-greens, goats, turkeys, chickens, bees, and one of the best vermi (worm) composting operations in the nation.  Will Allen is quite remarkable himself: MacArthur Genius Award recipient, among Time's 100 Most Influential People in 2010, State Dinner guest at the White House per his contribution to Michele's Let's Move Campaign to address childhood obesity, founding member of the Community Food Security Coalition's Urban Agriculture Committee.  And it all started with his parent's share-cropping background, a stunt in pro basketball, and a handful of  kids in Milwaukee's northside that wanted to learn how to grow food. 

Take a few minutes to brush up on Will Allen.  The videos below can be an entry point, but don't stop there.  The work he's done, coordinated, and inspired across the country is remarkable.  Movements tend to adopt heroes, and Will has certainly earned the right to shoulder such a title amidst the food movement, or the "Good Food Revolution" as he likes to call it.  At 6'7", he's also got a hero-worthy stature.

A Good Sampling from Youtube.
"2008 MacArthur Fellow: Will Allen"
"Growing Power - Will Allen"
"1 MILLION pounds of Food on 3 acres. 10,000 fish 500 yards compost"
"Good Food Revolution - Urban Farmer Gets Attention of White House

If you're still up for reading/learning more, I recommend Will Allen's "A Good Food Manifesto for America."
While you're at it, if you're wondering who's carry the torch here in the big bend area, take a look at these posts.

And just in case you're interested: the cool back-story is that Will Allen's visit is serving to link an amorphous network of educators, organizers, growers, and "Good Food Revolution" supporters in common cause.  Last week, responding to the call of Jennifer Taylor with FAMU's Small Farm's Program (who is actually coordinating the logistics of Mr Allen's visit) representatives from the Greater Frenchtown Revitalization Council, the Damayan Garden Project, Project Food, Cultural Arts Natural Design International, Tallahassee Sustainability Group (an FSU Student Org.), Native Nurseries and I met to develop POA's for fundraising, communication/recruitment, logistics, and programing.  Yesterday, we met again, and this time we were joined by a long-time friend of Will Allen (who lives in Tallahassee), two Jackson County farmers of color, as well as folks from Amen Ra's Bookshop, Gallery, and Cultural Center. Also in the periphery of support is the UF IFAS extension, Second Harvest Food Bank, the Tallahassee Edible Garden Club, and others too many to count.

If, by the way, you're willing to sponsor one or two students or low-income folks to attend Will Allen's workshop, would you please send me an email. Thanks.

Just Fruits and Exotics, Orchard Pond Organics, Damayan, Stacy Rasky with TallyLife and a couple other folks have already taken up the cause by pledging scholarship money.  Thanks a bundle.

PS- Let's invite our elected officials to learn about Will Allen's success and vision of economic development via a vibrant "local food industry."  Here's a few links to aid your attempt to solicit their presence at Will's workshop: Tallahassee City Commission, Leon County Board of County Commissioners, Leon County Sheriff, State Representatives Vasilinda, Williams, and Coley, State Senators Dean and Montford.

We might just have a movement on our hands amidst all the great folks doing fantastic work.  How exciting!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Oakland's Food Justice

Last June, I got an email from Marcy Rosner, a native of Tallahassee that had been-- for a handful of years-- living in Oakland.  She was back home for the month and hoped to find some volunteer opportunities with community gardens or some other volunteer urban ag project in Tallahassee.  Eventually she linked up with Shelby Stec, an awesome FSU student that coordinates a garden at the Salvation Army on Jackson Bluff.

Last week, the day before catching a plane for the Bay area (for a visit to see my sister, Kelley), I sent Marcy my own email.  I'd been hearing reports about all kinds of food movement work in Oakland like this YES! Magazine article featuring the work of Urban Tilth.  I'd also heard stories about People's Grocery from Marcy, and, via Farm City, a book by Novella Carpenter, I'd heard about City Slicker Farms.  I hoped to see a bit of what's going on in Oakland with reference to the food movement and to catch a few stories.

Marcy invited me over to prepare and eat a meal with her roommate, Raquel, and her "Food Justice Homie, Marcelo."  We started by heading for the farmers' market in Berkeley, which they said was "the most expensive market around" because of its proximity to the "foodie ghetto" where restaurants like Alice Water's Chez Panisse are located in great plenty.  The prices, however-- for local, organic produce-- was about half that of Tallahassee's equivalent.  It felt like paradise.  The resulting meal-- Yum!-- was to die for.  Oven roasted root vegetable medley seasoned with fresh garlic and dill (beets, purple carrots, turnips, onion).  Fresh kale with garlic in orzo. Winter squash baked with Thyme and olive oil.  Fresh arugula-spinach salad with ripe persimmons, red onions with homemade balsamic/garlic/lime dressing.  And what else?  Fresh bread and local olive oil for dipping.

At the close of the meal, I confessed, "You know one of my favorite things about the food movement?"  My fellow eaters played along, "What's that?"  "That right there," I pointed to the table, "eating a meal like that is a direct action, a means of participating in the movement.  I love that!"

- - -

In addition to eating, I learned a lot about the "Food Justice Movement" in Oakland via Marcelo's stories.  A graduate-- like Marcy-- from the Ethnic Studies Dept at UC Berkeley, he is now pursuing his PhD looking at the ways in which WWII industry-induced migration changed the racial-ethnic composition of Oakland.  In years past, he was employed by People's Grocery.  Though no longer on the payroll, he continues to volunteer while also serving on the board of Planting Justice, another Oakland Food Justice organization that emphasizes Permaculture.

On Sunday, we took a look around Oakland.  Though it was raining, we were able to visit People's Grocery's non profit head quarters; the People's Grocery's California Hotel Urban Farm; DeFremery Park (one of the locations where People's Grocery distributes their Grub Boxes.  Interestingly, DeFremery park is also one of the historic sites whereat the Black Panther Party once served breakfast to hungry kids every morning, free of charge, which roots Oakland's current work in previous efforts);  Mandela Foods Co-Op (which is currently, according to Marcelo, the only grocery store in Oakland's city limits.  I.e., Oakland is a food desert.); lastly, we visited a new City Slicker Farms location within an Oakland city park.

Marcelo spoke repeatedly of Oakland's "movement culture,"its "shared movement spaces," and about Oakland's "Food Justice Movement."  The dynamism alive in Oakland is more than a handful of innovative urban agriculture, (healthy) "food-security," and sustainability focused "food resilience" efforts that happen to be taking place in the same city.  Instead, the many (MANY!) organizations and efforts complement one another.  For instance, OBUGs (Oakland Based Urban Gardens), as Marcelo shared, has a great relationship with the school system, so if someone comes along hoping to work with grade students, folks send them to OBUG's.  Additionally, the many projects are interconnected and mutually supportive.  Marcelo himself is exemplary: former employee of People's Grocery, board member of Planting Justice, co-op member at Mandela Foods, friends with staff at City Slicker Farms, mentoree of an Urban Ag professor at Berkeley, linked with leaders at Urban Tilth, part of a "New Narratives" Bay Localize! Working Group, etc.

If you do a little clicking around on these Oakland based organization and business websites that I heard reference to and/or saw, you'll get an idea of the networked nature of the Oakland Food Justice Movement:

Oakland Food Policy Council
Oakland Based Urban Gardens
Oakland Food Connection
Planting Justice
Phat Beets Produce
Urban Food
Mandela Marketplace
Mo' Better Foods
People's Grocery
City Slicker Farms
All Edibles
Planting Justice
Bay Localize
Kitchen Gardeners International

As People's Grocery's slogan captures, Oakland is engaged in a dynamic movement to ensure "Healthy food for all."

Lest we lose ourselve thinking about Oakland's example, it's good to keep in mind that we are well on our way here in Tallahassee.  Though most organizations and associations are not registered nonprofits, we have our own networked hub of urban ag/healthy food/food justice/food-security/community food resilience here at home:

(in no particular order)
Seven Tallahassee-area subscription community gardens
Over 25 Tallahassee-area school gardens
Tallahassee Community Gardens Institute (currently functioning as a network)
Project Food (an initiative of Qasimah Boston)
Second Harvest of the Big Bend's food security garden
Greater Frenchtown Revitalization Council
HEAT, Health Equity Alliance of Tallahassee
FAMU's CESTA (Ag Extension)
FSU's Tallahassee Sustainability Group (student organization)
UF's IFAS (Ag Extension)
Damayan Garden Project
Tallahassee Edible Garden Club and Tours
Indianhead Acres Community and front/back yard gardeners
Red Hills Small Farms Alliance (email)
Apalachee Bee Keepers
New Leaf Market (Cooperative) + their amazing Farm Tour
Bread and Roses Food Cooperative
Tallahassee Food Policy Council
Slow Food Tallahassee
New North Florida Cooperative Assn. (Farm to School Prg.)
Not to mention the 1000's of individual folks with home gardens amongst whom are the true heros: gardeners that reap a bounty and share with their family, neighbors, friends, church members, and our area's under and un-fed folks.

We have quite a movement on our hands.  How do you hope to contribute?  What would you like to learn?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nutritional Tidbits (from Jorge Lopez): Eat Your Veggies

Meet my buddy, Jorge Lopez.

He and I attended Warren Wilson College together, where he studied biology with a focus on plants.  Prior to  "Wilson," he earned his AA at the University of Florida, served for four years in the US Marine Corps.  He's worked as an EMT for three years in New York City and for three years as an ER tech.  He also worked for a year in a health food store. Currently, Jorge's attending the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, AZ.  It also so happens that he's an amazing cook.

A couple months back Jorge and I communicated via facebook about the possibility that he could guest-post on my blog to provide nutritional tidbits that link food gardening with healthy eating and health, in general.

This is the first of such posts.  Thanks go to Jorge.

"Eat Your Veggies"
- by Jorge Lopez-

When I was a child I remember my mom telling me, “Eat your veggies they're good for you."  I would often ignore my mom’s plea and go for the sweets. As I grew older and rediscovered the magic of growing and eating veggies I also felt a surge in my vitality. In a world of over processed food where our basic nutrients have to be reintroduced into food packages, the body forgets how good it is to eat fresh, nutrient rich, homegrown veggies. The benefits of eating veggies affect our bodies, minds and soul. One of the many organs in our bodies that a diet full of vegetables can benefit is the heart.

The leading cause of death in the US and other developed countries is heart disease. You would be surprised how a plate of veggies a day can change that statistic. Vegetables are of full vitamins, fiber and phytochemicals that are very beneficial for the heart and overall health. Let’s start with one of the most important benefits of veggies, fiber.

A significant amount of plant matter is composed of cellulose, hemicelluloses and other fibers. Fiber cannot be broken down by the body and passes through our digestive system. As fiber passes through the intestines it picks up cholesterol which is then excreted. Lowering cholesterol is very beneficial, but it’s not the whole picture.

A diet consisting of primarily vegetables is low in simple sugars. Foods containing simple carbohydrates like candy, bread, and pasta, just to name a few, increase the amount of sugar in the blood which can be converted to AGE’s (advanced glycosilated end products) which cause damage to the blood vessels. When the body uses cholesterol to repair this damage, a consequence is the formation of plaques on the walls called Atherosclerosis.

Another contributing aspect of veggies are vitamins like B5 (Pantothenic acid), folate, and E (tocopherols) that help maintain cardiovascular health. Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) helps with the production of HDL’s (good cholesterol) that help to reduce LDL’s (Bad cholesterols) and reduce the occurrence of plaque formation. Folate along with methylcobalmine (B12) reduces homocysteine a very reactive amino acid that causes damage to the cardiovascular system. Vitamin E (Tocopherols) helps reduce platelet aggregation, lowers cholesterol and is also a strong antioxidant. Finally Phytoesterols are phytochemicals that reduce the amount of cholesterol by competing with fats in the gut.

These are only a few of the many benefits of eating fresh veggies, but they are significant in that they help maintain and care for your heart which in return will take care of you. The best part of eating right is the boost of energy and vitality you will feel. Always remember that optimum health is achieved through balance and that is maintained through eating a variety of foods rich in all nutrients.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Wowww, Look at Our Garden!"

Amazing images courtesy Inga Finch Photography

"Wowww! Look at Our Garden!"

So said teenage Christine when she came around the side of the house in view of our workshop garden this past Saturday.  For four saturdays, once a month, for four months (skipping December), I'm leading an introductory food garden class with a friends' group of nine special needs teens at the home of Kelly Hetherington, one of the teen's mothers.

Back in July/August, Kelly, Annie's mother got in touch with me: "I want my daughter to learn how to grow vegetables, and I wonder whether you'd be willing to do a workshop with her and her friends."  Turned out, she also wanted her own food garden, so we developed a workshop + double raised bed install plan: one for her uses and the other for the workshop.

In mid October, the teens and I (with ample support from parents and a few of my friends) launched the food garden workshop series by filling a raised bed frame with compost, tacking in nails and running string to make the Square Foot Gardening grid.  After that, each of us planned and planted a 2x2ft (or 4 square feet) space with two kinds of cooking greens (collards, chard, mustards and/or kale), one cool season herb (fennel, dill, cilantro or parsley), and a square foot of lettue (romaine).

This past Saturday, each teen harvested the two lettuce plants they'd put in as plugs.  We thinned the lettuce seedlings from the seeds planted in October, and replanted more seeds.  We also took turns sharing our herbs with one another to touch, smell and taste.

What awesome kids.

Amazing pictures courtesy Inga Finch Photography

To view more of Inga Finch's quality work, see her website or visit her blog.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Space at Feather Oaks Food Garden Workshop: Sat., Nov 20th, 9:30-11:30

Here's a few images from the workshop:

Square Foot Gardening: vidalia onions
Man in Overalls answering food gardening questions

Notice the square foot grid for ease of plant spacing

Beautiful garden design created by Meghan Mick with Design from the Ground Up.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Good Food Schools

Have you ever heard-tell of the citizenship schools of the 50s and 60s?  (Click here for a mini-history from the perspective of the Highlander Folks School in eastern Tennessee.)

On the surface level, the citizenship schools were simply a place where black folks taught other black folks how to read and write, the point being to pass the literacy exams and register to vote.  But since the focus was voter registration, there was an emphasis on empowerment, on learning how to be good citizens, and, more immediately, on how to participate in the civil rights movement.  The schools also functioned as hubs of community, economic, and political activity.  Folks didn't learn how to read Pooh Bear, they began reading by learning the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.  Once they'd learned to read about their rights, they began raising questions like, "Why don't we enjoy these rights?"  And from there, "Once we register to vote, what and who are we going to vote for?  And how are we going to work towards securing our rights?"

Anyway, as you may have noticed, the citizenship schools had a double, or dual purpose: they imparted a practical skill (learning to read and write) and they organized and empowered the community to make a difference.  The brilliance of the schools was that folks turned out because they wanted to learn a skill that would prove useful in their lives. Folks wanted to learn to read the letters from their children and the fine print on contracts; they wanted to write Christmas cards and business invoices.  They also wanted the racial scene to change.  The citizenship schools provided a way to "get involved" that was also personally edifying, thus satisfying both needs. 

And it was a simple model: get students in the same room with a teacher and start with the interests of the students: What do you want to learn to read?  What do you want to learn to write?  From there, after ten weeks or so, students could (and did) become teachers.  The idea self-perpetuated across the south.  Although no one knows the exact count, it's estimated that citizenship schools enabled more that 100,000 people to register to vote.

The point in sharing this with you is that I feel we're in need of "new fangled" citizenship schools focused on food.  Maybe we'll call them the "Good Food Schools."*  Maybe they'll look like a educational community garden whereat folks can tend a plot all their own and and also participate in, say, monthly garden workshops.  Perhaps in early spring there will be a class taught on garden bed preparation followed by one on seed starting and transplanting.  Maybe as the spring progresses, there will be a workshop on mulching, another on pest and weed management, and another on composting.  On towards summer, perhaps someone else that is good with pots and pans can teach classes on cooking with garden fresh produce.  And, just maybe, once we're all sitting down together eating the food that we grew and prepared, having learned a practical skill, we'll get talking about the current industrial food system: about the Farm Bill; mono-cropping; chemical residues on produce; CAFOs; the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, top soil loss, food deserts; GMOs; and about about local, sustainable alternatives: about community gardens; community food security; CSAs; farmers markets; urban agriculture; vermicomposting; and our grandmother's recipes.  Maybe we'll ask questions like "Why is corn syrup subsidized? Why is the rate of childhood obesity so high, and what's that got to do with corn subsides?" And: "Why is it (often) illegal to sell yard-eggs and raw milk from grass-fed cows?"  Then, before we drown in the the pleasant euphoria of good food and healthy conversation, we'll make plans and find teachers so we can learn to raise chickens, goats, and turkeys; harvest our own honey; and make our own cheese.

And just maybe, if we keep it simple enough, garden novices will become garden instructors, microwavers will become cooking instructors, kids will become community garden catalysts, and participants will start their own Good Food Schools down the road, across town, and on the far side of the world.

My question for you is: What happens when a dream is shared?  And: where do we go from here?

*Props go to Will Allen for coining the phrase "Good Food Revolution."

Friday, November 12, 2010

A garden Story Though Pictures

The past two days I was working out at the Ferrel's garden on the east side of town with my buddy, Lindsay.  With a busy schedule and a sore back, Kathy Ferrel's garden had grown-over.  Here's the story through pictures.

"Lotsa" weeds.
Weeds All Gone!

Garden Planted
Closer up, the before/after is more exciting.
As you can tell from the images, Kathy's garden was in-ground.  My friend, Lindsay and I working together, we cleared the brush; raked up; transplanted irises, day lilies, agapanthuses, and garlic chives; top dressed the area with greensand (a good remedy for N. Florida soils that tend to be potassium deficient) and compost; shaped the beds; and lastly put seeds and plants in the ground.

In the picture above, you can see the Rosemary in the bottom left-hand corner surrounded by johnny jump-ups (which you can eat).  Back behind the rosemary, there's a bed of kale and chard and broccoli.  To the left, there's a bed with kale seeds waiting to germinate.  Along the far fence there are two short rows of spinach seeds.  In the top right-hand corner, we planted an spiral of chard seeds. (I'm so excited about this!)  All along the right-hand side of the garden there are root crops planted: turnips, beets, vidalia onions (which you can see), and a row of bunching onions (seeds).  Out of sight, behind the camera are a bunch of herbs (parsley, sage, oregano, dill, fennel, and sorrel), mesclun mixes (that's a fancy word for baby-greens like you can buy in a bag at Publix from EarthFare Organics or somebody similar), in addition to more root crops.  The whole garden is 10x36, just in case you're wondering.

And FYI, the most critical step following a garden planting is watering.  New seeds need water every day until at least a week after they're up.  And new plants set into fresh garden: approx 1 week of daily water from the time of planting.  After that, unless it's super hot and dry out, you can get away with every other or every third day (taking breaks, of course, if it's raining).  Or, an easier way to remember is to simply water every day post-planting for 3 weeks.  After that, change to 2-3 times a week.  How much and methods for avoiding (just about) all watering altogether will have to wait for another post.

PS- I was loosely following the direction of the BioIntensive Gardening in Kathy's garden. It's worth learning about.

What a garden!  Thanks to Kathy for allowing us to create in her space.  May there be lots of good eating in the weeks and months to come.

Finally Caught Her on Film

Last spring up visiting Warren Wilson, my Alma Mater I touched base with my buddy, Lindsay Popper, poet extraordinaire, college-mama/grand-ma, admissions guru, plumber and all around amazing person.  I asked, "So, say, Lindsay, where are you going to be come next September?"  She was on the threshold of graduation, and, rather than hem and haw, she quick-responded, "Where do you think I should be?"  "How about," I offered, "you come to Tallahassee and help me out with gardening work?"  She told me she liked that idea.  "Can I make it my 'Plan B'?"  Absolutely.

Lindsay planting lettuce.  In three weeks time, this lettuce was ready to harvest.  I just forgot the camera when I went back.
Well Plan A didn't end up fitting the schedule of the summer camp she's worked at for four years running--and she wasn't about to give that up-- so she came on down.  Lindsay's been here since the end of September; she's helped me out with workshops, worked alongside me putting in gardens and micro-irrigation systems.  She's read loads of books, met the neighbors, memorized a couple poems and even wrote one or two.  A few weeks back, we traveled to Wisconsin, etc (to attend our friends' wedding and to tour urban ag of the north).  Without much of any experience growing food in her past, she's a quick study.  Truth be told, she's got fall gardening in Florida down like the back of her hand.

Here's two more tidbits about Lindsay.  She hates posed-pictures.  Can't stand them.  Truth is, she doesn't much like cameras to capture her image at all-- at least so I can tell.  I only sneaked this one because I uploaded a few garden images from her camera that we took this afternoon-- and found this one a few pictures back.  Ha.  The second tidbit is that Lindsay's super interested in the possibility and potential that churches could take an active (leadership?) role in the food movement, perhaps via hosting community gardens, perhaps by providing a neutral space infused with the Spirit that can get us working across neighborhoods and backgrounds, perhaps by sourcing food pantries with fresh produce.  Who knows.  She's big on Jesus, and is up for chatting with church folk that want to talk gardens.  (Already she's been chatting with folks and helping out at three different churches around Tally with their existing and envisioned gardens.  Are you dreaming about a garden at your church?)

So, Lindsay says that she's definitely here through December.  As one of my mentors used to say, "But she's staying longer than that; she just might no know it yet."  Perhaps the "visitor" tag at the bottom of this post will prove obsolete.

Sweet Potatoes Lindsay dug from two raised beds (in the front yard) when we were cleaning up a couple weeks back to replant with turnips and carrots.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Note on Organizing or the Way I've been looking at things recently

Over the past year, I've received a good-handful of emails from well-meaning folks that want to contribute to Tallahassee's food movement.  The messages go something like this: "I'm a young person excited about growing my own food and am looking for a way to give back.  I'm thinking that I'd like to start a community garden for a ________ [insert: poor, Southside, Frenchtown or other lower dollar/power area].  What do you recommend?  How should I get started?"

I never know quite how to respond.  On the one hand, I recognize that folks are sincerely interested in offering their time and energy to a) improve Tallahassee's food security b)increase the access to fresh food in Food Desert areas of Tallahassee, c) take on a sustainable project that reduces food miles, and d) to get to know folks outside their typical networks.  All that I admire and respect.  I also acknowledge that volunteers are critical for the food movement, and deserve appreciation and opportunities for stimulating engagement.

As an organizer, however, the word for always makes me pause.  ("I'd like to start a community garden for...").  What such a word suggests is that folks who might be the "recipients" of such "service" can't put in a community garden themselves.  They don't know how to garden, they don't have any local garden experts to turn for advice, they don't have a truck or tools, they can't round-up the necessary money, etc.  Or, perhaps, the community members are "ignorant" about the value of community gardens, and so need someone who is "informed" to "educate" them by demonstration.  Then, as the thought-process goes, because a garden is built, people will get involved ("build it and they will come").  There are lots of dangerous underlying assumptions in there, the most critical of which is that certain communities are deficient, i.e., they're unable to do things themselves and need someone else to do it for them (this is often referred to as "helping people").

Let's just address the idea that poor communities can't grow their own food without outside help.  In my own experience here in Tallahassee, I've found that amongst poorer neighborhoods there is a high concentration of folks that grew up on farms (this is not exclusive to poor neighborhoods, it just also happens to be true in poor neighborhoods).  Most of the elders that don't have direct farm experience nonetheless grew up tending and eating from their family garden.  Moreover, folks farmed and gardened to feed their families.  A productive farm or garden meant no one need go hungry that year.  Let me say here that although I run a food gardening business, I've been gardening since eight, and am the "Man in Overalls" I have never relied on my gardening efforts to ensure my family from hunger.  Thus, for me--or anyone else-- to show up un-invited to a community to start a garden for a population that has such storehouses of knowledge is presumptuous to say the least.  Or, in another light it's just kind of silly.

Imagine someone starting a garden in your neighborhood for you because you don't know enough to appreciate fresh food or because they consider you incapable.

Before I bore you with platitudes, I'll share a story.

A few weeks back visiting Amanda Edmonds, Executive Director of Growing Hope in Ypsilanti, MI she took a friend and I to visit a community garden on the lawn at a high-rise housing project.  (Amanda and I met back in August at the ACGA, American Community Gardening Association annual conference.)  PS- take a look at Growing Hope's youtube video if you'd like to first:

Anyway, Amanda showed us the garden.  There were some garden plots in the ground.  Some were raised-beds. There were even a couple wheel-chair accessible beds (like these) for elderly residents.  While looking around at collards and kale and onions, etc, Amanda told us the story about how the garden got started.

Seven years back, after volunteering at another community garden for one-and-a-half years, a garden that she'd helped found, the administration of the public housing project (behind us) got in touch with her.  They told her, "Hey, we've got some money left over in our landscape budget, so," the asked, "Would you design and build us a community garden?"

She said, "No.  I won't.... But I will facilitate an interest meeting."  Continuing the story, she shared, "So I printed some fliers and asked a couple folks I already knew in the building to put them up.  At the meeting about 25-30 showed up; we did some asset mapping, talked about what kind of garden they wanted, how it ought to be designed, what our next steps were, and it went from there."  Not feeling confident about what "asset-mapping" was I asked for clarification.  "Well, for instance, we found that there were folks that had gardened in the room before, folks that had gardened their whole lives-long, folks that had grown up on farms.  They had all the skills they needed in the room."

And the best part of the story came when I asked Amanda, "So who is the coordinator now?"  She looked at me quizzically.  "You know, the garden leader?  Who calls the shots?  Organizes the other gardeners?"  "Oh," she said, "No idea.  One of the gardeners I suppose.  Who knows.  I haven't been involved since we had the first couple meetings."

Later on, in a book Amanda gave me entitled Building Communities Curriculum (published by the ACGA) I looked up Asset-Mapping.  It says, "The Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) premise is that neighborhood [projects] can be achieved by locating all of the available local assets [individual gifts, associations, institutions, land and buildings, and local economies] within a community and connecting them with one another in ways that multiply their effect."  The book further recommended the ABCD Institute.

So, in conclusion, for those of us trying to further the food movement-- that is, for those of us inspired to support community gardens, delve into urban agriculture, share the truth that we can raise tons of food within steps of our kitchens-- we can learn a lot from Amanda, an extremely effective food movement organizer.  For starters, she did her homework; she volunteered for a year-and-a-half first.  She was invited by someone within the housing project to get involved.  She resisted the temptation of doing things for someone, instead worked with the community.  She played a role, and then stepped out of the center because the point wasn't Amanda, the point was the community garden.

Did you hear this neat piece about vacant lots in northern cities and a 60-acre urban farm in Cleveland?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Quick Update from the Road

What a whirlwind.  Whoa.

Last Tuesday morning, I left on a road trip with a friend to attend another friend's wedding--in middle-of-nowhere western Wisconsin.  The wedding was this past Saturday.  With that many miles to travel, we chose to extend a bit on both ends to visit friends, family, and make an urban-agriculture tour of it.

Starting pre-wedding, last Wednesday, we visited Growing Power in Milwaukee.  Imagine greenhouses growing food all winter in Wisconsin. Not only that: imagine that underneath two shelves of greens, in the middle of the greenhouse they're raising 10,000 tilapia in a single tank-- made out of simple materials like 4x4s, plywood and plastic liner.  It's brilliant: with a single pump, they're able to fertilize the plants with fish waste and purify the fish water via the plants.  Closed-loop.

After the wedding-- in rural farm country-- we headed back for the city.  In Chicago, we swung by a Chicago Growing Power site in downtown Grant Park, picked a few veggies (kale, mustards, sorrel, and chard), and then headed over to peek through the fence at Growing Home.  I posted a youtube video of theirs a couple weeks back on my facebook, but it never made the blog:

They're involving homeless folks in urban ag through a job training program if I understand things right. Unfortunately, with 450 miles to drive before we reached Chicago, we didn't make it before closing.  Oh, actually, it was Sunday.  Wouldn't have mattered.

Next, we made the trip from Chicago to Detroit.  There we visited D-Town Farm, a project of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network.  Better than anything else, it's their History Page, that articulates what and why they're doing what they're doing.  I admire their work greatly.  Later in the day, we spent nearly an hour with an Americorps intern named Kaitlyn who works with the Greening of Detroit.  Especially interesting was information about the Garden Resource Program (GRP).  ("The Greening" is a partner of the GRP).  The GRP supports 1200 gardens in the city, about 2/3 of those home gardens, the other 1/3 are community and school gardens.  For $10 a year plus willingness to volunteer on a work day or offer other support to the program, gardeners get free seeds, compost, reduced garden workshop prices, etc.  Lastly, we visited Earthworks a program of a Catholic Soup Kitchen.  As Brother Bob told Lindsay and I, Earthworks grew out of a child asking one of the monks (who was writing up a grocery list)  "What gas station are you going to get your groceries at?"  In such a question, they recognized great potential to educate young folks that food comes-- not from gas stations-- but from the earth.

This morning, in Ypsilanti, just down the road from Detroit, we toured the city with Amanda Edmonds, Executive Director of Growing Hope, who I met in Atlanta at the American Community Gardening Assn annual conference back in August.  (Click here for that blog post.)  In seven years, they've supported 50 community and school garden projects.  They host a weekly farmers' market; have  partnered with 80 low-income families in their community to install gardens at their homes in the past two years; host community garden leadership training once a year; grow and educate twelve months a year using "season extension" greenhouses; bake pizzas in a cob oven that will shortly be protected with a living-roof; sell raised-bed kits; tour 2000+ people yearly through their urban farm; and more.  An amazing organization.  And the reason I admire their work: they're very intentional about partnering, facilitating, and supporting.  They avoid creating dependencies by doing things "for" people.  Instead, they build community capacity so folks can do for themselves: community development at its finest.

Okay, so that wasn't quick.  Oh well.  I learned so much this past week, and it's such exciting stuff I can't hardly keep it to myself.  Roll on food movement.  Tallahassee, the wave is approaching.  Get ready for a heck of a good-eating, local-growing, everybody-learning ride.

I'm nearly home.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Last Spring I Used to Wonder...

Eight months back when this social enterprise of mine was still in its infancy, I used to wonder why-- when I visited the blogs of incredible food gardening nonprofits and social enterprises like that of Growing Power, they posted so infrequently.  Why?  When so many folks looked to them for stories of the emerging food movement, when their CEO, Will Allen is featured on the cover of Time magazine with a heaping handful of red worms and he's invited to a White House state dinner, etc-- why aren't their more posts of their work and Will Allen's adventures?  For instance, right now, their last post is from August 19th where they share this video about a Growing Food and Justice Conference that was hosted by Growing Power in Milwaukee:

I'm beginning to understand.  Take a look at this picture of my truck.  It's been looking like this a lot lately:

After loading with lumber, compost, strawberry plants (for a 4x10 strawberry garden)-- in addition to shovels, rakes, power-tool bag, wheelbarrow, and supplies for a micro-irrigation system at Christ Presbyterian Church, I stopped in at Native Nurseries to purchase some pine straw.  Upon loading it on top, I was beside myself wanting to take a picture.  (Just look at it: notice how the truck sags under the weight.  Even the tires are struggling.  Made me laugh.  And scared me for fear of breaking my truck.)  Having no camera, I ran back inside and Jodi happily obliged my whim for a picture.

Although I have no picture of the strawberry bed, below you'll find a picture of the lettuce bed, installed for the same guy.

Fall is certainly a bountiful and pleasant time of year to food garden.  If you're looking for ideas about what to plant, check out my googledocs "What Can You Grow in a Square."

Thanks for reading.  May your gardens grow like the weeds and the weeds like that plant you wish... oh how you wish it would grow.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Workshops, Workshops, Read All About it

Exhibited and Presented at Senior Center, Thur 9/30

Amidst installing raised food gardens, visiting school gardens (School for Arts and Sciences, Cornerstone, and Roberts Elementary), walking alongside Midtown and Walkerford neighborhoods as they work to create community gardens in their adjacent city parks, I've also been getting ready for a few workshops.  While on the subject, I might as well introduce my new workshops page.  This is where I'll post info regarding food garden workshops on an ongoing basis.

This Wednesday, Oct 6th at 10:30-11:30am
I'll be at Jake Gaither Community Center for Southside Senior Day to teach "Fall Vegetable Gardening."

Saturday, Oct 16th at 9am
I'll be leading a "Fall Food Garden Workshop" at Manna on Meridian food pantry for food recipients and church members just behind Faith Presbyterian Church (in the childrens' "God's Giving Garden") on N. Meridian Rd at John Knox.  "Save money – Eat Well – Improve your children’s health –  Enjoy your own collard greens –  Turn small spaces or containers into productive gardens."

Sunday, Oct 17th at 2pm
I'll be hosting a "Fall Food Garden Basics" in my personal garden to offer individualized attention to those who hope to start raising a portion of their own food, but don't know how to get started.  For more info or to sign up, click here.  Registration is $15.  ($5 cash back with the Tallahassee Democrat ad that's running the week of Sun, Oct. 3rd through Wed, Oct. 6th.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Table-Top Herb Garden + links & links

This is a quick post to share a picture  of my most recent project in addition to some links to stories, a conference, programs, organizations, resources, a magazine, etc that all relate to the urban ag/food security/community garden food movement.

First, a picture of one (of two) table-top herb garden's I completed on Friday for Mary Louise:

Next, a series of links:

From NYT Magazine: "Field Report: A Michigan Teen Farms Her Backyard"
Youth Build -- From their website: "In YouthBuild programs, low-income young people ages 16-24 work toward their GEDs or high school diplomas, learn job skills and serve their communities by building affordable housing, and transform their own lives and roles in society."
 (Put these together and imagine "Youth Grow.")

Urban Farm Magazine

Detroit Black Community Food Security Coalition Recognizing that 85% of Detroit's citizens are African American and the majority of the food movement leadership in the city was euro-american, this group has undertaken to develop black leaders to educate a largely black population in urban farming, community gardening,  food security, etc.

Community Garden Start-Up Guides from the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA)

Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) "Food Culture Justice: 14th annual conference in NOLA.  Or find the pdf brochure here.  These folks are at the forefront of local, state, and national efforts to work on food security policy and in using urban agriculture as a means to achieve food access amidst food deserts.  As a matter of fact, they wrote the primer on urban agriculture back in 2002 before it was a buzz-phrase.

The Garden Project is a community and home gardening program of the Greater Lansing (MI) Food Bank.  Ample Harvest is a website-tool to connect home food gardeners with extra produce to food banks and pantries that will distribute the food to folks who will eat it.

Science Daily article: "Organic Farms have Better Fruit and Soil, Lower Environmental Impact, Study Finds"

Growing Hope in Ypslanti, MI has provided me with inspiration aplenty in recent weeks.  I attended a workshop entiltled "What can grow in a 4x4 square?" in Atlanta at the ACGA anual conference presented by Amanda Edmonds, their executive director.

"Many Faces of Hunger" an NPR story about a photo documentary of hungry folks in the states.

Farm Together Now, a book project.  From their website: "Farm Together Now meets with people across the country who are challenging the conventions of industrialized farming and exclusive green economies. This part-travelogue, part-oral history, part-creative exploration of food politics will introduce readers to twenty groups working in agriculture and sustainable food production in the U.S. Throughout 2009 the authors visited twenty farms from coast to coast, talking to farmers about their engagement in sustainable food production, public policy and community organizing efforts."

Urban Agriculture Training at Michigan State University
We could have something like this here in Tallahassee, no?  Perhaps through TCC's Workforce Development or another venue?  A possible KCCI catylization?  How about join the organic ag training with a leadership development institute for community, school, church and neighborhood gardens?  Lastly, add on an entrepreneurial program for youth-- called "youth grow"-- and you'd have Tallahassee's very own Center for Urban Agriculture.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fall Is In the Air

The past two nights, I've slept with my windows open.  Pleasant temperatures are creeping in, and soon will be here to stay, which means: It's time to begin fall planting.

September and October are the primo months to plant fall/over-wintering gardens in Tallahassee.  If you're just getting started, you should also know that fall gardens are far easier than spring gardens.  Less heat, fewer bugs, more on-going produce.

Fall/Winter gardens are filled with green leafy vegetables, alums (that's the onion family), and root vegetables (just not of the potato variety).  Let me spell that out: green-leafy vegetables = collards, mustards, kale, cabbage, arugula, lettuces, spinach, and chard.  Garlic, onions, chives, garlic chives, green onions, and shallots are all in the alum family.  Fall root vegetables include radishes, turnips, rutabagas, beets, carrots, and parsnips.   Three categories: green leafy vegetables, alum, and root veggies other than potatoes.

A few extras for the fall garden are: cauliflower, broccoli, celery, and cilantro.  The first two-- in the brassica family-- are related to collards, cabbage, mustards, and kale.  Celery and cilantro are in the Umbelliferae (Apiaceae) family that also includes parsley, dill and fennel (all three of which can also be planted in the cooler temperatures of September through May).  Carrots and parsnips are part of the same family.

So, if you want to get technical about it, there are five vegetable families/species that work well in fall/over-wintering gardens: 1)Brassicas (collards, kale, cabbage, mustards, cauliflower, broccoli, radishes, turnips, rutabagas, brussel sprouts and others), 2) Alums (onions, garlic, chives, shallots), 3) Umbelliferae (also known as the carrot family includes: carrots, parsnips, celery, dill, fennel, cilantro), 4) Asteraceae/Compositae (lettuce and chickory), and 5) Amarantheceae (chard, beets and spinach).

But that's confusing as all get-out.  So, my recommendation is to stick with three categories: 1)green-leafy vegetables, 2) Onion-smelling alums, 3) root vegetables other than potatoes. And just know that there are a few stray things that don't fit into our non-scientific categories.

Last night I dug summer sweet potatoes, munched on fresh okra, smelled the basil, tested a hot banana pepper-- all while prepping a garden bed with compost to prepare for a patch of green-leafy vegetables and carrots.  I'll be planting seeds this evening.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Whew, hot!

It's been an exciting week.

Last Friday morning, I visited Astoria Park.  Guided by the leadership of Merlin John Baptiste, new director of Astoria's afterschool program, they're organizing a school garden. My role was to present-- along with Ms Miaisha Mitchell, who's done extensive childhood obesity and diabetes work-- on the values (health, academic, behaviorial, etc) of gardens.  By the end of the presentation two more teachers had volunteered to help make it happen.

Saturday, I took a trip to the UF Ag Extention in Quincy for an "Edible Landscape" workshop hosted by The Gardening Friends of the Big Bend, Inc.

Later that afternoon, I visited the FAMU Grape Harvest Festival with two students involved with Tallahassee Sustainability Group, an official Florida State student group.  While walking the vineyards, we discussed how to find FAMU students talking/working on urban agriculture and community gardens in order that students from both FSU and FAMU might coordinate or eventually partner on common endeavors.  How to network with FAM folks?  But duh!  We were walking on FAMU property.

Inside the research building we met Ms Harriet Paul, Dean of International Ag who has been involved with urban gardening for decades.  (Next year her department will be starting an urban gardening program at four area high schools in four different counties.  The students involved with the best garden will qualify to apply for a trip to visit South Africa's urban gardens.)  Ms Paul also referred us to Dr Ray Mobley, FAMU Extension Agent responsible for community gardening and to Mr Damon Miller, who oversees the Orange Ave (FAMU) Community Garden.

Sunday, my friends, I took a day off.

Monday, bright and early, the first time in a while, I returned to the roadside.

Standing beside the road is just too much fun. From the rolled eyes, to the honks, to the questions ("What are you growing this fall?"), to the double-takes, to the lady saying, "I wish I could vote for you," to waves, congratulations, head nods, and looks of utter confusion; I love it all. Even the sweat at 12-noon in the middle of Apalachee Parkway.  Every day since Monday, I've been out on the roadside at rush times and will be through Thursday afternoon.  In between roadsiding...

Monday mid morning, I met with Marc Dick with TCC's Workforce Development.  He offered me the opportunity to teach food gardening classes within the Workforce Development "Green Academy."  I'm excited to see how this might develop.

Later Monday morning, I swung by to meet briefly with folks in the City of Tallahassee's Environmental Policy and Energy Resources Office to discuss the possibility of creating a sanctioned process for the establishment of community gardens on public land (e.g., vacant lots, city parks).

At noon on Monday, I joined the rest of the Tallahassee Food Policy Council (FPC) at Second Harvest Food Bank's new facility on Four Points Way to update one another on conferences (Small Farms conference in S. Florida, the American Community Gardening Association annual conference, and others), to talk about a "Local Food Guide" in development by members of the FPC, and to discuss how to link interested parties with already existing community garden and small farm space.

Tuesday, I joined up with students leaders in the Tallahassee Sustainability Group again-- this time at Ghazvini Learning Center's school garden and green house.  Our task was to pull weeds and summer crops to prep the garden for fall planting.  The Ghazvini teachers Gale Albritton and Shannon Gooden and the FSU students should get an award for their good work.  In addition to overseeing the planting eight or ten raised beds by students, they also coordinate seedling and propagation activities in their green house-- plus have a demonstration hydroponic system they're looking to turn into an Aquaponic system complete with Tilapia.

For lunch on Tuesday, I met up with Mike Herrin, Goodwood Museum's Director of Horticulture.  There's talk of hosting a Leon County horticultural afterschool program at Goodwood if a grant comes through.  So we dreamed about possibilities.

Wednesday morning, I met with Tracy Haley, science teacher at Cobb Middle School.  She dreams of having a school garden wherein every four kids could have their own 4x4 raised beds to maintain in order to observe, compare, experiment, etc.

And today, lunch, I met with Edward Accoff, representative to CONA, Council of Neighborhood Associations to plan for an upcoming presentation on Sept 13th regarding the Tallahassee Delegation's attendance to the American Community Gardening Association in early August.

Thing are moving forward y'all.  It's hot.  I'm sweating doing what I love.  Garden Consultations Thursday Friday.  Next week I'll be putting in my first fall garden.  Get ready for fall.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Growing Movement

Back home from the American Community Gardening Association annual conference in Atlanta, GA.

Below you can see our Tallahassee Delegation (left to right): Qasima P. Boston, Robbie Estevez, Nathan Ballentine, Joyce Brown (to see Joyce's reflections on the trip, here's her blog), Thomas Lynch (below), Mark Tancig (above), and Merlin John Baptiste.  After a day and a half of the conference-- where we joined over 250 other community garden leaders from 38 states and five countries--folks began responding to my introduction ("Nathan, from Tallahassee) by saying, "You're another person from there.  How many of you are there?!"  Aside from New York-- which brought a bus of 40 people-- we were one of the larger groups.

The conference was tremendous, both in terms of the quality of the people, the presentations/workshops and the tours around Atlanta.  Here's a partial list of links to organizations/ farmers/ programs that presented or were referenced: Growing Hope in Ypsilanti, MI; GRuB (Garden Raised Bounty) in Olympia, WA; Farmer D Organics in Atlanta, GA; Johnathan Tescher with Georgia Organic's Urban Agricultural Training Program also in Atlanta, GA; Truly Living Well farm in Atlanta, GA; Austin, Texas' Sustainable Food Center; Portland, Oregon's Parks and Recreation Community Garden Program; and Sankofa Vision in Shreveport, LA.

Although the conference offerings were exciting, the piece that caused me the most enthusiasm was bonding and strategizing with our Tallahassee Group.  (Below is a picture of us at the "Taste of the South" party Friday evening at one of Atlanta's Urban Farms.)

At the close of every day, we gathered for "report backs," at which we would update each other on the various workshops we'd attended, people and ideas we'd encountered and/or the local community gardens we visited separately.  By splitting up, we were able to cover more ground, seeping up as much information and inspiration as possible.

On Sunday, just after the close of the conference, we gathered again; this time the conversation was focused on hopes and dreams for Tallahassee.  We each filled out an index card with two prompts (#1 Inspired by the conference, what do you want to work on upon your return to Tallahassee?  And #2 What is a challenge or question that you anticipate that you'll encounter as you strive for your dream?) and then presented our ideas to the delegation.   I'd like to record here the dreams and challenges that we shared with one another.

Qasima wants to start a Youth Food Leadership Institute that will train young people to be community garden, healthy eating and living, and urban agricultural leaders; she hopes to involve and inspire them through the arts.  She anticipates difficulties fundraising for such a project.

Mark wants to help "further promote community gardens in Tallahassee by getting more people involved.  He anticipates there will be challenges associated with "finding out what people want and relating it to gardening."

Merlin John Baptiste wants to champion the founding of a school garden at Astoria Park Elementary.  She also wants to create an agricultural "extention" program whereby Astoria Park students could travel to the Virgin Islands to learn at the many sustainable farms which Merlin knows about.  Funding is an anticipated challenge.

Robbie would like to see the core group (our delegation to the conference) of "like-minded" community garden activists expanded.  He also wants to establish regular meetings to solidify current and future relationships with other food garden/ community garden leaders.  His question was: "Are you with me? and When's the next time we can meet?"  A man of action.

Joyce wants "to create a product that will enable us to engage the community in community gardens" possibly employing the arts as a medium through which to approach/involve people.  She anticipates it will be difficult to recruit stakeholders who have enough time to contribute meaningfully.

Thomas Lynch wants to champion a Farm to School Program for Leon County Schools.  He anticipates challenges with "politics."

My dream is this: "I want to help develop and facilitate a series of workshops in Tallahassee that will network, inspire and equip emerging community garden leaders (specifically targeting teachers, religious communities, neighborhoods, youth centers and companies interested in starting community gardens)."  My question is: "How do I make sure the groups I recruit represent a cross section of neighborhoods, race and income categories so as to ensure a dynamic process?"

- - -

Thanks to all who supported our trip by purchase of Food Garden Consultation Certificates.  It was a huge help.  All told, the certificates covered the cost of three registrations.  That's huge.  Thanks.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Community Garden Conference

This coming weekend, I'll be leading a Tallahassee delegation to the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) annual conference in Atlanta, GA.  (Conference website for more details). Mark Tancig and Robbie Estevez, representing the Damayan Garden Project, Qasima P Boston (Project Food) and Joyce Brown (CANDI), both with ties to the Greater Frenchtown Revitalization Council, Merlin JnBaptiste, teacher at Astoria Park, and Thomas Lynch, a teacher at Riley Elementary will all be going.  The objective is a) for us to return inspired and equipped to be stronger community garden leaders and b) to build an inter organizational/institutional team to further the food movement here in Tallahassee.

The conference will cover a cross section of community garden topics (including one especially interesting workshop to me: Making More Gardens: Cooperation/Collaboration In Challenging Times: How typical non-profits, governments, businesses and congregations can find common ground to grow food, improve diets and support healthy neighborhoods-- hosted by a Portland, OR ecumenical group).  In addition to workshops, the conference will include tours to a select few of Atlanta's 250+ community gardens.  I hear three to four hundred practicing and aspiring community garden activists from across the country are registered.

I attended the ACGA's train-the-trainer event back in January, and I continue to draw on the folks I met, stories I heard, and information acquired.  I can only see great things fruiting in terms of our attendance to the ACGA annual conference, especially with the discussion of community gardens, urban farms, and other means of improving the Tallahassee food environment popping up ever more frequently around town.

Would you help support our trip?  I've paid for four of our six registrations, and anticipate footing a significant portion of our travel expenses as well.  If I were organized as a nonprofit, I would solicit donations, but that's not my business structure.  So here's what I wonder:  Would you be willing to purchase a $50 Food Garden Consultation Certificate for yourself or a friend to help fund our trip?  In so doing, you'll support the development of Tallahassee community garden leaders.

Here's how it works.
1) Using the Paypal button above, you purchase a Food Garden Consultation.
2) I send you a certificate.
3) We arrange a time for the consultation, and I stop in for an hour to advise and answer questions you may have about soils, sunlight, food garden placement and design, seasonally appropriate vegetables, regionally appropriate fruit trees, composting, etc.

My hope is to raise $500 through Food Garden Consultations.  That's ten certificates.  Please pass word if it's something you deem worthy of your endorsement.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I love Summer

Two weeks away and I come back to...

Well, let's be honest: the first thing I noticed was the 90+ degree oven-breath that greeted me outside the airport.  Whew.  Florida in the summertime.

That's not all that greeted me upon my return from North Carolina and Philadelphia, however.  This morning I rose to wakefulness by strolling through the garden to nibble and harvest: 10+ pounds of tomatoes, a zucchini the size of my left leg, three cantaloupe-sized pumpkins, green beans, dry-soup beans, banana peppers, cayenne peppers, basil, 3-5 pounds of fresh apples, cucumbers, a spaghetti squash, a handful of blueberries and one remaining super-late strawberry.  Not a bad way to start a summer day.  (I'll get some pictures up when I relocate the camera.)

By the way, Wednesday up in Philadelphia, I visited Mill Creek Urban Farm located in West Philadelphia.  I went there with a handful of young people from my church to volunteer-- all part of a week-long summer service-trip.  Surrounded by poverty, corner-stores, unemployment, urban decay and some great neighbors, Mill Creek Urban Farm plays as a host site for school groups to learn about healthy eating, sustainable practices like cob-construction and green roofs, urban agriculture and bee keeping.  It also provides healthy, fresh food to a neighborhood (through sales and food pantry donations) that is otherwise quite the "food desert."  Mill Creek Urban Farm, adjacent Mill Creek Community Garden, and Aspen Farms Community Garden, right around the corner, are amongst the only means neighbors have to procure fresh food within several miles of row houses and closed-down industry.

Due to a church emergency, I had to return unexpectedly on a flight yesterday afternoon.  Some of the church folks remaining will work with City Harvest, another urban farming/community gardening endeavor in Philadelphia.  Super cool: it's a partnership between the Philly Horticultural Society, their prison system, a local farm and coop, Philly's major food bank and others.  Among other things City Harvest coordinates a seedling operation at the prison; afterwhich the baby plants are distributed to community gardens throughout the Philadelphia area.  Also, City Havest coordinates the distribution of community garden surplus to food cupboards throughout the city.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

School Garden here, School Gardens there

There is more food movement work going on here in Tallahassee than anyone-- including myself-- knows.  Take for instance the number and quality of school gardens here in the Tallahassee area.

Here is a list of the schools at which I know there are school gardens: Hartsfield Elementary, Astoria Park Pre-K, Cornerstone Learning Community, Richards High, Fairview Middle, Nims Middle, Ghazvini Learning Center, SAIL High, Apalachee Elementary, Magnolia Elementary and Middle, School for Arts and Sciences, Grassroots School, Kate Sullivan Elementary, FAMU High, PACE and Roberts Elementary.  Additionally, there are gardens in the works and/or planned at Riley Elementary, Leon High School, Fort Braden, and another garden being dreamed at Astoria Park for the 4th graders.  In no way do I believe this list to be all inclusive; these are just the schools I know and am currently remembering.  *(PS- It should be noted that the Damayan Garden Project has helped start and continues to periodically support several--Nancy George, Damayan Director says "over half,"-- of the gardens in the above list.)*  (If you know of other teachers or schools doing food gardening with their kids, please let me know).

***More School Food Gardens that folks clued me in on via the Man in Overalls Facebook page: Gadsden Head Start, Florida High, Raa Middle, Holy Comforter, Oakridge Elementary, and Trinity Catholic.***

In terms of quality, last week I met with Shannon Gooden, a teacher at Ghazvini Learning Center who will be entirely responsible for the Ghazvini raised-beds and impressive greenhouse.  She shared with me her dream of a "community within the school system of school gardeners" i.e., a network of gardener-teachers designed as a forum in which to collaborate, share ideas and resources, learn from each other, etc; a mutual-aid network of teacher-gardeners.  In attempts to support her vision, I've been touching base with folks here and there that I know (or have heard) are doing school gardens.

Last week, I met with Nims' Mr Williams, who along with Principal Collins, Ms Jones, and Mr Powell is heading up the Nims garden.  I also spoke with Mr Landrum at Hartsfield who in partnership with Ms Elsaka are leading their gardening and agricultural education program that's part of their Hawks after school Program.  Today, I met Mr Brown who is the sponsor of the Phoenix environmental club at Leon.  He plans to start a raised-bed garden with his kids this coming fall. 

Twenty minutes after leaving Leon, I met Ms Dennis, an ESE/EDS teacher at Kate Sullivan.  She's got several raised beds with herbs and flowers.  Her students are growing peppers and tomatoes in old (big) soup cans.  Her visually impaired students are maintaining container gardens with various herbs and other plants.  It's quite the set-up between portables and board-walks.  She was full of stories and great quotes.  As she toured me around her beds, she said, "I can't teach without getting my kids' hands in the dirt."  Around the corner at her prized rosemary plant she told me about the day when one of her "tough, ganster kids" came in and dropped a little baggie on her desk with something suspicious in it. She said, "I was thinking, 'Oh, what is this?' I was worried wondering what I was going to have to deal with...." Things turned out well though: "It was collard seeds.  He wanted to grow greens like his grand-dad."

The point is that there are lots of great folks doing good work.  The extra-exciting part is that we're beginning to discover each other.  It is as though there has been mass-movement of wild-flower seeds planted, we've sprouted, begun to grow and are now beginning to recognize that we're all part of a larger meadow.  Welcome to the food movement.

 (If you know of other teachers or schools doing food gardening with their kids, please let me know).

Monday, May 24, 2010

Crop Mob

Who's up for organizing a Tallahassee Crop Mob?

USA Today, by Judy Keen

The mob descended on Chris Wimmer's farm on a rainy Saturday bearing pitchforks and shovels. They went to work quickly, relocating a compost pile, digging weeds and hauling fencing.

The Jefferson County Crop Mob, a group of mostly urban volunteers, spends one Saturday a month sweating for small-scale farmers such as Wimmer. In return, they learn about the food they consume and tips about organic and sustainable farming.

"It's like farming 101," says Derek Bryant... Click here for more.

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