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Showing posts from 2010

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

Registration Info Here.

"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)
Tallahassee.

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 …

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 prep…

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 …

"Wowww, Look at Our Garden!"

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

Here's a few images from the workshop:




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?  A…

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.


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, w…

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.

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, me…

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…

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, pick…

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, powe…

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 –…

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-a…

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 …

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 …

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 Hop…

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 …

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.  Surroun…

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 …

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.