Man in Overalls helps you #GrowYourGroceries!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Roadside Birthday Party Thursday, 4:30-6pm in New Leaf Parking Lot under the old Ross sign

If you're free on Thursday 4:30-6, stop by, make a sign and roadside with me to encourage other folks to food garden in Tallahassee. Bring a pitch fork or shovel if you've got one and a few dollars for the food bank. Or you could donate here. It's my birthday; hope you can make it.

For the first person that cuts a check to Second Harvest of the Big Bend in front of me for $250, I'll install a 4x10 raised-bed food garden in their yard for free. For the first person that cuts a check for $40 to Second Harvest, I'll come to their home for a free food garden consultation.

We'll make signs, wave to folks, talk about any food garden questions you may have, and brainstorm ways to empower folks to grow their own food and share it.

No joke: It's my birthday.  We're having a roadside partyI'm fundraising for Second Harvest Food Bank because food security is critical for the food movement.  And, it'd be great to touch base with you.  Come on, come on.  I hope you can make it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Nothing Could be Finer...

I've been out of town the past two weeks, went up to North Carolina to keynote at a youth retreat and took the opportunity to make a road trip out of the deal.  My partner, Mary Elizabeth (with whom I posed my Tallahasseean Gothic images) and I took the opportunity to visit friends, mentors, and sites along the way.  We stopped in Atlanta, Charlotte, and Asheville on the way north to Banner Elk, the site of the retreat.  On the way back down, we passed through Warren Wilson and camped just south of Savannah, GA.

Vacation though it was, I hardly left food gardening in Tallahassee.

In Charlotte, I stopped in at Providence Presbyterian Church, to touch base with some folks I've been advising that are expanding their church's food-bank garden into a full-on community garden with participating (non-member) gardeners from the neighborhood.

During free time in Banner Elk at the retreat, Beth, a new acquaintance invited me to join her on a quick visit to her friends' farm just down the road.  The farm,  Trosly Farm was started by Beth's friends last year when they purchased a couple acres in a "hollar."  They raise chickens, ducks and plan to grow vegetables for a CSA.  If things go to plan, the young couple will quit their part-time jobs and turn full-time farmers by this time next year.

While visiting Asheville and Warren Wilson, I was able to catch up with an old friend, Mary Edson.  Mary now works for Farm Girl Designs which does edible, medicinal and herbal landscaping in addition to urban farming in Asheville.  It was great to talk with her about employer/employee relationships, how an employer might empower their employees with support and "space" to be creative and productive.  Also, since Mary's specialty is flowers, it was great to learn from her because, in all honesty, I'm a flower ignoramous.

And the stories are always in plenty supply.  Lauren, a friend working at Warren Wilson told me about a service trip she led to Birmingham; one day they worked at a place called Jones Valley Urban Farm, which "grows organic produce and flowers, educates the community about healthy food, and helps make Birmingham a vibrant community." I heard stories from my buddy Eric who works in the Warren Wilson Garden and worked last summer at the local elementary school garden, where, he told me, he harvested hundreds of pound of heirloom tomatoes, and-- with no kids around in June/July-- shared a great plenty, sold some at market, and canned 33 quarts worth that were spotted or somehow tainted.

There is great work being done.  In good time, I'm back to continue mine.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Another Set of Links and Videos

Once you delve into the emerging food movement, it's amazing how much there is to it, how fast it's growing and how much potential it holds.

In the past hour, I received an email from my father containing a link to "Garden Girl TV" with Patti Moreno, talked with a man that lives on Wakulla Springs road that has a one acre property on which he hopes to establish "an active edible landscape with naturally grown foods, free range chickens, rabbits, etc" and visited, a website that the fellow told me about.  There is so much going on.

The Garden Girl's following You Tube clip about Raised Beds in the City is espcially interesting to me because it shows how to build a cold-frame overtop her raised beds for extended (early or late) season food growing.  Also, her chicken houses that fit perfectly atop her raised beds borders on brilliant.

In addition to the last video, take a look at the Path to Freedom (or the Urban Homestead-- same folks, same website) links and videos below.  In the midst of LA, they growing 6000 pound of food on their 1/5 acre lot.

About Urban Homestead
On Film: Info on "HomeGrown - the 21st Century Family Farm", a documentary about the urban homestead

Anthony, the guy off Wakulla Springs road told me that these folk are his model for what he wants to aim for.  In other words, give it a couple years, and we might have our own Path-to-Freedom-style, mini-farm-homestead just down the road.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Springtime Is in the Air

What a gorgeous day to work on a food garden!  I hear it'd gonna rain again, and some coolness will follow.  But for the time being, we get to bask in the glory of early March warmth.  Didn't even have to burn the woodstove tonight.

A new Square Foot Garden for Candie and Don.  Per their requests: Tomatoes (Better Boy, Early Girl, Heritage), bell peppers, banana peppers, eggplant, green (snap) beans, arugula, basil, cilantro, two kinds of parsley, garlic chives, dill, romaine and butter crunch lettuces and nasturtiums.

If you look real close, you can see the micro irrigation at work.  There are three mini-sprinklers spaced down the center of the bed.  Each mini-sprinkler is individually (and easily) adjustable to water a circle sized from one to five or six feet in diameter.  The whole system is on a user-friendly timer, so no worrying about not watering seeds enough or accidentally killing your starts because you ran out of time to water before rushing to work.  Some folks scoff a bit at micro irrigation as "whistles and bells", but the truth of the matter is that micro-irrigation is extremely practical.  I can't say how many plants and seeds I've killed by forgetting to water (and this is my business!).  Micro-irrigation: affordable, convenient, helps you grow food for self and neighbor.  If you have questions about micro-irrigation for food gardens, send me an email.  Or, talk to the folks that know all the ends and outs: Just Fruits.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Blogging Past Midnight; It's Spring, Indeed

People invite me to their houses to for me to offer ideas and advice and/or to scout out sites for where I'll place their new Square Foot Gardens... and every now-and-again, they ask, "So is this all you do?"  This question always makes me smile.

I know (I assume) this question originates from intrigue.  How cool, they must think, I'm able to keep busy just doing food gardens.  If they only knew...

It's springtime and the soil is growing warm.

Starting at 8am yesterday morning, I led a team of high school boys (who are members at my church) around town doing community and school garden projects.  We started at our church, Faith Presbyterian where we top-dressed and-- with the help of the elementary kids-- planted "God's Giving Garden."  From there, we took two trips to Hartsfield Elementary to deliver a load of compost (compliments of the Damayan Garden Project) for their newly cleaned-up garden.  Last, the boys and I visited Bethel Towers to overhaul their raised-bed garden.

After picking up a few tools where I'd left them at church, I went home for a brief pause.  At 3pm, I hosted a seven 4-10 year-olds for a food garden workshop.  After hammering a raised-bed together in my front yard, filling it with compost, and planting it (with tomatoes, peppers, shallots, squash and beans), all the kids went home with their own raised-bed kits.  It was quite the event.  Now that my neighbor Heather has blessed us with bees, and we've recently acquired chickens, the kids must have thought we are real urban farmers.

And so goes springtime: shoveling compost, garden installs, consultations, Just Fruits, doing the books, and blogging past midnight.  I wouldn't trade it for a desk job any day.

To keep things visually interesting, here is a picture from a week back where I did an intro-garden-maintenance talk at the Havana Community Garden orientation.  Do you know that all of their 38 15x15ft plots are rented and they have a waiting list?  Do you know they only started organizing their community garden last fall?  Kudos for Havana.

Below I share picture-space with the amazing Dr. Jennifer Taylor of the FAMU state-wide Small Farms Program.  Just so happened, she also was in Havana to offer an intro-talk to gardeners.

Wanna know what's exciting my sense of possibilities the past few weeks?  Jennifer Taylor and I are working together on dreams to gather all the Big Bend community and school gardeners, activists, organizations, resource people, and supportive governmental types for the "First Ever Community Gardening Gathering of the Big Bend."  As I know more, I'll pass it along.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Magnolia Students Break Ground on a Pizza Garden" -- Tallahassee Democrat, 3/1/2010

Click here for the Story or... most of it is copied below.
By Teresa Youngblood, special to the Democrat, previous Magnolia School Teacher

When his father asked him about his school day, Caleb Mathison, 13, replied, "I feel good. I moved a lot of dirt."

And he and 15 of his classmates have the muddy shoes and dirt-caked fingernails to prove it.

On Friday, the middle-schoolers along with two teachers, two parents, and Nathan Ballentine, "The Man in Overalls" behind local gardening business Tallahassee Food Gardens, transformed a 20- by 15-foot unused yard into 10 individual raised garden beds at the Magnolia School on Tharpe Street.

The school has one of the longest-standing school gardens in the area, first started in 1990. But the current class of middle-school students wanted to break ground on an additional garden to make better use of a sunny space and to have something of their own to contribute.

The teachers were delighted to help, but had their own aspirations for the project.

"Hopefully, we'll grow enough food to eat a meal together on Fridays," said Sharon McQueen, one of the middle-school teachers. "We wanted them to get outdoors, and learn about food, but also, to do something real and hands-on where they were working together, something that builds community."

McQueen asked Ballentine to help create the garden, which the students designed and will maintain themselves. When he arrived at lunch time, he wore his trademark dungarees and brought a truck full of compost. He got right to work, putting tools in students' hands and showing them how to till and weed the soil.

"I want everyone to be able to eat good," said Ballentine, "and that's going to mean an increase in the number of people who grow their own food."

How to grow food is part of the human knowledge base, he said, and that information comes not only from people who consider themselves farmers, but also those who learned how to grow food as children.

"I got started gardening when I was 8, as part of a homeschooling project," said Ballentine. He smiled remembering his early efforts: "I grew nasty lettuce and weird, split carrots that first year."

But from that humble beginning he learned how to grow his own food, a skill he is now committed to sharing with others.

Find the full story by clicking here.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Childhood Health-- Another Food Movement Component

Health-- especially with a focus on childhood health-- is another thriving component of the food movement that I have yet to mention.

My primary link into this emerging expression of the food movement is Jan Daly who works with the Leon County Health Department.  I put in a garden at Jan's house last December.  While digging in the dirt together, we share our dreams of community gardens, widespread access to fresh, affordable food.  Somewhere amidst the conversation, she told me about her participation with HEAT, Health Equity Alliance of Tallahassee.

HEAT, co-founded by Miaisha Michell (with the Greater Frenchtown Governors Revitalization Council) and Lance Gravlee (Medical Anthropologist from the University of Florida) is interested in the distribution of health in Tallahassee.  Which communities are the most healthy?  Which the least?  From that starting point, they're looking at why some communities are less healthy than others.  Is it medical care?  Stress?  Economics?  Access to healthy food?  This is the point at which the food council comes in.

The Food Council, acting under the auspices of HEAT is drawing together the health care community, including health departments as well as organizations and institutions working on childhood obesity and diabetes in addition to community and school garden folks like the Damayan Garden Project.  There are more collaborators; that's who I remember for the moment.

I attended a Food Council meeting in the middle of February.  Mark Tancig, board member of Damayan presented on best practices of Food Policy Councils from around the country, highlighting the work being done in Atlanta and Vancouver.  After Mark's piece, I presented on some of the best food access/community gardening practices around Tallahassee and the greater Southeast.  At the next meeting, the Council will decide how to move forward with additional research about food access and what steps the Council should undertake and advocate to make healthy, affordable food within reach of the entire Tallahassee population.  And note, their inspiration is coming primarily from health-- especially childhood health.

One last piece that I'll share with you at this point:
Today I attended a community meeting hosted by the Blue Foundation. It's part of their $8 Million Initiative to Address Childhood Obesity.  Their aim is to build off of local successes and programs to address the growing epidemic of childhood obesity.  Closely tied in with obesity is childhood diabetes, or Type 2 Diabetes which recently had to be renamed from "Adult Onset Diabetes" because so many children were contracting the disease.  Present at the meeting were all kinds of folks from health departments, the Department of Transportation which is looking at walkability and bike lanes, nonprofit activists, disability nonprofit employees, volunteer organizations, university professors and programmatic representatives, as well as day-care/Head Start directors, etc.  Every break-out session that I heard about talked about the importance of growing food, community gardens, farmers' markets, etc.

This is an important segment of the food movement.  Their work, my work, our work... is healthier kids, healthier communities via good food and physical activity.

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