Man in Overalls helps you #GrowYourGroceries!

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Below I've copied my Resources Page because I've grown aware that a lot of folks don't know I've got one and/or don't know where to turn for a go-to destination on the web related to food gardening and food movement resources.  Take a quick (or long) look through.  In the short or long-term future, you can come back and find them by clicking the "resources" link just over to the right under the google search box.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and all that jazz...

Tallahassee Food Gardens Quick Reference Guides
What Can You Grow in a Square
- Square Foot Gardening (in raised beds), plant spacing, seasonal varieties
Food Gardening 101
- The Basics: local planting dates, how to prep beds, plant, water, etc
Cover Up that Soil
- Primer on the what, why, when, and best practices of growing cover crops
Types of Community Gardens
-Outlines the three major models of community gardens with local examples

Additional Quick References
Just Fruits and Exotics' Vegetable Planting Guide
- Planting dates, depths, yields, days to harvest, row spacing
Just Fruits and Exotics' "Just the Facts" about N FL Fruit Trees
- Locally adapted fruit trees, berries, grapes, kiwis and more
Native Nurseries' Pest Solutions
- A table that lists pests on one axis and available pest products on the other.
Just Fruits and Exotics' Beneficial Insect Guide
- Most insects are on your team.  How to bring the good ones in.
Cornell's "Home Composting"
- Composting Essentials, How to compost yard waste, food scraps, etc

Community Garden Resources

Local Sources (From which I secure 90% or more of my supplies)
Capital City Lumber (2501 Lonnbladh Rd, (850) 385-0315)
J H Dowling (705 W. Madison Street, (850) 222-2616)
Capital Cash and Carry (1021 Railroad Avenue, (850) 224-2131)

Vegetable and herb plants, Seeds, and Soil Amendments:
Gramlings Seed Store (1010 S. Adams Street, (850) 222-4812)
Native Nurseries
Tallahassee Nurseries
Heinz Nurseries
Natural Matters (local Fertrell -organic- Fertilizer distributor)

Fruit Trees, Berries and Grape Vines:
Just Fruits and Exotics

I Also occasionally Order Seeds, Tools, Extra Supplies, etc from
Bountiful Gardens
Seed Savers Exchange
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
A M Leonard

My Top Three "Go-To" Food Gardening Books
1)Down to Earth Gardening Down South (Tallahassee native, Lacy Bullard)
2)How to Grow More Vegetables (John Jevons)
3)Square Foot Gardening (Mel Bartholomew)

For Aspiring Community Food System (Food Movement) Facilitators
On Community Organizing and Facilitating:
The Long Haul (Myles Horton)
     - the best book I've read about building and sustaining social movements
Growing Communities Curriculum (from the ACGA)
    - "How to" on Community Garden Facilitation and Com. Organizing
Ripples from the Zambezi: Passion, Entrepreneurship...
     - Great stories about facilitating vs doing thing "for" others
Change by Design
    - use design-thinking in your efforts to grow a new food system

Understanding the Food Movement
"The Food Movement, Rising" (Michael Pollan)
"A Good Food Manifesto" (Will Allen)

Urban Agriculture
CFSC Urban Ag Primer
City Farmer (Urban Ag News Blog)
"Start an Urban Farm" (ATTRA/NCAT publication)
Beginning Farmer's Amazing resource of Urban Ag Links

To Understand the Current Industrialized Food System
Food, Inc. (movie)
King Corn (movie)
Fresh (the movie)

Addressing Privilege and Oppression amidst the movement
"White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" (Peggy McIntosh)
History of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network
Growing Food and Justice for all Initiative on Race and the Food System

Organizations to Track and/or Join, which offer great conferences
American Community Gardening Association (ACGA)
Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC)
Growing Power
Seed Savers Exchange

Urban Ag; Micro Ag Educational Opportunities and Resources
Georgia Organics Urban Ag Training (Atlanta, GA)
Growing Growers (Kansas City)
Michigan State University Student Organic Farm
San Diego City College Urban Agriculture Certificate Program
SPIN (Small Plot INtensive) Farming
Grow Biointensive/ Ecology Action
Beginning Farmers Blog
"Start a Farm in the City" (joint effort between ATTRA and NCAT)
Also See SARE publications (below)

Additional Books and Resources on Sustainable Food Production
  Weedless Gardening (Lee Reich)
  The Organic Manual (Howard Garrett)
  How to Grow World Record Tomatoes (Charles Wilber)
  Rodale's Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening (Bradley, Ellis, and Phillips)
  Permaculture: Principles and Pathways (David Holmgren)
  Introduction to Permaculture (Bill Mollison)
  Edible Forest Gardens (Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier)

  National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA)
  Sustainable Agriculture Research Education (SARE)
SARE Publications-- free to download
  Building Soils for Better Crops (Magdoff and Vanes)
  Managing Cover Crops Profitably
  Manage Insects on Your Farm: A Guide to Ecological Strategies
  Crop Rotation on Organic Farms: A Planning Manual
  Building a Sustainable Business: A Guide to Developing a Business Plan for Farms...
  How to Direct-Market Your Beef

  Land and Power: Sustainable Agriculture and African Americans

Our Very Own Local Food Raising Experts
FAMU's CESTA (agricultural extension)
UF's IFAS (agricultural extension)
Farmer Pam at Backyard Farm in Monticello, FL
Damayan Garden Project
Front-Yard Farmer in Niceville, FL
FSU's Tallahassee Sustainability Group (a student organization)

Friday, December 9, 2011

And We Think We're Starting Something + another couple tidbits

In partnership with a group of young folks in Frenchtown calling themselves iGrow, I'm increasingly exploring urban farm possibilities.

As we investigate possibilities, partnerships, land, business accounting, marketing, proposal pitching, and the works, we're manufacturing and selling iGrow Garden Buckets as a joint venture to raise seed money.

Amidst the conversation, we've been talking about "starting the first urban farm in Tallahassee."  Well, goodness.  What's that phrase?  "There's nothing new under the sun." Something like that.  The idea of "starting something" or "being the first at something" sounds so cool.  It offers a legitimacy, a sense of "originalness" that's appealing, but too often in claiming such statuses, we-- whether intentionally or unintentionally--tread on those who came before us.  Such was our mistake, my mistake, really.

It's silly, really, that'd I'd blunder with such language.  There are, of course, the farmer/gardeners at the FAMU Community Garden who have been raising food for 35+ years.  Since the beginning of my foray into the food movement-- indeed most of my life-- I've been aware of the FAMU growers.  I also have friends with urban ag gigs on 6th ave, at Salvation Army on Jackson Bluff, and tucked away on Paul Russel near Richards high school.  Why this didn't put a stop to my saying "first urban farm" with the iGrow youth, I'm not sure.  But I'll tell you what did cause me to stand-corrected.

A few weeks back, Wendell, my co-worker and I were cutting through NW Frenchtown on the way to High Road north of Tharp.  Tucked away, a turn here, a turn there, another turn, seemed like we were driving in circles; we happened upon two giant gardens-- urban farms if I ever saw them-- in the northern heart of greater Frenchtown.

After seeing the farms, I got to asking around.  Mr Bellamy, president of the Frenchtown Neighborhood Improvement Association and Ms Mitchell, Executive Director of the Frenchtown Revitalization Council -- both partners and mentors amidst the Tallahassee Food Network-- said "Ed Duffee. One of them's Ed Duffee."  This past Tuesday, riding with Mr Bellamy, I got the privilege of meeting Mr Duffee who's been growing on the space for 20-30 years.  He inherited his farm space from an uncle, about 1/2 acre, who had been farming it before that for who knows how long. (As an aside, you should know that Mr Duffee was Tallahassee's first black lawyer.)

He's got mustards and collards growing; his sugar cane-- though already harvested and pressed into syrup-- keeps trying to grow back up.  Over the summer, he had tomatoes, sweet potatoes, peppers, egg plant, and all manner of other stuff growing including potatoes in 5-gallon buckets because Mr Duffee says it makes harvest easier.  He sold some stuff at the Frenchtown Farmers' Market this past summer, primarily tomatoes, which is the reason we were there: Mr Bellamy wanted to make early contact with Mr Duffee to make sure he'd be up for selling again next year.  Mr Duffee told us that he gives most of his stuff away to seniors across the street at Miracle Hill a nursing home, but, yes, he's willing to come to the farmers' market again when it starts back in March. 

(While I was there, Mr Bellamy and Mr Duffee got me thinking a lot about Food sovereignty: theirs is a story of a local grower, growing regional produce, selling at a neighborhood market to the adjacent community, a local market that was/is organized by indigenous leaders).

So, the upshot of it is that the iGrow Youth-- though still noteworthy that as high schoolers they're exploring urban farming from an entrepreneur angle-- will in no way start the "first" urban farm in Tallahassee (if they do indeed choose to pursue a market farm venture).  Given Mr Duffee and his Uncle before him-- when you add on the Victory Gardens before that and the Liberty Gardens before that-- my best hunch is that farming and food production has been part of the mosaic of Tallahassee since it's founding in 1824, maintained as a living tradition by folks like Mr Duffee.


That same day, Mr Bellamy and I stopped in on Ms Washington who's got a gorgeous garden in her back yard on 7th Ave.  Neither Mr Bellamy or I knew her.

Purple mustards (Mr Bellamy's new favorite), turnips, collards, cabbage, onions, grapefruit, tangerines, she pointed everything out.  "I just like trying things she said."  She's been gardening her whole life.  Turns out she's the mother of my mother's co-worker.  Small world.  When I came around the side of the truck, she hollered from her front porch, "Have I seen you on the computer? My daughter's Gloria; she works with your momma at the hospital; you baked her cookies when you were just a young'in."

Food, bringing folks together.


Take a look.  Couple cool things worth clicking at:
Grow Gainesville. A seed library in Gainesville gets started.
(Did I mention that both Mr Duffee and Ms Washington are seed savers?)

Urban Ag Policy Report from Georgia Organics. Profiles of urban ag policies from 16 top-of-their-game cities.

Fredando Jackson-- from Koinonea Farms, which is the community that gave rise to Habitat for Humanity-- has been in touch about spreading "my model" of food gardening education and support to Americus, GA. Was quite honored by the call; we're going to be working to develop a bare-bones approach to enable as many folks as possible (youth, churches, communities) to get into growing food.

Baltimore's Can-Do Approach to Food Justice (they're making awesome strides in terms of urban ag; inspiring article).

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Healthy Eating Starts at Firm's Garden" - Tallahassee Democrat Thurs., Nov 17th, 2011

[Garden installed by Tallahassee Food Gardens featured in Democrat.]

By Elizabeth M. Mack
Democrat staff writer

Turnips, cabbage and radishes are all fall vegetables that can be found in any home or community garden.

But what about at work?

The employees at FBMC Benefits Management started an urban garden of their own in the spring, said Glenda Atkinson, FBMC wellness coordinator.

The garden is part of the company's many wellness programs, Atkinson said. FBMC has had a wellness program for than 20 years offering employees yoga classes, a workout area on site and cooking classes.

Wednesday afternoon the company received recognition from the American Heart Association as one of its Fit-Friendly Companies — an honor FBMC received for the third consecutive year. It also received the Workforce Innovation Award for implementing the garden in its wellness program.

"You guys have done a wonderful job," said Kellie Thigpen, American Heart Association regional director. "You're the only company in Tallahassee that is doing anything like this."

Atkinson said that she got the idea to do the garden after realizing how the concept had been picked up around the community. When it started, there were only four 4-by-4-foot plant beds. It has now doubled, with hopes of even more expansion, Atkinson added. The garden's upkeep — planting, watering and harvesting — is done entirely by employees.

"This garden has gotten a lot of love," she said. "Everyone helps out in taking care of it. And it allows us to get outside, be active, and it relaxes you."

FBMC, which manages health plans and other employee benefits for its various clients, has a staff of 130 in Tallahassee.

Once the spring vegetables were harvested, FBMC held a healthy cooking demonstration, using the vegetables from the garden. Some employees have even started their own gardens at home.

"Everyone has been really happy about it," she said. "It's been really worthwhile."

And now that the garden is nearing another harvest, the employees decided they wanted to "share the wealth."

On Saturday, a full plant bed of turnips will be donated to the "Man in Overalls" food bank, Atkinson added.

"So now, not only will they feel good health wise, but they can feel good knowing they are helping out others in the community," Akinson said.

"A Peace of Bread" - Documentary -- featuring MIO-- about young people around the Country working on hunger

"A Peace of Bread" a new documentary by Diva Communications, is about young folks around the country who are working on food system change as a method of addressing hunger in their communities.  Debra, Diva's director/producer got wind of my work here in Tallahassee because I am a Food Justice Fellow with the Presbyterian Hunger Program.  She came through Tallahassee this past August to interview me and others amidst the Tallahassee Food Network. Take a look at their opening sequence:

A Peace of Bread - opening sequence from Diva Communications on Vimeo.

Monday, November 14, 2011

"Food Justice: Honoring our Roots, Growing the Movement" - 15th annual conf of the Community Food Security Coalition

This past week I was in Oakland for the 15th annual conference of the Community Food Security Coalition.  With the Oakland's rich history of food justice work rooted in the Black Panther's Free Breakfast for School Children Program (that gave rise to the nation-wide free and reduced lunch programs), the Occupy Oakland movement centered just around the corner, and a gathering of 1100 folks from across the country and world all working amidst the food movement, the stage was set for a dynamic conference.

But how do I tell the story of a movement meeting itself? Of 1100 workers in the food movement-- a microcosm of the global good-food system-- in the same place sharing stories, successes, challenges, models, and dreams?  Can I capture the dynamic via lists and links of represented organizations?

If nothing else, I've got to discuss Food Sovereignty.  It was an oft repeated phrase at the conference.  As Malik Yakini from Detroit pointed out, "Food Security isn't enough... You can be food secure in jail.... The goal is not just to be a well fed slave but to control our food system." The issue is control.  In spite of the best intentions of the industrial food system and those who control it, if our food system is controlled by an ever smaller pool of food conglomerates (as it currently is: 84% of pork processing is done by the top four companies, 70%+ of beef, and over 50% of corn is all controlled by the top four companies), a small change in the board room can result in hungry, malnourished or obese communities at the local level.  Some even go as far as to say that the corporate food system is waging a "low intensity war" against local communities that is resulting in life-expectancies for children that are shorter than their parents due to chronic, diet-related diseases. 

The food sovereignty conversation took on a different dynamic when addressed by those from the global south, like the MST of Brazil, (global) La Via Campesia, Frente Nacional de Resistencia Popular (Honduras), (Kenya-based) G-BIACK and the Movimiento Campesino a Campesino (in Mexico). The stories held a common strand: indigenous communities who had farmed and fed their families for generations, centuries.  Amidst nationalistic efforts to "develop," "modernize," and "liberalize" their countries and economies, national leaders created laws requiring private-property deeds for all land, nation-wide.  Unaware of such laws, the peasant farmers of the world continued to farm and feed their families; meanwhile those privy to the bureaucratic loop (chiefly transnational corporations and the wealthiest of, for instance, Honduran families) hired deed writers and lawyers.  In the shadows of legality, deeds were created and sold to those who could pay, sometimes resulting in 2,3,4, 8 or more deeds for the same piece of land.  Those with access to money and lawyers won the resulting court cases.  With the endorsement of law and the aid of public (sometimes private) police and military, subsistance farmers became landless farmers.  Sadly, such economic indicators such as GDP grew via speculative sales of property thus misrepresenting the state of general welfare.  In such situations, food sovereignty is directly tied to the dispossession and speculative buying and selling of land, to the means and methods of supplying one's communities with food. --

A growing response is that of the MST who "organizes non-violent occupations of unproductive lands in order to [secure land for] the rural poor." They argue, our fundamental right to feed ourselves supersedes an absentee-landlord's right to private property.  The rules are not working-- to the detriment of the vast majority-- so they're re-writing the rules.  Food Sovereignty.  Powerful stuff.
How about a few anecdotes: La Via Campesina which is a peasant farmer organization boasting 300 million members worldwide and their principles of Food Sovereignty; There's a 14-acre Urban Farm Coop in South Central LA that is in a struggle with the city to get their land back after their farm was bulldozed several years ago to build a warehouse. (Cool fact: their urban community farm lead to a 78% reduction in crime in the area. After they raised property values via crime-reduction, the city attempted to sell the land out from under them.) Check out: And the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, Windy City Harvest, the Sustainable Prisons Project, or Youth Grow are also awesome.  If the Occupy Movements have caught your eye recently, then perhaps you'd be interested in the MST of Brazil (i.e., the Movimiento Dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra) which has occupied something on the order of 300,000 acres in order that poor, landless farmers (landless primarily because their indigenous land was swindled from under them) can provide for their families.

I met so many dynamic folks doing amazing work.  Below are the materials I brought home, and below that is a list of amazing organizations.
I met folks from the Americorps-like Food Corps, (Youth-led) Philadelphia based Urban Nutrition Initiative, Oakland's Planting Justice, the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, Ag-Missions, an Iowan soybean farmer featured in Fresh the Movie, the Farmworkers Association of Florida, Tucson Community Food Bank that has made farmers' markets and community gardens part of its food security focus, the Food Justice Club of Cal Poly Pomona, Live Real Food Challenge, poets, Black Urban Farmers and Gardeners Conference, Milwaukee's Growing Power, The Food Project in Boston, the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, Green for All, a to-be Brooklyn NY urban farmer whose email sports her last name "Farmer Brown," the US Family Farm Defenders, G-BIACK, an ecological farmer training center for women in Kenya, and Louisville's Fresh Stop church-sponsored CSA program.

What a conference! a sharing! an exchange!  The question I carry with me is this: What does food sovereignty look like in Tallahassee?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

From Food Day to Food Sovereignty

Food Day festivities were a whirlwind of Tallahassee's food movement.  From the New Leaf Farm tour to video screenings, garden open houses, the community gardens tour, the Youth Symposium on Hunger and Food, Food-O-Rama at Kleman Plaza, the Sustainable You conference, and the "Florida Grown School Lunch Week Kick Off" at the capital, Food Day revealed many of the organizations and efforts amidst the food movement that largely go unseen, especially the Tallahassee Food Network.

On Food Day proper, Oct 24th, I exhibited in the capital courtyard with the aid of my "truck farm," which was picked up by WCTV.  (As an aside, I'm working with a team of Frenchtown Youth to manufacture and sell the garden buckets you can see in the below picture, which are improvised earth boxes (which retail $60, empty).  We'll be selling ours, filled and planted for $25-$30.)

The same day, I taught a workshop at Sustainable You called "Food and Community Gardening 101." Also the same day (at the conference) Ms Miaisha Mitchell (of the Frenchtown Revitalization Council) and I received proclamations--as Co-Founders of the Tallahassee Food Network-- from the City and County establishing Oct 24th as Food Day.  I'll have to post the eloquent language in a future post.

So where do we go post Food Day?

Alas, before I could sufficiently pursue answering that question amidst the Tallahassee Food Network, two things required my more immediate attention.  #1: Business at hand and #2: An educational trip to California. 

Immediately following Food Day, I took a trip to Tampa to build and plant a couple raised beds for my cousin.

Fortunately, I ordered too much compost, so in finding a way to "get rid of it," I got the opportunity to visit Seminole Heights Community Garden in Tampa where my cousin is a working member.

Back in Tallahassee, just before my departure for California, Wendell (my co-worker) and I installed a micro irrigation system for the food garden at The Space at Feather Oaks. (look for the white raisers in the middle of the beds):

I also promised mention of my trip to California and the conversation of Food Sovereignty at the Community Food Security Coalition Conference, but given the length of this post, I'll have to do that in a follow-up.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Food Day Activities (Week Two) - Don't forget

The Tallahassee Food Network is really pulling together a great slew of events.  I will be at the Food Trucks Thursday evening; I'm coordinating the Community Garden Tour this Saturday; I'll attend the Food-O-Rama event at Kleman Plaza on Sunday, 1-6pm.  Amidst that window, I'll most certainly be in attendance from 3-5pm at Tallahassee Food Network's Youth Symposium on Food and Hunger, organized by my friend Qasimah Boston with Project F.O.O.D (at Kleman Plaza in TCC conference center). Monday, Oct 23rd, will be a juggling act from exhibiting my truck which I'll have planted full of veggies at the Florida Grown School Lunch Week Kick-Off at the Capital 10am-1pm and presenting at the Sustainable You Conference on "Food and Community Gardening 101" at 3pm.  See you around town.  Happy Food Day. (Details below)

Food Day seeks to bring together Americans from all walks of life—parents, teachers, and students; health professionals, community organizers, and local officials; chefs, school lunch providers, and eaters of all stripes—to push for healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way. We will work with people around the country to create thousands of events in homes, schools, churches, farmers markets, city halls, and state capitals. (from

Locally, Food Day is a over-arching banner, a common rallying-call to celebrate and further the many events, efforts and initiatives already going on amidst our local food movement. As you'll see by checking the brief schedule (below), in our area, Food Day would more aptly be named "Food Week" or "Food Month" as the multitude of events expands far outside the bounds of a single day, much as the work of the food movement exists far beyond our efforts immediately tied to Food Day. 

Food Day Tallahassee

Pro bono Tallahassee-area Food Day PR Sponsor

Taking Notes

Had to get a kitchen scale at Panhandlers Kitchen Supply today because my lettuce is ready for the eating and I want to document my harvest.
Bought a kitchen scale today.  For the past two+ years I've been in business, folks have asked me, "But how much can I expect to grow in such-and-such a garden?"  I've answered with my own experiences, with rough estimates of numbers of heads of lettuce, harvests of collard greens, ranges of anticipated production rates of tomato plants.  Finally, I'm going to document what I grow in my own garden, pound by pound, ounce by ounce.  I've got the space equivalent of (5) 4x4 raised beds, so I'll have five replicates to share and some averages for the cool season come March/April.  Then I'll document spring season.

Meanwhile, the work of the food movement to develop resilient community-based food systems is all the more important: Received the note below from Second Harvest of the Big Bend mentioning that they are to receive 10s of 1000s of pounds less food from the USDA each month that was historically distributed to shelters, church food pantries and the like. What this means is more empty bellies and food-preoccupied minds at work, in school, walking the street, and laying in bed at night.

This summer, we saw a  drastic cut in USDA Commodities; government surplus food provided by the Florida Department of Agriculture. This program accounted for 2 million pounds (36%) of our annual distribution last year with an average of 173,000 distributed each month.  In July and August of 2011, we distributed an average of 96,000 pounds a month of Commodities, a decrease of 55 percent. The decline of  Commodities will continue and all indications are that the Commodity program will see cuts in federal funding in 2012, further reducing the amount of food received through this program. The bottom line, the amount of USDA food available will not get better - this is our new reality.

To augment the sudden reduction in USDA food, we are working aggressively to secure food from national and local sources.  Immediately, you will see an increase in the amount of purchase product.  Our staff will continue to seek additional sources for donated items through the network and various other sources.  It is important to note that this USDA reduction is being felt across the nation and has strained the food supply nationally.

We appreciate your patience as we work to resolve, as best we can, the current food shortage. It will not be an overnight fix.  There are no easy solutions.  Together we have weathered storms like this before and this storm too shall pass.

- - -

On an entirely different note, food service company Bon Appetit has developed a comprehensive food-service-compatible college garden road map.  Cool.

Also worthy of note: "Restaurant Farms a Boon to New Farmers" - post in - Cool Concept.  I think I'm going to have to pitch the idea to some local restaurants.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mary Ann Lindley: Food Day takes to the streets (and gardens), TD, Oct 9, 2011

Graciously, Mary Ann Lindley at the Tallahassee Democrat agreed to write her op-ed piece on Tallahassee-area Food Day activities being coordinated by countless spokes of the Tallahassee Food Network.

Mary Ann Lindley: "Food Day takes to the streets (and gardens)"
Sunday, Oct 9, 2011
Tallahassee Democrat

Beautiful Picture by Inga Finch
A few years ago, ice cream moved to my short list of wicked foods. It's kind of a joke at our house, where I'm learning to make frozen yogurt, thanks to the cheerfully entertaining kind of wedding present you get when you are middle-aged.

In addition to the emotional appeal of ice cream, it's Exhibit A — maybe B, if you count a nice glass of wine — of items that we tell ourselves we "deserve."

Long day, hot day, too much going on, exhausted, annoyed, heartbroken, depressed: Ice cream with all the trimmings comes to the rescue.

Still, very little can be said for it nutritionally, not even if you're looking at it as a calcium supplement. Likewise, not much can be said for the great gobs of food that pop up on the TV screen glistening with butter (a couple of hours before bedtime), successfully tempting Americans to savor the joy of their journey to obesity. At which time they wonder how they got there, and how to make the return trip to a more livable weight.

If you're trying to lose, or even maintain your poundage, think about these encouraging mottoes: "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" and "All things in moderation."

The first was the comment that got supermodel Kate Moss in trouble for inadvertently encouraging teenage girls to become anorexic, but it's got some truth in it.

The other one I thought was my Mom's firmly held position on between-meal snacks, but it turns out it was Aristotle's idea. And it didn't have much to do with food, but rather finding the middle ground between excess and deficiency in all things.

Meanwhile, as millions of Americans wrestle with obesity, at the other end of the guilt trip is hunger.

According to the World Hunger Education Service, one in seven households in the U.S. is "food insecure." The organization, which has been monitoring hunger since 1976, defines food insecurity: "At times during the year, the food intake of household members was reduced and their normal eating patterns were disrupted because the household lacked money and other resources for food."

Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture projected that more than one in eight Americans — about 43.3 million people — would have participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly called food stamps) through the end of this year.

Obesity and hunger are not necessarily the opposites that you might at first think, however.

They are linked, and both are part of the mission of Food Day, which is a grassroots movement that's swept the country, and which has some committed participants here in North Florida.

You might not expect, for example, to find both Brogan Museum Executive Director Chucha Barber and Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Adam Putnam at work on the same cause.

But on Food Day, which is Oct. 24, Putnam will preside over the Florida Grown School Lunch Week kickoff in the Capitol courtyard (10 a.m. to 1 p.m.). It's saluting school lunch programs that use locally grown foods, which is a meaningful boon to Florida farmers as well as student health.

Leading up to that, the Brogan will throw open its doors onto Kleman Plaza on Oct. 23 for a free concert, with several food trucks and activities for children. If you go, bring some canned food to donate to Second Harvest of the Big Bend, our local hunger-fighting agency.

That Sunday afternoon, inside the Brogan, the case for community gardens as part of the sustainable food movement will include presentations from various youth groups, including St. John's Missionary Baptist Church, the Youth Empowerment Leadership Development Academy, Florida Youth Against Hunger and Tallahassee Sustainability Group.

Who knew so many young people were involved in this movement? Yet it is their future.

And many of the food-day activities at the Brogan should be quite entertaining — the museum's bee colony and hive, which was set up in 2008 on National Pollinator Day, continues to be a popular but not-quite hands-on exhibit.

Nathan Ballentine, whose Tallahassee Food Gardens enterprise builds individual and community raised-bed gardens, combines his devotion to food security, the relationship between food choices and obesity, and the sustainability economy, which includes raising some of your own food and supporting locally grown produce.

Ballentine, who wears blue denim overalls like my dad used to wear decades ago, said there are between 40 and 45 community gardens in Tallahassee. That includes the oldest one, FAMU's Community Garden, which was started in 1974, and new ones he's working on in SouthWood and at Kate Sullivan School on Miccosukee Road. A Saturday morning tour of many community gardens will be Oct. 22.

Those shared gardens are really where it all comes together, both as an antidote to food shortages and an incentive to food choices that help prevent childhood obesity and all its side effects, which plague overweight adults and the entire health-care industry.

This Food Day effort, unfolding during our perfect fall season, which in our region is very good for gardening, could gently change habits, tastes and lives.

Both Kate Moss and Aristotle would like the idea.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Of Interest

A few links and pictures of interest:

Tallahassee Food Network
     A Growing Hub of Tallahassee's food movement
     & the site to visit for all the details on Tallahassee-area Food Day Activities
Tallahassee Community Gardening Program
     Get your neighbors together, start a community garden on city land
Grow to Learn NYC
     Awesome NYC-based school garden program
Grow the Planet
      Super cool crowd-sourcing garden how-to resource
Urban Agriculture Training
     Georgia Organics is offering an awesome 10 month training in ATL
Urban Farming Guys
     Group of Guys in Kansas City who offer great DIY home-growing videos
My Farm
     A "Farmville-isk" experiment in crowd-sourcing farm management
Tallahassee Edible Garden Club
     Edible Garden Tours plus monthly peer-to-peer edible garden info exchange
Ample Harvest
     A Food Gardener to Food Pantry connector site

And a few pictures:

My new pyramid raised bed.

Bill's sugar snaps climbing their trellis

Friday, September 30, 2011

Community Garden Tour, 9-11:30am, Sat, Oct 22nd

Community Garden Tour
Saturday, Oct 22nd, 2011
9-11:30am (Registration, gathering at 8:45am)
Contact Nathan Ballentine,, (850) 322-0749

Gather at Second Harvest. Carpooling encouraged in order to encourage exchange and collaboration amongst community gardeners and activists. We hope to provide transportation to the first 25 people for the same reason.

Second Harvest Youth Food Garden 9am-9:30
Located 110 Four Points Way just off S. Adams street.  Raised bed vegetable gardens built and maintained by the YELDA, Youth Empowerment Leadership Development Academy.  Food distributed via food bank.

FAMU Community Garden, St John’s Missionary Church’s plot  9:45 – 10:15am
 Located on Orange Ave between Adams and Wanish Way. The FAMU community garden is the oldest community garden in the Tallahassee area, founded in 1974.  St. John’s plot—consisting of 15 4x8’ raised beds— is the newest church garden in the area.

Fort Braden Community Garden – 11-11:30am
 Fort Braden Community Garden is located west of Tallahassee off Highway 20 behind the Fort Braden Library.  This community garden is on an old farm site that is owned by Leon County.  The county generously provided the fencing and water spigots to each site.  The garden contains 40 plots for lease on an annual basis.  The garden also has a fruit orchard, bee hives, blue bird and purple martin and bat houses.  Gardeners meet monthly for workdays on the garden common areas and to learn and share with each other.  Some of the excess produce is donated to area organizations.  See the website for additional information:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

'Tis the Season

It's that time of year: Folks ask me what I've been up to, and my consistent response is: "Gardens, gardens, gardens." Whether building and planting raised beds for folks who purchased Future Garden Coupons or top-dressing and replanting with repeat customers, it's a wonderful whirlwind of business and plant growth. Here's a couple few pictures from the past week:

Wendell, Nathan, and Bill - Piney Z farm boys
Claudia and Tina after replanting their three raised beds.
Accenting Kathy's existing garden with a couple raised beds down the middle.
Going back Monday to spruce up and plant.
Friday morning I stopped by FBMC Benefits Management where-- this past spring-- I installed their company wellness garden.  They started with four 4x4s, and now have requested I double their bed space by adding four more 4x4s, which they plan to plant, tend and harvest in order to donate to a food pantry through  Below are the flags plotting out their new beds going in Tuesday before our Wednesday Fall Planting Workshop.

During my visit, Glenda in Marketing, who coordinates their Wellness Program, showed me their snazzy new Wellness Program video that highlights their garden:

Signing off to go water my seedlings.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The story of last Friday

Last Friday I oversaw a September 11th memorial service project building, filling, and planting garden buckets for shut-in seniors-- so even those who can't bend too well, don't have much space, etc can grow a few vegetables to improve their diet.  Volunteer Leon coordinated the entirety of the event that involved a memorial service plus two other service projects: emergency preparedness buckets and "Wow" care packages for troops in Iraq.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Mention in Natural Awakenings August 2011

"More Community Gardens for our Community"
Natural Awakenings, August 2011
Coming Fall 2011, SouthWood will have a Community Garden ready for planting. The idea, originally spearheaded by Brian Ramos, SW Cub Scout leader in collaboration with Nathan Ballentine, the Man in Overalls of Tallahassee Food Gardens, has grown to include many Southwood neighbors combining their talents and ideas to make it a reality. The effort is rooted in a desire to enrich the community, teach kids where their food comes from, and provide families with healthy, fresh produce year-round.

The Southwood Community Garden (SWCG); will also be a beautiful destination point for the neighborhood with 52 all-organic raised-bed gardens, butterfly garden, white picket fence, grape arbor, picnic benches and more. Residents and visitors would be welcome to stroll through the garden.

Along with providing a space for people to grow their own produce and flowers, the SWCG will host a few learning seminars with Nathan Ballentine. For those new to gardening... (read the rest on Natural Awakenings Online, scroll to page 6.)

"Kate Sullivan Garden Moves to Phase Two" - Tallahassee Democrat Chronicle, 9/1/2011

"Kate Sullivan Garden Moves to Phase Two"
Kelley Des Marais (special to the Chronicle)

After months of planning by teachers, parents, school board members, Kate Sullivan Elementary School Garden Committee proudly announces the completion of phase one of the Community School Garden, completed on Aug. 19th.

The finished garden is approximately 150 square feet including a spigot and three raised garden beds.  The garden eventually will include compost and vermiculture bins, bench seating and enough raised beds for each grade level to create its own garden.  The garden will be fore students as well as the community and is accessible to people with disabilities.  This space will serve as an outdoor classroom with curriculum-based activities that meet Florida state-wide learning benchmarks in most categories including math, sciennce, language and art.  Along with the Department of Education, the garden committee developed a comprehensive guide for teachers based on Gardening for Grades, written by Florida Agriculture in the Classroom, Inc.  In addition, our Nathan Ballentine with Tallahassee Food Gardens helped guide the garden committee in the creation of a living educational space.  It is hoped that community-based projects like this one will provide an inspiration for other schools and show teachers how their work can provide students with hands-on learning while experiencing the fun of the outdoors.  Betton Hills Neighborhood Association, Kate Sullivan PTA, Mad Dog Construction, Gramlings, Turkey Hill Farm, and Native Nurseries generously provided funding for this project.

If you are interested in becoming a part of this exciting new project, please contact the garden coordinator, Kelley Des Marais at

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Words of Praise from Turkey Hill Farm (Louise Divine)

Hey Everybody!

Really busy this week, getting beds ready and planting for the fall. Lots to do in the greenhouse as well. We sent some plants into town with Kelly Des Maris, to the new garden at Kate Sullivan Elementary School.  They are off to a rousing start, even have a website. If you want to get a garden going at your child's school I am sure they will be happy to hook you up with the resources they have used.

I had the pleasure of sharing information about the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance this week with the Tallahassee Food Network. I shared with them the mission of the Small Farm Alliance and did a little show and tell about our Online Market. If you want to connect with other groups and people working to support the Tallahassee and regional food systems this is the crucible. There is a group working to make a celebration for National Food Day in October, a group working to coordinate and connect our community gardens; a group working on a plan for educational outreach; and a group working to build a comprehensive directory of local farms, gardens, businesses, and agencies that are involved in our local food system. Priscilla Hudson and Alexa Warwick representing The Small Farm Alliance and Qasima Boston DrPh(candidate) with Project Food are coordinating and constructing the directory. This loosely knit organization of organizations is set to make a real difference. If you are interested in pitching in with this enterprising and dedicated group, contact Nathan Ballantine, Tallahassee's Man in Overalls. They meet monthly.

So what to plant now? Well, not saying you should do as we do, but this is what we have done lately:
seeded asian greens, carrots, kale, collards, fennel, basil, parsley, lettuce, arugula, onions and leeks.
Prepared beds, irrigated beds, mowed, tied up eggplants and peppers, side dressed eggplants and peppers with organic granular fertilizer, harvested field corn and put it up to dry, weeded ginger and turmeric, plowed in cover crops, worked on repairing big green tractor, mowed, ate pears and grapes and mangoes. The sun is tracking fast to the south and the Autumn Equinox will be here in a blink.
Next thing you know leaves will fall.

With the FARM BILL coming up for a vote in 2012 it is a good idea to learn more about how the farm bill affects all our lives. King Corn is a great and entertaining introduction to the world of commodity subsidies. The new movie on the block is FARMAGEDDON. It will be an opportunity for farmers and friends to gather and get a view of what we know but don't see. Bring a friend who hasn't even seen Food Inc. See the Calendar* below.

Thanks for your support,
Miss Louise and Farmer Herman

(Turkey Hill Farm on Local Harvest)

*September 16   6-10PM- the movie FARMAGEDDON hosted by Red Hills Graziers. The film explores the policies that favor agribusiness and factory farms over small family operated farms that sell fresh foods to strengthen our communities health and local economies.
Meet Your Local Farmers from 6-7 the movie starts at 7:15.  Bump elbows and hobnob till 10:00.        Movie will be shown at FSU in building HCB 101,   east of the Mendenhall Parking lot.   Parking available in Mendenhall Parking Lot A.
There is no charge for the movie, donations will be accepted to pay for movie rental and further the cause. As per campus rules food and drink are not allowed in academic spaces.Hope to see you there, BRING A FRIEND OR TWO.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Life!

Some days we get to live the life we imagined.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of presenting on Community Gardening at the Second Harvest of the Big Bend Annual Agency Conference.  Of the 150 or so agency partners (largely food pantry coordinators and volunteers), 35 folks attended my workshop.  For starters, to demonstrate the inseparable link in my world-view between gardening and food security, I shared stories about my 93-year-old grandmother who shaped my childhood with stories of surviving the Great Depression via her family's garden, milk cow, and chickens. Next, we walked through Food Gardening Basics like sunlight, water, garden bed preparation, how deep to plant seeds, etc. Then, after a quick overview of the three major types of community gardens (Allotment or Subscription, Educational, Donation), we brainstormed, "What Does it Take to Start a Community Garden?" which brought to light the need for people, commitment, communication skills, and other human elements beyond the basic garden supplies of seeds, soil, amendments, and water.  In terms of building a community garden team, we discussed the "Four W's and R," wisdom, weight, work, wealth, and representation.  Let me elaborate.

In gathering a team to successfully develop a community garden, it's essential that you've got folks with wisdom.  Gardening know-how is essential, but that's far from the extent of the knowledge you need at the table; group process, communication, how to make fliers, how to talk to one's neighbors, how to manage teams of youth, and how to approach potential funders or sponsors are just a few of the pieces of wisdom that could aid the effort.  Weight, or community credibility, or community influence is also critical.  Who are the folks in the community to whom others listen, respect, follow?  It's good to have these folks on your team-- even if only in an advisory fashion.  Then, of course, you need folks that are actually going to show up to work: dig, plant, sweat, and harvest.  A room of folks who think a community garden is a "good idea" only makes a good team if a dedicated core intend to garden personally.  It is also beneficial, of course, to have some money or wealth on (or within reach of) the team.  Lastly, if one is organizing a garden team, it's essential that you organize the leadership from the community in which the garden will be; i.e., representation is essential.  The question is: who do you want to be involved eventually, and how can you work with them from the beginning?  This is where it's essential that leadership reflect community demographics (gender, race, income, age, etc).

Finally, we wrapped up the session with pictures of various community gardens from the area: Havana, Fort Braden, Southwood, Faith Presbyterian, St John's Missionary Baptist's plot at the FAMU gardens, the 4th Avenue Garden, Ruediger's school garden, FBMC Benefits Management's garden, and the 2x2 in the park at 9th and Terrace.

When I told the Second Harvest conference coordinator that I was honored to present, what I meant was: I started my food garden gig in hopes that I would, some day, some how, contribute to efforts that would aid hungry and malnourished folks in town.  Yesterday was indication that, perhaps, I am walking in the right direction.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Staying Busy Amidst the Heat

In spite of the heat, folks are eager to get planting.  Below are a couple raised beds we built for folks aiming to plant their own gardens.

(2) 4x4 raised beds installed in pre-existing mulched bed.
FYI: It's not too late to throw in some last minute summer veggies like green beans, basil, okra, peppers, maybe some cucumbers, (if you've got lots of sun) sweet potatoes, and you just might be able to squeeze in a second season of plum or cheery tomatoes. 

"r" shaped bed, custom built to fit the contour of the deck and Roberta's distaste for "too many straight lines."
Then again, Fall planting is just around the corner: cooking greens (chard, kale, cabbage, collards), salad greens (lettuce, spinach, arugula), roots (other than potatoes: carrots, turnips, rutabagas, radishes), the onion/garlic family (including chives, shallots, scallions), and the cool-weather-preferring herbs (parsley, cilantro, dill, fennel).  September, October, November are your primary fall/winter planting windows.  Get ready.  Let me know if I can be of help.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Southwood Grows in the Grass

Saturday morning, the Southwood Community Garden Leadership Team joined hands for its first mini-workday of the installation.  In addition to measuring and marking the perimeter with stakes & strings, the team spray painted the future outline of the first 20 (of approx. 50) 4x8 raised bed plots.

Amidst the other work, I conducted a mini lady's workshop on power tools and raised bed construction in order to facilitate the construction of the garden's first raised bed frame.  We also took at look at and talked through the ingredients of my "magic compost mix" with which we will fill all 50+ beds.

For the past ten months, I've been working with the Southwood Community Garden Leadership Team to facilitate their garden development.  The project has mean a constant blend of community organizing, food-garden recommendations and education, communication and group coordination, leadership development, guidance through legal loops & hoops, and linkages to Tallahassee's emerging Community Garden Program.  Through it all, though, what it's meant more than anything else has been this: working with a wonderful group of soon-to-be community gardeners.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Church Garden in the Shadows of the Golden Arches

Over the July 4th holiday, I made it to Asheville to visit a friend from college.  While in town, I snuck by Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church where I used to serve as a youth adviser.  Rumor had it, they'd started an amazing garden smack-dab in the middle of their front lawn.  Rumor was true.

They have ten 5ft beds that reach 60 to 100ft.  In other words, they've got a 4000sq.ft. food garden in their front yard.

They're right along Merimon Ave, a major thoroughfare in Asheville.  (Notice the golden arches.)

The rumor also mentioned a team of volunteers who maintain the garden, who grow the food to give it away.  According to the grapevine, they grew and gave away 500 pound of broccoli last year.  The story was confirmed by their website.  And from the looks of it, they've got more broccoli on the way.

While we're exploring what's going on in Asheville, I'll go ahead and point you in the direction of the Apalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, affectionately known as ASAP (A-Sap)-- based in Asheville. They've got one of the best local food guides that I know of in the country.  Yearly, they publish a magazine with every local farm, farmers' market, restaurant that serves local options, processors, etc in their region.  It's also online.  Super impressive.

Some folks amidst the Tallahassee Food Network have taken the initial steps to create such a guide.  For the time being, it'd in excel format, available here.
Back in Tallahassee, with support and guidance from All Pro, the HOA, and me, the Man in Overalls, the Southwood Community Garden leadership team is on track to launch their garden this fall.  The first workday will be August 13th.  The "Grand Planting" will be Sept 10th.  Save the dates.  It's going to be an epic garden.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


So lets say that by this time, your tomatoes have succumbed to the early season blight.  Or, perhaps you left a portion of your garden un-planted this spring.  However it came to be: there's an empty spot--or entire bed-- in your food garden.  You want to grow something that will produce but not something that's going to interfere with your fall garden in September/October.  Below is a quick 5-step guide on how to chose a few varieties for replanting.

(Just so you know, I'm assuming for the entirety of this post that your garden space gets at least 4-5 to 8 to 12 hours of sun.  Some afternoon shade is definitely okay.  4pm to 6:30pm are tough in July and August, even for the heat tolerant crops.)

1)First off, you need to measure your empty spot.  Is it 1ft x 5ft, i.e., 5 square feet?  Or 4'x10', i.e. 40 square feet?  With a sense of your space in mind...

2)You need to get a sense of what grows this time of year and how much space it requires.  Tallahassee Food Gardens' What Can You Grow in a Square is your quick reference.  On page one, vegetable varieties are arranged by their space requirements (in terms of Square Food Gardening spacing for raised beds).  On page two (under the planning grid), all the veggies are organized by the season in which they grow well.  (This time of year, look for "hot season.")  With this info in the back of your mind...

3)You need to evaluate possible varieties by how long they'll take to reach harvest.  Just Fruits and Exotics' Vegetable Planting Guide is your go-to for this.  For example, though it may be possible (as my neighbor has recently informed me) to grow a second season of cheery and plum tomatoes, at 90-110 days to harvest, they won't be ready until November which is past our prime fall planting window.  For our purposes, we want something that can be planted and will produce by or before mid October.  Cucumbers, for instance, or green (bush) beans take approx. 60 days, and thus will be ready by late August/early September.

4)Now you get to select based on your dietary preferences as it fits the season, space, and time-til-harvest.  Though both cucumbers and beans will both work (along with at least 5 or 6 other things), perhaps cucumbers make you sick because there was this one time when.... who knows.  Your choice! What tastes good? 

5)Prep your bed, plant, water, and watch for the harvest.  If you want the basics outlined, here's another quick reference: Tallahassee Food Gardens Food Gardening 101

Grow Your Own Food and Share It.

PS- If you're ever in need of a quick Q&A, feel free to ask your questions on FB-- usually the answers are better than I could offer by email because multiple folks amidst the gardening "cloud of witnesses" will chime in.

Questions? Contact Us via

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