Category Archives: Local Farms

5 Ways to Bless Your Family, Your Budget and Your Community

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5 ways to bless your family titles


Take This Short Quiz

  1. What is the number one thing you can do as a family to improve your general health?
  1. What is a good way to connect with your teenagers?
  1. What is the most important thing the average person can do to make the American food system healthier and more sustainable?
  1. Name one thing can an individual do to become more self-sufficient and less dependent on a fluctuating, unstable economy?
  1. What activity can you do with young children to engage them in learning concepts in math and science even when they don’t usually enjoy those subjects?

The answers:

  1. cook 2. cook 3. cook 4. cook 5. cook

 Cooking vs Watching Cooking

Two people (both grandmothers!) in the last week have told me “I don’t cook!” Way too many people in my classes over the years have admitted they rarely or never cook. In fact Americans spend less time on average cooking each day than people in any other country! The average time spent cooking per day (not per meal, per DAY!) is 27 minutes – less time than it takes to watch The Next Food Network Star (what is up with this fascination of watching people cook? More people watch cooking than are actually doing cooking, and then when the show is over they still don’t have anything to eat!)

 It’s Healthier

Cooking at home is healthier. When you don’t cook you make yourself vulnerable to the big corporations who make all the ready-to-eat food you have to buy. Unless you spend big bucks to buy your meals from a local restaurant where the chef grows his own organic vegetables and carefully sources his ingredients from local farms, you are most likely eating a lot more refined sugar, industrial oils, and highly processed salt than you normally would if you cooked your own food. Corporations also use all kinds of chemical ingredients not available to the home cook. These chemical ingredients make their food last longer and look fresher than it actually is.

 Teens Like It

Cooking (and eating) together connects you as a family. Teens are social creatures, and they are also usually hungry creatures. 🙂 Bringing them into the kitchen to prepare a meal is a way to get them to interact and be social with everyone who is involved in the meal preparation process. The shared experiences can build family bonds. Eating together a meal you have prepared gives a safe place for conversation, listening and sharing together.

 It Connects Us

Cooking connects you with your food and its origins. We were making homemade pizza as part of a Sunday school lesson and I had brought fresh oregano, parsley, and basil from my garden to use. One young 5th grade girl, already surprised that you could actually make a pizza, freaked out saying “why do you have weeds? How do you know those are safe to eat?” I said, “I grew these. They came from my garden. Where do you think food comes from?” and she replied, “I don’t know. The store has it.”

When we cook at home from fresh ingredients we are connecting in a small way to the rest of the community that grows and raises our food. We gain a new perspective on food when we see a list of raw ingredients get transformed into a meal. Growing something that you eat, or buying directly from a farmer, can bring even stronger connections. Real food doesn’t come in neat boxes, shrink wrapped for microwaving. Buying pre-prepared, pre-wrapped meals separates us from the reality of real food. Cooking at home from fresh ingredients creates more demand for real food while reducing the waste and high cost inherent in the processed food system.

 It’s Budget Friendly

Knowing how to cook gives you power over your budget. The illusion of the “value meal” keeps many people trapped eating expensive yet unhealthy food. Being able to cook for yourself means you can eat higher quality ingredients for less money. It means you can cook a little extra to freeze for later or to eat the next day for lunch instead of eating out. Knowing how to cook helps you be more frugal like when you use the bones for broth, leftover vegetables for soup, or freeze over ripe fruit for smoothies.

 It’s Educational

Teaching your children to cook opens up a new world for them. Measuring and counting, doubling a recipe, figuring out what makes bread rise, what makes pickles sour, seeing liquid cream transform into solid butter, comparing the taste of salt vs. sugar – all of this can bring math and science alive. Tactile experiences like kneading bread, cracking eggs, tearing lettuce, stirring batter, or chopping vegetables can be rewarding for busy little hands. And as your children grow and develop new skills in the kitchen you are giving them the gift of self-sufficiency for when they become adults.

Tell us your reasons for cooking! Leave a comment here or on our Facebook page!

3 Better Ways to Grow Your Own Food

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3 Better Ways to Grow Your Own Food titles

Here in Florida you need way more than just a green thumb (or two, or green hands and feet) to grow much of anything very successfully. Even the weeds have a hard time in the summer when it’s 95+ degrees, rains absolutely every day, and even when it’s not raining the humidity is still 100%. The average person who wants to subsidize the family groceries with homegrown vegetables, herbs and salads needs a little help to be successful here. If you don’t live in Florida you probably still have your own challenges. That’s why using one or more of these three ideas will most likely give you a much better chance to be able to grow super-fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs for your family.

1. Aeroponics

After 5 years of in-ground gardening Ralph and Gail were tired of battling the sandy soil in their Orlando-area backyard. Frustrated with the minimal results even with maximum effort they decided to look into buying a Tower Garden. Their first one was purchased second-hand from a friend and they decided to do a side-by-side test – Tower Garden vs. Square Foot Garden.  After that growing season they were convinced to buy several more Tower Gardens!  In fact they were so successful they decided to start a small home business growing herbs and leafy greens to sell to one of our local farm food delivery services!

tower garden ralph parlsey and chives titlesRalph does details and so he learned all there is to learn about it. He explained that with 2 to 3 Tower Gardens you could grow enough food for a family of four for a year with about 1-2 hours per week of maintenance. One nice thing about the work with a Tower Garden is it doesn’t include weeding or tilling. Ralph also said that within 15 months of use you can make back your purchase price in the savings you’ll get from not having to buy organic produce at the store.

tower garden ralph titlesTower Garden uses state-of-the-art NASA technology to grow plants without soil. The technique, called aeroponics, is a variation of hydroponics. A 20-gallon reservoir at the bottom of the tower holds water and nutrient solution that is circulated throughout giving the roots of the plants a nutrient-water-oxygen bath. Tower Garden research says the plants grow 30% faster this way so you get bigger plants and a faster harvest. The only thing you can’t grow in a Tower Garden are root vegetables or extremely large plants like trees. Even vining plants can be supported with a trellis that hooks onto the tower.  Total cost for a Tower Garden System is $525 (wheels additional) and the Nutrient Mineral Blend is $40.

2. Vermicomposting

Do you know how to turn 600 lbs of garbage into 120 lbs of rich, fertile soil perfect for any plant? According to Bernie Moro, one of the owners of Our Vital Earth, the answer is vermicomposting! In fact since they’ve started keeping track on their own farm they have kept 776 tons of waste out of the landfills and converted it into useful products that increase soil productivity.

worm cafe titlesVermicomposting uses a special species of earthworm (Eisendia Fetida) to transform vegetable and fruit scraps, newspaper, junk mail and even dryer lint into worm castings which make the perfect growing medium for plants of all kinds. Just one pound of worms can eat five pounds of garbage every week. They increase and multiply allowing you to reduce your household landfill contribution while at the same time increasing the fertility and health of any plant growing in soil. Use the worm castings with potted houseplants, outdoor containers, garden beds, flower beds, and around trees and shrubs. Add a handful to each new planting hole in the garden.  Our Vital Earth also supplements with a volcanic grit (worms need grit for their gizzards just like chickens) that adds 77 trace minerals and elements to the finished soil. But fertile soil isn’t the only by-product of vermicomposting. You can make a liquid fertilizer called “worm tea” by watering your worm beds with non-chlorinated water and collecting the liquid that filters through. This worm tea is way cool because it’s not only full of nutrients for the plants it is also probiotic (not for people, for plants!) so it helps naturally control fungus, insects and plant diseases. It also repopulates soil that has been depleted with over use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

worm cafe chinese cabbage titlesTo vermicompost at home you need worms and a place for them to live. Our Vital Earth sells these all-in-one Worm Cafes that allow you to keep your worms safe and happy, gives them room to grow, and also make it simple to collect the worm tea to use each week when you water your plants. Having composting worms allows you to garden in less-than-ideal soil and still grow healthy food without chemicals, insecticides and fungicides. What a great way to clean up your trash, and build your soil!  Total cost for a Worm Cafe is $130 with a pound of worms an additional $35.

3. Two Techniques in One System

I think this idea is brilliant – the vertical design and small footprint of a tower combined with the composting and fertilizing capabilities of vermicomposting all in one system – that’s what you get with the Garden Tower2 Project. This system allows you to plant up to 50 individual plants (or add two additional layers for 70 plants) including slimmer root vegetables like turnips, carrots and radishes, in just 4 square feet of space. The kitchen scraps go into the central compost tube in the top of the tower. This feeds the worms and then when you water the tower the nutrients from the worms flow into the surrounding soil within the tower. Water collected at the bottom includes the valuable worm tea. When the compost tube gets full you empty the newly produced garden soil from the tube and use it to plant more vegetables into the sides of the tower.

Just like the Tower Garden above, the Garden Tower2 Project is compact in design and can be used in smaller spaces where a traditional garden wouldn’t fit. Garden Tower2 has a built-in ball bearing system that allows you to rotate the planting tower to take advantage of the available sun. It also comes with the ability to add caster wheels or permanently secure the base to a rooftop for added stability. Total cost for a Garden Tower 2 planting tower is $359, but Well Fed Family readers can get $10 off with the coupon code: WFFGT at checkout.

Don’t forget to order your worms to go in the Garden Tower2′s central tube! You can get those from Our Vital Earth shipped priority to your door.

garden tower 2 photo 1 titlesgarden tower 2 photo 2 titlesWhat are your garden plans for this year? Do you want to grow more of your own food? Tell us about it in the comment section or share a picture of your garden with us on our Facebook page!



How to Start a Bulk Food Co-op

How-to-Start-Bulk-Food-Co-Op-GNOWFGLINS-mainBig chain warehouse stores aren’t the only ones to offer the power of buying in bulk. Individuals and families can harness this power when they join with other like-minded people to form a private buying club: a co-op. The age of internet commerce and communication makes buying even nutrient-dense foods, chemical-free personal care products, and non-irradiated spices easier than ever.    Read more on my October guest post for Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS.….(click here)

Your Homeowners Association Doesn’t Want You to Read These Two Books

In an ideal world my family and I would be living on five to ten acres with room for one or two of each kind of fruit-bearing tree or bush that could possibly grow in this climate. I’d have a large vegetable garden plus another for herbs and flowers. In reality we live in a little neighborhood in suburbia on a 1/5 acre lot with neighbors on both sides. Our location seems ideal for a small family; less than half an hour drive to Disney or the beaches. We’ve managed to make connections with many farmers, farmer’s markets and local food producers.  Probably a lot of you reading this are city dwellers too. You might also be dreaming of a little homestead someday – gardens, orchards, chickens, bees, a few goats…

But until the winning lottery ticket comes your way you might think it is all just a nice day dream. Here are a few books that might just change your mind. When you finish reading you might just be tempted to start ripping out the shrubbery and digging up the front lawn!

skip the flowers and go for the edibles

skip the flowers and go for the edibles

The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-less, Grow-more Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden by Ivette Soler

Ivette Soler asks the questions, “Why must the front yard be useless, boring, outdated lawn adorned by a few shade trees and perhaps some lackluster shrubbery?” She answers, “Wherever lawn can thrive ….so too can herbs, fruits, and vegetables.” She spends the rest of her book going into detail about just how beautiful and delicious your front yard can become. Every page is filled with colorful photographs to vividly illustrate each idea. The book covers curb-appeal so your yard won’t be the neighborhood eyesore. It covers color palettes, design and planning, and how-to sections covering irrigation, garden beds, checklists for budget, climate, and even building codes. She gives plant suggestions (listed alphabetically with growing and eating instructions) on how to replace standard shrubs and annuals with stunning, showy edibles placed everywhere from the foundation to walkways and flowerbeds.

Urban Homesteading: Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living by Rachel Kaplan with K. Ruby Blume

The authors build a substantial, comprehensive case for why everyone should participate somehow in community outreach, neighborhood building and giving back to the earth. The book is heavy with photos, how-to lists, and real world examples. It’s one thing to read a description of how to reuse discarded construction materials; it’s another thing entirely to see and husband and wife whose yard is now beautifully landscaped entirely from scavenged items and hear about what worked and what didn’t.  The topics in this book run the entire gamut of self-sufficiency from clothing and textiles to gardens and livestock to alternate energy sources and building your own home with found materials. Each section comes with a timetable of ready-made goals so you can check your progress over six month, a year and farther out to the ultimate goals of a zero waste/closed-loop existence. Visit their website here.

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Sauteed Squash with Leeks

Amy and I are visiting mom and dad in east central Alabama; it’s time for our annual Cousins’ Camp. The kids have been looking forward to this for months – and so have the grownups because who doesn’t love to spend a week swimming in the lake, water skiing, hiking in the woods and just relaxing in the hammock?!

This week of Cousins’ Camp always signals the beginning of summer to me and some of the things that make it feel that way aren’t the sunshine or swimming. It’s the scent of the freshly cut gardenia blossoms from the front yard filling mason jar vases around the house. It’s the first peaches and cantaloupe of the season ripe and fragrant gracing bowls and baskets in the kitchen. It’s also the abundance of fresh vegetables from the local farm markets. I especially love the summer squashes mom gets from her CSA.

squash and leeks with feta and basil

Sauteed squash and leeks with feta and basil

The CSA is with Randle Farms on the outskirts of Auburn, AL. The 200+ acre family-run farm grows blueberries, blackberries and other fruits; seasonal vegetables; and they raise sheep, cattle, pigs and chickens which are rotated on the green pastures and used to improve soil fertility all over the farm as well as provide meat, eggs and dairy for farm customers.

This week we are feasting on Zephyr Squash, onions and leeks. This morning I’m dicing up some onion and a small squash and sauteeing them in a little bacon grease for about ten minutes, then frying an egg over easy and serving it on top of the sauteed vegetables for an easy Paleo breakfast. Mom likes to halve the squashes lengthwise, steam them and top them with some grassfed butter and sea salt.  Here’s another recipe that uses both squash and the leeks from the CSA box together with fresh summer herbs.

Sauteed Squash with Leeks
Recipe type: side dish
Cuisine: seasonal vegetables
tender squash and leeks sauteed with fresh herbs and topped with feta
  • 2 Tblsp organic butter from grassfed cows
  • 1 Tblsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups cubed summer squash
  • 2 cups sliced leeks (well washed)
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 oz sheep's milk feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 Tblsp chopped fresh basil
  1. Melt the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat for 20-30 seconds.
  2. Add the squash and leeks to the pan and saute 5-10 minutes until tender and slightly caramelized.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Transfer the vegetables to a serving platter and sprinkle with the fresh basil and crumble feta and serve warm.

leeks and squash randle farms

Randle Farms leeks and zephyr squash

Some links may be monetized. This blog is for informational purposes. We’ve shared this recipe with Wellness Wednesdays, so visit them and check out all the other recipes there, too.

Precious Memories

*Enjoy another blog from Amy as she shares memories from our childhood dinners.

There’s nothing quite like the smell of fresh green beans cooking, especially in the summer when they are in season.  Aromas can dig deep into the mind revealing long buried memories making them just as fresh as if they were yesterday. And that is what happened as the savory scent of green beans cooking with onions and bacon filled the house tonight as Well Fed Family prepared dinner on the official Day 1 of Cousins Camp.  It’s a comforting, homey aroma that takes me back to the days when I was a little girl and my grandmother snapped beans on her back porch in West Virginia, and then cooked them for a family feast that night.

pork chop dinner cousins camp

family dinner


Grammy’s house had a back porch that wrapped around two sides and the back corner of the house with a portion enclosed for a laundry room and storage area.  The enclosed area was just off the kitchen, and always smelled like fresh produce.  I remember playing on her outside back porch with Lee and smelling the fresh, raw beans as our Grammy snapped and strung them.  Later the wonderful smell of the beans cooking permeated the downstairs.  We would come in for the family meal, then return to the yard where Lee and I ran around catching fireflies.  I remember how the grass felt as I ran barefoot through her yard, running back to the porch to show everyone the firefly I had just caught.  And now our children are growing up with their own special memories tied to the wonderful smell of fresh green beans simmering on the stove in summer.


We had a full day today that began with worship, followed by wave jumping in the boat and swimming off the dock.  As dinner cooked, the house was filled with the aroma of simmering green beans and the noise of bustling cousins horsing around.  When the meal was prepared and on the table, we sang the Doxology together before digging in.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow

Praise Him all creatures here below

Praise Him above ye heavenly host

Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost

pork chop plate cousins camp

pork chops, green salad, sweet and white oven fries, and slow cooked green beans

Tonight’s menu included grilled pork chops and those fresh green beans from Randle Farms, homemade oven fries, and a fresh salad (the lettuce was from Malco’s, a Tennessee farm produce stand) with homemade vinaigrette (using fresh herbs from the backyard).  The chops were tender and savory, full of flavor.  As my 8 year old daughter hungrily ate all the crispy fat from the edge of her chop, we remembered the Mother Goose rhyme about Jack Sprat:

Jack Sprat could eat no fat

His wife could eat no lean;

And so betwixt the two of them

They licked the platter clean.

 We talked about how modern illustrations of that rhyme show Jack Sprat as skinny and his wife as plump, when the reality should be the opposite because we know that it’s too much lean protein that adds weight, not fat.  Eating fat doesn’t make you fat.  Interestingly, the name “Jack Sprat” may have been used to describe people of smaller stature several hundred years ago; not far off base since robust health is tied to the important fat-soluble vitamins that aren’t well metabolized when you eat only lean.

storm cousins camp

storm rolling in over Lake Martin 

Just as dinner was winding down, the weather radio alerted us to a severe thunderstorm headed our way.  Everyone jumped up to check their weather apps, grab the swimsuits drying on the deck, and make sure everything on the dock was tied down tight.  Then we stood on the porch and watched the sky turn from the beginnings of a beautiful sunset to dark, angry clouds pulsating with lightning.  Once the wind picked up and the lightning intensified, we came inside for dessert: homemade ice cream, Nourishing Traditions-style.  While we ate we planned out our activities for the week and had fun taking silly panorama pictures with our phones.  The evening wound down with a game of Clue (the very one that Lee and I played when we were girls) while Lee and I worked on Well Fed Family stuff.

clue cousins camp

Professor Plum in the conservatory with the rope?


Fresh green beans with sliced onion, salt and pepper, and a dollop of bacon grease – set for a slow, lengthy simmer.  There’s a lot tied in to a pot of beans. It’s real food for a real family that creates real memories for all generations.


For we are the aroma of Christ to God

among those who are being saved

 and among those who are perishing.

2 Corinthians 2:15

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Meaningful Meals

*Welcome Amy as she contributes her blog post today!

Well Fed Family is together this week for our annual Cousins Camp on Lake Martin in Alabama.  While the emphasis for the week is reuniting with family, food plays a big part.  We spent time together planning the menu and purchasing food. Together we will prepare it and, most importantly, eat it.  All of this is done in fellowship together.  As we nurture our relationships and build each other up, we are also nurturing our bodies and making them stronger.  Healthy food, joyful fellowship, and thankful hearts contribute to good digestion, which creates healthy bodies.  One might say it’s a beautiful cycle, as a healthy body is better able to participate in joyful fellowship, have a thankful heart, and digest food well.  While we don’t have ultimate or complete control over our health, we are certainly having a good time doing what we can!

grilled chicken platter

Rora Valley Farms grilled chicken

Lee and I thought it would be fun to blog this week about our meals, and maybe share a recipe or two.  We will definitely have photos!  We based much of the menu on what our mother will be receiving in her CSA box this week, other seasonal foods, and special dietary needs  (some folks are currently gluten free).  We are looking forward to catfish, grilled pork chops, lamb burgers, grilled chicken, and everyone’s favorite grilled hamburgers.  Some of our sides will include corn on the cob, collard greens, potato salad, green beans, quinoa, asparagus, Nourishing Traditions baked beans, and roasted potatoes.

grilled chicken dinner from cousins camp

grilled chicken, sprouted brown rice, sauteed squash and leeks

Our first night’s feast was simple: grilled chicken, sprouted brown rice, and squash.  In fact, it sounds kind of boring.  But this was the meal that gave us the idea for this series.  When we thanked the Lord for those who prepared our food, it suddenly dawned on us that we could associate a name and face with each and every dish on our table.   Noah Sanders, of Rora Valley Farm, raised and processed our chicken.  He has a wife and baby; his family is just beginning.  Our mother has supported his farm and family for at least three years now.  The sprouted brown rice came from To Your Health Sprouted Flours, a flourishing company from right here in Alabama owned by Peggy Sutton.  We have been purchasing from Peggy since maybe 2007, back when she was still selling baked goods.  And finally, our squash and leeks came fresh from last week’s Randle Farms CSA box.  This well established family farm provides this community with pastured meats, lots of delicious vegetables, and amazing strawberries and blueberries. (I would also like to mention the farmer who provided our delicious raw milk, but …)  Now mindful of these connections, dinner was even tastier.

 Better is a dinner of herbs where love is

 than a fattened ox and hatred with it.

Proverbs 15:17

What is it that makes a meal delicious?  This week Well Fed Family is reminded that there are several components of a meal that work together to make it delicious, memorable, and nourishing.  Of course the food itself should be fresh and nutritious.  But there is much more.  Enjoying a meal with loved ones is very important; it’s always better to eat with someone than all alone.  Preparing the meal in joyful fellowship with one another also matters.  An atmosphere of joyfulness and thankfulness sets the stage for good health.   But let’s not forget where it begins: on the farm, with those families who intentionally raise or grow your food in a spirit of joyfulness and thankfulness, allowing the animals and crops to flourish in a way that glorifies the Lord.

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A Heart for Feeding the Hungry

On March 25th, 2014, Congress erected a statue in honor of Norman Borlaug, the creator of a hybrid dwarf strain of wheat that grows in poor conditions, is disease resistant and high yielding. He was motivated by the desire to end world hunger and is credited with saving the lives of over 1 billion people.  Crop modifications and GMO technology were his solutions, he was always looking for new and different ways to use technology to feed people. Feeding the world is absolutely an honorable goal, but Mr. Borlaug’s solutions have created new and different problems because of the methods he chose. His hybrid dwarf wheat is so different from ancient wheat they aren’t even the same grains anymore.

Rather than seeking only solutions that involve highly altered foods and heavy dependence on chemical fertilizers and herbicides, there are others who also have hearts for the hungry whose methods are creating sustainable food sources while also healing the land and giving work to the communities.  I would like to recognize those people here and thank them for their contributions to make their world a better place. I know my list is incomplete; I welcome your suggestions in the comment section below!

Allan SavoryAllan Savory – growing up in southern Africa, Allan witnessed firsthand the precious lands around his home becoming deserts – a process called desertification – and its effects on humans and wildlife as both went hungry. He developed a system called Holistic Management and for over 30 years now he has been teaching people throughout Africa and around the world how to heal the land, provide food, and support life through the use of correctly managed livestock herds. Savory used nature as his model, learning how to use the livestock to fertilize and till the land until it regained the ability to hold precious water, restore fertility and become usable for both crops and grazing. The Savory Institute has as its goal to heal 1 billion new hectares of grasslands around the world by 2025. With Allan Savory’s method desertified land can be re-greened and used to grow crops as well as livestock for meat, milk, and eggs all while creating healthier ecosystems and cleaner water.

Mel Bartholomew Mel Bartholomew – You know Mel from his books and tv shows all about the Square Foot Garden.  What you may not know is that Mel has a heart for feeding the hungry. He established his Square Foot Foundation to take gardening education to the poor and hungry around the world. His motive is much like the old saying “give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach him to fish and feed him for life”.  Mel’s foundation has sent teachers to Malawi, Kenya, Peru, and Ecuador to educate communities on Square Foot Gardening methods helping people grow their own food in smaller spaces using less water, learn composting and even create cottage businesses with garden markets. He also provides curriculum to schools to educate children in the US how to grow fresh, healthy food for themselves.

Will AllenWill Allen – Will’s rags-to-riches-to-food story is inspirational. Born the son of a sharecropper, he became a professional basketball player with a desire to give back to his community. His vision is to help people grow safe, healthy, affordable food; to develop a healthy food system even within inner city locations. To this end Will founded Growing Power which is now a model farm and community food center in inner city Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His company has also started food communities in other areas including Chicago, Masachusetts, Georgia and Kentucky. All of Growing Power’s urban farms are sustainable using compost, vermicompost and organic techniques. In addition to fresh produce many of these farms raise livestock for meat, eggs, milk and bees for honey. They also create jobs for the community and feed the hungry.

Joel SalatinJoel Salatin – possibly America’s most famous farmer, Joel is an ambassador for grassbased farming, real food, and historical normalcy.  He’s also a prolific author, speaker and sometimes even a movie star.  Joel’s Polyface Farm has been featured in books like Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and movies like Food, Inc.  Joel’s farm is a living model for sustainable multi-generational family farming. His farm intern program teaches dozens of wannabe farmers each year how to make a real living through farming while healing the land and maintaining respect for the animals raised. Joel’s books reach even more people helping them turn their dream of owning their own Eden into reality. He speaks to agriculture conventions around the world sharing the good news of grass farming.

Who do you think has made a difference in this world and deserves some special recognition? Let us hear from you in the comment section!

This blog is part of the Sunday Social Blog Hop

Sunday Social Blog Hop

Sunday Social Blog Hop

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Strawberry Fluff

Strawberry Season has arrived where I live in Central Florida.  Actually it arrived shortly before Christmas, just in time for winter-weary vacationers to be so overwhelmed by the sight of gorgeous, giant red berries at the turnpike plaza stops that they are willing to pay big bucks for those first fruits. Me? Well I usually wait until the season really gets going and there’s a glut of berries in need of prompt attention.  I love to make strawberry jam, strawberry shortcake, put strawberries in my smoothies, pair them with blue cheese on a green salad and still have extra for the kids to snack on.

That’s why I was excited to go berry picking with friends recently. We almost missed the opportunity, it has been so rainy lately, but thankfully the rain held off long enough for us to get two flats filled to the brim with big, juicy berries! Getting them direct from the farm saved us 50 cents/lb off the grocery store sale price – and you can’t get any fresher than just picked! I froze 5lbs., made 8 half-pints of jam, made shortcake for dessert that night and still had several pounds to eat fresh this week. So I tried a new recipe. Actually it’s an old recipe – it’s from a 1932 recipe booklet from the Birds Eye frozen foods company, but I changed it to get rid of the refined white sugar. Ok, so the original name for this recipe was “Berry Cream”, but as I was serving it to my family it ended up being called – Strawberry Fluff – and now the name has stuck.

strawberry field and Marie strawberries in the field

Strawberry Fluff
Recipe type: Dessert
A fluffy cross between strawberry mousse and strawberry ice cream.
  • 12 oz fresh strawberries, sliced
  • ¼ cup real maple syrup
  • opt. 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup organic, grassfed cream, preferably raw
  • pinch of sea salt
  1. Put strawberries and syrup into a saucepan along with a Tablespoon of water.
  2. Cook the berries gently until they soften and release their juices.
  3. Use an emulsion blender, food processor, or regular blender to puree the berries.
  4. Taste the puree and add a little lemon juice or a little more maple syrup as desired until it tastes delicious to you.
  5. In a separate cold mixing bowl, whip the cream along with the pinch of salt until it will hold soft peaks.
  6. Whip in all but about a half cup of the strawberry puree until well blended.
  7. Place the strawberry and cream mixture into a covered container and freeze at least 3 or 4 hours stirring once every hour or so.
  8. Remove from the freezer and let it sit on the counter 10-15 minutes before serving.
  9. Spoon into dessert dishes and top with the remaining strawberry puree as a sauce.

 strawberry fluff 1

There are Farmer’s Markets and then there are “Farmer’s” Markets

I live in a very urban area, the greater metropolitan Orlando area to be exact. Over the years I’ve worked hard to find sources for local food and cultivate relationships with local farmers. As a Weston A. Price Foundation chapter co-leader I keep an ever-growing list of as many of these resources as I can find so I can share them with our members. My best advice is usually “Go to your local farmer’s market, look around, and start talking to people. Ask questions, be courteous, and eventually you will make your own local food connections.”  That is usually good advice – except last Saturday I found the exception to the rule.

I had to take my daughter downtown to a Shakespeare workshop that morning which put me within a mile or two of one of the oldest farmer’s markets in the whole Central Florida area, same location for over 35 years. It was a beautiful day, I had extra time on my hands and so I headed to Winter Park. The parking was as crazy as I remembered it from the last time I’d gone about 15 years ago. The market sits next to the railroad tracks and spreads out on the grounds of the old train depot – very picturesque with brick pavers and wrought iron fencing. I wasn’t in any hurry, I just wanted a relaxing activity that would culminate with me eating something superfresh, local and healthy for my lunch later on. Slowly I canvassed the entire market area taking in all the people and the full tables under big tents. As I inspected each stand it began to dawn on me…there isn’t anything here that actually grew here! All the produce was beautifully displayed, but it all had PLU code stickers on it. There were baskets of apples and bags of pecans, neither of which grow in Central Florida and definitely not this time of year. There were at least a dozen stands selling other items like fancy greenhouse potted flowers, imported pasta, coffee from Washington State or Hawaii, landscaping shrubs, facial care products from a multi-level marketing company, commercially canned pickles. The stands selling produce had exorbitant prices for non-organic plain old grocery store goods.

winter park farmers market 1 winter park farmers market 2

I could get strawberries from Plant City, FL and pay $6 for one basket, or I could get back in the car, drive to Publix and get those same Plant City strawberries at 2/$5. The potted plants were the same thing you could get at any Home Depot garden center, except if you bought them here at the market you could pay double or triple price; none of the plants for sale were actually planted or grown by the people selling them. Eventually I found a little tent with a sign that said “Waterkist Farms Sanford FL” selling hydroponic heirloom tomatoes. I bought four nearly-ripe ones so I could make some fermented salsa later this week. Then I decided to ask them a question. “Are you all the only actual farmers here?”  The man glanced around as if someone might overhear, then looked at his wife; they both started to grin a little – “No ma’am, if you look across the market over to the other side up by the building you can see a little white-haired lady and her son with some flowers. They grow their own, too.” I said “Thank you – and thank you all for being local farmers!” They both gave me big smiles and I crossed over to see the little white-haired lady. She didn’t have much either, just a couple buckets of long-stemmed sunflowers, several bags of sunflower sprouts, and some baskets of tiny white turnips. I bought $6 worth of sprouts and turnips and they were so kind and so thankful for my business!  After that there was nothing to do but leave!

hydroponic tomatoes, sunflower sprouts and turnips

hydroponic tomatoes, sunflower sprouts and turnips

farmers market purchases lake mary

sage, peppers, backyard eggs, cukes and kale

I was so frustrated by that experience that I drove the 15 miles north up I-4 to Lake Mary, FL, exited and headed to the Lake Mary Farmer’s Market where I knew there was a good chance I’d find more than one actual farmer. I was rewarded for my efforts and brought home a dozen local eggs, two kinds of kale, several sweet peppers and some very fresh cucumbers – oh and a nice pot of fresh sage. At that point my cash had run out, but things were looking up for my lunch!

So what can you do to be sure you are getting locally grown food and supporting local farmers when you shop at farmer’s markets? First off you can find out whether your market has any rules about the source of items sold at their market. For example to be a vendor at the Franklin, TN, market you have to “make it, bake it, raise it or grow it” in order to sell it there. Secondly, a big tip-off that you aren’t buying directly from the grower is the presence of PLU code stickers. Those stickers are used to track inventory by retailers. A farmer selling his onions direct-to-consumer would not need to add stickers. Stickers are a sign that the produce you see went through at least one middleman wholesaler before it got there. Third, know what grows in your area at what time of year. The Florida Dept. of Ag website keeps a chart of everything that grows in FL during each month of the year. Most states have something similar. Cherries and table grapes don’t grow in the US in February, or in FL at all! Finally, just ask the person selling the vegetables if they grew them. Simply say something like “Tell me what you grew, I’d like to buy something seasonal and local.” Then you can also ask them whether they spray with pesticides, and what kind of weed control they use. Be sure to be polite!

When I finally got home Saturday I was happy to discover two little Purple Cherokee tomatoes in my own garden were ripe and ready! They were the perfect finishing touch for my superfresh-and-local salad for lunch.

farmer's market salad with homegrown tomatoes

farmer’s market salad with homegrown tomatoes