The Milkweed Diaries
Showing posts with label farmers markets. Show all posts
Showing posts with label farmers markets. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Our first tailgate market of the season was yesterday afternoon, and it was fabulous.

I harvested greens all morning while Christopher washed and prepped produce, dug spring garlic, and loaded the truck.

It's nice to feel like all of the gardening madness is coming to fruition a bit already, with so much food coming out of the hoophouse and kitchen garden beds that we had a bountiful offering at the market.

We sold out of pretty much everything, and loved connecting with the other vendors, friends, dogs, babies, and customers. A cheese and scallion scone from the Herban Baker with a dollop of Wild Ramp Goat Cheese from 3 Graces Dairy topped off the day.

More photos of our spring harvests are on our farm facebook page.

Today the rush continues: after I squeeze in a little non-farm work this morning, I'll be back at it in the garden, planting potatoes, giving all of the seedlings a little fish emulsion/kelp snack, potting up perennial herbs for the herb festival, and watering, which is a monumental task at this stage with all of the thousands of thirsty plant babies in the hoophouse. But yesterday it was nice to pause and reap the rewards.


Spring Garlic

Heirloom lettuce by the head

Spring mix

Kale and Stinging Nettles

Spicy Mustard Greens

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Local Food and Climate Change: Every Day is Blog Action Day

To celebrate today's blog action day, I'm posting photos of our recent stint selling at the West Asheville farmers market (see below).

Decreasing your foodprint is a great small step that individual people and families can take to help slow climate change. But individual actions--low-impact eating and living, conserving energy and resources, consuming less, reducing your carbon footprint --are a drop in the bucket. These actions are inherently political, but they are not enough on their own.

In addition to individual action, the world needs our collective political action for immediate and large-scale change. I'm grateful for and impressed with's organizing work building power, raising awareness, and advocating for such change.

In nine days, on October 24, is holding an International Day of Climate Action. The organizers of Blog Action Day are also putting forward a petition urging President Obama to make the US a leader in solving the problem that we have led the world in creating. Add your signature here.

Individual choices like eating local food and large-scale political action like participating in 350's Day of Action are essential, but there's more: we must build new systems to replace the dysfunctional one that's caused the climate crisis in the first place. We need to build the lifeboats, create the world we want to live in, and set up alternate structures to replace the crumbling ones that have caused so much damage to the planet. Building local food systems is part of that creative work.

So here's to actions small and large. May the systems of life on planet be healed by all of our creative individual and collective acts. Including these very small ones:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Stalking the Red Stalk, or: How I Learned to Love Celery

Some years back, I was stocking up on local produce at the downtown tailgate market when a strange thing happened. I bought some celery.

Although I am not a picky eater, there are a few things I have just never liked. Celery was always near the top of that short list. There were a few situations in which I found celery tolerable, maybe even necessary (making dressing at Thanksgiving time comes to mind), but for the most part, I shunned this humble vegetable.

For some reason--maybe it was nearing Thanksgiving, or maybe I was intrigued by the unusual appearance of this particular celery--I purchased a bunch of celery from farmer Anne Gaines. This celery looked almost nothing like the ubiquitous pale, watery celery we all know so well -- the stalks were slender, red, and downright beautiful. Enticed by their loveliness, and bolstered by Anne's encouragement, I decided to try some.

You can probably tell where this story is headed. Anne's red celery tasted nothing like any other celery I had ever tasted. Not only did I come to love this particular celery, but I began to look forward to the time of year when Anne would have it for sale, and eventually I started growing it myself.

For the past two years, we have grown both Red Stalk and heirloom green varieties, and celery has become a staple of my garden and kitchen.

I attribute the transformation of my relationship with celery to several factors. I want to share them here, not because I think the world cares about my personal relationship with celery, but because this small transformation seems to me somehow a microcosm of a wider process of transforming individual and cultural relationships to food.

First: This was the first time I had ever eaten celery that had not been wrapped in plastic and driven or flown from god-knows-where, becoming less and less fresh with every mile of transport.

Second: Red Stalk Celery is an heirloom variety, and as is often the case with heirlooms, it just tastes better than the typical agribuisness grocery store variety.

Third: I would never have discovered this heirloom variety if I had not been shopping for vegetables at the farmers market, and I bought it based on the recommendation of a farmer I trusted. This is how heirlooms are passed on, from one person's hands to the next, treasures shared and multiplied through webs of relationship. This is how food has been shared forever, until recently, when marketing and merchandising began to mediate our relationship with food, and we began to choose provisions for our kitchens largely without the benefit of individual relationships. Through my relationship with a farmer from whom I bought vegetables week after week, I came to appreciate a food that I would never have tried otherwise.

And finally: When I bought my first bunch of Red Stalk celery from Anne, I saw that there was literally more to celery than I had previously known -- there were more edible parts in the bunch of celery that I bought from Anne than in the chopped and packaged celery log I was used to. Namely: leaves! Celery is a leafy green! Who knew? When I started to grow celery myself, I found that cooking with the leaves was my favorite everyday use of celery--I found the flavor of the leaves less bitter and more earthy than the stalks.

As a sidenote: I also discovered by growing celery myself that pretty much all celery you see in the grocery store has been blanched -- grown in trenches and mounded to prevent the stalks from being exposed to sunlight. That is why standard celery is paler, milder, and more tender than the celery Anne was selling. There is nothing inherently wrong with blanching, and it is a low-tech, ancient technique. However, in the case of celery, it prevents the dark leafy greens from proliferating, and that is the part of the plant that I find most delicious and most useful.

Red Stalk celery is an 18th Century English heirloom with a very strong celery flavor -- it is great for cooking and seasoning, but not really meant to be eaten the way celery is commonly eaten in the US these days (that being on a tray full of unappetizing, dry, and chemical-laden raw vegetable morsels with ranch dressing on the side, or in large raw chunks coated with peanut butter). It's not really a snacking celery.

What it is great for is hearty fall soups, especially with onions. Coarsely chopped leaves and finely chopped stalks make dressing at Thanksgiving a transcendent experience, and for the past few years I have made large pots of soup stock with the greens and stalks to use throughout the winter. It can be harvested at any time from its very young days onward, and it can be harvested a stalk at a time, rather than pulling the whole bunch, which is useful since its flavor is so strong. I use the leaves, finely chopped, in potato salad and to season refrigerator pickled cucumbers.

Red Stalk celery is a beautiful, hearty plant in the garden. The stalks are not just red, but many shades of red and green, with hot pink streaks appearing frequently at the base of the bunch. Vegetables sporting hot pink flourishes get extra points with me.

Celery flourishes in cool fall weather, and can last through winter solstice or so here with light protection. We covered our celery bed with Reemay last year, and were able to have fresh celery for cooking on Christmas Day.

Seeds of Change sells seeds for Red Stalk Celery, and probably some other seed companies do too.

So here's to my now-beloved celery, and to trying new things. And to micro- and macro- transformation of our relationships to food!

Celery on Foodista: Celery on Foodista

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Keep Farmers Farming

I serve on the Board of Directors of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), the organization that produces the Local Food Guide, helped get the Asheville City Market off the ground, and does lots more to promote local food in western NC. If you don't know what ASAP does, you're not alone. Best known as "the people behind that green thousands of miles fresher bumpersticker" or "the people who put out the Local Food Guide," ASAP has been quietly creating and expanding markets for local food all throughout this region. If you live in western North Carolina and you've enjoyed local produce in recent years, you may have ASAP to thank, in addition to your farmers, whether you know it or not! ASAP also does a lot to increase access to local food, including coordinating a farm to school program, Growing Minds.

Danny McConnell, a local farmer who inspires me bigtime, is also an ASAP Board Member. He wrote the letter posted below, an appeal to "keep farmers farming."

I am posting this with deep gratitude for all of those growing food in these parts, and in hope that all of us who care about local food, healthy local economies, and preserving farming as a way of life will support the organizations working hard to create systems to support local food.

Click here to make a donation to ASAP.

Click on the image below to enlarge Danny's letter and read it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Yesterday at the farmers market, I bought a Limbertwig apple from Barry for fifty cents. It was quite possibly the best apple I have ever eaten. Really. I feel confident in saying that those two quarters were the best fifty cents I've ever spent.

Barry, who first started planting apple trees 30 years ago, explained that this heirloom apple, one of several Limbertwig varieties, has been grown around here for a long time. It truly beat the heck out of Red Delicious.

I've spent lots of winter nights curled up with The Fruit, Berry, and Nut Inventory reading mouth-watering descriptions of heirloom fruit tree varieties, because I am really that much of a nerd. So I am always excited to try a new heirloom apple. This one took the cake.

If you live in Western NC, you can buy Limbertwigs and a bunch of other varieties at farmers markets around town. Now is the time! It's apple season in the mountains, and fifty cents will buy you a really outstanding taste experience.

Above: the remains of the Limbertwig