Beyond the Field
BUILDING COMMUNITY AS A YOUNG FARMER
A few years ago, I was a graduate student in DC. I studied, worked, socialized and occasionally volunteered at a community garden project. Eventually I wanted more growing experience: I wanted to be like the farmers I saw at Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market who seemed so happy and healthy.
So now I am an apprentice at New Morning Farm in Huntingdon County, PA. I started there just about one year ago, and I’ve loved it from day one. For me, the most difficult part of my new life is not the heat, or the long hours of the summer, or the lack of sleep the night before a market day: the hardest part is that I live and work far from my friends, my family, our market community in DC, and even many other local farmers. Our little community at NMF is filled with amazing people, but sometimes I need to see different faces. During the intense growing season, sustaining outside personal and professional relationships is a struggle.
I realized that instead of returning exhausted from a weekend away, I needed to build relationships through my greater farm community. This is why I love working at our markets, especially the Sunday market at Dupont Circle. Sure, it’s still work, and it’s a long day, but market days give me something to look forward to each week: who needs a happy hour when you can sell vegetables you just harvested?
In order to further explore my farming community, I recently attended the Just Food Conference in New York City, where I found connection with community to be a pervasive theme. Focused on food justice and sovereignty, the conference brought together activists, farmers, policy makers and corporate interests to encourage and re-energize those involved in the “food movement” in the NYC region. I’m grateful to the FRESHFARM Market’s Jean Wallace Douglas Farmer Fund for helping me pay for this opportunity to learn from and network with so many motivated, smart and innovative people.
At Just Food, I attended several workshops about NYC’s efforts to improve access to fruits and vegetables while increasing demand for healthier options through educational programming. Much of it sounded familiar—DC is lucky to have FRESHFARM Markets fulfilling so many of these vital roles of a functioning local food scene.
The conference awakened—or maybe reawakened—something in me: the need to be more involved, more connected, and less remote. I am lucky that I have an outlet for that interest because last summer New Morning Farm launched, with the support and assistance of our colleagues at FRESHFARM, a new farmer’s market at the Watkins Elementary School, in Southeast, DC just off Capitol Hill.
Starting something new is always a tough gig, but I went to the Just Food conference to learn: to take away some new techniques for community outreach, to raise awareness of the new market, and to understand our membership in the neighborhood. Now armed with so many ideas, I am confident that, with effort, time, and patience, the Watkins School market will thrive and I will have new faces to see.
Guest Post by Emily Best, New Morning Farm Apprentice
COOKING AND CONSERVATION ON CAPITOL HILL
During the winter months, 1st graders at Watkins Elementary School and Peabody Elementary School on Capitol Hill have been cooking up applesauce and sweet potato biscuits while studying the different parts of common edible plants; 3rd graders have been learning about antioxidants and nutrient dense foods while preparing delicious raw beet, sweet potato, and kale salads; 4th graders have been learning about African American food traditions while concocting corn bread and a delicious vegetarian Hoppin’ John; and 5th graders dove into the world of victory gardens and the American homefront while cooking up a hearty vegetable soup. Oh, boy, did they love that soup. Dozens of 5th grade students clamored for seconds, and in some cases thirds! Don’t worry, I’m including the recipe at the end of this post.
In 2013, we are teaching more students and classes than ever including a brand new 5th grade FoodPrints curriculum. We just started working with pre-K students and 1st graders at School Within School. We are also teaching parent workshops in the evening. As we incorporate District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) standards into our lessons on Following Directions (Language Arts), Fractions (Math), and Victory Gardens/WWII (History), we also work with Watkins’ classroom teachers to cultivate responsible citizens. Through our lessons the students are instilled with a sense of community, cooperation, self-sufficiency and environmental stewardship. Our students just made beautiful, modern Victory Garden posters encouraging their peers, family and neighbors to garden, as well as conserve our country’s precious resources!
Speaking of conservation, we are just elated that Watkins Elementary and the FRESHFARM Markets FoodPrints program is highlighted in the Green Schools exhibition that kicks off this month at the National Building Museum. The exhibit showcases schools around the country and what they are doing to make their green dreams a reality. What a great chance to show off some of the amazing things going on in our Food Lab and garden! The exhibit opens this month and runs through the end of the year.
As promised, here’s the recipe for the kids’ favorite soup this past winter, featuring inexpensive, seasonal ingredients. Enjoy!
Tuscan Bean Soup (Serves 4-6)
- 3 TBSP olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, well-rinsed and sliced
- 1 large potato, scrubbed and diced
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 2 cups of dry white beans, pre-cooked, rinsed, and drained (or one 14-ounce can of cannellini beans, drained)
- 1 quart vegetable or chicken broth
- 2 cups fresh green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
- ½ cup fresh parsley leaves, washed and chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 TBSP dried oregano)
- coarse salt and ground pepper
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Heat oil in a large pot, then add onion, leeks, potato, and garlic. Cook on medium, stirring occasionally (about 5 minutes), then add stock. Stir in cabbage, parsley, oregano, and beans. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender (20-30 minutes), then remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Spoon out about 1/3 of the soup into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Return puree to the soup pot and stir everything together. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan.
FOODPRINTS ONE YEAR LATER
Raw Tuscan kale salad remains the top favorite of students who participate in FRESHFARM Markets’ FoodPrints program at Watkins Elementary School. The goal of the program is to provide the students with hands-on experiences growing, harvesting, cooking and eating fresh, nutritious, local foods in an effort to change children’s attitudes towards these foods and their willingness to eat them. FoodPrints classroom lessons are designed to support DCPS and Common Core standards in science, social studies, math and language arts for first, third and fourth graders. Last year, through FRESHFARM Markets first ever Kickstarter fundraising campaign, we were able to fund our very first Food Lab – a fully equipped teaching kitchen. Since then, there have been a lot of exciting changes at FoodPrints.
Here’s a glance at the past 12 months:
- Since the Food Lab was completed in October 2011, it has been in constant use for classroom lessons and visits by teachers throughout the District of Columbia. Alice Waters and Jose Andres visited in January 2012, praising the FoodPrints program and the school for making healthy eating a priority.
- A second growing area with raised beds was added to the 1,800 square foot edible organic garden this year with funding provided by the DC School Garden Program in the Office of the Superintendent of Schools (OSSE). The garden now consists of 16 raised beds and 5 planter boxes where the students learn about and grow all their food. There’s also a compost bin and an outdoor classroom seating area.
- This October, FoodPrints Coordinator Jennifer Mampara started a “Family Nutrition Education Series” for parents whose children are enrolled in the Capitol Hill Cluster School. These sessions provide nutrition education through simple, easy to prepare family meals using fresh, seasonal foods. Participants in the program receive “Market Coupons” to shop at the Watkins School Farmers Market that features organic produce from New Morning Farm and Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative. The “Family Nutrition Education Series” is at Watkins and Peabody schools and was funded by grants awarded to the school PTAs by General Mills.
- Two part-time teaching assistants joined the FoodPrints team in 2012: Ibtisam Vincent is teaching third graders and Jane Hellewell is teaching first graders at Watkins and Pre-K and K classes monthly at Peabody.
As we look forward to the spring, Zach Lester of Tree and Leaf Farm will be working with Master Gardener Barbara Percival to develop a growing plan for the garden in 2013.
Until then, take time to enjoy the Tuscan Kale Salad!
2 bunches Tuscan kale (also known as Black or Lacinato or Dino kale)
1-2 garlic cloves, passed through a garlic press or grated into a pulp
6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Juice squeezed from 2 lemons
½ teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste
¼ cup bread crumbs
¼ to ½ cup finely grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese
Gently rip out kale stems with your fingers and compost them. Stack up leaves or roll them together and slice into ¼ inch wide ribbons. Place kale in a large bowl. Put the garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and sale in a small jar or other container with a lid; shake vigorously to combine. Pour dressing over kale and toss well. (The dressing will be thick and need lots of tossing to coat leaves. You may want to use your hands to rub it in.) Let salad sit for at least 5- 10 minutes so that the lemon juice can tenderize the kale leaves. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and cheese, mix well and enjoy!
~ Bernadine Prince, FRESHFARM Markets Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director
GIVING THE GIFT OF NOURISHING FOOD AND MORE
A few years back, FRESHFARM Markets changed my life. Up until then, I was what I like to call a “lazy” healthy eater. I didn’t really care to know what went into my food and I mostly trusted marketing executives when they labeled something as “natural” or “healthy.” (Go ahead laugh. It’s ok.) I ate a lot of processed foods labeled as “low-fat” or “whole grain.” My fruits and vegetables were rarely “in season.”
Through all this, Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” sat patiently on my bookshelf. Like any non-believer, I kept telling myself I’m just not ready yet. Until one day, I was. I opened the book. I devoured it. I read other books. And being that I like challenges, I decided I would try to do more of my shopping at a farmers market. I was aware the FRESHFARM Markets farmers markets existed, but I’d only dropped in out of novelty in the past. It was time to get serious.
FRESHFARM Markets made it easy for me to make changes. Each of the markets I frequented were filled with gorgeous produce, healthy meats and fresh baked goods. The farmers were friendly and helpful. Before I knew it, my entire diet had changed, and I felt fabulous. As an added bonus, I began to get to know the staff at FRESHFARM Markets and started doing occasional chef demos and volunteered for various projects. I learned that the organization goes way beyond just snazzy farm stands and tasty food samples.
Of their many educational programs, the program closest to my heart is the Matching Dollars program . Because my work involves teaching nutritional cooking classes to low-income clients, I realize that procuring affordable fresh produce is not always within reach. FRESHFARM Markets recognizes this too and created the Matching Dollars program to address it. Because of this incentive, SNAP (Food Stamps), WIC (Women, Infant and Children) and SFMNP (Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program) recipients shopping at six of the FRESHFARM Markets can have their governmental funds matched to enable them to double the amount of money they have to spend on seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Although I have supported the program personally in previous years, I can only give so much. In 2012, I struggled to think of a way I could give this program an added boost. Finally, I thought, why not combine a yearly celebration with a fundraising opportunity? This February, I will mark another birthday by gathering with friends at a local restaurant. In lieu of any gifts or contributions towards dinner, I will be collecting donations for the FRESHFARM Matching Dollars program. Even if each of the 50 or so guests only gives $20 each, we’ll raise $1,000 for the program by the end of the night.
I hope basing my diet on the abundant, local produce available at the FRESHFARM Markets farmers markets gives me many more vibrantly healthy birthdays to celebrate. And I can’t think of any better way to mark another year than by sharing with others the gift of nourishing food, as well. Thank you, FRESHFARM Markets!
Using my birthday as a creative way to raise money is just one way to give back. Other ways to get involved include making a donation, becoming a sponsor and more.
Melissa Jones, FRESHFARM Markets volunteer
Melissa is a food educator focused on teaching people how to incorporate more fresh, delicious, local produce into their diets. She works with local non-profits and health centers to create and demonstrate recipes that are fruit and vegetable-based and simple to prepare. Melissa hopes the merger of her Johnson and Wales culinary degree and master’s in nutrition education produces dishes that keep people happy and healthy for years to come. Melissa’s recipes and more can be found here.
FOODPRINTS GETS COOKING
This has been an exciting fall for the FoodPrints Program, housed at Watkins Elementary School. Our new Food Lab was completed in October and is now a bright, welcoming working kitchen and classroom space that beautifully accommodates the 15 first, third and fourth grade classes that participate in the program.
Over the last month, each grade level has been working hard. Each first grade class adopted a butternut squash in the garden and spent time every few weeks observing changes in their adopted squash and measuring its growth. They harvested their squash this month and enjoyed eating them! Our first graders have also been using the vegetable garden to practice their observational drawing skills and have helped us get in a fall crop of collard greens that will produce an early spring harvest. Finally they harvested a bumper crop of kale, which they enjoyed with garlic and lemon over brown rice.
Our third graders started their year learning about nutrition by reading and interpreting the ingredient lists on boxes and bags of food. They discovered that most of the snack foods and cereals we eat are made from the same ingredients: white flour, sugar and corn syrup, salt, soybean and palm oil. They compared these less nutritious ingredients to those in our recipe for broccoli with whole wheat pasta. They then harvested broccoli and peppers from the school garden to use as ingredients to make a healthy snack. They thoroughly enjoyed this tasty treat and took home the recipe to share with their families.
Additionally, our 3rd graders had a very successful sweet potato harvest last week – digging up over 60 pounds of sweet potatoes from the starts that were planted by their predecessors last spring!
Our fourth graders have been learning about the important Native American food crops found in this area. We studied the three sisters (squash, beans and corn) and made models of these plants to help them understand why these crops were planted together and how they helped each other grow. They harvested heirloom dry beans and squash from the garden then used them to prepare a “Three Sisters Meal” of cornbread, roasted butternut squash with fresh herbs and boiled beans. We are looking forward to learning more about the native foods of the America’s with them during December.
~ Jennifer Mampara, FoodPrints Coordinator
GIVING THANKS WITH OUR THANKSGIVING FOOD DRIVE NOVEMBER 17 TO 23
When I think of Thanksgiving, a few things come to mind. First and foremost, I think of all the wonderful things I want to cook – and eat – and share with the people I care about. My mind also turns to people who don’t have all the wonderful food choices that I have. This year we want to create opportunities for both shoppers and farmers to give back and share with series of Thanksgiving Food Drives at our seven still open markets the week prior to Thanksgiving. Find out which markets are participating.
All of our markets have gleaning partners – organizations that provide emergency meals and groceries to food insecure individuals. Our gleaners come every week at the end of market and collect food that hasn’t been sold but is still perfectly good and edible. This year we expect our gleaners to collect over 50,000 pounds. To build our relationship with our gleaning partners, and help shoppers learn more about these important organizations, all food collected from each market will be donated that market’s gleaning partner. Gleaning partners include: Thrive DC, First Church of Christ Holiness, Shephard’s Table, DC Central Kitchen, Annapolis Light House, Arlington Food Assistance Center and Miriam’s Kitchen.
How it Works
Many food drives focus on shelf stable foods, but we want to make the beautiful, fresh, local foods showcased at our markets the focus of these drives. Shelf stable foods are of course welcomed (see the wish list below). However, on the day of each drive shoppers are encouraged to buy foods at market and drop them off at the Market Information Tent. Alternatively, FRESHFARM Markets will also accept monetary donations, which will be used on the day of the drive to purchase food directly from our producers. In this sense, the drive benefits not just people receiving the food, but the farmers as well since it increases their bottom line and helps them unload fall bumper crops when many markets are winding down for the season.
Pantry Wish List
When asking our gleaning partners for their wish list, I was struck (again) at how lucky I am. Some requests really surprised me, like coffee which is too expensive for many soup kitchens to purchase, even in bulk, so they rely completely on donations. I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine a life where coffee is a luxury and not a necessity! And then there are the requests for individually packaged snacks, canned goods and instant breakfast cereal to give to clients so they have something to eat when there aren’t other viable options (many soup kitchens are closed on the weekend). However, you decide to participate, be it with a large tin of coffee, a few boxes of instant oatmeal, or a bag of fresh apples, know that your donations really do make a difference.
Flour, Sugar, Spices, Salt and Pepper, Grits, Coffee, Olive and Vegetable Oil, Instant Oatmeal, Granola Bars and Trail Mix, Apple Sauce Cups, Jellies and Jams, Peanut Butter and Nut Butters, Stuffing Fixings, Rice, Dried and Canned Beans, Pasta, Canned Fruit, Vegetables, Fish, and Meats, Canned Soup
by Juliet Glass, Markets and Program Manager, FRESHFARM Markets