Monday, March 29, 2010

Laying an Egg for the Hungry?

We've been talking up our Plant a Row campaign for a while now, and we're thrilled to report that we've got more than 25 gardeners in Charlottesville participating.  Of course, it's still March and as the cool weather today is reminding us, still early spring (though rumor has it we could see 85 degrees by Friday!).  Suffice it to say we're not exactly expecting donations to pile up anytime soon...

Of course, that was before some the members of CLUCK (Charlottesville League of Urban Chicken Keepers) got involved!  Thanks to some creative thinking outside the last week, four members of CLUCK donated 13.5 dozen eggs to the Haven at First and Market.

Not only is this awesome and amazing and a big deal, it's also the first official Plant a Row for the Hungry donation this year -- yep, even though it's not fruits or veggies, we're still counting it!  The sentiment and the effort and the care behind it are the same, and we like to see folks being creative, thinking big, and staying open-minded!  Any bets on what's next?!

P.S. You can still join the Plant a Row effort!

image credit: Guinevere Higgins

Friday, March 26, 2010

Mystery Photo Revealed!

Well, how about that. Turns out people know their fungi! A few sharp-eyed readers over on Facebook guessed correctly: the mystery photo this week is a mushroom-inoculated log! A shitake mushroom log, to be exact!  Our resident mushroom-expert and farm apprentice, Brian, is working on getting a shed-full of mushroom logs up and sprouting -- see more pictures here.  And check back, because we expect to see some fungi-action soon!  Thanks for playing!

Clean Your Plate: Around the Web This Week (and a few weeks past...)

It's been a while since we've done a weekly round-up, but we're back on track.  Here's some interesting stuff we've seen around the web lately.   If we missed something, let us know!
image credit: dixieroadrash/Creative Commons

    Thursday, March 25, 2010

    Healthy and Hunger-Free

    Here's some news for policy wonks and school lunch advocates alike.

    Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Agriculture unanimously approved Senator Blanche Lincoln’s  Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The next step is for this bill to be marked up, read, and voted on by the entire Senate.

    At this moment, when nearly one of every three American children is overweight or obese, this is definitely a step toward helping our children eat better and live longer, healthier lives.  But, there's a lot of chatter over whether the bill goes far enough.  First, let's look at some of the things the bill does include:
    • Establishing national nutrition standards for all foods sold on the school campus -- including those in vending machines;
    • Expanding food access to more children and reducing administrative burdens on schools; 
    • Strengthening school wellness programs to have explicit goals and public accountability; and
    • Increasing reimbursement for meals to schools for the first time since 1973.
    However, many folks, including Ag. Secretary Tom Vilsack, believe that it doesn't go far enough, and that a more robust bill that supports the President's $10 billion budget request should be passed.  Currently Lincoln's bill is only about half that -- $4.5 million.

    Which may still seem like a lot...until you do the math.  The proposed funding increase is merely $0.06 per meal.  Six cents!  There's no way around it -- that's simply not enough.  Schools are already losing an estimated $0.35 per meal (according to the School Nutrition Association), and fresh, healthy food just costs more than processed, frozen mystery nuggets. 

    The Local Food Hub works to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to area schools -- whether through the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program or Farm to School week -- but we know firsthand that every school district struggles to make ends meet.
    If we want improved school nutrition, we are going to have to devote some real resources to it: increased spending on food, skilled food service personnel and good nutritional programming.  What do you think?

    image credit: back garage/Creative Commons

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Mystery Photo of the Day...

    Ok folks, back with another mystery photo from the farm!  Lots of good guesses over on Facebook last time, but no one was right on the money.  So how about today -- any guesses?  Click the photo for a larger image...

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    signs of spring: photos

    asparagus is sprouting (please believe me when i say this is best viewed large):

    tractors are plowing, just in time for rain:

    seedlings are growing:

    yes...things are looking good.

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    Plant a Row for the Hungry: Details Emerge!

    Have you heard about our Plant a Row Campaign?

    Well, if you're growing a garden (backyard, container, windowsill, whatever!) and you live in the Charlottesville-area, then you should sign up (and spread the word)!  We've already got more than 20 local gardeners on board, but we want more.  Read on for lots more details!

    The idea is really quite simple: when you’re planting your garden this year, add an extra row (or even just a plant!) to your garden and donate the fruits of your labor to those who are in need.

    Then, drop the food off at the Local Food Hub warehouse as you harvest: we'll do the collection, coordination and distribution.  We already make a weekly delivery to food banks in our area -- so by combining the donations, we hope to streamline and simplify the process for everyone.  Of course, you’re free to take the food to any of the local food banks yourself, too! We only ask that you let us know how much you donate so we can keep track.

    Just to clarify: this is all strictly donationyou donate the food to us, and we donate and deliver it all to area food banks -- and keep tabs on how much the PAR campaign brings in.

    If you're interested in joining the campaign, please email me at  We'd love to have you on board!

    Mystery Photo Revealed!

    Lots of good guesses over the past few days on our Facebook page, but no one got it just right! The mystery berry above is actually....

    An asparagus berry!

    Yea. I had no idea either!  Asparagus plants are either male or female. The female plants develop more spears or stems than the male plants, but the stems are smaller in diameter.  After the first year, small red berries form on the female plants in late summer.  We found these berries as we were weeding out the fields for this season (see more photos here, here and here).

    Also, another fast fact I just learned: Contrary to popular belief, thinner stems are not an indication of tenderness. Thick stems are already thick when they poke their heads out of the soil and thin stems do not get thicker with age. Tenderness is related to maturity and freshness.  Just one more reason to eat local!

    YUM!  Thanks for playing.

    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    When it Rains, it Pours.

    Ok, didn't meant to scare you.  No rain predicted this weekend -- just two glorious days of sunshine and 70 degree temps.  But there's so much going on around farming and local foods this weekend (and next week) that I'm dedicating a whole post to it.

    First up, C'ville Parks and Rec is sponsoring a local food workshop called "Home for Dinner."

    When:  March 20, 2010 from 10:00 to 1:00

    What: How can I feed my family local food and stay within my budget?  What's the difference between a CSA and a food cooperative? Find out these and more in this three hour workshop that explores the local food scene.  Participants will learn cost-saving and seasonal meal-planning strategies and take home delicious recipes.  Guest speakers, who include Chef Mark from L'Etoile and Kathryn Bertoni from Appalachia Star Farm, will help complete this interactive and informative workshop.

    How Much: $15.00 for residents and $22.00 for non-residents.

    Where:  Tonsler Recreation Center

    How: Call (434) 970-3260 or visit to register online for workshop # 240528
    Next up, the Forum for Rural Innovation: New Approaches for Agriculture and Rural Prosperity,  showcasing new programs that enhance farm or rural business profitability. The models also focus on conserving farmland and natural resources, and developing new approaches to rural prosperity in upscale areas where land commands premium prices.

    Sponsored by Loudoun County Office of Rural Economic Development - more info here!
    And finally, next week is the Wild & Scenic Film Festival at Vinegar Hill.  Lots of good stuff to choose from, but I'm looking forward to the 16-minute short film, Homegrown Revolution:

    In the midst of a dansely urban setting in downtown Pasadena, radical change is taking root. For over twenty years, the Dervaes family has transformed their home into an urban homestead. As a family for this new paradigm, harvest nearly 3 tons of organic food from their 1/10 acre garden while incorporating many back-to-basics practices, as well as solar energy and biodiesel.

    More details on the festival can be found at, and you can download a full schedule here!

    No excuses for staying home this weekend!

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    Mystery Photo of the Day...

    Test your farming/gardening/botany skills... Any guesses on what's in this mystery picture?  Click the image to see it larger!

    P.S.  Speaking of gardening, have you thought about planting a row for the hungry this year?

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    Out on the Farm...

    Are you ready for this?  We have big news.

    The Local Food Hub is proud to announce the opening of our Educational Farm at Maple Hill, located in southern Albemarle County, Virginia. The facilities include existing farm equipment and implements, a large greenhouse, multiple sheds and barns, select perennial plants, and mushroom and egg operations. (I guess I no longer have an excuse to be scared of mushrooms.)

    The use of Maple Hill Farm came about through collaboration with the Matthews family, local landowners with a longtime vision of a thriving community farm.

    We have so many plans for this beautiful, certified organic operation.  First and foremost, farming!  The greenhouse is filling up with seedlings of all kinds -- baby broccoli, cauliflower, onions, tomatoes, spinach -- and the fields are slowly but surely coming back to life.  Some of the food grown here will be for distribution, but 25% will be donated to local food banks, pantries and soup kitchens.
    Also, we're in the midst of planning all kinds of workshops and community events.  Three fantastic apprentices started last week -- you'll meet them soon -- and we'll have high school interns out here this summer.  Groups from area high schools and community groups are already planning service days, and if you stay tuned, you'll hear about some great volunteer opportunities, too.

    Our heads are still spinning at the opportunities here, and we are so grateful to all of our supporters for making it happen.  What a great investment in our community, our economy and the future of Virginia's local food and farming movement.  We look forward to sharing our progress with you.   
    image credits: Emily Manley

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    No Longer Dormant: The Spring Thaw

    While it may have seemed farfetched a few days ago, today the signs are unmistakable: spring really is right around the corner.  The greenhouse here at the farm is filling up with seedlings and the rich smell of good, healthy dirt. Robins are taking over my backyard on a daily basis. I spent too much money last night on an ambitious pile of seed packets and my fingers are itching to rip them open. These are signs of spring, I’m sure of it. 
    I’m also sure that many of you are now in the planning stages for your own gardens – backyard, container or otherwise. Whatever the case may be, if you’re tending to a garden this year, I want to ask you for a favor.

    Will you join the Local Food Hub in our effort to provide fresh, local, nutritious vegetables and fruit to those who really need it? Will you Plant a Row for the Hungry?

    The idea is really quite simple: when you’re deep in the midst of planning and planting this spring, will you add just one extra row to your garden and donate the fruits of your labor to those who are in need?

    Details on how it all works are forthcoming. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered on the heavy lifting and the logistics; we’ll even get your produce to the food banks and pantries in our area. Right now, I just want to know if you’ll join us.

    This is an easy (and fun) way to make a big difference in the health of our community with just a small amount of effort. And the possibilities are endless: get your kids outside, challenge your neighbors, involve your school, your friends or your coworkers. The more people on board, the less weeding you’ll have to do (!) – and the more food we can get to those who need it.

    Please respond as soon as possible if you are interested in joining us: email me at

    But wait! Don’t have space for a garden? Green thumb not so green? We could still use your help getting the word out, gathering resources and coordinating logistics. Please let me know if you’d like to join the Plant a Row for the Hungry Committee.

    Whether you’re a first time gardener or an experienced farmhand, we’re looking forward building a Plant a Row team – and seeing what you can do!

    Here’s to a fruitful, generous (and delicious) spring and summer...

    image credit: Our Enchanted Garden/Creative Commons