Tuesday, May 25, 2010

An Answer and an Educational Opportunity

A quick apology if yesterday's mystery photo grossed you out.  It's true -- Colorado potato beetle larvae are pretty darned icky.  But nice work, Leif and Malena.  You know your pests!

Those larvae eventually turn into a full-blown beetle that looks something like the above -- or like this.  These pests are a serious threat: female beetles can lay up to 800 eggs, and both the larvae and the adult beetle feed on the foliage of potato plants, possibly eliminating the entire crop.  There are certain insecticides you can use -- both conventional and organic -- but out here on the farm, we've found the best way to combat the beetles is manually removing them and dunking them in soapy water.  It's time consuming, but luckily we have a lot of willing volunteers with nimble fingers.

Speaking of pest management, Local Food Hub is hosting a workshop on June 10th that can teach you the ins and outs of integrated pest management.  From beetles and moths to pesky weeds, instructors Anthony Flaccavento and Peter Warren (VA Cooperative Extension) will help you manage these pests throughout the season, helping to increase your yield.  Both conventional and organic methods will be discussed. 

Interested?  Email Marisa for more information (marisa [at] localfoodhub.org) and pricing schedule. If you have specific questions or pests you'd like to talk about, please email us ahead of time so we can make sure to have an answer for you!

Hope you'll consider attending!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Mystery Photo of the Day...

Ok, for any of you out there familiar with garden pests, this is probably an easy one...but guess away!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Grilling in Season

The rain earlier this week was rough.  My farm uniform quickly became knee-high rubber boots, a raincoat, and a slick layer of red mud, and I'm pretty sure the floorboard of my car now boasts enough dirt to start its own mobile garden.  Suffice it to say that the sunshine yesterday and today has been very, very welcome -- not just for me but also all the veggies working hard out in the field.

If you're also feeling grateful for the reprieve and thinking about firing up the charcoal tonight or later this weekend (what better way to celebrate), I think you might enjoy this post about grilling in season which has some great suggestions and easy recipes, and really got me hungry.  While it's true that summer veggies on the grill are classic (corn on the cob?  eggplant?  peppers?  yes please.), spring has a thrill all its own.  You know what I'm talking about -- after a long, cold winter of mealy, wilted produce, there's really nothing like the first bite of local, fresh from the farm vegetables -- especially when they are hot off the grill.

Out here at the farm, we're harvesting stalks of bright green asparagus, tender baby squash, crunchy bok choy, crispy kale, spring onions -- all of which would be magnificent grilled: sweet, delicate and fresh.

Do you have any suggestions or favorite spring veggies on the grill? 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ground Breaking

We're always talking about the big changes that need to happen in high up places in order to get better food into our schools, but one of my favorite things is when folks take matters into their own hands

Enthusiasm for schoolyard gardens has been picking up across the country, and it makes sense -- what better way to illustrate the connection between farms and food to our kids than to have them participate directly in the process?

I'm also happy to report that our little city is in on the game, too.  Local Food Hub is excited to see these gems popping up everywhere and amazed at the enthusiasm and creativity behind them.  Here are two that we are happy to be supporting:

Buford School Yard Garden:  We're proud to say that we knew the Buford Garden back when it was just a glimmer of an idea in Linda Winecoff's eyes -- and my how it's grown!  They've got fences going up and seedlings being donated -- Local Food Hub donated a flat of organic tomatoes, onions, peppers and squash back in March -- and a Buford Garden Club to keep things moving.  This summer, the Boys & Girls Club will help keep the garden in tip-top shape.  I can't wait to see how it turns out!

Peabody School:  The Peabody School also broke ground this spring, thanks to parent and garden enthusiast, Charity Donnelly.  The garden had fallen into disuse over the years, but after she heard about our Plant a Row program, Charity decided it was time to brush off the garden tools and get it running again.  The kids helped clean it up over the past month, we donated a flat of seedlings to get them started, and NBC 29 News even came out to capture it all on film.  All of the produce grown in the garden this year will be donated to the hungry through our campaign.  What a great idea, if we do say so ourselves!

We also know that Cale Elementary has embarked upon an ambitious garden this year.  We love this stuff!  Do you know about other school gardens in our area? Share them with us!

image credit: jimforest/Creative Commons

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Making the Case for Local...

Sometimes I come to work in the morning and have no idea what I'm doing.

Ok, ok, so that's a bit of an exaggeration -- but lately I'm finding more and more that the parameters surrounding local foods are getting a little fuzzy.  With no clear or standardized definition, no one agency to oversee or control it, the world of "local" is a nebulous one, marked as much by emotion and opinion as by science, rules and mileages.

I'm not saying this flexibility is necessarily a bad thing, but it has allowed "local" to be co-opted by nearly everyone, each tweaking the word just enough to fit within their means.  Even Hellmann's Mayonnaise is in on it.  But I digress (and plus, I'll have more on that later).

The New Oxford American Dictionary, which honored "locavore" as its word of the year in 2007, is equally as non-committal, defining the term as "a person who seeks out locally produced food."  Of course, that begs the question, what does "locally produced food" mean?  Seriously folks, it's like going after a moving target for 40 hours a week.

And, even though we at Local Food Hub have our own ideas and guidelines about what we consider local, the world does not always follow our rules, no matter how much we insist.   :)
So what's a girl to do?  Well, in this case, I'm asking you.  If you're reading this, it means you probably have some interest in "local" food, farming, agriculture (or you just Googled "asparagus berry").  I'm interested in what you have to say.

Here's what I'd like to know:
  1. How do you define "local?"  Is it a 60-mile radius from your home?  1000-mile?  State-wide?  Region-wide?  Does it vary depending on the product?

  2. How strict are you?  Do you abstain from tomatoes in winter, skip citrus and olives and coffee always, or do you make exceptions for certain things?

  3. If you do pay attention to what's local, why?  Carbon footprint?  Economic impact?  Community support?  Food safety?  Something else?

Feel free to leave a comment here, on Facebook, or Twitter, or send me an email: emily [at] localfoodhub.org.    I'll chime in later with Local Food Hub's thoughts (and maybe highlight some of yours, too).  Looking forward to hearing what you have to say!