Tuesday, April 27, 2010

School Food for Thought

It’s Tuesday which means Nathan has been out all morning making deliveries in the Local Food Hub truck: today, it’s box after box of delicious local apples going to school after school after school.  In fact, we now provide food to forty-five schools in the Charlottesville-Albemarle region.

That’s right. Despite the challenges we face when it comes to school lunch programs – I mean, have you seen Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution?? -- kids in our area are getting at least some fresh, local food at school. The purchase of this food is mostly funded by the USDA’s Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program, which provides healthy snacks during school. We think fruits and veggies make great snacks, and we’re excited to see so many schools making a commitment to healthy food and completing the farm to school connection.

But, we want to see more. Local Food Hub thinks kids deserve fresh fruit and vegetables in their meals, too, not just at snack time. There are plenty of obstacles – ill-equipped kitchens, lack of money, lack of training, nutty nutritional guidelines, to name a few – but there are also plenty of ways we can work together to start fixing this situation. Here are a few:

  1. Support the Local Food Hub. As a nonprofit, we rely on your support to keep our programs running.  Our distribution service makes it easy for schools to access a wide range of fresh food grown right here in our community, just by calling a single phone number. Ordering is easy and efficient, and we deliver in our refrigerated truck, a requirement by the school system.

    We also understand the tight budgets that schools must work within and we do our best to provide as much nutritious food as within those constraints, while still securing fair prices for our farmers. It can be done! We’ve even worked with some public schools to secure grants and other funding to increase fresh fruit and vegetable purchases.

  2. Learn more about the Child Nutrition Act (CNA), and consider taking action. I found this Q&A useful and interesting. CNA is a federal law that governs the school meal programs, which feed more than 31 million children every school day. Right now, school lunch programs have about $1 per meal to pay for food. Schools do their best to stretch that dollar, but it's simply not enough to provide kids with the food they need to stay healthy and to perform well in the classroom.

    Luckily, this bill is up for reauthorization this year, so there’s still a chance for your voice to be heard.  Send a letter to your elected official and let them know how you feel. Get involved!

  3. Spread the word.  Think healthy school lunches are important?  Believe in our local economy and farm-to-school connections?  Tell your friends and family. Write a post on your blog or Facebook profile.  These third graders staged a letter writing campaign.  These Charlottesville ladies started the C'ville School Food Initiative.  
There are so many ways to be a part of this -- do you have other ideas?

image credit: bookgrl/Creative Commons

Monday, April 26, 2010

Volunteer Update!

In case you missed our note on Facebook (what?  you're not a fan on Facebook?!), we wanted to share an update on our open volunteer hours at Maple Hill:

EVERY Wednesday and every FIRST and THIRD Saturday, from 8am – 11am, please join us at Maple Hill Farm to lend a hand. Yes, that means this Wednesday, the 28th, and this Saturday, the 1st!

We always have a wide range of fun things we need help with, including transplanting, weeding, composting, mulching and harvesting, so plan to get dirty and learn a few things while you’re at it.

Please feel free to come anytime in between those hours — and be sure to pick up some fresh eggs, honey, and other produce AFTER your shift (cash and checks only).

Just remember to let us know you’re coming so we can expect you: emily@localfoodhub.org

Thanks – hope to see you at the farm!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Local Food Hub is Hiring!

If you're interested in getting more involved in our local food system and you're looking for a part-time job, this may be a good opportunity for you!  Local Food Hub is hiring two seasonal, part-time employees for our warehouse in Ivy:

Delivery Driver:  Deliver fresh, local farm produce to area schools, grocery stores and restaurants.  Job runs May 1st - November 1st, 2010. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays,  8:00 am  - 2:00 pm. May be more hours as needed.  Clean driving record required.  Send employment history and cover letter to nathan@localfoodhub.org.  No calls or visits please.  For more information, see our listing.

Warehouse Assistant: Help check-in, weigh, label and pack produce straight from the farm.  Pack out orders to schools, markets, grocery stores and restaurants.  Help keep warehouse clean and up to code.  Job runs May 1st - November 1st, 2010.  Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 9:30 am - 4:00 pm.  Send employment history, experience and cover letter to nathan@localfoodhub.org.  No calls or visits, please.  For more information, see our listing.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Many Hands...

They say many hands make light work.  On a farm, I'm not sure how true that is -- the work is never light, and there's always more of it -- but if this weekend was any indication, many hands do make BIG progress.

Saturday marked the launch of our volunteer program here at Maple Hill.  The kick-off event started with a few staggered farm tours -- the chickens were mandatory (of course), as was the greenhouse, packing room and tractor shed.  It culminated in a group of 35 awesome volunteers descending on the fields, planting potatoes, squash and onions, pulling weeds from the asparagus fields, and wrestling row cover.

When all was said and done, our volunteers accomplished at least a week's worth of work in two measly hours -- and had the sunkissed cheeks and dirty hands to prove it.

A few statistics from Saturday's event:
  • 200 pounds of seed potatoes planted (1,200 row feet)
  • 360 row feet of squash planted, mulched and covered
  • 1,000 row feet of onions planted
  • a decent chunk of the asparagus beds are now weed-free (at least for a few days)
Impressive, no?!

We are endlessly grateful to this dedicated group, including community members, families, and UVA students from Cavs Care and the UVA Community Garden.  THANK YOU!

And finally, don't forget -- our regular volunteer hours are now in effect:
  • Every first and third Saturday, from 8:00am - 11:00am
  • Every Wednesday, from 8:00am - 11:00am.

Join us!  Please RSVP to emily@localfoodhub.org.  Hope to see you on Wednesday!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Mystery Photo Revealed!

Ok.  Apparently I need to make these harder, because a bunch of you got this one!  Rusty tomato cages is correct!!  Nice work Jen, Jessica and maybe Stephanie here on the blog, and Matthew over on Facebook.

We've got a ton of these things around the farm, and yes, untangling them will be an ugly mess.  But we're also trying something new for our tomatoes this year: the Florida weave.  One of the main goals of our Educational Farm is to try out new techniques that may be easier, more effective or produce better product than the usual methods -- and then share that information with our growers and our community

Many experts report that using the Florida weave technique -- once you get the hang of it -- is the best and most efficient way to deal with large, indeterminate tomato plants, producing better fruit and keeping the plants up off the ground.  Not to mention, it's supposed to makes harvesting a lot easier.

I guess we'll find out, considering we have more than a thousand baby tomato plants just hanging out in the greenhouse waiting for frost-free weather!  Stay tuned for more reports!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Upcoming Events and Workshops

All this gorgeous weather makes me want to spend every moment of it outdoors, soaking up the sunshine and getting dirty.  In case you're the same way, here are a few upcoming events and workshops you might want to check out (you can always find more on our website).  If you have an event coming up, let us know!  We're happy to list it.

Local Food Hub Workshop | April 12: Learn the basics of farm planning and management from Anthony Flaccavento and Steve and Adrianna Vargo, including succession planting, crop rotation, cover crops and soil testing.  This class is the first in a series of workshops designed to improve efficiency, yield, and overall profitability of small farms.   Get the details on our website.

Family Fitness Fair | April 25: Organized by the Charlottesville Day School, this is a day of foot races for toddlers, big kids, and adults plus live music, picnicking, biking, games of catch, and more.  This event is guaranteed to get you fit -- and wear your kids out!  RSVP on Facebook!

And don't forget our volunteer kickoff event!

image credit: © OliverAlex/Creative Commons

Mystery Photo of the Day...

Ok, folks. Here it is: Your mystery photo from the farm this week.  Any guesses?

A hint: "rusty metal" is not what we're looking for.  :)

Leave a comment here or over on Facebook!  We'll announce the answer tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Volunteer Kick-off: Come See the Farm!


I know that many of you have been itching to see the new farm, get your hands dirty, and learn some farming skills. Well, listen up, because now's your chance!

Join us for a kick-off volunteer event on Saturday, April 17 from 10:00am – 12:30pm at our Educational Farm.

Get a tour of the Maple Hill operation, find out what the Local Food Hub is up to, and get dirty! We’ll be planting 2,000 feet of potatoes and (possibly) building hoop houses for our early spring crops.  We need extra hands!

RSVPs are required!  It's important that we know how many folks to expect.  Upon your response, I'll send you directions, guidelines and other need-to-know information.  You can contact me at emily@localfoodhub.org.

We look forward to seeing you!

image credit: Grass-Naps/Creative Commons