Local Food Connections

On Saturday, our neighborhood fresh produce market hosted their 3rd annual Farm Fest to give shoppers the opportunity to meet local farmers and producers. We love Farm Fest, not just because we get to chat with the men and women who grow the foods we love to eat, but because we can sample new products that more often than not end up on our regular shopping list.

Having fun at Farm Fest 2018.

Last year, we fell in love with an oven-ready vegetarian lasagna that’s made right here in our town. At $20 for an 8 x 8 pan, Il Pandolce isn’t something we can afford all the time but it has become one of our favorite date-night splurges. We also discovered Santo Niño de Atocha Tortilleria. Ms. Alice and her family make fresh corn tortillas and chips literally down the street from us. We can (and have) walked to her shop.

This year the big hit for us was Smirk Ice Cream. Their small batch ice creams are made with fruit sweetened almond milk – no artificial ingredients, no added sweeteners, and no dairy. It was like heaven on a spoon for me (I’m very sensitive to dairy products and usually have to enjoy ice cream in tiny, tiny servings). Smirk even offers free delivery right to your door in the greater Nashville area.

As we made our way around the tables at Farm Fest, I couldn’t help but notice something interesting…besides this grandfatherly gentleman posting pictures of his wife to Instagram.

It’s Instagram-pa! He was having such a great time.

People were really interested in where their food came from. They wanted to know where the farms were located, if they could visit, and if their methods were organic and/or humane. I suppose this is what one should expect in a local produce market but nevertheless, it was inspiring. If more folks thought this much about their food, just think of the impact we could make.

Top 5 Reasons to Buy Local

  1. It supports your local community. 68% of food dollars spent locally stay in the community, as opposed to only 43% of food dollars spent at a chain grocer.
  2. You will reduce your environmental impact. On average, food travels 1,500 miles to reach the grocery shelf. This means massive amounts of energy are used in the transportation, refrigeration, storage, and packaging of these foods. Buying local eliminates almost all of this resource waste.
  3. Local food tastes better and is more nutritious. Most grocery produce is picked early and ripens in transit. Local produce has time to ripen in the field, meaning it can be picked and sold at the peak of flavor and nutrition.
  4. You will buy less. Let’s face it, there are no shopping carts at the Farmer’s Market, no impulse buys, and no BOGO super deals. When you shop local, you generally buy only what you need.
  5. You’re helping end food waste. Almost 40% of food loss occurs before the product even reaches the consumer. A lot of this waste occurs due to spoilage when fruits and veggies spend too much time in storage or transport but 17% occurs directly on the farm, where “ugly” produce is discarded as unsalable. Odd or misshapen produce is pretty much the norm at the local level and no one cares. An ugly carrot tastes just like a pretty one.

Angie with our free jar of salsa and a half pint of maple syrup from O’Brother’s.

During Farm Fest, we also signed up for our 2018 CSA share. Last year, we purchased shares from two local farms and we found ourselves overloaded with some things (like okra and peppers) and missing out on some others (like blueberries and melons). This year, we’re sticking with one CSA – Oak Grove Farms – and will purchase other “supplemental” items from the Farmer’s Market or the produce store. This will be our 3rd season with Oak Grove and we can’t wait for spring to roll around. They grow some of the most delicious strawberries we’ve ever eaten and their homemade salsa…oh my! Let’s just say, if it came in a keg, we’d buy one…or maybe two. As luck would have it though, Farmer Zach was giving away pint jars of his salsa that day.

Along with the salsa and maple syrup, we bought a dozen eggs, a bag of locally roasted coffee, 2 packs of dried apples, some Moosehead Kettle Corn, and 2 pints of local honey. We also went home with a half loaf of Amish sourdough bread and a half loaf of jalapeno sourdough bread from Laurel Mountain Farms. They had the cutest baby goat named Tommy at their table. After the second (or maybe fourth) time they let us play with him, I felt a bread purchase was the least we could do to repay them. And boy am I glad we did! That bread (and some homemade spinach dip) made for some super Super Bowl crostinis.

Food Waste Update

  • Wasted Food this week: 0 ounces
  • Total Wasted Food in 2018: 9 ounces
  • Found Food this week:  20.17 US pounds
  • Total Found Food this year:  83.34 US pounds

Keep up with our food finds in real time by viewing our Food Find Gallery.

Friends, Family, and Farmer’s Markets

One ray of sunshine in our otherwise sleepy little town is the abundance of fresh produce during the growing season. Almost everywhere you turn, someone is set up by the side of the road selling something and here in about a month, it’s only going to get better as the farmers who planted after the last frost (instead of in a greenhouse) start to see their tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, and corn come in like crazy.

I realized as I was driving down the road the other day that I’ve inadvertently become a bit of an expert on where to find the best produce in our area. If you want strawberries, you can’t beat Bradley’s Kountry Acres or Oak Grove Farms. Blackberries, we also get those from Bradley’s or Circle S Farms. Peaches come from Mr. Paul’s house (he has a little stand with an honor box). The best honey is from Happy Bee. Almost everything else (cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, eggplant, potatoes, etc.) comes from Wade Farmz or one of the many other vendors at our Wednesday or Saturday Farmer’s Market…which now includes a man named Jeff.

Two weekends ago as I was leaving the market with our CSA basket, I heard a voice call my name. I turned to see a scraggly mountain man waving at me from the gate. Almost instantly I recognized the weathered but smiling face. It was Jeff, a friend of the family from so many years ago, I can hardly recall. In fact, I’d dare say 30 years have passed since Jeff was popping wheelies on my 3-speed bike across the backyard where our garden now grows. Jeff’s sister and my mom were good friends for a short while and Jeff always seemed to tag along with us wherever we went.

Me posing with a rooster in Gatlinburg, TN [circa 1988].
Jeff is a character like none I’ve ever encountered. He was a wild 22-year old boy when he went with us to Gatlinburg on vacation one year. Chickens must have been all the rage back then because everywhere we went, there were giant chicken statues and Jeff and I posed by every one of them. When I was going through photos earlier in the year, I found this one.

It was good to see Jeff at the Farmer’s Market and even better to find out that he now has a farm just 3 miles from Mom’s house. His pickling cucumbers and red potatoes are absolutely delicious, earning Birdwell Farms a spot on my list of “best places to buy produce” in Sumner County.

Last Wednesday, I took Ticky to the market with me. It was really too hot to be outside but I thought she might like to help me pick out some vegetables. She immediately wanted to give Jeff a hug, though they’d never met. Little kids (and dogs) know good people when they see them. She picked up potatoes and studied them intently, eventually handing one to a lady who walked up. Then she discovered blueberries. Before I could stop her, she plucked one from the container and popped it into her mouth. I bought 2 cartons, of which she ate about 1/2 cup when we got home. That kid loves fruit (and veggies) thank goodness!

She was so tired from her Farmers Market adventure that she passed out at our next stop. Thankfully Walmart has pillows!

We’re starting to see a few veggies from our own garden and will likely have enough blackberries to top a few waffles very soon. Watching them grow makes me pretty happy. Filling the freezer for winter will make me even happier!

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Angie comes back from her 2 week stay in Texas tomorrow. I absolutely can’t wait. Though we’ve talked every day, it feels like she’s been gone forever. While she’s been away, she’s been doing a bit of gardening too.

Plus, she took her mom to the Lubbock Farmer’s Market for the first time ever. I believe her mom has lived there all of her life. This is their haul for the day, most of which Angie has already eaten. (I hope she can sneak that honey jar past TSA!)