PLANET GARDEN: Eco-Friendly Resource Guide

Planet Garden Supports Profound Impact of CSA Programs

Posted in Sustainable Column by planetgarden on January 8, 2010

Local Harvest has approved our rural Georgia Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and states the CSA nationwide effort is “a simple enough idea, but it’s impact has been profound.” Because of globalization, rarely do local and regional small farmers’ bring their produce to an infrastructure system of super markets. As a result, CSA cooperatives are growing at a tremendous clip across the country. They offer an effective solution for us to again directly reconnect with our local rural growers. Why should I become a member of a rural Georgia CSA co-op? Americans are signing up for CSA programs because farm fresh produce in their weekly share boxes tastes better and is more nourishing. Grocery chains and superstores would like very much to ‘cash in’ on the better tasting and more nourishing local food demands of customers but the very nature of their structure prevents it. Super store operations are set up so they can place a few gigantic orders with a few gigantic distributors or with distribution divisions. They are not set up to deal with individual rural area growers and small farmers growing seasonal crops and it would be prohibitive for them to attempt. Who profits from a CSA cooperative program? Community supported agriculture is structured to profit our rural farmers directly in return for dedicated community service to provide us with all the best of their harvest. They become our personal growers and aim to directly serve us with all the best tasting and healthy produce. Are farmers markets growing during a tough economy? The nationwide demand for better tasting and healthier local produce is one reason farmers markets have nearly doubled in our country over the last decade. Where do the super store veggies actually come from and who is growing that food? It is vital for prosperity that ‘old things become new’ and we once again know our growers and invest with them. This is one prudent reason people are signing up across our country for Community Supported Agriculture programs. Many super store foods are imported and warehoused by ‘industrial’ growers and far off gigantic food corporations. My advice is prepare now to plant a small spring veggie garden and sign up today with Bluebird CSA for all the best tasting and nourishing local produce. Know who is growing your food and if they care enough about your family to use organic practices. Who can participate in a CSA program? The Bluebird CSA program is a cooperative partnership between our local rural farmers market community, local farmers and community members of the CSA. Members may purchase subscription shares of farm produce in return for a weekly box of fresh farm veggies. Also affordable are boxes of seasonal and local fruits, eggs, flowers, and top Cottage Industry certified baked goods. Growers insure CSA shareholders get all the best of their seasonal produce. Who are the local growers? Bluebird CSA is your opportunity to support and share the harvest of James Family Farm, and other dedicated rural farmers actually growing much of Middle Georgia’s finest Award Winning vegetables. We have been enjoying and sharing the turnips, collards and lettuces from James Family Farm which are delicious and nourishing. We also are highly pleased with apples and pecans from Mr. Holland’s Apple Farm. Partnered for the Multiple Farm Bluebird CSA are certified organic farms like James Family Farm and organic practices farms like SunRay Farms in Barnesville with organic blueberries. If you would like to be a CSA grower or want to sign up for a weekly box of fresh veggies, contact bluebirdcsa@gmail.com. Small gardeners might want to order seeds now to plant herbs like fresh basil and Stevia, or heirloom produce which is in high demand. What comes in a CSA share box? The CSA program is available now with winter greens, lettuces, turnips, local pecans, apples and more winter season produce. In 12 short weeks, seeds and plants will begin producing an array of spring and summer strawberries, blueberries, figs, peaches, blackberries, melons, heirloom and ‘Ark of Taste’ tomatoes, squash, fresh herbs, cucumbers, eggplant, onions, peppers and much more from all the best area growers. You may also want to choose affordable bonus boxes filled with farm-fresh certified eggs, local honey, oatmeal and stone ground wheat breads from Certified Farm Kitchens, homemade healthy salad dressings, fruit and sweet potato pies, Blue-Ribbon winning jellies, pepper sauces, sweet onion relish and all the best local flavors. What size share boxes are available? Shares come in boxes to meet individual needs like a full box share subscription for a family of 4 people, a half share suitable for 2 people or a quarter share box for 1 person. For convenience and Seniors, prepared foods are available like flavorful soups and casseroles using local organic farm fresh products. Affordable prepared dishes and baked goods are offered by professional culinary experts such as ‘Bread of Life’. What are the benefits of a CSA? Participating with your rural CSA cooperative program provides delicious farm fresh produce that is actually grown in our area rather than purchased from other regions and warehoused. Our rural Georgia CSA preserves our local family farms and rural Georgia economy with a sustainable local food system. It helps keep our local money in our community where it belongs. Your food travels less food miles and is therefore more fresh and more nutrient-rich. And our rural CSA reconnects you and your family with your source of food rather than with corporate warehouses and cross country trucking systems. Thank you to everyone who asked for this CSA program last summer and waited patiently for it to be successfully developed and available now. When can I sign up for a box of veggies? You are invited to sign up now for a box of winter veggies with Bluebird CSA to get on the ‘right track’ with 12 weeks of farm fresh vegetable shares. You will get all of the fun ideas on how to prepare this nutritious and bountiful local harvest. You will reap a bounty of heart-healthy nourishing veggies and, as Local Harvest states, it is “a simple enough idea, but it’s impact has been profound.” Enrich your life on Saturdays at Bluebird Market in the historic downtown train depot located at 218 N. Center Street, Thomaston. Explore with us each week to discover simple ways we can affordably contribute to sustainable and renewable eco-friendly living. Find resources online at http://www.bluebirdmarket.com and http://www.planetgarden.wordpress.com. Email rural CSA questions to: bluebirdcsa@gmail.com.

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Planet Garden ‘Ark of Taste’ Christmas Wish List

Posted in Sustainable Column by planetgarden on December 17, 2009

Ark of Taste Christmas Wish List
Last Christmas, the Versemann family was making a Christmas Wish List of Seeds…and Jolly St. Nick filled stockings with Parat Giant Radish seeds and more.  This gardening family planted the seeds, shared the bountiful harvest at Bluebird Market, and shared plants and seeds for the community garden which we are still harvesting now!  What an investment they made and produced and it all began with a Christmas Wish List of seeds.  We just enjoyed the Versemann Parat Giant Radishes last week roasted on a veggie pizza prepared by Dr. Rick Clayton and they were delicious.
For fabulous taste experiences that are in danger of disappearing from our planet, Slow Foods USA has catalogued over 200 delicious but dormant foods. At Bluebird Market, those who bought the Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomatoes from James Family Farm, were promoting and enjoying an Ark product in addition to helping to ensure it remains in production and available to us. The Cherokee Purple tomato was rediscovered after years of complete dormancy by a tomato grower who reported that this tomato originated with the Cherokee people over 100 years ago. The flavor is extremely sweet with a rich and smoky earthy taste and is thin skinned. This is also a nice variety to plant because it grows well in our region.
In the next several days, I invite you to browse the seed catalogs online and ask Jolly St. Nick for heirloom seeds and Ark of Taste product seeds for your spring garden. We are working now with ‘one man and his tractor’ to assist local churches in planting gardens for their congregations. Don’t wait if your church would like a garden this spring and summer, get a head start and email makersgarden@gmail.com. Our aim and hope is for local people to reap a bountiful harvest and now is the time to order seeds and arrange to layout the garden plot that can be established and ready to plant on Good Friday, April 2, 2010. 
If you love the local flavors, take a look at the Ark of Taste seeds for forgotten flavors that are now on a list of agricultural conservation products. Since 1996, more than 800 products from over 50 countries have been recognized on the International Ark of Taste list. We want to celebrate our unique culture in Georgia and keep our products that are delicious but perhaps not being used by super growers or super markets and abandoned to go dormant and disappear.
This Christmas order from seed catalogs or online and choose, when available, Ark of Taste products from our region that are in danger of disappearing so they will be planted and thriving again. Last summer Mr. Taylor, Taylor Organics CSA, gave us a Brandywine Heirloom tomato plant for the community garden and it was a delicious and nutritious heirloom variety that grew well.
If you know of a veggie, fruit, berry, nut, cereal, cheese, fish, game, livestock, poultry, beverage, honey, spice, syrup, vinegar or other product from our region that might need support from Ark of Taste you may download the form at http://www.slowfoodusa.org and send the nomination in to add this product to the list.
Local Harvest has a directory of growers, seed sources and nurseries who carry Ark of Taste products like the seasonal Ark products at Bluebird Market. http://bit.ly/BluebirdLocalHarvest
To see the complete list of Ark of Taste products online visit: http://bit.ly/arkoftasteproducts

 Or to download the list of US Ark Foods by Region which shows what foods in Georgia are in danger of disappearing visit: http://bit.ly/CherokeePurple
Explore with us each week to discover simple ways we can affordably contribute to sustainable and renewable eco-friendly living. Find resources online at www.yougottabekidding.org and http://www.planetgarden.wordpress.com. Email EE questions to: bluebirdmarket@gmail.com.
 

Planet Garden Ag Lifestyle

Posted in Sustainable Column by planetgarden on November 10, 2009
Bob James shows us how to make pumpkin, acorn, butternut and yellow squash dishes fresh for our families at Bluebird Market

Farmer Bob James shows us how to make pumpkin, acorn, butternut and yellow squash dishes fresh for our families at Bluebird Market

Farmers are my some of my favorite people. We are so fortunate to offer a neighborhood local and organic Farmers’ Market as a venue for our farmers to bring us their harvest. If you have ever spent time on a working farm you know the lifestyle is grounded and real. There is always something to do and it can bring us a healthy lifestyle.
Although farming is now reportedly overwhelmingly in vogue, many of our local farmers are struggling to operate in the black and seek day employment and creative means to continue to grow. When we buy at our farmers’ market we insure that the farming lifestyle in Middle Georgia is strong and growing and has a bright future. I am totally supportive of the ag programs in Upson like 4-H and FFA and more. Bluebird Market is also a strong advocate for Farm-to-School. We want fresh and local apples and veggies served daily to our local children. We are working now to continue to boost local farmers each and every day.
There are several ways you can get involved in the farm lifestyle. Adopt-a-Row in the community garden. There is no charge and it is planted now with leeks, brussel sprouts, sweet edible peapods, purple top turnips, collards and much more for fall. Another way you can get into farming is online. There is a game that over 60 million people are  playing called FarmVille.   It’s  the fastest growing social game of all time and the most popular game on Facebook. When you play, you can get an idea of what farmers are doing every day when they buy seeds, cultivate and harvest crops, tend farm animals and win ribbons for helping out neighboring farmers.
My advice is get into the ag lifestyle in whatever way is best for you.  My choice is to open the Bluebird farmers market each and every week and say to our local farmers..Welcome! We are here to serve and assist your efforts.  We encourage our local people to come out and taste your harvest. Our Thanksgiving Day will be abundant with Georgia grown organic and local fruits and veggies!
Find a way to benefit from a lifestyle of sunshine and live green foods. Get to know your local farmers. You are invited to join the audience on Saturday mornings at Bluebird Market Kitchen Show. Farmer Bob James is a delightful cook who shares his farm fresh ingredients and how to prepare them. The show is $3. for Adults and after the show there is a free Farmers Market lunch. Saturdays 11 am at Bluebird Market, 215 Barnesville Street, Thomaston.  If everyone playing FarmVille planted a garden or shopped at their local farmers market what an amazing boost (over 60 million people) it would be to the Ag Lifestyle and our bright futures.
 
Enrich your life on Saturdays at the Bluebird Market. Explore with us each week to discover simple ways we can affordably contribute to sustainable and renewable eco-friendly living. Find resources online at http://www.BluebirdMarket.com. Email EE questions to: bluebirdmarket@gmail.com..

Planet Garden Farmers Market Lunch

Posted in Sustainable Column by planetgarden on November 3, 2009

Bess Mayo prepared her native Dakar W. African Pumpkin Soup at the Bluebird Market Kitchen ShowAfter the Bluebird Market Kitchen Show each week, we have been enjoying delicious and nutritious farm fresh fruits and veggies. Everyone enjoyed James Family Farm sandwiches of “Kicked Up Pimento Cheese” using locally grown Georgia pimentos on farmhouse baked Whole Wheat Bread made with local honey. Also we enjoyed how to make and then tasting a bowl of steaming yellow squash fresh from the garden with Vidalia onions and garden potatoes. Another Farmers Market Kitchen Show and dish was a bowl of W. African Pumpkin Soup prepared by Bess Mayo in the manner of her native people. This soup had large chunks of tender pumpkin, farm fresh tomatoes, carrots, celery and was hot and warming last Saturday morning. Everyone loved Pumpkin Soup and the recipe is online at http://www.bluebirdmarket.com. On Girl Scout day, Alice Versemann showed us how to make Muesli and homemade Girl Scout Granola. After the Kitchen Show, I took this healthy dish out to The Rock Ranch for Growing Up Green and our volunteers from MOMS Club enjoyed the pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, craisins, Georgia pecans, local honey, and apples in the Muesli.
Because these wonderful meals after the show have been just the right lunch on a Saturday morning for people who love organic veggies and fruits, you are now invited to the Kitchen Show and Farmers Market Lunch after the show. This lunch will be in the manner we are accustomed to of a Wednesday night supper so reservations are asked for and there will be a $3.00 charge to attend the Kitchen Show. The Farmers Market Lunch is free after the show.
I have mentioned how much we loved the Atlanta Farmers Market and several people have not been there so if you haven’t been it is worth the trip especially for Thanksgiving, located just south of Atlanta. When we would visit Atlanta with my grandparents, on the way home, because the Farmers Market was located just south of town, it was an ideal location to stop and have a farm fresh lunch of fresh veggies, salads and fruits..like a slice of Georgia watermelon. Frank Mason and I were there visiting SP Recycling one week last summer and stopped in the Atlanta Farmers Market for lunch. We had a salad and the lettuces and veggies were very delicious. We always were happy to enjoy Farmers Market Georgia harvested veggies for Thanksgiving and this year we are fortunate to have them right here in Thomaston at Bluebird Market.
When we had a fall garden on our farm, our favorite Thanksgiving dish was fresh garden collard greens. Now we have them growing in the organic community garden along with organic purple top turnips, kale, Giant parat German radishes, basil, stevia, lemongrass, sweet and edible peapods, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and more. We are so appreciative of all of the assistance in the community garden by local people like C. W. Enterprises and B & B Feed and Seed. Both of these top locally owned farm suppliers have provided seeds that produce bountifully and we are especially pleased with having assistance from people who are knowledgable about Georgia growing conditions. Everyone is welcome at no charge to Adopt-a-Row in the community garden and we will be working over the winter learning more about greenhouse gardening. MOMS Club has a long row of kale planted now in the fall garden to better feed their families here in Thomaston. Moms in Thomaston are invited to join the new MOMS Club–to read more online visit http://www.momsclubofgtarea.com.
If you would like to audition for the Bluebird Market Kitchen Show, please email bluebirdmarket@gmail.com. It’s fun and easy and we are so happy to offer this venue so people can come out and share their favorite delicious and nutritious recipes. Now after the show the audience can enjoy a light and healthy Farmers Market Lunch on Saturdays. Children are welcome and can play and read in the reading room during the show and then join you for a Saturday morning lunch of fresh and local healthy Farmers Market fruits and veggies…the finest foods in Thomaston! The Bluebird Market Kitchen Show begins Saturday mornings at 11:00 am so please let us know to reserve seats for you and your friends and family at bluebirdmarket@gmail.com, Tickets to the Kitchen Show are $3.00 and you will want to stay for the best part after the show—the free Farmers Market Lunch. Bluebird Market is located in Thomaston at 215 Barnesville Street on the corner of Cotton Avenue in the former RC Cola Building.
 
Enrich your life on Saturdays at the Bluebird Market. Explore with us each week to discover simple ways we can affordably contribute to sustainable and renewable eco-friendly living. Find resources online at http://www.planetgarden.wordpress.com and http://www.bluebirdmarket.com. Email EE questions to: bluebirdmarket@gmail.com

Planet Garden Hot Pepper Jelly

Posted in Sustainable Column by planetgarden on November 2, 2009

103109 bluebird 292This is a story of one local farming family with an entrepreneurial spirit that I adore and believe you will too. Bob James with James Family Farm has been dependable as rain this summer coming out every Saturday in Thomaston for our local people. He brings his beautiful farm fresh produce each week to us priced affordably. Now that it is the fall season, he has grown acres of greens that he is already bringing to market and they are absolutely delicious and nutritious cooked in rice, soups or traditionally. Of all the things I like about James Family Farm, what I like most is their entrepreneurial spirit. This week we were fortunate that Donna James, Bob’s Mother, visited us at Bluebird Market. She has been busy all summer at the Griffin Farmer’s Market, but now that the Griffin market is coming to a close she had a moment to share with us.
Donna James made the simple gesture to bring some Philly cream cheese and crackers and sampled their new product line of Hot Pepper Jellies from their certified kitchen. I have tried their delicious Blue Ribbon winning Apple Butter but their new Hot Pepper Jellies are, I believe, even better! We had so much fun when Donna brought in 4 jars of Hot Pepper Jellies that were bright colors of clear golden, red and green with pretty flecks of red and green peppers in the jellies. She opened them up and placed them on the counter at Bluebird Market on Saturday. Shoppers immediately stated they could smell the delicious aromas. The flavors of these Hot Pepper Jellies are Red Bell Pepper, Jalapeno, Habanero and Cayenne. All are balanced and not too hot and Bob James stated the secret is a little bouquet garni of pepper seeds. He places pepper seeds in a little teabag and dips them to extract only the amount of hotness that is pleasant for a delicious flavor.
The reason these Hot Pepper Jellies are so impressive to me is that James Family Farm has an over abundance of flourishing pepper plants that are still producing. They had so many peppers Bob stated they were throwing them away after making jars of pepper sauce. Then Bob James had the idea to investigate Hot Pepper Jelly. In their certified kitchen, Bob stated he tested cooking the Habanero peppers and nobody could come in the room because even breathing the steam was too hot from the peppers cooking. It was a great adventure to get just the right recipe for a delicious and balanced flavor Hot Pepper Jelly. From a local Georgia product that was being thrown away because of over-abundance this entrepreneurial-spirited family now has developed a fantastic upcycled Hot Pepper Jelly Product Line.
This I like! This is the spirit of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) that Bluebird Market is striving for. Soup kitchens are not good enough for our local people. We all deserve better! Bluebird Market is the venue to encourage our people to find a way to make things better. This family is one example of how it can be done. I urge you to buy a set of Hot Pepper Jelly for all of your friends and pass along the story as an inspirational and priceless gift from you. Tell your friends the story of how we can all get better if we just re-focus on the potential value of what we have right before us at the moment.
Don’t throw away peppers…recycle like James Family Farm and find new purpose and value for unwanted items!
More than a flavorful culinary herb, peppers have valuable health benefits. Peppers get their heat (Scoville Heat Unit-SHU) from phytochemicals that produce Capsaicin (cap-SAY-sin). They are an excellent source of vitamin C. Red peppers have 357% more Vitamin C than oranges–so more than 3 times the vitamin C as citrus fruit! Peppers also have folate, B6 and vitamin A. Hot chili peppers may have some beneficial properties as an anticoagulant which may prevent heart attack or stroke. Cayenne Pepper is thought to be excellent for circulation. Peppers also have properties believed to clear congestion. They are naturally very high in potassium, magnesium and iron. These are just some of the numerous beneficial healing properties believed present in the pepper family.
We had a popular Wine and Cheese Shop in Atlanta and we studied many products over Georgia and at nationwide trade shows for top-of-the-line gourmet holiday baskets. My new favorite product line for this season is James Family Farm Hot Pepper Jelly. One idea is to serve these fine local jellies to your holiday guests on Carr’s Tablewaters with Goat Cheese. Each jelly has a terrific flavor — however, my particular favorite of the 4 is the Jalapeno. Local Hot Pepper Jelly is available at Bluebird Market in a Gift Box Set of 4 jars for $16.95. You may place your order now by emailing:  bluebirdmarket@gmail.com.