This is the weekend each year that I attend a conference in Dallas to obtain my CEU’s (continuing education units) for my personal training business. It’s always a tough weekend as it seems to coincide with the start of school. When the catalogue came this year I took time to peruse the classes and offerings. There were definitely some that were of interest but also a lot of the same….tabata training, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), medicine ball classes, etc. I haven’t been in much of a mood to be jumping up and down lately, well, at least not for any extended period of time. I did my best to procrastinate signing up and upon further thought, decided I just wasn’t going to go.
This weekend is also Le Garage Sale. I love heading to Palmer auditorium to see what deals I can uncover in the mass of clothing, shoes and accessories and witness the frenzied women get into it over a Prada handbag or pair of Monolo Blahniks. Some of the best Austin boutiques participate so I feel some sense of accomplishment as a result of my purchase(s). ( although my husband’s words often ring in my ears: “You must spend money to save money”). Go figure!!!!
This summer I have really come into my own. I am acting on a passion that drives my every move and motivation. I have a tremendous appreciation for local food and farms and want to do everything I can in order to support them and encourage and educate others to do the same. I have been a member of a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for several years now. I am also growing (to the best of my ability) some herbs and veggies in my garden (thanks to Monique and her assistance, instruction and education 😉 Throughout the course of my nutrition curriculum, this this theme kept reintroducing itself in various capacities and each and every time I listened, my desire has intensified.
I have recently connected with a wonderful group of people in Austin who founded The Homegrown Revival. Look it up NOW!!!!!! There, I made it easy for you so take a quick commercial break and go to the website, you can also pee because this post will be quite a lengthy one….. And, while you’re on your surfboard, go ahead and check out our facebook page, then “like” us! Yes, feel free to peruse the page, see who else you know that likes us too and read our latest newsletter. Please DON’T get sucked into Facebook right now. No need to voyeur. You can do that after you finish reading my post (oh, and don’t go forget to pee:-).
So, back to The Homegrown Revival. As I was approaching the completion of my nutrition curriculum, I kept banging my head against the wall trying to figure out how I was going to incorporate this into my current business model. I gave lectures in the carport, I attempted some at Westover this summer with very little response. I have also delivered lectures to the kids at school which was a kick, for me and for them.
I have always been passionate about educating people on living a healthier life, mainly through exercise. I know that food (and the quality thereof) is of utmost importance as well, but had never obtained the credentials to educate people in that arena. I was only going off my own personal experience (which I will not go into at this time or else you may as well put this on your e-reader and get into your pj’s, that’s another really long story……..I digress:-).
I happened to engage in conversation with Sonya Cote, the amazing chef/owner of Hillside Farmacy, one day a few months back as we were discussing the importance of eating locally and sustainably and surprisingly how many Austinites don’t really know about or understand this component of health. I told her that this was what I wanted to do, educate people about eating locally and sustainably, but wasn’t sure how. When she shared with me that she and her boyfriend David had created this non-profit (or were in the final phases of it’s creation) things immediately clicked. They needed someone who had the availability and time to get out in the community and relay this message. She is a full time chef and he is a documentary filmmaker. And the rest, my friends, is a fairy tale come true. I am now on the Board of The Homegrown Revival as the director of Community Outreach. Get to know us know because we are about to make a splash….BIG TIME! You’ll see lots of events we are going to be hosting, from farm tours, happy hours, know your grower events, dinners on the farm, etc. Too much to mention, just keep on checking our events page (yes, that means bookmark us:-)!
So that brings me back to this weekend, kind of. Well, you see, there’s a history here too. I have been a regular attendee of the SFC farmer’s market in the triangle for a little over a year now. The farmer’s have become more than familiar faces, I would say more than acquaintances, maybe closer to friends. I have learned a lot from them over the past year or so about their sustainable farm practices, their land, their animals, their successes and their unfortunate occurrences. I have come bearing gifts when a farmer announced his wife had a baby. I have mentioned to chefs that I eat in their restaurants because I know they are sourcing their produce or animal protein from these farmers. They have, in fact, become my friends. So, now I can actually tell you about what I chose to do this weekend! I’m trying to lead up to a big climax here:-)
This past Wednesday at the Triangle market, I was making my rounds as I normally do and I came upon my friend Nathan Heath from Phoenix Farms. I was looking for his wonderful onions but he had sold all his bounty to a local restaurant, Olive & June. I was disappointed although happy for him as he had sold every last onion! Believe it or not, I don’t think the farmer’s get too upset when they have to drive an empty truck back to the farm after market. Nathan and I got to talking and he mentioned that he was looking for some help on his farm this weekend to clear some brush in an acre of land he had designated for planting. He needs to ready the plot in time for fall planting which is rapidly approaching if not already here! He wanted to know if I knew anyone who might want to help out.
I immediately felt like volunteering as I have really wanted to go out and see his farm and learn all about his practices. I had signed my daughter up for a cooking class Saturday morning and I had my own ulterior motives. My plan was to work out, take her to class and head down to Le Garage for some bargains…….but I couldn’t after hearing Nathan’s request.
Later that evening I kept thinking about how I would be able to help out my farmer friend in need. I thought about reaching out to the families in my kids’ school. I would post it on facebook. I would even suggest a posting on The Homegrown Revival’s facebook page or website.
And so as the week progressed, I sent out my requests and rearranged my schedule (and that of my family) such that we could all head out to Bastrop on Saturday morning to help clear brush. As so it was, on a slow moving Saturday morning following the first week back in school, we (and one of my son’s friends) set out for Bastrop after a brief stop at Taco Shack for fuel.
Upon arrival, we walked over to the area in need or our assistance. It had been bulldozed though many large sticks and branches were either embedded in the dirt or just strewn out over the area. Our job was to collect or rake them into piles so that Nathan could come behind us, fill up his tractor bed with the sticks and dump them with the brush.
We all worked for a couple hours and the area began to look much cleaner and clearer. Along the way I met Nathan’s wife, children, mom, dog, turkeys, horse and pony. It was a great feeling to be of service and it really gave me a much deeper appreciation of the hard work that goes into creating beds for planting on a farm.
Kids at work
Our farmers work from dawn ’till dusk. I don’t think they know the definition of a “day off”. They have to brave the elements, the insects, the unwelcome farm animals, etc. Last year during the horrible drought I attempted to attend the market every Wednesday without fail. It was unbearably hot outside. The farmers were working all day and night to salvage whatever they had growing on their farm then driving it up to central Austin to stand outside in the oppressive afternoon heat to try and sell it. I felt a connection to them and wanted to do what I could to support them. I’m glad they all survived last summer and were graced with some rain and a more moderate heat this summer. That’s not to say that it’s been a cake walk either.
I heard from Nathan about the caterpillars that destroyed several beds of his squash crop, the raccoons that ate though his melons, those same raccoons killed 17 of his chickens last year. Just last week at the market my friend at Smith Farm told me about the coyotes he recently trapped and killed. He raises chickens and the coyote had killed several of his heirloom variety in broad daylight. He posted a picture of it on his facebook page! Yet another farmer I purchase baby arugula from said he didn’t have any this week as insects and caterpillars had destroyed his entire crop of arugula and that he was going to have to reseed. The process should take several weeks before he sees any product or has anything to offer at the market.
So what doesn’t look so glamorous is definitely not so glamorous. What looks like a really laborious lifestyle is a really laborious lifestyle. That being said, these farmers love what they do and are passionate about their land, their practices and their product.
I learned so much on my farm visit. Nathan showed me the greenhouse, he talked about wanting to move more towards aquaponics, a new sustainable food production system that I’m hearing a lot more about lately. He showed me how he is creating an environment for earthworms and breeding them in order to put them back into his soil. He told me about Will Allen and Growing Power which develops community food systems and centers in various communities across the US. He spoke passionately about permaculture, how he won’t even use Neem oil on the crops, instead he uses a combination of habenero peppers and essential oils to stave off the caterpillars, not kill them. He is the epitome of sustainability in my eyes. It was both an honor and a pleasure to be out on his farm, in his presence and have the ability to see firsthand how he cultivates his land and his crops.
horse and pony
Nathan also spoke about the relationship he has with various chefs in town and how he is growing certain varietals specifically for the chefs and their restaurants. My desire is to continue to strengthen the relationship between farm and table and educate our community on how they can improve their health, the health of our local community and our world. There are so many different ways I can approach this: restaurants, chefs, families, businesses, organizations, other non-profits, schools, medical professionals, universities or hospitals.
the team with Nathan
time to shower!
The majority if not ALL of our vegetables and animal protein should come from local farms. They are doing it right peeps, it’s damn hard work but this is their passion. If you haven’t had the opportunity to eat local produce, there are copious opportunities for you to experience their profound flavor. At each of the SFC’s farmers market’s they have a tasting tent where you can taste a sample of the local produce being sold at that market. A farm fresh tomato or cucumber has a completely different flavor than one that has been sitting in a bin or on a shelf at the grocery store. The local produce at the market has likely been picked in the last 24-48 hours. The same goes true for farm fresh eggs. No comparison!!!!!
I am attaching a list of all the farmer’s markets you can attend in Austin. There are also several ways that you can support your local growers if the market locations and times are not convenient. You can subscribe to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) that will deliver fresh produce to your door!
There is a long list of restaurants that source their produce and animal protein locally and proudly display these farms and ranches on their menus. Finally, there are chefs in town that prepare meals made with meat and vegetables sourced from local farms and ranchers that are available for pick up or delivery each week. I don’t want to inundate you with even more information because if you are still reading this lengthy post you probably need to start getting your kids in bed for the start of school on Monday or go shave your beard or whatever…….
If you want more information on where to source the goods or to how to shop the farmer’s markets or to how to prepare the bounty or how to help the next time I head out to the farm just say the word……I’m your gal! That’s what I’m here to do, educate the community on how to incorporate this simple little practice into their daily life.
Here’s my fashion forecast:
GREEN is the new BLACK.
FOOD is the new FASHION.
SUSTAINABLE is the new ATTAINABLE.
LOCAL is the new VOCAL.
Live, love, local!