Grounded: Organically Connected
“If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”
~ Michael Pollan
Truer words have never been spoken. In a world of fast food, processed products, and an overabundance of sugar, the pleasure of eating responsibly sourced produce and meat has been lost. Lives are busy, time is short, and everyone runs around from task to task with little thought to what is being put into their bodies. Many of us no longer know what it’s like to eat fruits and vegetables that have been picked fresh from the vine. Arugula, fresh from the garden, is robust and peppery. Free range eggs fresh off of the farm have rich yellow yolks and a taste that will leave you wanting more. Strawberries picked that morning, at the height of ripeness, burst with flavor and sweetness: natural sugar that is combined with fiber to help your body digest it properly.
Over the past decade, amazing resources have materialized to make farm fresh meats, produce, and other products more accessible than ever. Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) are in almost every town. Farmer’s markets happen weekly and market seasons are getting longer, as most are adapting to a year round growing cycle. As the demand for these products increases, prices are coming down. Many CSAs will even deliver straight to a place of business if they have multiple families enrolled. Farm to table restaurants are beginning to appear everywhere. It is becoming easier to eat responsibly. Now, people want to support the local farms, the local chefs, and, in turn, the local community. It is possible to eat fresh and tasty food straight from the farm at home and in many restaurants. It’s time to get grounded and go back to our roots!
ATHENS LAND TRUST
Our culture, our community, our sense of place — these are all tied inextricably to the land. Athens Land Trust was founded in 1994 by Skipper StipeMaas and Nancy Stangle. At the time, the two women were involved in the development of the Kenney Ridge community, a single-family neighborhood located on 139 acres on Tallassee Road in Athens-Clarke County. In the course of that project, StipeMaas and Stangle discovered an apparent conflict between their two goals: to protect open spaces, and to keep the housing lots affordable. They believed that both problems required an integrated solution.
As one of the few land trusts in the country to address not only land conservation and affordable housing, but also community agriculture, Athens Land Trust (ALT) links land, people, and food in ways that improve overall quality of life across a broad spectrum. Part of this effort involves working with new and beginning farmers in our area to provide education and resources, as well as to connect them to new and expanded markets. This work began in 2013, when ALT broke ground on the West Broad Garden, Athens’ first urban farm, which is also the site of the weekly West Broad Farmers Market. Since then, ALT has facilitated several produce stands both at West Broad and throughout the community.
This year, ALT has further increased opportunities for local farms by launching a multi-farm community supported agriculture (CSA) program. This is a collaboration between ALT’s Williams Farm and four local, young farms that are part of ALT’s Farmer Network: Foster-Brady Farm (Monroe), Spring Valley Eco-Farm (Winterville), Starks Valley Farm (Commerce), and Sungate Farm (Danielsville). These farms all take responsibility for filling CSA boxes each week, which helps to ensure abundance and variety for CSA members.
ALT’s Farmer Network began planning last fall to develop a detailed production schedule for the 2016 season to sustain two 13-week CSA sessions, as well as a weekly produce stand at St. Mary’s Hospital from late April through December. The St. Mary’s Produce Stand is a partnership between ALT and the hospital which operates every Wednesday in the hospital’s atrium from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Each of the farms in ALT’s Farmer Network are Certified Naturally Grown (CNG), meaning that no synthetic herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms are used in their growing processes. CNG offers peer review certification to farmers based on the highest standards of the organic movement.
There are myriad benefits to joining a CSA program — for individual members, farmers, the local economy, as well as the environment. Members are assured fresh, seasonal produce yielding exceptional flavor and longer shelf life compared to grocery store produce, and they directly influence the sustainability of small farms, and in turn, the community. Since CSA shares are typically sold ahead of time, farmers benefit by being able to spend more time in the field and less time marketing. CSAs also eliminate the need for excessive packaging and drastically cut transportation costs and emissions, allowing more profit to end up in the growers’ pockets which they can, in turn, put back into their farm businesses. CSA programs allow the farmers to do what they do best– grow fresh and nutritious produce for families to eat.
The fall session of ALT’s multi-farm CSA program will run from September 2 – November 23. To join, or for more information, visit www.athenslandtrust.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.