Just a Little Dirt

On any given morning, you can find Brandon Gordon in his fields. He is a full-time farmer at 5 Acre Farm in Bradford, with two small boys and a love for what he does. I recently asked Brandon what attracted him to a life of farming. "When I first started farming, I would have said something about sustainability and a slower, simpler lifestyle than the typical 9-5 job offers.  While that's still true today, I would say the challenge of farming is what drives me.  No matter how much I learn, I'll never master farming. I can't foresee ever getting bored with it." That love of the challenge is what pushes him to try new things on the farm, like new varieties of vegetables, growing sprouts for the first time this year, putting up new hoop houses, and tilling into new earth. Brandon's love of farming is also infectious. He has two part-time...

Just stepping in the doors, you know you are in the right place. The earthy scents of caramel, the rich aroma of chocolate, and a slightly twangy edge to it all, and you've found Airship Coffee Roasters. Zephan and Mark are both smiling when I enter. They have a surprise waiting for me. These enthusiastic owners have set up a surprise coffee cupping, just for me. They have laid out four very diverse coffees, from all over the world, with different processing methods. They are patient and thorough in their explanations with me, as I dive into a world of exotic smells and flavors. Mark shows me how they rank a coffee: flavor/aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, uniformity, balance, sweetness, clean cup, and overall. We smelled first the whole beans for each coffee. Then Zephan ground each, and we smelled again. Yes, the scents had changed. After that came the hot water. We...

Spring in the Ozarks is beautiful and exciting. All of the newness and possibilities. The farm at Ozark Alternatives is no exception. Paul Chapracki took time out of his morning chores to show us around. His farm is one of our associate farms for New South Produce Cooperative. He relocated his farm just over a year ago, and he has made amazing progress. He has one large row house, filled with forests of kale that Dr. Seuss would adore, summer seedlings sprouting through the ground, and of course, Hazel Clementine the cat. Paul is currently supplying spinach, kale, and lettuce to the cooperative. His farm is Certified Naturally Grown. He has a row of test strawberries ripening in the sun, and he was excited about future expansion. The wholesale sales and CSA membership are giving Paul and his family a secured market for his produce and allows him to spend more quality...

Early spring on the farms is a very busy time. Our farmers have been growing steadily throughout the winter, providing fresh, seasonal produce to our wholesale customers. Now the big push for preparing the soil and the beds is underway. Greenhouses are filled to capacity with seedlings: tomatoes, peppers, basil, cucumbers, squash. A big problem for the farmers lately has been mice in the greenhouses. Mice are attracted to the warmth inside. Once in, they see what looks to them like a food buffet. Seeds lined up in all of the trays, just ready to be nibbled upon. They will dig up emerging plants and eat down the leafy greens. Ashley at Dettelbach Farms has had several flats of beets and kale mowed down by the pesky mice. Five Acre Farms has also had issues with their seedlings. Non-toxic measures are employed to combat the problem. Ashley put up a metal barrier...

A long-time partner of the New South Produce Cooperative, The Natural Food Store has much more to offer than the name suggests. Certainly, they have nutritional supplements,  local and organic produce, allergy-friendly foods, non-GMO and organic groceries items, and a huge selection of natural personal items. However, it is their specialty services that really sets this store apart. Co-owner Eric McMullen is a clinical nutritionist. He also studies herbal medicine and holistic nutrition. He provides nutritional counseling by appointment. Eric says, "My particular fields of study are herbal medicine, clinical nutrition, and health coaching, but a big part of how I help people is by bringing a holistic approach to their health.  This also provides me the opportunity to lean on a network of people that share the same passion for health as I do, whether they are doctors, farmers, teachers, restaurant owners, counselors, or truck drivers’ wives." It is this individual approach that sets...

(Recipe from Jennifer at Natural Things Foods Store) Any of you folks out there who were kids of the 1970s will be familiar with this version of a casserole. We had it at least once a week at my house! It may be old fashioned, but it is still delicious, especially if you are hungry for a bit of nostalgia. So sit back, watch some episodes of the Brady Bunch and get groovy with vegetables! Old Fashioned Casserole Ingredients 1 medium white or yellow onion, sliced 2 cloves garlic, chopped 2 sweet peppers, chopped half a pint of fresh okra, chopped into rings 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered 2 cups cooked and shredded chicken (we used Grass Roots chicken tenders) 1/2 cup sour cream 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese 2 green onions, chopped, including green parts 1 package butter crackers, crushed (we used Late July organic classic rich crackers) 3 tablespoons butter, melted Instructions ...

Storage To store turnips, first separate the greens from the bulbs. Store the greens separately in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, and do not wash until just before use. Store the roots in a loose plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a month or longer. Recipes Substitute for potatoes in almost any potato recipe Turnip and Potato Pancakes Turnip and Potato Soup Roasted Turnips with Parmesan Turnip and Sweet Potato Gratin Shredded Root Vegetable Pancakes Roasted Turnips and Greens Preservation To freeze turnips, first wash and slice to desired size. Blanch in boiling water for 2-4 minutes depending on size, then transfer to a bowl of ice water. Drain and place in a freezer-safe, airtight container for storage....

Storage Green onions are onions that have been harvested young, usually before they develop a bulb. They have a milder flavor than mature onions. Green onions are a living plant, so the best way to store them is in a jar with enough water to keep the roots wet. You can keep the jar in the refrigerator or on the kitchen counter, just make sure to change the water every couple of days. If the outside layers start to get slimy, peel them away as needed. Recipes Top off soups or salads Green Onion Pancakes Green Onion Hash Brown Potatoes Potato, Green Onion, and Goat Cheese Frittata Rice Noodles with Green Onions and Herbs Beef and Green Onion Stir Fry Preservation To preserve green onions, you can freeze them simply by chopping to desired size and placing in a freezer-safe airtight container or plastic bag. Keep in mind that they will lose their crunch when defrosted, so plan to use in...

(Recipe from Jennifer at Natural Things Foods Store) Instead of an Asian wok, the Southern equivalent is definitely the cast iron skillet. Cooking these summer vegetables over high heat seals in flavor, as well as staving off the slimy texture that okra can take on when cooked. Quick, flavorful, and nutritious (also vegetarian and vegan). Stir Fry Ingredients 1 to 1-1/2 cups very small okra pods, whole 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped 3-4 small eggplants, chopped 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped 1/2 lemon salt & pepper 1 cup cooked lentils Instructions In a large cast iron skillet over high heat, warm 1 teaspoon oil to almost smoking. Add okra pods all at once, and cook, stirring, until they begin to brown. Add eggplant, and stir, cooking another minute. Add pepper, stirring and cooking for about 2 minutes more. Add chopped tomato and remove skillet from the heat. Squeeze the juice from half of...

(Recipe from Jennifer at Natural Things Foods Store) This week’s CSA box had so many lovely things in it, and they begged to be roasted. Roasting brings out such a deep, rich flavor in vegetables that it is one of my favorite ways to prepare them. The resulting dip from this recipe doesn’t just have to be dipped. It can be spread on bread or wraps, too, for a tasty summer sandwich. Roasted Veggie Dip Ingredients 1 large eggplant or two medium eggplants 1/2 small onion 1 red bell pepper 1 small head of garlic 1 tablespoon olive oil splash red wine vinegar 1 tablespoon sour cream salt & pepper Instructions Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Trim ends from the eggplant and pepper. Trim ends from the onion and remove outer skin, but leave whole. Slice across the entire head of garlic, removing just the tops from the cloves. Do the same on the...