In early 2015, New Roots Director Karyn Moskowitz received a call from the Humana Foundation. An employee—Jake Miller—had recently returned from a decade of leadership at Walgreens and Target to work for Humana Corporation in his hometown of Louisville. Jake Miller, now founder of Toggle Health, a medical equipment start up, knew that once he realized that Fresh Stop Markets could essentially save lives, New Roots had to declare a bold and audacious goal of spreading the model across the region. First, some serious changes that would streamline and codify Fresh Stop Market processes needed to happen.
“When my wife and I visited our first Fresh Stop Market in 2015, we met Karyn, and she gave us each a big hug. The entire Fresh Stop Market experience was incredible. My role since then has been to figure out how to help bring the Fresh Stop Market experience, ‘the hug’, to as many people as possible. I learned a bunch from Karyn about community organizing, food justice, and non-profit work; and we worked with the team to put these New Roots strengths together with more streamlined and replicable processes in a new and unique way,” said Miller.
“Once we set our expansion goal, we realized we needed to make it easier to set-up and run each of the Markets, or we would never be able to grow.” Miller says that there were three things done to make that happen:
What followed was a picture of what the "perfect" Fresh Stop Market could look like. “We did our best to bridge the gaps between those two pictures,” Miller said.
Miller says one example of this gap bridging was investing and simplifying. “The equipment was not of great quality, so it would break easily, and storage was always a problem,” Miller said. “Now we pool the resources across multiple Markets (since they are on different days) which allows us to buy nicer, sturdier equipment that we deliver to each Fresh Stop Market when they need it.” He also said that by centralizing some activities, i.e., oversight of New Roots bank accounts, publication of the newsletter, ordering the produce into the New Roots Hub, this freed up our volunteer leaders to focus on delivering the ‘hug’, the best possible experience for our communities.”
“This new more sustainable model gave us a unifying purpose for the future. We went out in January 2016 to the Just Food! Conference at Harvard Law School and again in January 2017 in Lexington to the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) Conference and presented the model to people from all over the United States. We got a big rush,” Moskowitz said.
Miller says that New Roots has evolved into an organization that can dream big and is developing the people, processes, and platforms to deliver on that dream. “We are building a culture of continual improvement that gives everyone involved the power to help make us better.”
What’s on the horizon for the next year?
‘We just received a small Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant to bring leaders and farmers from the Georgia Farmers’ Market Association here in late September to interact with staff and leaders and see the Markets in action. Some of our leaders will be headed to Georgia in late November to share. We are writing a larger SARE grant to help fund a pilot Market. Our hope is to test the model in Clayton County, Georgia in 2018.”
Marguerite Gaither gets help bagging up potatoes at the Parkland Fresh Stop Market from her granddaughter.
When you consider the sheer number of varieties that now can be grown, “potato” has almost become a generic word.
There are Red Gold potatoes, Red Norlands, Adirondack Reds (apparently red is a good color for potatoes), Elbas, and Kennebecs, among many other varieties. Rootbound Farm in Crestwood, Ky., grows eight types, all picked for flavor, appearance, use, viability, and even long-term storage.
“Different types of potatoes have strengths that others don’t have,” said Rootbound’s Ben Abell. “Some are bred to be good storage potatoes, allowing us to have them all winter long. Others are bred to be good ‘new potatoes’ by maturing early and maintaining a tender skin.”
And not all potatoes are created equal, at least when it comes to how you plan to prepare them.
“Some potatoes are ‘dryer’ or starchier, like the Kennebecs, and for that reason they are a favorite for french fries,” Abell said. The Adirondack reds are another story; they are great for roasting and also hold a surprise inside. According to Parkland Fresh Stop Market leader and shareholder Cybil Flora, “When I first prepped an Adirondack red potato for roasting, I had no idea the flesh would be red. I thought it was a radish. I had to taste it to know what it was. Now they are my favorite type of potato and I save them for special dishes.”
As an organic farm, Rootbound also must consider what varieties will do better using those growing methods.
“The Elba potato was bred to be resistant to ‘late blight,’ which is a disease that often hits in the later summer,” Abell said. “So, by growing Elba potatoes that time of year, we have a better chance of them surviving and doing well.”
Beyond disease and pests, growing potatoes organically can be challenging.
“We buy ‘seed potatoes’ in the winter and then cut them into smaller pieces and plant those to become our potato plants,” Abell said. “Most readily available conventional seed potatoes are doused with chemicals to help them be resistant from bugs and diseases. While those are certainly helpful things to have, our organic practices mean we do not use chemicals and we need to buy certified organic seed potatoes, and that can sometimes be challenging. We typically order our potatoes from other states like Maine, and they travel a long way to get to us.”
Flavor also plays a role in the types of potatoes Rootbound chooses to grow, as well as color.
“The Adirondack Reds are popular because they have pink flesh,” he said. “A lot of our chef customers like those because they are very interesting looking on a plate.”
And if you’ve ever wondered why Fresh Stop Market potatoes seem dirty when you buy them, it’s not because farmers are lazy. Abell said moisture can breed disease and decay, so most potatoes are better left dry and unwashed until ready to be eaten.
“Potatoes don’t really like moisture; they prefer to be very dry and will last longer that way,” he said. “Throughout the year there are some varieties of potatoes that do better being washed and refrigerated for storage, and other varieties that do better being stored dirty and not refrigerated. We base that decision on the individual needs of the variety, and also the time of year of the harvest and the age of the plant at harvest.”
And like any other vegetable, there is no wrong way to enjoy a potato, but for Abell, he’s on the same page as Cybil: roasted is best.
“Chopped into small squares, tossed with olive oil, garlic, and herbs and then roasted at about 400 degrees for about 40 minutes,” he said. “This yields a crispy and delicious roasted potato!”
Ligia, Ervin, Colin and Dara Brandt, aka the "Broccoli Kids" at the Jeffersonville Fresh Stop Market
Not all kids need to be told to eat their vegetables. If left to their own devices, the “Broccoli Kids” at the Jeffersonville Fresh Stop Market might be able to eat their weight in them, while simultaneously encouraging you to eat your vegetables.
The Broccoli Kids are Ligia, Ervin, Colin and Dara Brandt, who along with their mother Heather, have been volunteering at every Jeffersonville market.
“Our Mom has raised us to eat vegetables, so we’ve always liked them,” said Colin, 10.
Every other Thursday finds the Brandt kids manning the tables at the market, helping shareholders pick their produce. For those who need a little extra help, one of the Broccoli Kids is happy to jump in and carry the bag and collect their share. And if someone is not too sure about a particular vegetable, they have advice and encouragement.
“With radishes, the smaller ones are not as spicy, and one person took all the big ones,” Ligia, 14, said. “When I told her (they were the spicy ones), she dumped them all out and then picked out the little ones.”
Dara, 6, can even tell you her favorite way to eat radishes.
“I sometimes cut them up with some apples, and then I cut the apple up into little pieces, and then I mix it up with some salt and pepper,” she said.
And coming from kids, their encouragement might meet with more success.
“If they don't like the vegetable as they go by, we try to encourage them to take it because it might taste good if they try it another time,” Ervin, 13, said. “We tell them to try it a different way. I know a person who doesn’t like peppers raw, but she likes them cooked.”
The Brandts earned their nickname at the first market when they became so excited about counting and sorting broccoli. Fellow volunteer Gayle Collins said they know more about vegetables than she does at times.
“They are hard workers,” she said. “I think it is very important to start them young with volunteering, and these kids really enjoy it. They can’t wait to do something, and I think that is very good.”
Their mom said she thought the market would be a good way to get her kids involved with volunteering.
“It was a good match for them, a way that they could serve, and a way that we could benefit and save on organic food, because it is a bit pricey with six members of our family, and they eat vast quantities of food,” Heather said.
Sydney Smith, a New Roots’ AmeriCorps VISTA worker said getting kids involved early helps them make the right start.
“You keep true to the traditions you held whenever you were younger, so if you are around vegetables and you know they are good for you, you’re more likely to hold that throughout life” she said. “It’s a good opportunity for them to see real food and a mission in action.”
Okra is one of those foods that elicit a strong response: either you love it or hate – there is no in between.
That was the case for Fresh Stop Market shareholder Michael Sabes.
“Both my wife and I grew up never eating okra and not liking the sliminess of it,” he said. “In my parent’s house, it is almost a taboo vegetable to mention.”
On those rare occasions when he did eat it, the okra was deep fried or in vegetarian gumbo. It wasn’t until one of his weekly shares at the Gendler Grapevine @ the J market included okra that he decided to give it another shot.
“When picking up our food share at the last Fresh Stop Market, I was surprised to see okra as one of the 10 items,” Sabes said. “I gladly took my share and wondered what in the world I was going to do with the okra. When I saw Karyn I said, ‘You are going to make me try to cook with okra?’
Sabes said he knew that adding acid such as vinegar would help decrease the sliminess that makes okra so unpopular with many people.
“I went home and did some research on the internet and found a recipe for roasting okra on the stove,” he said. “I was amazed at how much they shrunk down. The okra was fantastic! It was crunchy and there was no sliminess at all. My wife and I truly enjoyed it.”
Sabes enjoyed the okra so much that when the next Fresh Stop Market brought more okra, he was excited to try it in a different recipe.
“I took the okra and sliced it lengthwise and put it in a hot pot,” he said. “I then added sliced mushroom and cooked it dry until a little tender. I added fresh garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and a little sugar and some fresh chopped tomatoes and let it cook for several minutes. It was a fabulous side dish for dinner.”
It’s too early to say if okra will become one of his and his wife’s favorite vegetables, but it’s no longer on the do-not-serve list.
“I am no longer afraid of it and will enjoy making it more often,” he said. “I even hope to roast some when the family comes over for a special dinner.”
The History of Okra
By Stephen Bartlett, creator of the non-profit Sustainable Agriculture of Louisville, which educates, trains, empowers, and accompanies the next generation of farmers in the rebuilding of a just and local food economy in Louisville and its regional foodshed.
Okra, is a subtropical or tropical plant from the botanical family that includes cotton, hibiscus, and cocoa. The okra flower looks identical to the hibiscus flower and is a perennial that grows up to 6 feet tall, but is grown as an annual in temperate climates. The greatest diversity of okra varieties exists in West Africa, but Ethiopians and South Asians also claim okra originates in their regions. Okra came to the New World on slave ships from West Africa, as early as the mid-1600s in Brazil, and in the 1700s in North America. It is nutritious and a hardy plant easy to cultivate in varied conditions. Okra is most famous in the US as the raw ingredient for "gumbo" type sauces.
If you harvest the pods young and tender, there is less "goo" in them. Favorite recipes for okra dishes include frying in a corn meal breading, or stewed with tomatoes and hot peppers. Young pods are delicious to eat raw in the field. Okra dishes in the US have a strong association as a kind of African or "soul" food. Less widely known in mainstream culture in the US are the many recipes from South Asia based on okra.
What is it that animals know that we don’t when it comes to eating GMO corn?
Noah Nolt, an organic farmer outside of Liberty, Ky., said while the science around the safety of Genetically Modified Organism crops is not settled, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that points to its problems, for humans and animals.
“There are several other farmers in the neighborhood who have cows that tried the GMO corn,” he said. “One of them had put GMO corn in the silo first, then he put regular, hybrid corn on top. The cows were eating that silage corn just fine until it came to that point (of GMO) and then they didn’t want to eat it anymore. Cows recognize that there is something that they don’t like as well.”
Nolt, who raises corn as well as sorghum cane, said another neighbor who had sprayed their feed corn with chemical herbicides noticed problems with the cows’ health and milk production after eating the feed.
“They finally concluded that the only major change they had made was the GMO corn,” Nolt said. “They switched back again and felt like the problems that had come up were disappearing. They are persuaded that there is something there that they would rather not have.”
GMOs are foods that have been genetically engineered for reasons unrelated to health or nutrition, to give them a trait they don't naturally possess, such as a resistance to chemical pesticides. For example, it enables farmers to plant seeds they can spray them with chemicals such as Roundup to kill weeds or ward off insects and other predators, so farmers can save time and money not fighting those battles.
“There is one side of science that explains that to put something in the corn, it either takes out or pushes out something in the structure of the corn,” Nolt explained. “And so the concern in that realm is, what is being taken out? Is it something nutritionally valuable or vital to the animals and humans that we feed it to? It seems like there is quite a bit of literature that says, ‘Yes.’”
Ben Abell of Rootbound Farm in Crestwood, said there are generally two schools of thought when it comes to growing GMO crops.
“From the consumer standpoint, it’s, ‘Ew, that’s Frankenfood, I don't want to put that in my body,’” he said. “From my standpoint as a farmer, it’s a terrible way to farm. You become reliant on these chemicals.”
Even naturally occurring herbicides such as the bacteria BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), which is allowed to be used in organic corn farming, begins to create problems when engineered into GMO corn seed.
“When they first genetically engineered BT (into corn), basically the BT corn had one (gene) variation in it,” Abell said. “Now, the corn seed has 20 or 30 (gene) variations of BT in it because the (corn ear worms) have developed a resistance to it. It’s the same thing with Roundup when you’re talking about the Roundup Ready corn; the weeds are developing resistance around it.
“It’s just a short-sighted way to farm.”
Nolt said if he were strictly interested in profit, using GMO would be the way to go.
“But if I’m interested in passing along my farm to my children, I would have serious second thoughts about using them,” he said. “Once I went organic, I didn’t need to think about GMO anymore.”
In life, sometimes you find your passion. At other times, that passion finds you.
That's what happened to Peter Champelli, a sophomore at Ithaca College in New York, when he began doing volunteer work for New Roots as a student at Dupont Manual High School.
“My friend Amanda Tu was the first person who introduced me to New Roots, and she was a formal intern,” he said. “From there, I got to know Karyn (Moskowitz) pretty well. In 2014 as a sophomore, I started filming promotional and documentary work for them, which the primary purpose was promoting the Fresh Stop Markets. My biggest project that started my work with them was a video in November 2014 documenting their Veggie Rx Project that ended up raising (money) for the organization.”
Champelli said when he first became involved with New Roots, he didn’t know much about food equality and justice issues.
"As soon as I was introduced to Karyn and the team and started attending events, I realized it was something I was passionate about,” he said. “It was something I could use my personal skills and passions to give back in a way that I couldn’t with other things.”
He continued his video and documentary work through his junior and senior year, providing New Roots with video content they could share with potential donors and the community, offering a better idea of the different initiatives being offered.
“I filmed an event where they were leading workshops (Veggie Rx) with children to teach them about healthy eating and fitness,” Champelli said. “There was also an interview series with attendees. The last project I did was a New Roots sponsored event called a Food Summit at Bellarmine University.”
As has been the case for others over the years, becoming involved with New Roots led to doors being opened for Champelli. Searching for a college, he stumbled across what turned out to be his dream school, Ithaca, a private school whose tuition might have been out of reach for him if not for his New Roots background.
"New Roots helped provide a path for Champelli."
“Ithaca offers the Park Scholarship to a minimum of 10 high school seniors every year, for students who show a passion for communications and community service,” he said. “It was a combination of the community service I showed through my work with New Roots, and the communication skills, like video production that I’ve been developing, which also helped me in that area. I can thank New Roots on both accounts for helping me get that scholarship.”
The scholarship requires students to continue their community service at Ithaca, and again, New Roots helped provide a path for Champelli.
"I was the graphic design coordinator for an organization called Food for Thought, and they deal with food justice and food issues around the world,” he said. “I did all of the graphic design work for their promotion of an event called, the Walk for Plumpy’Nut, which was a 5K walk for fundraising to send money to doctors who are developing a substance that is similar to peanut butter called Plumpy’Nut. It’s doctor’s preferred substance for treating malnutrition cases.”
Champelli is studying emerging media, which is a combination of video production, media studies, and computer science, skills he hopes to continue to use to help other people.
“Not only was New Roots a great place for me to use my skills in video production and to give back in a way that I cared about, but it also gave me a lot of information and passion to continue working in food justice.”
A few months ago, Ian Herrick, an organizer with Louisville Farm to Table and one of the founders of the Smoketown Fresh Stop Market mentioned the Waterfront Botanical Garden Cultivator Board to New Roots director Karyn Moskowitz. The Cultivator Board is a non-fiduciary board that acts as an advisory council to the Board of Directors and staff. The idea of the Cultivator Board came about when the Waterfront Botanical Garden Board Members came to the realization that they were, well, getting older and that there needed to be a way to recruit, train and retain younger folks with fresh ideas who then enter a pipeline to become eligible for nomination onto the Board of Directors.
“This seemed like a great idea,” said Karyn. “I brought the idea to New Roots Board Member Patty Marguet, who brought it to the rest of the Board for discussion. This led to numerous conversations with Botanica Director Kasey Maier, Chris Nation (previous Chair of the Young Professional Association of Louisville (YPAL)) and other community members. In June, New Roots Directors elected Humana Foundation Analyst and New Roots Fresh Stop Market shareholder Colleen Reilly to the Board so she could focus on creating New Root’s own Harvest Council.
Colleen remarked, “The Harvest Council will operate under the core principle that fresh food is a basic human right. Through this council, we aim to engage young professionals to think and act innovatively in order to unite communities in creating solutions for sustainable and equitable local food economies.” Colleen continued, “We would like to know if you—or someone you know— is a young professional who is looking for an opportunity to share your skills and passion for food justice, engage more deeply with the community, and support a grassroots organization in achieving its strategic goals. We need your help recruiting the founding members.”
The New Roots is recruiting 5-9 highly-motivated individuals ages 22-40 with diverse backgrounds and skillsets who will develop their own objectives to support the strategic goals of New Roots. This group will fall under the umbrella of, and receive support from, the Board of Directors but will work autonomously.
Some activities may include:
· Community outreach and awareness-raising
· Recruitment and retention of shareholders
· Volunteer activities
· Educational programming
· Fundraising activities
· Making community connections
Please express interest or send recommendations to Colleen Reilly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are few things that speak to the pleasures of summer more than a ripe ear of corn ready to be devoured at an afternoon picnic – unless, perhaps, you are a small, organic farmer.
“It’s a crop that all around is an absolute crowd pleaser, but I would say it is by far the crop that we consistently fight,” said Ben Abell, who runs Rootbound Farm in Crestwood, one of the primary providers for the Fresh Stop Markets. “It’s almost impossible to grow, and it’s a bummer, because it is a crowd pleaser.”
Between growing with organic methods, tough economics, and the predators – both mammalian and insect – who love to eat it, Abell said corn faces the most pressure of any crop farmers like him grow.
“Before we even talk about bugs, there are deer that love the young corn plant, raccoons that eat the ears of corn once they’re pretty ripe – usually the night before we’re going to pick,” he said, with a laugh. “And finally, birds that attack corn and shred the ears.”
He said the modern sweet corn that people like to eat also is more susceptible to worm damage, and there are few tools organic farmers have to fight them, compared to conventional farmers.
“With GMO (genetically modified organisms) corn, the pesticides are genetically engineered to be produced by the actual corn plant,” Abell said. “The corn plants actually generate the pesticides that are toxic to the corn ear worms and European Corn Borer. They have those advantages over us on that front for sure.”
Organic farmers can use naturally occurring pesticides.
“The pesticide that most corn is genetically engineered to produce is BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), which is actually a bacteria,” Abell said. “That bacteria is the only real tool that organic farmers use to control ear worms. In organic farming, we are allowed to use certain pesticides as long as they are natural, are selective and naturally dissipate in the environment, and don’t harm beneficial insects. Bacterias are some of the pesticides that we use. We use BT to spray our corn, but it’s generally not overly effective, the formulations we use.”
He said the field of organic plant breeding has taken off in the past 5-6 years, giving farmers like him more tools with which to work.
“What really good plant breeding focuses on for organics is developing new corn varieties that have a lot tighter husks around the tip, and that just makes it more difficult for the worms to get in,” Abell said. “There’s little stuff like that that is done through conventional breeding techniques that don’t use GMO, that are specifically focused on organic growers.”
Those tools will help in the long run, but economic realities for small farms like Rootbound and others that grow for Fresh Stops Markets, still make corn a tough crop. Corn lends itself to being grown on a large scale because it can be harvested mechanically. On small farms, crops like corn and green beans – another crowd pleaser, Abell said – are harvested by hand.
“Everything we do is harvested by hand,” Abell said. “If we could invest in machinery, we would get a green bean picker … a smaller one that only picks one row at a time and costs $30,000. To go from hand harvesting to automation, you really do have to make a serious investment.”
Despite the difficulties, Abell said Rootbound has two crops of corn that look promising for the Markets, one during the second week of August, and another in September if all goes well.
Myron Hardesty, PA-C, M.H. is a licensed Physician Assistant and Medical Herbalist (M.H.) and has been practicing Clinical Herbalism through Weeds of Eden for over 15 years.
Are fruits an important part to the human diet?
Food diversification in general is a crucial part of all dietary recommendations. Fruits constitute a major food category so they are certainly important and valuable for human health. Phytochemicals and fruit-nutrients are of a particular variety that you can’t find in vegetables and protein. It’s this “rainbow of colors” that provide so much of the nutritional value in fruits.
How have fruits changed over the generations? Have they gotten sweeter or stayed the same? Why?
Modern fruits have little resemblance to their more Paleolithic forebears. Now we have all these hybridized versions of fruit. Take for example a modern apple: Granny Smith or Red Delicious or Golden Delicious. Comparatively, what our ancestors used to eat resembled more of a tiny crab-apple. This was a sweet treat and highly valuable as a caloric resource for communities that were more concerned with survival than flavor. Actually, probably more sour (phytonutrients) than sweet. Also, when you think about seasonal eating, we probably weren’t exposed to all that much sugar during the winters. From this aboriginal perspective, we are consuming the caloric equivalent of “sugar bombs.” However, putting things in a more modern perspective we have to admit that the greater issue is the amount of refined sugars in soda, candy, cereals and the like that are the major contributors to heart disease and diabetes. So, Yes, compared to those Fake Foods ( there were no Pepsi streams , there were no Skittles bushes or Crunchberries) apples and bananas don’t seem so bad. The modern world has a VERY perverted sense of “sweetness.” We just don’t realize it because we grew up with it.
What fruit has the most excess amount of natural sugar?
That’s a good question. I would say ounce for ounce…well, try intuitive eating: What tastes the most sugary? My guess is that a date has probably the highest sugar content. Mangoes are probably loaded with sugar. But health always depends on context. The most healthy fruits are the ones with highest phytonutrient to sugar ratio. Meaning that they have more nutrients and less sugar. We want to eat the rainbow so for example, blueberries have stilbene which is somewhat like resveratrol that accounts for the French paradox of wine. Both of these PhytoNutrients have been shown to be powerful sirtuin activators that combat diabetes. They are highly antioxidant and help regulate the inflammatory cascade. Nutrient density offsets caloric excess in these cases. White bananas less so. White-interiored apples (hybridized for sweetness and calories) less so. Sugars (generally speaking fructose+glucose= sucrose) are a fuel rather than a structural component like fats and proteins. We need calories in the forms of these sugars to generate the energy to carry out bodily functions and the reconstitution of our bodies. The phytonutrients complexed with these carbs and sugars ensure that that fuel doesn’t cause the mitochondrial engine to “run hot” or oxidize and break down, like it does with strictly added sugars. We are simply running on WAY too much fuel in the industrialized west.
The real problem in the modern food climate or environment is that we are way overloaded with sugars primarily coming from grains. And these grains are not colorful; they are the “browns.” They are carbs without phytonutrients. So what you’ve seen is a gravitation of otherwise nutrient dense fruits becoming more like the carbs that are found in grains that are instead calorically dense. Grains don’t have the phytonutrients to cool down the engines when all these excess calories get dumped into the system because of our addiction to sugars – even fruit sugars. The cells become insulin resistant and that leads to Type 2 Diabetes. And while insulin resistance is actually an attempt by the body to keep all of these excess sugars OUT of the cells where they damage the mitochondria the health effects of all this fuel still take a terrible toll (– and one capable of bankrupting the American Health Care system). It is like our cells are engorged with too much sugar and there is too much fuel and not enough phytonutrient coolant to cool it down.
What about eating fruits out of season?
I encourage people to eat fruits in season. We need those phytonutrients to cool us down. The earth will provide but our grocery stores lack seasonality. Normally we would eat according to the season because there is a natural intelligence to it. When it is hot, we need to eat foods that cool the body, and vice versa. That is why trees generate fruits in the summer and not the winter. Fresh Stop Markets are leading us in the direction of seasonal eating, and that is a great thing.