Beyond the Silo: If grocery store tomatoes had their own soap opera, it would be called “The Bland and the Beautiful.”
Grown for looks and not taste, these tomatoes are often the opposite of home-grown and organically grown tomatoes – sometimes “ugly,” available in every shade of the rainbow, and with a taste that can only be authentically produced in the summer.
Sherry Hurley, owner of Farm to Fork Catering, said the reason for that is that store-bought tomatoes may have been harvested as long as three weeks before actually making it to someone’s plate.
“A lot of tomatoes, because they need to be ripe when they arrive at the grocery store, are actually harvested when they’re green and then they’re refrigerated, which can also affect the texture, the smell, and the flavor of the tomato,” she said. “When people say it has that mealy texture or it tastes like cardboard, that’s how that happens.”
Alaina Tobbe, produce manager for Ashbourne Farms, said when tomatoes are picked before they are ripe, it means their sugars have not had time to develop, robbing them of much of their cherished flavors.
“They’re really pretty and they’re flawless, but their taste isn’t the same,” she said. “The ones you grow yourself, even if you pick them when they’re starting to turn red, they have more sugars, they’ve had more time to develop and ripen, and that helps their flavor so much. And even if they have flaws, like their skin starts to split, they may not look as pretty, but they taste so much better.”
Tomatoes, like many fruits and vegetables, are 70-90 percent water, and once they are removed from the vine begin to lose moisture and nutrients.“So the goal, in terms of flavor, food safety, and nutritional value, is to eat a tomato that is harvested as closely to the time you are going to eat it as possible,” Hurley said. “Obviously, if you have a garden at home, you can harvest it and eat it immediately, which is by far the best when it’s still warm and at the peak of ripeness.”
She said in her experience, tomatoes brought to markets like Fresh Stop Markets and farmers’ markets are generally picked the previous day, making them the freshest option next to growing your own.
“And ideally, you want local, organic tomatoes,” Hurley said. “Again, because tomatoes are made up of so much water, the pesticides can be more prevalent in vegetables that are thin skinned.”
And being able to get beyond the 4-6 types of tomatoes typically offered in stores is an even bigger incentive to grow your own or look for them outside of grocery stores.
“There are hundreds of varieties available and to limit yourself to 4-6 red kinds that don’t have much flavor in the grocery stores, really, is to not experience tomatoes in my opinion,” Hurley said.
Tobbe said Ashbourne specializes mostly in heirloom tomatoes, of which there are endless varieties, from slicers to cherry tomatoes to Romas – and the demand is growing.“Looking at the orders we’ve gotten this week, I’m definitely going to try to up production next year if I can manage to find the greenhouse space,” she said.
And when it comes to the best way to eat tomatoes, that question has as many answers as there are varieties. Tobbe said she prefers hers either diced up on a taco or sliced on a turkey sandwich. For Hurley, it’s hard to beat a good BLT – unless, as she said, you fry an egg to put on top of it and make it a breakfast sandwich!
In the Veggie Patch: Is the Grass Really Greener on the Other Side? Some Fresh Stop Market shareholders Say YES to Grass-Finished Beef
If you are looking for a good reason to start eating grass-finished beef as opposed to the grain-finished, concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) produced beef available at the grocery, we can give you at least five:
It’s healthier for people. It’s more humane for the cattle. It’s better for the environment. It’s now available through all of New Roots’ Fresh Stop Markets. And like the produce that shareholders get through their Fresh Stop Markets, this grass-finished beef is purchased locally—from Ashbourne Farm in La Grange, Kentucky, with logistical support from Ian Herrick from Louisville Farm to Table.
What makes grass-finished beef better than grain-finished feedlot beef is that cattle are eating their natural diet of grass—from birth to processing—as opposed to the grains they are fed at the end of their lives at large, commercial operations. They also are able to forage in open pastures for that grass, which is a more natural environment for cows and more humane than overcrowded feedlots.
“Grass-finished beef is the equivalent of organic vegetables,” said Ian Herrick, with Louisville Farm to Table, who has been helping New Roots promote the beef at the Markets. “If the reason you don’t like eating conventional beef is because you perceive it to be unhealthy, or you don’t like the way the cows were raised, or being exposed to antibiotics, or cattle that are eating GMO grain, grass finished is your answer to eating a healthier beef.”
He said when cows are fed a diet of grain, they often develop digestive issues.
“This leads to the use of antibiotics,” Herrick said. “Feed grain often contains low-dose antibiotics … which leads to an increase in antibiotic resistance in people, causing them to be less effective.”
In addition to being healthier for the cows, the meat they produce is healthier for people to eat.
“It’s lower in total fat and calories and higher in antioxidants,” Herrick said. “When cows eat their natural diet of grass, they don't need those antibiotics, and they build up more Omega-3 fatty acids, more vitamin E and A.”
And if people purchase beef from smaller farmers, there is less reliance on large-scale cattle feeding operations. Herrick said these operations create a lot of methane gas, which has been linked by scientists to global climate change.
He said there is a difference between grass-fed beef and grass-finished beef.
“Grass-fed beef was originally taken to mean it was raised on grass for the entire lifecycle of the cow, but then people started calling cows who are grain finished, grass fed. What conventional beef farmers do is raise cows on grass until a certain point and then feed them grain at the end of their life (to get it to put on weight quickly),” he said. “So people had to start using the term ‘grass finished.’ Grass finished means they have never been fed anything but grass, no grains.”
The grass-finished beef available through the Fresh Stop Markets is $6 a pound, and is being sold at cost.
“One reason grass finished is a higher price is not that they are trying to make a healthier product, it’s because it takes longer and it’s a lot more work for the farmer,” he said. “It’s work in that they have to graze their cattle in different parts of their land and at the same time, they have to monitor what is growing and if it is the proper grass or clover for them to develop. A drought could be devastating if you are a grass-finished farmer. Some people have to feed their cows grain at times, although true grass-finished farmers have storage of dried grasses that they feed their cows. And that is what Kentucky farmers do in the winters.
Fresh Stop Markets are home to many vegans, who have weighed in on the addition. “I think it is better than buying beef at the grocery store knowing how chemically processed it can be,” added New Roots marketing and PR intern Nikki D’Ambrosio, who is a vegan. “I know some people believe their bodies need a higher protein intake—like my brother—and get this through eating beef. However, I feel it is better to eat humanely-raised meat, if you are going to eat it at all.”
Shareholders can now order beef at the same time they order their share. Just go to the New Roots’ website and click on your market under the “Ordering” tab, and you will see a place where you can add beef to your order.
Let’s face it, in today’s society, the competition in the job market is increasing at an exponential pace, leaving those who have fewer internships or job experience out of luck. While a college degree with honors looks good on a resume, employers are expecting applicants to come out of college with at least 3-5 years of experience. What about those who have to work multiple part time jobs in order to pay for school or for their family? As sad as it is to say, the people who can afford many unpaid internships in their respected field typically are ones who stand out to employers.
A program through KentuckianaWorks called SummerWorks was implemented by Mayor Greg Fischer in 2011 when teen unemployment rates were at an all-time low. This program offers local students (ages 16-21) the opportunity to enter the workforce and offers all the tools to students in order to succeed. Last summer, more than 140 employers hired more than 5,100 youth between the age of 16 and 21. From industry-leading corporations to neighborhood businesses, organizations of all size have benefited from participating in SummerWorks. For participating nonprofits, Metro Louisville pays each intern $8.25/hour for 30 hours per week for seven weeks. This money comes out of the Metro budget surplus.
SummerWorks is a program that not only helps students but also helps businesses around the Jefferson County/Louisville area. In all honesty, it’s a win-win. This program provides students with valuable knowledge about the workforce, money management, and helps them create connections; all of which can be taken with them in the future and applied to future jobs or careers.
My SummerWorks story isn’t like most–I didn’t find SummerWorks, but rather, it found me. After being connected with New Roots for a couple of years, and finishing up my first year at a Jesuit University that heavily encourages community service, I knew I wanted to find an internship that was more than just going on coffee runs and staring at the ceiling all day. I wanted to make a difference. When Karyn Moskowitz reached out to me and proposed that I come work with New Roots as a marketing intern through the SummerWorks program, I knew this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass.
This was not the internship I had in mind for this summer, but I am beyond thankful that it was placed in my lap. SummerWorks has introduced me to many hard-working, passionate young adults who I work alongside every day. This internship is giving me valuable marketing and life skills that I am able to save and use in the future. This internship is also helping me give back to the community.
While my New Roots SummerWorks story is not the same as others, there is a running theme that this opportunity allows us to thrive and learn in a field that we are interested in. Similar to me, junior in the culinary program at Western High School in Louisville, Lee’Shion Stroud, said that his SummerWorks internship at New Roots fell into his lap. He said that his trainer at the Break the Mold CrossFit gym in Shively originally suggested he work at New Roots and hearing that it was a food justice nonprofit organization immediately peaked his interest. Stroud has developed a love for food and cooking while being a part of his high school’s culinary program. “I was excited to be a part of New Roots this summer because now I can begin to love and appreciate healthier foods like fruits and vegetables.” This internship is allowing Lee’Shion to come one step closer to fulfilling his dream of becoming a chef by allowing him to meet local chefs, cook for Fresh Stop Markets, and learn the importance of fresh foods.
SummerWorks is mostly about helping the youth in the Louisville area, but it also helps local organizations. “New Roots is really interested in cultivating food justice leadership in our youth and young adults. We hand-picked our SummerWorks interns on their specific talents and strengths, neighborhoods of residence, and passion to unite communities to spread food justice,” said Karyn Moskowitz. “We love having their valuable input and innovative ideas.” New Roots currently has 7 SummerWorks interns: 4 operations, 2 communications/marketing, and 1 assistant to the administrative coordinator. These interns are vital to the New Roots HQ over June and July.
Whether it be teaching students about goal setting, time management, and money management within a workplace or allowing a place for those to come one step closer to a dream or future career–the Mayor’s SummerWorks program is allowing 16-21 year old’s across Jefferson county the chance to make money and ultimately give them an advantage to succeed in today’s competitive job market. New Roots could not imagine their summer or “start of the growing” and Fresh Stop Market season without their SummerWorks interns.
In the Veggie Patch: Activist Stephen Bartlett talks food origins, getting kids outside and involved with their food
Stephen Bartlett created the non-profit, Sustainable Agriculture of Louisville (SAL) in 2001, to educate, train, empower and accompany the next generation of farmers in the rebuilding of a just and local food economy in Louisville and its regional foodshed. That grew out of the work he has done for the past 19 years, working for the non-profits Agricultural Missions and Other Worlds, which work with farm laborers globally.
SAL offers a Gardening Day Camp for kids 7 and older, where they learn about gardening and get to participate in the different tasks involved in it, from growing, to harvesting, to prepping and cooking food, all the while working together with kids from different backgrounds, even different languages. Here he talks about one of the activities they participate in, researching the origins of common food items.
Q. Could you take us through a normal day at Garden Camp?
A. In the Gardening Day Camp of Sustainable Ag of Louisville (SAL), children 7-years-old and up get to hear coyote trickster stories with loads of embedded information, get to do different gardening and food processing tasks in a beautiful outdoor greenspace, get to prepare and cook lunch all together, harvesting from the garden, and then get to hike for a swim each afternoon. Counselors and the many assistant counselors (children over 13 who have been in camp a few years) provide a natural structure and flow.
Q. What do you believe the campers get out of this unique experience?
A. They get a sense of summer in the outdoors, with a mixture of structured and unstructured time. Additionally, the campers are different ages and backgrounds, speaking Spanish, French, Arabic, Tchiluba and English. They get to play with their friends, and after a few years, they learn to view a garden ecologically, agronomically and nutritionally.
Q. Could you describe your food map? How did you come up with this idea?
A. For the food map, we have campers do research on the place of origin of various common vegetables, fruits and grains, and we plot these on a home sketched map. Foods come with particular ecological and cultural conditions. Knowing where crops come from helps the campers understand the particular genius of their diverse cultures. For example, here in Louisville, we are growing crops whose origins are globally diverse: watermelon, maize or corn, and peanuts. These three crops come from three different continents, Asia, the Americas, and central South America by way of Africa. Grasping this knowledge is crucial in understanding and valuing each plate of food we take, even each bite.
Q. Why do you think it's important for us to know where our food comes from?
A. It is important to know where our food comes from for many reasons. Are we eating pain and oppression, or are we eating right in harmony of a healthy ecosystem? Are we eating exploitation or decency and uplift? Are we ignorant or conscious?
Q. Which food origin story do you believe to be most interesting and why?
A. Maize, or corn, is of course a crop grown here in the Americas, or Abya Yala as many native peoples call the American continent. Maize was first domesticated by Native Peoples of these Americas about 10,000 years ago, from a plant called teosinte that is basically a short grass with a small seed head. Somehow Native peoples learned to breed the enormous variety of corns that can be grown, radiating a rainbow of colors. This new corn was able to adapt to almost every kind of environment, from high mountains to lowlands. Here in Louisville we have been growing our own heirloom maize for about 20 years now, a cross between Old Hickory and Bloody Butcher, that yields cobs featuring all the colors of the rainbow, which is the new name we chose for our corn: Rhodelia Triple Rainbow.
It survived droughts and many kinds of soil and provides our community enough corn for lots of corn meal and corn bread, and even Tamal and Tortilla festivals. Native religions like the Mayan trace the rise of humanity to the cultivation of maize, by asserting that all humans, or two-leggeds, are the children of maize (no relation to Stephen King’s 1984 thriller “Children of the Corn”). They use the pollen and every part of the plant in ceremonies, and the cooking of maize with lime mineral to yield hominy. The diversity of recipes show a deep intimacy and knowledge of the plant and its nutrition.
I also now revere the maize plant and feel responsible to continue to grow out our Triple Rainbow corn and act as its guardian and protector. Ask one of the kids who have attended our camp how good the fresh maize flour tastes in our own Caribbean style corn bread.
I think the origin and development through selection and mystical ceremony of maize in the Americas has got to be one of the most important stories of all times, equivalent in real and metaphorical power to the Biblical stories around wheat and grapes. That the indigenous of the Americas learned to transform a quite ordinary grass into a veritable staff of life for hundreds of cultures across a continent, by cooking the corn with lime mineral to dramatically increase its nutritional value and thereby rendering the corn into the glories of tortillas, tamales, atole (fermented corn porridge), and alcoholic drinks like pulque has got to be one of the greatest stories in human history. That miracle was the basis for the growth of agriculture and the sustenance of civilizations across the globe. Corn is now arguably the most important agricultural crop on the planet. What many are now interested in, myself included, is restoring the cultivation of maize to its origins, including the reverence and ceremony that brings us this staff of life, for us who are becoming truly "Americanos", or "de las Americas." Los hijos y las hijas del maiz.
Kristen Williams decided to become a vegan three years ago after the birth of her son. She quickly found a growing community of African American vegans who relate this diet with personal liberation from historic and modern oppression. The diet allotted to enslaved people in this nation consisted of weeds, surplus produce, and the worst parts of the animals such as feet, tongue, and intestines. However, because of the resilience and genius of African Americans they made refuse into modern day southern comfort foods inspired by their knowledge of African cooking. They didn’t just make do, they created a genre of cooking still celebrated today and co-opted by the likes Paula Deen and company. Like our friend, Michael Twitty shared, “do you really think the recipe for KFC came from the Colonel”?
Comfort food paired with oppression and political violence create an environment where disease and morbidity run rampant. Those who struggle with poverty often face a plethora of unhealthy options in their communities. It occurred to Kristen that the food in her community was like a feeding trough filled with unhealthy food and marketed to people who look like her. When people can’t afford healthy food (or even find it) they suffer. Kristen sees this as an act of violence that can be resolved by community efforts like that of New Roots to create options and share a healthier lifestyle.
Vegans like Kristen choose to eat only food from plants—no meat, cheese, eggs, dairy, and some refrain from eating honey. Bryant Terry, one of the most famous vegan chefs in America today, talks about the role of veganism in African American cuisine.
Kristen and Bryant are part of a growing number of Black vegans in recent years who are eschewing the standard American diet and dispelling not only the prevailing myth that veganism is an affluent White practice, but also debunking stereotypes of African-American cuisine. While Black vegans have long existed (despite the image the media has long peddled), today high-profile celebrities such as Beyoncé and Bryant are shining a bright spotlight on this healthy lifestyle and inspiring people of color to be more conscious about their food choices.
Mr. Bryant has said, “If we move past the stereotypes of African American cuisine, the foundations are really healthful foods: nutrient-dense greens like mustards and turnips and kale and collards and dandelions, and butter beans and sugar snap peas and pole beans and black-eyed peas and sweet potatoes. Fried chicken, mac and cheese, red velvet cakes? Those are part of the cuisine, but those are the comfort foods, the foods people eat on special occasions. [But] when I think about my own family and my friends, what my family ate growing up in Mississippi and on the farm, what we eat most of the time today, it’s food from the garden, simply prepared, nutrient-rich foods.”
Beyond the political and historical relevance of her diet, Kristen also values the lives of animals and enjoys knowing her diet does not contribute to the suffering and mistreatment of sentient beings. “They are raised in conditions that are unsuitable for living—pigs are crammed into cages together with no room to turn around. Cattle are given hormones so their udders produce more milk, causing a painful amount of excess weight on their body. All of this concerns me and my family. Not only how it affects the animals and the earth, but how it affects our bodies.”
Some of Kristen’s favorite foods include Hummus Burritos made from kale, red peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini and hummus. Her favorite cookbook is “Vegan Soul Kitchen” by Bryant Terry. When it comes to eating out her family enjoys Tai, Chinese and Ethiopian restaurants. She and her husband have lost weight on the vegan diet. They have noticed that their bodies are feeling and looking better. Kristen reflected on the trend in Louisville toward African American vegans, “I only know a handful of African American vegans in Louisville. But the number is growing, especially since all my friends ask for recipes.”
Vegans do need to eat plenty of iron. Kristen eats beets and she feeds her son an iron supplement. She also takes a pre-natal vitamin. “My family eats a lot of fruits and vegetables, and tons and tons of beans and lentils,” she said. “We also eat TVP [Textured Vegetable Protein] and some tofu. I put nutritional yeast on many dishes.” Nutritional yeast is rich in Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate and often Vitamin B12. These are all B vitamins that work as a complex, essentially providing you with energy and helping you to maintain proper brain function. “I try to keep lots of fresh fruit and vegetables around for snaking. I also try to ‘eat a rainbow’ every day making sure to have lots of color on my plate. Our doctors are always happy to see us and frequently remark on how healthy we are. Overall being a vegan is a great way to love your body and enjoy life.”
This blogpost was composed by Julie Segal, communication liaison for the Gendler Grapevine Fresh Stop Market @ The J.
Mary Montgomery, New Roots Uber Farmer Liaison, pictured here with farmer Joseph Monroe from Ashbourne and Valley Spirit Farm.
About 20 people showed up at the Jewish Community Center on March 9th to hear a presentation titled, “Are Tractors Sexy and Other Burning Questions about Organic Agriculture in Kentucky?” This event was sponsored by New Roots and the Gendler Grapevine Fresh Stop Market @ The J and was the last installment of the 2017 Food Justice Workshops. Participants heard from two organic farmers who supply fresh organic produce to Fresh Stop Markets.
Fresh Stop Markets are bi-weekly pop-up markets where food can be purchased on a sliding scale. Everyone is invited to participate regardless of their ability to pay, said Karyn Moskowitz, New Roots Executive Director. People from across the community purchase food from small family farmers through the Fresh Stop Market @ The J.
Michael Fraade, JOFEE Fellow [Jewish Outdoor Food and Environmental Education], said, “It is wonderful to bring New Roots’ food justice workshop series to the J and to connect people with opportunities to learn about the critical role of local farmers in our food system. I have been to a number of other New Roots workshops and they have been excellent at connecting different Louisville residents and getting them excited to sign up for this year’s Fresh Stop Markets.”
Joseph Monroe, manager of Ashbourne Farms, was one of the farmers who spoke at the meeting saying,
“It is nice to have New Roots to connect farmers with people who do not have easy access to fresh foods."
Another farmer, Ben Abell, and his wife, Bree Pearsall, are owners of Rootbound Farm. They also supply fresh organic produce to the Fresh Stop Markets. Rootbound Farm has been a certified organic farm for six years. “As organic farmers, we are concerned about the health of the soil, air and water as well as our workers and the health of our customers,” Abell said. “Fresh Stop Markets have been great partners in our efforts,” he added.
“We have focused on extending our growing season by building greenhouses with crops that can be harvested in the winter,” Monroe said.
Both farmers view traditional farmers’ markets as more of a public relations tool to reach out to consumers to build their CSAs and help New Roots build Fresh Stop Markets. This is because the traditional model does not guarantee farmers an income, but Fresh Stop Markets do.
The group discussed the role of grass in Kentucky, grass-finished beef, and our livestock industry. Currently, most of our beef, sheep and goats grow up eating Kentucky grass, but then are exported as young animals to feedlots in the Midwest, where they are fattened up on corn and soybeans. Grass-finished beef, such as that supplied by Ashbourne Farms, and lamb, supplied by Rootbound Farm, is more nutritious, high in Omegas and generally more delicious. This year, New Roots will pilot selling Ashbourne Farm’s ground beef at select Markets.
The conversation got heavy as participants shared their knowledge on the role of federal subsidies on corn, soybeans and other commodity crops that results in nutritious fresh food being more expensive than processed food. Fresh Stop Markets sliding scale helps to overcome the price barrier. However, everyone agreed that at some point, Fresh Stop Market leaders need to get involved in federal policy discussions to fix this problem.
Abell said some of the local vegetables shareholders of the Market can look forward to from Rootbound Farm this coming growing season (set to kick off May 10th) include beans, tomatoes, watermelons and more.
So as to whether tractors are sexy.....Joseph prefers red tractors while Ben likes them green.
This blogpost was composed by Jenny Drake, Editor of the Beet Beat Newsletter.
Author pictured here (far left) with farmers Bree and Ben from Rootbound Farm and community Fresh Stop Market farmer liaisons.
If you have ever wondered how decisions are made regarding what items make it into our Fresh Stop Market shares, those roots are planted long before even the first seeds are.
This December, however, marked a slight change in approach for New Roots and our Fresh Stop Markets. Karyn Moskowitz, New Roots’ executive director, and Mary Montgomery, New Roots’ uber farmer liaison, met with our farming partners and farmer liaisons from each neighborhood to forecast the upcoming season with greater precision. Forecasting is the process of working with our farming partners to determine what produce the Markets would like to purchase, which helps them to decide what to grow.
It has always been part of the Fresh Stop Markets, but this year, with consensus from the Fresh Stop Market farmer liaisons, definite orders were placed with farmers who could then commit their resources with more confidence and accuracy, knowing there will be a buyer for their product.
Fresh Stop Markets are one of the only wholesale accounts in the region that forecasts and makes commitments ahead of time to small, organic farmers.
During the last seven years, Fresh Stop Market shareholders have become one of the largest purchasers of local, organic produce in the region, which may be surprising to some when you consider that nearly 75 percent of shareholders have limited resources. This shows the power of cooperative economics.
“The choice of what to order has to happen in the winter, so the farmers can purchase their seeds and do their starts” said Karyn. “Then, once the produce starts popping up in June, we can look back to that forecast and it can help guide us as we work to order exactly what we forecasted.”
The biggest forecasting meeting was in held in the New Roots office in Louisville, early December with Bree Pearsall and Ben Abell from Rootbound Farm – New Roots’ main farming partner – and included the farmer liaisons from many of the Fresh Stop Markets, to communicate what their shareholders like and don’t like. Rootbound is a USDA certified organic farm located in Oldham County, Kentucky.
Bree, who called Fresh Stop Markets their favorite customers, said the consistency of this approach will help their small farm – which also grows for restaurants, grocery stores and farmer markets – continue to grow.
“One of the big challenges for us is customers who order every week then maybe drop off for four or five weeks and then come back and want a big order and then the next week a small order,” she said. “We really appreciate that you all are going to get a big order of fresh vegetables every week, which means a lot to us.
Bree said Fresh Stop Market orders have increased enough over the years to enable them to work in greater volume. “Like in any business, it’s hard to make the margins with small quantities, but when we are able to get you hundreds of pounds of beets at the same time in a week, it allows us to focus on growing the best quality stuff that we can because we can actually grow in larger quantities,” she said.
Ben said one of the things they wanted to accomplish with the forecasting meeting was to talk with leaders and share information about how they farm and make decisions. “And those decisions for the next year start happening (in December)."
"We wanted to get you all involved in the process because we are growing for Fresh Stop Markets. We are partners, and if you all are succeeding, we are succeeding.”
Making decisions about loans, equipment and employees happens on the farm during the winter. “It’s not just what seeds to buy and what crops to grow, but also how much we’re growing, what’s the volume,” Ben said. “And that determines how many supplies we buy, how many workers we hire, how much money we need to get lined up through loans to make it happen. And that's kind of hard to get through to our customers, which is why we’re excited that Fresh Stop Market leaders kind of get that, understand that this is a whole process that starts now.”
With Fresh Stop Markets placing their forecasts by the end of December, Ben and Bree purchased their seeds in early January and started a number of them in their greenhouse the third week in January – particularly onions and herbs. In early February, they started cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and greens. If all goes well, everything will get transplanted outside in April. Lexington Fresh Stop Markets—led by the Tweens Coalition—also forecasted their veggies this winter, with some of the same farmers.
In addition to communicating their shareholders’ preferences, farmer liaisons also received a crash course in growing timetables, what crops are possible when, why sometimes there seems to be a lot of the same vegetables week after week and why some things just can’t be grown here in Kentucky. And in turn, the farmers received a crash course in community ownership and leadership of our food system.
“I know one of the challenges is seasonality: we all want tomatoes all the time, and more sweet corn,” Ben said. “We’re going to try to do better with sweet corn. But tomatoes, we don’t have any options, they’re just not ready until July. There’s no way around it. Some crops we can grow successfully the whole summer, and those are the things everyone gets tired of. I’m talking about yellow squash and zucchini, cabbage, bell peppers.”
He also explained the purpose of what he called the “weird stuff.”
“Why the Bok choy, why the fennel? There’s some of this weird stuff that isn’t people’s favorites, but stepping back from that, people would get really bored with the regular stuff,” Ben said. “Injecting that weird stuff really does keep that other stuff from getting tiresome. There are only so many things we can grow, there are only so many things that can be ready at one time. We’re not putting stuff in there to be a novelty, but to keep things fresh.”
And for those who like zucchini and squash, but got a little tired of it last year, Bree and Ben said they are going to try to grow greater varieties to keep your shares more interesting.
Fresh Stop Markets kick off for most Markets the week of June 5th. Go to www.newroots.org for more information.
Amber Burns, pictured here (on the far left), after leading a Food Justice Workshop at Harvard Law School, February 2016, with other national food justice leaders.
This blogpost was composed by Amber Burns, New Roots Food Justice Leader and former staff member. Keep on the look out for the dates of the 2017 Food Justice Classes where we look forward to hearing your food story:
I am a lifelong resident of West Louisville. I was born here. I grew up here. My parents, two lower middle class workers, made a lovely home for their family here. My husband and I purchased our first home here. Needless to say, my roots run deep in West Louisville.
West Louisville is composed of 9 predominately Black neighborhoods. Most residents are also classified as having limited resources. Due to decades of isolation, institutional racism and income disparities, my community became a food swamp; all but void of affordable fresh produce but overflowing with cheap, high calorie, high sugar, processed "food." I use the term "food" loosely.
When I was child, there were two groceries stores meant to service 9 neighborhoods and about 80,000 residents. Needless to say our choices were limited. For my family, the nearest grocery story was 20 minutes away. I thought it was normal to travel outside of our neighborhood to purchase food. I thought it was normal for families to buy processed food in bulk because they knew it would last them until the next pay period. My parents did not have a lot of money, but made sure I never went to bed hungry. This often meant that a meal consisted of a meat, starches and canned green beans. If these items were not attainable, then a bowl of ramen noodles was a quick and cheap "treat."
When my family became more economically stable, whole foods were more available in the house but by then, the damage had been done. Vegetables like collard greens and cabbage made me gag and I refused to eat a salad unless it was drenched in dressing. My mother worked 3rd shift in a factory and would often be too tired to pressure me to eat my veggies. And thus, for the first 20 years of my life, I ate absolutely no fresh fruit or veggies.
At the end of my undergraduate career, a few things happened that would change my outlook on food forever. My father's type 2 diabetes was becoming worse and I realized that his eating habits mirrored my own. I also met a new friend whose family was vegan. His mother would prepare beautiful elaborate meals that were delicious. This opened my eyes to what eating could look like.
Upon graduation, I was working as a food runner and was in desperate need of a job. My introduction to the world of food justice came by way of craigslist. While job hunting under Non-Profits, I came across a posting to become an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Presbyterian Hunger Program. I had no idea what food justice meant but I knew I lived in a food desert and I had a social justice background so I applied. Surprisingly, they hired me. Through my work with PCUSA as a Community Food Justice Cultivator I was introduced to many organizations, the most moving one being New Roots; Fresh Stop Markets. For the first time I felt supported in my journey to food freedom. I was surrounded by people from my neighborhood, who look like me and loved broccoli. They held my hand as I transitioned from a diet of mostly processed foods, to now eating kale for breakfast. Today, when Fresh Stop season concludes, I still must leave my neighborhood to purchase quality fresh produce. I have the privilege of having a vehicle. I have the privilege of knowing there is better. I have the privilege of being able to afford better. I have the privilege of having a whole community of people behind me.
"Tune into heaven but keep feet on earth. [We must] pray with our feet and become God’s light in the world as active doers."
- Rabbi Everett Gendler
“'Doing' means working to obtain food justice for all."
- New Roots, Inc.
“Mommy, can you make those turnips again tonight. They were so good!” are words I never thought I’d hear from my ten year old daughter. The turnip was the one thing in our bag of fresh fruits and veggies that we had received at our first Fresh Stop Market that I had never prepared before (or ever thought I wanted to). Fortunately, every share comes with a list of recipes for each item I pick up every two weeks from the big room of tables loaded with fresh local produce at the Shawnee Presbyterian Church. The sign said, “take one turnip” so, dutifully, I did. Then, I chose what looked like the easiest, most kid friendly recipe...basically cut up a turnip and cook it in butter and salt...and the result was that my kids were asking for seconds!
That was their first introduction into the Fresh Stop Market experience. After a few months of picking up our share myself, I decided to start bringing them along with me. All the volunteers were so friendly towards them, commenting on Melody’s hair and asking Leah about how her school year got started. They felt instantly at home. Then, they discovered the samples! At every Fresh Stop Market there are volunteer chefs who create dishes out of the seasonal produce that is available for pick up. Not only did my kids chow down on yellow squash salad, stir fried okra, vegetable frittatas and lentil stew but, again, they asked for seconds! Sometimes, the volunteers will just leave out a bowl of raw cauliflower or cantaloupe and let the freshness of the local food “speak for itself.” Now, my kids will ask me, “Mom, is this a Fresh Stop week? Can I come with you?”
Now, we have collected and donated canned goods and other non-perishable items for food drives. Sure, it makes you feel good, like you’re making a difference to someone who is hungry and needs to eat something right now. Our experience at the Fresh Stop has been vastly different! We are all there together, picking up the same food. You can’t tell who is paying $25 for their bag of food and who is on SNAP Benefits (Food Stamps). Everyone is “shopping” together at what looks like any other farmer’s market where you see folks examining the zucchini, tapping the cantaloupe and choosing exactly the one they want. I overhear people swapping recipes and discussing their favorite methods for preparing each vegetable. Another difference from donating to a food drive is that the food is dramatically healthier than anything you can find in a can or cardboard package. In fact, those foods are loaded with so much salt, preservatives and high fructose corn syrup that, sadly, 65 percent of individuals who get their food from food pantries and feeding programs suffer from diet-related illnesses. And, we are supporting local farmers by guaranteeing them the income through pre-ordered shares. It’s a win, win, WIN situation!
The New Roots organization has been so successful in our area and throughout Kentucky that they are opening another Fresh Stop Market right here in our own backyard on September 7! Please visit: http://www.newroots.org/store/c16/Gendler_Grapevine.html for more information.
B’teiavon! Eat in good health!
Cantor Sharon Hordes, Keneseth Israel Synagogue, Louisville, Kentucky
Shareholder, Shawnee Presbyterian Fresh Stop Market