After a week of sunny skies and days in the seventies, this week reminded us how volatile the spring weather can be. We started our summer-long series of “Farmer for a Day” events yesterday in the cold rain at Long Shot Farm, and in spite of the weather it was a great event. The twelve volunteers who came were happy and eager to help and learn, putting in about 1000 asparagus crowns in their beds. People had time to visit and share their interest in attending and the free lunch was appreciated. Everyone went home with a generous bag of asparagus roots to plant and the confidence to do it. Even with the rain, they got everything in the ground within a 75-90 minute window. Dee and Rochelle Long were so glad to have the crowns in — it would have been a tremendous amount of work for them to have to do it all be themselves, especially with the weather. The rain was gone by the time the after-lunch farm tour began, and turned into a pleasant spring day. Organizer Cathy Payne has 45 photos up on the Farmer for a Day Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FarmerForADayToursWithAthensLocallyGrown along with the schedule and photos for future events.
There has been a lot of questions recently about the heavy use of plastic bags at Athens Locally Grown, perhaps spurred by events like the screening of Bag It! during this week’s EcoFocus Film Festival at Cine. While we do have less packaging than most grocery store items, there is still more than we’d ideally like to see. There are several unavoidable reasons for this, however. First and foremost, we are not a licensed grocery store or food handling facility. Holding the market’s pickup in the back workroom of a bicycle repair shop is kind of a giveaway on that, but besides the location itself, there are a lot of food regulations that we are not subject to that places like the Daily Grocery are. We don’t have stainless steel sinks and counters, monitored food cold storage refrigeration units, certified scales, inspected areas where we can subdivide cases of produce, and all of the rest. The growers do have certified scales, and those who sell products that require licenses do have inspected facilities as well. They’re able to harvest and immediately pack your items just for you in a manner that the state ag and health departments are happy with, and we don’t have to get in-between the grower and you. Most of the growers are packaging conscious just like you, and try to use the minimum amount possible, and packages other than plastic when possible and appropriate. (There are a few growers that seem to use a ridiculous amount of plastic, but they’re the exception.)
Still, there can be a lot of plastic going home with you. We’ve looked into other things, like buying all-biodegradable bags for the growers, but that’s still far too expensive. It’s getting better over time, but it would add about 10% to the prices of everything, and we’d have to buy in advance a semi-truck load to get it that cheap. It’s not all terrible, though. When you walk up to our tables on Thursday, you’ll notice a tall white bin for recycling your plastic bags. We are one of the few locations in North Georgia where you can recycle plastic bags and wrap. Paper bags and cardboard egg cartons can be recycled through the city. Rigid plastic containers and egg cartons can also be recycled through the city. All of the rest of the plastic can be brought to us (so long as it’s reasonably clean — if the contents turned to liquid in the back of your veggie crisper, keep that one) and we take it all to be recycled into things like playground equipment, faux lumber, and lots of other innovative products that reduce the overall need for freshly pumped petroleum. It’s not the best possible answer, but short of having your own garden and growing everything you get from us, it’s the best option available to us.
Thanks so much for your support of Athens Locally Grown, all of our growers, local food, and our rights to eat it. You all are part of what makes Athens such a great area in which to live. We’ll see you on Thursday at Ben’s Bikes at the corner of Pope and Broad Streets from 4:30 to 8pm!
Upcoming Local Food Events
Starting Your Own Food Business: A panel discussion by the creators of King of Pops, High Road Craft Ice and Sorbet and others about what it takes to turn your favorite recipes into a successful food business. They’ll cover everything from navigating the regulatory landscape to growing your brand. Free, no registration required. 1 to 2 p.m. Monday March 25th, Tate Center Theater. Part of Thinc Week at UGA. For more information about Thinc Week visit www.thinc.uga.edu.
April 27th: Be a Farmer For A Day at Blue Moon Farms This is the second event in our 2013 series of 5 Farmer for a Day Tours, to be held Saturday, April 27 from 10-2 in Madison County. Each event will offer you a chance to experience real work on the farm, so come prepared to work! The work session will last for two hours. You may want to bring your own work gloves, weeding or digging tools, pruners or lopping shears, etc. if you have them. Be sure to prepare for the weather appropriately and dress for getting dirty or muddy. You will be in an agricultural setting and can expect sun, rain, bugs, wildlife, dogs, electric fences, pets, and farm animals to be part of the experience. Do not bring your dog with you for a day in the country. Please plan to closely supervise your children during all activities. Water will be provided during the work session and lunch is provided. Farmers may have products available for purchase at the event, so you may want to bring cash/checks and a cooler with you. If you have special dietary needs, plan accordingly to bring those with you. To save resources, bring your own water bottle and dishes with you. Blue Moon Farms is Certified Naturally Grown and includes 60 acres where the family lives plus two 40 acre pine forests. They maintain natural habitats to support native wildlife. We will be doing a variety of chores including weeding and mulching blueberries, weeding and thinning onions, removing and replacing drip tape, and relocating mushroom logs. If time allows we will prepare seed beds. It is a family friendly event. The event will last from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM What you can expect: 9:30 AM check in, meet and greet 10:00-12:00 work session 12:00-12:45 lunch 12:45-2:00 Guided tour of the farm We are reserving 20 spots for the event. Don’t be left out! I will be taking names for a waiting list once all spots are claimed. Please note that you do not need to be a member of Athens Locally Grown to purchase an event ticket. Sign up for this free tour by adding reservations to your order (look in the “Event Reservations” category). For more information, contact Cathy Payne at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Area Farmers Markets
The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the winter for one more week. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. Most of the other area markets are also all closed for the season too, but all of them will be opening back up very soon! The Washington-Wilkes Farmer’s Market in Washington is open every Saturday 9-12 behind the Washington Courthouse, and several ALG vendors also sell there.
Please support your local farmers and food producers, where ever you’re able to do so!