The Weblog

We send out cool articles and farmer highlights using a different email program. You can see the archives of those emails here and through our facebook page! We use this “weblog” every Friday evening to let you know the market page is accepting orders (look for the little add to cart buttons next to products). Northeast Georgia Locally Grown was officially OPENED on Monday, April 26th, 2010 and we are so thankful that you are helping support fresh local foods each week.



 
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Locally Grown - Availability for September 25th, 2013


Hey Local Food Lovers,

I’ve been wanting to talk about one product type on Locally Grown for weeks that is pretty new and very unique. Mushrooms.

Though we’ve had wild harvested mushrooms on Locally Grown since our very first year (2010), this year was a milestone in having a new grower that can produce mushrooms all the year round. The farm is called Orchard Valley Farm and Julius Miller is the guru that has made this all happen. Those of you who have lived around Clarkesville for awhile may know Julius as the guy who until very recently owned and ran Orchard Valley Signs. If you’ve ever driven down Clarkesville’s Main Street and thought wow, I really like how nice all the business signs are and they have just a hint of a similar quality. That would be Julius. I feel pretty certain he is one of the best sign makers you’ll ever meet. Or I should say was the best as last year he sold the business with two goals in mind. He wanted to start a youth camp for troubled youth as a way to give back, and he wanted to become a grower.

Julius is one of those people who likes to figure things out, and even before he zeroed in on mushrooms he was doing a lot of reading about different niche farm products and technology. He got fascinated with mushrooms because there aren’t many people who grow them, and it’s not the easiest thing to do. It was a challenge and a puzzle he could work to figure out.

I won’t pretend to understand his growing system well enough to explain it but I will share just a little bit of what he’s told me. Each different mushroom is unique, has its own unique likes and dislikes. It all starts with the growing medium. Shitakes as you may or may not know prefer hardwood as a medium, either a log or sawdust. Oyster mushrooms prefer straw. I’m not sure what Portobello mushrooms prefer.

A mushroom grower is more like a cheese maker than a farmer. Every little detail about how a cheese is made affects the flavor, and every little detail from moisture, to air flow, to growth medium, all effect how the mushrooms grow. It’s easy to make a mistake, get the wrong type of spores in the growth medium and boom….problems.

Julius a few weeks ago was telling me that Oyster mushrooms are his favorite because they are so fascinating….and by far the most difficult to grow. For one, they are completely different from the other mushrooms. Most mushrooms are just the fruit of the mycellium that is feeding on the organic matter of the dead wood or straw. In other words think of the mushroom cap as the tomato and meanwhile the big green plant is growing in the wood and straw. When you harvest the cap, that’s it, it is dead, just like you can’t put a tomato on the ground and it continue to grow, or form a whole new green plant. But the oyster mushroom can. When you cut an oyster mushroom it is still alive. In fact it will try and recolonize anything it thinks it can eat. Julius described how he placed some in a cardboard box and they started to send out mycellium into the box (the box of course was not nearly delicious and nutritious enough for it to live, but it was gonna give it a try).

I like that we have people in our community who not only provide a fresh food that is so incredibly good for us, while also tasting so so so much better than what you can find in the store. I also like that such people teach us about our world and the sources of our sustenance that we so rarely would be exposed to on our own. I’ve always loved mushrooms naturally, but now I feel I understand and respect them just a little more…..as I sautee them up in butter and gobble them up…..I’ll be respecting them the whole way down.

Thanks to Julius we have mushrooms. I hope you’ll try some and if you enjoy them, eat them frequently.

EAT WELL,
Justin in Habersham
and
Chuck in Rabun

Northeast Georgia Locally Grown availability list for Sept. 25


Good evening Locavores,
We hope everyone will have a great weekend.
The market is opening early tonight to all us to get to the Rabun County Fair. Tomorrow is a big day at the fair with a rodeo and music as well as many agricultural exhibits and vendors with arts crafts and farm products.
Proceeds from the fair are to benefit the 4-H organization and students.
Check out your local farmers markets then come to the Fair at the Rabun Arena 100 West Boggs Mountain Rd Tiger, Ga. Saturday 9am to 9pm.
Good eating.

Locally Grown - Availability for September 18th, 2013


Hey Local Food Lovers,

Every week I get the privilege to describe some type of food, farm or market activity in the hopes that it might inspire some of you to come to market and spend a little of your hard-earned money on some of the hard-earned food that local people here in our particular neck of the woods are so kind to produce.

It’s an interesting exercise to reflect back over the meals I’ve eaten, people I’ve seen, conversations I’ve had, fields I’ve walked through, and anything at all that has to do with local food.

Some weeks are more eventful than others. I think the best stories I have to share are when I’ve actually been able to get out and around to some of the farms to see what they are up to, maybe even lend a hand for a few hours (as I hope to do tomorrow night as a matter of fact).

There’s always lots of stories about what I’m personally enjoying eating, and these are probably the easiest stories to share b/c surprise, surprise, I eat every week, and when I do I like to eat good food. My ideas about what is good food have changed so incredibly over the last 6 or 7 years (as that’s pretty much the length of time that I’ve been highly food and farm focused). Don’t get me wrong, I still eat plenty of grocery store food and I enjoy much of it. I try not to be a snob about food. But I very rarely buy any vegetables at the grocery anymore, because I know that I can meet all my vegetable needs with what is grown here locally and now its even available year-round.

Once you eat this way for this long, you cannot go back. I remember when I was in my early 20s one of the first organic farmers I ever met in Birmingham, AL had returned home after living in CA where he had grown accustomed to what I’m describing. Back then in the late ’90’s there were virtually no organic farms in Birmingham and he simply could not handle going back to eating super market non-organic vegetables. So he began growing them for himself. He had so much joy from his experience learning how to grow his own food that he just got bigger and bigger until he gave up his day job altogether and became a farmer.

I love that story for so many reasons. It’s simplicity to begin with, that he simply had learned to eat well and couldn’t stop. I think if I was forced to move to somewhere like that, I might follow a similar path, at least that I would grow the food I like to eat part.

For me, good food, farming, markets, and the friends, learning, activities and lifestyle that surrounds all of it is one of the best aspects of life. A few weeks ago I visited a farming friend who loaded me up with tons of jalapeno peppers that I sliced in half and filled with my own potatoes and chorizo made from a nearby farms ground pork (that was my first experience of making chorizo too). When I harvest my own sweet potatoes in another week or two I promised to give that farmer some of that crop to say thanks for this fabulous pepper meal that I enjoyed. This sounds like a tale from a by-gone era of neighbors and friends exchanging crops.

Well that’s probably enough romanticizing this local food movement for one night. I do want to invite interested folks to attend the Harvest Celebration at the Hilliard A Wilbanks Middle School in Demorest on Tuesday, October 8, from 6:00 – 8:00 PM. This event is celebrating the farms and others who are making this the inaugural year for FARM TO SCHOOL programs in Northeast Georgia. This is a pretty amazing new development and I’ll tell you more before the date arrives but please put it on your calendar if you can as it is a free event for the public.

Don’t Forget to EAT WELL,
Justin in Habersham
and
Chuck in Rabun

Northeast Georgia Locally Grown availability list for Sept. 18


Good evening Locavores,
Lately we have been seeing hints of fall in some falling leaves, slightly browning grass, and less humidity. This week-end will really be a big change into fall with cool temperatures for daily highs and cooler nights.
Stock up on the summer vegetables that will become more scarce soon. The coming cool nights slow okra and pepper production significantly.
Have a great week-end and enjoy fresh local food.

Locally Grown - Availability for September 11th, 2013


Hey Local Food Lovers,

I had grand plans tonight of sharing the details of making some fresh poblano chile rellenos this weekend stuffed with homemade chorizo and potatoes and then covered with a tomatillo cream sauce. I then wanted to talk about my great love for certain types of cooking equipment, with this week’s emphasis on the mighty toaster oven (a master of efficiency and practicality).

Unfortunately a deadline has come up and I’ll have to postpone both of those in-depth conversations for another time. I’m still waiting for folks to send me photos of their amazing locally grown made recipes. I know you folks are making some killer meals and I also know most of you own digital cameras (even if they are only camera phones) so please consider this quite simple contribution to our community. There’s nothing like hearing about (or seeing) a delicious meal to keep us excited about eating local…..and most importantly excited about buying local from our local farmers. Send em to me at soque@windstream.net.

Hope you’ll consider trying something new this week. Chuck still has a few orders of padron peppers left and the Heavenly Muffin Mix looks splendid so if you haven’t had those yet…..give ’em a try!

EAT WELL,

Justin in Habersham
and
Chuck in Rabun

Northeast Georgia Locally Grown availability list for Sept. 11


Good evening Locavores,
We hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful weather at the end of a cool wet summer. The farmers are busy transitioning from summer to fall and planting winter vegetables.
Leah Lake Farm is not listing this week as they are busy with new plantings.
Have a great weekend visit your local farmers markets.

Locally Grown - Availability for September 4th, 2013


Hey Local Food Lovers,

Hope everyone is having a great Labor Day. This is one of those holidays where we’re glad to have the day off but we might not pause long enough to remember what it is we’re celebrating.

Labor Day began as a celebration of the nation’s labor movement most commonly associated with the manufacturing sector of our economy. There has been a labor movement of sorts in agriculture for the last twenty years (or longer) and its just another component of why and how EATING LOCAL is as important a social and civil movement as it is an environmental, health and gastronomic movement.

Despite the mechanization of agriculture, large scale commercial agriculture still requires agricultural workers. This workforce is actually relatively small (just under 800,000 which is .26% of the US population). Rather than get into the typical workforce injustice issues such as low pay, lack of benefits, or issues of foreign workers I think its more useful to talk about the benefits of a Local FARM ECONOMY workforce.

Small Scale Local Food Farm business swelled to an all time high of $4.8 billion dollars in 2012. These businesses are self owned, and that means that farm owners are vested in the long-term, have an entrepreneurial spirit, and because they are selling to local people in the community, are focused on building and revitalizing connections in the community.

My good friend Steve Whiteman often reminds me that he is selling more than just really good quality food. Local Farms nourish customers in many other ways, sharing their growing knowledge, cooking knowledge, and their creative innovation towards a food system that is unique to the North Georgia Mountains. We often think of regions known for just a few specialty crops like Maine is known for blueberries, Napa for wine grapes, Iowa for corn. Wouldn’t it be great if North Georgia was known because we have a little of everything with one farm really good at Melons, another specializing in figs and potatoes. And together they meet everyones expectations of good delicious food.

In honor of Labor Day and all the good folks that make Locally Grown happen, I want to acknowledge that there would be no Locally Grown and no locally grown food without the inspiration, sweat and dedication of our Farmer Laborers who in our case own their farms, and strive to make their farms produce food for us. I personally have gotten to the point where it just doesn’t feel right to buy a pepper at the grocery if I know a local farmer has a much better tasting one. It takes some effort to either get up early for a Saturday market, or remember to order online Friday-Monday and then also remember to pick up on Wednesday. But remember whatever special effort you take is small compared to that of local growers. The differences between those two peppers (the store bought vs. the local farmer grown) are so vast (the taste, quality, nutrition, gas miles, labor issues, environment, who keeps the dollar). Since I know I’m getting a vastly superior product the most important thing to me is making that conscious decision each week to put my dollars where my values guide me. I like good food, but I love living in a community where people are working hard to do something great, something unique, something very challenging and difficult, because they love it and because they believe it makes their community and this world a slightly better place. The growth of the Local Food Farms and their farm owners is one of the things that gives me the most hope for our region and its ability to solve its problems in the best possible way.

So this Labor Day and all days forward and in between I hope to always make a point to EAT LOCAL and …..

EAT WELL,
Justin in Habersham
and
Chuck in Rabun

Northeast Georgia Locally Grown availabilty list for Aug.30


Good evening Locavores,
Despite a small threat of rain, and we could actually use some now,this promises to be a nice weekend. We hope everyone will have a great Labor Day weekend and visit your local farmers markets.
Northeast Georgia Locally Grown is now open for orders.
Be safe and eat well.

Locally Grown - Availability for August 28, 2013


Hey Local Food Lovers,

Ok, I’m finally getting around to sharing a bit about this unique experience we had while visiting Thailand attending an all day Cooking Class. My wife does most of the advance vacation planning and she found an organic farm that teaches the class right there on the farm.

The day started at 8:30am on a Friday. The tour began with our instructors driving around the city Chiang Mai (in a truck with benches and a roof in the bed where we all sat – called a songthae only this one wasn’t red) picking up mainly couples from their various hotels around the city. This is a tourist activity of course, but it was awfully nice to pick folks up like that.

Then it was off to the market. We’d already stopped a few markets before but this one was unique. It was a huge market covered with a metal roof but open air. Every table was food. First stop was the fresh curry table. Our teacher showed us how to identify fresh curry, but said we wouldn’t need this pre-made because we were going to learn to make our own. Then he showed us how they shred coconut and press it for the coconut milk. The first pressing is creamier in fact its called coconut cream and the second pressing is the actual coconut milk. Wow, I’ve never written to word coconut so many time before. It’s not local.

There were some other crazy things to see at the market. Once of the most interesting was watching the frog guy. That’s right there was a guy who was taking live frogs and turning them into frog legs (and other parts) right there at the market. I’d never even thought about that. We also saw some insect larvae, but before you get the wrong idea, this market was a great way to start the day, we got the small number of items we needed and headed to the farm.

After almost having to push a truck out of ditch on the way we arrive and I realize for the first time, oh ok. the whole cooking school is actually gonna take place ON the farm. I’d apparently not studied up on how this was gonna work. There were several building with very, very tall ceilings (to let the heat out I presume) with little cooking stations consisting of a propane stone and a wok, and a large counter with cutting board, mortar and pestle and a few other items.

But first we got to tour the farm with our guide. We donned broad rimmed hats (asian style) to protect us from the sun and headed into the small garden. We dug up several roots of plants, trimmed leaves, and picked fruits many of which I’d never seen like galangal (or siamese ginger), thai ginseng, lemon grass, sweet eggplant (a tiny round green one), holy basil, turmeric (a bright yellow root), and the leaf of a kaffir lime.

During the walk we discovered two things. Our teacher was a very cool, very grounded, and very interesting man. He explained a lot about thai culture during the walk I never would have picked up on otherwise such as the meaning behind their expression “same same but different,” only he made it make sense using eggplants, mangoes and human beings. We are all same same but different.
I also learned that teak wood is what Thai farmers use for their pension. Very valuable if you plant them and can wait 25 years.

Back in the kitchen we began to receive different ingredients based on the dishes we had chosen to cook. I had picked the following:

Green curry paste
Green curry with chicken
Chicken with basil
Stir Fry big noodles
Pumpkin in coconut milk

About half the ingredients came from the farm. Which I forgot to remind was all organic, and they talked quite a bit about why this was important to everyone.

Next I got to do something I’ve been wanted to do for a long time….learn to make fresh curry with mortar and pestle. We don’t currently own one but I’ve been wanting this unusual cooking device for a while. These were heavy and stone and they way they taught us to use it (more like a smashing than grinding) the heavier the better.

Here’s what makes up a green curry

3 or more green chillies (depending your heat tolerance)
shallots
galangal
kaffir lime
garlic
lemongrass
thai ginseng
cumin
corriander
salt

That’s it. Smash it real good.

Now rather than describe each dish (which I suppose I could add them to the recipe section) let’s skip to the overall impression.

What struck me about this experience was what a great way it was to really experience Thai culture in a deep meaningful way. We learned their customs at the dinner table, we learned about the different rices, the tea they like to drink, and their sense of humor. I couldn’t help but think to myself, wow, this would be such a great way for visitor to get to know farms and mountain cuisine back home. Every farmer I know have a couple of dishes they just love to cook with their own vegetables and together these make up a kind of food culture that unfortunately most visitors to our area rarely get to experience.

For example, when I first discovered chanterelle mushrooms I fell in love with this unique mushroom that only grows in a handful of environments in the whole world, this being one of them. Learning to cook it (almost always in butter) just seems like it would pair so well with maybe learning to use an iron skillet, how to fry okra, make a blueberry cobbler, fry padron peppers, or even make some scrumptious pickles.

The food at our Thai Cooking School really turned out amazing. And we had so much that we ended up having the leftovers for dinner that night. We got to keep a small color book of all the recipes and my wife just made the green curry last night and it was almost as good as it was in Thailand….and still totally amazing in case that sounds like I’m dissing. I’m not dumb.

Perhaps cooking schools are a cultural phenomena in other places, but I’d really genuinely like to see something here and tied to the farming and other quirky food customs we have here. To make it truly great it would need to similarly start at the local farmers market where they could actually see the farmers whose food they would prepare. Then a hop around the herb garden to talk about how important basil, thyme, oregano and rosemary can be to a good vs. a great meal. Then on to fruits and whatever it is in season whether blueberries, watermelons, muscadines, or getting into this season apples and pears, and not too far off persimmon.

Local food tourism is something I think we’re gonna see more of in this country, and by golly Thailand has a great model we should borrow and steal from. That’s probably my favorite thing about visiting other places, is I can’t help but look at cool things they are doing as inspiration for cool things we could be doing. And cooking and eating local foods and studying techniques and the culture of that is just a great way to spend a day….or a lifetime for that matter.

If you’d like to see some photos taken during this class you can check the Locally Grown facebook page at
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Northeast-Georgia-Locally-Grown/353580121384273

In case you’re headed to Thailand anytime soon here’s the place that taught the class.

http://www.thaifarmcooking.net

Thanks for being curious about foods from near and far and ……

EAT WELL,

Justin in Clarkesville
and
Chuck in Rabun

Locally Grown Availability list for Aug. 28


Good evening locavores.
The market is now open for orders. Enjoy some sunshine this weekend and remember to check out your local farmers markets.