Raised Garden Bed Plans

Check out these very easy to replicate Raised Garden Beds. An effecient way to intensively grow herbs, vegetables, and flowers. Courtesy of Sarah Brown of Maison Terre!

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Know Your Farmer: Part 1

Arkansas Natural Produce: Small-Scale Family Farming

In the whimsical words of Jessie, our 11-year-old community partner who recently visited Arkansas Natural Produce….

IMG_1221At Pulaski Heights Elementary we hired Nathaniel Wills to teach gardening. In reality he does much more than just instruct us how to dig, weed, and plant. He educates us on many subjects, such as how to create a garden from scratch, how to purchase seeds, and how to keep records on the garden and map it out. We also learn about pests and compost. But most importantly, he encourages eating healthy and tasty vegetables. This year we are including an outdoor kitchen where we will prepare food and wash vegetables to sell.

     Arkansas Natural Produce (ANP) felt like a bigger version of my school garden. Last week my mom and I took a tour of ANP. When we pulled up I thought for a moment that they grew and sold covered wagons instead of vegetables. Of course the “covered wagons” were really greenhouses. Soon, a couple walked out of the small white house that was close to the road and introduced themselves as Jay and Deanna Fulbright. As we walked down to the garden, Jay informed us that they have lived on this property since 1999. When we entered the first greenhouse he said that there are about twenty greenhouses on their property.

     IMG_1202As I walked into the greenhouse, I noticed a line of timed sprinklers hanging from the top of the greenhouse. We were told that they run the sprinklers five minutes once a day in the winter and six to seven minutes, two to three times a day in the summer. As I looked around at the sea of green and red, I could tell that they try to use every little space inside the greenhouse. They grow and sell arugula, bok choy, broccoli, dandelions, edible flowers, fennel, green onions, greens (mustards, tatsoi, mizunas, spinach, and kale), micro greens, lettuces (red oakleaf, red leaf, romaine, red romaine), sugar snap peas, sorrel, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, watercress, chervil, cilantro, dill, chives, garlic chives, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, spearmint and thyme. Whew!

     As I looked at all the produce instead of paying attention, I stubbed my toe on a little brown mouse trap (luckily it wasn’t set!).  “Mice are our biggest pests besides fire ants. Fire ants never leave. They make their homes in the lettuce beds and dig up the seeds to eat. The most you can do to them is discourage them. It is much easier to control bugs in the green houses than in vegetable beds outside.” Jay said.

     336We were told that ANP does not use pesticides unless it is all natural (plant based or bacterial). They use no herbicides, and they only hand weed. They have large fans in the green houses to keep the air circulating. I spied a large gray thing sitting off to one side. Jay said that it is an Aqua Fogger. It creates fog of natural pesticides. They set it out at night instead of spraying all of the plants by hand so the gardeners don’t come in contact with pesticides.

     As we entered another greenhouse, Jay told us how he got interested in farming. When he was a child his great grandfather was a farmer and his grandfather was a general store owner. Being a general store owner, he worked with farmers, sold their vegetables and financed their farms by letting them buy groceries and farm supplies on credit. The farmers would pay him back after the harvest. In addition to the general store he had his own garden. That is where Jay got his experience, but he decided what his purpose in life would be during his college years.

     303During Jay’s college years one of his professors told him to write a paper about the future of farming. Jay wrote about how important small family-owned farms were and that there would be more in the future. His professor disagreed and said that farms would be large, corporate farms. Frustrated, Jay decided to prove his professor wrong and started farming.

     Jay and Deanna have been farmers since 1989. They grow and sell produce to local grocery stores, restaurants and to local on-line co-ops. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Just tell yourself, Duckie, you’re really quite lucky! Some people are much more… oh, ever so much more…. oh, muchly much-much more unlucky than you!” Of course that would be… because they do not order from ANP.

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Check Out Our Local Farmers and Food Artisans: Kiva Zip Crowdsourced Loans!

Check out your local Kiva Zip borrowers below. You can lend and support these small entrepreneurs in an easy, meaningful way! Click on the images to lend now!
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The beautiful people you see before you…
Laughing Stock Farm – Loblolly Creamery – Green Cornerstore – Vader View Acres – Kent Walker Artisan Cheese – Falling Sky Farm – Little Rock Urban Farming – Sue’s Garden
 
 
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Hello Community! We’ve got a new post from Vera Chenault, a new Food Club member who is using your market to take back the value meal.  Check it out:Image

I have been smitten with the lovely sweet peppers from Arkansas Natural Produce the past few weeks.  We’ve gone through two pounds a week, and usually they are gone by the beginning of the week.  Most days they simply get cut into strips and eaten raw, dipped in hummus.  A few get diced and thrown into scrambled eggs or onto pizza or salads.  Sweet, or bell, peppers are a good source of Vitamins C and A, especially the red peppers.  Did you know paprika is made from dried bell peppers?

Two of my favorite bell pepper recipes are stuffed red peppers – stuffed with millet, pinto beans, corn, salsa, and shredded cheese, and garnished with cilantro, is my new favorite way to stuff peppers – and pepper steak.  

This Pepper Steak recipe is based off an old Gourmet Magazine recipe, and it’s a great, quick weeknight meal.  I got my flank steak and peppers from Arkansas Local Food Network.  The entire dinner for my family of six (two adults and four children) cost about $16.75, or $2.79 per person.  Once again, there’s no fast food that beats that price!

Pepper Steak

2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
¼ cup water
1 lb flank steak, cut against the grain into thin strips
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
4 large (I used 6 small) bell peppers in assorted colors, cut into stips
1 onion, cut in half and then into strips
3 garlic cloves, sliced

Stir together soy sauce, cornstarch, water, and set aside.   Sprinkle steak strips with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet or wok, heat 2 Tablespoons of the oil over medium high heat.  Stir fry the steak about 4 minutes until browned on the outside.  Remove the steak from the pan and set aside.  Add the remaining Tablespoon of oil to the pan and stir fry the remaining ingredients for 6 or 7 minutes. Add 2 Tablespoons water, cover, and cook 3 more minutes.  Add steak and soy sauce mixture into the pan and cook, stirring, two more minutes.   Serve over rice.

– Vera Chenault, beloved Food Club member

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Community Project 2013

The Arkansas Local Food Network is, deep breath, happy to announce the recipient of our 2013 Community Fund Project: Feed Fayetteville!  Feed Fayetteville will use our $500 grant for their CareCropping initiative, a project that provides donated food from local farmers and gardeners to hunger relief efforts around Fayetteville.  The initiative has already 16,137 pounds of produce to over 20 pantries and community meals!

A word from Adrienne Shaunfield, the project coordinator:

“Feed Fayetteville gratefully accepts the Arkansas Local Food Network grant to help with the growth of the CareCropping initiative. We are so excited about this award and look forward to CareCropping our way to Community Food Security! Thank you very much for this award and we look forward to sharing our progress with the Arkansas Local Food Network.”

A great example of community supported action.  This grant was funded entirely by you, our community members, to support this project.  Thanks and happy 2013! Keep an eye out for future projects!

 

 

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Take Back the Value Menu: a Food Club customer takes the $5 Challenge local

This following post is from a new Food Club member, who is showing that eating locally and healthily can be cost-effective and easy.  She’s using the $5 Challenge by USA Slow Foods to feed her (rather large) family on less than $5 a meal on food primarily from our Food Club and Whole Foods.  Check it out!

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I am a working mom with four small children. I often hear people say that they can’t afford to eat fresh/organic/local/gourmet foods, and try to convince me that it’s cheaper to grab fast food from a drive through or a premade frozen casserole.  So, this week I calculated up what my meals really cost us, and here’s what I came up with: seven meals, averaging $19.82 per meal, or $3.30 per person.  Now, my children are young (though they eat a lot!) so if we say instead that I am feeding four adults, instead of two adults and four children, that is still only $4.95 per person.

Here’s how I did it…

I had a few things in my pantry for these meals:  a head of garlic, olive oil, stale bread left over from Christmas Eve dinner (used to stuff the chicken), salt and pepper, dried cumin, chili powder, and apple cider vinegar.

At Whole Foods, I bought a lemon, onions, whole wheat tortillas, two cans of black beans, cheddar cheese, a can of tomato sauce, spaghetti noodles, sunflower seeds, millet, fresh ginger, and a head of red cabbage, for $33.50.

From ALFN, I bought pork chops, rainbow carrots, red potatoes, baby romaine lettuce, a whole chicken, sweet potatoes, broccoli, beef tips for stew, jalapenos, sweet red peppers, organic baby lettuce greens, minute steaks, purple hull peas, ham hocks, baby bok choy, and shiitake mushrooms for $108.30.

For breakfast, lunch, and snacks, I also bought breakfast sausage, two dozen eggs, two loaves of bread, a loaf of banana bread (a treat, since normally I would just make this!), two pounds of apples, baby spinach, and two pounds of pecans for $45.47 from ALFN.

So, that’s one week’s worth of groceries for six people for $187.27.  I know the meat and bread are a little more expensive than I if I were to buy them from the grocery store, but knowing where my food comes from and that the beef comes from well-cared of cows, matters.  The vegetables may be cheaper (sometimes, though often not) at the grocery store, but the taste doesn’t even compare when I buy some weird breed of vegetable that was picked long ago before it was ripe and shipped across the country.  And 21 meals for six people averages out to $1.49 per person per meal – how’s that for a dollar menu? I do keep my pantry stocked with things like beans, grains, oils and vinegars, jam and nut butters, hummus, etc. and we make good use of leftovers.

Also, about “fast” foods – I work until 5 o’clock every day and my family eats at 6, so all of the weeknight meals below take about thirty minutes to cook.  Driving to the drive-through and back, waiting for the food to “cook” and unpacking it doesn’t really shave a lot of time off that thirty minute home cooked meal.

So, here were my meals for the week…

Saturday

Pork chops

Braised carrots

Smashed red potatoes

Salad

Sunday

Stuffed whole chicken roasted with broccoli, lemon, and sweet potatoes

Monday

Beef stew with onion, red potatoes, onion, and carrots (in the crock pot)

Tuesday

Roasted veggie burritos with sweet potatoes, black beans, red and jalapeno peppers, onion, cheddar cheese, and spices

Wednesday

Spaghetti (I make the sauce in the crock pot so it can cook all day) and salad

Thursday

Minute steaks

Purple hull peas cooked with ham hocks

Salad

Friday

Millet cooked with black beans and fresh ginger, with red cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, sunflower seeds, and apple cider vinegar and olive oil.

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“Lavender Dreams”

            “Jelly Madness” a farm in McRae Arkansas, about forty-five minutes north of Little Rock was the first farm where I began my ALFN journey. This is the description the farm:

      “Jelly Madness creates exciting and explosive flavors of home made jellies, sauces, syrups, and baked goods utilizing fresh, pure, and local ingredients.  We utilize produce from our own small farm, other local farms, and in some cases USA produce such as citrus products which are not produced in Arkansas.  Jelly Madness also makes no sugar added products utilizing Xagave nectar and Stevia.  We do not utilize synthetic fertilizers or pesticides on our small farm however, we do purchase produce from other larger local farms that do utilize those methods.”
 
              Being a huge fan of Stevia, I think it is a great natural sweetener while having no affect on blood sugar levels  which made me very excited to visit “Jelly Madness”. The family business  farm promotes the slogan “Fresh, local and pure”. As I drove up I was greeted by husband-wife team Amanda and Eric. The new family business originated at their house where they also homeschool their three children. We walked around outside and I was given a tour of the land and shown where the acre and a half of blueberries grew. As we walked around I learned about how the family got started and why they chose to invest in this type of business. I asked what the initial inspiration was to have a “jelly making” business was and Amanda simply replied, “Lavender”. She explained that she and her husband had always been attracted to essential oils, unique flavors and lavender in particular as it launched their business idea. The first jelly ever to be sold under the name of “Jelly Madness” was a flavorful blackberry lavender ginger. The creativity continued as Eric and Amanda created more jellies with a variety of exotic flavors. Amanda and Eric have plans to make a garden marmalade jelly, a pumpkin butter and a variety of different pancake mixes. They look forward to producing seasonal edibles with the holidays coming up. Eric has also started the process of writing a grant proposal in hopes to get government funding to add greenhouses and more fruit trees to the land. I didn’t actually get to see where the jelly was made, as they work their magic a couple miles up the road in a rented commercial kitchen but felt that I saw enough to understand the concept of the farm.

              You can soon buy “Jelly Madness” products at the Arkansas Local Food Club as well as the Green Corner Store on Main Street. As I graciously left the Martin’s I was given a plate of some of the most delicious scones I have ever tasted made with the finest and purest ingredients and a jar of the blackberry lavender mint jelly. My first farm visit was a success and it was refreshing to see how the creativity of a family can flourish as it provides incredibly unique choices of food products while supporting the local economy.

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