A Word on our Local Food Economy

Good folks,

I've got a quick bunch of stories for you, a couple food garden pointers, and a (workshop) announcement. 

1.) Stories: When I've got a book to write and only got a page
The challenge every time I try to write a newsletter or blog is whittling down the list of possible stories to share. Living amidst the Tallahassee Food Network (TFN), there is so much good work going on and so many dynamic stories to report. We need a documentary and journalism crew on the team just to capture all the stories: from the 75+ community gardens in town to the hundreds of youth that Qasimah Boston has trained in leadership and nutrition, from the Red Hills Tomato "Feastival" this past weekend to the wheat threshing/grinding demonstration today at the iGrow Youth Farm. And that's not to mention the many home gardeners who tell me their stories of family recipes, of their parents who planted by the moon, and their children who, "Just today!" harvested their own bell peppers and ate them "right, then and there."  (If you are a journalist or know someone who would be willing to lend their time to document food movement stories, please let me know).

To prioritize, I found myself inspired today by the open conversation at the TFN Collard and Cornbread Gathering on Farm-to-Table Economic Development, so I'll share a few tidbits from my world in that arena:
  • iGrow Whatever You Like, TFN's youth empowerment and urban ag program has harvested over 1600lbs from their Dunn St Youth Farm and earned over $4000 from produce sales + another $3000 (this year, $14,000 total) from iGrow Bucket Sales. Did I mention that iGrow teenagers are equipped to accept credit and debit cards using an iPad Ap? 21st Century farmers!
  • Sundiata Ameh-El, my friend and iGrow colleague launched his new compost pick-up service business, Compost Community, which takes the food economy full circle. He's working with both individual households and restaurants. The finished compost generated is donated to area community gardens.
  • Red Hills Online (Farmers) Market is doing more business than ever. Last week's sales were the highest they've ever been! 
  • Cetta Barnhart's Seed Time Harvest, a local food distribution company is connecting rural growers who have crops going to waste with customers who want local, fresh produce. She packages seasonal produce from half a dozen farmers into CSA-like bags and delivers her orders weekly. Though she's web-savy (order forms are on googledocs), she's phone calling seniors to make sure they don't fall into the food economy digital divide.
  • Claire Mitchell and Danielle launched Ten Speed Greens Urban Farm this past winter, and their farm (and business) is thriving: bike-delivered produce to local restaurants, workshops, farm t-shirts, potlucks; the "whole nine."
  • Tallahassee Food Network and partners are investigating a possible local food certification program for local farmers as well as for restaurants and grocers who sell local products. The certification would ensure geographic "local-ness" as well as guarantee agricultural standards. With the proper branding, it would provide a marketing advantage to farm-to-table restaurants and other businesses who support the local food economy. Imagine walking into Publix to find a North Florida Grown or TallyFresh section.  Appalachian Grown is a model we're looking into.
  • Whole Foods is looking for local suppliers; their goal is to source 25% of their produce locally.
  • TFN needs more hands on deck to continue developing the Good Food Directory that will help local folks find healthy, fresh, green, fair, and affordable food.
  • People in the Tallahassee MSA (metropolitan service area) purchase $178million* of fruits and vegetables every year. We're talking hundreds (thousands!) of local jobs if we re-root our food economy in the region. (*figure is from the T/LC Econ Dev Council).
The roots for a thriving local food economy are growing, but it's going to take all of us to develop it to its full potential. What's your piece?

2.) Food Garden Tips

If you're leaving on vacation for a while or otherwise don't want to be bothered with food gardening over the summer, plant sweet potatoes. (Man in Overalls YoutTube "How To" video). Plant them anyway; they love the heat, block out the weeds, and serve as a living mulch.  Speaking of which: mulch, mulch, mulch, 2" or 8". (Oak leaves are my favorite). Mulch does three things: it conserves water, blocks the weeds from growing, and regulates your soil temperature against the sun. Cooler, moister soil = healthier plants = fewer pests. (Come to the workshop, I'll explain :)

1.)Workshop Announcement: 

A workshop taught by Man in Overalls, Sundiata (Compost Community), Efrayim (Growing Green Gardens), and the iGrow Youth. Learn to grow food in the heat without headaches or heat exhaustion. 9-11am, Sat., June 29th at the iGrow Youth Farm (514 Dunn St). Registration is $20/Adults ($25 at the door), $5 for children and youth. Sign up on Facebook or by email. Workshop Flier PDF


     Happy growing and stay cool, 
    Nathan, the Man in Overalls 
    Magic Compost Mix delivery and topdressing, 1 yard for only $99 + tax 
    PS- Food Garden Questions. Email or FB me.
    ***Sign up for semi-monthly updates from the Man in Overalls by emailing me with the subject line "Count Me In."