Hello from Out West & Remember New Leaf's Farm Tour Oct 25th & 26th

Greetings from Tucson, AZ. Yesterday, Mary Elizabeth and I visited the Mercado San Agustin.

The sign painted on the outside wall of the market
A central square surrounded by sidewalks, farmer/producer booths, and restaurants.
For-rent commercial kitchen for food-based businesses 
backyard-gardeners consignment table ran by the Food Bank

There was a farmers market that was woven into the mosaic of a larger market: shops, a bakery, a rent-by-the-hour commercial kitchen for food-based businesses, a communal square, a bar, and a backyard-gardeners consignment table ran by the food bank, which is actually the umbrella organization for the farmers' market itself. (Check out what Tucson Community Food Bank is doing to grow the food movement!) The market was linked to downtown by a newly developed streetcar! So cool! It reminds me of the vision for the Frenchtown Heritage Market being developed in Tallahassee.

Mary Elizabeth and I are here for a few days visiting family before we head down to Mexico. After 10 days visiting my host family (with whom I lived for two months in 2007) in Nogales, Sonora, we'll head east on Interstate 10. We'll be back in north Florida the better part of November for a stop over before our next adventure: Central and South America. But I'm getting ahead of myself. How'd we find ourselves in Tucson? Weren't we headed for Montana?

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Before I answer that question, I've got to remind y'all about the New Leaf Farm Tour coming up in just a few days: Oct 25 & 26th. (You can also find it here on FB.) The Farm Tour is essentially a massive, region-wide farm open house. From New Leaf's website:
Thirty-four local farms [including iGrow Dunn Street Youth Farm] are opening their doors and inviting you to experience farm life. Each farm is offering something special. Families can enjoy tours that include barnyard animals, farm-fresh goods and refreshments. You can attend a workshop on beekeeping, take a hayride or talk to farmers who are committed to organic production. Visit working cattle and goat ranches, a dairy or a winery. And of course, purchase amazingly fresh goods directly from the farm. 
Sounds like a fun (and informative) time only because it is! Last year 14,000 people participated! I've been on one tour and hosted two others. Go, have fun! Download the Farm Tour brochure HERE. (It contains descriptions and directions to all the farms).

While I'm on the subject, let me say here that New Leaf Market is one of my heroes. Let me use New Leaf's own numbers to show you why. Last year, New Leaf had:

  • 106 local producers (including 37 local farmer suppliers) from whom they purchased $932,073 worth of product including 5396 gallons of local milk, 4340 dozen local eggs; and
  • 61 local service providers from whom they purchased $534,639 worth of services

How many local businesses & family farms did New Leaf support last year? 167! How many jobs did New Leaf support? So many! And how many local businesses that supply or service the above suppliers benefited because of New Leaf's local purchasing preference? What we're talking about is the local multiplier effect. New Leaf is yearly pumping over $1.5 million into our regional economic engine. Kudos to New Leaf!

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So now for a travel update.

In June Mary Elizabeth and I headed west across the country, bound for Montana. Along the way we stopped over in Memphis and Denver. Upon arriving in Glacier National Park, we took a side trip to Washington DC to join Sundiata and Clarenia for the Jefferson Awards. After three months working the summer season in Glacier, we headed west to Seattle to visit my sister and then turned south down the coast to visit friends and family in Oregon, California, and Arizona. Here's the story again, this time with pictures:

In Memphis we visited friends Mary Phillips and Wes Riddle, co-directors of Roots Memphis (a for profit urban farm) and Roots Memphis Farm Academy (an educational nonprofit).

Mary watering at Roots Memphis' urban location adjacent to the Clarion Hotel.

We helped pick kale.
Student "incubator plots" at rural location.

"Roots" has a great cooperative CSA sales model for (adult) student farmers who work "incubator plots." If students meet profitability benchmarks for two years, Roots connects them with land and micro-financing up to $30,000ish. Internally, they have supplemented farm revenue during their start up period by hosting guests through airbnb.com. Wes recommends these two books:

In Memphis we also saw Lauren Bangasser, another Warren Wilson fellow alumni/friend who works with Memphis Urban Farms 2 School. Here are a few pictures of her project at Grahamwood Elementary:

Signage is always important to help tell the story
Two mega hoop houses
Donated freight containers for storage and mural space
Beautiful rows
Edible flowers

A few days later, we visited Denver. Mary Elizabeth's buddy, Joe Gaskin is a bike mechanic for their city-wide bike-share program, so we toured by bike and consequentially happened upon several urban gardens and a farm.

DUG, or Denver Urban Gardens, has over 125 community gardens in their network. We checked out SPark (i.e., Sustainability Park), an urban farming collaboration amongst the Denver Housing Authority, 3 for-profit and 1 nonprofit urban farm. This was especially interesting because there have been background partnership conversations in Tallahassee going on amongst the Frenchtown Revitalization Council, TFN, the United Tenant Association and the Tallahassee Housing Authority.

Next, we checked in and dropped our bags in Glacier only to catch a flight back east to join Sundiata and Clarenia for the Jefferson Awards festivities in Washington, DC, June 16th-18th:

Left the overalls in the room for the Gala.
(left to right: Mary Elizabeth, Nathan, Clarenia, Sundiata)
Farmers Market on the steps of the USDA
Florida Jefferson awardees with Senator Bill Nelson
Then it was back to beautiful Glacier National Park where Mary Elizabeth and I spent our summer:

She worked in the dining room, and I worked driving an antique convertible tour bus and sharing info and stories about the park. Our backyard was none-too-shabby. Unexpectedly, we often worked longer days than we had in Tallahassee, frequently amassing 60+ hour work-weeks. We did, nonetheless, "get out" into the park to enjoy it. 

Our home for the summer
In uniform.
Sunsets in the valley
My swimming "hole" at Lake McDonald
Guess who came to Glacier to visit their daughter, who was
on staff with us? Beth and Bryan Desloge! Small world!
I was a sucker for Glacier's freezing-cold lakes!
My bus on the Going to the Sun Road.
At the end of September, we left Glacier. Since then, we've camped and eaten our way west to Seattle (by way of SW Canada including Vancouver Island), and south down the coast to Arizona. There's been plenty of peanut butter and jelly mixed in to economize on time and money because we're currently on a "fixed no-income." We've also been hitting up plenty of farmers markets and road-side stands whenever we can to ensure we're getting our five-a-day.

P&J on the Vancouver Island Ferry
Roadside market on the Blackfeet Reservation
Our tent in a Canadian provincial park
Market in Victoria on Vancouver Island

And that brings us back full circle to our current location, Tucson, AZ.

Greetings again. Blessings with the work and adventures life fills your days with. We look forward to our November layover in north Florida. Until then,

Nathan, Man in Overalls