In this place ruled by ranchers, food trucks and cowboy boots, I found slow food, rich mineralized urban soil, and a love of and respect for the land and all it provides. I found these things at Metier Cook’s Supply, at Lenoir Restaurant, at the SFC Farmers Market, and most notably, at Boggy Creek Farm.
This house, the homestead at Boggy Creek, was built in 1841 and is the first home built in Austin that is still standing. The land, one city block equal to 5 acres, was the spinach capital of Texas back in the 30’s, and has been farmed for the past 21 years by Carol Ann Sayle and Larry Butler.
Since 2000, when I met farmers Mike Kandefer and Tony Norris, I have been drawn to Urban Oaks Organic Farm and have felt very much a part of the fabric that keeps the farm going. Here, in urban Austin, is another year-round gem of a farm. How do they remain sustainable? Farmer Carol Ann, once a painter by trade, painted me a clear picture and inspired me with her knowledge, dedication, wisdom, integrity and heart.
As I’ve been preparing my own garden this spring, I have been questioning: Should I till? Should I weed? Is compost enough? What amendments does my soil require? Carol Ann was practical and wise, opting against deep tilling in favor or “tickle tilling” just the top layer. Her soil, recently tested and compared to other local farms, came out on top having the best microbial activity. And after 21 years of paying for organic certification, she decertified. “Customers simply don’t care.” she said. “They know me, and knowing your farmer is more important than a piece of paper.” Their compost is rich and smoking. Their cover crop comes from edibles like purslane and arugula. And their produce is abundant, grown in harmony with the environment and beautiful.
I could have stayed all afternoon talking with Carol Ann and touring Boggy Creek, but I had to let her go inside and prepare the end-of-the-day meal for the farm workers that she prepares every day. Next time I’ll make sure that my schedule allows me to help prepare and share that meal with Carol Ann and the Boggy Creek Farm family.
Until that next visit, eat clean live well Austin!
When the garlic is almost knee-high, the chives thick and lush and the grass in need of it’s first cutting, you know the ramps are ripe for picking. These wild leeks are one of nature’s many nutritious and delicious gifts. And while foraging is exciting and rewarding at every season, after a long, cold and grueling winter, this first excursion of spring is my most anticipated and favorite. Making it even better, it is an annual tradition I share with friend and sustainable food guru, Mariana.
Ramping – foraging for ramps – is top secret business. While I can’t disclose our location, I can tell you that our favorite patch is not far into the woods, where the crossing is thick with pricklers and poison ivy, but worth every itch and scratch.
Ramps have an intricate root network and regenerate year after year, but to be truly sustainable, it’s important not to harvest more than 10% of your patch. We barely scratch the surface, in this regard. Even so, we tread lightly, take conservatively, eat only a few as we work (which is immediately evident by anyone who comes near!), and return home with their pungent aroma filling the car and soon the kitchen.
One step into the house and one inhalation, anyone could tell that I’d been ramping. And yet, once washed and dried, these wild leeks will last for weeks in the refrigerator if wrapped in a damp cloth and then placed in a plastic bag. And then…sky’s the limit. On this year’s agenda: grilled ramps, fermented ramps, ramp frittata (which we had for dinner last night), and one of my favorite preparations, ramp pesto! If you’ve never had ramps, you’re in for a treat. And if you’re experienced with ramps, we all hope you’ll share your favorite preparations here…as a little bit of inspiration goes a long way to help us all…
…eat clean and live well!
These are the superheroes of our food system, working tirelessly to end hunger, grow food and provide access to food, resources and education, regardless of circumstances, through the city of Hartford. They are individuals, businesses, youth, farmers, teachers…all are working together to make Hartford’s food system sustainable and secure. Last Thursday, we honored them at the 15th annual Community Food Security Awards, sponsored by Hartford’s Advisory Commission on Food Policy. While there were only 4 official winners, each nominee deserved recognition for their work and accomplishments, which include:
• Creating farms and gardens to grow food at multiple sites within the city that can be sold affordably.
• Providing meals and backpacks of food for those who would otherwise have none.
• Planting vegetables throughout the city in pots and raised beds. Employing the homeless community to help tend the pots, and making the vegetables free for anyone in need.
• Distributing bags with essential resources and coupons for farmers markets.
• Donating seeds to urban farms and gardeners.
• Planting school gardens.
• Providing financial support to allow non-profits to provide fresh produce and foodstuffs to Hartford residents, as well as screening and educational workshops.
• Creating life classrooms for all who are interested in learning about health, nutrition and wellness.
• Bring the issues of hunger, nutrition and food accessibility to the table, making them the conversation, and most importantly, creating solutions.
I was honored to be selected to deliver the keynote address at this event, and even more honored to stand among these inspiring doers and leaders who deserve our support and recognition every day. Please take a moment to visit the Hartford Food System website for a complete list of nominees and winners, with descriptions of their awesome work…
…so all can eat clean and live well.