Ann Arbor Adieu on Annarbor.com

On Sunday, I watched two of my "girls" deflowered by a rooster.

I had been feeling wary of this upcoming event and my role as a chicken pimp, but we had no choice. Either we were going to kill the girls and bring them with us to our temporary rental home in the freezer, or we were going to give them to friends who have many chickens in their flock.

It seemed highly ridiculous that killing a living creature was deemed better than letting nature take its course – so our girls were introduced to their new flock. Five minutes later, two of our girls were ruffling their feathers, seemingly unperturbed by the 10-second coitus.

Saying goodbye to our chickens was the last in a long list of adieus as we leave this wonderful town.

We have lived here six years, and I feel I only know 40 percent of what makes Ann Arbor wonderful, especially in the realm of food.

As food is the only carnal thing humans can do in public, I salute all those who pursue this world. I am grateful to you all. This world of feeding our bodies, our health, our souls.

Here is the article on Annarbor.om

What I didn't write in this article was the sense of vertigo that accompanied the list upon list upon list as we sold our house and left. Leaving a town where one has lived for 6 years, leaving a town where one went through residency, through oncology office visits, and through falling in love (with the food world, with one's husband, with the reality of the miraculous).

Onward to the next adventure!

A visit to Tilian Farm Development Center: a vision of our local food future

Merely 5 miles north on Pontiac Trail, a vision is taking on substance. Tilian Farm Development Center is about to burst forth with active vegetables, animals, and people. As with so many things, it is nice to see a "before" picture, this is that picture. As I noted in January, Tilian Farm Development Center is the larger envelope enclosing the Four Season Farmer Development Program (FSFDP) currently using 16 acres owned by Ann Arbor Township. The Township's acreage extends for 150 acres around an old barn (with a new roof courtesy of the Township) and a crumbling side building. Three inaugural farms will share the land, the resources, and the community's support as the first wave of entrepreneurship under the Tilian umbrella.

The purpose of Tilian is to create new farms in our area. As such, there will be a rotation of new farmers coming in new every year on two-year rotations. Andrea Ridgard, Project Manager, shares, "the first year of the program is really focused on getting the farms started and sustainable with their own markets. The energy of the program in the second year will be more focused on the farmers leaving the land and surviving on their own."Borden-2011tilianfarmers

The newest farmers to join the Ann Arbor community served breakfast at Selma Cafe last Friday. From left to right: Ben Fidler, Nate Lada, Alex Cacciari, Mark Nowak, and Jill Sweetman.

Of the FSFDP applicants, three farms were chosen as the inaugural cohort. Nate Lada and Jill Sweetman, of Green Things Farm, are starting a small vegetable and egg CSA (memberships available). Alex Cacciari and Mark Nowak, of Seeley Farm , are looking for wholesale customers for their greens. Benjamin Fidler, of Bending Sickle Community Farm, will be doing a pork and poultry CSA. As Nate Lada explained to me when I asked about growing practices - "we are all doing ecologically sustainable practices, using insecticidal soap for example. But we are not going to be certified organic."

The young farmers benefit from the FSFDP advisory committee with a broad range and depth of knowledge: Jane Bush (Grazing Fields egg cooperative and Food System Economic Partnership), Tomm Becker (Sunseed Farm), Shannon Brines (Brines Farm), Jennifer Kangas (Capella Farm), Victoria Bennett (WCC), Jeff Holden (Allegiance Health), and Dan Carroll (Zingermans Bakehouse). Fueled by potlucks - the veterans, "volunteer their time," shares Jill Sweetman, "they have given us advice on our seed order, business planning, doing the llc, and financial stuff."

Tilian Farm Development Center is guided by a steering committee equally impressive in its knowledge and dedication. Jeff McCabe (Repasts Present & Future and Selma Cafe), Andrea Ridgard, Jeremy Mogheter (MSU Student Organic Farm), Dan Bair (The Farm at St. Joes), Shannon Brines, and Jessica Neasfey (SNRE student and landscape designer).

Selma Cafe formed the Four Season Farmer Development Program with funds from a Conservation Innovation Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The 2 year grant pays for 25 hours of work a week, a mobile hoop house, a washpack (where food can be, you guessed it, washed and packed), a root cellar, and $3000 worth of tools. As such, the farmers have put together a "Tools to Till Tilian" campaign on Kickstarter.com to raise $12,000 to purchase fencing, a tractor, and capital necessities that should last beyond their two years on the land.

If you choose not to contribute to the campaign you can help grow more farms in Washtenaw by literally building a hoop house. The first hoop build of 2011 will happen at Tilian on April 16th. You can sign up here.

The day I visited, the lone chicken coop surrounded by electric fence highlighted the wide expanse of, as yet, empty land. One brave Bantam rooster crowed against the wind and the wilderness. Not for long will he be the only one making noise on that land.

Here is the article on annarbor.com

Visit to Sunseed Farm

In my Farm to Fork series I visit local farms around Ann Arbor and share what I learn.

Borden-kaleatsunseedfarm

"People aren't willing to just eat potatoes and onions all winter long." Tomm Becker, of Sunseed Farm, stands in the one of their two unheated hoop houses surrounded by dark earth and verdant vegetables. "We believe that in order to have a really healthy food system we need to have a year round supply of food. It doesn't make sense to even talk about a food system unless you can supply food in the wintertime."

Tomm learned about supplying food in the wintertime as the Production Manager for the Student Organic Farm at MSU. He and his wife, Trilby, moved to Ann Arbor and started - Ann Arbor's first year round fresh vegetable CSA - as noted in the 2011 Local Food Victories awarded at the 3rd Annual Homegrown Local Food Summit. Borden-hoophousesinsnowatsunseedfarm

Supplying food all year long takes hoophouses (courtesy of Selma Cafe's Farmer Fund and the USDA), a regimented plan for the timing of plantings, and an awareness of which plants to grow inside the hoop during the winter. As Becker explains: "we grow either plants that you can harvest a bunch of times - like the kale or chard or the salad mix - or the really space efficient crops like lettuce, carrots, or spinach." Kale is very efficient, seeds planted in August have been harvested since November - four months. As their August plantings of salad mix and turnip are bolting they remove them and planting new seeds for the summer harvest.

Sunseed Farm uses a variety of methods to control pests and diseases: cover crops, rotational plantings, a broad array of vegetable species, the application of regular dish soap to remove aphids, and spraying nematodes (a microscopic soil organism) on the soil to reduce cutworms. "What we are working to do is to create an ecosystem in which the population of one pest/pathogen/insect is not exploding to the point where it becomes a real problem... [We are] increasing the biodiversity on our farm... to keep the insect pressure down... because when you have healthy soil you can have healthy plants. When plants have what they need they are able to resist attacks."

Another way Sunseed Farm protects and thus feeds the soil in the hoop house is by using a broadfork to loosen the soil for planting instead of turning it over with a shovel or tilling it. "[With a shovel] you might achieve a lot really quickly, but you are really setting back the soil biology by killing a lot of the microrganisms down in there...People have been using a broadfork for a long time, but [Eliot Coleman] brought it back." The 30 inch wide bar has 7 long tines - standing on it and wiggling it back and forth loosens the soil without destroying the fragile ecosystem.

The first week of March, Tomm Becker presented at both the Homegrown Local Food Summit and at the Michigan Organic Conference. He also welcomes interns and apprentices to Sunseed Farm. "I want to help people as much as I can. I don't really see myself in competition with other small scale vegetable farmers. I think that really what we are doing is trying to change the whole food system - helping each other is helping ourselves."

Customers can sign up for three 16 week shares: Autumn, Winter, and Summer. Sunseed Farm is accepting applications now for their Summer CSA share (sign up here). Located five miles north of Ann Arbor off of Joy Road, you can email them or give them a call! (517-980-0893)

Tangy Parsley dressing to sparkle your winter eatings!

For the past four months we have been chomping on fresh greens courtesy of our CSA from Shannon Brines of Brines Farm. Curly baby kale, dark soft spinach, tall elegant arugula, and delicate salad mix are grown in his hoop houses. Sometimes he adds squash, potatoes, beans, or frozen tomatoes to fill out the selection (based on sunlight and temperature). I am always looking for a new way to add sparkle to the ballast of our weekly diet. I was served this dressing by a friend who had just attended a cooking class entitled “Reclaim your energy: Adrenal support cooking class” by the National Gourmet Institute for Food & Health in NYC. The recipe was entitled “Dark Leafy Greens with Tangy Tahini Dressing” - I think the three of us groaned aloud when we first took a bite.

I have reenergized my kale chomping excitement - in fact, it goes beautifully on everything. (I have been putting it on toast under a poached egg.) Here is the dressing recipe (that which elicited groans at first bite at the dinner table):

  • ½ cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoon shoyu (soy sauce)
  • 2 tablespoon umeboshi vinegar (or ume plum vinegar)
  • ½ cup parsley
  • 3 scallions
  • ½ cup water

In a food processor, combine tahini, shoyu, umeboshi vinegar, parsley, and scallions blend together then add water and blend again.

Here is what I have been doing (the garlic adds more punch than the scallions, but still groanworthy):

  • 1 heaping spoonful of tahini
  • 1 heaping spoonful of almond butter
  • a 6 second pour of tamari
  • a 3 second pour of umeboshi vinegar
  • a 3 second pour of rice wine vinegar
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • one bunch of parsley
  • water to taste

I have been blending the above and then adding water to the desired consistency. The less water you add, the more of a paste, the more water you add, the more of a dressing.

Enjoy!

Photo courtesy of Cara Rosean of Real Time Farms, thank you Cara!

Here is the article on annabor.com.

3rd Annual Homegrown Local Food Summit

The Homegrown Local Food Summit celebrated its third year with over 300 people at Washtenaw Community College on March 1st. The sun drenched lobby shone down on the information booths and tables groaning under the bounty of donated food. Rachel Chadderdon, of Double Up Food Bucks, introduced the day's event as a way "to bring together leaders in the local food movement to reenergize ourselves."Borden-homegrownfoodsummit2011 The conference had more of a conference like feel to it this year with a full morning of shared lectures and then break-away talks in the afternoon. The full morning started with a tag team presentation by Kim Bayer, of Slow Food Huron Valley, and Dan Bair, of The Farm at St. Joes, of our local food victories. Two keynote speakers: Dan Carmody, President of the Detroit Eastern Market Corporation, and Ken Meter, President of the Crossroads Resource Center, spoke to the larger world of food.

The morning wrapped up with four local food initiatives pitched by Mark Hodesh (for Mark's Carts and the Union Hall Kitchen), Aubrey Thomason (for her vision of Small is Beautiful Goat Dairies), Edward Weymouth (for Arborcycle), and Jeff McCabe (for his vision of building 20 hoops in 20 days).

All of that before lunch.

As Kim Bayer said in her introduction, "the local food victories inspire me to keep doing this. There is a network that is starting to form that can support our health and our community." She and Dan Bair read quotes from the recipients as the slides moved through the almost 30 local food victories.

2011 Local Food victories

A Local Food Victory Cluster: Johnson Jams "When Karen Johnson made a jam at the Preserving Traditions class last year, Emily Springfield told Karen she thought it was prize-worthy jam." When the Cottage Food Bill passed, Johnson Jams was born and eventually began selling at the Saline Winter Farmers Market. As Dan summarized, "it is a virtuous cycle, it is an example that demonstrates what is possible when the right pieces are in place."

Michigan Good Food Charter Kim Bayer describes the Michigan Good Food Charter, as "a framework that helps us see the aspects or categories of a foodsystem that provide community food security from the pieces that we need to have in place... State policy work is happening for food that is healthy, green, fair and affordable." The charter focuses on four main areas: Farms and Farmers, Food System Infrastructure, Institutions, Good Food Access, and Youth.

As such, the remaining local food victories are divided into those categories with two more added: Entrepreneurs, and Mentors.

Farms and Farmers

Stephanie Phillips - The Family Farm

Organic since 1980 The Family Farm has now become a Biodynamic Farm. As quoted from Stephanie Phillips: "'Use what you have and do what you can' this has been my motto. I don't believe in making excuses, like I am a woman or I am black so I have had a hard time. You overcome obstacles by sticking to your convictions and not giving in to those who mock or ridicule your ability. I started this business because I was tired of being subjugated by bureaucrats."

Kate Long  - Deer Tracks Farm

"I would like to think my business is helping the general community."

Jennifer Kangas - Capella Farm

"It's a great feeling to know that people like to eat what we raise and are finding new ways to enjoy food. We are also helping by providing a fair wage for our employees. They are a our key to success."

Tomm & Trilby Becker - Sunseed Farm

"We started Ann Arbor's first year round fresh vegetable CSA. We began an apprenticeship program to help other beginning farmers to start their own businesses."

The Doll Family -  Back Forty Acres

“Farming is a noble profession — from raising the animals to selling the meat — providing things that are real…It is a shame that there are so few meat processors nearby.”

Food System Infrastructure

Corinna Borden - Westside Farmers Market

Quoted from what I wrote to Kim Bayer in January: "One day when people say, 'I saw them at the farmers market.' The other person will have to say, 'which one?'"

Nancy Crisp - Saline Farmers Market

Nancy Crisp has managed Saline's markets from the beginning and they are doing great! As she says: "We now have three farmers markets in Saline."

The Roseans - Real Time Farms (check out their newly redesigned website!)

"We are taking on 32 interns, encouraging people's participation nationwide and madly building tools to help our regional food system the world over. Did we mention worldwide?"

Ed Weymouth - Arborcycle

"I like riding my bike and I wanted to turn it into something practical and useful for the community and the burgeoning local systems that are beginning to spread their roots through Ann Arbor."

Tim Redmond/Bill Taylor - Eat Local Eat Natural

"We have made it through nearly three years so we have overcome the temptation to quit when the truck is broken and there is no money in the checkbook and somebody just canceled a big order. The major hurdle that remains: the tough local economy."

Dawn Thompson/Jane Pacheco - Lunasa

As quoted from the ladies of Lunasa: "Connecting over 30 local producers, representing over 1500 locally grown foods and natural products, supported by over 300 members and growing daily. We are planning on opening another Lunasa in Garden City on April 2011!"

Emily Springfield - Preserving Traditions

"Started in 2009 to teach people the skills they need to eat locally all year round... now has over 325 members. People can contact me if they want to teach!"

Institutions

Dan Bair - The Farm at St. Joe

As introduced by Kim Bayer: "Dan told me that his own business called the Careful Farmer comes from a Wendell Berry quote that says, 'the most important thing the land can produce is a careful farmer.'"

(Dan Vernia) - The Royal Park Hotel

Dan Vernia shares he "is working on one plate, one event at a time... We need more consumer education, demand for local food will define our local food system in ways which we can only speculate."

Alex Young - Zingerman's Roadhouse

"At the Roadhouse, our commitment to local went to new heights with the opening of Cornman Farms. Chef Alex found that he was able to get great tasting produce without trucking tomatoes from Arizona."

Silvio & Catia Medoro - Silvio's Organic Pizza

"We are changing our recipes to include more local organic ingredients, such as using Ferris Mills flour for our dough and our Michigan blueberries on our pizza."

Good Food Access

Rachel Chadderdon - Double Up Food Bucks

Launched by the Fair Food Network: "Double Up Food Bucks is coming back to all four [Washtenaw] markets this summer and to 34 others all over Michigan and Toledo."

Jenna Bacalor & Sharon Sheldon - Prescription for Health

"In 2010, Washtenaw County of Public Health was awarded a 2 year, $294,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation. The award will expand the Prescription for Health program which connects low income patients of local medical clinics with farmers markets ensuring greater access to healthy foods."

Youth

Michigan Young Farmers Coalition

"Is based on a model of regional hubs and was started because many young farmers need access to land, financial support, business support, network and community."

Amanda Edmonds - Growing Hope

Dan Bair shared, "Growing Hope offers classroom and afterschool and summer programs for people aged 3 to 21 at its gardens and greenhouses in Ypsilanti." Growing Hope is: "making access to affordable, healthy food available to everyone in our communities in a way that increases self-reliance and supports local food producers and purveyors."

New Entrepreneurs

David Klingenberger - The Brinery

Their song was laughter inducing, gasp worthy, and educational:

Helen Harding/Blake Reetz - EAT

"We are so proud of our state. We love being able to support as many local farmers and purveyors as possible... in 2010 we doubled our catering business and we plan to do that again in 2011. We hope to be part of Downtown Home and Garden food cart court aka Mark's Carts."

Mary Wessell Walker & Michelle Hartmann - Harvest Kitchen

"We received funding from the USDA farmers market promotion program - we are using this money to outfit a new kitchen in Ypsilanti's Depot Town."

Mentors

Deb Lentz & Richard Andres - Tantre Farm

Anne Elder & Paul Bantle - Community Farm of Ann Arbor

The King Family - Frog Holler Organic Farm

Whew!!!

Dan Carmody then spoke about his experience in Detroit and some of the expansion plans for Detroit's Eastern Market. His talk was engaging, informative, and piercing. Several quotes have stuck with me: "The food pyramid that they recommend we eat is exactly the opposite to what they subsidize in the field." "In 2004, there were 80 community gardens in Detroit. In 2011 there are 665." "On Saturday we proudly sell pineapples and oranges because our customers need citrus."

Carmody spoke of Detroit's "poverty of place" and the initiatives he is working towards to help create destinations around food to encourage a greater community. Hence, there are plans for the Eastern Market Corporation to build a teaching and community kitchen space, to build a 2 ½ acre market garden with 3 hoop houses on wheels, and to support mobile food operators. Carmody finished his talk with a very sensible summary. "I don't want to live in a place where Happy Meals are outlawed but I want to live where no one would ever want to buy a Happy Meal."

Ken Meter, of Crossroads Research Center, spoke as a food system analyst looking at our food system through the lens of community. Ken Meter argued "food takes money out of a community" and that the "goal is to build community-based food systems." He showed an alarming graph showing farming income, in real dollars, has not increased in almost 90 years and the price increase in food comes from the middle-men/marketing element. That is directly a result of the prevailing view of our food system as a supply chain. For example: Producers » Processor » Distributor » Retail » Consumer.

"The problem with that is that the producers and consumers are not talking... better to have a value network."

Ken Meter finished his talk with this rallying call, "you can't outsource a local food economy."

The morning concluded with four entrepreneurs sharing their vision for a local food initiative and asking for help. Mark Hodesh is looking for 3 more food carts for his Mark's Carts. Aubrey Thomason has been making cheese at the Zingermans Creamery for 5 years and she wants to source her goat milk locally. She is offering a market for anyone who wants to raise goats for milk in our area. Edward Weymouth is looking for bicyclists and customers for his Arborcycle business. Jeff McCabe is looking for volunteers to make possible his vision of building 20 hoop houses in 20 days starting June 15. He is also looking for people wanting to donate money and 8 more sites to build the hoops.

A myriad of talks filled the afternoon: Farm to School, ABCs of Local Food/Planning/Zoning, Toxins in our food, Michigan Wines, Cottage Food Bill, Four Season Farming in Hoophouses, Food as Medicine, etc.

The day ended with a showing of a few favorites from the 1st annual Michigan Good Food Film Festival, which took place the night before. The judged winner was Edible Avalon's entry. If you have not seen it before: here it is!

Here is the article on annarbor.com

What is the abomination of McDonald's "oatmeal"?

Borden - McDonalds bowl of oatmeal from their website

This is the bowl of oatmeal shown on the McDonalds website page - a page that has its own jaunty "oatmeal" tune.

Why do we care that McDonalds has introduced "oatmeal" with more calories than their hamburger and with more sugar than a Snickers bar? I put "oatmeal" in quotes because, according to Mark Bittman's How to Make Oatmeal: Wrong, the product should be described as "oats, sugar, sweetened dried fruit, cream and 11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen."

As of Saturday, the article has lived in the top 10 emailed list for The New York Times since it was published on Tuesday, February 22. Apparently, a lot of people care.

My question is why? Are they preaching to the choir? Or do people actually think in this day and age there is anything healthy about walking through the fabled double arches?

Whether it be SuperSize Me, Eric Schlosser's #1 bestseller Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, or a simple read through McDonalds menu ingredients online. We all know McDonalds is not healthy, yet stories continue to be written, emailed, and commented on - detailing the exact nature of the unhealthiness.

Conrad's "the fascination of the abomination" comes to mind, our inability to look away from a train wreck. However, the true abomination is this. Everyone knows McDonalds is unhealthy and people go there because they have no choice. They have no choice, because as Michel Nischan of the Wholesome Wave Foundation put it at the TEDx food conferece, "they can't afford" real food.

According to the Fair Food Network, 92% of all Detroit food stamp retailers offer no fresh fruits and vegetables. For an urban food desert like Detroit, and for the rural food deserts in Iowa, the dried fruit in McDonalds "oatmeal" might be the closest a child gets to biting into an apple. That is the real abomination, and worth talking about.

Here is the article on annarbor.com.

Selma Cafe celebrates its 2nd anniversary

Selma Cafe is a local-foods breakfast salon began in February 2009, founded and hosted by Lisa Gottlieb and Jeff McCabe, organized these past six months by Gottlieb, as McCabe has focused on the farming initiatives.

Borden - Anne's picture of Selma Cafe

The first time my husband and I went to Selma Cafe, we arrived at 6:25 a.m. so he could be at work by 7:15. It was dark. It was winter. I could barely believe we were going to be welcomed into a stranger’s home at 6:30 in the morning for breakfast.

We entered the glowing entryway and stopped. “What do we do now?” I whispered. We could hear voices and smell bacon. A prodigious number of nametags and masking tape adorned the walls –Jim, Mary, Susan, Lynn, John, etc. “Those must be for the people who belong here.” I whisper again. Right when I was about to turn around and sprint back to our car in embarrassment and nerves, a greeter bounded around the corner and our introduction to Selma Cafe began.

As I wrote in September, hoop houses are being built with the money raised from the breakfast funds. I did not mention the amazing experience one has eating breakfast at the Friday morning Selma Cafe. There is a palpable energy of good cheer and community.

I watched Lisa Gottlieb and Jeff McCabe this past Friday clearing dishes, answering questions about the laying habits of their chickens, extolling the prowess of masseuse Ed Weymouth (offering complimentary massages to those waiting for a seat) to first time eaters to the cafe, sitting down with participants, laughing and smiling at the community centered around their kitchen. It is a remarkable gift they are giving to our community.

Because in contrast to my first trepidation as I viewed the entryway nametags, the legion of names on masking tape illustrate an important precept of Selma Cafe Jimeveryone belongs.

I asked Gottlieb if she would answer some questions for me about these past two years and where she thinks things are moving forward. Her voice is the best way to describe what has been happening in her home. Yet, before we hear from Gottlieb, I want to share this one anecdote.

Last week, I was able to join Karl and Cara Rosean of Real Time Farms at a presentation they gave for Food Tech Connect in New York City. The mavens of the tech food world were there to listen to them speak. One of the participants noticed that Selma Cafe is listed on Real Time Farms as one of their locally sourced restaurants. Then the entire room of 30 people began talking about what a fabulous and amazing institution Selma Cafe is – it was exhilarating and I felt very lucky to live in Ann Arbor.

Here is the interview with Lisa Gottlieb:

According to your blog archive, the first breakfast "cafe" took place on Feb. 27 to organize future breakfast "cafes." What gave you the idea in the first place? The first breakfast was on Feb. 20, 2009, and it was a casual breakfast to celebrate Jeff's 50th birthday. It was such a high-energy party, and people were so enthusiastic, that afterward a small group of people met to discuss the viability of continuing the breakfasts each week. Jeff and I decided that as long as we had volunteers to help, we would continue to open our home, and create a manageable way to find chefs each week and source local food.

Borden - Silvio at Selma by Myra

Photo courtesy of Myra Klarman

How long did it take for a regular routine to be developed with sufficient volunteers? We decided pretty quickly that we would do the breakfasts every week, as opposed to bi-weekly, or once a month – to avoid confusion. As we moved forward, and the workload became apparent, we needed more volunteers to take over some of the chores that got to be too much for us. For the first month or so, I was coming home after work to a pretty messy kitchen, and I was doing a lot of extra cleaning every Friday afternoon. And, the more the number of guests increased each week, the more need there was for extra servers, a steady dishwasher, people to clear plates and set tables and an expediter to make sure the food orders were going out to the right tables. We started out our first few weeks with 35 guests, then 50, then 75 and then 150. Our highest so far was 186 guests in December of 2010. In December of 2009, we were really needing more volunteers than we had. One week our chef was making breakfast, and no servers showed up to volunteer. So, we had guests fill out their own meal tickets, and when we called their name, they'd come get their order. The dishes piled up, because the dishwasher had to leave, the tables weren't being cleared, and it was a good bit of chaos. It was pretty obvious to everyone that without volunteers, Selma Cafe was not going to happen.

A core group of us sat down, and we sent out an email, and we basically said if we don't have enough volunteers by Wednesday of each week consistently signing up, we'll have to stop Selma Cafe. And that was all it took. Since then, over a year ago now, we haven't had any problem with a lack of volunteers.

Borden - Anne's picture of veggie tart

At this point we have a volunteer base of more than 450 people, including volunteers for the breakfast, hoop house build volunteers, and volunteers who help out at Selma Cafe fundraiser events and other local food events where Selma Cafe is represented. And that isn't including the couple of dozen chefs we have who come make the food. These days we have specific volunteer roles that are filled in order to keep things running smoothly. [CB: Check out the Selma Cafe blog for volunteer spotlights.]

Since this is a University town, volunteers come and go, but we love having volunteers who commit to taking on a role consistently for a period of time, since it means we have less training to do, and it's easier to give really great customer service when people are encouraged to own their volunteer role.

These past two years, what elements of the "cafe" have been the most fun/exhilarating? Nearly all of it is fun. If there wasn't fun and joy and enthusiasm and energy, we just wouldn't have the juice to keep it sustainable week in and week out. A couple of my favorite fun things lately have been the addition of live music from various artists and the massage therapists who come and give complementary massage samples to our guests and volunteers. I love it when we are really busy, and there is this wonderful, happy energy in the house. There is the sound of people laughing and talking and connecting with each other. And the chefs are in a groove, and the food is coming out fast and hot and beautifully plated and delicious. And there's music, and the smell of waffles cooking, bacon frying, and fresh ground coffee. And folks are hugging each other, and babies are being passed to open arms, and kids are kissing their parents good-bye and heading up to Eberwhite to school. And then it's somebody's birthday, and I cut a little slice of bread pudding and put a birthday candle in it, and everybody stops for a moment and sings to that person, and it's just the sweetest, exhilarating feeling, all of that combined. And it happens pretty much that way each week.

Most people I speak to are in awe of your willingness to open your private home to strangers on a weekly basis. Has your relationship with your home changed these past two years (i.e. does it still feel like home)? We've always had a lot of activity in our home, with people staying with us and coming and going. Jeff and I are pretty gregarious, and our kitchen and dining room are really set up to have lots of people cooking and eating together. Our rule is that no one goes upstairs –  the upstairs is our private space, and that works pretty well. You know, we have the house to ourselves all week, except for Thursday evening and Friday morning. It still feels cozy and lovely to us. We are so lucky to have our own home, so why not share the abundance? Sometimes things get broken or put away in the wrong place, but those things are pretty minor when I look at the big picture of what Selma Cafe is accomplishing.

What is your vision for the next two years? There are several big projects that we are working on. Jeff received a grant from the USDA to create an incubator farm program which is currently in the works just north of Ann Arbor, and we are planning a 20 Hoops in 20 Days event for this summer, which will include building 20 hoops starting June 15, finishing up on the 4th of July with a big party celebrating Independence Day by focusing attention on creating independence from big corporations controlling our food supply. We are funding those hoop builds with breakfast funds but also from our recently developed Farmer Fund, an investment fund managed by Ann Arbor's University Bank, where people can invest in our hoop house projects and earn a bit of interest while supporting our local farmers. Borden - Anne's picture of duck poutine

I've been working on a Selma Cafe cookbook and hope to have that available sometime in the future. As far as the weekly breakfasts go, the plan is to keep the food coming every week, while offering lots of events for folks to get involved with our area's local food adventure.

Anything you would like to add that I have not specially asked about? I am very proud of our accomplishments, like the nearly dozen hoop houses we've built, and the two years of weekly breakfasts we've provided, but just as meaningful to me is the environment we have created of inclusion, appreciation, physical and emotional safety, and the value we place on finding a spot for everyone, regardless of their skill set, to take part in our activities. As a social worker and yoga teacher, my view is that it isn't enough to be productive if the work we are doing doesn't reflect in the positive experiences of people involved in what we do.

A good part of our mission is to build community, affiliation, and connection in our modern world, which tends to separate people into virtual, surface level connection. I want to focus on giving people opportunities to prepare and eat good food, to getting their hands dirty in the soil, planting and harvesting vegetables, learning to swing a hammer and work as a team with others, and have their over all experience be that they know the work they do has a positive, measurable influence on their daily lives.

Thank you Lisa Gottlieb and Jeff McCabe for what you do!

Thank you Anne Savage for the use of your beautiful photographs!

Here is the article on annarbor.com.

Reflections on the TEDxManhattan: 'Changing the Way we Eat' conference

TEDx Manhattan 2011

Photo courtesy of TEDxManhattan Flickr

Organized by The Glynwood Institute for Sustainable Food and Farming, the brochure described TEDxManhattan: “Changing the Way we Eat” as “an awe-inspiring, all day TEDx event focused on sustainable food and farming.” I was in awe to be able to attend the event in NYC on Feb. 12.

As we settled down into our seats from the flurry of business card exchanges and 30-second elevator pitches, I took out my notebook and started taking notes. Before the speakers began, I was nervous they would preach to the choir – reiterating those facts that pulled me into the food world to begin with: “It takes 10 calories of fossil fuels to produce one calorie of food” or “1.5 billion people are overweight and 1 billion people are starving,” or “Americans throw away more than 40 percent of the food they produce.” (Thank you PBS, WHO and the EPA for verifying those facts.)

During the course of the presentations from the diverse group of food advocates, farmers, food policy experts, and food lovers, I was reminded of those facts. But I also learned new information – the new information thus giving this member of the food choir new songs to sing.

You can see the entire webcast of the full three sessions until Feb. 26, so I will not summarize the entire event, but I will share what I found of interest. (Here is the first session, the second and the third.)

For those of you who watched the livestream at home, or at one of the viewing parties (perhaps hosted by Slow Food Huron Valley) the beginning of each of the three sessions started with a speaker from a TED conference delivered elsewhere. For those of us in the NYC audience we were watching a TED video on the screen along with people at home.

Carolyn Steel was the first to these TED talks and hers was entitled "How food shapes our cities." I was enamored the moment she noted Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent as the beginning of agriculture 10,000 years ago (I used to teach this fact to sixth graders in Washington, D.C.). Interspersed between her maps of Rome and London, she made several comments that have struck with me: “One-third of the annual global grain crop is fed to animals rather than us human animals” and “it takes ten times more grain to feed us via an animal than just to feed us from the grain” and “80 percent of food transport is controlled by five companies.”

Here is her talk if you are curious.

Cheryl Rogowski, a second generation farmer, told us, “Because I share my own seed I could be an outlaw. How can we let that go on?”

Karen Hudson, an outspoken advocate against CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) in her home state of Illinois, illustrated the power of grassroots organization with her aerial photographs showing an 83-acre 47 million-gallon lagoon (aka lake) of animal waste outside the CAFO buildings. Hudson founded F.A.R.M. (Families Against Rural Messes) and their motto is, “Illinois – Land of Stinkin.”

Ken Cook, of the Environmental Working Group, gave a rallying cry for citizen activism with his Farm Bill breakdown. “The Farm Bill is a food bill,” and “Twenty-two Congressional districts receive half of all food subsidies,” and “40 percent of our corn crop is going to produce 4 percent of our fuel.” The next Farm Bill is slated for 2012; now is the time to call your Congressman.

Every nine minutes, a new perspective came to the podium: “Vote with your fork” (Josh Veirtel, Slow Food USA President), “if we are going to solve the health care problem we are going to have to solve the food problem” (Michael Conard, Columbia University), and “when we hand over these problems to specialists that is when we get into trouble” (Britta Riley, Windowfarms.org).

Every nine minutes a new story came to the podium: Elizabeth U on social finance, Dr. Melony Samuels on her anti-hunger project in Brooklyn, Dr. William Li on the role of nutrition and angiogenesis and Professor Frederick Kaufman’s report of the coalition striving to come up with a sustainability index for the 150,000 items at Walmart.

Curt Ellis, co-creator of the movie King Corn, pitched his program FoodCorps – an AmeriCorps program to build Farm to School programs. He also shared startling statistics I had not heard before: “We have more people living in prisons in America today than we have left to make a living as farmers” and “Military leaders call [our obesity epidemic] a crisis of national security; already 27 percent of young men and women in America wouldn’t qualify for military service because they are too fat to fight.” Michigan is one of the inaugural states where you can apply for the FoodCorps program, courtesy of their partnership with C.S. Mott at MSU. Click here if you are interested in applying.

We learned about vegetables growing in the Bronx, rural food deserts in Iowa, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns Chef Dan Barber’s love affair with a Spanish fish (see below).

Being there in person was exhilarating, from Friday night drinks to the end of the conference on Saturday. The attendees ranged in age (voice cracking to silver hair), geography (Italy to Berkeley), and vocation (farmers (both of the meat and veggie variety), food centric filmmakers, doctors, farm-to-school experts, bakers, academics, chefs, restaurateurs, social justice advocates, horticulturists, writers, etc).

My choice to (mostly) eat with the seasons has spilled over to a greater appreciation to living with the seasons. Wintertime is a time of education, of reflection, of recharging, of planning before the abundance of spring bursts forth and hands dive into dirt. The TEDxManhattan was more than I could have hoped for – in all of those categories.

Here is the article on annarbor.com.

Cooped up backyard chickens revel in the melting snow

Borden - chicken in coop

I returned Wednesday to Ann Arbor from a week away. I left town with snowdrifts and nary a sight of grass or earth anywhere. I return to puddles, calcifying stalagmites of gray snow forms and soil once again visible in our back garden. The soft breeze and the smell of warming earth enveloped me on Thursday as I went out to open the coop for the chickens.

I am reading Joel Salatin’s "The Sheer Ecstasy of being a Lunatic Farmer," and he describes the joy he experiences moving chickens onto fresh earth. “The unbridled delight these animals express through their demeanor and antics when offered a fresh salad bar is both obvious and palpable. You can feel the happiness in the flock.”

Happiness I felt, and happiness I want to share.

Given the state of the weather and my girls’ unwillingness to venture onto deep snow, there had been very little happiness these past few weeks in the flock. One gets a whole new appreciation for the term cooped up when you open the door to a coop that has been lived in 24 hours a day for weeks at a time. Usually our girls are outside during the day, but not when there is snow on the ground – they don’t like walking on deep snow because their legs are so short.

Our girls knew something was different today. Instead of clustering on the spilled sawdust around their coop door, they all paused – heads high, beaks in the air. One ventured onto my path of trodden snow towards the dirt closer to the house, and, suddenly, a fluttering barrage of feathers and flapping wings launched themselves towards the soft wet earth.

It was a struggle to tear myself away from watching their evident contentment and thrill at being able once again to scratch and dig into earth not covered in snow.

One girl took such obvious pleasure in burrowing into the soft warming soil, I could almost feel the nooks and crannies of my feathers being dusted by the earth.

I know, being human, we have weeks of snow and cold ahead of us. Yet this week my backyard chickens were able to dig in the soil, the pendulum is swinging towards spring.

Their clucking pleasure was a huge gift. I don’t imagine chickens have any sense of time. So for my backyard chickens, the moments of digging and bathing in the soil in our temporary respite from winter this week lasted for eternity.

I can only hope.

Here is the article on annarbor.com.

Nut Quinoa Sushimaki for color and enzymes

I recently took a raw food “cooking” class (or raw food construction class) at Raw Gourmets International in Chicago. We spent the whole day pureeing, chopping, and dicing various vegetables and nuts to make ourselves lunch and dinner. In addition to changing the way I use my food processor, I have become emboldened to attempt previously out of reach culinary arts thanks to the class.

Borden - flat sushi before rolling

As such ~ sushi. Whether it be the dexterous challenge involved in using chopsticks, the otherworldliness of seaweed, or the addictive salty dark depths of soysauce ~ sushi is my ultimate night out and one I thought beyond my skill at home.

Thanks to the class’s gentle nudge, sushimaki has been rolling off my counter.

In the raw food class we learned a version of “tuna salad” to go into the sushi roll. “Tuna salad” involved pureed soaked nuts as the “meat” to which we added minced celery, red onion, parsley, dill, sea salt, and kelp. I have simplified the “tuna salad” into simply pureeing soaked nuts.

The rationale behind soaking nuts before you eat them is much the same as soaking seeds before you plant them in the earth. According to my class notes, “the water neutralizes the enzyme inhibitors allowing nuts and seeds to be more easily digested.” Making a raw nut puree is literally just that, soaking the nuts overnight, and then pureeing them into a white mash in the blender.

Here is the recipe for this very easy, relatively quick (the quinoa takes 10 minutes to cook), and delicious sushi roll (don’t be deterred if you do not have a bamboo mat, I have made almost 15 rolls without the use of one).

- 3 sheets nori seeweed - 3 teaspoons miso paste (you can find soy, barley, and adzuki in stores - I prefer the adzuki bean) - 1 ½ cup cooked quinoa (either red or white) - 1 cup nut puree (You can add a garlic clove or ginger root for an extra kick as it blends. I like Brazil nuts and Macadamia nuts.) - 2 cups sprouts (alfalfa, radish, or broccoli all work well) - thinly sliced turnip and beet pickles from The Brinery

1. Lay one sheet of nori shiny side down, using the back of a teaspoon spread the miso paste on a third of the nori sheet (closest to you). 2. Layer quinoa, nut puree, sprouts, and pickles onto the area with the miso paste. 3. Tucking the edge in as you press down with your fingers, roll the nori sheet away from you tightly. You can seal the edge of the nori roll with a little water. 4. Cut the roll into 8 pieces. 5. Repeat with remaining nori sheets. 6. Serve with tamari or other dipping sauce.

This is what I learned from my attempts these past months.

- A freshly honed knife is required so that the roll does not collapse under the pressure and spout out the ends. - Make sure the quinoa has absorbed all of the cooking liquid, or it will soften the nori to the point of collapse. - The nori, nuts, pickles, and sprouts are all raw and thus full of digestive enzymes. Quinoa is a great source of protein. This is a great winter treat of color and vibrancy. - Make a few rolls for your own consumption to gain proficiency with the technique before sharing this amazing treat with your friends.

Enjoy!

Borden - Nut Quinoa Sushi

Why (and how) we killed one of our chickens

(Note: This article contains very vivid descriptions of chicken slaughter.)

According to Human Rights Watch, the average speed of dead poultry moving past the inspectors in a slaughtering plant is 70 per minute. That means in the time it took you to read this last sentence you would have been expected to examine six birds for the nearly 20 listed items the Food Safety and Inspection Service list in their 2009 directive. Whether it be "pulling the cut skin and muscle back [to look for a] "yellow scabbed areas between the skin and subcutaneous tissue...enlarged or reddened kidneys that indicate infection of early sepsis, [or] ...an overscalded carcass." One second per bird is optimistic at best.

This fact, along with many others about the state of our slaughtering facilities in this country, is why I wanted to kill my own chicken.

John Harnois, of Harnois Farms, was kind enough to teach us one fine October day he set up his metal funnel to hang the bird, a tub of water to scald the feathers and a de-plucking machine for after the deed was complete.

Many people I have spoken to about killing birds dispense with the first part of the process, but Harnois explained he felt it more humane to render the brain dead before draining the body of blood.

After placing the chicken upside-down in the funnel, we grabbed its bottom jaw. Quickly before losing my nerve, I drove the point of a sharp paring knife through the upper soft palate into the chicken's brain. After watching the eyes slowly close, my husband took a pair of double-handed pruning shears and lopped off the head.

While we waited for the body to drain of blood, there was a great deal of movement and activity. The bloody neck emerged once or twice from the headless feathers and the legs scissored back and forth. Watching an animal progress through its death throes is not for the tender hearted.

Once the chicken had stopped moving we took it by the legs and dunked it completely in a large vat of simmering water (hot enough to loosen the feathers, but not so hot as to cook the bird). Deemed ready by Harnois when a few feathers came out to his tug, we held the bird over the rapidly spinning rubber fingers of the de-plucking machine for the majority.

Once the feathers were off, the chicken no longer felt to me like the same animal that pecked and preened and stretched in our back garden. The chicken, without feathers, became a biology experiment.

Cutting around the vent and removing the innards was 100 percent benign in comparison to the emotional bracing it took for me to stab a living chicken through its brain.

Yet without the stab, there is no dinner, which is why I stabbed.

Muscovy Duck is unlike any "duck" you have ever eaten

David Beemer, of OmniUnum Farm, decided he wanted more control over his food supply.  In lieu of purchasing Michigan peat and compost, Beemer decided to raise poultry for their manure, a nutrient-rich and accessible fertilizer. Beemer choose Muscovy ducks as his poultry of choice after being served it at Paul Bocuse’s restaurant in Lyons, France. “I asked for something that I could not get in this country… He brought me Magret - and I ate it. They asked me what I thought it was and I said, “that was probably the best veal I have ever had.” And they said, “This is Muscovy Duck.””

Beemer has partnered with Antoinette Benjamin, of Food for all Seasons Catering, because “she is the only one I have found who knows how to cook them. I am a good example - I overcooked the last one. I just didn’t have time to follow the directions she gave me.”

Endemic in an animal designed to perch in trees not wade in water, Muscovy ducks have about 18% fat as opposed to Pekin duck with 29% fat. This fat difference and the less significant oil gland in the Muscovy alters the flavor of what our taste buds recognize as "duck" and can complicate cooking Muscovy for those not familiar with the meat.

According to Benjamin, trained by renowned French chef Madeleine Kamman, “cooking Magret is a matter of technique. So if you look up cooking duck breast, it is different with the Muscovy. Just because of the fat.”

Recently, I was able to try Muscovy courtesy of ici Urban Bistro in Washington DC. The consensus at the table was that the meat was “absolutely fabulous” and unlike anything anyone had eaten before - a bold, unique flavor arising from a texture that crumbled like veal, unlike poultry’s striation.

Borden - Muscovy duck breast

I was also able to see firsthand the difficulty of cooking Muscovy. When the breast slices arrived to the table they were medium rare and succulent. By the time we finished eating the meat (20 minutes later?) the slices were cooked through from the residual heat. The flavor was still there but the texture was dry and unappealing.

Beemer's partnership with Antoinette Benjamin is an opportunity for those of us curious to taste more of this unique fowl. As Benjamin says, “Magret is the BEST for the Muschovy - I mean it is JUST AMAZING. I mean as I said, I don’t think that people - most people wouldn’t know, like David, what they are eating. They wouldn’t know it was duck breast.”

Beemer and Benjamin are planning to hold a Muscovy dinner in the Spring. If you are interested, contact David Beemer at OmniUnum Farm or Antoinette Benjamin at Food for all Seasons.

(Link to article on annarbor.com coming soon...)