A single week’s fruits and vegetables from community-supported agriculture share: peppers, okra, tomatoes, beans, potatoes, garlic, eggplant, squash. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When you wrap a series, it is a challenge to have that grand finale…the last act, of sorts. And I sure did try to find something fabulous. Something that could wow even the greenest goddess of Locavore legend. And as many of you saw in earlier posts, I hit the biggest brick wall of writers block.
So I shelved the good of the local food-to-table movement and set out to let the topic come to me. And it did, tenfold. While conducting my annual search of Farmer’s Markets, I extended my search since, as I joke, I have spent some time not just in glorious Gwinnett but at the country house (aka Walton Boy’s & his family’s places) in Walton County. I love having added local places to visit – especially farmers markets and farm stands since we are not in the urban fold of my residence.
While looking at Local Harvest I discovered a nearby farm, new to the area and trade. Wanting to support some new local agribusiness, I began searching the site and learning about their CSA practices and involvement with local agriculture and partnerships.
First, for all of you green to the CSA concept, according to Local Harvest,
Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers an amount of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products are included. Interested consumers buy a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
So here are a few take-aways:
1)Always Support Local- and don’t forget your Farmers!
It is a no-brainer. You help support your neighborhood, your local biz, and keep one of our best resources, agriculture, alive and well. It’s a challenge out there. Our friends Amanda & Anthony who own White Tail Farm rely on the business locally in Carnesville AND through the many Farmer’s Market trips they make in Gwinnett and surrounding counties including Suwanee, Norcross, and other local-driven cities. However, times are tough. Every trip you make to the chain grocery store can impact the local farmer – so keep it in your head to try a market/stand first and reap the benefits of fresh Chem/processed free produce and more from the farm. Summer is a super time to try the locavore concept.
2) DIY Local Grown
Okay, so we all don’t have a green thumb. But I say TRY. You do not have to produce a garden out of Southern Living, but you can do small containers, a kitchen herb garden, or a small plot in the yard. Keep it basic or KISS. Even in my small no-yard patio apartment I grew some basil & tomato & oregano to keep me happy in summer with “instant Caprese” ingredients for dinners solo or friends. If you are feeling hopeless & garden green, you have a few resources in Gwinnett to learn or pick up a few tips.
A) Gwinnett Technical College‘s Horticulture program hosts spring and fall annual plant sales – students, faculty and staff sell and showcase their semester successes and your garden acquisitions will support scholarship and program growth at the College. Talk about a local win-win.
B) Georgia Piedmont Land Trust is truly one of the best Gems in Gwinnett. The Land Trust is located in the heart of Gwinnett in Snellville. If you have not visited, you are missing out on one of the coolest green spaces in the County.
(We were) Founded and led the conservation effort in Gwinnett County…a local, non-profit conservation organization, committed to the preservation of open and green space in the Piedmont region of Georgia.
Besides being one of the most unusual places to take the family, they host a plethora of garden treasures including workshops, lectures, and feature special guests (i.e. Master Gardeners) to better understand your own garden, the regional land and how the two co-exist and grow. For instance, one of my personal favorites is the resource and guidance they offer for understanding and planning your local garden, yard , etc. Vital, as you don’t want invasive plants or seedlings, which can inhabit or cause future long-term green space in Georgia. It takes out the guesswork of standing in the aisle figuring out what to grow. In addition, the partnerships they have with local landscaping and garden locals including Master Gardener resources! – makes your garden beautiful & valuable to the green world while benefitting local. Take the kids. Get ’em in the dirt and out of the video games. They are future gardeners of our world, you know.
Chef Sara Dunning shares her wisdom on “farm-to-table” gourmet at gymnopedie
3) Grow Local- Eat Local
You have your garden, you are visiting the farms, now you need a reward. How about a date night out? This brought a huge GEM into my life, a TRUE farm-to-table find located off Pulaski Street in Athens, GA gymnopedie – A farm-to-table experience. Walton Boy and I have known each other just about a year. I thought it would be fun to go out and celebrate. In my searches to find local markets, I saw a picture and write-up of this local chef from New Zealand who ingrained in the local “food-to-table” movement and was practicing it in Athens. I reviewed her site (and the many delicious recipes hosted) and was sold. We’re not practicing vegetarians so I knew Walton Boy was a little skeptical about this vegan/vegetarian place. However, knowing I was on an adventurous kick, he let me lead and plan the way. Only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays (and by private event only some pre-reserved weeknights) I booked us for a Friday night at the 16 seat bistro. Upon arrival, we were a little early, and were instantly greeted by Chef Sara Dunning arms laden with bright vegetables and plates, as she was doing the cooking, serving, and greeting. Her partner and fellow chef had recently gotten engaged so the restaurant is now working through some easy transition with schedules, as she explained to the table across from us. Two other tables were full, so we grabbed the long table and settled in facing the large chalkboard menu. She brought us cold water and sat down to talk with us about the menu. Four courses included all vegetarian based delicious options either a’ la carte or “tasting menu” – wanting the full experience we agreed on the tasting menu and then had her help as sommelier to choose our wine. The menu changes each month and you end up with delicious choices right off the farm or farmers market. Sustainable, organic, green, local – I knew this was going to be the final piece to my Locavore Series as this was encompassing the elements of a final pièce de résistance. And it was good. Really, really good. We were able to enjoy each course at leisure and converse in the quiet restaurant café. Think being at home with a few friends but a true gourmet feel, not stuffy. Just amazing food. A symphony really. We began with homemade pickled veggies and progressed to mixed salad greens, crisp shaved radishes, tangy vinaigrette and segue into long golden wax beans, and so much more – I know it was vegetarian but it had so much flavor and taste my brain and obviously my mouth were exploding from pure pleasure. Our favorite, and the Chef noted a retained menu item, was the Garden Lasagna. Thinly shaved zucchini ribbons layered with herbs, local tomatoes, basil-pine nut pesto, and cashew ricotta left us scraping the plate. Seriously. Dessert was petit fours (the rhubarb tart had sold out; so, get there early!) and we enjoyed a few of the Chef’s family recipes tweaked to be vegetarian-friendly. Walton Boy kept chatting it up even after we left – for a true “meat & potatoes” connoisseur, as he is, this speaks volumes past the norm. You need to go and take your friends. And family. And your sweet significant other – trust me, the intimate setting is a great time to have that enjoyable lingering conversation you’ve missed once in a while from the busy confines of life’s marathon. Again, supporting local on so many levels in such a beautiful way. Tell them Gwinnett Girl sent you – she loved when I shared I was a local blogger or that I even thought to mention her. How could I not? This restaurant is unforgettable in that “walk-a-European-street-and-marketplace-to-dine-in-pure-culinary-delight.” Go on, make reservations so you can experience the awesomeness I’m so obviously enamored about with gymnopedie.
Locavore is something not just worth researching, and as I’ve discovered, is truly a way to keep the backyard food cycle going. We get so enamored with the easy quick grab and go. C’mon, you know you have that voice in your head that tells you just be “convenient” and hit the big chain and sling whatever in your cart. This practicing local isn’t hard, if you work it into your life and it becomes a norm. Think about the benefits of shopping at a farmer’s market, or even taking a quick minute to stop at that fruit stand you whiz by going home from work. You’ll have great food. You’ll even make some new acquaintances – I love the idea personally talking to the person who can TELL me where my food came from – not a sticker telling me it came from “somewhere in South America.” Plus, you and your family end up healthier, happier and win über points as a better community focused member. Pure and simple.