Vegetables, Health, and Berea OH MY!!!
Yes, I am pushing my time to get this post in, but I had to wait to the very last moment to make sure I included all the excitement we have had! This has been an interesting month here in Greeneville, TN, at happening Rural Resources, with Debbie Strickland reporting in. We have been busy getting our garden prepared for spring crops; talking with teens about vegetables and deciding what they need for garden spaces; discussing healthy food choices and learning some tools of the kitchen trade; receiving exciting news of a new face at Berea College this fall; and AND touring Harvest Farm, then enjoying a farm to table meal at Harvest Table Restaurant in Meadowview, VA. WHEW!!! I got it all out, ok, report done and over. Have a good month!!…….
Oh, are you waiting for more?! Well, I don’t want to disappoint you, of course I have more, and yes I have pictures too! Our first year garden teens, the “V”-Team, have had classes in the field and in the classroom this month. In the field, the teens were helping clear out some cover crops that had over wintered, and were amazed to find some very nice turnips and radishes in the garden space. Many tasted them and felt they were not too bad. The teens acted like they were searching for gold as they would pull out every little top to see who pulled the largest. Then, the largest turnip was found and a pretty nice radish they cut open:
After clearing the garden so preparations can be made for planting, the teens headed over to the green house to transplant some tender lettuce starts. They were able to take some home to place in their gardens this upcoming month. The last time they were in the greenhouse, they were putting seeds into the dirt. It was pretty great for them to see that plants came forth from their seed sowing and the greenhouse was full of new life.
What will this new life bring to us, the consumer? We know we can eat it, but why? Matt Coyle, our Garden and Grazing Manager, sat with the teens and asked them “Why do we grow vegetables?” The teens had several answers, mostly we need to eat. He then went into discussions with them on vitamins and minerals they provide, antioxidant benefits, and overall nutritional health for our bodies. The teens were very interactive, giving examples of vegetables that provide different nutritional needs, food choices they and their families make, and discussing health issues associated with the food we eat. The later was a topic the teens brought up and buzzed about! They seemed intent, fascinated, and curious about how vegetables affect health issues/prevent them. I do believe if they could have gone on past our class time, they would have spent another hour or two discussing this. I honestly was shocked at how into this topic they were! Each group of teens are different in how they interact, question, understand, and communicate. This group is definitely a “let’s talk it out and know what is going on” type of group. I love all the different dynamics of each group, as we can always explore things in different ways. It keeps us on our toes!
A VISITOR FROM ANOTHER PLANET!! Well, not really, but definitely another Grow Appalachia site. Taylor, from Build it Up East Tennessee in Johnson City, stopped in to borrow our Grillo Tiller. He has been busy, I am sure, that last couple of weeks visiting their sites and getting their garden sites prepped for their growing season. Next week, we will be watching for that green tiller to be bobbing along the road heading back home so we can begin tilling at teen homes as of Wednesday! Teens and their families are keeping me on my toes. They are anxiously checking in to see when that green tiller will be bobbing down their road. Look back next month to see the gardens we are putting in.
Our second year teens, Catastrophic Kitchen-Chicken Nuggets, learned how to grow their food last year, and are spending this year learning how to cook and preserve the food they are growing. Their first class this month was led by Melissa Rebholz. She was a brave soul as she taught them knife skills and safety. She got everyone through the class with no blood stains on the floor of our new pavilion! She showed the teens how to properly hold, carry, and cut with a French knife. She prepared handouts for the teens showing and describing various types of cuts. Melissa demonstrated the cuts using carrots, potatoes, onions, and garlic. The teens then mimicked her actions. Some found certain cuts easier to make than others. It was pretty impressive, they were making fancy restaurant cuts by the end of class. The vegetables made a nice stock for some future classes!
This week, these teens have spent time learning about healthy food choices. I sat out a variety of products for them to look at and place in order, best to the least best, for them. The teens placed everything in order, then we reviewed what was truly best and least best. Some were shocked by the outcomes. Some teens placed things according to price, quantity, fresh, name brand, or looks. When we sat and began looking at the labels and seeing what was in some of the products, view points began to change. By the end of the class, the teens understood that fresh is best, frozen, canned, then processed. I was even shocked with some of the products and what was in them. I feel I do a good job at looking at the labels, but I will be doing a better job myself! It was a real eye opener into what is going into some of the products you buy over the shelf. Some teens were commenting they are going to eat more fresh, and read read read labels!
NEW FACE AT BEREA COLLEGE THIS FALL
We are so excited to report that our teen program graduate, Faelyn Campbell, will be attending Berea College this fall! She received her acceptance letter this month and has no ear drums left. As she called to tell me, I screamed, then asked her to repeat what she had told me, yep, I screamed again! Everyone on her end could hear and were laughing at me in the background. I am so thrilled for this new chapter in Faelyn’s life. She is an amazing young lady with great ambition in life. After graduating high school in May, she will be making preparations to leave Tennessee for Kentucky. I am looking forward to an excuse to visit Berea College more often! Congratulations Faelyn!
FINALE FOR MONTH: FARM TOUR
To end the month, and spring break week for our teens, we caravanned up to Meadowview, VA, to tour Harvest Farm. The teens were greeted by Samantha Eubanks, farm manager, and her apprentice, Kai Conley. Samantha showed the teens around the one acre growing space with two high tunnels, berry bushes, fruit trees, rhubarb, chickens, asparagus field, greenhouse, and outdoor growing spaces. Samantha talked about growing practices and methods, lots about asparagus (which we got to taste test as they are just starting to sprout out of the ground), heritage chickens, cover crops, and rhubarb. And yes, the teens were able to have a taste! The teens were able to sample many things growing around the farm – radish flowers to greens. She even shared that they have a pile of manure that needed to be added to some of the fields for amendments. Some of my teens, who shall remain nameless, quickly volunteered to move Samantha’s manure, but they won’t move mine! Feeling the love.
After the tour, Samantha led us over to Harvest Table Restaurant where Chef Phillip and staff were preparing a farm to table meal. Samantha and Kai had collected our meal order the day before and harvested all the necessary items from the garden for the chef. The teens had the choice of a spicy greens pizza with chevre, caramelized onions, and a vinaigrette dressing:
The second choice was a grilled chicken tostada with farm fresh greens, wildcat sauce, chipotle Colby cheese, and chow chow:
The final choice was Pan-Fried Trout Cake on a fresh Harvest Table spinach salad with baby beets, spiced pecans, chevre and a strawberry vinaigrette:
I was very impressed with the teens! They all tried their dishes, and the majority of the teens cleared their plates! They found the flavors interesting and said the dishes were really good. For those who did not clear their plates, the majority liked the dishes, but did not care for something particular on the dish. The idea of seeing the farm, taste testing at the farm, then seeing the same things they tasted in these dishes was pretty impressive. We have taken teens here in the past, and there has always been questions of why we do not have a farm to table restaurant in our home town. Maybe one day, these teens will provide the answer to that question.
Well, I am off to April to spring into garden action! Check back next month and see what adventures we will have.