In another life, I’ve decided I would be a history major. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Human and Organizational Development (HOD) program at Vandy. Side note – I almost titled this post, “Explaining… More
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:34
I know “being present” is a buzz phrase right now. We are told to be present and mindful for our mental health, put down technology and be present with those around you, stop worrying about the future and be present in the current moment. You would think the idea of being present would be easier for me by now considering the popularity of that phrase. I practice yoga (a practice and discipline that emphasizes being present in your body and mind) and value my Christian faith. Only recently have I really understood what being present looks like in my daily life and my relationship with God. The recent police shootings, riots, and violence around the world have altered my perception of the world and people around me. I’m slowly learning to appreciate the little things – like a parents’ hug at night or a bouquet of flowers – and to live in the moment that I am in.
I’ve always struggled with worrying about my current situation and future. I love planning, and I frequently make grand plans in my mind that never truly come to fruition. I’m slowly learning to go with the flow more. Working at a non-profit this summer has taught me to expect the unexpected (i.e. receiving an unexpected 1,400 lb donation from Whole Foods one day) and adapt when plans don’t work out. For instance, I planned to have a booth at each farmers market during the summer to market the Buy one, Give one portion of my project. Instead, I developed deeper relationships with the farmers and shared my passion and The Nashville Food Project’s mission with them. This process taught me to slow down, teach, and learn from the people at the farmers market who could make or break my project.
Learning to adapt to different situations has changed the way I plan things, but I still worry. Since I started practicing yoga, I’ve heard teachers talk about acknowledging emotions that come up and letting them pass. They emphasize being present in the moment instead of worrying what other think about you or what you have to get done at work/school/etc. At first, I dismissed this idea of forgetting all the things I had or wanted to do. It is so easy for me to get lost in my schedule or to worry about the next test I have. I’ve slowly learned how to acknowledge those worries but not let them take over my day. I still have so much to learn, but I can being present in yoga transferring to other aspects of my life too.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6
The Lord has been the best teacher for being present and letting go of my fears and worries. I believe that God puts things and people into our lives when we need them. He opened doors for me so I could become an Ingram Scholar at Vanderbilt and have an internship at The Nashville Food Project. My family has always emphasized serving others because of God’s love and blessings – not because we have to. After looking back on my path to Vanderbilt, my scholarship program, and this internship, I think God used that mindset to put me in an environment where he could teach me how to be present. I also believe God put the people I have met in the yoga community in my life to teach me how to use the idea of being present. In other parts of my life. Lastly, he has used scripture, the church, and the community I have at Vanderbilt to teach me why and how to trust him. I’ve always been a Martha – worrying about how things look and whether or not the dishes are done. He is teaching me to focus on things that are much more important than the small details we encounter here on Earth.
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things” – Luke 10:41
Yesterday, I received news that a friend of mine lost a parent this week. That, in addition to the events happening around us, forced me to reflect on my world and how I want to live. I don’t want to live in fear because I know that God is my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me (Psalm 61:3). And, I know that we have this hope [God] as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure (Hebrews 6:19). I also don’t want to live a life worrying about the what may happen in the future or even tomorrow. My study abroad process is a great example of living for the present. I’m currently deciding between a few places in Europe or New Zealand/Australia. New Zealand offers a (potentially safer) trip that I may never have the chance to experience again. Life is precious and best in the moment. But, I have always wanted to go to Europe. I’m still not 100 % on my choice, but I don’t want to think of what I “could” do later in life. I want to think about my life right now. I also don’t want to worry about what “may happen” in another country. I want to be present now.
Studying abroad is just a small example of how I want to chose to live my life – enjoy the present, the people around me, and the opportunities that arise. Many people have asked me why I chose to work at my internship all summer when my scholarship program only required 8 weeks. I’ve decided that I chose to work that long because I love what I am doing and I want to take advantage of this experience, the lessons I am learning, and the people I am meeting. I want to take advantage of what is here – in the present. This has been a wordy post, but I felt like it was necessary to process the recent events and truly reflect on what is important to me – my faith, my family, and love. I want to embrace that buzz phrase, be present, in every part of my life (home, school, work, my internship, etc.) so I can enjoy these blessings while I have them.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing?” – Matthew 6:25
I can’t believe it is already July! I realized earlier this week that I have less than a month left at the Nashville Food Project – this summer has flown by way too fast. That means I only have a few weeks left to highlight the farmers I meet at the markets this year. The hardest part about writing these features is choosing which farmer to highlight. I have been blessed to meet some amazing individuals and families that are at the farmers markets here in Nashville. With that said, I decided to highlight Old School Farm this week. In addition to selling produce at the 12 South Farmers Market, Old School Farm is a non-profit dedicated to providing employment to individuals with intellectual disabilities. I love the concept of combining sustainable farming with sustainable employment to serve the entire community.
Located in the Bells Bend area, Old School Farm was founded in 2013. The farm is associated with another non-profit that serves individuals with disabilities, MillarRich. The founders wanted to create a sustainable farm to provide fresh food while employing adults with intellectual disabilities. Since then, the farm has grown from an empty field to a thriving non-profit. There is even an on-site farm-to-table restaurant called The Old School (on my list of many restaurants here in Nashville to try!). The farm has a CSA in addition to selling at the 12 South Farmers Market each Tuesday. At the market, I met the farm manager, Rachel. After talking to Rachel, I realized how passionate she was about farming and leading her team – individuals with and without disabilities. I realized that I had actually interacted with many of the people Old School Farm employs at the market. Everyone there has been kind and willing to support the food recovery efforts.
I love seeing a farm grow and operate like any other sustainable farm at the market while supporting a population that is typically misunderstood. At first, my few interactions with adults with disabilities skewed my perception of what they could and couldn’t do. After seeing these individuals working at the market and reading their stories online, I realized that I was wrong. Seeing a typically for-profit enterprise (the farm) also serve as a community organization motivates me to learn more about this type of non-profit. The fact that you don’t even realize that the farm is a non-profit until you ask is even better.
Recognizing these preconceived notions I had about “adults with disabilities” reminded me of the idea that everyone is equal. I found this passage from the book of James where we are called to treat everyone the same – regardless of socioeconomic status, appearance, ability, etc.
My brothers and sisters, you are believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. So treat everyone the same. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes. And suppose a poor man in dirty old clothes also comes in. Would you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes? Would you say, “Here’s a good seat for you”? Would you say to the poor man, “You stand there”? Or “Sit on the floor by my feet”? If you would, aren’t you treating some people better than others? Aren’t you like judges who have evil thoughts? – James 2:2-4
It is so easy to fall into the trap of believing that I am better than someone else because of x reason. But, we are called to treat everyone the same. Leviticus 19:18 calls us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” That is exactly what Old School Farm does daily. They treat and love every employ the same way. In my life, I have recognized that people have different gifts. Some may be good at writing while the other is good at drawing, etc. But, we are all equal, and we all need each other to thrive. I love this lesson from Old School Farm, and I hope that I can remember it as I finish my work this summer and back at Vanderbilt.
Volunteer – a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service – Merriam Webster Dictionary
Through the Ingram Scholarship Program, I have the opportunity to participate in various volunteering activities – working at food banks, helping with children’s ministries, cooking at The Ronald McDonald House, etc. Volunteering is something I have always done. Whether it be volunteering at my church’s VBS or volunteering to organize my 4th grade teacher’s library by author’s last name (Yes, I was that kid), I’ve always chosen to “voluntarily undertake a service” in different capacities. As I got older, I began volunteering my time with non-profits in Nashville like Room at the Inn and The Nashville Food Project, as well as mission trips in other cities. Those volunteer experiences grew my love of service. Fast forward to today, and I am an Ingram Scholar, a service-oriented scholarship, the service chair for my sorority, running the social media for a non-profit, and interning at The Nashville Food Project. I’m not saying all of this to brag, but I wanted to use these experiences to explore what it means to me to volunteer. Now that I have been on both sides of volunteering – the volunteer and the organization – I feel like I have a better understanding (but not complete understanding!) of the importance of volunteering. Below, I break “volunteering” into the two perspectives that I have experienced as a volunteer at a non-profit.
Perspective 1: The Volunteer
As a volunteer, I’ve always wanted to do the “fun” thing at the organization or do something that I would enjoy. It’s always more fun to volunteer with a friend or group. Volunteering can be glamorous, like going on a mission trip to another country or distributing food to a family in need. Volunteering can also be dirty work, like cleaning out a gutter, chopping sweet potatoes, or weeding. I’ve been apart of (and enjoyed) both types of volunteering. I’ve noticed that other volunteers at The Nashville Food Project prefer to do the “fun” work during meal prep. Instead of peeling potatoes or cleaning greens for two hours, people prefer to cook in the kitchen or prepare fruit salad. At first, it always seems more fulfilling to work on something that others will directly benefit from. But, once volunteer begin working on the not-so-glamorous jobs, they begin to enjoy themselves. Volunteering is a great way to build community and get to know the people you are working with. Some of my favorite experiences have not been “fun” service, but those times are always with others. The Nashville Food Project tries to build community through volunteers and their service to others.
Volunteering can also become just a way to fulfill mandatory service hours. I’ve felt like that sometimes when I have to complete 20 hours of service a month on top of school, work, and friends. It is hard to volunteer for the sake of volunteering when you have to fulfill service hours. The mandatory requirement for many students does force you to volunteer when you think you don’t have enough time (but actually you do). Many times, those mandatory hours produce apathy in volunteers. But, those mandatory hours can also produce a passion for service. In my sorority, girls must submit 15 service hours by the end of the school year. I have seen people volunteer at an organization to meet that requirement, but they find a reason to continue volunteering.
People also volunteer for different reasons. Like I said above, volunteering may just be a way to fulfill hours. But, it may be a way to fill the time. Many of the volunteers at The Nashville Food Project are retired or between jobs. It is inspiring to see older adults volunteer because they enjoy it!
Perspective 2: The Organization/Volunteer Manager
Now that I have been on the other side of volunteering, I have a new sense of appreciation for all types of volunteers. At The Nashville Food Project, volunteers are a necessity. Volunteers work in the garden, prep/cook meals, and share the meals in the community. After working a meal prep time with only a couple volunteers, it is evident that volunteers are imperative to this organization and others! There is also power in consistent volunteers. These are the people that know their way around our space. They know what to do, how to do it, and why we do it. We have consistent volunteers that come weekly to prep, cook, and share food. This allows staff members to make new partnerships in the community and handle tasks like meal planning.
New volunteers can also be great assets for an organization. I love teaching people how to chop a new vegetable and letting them taste something grown in our gardens. I also love sharing what The Nashville Food Project does daily. It is fun to see volunteers enjoy the work they are doing and chose to return and help. This organization uses volunteer times to continue their mission – building community by sharing nourishing food. These volunteers are not sitting down and sharing a meal together, but they are working together to share a nourishing meal with the community.
Volunteers are also a great pair of hands for an organization. Most of the time, we need people to do those un-glamorous jobs I talked about earlier. We need people to take out the compost, sweep, clean bins, etc. It may not seem like an important task, but these tasks allow an organization to keep moving and working toward their goal.
So, what does this mean now?
Moving forward, I have a new appreciation for volunteers and more motivation to do the jobs nobody wants to do when volunteering. One thing we say at The Nashville Food Project often is “thank you.” Being gracious is such an important thing. Whether or not that volunteer came to fulfill a service hour to fill their time with something they are passionate about, that volunteer came to work at your organization. I have been trying to be thankful towards everyone – especially if they have been peeling potatoes for 2 hours straight. I am also thankful for the ability to help organizations in any way they need. After being on the organization side of volunteering, I know that every job an organization asks me to do is important (and there is always something to do at a non-profit!)
So, what does it mean to volunteer?
I think it means giving your time to help another individual or organization reach a collective goal. Volunteering at The Nashville Food Project helps share nourishing meals with our community. Volunteering at a local library helps a community provide access to books and knowledge. Volunteering at your kid’s school helps make that experience more meaningful for students. Volunteering can mean so many things. To me, the one thing that makes a good volunteer experience great is thankfulness and grace.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is thh will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
This week, I want to highlight a different kind of farmer. Whites Creek Flower Farm does not grow and sell food that I can take back to The Nashville Food Project. Instead, the farmer (Laura) sells “lovingly grown and organically managed” flowers at the East Nashville Farmers Market. I met Laura this year when I began gleaning there on Wednesday nights. Her booth is next to one of the farmers I visit each week. Quickly, she noticed what I was doing and began asking questions about my project and The Nashville Food Project. Since then, I have brought home a few of her bouquets to enjoy at my house. I never realized the power of flowers. They can truly change the entire atmosphere of a room and brighten a person’s day. Laura’s flowers do just that and more. Although she cannot donate food to The Nashville Food Project, Laura wants to give back to the community in some way. Because of this generosity and her presence at the farmers market, I decided that Whites Creek Flower Farm would be a perfect addition to “Farmer Friday.”
So, a little more about Laura and her flower farm – Whites Creek Flower Farm opened on Earth Day, 2012. Since then, Laura has been growing flowers with an English country garden aesthetic. I always thought her flowers were “whimsical” and different than something you could buy at the grocery store. Her farm is located right outside of Nashville in a historically rural area called Whites Creek. Laura and her family owned the piece of land she farms, but were not taking advantage of it. So, one day Laura’s husband suggested that she should begin utilizing it. Whites Creek is close to the Bells Bend area, a historically agrarian area. Because of that, Laura did not want to compete with the farms growing produce. Her love of flowers inspired Laura to google “flower farmer.” From there, Whites Creek Flower Farm was born. After reading her website and blog, it is evident that Laura has always loved flowers. She describes her grandmothers’ and mothers’ garden, as well as, her distaste for the “perfect dome” bouquets you can find at commercial retailers. Laura is as passionate about growing flowers and respecting the Earth as the farmers I have highlighted on this blog so far. Growing flowers, or produce, in this sustainable way also goes back being good stewards of the Earth that God created for us to enjoy! After learning about the way commercial flowers are grown in South America for that “perfect” look that we have become accustomed to, Laura wanted to produce flowers that respect the Earth even if they are imperfect at times. Even then, I love the delicacy and uniqueness of her flowers. I think that is one thing that drew me to Whites Creek Farm – Laura’s passion for sharing these flowers and her love of gardening.
I think another reason why I love locally grown, wild-flower like bouquets is because of my mom. She also loves gardening and having flowers in the house. I remember her telling me stories of taking walks just to pick wildflowers on the side of the road. I tried that once but it didn’t really work out like I envisioned it (like most things I try like that)! She is also notorious for pinching off a bit of a plant somewhere to regrow it at home or buying the dead flowers at the gardening store just to revive them. Stories like these make me feel connected to Whites Creek Farm’s flowers. This is the same connection I feel when I hear stories of my dad growing up on a farm and eating food out of his family garden. I’ve realized that it is not just pretty flowers or delicious strawberries that bring me back to the farmers market – it is the stories and passion behind the goods. That’s why I love meeting the people who grow the food or flowers I bring home. You feel more connected and have the opportunity to build a community. Not only are the goods better, but they are also meaningful! This sense of meaning and community is something I want to continue building and sharing.
Going forward, I don’t think I could enjoy commercially grown flowers in the same way. Just like buying produce out-of-season at the grocery store, sometimes I do it because I really want an apple in February or a strawberry in December. But, I know it won’t taste as good as one from a farmer. And, I know that it may not have been grown with as much care and passion. Even the Bible recognizes the beauty of flowers:
“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!” (Luke 12:27-28)
Flowers are just another thing that I enjoy buying at the market and sharing with family and friends. You can learn more about Whites Creek Flower Farm and the CSA at their website or on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/whitescreekflowerfarm/
So, I really enjoy reading blogs. Instead of scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, I love reading the different blogs that I follow. Some make weekly posts like “What I Ate Wednesday” or “Weekend Favorites.” One that I always find interesting is the “Day in My Life” blog post. Since I did not have time to interview a farmer this week, I decided that I could share with you what my Saturday’s look like. Be warned – this is one of my busiest days! I also want to note that every day is different at The Nashville Food Project. For instance, a huge thunderstorm came through on Wednesday night. The farmers market I was going to glean at was cancelled, and we lost electricity at The Nashville Food Project. So, instead of running a meal prep that night, we set everything up for meal prep the next day. Without access to electricity, we couldn’t open the walk-in refrigerator, cook, email volunteers, or really do anything (its scary how dependent on electricity we are!). We decided to just get dinner together instead! Obviously that was not a “normal” day at work! With all that said, here is a look into a day in the life of a gleaner!
5:30 – Wake up and make breakfast! (I’ve always been a morning person, and I’m always hungry when i wake up)
5:50ish – Eat breakfast while having my quiet time
P.s. this is one of the favorite parts of my day!
6:30 – Clean up breakfast and get ready for my day
7:00 – Leave for the Nashville Food Project (I do not enjoy this commute from Hendersonville to Green Hills everyday)
7:30 – Arrive at TNFP, pick up Ruth (one of the cars), and drive to Whole Foods in Franklin*
8:00 – Arrive at Whole Foods, pick up donations, and take them back the Nashville Food Project
These donations usually consist of bakery items, pantry items, fresh produce, and deli items. We have been getting anywhere from 200 – 400 lbs of donations each Saturday
8:30 – Bring donations in, weigh them, and begin processing the fresh produce
Side note – I have sorted more donated berries (while eating them) then I ever thought I would. We get donations from the produce section, but the fruit is usually about to go bad, or it has already molded. Thankfully, we are able to compost anything that is molded.
8:45 – Leave The Nashville Food Project and take my Farmers Market BOGO baskets to the Nashville Farmers Market and the Richland Park Farmers Market. (I usually eat my 2nd breakfast around this time).
9:30 – Arrive back at The Nashville Food Project to help set up for the meal prep and continue processing the Whole Foods donations
10:00 – Volunteers arrive for the meal prep! We start volunteers on the different tasks and prep for the upcoming meals
12:00 – Leave to glean at the Richland Park Farmers Market and The Nashville Farmers Market (Usually eating lunch in transport)
12:30 – Glean at Richland Park
1:15- Glean at The Nashville Farmers Market
1:45 – Arrive back at The Nashville Food Projet, weigh produce from the farmers market, and sort it in our walk in fridge
2:30 – Leave work! (usually ready for another snack by this time)
At this point, I go pick up anything I need at the grocery story, go home, and crash!
*We have a rotation for going to Whole Foods on Saturdays, so I am not going each week! If I don’t go, I leave my house later and go straight to the farmers markets.
As you can see, my days are usually packed with transporting produce, weighing produce, and processing/prepping produce. Last Saturday, I got to make enchilda sauce during meal prep which was a nice change of pace over sorting moldy Whole Foods berries! I love these days though. I get a good mix of seeing my coworkers (who really make work better), working with volunteers, cooking, and going to the farmers markets! I start my day early, but I’m a morning person. Plus, I get home by mid-afternoon on Saturdays.
Whew! I’m tired just writing that! I used to beg my mom to take me to the farmers market in high school every Saturday morning. I would wake her up and try to get out of the door by 9. Now, I have the opportunity to go every Saturday! I miss those lazier Saturday mornings, but I love that I get to combine my work and service with something that I have always loved doing. If you every see me at a farmers market on Saturdays, just come say hi! I always have time to stop, chat, and spending time at the market!
Meet Paul and Elizabeth Lassiter from Lost Weekend Farm! I met Paul and Elizabeth for the first time at the East Nashville Farmers Market this year. You can also find them at ther farmers market at Amqui Station and Visitors Center, North Nashville Farmers Market, and the Davidson County Co-op!
So why was I drawn to the Lost Weekend Farm both at the market? First off, their produce is gorgeous. I’ve seen sugar snap peas, kale, green onions, radishes, carrots, herbs, and more every week. The couple running the booth have also been a delight to talk to each week. They have asked questions about my project and The Nashville Food Project (not everybody cares) and shared their beliefs and love of farming with me. Since Fridays are a time to highlight different farmers, I thought Lost Weekend Farm would be a perfect farm to learn more about and share!
This past Wednesday, I asked Paul and Elizabeth if I could share their farm on this little space of the internet. I did not realize the amount of respect I have for their farm and work until I began asking questions. When I asked how the farm began, the two described a long (but wonderful!) story of how the farm grew from a weekend hobby – hence the name “lost weekend farm” – to a full-time job. Paul and Elizabeth started a small garden for their family and neighborhood to provide more nutritious and sustainable food for those that they loved. That turned into a lot of time spent on a farm in the Neely’s Bend area- traditionally an agricultural community. Then, their small operation began growing organically to what it is today – a farm and orchard that is committed to natural growing practices and growing good food the “old-fashioned way.”
What stands out to me about these farmers is their passion for sustainable growing practices. The farm is pursuing the certified organic label, but they are committed to the process of growing good food. They are motivated by statistics such as 70% of the U.S. diet is processed foods, 138 million pounds of garlic were imported from China, and our food travels 1500 miles sometimes to get from farm to plate. That is why the farm starts with dirt farming to produce quality, local produce for our community to enjoy.
After learning all this about Lost Weekend Farm, I knew that I wanted to share what they do and why they do it. Farms like this are the reason why I am doing this project. Like Paul and Elizabeth, I believe that you can build community through fresh, local produce. I also believe that produce grown the good “old-fashioned” way is best. I’ve had a running joke in my family since I tried my first farmers market strawberry. Farmers market strawberries (and all produce) is “superior.” Its taste, appearance, sustainability, and nutrition are all better. Even though you have to be patient for the harvest, the product is always “superior.” So, join me in supporting farms like Lost Weekend and sharing “superior” fruits and veggies!
Wow! I can’t believe I had my 1 month “anniversary” working at The Nashville Food Project for my Ingram Scholarship summer project. May flew by. I can’t believe that we are already at the beginning of June. I know people talk about how time always flies faster the older you get, but that really is true. It seems like my days are long, but the weeks are flying by. I thought I could take some time to reflect over these past 4 weeks.
I started at TNFP on Tuesday, May 2nd. Ask anybody at the office, and they will tell you that Tuesday’s are crazy. In the morning, we glean from Whole Foods and run a 2 hour meal prep time. Then, we continue meal prep from 1-3 that afternoon, have a meals team meeting, and glean from the 12 South Market. That first day and week were filled with “orientation” things, introductions, and questions.
During that first week, I also introduced myself and the BOGO program to farmers at the markets. There, I started to figure out my routine for gleaning at farmers markets. I’ve made friends at the market over the past few weeks. Now, I have farmers who will save first picks (strawberries, purple cauliflower, asparagus, fresh flowers) until I have a change to come buy goodies for myself! Everyone at the markets have started identifying me as the “basket girl.” I bring these baskets that I have decorated (to the best of my non-artistic abilities) to collect produce during the market hours. If you have seen my car lately, you may have noticed these baskets in my back seat. I typically cart these baskets with me… everywhere. So, I’ve decided to run with that label, “basket girl”.
Back at TNFP, I’ve begun developing relationships with my coworkers. I’ve gone out to drinks after work (don’t worry mom, I just had water), attended a dinner party one Friday night, eaten waaay to many berries, and almost broke Ruth (the office SUV) in the parking lot at Whole Foods. By the way – If you ever have a chance to go to a potluck dinner party where everybody cooks for a living, go. That was the best potluck I had ever been too. I may have gotten way to stressed about what I was bringing, but it was worth it. That was much different than a college-student potluck! The volunteers during meal prep are also fun to interact with. I’m finally learning the names of the regulars. I’ve also met Vandy alum, high schoolers who have never cut an apple, and previous restaurant owners.
My project at the farmers markets is also picking up. I began gleaning the first week at TNFP, and the project has gotten better each week. I was bringing back about 30 lbs from each market the first week. This past Saturday, I brought back over 100 lbs of produce from the Nashville Farmers Market and Richland Park Farmers Market! The gleaning part of my project is great. Farmers are excited to give, and they are supportive of the BOGO program. But, donations from shoppers are not picking up. I had originally wanted to have a booth at each farmers market. There, I could talk to shoppers and explain the idea instead of leaving baskets and signs. When I had a booth at the 12 South Market, everybody loved the idea. Because people typically come to the market, get their goods, and leave, it is hard to sell this idea without having a space to interact. So, that’s my challenge. How can I sell this idea without putting pressure on farmers to sell it for me or without annoying shoppers. So many people support the idea of supporting farmers by buying produce and supporting TNFP by giving produce, but so many people don’t know about it! Going forward, I am going to rework some of my marketing materials and try to get a booth/physical space at the market to hang out. Hopefully I can report back next month with success!
Sounding Stone Farm is a quarter-acre market garden run by Nashville native Caroline McDonald. Caroline and Stephen Hutchins, a stone artist and part-time farmer, use “beyond organic” standards to produce their delicious veggies, salad greens, and micro-greens. I have tried their make-your-own salad mix, and it is amazing! You can find baby versions of some of your favorite southern staples like summer squash and collards too. I’ve included Caroline’s Go-to Kale Salad recipe at the bottom of the post!
I chose to feature Sounding Stone Farms this week for a few reasons. This is the farm’s first year selling at market, Caroline farms on land owned by the executive director at The Nashville Food Project, Tallu Quinn, and the farm’s dedication to growing and sharing local, sustainable food. Caroline writes on her website, “It is the choice to show care for yourself, the earth, the people who grow your food, the hands that prepare it, and the loved ones who sit at your table.”
That statement really embodies my goal for this summer. I overheard one of the staff members giving a tour at the office a few weeks ago. She stated the we, as The Nashville Food Project, know that our work cannot alleviate hunger in Nashville. But, we can provide nutritious calories for an individual and community for at least one meal. I’ve realized that I cannot end hunger or solve huge, complex issues, but I can chose to meet people like Caroline at Sounding Stone Farm. I can chose to work with an organization that strives to build community around nourishing food while working towards a goal of alleviating hunger like the Nashville Food Project. And, I can chose to be intentional about sharing what I have and showing kindness to everyone I come in contact with.
Last week, I read these verses in proverbs that sum up what I have learned this past month and from the kindness and joy at Sounding Stone Farms:
“When It is in your power, don’t withhold good from the one it belongs to. Don’t say to your neighbor, ‘Go away! Come back later. I’ll give it tomorrow’ – when it is there with you” – Proverbs 3:27-28
My take away – give generously and joyfully; share what you can, even if it is just giving a kind word, time to listen, or friendship. It all matters, and we all deserve that kind of gift.
I love that Caroline and Sounding Stone Farms chose to grow sustainable food well and then give. They work hard to reap the fruits of their labor. But, they also share it. When interviewing Caroline, I learned that she gives 10% of her harvest to the Nashville Food Project. She also always generously gives to me at the farmers market. Every Saturday, I always look forward to going to the Sounding Stone Farm booth. I know I will be received with kindness by Caroline and take part in sharing her kindness and food with our community.
I make this salad all the time, but I never measure the ingredients. Use them to your taste!
1 pound baby red Russian kale
Juice from 1-2 lemons
1-2 cloves of garlic, mashed
A drizzle of soy sauce or tamari
A drizzle of honey
Freshly ground pepper
Suggested topping combos:
Japanese salad turnips, apple, and Parmesan cheese shavings
Carrot shavings and sunflower seeds
Put your kale is a big bowl, removing the stems and chopping if you’re using bunched kale.
Squeeze the lemon and mashed garlic over the kale. Mix with your hands until the leaves are evenly coated, and give the kale a few squeezes.
Add a drizzle of soy sauce and honey, and mix well. Finally, add a generous drizzle of olive oil and freshly ground pepper. Mix to combine. Kale should be coated but not dripping.
Add whatever toppings you like. I’ve found it’s best to keep it simple and let the dressing shine.
Instead of focusing on one farmer this week, I wanted to highlight a farmers market I began going to a few years ago as a shopper. Now, I go there every week to glean and collect donations!
The 12 South Farmers Market is held every Tuesday afternoon from 3:30 to 6:30 in Sevier Park – walking distance from all the wonderful restaurants and shops on 12 South. To me, the market fits in with the “12 South” atmosphere. It caters to young adults, families, and older adults alike. Every week, the market hosts different music groups, visiting vendors, and food trucks to create that farmers market experience. There are also great activities for kids like the Storytelling corner! One of my favorite aspects of this market is the variety of vendors. You can still shop for produce from multiple farmers, but you can also buy Alfresco Pasta, Noble Springs goat cheese, Ousley Ouch Salsa, Papa C Pies, and others to create a distinctly “Nashville” meal.
The market also hosts festivals in honor of some of our favorite farmers market finds – peaches, tomatoes, and apples (my favorite!). Last year, I attended the peach festival with my mom. We went to the Peach Truck to get a couple bags of peaches, and they offered me a free peach. I couldn’t turn down free fruit, but I had to agree to eat the peach on video for their marketing. So, I grabbed the best looking peach and took a huge bite. If anyone has seen me eat a peach, they know it is not the most graceful thing. I took a bit, got peach juice all over my face (and shirt), and then just laughed. It may have been an embarrassing video, but I got a free peach! These kind of memories happen all the time at the 12 South Market though!
Fast forward to this year. I had the opportunity to meet and have coffee with the director of the 12 South Farmers Market – Mary Self. I was thrilled! I couldn’t believe that I, just some college student, got to meet with the director of one of my favorite farmers markets. She gave me some advice for my project and permission to glean at her market. Since then, Mary has offered guidance for my work at the markets and a smiling face every week! This past Tuesday, Mary scheduled me to work the “Community Corner” at the market. Each week, different non-profits and community groups get a booth at the market to interact with shoppers. That day, I got to share my project with shoppers directly. As a result, 1/3 of the produce that I brought back to The Nashville Food Project was donated by shoppers, not farmers! I also got to just hang out at the market, enjoy the music, and snack on samples from one of the market sponsors – the Community Hospitality restaurant group.
So, go visit the 12 South Market at least once this summer. If you can’t make it to one of their festivals, you can still enjoy the music, food, and culture at the market. Right now, you can still find spring favorites like carrots from Old School Farms, broccoli from Beaverdam Creek Farms, and kale from Bountiful Blessings! To find out more about the market, calendar of events, and vendors check out their website or social media pages. When you go, make sure to look out for the BOGO (Buy one, give one) signs and baskets for The Nashville Food Project! You may even be lucky and find me enjoying the fun.
I gleaned over 70 lbs. of food this past Saturday and received 2 donations from shoppers! This doesn’t sound like much, but it is 2 more than previous trips to the farmers’ markets. All of the farmers have allowed me to glean at the end of the market – come collect produce they don’t want to take back – but shoppers have not been buying produce to donate to the Nashville Food Project. So, those 2 donations were the highlight of me weekend.
Before that, I had started to become discouraged. Yes, I have brought back about 100 lbs. of food a week from the farmers’ markets. But, I had not convinced shoppers to purchase produce to donate. That portion of my project at the farmers’ market is like my baby. I thought of the idea during my freshman year of college. Last summer, I had the opportunity to implement that idea at the Nashville Farmers Market once a month. That was like a trial run – a very unorganized trial run. But, I learned that people support the idea of buying produce from farmers to donate. Shoppers and farmers liked that the program supports farmers financially and increases access to fresh produce. It gave me hope that this process – buying and donating – would become commonplace at the farmers’ markets here in Nashville.
Ask anyone that knows me, and I have lofty ideals. I think of something, work to implement it, and expect results pretty quickly. I also get discouraged quickly when my plan doesn’t play out exactly like I thought it would. That’s why I was getting discouraged; I was doing all this work and not getting the results I wanted. Then Saturday happened. I received the two donations. To shoppers, those things were just simple donations. To me, those things reminded me why I am doing this. One of the farmers looked at me and said. “It’s catching on, just keep coming.”
So, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to just keep coming every week. I’ll come with my baskets
and brochures. I’ll come with a smile and excitement. I’ll come with a willingness to do the work. This week reminded me why I am actually doing this work and my original motivation. Earlier in the week, I remembered a litany my good friend Jordan sent me. I haven’t talked to her since school ended, but I was so glad that I remembered this passage. She sent me this after we talked one day at lunch on library lawn. I am so thankful to have friends that I can rely on and that motivate me to remember why I’m doing the work.
I love this litany because it reminds me of what God has given us – this beautiful Earth to care for, people to love, and blessings to share.
God the Giver of life abundant, hear our prayer.
God the Restorer of dignity, hear our prayer.
God the Humbler of the proud, hear our prayer.
Keep us from our ignorance of the poor, open our eyes to the abundance of their misery, inspire us to be a generous people. Hear our prayer.
Keep us from consuming what we don’t need. Direct us to be better stewards of the earth so that all may live in safety and have what we need. Hear our prayer.
Awake in us the capacity to see you in those that we find impoverished by circumstance, bad choices, famine, disease, war, and destruction. Help us to be builders of human dignity. Hear our prayer.
Shine the light of the goodness of your creation in our work for justice and peace, that as we work with the poor, they may feel the richness of your presence in what we do together. Hear our prayer.
Bring us to that place where we may know your presence in the meek and lowly, in the abused and neglected. Hear our prater.
Inspire us to live without fear, that in our work to do justice and love mercy, we may meet you in all whom we serve. Hear our prayer.
O God, we know that to serve you is to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the orphan, and come to those in bondage. Give us, we pray, the will, generosity of spirit, and courage to be faithful to our call.