Join a White House Hangout on Local Foods07/16/12

Just in time for Eat Local First Week, here’s an exciting event sponsored by the White House and the USDA that highlights local food projects across the country. It’s a great opportunity for those of us working in DC to learn about how other communities are promoting local food systems in their own cities and towns.

On Tuesday, July 17th at 3:00pm EDT, Jon Carson, White House Director of Public Engagement, and Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture will join inspiring women leaders in the field of local foods through a Google+ Hangout to hear their stories and answer your questions. You can read more stories like theirs with the unveiling of the 2.0 version of the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass. An innovative digital guide and map, the KYF Compass highlights USDA-supported local food projects around the country. The 2.0 version features thousands of local food projects in all 50 states and includes keyword and zip code search features.

Here are the details:
When: Join the event at 3 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
Where: Watch on WhiteHouse.gov/live, or on the White House Google+ page.
Engage: Ask questions and join the discussion on the White House Google+ Page, on Twitter using the hashtag #WHHangout, or here. Questions can be submitted ahead of time and during the event.

Three Femivore Finalists Named – Who will win the $1,000?07/11/12

Three finalists are named to compete at the Femivore Award Happy Hour Reception on Monday, July 16 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Ris.

At the Femivore Award Happy Hour Reception each finalist will give mini-Ted Inspired Talks during a cocktail party at which $1,000 will be awarded to support one of their locally sourced food projects, designed to fit the themes Grow, Nourish, and Inspire. Attendees will vote on the winner. Each finalist receives a one-year Business 3.0 membership to Think Local DC and a two-hour business consultation from Operation: Eatery and recognition on the RIS Eat Local First Week menu where the dishes and drinks from which will be sampled throughout the reception. Tickets for this special event are $50 per person, inclusive of tax and gratuity. To register, visit the Eat Local First Eventbrite. Space is extremely limited for this special event.

GROW: Lauren Biel and Sarah Bernardi – DC Greens

Lauren Biel and Sarah Bernardi want to harness the energy of DC college students and put them to work in school gardens throughout the city, teaching younger students valuable lessons about growing their own produce, furthering DC Greens’ mission to “connect communities to healthy food.” The Femivore Scholarship would seed their new internship program for the college students wishing to make a difference in their local food community as well as provide much needed recognition for the program as it continues to grow. DC Greens will become the new nonprofit home for the DC Farm to School Network as well as work to expand the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program currently piloting in DC.

INSPIRE: Kathryn Warnes and Lisa Jordan – Taste of Place

Kathryn Warnes and Lisa Jordan want to expand culinary tourism in Washington D.C. with their Taste of Place program. They “help you experience the taste of place with hand-on farm-to-table culinary adventures, exploring local food in urban and rural environments.” Their business would provide arrangements for the tour-goers but also would bring income to local farmers, highlighting their commitment to sustainable food production. The Femivore Scholarship will finance initial start-up costs and will be matched by Kathryn and Lisa. The recognition from the award will help promote Taste of Place as a service that meets a currently unfulfilled demand in the city.

NOURISH: Allison Sosna- PINE and MicroGreens

Allison Sosna’s new business model for combining her prowess as a restauranteur and desire to contribute to community outreach hopes to “bridge the gap between food access, food knowledge, and the joy of cooking.” Her fast casual dining venture, PINE, sources locally and uses its resources to fund MicroGreens, a program that teaches children to cook on a food stamp budget. The Femivore Scholarship would generate recognition for her benefit corporation’s mission as well as help finance equipment purchases for the children participating in MicroGreens.

StartUp Kitchen Finalists Announced07/04/12

Thank you to those who applied! Submissions were reviewed and three finalists competing for the chance to open their own pop-up restaurant at Domku during Eat Local First Week 2012 have been named. Finalists will compete in front of judges from the food industry on July 18. The winner will be announced on July 20 at the StartUp Kitchen Launch Party at Domku.

Julien Shapiro – Worthwhile Meats & Provisions

Julien Shapiro’s concept, Worthwhile Meats & Provisions, is a full-service specialty butcher store with prepared foods, bar and dining room offering classical French-themed bistronomique cuisine. The fixed-price three-course menu would feature specialty cuts and charcuterie in addition to dishes created from the products of the whole animal butchery. Julien is passionate about using his culinary repertoire to provide charcuterie, classical fabrications, and butcher’s cuts not readily available anywhere else in the city.

Bettina Stern and Suzanne Simon – Chaya

Bettina Stern and Suzanne Simon have developed Chaya, a “restaurant with a purpose — mostly plants, less meat, and superior taste and quality.” The menu will focus on their house-made griddled corn tortillas filled with vegetables, legumes, and whole grains finished with various fresh sauces and toppings. They hope to focus their efforts in the Shaw/Little Ethiopia and Foggy Bottom/West End markets.

Priya Ammu – DC Dosa

Priya Ammu’s DC Dosa offers dosas, the popular Indian lentil and rice pancake, three ways—3 fillings and 3 chutneys—made to order and ready to go. The fillings and chutneys vary seasonally and are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free. DC Dosa expects lunch and late night to be popular times for dosas among its urban, well-traveled, international, foodie clientele base.

I #eatlocalfirst because…06/14/12

We’re curious – why do YOU #eatlocalfirst?

Is it because it tastes better? It’s a healthier option? You like supporting local farmers?

Tell us why eating local first matters to YOU!

Print this image, fill it out, then upload a picture of your handwritten message to your various social media sites. Even feature yourself in that photo, if you want! If you upload your picture to Facebook or Twitter, be sure to either mention or tag Think Local First DC and use the #eatlocalfirst hashtag!

We can’t wait to hear why YOU #eatlocalfirst!

Apply for the StartUp Kitchen Project by NURISH: The Center for a Creative Culinary Economy!06/05/12

StartUp Kitchen is an exciting new project to provide a start-up food entrepreneur an opportunity to partner with a local restaurant to temporarily operate their food concept in a restaurant setting without the risk and investment normally required.

Through a competitive process modeled on the Kauffman Foundation’s StartUp Weekend, food entrepreneurs will be given the opportunity to present their concepts before a panel of food industry veterans who will critique their business plans, offer constructive advice, ask probing questions, and review the general soundness of the concepts. The selected winner of the competition will be given access to an existing restaurant during its off hours and afforded all the marketing support of Think Local First DC.

Process Timeline:
June 5 – Call for applications
June 20 – Deadline for applications
June 20-22 – Host Review
June 22-27 – Panel Review
July 3 – Finalists announced
July 5-15 – Finalists preparation time for Shark Tank
July 17 – Chopping Block Presentations @ Domku
July 20 – StartUpKitchen Launch Party @Domku
September 3-October 14 – StartUp Kitchen Incubation
September 17-October 14 – StartUp Kitchen Restaurant

Application Requirements:
• Applicant must have a completed business plan
• Applicant must have a federal tax ID
• Applicant must be a DC resident
• Applicant must have a workable concept
• Applicant must be able to meet the fee requirements

Benefits for the Food Entrepreneur:
• Invaluable mentorship from a panel of industry veterans
• Low-risk, low-investment opportunity to test their concept
• Generating early buzz around their concept
• Opportunity to test recipes in a commercial kitchen
• Opportunity to serve a large number of guests and obtain feedback from the public
• Building a following for the future

Interested in taking part? Applications are due by June 20!

Also be sure to keep up with us on Facebook, Twitter and tumblr!

Apply for the Femivore Award!06/05/12

The 2012 Femivore Award will be granted to a woman who is creating change in the local food community. This award will recognize and encourage those women in DC who are catalysts for changing the local food movement as farmers, mothers, businesswomen, chefs, non-profit leaders and activists.

Three Femivore finalists will be chosen to present their project during the event in the categories of GROW, NOURISH and INSPIRE. The audience will select one winner based on the most promising and inspiring project presented at the event.

The winner will receive a $1,000 grant to put toward her local food initiative. All three finalists will receive a 1 year Business 3.0 membership to Think Local First DC (a $500 value) and a 2 hour business consultation from Operation:Eatery. Each finalist will be recognized on the special RIS Eat Local First Week menu served all week long.

Criteria for the Applicants:
The project must be initiated and led by a woman; as well as be based and carried out in the DC. Projects should make best efforts to source locally when possible. The project can either be a new initiative that does not currently exist or a plan to invigorate an already existing project. The project must fall within one of the following three categories.

GROW – Women starting a project aimed at producing food locally within the sustainable agriculture format. This can be either large or small scale food production and includes fruits, vegetables, and/or animals.

NOURISH – Women wanting to start a business that feeds others local foods by either cooking local food, supplying local food/products or making value-added products. This could include a bakery, wholesale baked goods, neighborhood groceries or canning, pickling, cheese making, etc.

INSPIRE – Women with a project that gives back to the local community through local food. This could include, but isn’t limited to educational projects, art-based projects, soup kitchens or food banks.

The application can be found here and must be submitted by June 20.

Get Involved with Eat Local First Week 201205/31/12

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Title Sponsor – $7,5000

MARKETING BENEFITS
*Branded as co-producers of Eat Local First Week
*Recognized in all campaign promotions and materials
*Banned ad on Think Local First DC and Flavor Magazine Websites
*Title Sponsor listing and logo on Eat Local First website
*Full-page ad in media sponsor publication

WEEK-OF-EVENT EXPOSURE
*Logo on banner used at all Eat Local First Week events
*Special recognition at Farm-to-Street party
*Special mention at all Eat Local First events
*Promotion of restaurant specials for Eat Local First Restaurant Week

EVENT PERKS
*Free entry to all 2012 Eat Local First Week events (up to 8 people each event)
*Complimentary Eat Local First t-shirt and poster

Sustaining Sponsor – $5,000

MARKETING BENEFITS
*Sustaining Sponsor logo on Eat Local First website
*Banner ad on Think Local First DC website
*1/2 ad in the media sponsor publication
*Prominently features on all Eat Local First print/online materials and sign-up booths

WEEK-OF-EVENT EXPOSURE
*Special recognition at Farm-to-Street party
*Logo on banner used at all Eat Local First Week events
*Promotion of restaurant specials for Eat Local First Restaurant Week

EVENT PERKS
*Free entry to all 2012 Eat Local First Week events (up to 4 people each event)
*Complimentary Eat Local First t-shirt and poster

Supporting Sponsor – $2,5000

MARKETING BENEFITS
*Supporting Sponsor logo on Eat Local First website
*1/4 page ad in media sponsor publication
*Prominently features on all Eat Local First print and online materials, including the event poster (must meet deadline)

WEEK-OF-EVENT EXPOSURE
*Promotion of restaurant specials for Eat Local First Restaurant Week
*Logo on banner used at Eat Local First Week events
*Special recognition at Farm-to-Street party

EVENT PERKS
*1 free ticket to each 2012 Eat Local First Week event (up to 8 for Farm-to-Street party)
*Complimentary Eat Local First t-shirt and poster

Contributing Sponsor – $1,000

MARKETING AND EVENT BENEFITS
*Business listing and logo on Business Listing on Eat Local First website
*Promotion of restaurant specials for Eat Local First Restaurant Week
*Eat Local First Participating Business posters to display at your business
*Complimentary Eat Local First t-shirt and poster

Farm-to-Table Business Listing – $250

MARKETING AND EVENT BENEFITS
*Business Listing on Eat Local First website
*Promotion of restaurant specials for Eat Local First Restaurant Week
*Eat Local First Participating Business posters to display at your business
*Complimentary Eat Local First t-shirt and poster

Individual Supporter – $100

*1 free ticket to Farm-to-Street party
*Complimentary Eat Local First t-shirt and poster

FARM-TO-STREET PARTY VENDOR OPPORTUNITIES

Food Sponsors/Prime Street Vendors – Redeeming Food Tickets

LIMITED TO 12 FOOD SPONSORS
Food Sponsor Logos will be displayed on banner used at all Eat Local First Week Events and receive prime festival location. Food
Sponsors/Vendors prepare small plates for 600-750 people, providing their own serving supplies. Dishes must be 60% locally sourced with source highlighted with signage. Patrons use $5 tickets to purchase small plate servings. Think Local First reimburses all food vendors $2.50 per each ticket redeemed.

RESTAURANT/FOOD BOOTH FOR RESTAURANTS AND BAKERIES
(Includes: 12′×12′ booth, 10′×10′ tent, one 6’ tables, & 2 chairs)
*$500 TLF Non-Members/$250 TLF Business 1.0 and 2.0 Members/Free to TLF Business 3.0

FOOD TRUCK
(Includes 12′×18′ space)
*$500 TLF Non-Members/$250 TLF Business 1.0 and 2.0 Members/Free to TLF Business 3.0

Prime Street Vendors – Not Redeeming Food Tickets

LIMITED NUMBER AVAILABLE
Prime street vendors will be located on the main street of the Farm to Street Party. Food tickets cannot be redeemed but
packaged goods (such as pickles, jams), produce or retail items can be sold independently.

ARTISAN/SPECIALTY BOOTH FOR NON-RESTAURANT & RETAIL STORES
(Includes: 6′×6′ booth, shared tent, 6’ table, & 2 chairs)
*$250 TLF Members/$500 Non-Members

FARMER BOOTH
(Includes: 12′×12′ booth, 10’x10’ tent, one 6’ table, & 2 chairs)
*$200 TLF Members and Non-Members

NONPROFIT NON-FOOD EXHIBITION BOOTH (must show certificate of nonprofit status)
(Includes: 6′×6′ booth, shared 10′×10′ tent, 6’ table & 2 chairs)
*$200 TLF Members and Non-Members

Pop-Up Park Vendors – Not Redeeming Food Tickets

LIMITED NUMBER AVAILABLE
Pop-up Park vendors will be located within an adjoining park by the Farm to Street Party. Food tickets cannot be redeemed
but packaged goods (such as pickles, jams) or retail items can be sold independently.

ARTISAN/SPECIALTY BOOTH FOR NON-RESTAURANT & RETAIL STORES
(Includes: 6′×6′ booth, shared tent, 6’ table, & 2 chairs)
*$225 TLF Members and $350 Non-Members

Call for Gardens!05/30/12

We are looking for people who would like to share their gardens and what they have learned as part of the Edible Urban Garden Tour on July 17th from 5-8PM. The tour will be part of an Eat Local First week to take place in July.

Requirements include:
-Residential garden in or close to the neighborhood of Shaw in DC.
-Must have an edible component
-Access to and availability on Tuesday, July 17th from 5-8PM the evening of the tour to answer questions

Please send an email to suzanne@loulies.com or call 202-352-6645 if you are interested in participating or would like more information.

Additional details regarding the Edible Urban Garden Tour can be found under the events tab on this website.

We truly appreciate your help.

Eat Local First Week 2012 is Coming!05/01/12

2012 planning is full speed ahead! The current slate of activities includes:

Saturday, July 14 – Kick-Off Event

Sunday, July 15 – Screening of “FRESH

Monday, July 16 – Femivore Happy Hour and Ticketed Dinner

Tuesday, July 17 – Edible Urban Garden Tour and After-Party

Wednesday, July 18 – A Bigger Future for Local Food: Industry Panel and Reception – Flavor Magazine/Penn Quarter Bodega

Thursday, July 19 – Snail of Approval Nominee Happy Hour- Slow Foods DC

Saturday, July 21 – Farm-to-Street Party with a Pop-Up Park – 13th and V Streets

We are still looking for sponsors and partners to create a dynamic week of food-related events.

For more information about sponsorship, becoming a vendor or hosting an event contact Justine at justine@thinklocalfirstdc.com.

First Eat Local First Week is a Success!07/20/11

Thanks to all of the sponsors, volunteers and participants who made our first Eat Local First Week a great success – we could not have done it without you! The week featured eight different events highlighting the local food movement drawing thousands of attendees. Check out the pictures of our Farm-to-Street Party below!

Solving the Farmers’ Market Dilemma07/13/11

By Betsy Garside

In July a few years ago, I ran into an acquaintance at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market. Both of us had a pile of glowing peaches in our baskets. In response to my question about what he was making with his peaches, I got: “Oh, I don’t know. They just looked so good, and I was hoping maybe I’d get up the nerve to make a pie.”

There it was again, the farmers market dilemma: The food looks so good, but how on earth does one fix it? Peaches are easy. They don’t actually require fixing, so if he didn’t get to that pie he’d be okay. Brussels sprouts, chard, bison, celeriac . . . intriguing, with a heaping side of daunting.

The great joy of living in D.C. now is that we have tons of farmers markets. In season, they cover every quarter of the city and almost every day of the week. Paired with that resource is a whole set of options for learning what to do with the fresh, local food you find at market. While the obvious answer might be “just Google,” here are five other remedies for the farmers’ market dilemma:

Check the market itself. FreshFarm Markets has recipes galore on its website , and vendors often have their own recipes as well (like Cedarbrook Farm, which usually has a half-dozen recipe handouts for their cuts of pastured pork).

Hire a local foodie pro. There are many different takes on fresh-cooking education, from market-specific Loulies Market to Kitchen training to parent-oriented Six O’Clock Scramble to kitchen-basics classes from local business CulinAerie.

Invest in a few great cookbooks. The book pros at Politics & Prose can steer you right. And if you haven’t bought a cookbook since the 1979 edition of Joy of Cooking, be prepared for delicious, lighter ways to treat fresh foods in the kitchen.

Ask the person next to you. Old recipes used to be written down in “narrative” form, where ingredients and instructions were not separated out; that was often because they were simpler recipes. The person standing next to you at market may be able to reel off a four-ingredient recipe that you can recreate easily at home. And you’ve met someone new.

Be fearless. That potential pie-maker? Turns out what made him nervous about making a pie was the crust. Here’s a link to Of Course You Can Pie Crust from Baking Family. No one should ever pass by fabulous farmers’ market fruit wishing they knew how to make pie crust.

Eatonville Restaurant: A Prize Winning Summer Cake07/7/11

By Michon Boston

Coconut cake seems to be all the rage this summer. Perhaps DC’s been on a coconut buzz since the Church Lady Cakes Diaries project and Eatonville Restaurant joined forces to launch the city’s first Makes-Me-Wanna SHOUT! Coconut Cake Challenge in the spring of this year.  The winning cake was a traditional coconut cake with fresh coconut and cream cheese frosting made by Decoyise “Dee” Brown, a law firm receptionist from Waldorf, Maryland.  Dee’s cake was added to Eatonville’s dessert menu Memorial Day weekend and is a best seller.
 
I started the Church Lady Cake Diaries as a documentary project to collect stories and memories of men and women who bake in the best traditions – from scratch, often for a worthy cause, and with a lot of love.  I could depend on church bake sales to get some good, solid homemade pound, chocolate, coconut cakes, sweet potato and peach pies.  Eventually boxes from food warehouses and grocery bakeries would take their place.
 
I decided it was time to do a cake challenge, and Eatonville was looking for a coconut cake.  The challenge, its cash prize plus a place on a restaurant menu, enticed amateur bakers to step outside their home kitchens.  It was also an excuse for coconut fans to sample 14 different cakes for the semifinals.  The public tasting and judging benefited Miriam’s Kitchen, which provides meals and case management services to homeless men and women in the DC area.  
 
Decoyise’s cake made the final five and the judging panel, which included Eatonville owner, Andy Shallal all agreed Dee’s was the definitive winner for the restaurant.  Decoyise spent a day in the kitchen with Eatonville’s pastry chef Gregoria Contreras for a test baking.  Now that’s what I call “building community around food.”
 
There will be a 2012 Makes-Me-Wanna SHOUT! Cake Challenge.  What flavor will DC be be buzzing about next year? 
 
Michon Boston is a writer and producer of The Church Lady Cake Diaries and the Makes-Me-Wanna SHOUT! Cake Challenge.  Eatonville Restaurant is located at 2121 14th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009.

See video of Decoyise Brown and Eatonville Restaurant’s Gregoria Contreras in the kitchen on the Eatonville Food Stories blog
 
Get the recipe for Decoyise’ winning coconut cake from the Washington Post online
 
Read Decoyise’s story by Washington Post’s Food writer Bonnie Benwick
 
Read this and other cake stories on the Church Lady Cake Diaries:Real Food, Real Stories From Scratch site
 
Miriam’s Kitchen

What Goes Around Comes Around: Local Cheese Shops06/21/11

By Betsy Garside

I love cheese. Back in the early 1980’s I worked at a cheese shop on New York City’s Upper East Side. We carried the fancy cheeses of the day: triple-crème St. Andre, imported cheddars, Saga blue and huge wheels of genuine Parmigiano Reggiano. A far cry from Kraft slices, but laughably simple today. In the 1990’s cheese got a bad rap. Those little cheese shops closed or merged, disappearing into the same black hole as good independent bakeries and butchers.

Ah, but now they’re back. And we’ve got some real winners right here. One thing that helps is that America now has a booming specialty cheese industry of its own. New England farmers are making goat cheese, sheep’s cheese is sweeping California, and America’s cow’s-milk cheeses mimic and surpass the best France has to offer. (Sorry, brie.)

We’re also just experimenting with our cheese more. Standard cheese trays for cocktail parties, sure. But tonight for cocktails I sliced an Everona sheep’s cheese into fingers, dolloped Virginia Chutney Company’s Hot Peach Chutney on the ends, and served the combo cracker-free. Salty, sweet, mild, hot all in one bite. For me, good cheeses never went away, they just became harder to find for awhile. To guide you to the best, here are a few local cheese resources and one universal one:

Cheesetique
Del Ray, Alexandria

Cowgirl Creamery
Downtown DC at 919 F Street, NW

Cork Market and Tasting Room
1805 14th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009

Bowers Fancy Dairy Products, owned by Ray Bowers.
Eastern Market on Capitol Hill.

Farmers’ markets across the area, where you’ll find local producers like Everona, Clear Springs Creamery and Blue Ridge Dairy

My pal Laura Werlin, whose life revolves around American cheese, and I don’t mean the orange sliced kind. Laura has written several great cheese books – check them out on her site, where you’ll find other cheesy web resources too. (Aren’t you glad that I got the end of this whole post before I punned on “cheesy”?)

How To Create a Charcuterie & Cheese Plate

Betsy Garside is a passionate eater, home cook and farmer’s-market fan. She has her own business – Garside Group LLC — helping nonprofits, food companies and other small businesses successfully manage their brands, think strategically about marketing communications, and run their organizations more effectively. She also writes a blog titled Baking Family where she posts recipes for dessert lovers – pies, cakes and cookies, holiday treats and family desserts.

A Philosophy on Urban Farming06/08/11

Formerly a reporter for The Washington Post, Ed Bruske tends his own “urban farm” smack dab in the middle of DC. Known as The Slow Cook, Ed believes in “self-reliance and growing food close to home”. Ed is our first guest blogger here at Local Feed as well as generously agreeing along to participate in Eat Local’s first-ever Edible Urban Garden Tour on July 15th. Ed’s city yard shows what growing good food in our own backyards, front yards, rooftops and empty lots is all about.

Recently I was invited to lead a workshop on urban farming at my alma mater—-American University here in D.C. I was surprised to learn that this all-day Eating Green conference was sponsored by the university’s philosophy department. But when you think about it, what could be a more existential question than the one that concerns our future survival in a world where fertile soil and water are being rapidly depleted and we’ve come to depend on an unsustainable supply of fossil fuels to feed the growing multitudes?

The keynote speaker for this event was Lisa Heldke, a philosophy professor at Gustavas Adolphus College in Minnesota who explores truth, certainty and the meaning of life through food. She’s penned several books along these lines, including Cooking, Eating, Thinking: Transformative Philosophies of Food, and The Atkins Diet and Philosophy. The title of her keynote address was especially tantalizing: “Pleasure Once Removed: Eating, Suffering and Violence.”

My own presentation was not quite so lofty—60 minutes of slides showing how we grow much of the food we eat on a busy residential corner here in the District of Columbia, two miles from the White House. The underpinnings of this thriving kitchen garden (no livestock on this urban farm) are probably more instinctual than intellectual. As I explained to my audience, my wife and I after 9/11, like many others, began to re-examine our lifestyle and tried to put more energy into the things that were most important to us.

We started walking more and taking public transportation, leaving our car in the driveway. We began to recycle everything. We made a point of eating dinner together as a family, and serving Sunday suppers to friends. Remembering the small garden and fruit trees my father maintained on our tiny lot in the Chicago suburbs when I was a kid, I decided to bust some sod and grow food. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. For some reason, the yard around our house had never been landscaped in more than 100 years. The two large trees that had once towered over it had since died and been removed.

The only thing standing in my way of becoming a full-fledged urban farmer was my wife’s plans to turn the property into a formal Victorian-style garden. Occasionally as I was digging a new vegetable bed she would remind me there was nothing permanent about what I was doing: that’s where the new path to the front door was supposed to go.

But you can’t grow food without experiencing an occasional moment of profound insight. As I quickly learned, growing vegetables brings me face to face with the same issues that have bedeviled farmers since the beginning of agriculture: Do I have enough sun? How to provide water? And, perhaps most importantly, what means to employ to keep my soil fertile and productive?

Answering this latter question has been the most challenging and the most rewarding for me. You might not think of a city lot as either fertile or infertile. But the lessons of agriculture are unavoidable. If you are going to remove nutrients from the soil by growing food, you have to find a way to replace those nutrients or eventually you will exhaust your means of growing. Nature does this by decomposing dead matter and returning it to the soil. Human civilizations learned that manure would do the same thing. The Chinese for at least 2,000 years fed themselves by recycling everything—including their own droppings. But modern agriculture took a chemical shortcut, inventing a way to manufacture nitrogen from natural gas.

Our supply of natural gas won’t last forever, and we are rapidly depleting the earth’s stores of other essential nutrients such as phosphate. What then?

I had originally hoped to make our kitchen garden entirely self-sufficient—a closed system, as it were. But that turned out to be impossible. We became avid composters, but we did not have enough materials to make the compost we needed in sufficient quantities. I turned into a stealthy forager, stealing the bags of leaves neighbors placed at the curb in the fall, collecting coffee grounds from a local Starbucks, trekking to a convenient riding stables for buckets of horse manure. All of this we turn into “black gold” that we store in trash cans and use as needed to produce copious quantities of carrots and beets and green beans and okra and tomatoes.

In the process of growing all this food, we’ve also re-oriented our approach to eating. I am no longer a slave to recipes, hiking from one market to the next collecting the ingredients called for in some dinner menu out of Bon Appetit magazine. Now when we are planning a meal we look out the window to see what’s growing. Along the way we’ve developed many of our own recipes using the ingredients we have at hand. How else do you arrive at a dish like curried okra stew with eggplant, pepper and coconut milk ? (We originally made this with sweet potato leaves after we discovered they are edible, but now we use fistfuls of Italian basil, which grows exuberantly in our garden.)

Had we approached this project philosophically, I’m not sure we would have found our way to where we are now. Building an urban farm, I’ve learned, is not an event, but a slow, incremental process that not only provides us with food, but also has changed us for the better. We’ve reconnected with sun, soil and water, rediscovered our place in the natural order of things. We are different people from when we started: more aware of the basic urges that drive us, the fragility of the environment we live in, our responsibility to feed ourselves in a manner that does not diminish anyone else’s ability to thrive.

Growing your own food, it turns out, is not just a matter of survival, but an act of kindness toward yourself, our planet and all of humanity. As philosophies go, that one suits me just fine.

For Edible Plantings, check out Old City Green at 902 N Street, NW.

Staying Local This Memorial Day Weekend05/27/11

Consider some of these fun things to do here in the District:

Kickstart your summer at the Pool at Capitol Skyline which opens this weekend. The team behind Eighteenth Street Lounge and Marvin has taken over and the focus this summer is on music, drinks and lounging. The pool parties, called Dubsplash, will be every Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m.

Cheer on the Champion League showdown finals from Wembley Stadium – Barcelona v. Manchester United at one of these DC sports bars. Considered the most important soccer competition along with the World Cup, it features the world’s best soccer players, which include Barcelona’s boy genius Lionel Messi. Game start time: 2:45 p.m. Saturday May 28 (Fox).

Cool off by kayaking or paddleboarding in the Potomac. This is one of our favorite local activities to share with others, whether they live here or are just passing through. Canoes and kayaks are $14 per person for one hour. Stand-up paddleboards are $20 per person per hour. From Jack’s Boathouse, located just under Key Bridge. Phone: 202-338-9642. Don’t forget to pack a picnic and spend some time hanging out on the cute and colorful side deck.

Have a great weekend!

The Local Feed05/17/11

From Bettina Stern and Suzanne Simon, Loulies.com

Welcome to the Local Feed, a collaborative blog about how and where to shop and eat locally in the Washington, DC area. When we first learned about the Eat Local First campaign from Stacey Price, we were immediately hooked onto her idea to feature some of DC’s best and brightest local foods and foodies. “How can we help?”, we asked. “By spreading the word “ she said, “and inspiring local eating.” With this in mind, we decided to create this open blog by writing a bit ourselves and lining up a few guest bloggers to inspire and share some of DC’s best finds – all leading up to the Farm-to-Street Party on July 16. So, what can you expect to find over the next few weeks? – thoughts, discoveries, musings, reviews, recipes or other local food-related information for the purpose of supporting local eating.

In our writing at Loulies.com , we strongly encourage our readers to eat in-season and locally and try to teach people how to shop and what to cook. We hope that by writing and partnering with Eat Local First, people might read, take note and be inspired to eat locally whenever possible. If you are interested in being one of our guest bloggers, contact us at Loulies.com. If you are interested in eating locally and supporting this campaign, check back regularly for new posts from some really creative and talented local people, sign-up for some of the “eat local” special events and talk-up the Eat Local First campaign with all of your friends.

A Local Favorite: Really Good Meat from Whitmore Farm at the DC Greens Farmers Market

Eventbrite - Eat Local First Week 2013: July 22-27

THANKS TO OUR 2013 SPONSORS!

Union Market

Heurich House Museum

Sustaining Sponsors

Meridian Pint

INVESTOR SPONSORS

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NOURISHING SPONSORS

Washington City Paper

Fell's Point Meats

Glen's Garden Market

GreenEase

Hop and Wine

Supporting Sponsors

MOM's Organic Market

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Washington Green Grocer

RAMW

Contributing Sponsors

Junius Cold Brew Coffee Company

Ben's Chili Bowl

Ben's Next Door

Coastal

Gragg and Associates

Relay Foods

Business Sponsors

Slow Food D.C.

JBG Corporate

OperationEatery

FRESHfarm Markets

Loulies

FEMIVORE AWARD SPONSORS

Big Bad Woof

Nurish

Hello Cupcake

Central Farms Market

Pearl Fine Teas