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This weblog contains news and the weblog entries from all the markets currently using the system.

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Athens Locally Grown:  Availability for October 9

I see over 550 products available this week, including a number of new items. The nights are getting colder, and I expect the first frost at my place sometime in the next two weeks. In Athens it generally arrives by the end of the month, but my farm has a microclimate that makes it arrive a bit earlier. Once it does come, all of the tomatoes, peppers, basil, eggplant, and so on will be no more. It’s possible a few growers will try to extend the season under plastic or in a greenhouse, but for the rest of us the summer season is nearly over.

Athens Locally Grown does go year round, though, so when that happens, we’ll just move full on into the fall and winter crops. Fresh salads, leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, turnips, and so on are on the way (and in some cases have already arrived).

It’s starting to get dark halfway through the Thursday pickups. We’re adapting as we can, but with no power to the structure we’re using, our options were limited to what we could bring with us. Rather than running a generator, I decided on some rechargeable LED worklights with magnetic bases that we can stick to the girders. Right now, we’ve got 20 of them (at $20 a pop), and that seems to be enough for the moment. When it gets cold, we’ll just have to wear our parkas — there’s no heat, either.

Speaking of finances, there’s been a trend that is getting hard to ignore. We went the first three years with only one bounced check, but we’ve grown to the point (and the economy’s gotten worse to the point) where I’m getting about one a week. Most everyone has been good at settling up, so it hasn’t become a crisis yet, but I’m keeping my eye on it. We could move to a pre-pay system, or take deposits from new members, or some other solution down the road if needed, but I’m hoping we can keep things just the way they are. Remember that Athens Locally Grown isn’t like many businesses. The growers set their own prices and are selling directly to you. They get 90 cents on the dollar and the rest goes back to the market to cover expenses. Most of that goes to paying the veggie credit the market helpers get for volunteering each week (6 to 8 of them now), and the rest goes toward other expenses such as those lights and all those cots, and so forth. It’s enough to let us break even, which is my goal, but having to cover bounced checks and orders not picked up and never paid for generally come out of my pocket.

Still, as I said, it’s not a crisis and won’t affect how the market is run for the time being, but it’s something I’ll have to keep an eye on and adapt to as needed.

Thank you for all of the support you have given your local growers and Athens Locally Grown. I can’t stress enough how much that has meant to all of us! We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old farmers market on Broad Street.

Athens Locally Grown:  Availability for October 2

As we arrive into October, there are still over 500 items listed at our market this week. I see quite a few new items, as well as the first flush of sweet potatoes, more crops of summer squash, beans, broccoli greens, and just a great overall mix of the fading summer harvest and the returning fall harvest.

I’ve started preparing my place for hosting our annual “Hunters Moon Feast”, coming up on the 18th (and into the 19th, if you’d like to camp out that night). It’s free for locally grown members, but we do need you to make reservations by adding the appropriate number to your order. You’ll find it listed in the “Event Reservations” category. I’ll be barbecuing and grilling a variety of meats from Locally Grown, and you can bring a dish to share. (And you vegetarians & vegans out there, please don’t let my grill keep you from coming. I’d love to taste your dishes, too.)

Besides cleaning and generally making the place look nice, I also started brewing five gallons of apple cider yesterday, using a mix of heirloom apples from “up the road” from me at Hillside Orchards in Clayton. I’d have used apples from Locally Grown, but I’m afraid it would have used them all! Anyway, I pressed two bushels for this batch, and the process went well enough and I have enough bushels left over that I know we can have fresh-pressed apple juice (in addition to the hard stuff, for those wanting) at the harvest feast. Here’re a few pictures of the process.

In other news, Georgia Organics, our state’s leading organization for sustainable agriculture and those who enjoy its fruits, has just released its annual local food guide, an invaluable resource for those looking for locally grown food throughout the state. Also, their latest newsletter contains a lengthly and brilliantly written article on why organic matters, written by Locally Grown member grower Jamie Swedberg of 10 Signs Garden & Gourmet. We’ll have many copies of both, free for the taking, at market this week. Additionally, Georgia Organics is currently having a membership drive, and all new or renewing memberships by the end of the year also get a free yearly subscription to the venerable Organic Gardening magazine, so now is an even better time than usual to join!

We all thank you for your continuing support of your local food producers. We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old state farmers market on Broad Street!

Athens Locally Grown:  Availability for September 25

We had a great day today at Backyard Harvest, where Boo & Becky Rothberg gave us a full tour of their beautiful farm, let us help them plant and mulch, and even cooked us some lunch using ingredients we brought in from the gardens ourselves. It was the last of our “Farmer For a Day” events for the year, but I’m sure we’ll have a new lineup of hosting farms for you next spring.

There is one more event coming up, held at my place in Royston on October 18th. Where the Farmer for a Day events were open to the general public as a way to help spread the word about Locally Grown, my “Hunter’s Moon Feast” is just for you, our market members, to celebrate another fantastic year of Athens Locally Grown (our seventh!). The feast is free, but we do ask that you make reservations (look in the “Event Reservations” category) and bring a dish to share.

With the nights dropping down into the fifties, the summer produce is really starting to slow down. There’s still a great variety of tomatoes, for example, but the overall quantity is dropping fast. You’ll have a couple more weeks to gorge yourself on heirloom tomato sandwiches (eaten over the sink since the juice drips down your elbows, naturally) before they vanish until next summer. Such is the nature of eating seasonally, but on the upside the absence of a top notch tomato might prod you into discovering a fall item just coming into season that’s just as great (in a different way) that might have otherwise gotten overlooked. Take a look at our growers’ winter squash and pumpkin selections for some inspiration. There are some true gems listed among those.

As always, thank you all for your continuing support. Thanks to that, we have been able to go year round for the past three winters, and this year looks to be no exception. There are at least two weeks we’ll be taking off (both Thanksgiving and Christmas are on Thursdays this year), but other than that, we don’t anticipate any long periods of downtime.

We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old farmers market on Broad Street. And remember: if you’re not there by 8pm, your items will be given away and your account will be charged for their total. See our Q’s & A’s page for more information on why. There have been several customers each week lately this has applied to, and I hate to see that for a number of reasons.

Athens Locally Grown:  Availability for September 18

I’ll be brief this week. My family and I are on a “long weekend” camping trip, and I’m typing this on my cell phone in a McDonalds parking lot (the only place I can find with connectivity).

I haven’t looked yet myself, but I assume there is plenty of good stuff listed this week. I do know Mertie’s Oven us back this week with a lot of granola. Many of you have told me you’ve been going through Mertie’s withdrawal, so this should be great news.

We’ll be back to see you all Thusday evening from 4:30 to 8pm at the old farmers market on Broad Street. Thank you for all your support!

Athens Locally Grown:  Availability for September 11

We’re just shy of 600 products available this week, including the most wonderful array of heirloom winter squashes I’ve ever seen. There are apples and pears, lots of melons, and other fruit as well. Eggplant and peppers have picked up production, and the tomatoes are hanging in there too. I think there’s something for everyone this week.

At our farm, we’ve been busy preparing beds for seeding carrots, parsnips, turnips, radishes, and lettuces, and in our hoophouses we’ve been starting broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, and kales. It’s a busy time of year, and we’re a bit behind most of the other farms. Still, unless we get a colder than averge winter, it’s possible to keep those types of veggies going on through to Spring with only occasional freeze protection. If you’re a gardener and usually start thinking of putting it to sleep in the fall, try putting in a fall garden. It’s really a pleasant time to garden in our area.

This Sunday Mills Farm is hosting their third annual “Brunch in the Field”, an event by the Athens Chef’s Association. I don’t have all the details, but there should be an article in Wednesday’s paper. It’s a very popular event, so keep an eye out for details about that.

As always, we all thank you for your continued support. I know there are a number of new faces, what with some of the area CSAs winding down and the new school year bringing in newcomers. We welcome you all! We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old state farmers market building on Broad Street.

Athens Locally Grown:  Availability for September 4

Normally later winter is the time of year for growers to get together at various conferences around the country. Two I go to every year is the Southern Sustainable Working Group (SSAWG) conference, being held this year in Chatanooga in January, and the Georgia Organics conference, held typically in February. They’re not just for growers, though, and I highly recommend them to anyone interested in local and sustainably grown food.

There’s a third conference I’ve always meant to go to, held atypically in the fall each year. The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association has a long history in North and South Carolina. They held their conference last year right up I85 in Greenville, but I didn’t find out about it until the day it was going on, and I thought I missed the opportunity to go while it was so close. Well, this year it’s even closer, in Anderson, SC, just up US 29 from Athens. It’s being held on October 31 through November 2 and includes a multitude of farm tours (including two dairies who sell through Athens Locally Grown), educational workshops, and some very good food. Follow the link for more information and to pre-register.

Availability this week took a little dip, but there are a few new items listed this week. Roots Farm has finished their CSA season and is now steering al that produce out way, so even with fewer varieties listed, there is more to go around. We’re just starting to see the beginnings of the fall items, but they’ll be pouring in before too long. First frost in Athens is typically in late October, so the tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and the like will also stick around until then.

Thanks again for all of your support! We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old state farmers market building on Broad Street.

Athens Locally Grown:  Availability for August 28

We spent all of today celebrating our daughter’s fourth birthday, and that got me to remembering how things were four years ago. Vivian was born early in the morning on a Thursday, market day, after four hard days of labor. Dan Miller, founder of Athens Locally Grown, had already passed the market on to my wife and I, but he generously filled in for me that day. Back then, we had maybe two or three dozen orders each week, and pickup was in the de facto park where the Cobb House was leter reconstructed. Back then, everyone’s orders fit into a couple ice chests, and Thursday pickups were a lazy affair. Some of you may remember later that year, as we went year-round for the first time, Vivian bundled in her parka and strapped to my chest as we handed out orders to a handful of people at the patio at Big City Bread in the dead of winter.

Everything has grown since then. Vivian’s learning to read and swim and helps in the garden every chance she gets. Athens Locally Grown is closing in on 1500 customers and it takes essentially a fleet of trucks to get all the produce to the pickup site. (Speaking of which, thank you all for your patience when our own refrigerated truck gave us a scare and made the dairy items show up fifteen minutes late.) We now have eight people filling orders at a time, and still the line, though fast moving, is daunting right at 4:30. Some people who were market customers four years ago are now selling produce from their own gardens, adding to the list of growers that is now over 50 strong.

It’s so nice to see things grow and take hold, whether it’s the market, cauliflower seeds in my garden, or my own daughter. It’s nice to know that enough people know what’s involved in putting the market together each week, and have had a major hand in pulling it off, that it’s pretty much certain that Athens Locally Grown is an Athens fixture. Should circumstances conspire to keep my wife and I from managing the market, I know that it’ll keep going on its own, and that gives me great peace of mind. Not that we’re planning on going anywhere, mind you.

I see a number of new items on the site this week. The winter squashes are really coming in, I noticed someone has pears, there are even more varieties of tomatoes, field peas have returned, there’s yet another type of garlic I’ve never tried, and more. The weather has stayed just cool enough that while the overall quantity of produce has dropped a bit, the usual August doldrums have stayed away. In fact, on Saturday Cedar Grove Farm hosted us for our August “Farmer for a Day” event, and it was just a perfect day to be out on the farm. If you missed out, our next even will be next month at Backyard Harvest. It’s on a Sunday this time, too. We’d love to see you there. It’s free, but limited space makes us take reservations, and you’ll find more details on the website in the “Event Reservations” category.

Thank you all for your continued support! We’ll see you on Thursday, from 4:30 to 8pm at the old state farmers market on Broad Street.

Athens Locally Grown:  Availability for August 21

Last week was a record week for Athens Locally Grown all around. Total sales, number of orders, number of products available, pretty much every measure blew past our previous records by 10% or more. There was a long line at times on Thursday, but we had more workers filling orders than ever before, and the line seemed to move fairly quickly. It seemed that way to me, anyway, and I hope your experience was the same. We’ll continue to adapt our end of things as needed to match the growth.

There were a number of new faces picking up orders last week. The new school year always brings Athens more people looking for what our growers provide, and we welcome you all! The other markets and CSAs have in the past started to taper out in the early fall, but we keep right on going year round. Indeed, except for a traditional late August lull, fall tends to be our biggest season.

Next Saturday is our next “Farmer for a Day” event, hosted this month by Cedar Grove Farm. We spend a couple hours in the morning doing easy farm tasks that benefit from many hands, have lunch on the farm, and then take a full tour. The event is free (including lunch) but we do ask that you make reservations. You can do so by adding the reservations to your order, and you can find more details about this and upcoming events in the “Event Reservations” category.

Thanks again for all of your support! We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30pm to 8pm at the old state farmers market on Broad Street.

Athens Locally Grown:  Availability for August 14

I mentioned a few weeks ago that mid-August brings along with its heat a reduction in all of our veggies except okra, which thrives. Right on schedule, we now have an abundance of okra. We also have many other items, as the growers have been doing everything in their power to coax their tomato vines, bean bushes, corn stalks, squash hills, and other plants producing just a little while longer. It’s a tough fight, and the drought hasn’t made things any easier. And on top of all that, now is the time for the growers to begin planting their fall crops. Many of these plants hate heat above all else, yet the growers have to get the seeds to germinate and then the seedlings strong enough to begin producing when the cooler days arrive. Some of the growers achieve this be planting everything indoors in the shade and then transplanting them at the last possible moment. Others direct seed right in the ground but try to keep things cool with shade cloth, near constant slow irrigation, and plenty of mulch. It’s hard work, but once the heat is behind us we’re all rewarded with the fruits of fall. And despite the extra effort at the beginning, fall is my favorite season to garden here in North Georgia.

Last week was the first week of school, and just like years past, there were an unusual amount of no-shows. Remember that I have to charge you anyway, even if you don’t come to pick up what you’ve ordered, since I’ve by then already paid the growers on your behalf. I do make reminder calls to everyone who hasn’t arrived by 7:30, using the number you added to your account. Most of the time, I get answering machines, and that doesn’t do either of us any good. If you have a cell phone, use that number so I’ll have a better chance of reaching you. You can set your phone number (and change other account info) on the “Your Account” page of the site.

Also last week we had at least two people show up to pick up orders they hadn’t fully placed. Adding items to your shopping cart does not place your order. You have to “check out” by clicking the link in your shopping cart and confirming the order. Just like at the grocery store, items in your cart aren’t yours until you go through the checkout. Unlike the grocery store, you don’t have to wait in line. When you check out, you’ll get an immediate email confirming your order. You’ll also see your order in your order history, also on the “Your Account” page. If you didn’t get an email and there are still items in your cart, then you haven’t checked out and we won’t have anything waiting for you on Thursday.

Finally, remember that our next Farmer for a Day event is in two weeks at Cedar Grove Farm. This was one of the most popular tours last year, and we’re happy to be going there again this year. If you’d like to participate, it is free but we’ll need you to make reservations. You can do so along with your order. Just look in the “Event Reservations” category fro more information.

Thanks for all your support! We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old state farmers market on Broad Street.

Athens Locally Grown:  Availability for August 7

Welcome to August! We’ve got a record number of available items this week, 515 in all as I write this. The new products carousel on the market page is full of great items, so be sure to give it a spin to see everything that’s been added.

We said farewell to three of our volunteers in the last few weeks. Molly Neely-Burnam has been working most every week for over a year, but she and her family is moving to Savannah. Kate Dunbar was a backup, but she is continuing her studies in South America for the next couple years. And Marie Mize, also a backup, is staying in Athens but was offered a position at UGA’s Law Library that will keep her busy on Thursdays. We’re all sad to see them go, but now you have the opportunity to take their place. Our volunteers work from 3:30 to 8pm on Thursdays in exchange for a $50 credit. The work consists mainly of organizing the produce as the growers drop it off and filling orders as customers arrive, and it takes a full staff of six to get the job done. We have two vacancies for this week, and could use several more of you as backups. If you’re able to work, regularly or semi-regularly, please let me know. Let me know even if you’ve told me before and I put you on my list. I made my list many months ago, and as I go through it, it seems many people on it have a totally different schedule now.

I’ll be giving a seasonal cooking demonstration Thursday night at the Rolling Pin. On the menu are Okra Chips, Eggs in a Tomato Nest, Indian Lamb Stuffed Eggplant, Calibacitas (a traditional New Mexican dish of squash, corn, and tomatoes), and Chile Rellenos. I think there are still a few seats open. The cost $35 and can be reserved by calling the Rolling Pin at 706-354-8080. My class last month got canceled due to lack of participants, but this one is on for sure. I’m looking forward to it, and can envision this being a fun regular event.

Last week I gave my recipe for canning what I call “Instant Tomato Sauce”. I wasn’t specific about how long to process the jars in the boiling water bath, and several of you had questions about that. Depending on where you look, you’ll find 45 minutes to an hour recommended. I go for a full hour, gently boiling in water deep enough to completely cover the jars, and you can find the jars in pretty much any grocery store.

Thanks again for all of your enthusiastic support of your local growers. We’ll see you on Thursday from 4:30 to 8pm at the old state farmers market on Broad Street!