Wow, seems like yesteryear when it was last warm out in Cleveland, Ohio. Wait, it was yesteryear. December 31st to be exact. I took full advantage of an eight hour farm day to round out the year and "installed" something akin to a lasagna bed at a spot on the farm that somewhat naturally has a hole and a decline. I started off with a whole lotta corn tortillas as my carbohydrate base 'cause they always go stale in our household when we buy the 50 packs. Followed by the non-reusable yards bags of Autumn. Then several hundred pounds of formerly espresso-nated Loop coffee grinds were applied in a haphazard manner. Then the heavy lifting ensued with the courtesy of Birch and a trip to Rocky River Metropark, where we picked up a bunch of woodchips in Subee-1 for the next layer. We layered again with coffee grinds, fruits, and woodchips with subsequent Loop and Metropark trips accordingly. At that point, Birch was cashed out, but we still had light. So I picked up my other buddy, Gabe, and we drove to Leaf Humusville for 180 gallons of leaf humus for the final topping of last year. It was a great way to end 2010. Thanks Birch and Gabe.
We had another one of those Cleveland Farmer's Summits on the 14th of January. I formally tried to pass a motion to amend the name from "Cleveland Farmer's Meeting" to my way-preferred and in my opinion more stoic sounding "Cleveland Farmer's Summit." I'm pretty sure everybody thought I was joking because there was a chuckle and no dialogue ensued beyond that. So in my not-normally-passive aggressive way, I'm just gonna continue to refer to it as the Cleveland Farmer's Summit. And in my normally direct manner, I will bring it up again at the next Summit, which is scheduled for next week...Wednesday, I think. Gotta look that one up.
The theme for January's Summit was farm planning. Eric Stoffer of Bay Branch Farm and Peter McDermott of Urban Growth Farm both presented; whereas, I just spoke. I think I speak for most of us in attendance that we were pretty much drop-jaw and in-awe of Peter's ultra spreadsheet approach to planning with 1.3 times fudge factors, a detailed weekly CSA delivery schedule, a data-crunching breakdown per vegetable, and the like. This very much contrasted with my still developing "conceptual" approach to planning that mingles interesting sounding veggies with some sales projection hocus pocus on top of it. I'm not saying I don't use spreadsheets. I'm just saying I'm doing pre-algebra; and Peter's figuring out astral projection calculus; and also to his credit, Eric is like trig. At any rate, it was a great Summit, and it was encouraging to see some new folks.
I gotta new food addiction for the new year. Oddly enough, it's in stunning contrast to my other longtime running food addictions that include buffalo chicken wings (death to all other flavors, traitors!), western omelettes with cheese aka a Denver omelette, and a Dirty Greek Gyro (pork, fries, onions, mustard; plus, I get to say "I'll have a dirty Greek")from Greek Village Grille.
So drum roll, please. My latest food addiction is brussel sprouts! This is really weird, considering I cried at the age of 12 when my parents forced me to eat them. Besides the onion, the brussel sprout is the only vegetable to have made me cry. But like all good addictions, this one for brussel sprouts came in hard and fast, and seemingly out of nowhere. It all started about a year ago at Michael Symon's Lolita, where I got my first taste, fried in lard with capers, anchovies, and balsamic; I'm tremensing now typing about them. I had 'em a couple more times over the months, but I wouldn't say I became addicted until Decemberish at a dinner party hosted by the Origin Beanery folks, where the garlic roasted sprouts were the perfect compliment to the duck and squash pasta confit. Now a week doesn't go by without me craving and roasting some sprouts. I mostly keep to the routine of garlic, salt, and either bacon fat or avocado oil, just depending whether or not Sarah is looking over my shoulder whilst I cook. Sometimes, I "get crazy" with soy sauce or balsamic or something else mundane, but not often, and definitely not more than five ingredients.
This addiction is going so far that it has affected my conceptual farm planning this year. And despite them taking a ridiculous 110 days to mature, and taking up lots of space, and being bastard-aphid magnets, I plan on growing brussel sprouts this year. A variety called Long Island Improved. Yeah, the Chinese may be calling it the Year of the Rabbit, but for me, it's the Year of the Brussel Sprout. And if I catch a rabbit eating one of my Sprouts this year, then I may be vending some lucky rabbit's foots at my stand this summer.
On the Local Food Cleveland website last year, I started the Cleveland Farmers Buyers Club to achieve some economies of scale for us smaller urban growers. Last year, it existed without a lot of fanfare or hullabaloo or members. And let's face it, the members who joined were friends. I'm proud to say a year later the Cleveland Farmers Buyers Club has commenced it first group order with a purchase of 3,660 onion plants with nine participating buyers. In addition, the online Club is also starting to attract members whom I don't know. There's more and more sizzle everyday.
Cleveland recently made some awesome headlines as one of Yahoo's World's Most Visionary Cities for our urban farming, along with Abu Dhabi's off-the-grid Masdar City. Furthermore, the highlighted project for the article is Gardens Under Glass, where I just finished a brief hydroponics internship! Good Job, Vicky!
In other news, I've been helping the grassroots entity known as Gordon Square Farmers' Market, where I sale my produce, get all formal. We've been doing things like writing Articles of Incorporation, finding attorneys to review those Articles, and having meetings about how to formally go forward with a Board and By-Laws and the such. By becoming non-profit, it will allow Gordon Square Farmers' Market to proceed in a much more business-like fashion for things like insurance, grant opportunities, and perhaps a stipend for the market manager (which will never be me for clarifications sake).
Next week on the 17th, I'm doing a public speaking event at Cleveland State University. There are five Re-Imagining Cleveland Grantees and their projects being highlighted. I am to represent the for-profit, entrepreneurial spirit of urban farming and the Re-Imagining Grant. I am extremely excited about this opportunity to represent the for-profit urban farmer, who often gets condemnation and a drought of funding opportunities, because we do it for "ourselves," while technically trying to be sustainable and pay taxes. I believe socially responsible capitalism is where its at.
I think I'm done. I feel done. That felt like a pretty good ramblin. For sure, it's a load off my shoulders. I'm feeling better about typing again. I think those structured blogs on the back burner will be coming out soon. Look for some on Marketing and Local Food Sustainability 2.0 soon.