Farmers, The First Lady & Me

September 27th, 2009
Those eyes! Those arms! It's First Lady Michelle Obama, a few inches away from me, shaking hands at the opening of the FRESHFARM Markets by The White House.

Those eyes! Those arms! It's First Lady Michelle Obama, a few inches away from me, shaking hands at the opening of the FRESHFARM Markets by The White House.

Yes, I was actually close enough to Michelle Obama to snap these photos. Shook her hand, spoke to her – it was an amazing high point after several weeks of work helping my client FRESHFARM Markets explore the new world of social media and its relevance to farmers markets.  (Check out this  Twitter stream for some of the results).

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By now you’ve probably heard that The First Lady exclaimed, “I’ve never seen so many people so excited about vegetables!”  But what you didn’t hear was the man next to me who shyly inquired, “What’s that purple stuff?” before learning it was kohlrabi.

People were walking around from stand to stand,  pointing and looking at  “exotic” produce specimens that typically aren’t available at the local supermarket. And they weren’t just looking, they were buying.  Some farmers ran out of food because the market completely exceeded their expectations.

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I couldn’t resist taking this photo of  handsome Sam Kass, the White House chef who oversees the White House garden.  As I tweeted, he was welcomed like a rock star –  after Michelle Obama, he got the loudest cheers from the crowd (or at least from the female contingent!)

Take a look at these other photos I snapped. I  made a point to walk by every one of the eighteen farmers stalls in order to try and capture the atmosphere on opening day. Like me, you may have been to many, many farmers’ markets before. But few people have ever been to a  farmer’s market that looks anything like this one…

It seemed like a dream, but it was true. This woman from Welsh Gardens kept beckoning people over for a lavender hand wash.

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Talk about a decadent pleasure. It was amazing. Inside the Welsh Gardens tent were a beautiful array of organically grown lavender soaps and herbs.

And here’s a shot of Blueberry Hill Farm.

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Do you see the beautiful marigold garland? The farmer’s daughter made The First Lady a lei from these marigolds.

One of the greatest pleasures at market is enjoying the samples that are freely passed out.  At  Clear Spring Creamery, below, @gplot mixes  a mean Blueberry smoothie for yours truly.

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The women of Endless Summer Harvest look so happy in the picture below, don’t they?

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I love their sign (below) welcoming Michelle Obama – although unfortunately she never made it to this stand. (She was actually shopping behind a security fence, although you couldn’t tell from most of the pix released that day).

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The picture below shows the beautiful display that greeted Mrs. Obama at The Farm at Sunnyside.

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And despite this amusing sign promoting Sunnyside’s beets, Mrs. Obama passed on the beets!

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Solitude. Many people were surprised  to find yarn at market. Perhaps some of the city folk forgot that yarn comes from the wool of sheep, which after all, live on farms! (Let’s forget about those synthetic yarns, shall we?)  This beautiful little shop – it really seemed more like a shop than a stand – reminded me of little stores in Ireland.

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Gunpowder Bison and Trading Company.

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I love the name of this market. It sounds like something from the Wild West, but this 70 acre farm is actually located in northern Baltimore County, Maryland.

Wollam Gardens. Beautiful. Just beautiful. What else can one say?

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Quail Creek Farm and Praline Bakery.
I don’t know about you, but when I first heard the term “farmers market,” I didn’t think of French pastries.

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But these  croissants aux amandes  looked to be straight from Paris! Instead, they were from Quail Creek Farm in West Virginia.

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And Praline Bakery, from my hometown of Bethesda, also had  the types of delectable pastries most people associate more with Paris than with a farmers market on a city street. So much for snacking on cut fruit and veggies!  ☺

Toigo Orchards – I didn’t buy a jar of bourbon peaches…but I regret it!

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Groff’s  Content Farm

I love this photo of Farmer Bob Bolton in his Groffs Content Farm hat, showing off some free range poultry.
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Chris’ Marketplace.     I’ve blogged before about Chris’ delicious crabcakes. This time I lunched on the empanadas and gazpacho, which were delicious.  You can see from the pic below that there was quite a line!

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The market was so packed, and I was so busy sending tweets, twitpix  etc, that I didn’t get to spend as much time at each stand as I would have liked.  Here I am demonstrating my best Tweeting technique with FRESHFARMs Market co-founder Bernie Prince.

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Here are a few stands that I had to rush by:

It was so packed at Firefly Farms that I didn’t get to try any of their artisan cheeses, but it looks fabulous, doesn’t it?

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There were so many choices for great cheese – here’s the stand for  Keswick Creamery.

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Spring Valley Farm – Spring Valley was actually one of the few stands that resembled a typical farmer’s stand. Tomatoes, apples, greens – nothing too fancy, just simple, great fruits and veggies.

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Not all of the stands take credit cards, but Everona Dairy does – and they advertise it prominently.

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I don’t eat pork, but if I did, I think this sign from Cedarbrook Farm would have me sold!

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And finally, one of the many happy customers I encountered along the way. He was  thrilled to have purchased the last of the carrots from The Farm at Sunnyside.

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Hope you enjoyed this “virtual tour” of the newest and perhaps the most famous farmers market in the world!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Disclosure: As disclosed above (so this is double disclosure), my company, 4GreenPs, was employed to manage FRESHFARM Market’s social media presence at the re-opening of the market, however this was not a paid post. I posted because I was just so darn excited. Wouldn’t you be? It’s great to have such wonderful clients!

Yes! I’ll Be at The Opening of the Farmers Market by The White House, Follow on Twitter!

September 17th, 2009
Chris Hoge of Bethesda Maryland sells Washington's best Blue Crab meat at the Foggy Bottom Market, pictured, and TODAY, at the new Vermont Avenue Market by the White House. Yum!

Chris Hoge of Bethesda Maryland sells Washington's best Blue Crab meat at the Foggy Bottom Market, pictured, and TODAY, at the new Vermont Avenue Market by the White House. Yum!

Very, very excited about helping  FRESHFARM Markets with the opening of their newest market, on Vermont Avenue by The White House. YES, THAT Market. The one that President Obama talked about? Yep. The one that The First Lady will check out today? Yes.

If you’d like to hear my impressions on the fly from the opening event, please follow the FRESHFARM Markets account on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/FRESHFARMMktsDC And if you’re in Maryland and want to keep up with local happenings from the four FRESHFARM Markets and the local food movement in Maryland, please follow: http://www.twitter.com/FRESHFARMMktsMD

And are you following me on Twitter? I’ve got three accounts:
@OrganicMania where this blog leaves off and @4GreenPs for tweets about Green Biz and Green Marketing and @GreenMoms for a feed of all the blog posts from my Green Moms Carnival sisters.

Enjoy the day! Eat well!

Lynn

Mandated Waste: Simple Questions about School Lunch Reform

September 16th, 2009
Chef Ann Smiles as she puts on her Whole Foods Chefs Jacket and Prepares to Talk about School Lunch.

Chef Ann Smiles as she puts on her Whole Foods Chefs Jacket and Prepares to Talk about School Lunch.

Last Thursday evening I was thrilled to hear Chef Ann Cooper, aka “The Renegade Lunch Lady” speak at my local YMCA. Of course Chef Ann didn’t travel all the way from Boulder, Colorado, where she’s recently begun a new job in the school system, to speak to the Bethesda Y. She was here to meet with federal policy makers about reform efforts for the USDA’s school lunch program.  Together with Whole Foods, which is supporting her work, Chef Ann is urging the government to allocate $1 more per day for each child’s school lunch.  But as The New York  Times reported here,  some Congressional Democrats think just 70  cents more would be a generous increase – and well, I’m sure you know that others think no additional funds are necessary.

I’ve blogged many times over the past year and a half about issues with the school lunch program.  From this first post expressing shock at elementary school lunch entrée choices of  pizza or hot dog,  to this post about how the School Lunch Controversy Ended Up on TV , to this one about How to Get Organics and Healthier Foods Into the Schools, to attending local and regional PTA meetings with our school district’s head of nutrition services, I’ve been asking questions….and not getting much in the way of answers.

Chef Ann Cooper talks about the school lunch program at the Bethesda, Maryland YMCA. September 10, 2009

Chef Ann Cooper talks about the school lunch program at the Bethesda, Maryland YMCA. September 10, 2009

But this time I got very direct answers to my questions. Chef Ann is blunt. She calls things the way she sees them.  So after asking the first question in at the Q&A session after her talk, I waited until everyone else had a chance and then asked…four more questions! I could have spent all night talking to her, quite honestly.   I’ve got fodder for at least one more post about Chef Ann, but in this one, which is timed to coincide with the Green Moms Carnival on “Conserving Resources,” I want to focus on waste.

Although I agree with Chef Ann and would  like to see more funds allocated to school lunch (and in fact, just this week $50 million more was allocated to the new Farm-to-School program),  there is a tremendous amount of waste in the system.  So that was my first question for Chef Ann. Were government officials talking about reducing waste in the school lunch program?  Apparently not.

I explained how I had finally allowed my 2nd grader to purchase pizza once a week for school lunch. But, I told him, he was to skip the non-organic, hormone-laden milk and the non-organic apple, since he had water and fruit in his lunch bag.  My son told me that he was forced to buy the apple and the milk as well – and then to throw them out. Not only is this wasteful, but when you consider that the milk and apple are taxpayer subsidized, it is doubly wasteful. Why can’t we let kids purchase just what they need to? Why are we subsidizing food items that end up in the trash? And then spending more taxpayer money to pay the school custodians to handle the trash, and to pay for the operation of  the municipal landfills and transport to the landfills and recycling centers? (Not the mention all the carbon we’re burning through each of these wasteful activities).

If you think you could return the unopened milk to the cafeteria, for re-use, you’d be wrong. I’ve volunteered many times in my son’s cafeteria, where I’ve been asked to open unopened milk bottles and POUR THE MILK  DOWN THE DRAIN. Talk about waste.

And Chef Ann? She said that in the school lunch programs she’s run in Berkeley, California and Boulder, Colorado, the children take as much (organic) milk as they’d like from a large jug. No waste, no fuss.  What a concept.

In addition to lobbying for more funds for school lunch – and the schools as a whole – we need to focus on conserving resources and reducing waste, as Chef Ann has done in her school systems.

Are you seeing these same issues in your local schools? Leave a comment and share!

And more on the talk by the wonderful Chef Ann in a future post!

Check out the rest of the Green Moms Carnival Submissions here at The Mindful Momma!  (And for a few more great posts on school lunch, check out last month’s  Green Moms Carnival on Back to School,

– Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

Another Green Moms Carnival on Wednesday: Conserving Resources

September 13th, 2009

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Interested in contributing a post to the next Green Moms Carnival? Micaela of Mindful Momma is hosting on Wednesday, so here’s your chance to get a post in to her (quickly!) about Conserving Resources.  Please send it in to greenmomscarnival at gmail dot com.

Remember, we can’t guarantee that all submissions will be accepted. Read more about carnival submission guidelines here.

Thanks and have a great week!

Gotta go now and work on that post! :)

– Lynn

Back to School with Obama

September 8th, 2009

The early days of the back-to-school season are typically full of anxious parents, crying kindergartners, and school buses that can’t seem to keep to a schedule. Today was not much different – but as I waited an extra 15 minutes for my second grader’s bus to arrive, I wondered if my son had seen President Obama’s address to the nation’s school children.  I wasn’t expecting so – I’d called the school office and was told that viewing varied by classroom.

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But when he finally stepped off the bus and I asked him if he had watched the President’s speech, he surprised me by saying “Yes.”

“And?,”  I asked excitedly. “What did you think?”

“Boring.”

“Boring!”

“Boring. What’s for snack?”

“Hold on there a minute,” I said. “I read his speech. He talked about taking responsibility, he talked about working hard, he talked about all those things that Mom and Dad talk to you about, didn’t he?”

“No.”

“Well, what did he talk about?,”  I feigned.

“I don’t remember.”

I let the poor kid have his snack and gave him a ten minute rest before I started interrogating him again.

“Did your teachers talk to you about his speech after it was over?”

“No.”

“No!”

“Did you understand his speech?”

“No, not really.”

Let’s hope the speech went over better with the 7th graders and the 17-year-olds than with the 7-year-olds.    I read the speech and was really impressed.  It was a simple message about taking responsibility for one’s actions and working hard. You can read the text here.

What did you think? And more importantly, how did the children you know react to the speech?

– Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

10 Eco-Friendly Tips for a Greener Labor Day Weekend

September 5th, 2009

It’s hard to believe that Labor Day weekend is here already. The summer has flown by. So here’s wishing you a wonderful long weekend! And to keep it green, following are my top 10 tips for greening your Labor Day weekend.

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1. Just about the first thing people think about on Labor Day is firing up the grill. This year, skip the burgers and beef hot dogs. The production of beef is a major contributor to three of the four  global warming gases   — carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane.

2. What to grill instead? How about some grilled shrimp? If you’re at the beach, head to your local seafood shop. If you’re in my neck of the woods – MoCo near DC – check out Whole Foods fantastic sales on previously frozen wild caught raw shell-on shrimp – $6 off per pound, now just $9.99 per pound instead of $15.99 per pound. It’s delicious – and a sale that Whole Foods seems to run pretty frequently, fortunately. (And if shrimp isn’t your thing, how about pasta salad, potato salad, or organic soy-based corn dogs?    Here are some other Labor Day recipe ideas).

3. Need a new grill?  My favorite  tips on solar-powered and other “green grills”are here.  at Diane MacEachern’s Big Green Purse blog.  

4. If you’re still using charcoal grills, reconsider. The prices of gas grills have dropped dramatically – I’ve seen them on sale for just $95 at KMart  – and they’re a more Earth-friendly choice than charcoal. Or if you want to splurge, check out Weber gas grills. My local hardware store,   Strosniders is running a big Labor day sale – they’ve got gas Weber grills from $399 up to $2599.

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5. If you must use charcoal, Diane MacEachern suggests using lump charcoal instead of briquettes, which may contain coal dust
and other additives. Diane says to look for hardwood briquettes from forests certified by the Rainforest Alliance’s SmartWood program, or lumps made from coconut husks. Cow boy Charcoal, sold at Lowe’s, Trader Joe’s and under the Whole Foods 365 brand, makes chunk charcoal out of wood leftover from furniture making and construction.

6.

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Need to mow the lawn to make your yard look beautiful? Forget about conventional gas and electric mowers. Go retro with a good old fashioned push mower. Not only will you help to save the planet, you’ll get real exercise too! If you must use gas or electric, how about sharing a mower with your neighbors? (And if your little one wants to copy you, you can borrow the neighbors’ plastic mower. Yes, both mowers in this pic are borrowed! Talk about Reduce, Reuse, Refuse!)

7.

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To some folks, a party’s not a party is not a party without lights. Thankfully, there are more and more  choices for LED lights, including these patriotic red, white and blue starred LEDs I found at Strosniders Hardware.  (No, I didn’t buy them, but they’re cute, aren’t they?)

8. Consider  recycled paper plates. I found the ones pictured above  at my local Giant grocery store in Bethesda, Maryland, and I’ve also seen them at “Party City” stores. They’re priced comparable to  regular paper plates. They’re cute and an eco-friendlier choice!

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9. When dusk comes, and you head inside, open the windows instead of turning on the air conditioner. You’ll save money and the environment!

10. If you’re heading back home to the big city after enjoying time at the beach, you may want to check out the local farmers markets and grocers. We pick up organic and local fruits when we are in smaller towns that enjoy a lower cost of living than our big city home town.

Have a great holiday weekend!

Lynn

– Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

Labor Day Image Credit:  AltiusDirectory.com