Growing Organic Potatoes

Growing Organic PotatoesI don’t have a green thumb, but thankfully when it comes to things like growing organic potatoes and tons of other produce, my mother, sister and brother-in-law do.

Two weekends ago it was time to start digging up the potatoes in the big garden on the homestead. My mom’s a seed-saver, which means she carefully keeps seeds from the produce she’s grown (mostly heirloom and all organic) to use for planting the next season’s crops.

Digging up organic potatoes by hand

In this case, all the potatoes in these rows are from just a few russet, white and red potatoes she kept and planted. There are various machines you can use to unearth the potatoes (which ideally grow just a couple inches under the soil), but my mom pulls hers out by hand – or by pitchfork.

Voles eating organic potatoesMy urban farmer sister, Josie, happened to be visiting from Brooklyn this weekend, so she was giving some of the odd-looking potatoes a once-over.

Some had a greenish hue, which means they grew exposed to light. You don’t want to eat those – they become toxic and can give you an upset tummy.

Other potatoes had been chewed on. Yes. CHEWED. The spuds with bite marks were completely underground (a little deeper than the un-gnawed ones), which means whatever was eating them also had to live underground. The culprits? Well, we don’t know for sure, but my sister believes them to be voles, which are little mouse-like rodents.

The good news is, when you have inedibles pulled from our garden, they don’t go to waste. Some scraps head to be composted, but many get delivered to the chickens – which they LOVE.

Chickens eating organic potatoesConvenient, right?

My mom planted only a handful of potatoes. When all’s said and done, and each row was unearthed, we ended up with a bounty that weighed in at over 100 pounds. ONE HUNDRED POUNDS! Just from a few organic potatoes.

I love sustainability.

We’re Moving to The Farm

Wagon Ride at the Farm

This summer we’re leaving Frederick.

I KNOW.

I’ve had people tell me when they think of Frederick, they think of me. It’s funny, I didn’t grow up here, but I’ve certainly planted roots since moving to Frederick in 2001. Our kids were born here. My husband grew up here.

All good things come to an end, and so our next chapter starts.

We’re moving to The Farm.

You  know, the place where my parents live, raise chickens and have huge, beautiful organic gardens? And also the place where Josie and Shawn started Truffula Seed Produce, before moving on to other farm adventures? That farm.

Chickens at the Farm

Truth be told, it’s not really a “farm” in the traditional sense, so I feel like I’m misspeaking when I call it that. It’s more of a farmette – five acres with about an acre devoted to the gardens, chickens and a big high tunnel. We’ve all just called it “The Farm” since my parents moved there from the DC suburbs 10 years ago, and the name stuck.

The rest of the land is filled with my parents’ house (the original farmhouse, built in the late-1800s), a summer kitchen adjacent to the farmhouse that was converted to a one-bedroom apartment (my paternal grandfather lives there), a three-bedroom house that was built in 2009 (my maternal grandmother lives there), and a cute log cabin.

Log Cabin at the Farm

The log cabin will likely be where a lot of my blog’s food photos will be captured – the light is stunning, and you can’t beat the exposed log walls! It’s where I filmed my video for the casting of “America’s Best Cook” on Food Network.

Liza Filming the Casting Call Video for "America's Best Cook" on Food Network

But, we won’t be living in the cabin. Don’t think our family of four would manage well in a one-bedroom space, even if it’s horribly cute!

My grandmother is moving to an assisted living home, which means her house will be empty. When they all moved out there, the idea was that it would remain a family property, a homestead, a compound of sorts. Compound sounds a little creepy, but you know – embracing the whole “it takes a village” concept. Working together as a family to keep things running.

It’s a good thing we get along so well with my parents. We’re lucky!

Kids in the Trees

Which also means on-site childcare in the form of my parents. {It’s okay to be jealous.}

You’ll be seeing a lot more farm-to-table style posts from me one we’re out there, which I’m totally excited about! My goal is to still keep my life easy to relate to even though our situation will be unique.

I still work full-time and I’m not leaving my day job. I’ll only be about 30 minutes from my current office, which makes the commute (on country roads!) manageable.

We’ll have access to the gardens and all the produce my mom grows (she still works full-time too, by the way), but I’m also going to keep my delivery from Hometown Harvest. Mmmm….

Maybe I’ll try my hand at gardening too. Or harvesting.

Raspberries on the Farm

Or maybe I’ll just stick to cooking.

The times they are a changin’.

Guest Post: The Importance of Eating Locally & Gardening with Your Children

gardening, go local, farm to table, eating locally, gardening with kids
 
Are you new to healthy living? Do you fully understand the impact of teaching children to grow their own food? Locally grown foods refer to crops grown in nearby communities opposed to their far traveled counterparts. These seemingly simple acts have the ability to strengthen local economy, clean up the environment, enhance your health and inspire a new generation.
 

Better for the Environment

Unlike crops that travel thousands of miles before making it to your plate, locally grown meat and produce have less negative impact on the environment. Less CO2 is emitted in their transportation and smaller local farms often do not use quite as many harmful chemicals and pesticides as large commercial farms. Besides all that, raising food is the best use for any large plot of land. Farmland is beautiful. Green plants mean fresh air and natural habitats not just for humans, but for all kinds of creatures.
 

More Nutritious and Full of Freshness

Crops grown locally are sold at the peak of their freshness, so they are tastier and full of more nutrients. The longer a fruit or vegetable has to travel, the less fresh it is by the time you get to eat it. Large commercial farms sometimes chemically treat or genetically modify their crops to make them last longer after being picked. Sometimes produce must be frozen or canned in order to still be good by the time it gets to you. All of these processes are detrimental to the flavor and nutritional value of your food.
 

gardening, go local, farm to table, eating locally, gardening with kids

 
Commercially raised livestock is often subjected to horrible living conditions. These animals are not allowed out to graze and are fed artificial food supplements. Local farms may be smaller, but they have fewer animals so that each can be treated more humanely. Animals that live happy and healthy free-range lives do not need to be injected with so much medicine, which is harmful to humans who consume their byproducts. Free-range livestock is happier and has stronger muscles, so their meat and milk has more nutrients to pass on to you.

 

Strengthens Local Economy

Eating locally is an easy way to strengthen your local economy. When you support local farmers, the money stays close to home and economic growth occurs within your own community. This works when you support any local merchant, but it is especially important to support local farmers. Supporting local businesses helps transfer resources into the hands of the working family as opposed to the corporate giants.
 

Saves Money

Choosing to start a backyard garden is a simple way to save money. Not only will you be rewarded with fresh produce to eat and share, you will also be saving the money you would have spent on purchasing crops elsewhere. You will often find the prices at your local farms to be lower than what you see at the grocery store.

 

go local, farm to table, guest post, gardening with kids

 
Since local crops do not need to be shipped or processed or any of the other things you are paying for when you pay top dollar for grocery store produce, a local farmer is more likely to pass the savings on to you. Any good farmer hates to see his crop go to waste, so you might even be able to strike up a barter system with your local fruit and veggie vendor if you offer a good or a service which he desires.
 

Inspires a New Generation

Gardening with your children is a beautiful form of togetherness that will educate them on the values of farming and caring for their bodies while preserving the integrity of the environment. Children who understand how natural food is grown from a young age will be more likely to eat natural food as they grow. Teaching your children about natural gardening is a great way to inspire a sense of pride in the earth and a good foundation for their future wellbeing.
 

go local, farm to table, gardening with kids

 
Eating locally and gardening with your family are a few of the easiest ways to care for yourselves and the eco-system. By encouraging local farming, you will be helping to inspire seasonal eating while cutting down on the need for outsource crops and harsh pesticide use. This simple act of keeping it local and keeping it fresh is all we need to inspire a cleaner way of eating.

 

gardening, go local, farm to table, eating locally, gardening with kidsGuest Author Bio: Maya Rodgers is a pet owner, animal lover, and small-time environmental activist who always keeps her ears open for ways to green herself and her family. She makes a living helping others combat fleas, but mostly aids people in pest consultation at Terminix. Learn more at about her passion and experience at her blog.

 
Liza’s Note: This post about the importance of eating locally and gardening with your kids is not an endorsement for Terminix, and I was not paid in any way for Maya’s opportunity to guest post today. Hope you enjoyed her thoughts as much as I did!
 

Nourishmat – Frederick’s Largest Kickstarter To Date!

I love local entrepreneurs – especially those doing good things in the food world! Earth Starter co-founders Phil and John had a dream:

 

Imagine if every kid on the block grew their own fresh veggies, and urban landscapes once known as food deserts were able to flourish. We live by a simple phrase every day – food is fuel. It’s the true fuel that drives innovation and creativity from young and experienced minds alike. More and more, Americans want to live a healthier lifestyle, yet on a limited budget that lifestyle is almost unattainable.

 

And then the idea of the Nourishmat came to fruition – a revolutionary way to grow fruits and veggies, herbs and flowers in small spaces virtually anywhere.

 

Our mission is to turn Earth’s consumers into producers. Earth Starter is helping to solve one our planets most pressing issues: sustainable and healthy food supplies. Nourishmat gardens: Grow your own and thrive!

 

This video explains it all – watch it, and then visit their Kickstarter page to find out how you can help!

 

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