Going MAD to Stay Sane & Planting Seeds for New Beginnings

Screen shot 2013-08-26 at 12.06.55 PMIt’s back to school for the youngsters, and with it a rush of new beginnings and inspiration. In Copenhagen this weekend, the third annual MAD Symposium engaged chefs, cooks and farmers in a platform for idea-sharing, collaboration and learning. A catalyst resulting in grassroots change with global purpose. You can follow along and view past videos on the MAD website and blog. Today, California chef David Kinch presented on how restaurants can set up their own farms. Bravo to the organizers for bringing important conversations to the table, stimulating our own creativity and challenging us to think differently.

Here at home, South Florida farmers are readying for the upcoming winter/spring 2014 season, and for the first time The Genuine Hospitality Group chefs are working with forager Chris Padin to identify new heirloom ingredients to grow with them.

Chef de Cuisine Niven Patel is spearheading the effort, seed books in hand, sharing what he learned from his experience at former post The Brasserie in Grand Cayman, a restaurant with its own edible garden. We eagerly await the list of heritage seeds to be planted, compiled from The Cypress Room, Harry’s Pizzeria and MGFD HQ. With them comes not only delicious produce but old stories resurfaced and made new again, uncovering forgotten knowledge.

Margie Pikarsky of Bee Heaven Farm also has seeds on her mind. Margie has volunteered to take on the yeoman’s work of garden caretaker at Phillis Wheatley Elementary where for the fourth year we will re-plant its school garden beds for the fourth and fifth grade Science Club and engage students in learning about real food and where it comes from. We couldn’t be more pleased to have her onboard as she brings way more than a wealth of farming knowledge to the table. Margie is an educator at heart and great with youngsters.

“I’d like them to do some learning prior to actually planting,” she recently emailed ramping up for the start of school. “We should schedule the planting around the 1st week of October, weather permitting. If we miss that window, then the week after GrowFest! will be perfect (GrowFest! is Oct 19-20 at the Fruit & Spice Park. I want to give the kids a short list of plants and varieties, from which they will choose X number to plant (we’ll provide the guidance). Some will be seeds, some will be starts. They will need to read up on the crops we’re planting, learn a bit of their history for the heirlooms (social science teacher? How do heirlooms happen? How were they important in settling this country? Etc.) Since these are primarily 5th graders, they should be able to do some basic math problems figuring out how much space they have and how many seeds or plants they can put in a row for their chosen plants (note: let’s get the math teacher involved as well!)”

We’ll be auditing this course, Margie! After solarizing the beds at the end of the school year, they are almost ready to plant, and Ellie and I will be there this Friday to check each of the beds that left covered. If they’re uncovered, now is the time to pull up whatever weeds grew, put them back in to compost, and cover back up tightly to re-solarize the beds. That will help with bugs and weeds later on, she advises. Also on the syllabus this year is designing and building some trellising for the pole beans and the tomatoes, which will need to be completed in September before we actually plant. We have a new teacher on board, Ms. Chynita Everson and with Margie’s help this year will be a great success. Lucky kids, lucky us.

As laypeople, you too can participate. Sign up for Teena’s Pride Farm’s CSA farm share program now enrolling for the coming harvest (boxes hit your neighborhood pick-up location the week of November 4.) Also, Chris’s new farm share business we told you about a few weeks back is another option, offering product from multiple farms.

To new beginnings…

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