Savoring Kentucky

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Savoring Kentucky showcases the wonders of Kentucky's food, farms, farmers, restaurants, chefs, distillers, brewers, orchards and markets. We applaud local food, its producers and champions. We delight in news of improvements in food and food systems. We take pleasure in fine food. We thank our wondrous sponsors for supporting our work and local goodness all around.

Pick A Little, Play a Little

So many farm-based activities are coming up in the next few days. Some farms invite you to help harvest corn. Others open their farm gates so the beauty of harvest season reaches more people. 

October 14, 2-7 PM and October 15, 12 - 3 PM: Sunflower Sundries in Mt. Olivet hosts its 25th Anniversary celebration: one part corn-picking; and then "live music and food and contests and walks and hanging out," says Jennifer Gleason. She and Jim Lally just bought a new (to them) corn picker that will change their harvests: it's a one row corn picker, made in the 1940s, that came with its original manual. Jennifer sent this photo of the cover.

Photo credit: Jennifer Gleason. Thank you!

Photo credit: Jennifer Gleason. Thank you!

Savoring Kentucky applauds Sunflower Sundries' exquisite jams, mustards, pickles, heirloom cornmeal, grits, hominy, Hickory King Collective corn chips (now including salt free!), and their fine and useful handmade soaps. Good Foods Coop carries most of these products, and they are available online.

In addition to running their farm, store and business, Jennifer and Jim make wonderful contributions to their community and to our state, adding beauty through poetry and art, and nurturing community spirit with festivals and gatherings. Savoring Kentucky salutes Sunflower Sundries. 25 years is a powerful accomplishment.

October 14 1 - 5 PM: Salamander Springs Farm holds its annual Corn Husking Party, featuring an heirloom corn harvest and husking, followed by a bonfire, potluck and music. 

October 15 2 - 4 PM: Family Farm Fun Day at certified organic Lazy Eight Stock Farm in Paint Lick.

October 18, 9 - 11 AM Certified organic Elmwood Stock Farm in Scott County hosts "From the Ground Up," the final farm tour of the year. Tickets here.

October 18, 6 PM: Smithtown Seafood and West Sixth Brewing offer authentic Puerto Rican food and a specially crafted beer, with all proceeds going to help with seeds and farm supplies for a non-profit market and restaurant, El Departamento De La Comida, that promotes sustainable farming and food access. Smithtown sous chef Agnes Marrero Rosa, who is from Puerto Rico, knows the organization's founder, Tara Rodriguez Besosa. More here.

This same weekend, October 13-15, Good Foods Coop institutes a new option for getting farmers' organic foods to consumers at affordable prices. The Truck Load Sale features organic packaged foods in cases—plus avocados. 

Last, something to consider: indoor farming on a massive scale in the Netherlands: This Tiny Country Feeds the World.

Our lives depend on farmers, farms and farming. And the farmers depend on us.

Sponsors included in this post: Elmwood Stock Farm, Good Foods Coop and Smithtown Seafood--Thank you!

Gratitude for the Life of Alison Wiediger

If you are part of the organic agriculture community in Kentucky, you probably knew Alison Wiediger of Au Naturel Farm in Smith's Grove, and recognize the impact of her leadership in sustainable year-round food production. Even if you have not heard her name before, you may be a beneficiary of Alison's work and teaching. She and her husband Paul Wiediger pioneered the use of unheated hoop houses (also called high tunnels) to extend Kentucky's growing season. They grew greens in winter and invented ways to market them directly to customers in their region. They experimented with new crops like baby ginger. They took the early risks, solved first-timer problems, and shared what they knew by writing, hosting field trips on their farm, speaking and teaching workshops.

Paul and Alison Wiediger with heirloom corn at the Kentucky Green Living Fair, 2014.

Paul and Alison Wiediger with heirloom corn at the Kentucky Green Living Fair, 2014.

Their habits of learning and sharing fit particularly well within the peer learning framework of Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (Southern SAWG). Alison's teacher bio for courses she presented at the 2013 Southern SAWG conference describes how quickly she moved from learning to teaching organic practices. In a beautiful guest essay for Savoring Kentucky, Alison attributed her cooking skills, including artisanal bread from grains she milled herself, to her grandmother.

Savoring Kentucky joins the many who mourn Alison's premature death last week, following years of struggle with Parkinson's disease. We appreciated and learned from Southern SAWG's tribute to her, and you may, too.

Paul Wiediger and Southern SAWG have established a scholarship fund to expand opportunities for interested people to learn sustainable production practices and join a committed community of growers. We are grateful for the life of Alison Wiediger, which will continue to inspire and educate people interested in the arduous, joyous work of sustainable agriculture.

Your Persimmons Are Ready!

The sweet legacy of Sherry and Geoff Maddock continues to bear fruit in Lexington's East End. Right now the persimmon trees planted for the community offer the best harvest since they were planted eight years ago. See locations here

Persimmons at the Living Arts and Science Center

Tips: The ones that fall on the ground and are intact are likely the best for eating. Ripe persimmons are deep orange, soft, and somewhat translucent. It is possible to find perfectly ripe fruit still on the tree, but be wary of any that require more than a gentle touch to release into your hand. Unripe persimmons have a justified reputation as tannic and can cause memorable mouth-puckering.

Five Spectacular Plants to Attract Bees To your Garden

As promised yesterday, here is Christy Erickson's guest post. About Christy: SavingOurBees was created by Christy Erickson. She is committed to collecting and distributing the most accurate and up-to-date resources on the bee crisis and information on how to help in your own community. Christy lives in Dallas. After trying a friend's "homemade" honey, she began learning more about backyard beekeeping and its role in sustainability.


As declining bee populations are putting worldwide biodiversity at risk, pollinator gardens are surging in popularity as an easy way to make a big difference for nature’s pollinators. These gardens provide necessary food, shelter, and water for the bees that pollinate everything from wildflowers to vegetables to livestock fodder. Pollinator gardens are a great way for the average person to contribute to wildlife habitat restoration while also bringing beauty to their home.

Planting a bee garden is a fun project, but the hardest part is deciding which plants to include. Gardens should include as much variety as possible when it comes to flower shape, color, and size. They need flowers that offer plenty of pollen and nectar to foraging bees, as opposed to hybrid flowers with intricate bloom structure. Most importantly, an effective pollinator garden needs flowers blooming in spring, summer, and fall to provide bees a home.

To get started planning the perfect plant list, here are five flowers sure to be a hit in any pollinator garden.

Bee Balm

Photo via: Pixabay Creative Commons CC0--Thank you!

Photo via: Pixabay Creative Commons CC0--Thank you!

Scarlet bee balm is a rockstar in the pollinator garden. Featuring show-stopping red blooms, this minty herb is adored by bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds alike. It’s also a perennial, so it will keep blooming year after year.

Scarlet bee balm is native to the eastern U.S., the Pacific Northwest, and Canada. It’s hardy to USDA planting zones 4-9. Bee balm grows best in full sun to partial shade and blooms in mid to late summer. Since it’s prone to powdery mildew, gardeners in humid climates should opt for full sun. It likes moist, fertile soil and will readily spread to create a lush patch.



Photo via: Pixabay Creative Commons CC0--Thank you!

Borage’s star-shaped flowers are loved by bees, but that’s not the only way this plant is useful. Borage deters pests like the hornworm and cabbage worm from the vegetable garden and its leaves and flowers bring a refreshing, cucumber-like flavor to cold drinks, salads, and soups. While it’s an annual, borage readily self-seeds.

Borage grows well in USDA Hardiness zones 2-11. It’s a low-maintenance plant that likes full sun or light shade in a well-drained soil. Depending on the climate, borage can bloom from late spring through late summer.


Photo via: Pixabay Creative Commons CC0--Thank you!

Photo via: Pixabay Creative Commons CC0--Thank you!

Lavender is a must for any pollinator garden. It’s easy to grow, a hit with bees, and has countless uses. Fragrant lavender flowers are perfect for a decorative bouquet, a soothing bubble bath, or a flavorful dessert. Gardeners can reap a sizable harvest while leaving plenty of flowers for pollinators to enjoy.

Lavender is hardy in USDA zones 5-10, but performs best in arid climates where the soil can dry out between waterings. In moist locales, planting in containers lets gardeners control soil moisture for optimal results. With so many lavender cultivars, it’s possible to find plants that bloom in spring, summer, or fall.


Photo via: Pixabay Creative Commons CC0--Thank you!

Photo via: Pixabay Creative Commons CC0--Thank you!

Sunflowers’ large blooms are a beacon for foraging bees, and with hundreds of tiny flowers on a single sunflower, bees have no shortage of pollen and nectar to collect. When the flowers die back, the hollow stem becomes a nesting site for native bee species.

Sunflowers are easy to grow in nearly any region, and most varieties bloom from midsummer to mid-fall. They’re hardy as an annual in any USDA hardiness zone, but smaller, quick-growing varieties are best suited to climates with a short growing season.

Woodland Phlox

Photo via: Pixabay Creative Commons CC0--Thank you!

Photo via: Pixabay Creative Commons CC0--Thank you!

Woodland Phlox lets you make the most of shady areas of the garden. This wild perennial can thrive in dappled sunlight, spreading across the ground to create a fragrant cover of violet blooms.

Woodland Phlox is native to woodlands in the eastern U.S. It can be grown in USDA zones 2-9. This spring-blooming plant prefers moist soil high in organic matter, much like the forest floors it calls home.

Savoring Kentucky thanks Christy Erickson for her work and for sharing this post.

Be For Bees

Isn't it funny

How a Bear likes honey?

Buzz! Buzz! Buzz!

I wonder why he does.

--A. A. Milne

My tired, clean, warm, cuddly dad read Winnie the Pooh and many other books to my younger brother and me when we were little. But when he read Pooh, and only Pooh, he often got so tickled he would laugh until he had to wipe his eyes with his pocket handkerchief. I never asked him, but I think Dad—small, a bit round, always interested in good food—may have identified a little bit with Pooh and the mishaps he brought on himself because he found honey irresistible. No wonder I have Pooh, honey, and Dad all stored in the same heartspace.

Dad kept bees when I was small, turning his most mysterious when he put on his bee suit and veil, whoofing his smoker toward the bees. I liked the honeycomb best of all.

After I left home Dad and Mother made an agreement with a beekeeper in town who needed places for hives. Bees buzzed everywhere among the huge plantings of flowers and flowering trees and shrubs, the two giant vegetable gardens and the clover that dotted the lawn. When Mr. Dishman came to harvest the honey, the share he left behind overwhelmed the kitchen.

Bees sometimes visit our downtown yard, especially in early spring. (The tiny video above shows a busy bee in our crocuses.) We have gradually learned to leave herbs and other flowering plants alone as long as possible to feed the bees and pollinators. We have also learned that many insects pollinate the plants all around us, including some sizable bumblebees that have always claimed residence near our back door. (See the array of pollinators in the slightly longer video below.)

Recently Christy Erickson contacted me to ask whether she could write a guest post for Savoring Kentucky. Christy, who lives in Dallas, founded Saving Our Bees after she tasted a friend's fresh backyard honey. Regular Savoring Kentucky readers may know that guest posts here are rare. Christy's work, though, merits a wider audience. She has our future in her heartspace, and bees play a lead role. So look for her useful, short post tomorrow, and expect to learn about pollinator plants we can grow in Kentucky to support bee health.


Oh Yes—Eggs!

In case you have lots of hard-boiled eggs on hand, set up teams in the kitchen and hold a deviled egg competition. Southern Living shares 20 Ways With Deviled Eggs. The New York Times's inimitable Mark Bittman suggests three deviled options and nine other great ideas for savoring hard-boiled eggs in Get Cracking.

You may find your neighbors or farmers' market offering eggs from hens that add natural color to their egg shells. Cherish these!

Egg salad made from nothing more than hard-boiled eggs and homemade mayonnaise adds simple happy lusciousness to any day. Grate the eggs on the large holes of a box grater to get a scrumptious texture.

Add what's handy—like spring green onion tops—if you like.

Access to perfect, healthy eggs from small farms and backyards marks one of the great improvements in local food systems in the last 10 years. Eggs offer good, no-waste protein that's affordable even at the top of the price range, and their uses in the kitchen approach infinity. Nothing beats an egg. (Ahem.)

This Particular Spring

This is not the spring we imagined. Not the one reverse engineered in our memory—an orderly succession of blooms: wondrous witch hazel and helleborus cross-fading into crocus and star magnolia, then forsythia and daffodils, then weeping cherry and saucer magnolia and tulips and orchard fruits and crab apples and redbuds and straight on through dogwoods.

This particular spring jags and twists, delivering as it pleases. Crocuses bloomed before hellebores. Plum blossoms opened alongside forsythia. 

All springs proceed fitfully, really. This spring more so, with its long stretches of days and nights that feel too warm and look too grey. We can't tell if it's still early spring—it's March in Kentucky, so maybe—or if we had early spring in January and summer will race in ahead of Derby Day.

And yet, this spring is wonderful. It's the only spring we get this year. The only daffodils and parrot tulips, the only tender green spring onions, pointing the way out of winter foods toward Kentucky's lush growing season.

In March, food from elsewhere nourishes as we wait for Kentucky's own good foods to appear.

In March, food from elsewhere nourishes as we wait for Kentucky's own good foods to appear.

The shy heritage daffodil, Mrs. R. O. Backhouse, liked this particular spring and showed it in numbers.

The shy heritage daffodil, Mrs. R. O. Backhouse, liked this particular spring and showed it in numbers.

Mount Hood, too, bloomed more than ever this spring. 

Mount Hood, too, bloomed more than ever this spring. 

Lots of good work and ideas sprout all around us this spring. As in the natural world, some, like visionary Chef Ouita Michel's forthcoming Honeywood restaurant, root deeply in the people, culture and natural assets of Kentucky and its land. Ouita explains beautifully here.

Good Foods Coop hosted a day dedicated to seeds, soil and gardening, where I relearned something forgotten since childhood: some vegetable bits can grow more of themselves, helping us boost fresh food in winter via "scrap gardening."

Some veggies regrow—some.

Some veggies regrow—some.

Beet greens fans, rejoice!

Beet greens fans, rejoice!

Chef Tanya White, who heads up the fine teaching kitchen at UK Food Connection, found local winter vegetables to use in teaching student Chef Ambassadors how to teach others to cook.

As part of the University of Kentucky's Year of South Asia, the Food Connection kitchen accommodated dozens of cooks and eaters for a Parsi meal, guided by guest chef Zavera Kanga. Volunteer helpers eagerly stirred from both sides of the stove, set up additional cooking stations on side counters, and made a feast together. Then, of course, we ate it.

Cooking Parsi celebratory dishes for Nowruz 2017 at UK's Food Connection.

Cooking Parsi celebratory dishes for Nowruz 2017 at UK's Food Connection.

Oh, and a basketball game or two occupied a lot of people. The players on the University of Kentucky's men's basketball team this year endeared themselves to us through their good natures, smarts, and of course their skill with the lob. It ended sooner than we wanted, on a brilliant Sunday afternoon. The Gardener and I watched, as is our habit, at West Sixth Brewery, which turns five this weekend and feels like it has been in place for a lifetime. The romance continues between West Sixth beer (and Kentucky Kombucha) and the remarkable dishes Smithtown Seafood produces just through the open passageway, to the happiness of all of us patrons. 

The tap room at West Sixth Brewery.

The tap room at West Sixth Brewery.

Fun with radio continues. Hot Water Cornbread: Kentucky Food Radio broadcasts every Tuesday at noon ET on 93.9 WLXU LP-FM, thanks to Lexington Community Radio, founded by social entrepreneur, public servant and State Farm insurance agent Debra Hensley, aka Astonishing Human.

My marvelous Hot Water Cornbread co-hosts Chris Michel (left) and Ouita Michel.

My marvelous Hot Water Cornbread co-hosts Chris Michel (left) and Ouita Michel.

For our latest show, Cathy and Harkey Edwards of Harkness Edwards Vineyards described the trials and triumphs of learning to grow great wine grapes in Kentucky and then "not mess them up" when making great wine. From left, Chris Michel, Ouita Michel, Harkey Edwards, Cathy Edwards.

For our latest show, Cathy and Harkey Edwards of Harkness Edwards Vineyards described the trials and triumphs of learning to grow great wine grapes in Kentucky and then "not mess them up" when making great wine. From left, Chris Michel, Ouita Michel, Harkey Edwards, Cathy Edwards.

Out of doors, this spring's surprises continue. Viburnum (V. x judii) flowered early, making for an unusual combination in a recent tiny bouquet: delicate Kentucky native blood root (white, in the center, Sanguinaria) along with grape hyacinths (Muscari) and the deeply fragrant white-pink viburnum. At the very least, this particular spring smells heavenly.

Subscribe here to get Savoring Kentucky blog posts in your email inbox. No hassle, no spam, just Kentucky's growing goodness.

FCC disclosure: this post mentions Chef Ouita Michel, of The Ouita Michel Family of Restaurants, three of which sponsor Savoring Kentucky. Other sponsors included in this post: Debra Hensley's Social Stimulus; Good Foods Coop, Smithtown Seafood. Thank you. Our sponsors keep Savoring Kentucky going.

Keeping Up With The Radio

Only a lucky few in central Lexington get to listen to Lexington Community Radio's WLXL (95.7, El Pulso) and WLXU (93.9) live, right on the radio, as a broadcast. People anywhere in the world can listen through the live stream on the stations' website. And many show hosts publish recordings, aka "podcasts," after each live show.

The Hot Water Cornbread: Kentucky Food Radio shows that I get to do each week with Chef Ouita Michel and Chef/Sommelier Chris Michel help us get to know friends of Kentucky's own food system better. The one-hour on-air visits introduce us to new ideas and new people, too. 

Two weeks ago we enjoyed our time with Kristy and Steve Matherly of Sunrise Bakery. Listen here.

Steve and Kristy Matherly of Sunrise Bakery, Lexington, Kentucky

Steve and Kristy Matherly of Sunrise Bakery, Lexington, Kentucky

Photo credit: Copper and Kings

Photo credit: Copper and Kings

This week we learned from Lockbox Chef Jonathan Searle about the first birthday party for 21c Museum Hotel Lexington, and then we got inside information on an impressive new opportunity in Louisville to attend an intensive 14-week course in spirits, hospitality and bartending. Listen here.

The Ideal Bartender School, inspired by Louisville native Tom Bullock. One hundred years ago Mr. Bullock, an African American bartender, wrote a cocktail recipe book, The Ideal Bartender, still in use today. Copper and Kings intends for the course to provide in-depth skills and technical preparation for people facing face disadvantages in finding good jobs. The deadline to apply is March 31.  

Barbour's Farm in Hart County: One of 0.5 Percent of Kentucky Farms with Black Ownership

André Barbour and Teheran Jewell of Barbour's Farm want to bring their farm-raised Hart County goodness straight to your door—even if you live in Lexington or Louisville. After some years of ramping up production of vegetables, chickens, dairy cows, beef cattle and hogs on the Barbour family's 150 acres—and after three previous generations of farmers in André's family have tried other markets—it's time to connect directly with eaters, and bring the goodness to new customers. "We sell in four states," says Teheran. "We don't sleep much."

André and Teheran came to Lexington, and brought their friend Shanika Chappell of Bowling Green with them, to be our guests on this week's Hot Water Cornbread radio show. Listen here.

From left: Teheran Jewell, André Barbour, Shanika Chappell

From left: Teheran Jewell, André Barbour, Shanika Chappell

André and Teheran want their new CSA (Community Supported Agriculture subscription) to feed you during this growing season, even if you think you might not be able to afford a CSA. To introduce their farm and food to Lexington, Louisville and other cities, get 10 interested friends together and get in touch with them. They will bring samples and meet with faith groups, neighborhood associations and others. (They can cook.) Text or call André at (270) 777-5881 and Teheran at (270) 392-1399.

This year Barbour's Farm also launches an aggregate station just off I-65 in Hart County where restaurants and the public can buy a wide array of farm-raised foods. André says this fixed cost, accessible, one stop shop will make buying good ingredients much easier for cooks and chefs.

In 2014 the Courier-Journal's Jere Downs wrote this excellent article about André Barbour's farming and his importance in provisioning early Fresh Stop CSAs as part of Lousville's New Roots, Inc. Downs reported that African-Americans own 437 of Kentucky's 77,000 farms, according to the 2012 census. That's about one-half of one percent, in a state with a black population of about eight percent.

Quite a crew outside the toasty WLXU studio at Lexington Community Radio: from left, Matthew, a videographer/intern from the University of Kentucky, Teheran Jewell, Chris Michel, Ouita Michel, Shanika Chappell of International Center of Kentucky in Bowling Green, and André Barbour.

Quite a crew outside the toasty WLXU studio at Lexington Community Radio: from left, Matthew, a videographer/intern from the University of Kentucky, Teheran Jewell, Chris Michel, Ouita Michel, Shanika Chappell of International Center of Kentucky in Bowling Green, and André Barbour.

Encore: Here's what will be useful to these farmers, their farm, and you: Organize a group of 10 people or more and invite André and Teheran to introduce their farm and food, and their new direct sales options. They will explain the benefits of their CSA, with all its options to make good food affordable. They will come with food, experience, good humor, and crucial access to a season of excellent food. Text or call André at (270) 777-5881 and Teheran at (270) 392-1399.

Do you want a little more? See André Barbour on Facebook and check out A Taste of Jewell Farm.

Busy Busy

The crocuses came early, and our community sweeties, the honeybee pollinators, buzzed out of their hives early too, and went straight to their fuzzy-legged work. 

February 12, 2017. The first time I've seen crocuses blooming on Lincoln's birthday. Busy bee came immediately.

February 12, 2017. The first time I've seen crocuses blooming on Lincoln's birthday. Busy bee came immediately.

As the world greens and blooms early, busy growers are planting. Even with the utter mysteries of our new climate, we all trust food will grow, and we will eat.

  • Regional farms invite our participation in their growing season through subscriptions (CSAs, many listed here.)
  • Food system architects at FoodChain intend to dazzle and engage us at a purposeful FEAST on Tuesday, March 14 as they build new capacities for teaching, processing, and using more of our region's food.
  • Skilled entrepreneurs keep inventing new ways to encourage healthy eating (see Kate Horning's A Healthy Passion meal kits and menu planning with Whole Foods markets, and Rowena Maloch's Realistic FoodEs blog).
  • Get seeds and get growing (and support a superb organization) at the ninth annual GleanKY two day heritage seed sale, March 4 and 5. 
  • Sing "Happy (first) Birthday" to 21C Museum Hotel Lexington during Gallery Hop on March 17 at ART + Soul (cocktails, art talk and tour). Also in March, Chef Jonathan Searle at Lockbox, the 21C restaurant, offers a Fork + Bottle dinner as well as Jonathan's Table, a series of specially priced prix fixe meals for two; each meal includes a bottle of wine. 
  • At the University of Kentucky's discovery-oriented Food Connection, charismatic Chef Tanya Whitehouse coaches students to become cooking ambassadors, inspires research teams and academic investigations with excellent Kentucky meals, and invites all of us to stretch out into storied cuisines with hands-on cooking classes like Vibrant Table: Parsi Cooking on Thursday, March 9, part of the University's Year of South Asia. (See the beautiful poster. Buy tickets.)

We've been busy at Hot Water Cornbread: Kentucky Food Radio, too. Our two most recent shows:


Last fall, along with crocus bulbs, fabulous photographer Sarah Jane Sanders and I planted some work that blossomed this week. Enjoy Great Bites in the Bluegrass State: What to Eat in Kentucky, our photo essay for Food Network's online magazine.

Bonus: The Crocus Awards. The crocuses so impressed me this spring with their energy and abundance that I handed out some special awards. 

Most Exuberant, 2017

Most Exuberant, 2017

Best Use of Available Props, 2017

Best Use of Available Props, 2017

Sunniest Surprise, 2017

Sunniest Surprise, 2017


Subscribe here to get Savoring Kentucky blog posts in your email inbox. No hassle, no spam, just Kentucky's growing goodness.

FCC disclosure: this post mentions Chef Ouita Michel, of The Ouita Michel Family of Restaurants, three of which sponsor Savoring Kentucky.


Leo Keene and Blue Moon Farm: Garlic Glory, and Giving Chefs What They Want

Some people in the world of Kentucky food pop up in Savoring Kentucky so consistently they are like those trusted perennials that structure good gardens. Leo and Jean Pitches Keene and their Blue Moon Farm are in that group. I searched this site and stopped counting at 50 posts over the last 11 years. Now we've added Leo's voice to our Hot Water Cornbread podcast collection. Be not afraid! Listen here to the January 31 show. (Click the orange circle/white arrow. Technology does the rest for you, unless you happen to have muted your device.)

Leo and Jean Pitches Keene photographed themselves and their garlic braids before shipping the braids to New York City for an appearance on the "Today" show with guest chef Jamie Oliver in 2006. 

Leo and Jean Pitches Keene photographed themselves and their garlic braids before shipping the braids to New York City for an appearance on the "Today" show with guest chef Jamie Oliver in 2006. 

During our radio show, Leo tells about becoming a garlic producer with a constant additional job of educating new garlic customers, including chefs. He talks chef talk with Chefs Ouita and Chris Michel. He sketches the story of his and Jean's involvement with garlic and where that led. For one thing, garlic led to more Blue Moon crops, and then marketing Blue Moon crops led to helping other growers get their good food into local restaurants. As we learn from Leo about his work as aggregator, distributor, dispatcher and overall nudger of food from farm to restaurants and home kitchens, we sent big radio-wave appreciation to Chef John Foster, unwavering champion of local farms and their products.**

Jean and Leo moved to Kentucky as antique dealers in the 80s, and changed paths a bit after they began growing their own garlic—who knew it was possible then? Who ate garlic in Kentucky? Thanks to Blue Moon, it's a Kentucky flavor now. Blue Moon alone grows 40,000—50,000 garlic plants each year, with separate harvests of tens of thousands of mild-tasting, easy-to-use garlic scapes.* 

If you are a home cook, look for Leo and Jean at the Lexington Farmers Market starting April 1. If you are a chef or bulk buyer of fine local foods, contact Leo at garlic<at>bluemoongarlic<dot>com to become part of his distribution and delivery system.

Bonus for reading this far: here are links to and excerpts from three of many Savoring Kentucky posts about Blue Moon:

Gratitude for Garlic , 2006:

This year when I count my Thanksgiving blessings, I will include the 50,000 garlic cloves Leo and Jean plant by hand in early winter, jump-starting next year's growing season before most of us have finished celebrating this year's plenty. Even more, I will be grateful for Jean and Leo themselves, knowing they may be outside planting garlic as I am buttering my homemade roll. Jean says, "There are many years when we've worked on Thanksgiving Day, trying to get planted before bad weather."

Roots-N-All: Garlic From Nose To Tail (Just About), 2009

Blue Moon Farm's Jean Keene told me this, so I tried it -- tried it out on other people, too. Yes, the cleaned roots of green garlic are edible. Tasty, in fact. Delicious.

Garlic Scape Pesto, 2011

In the summer of 2011, when my excellent husband's garlic crop first yielded a pesto-worthy quantity of scapes—the flexible, musical-looking pencil-thin green flower stems of hard-neck garlic—I cheekily asked Leo Keene, aka Mr. Blue Moon, how to make pesto with my own scapes. After all, as I told him, it is his fault that my household now plants 16 square feet of Blue Moon cloves near Halloween each year, harvests tender green garlic in March and April, rejoices in an additional tender crop of the scapes in June, and finally pulls an aromatic harvest of fat garlic bulbs out of the ground the following July 4.

*A scape is a stalk hard-neck garlic produces when it forms the intention to flower and produce seed, but smart growers snip that stalk off when it is still tender, with two beneficial results. First, the garlic plant can relax and put all its energy into those cloves that will be ready for harvest in another few weeks. And second, cooks make fine garlic scape dishes like these.

**Go to The Sage Rabbit for ongoing Chef John Foster goodness. Dishes from last week: 

"Roasted chicken risotto in a rosemary parsnip cream with shiitakes and spinach"
"Oven roasted Elmwood Stock Farm chicken breast with roasted garlic smashed potatoes, roasted greens and a caramelized rum onion pan sauce."

Note that garlic. Thank you, Leo, Jean, and Blue Moon.


Well, the Weather. . . .

This ain't right.

Spring crocuses on N. Martin Luther King Boulevard, Lexington, Kentucky, January 31, 2017

Spring crocuses on N. Martin Luther King Boulevard, Lexington, Kentucky, January 31, 2017

Those were the words that popped into my head yesterday, January 31, 2017. As I walked to the wonderful Lexington Community Radio studios to do the weekly Hot Water Cornbread radio show, these blooming crocuses stopped me still. I'd like a word for the mixture of joy strangled by sorrow that welled up. But "This ain't right"—that's what I got. It's too early for crocuses in Kentucky. And there are the crocuses.

Hiroki Tabuchi reported in a strong business article in Sunday's New York Times that midwest growers, who live at the epicenter of what ain't right with our climate, call it "the weather" as they work to adapt to changing farming conditions. The growers who came to Southern SAWG's annual gathering in Lexington last week may use different language while facing similar challenges. 

The people who grow our food now face each new growing season knowing they don't know what to expect. They are pioneering, working to adapt to new experiences each year.  At Southern SAWG, Alfred Farris, who grows certified organic grain in Tennessee, described the successes with weed reduction on his Windy Acres Farm from 30 years of careful, wise stewardship—and then came a crazy weather pattern in 2016. The soybean fields filled with cockleburs for the first time, and the harvest included about half cocklebur-half soybean by volume, requiring massive amounts of extra cleaning work.

We can take the risks with our growers. CSAs are one fine way to do that. CSA signups are happening all over the country right now. Check Local Harvest for good options.


Military Veterans Who Farm: Finding Each Other Means Finding the Missing Mission and Community

"Read Tribe." 

Heads nodded all over the room when two military veterans from Texas-based Farmers Assisting Returning Military—FARM—made that suggestion to a full room at Southern SAWG's annual gathering in Lexington last week. I immediately reserved one of the copies available in many formats at the wonderful Lexington Public Library

Tribe's subtitle: "On Homecoming and Belonging." FARM's tagline: "The power of community." The tagline of North Carolina-based Veterans Healing Farm: "Cultivating Life Through Community."

John Mahsie, an Air Force vet who founded Veterans Healing Farm, told the group, "Getting out of the military leaves two big gaps: a loss of community and a loss of mission. And society is not all that patient with people who are trying to figure things out."  For the two veterans with FARM, the cost of those losses include 11 suicides among the returned veterans in their unit.

Around the country veterans are finding a new mission and new community in the demanding work of farming, growing food, and feeding others. The Farmer Veterans Coalition is a national nonprofit group working in support of veterans in agriculture. The FVC includes Homegrown by Heroes, a marketing program the Kentucky Department of Agriculture launched that now operates in many states.  

FVC also operates the Farmer Veteran Fellowship Fund, which "provides direct assistance to veterans in their beginning years of farming or ranching." Applications for this year's fellowships open on February 1, with an application deadline of March 20. Details here. Tell a vet, please.







Southern SAWG: The 2017 Podcast (with a Chinese Lunar New Year Dessert)

On the eve of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group 2017 annual gathering and trade show, Executive Director Steve Muntz and long-time grower-participant Jane O'Tiernan joined Ouita and Chris Michel and me today on Hot Water Cornbread, our weekly radio show on food and foodways. Southern SSAWG is in Lexington, Kentucky this week. Walk-up registration information here (scroll down).

We talked with Steve and Jane about what makes SSAWG special, what new farmers need to do and know, how SSAWG defines sustainability, and what to expect at this year's event. Listen here. (Click that big red circle with its white arrow.) We finish the show with a short, lively lesson from Culinary Evangelist Dan Wu on how Chinese new year traditions like sticky rice and fish grow out of homonyms in the Chinese language. 

Enjoy photos from 2016 SSAWG, mostly from the trade show. 



Southern SAWG Makes Your Life Better

To have the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group in town is to welcome the most important people in our world: those who feed us perfectly grown food while making soil, water and air better. It's like having the International Olympics Committee or the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences or the National Collegiate Athletic Association in town—except Southern SAWG is matters more. 

Because how do we get food? We either grow it, find it, or buy it. Most people reading this post buy most of their food. When you buy from Southern SAWG members, you buy the best, and you vote for earth's future. Simple and profound.

Sustainably grown Kentucky food

Sustainably grown Kentucky food

You can walk up and register for any part of Southern SAWG's amazing conference this week. Read and salivate over the full conference schedule. Fill out the registration form here (scroll down) and bring it to the Lexington Convention Center here

More reasons to go: Southern SAWG showcases practitioners teaching practitioners. The people in front of the room or leading tours on farms and campuses practice sustainable agriculture. They value learning from each other, growing new understanding of the intricacies and wonders of topics like seed saving and permaculture and mixed species grazing—and they faithfully share what they know. Women and people of color lead many sessions, bringing the healthy principle of diversity into play even in conference management.

Here's a sample of deep learning opportunities from each day of Southern SAWG, January 25-28, one option from among many offered each day:

  • Wednesday, January 25 Short Courses (all day intensives): Mixing and Matching Cattle, Sheep and Goats on Pasture, with instructors Ann Wells of Ozark Pasture Beef, LLC (AR) and Greg Brann, USDA/NRCS (TN).
  • Thursday, January 26 Field Trip: Permanent Culture: Creating a Commercial Permacuture Farm, at Salamander Springs Farm in Kentucky's Appalachian Foothills, with Susana Lein
  • Friday, January 27 90-minute concurrent session: Save on Farm Costs Through Farmer-to-Farmer Sharing, presented by Frank Taylor (MS) and Tim MacAller (NC)
  • Saturday, January 28 90-minute concurrent session: The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Raising Pastured Poultry, presented by Andre Barbour (KY)

Add in seed swapping, a trade show, a Taste of Kentucky banquet, state networking sessions, keynote addresses and thousands of rich conversations over coffee, in hallways, over lunches.

If you are interested in sustainable agriculture as its most expert practitioners understand it, this is the week to be at Southern SAWG's Annual Conference and Trade Show at Lexington's Convention Center. 

Bonus for reading this far: Tuesday, January 24 at 12 PM ET, Chefs Ouita and Chris Michel and I host SSAWG Executive Director Steve Muntz and grower Jane O'Tiernan on Hot Water Cornbread: Kentucky Food Radio at Lexington Community Radio's WLXU 93.9 LP FM. Watch this space for the post of the podcast from that show.

Bonus Bonus: Southern SAWG events and ties improve the knowledge and skills of growers who work primarily at small and medium scale, increasingly recognized as the most productive and sustainable scale for the earth's future. 



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