Written by Stephen Exel
In Birmingham, once-vacant lots teem with fruit and lettuce. An inner-city greenhouse feeds a community in Milwaukee. Backyard garden plots in Denver redefine the locavore movement. In Portland, city farmland doubles as an open-air classroom. A farm with lush Ice Age soil in New York nurtures prized heirloom vegetables. Five urban farms, five methods, one goal: to teach us where our food comes from—and how to make the most of it.
From Farm: Will Allen founded Growing
Power in 1993 in a Milwaukee neighborhood
where Big Macs and fries were more
accessible than carrots and apples.
Today, Growing Power has sprouted more
than 70 offshoots, providing training and
technical assistance to city farmers, while
also supplying local markets and restaurants.
Will’s vision and vigor earned him a
MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” and
he was invited to help launch Let’s Move,
first lady Michelle Obama’s health and
fitness initiative for kids. Still, his favorite
occupation is digging in the soil with kids,
encouraging vegetables and minds to grow.
To table: Chef Jan Kelly, owner of the
Milwaukee restaurant Meritage, met Will
seven years ago and has been buying
produce from Growing Power since. “He’s
bringing the urban farm concept to the
world,” Jan says. “He’s teaching people to
grow fresh food for themselves.”
A variety of produce infuses these
flatbreads with garden-fresh flavor.
Yield: 4 servings
1. In a large skillet, saute onion in 1
Tbsp. oil for 3 minutes. Add the
zucchini, red pepper, herbs, salt and
pepper; saute 4-5 minutes longer or
until vegetables are crisp-tender.
2. Brush pita breads with
remaining oil. Top with
vegetables and sausage if desired;
sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 400°
for 15–18 minutes or until cheese
Nutrition Facts: 1 pizza
(calculated without sausage)
equals 280 calories, 10 g
fat (3 g saturated fat), 8 mg
cholesterol, 523 mg sodium, 40 g
carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 9 g protein.
From Farm: The sprawling Zenger
Farm first supported crops almost 100
years ago. In 1994, the city bought
the land to preserve as a farm and
watershed. A year later, the land was
cultivated again, this time in partnership
with local schools, which use the
farm to teach city kids about land
stewardship, healthy eating and more.
Zenger Farm raises everything from
fruits and veggies to eggs, honey and
heritage-breed turkeys. The farm just
started a low-income Community
Supported Agriculture program that
allows families to pay weekly with
money or food stamps.
As for the students who come here
to learn what chickens eat and how
bees make honey, their numbers have
been shooting up like corn in July.
“The first year we had just a handful
of kids in our classes,” says Executive
Director Jill Kuehler. “Now we have
4,500 a year.” Her goal is to develop
the CSA into a model for other farms
and expand youth education programs
to yearlong cycles, moving between
schools and farm.
“Any time I see a kid pull a carrot or
potato out of the ground and see where
his food comes from, that ‘aha’ moment
is a great experience,” she says.
To table: Chef Adam Sappington
from the Country Cat Dinner House
in Portland has to restrain himself
from buying everything Zenger has to
offer. “The work behind the produce
transfers to the food with passion and
knowledge,” he says. “There’s not
only an abundance of produce, but an
amazing education program for kids
and adults alike. They are spreading
Creamy dressing and poached
egg combine for a luxurious dish
you won’t soon forget.
Yield: 4 servings
1. In a food processor, combine the
juices, egg yolk and garlic; cover
and process until blended. While
processing, gradually add oil in a
steady stream. Season with salt.
Add herbs; cover and process
until combined. Transfer to a
bowl; whisk in enough cream to
reach desired consistency. Cover
and refrigerate until serving.
2. Cut lettuce into four wedges (cut
from top to stem end); set aside.
3. Place 2-3 in. of water in a
large skillet with high sides; add
vinegar. Bring to a boil; reduce
heat and simmer gently. Break
cold eggs, one at a time, into a
custard cup or saucer; holding
the cup close to the surface of the
water, slip each egg into water.
4. Cook, uncovered, until whites
are completely set and yolks are
still soft, about 4 minutes. With a
slotted spoon, lift eggs out of water.
5. To serve, spread a small amount
of dressing onto four salad plates.
Top each with a lettuce wedge and
an egg. Spoon additional dressing
over top and season with salt and
Nutrition Facts: 1 serving equals
599 calories, 61 g fat (9 g saturated
fat), 263 mg cholesterol, 95 mg
sodium, 7 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber,
9 g protein.
From Farm: After working on
farming projects in Australia,
Mongolia and Mexico, Edwin Marty
came home to Birmingham in 2001
determined to turn the city’s empty
warehouses and vacant lots into
“The idea was to give back to the
city,” Edwin says. “Birmingham has the
second highest rate of childhood obesity.
Wouldn’t it be cool to have a food culture
that’s a healthy, economical, productive
part of the community?”
Edwin now oversees one suburban
and two inner-city farms, selling
organic produce, herbs and flowers to
fund educational programs, healthy
eating and sustainable agriculture. The
downtown location includes 38 farm
plots rented to neighbors.
“When you re-localize the food
product so it comes from the
neighborhood, kids get excited,”
Edwin says. “Health goes up.”
Recently, the farm started
supplying snacks to a local day camp
for kids from low-income families.
Chips out; fresh fruit in. Cantaloupe
was a big hit. One girl who relished a
plum said she’d never had one before.
Jones Valley is making an impact,
says local food writer Lisa Gaddy
Frederick. “Edwin Marty is a guy with
a great vision,” she says. “We’re lucky
to have him, and need more like him!”
To table: Chef Chris Harrigan, owner
of Stones Throw Bar & Grill in Mount
Laurel, Alabama, once took a two-year
hiatus from cooking to deliver organic
produce. “Any time you can get
vegetables just hours old, the texture
and flavor is 100 times better,” he
says. “Edwin is beating the drum
about nutrition and raising awareness
about the relationship between health
and organic produce.”
The tomato vinaigrette captures summer’s essence.
1. Place tomatoes in a food
processor; cover and process
until smooth. Add the vinegar,
oil, shallot and garlic; cover and
process for 15 seconds. Season
with salt and pepper.
2. In large bowl, gently combine
shrimp and crab. Fold in 1 cup
vinaigrette. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl, beat egg white
until stiff peaks form. Remove
corn from cobs; transfer to a large
bowl. Stir in the whole egg, flour,
sugar, chives, salt and pepper.
Fold in egg white.
4. Heat butter in a large nonstick
skillet over high heat until
hot. Working in batches, drop
batter by tablespoonfuls into
skillet, adding additional butter
if necessary. Reduce heat to
medium; cook for 2-3 minutes on
each side or until golden brown.
5. To serve, add arugula to shrimp
mixture; gently toss to coat.
Arrange corn cakes on each of
four serving plates. Top each with
salad and drizzle with additional
vinaigrette. Sprinkle with chives.
Nutrition Facts: 1 serving equals
357 calories, 17 g fat (4 g saturated
fat), 203 mg cholesterol, 460 mg
sodium, 24 g carbohydrate, 3 g
fiber, 29 g protein.
From Farm: Colorado native Sundari
Kraft, inspired by an urban farming
project in Boulder and by Barbara
Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable,
Miracle, founded Heirloom Gardens,
an urban farm and Neighborhood
Supported Agriculture (NSA) program.
She offers classes in cooking,
gardening and, for the adventurous,
raising backyard chickens and goats.
“I realized I could grow enough
to feed my family and sell the rest,”
Sundari explains. She spread the
gospel and got others interested.
The system is simple: A homeowner
applies to have a garden created,
and Sundari organizes apprentices
to install and maintain it. The family
uses what it needs, and the rest is
distributed to the apprentices, the
NSA, or a nearby farmers market.
“The neighborhood becomes
invested in what’s happening and takes
ownership,” Sundari says. “It’s about
empowering people and encouraging
them to start where they live.”
As its name implies, Heirloom
Gardens also is dedicated to
preserving vegetable varieties
in danger of dying out because
they don’t fit into industrial-scale
agriculture. Sundari and her partners
grow 15 kinds of squash and more
than 20 types of tomatoes on their
27,000 square feet of land.
To table: In true NSA fashion, we
didn’t have to travel far to find a chef
who uses Heirloom Gardens’ bounty.
Sundari herself teaches cooking
classes and posts recipes to her
This recipe makes ingenious use of the beet greens.
Yield: 6 servings
1. Trim beet greens and set aside. Cut
beets in half and rub with 1 Tbsp.
olive oil. Wrap red and golden
beets separately in foil. Bake at
400° for 1 hour or until tender.
2. Meanwhile, place green beans
in a large saucepan and cover with
salted water. Bring to a boil. Cover
and cook for 5-6 minutes or until
3. Cut cheese into ¼-in. slices or
roll into bite-sized balls. Coat with
walnuts. Remove beets from foil.
When cool enough to handle, peel
beets and cut into wedges.
4. Coarsely chop beet greens. In
large skillet, heat remaining olive
oil over medium heat. Add beet
greens; cook until lightly wilted.
Season with salt.
5. To serve, arrange beet greens
on a serving platter. Top with
beets, green beans and cheese.
Sprinkle lightly with garlic oil.
Season with salt and pepper.
Nutrition Facts: 1 serving
(calculated without salt and garlic
oil) equals 167 calories, 13 g fat (3
g saturated fat), 13 mg cholesterol,
116 mg sodium, 9 g carbohydrate,
3 g fiber, 5 g protein.
From Farm: You won’t find a website
for Paffenroth Gardens. You’ll have
to track down Alex Paffenroth at his
72-acre farm or his stall at New York
City’s Union Square Greenmarket.
Paffenroth Gardens exists on a very
special slice of land—the so-called
“Black Dirt” Region of southern
Orange County, New York, and
northern New Jersey. The area boasts
extraordinary fertile soil with a high
concentration of slate, the remains
of an ancient glacial lake bottom. For
years, the soil produced mostly onions.
Alex had a hand in changing that.
“I grew up on this farm,” he says.
“It belonged to my great-grandfather,
and I took it over from my father in
1967.” He grew onions, too, until he
started meeting chefs who frequented
the Greenmarket. He listened to what
they asked for, and he diversified. “I
grow 230 crops over the course of the
year,” he says. “I give the guys what
Alex specializes in heirloom root
vegetables, including potatoes,
carrots, parsnips and salsify. He’s
known for his sunchokes—sweet,
nutty veggies formerly known as
Jerusalem artichokes. His motto?
“ ‘My farm to your table is food less
traveled.’ It’s all about slow food and a
low carbon footprint.”
To table: Executive Chef Michael
Anthony of Gramercy Tavern sees
his Manhattan restaurant as a place
where local produce can shine. “Alex
is one of the pillars of the market,”
he says. “He understands the soil
and the impact of vegetables being
in their moment of the season. He
explores new varieties. He makes
them approachable. It’s a celebration
of what we can do.”
Two words: earthy goodness.
1. In a large saucepan, cook onion
and 1 garlic clove in 1 Tbsp. oil
over medium heat until soft,
about 3 minutes. Add barley; cook
and stir for 2 minutes. Add the
vegetable stock, salt and pepper.
Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover
and simmer for 45 minutes or
until barley is tender.
2. Meanwhile, in another
saucepan, combine the carrots,
carrot and orange juices and
cumin. Bring to a boil. Reduce
heat; simmer, uncovered, for 15
minutes or until carrots are tender
and liquid has evaporated. Stir in
butter and lemon juice. Season
with salt and pepper.
3. In small skillet, saute
mushrooms in remaining oil until
tender. Add remaining garlic;
cook 1 minute longer.
4. To serve, toss carrots and
mushrooms with barley. Sprinkle
with herbs. .
Nutrition Facts: 1 serving equals
209 calories, 8 g fat (2 g saturated
fat), 3 mg cholesterol, 660 mg
sodium, 31 g carbohydrate, 6 g
fiber, 5 g protein.
May 28, 2012 7:13 PM
Love the article, just joined Hyperlocavore, and have already found a local community garder for my heirloom tomatoes. This article will help convince some of my friends to do the same.
I wish there were a way to save articles to a "Scrap-book" here at Fresh Home.
I can't always print articles and sometimes when I come back and look for them - they're gone!
Tried the e-mail method and that doesn't always work either.
Just a thought.
May 28, 2012 7:12 PM
June 30, 2011 2:38 PM
Oh, I've been to Zenger Farm! Gotta try their recipe.
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