Category Archives: farm tour

ghost town farm

a couple of years ago my friends billy and novella visited detroit.  they stayed with us and we toured them around the city.  novella was on a book tour, but didn’t bother doing a reading or workshop – she had been told that detroit couldn’t really learn anything from her.  while i was certain that detroit had plenty to learn from her – she was unwilling.

they were pretty insistent  that we come and visit and stay with them in oakland – so when i found out the community food security coalition conference was going to be in oakland – i texted novella, and she said to get some plane tickets.

i went a day early so i could hang with novella and billy and check out some other garden projects (more on that later).  novella was supposed to meet me via BART to help me navigate the public transit, but she decided to pick me up in her car – and who could blame her – she is eight months pregnant and the BART ride takes like 45 minutes each way, and don’t forget about the cost.  i was pretty certain that novella’s vintage biodiesl bentz was the classiest ride i could get picked up in.  i got a quick orientation of oakland and then tacos – mmmm tacos.   novella lives in ghost town. the reason for its name are left to speculation, but it’s generally agreed that the term ghost riding came from this neighborhood, i kept myself planted firmly in her car.  i liked ghost town as soon as we pulled up, this giant mural was painted on the building just across the street from her.  the dj in the mural features the unmistakable logo of detroit techno label underground resistance.  i felt at home already.

novella was having her last market of the season, and some oakland folks over to meet me that night, so after picking up some beer, we got to work in the garden harvesting and processing turnips, greens and radishes, i imagined myself to be her wwoofer.  after finishing the harvest  i poked around the garden – there was a lot of to find in a little space.some buddhist muscovy ducks.  i found ripe figs to eat – some were a really over ripe, which the ducks happily gobbled up.  artichokes growing in the parkway next to the sidewalk limes! and tons of them – it was november and rather than the season ending it was just changing, envy was starting rear its ugly head.pomegranates! holy shit! i was downright jealous!  even if novella did say they never got sweet, sour pomegranates are a lot better than no pomegranates.  it was quickly dawning on me why folks were so fond of living in the bay area.  i was having trouble recovering from the shock of all of this, and trying to justify in my head my decision to live in detroit, but hearing the rent prices helped to put me back in the proper mind-set.

i kicked back with a beer, complemented with a fresh lime out of the garden, and welcomed the few visitor to the garden – it was a failure as a market, but we had plenty of food to eat, and i went up and whipped up some kale salad while billy made chicken and rice, waxing poetically about the qualities of peanut oil.  other folks stopped by and i had the chance to catch up on the gossip of oakland’s urban agriculture scene.  i enjoyed it very much.

the next morning i went to meet the chickens and goats that live in the backyard.i’m not sure which ones these are.  i know one of them is bebe; the mama, but i don’t think she is in this picture.  i forgot to ask novella if the reason for naming her bebe is so they would be bebe’s kids – this link may offend some folks, robin harris is pretty raw.  novella’s land lord is a lot cooler than most – i don’t think i’d let my tenant have goats tearing up the back porch.

i loved hanging out at novella and billy’s house.  novella is relaxed and easy to get along with, and billy might easily be one of the funniest people i know,  and their  idea of a good night out – eating sweets at the yemeni  grocery store and watching al jazeera,  picking lemons out of vacant lots matched well with ma and i.

novella has written the enjoyable book called farm city about billy and her adventures in oakland, and her friend willow and her have an urban farming how to book coming out in a month called the essential urban farmer.  you can also check out her blog – ghost town farm.  go check em out.

the stop

i’m not sure when i first became aware of “the stop”.  it may have been in a presentation on projects in toronto, report outs from friends visiting, or maybe it was from folks from “the stop” coming to visit.  regardless, i have know about it for a number of year, and been wanting to visit and check it out.

there is a huge amount of similarity to the work i do at work and that of the stop. we both work in low-income communities, we both run kitchen’s, both have gardens, both are working to redevelop local food systems while preserving traditional food cultures.

the way that we execute them certainly has some difference, and i’ve long admired “the stop” for what they were doing right (as a side note – an apron from “the stop” is ma’s first choice apron to wear).  a visit to visit “the stop”  was prime on my list of place to visit in toronto.

the stop has two location – one the older location which has ben around for over 15 years, and a new one “the green barn”  which they have been at for a little over three years.

the original davenport location is on the first floor of a government housing structure.  despite its institutional location, folks have done a good job making the space feel as warm and homey as possible; murals are all over the place, and in the dinning room flags of all the countries residents of the neighborhood hail the dinning room they serve a few hundred meals a day, do cooking classes, teach about neonatal health, do social justice discussions and organizing. they also have a food pantry program which allows folks to choose what sorts of foods they need based on dietary restrictions.

gardens are close by, though not directly on the grounds of the stop. food from the gardens is not used too much in the kitchen for meals, but does get used in some cooking classes. much of that food goes home with gardeners or gets sold at a farmers market they do.

all of this is great, but its the little things that really grab me. at least 50% of the folks that volunteer at “the stop” are people receiving services. they train folks coming to the stop to be paid “client advocates” to help those coming for services better connect with other organization, they bring in lawyers, even barbers to provide additional services.

some of the smallest details i think really helped me get a feel for where the values of the organization lie.a community phone is available to use, even with the rising availability of government issued cell phones – access to a phone is still a huge need where i work.board games are available to play – to me showing that folks are welcome to hang out, and that it’s a welcoming space.

the newer stop couldn’t feel much different.  it’s located in a much more affluent location, and in a beautifully renovated trolley barn.  call the wychwood barns, they were renovated by a local arts group, the space contained 4 old trolley bays, one rented out as work/live and studio space for artist, an area rented out to various nonprofits, a theater group for youth, and “the stop’s green barn”

when first approaching the green barn, you are led though the world gardens in which crops from all of the world of represented.  the idea to show that the need to import foods from around the world is largely unnecessary – many can be grown in ontario.
the philippines, tibet, somalia, and many others are all represented.  i expected greater diversity of crops, but looking at each of the garden plots, one starts seeing the same things, maybe different varieties, and growing methods, but the similarities were more than the differences.

entering into “the stop” green barn proper is a court-yard garden, complete with the ubiquitous toronto outdoor oven.outdoor ovens seem to be in every garden – if every detroit garden needs a hand painted sign to have arrived, toronto needs an oven.  the oven is used for pizza bakes with the kids which attract plenty of parents too. the walled gardens remind me of traditional english gardens where the brick walls act as passive solar energy collectors.  of course english garden’s walls are only about 6 feet tall, not the 20 feet that this garden featured.  like other gardens i’ve seen planted in old buildings, this one seemed lacking in light.

the inside features a large gathering area with a library, offices, a kitchen and huge wooden tables that could be pulled together for giant communal meals.  unlike the institutional  feeling of the stop’s old location this one is open, and kind of modern feeling.  but it also feels a little less personal, i like the murals and personal touches of the well used space.  the new space reminds me of something that i would encounter in a scandinavian country with its clean lines and reused materials.  i sort of felt like i was in an ikea catalog.  saturday features a farms market, and the stop also provides meals for shoppers in an impromptu cafe.i wish that the cafe was serving while i was there, i was really hungry.

past the community gathering area is an enormous greenhouse.the greenhouse faced the same limitations as the walled garden; a serious lack of light.  while the space was really neat, the sodium vapor light cast a yellow light on everything thing making everyone appear jaundiced.

i left the stop feeling a little confused, and little introspective.  on the surface it would seem the stops new location would be the better location, after all, they were able to do a complete build out and make it what they needed.  but i couldn’t help but feel like some of the charm and homeiness of the original location was missing.  the new stop was nice, maybe a little too nice.  at work we have been dealing with the fact that we are extremely cramped, and contemplating a move of at least part of us to a new space.  i’m looking at the stop for lessons of how we could do better to connect to community and develop more community ownership, but also a cautionary tale, of how careful one needs to be as they move forward, of how much intent one needs to have in each of their moves.

johnny’s test farm tour

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like a dream come true, i was able to spend an afternoon touring the johnny’s test farm – with our host johnny’s seed rep ken fine.

but before we are able to get to that, we went on a quick tour to check out the warehouse!  most of it was what you would expect, loading docks, shipping area, bins full of cardboard boxes.  the real difference was in the cave. the cave is the cold storage area for bulk seeds.  seeds, seeds, seeds.  so many seeds packed floor to ceiling, row after row.  seeds from all over the world, purchased by breeders and grows from across the us, japan, china, and italy.  the smell of carrot and parsley seed pervaded the air.  i found it both delightful and overwhelming.

while seeing the warehouse was fascinating, the real focus of the tour was to see the research farm where the breeding and trialing happens.  flower trialscarrot and chicoriesleek and onions trialsfall lettuce trials – testing for cold hardiness. radicchio trials

what is going on with all these trials?  two things.  the first is to compare the johnny’s breeding projects against other varieties to make sure they are performing as well or even better than competition.  that’s only a small part of the trialing.  the majority of the trials are comparing varieties that are not breed by johnny’s but they sell.  tons of new seed offerings come on the market, some are improvements over old ones, some are not, the only way to know for sure is to grow them and compare.

tons of seed varieties are taken off the market each year.  often old favorites that are popular with small growers are deemed no longer to be worth the trouble to grow by the companies that supply johnny’s.  so they need to find a replacement.  many of those growing and breeding seeds are looking for things like uniformity, disease resistance, and a yield.  while all of these things are important, johnny’s is primarily interested in eating quality.  as ken is quick to point out it’s not johnny’s seeds – it’s johnny’s selected seeds.  one of the main reason to grow all these seeds out is to actually taste them and compare flavor side by side.

we stumble upon this testing in the melon patch where the discards of the mornings testings were fine wine tasters they just cut out a chunk, taste it, and spit it out moving on to the next one.  the remains are left to the yellow jackets and butterflies.  a lot of food gets wasted on the farm.

moving from the trial plots to the breeding plots we come upon row after row of what look like the same varieties, but are carefully tagged and/or flagged for easy id of the different breeding stock.acres of tomatoes ripening in the field, soon to be picked and processed. an ocean of squash, the selected flowers are bagged to keep out pollinators, then hand pollinated with the prescribed cross, and tagged.  its hugely labor intensive work, done by local hired hands that act as “bees”while we are touring one of the farmers was out making notes about which lettuce seed to select.  since bolting lettuce is so unpalatable, it always gets ripped out around our gardens, but its nice to see how beautiful the lettuce is as it goes to seed.

on the way back to the car we look at the construction of these small hoop houses, made with just a pipe bender, chain link fencing top rail, and a couple of other parts.  we have been thinking of trying to put some up at work, and i wanted to look more closely at the construction.  seeing my interest in these, ken shared the next trick johnny’s has up its sleeve, a homemade rolling greenhouse.  they were still working out the kinks in the design but i’d expect to see the tools and plans in next years catalog.  it will be very similar to the hoop house seen above constructed from fence top rail.

after a couple of hours  is was time to head out and get on with our travels to visit family, and enjoy some relaxing on the maine coast.  ken was kind enough to guide us to the coast, and point us in the direction of our next stop.

you don’t have to have a tour guide to check out johnny’s test farm – it’s open daily for self guided tours!

added value brooklyn

i carved out a little bit of time to visit one of the many urban farms in new york while visiting the city.  added value is among the better known and longer functioning.  i’d heard about it for years in news reports, videos and photos.  on saturday morning i headed out from harlem for what turns out to be a pretty long trip via public transit.

added value is on a large chunk of land, or actually asphalt, as it’s located on former park land that is covered in black top.  compost and soil are mounded up about a foot thick, and plants are growing surprisingly well on what would at first glance seem pretty inhospitable.  certainly it proves how much can be done with underutilized spaces and a bit of creativity.

about 2 acres are cultivated and in the background can be seen the giant ikea store.  when added value was started one of the main ideas was a catalyst for improving community health.  i’m pretty sure the ikea store across the street was not part of that vision.

they have some of the most epicly large beds i have ever witnessed, eight foot across, with three feet walk ways in-between.  folks still have to walk in the beds to plant and harvest.  seem a little awkward to use to me.  garlic looks great.  didn’t ask what variety.they have a really nice outdoor pack area made up of bathtubs and simple plywood tables, with  a salad spinner stand type thing.

this stand puts the spinner at a better hight for proper spinning and also helps keep the spinner from rocking around nearly so much as you turn it.the pack shed also functions as a staging area, where they have excellent signage of the field, as well as the work list for the week, and day.the shelves inside the tool sheds are of well-organized with bins and labels.  i post this photo mainly to remind myself that it is possible to have a well-organized shop space.

a new composting project has just started this year.  i was surprised that they have been going for so long without a large-scale composting project, it would seem that growing on asphalt you would have to spend a good amount of money on compost to keep the system going.  even with the large amount of compost they are processing it seemed pretty small by comparison to the composting we are doing at work.  but it was also better managed.  leaf bins made out of chain link fence are used to hold leaves gathered in the fall until they can to be used in compost.  food scraps and field refuse are the other major component for compost.  all of these buckets are filled with food scraps. no really.  after the leaves and kitchen scraps have been mixed, piled, turned and allowed to break down for several months they get run though this sifter.   what comes out is some very lovely compost. for local community members a self-serve compost tumbler is made available to use.  it includes detailed signage and instructions.

much of added values work is based on improving access in the community for local food and to that end they sell to local restaurants and also have a farm stand.  they are also  training another generation of farmers, and have a crew of very talented young people working with them.  much of what they are doing overlaps with what we are trying to do at work.  it would certainly be worth another visit to spend more time and work side by side with the crew.

while touring the farm it is mentioned that a number of food trucks gather every saturday just down the street and serve up some of the best food from south american cuisines.  i find this difficult to pass up, and finish  my morning with a plate full of pupusas and a glass horchata, while sitting in the sunshine.  what a great morning day.

queens county farm museum

since we were in new york for the black farmer’s conference, i figured we should take an extra day and visit our friend leah and the farm that she helps manage.  leah is originally from detroit and was one of the first apprentices at one of the urban ag. programs here in the city and went on to manage market programs as well.  She has been out in new york for about 2 years, and i’ve meant to make a visit out to her for some time.

just barely inside the city limits, the queens county farm museum sits at the far northeast corner of queens.   at 47 acres it’s by far the largest piece of land being cultivated in new york city and with its history dating to 1697, it is the oldest continuously cultivated piece of farm land in new york state .   it’s a pretty special place.

about 2 acres of the land is in mixed vegetable production.

this field was wrapping up for the season, much of it sown to winter rye, but there will still plenty of radishes, broccoli, and kohlrabi.

because it is a farm museum, and not just a working farm, they feature lots of critters and other more ag. tourism like items such as corn mazes and pumpkin patches.  and while many of the critters might not be all that useful, i still enjoyed seeing them.

these bunnies were just running wild, but obviously domestic, they even let me touch them as they hopped away.

they have a couple of older glass greenhouse used for transplant production, season extension, and drying.  they had greens and beets growing which would be ready to take to market about the time that the stuff in the cold frames and the field had started to die.  they seemed to, like most everywhere i’ve visited this fall, have had a very warm fall, just getting a touch of frost so far.

last task of the day was to close up these crazy old cold frames, made out of cast concrete, and then we were off to fly out and back home to the d.  i was happy to see leah seeming so happy, finding a place that works for her, and being able to focus on what she really wants to be doing growing vegetables.

black farmers conference

i was fortunate enough to have the chance to speak along with my co-worker and friend at the recent black farmers and urban gardener conference in brooklyn.  it was a great day full of amazing workshops and great keynote speakers.

the next day were tours.  i had wanted to go on the brooklyn tour, as in one of the workshops i had seen someone speak from the bed-stuy farm and felt a good amount of connection between their farm and the one i work with.  I also have been wanting to see east new york farms as well, but the brooklyn bus was all filled up.  seems i need to plan a trip to new york just to visit all the projects i missed seeing.  but the bronx was still open and karen washington was leading the tour.  having never been to the bronx, and wanting to visit, this was a very close second.  you will have to excuse the quality of the photos – taken with my crappy camera phone (which amazingly enough is still working after being dropped in a mop bucket full of water).  my much abused camera is off being fixed – again, this time it was in the same bag as a bottle of goat milk which exploded all over it.  goat milk fries cameras.

first farm of the trip was taqwa farms

bobby and abu led us around the gardens showing off all of the stuff they had packed into a relatively small space.  a shed, rainwater catchment system, chickens, playground, stage, beehives, and lots and lots of fruit trees.

bobby and abu both framed the work they do in the garden as a simple passion, and a political action.

most of the gardens that we visited were very similar in this way.  not young white foodies, but mostly immigrants or transplants from the south.  gardening was something they did to connect with their heritage, and to provide them with quality food that was difficult to obtain in their neighborhood.

having chickens was an important aspect of many of the gardens, as were these little huts – i think called casitas and a result of the puerto rican culture in the neighborhood.

this photo is from the community garden that karen washington is a part of – garden of happiness.  they are used as a gathering places and for celebrating.

perhaps most impressive to me is the level of organizing that has been done with the community gardens in new york.  many of them are a part of a land trust so that they can be basically preserved forever.  i left feeling the need even more so to get organized and get our stuff together here in detroit.

seed savers exchange

when i first started saving seeds, i was in awe of the varieties and stories behind the heirloom seeds featured in the seed catalog for seed savers exchange, as well as its directory of those seeds that were being saved seeds across the united states by members.  the amount of varieties being saved is remarkable.  seeing as seed savers heritage farm was not that far from new forest farm, we figured why not go and check out the farm and see all the plants growing.

the drive took us along the mississippi, when we crossed into iowa we stopped at a park for lunch, where we were able to enjoy an amazing vista.

the view

from the river seed savers was about an hour away.  most of the view was of this.

corn field

corn fields as far as the eye could see, either cut or in the process of being harvested.  ma and i decided we prefered the landscape of wisconsin, she likes looking at cows.

allergies plaguing both of us we had to take it slow deciding that nothing would get the blood pumping quite like shopping.  i obtained several packets of tomatoes for next years product line, as well as the aptly named complete book of garlic.  it might be among the more overwhelming books i’ve read on a single vegetable in its thoroughness and downright nerdiness.

with a little energy and the promise of cows and apples ma and i were off on a walk, but not before checking out some of the vegetable gardens.

there was this giant swede aka a rutabaga.  i couldn’t really find out that much info about it, nor if it was even fit for human consumption.  it seemed it might be a fodder crop.

also these gorgeous purple veined collards.  i’ve never seen them offered in seed catalogs, but i’m so smitten by them i might have to look into trading for some seed or buying the seed directory in order to find a commercial source.

and then these garden huckleberries – which are supposed to become tastier after a frost, but are still best cooked and with plenty of sugar added to it.  i found the taste pretty bland, and rumor has it that they are toxic uncooked.  i’ve never found the idea of growing them all that appealing, i prefer fruit i can eat out of hand, but was still happy to have tried them.

but none of this was cows or apples.  i certainly hadn’t driven almost 3 hours out of my way for bland huckleberries!  it was the taste of heirloom apples that enchanted me.  we ventured off in the direction of the orchard, having much trouble finding the orchard but no such trouble finding cows – since ma had not seen a cow in at least two hours helped take off edge of her withdraw from wisconsin.


i practiced my cow speak – which with full disclosure i have to admit was strictly obtained from repeatedly opening and closing the barn door on the fisher price barn as a child.  though now that i have gone back and listened to the moos, i have to say that the student has surpassed the teacher, cause when i used my cow calls on these cows they perked up and started walking toward me, which made me really nervous cause i didn’t know what i was saying in cow.  i tried to assure them that i only wanted to be friends.

but they mostly seemed interested, not annoyed or angry.  but my new-found cow whispering skills didn’t fill my belly with the taste of heirloom apples.  and while ma was tired, she was a trooper and after we had already decided to make our way back to the car, she could see my eyes aglow when i found a sign for the orchard.  up a big hill, both of us breathing heavy from allergies.  at first i thought it was a bust, but didn’t realize that one side was all young trees, and the other side was full of more mature ones.

it was very late in the season, and most of the apples were done, but i still tasted a couple of dozen varieties.  on many trees all the apples had fallen off the trees and you had to guess which tree it had fallen from.  while i know that apple favors vary tremendously in theory its not that often that you get to experience so much diversity in a such a short period.  the few hard cider varieties that i tried were especially interesting – as expected not particularly good for eating out of hand, but you could see how it would be useful to balance out sweet varieties and add depth of flavor.

this especially glorious tree was filled with golden-colored russet apples that tasted wonderful – and wouldn’t you know it no tag was on the tree.

in the far back it seemed as though at one point they planted trees as whips and never replanted them, leaving a dark strange-looking apple forest instead of the usual orchard.

after about an hour of wondering the apple forests and orchards we headed back toward the car, wisconsin, and eventually home.

new forest farm visit

in 2007 i took my permaculture design certificate class with midwest permaculture at mark shepard’s new forest farm.  camping for a week in a chestnut grove and hanging out with a guy like mark can really change your perspective.  when ma and i were planning a trip to wisconsin i knew we had to stop by and see the farm and visit with mark and his family.

new forest farm is 106 acres of polyculture tree crops, dominated by hazelnuts, chestnuts and apples, with plenty of pine nuts, blueberries, plums, heartnuts, walnuts, butternuts, hickories,  and asparagus too.

it’s a little off the beaten track, and in order to find it we are instructed to look for the wind turbine.

wind turbine

what a wind turbine it is, i’d guess at least 120 feet tall.  i’m glad i’m not the one who needs to service that thing.  the turbine supplies all the power for the cider house and then some.  when we were poking around the farm the wind was blowing at over 25 miles per hour – some serious energy.

mark was in the middle of mowing when we arrived, so we gave ourselves a tour of the farm.  walking the farm is really quite spectacular – very much like walking though the midwest woodland prairies that it is modeled after, more like a walk in the woods than a farm walk.

one of the major issues with utilizing perennial crops is that they take a long time to yield, and you need to have cash flow in the meantime.  annual vegetables were at one point part of the business plan, but now that so many perennials are yielding well, the only annuals to be found are in the kitchen garden.  some of the first yielding perennial crops were the asparagus.  the waving fronds of asparagus are amazing in the windy sunshine.

the crop that really captures my imagination is the chestnut, because of the chestnut blight very few of us have the chance to spend any time with these majestic trees.

chestnut leaf

by the time we got back from our walk mark was done with mowing, and was ready to give us a little tour.

when i last visited they were still constructing the cider house – it was now mostly completed, they have plenty of product ready to be sold, but are still waiting on the county for permitting.  we are provided with a couple of lovely samples, shown the fermenting room and the labels.

cider labels

in the back there is a small washing/grading station, as well as a press for apples.  many of the apples trees planted are cider apples, they could never be sold fresh, and since spraying methods – organic or otherwise are not used, the apples wouldn’t look too great, but they do make great juice.

in the same area where the apple press is housed there is  also the hazelnut cracker.

hazelnut cracker

since no one has ever bothered to try to grow american hazelnuts commercially, no one has ever bothered to come up with the machinery for shelling and processing american hazelnuts.  which is why they have had to work to develop the machinery to do these tasks.  they are still working on more equipment for processing, mostly for sorting the shells away from the meat.

stirring hazels

they have to get stirred daily as they dry.  there are tubs and tubs of hazel nuts drying,  having already sold 4 tons of hazels that year.  when the conversation turns to breeding of nut varieties, it means we needed to take a tour of the chestnut forest in order to discuss more fully.

new forest farm is not just growing chestnuts, they are breeding them.  on the slops of the farm are american and chinese chestnuts in various states of crosses.  varieties are  selected for yield and quality of nuts, seeds from these varieties are grown out and then the process of selecting the best begins again from those trees.  in doing so they have created varieties that are hardy to a much harsher climate than they are native to as well as high yielding, disease and pest resistant, and low maintenance.


not all the chestnuts had been gathered for the year, and by careful searching we are able to gather a nice snack.

foraging for chestnuts

very few folks have had the joy of foraging for chestnuts, and i have to say it’s quite a pleasure, these chestnuts are sweet and delicious.  i had been hungry, but quickly fill my belly and makes waiting for dinner no problem.

mark invited us to dinner, which his wife jen lovingly  prepares, and as quickly as she whipped it up is obviously an expert at quick whole foods cooking.  while jen is not as involved as she once was with the farm, it was obvious that her vision and passion were just as much on the roots of each tree on the farm as mark.

we sit and enjoy dinner, conversation, and when jen and mark’s boys return home, banter about school, a chess game, and an  impromptu concert.  it is obviously a household full of life and love, and i felt a spark of energy in myself from the time shared with them.

ma and i leisurely walk back to the cider house in the moonlight, where we would rest our head for the night.

in the morning  a bargain is struck of trading some labor for some chestnut and hazelnut seeds.  while i felt like the food and lodging where enough for me to feel the need to put in a mornings labor, i wanted those seeds and was more than willing to peel and sort hazels and chestnuts.  we left the farm with what will be the future plantings of many detroit vacant lots, breeding stock, and a lot of inspiration.

the farm

d-town harvest fest

saturday as i rolled home from work, i took the usually route heading toward mt. elliott to go though eastern market and i was faced with thousands of bikes.  seems the tour detroit event was headed in the same direction as i.   i’ve been wanting to ride in this event for years, but it never seemed like i could take the time off work, or if that was the reason i wanted to take the time off work.  so i figured i might as well ride with them, as who knows when i will get another chance.

tour detroit

amazingly enough out of over 3000 riders i bumped into at least 4 folks i knew.

making my way home, i headed out to the d-town harvest festival.

d-town farms

last year i had a great time at harvest fest, getting to see a bunch of my favorite people.  this years fest was a little more subdued, as i think that the weather kept people from coming out.

d-town is the two, soon to be five acre model farm run by the detroit black community food security network.  it’s located in rouge park, and a wonderful spot to feel like you are out in the country.

d-town farms

it’s an all volunteer run operation, which makes it all the more impressive.

in addition to the vegetable crops they also have bee hives


and one of the only operations in the  city doing mushrooms, specifically in shopping carts.

shopping cart

oyster mushrooms

they also have reshi and i think shitake mushrooms


and a greenhouse – which they built a couple of months ago, and thankfully for this chilly day, they had not yet planted, so we were able to hang out and get a cooking demo, and watched a presentation by andrea king collier on black mens health, and the importance local food movements.  while i think she is funny and a good presenter, i still am concerned about the attitude that black women need to be responsible for black men’s health.  it just seems a little enabling.

i stayed for the closing – left feeling closer to others, contemplative and introspective.  the air was chilly, and the signs of fall were going strong, but i felt warm inside, feeling a deeper sense of community, connection and hope.

5 star orchard

our last full day in maine we decided to go for a drive with no real destination, but my aunt had told us the drive toward brooklin was especially nice, so we headed in that direction.  driving along the road and seeing a sign that says organic peaches is enough to make me halt my car, and so we popped down the road leading to 5 star orchard.

they had a little stand in front of the house and we purchased a quart of peaches for a pretty pricey seven dollars.  quite a bit more than i think you could get in michigan, but who else is selling organic peaches in maine.  plus i know my mother would love the peaches, and i like supporting the local farmers.  we asked if we could see the orchards, and were instructed on how to get down to the trees.

i’m glad we did.  once we got down to the orchard we met one of the farmer tim. he was nice and friendly, but didn’t have time to sit and chat, but made it clear that he was open for any questions, but that he needed to pick peaches.

the standard trees were loaded with fruit, so heavy that sticks were used to prop up the branches and keep them from breaking.

peach tree

and they were surprisingly bug free


i consulted with tim about his pest control measures as well as his pruning methods.  while talking it became apparent that in all likelihood he was the one that supplied many of the trees for our orchard at work as he grows lots of the stock for fedco trees.  it was exciting to see where all the trees were from.  and i took a picture of some of his nursery stock, thinking how much fun it would be to come back and do some grafting and pruning with him and his parter.


i’m so glad that a random sign for organic peaches would lead me to the path of the origin of the trees in the community orchard.  in addition to the peaches, they have a variety of other fruits and a community cider house where they press their own apples as well as those of others in the community.