Raleigh is Well Fed

Restaurant owner Anya Gordon and her husband and head chef Arthur Gordon own and operate “Irregardless Cafe,” a well loved Raleigh restaurant offering vegetarian and vegan food since 1975. In March 2012, Anya and Arthur purchased a foreclosed property in a lower income residential neighborhood in Raleigh with the intention of providing affordable housing and growing food. Shortly after Jenn Sanford-Johnson moved in with her husband and daughter Jude and together they turned the overgrown and untended land into a flourishing garden. Known as the Well Fed Garden, the food grown is incorporated into the menu at Irregardless Cafe as well as donated to community neighbors.  Workshops on growing food are offered as well as community garden allotments. A greenhouse was recently constructed. Pictured here (from right to left): Anya Gordon, Jude Sanford-Johnson, Jenn Sanford-Johnson. 

 

Maurice Small, inspiring and renown community food activist speaks about the power of permaculture in designing a balanced world at the North Carolina Community Garden Partners Conference in Durham, NC. Maurice spoke about the importance of involving kids and senior citizens in creating farms and gardens. “Permaculture is about embracing the unknown and all the opportunities that surround us- and doing so fearlessly.”

Maurice Small, inspiring and renown community food activist speaks about the power of permaculture in designing a balanced world at the North Carolina Community Garden Partners Conference in Durham, NC. Maurice spoke about the importance of involving kids and senior citizens in creating farms and gardens. “Permaculture is about embracing the unknown and all the opportunities that surround us- and doing so fearlessly.”

On a beautiful fall Saturday my dear friend Beth Hopping and I rode to Raleigh to join Dan Moore from Ninja Cow Farms  on a food-waste-to-farm adventure. Dan and his team visit the Raleigh Farmer’s Market daily to pick up produce vendors deem as unsellable. This produce ranges from tomatoes with rotten spots to slightly wrinkled peppers. In most cases the produce is perfectly fine and edible, as seen in the pictures of the pumpkin and cucumber above. All this quality food would go to waste because of irrationally high consumers standards.

Dan Moore is the expert in customer service, and lays out buckets by each vendor’s stand for farmers’ convenience. Dan’s work does not go unappreciated, speaking with one farmer directly I was told about the unpleasant dumpster that is packed to it’s brim and stinks to high heaven. Dan allows farmers to avoid this rancid trip, and in exchange he feeds his pigs and cows local, nutritious and seasonal fruits and vegetables. 

Back at the farm, Beth and I watched the animals devour the food, and were astonished to learn that Dan has never had to pay for feed. During the winter season Dan picks up food waste from a local restaurant to supplement the scarce farm produce. Dan has a created a model that is beneficial to farmers, livestock, the environment, and his pocket. 

Though I am back in North Carolina, I still have quite a bit to capture regarding the rest of my trip on the Millennial Trains Project. So let’s take it back to the Windy City- where after my meeting with Julie I hopped on a bus and heading to the south site neighborhood to discover all the wonders brewing at The Plant. 
The Plant is a renovated warehouse in Chicago’s historic stockyard district housing various food projects under its roof. Small food businesses use the certified kitchen to smoke meat, bake bread and brew beer.  An aquaponics farm, or a food production system in which the waste produced by farmed fish supplies the nutrients for plants which in turn purify the water in the fish pool, grows an impressive selection of greens. There is even a mushroom inoculation chamber where mushrooms spawn from straw silos.  All the food waste produced by these various projects  is processed in an on-site anaerobic digester which converts the food into biogas and energy to power the warehouse. The manager of The Plant assured me that no one else in the country is doing anything quite like it, and I believe him.

Though I am back in North Carolina, I still have quite a bit to capture regarding the rest of my trip on the Millennial Trains Project. So let’s take it back to the Windy City- where after my meeting with Julie I hopped on a bus and heading to the south site neighborhood to discover all the wonders brewing at The Plant.

The Plant is a renovated warehouse in Chicago’s historic stockyard district housing various food projects under its roof. Small food businesses use the certified kitchen to smoke meat, bake bread and brew beer.  An aquaponics farm, or a food production system in which the waste produced by farmed fish supplies the nutrients for plants which in turn purify the water in the fish pool, grows an impressive selection of greens. There is even a mushroom inoculation chamber where mushrooms spawn from straw silos.  All the food waste produced by these various projects  is processed in an on-site anaerobic digester which converts the food into biogas and energy to power the warehouse. The manager of The Plant assured me that no one else in the country is doing anything quite like it, and I believe him.

In Chicago I had the pleasure of meeting Julie Smolyansky, CEO of Lifeway Foods. Like me, Lifeway Foods is on a mission. Lifeway’s mission is to provide the best probiotic and nutritious foods to their customers. Lifeway sells a variety of probiotic products, including their signature Kefir yogurt. Julie and I discovered we had two things in common: we strive to provide the public with nutritious options that are delicious, affordable and accessible AND we love Kefir! It was great to meet such an inspiring leader in healthy food entrepreneurship. Next time you enjoy a delicious Lifeway product be assured it was made with love, passion and a commitment to health. Cheers!

In Chicago I had the pleasure of meeting Julie Smolyansky, CEO of Lifeway Foods. Like me, Lifeway Foods is on a mission. Lifeway’s mission is to provide the best probiotic and nutritious foods to their customers. Lifeway sells a variety of probiotic products, including their signature Kefir yogurt. Julie and I discovered we had two things in common: we strive to provide the public with nutritious options that are delicious, affordable and accessible AND we love Kefir! It was great to meet such an inspiring leader in healthy food entrepreneurship. Next time you enjoy a delicious Lifeway product be assured it was made with love, passion and a commitment to health. Cheers!

While in Chicago I wandered into the “El Mercado Barat” convenience store run by brothers Junior and Mo Sabla. Junior and Mo buy produce from wholesale markets and package it into a $1 bundle. Junior called the colorful and large produce display the “dollar menu” and noted that only 5% of the entire section goes to waste.

In Omaha my second meeting was with David Hilbard, also known as “Dr.D”. Unlike other models I’ve seen- Dr.D does not run a non-profit, for-profit or hybrid type of organization. Dr.D runs his own kind of operation, in which he loads up unsellable produce from Whole Foods in the back of his truck and gives it to organizations that serve the wider Omaha community. Dr.D’s “Community Produce Rescue” began when Dr.D noticed the alarming amount of food wasted at grocery stores that could be put to good use to feed him and his 8 children. The on-train chefs Sam and John joined me in this outing and we all agreed that Dr.D is a community hero that we all can celebrate.

In Omaha my second meeting was with David Hilbard, also known as “Dr.D”. Unlike other models I’ve seen- Dr.D does not run a non-profit, for-profit or hybrid type of organization. Dr.D runs his own kind of operation, in which he loads up unsellable produce from Whole Foods in the back of his truck and gives it to organizations that serve the wider Omaha community. Dr.D’s “Community Produce Rescue” began when Dr.D noticed the alarming amount of food wasted at grocery stores that could be put to good use to feed him and his 8 children. The on-train chefs Sam and John joined me in this outing and we all agreed that Dr.D is a community hero that we all can celebrate.