Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The New Garden Plan

I've been wanting to update our garden plot since the last season but I haven't really been able to figure out what I want to do...until now!  It's pretty ambitious.  Right now I'm in the (slow) process of digging up the black metal fence that previously surrounded our 5x20 foot garden, which involves lots of screws and 8 concrete posts buried 2 feet deep.  Once the posts and fencing are removed I'm going to construct a series of raised beds.  The front beds will be low (4-6 inches) and the back bed will be high and doubles as a bench and has trellises in the back.  Either end of the beds will be capped with trellised arches.

Here is the general idea in 3D:

and in 2D:

We'll lose a little square footage, but I think it will be worth it when we can sit in our garden and we don't have to look at that hideous black fence.  I'll make sure to post before and after pictures in these next few weeks (hoping to get everything established by May 15th in order to get plants in the ground.

Note: The website I used to create these sketches has limited plant images so it looks like a hodge-podge of flowers when it will really be herbs and vegetables.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Chicago's Good Food Festival - 2012

I am interested in food.  Everything about food.  How it's grown, how it's transported, how it's prepared.  I'm interested in food systems, food justice, food security.  In early March I thought to myself, there has to be a large group of people who feel the same way and get together to talk about it!  So I googled a few choice phrases to try and find a conference nearby.  I came across the Good Food Festival in Chicago and the 2012 dates were only a week away.  On a whim I booked tickets and convinced my sister, Devin, to come with me.  6 days later we were on a 6 hour road trip to a Holiday Inn near UIC campus.

While at the conference I met a lot of farmers and people interested in changing food policies.  During the opening session I felt a swell of emotions rise up in my belly.  My hands were a little shaky as I listened to a woman talk about her transition to farming.  She said that she was recently giving a speech to a large group of mostly white, middle-aged, bearded, flannel-wearing farmers.  She came in sporting dreaded hair and leather pants; she told her audience, "Gentlemen, this is the new face of farming."  I texted Sammit, "these are my people."

I was able to thank, in person, the man who picks out the best oranges I've ever eaten.  (His name is Scott and he's the buyer for Door to Door Organics.)  I learned about the 2012 Farm Bill, backyard chickens, 4 food preserving methods, and how to compost everything.  Devin and I got a little tipsy at the Localicious food tasting event.  We also ate some amazingly delicious things: 1) Sour Cream Ice Cream, 2) Smoked chicken on creamy cheesy polenta with cilantro micro greens, 3) BBQ Chip Chocolate Bar, and 4) Herbed Pistachio Pesto.

I decided that weekend that I'm going to make strides toward becoming a farmer.  Half of the U.S.'s farmers right now are 55 years old or older.  There are not enough young people interested in pursuing farming as a career even with its glamour and six figure salary.  Because of this there are a lot of farmers who are interested in passing on their valuable information and the USDA is providing grants for farm start-ups.  Sammit and I had a "farm-talk" this past week and have hatched a plan.  We're starting small, buying our first house this summer with enough land to start a market garden.