Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Fresh local food in Charlottesville

Forest Lakes Farmers Market
You have probably heard by now that Charlottesville, Virginia has been judged the Happiest city in the nation. A recent 19 News story attributes its happiness partly to abundant food options. I'll have to admit that I'm certainly much happier with the local fresh food options in Cville compared to where I lived previously. Moving here from a small rural town in Southwest Virginia, I didn't realize that I was moving to the Garden of Eden.

Home grown in Albemarle County!
Many years ago I actually tried selling produce in Pulaski and Blacksburg, Virginia. I even set up selling crafts at the Roanoke City Market at Christmas time. The desire for farm fresh produce has really grown since the days of my attempt to be a farmer. It's evident that Charlottesville residents support our local farmers by the number of markets that promote local food in Albemarle County where the city of Charlottesville is located.

Forest Lakes Farmers Market
Yesterday I check out one of the several Farmers Markets at Forest Lakes. The market was larger than I anticipated and is heavily supported by those living in the North side of the county. A sea of fresh produce, bread, meat, eggs, frozen drinks, popsicles, jam, pesto, and even bee propolis and pollen can be found at the market. I love the fact that this market is open in the afternoon each Thursday from 4 pm - 7 pm.

Of course the biggest Farmer's Market in the area is the downtown City Market that is open on Saturday's from 7 am - noon. A lively market located in an open parking lot where one can buy produce, plants, crafts, and prepared food and drinks. Each year it becomes bigger and bigger and a permanent market space appears to finally be on the drawing board for this hugely popular and growing market.

The Farmers in the Park market is held at Meade Park on Wednesday from 3 pm - 7 pm. Located near the water park on the East side of downtown, offering veggies, fruit, plants, and more.

Hunt Country Market Daily Menu
Another popular market in West Albemarle County near the Horse Race Track is the Shady Lane Market. Open Thursday from 11 pm - 5:30 pm  One family farm located in Free Union provides breads, produce, and plants.

While you are in the area, if you would prefer have your meals prepared for you, check out the historic 1911 Hunt Country Market and Deli. Each day their exterior chalkboard touts a new take home dish. Dinners are available for pick up from 4 pm - 7 pm (call ahead to reserve), Monday - Saturday.

Each Fall the Cville Market hosts Meet yer Eats. This tour of local farms is amazing, check out my prior year blog post about this event.

I would be remiss to not list a few grocery store options we have in Charlottesville for local foods, Relay Foods brings items from stores and farms and trucks them to various pick up spots all over the area. You order online and go pick it up. It provides a way to get a large variety of items that you might have to find spread out over several stores and farms in one spot. Our local Whole Foods was relocated several years ago and has grown in size from a small crowded and honestly not the "happiest" place to a large welcoming fun grocery store. Read my blog post about the relocation, it was one of my all time most enjoyable write ups. Other popular groceries embracing local foods are Foods of all Nations, Rebecca's, and Integral Yoga. Even Harris Teeter carries a local line of produce.

I'll end this post listing a few of my favorite Cville food finds:

What's your favorite Cville local food find? I would love to add to the long list!


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Through the Garden Gate Tour features Vintage Finds

Entryway into the gardens.
Today a fellow gardening friend and I visited the interesting garden and home of The Askew's of Charlottesville, Virginia. It was the featured garden for July in the Piedmont Master Gardeners tour series, Through the Garden Gate. Tours are hosted the 2nd Saturday of the month from 9 - noon, in a different garden each month.

Great mix of herbs and collectibles in the garden.
The Askew's are huge collectors of vintage and have designed their home and gardens around the items they have acquired. Sturdy industrial metals and large ceramics are tastefully woven throughout their garden. I especially enjoyed the collection of old farm equipment, fencing, and building discards that had been artfully placed into select garden spots. It takes a creative mind to find uses for found items that might have otherwise been tossed out.

Re-purposed entry door block A/C Unit. 
For some time I have been scratching my head trying to decide how to put some of my collected items to good use and the Askew's have inspired me to think out of the box. I really liked their placement of an old (but really cool) door to block their air conditioning unit and how they hung an old window frame and shutters on the side of a shed to make it look like a real window.

A quiet place to sip some tea - love the fence!
There were many quaint nooks in the garden in which one could sit and relax, all providing a different view of the grounds. The Askew's love of the garden was obvious, all vistas within the house were really extensions of the garden. The expansive front porch and back sun porch providing panoramic views of the garden.

Rarely Through the Garden Gate tours include the inside of the home but today was one of those days. Throughout the house, walls displayed family photos and memorabilia. I loved the feminine touches like the sweet handkerchief collections dotting the rooms and the cool framed vintage bathing suit along with the historic swim team photo. One would have to return again and again to really digest all the cool finds in the house.

Whimsical shed just for "her", MEN KEEP OUT.
Because I collect and sell vintage, I especially enjoyed this tour. I couldn't get enough of the found and family treasures and wish I had more hours to explore this interesting home.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Downtown Cultivate Charlottesville Garden Tour

Casa Alma veggie garden, one of many
Yesterday the Cultivate Cville Urban Farm and Garden Tour was held to bring awareness to the many community gardens operating in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia. The five gardens on the tour ranged from children's educational gardens to open citizen volunteer gardens. There is a true back to the earth movement in Cville and I was happy to see it in full swing. All gardens operate on organic principles with sharing and caring a top priority.

Wall mural a vibrant backdrop to the Buford School garden
I was impressed with the Buford Elementary School garden and the commitment by the Principal and staff to incorporate school curriculum with hands on garden experiments. This garden develops more and more with each passing year.

rustic garden shed Buford Elementary garden
Physical Education classes provide the option for students to work in the garden. Being that I have now gardened for over 25 years, I can attest to the physical requirements necessary to work a garden. Science classes conduct growth experiments with plants growing inside their new hoop house verses outside. It's a darling garden with flowers, herbs, and vegetables.  A handmade shed, sitting ring of logs, and cute garden features make this a joyful garden. All six of the Charlottesville City Schools are now involved with the City Schoolyard Garden program.

Flags representing each garden bed in the 5th Street garden
We headed over to the 5th Street Community garden which was just started this year. It is mainly an immigrant garden with each, of the many, planting beds representing an individual country. Speaking with one of the proud gardeners, it made me think of my move from my family home to Charlottesville and how I tried to bring as many of my plants with me as possible. I couldn't move the house, but I could move my plants! Our gardening friend on the tour showed us his huge squash plants that he was growing on 10' tall bamboo poles. Explaining the seed was from his home in Mexico and that in that country, "this is what people do", meaning GARDEN. He obviously knew what he was doing as his beds were clear of weeds and plants were thriving. I know his garden often reminds him of his homeland and was proud to tell us about his crops and how to prepare them once harvested.

Now you know where the term Goatee comes from
Hopping over to Casa Alma on Nassau Street one finds a little farmstead in a off the beaten track mixed use neighborhood. One of the oldest neighborhoods in Charlottesville seems to operate in harmony mainly due to the ability of it to do its own thing. This is my second visit to Casa Alma as two years ago I visited it while biking on the Tour de Coop Chicken Tour. It has really come along. The houses have been rehabbed and the grounds continue to be worked to provide food for those in need. Darling little goats and chickens greeted us and bee hives a plenty were thriving. Fruit and vegetable plants surround the two residential homes which house low-income and formerly homeless families for 2 years.  

Volunteer at the UACC and u can get a token for Cabbage!
An interesting garden is the Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville (UACC). Anyone can garden here and for every 30 minutes of time, you get a token that you can use to buy crops harvested in the garden. It's a very large garden located in a large residential area in Charlottesville near the busy downtown Mall on 6th Street.

Black Giant Chicken at Casa Alma
Our last stop was to the International Refugee Committee New Roots Garden hidden in a quiet residential section just steps away from the busy intersection of Main and Ridge. A small garden but one that has every bed full of beans and tomatoes ready to harvest. My friend, Cindy, that was with me volunteers with the IRC and sponsors a local family. Charlottesville opens its doors each year to hundreds of refugees that can not return to their homeland due to religious or ethnic division. Refugees often have lived in camps for many years and are relocated to other countries all over the world where they must find employment and housing often without ever living their adult life with a real roof over their head. Can you imagine being in a tent camp for 15 years since the age of 10 and not ever using an air conditioner, stove, washing machine, light switch, or even operating a window! Upon arrival to Charlottesville some refugees can not speak English, drive a car, use a cell phone, or computer. Can you imagine trying to find a place to live without a computer!

IRC chat among the Beans and Tomatoes
The purpose of the IRC is to aid new arrivals in finding a place to live and employment, and help with daily activities... transportation, medical, and the like. Refugees can be dealing with personal sadness from leaving family, friends, and a homeland along with the daily struggle to adjust to a new community, language, and culture. One thing many refugees are familiar with is gardening. In their chaotic new situation, a refugee can touch something familiar, and feel accomplished in their little garden plot.

Purple Echinacea at Buford Elementary School garden
The gardens on this tour offer so much benefit to so many in our community. I can imagine Charlottesville without them and their generous supporters. All of the gardens mentioned in this article are always looking for volunteers and a little financial support and the pay off is BIG in my opinion.


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