Saturday, March 28, 2009

Just Getting Started!

Just two weeks old now, but we’re already seeing a lot of interest in Veggie Trader from all across the country (and beyond). Thanks to everyone who has registered with the site and especially those folks who have provided us with so much great feedback. A common reaction we’re getting goes something like this:

Wow! Veggie Trader is a cool idea! What a great concept!

Which makes us happy, because we think so too!

Then, from some of the input we’re getting, it seems like some people sometimes get another thought when they register and get into the listings:

Hey! Nobody in my area has posted anything yet! Why not?

Well, here’s the scoop: As we’ve noted, Veggie Trader is just getting started. It will take time to grow. Some people have already posted listings - even with the big growing season not yet upon us. We thank them for being among the first in their areas (and indeed, the country) to participate. Veggie Trader is all about participation. The more people post listings, the faster the community will start to grow…

If you are among those who think Veggie Trader is a great idea but aren’t seeing enough people in your area using the site just yet, please consider making a listing of your own. If you’re looking for local food, try posting a Wanted listing. If you have a fruit tree you know you can’t fully use, try letting people know about your juicy dilemma. Believe us. There are people near you checking out the site to see what you have to share.

The picture above is of some cherry tomato starts I'm looking to trade in a few weeks, once I figure out how many of them I can share. If you're in Portland, OR, check out my listing if you're interested in a swap...

Earth Hour 2009

Some people think Earth Hour is a silly idea. Naysay if you want, but we're going to participate tonight at 8:30. We know it's symbolic, but we think saving a little energy while trying to raise awareness of energy use and habits is a good thing. Besides, there are plenty of fun things to do with the lights out...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hello Canada!

We hear you loud and clear. Here’s the story: A number of our friends in Canada have expressed interest in using Veggie Trader. Currently the site is for United States use only, but we plan to investigate soon how we might open it up to our friends in Canada. We are excited to see so much interest from our neighbors! If you are Canadian and interested in Veggie Trader, please check back here for future updates or contact us and ask to be kept posted.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


We’ve been up and running for only a couple weeks, but the response to Veggie Trader has been tremendous so far. We want to thank and for the shout outs today, as well as everyone who has registered and visited the site this afternoon and evening from all across the country. We're encouraged that so many people are interested in a project we really believe in.

We know there are a few small kinks with the site, and we are working hard to fix them. If you have any feedback or ideas for us, please always feel free to let us know. We’d love to hear from you, and we’ll usually get back to you pretty quickly.

Also, we know there aren’t a lot of posts on the site just yet, but the growing season is just starting and we hope you’ll come back, post a listing or two, and help us grow by spreading the word. Great ideas often start small, and we hope Veggie Trader will one day be a great resource.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Gardener in Chief

Apparently, we now have a Gardener in Chief. Yes, after an intense citizen-led lobbying effort, the announcement came down today that the White House will soon have it's own vegetable garden. Michelle Obama and a group of Washington area students broke ground on the garden this afternoon.

Now while I fully support and applaud this effort, it begs a few important questions:

1) What veggie will prove to be the First Vegetable?

2) And what vegetable might turn out to be this President's least favorite. We know George H. W. Bush famously hated broccoli. And of course, his VP Dan Quayle had a weird thing for potatoes...

3) What exactly is the President's position on the tomato issue? Fruit or vegetable?

4) Will digging around in the White House lawn yield any interesting political dirt?

5) Will the Obama girls filibuster eating their veggies?

And finally:

6) Will the as-yet-to-be-chosen First Dog be allowed anywhere near the garden?

Please feel free to offer your own horrible puns now...

Monday, March 16, 2009

One Great Seed Catalog

It's rare I pick up a sales catalog that truly interests me, but I have to give a shout out for a really great seed catalog I came across a couple weeks back. This 150 plus page catalog is put out by the Territorial Seed Company - a local Oregon company- and inside you'll not only find ample varieties of the usual staples (for example, you can choose from nearly two dozen varieties of garlic), but you'll also discover a range of things you may never have heard of...

Ever heard of kohlabri? Choose from three different varieties of this bulb bearing relative of the cabbage. You can also order Japanese Trifele (a type of tomato), or try growing sea berry - a nutritious fruit native to Europe and Asia. You can even order mushroom kits or live bees and bee keeping supplies through this catalog. It's kind of amazing. I'm considering ordering a columnar apple tree. This is a small but productive apple tree you can grow in a container on your deck or patio.

But with all this variety of things to browse through and learn about, one of the best things about this catalog is the company's pledge to not knowingly sell genetically engineered seeds. THIS is important. All the variety in the world will become pretty useless if we fail to protect it...

You can request a copy of this catalog here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Salad Lover's Dilema (1 calorie = 57 petro-calories)

What's not to love about a good, fresh salad? I love eating my veggies in all forms, but there's nothing like a crunchy, tangy, sweetly dressed salad - which must occupy my lunch and dinner table on a regular basis. Until last week, I used to love the spring mix salad so conveniently available at every super market, until I read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. I was amazed to learn that for every one calorie in spring mix lettuce, it takes fifty seven calories worth of "energy" to get it to my plate. That's right, for every ONE calorie of lettuce you eat, it took FIFTY SEVEN petro-calories just to get it in your front door. A typical spring mix salad serving has about 250 calories, but costs a whopping 14,250 calories of fuel (in gas, transportation, refrigeration, and automation).

This is exactly the problem that Veggie Trader is trying to address, sustainability.

It seems like a no-brainer to me, a foodie. Lettuce is lettuce and all I need to do is source some local leaf. Or, better yet, all I need to do is grow my own salads (and while I'm at it, I might as well grow a lot and trade with my neighbors who are growing tomatoes, flowers, & other stuff).

But I am a gardening virgin. I'm an eater, not a grower. So I've taken my first tentative steps into the mystical world of gardening the easiest way I know how - by following a recipe. I trotted into my local garden center, Valley View Farms, and simply purchased a Jiffy Greenhouse and some lettuce seeds. The Jiffy Greenhouse is a little kit for germinating seeds in convenient little peat pellets. It comes with instructions and a special tray. So far, so good, I've got some happy sprouts eager for more sun, soon to be replanted!

Check out my photo album, The Salad Chronicles, which I'll be adding photos to over the coming weeks. (it will automagically update here in this blog). Please, if you live in the Mid-Atlantic region and want to share your lettuce growing experiences, feel free to leave a comment below. Let's make this blog a resource for foodies and gardeners alike.

The Salad Chronicles

Friday, March 13, 2009

Planting Peas in a Container Garden, Take Two

As detailed in previous posts, we failed miserably in our attempts at growing a winter crop of salad greens and peas this season. An unusually cold winter and an unexpected record setting snowfall probably doomed us. We tried to save our fledgling but promising plants by moving them indoors just as both they and the snow were getting started, but they never really recovered...

But alas, our pet lovebird is demanding when it comes to his beloved peas, so today we set out to try growing them again, just one week away from the official start of spring.

We planted a row of eight snap peas into a container on our deck. The container was already set-up with soil from our winter gardening attempt, so under the watchful eye of the bird, the whole thing went very quickly. In less than ten minutes we pre-moistened the soil, dropped in the peas, covered them loosely with dirt, and then watered. Voila!

With the weather starting to warm up (and the snow hopefully over for the year!?!?!), the peas should do just fine. We'll see in a few days. Of course, it is Friday the 13th...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Container Garden Update

It's been unseasonably cold here the past week, with temps in the mid forties during the day and chilling to the low 30's at night. But inside our apartment, our container garden thinks it's spring already and our starts are growing quickly. Soon we're going to need to transfer them to larger containers. We'll share the experience when we get there, but so far, so good!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Better Gardening through Cooperation

I forget where I read it, but recently I came across an article where someone was espousing how neighbors might enjoy greater success growing food by banding together and specializing. The idea is pretty straight forward - a group of neighbors agree at the start of the growing season to a list of produce they want to grow collectively, and then each household raises only the one or two types of produce on the list it believes it is best at growing. Freed from multitasking and able to concentrate only on the one or two crops it does best, each household will in theory then enjoy greater yields and better quality produce. The resulting harvest can then be swapped and distributed among the whole group, with everybody getting a little bit of everything.

I have no experience doing something like this, but it’s an idea we find interesting and thought about when we first conceived of Veggie Trader. So even though we didn't specifically develop the site for this purpose, we've just added a Plan and Specialize! section to the listings for anyone trying to find neighbors interested in specializing. If this is you, try posting a listing in this section stating the particular type of produce you can specialize in. If any of your neighbors are also interested, they can find and contact you there.

We hope to develop a better way for neighbors to come together and pledge to specialize in time for next year's growing season, but for now we hope the Plan and Specialize! listing area can at least serve as a starting place for those wanting to pursue this path.

Monday, March 9, 2009

An Idea Springs to Life

The idea of creating a place where neighbors might easily find each other and buy/sell/swap homegrown produce spent several years banging around the back of our heads before we finally decided last spring we’d try bringing it to life. The result is Veggie Trader, which we are excited to finally see emerge this week.

Having put considerable time and energy into creating Veggie Trader, we hope you’ll find it useful. We hope it will grow. All good things take time though, and we invite you to be among the first to use the site and grow with us. There are many reasons we think finding and developing local food sources is important for the future, and we believe homegrown produce can be a big piece of the puzzle. Let’s see what happens together!

If you have any thoughts or comments about either Veggie Trader or this blog, please let us know. We are always looking for ways to make both more useful places.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Moms (Parents) Need To Show Their Kids The Entire Food Process

There's a great article on The Daily Beast:

Mothers, Daughters, Food
For decades moms were told to shut up about about their daughters' weight. But Lee Aitken says in our toxic food culture, it's ok—indeed essential—to care about, and discuss, what they eat.

I think some people are realizing that there's a lot more to food than just what they eat. Growing up I was made aware of the entire food process, not just the eating part. My parents made sure I participated in planning, shopping, and cooking meals, even at a very young age. Then, every dinner our family sat down together and we were (gasp) made to have a conversation.

As I stand here on the verge of turning forty, I am still often mistaken for being in my (early) twenties. I credit my good health to a positive, holistic attitude towards the entire food process. If you're reading this blog, don't just be a food spectator, get in the game! It's much more fun, and better for you, to become a food participant.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

First Shoots!

Six days after planting, our cherry tomatoes have sprouted. A couple of the onion seedlings we planted are also poking out of the starter soil already. Generally these should take a little longer to sprout, but here they are anyway.


Gotta go... Must water...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Of Fruit Trees and Oyster Bars

This weekend we volunteered through Hands On Greater Portland to plant fruit trees around the community garden located at the Hazlewood Hydropark in Northeast Portland. Only a year old, the garden already has a year long waiting list for plots and looks like it's getting a lot of good use. Quite a few people from the neighborhood came out to help with the planting, along with many volunteers from all around the city. All told, the group planted nearly two dozen young trees in just a couple of hours, including pear, quince, persimmon, and many varieties of apple. In a few years, the area around the garden will be delicious!

Anyway, it was a great opportunity to learn about planting young trees. A representative from Friends of Trees was on hand to demonstrate how to do it properly. Basically, you dig holes roughly three feet in diameter and a foot and a half deep, into which you carefully transplant the trees, which in our case were little more than four foot tall sticks with roots. We were careful to make sure the roots were well spread out and buried only a couple inches below the soil, as otherwise trees will have difficulty growing. Once a tree is planted, you give it a couple buckets of water and add some mulch around the base to help maintain moisture. then you stake the trees to keep them growing straight and upright in the wind. In a year, the stakes will come out. At that point, the trees should be able to stand perfectly well on their own.

When we were finished, we stuck around to help a second group of volunteers plant trees around the edge of the hydro park. We planted several pines, maples, and douglas firs. These were more mature than the fruit trees and instantly made the park a prettier place.

All in all it was a lot of fun. We even came up with an idea for what the Portland water district might do with the now defunct old water tower in the park. We'll just have to see if the district takes our suggestion of opening an oyster bar up there seriously!