Meet Yer Eats: Happy Piggy Photos

I’m working on assembling a real post on our fun and educational day visiting Babes in the Wood, Caromont Farm, and The Rock Barn (I, the squeamish pescatarian, watched a pig get butchered–and took photos, don’t worry) as part of the Meet Yer Eats Farm Tour. In the meantime, I wanted to share a few of my favorite (live) pig photos from Babes in the Wood. Those are some happy pigs. Enjoy!

Cheenius fights the law: Urban Chicken Keepers vs County Planning Commission

Guest post from dear friend Cheenius, who got political last night to fight for the right to keep chickens in her backyard. Go Cheenius!

Cheenius likes to stay active politically from time to time, and this evening she made it to Albemarle County’s Planning Commission meeting.  Why?  Because the topic was urban agriculture, and like all HP readers, she knows that favorable zoning is crucial to the local food and sustainability movements.  Andy Sorrell, Senior Planner for Albemarle County, gave a thorough report to the 10 commissioners on pros and cons and how other cities and counties are handling this issue.  Then the commissioners gave some initial thoughts before opening it up to the public. Cheenius, as a gardener, beekeeper, AND chicken-keeper, felt compelled to get up in front of the microphone and shout out:  “MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR!”  Well, actually, not quite.  She thanked the planners and the commissioners for moving urban agriculture forward, and said that they seemed fully capable of hashing out the details, but that they should keep in mind that if they want to impose maximum hen numbers, chickens are flock animals so they should really keep the number at 4 or more.  Also, since the county is strained for staffing, requiring permits seems like a waste of time, when you can just have reasonable regulations that can be enforced as needed.  After the standing ovation (I can’t rule out that that was only in Cheenius’ head), she sat down and realized that if there isn’t a clear zoning mandate now, then possibly she’s currently in violation on all three counts of gardening, beekeeping and chicken-keeping.  She considered running for the door, but decided that would draw even more attention to her lawlessness.  Instead, she’s confident the commissioners will ultimately do the right thing when it comes to letting county residents grow their own food.   Initial language they’re looking at adding to the County’s Comprehensive Plan:

“Urban Agriculture Objective:  Support local food production and consumption through the use of urban agricultural practices as a means for increasing access to healthy, local, and affordable foods and encouraging the productive use of vacant land.”
Cheenius gives it two eggs up!


Work has been crazy, making me not want to sit in front of my computer when I’m not at work, so I haven’t been a good blogger lately. Here are some catch-up items from the last couple weeks.

First: the Charlottesville Locavore Expo

Charlottesville had a Locavore Expo at the City Market a couple weeks ago. Charlottesville Tomorrow has a good write-up. I had an interesting chat with the girl from Homegrown Virginia, a new company helping local farmers and food producers to source their ingredients locally, and I had a gluten-free brownie sample to die for at the Integral Yoga table.

Next: Eat Local bingo. Forgive the crappy picture.

Eat Local bingo

This was hiding in the back of the new Buy Fresh Buy Local guide: a bingo card for eating a wide variety of local foods! The Piedmont Environmental Council is giving away prizes for completed bingo cards. If you are a nerd like me, you will want to find the bingo card in the back of your Buy Fresh Buy Local guide and have some fun (and eat some delicious local food) playing.

Finally: Gail Hobbs-Page’s presentation for the Blenheim Artisan Series

Gail Hobbs-Page

Cheenius and I had a lovely evening at Blenheim Vineyards for the first event of the Blenheim Artisan Series. Gail Hobbs-Page of Caromont Farm spoke about cheese making, animal husbandry, and local food, before screening a short documentary called The Rise of Southern Cheese, created by the Southern Foodways Alliance.

Cheese samples

We got to sample some delicious Caromont cow and goat cheeses, and drink a couple glasses of Blenheim wines. I liked the Viognier.

Blenheim Vineyards Viognier

It was an enjoyable and educational evening. I recommend trying to attend part of the Artisan Series. Again, I apologize for the picture quality, but here’s the poster with the remaining speakers.

Blenheim Artisan Series


Local Food Hub’s Open House

On Sunday we visited the Local Food Hub’s Educational Farm for “A Taste of the Farm,” their spring plant sale and open house. Here’s what the Local Food Hub does, from their website:

We are developing a sustainable local food distribution model right here in Charlottesville, Virginia. By working together with farmers, eaters and our community, we are addressing three major issues in our nation’s local food system: distribution, supply, and access.

A Taste of the Farm

It was a dreary day, but that didn’t stop people from touring the farm, petting animals, and buying plants and packaged food. We arrived late in the event in a misty rain, and were impressed by the number of cars in the lot.

Stop 1: the chicken yard.

Rooster info sign

“A happy, healthy chicken produces even healthier eggs for us to eat!” Amen. These chickens were living the life, other than having small children chasing them around. But they didn’t even seem to mind that. They had run of a big yard, with a large, wheeled henhouse that could easily be moved to a new patch of grass.


Notice how the chickens are under the house–that was to avoid the enthusiastic clutches of the children racing around their yard. These two hens were captured, but seemed happy to sit in the boys’ laps and be petted! Tame chickens = happy chickens = happy eggs?

happy hens

The chickens weren’t the only animals getting loved on. In a pen down the hill were two pygmy goats and a baby cow. Children and adults both were lined up to enter the pen and commune with the animals. Giving people the opportunity to meet the types of animals that produce food for them is a great way to get them thinking about where their animal products actually come from.

pygmy goats and baby cow

We were happy the goats (presumably) couldn’t read the sign in front of them at the truck selling local goat meat kabobs and burgers!

goat kabobs

We walked a signed route through the crop fields and ogled the sprouting produce, but were most impressed with a sign describing a farming apprenticeship program the Local Food Hub offers at their educational farm. A husband and wife team are apprenticing on the farm, cultivating their own plot of land, and learning on the job before striking out on their own. The farm provides them with support, in equipment and advice.

Local Food Hub crops

The Local Food Hub is one of the things that makes the Charlottesville locavore scene so healthy and vibrant. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for their next community food event!

Food Heritage: A Central Virginia Gathering

Guest post from our intrepid friend Cheenius:

Cheenius meandered over to the county office building to check out “Food Heritage:  A Central Virginia Gathering.”  Hosted by the Virginia Food Heritage Project, this was not another symposium about why local food is great (although Cheenius enjoys those as well).  Rather, they attempted a true dialogue with farmers, gardeners, and really everyone in the 5 county area to get to the roots of our food heritage, and figure out what that could mean for our future.  How did they do it?  They had 5 stations with volunteers ready to take down the information from long-time native Virginians who can remember what breed of cattle their grandmother raised, to ideas about job creation for the future, to figuring out the location of long-lost orchards.  This will be an ever-evolving project, so it will be interesting to watch it take shape.  Turns out that Charlottesville is the locavore capitol of the world according to Forbes Magazine, so if any town is going to start this kind of dialogue, it makes sense that it’d be us!

Old cookbooks and random implements:

A sausage mill:

Cheenius, glad you had fun, and thanks for sharing your experience with us!

Cheenius and the Mushrooms, Part I

Today we have a guest post from our resident survivalist, Cheenius, who attended a mushroom-growing workshop and was kind enough to share her experiences with us! Take it away, Cheenius!

Cheenius signed up for a “Mushroom Workshop” and was excited about the opportunity to share her experience with HP readers.  Offered by Mark Jones of Sharondale Farm in Keswick, the 3 hour course covered the biology, ecology and cultivation of mushrooms.

Eleven intrepid souls showed up in the rainy 38 degree weather to sip on the yummy herbal tea (free with registration of $60) and learn about fungus.   Mark proved to be quite knowledgeable, and provided interesting mushroom facts and insight.  For example, did you know that the largest living organism on the whole planet is a fungus?  It measures six square miles!

After some fungi basics, Mark walked us through his collection of poplar and oak logs in different stages of growing a number of mushroom varietals.  We then moved on to the hands-on part of the workshop, where he showed us how to drill holes in the logs, insert the spawn and cover it with cheese wax (Cheenius was happy to see that cheese wax has multiple uses!).

He had us each try our hand at the different parts of the process, and sent us home with our own starter spawn for oyster mushrooms.

Cheenius also purchased some shitake mushroom spawn as well as a nifty “innoculator” tool to make the insertion process easier.  As soon as she fells some trees she’ll be in business . . . in 8-12 months!

Cheenius recommends:


Good luck, Cheenius! Keep us posted on your progress!

Charlottesville Community Food Awards

How do I score an invite to the Local Food Hub’s Community Food Awards next year?

The Local Food Hub is a Charlottesville non-profit that helps connect consumers with locally produced food. They run a warehouse where they purchase food directly from farmers, then sell it to local restaurants, markets, hospitals, and schools. In three years, the organization has purchased $750,000 worth of produce from local farms. They also operate an educational farm to teach community members how to grow their own food, and donate 25% of the food grown there to local food banks.

Congrats to the award winners:
Agricultural Endurance Award: Whitney Critzer, Critzer Family Farm
Community Mentor Award: Richard Bean, Double H Farm
Partner Producer of the Year: Jose and Adolfo Calixto, Singing Earth Produce
Institutional Leader Award: UVA Health System
Small Business Big Impact Award: Integral Yoga Natural Foods
Trailblazer Award: Alicia Cost and Sandra Vasquez, Nutrition Services Charlottesville City Schools

Maybe next year they’ll have a blog award! 🙂

Meet Yer Eats farm tour: Brightwood Vineyard and Farm

Our third and last farm visit was to Brightwood Vineyard and Farm in Madison, VA. We arrived just in time to join the final tour of the day, led by the farmer’s knowledgeable and entertaining young nephew, Aidan. Aidan introduced us to the duck-guarding, wolf-attacking donkeys from “some weird place in the Middle East.”

Next he took us to the sheep enclosure with a bucket of grain, and let us feed the sheep, while explaining to us that sheep are very lazy. Very, very lazy. He seemed to prefer the character of the goats, but they were lodged too far down the hill to include on the tour.

From the sheep pen, we looped up past the flock of ducks that are under the donkeys’ care. Aidan said if they hear wolves howling in the distance, they’ll turn the donkeys out, and if the wolves approach the ducks, the donkeys will attack. Safe from wolves on this day, the ducks were busy running back and forth across their yard for no apparent reason.

Aidan ended his tour with the chickens and their giant guard dog. He showed us the inside of the chicken coop, and pulled a fresh egg from beneath a very displeased hen. He also taught us that while chickens stop laying eggs in the winter, ducks lay year-round.

We ended our farm visit by tasting an array of elderberry and elderflower wines made on the farm. The wines were interesting, but the highlight of the visit, and perhaps of the entire day, was Aidan’s commentary as he guided us around his uncle’s farm. What a cool kid.

We learned a lot, and are looking forward to next year’s Meet Yer Eats tour!

Meet Yer Eats farm tour: Forrest Green Farm

Second stop on the farm tour: Forrest Green Farm in Louisa County, home to cows, chickens, horses, herbs, flowers, and vegetables. Oh, and did I mention the MINIATURE COWS:

I actually expected a flock of tiny cows, but these guys were almost full-sized. They’re beef cows, and Forrest Green also sells them as breeding stock. Apparently the Miniature Hereford’s numbers are on the decline; maybe dear friend Cheenius will get a herd for her yard and help support the breed.

Under the tent, all sorts of goodies were for sale: sheep and alpaca wool yarn, herbal products, and quail eggs.

The eggs are beautiful–they look like Easter candy. They were from Breeze Hill Farm‘s covey of quail, and the Quail Eggs flyer they gave us advertised benefits of regular consumption of quail eggs such as: they have more protein, vitamins, and minerals than chicken eggs; they have no LDL (bad) cholesterol and are rich in HDL (good) cholesterol; they help keep diseases and disorders (listing many examples) at bay; they increase sexual potency in men; they’re good for your brain, immune system, skin, and hair. Oh, and they improve metabolism and increase energy. Wow! How could we not buy a dozen?

quail eggs

With our quail eggs in hand, we headed to the car for our final farm visit of the day. Last stop: Brightwood Vineyard and Farm, in Madison, VA.

Meet Yer Eats farm tour: Ted’s Last Stand

Finally, the (gray, drizzly) day has arrived for the Meet Yer Eats farm tour!

First stop: Ted’s Last Stand farm and garden in Louisa, VA, home to flowers, veggies, bees, mushrooms, chickens, llamas, donkeys, dogs, and cats. We roamed the grounds, seeing a rooster wrangling, learning about mushroom farming, and petting donkeys.

Ted's Last Stand tent

Dear friend Cheenius, a bee expert, compared notes with a fellow beekeeper.

Farmer Michael Levatino demonstrated rooster wrangling and showed us the rooster’s spurs, which are used to subdue the hens for mating. They are serious weapons–the poor hens! The hens may have been molting, but the flock looked very henpecked, with raw backs.

Ted's Last Stand rooster wrangling

Dear friend Cheenius was VERY excited about the mushroom growing workshops coming up this fall! These oak logs had been inoculated with Shiitake mushrooms and sealed up with wax. The mushrooms should start popping out in a few weeks.

Ted's Last Stand mushroom growing workshop

The llamas were antisocial and kept their distance, but the donkeys were very friendly manure generators.

Ted's Last Stand donkey

Next we were off to the nearby Forrest Green Farm to see, among other sights, MINIATURE COWS! (spoiler alert: they weren’t really so tiny.)