All posts by jenniebrant

BX

Excerpt from a beautifully written piece about the Bronx describing 5 radically creative and driven people who are changing local circumstances through their passion for literature. A salute to strong people who look at a problem and think creatively to take action towards real change.  Thank you for the reminder that local moves can make measurable, impactful change.

I was drawn to the article as I spent some time years ago working for the NYC Department of Health, traipsing around the Bronx as a Public Health Advisor for Disease Control. My work took me into hospitals, homes, businesses, and medical offices – meeting, and hopefully helping people whose stories, struggles, choices, and conditions will stick with me for the rest of my life in beautiful, humbling, and heart-breaking ways.  Tracking medical records and disease management, along with environmental observations (and let’s be honest – bureaucratic bs) ultimately led to my choice to leave NYC and give farming a fair shake. At the time I was planning to farm for a few months while applying to law schools; I wanted to work in Health Policy.  Within a few weeks I was weighing the options: beating my brains trying to make policy changes or feeding people healthy food.

Well, here I am many moons later, farming away.

The places that brought me where I am today are still close to my heart and Jennifer Baker’s article brings these 5 community members’ work to the forefront, showing that a community with a sob story for a reputation can move forward with giant strides and build a community to take pride in.

We can choose to embody a different narrative than that which we have been instructed to inherit.

Here’s a link to the full article on http://www.electricliterature.com : https://electricliterature.com/how-the-bronx-is-building-a-vibrant-literary-community-d2e9a1aa958b , check it out!

And on that note, a re-imagined Block city,  with green roofs, rooftop gardens! Think about it ROC.
Flip ya blocks, flip ya life.

 

The down and dirty afterword, if you’re still reading…

Sustainable change, progress, takes effort from all levels: grassroots to global, and anyone choosing to invest personally in change evaluates their own capacities and gifts, and at what level these would be most impactful. I’ve found my place at the root-iest level and am thankful that someone somewhere is fighting for good food policy.  What about you?

Kale, Embedded (with love).

Over the years of slinging veggies at farmers markets, I’ve often chatted with savvy shoppers cooking for picky eaters. I always enjoy hearing their sneaky tips and tricks to slip some healthy food to their loved ones.

Kale held a ‘superfood’ stardom for a time where nobody cared how it tasted because some telephone game of nutrition news had us all convinced that a bitter green smoothie would grant its imbiber immortality. But there are so many foods that are loaded with nutrition and as a farmer its always interesting to see what’s ‘hot’ and wonder what’s next.

For example, I think radicchio should get a moment in the limelight.  How do I get this gorgeous crunchy cabernet globe a piece of the superfood pie?
Guess what: Radicchio doesn’t taste great on its own. It’s a chicory: bitter like dandelions, tough to chew on. But guess other what:  It’s loaded with Vitamin K and antioxidants, and you probably don’t even know you’re eating it all the time. Radicchio’s bright red color and distinct taste make it a lovely accent to light, tender ‘spring mix’ lettuces, but I haven’t seen it go mainstream in smoothies or hyped up at juice bars quite yet. Maybe its day in the sun of ‘superfood-dom’  is coming but more likely radicchio will continue to ninja-feed us all kinds of good nutrition from the midst of a side salad, remaining a veggie underdog.

Back to kale:  if you like the taste of kale, good for you. If you don’t, you should know that kale thrives in cooler temperatures. When you’re eating seasonally,  you’ll find that spring, fall, winter kale tastes far better than summer kale so set your expectations accordingly and that might help you jump on the kale train to kale camp. Ultimately, though healthy, let’s not try to tell ourselves to love on kale like its a box of Girl Scout cookies. Let’s agree to be realistic and absolutely honest.

Kale chips, not that great; kale smoothies, possibly the best way to ruin a perfectly good food. Now that we have that out of the way, drum roll:

My top 3 tricks to feed people kale without them knowing it in order to avoid unsubstantiated complaints:

1. Massaged Kale

Turn down the lights, slip into something comfortable, and warm up your hands; it’s time to relax your brassica. That’s farmer talk for kale and all her cousins like broccoli, arugula, radishes… anyways, relaxed? Let’s move on.  Let’s get to the part where we hide the kale in our unsuspecting family’s food and wait for just the right moment to tell them they ate something healthy and didn’t gag.

Prepare the kale by washing it if you’re so inclined. Then, holding the stem end up in one hand, rip the leafness off  the stemness in bitesize chunks into a mixing bowl. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle a dash of sea salt; this adds the grit to help the massage tenderize the kale.  Massage the greens for 2-3 minutes, tasting for readiness, i.e. increased tenderness to your liking .  Toss the kale in with other ‘normal’ greens like leaf lettuce, arugula, and that beautiful though bitter radicchio. Toss with dressing of choice and giggle inwardly as your family enjoys KALE.

2. Burgers

Finely chop kale leaves and add ’em to your burger mixture. I personally prefer a veggie burger but I don’t judge if you’re beefin’. Different strokes, they say.  My go-to veggie burger baseline recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman’s in “How to Cook Everything”, an amazing starter book for those learning Kitchen. The burger recipe is very adaptable once you get the basics down.
Ratio: don’t overdo it. Try 1 packed cup of chopped kale per 8 burgers. Mix well prior to dividing.

3. Cold Salads

Potluck! You can feed your kale to the masses at a gathering of pasta salad and friends. Kale’s strong flavor is well-countered by vinegar, so though you can tuck kale into many a dish, you’ll have best results with recipes calling for some type of vinegar. If you’re just getting started with healthy cooking habits, my #1 piece of advice to you is to buy several types of vinegar, and start experimenting. Any cold salad like a coleslaw or pasta salad, or my cowboy quinoa dip can handle some kale, so chop it up finely and toss it in the mix.  I would be so impressed with anyone daring enough to take all this advice in one swoop: experiment + potluck can only lead to great life success, right?

Oh, I’m so sorry kale chips didn’t make the top three. If you have more ways that you sneak kale to your loved ones, please share!

 

bees knees

Every year I plant 1,000 sunflowers just for the birds and the bees. I don’t sell them, or even harvest but a few. I love to watch the bees ravenously crawling around on the flower in full bloom, desperate as a swarm of 6 year olds when the birthday party pinata bursts. Then the giant blooms fall over when the seeds fill out, signaling the gold finches to swoop in for a summer snack.

cropped-img_1223.jpg2017 was a wet year, if you hadn’t heard. A great year to be a slug, and slug is who I blame for eating so many young sunflower seedlings last year. The strongest sunflowers I had the whole year was planted by a visiting class from the World of Inquiry Middle School. The kids lined up in the dirt, squatted down, tucked in the seeds, and walked away. This beautiful oddball to the left grew among that row of stunning golden giants, a tangled and curious anomaly.

One thing that really struck me about farming early on was how much of it I could do with absolutely no experience, background, or prior training. I was handed seeds and a given a basic, brief explanation. And they grew. The most eloquent way I’ve heard it explained is, “Shit wants to grow.” Nudge along but get out of the way and enjoy the show.

What I’m trying to say is that my job is really easy. You’re probably qualified. Must love dirt.

Field walk

 

I headed out to the farm today and enjoyed a crunchy morning stroll across the field. Four months now since I first walked out here; I’m constantly taken by the views.

When I started this land search almost 3 years ago, a wise friend and mentor told me that it could take years to find the right place. Naturally, I didn’t believe her.

I’ve seen dozens of farms come up for sale. I’ve searched actively at times, passively during my busy farming season, and aggressively at moments of desperation. Told myself it doesn’t have to be perfect, it will be perfected over time. But back in September, when I was out of town, my realtor Dennis sent me a listing, a little farther out of town than I’d wanted, a little bigger than I’d been thinking.
“Sure,” I said, “Can we take a look when I get back in town if it’s still around?”

A week later we met at the gate and walked 30 feet into the field.
“Yep, this is it.”
He asked if I was sure; the soil seemed rocky. Let’s walk a little further.

OK, I’ll walk, but I already know. I was drawn to the dynamic wavy soil, high and low spaces, the wooded slope, the small marshy pond-puddle. One tall tree left in the middle of it all to give a tired farmer shade.

4 months later, the initial terror of taking on this daunting endeavor has at least momentarily subsided, giving way to a well of excited anticipation being fed by streams of supportive friends and family who managed to keep believing this long-thought day would ever come.

I feed that energy into planning and preparing paired with a little bit of dreaming for now while this crunchy snow coats the soil, barring me from fieldwork but not field walks.