Thank you Sunnyside for the tour of your facility! Manna Culinary Arts students ventured into the world of meat processing on April 19th. Students followed live hogs through the process that ultimately turns them into bacon. Even though students did not raise a hog or develop a relationship with them, they were able to view the stark moment of death. The animals are moved through a series of fences developed by Dr. Temple Grandin, a famous advocate for humane kill floors. The hogs are then hung and butchered. Students were able to explore careers within the butchering industry and a couple even took home job applications. The Manna Culinary Arts Program provides assistance with filling out applications and creating resumes. The next batch of culinary students will start in the late summer and will be integrated into the Manna Garden through workshops, harvesting, and farm to table meals!
Right when you thought we couldn't get more plants packed into our Manna Garden....
We've been growing the garden figuratively and literally. In addition to creating 9 new hillside terraces, we literally planted over 50 flats of basil, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, bok choy, napa cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, kale, chard, parsley, and cucumbers! We've been so busy, we haven't blogged all spring!
Our NCCC crew, hailing from all over the United States, came to our assistance in building the 9 new stone terraced beds in the hillside orchard. We're working hard to expand the garden growing spaces within our one acre fence. The 9 plots will be cycled into the Manna Community Garden Plots as interest grows over the next year.
Our community at the Manna Garden is growing as more clients become involved in the garden through the brand *NEW* Community Garden Plots!!!! Manna clients were chosen through an application process to be our first pilot community gardeners. 6 of the 9 plots were dished out to clients while the other 3 are being tended by veterans from the VOA sheltor. This "garden therapy" is providing a time for vets suffering from PTSD to get their hands in the dirt and connect with each other through gardening! We also have some veterans currently helping out at our regularly scheduled Wednesday Workdays.
Photo Credit: Amy Johnston
Everyone agrees that youth can learn valuable skills and lessons in the garden. Farm to Preschool is often cited for creating healthy palettes in developing children. Elementary School gardens are now more important than ever. But we must not forget about the farm to school movement for teens and young adults. At the Manna Garden, we work hard to empower young adults from La Plata Youth Services, Trio Upward Bound, Animas High School, and The Four Corners Rainbow Youth Center. Through our partnership with Celebrating Healthy Communities (CHC), The Garden Project runs teen specific programs that make teens in La Plata County feel valued.
Why is it important to make sure all teens feel valued? Healthy Kids Colorado surveyed teens throughout the state and found that:
- 30% of teens felt sad or hopeless everyday for 2 weeks
- 14% of teens made a suicide plan
- 8% of teens attempted suicide in the last year
- 35% of transgender high school students attempted suicide
- 24% of gay or lesbian students attempted suicide
- 26% of bisexual students attempted suicide
The statistics are staggering, and provide a strong call to action for nonprofits that work with youth.
Why gardening for teens? In addition to the broader understanding of where food comes from and how your body is fueled by it, there are more complex garden lessons about adversity that are suited to teens. That strong feeling of empowerment after planting a seed and seeing it produce an edible fruit or vegetable is something that can be carried forth into life. The following gardening tasks or topics can provide meaningful experiences for teens:
- Weather/Watering - gardeners cannot control the weather, but they can make choices that may minimize the impacts of weather on their crops. Teens cannot control certain circumstances in their lives but can always make a choice concerning that circumstance and make choices about their reaction to adversity.
- Fertilization/Soil Health - gardeners work hard to provide all of the proper nutrients to plants through soil health and fertilization, those crops with nutritious soil prosper. Teens who choose a well balanced meal will prosper more so than those who choose an energy drink for breakfast.
- Teamwork and Peer Groups- gardeners and farmers rely on each other to accomplish hard physical tasks. Teens who rely on each other and develop peer relationships within the garden develop more complex relationships with teammates (class mates, garden mates, etc.).
- Adult Mentorship - gardeners and farmers typically start out being mentored by an older farmer. Teens feel the same mentorship in the garden with adults. This helps to increase conversations between youth and adults.
- Entrepeneurship - gardeners develop business skills by running their own business. Teens develop life skills for future jobs by running markets and selling produce in addition to financing a garden plot or garden.
- Food Justice - farmers and gardeners in La Plata County work hard to make a living, save resources, and feed those people who are food insecure. Teens who work with food insecure people develop empathy and gain a greater view of food justice.
- Sustainable World View - gardeners and farmers know the importance of saving resources. Teens will begin to develop an ethic around sustainability and food systems.
Thanks for helping us support youth garden programs from preschool to high school. It's all profoundly important!
Overwhelmed by vegetables? I know sometimes September can be overwhelming. More gardeners than ever are donating produce to the Manna Market free produce stand to help make sure that people who cannot afford fresh healthy foods are getting them. That's always an option if you feel like you don't have the time to maniacally preserve food all month. If you do have the time + patience to put away a lot of food, maybe this post can help you make it a bit easier. Don't be afraid to take shortcuts. My favorite shortcuts include:
- Refrigerator Pickles - but not just cukes, think carrots, turnips, radishes, onions and all tasty things that can be added to meals October - March. These vinegar bombs can last up to 6 months in your home refrigerator, no canning needed.
- Quick Ferments - Sauerkraut, carrots, turnips and all the things listed above can be fermented in a week to two weeks. You can even use your canning jars, just make sure your lacto-fermentation is happening an-aerobically, (meaning below the liquid in the jar).
- Freeze your tomatoes whole, toss them in a gallon bag whole and freeze them. When you want to use them, take them out and thaw. The skin will peel right off and you can take the seeds out, run through a mill, or use however you would have originally. This is probably my favorite lazy technique.
- Freeze Freeze Freeze just blanch veggies and put them in freezer baggies, so easy and you can use the same water for everything including, kale, broccoli, spinach and corn.
- Shred extra summer squash and freeze without even blanching....Thaw and then squeeze out extra liquid in a towel. You're ready for baked goods!!!!
- Put things in cans and put those cans in the freezer!!!!!!! Just pull out a can, thaw and eat! LAAAZZZYYYY but if you've got the freezer space why not?
Butttttt if you find that even these shortcuts are too much, bring your produce to Manna every Wednesday from 1-3 pm and we will happily re-home it for you!
As more and more consumers and restaurants are purchasing whole, 1/2, or 1/4 animals, more chefs are looking for employees with some butchering and preservation skills. Manna's Culinary Arts Department lucked out when Neal Drysdale agreed to teach a class on charcuterie. Neal Drysdale, Chef De Cuisine of The Strater Hotel is leading the way in the local meats movement. As a Board Member of Local Brands Cooperative, Neal works hard to make local + regional meat accessible to restauranteurs and consumers.
Charcuterie, or preserved prepared meats, are growing in popularity and are a great addition to a new chef's toolbox. But is Charcuterie a new skill? Absolutely not! Charcuterie has been around since the first century AD and was an effective way to preserve meats pre-refrigeration. Charcuterie is a great and diverse way to prepare meats from a whole animal. But first, let's talk about why!Read more