I just arrived back in Austin from a rainy and relaxing weekend at my parents house. During my visit I was able to see the progress made on the 18 acres where my Dad, Mom, and their chickens also live. Projected plans for the property include an acre-sized organic garden, heirloom tomato greenhouse, pumpkin patch, compost production, and an event venue. My stepdad, brother, unrelated “uncle” and his nephew are heading the project. On this particular day I was inspired after seeing the first batch of compost produced by my brother Daniel, made from organic produce given to the crew for this intended purpose. The produce would otherwise add to our ever-growing landfills. Check out the near-perfect “waste” that will be used on the organic garden, amongst other things. Talk about upcycling!
Contigo, owned by native Texans Ben Edgerton and Andrew Wiseheart is modeled after Contigo Ranch in South Texas. I’d been dying to try this place and after many failed attempts to make it happen I was beyond excited when my friend won the 5 course dinner with wine pairing from Austin Tidbits. The concept is simple, according to the website: “Since we can’t have everyone down to the ranch, we wanted to do our best to bring the ranch to them.” And bring it they did. I opted for the vegetarian option this magical evening my taste buds were left singing.
1st Course: Root Vegetable Soup Wine Pairing: Castillo Perelada, Cava, Brut Reserva, DOC Cava, Spain
2nd Course: Three Beet Salad with arugula, caraway and parmesan Wine Pairing: 2009 Casa Morande, Chardonnay, Reserva, Casablanca Valley, Chile
3rd Course: Potato Gnocchi with Johnson Backyard Garden “Morning Harvest” Wine Pairing: 2007 Bodegas Benegas, Sangiovese, “Finca Libertad”, Mendoza, Argentina
4th Course: Roasted Cauliflower, toasted almonds, smoked greens, salsa verde Wine Pairing: 2008 Bodegas Benegas, Syrah, “Finca Libertad”, Mendoza, Argentina
5th Course: Stacked Chocolate Cake with coffee creme Wine Pairing: Mendoza Vineyards, Gran Reserva, Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
Location: East MLK
2027 Anchor Lane Austin, TX 78723
512 614 – 2260
Reality. Walking through the grocery store I spot a woman pushing a cart visibly absent of any fruit or vegetables, but instead brimming with soda cans, frozen entrees, and processed snack foods, her kids are perched on either side of the cart hitching a ride, and I think to myself, “doesn’t that Mom know how bad that food is for her family’s health and what a poor example she is setting for her children!?” So quick to judge, at the time I was oblivious to the high cost of fresh produce versus other less healthy options such as a frozen pizza that offers more bang for your buck. Sadly there are people unable to afford fresh fruit and vegetables or those who live in areas with little to no access to fresh produce – locations termed food deserts. I buy organic, local food because it is not only important that I feed my family the best quality food available, but it is also my way of protecting the environment and ensuring I support the local economy. I recognize, however, that living in Austin, Texas gives me access to dozens of natural grocery stores, farmers markets, and even farm to doorstep delivery services available at my convenience. Just like I believe everyone deserves to be happy, I also believe everyone deserves to have access to nutritious fruit and vegetables.
Small Steps in the Right Direction. The Obama administration announced a $400 million Healthy Food Financing Initiative to bring grocery stores and other healthy food retailers to under-served urban and rural communities. Organizations such as the Veggie Mobile take matters into their own hands to make available produce at wholesale prices to under-served communities. Sow Much Good, a non-profit organic farming initiative “provides organic foods at no cost to marginalized populations and creates opportunities for individuals to take part in the development of local, sustainable food source creation”. Many Austin area farmers markets accept food stamps and WIC-FMNP to purchase eligible products at local farmers markets year around, when available.
Everyone Can Help. In Austin, I came across this post on the Lily Farm’s Farmhouse Delivery Facebook community page. It is encouraging to witness first-hand, in my own backyard, someone showing compassion to a fellow community member in need. With Earth Day around the corner on April 22, I encourage you to share your bounty with someone in need. If you are fortunate enough to have fresh vegetables in your own backyard, consider giving as a gift in honor of Earth Day. If you are uncertain as to where to find someone in need, places like Caritas of Austin food programs rely heavily on food donations from the community. Volunteer at Mobile Loaves & Fishes on the harvest crew or produce washing and bunching team. This Earth Day I pledge to share my very modest harvest! You?
You know the local food movement is in full effect when you read the announcement that Greenling has partnered with Whole Foods to deliver farm fresh produce and groceries directly to your doorstep, Austinite’s head out in droves to farmers markets in Texas, and events like the funky chicken coop tour make keeping chickens not just a thing you see South of the border, but a trendy and growing city-wide phenomenon.
As consumers become more concerned with where their food comes from, even heading to the backyard to grow it themselves, it is important to know who to look to for more information.
Here are 5 Twitter users to follow today if you are interested in keeping up with the latest on everything related to a more conscious approach to food production and consumption in Austin, Texas. Follow these people and brands to get updates on recipes, events, and other information on how to eat your way to a healthier planet!
1. THE EDUCATOR – Edible Austin
Associate Publisher at Edible Austin, Jenna Noel, tweets about the Central Texas food culture, season by season. Follow Edible Austin to find out about events, get in on giveaways, and where and when to pick up a free Edible Austin publication for yourself.
2. THE MOVEMENT – Slow Food Austin
Follow slow food Austin to gain a greater apprecation and understanding of where food comes from. Find out about events that educate and support the slow food movement and everything that goes along with it.
3. THE FARM – Austin Farm House
Austin’s only all local food delivery service. Learn about events at the farm and around Austin from co-owner at Lily Farm.
3. THE LOCAL – Austin Farm 2 Table
Farm to Table and Edible Austin contributer Kristi Willis tweets about shopping, cooking, and dining with a focus on keeping it local, fresh, and sustainable. She celebrates local famers and food artisans.
4. THE MEGA GROCER – Whole Foods Market
Unless you are living under a rock, you’ve heard of the massive food chain, Whole Foods. Find recipes, get instant answers to your grocery food and related questions, and find out about events happening at the store and beyond. I might add that Whole Foods Market HQ is located in Austin, TX.
5. THE FOODIE – Addie Broyles
Addie Broyles writes the food blog, “Relish Austin” for Austin360.com. She also writes the “Relish Austin” column for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper a few times each month. If there is a food event in town, Addie is likely to be in attendance or at least in the know.
It’s odd for me to see a big juicy beef hamburger on Veggietime, but the fact is that even though I choose to eat a vegetarian diet, my real concern is that people make responsible choices with regards to what they put in their bodies – meat or not.
The headline of an article in the Tuesday April 13th edition of the USA Today reads, “Growing Concern’ Over Marketing Tainted Beef,” and goes on to say that, “Beef, containing harmful pesticides, veterinary antibiotics and heavy metals is being sold to the public because federal agencies have failed to set limits for the contaminants or adequately test for them….”
The agency in question, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), is also the party responsible for testing meats for salmonella and certain strains of E. coli.
A chart alongside the article outlines the name of various drugs or substances that if found in the meat could lead to potential side effects including Aresenic, a chemical element that can potentially cause non-malignant skin lesions, skin malignancy, internal malignancies, vascular diseases and hypertension. Sounds fun, right?
If that’s not enough of a reason to reconsider your options, benefits of choosing organic free range grass fed beef are that it’s a great source of beta carotene, contains more vitamins A and E, has no risk of mad cow disease, contains less calories than grain fed beef, and less saturated fat than conventional beef. After all, if you must eat beef, at least make sure you are eating some that is not potentially harmful to your health.
More Benefits of Organic?
No Antibiotics > Reduces Your Risk of Being Antibiotic Resistant
No Growth Promoting Hormones
Why Free Range?
Better Treatment for the Animals > Not Confined to Feed Lots
Better for the Environment > Grass Pastures Efficiently Removes Harmful Co2 From the Air
More Benefits of Grass Fed Beef?
Great Source of CLA Conjugated Linoleic Acid: A Fat that Reduces Risk of Cancer, Obesity, Diabetes, and a Number of Autoimmune Disorders