Perhaps it's Easter's early arrival this year, but the Farmer's Market woke up this past Saturday. There were at least 20 vendors and hundreds of passersby and shoppers creating that feeling of energy and excitement that's so appealing. Catherine Badgley and Yvette Perfecto brought their class to the market, and were on their way to Fresh Seasons and Meijer's to learn more about our local food system. I found them gathered around Shannon Brines, who was talking about whether his farm is organic.
Because Shannon's farm is a small operation, that "certified organic" label that consumers have been trained to look for (and which is looked upon by many farmers as just an expensive and hassle-filled rubberstamp) seems to create real frustration. The thing that we consumers are really looking for is the conscientious application of a farmer's true sustainable, organic practice - and Shannon's view is that you only get that assurance when you "know your farmer" and understand the quality of his or her character.
Adding to the frustration is the fact that there is no organic certification organization in Michigan any more. The inspection would have to be done from someone out of state - so how much authority would they have to really know his farm? I have to agree that it makes a difference to know the farms that, like Shannon's, go beyond what's required on paper to practice what has been called "beyond organic" methods. I'd put Tantré, Frog Holler and Garden Works in that beyond organic category....
Part of what made the Farmer's Market seem so alive last Saturday were colorful pots of (overly optimistic?) flowers. Even if it's not quite time to plant yet, it's not too early to check out the great selection of heirloom seeds that Project Grow has for sale at the People's Food Co-op. Their website lists the winners of their heirloom tomato tasting last fall - Aunt Ruby's Green and Cherokee Purple are going to be in my garden again this year!
Some of that spring energy from the market could go into wishing Shannon a Happy Birthday today - OR into the great organic, low-vision, and heirloom gardening classes being offered by our wonderful Project Grow, which happens to be having a green St. Patrick's Day fundraiser TODAY at Seva from 5-9pm. They say:
"PROJECT GROW FUNDRAISER - St. Patrick's Day, March 17th, at Seva Restaurant from 5-9pm. Support Project Grow on St. Patrick's day. Join us for an evening of friends, food and fundraising.
Seva Restaurant, serving fresh imaginative vegetarian food, will be donating 20% of the evenings sales to Project Grow. We will also be holding a silent auction from 5pm until 8pm. So come, join us at Seva, eat green for Project Grow!
Auction items donated to date include:
- A Robert Abbey, Inc. Marina Opal Table Torch Lamp, donated by Three Chairs ($199 value). View the lamp.
- Two passes to the 46th Ann Arbor Film Festival, March 25-30, 2008, donated by the festival ($170.00 value)
- Coffee class for five from Roosroast Free Speech Coffee, donated by Mike Scholl and John Roos ($100 value)
- Gift Basket of Local Food, donated by Plum Market ($100 value)
- Combined: Small Antique Buddha Statue, donated by Downtown Home and Garden ($80 value) and two Tickets to see His Holiness The Dalai Lama, donated by Tara Griffith ($50 value). View the statue and the tickets.
- Olive Pearls and Rhyolite Necklace by Sierra, donated by Falling Waters ($80 value).View the necklace
- One year family membership to the Arab American National Museum, donated by the museum (Value: $65)
- Gift certificate for one Eastern Accent Cake, donated by Eastern Accents ($25 value). View one of their cakes.
- Acme Merchantile Grab Bag, donated by Acme Merchantile ($15 to $80 value). View the grab bag.
- Original hand made Bud Vase Sculpture by Wire Works Studio, donated by 16 Hands Gallery ($34 value). View the sculpture.
- Crazy Wisdom Gift Certificate, donated by Crazy Wisdom Bookstore ($25 value).
- Framed triptych of Michigan Native Plants by local artist Melanie Boyle, donated by Melanie Boyle and Jill Peek ($75 value)"