CSA Newsletter Week 16B

Become a Guest Teacher at Green Gate

Do you have a special skill related to agriculture, gardening, cooking or sustainability you want to share with our community?
Become a part of our farm-based education team by becoming a guest speaker/teacher at Green Gate Farms!

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Past classes include: beekeeping, composting, rabbit raising and harvesting, chicken harvesting, herbal soapmaking, cheesemaking and more. Just email your course suggestion (include your bio, price, timing) and we’ll see about adding you to the roster.

Send details to info@newfarminstitute with ‘potential guest teacher’ written in the subject line.

Thanks for advancing farm-based education in Central Texas!

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CSA Newsletter Week 15A

Farmer Skip’s Letters from the Field

Pictured are students that we are training from the Escoffier School of Culinary Arts — this week they help harvest okra at our River Farm. This is the fifth year that we’ve participated in this Farm to Table program, which offers students a chance to work side-by-side with farmers in Central Texas.  Though most of these students had cooked with okra, they had never picked it. They soon found out why it’s not our most favorite crop to harvest! Bare skin soon starts to itch – and itch — long after you’ve come in from the field.

-Farmer Skip

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CSA Newsletter Week 14B

Farmer Erin’s Letter from Farm Camp

One of the best performing crops of our summer season has been our Junior Counselors (JC). An abundance of teenagers donating their time and energy has meant that this year’s Farm Campers have enjoyed unparalleled attention. Our green-shirted guides have taken on all tasks with smiles. Sometimes a JC spends a morning as a “Barn Buddy” to a camper with a bout of separation anxiety. Or is drafted to take over livestock care, ensuring rabbits and chicks get special attention in the heat of the day or they become sous chefs — making everything from squash spaghetti to cookies to foraged pizzas.

For me it’s a privilege to be a part of these kids lives, especially for the children who’ve grown the camp with us. Some JCs, like Ethan W., have been coming to Farm Camp for eight years. Once a shy camper, he is now a thoughtful, confident leader. When we put him on a task, we’re confident he will not only get it done, but done in a way that inspires others.  Likewise, twins Zane G. and Paxton G., who have been with us eight years as well, are now trusted, independent field hands capable of building and cementing a new paddock for the horse and goats with minimal supervision. These JCs are what make camp so worthwhile. We are so proud to be growing farmers, wholesome helpers, and passionate activists for good, clean, fair food.

To thank them for their contributions, a new camp tradition has been launched: floating counselors down the Colorado. Yesterday, six counselors, who had never been to our River Farm in Bastrop, got to spend the day floating and frolicking on what we call our “poor man’s Schlitterbahn”. We floated and floated again in the cool, quick current, then lolled, skipping stones, shrieking when fish nibbled our legs and mooing at fat cows as they lumbered down the opposite shore to drink and wade. A perfect summer day.

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CSA Newsletter Week 13A

Farmer Erin’s Letter From Farm Camp

Camper parents tend to dawdle at drop off. They linger, asking, “Why isn’t there a camp for adults?”  I tell them about our  Farm Camp for Adults, (next class: July 23); they sigh. They want to play. They don’t want to go to the cube farm. They want what their children have: the freedom to explore and enjoy this historic farm. Who can blame them?

One of the most important aspects of Farm Camp is the vibe.  For me, that means creating a sacred place where campers experience deep engagement and deep relaxation. After spending a year at school, the last thing campers need is a rigid schedule. Yet, we do want them to engage in meaningful work and gain an understanding of the importance of good, clean, fair food. So, mornings are about engagement. A farmer may gather campers to move chickens to a new pasture, for instance, while explaining the importance of manure and soil fertility. Or a counselor may lead a foraging expedition for tasty weeds and flowers for the pizzas they make from scratch and cook in the sun oven.  Little bits of information shared as we go.

At lunchtime the vibe shifts. Time for deep relaxation. For some campers, that means an afternoon of play or exploration with newfound friends or exploring the woods, climbing trees, eating lunch in a fort, swimming, reading a favorite book, playing foozeball, hanging out with the counselors, napping, daydreaming. They choose their favorites until we gather for Swap Blanket.

At the end of the day, we gather at Swap to check in and give voice to our desires, then the trading begins. Campers bring items from home (no electronics) that they no longer want to trade for new items, especially found farm treasures like a guinea hen feather or huge squash. This subtle lesson in recycling and sustainability is a mainstay at camp. And proof of its impact was confirmed when a parent reported that her camper squirreled away items all year in anticipation of gathering for Swap again at camp.

You can share in our Camp Vibe every Friday when campers take over our farm stand. They set up the stand, prepare signs, and are so eager to help you choose your food, flowers and treats. One camper has even launched a new gardening product sure to improve your blooms — bunny berry bags. Come see!

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CSA Newsletter Week 12

Farmer Erin’s Letter from Farm Camp

Our urban farm is abuzz with campers. Some are exploring fields and trees with Junior Counselor Josephine seeking flavor — herbs, edible flowers and berries — for the foraged breads they will make this afternoon. The “Sprouts” are feeding and caring for rabbits, chicks, horse, goats, pigs and kittens. The “Stalks” are creating a new paddock for White Sox and the goats, learning how to pound in T- posts and cement cedar posts. While another group learns how to build a raised vegetable garden bed, and still another bunch are intent on creating a beach under some trees. No one is ever bored on the farm.

Encouraging these suburban children to try and master new, unfamiliar tasks is one of my favorite aspects of our eight-year-old Farm Camp. Each week we take a group of children ages 5-15 and set the seeds for transformation. Never moved a chicken to a new pen? Here’s how. Don’t know how to cook a vegetable? You get to lead our daily Sun Oven Snack Squad. Should the farm adopt Muscovy ducklings from a farmer who is moving? Junior Counselors research this topic and present the pros/cons at Morning Meeting.

What began as a fairly simple idea — letting children take ownership of our organic farm — has blossomed thanks to contributions made by our partners. This week Artist Laura Greene showed us how to make art using vegetables. Last week Chris Mayor of Ravenswood Hand Forged showed us how to make and use knives. Next week Alison French, an award-winning beekeeper, may inspire campers to keep hives in their own yard. Showcasing the talents of friends and farmers is at the heart of New Farm Institute’s mission and is why this camp is a one-of-a-kind experience for all of us.

Despite excellent staff and months of planning, I never know what is going to happen each day. Sometimes campers are deliriously happy because they’re allowed to play wherever they choose. And sometimes serrendipitous connections are made. A scholarship student with a very troubled home life, for instance, has found a friend and role model in David, a man who patiently volunteers his carpentry and landscaping skills to us. Together, they repair rabbit cages, devise new construction while happily working together all day.

Tomorrow campers run our farm stand. They will set out luscious tomatoes, okra, potatoes, flowers, honey, eggs and more, while Community Relations Manger Carolyn discusses the importance of food justice before greeting new customers (from 10-3). Please join us!

………We’ve got room in camp and scholarships are greatly appreciated.

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Angie Omer from Angie’s Sweet Treats!

Meet our new baker, Angie Omer from Angie’s Sweet Treats

One bite of Angie’s moist, homemade banana bread will have you saying goodbye to store bought treats for good. As the soft crunch of oats and moist raisins tickle your tastebuds and warming cinnamon sugar floods your senses you’ll be transported to your childhood. Angie’s homemade treats, which range from sweet and salty Pumpkin Raisin Nut Muffins to crunchy Peanut Butter Brittle to Chocolate Muffins are all on sale at our Saturday farm stand.

Angie began baking with her mother when she was 10 years old. Together they made pies, cookies, and other sweet treats. “She was always baking”, Angie remembers, “I always wanted to help her bake. I even had a little cookbook I would cook from alongside her”. Angie remembers many days when she would measure and chop alongside her. She mentioned baking is a lot like muscle memory, after watching her grandfather make barbecue sauce, she can still remember his method today. Angie believes this is the best way to learn how to bake, and now teaches her granddaughter the same way.

For over 30 years, Angie worked as the baker and cook for Austin ISD. She’s been a member of New Covenant Church for over 40 years, and her community has been tasting the benefits of her baking ever since. She loves experimenting with different baked goods for the holidays; first exploring with cakes for each household, then little bags of cookies, and (get this) even massive cookies she makes in a pizza pan to get their size right. One year, she even made a cookbook, “Angie’s Favorite Desserts”, for her church after people were begging her for her recipes. Where did these delicious recipes come from? Most were passed down by her mother, tried and true AISD recipes, and she’s even adapted recipes from the internet to perfect them. Her favorite thing to bake are cinnamon rolls, which she explains are one of the easiest treats to make, don’t require a ton of ingredients “just a lot of flour” and are always a crowd pleaser. She’s also a fan of classic chocolate cakes and cupcakes which she decorates with meticulous design and planning.

Angie’s Sweet Treats is truly a family-focused business that integrates recipes passed down from her mother, and website/logo design by her son. As the supervisor of tech and communication at Austin ISD and an artist, Angie says “I couldn’t do this without him”. Since Green Gate’s goal is to pair with its surrounding community and serve its community more than simply vegetables, we’re delighted that Angie is one of our neighbors from Colony Park.

Want to improve your baking? Angie stresses the importance of using good quality ingredients, “my daughter kept using margarine and I told her you gotta use butter and good butter!”. In some of her baked goods, she uses King Arthur’s whole wheat flour, honey, and coconut oil to lighten them up. However, for lovers of classic baked goods filled with the classic butter, white sugar, and white flour. She laughed that while our farm customers love healthier ingredients, the brownies and cookies are still sold-out every week.

Angie has even challenged herself to start developing gluten free-recipes, an always tricky feat. Instead of attempting to mix the plethora of gluten-free flours yourself, she recommends using King Arthur Measure for Measure flour. Measure-for Measure flour claims to be usable in most baked goods, with the exception of yeasted bread. Angie is looking to master gluten-free flour mainly in her muffins and cakes to make them available for those that maintain a gluten-free diet.

Angie is able to sell her baked goods under the Cottage Food Law, signed into law under Governor Perry in 2011. “I didn’t care for Perry before, but now I say “Yay Perry!”. Angie started selling her delicious treats at the Lakeline Farmers Market, but was more interested in a smaller community. Believing it would be a great partnership between fresh vegetables and baked goods, she reached out to Green Gate to inquire about selling her baked goods.

Mastering the classics of baking with fresh and healthy ingredients, Angie’s delectable baked goods are not to miss. My mouth waters as I think about the crisp on the outside, soft and most on the inside Double Chocolate muffins she sells that evoke memories of childhood baking with my own mother. Angie evokes childhood nostalgia with every blissful bite of her freshly baked treats, and her baking has been an outpouring of love for her community for over 40 years.