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Tater Tats! Temporary Vegetable Tattoos that support small farms and healthy eating!

 

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News and updates about the farms and all things veggies that we think are great. 

Groundswell Farm, MI

Jenna Weiler

Katie and Tom have introduced many, many community members to the values of eating and growing food well.  The Tater Tats kickstarter campaign funded one season of salads, supplying them with 40 different varieties of green seeds. 

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Full Hollow Farm, MI

Jenna Weiler

Full Hollow farm (also known as Brad and Jamie) are talented, knowledgeable, hard-working, and extremely fun farmers. We're honored to have helped them in their first year of production by purchasing an electric fence to surround their vegetable fields.

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Honeybird Farm, MI

Jenna Weiler

Jon and Nikki own Honeybird Farm are facing some dreamy plans for expansion (berry orchard, pastured chickens and pastured pigs). Tater Tats funded a shelter to use in the rotational grazing of heritage pigs.

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Winter Harvest

Leah Sienkowski

Le Jardin Maraîchères by Robert Antoine Pinchon

“The Market Gardener” by French artist Robert Antoine Pinchon depicts an autumn garden in the city of Paris circa 1850. Within the city limits, at a more northern latitude than the Canada-US border, and without the use of machines, electricity, artificial heating or artificial fertilizers, Parisians once grew enough food to satisfy the needs of their entire city, even through the winter. In his painting, Pinchon illustrates a method of season-extension in which eighteen-inch diameter glass bell jars (or “cloches”) are placed over the crops, creating miniature greenhouses.

The autumn scene Pinchon paints is so alien to our modern food system, it looks nearly futuristic. And it should be... these French bell jars amplified sunlight, prevented heat loss, and shielded plants from harsh winds, extending harvest far into the winter months. Loads of decomposing manure (always surplus in horse-drawn Paris) helped create a “hotbed” from beneath. The bell jars were covered with blankets or straw on cold nights and propped up for ventilation during the day. 

In the 1970s, farmer Eliot Coleman resurrected this French system of low-energy winter harvest on his Maine farm. He now sells the majority of his crops from September to May, referring to August as his “second spring.” Instead of the bell jars, he uses a system of unheated greenhouses and low tunnels—like miniature hoop houses the width of a single garden bed. His plastic insulation passively captures daylight and radiates heat to the plants, each layer moving his garden one and a half growing zones south, or about 500 miles.

Coleman writes, "We [are] not doing battle with the cold of winter, as one thinks of doing in a heated greenhouse while trying to grow hot-weather crops, but rather we [are] creating a simple protected microclimate, sufficient for the needs of our hardy plants. It is like the difference between sitting inside by the fire on a cold day or being outside with enough layers of clothes on to keep you comfortable. Second, we... pay attention to the fact that once past the middle of November most of the crops were not growing much anymore. They [are] just sort of hibernating and waiting for us to come and harvest them. In other words, we [are] not actually extending the growing season as you would with a heated greenhouse, we [are] extending the harvest season (from The Winter Harvest Handbook)."

Coleman's Winter Harvest Handbook has become an important resource for small-scale organic growers in the northern US, helping “reconnect [us] to the grand design of the earth.” In it, he explains how to harvest fresh, sweet, and green winter crops without the use of fluorescent lights or artificial heat.


In his unheated greenhouses, Coleman can grow a variety of vegetables all winter long—things like spinach, scallions, carrots, leeks, baby lettuces, and watercress. He even manages to harvest a crop of tender potatoes in early May. These winter crops take longer from sow to harvest, but they do not suffer the stress of heat, pests, and weeds like summer crops do. They are also sweeter, because of the increased sugar concentrations plants use as "antifreeze."


Here in the north, farmers and markets deal with an overwhelming abundance of both work and produce in the summer and resign to eating far-off produce and finding off-farm employment through the winter. The warming power of manure has been forgotten, along with the hardiness of young greens to spring back after frost and the ability of snow-cover to insulate the earth from freezing. The production value of our local soils has been ignored, not to mention the utility of our root cellars, which have great capacity to sustain life. 

As we learn to accept the ebbing, flowing patterns of the earth, we discover that winter is not a bleak lesson on abstinence or food miles, but rather, of candy-sweet carrots hibernating under glowing glass orbs and billowing plastic tunnels. The simple success of a winter carrot is a sign that moving into the future is simple--a matter of reaping an agricultural heritage already sown and tapping into natural cycles, ancient and hospitable.

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"Robert Antoine Pinchon, 1921, Le Jardin maraicher, oil on canvas, 74 x 100 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen." by Robert Antoine Pinchon - Histoire des Arts. Licensed under Public Domain via The Commons.

Jenna Weiler

Are you behind on Holiday shopping too? Here's a quick look at 5 gifts for your food loving family and friends. Also this holiday season think home-made and home-baked for your gifts. Crocheted hats, home-made granola, canned goods, all make perfect gifts for the ones you love. 

This book should not just be for young adults... but for all adults. I read The Omnivores Dilemma a few years ago, and recently read this young adult version. It's so good. You must read it. You also should gift it. 

Magazines are the gifts that just keep giving. Life & Thyme has thoughtful stories and inspirational images.  Culinary storytelling that arrives to your doorstep quarterly

Put all those mason jars sitting around to use as water bottles. These cuppow lids are so fun, I want one in every color. 

Continuing on the mason jar kick... this is the ultimate "I would never buy myself... but really want it" gift. The book is full of fun cocktail recipes using fresh herbs and quality ingredients, and the shaker is a fun, small, easy way to get your cocktail game on. 

Not to toot our own horn but... don't you think Tater Tats would make a fun stocking stuffer!?

Wishing everyone a fun filled and stress free holiday season! 

10 Ways Your CSA Will Change Your Life

Leah Sienkowski

Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) is an economic system in which community members pledge their support to a local farm and share the risks and benefits of food production with the growers. Becoming a member of a CSA secures you a share of the farm’s harvest each week throughout the season and connects you to to the real value and cost of producing food--to the people who grow it and to the land on which it is grown.

Like any good thing, there’s a learning curve and some minor (agri)culture shock, which may send you googling for recipes and making more refrigerator space. At the end of the season, however, the commitment to eating from your own seasonal landscape will change you, in a number of ways:

1. You will learn the names of your farmers. This is the first step to forging a beneficial relationship with your local, food economy. Fifty-six years old on average, farmers today are rare creatures and a dying breed, comprising only 1.6% of the US population. Buying a can of organic soup or apples from the health food store will not teach you this, but a weekly convergence at a farm full of farmers, will.  

Heather and Olive from Green Wagon Farm

Heather and Olive from Green Wagon Farm

2. Be struck with a renewed wonder for the earth. At some point or another, seeds, fruits, leaves, and roots, might inspire you. Grocery-store produce, shrink-wrapped in plastic, will pale in comparison to a freshly picked head of broccoli in the hands of its growers, speckled with dew.

3. Choose to eat in. This concept is backwards from our on-the-go lives and convenience-seeking habits. The deal is this: in order for your CSA to work for you, you'll have to cook it, and then you’ll have to sit around a table (or picnic blanket) and eat it. Meeting your vegetables in this way will inevitably slow you down, improve your health, and save you money.

4. Become a better cook. With a weekly influx of new ingredients or new combinations of old ingredients, you’ll find ways to be creative and reduce your reliance on recipes. You will learn to cook simply (in garlic and a bit of butter), letting your ingredients shine.

An example of an October share from Groundswell Farm 

An example of an October share from Groundswell Farm 

5. Improve your health. In the dinner theatre of life, vegetables will take center stage, naturally resulting in a diet lower in calories and richer in nutrients. The colorful allure of your heirloom tomatoes will keep you accountable to your kitchen and away from processed and prepared foods (vegetables expire sooner than say, cheese puffs).

6. Eat the seasons. You'll know when things are in season...  because you'll be eating them. None of this fogginess and delusion around what’s local and what's good when: you can breathe easy and eat the cucumber, knowing it’s harvested at peak freshness—not weeks before.

7. Experience new vegetables. Graduating your first season with an incidental degree in botany, you’ll learn that sweet potatoes are not actually potatoes, but more closely related to the morning-glory… that broccoli is on its way to becoming a flower, and that Brussel's sprouts are actually tiny cabbages growing on stalks. You might just meet a new favorite vegetable, find a way to prepare an old favorite, or become smitten with a vegetable you once detested, becoming a kinder, more inclusive, and less fearful eater.

Swiss Chard, Garlic Scapes and Kohlrabi

Swiss Chard, Garlic Scapes and Kohlrabi

8. Learn to can. Some of the old-timey preservation skills will soon became relevant to you. Too many tomatoes? Behind on your cabbage? Get out your grandmother’s ball jars. With a bit of dill and a dash of vinegar (or a couple of freezer bags), anyone can preserve the season’s bounty.

9. Learn to compost. Encountering the full-circle of your diet is part of the mindfulness that a CSA could instill in you, if you let it. Your farmers will happily welcome back food scraps, and you will begin to think in terms of fertility, rather than filth.

10. Experience a renewed sense of place. One by one, your atoms will be replenished with ones from your own region. You'll be more part of your home than ever before, more integral to your local economy, and more rooted. You’ll think about food in an entirely new way, reordering your life to be less about pleasing your fickle tastes, and more about nourishing your body while building the soil and sustaining farmland.

Folks on a farm tour at Green Wagon Farm

Folks on a farm tour at Green Wagon Farm

Learn more about joining a CSA near you, making friends with farmers, and becoming a positive and productive eater in your food-community, here.


Leah Sienkowski's first farming season was as an apprentice on a vegetable farm in southwest Michigan, and she's been working in small-scale agriculture  ever since. Enamored by the soil and the dreams of her fellow farmhands, her work aims to elevate physical labor and market artisan foods, communicating the true costs and values of production with hopes of bolstering the economic viability of small-scale agriculture.

The Beginning

Jenna Weiler

I started caring about food about 7 years ago. That's me, Jenna, in the middle there.  I read Michael Pollan, and Mark Bittman and was inspired to change my eating habits. I figured the best next step for me was to join a CSA. That one little decision, leading me to one spectacular farm, changed my life. I dove head first into the good food movement, never looking back. 

The first year I joined Groundswell Farm as a CSA member I was overloaded with food I didn't know how to cook, but loved the challenge of going through a whole shares worth of veggies each week. My interest in health, cooking and farming grew, and I joined Groundswell as a farm-worker part time. I've been with them ever since. 

The idea for Tater tats was born in those fields, while picking beans, us farmworkers joked that we should tattoo beans onto our arms, in order to make sure we were harvesting the correct size. After just a few minutes of veggie tattoo talk, the idea of Tater Tats was born. 

Over the winter I decided to give this crazy idea a shot, I asked my friend Zoe to illustrate some veggies, and launched a kickstarter. Our goal was to raise $2000 to create a line of tattoos that would get people excited about healthy eating, vegetables and sustainable farming. 

With a little boost from an NPR's the salt article, the kickstarter was funded and I was suddenly running a temporary tattoo company. What? I sell Tattoos now? 

My desire is for this little company to be about more than just tattoos. Small farms and healthy eating campaigns have so much stacked against them (subsidies, lobbyists, etc) I hope to help offset that imbalance just a little bit by helping our friends plant fruit orchards, build hoop houses, and install fences. 

Tater Tats is an experiment in helping fund small farms, a way to inspire folks to eat healthy, and ideally one small step towards changing the food system for the better. So follow along, I asked some farm friends to join me and we'll be writing about things that inspire us, creative food and farming ideas, and things that we think need to change.