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If you want to be in the know about what’s going on at our organization, you’ve come to the right place.

Be sure to check back regularly to get our latest blog updates. 


This month we spoke with Ric Wasserman, local business owner and member of CFI’s first Board of Directors. You can still find Ric in our local food system as the owner of The Pigskin and The Corner on Union. Ric also currently sits on the Board of Directors at ACEnet. Read more about Ric’s time at CFI in the interview below.

Last week’s Discovery Kitchen involved two types of bean dips made with delicious legumes! One was a black bean dip and the other one was a white bean dip. These dips were definitely not the normal chip dips that our patrons at the libraries were usually consuming.

For the past 25 years, Community Food Initiatives has been an integral part of the local food economy. In celebrating this milestone for our organization, we are reconnecting with some of our past staff and volunteers, and we will be sharing their stories over the next several months and “Exploring our Roots.” This month we spoke with Janice Brewer, a long-time CFI volunteer and former AmeriCorps service member. Janice was our Community Garden Coordinator from 2016-17, and she volunteered with us for several years prior to starting her service. Janice has many wonderful stories about working in the gardens, particularly one volunteer group that showed special interest in our gardens and the work that we do. Read more about Janice’s time at CFI in the interview below!

Welcome to Affordable & Fresh! I will use this space to share ways that I incorporate affordable, shelf-stable foods with (typically) seasonal, fresh items. We’ll cover breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between! Here’s the thing about CFI: We like to help people. We like to help them get access to resources (like food and seeds and plants). We like to help them learn what to do with the resources we connect them to. We also like to share our knowledge about those resources. One of our absolute favorite things to do is combine our knowledge and resources with the knowledge and resources that people in our community already have. We think that’s a great way to improve people’s experiences – be it with food, gardening, service, or just existing in a community.

Last weeks Discovery Kitchen adventure, involved Shagbark Organic buckwheat Polenta hot cereal, made with simple ingredients. The cereal was a hot commodity at some of the local Athens County libraries. We made a sweet and savory version of this hot cereal. The Shagbark Organic Buckwheat Polenta Hot Cereal was easy to prepare, organic, and has a ton of great nutritional benefits.

Tree Pruning Workshop

On Sunday, March 4th 2018 Athenians flocked to Highland park to get the 101 on Fruit Tree Pruning. The workshop was led by Weston Lombard, owner of Solid Ground Farm. Lombard taught the basics of tree pruning from why to prune, when to prune, how to prune and what to prune.

Welcome to Affordable & Fresh! I will use this space to share ways that I incorporate affordable, shelf-stable foods with (typically) seasonal, fresh items. We’ll cover breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between! Here’s the thing about CFI: We like to help people. We like to help them get access to resources (like food and seeds and plants). We like to help them learn what to do with the resources we connect them to. We also like to share our knowledge about those resources. One of our absolute favorite things to do is combine our knowledge and resources with the knowledge and resources that people in our community already have. We think that’s a great way to improve people’s experiences – be it with food, gardening, service, or just existing in a community.

Why Does Policy Matter for Absolutely Everyone? Because we are all eating, and you won’t believe how policy affects your dinner plate. I attended the Seed to Sustainability Workshop, hosted by Community Food Initiatives at the Athens Community Center. As a social work major, my focus of interest are policy issues that affect our food security. It felt humbling and surprising to learn that policy affects our seeds, the birthplace of our fruits and vegetables. Seed policy impacts garden stewards, seed exchanges/swaps, seed libraries, seed banks, and seed companies.

For the past 25 years, Community Food Initiatives has been an integral part of the local food economy. In celebrating this milestone for our organization, we are reconnecting with some of our past staff, and we will be sharing their stories over the next several months and “Exploring our Roots.” This month we spoke with Barb Harrison, the Assistant Director of the Campus Involvement Center at Ohio University. Barb helps place interested OU students as volunteers and interns with CFI. Our student interns and volunteers are central to our work and we are very grateful to Barb for continuing to refer talented students to us! You can read more about Barb’s involvement with CFI in the interview below.

On a chilly Saturday afternoon in February, people flocked to the Rural Action office (Kuhre Center) to extend their knowledge on soil fertility. Plant Health Management graduate student, Ellie Andrews presented the do's, don'ts and everything in-between during her lecture. Soil fertility refers to, "The quality of soil that enables it to provide chemical elements in quantities and proportions for plant growth," Andrews explains. Gardeners must be aware of what's added into their soil as it affects the overall ability to support healthier plants. Also, managing soil creates a positive environmental impact as it decreases water pollution from nitrate and phosphorous leaching and decreases green house gas emissions. So my first key takeaway from Andrews is that soil management not only helps yourself but it helps the environment. Everybody wins!

For the past 25 years, Community Food Initiatives has been an integral part of the local food economy. In celebrating this milestone for our organization, we are reconnecting with some of our past staff, and we will be sharing their stories over the next several months and “Exploring our Roots.” Ronda Clark was the Executive Director of CFI from 2003-2012. It was during her time at CFI that many of our current programs, including the Donation Station, began. During Ronda’s time at CFI, she was particularly passionate about fighting food insecurity by supporting local farmers and saving seeds. She continues to be one of the primary seed savers we work with today!

For the past 25 years, Community Food Initiatives has been an integral part of the local food economy. In celebrating this milestone for our organization, we are reconnecting with some of our past staff, and we will be sharing their stories over the next several months and “Exploring our Roots.” Badger Johnson was an AmeriCorps COMCorps member serving at CFI between 2011 and 2013. He focused on expanding the community gardens and educating community members on growing and cooking with healthy foods. Badger’s work at CFI and interest in the environment continue to influence his work today. Read more about his time with CFI!

For the past 25 years, Community Food Initiatives has been an integral part of the local food economy. In celebrating this milestone for our organization, we are reconnecting with some of our past staff, and we will be sharing their stories over the next several months and “Exploring our Roots.” Leslie Schaller, currently the Director of Programs at ACEnet and Business Director at Casa Neuva, has been an integral part of the local food economy for the last few decades. Leslie played a lead role in founding Community Food Initiatives while she was working to develop ACEnet’s Food Ventures Center. She continues to work with CFI through collaborative funding opportunities with ACEnet and other organizations.

The first week in July, CFI planned an organic pest and disease control workshop with Associate Professor of Environmental and Plant Biology, Art Trese. We met at the W. State St. Plant Biology Gardens, which grows food for the weekly plant sale at OU. As we met outside the gardens, we all noticed the dark ominous sky in the distance—in front of a bright sky, clouds churned together, forming shapes like smoke rising. A storm was definitely heading towards us.

In honor of my final edition of A + F, I’m going to take it back to where my love for food and cooking began. It’s a pretty regular story: I watched my mom do it. I was always welcome in our kitchen during meal preparation to help when I wanted, or to just watch while keeping her company. Everyone in my family cooks pretty well, but most often my mom took the reins. I would usually take off my shoes and sit cross legged on the kitchen table with my back against the wall, just taking it all in. One of my favorite parts of this was having little tastes of what everyone would soon enjoy at mealtime. She seemed fearless in the kitchen, trying out various flavors and ingredients, combining staples and fresh items, just like we do here at A + F! I didn’t realize how much I had absorbed until I began having to cook for myself as an adult.

Continuing the theme of family, gardening, and putting food on the table it is important to remember dad on his day as well. My dad worked long, hard hours when I was growing up. Running the family heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration business meant unpredictable schedules and tiring work. It also kept him busy during the warmest months of the year which of course includes prime gardening season. But that didn’t keep him from diving into the garden and getting his hands dirty on something other than the oil and grime of a cooling unit on its last legs. It allowed for an escape, for quiet moments working the earth that were a welcome alternative to the stress of being self-employed and the expectations of him being available 24/7 for his customers.

The second week of May, CFI hosted a workshop to plant a pollinator garden at the Eastside Community Gardens. CFI Board member and gardening extraordinaire, Kira Slepchenko, ran the workshop. When I arrived to the workshop, Kira was talking about how to plan where to put different pollinator plants based on their height, size, and direction of the sun so that you don’t have certain plants shading others.

Get ready to kick down some doors. Before you put on your shoes, not real ones. Just … culinary ones. Food doors. We are kicking down food doors together here at Affordable + Fresh.

June is here, and most of us already have things planted in our garden. Sometimes a lot of things (how do I always end up with more plants after each farmers market or visit to White’s Mill?). It all looks good and nice, with perfect rows and weedless plots. Until, one day you wake up, and your garden is chaos (ask me how I know). There must be a weed fairy out there, and please don’t let me meet her, because I do not have nice things to say. The best way to keep everything in check is to do maintenance-obvious, I know. But I am not going to leave you hanging. Below are some things you can start doing today, to keep weeds in check, to keep your flowers flowering and your veggies producing and your sanity intact.

Loraine McCosker, a sustainability driven Athens resident and CFI member, sees organizations like CFI as critical to community-based development and resilience in the southeast Ohio region. Loraine believes our ‘bottom up’ approach – and our inclusion of children with the Yeah! Kids program – will aid in the betterment of the region for years to come. Read more of Loraine’s thoughts in the interview below!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Although belated, the sentiment is well intended in celebration of those moms out there who sacrifice for the benefit of their families and communities to put food on the table while juggling careers, social commitments, and countless other tasks.

Nancy Manring, Ohio University’s Sustainability Studies Theme Director and CFI member, enjoys gardening with our community in her spare time. Not only does she see seed-saving as critical for enriching local food security, Nancy also appreciates seed-saving for its enhancement of global crop diversity – a homegrown climate change adaptation strategy. Read more of Nancy’s CFI experience, and her thoughts on social and environmental sustainability, in the interview below!

Sarita Khadka Karki, a recent Athens citizen and garden enthusiast from Nepal is looking forward to the opportunity to garden with CFI in the Southside Community Garden this planting season. Her oldest daughter has already shown the same enthusiasm as Sarita for planting tomatoes – we can’t wait to see what new gardening skills Sarita and her family will gain this year! Read more of Sarita’s thoughts in the interview below.

There is something about butterflies that captivates us, ignites our imagination, and excites us. Children and adults alike are fascinated with these colorful creatures.

But our human activities are causing harm to these fascinating creatures. Their habitat, their food, and the places for them to reproduce are all being destroyed and poisoned as we speak (or as you read this).

Ruth Dudding, community volunteer and CFI Board member, understands the importance of healthy food access for improving public health – and the resilience of local communities. She continues to assist CFI in its local food access efforts, and has enjoyed watching the organization evolve over the years and improve its community impact. Read more of Ruth’s thoughts on “Why CFI?” in the interview below!

Did you know we can make fuel out of our own food waste, grass clippings, and really, well anything that’s organic?

I went to a CFI workshop in early April 2017 that taught us how to create fuel from waste we would otherwise throw away. Kyle and Erin from Squeaky Duck Farm were kind enough to host and lead this workshop.

Mathew Roberts, Athens community member and previous COMCorps volunteer for CFI, sees CFI as an access point for greater volunteer service and community engagement – and local food. Mathew calls the work of CFI “building bridges” to engage people in the healthy, fresh, and local food economy for the long-term. His favorite memories with CFI are always at the Harvest Dinners. Read more of Mathew’s thoughts on “Why CFI?” in the interview below!

Megan Almeida, CFI community member and summer service corps member (2016 and 2017), admires the work of CFI – especially the children-centered YEAH Kids! program. She feels that by investing in our children, we commit to a healthier community overall. Read more of Megan’s thoughts on “Why CFI?” in the interview below!

Welcome back to Affordable & Fresh! This month, we’ll continue our quest to create a great food experience by combining affordable, shelf-stable items with fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Imagine a small farm set within the rolling hills of the countryside far removed from any major metropolis. A vegetable stall at the end of the driveway serves as a makeshift marketplace for neighbors and others to acquire what has been freshly picked that morning. “Come in, we’re open” proclaims the hand-painted sign. No need to tend to it—payment is on the honor system.

On a sunny spring day, I found myself standing in the middle of the garden, a tomato plant in my dirty hands. I already got the plant out of the container, when I realized that I forgot to look into my garden plan to see where to put the said tomato.

Kerrigan Boyd, CFI member, loves working in the gardens! She sees CFI as a “really interactive” organization, and a resource for future community empowerment. Kerrigan has a few wonderful memories, like saving seeds and experiencing what she calls community ‘flow’ work, that she shares with us in the interview below.

Linda Parsons, CFI member and a retired special-education teacher, believes in the power of healthy food access for all, and thinks the world would be “a whole different place to live” if everyone had that kind of food access. We’re working with members like Linda to make that a reality in our community! Read more of Linda’s thoughts on the power of community engagement and the impact she’s having in her very own garden, in the interview below.

Joelle Hopkins is a junior in Applied Nutrition with a concentration in dietetics at Ohio University. Getting involved with the Athens community through her work with CFI has enriched her time here as a student and has given Joelle a new perspective on what fresh, healthy food access looks like. Now, she only wishes her friends knew about volunteering with CFI, too!

Dandelion Duff, CFI member, loves the hands-on experience volunteering for her community and thinks CFI is a “really inspirational organization.” After seeing friends attend CFI workshops and hearing about the Summer Service Corp, Dandelion decided to give CFI a try – and we are sure glad she did! “CFI is here to solve a problem,” Dandelion said in a recent interview. “We do what we say, and we make great improvements every year.” Read more of Dandelion’s thoughts on “Why CFI?” in the interview below!

Eric Long, CFI member, enjoys coming to many of our workshops and really believes “in the entire mission of what CFI does.” As an Ohio University alumnus, Eric first heard about CFI through his Geography major and as a summer counselor at Camp Oty’ Okwa – “But that was like 12 years ago!” What’s now become ‘trendy’ to work in food issues, Eric sees CFI as an organization dedicated to ensuring greater food security for all before the popularity of the issue hit the rest of the country. Read more of Eric’s thoughts on “Why CFI?” in the interview below!

Caitlin Garrity, CFI member, calls the work of CFI “creative, different, and innovative” – a service that’s “filling niches” other organizations in the area don’t or otherwise cannot fill.

Here at Community Food Initiatives, we’re grateful to ‘Grow and Share the Harvest’ with our staff, volunteers and our community members year-round.

Things are finally winding down around here. We had a good hard frost recently, and have been hurriedly helping everyone get the gardens ready to sleep for the winter, and making what improvements we can while the weather is still nice.

We’ve been hosting a bunch of workshops lately, with lots of wonderfully inquisitive attendees. Half of our workshops have been covering different food preservation techniques such as dehydrating, freezing, and fermenting vegetables and other foods.

We’ve been hard at work getting our gardeners set up for the fall growing season. As part of our work with Grow Appalachia, our participating gardeners have received the tools and equipment to construct their own miniature unheated greenhouses (called “midtunnels”) to use as a way to extend the useful growing season.

Kevin Fletcher here, your regional garden specialist! Let’s take a look at how things have been going at some of our community gardens around the area:

This time of year things get a little crazy here at CFI, so we need a few extra hands to keep all of our plates moving.

Community Food Initiatives (CFI) is very pleased to invite local community members to join one of our several community gardens in Athens County for the 2015 growing season starting now!

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