Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What came first: The chicken or the salmonella?

8/24/2010 9:23:53 AM
by Andrew Odom
This morning Fox News reported that,
"approximately 1,300 people have been sickened in a salmonella outbreak linked to eggs in three states and possibly more, and health officials on Wednesday dramatically expanded a recall to 380 million eggs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with state health departments to investigate the illnesses. No deaths have been reported, said Dr. Christopher Braden, a CDC epidemiologist involved in the investigation.
Initially, 228 million eggs were recalled but that number was increased to the equivalent of nearly 32 million dozen-egg cartons.
The outbreak was linked to in-shell eggs from Wright County Egg in Galt, Iowa, according to Sherri McGarry of the Food and Drug Administration."

So I sit here, staring out at one of our flocks, there is a salmonella outbreak in America that has now possibly effected some 384 million eggs.

Wright County Egg – an Iowa based company – ships all the way to places like California, and sells eggs to distributors like Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph's, Boomsma's, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms and Kemp. (You can read more about these companies and egg safety by visiting this site.)


Now here at Odom's Idle Acres we not only raise a flock of laying hens (6-7 eggs/day) but we also raise a flock of broilers for meat. I am finding myself more and more bothered by this situation with each passing day. In past months we have seen the number of backyard flocks rise sharply due to grocery prices and the push for locavore living and sourcing ones food. A large number of cities - including San Francisco and New York City - allow small, backyard flocks (6-10 birds) and cities are consistently allowing for more backyard flocks and larger flocks. Having said that, do we really need to ship eggs half way across the country?

It's fair to say that the further you ship an item such as eggs the more risk you are taking. Not to mention the fact that it just isn't necessary. Most of America has a climate hospitable to chickens and a number of communities in the middle of the country and the southeast region claim poultry as one of their top agricultural motivators.

But let me return to the facts; 384 million eggs. I can't even process a number that large. Here. Allow me to write it out – 384,000,000. How many chickens must it take to even produce that many eggs? Especially if you are talking about only one supplier; in this particular case, Wright County Egg of Galt, Iowa. I refuse to believe that raising chickens in a cramped, over crowded, enclosed area breeds things other than healthy chickens. And in order to produce that many eggs I can't help but to think that ANY brooding quarters are cramped, over crowded, and enclosed. Enter salmonella.

Now, I am no dummy. Any egg can contain salmonella bacteria. But the likelihood of an organic egg from a free-ranged hen (or even a hen given ample space to roam, lay, brood, etc.) is far less likely to be contaminated with this pathogen simply because the environment isn't as much of a breeding ground for the bacteria.

If you have ever thought about raising your own layers, now is the time to really move forward. It takes relatively little time, little money, little effort and the results are profound. Check with your city to see what the ordinance is on backyard flocks. You might be surprised to find there are already people right in your neighborhood eating eggs from their own little "homestead."
Before I sign off though I want to share a few tips for avoiding salmonella:
  •    Collect eggs often (daily, even) and refrigerate as soon as possible, especially now, during the summer.
  •    Keep nesting areas clean and free of litter or bugs.
  •    Clean your coop thoroughly at least once a month. If you don't want to stick your nose in there what makes you think a chicken would?
  •    Maintain a healthy flock. If a chicken seems ill, isolate her. Check with your local feed 'n seed or ask the opinion of another "farmer."
  •    Don't introduce new birds until you have quarantined them long enough to know they are healthy.
  •    Do not wash the egg but rather use a dry brush to remove fecal matter that may have collected on the egg. Wash only as a last resort.
  •    Cook all egg products.
Salmonella poisoning is serious and can cause some horrible maladies. Outbreaks should be extremely rare though. The best way to protect your family is, as always, to know your egg farmer; either the one in your region or the one that sleeps in your bed at night.

So what are your thoughts and/or concerns about this outbreak and/or raising layers of your own?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wind Turbines Are Coming to New York, and Not Just Offshore

Published: August 16, 2010

For years, New York officials have envisioned powering the region from a set of huge wind turbines  in the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island. But well before an offshore wind farm would be up and running, giant turbines may soon be spinning much closer to the city.  


Within three years, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey  hopes to have five wind towers, each more than 280 feet tall, operating on the west side of New York Harbor. Nearby, the City of Bayonne, N.J., plans to install an equally large turbine to power a sewage-pumping station. Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans Affairs is considering placing wind turbines on or near its hospitals in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

New York, it turns out, is a windy city, well suited for turning stiff breezes into electricity. If open space were not so rare, the city might be a prime spot for harnessing the wind, said Bill Baroni, deputy executive director of the Port Authority.

“Anybody who’s ever stood out at the dock in Weehawken waiting for a ferry just knows it’s a very windy area,” Mr. Baroni said. “Apparently, it’s a pretty good place to put windmills.”

In 2008, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced his plan to use wind power to help reduce the city’s dependence on power plants that run on fossil fuels. So far, there are no large-scale efforts to harness the wind in the city, only token projects like the small turbines on the roof of an apartment building in the Bronx and a wind-powered electronic billboard for Coca-Cola in Times Square.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation has been studying the feasibility of putting turbines atop buildings, including a warehouse at the Hunts Point Cooperative Market in the Bronx. But the high hopes rest on a partnership, with utility companies and the New York Power Authority, that has designs on building a wind farm on about 65,000 acres of the Atlantic floor. The New York consortium said at the end of June that it would apply for a 25-year lease on the site, with hopes of generating as much as 700 megawatts of power there by 2016.

While city officials navigate the logistical and political shoals of that ambitious plan, other agencies are pressing ahead on more solid ground.

The Port Authority’s proposed project at Port Jersey on the border of Bayonne and Jersey City would be similar, in appearance and purpose, to a wind farm that was built at a sewage-treatment plant  in Atlantic City five years ago. The authority is seeking suggestions from companies that might be interested in managing the project on how to set up the turbines. Mr. Baroni said it could be operating by 2013.

When the winds are high, the five turbines would produce as much as 7.5 megawatts — enough to run at least 2,000 homes, he said. The authority plans to use the power generated to operate the container port there, then to feed the surplus energy into the local power grid, offsetting some of the authority’s consumption elsewhere.

“This is a commitment the Port Authority is making to reduce our carbon footprint and be better neighbors,” Mr. Baroni said. “It will allow us to both save money and also be good for the environment. Somebody’s got to go first, and it’s going to be us.”

But the City of Bayonne may tap the wind quicker. Construction of a 262-foot-tall turbine has already begun at a plant operated by the city’s Municipal Utilities Authority. That $5.6 million tower, which would be the biggest wind turbine in New Jersey outside of Atlantic City, is expected to start producing more than enough energy to power the plant by September. The city plans to sell the excess power, saving at least $150,000 a year, said Stephen J. Gallo, executive director of the utilities authority.

“It will be iconic,” Mr. Gallo said. “It will be the first windmill in New York Harbor. You’ll be able to see it from anywhere on the water.”

Both projects in Bayonne would help New Jersey achieve its stated goal of developing 200 megawatts of wind energy onshore by 2020. The state’s energy master plan also calls for producing 3,000 megawatts of wind energy offshore within 10 years.

In late 2008, the state’s Board of Public Utilities provided $12 million in rebates to three companies that are racing to build the first wind farm 12 miles or more off the coast of New Jersey. At the end of last month, the State Legislature approved a bill that would provide $100 million in tax credits to the developers of offshore wind farms.

But those deepwater projects would cost about twice as much to build as turbines on land, wind-energy developers say. Mr. Baroni declined to say how much the Port Authority expected to spend on the wind farm it plans to build at Port Jersey, but he said New Jersey had already offered $3 million toward the project. The Atlantic City turbines cost $12 million when they were erected in 2005 by Community Energy, a company based in Radnor, Pa.

Brent Beerley, executive vice president of Community Energy, said the Mid-Atlantic Coast was an attractive location for wind farms because the wind tended to be highest when demand for electricity was at its peak. The power produced also does not have to travel far to reach the consumers who pay the most for it, Mr. Beerley said.

“It’s a windy site in general, but unlike other wind farms, the time of day and the time of year that the wind blows strongest there matches when consumers use electricity,” he said. “We have very strong summer winds and daytime winds.”

The wind power generated in Atlantic City has sold at “relatively good” prices, and the project has exceeded its revenue targets so far, Mr. Beerley said. He added that the second important benefit that wind farms generate is federal tax credits, which attract big banks to invest in the projects.

Without that incentive, it would be difficult for private developers to finance a project like the one the Port Authority is proposing. Mr. Beerley, who said his company might bid to build the project, said it appeared to be feasible and potentially beneficial to the metropolitan area.

“It’s a real amount of power and it will offset a significant amount of fossil fuel use locally,” he said.

The idea is not universally popular, though. On July 8, the Board of Freeholders of Monmouth County, N.J., decided to oppose the construction of a wind turbine at a wastewater treatment plant in the Raritan Bay shore town of Union Beach after a resident fanned dissent with a Web site, 

And what about the appearance of five fans as tall as 30-story buildings forming a swirling backdrop to the Statue of Liberty?

Mr. Baroni, a former state senator from central New Jersey, said people actually liked to gaze at the big turbines. In Atlantic City, he said, casino-hotel guests often requests rooms that offer a view of the wind farm atop the sewage plant, instead of the ocean and beach.

A version of this article appeared in print on August 16, 2010, on page A14 of the New York edition.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Boomers Take Up the Plow and Open Small Farms

Daily Yonder / By  Laura Tillman

Baby boomers are leaving regular jobs and opening small farms. It's not only a new way of life, some are making a little money, too.

August 6, 2010  |  A former Dallas attorney sells sprouts under the cover of a white tarp and a fraying straw hat. A former graphic designer plops candy striped beets on a Mexican tablecloth dotted with purple and gold figures, while a U.S. Customs agent gives a customer advice on cooking eggplant.

It's just another weekend at the farmers' market in Harlingen, Texas. Here, in the Rio Grande Valley, baby boomer generation professionals have traded in their desk jobs for a different kind of retirement.

From their 40s through their 60s, farmers like Kalman Morris spend most of their days working the few acres of land outside of humble homes to supplement their income with work they believe in. It’s all made possible by three new farmers' markets that have sprung up over the past two years.

Yes, these farmers can make some money. But more importantly, farmers like Morris enjoy the life they’re living more than the office jobs they’ve left behind.

The economic margins Morris lives within are narrow. He couldn't realistically afford to live this way if it weren't for the money he's banked from time spent in a more lucrative industry — graphic design.

The impact the farmers here are making on the industry may be small — cotton, sorghum and corn still dominate the area's fields — but they believe they're sowing the seeds of bigger change.

"One of the things that I believe in is the power of many small things," Morris said. "Stronger bonds are made between things with many parts — even though the power of each is not significant, it's the strongest bond you can create. It seems to me that in a large sense America has it all wrong: the American concept of bigger is better is not correct. You end up with things that are too big to fail."

Morris is joined at the Harlingen market by a group of farmers who have taken related paths. Jack Moffitt of Bayview Veggies was a high-powered attorney. Moffitt's partner, Rhonda Recio, has kept her day job as a banker, but plans to eventually transition to farming full time.

Diana Padilla of Yahweh's All Natural Farm and Garden, is a U.S. Customs agent and her husband, Saul, was a truck driver.

The confluence of semi-retired, newbie farmers seems to be more by accident than design. But a cheap cost of living, inexpensive plots of land, natural beauty and a long growing season have brought many of these folks to an area that is just beginning to adopt greener ways of living.

The first of the farmers' markets was started in Brownsville, where a group of public health students aimed to bring affordable, fresh produce to an unhealthy population. (High rates of diabetes and obesity plague this largely low-income population along the Texas-Mexico border.)

Vendors here make between $100 and $400 per week between three farmers' markets, depending on the season. Safety nets stitched in other careers allow these baby boomers to buy a new truck when the old one breaks down, or purchase a piece of property.

These new farmers are finding new markets. The Padillas are crafting plans to sell directly to subscribers through a Community Supported Agriculture program and Moffitt and Recio are selling some products to a Brownsville restaurant. But the miles between farms and consumers are many, making it expensive and time consuming to hustle bushels of low-cost produce across the Rio Grande Valley.

U.S. Department of Agriculture officials say there is little hard data on the number of Baby Boomers using organic agriculture to subsidize their retirement. The movement can be tough to track, since not all farmers decide to go through the process of becoming certified organic, either because of its restrictions or the expense (about $750). Agriculture census data therefore wouldn't register some of these farms as organic, even though many of them follow organic practices.

John Cromartie, a geographer with the Resources and Rural Economics Division of the USDA, recently wrote a report on baby boomer movement to rural areas, but said he did not specifically look at a farming component of this migration.

"There's a hobby farm movement, but that isn't to subsidize income, that's just about fun," Cromartie said. Generally, boomers begin gardening, keep horses, chickens and cows, and use farming as a form of relaxation and a source of extra food rather than employment.

What’s going on in the Rio Grande Valley doesn’t surprise Brad Stufflebeam, former president of Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (TOFGA). Stufflebeam says many of those who attend TOFGA’s annual conferences are baby boomers. They dabble in farming with mixed results.

“The ones that are successful are the ones that choose to do it as a lifestyle,” Stufflebeam said, taking a break from work at his farm in the Houston area, Home Sweet Farm. “The ones I see failing are the ones who have money, buy land, and hire help to do the work. I see those failing. The reason is you have to be deeply involved and its very management intensive.”

For Rio Grande Valley farmers, it is definitely about love — not money.

Current TOFGA Board Member Sabino Cortez says he's glad to hear that the organic farming movement is being pushed along by these determined farmers. But Cortez is more interested in large-scale results than niche groups.

"We need to show that organic farming practices are best management practices, period," Cortez said. "As we lower input costs, soil fertility increases, disease, drought and insect problems diminish."

The moment is ripe for a large-scale organic movement, Cortez added, and he believes change can only happen on that scale if it makes sense from a profit-driven perspective. If organic practices are cheaper and better in the long term, conventional growers will begin to adopt them.

"I've seen this thing come up and get going and then die down," Cortez said. "I don't think it’s going away this time. There wasn't any mass appeal before. You have to start taking a different look at it: we're doing this because this is what makes sense. It's the best management practice. I think it's here to stay this time."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bumblebees need gardeners' help urges Garden Organic

Garden Organic News

Wednesday 3 June 2009

Bumblebees need gardeners' help urges Garden Organic

Garden flowerbeds combined with untended garden areas could help protect Britain's declining bumblebee population, according to a survey by the UK's leading organic growing charity.

Garden Organic, whose members last year surveyed the habits and numbers of bumblebees in their back gardens, discovered that flowerbeds and borders for foraging accounted for 65% of all bee sightings, while three quarters of the participants that actively encouraged bees to nest, felt scrub areas were more effective than bee boxes as nesting habitats.

As a result of the findings the charity is now urging more of us to create flower-rich refuges in our gardens to better protect bumblebee populations, thought to have halved since the 1950s.

In its survey Garden Organic's members not only counted 14,305 bees � which all participants felt was lower than in previous years - but also the types of plants they most often visited. And while Foxglove and Pulmonaria proved the most popular ornamentals, herbs such as Lavender and Comfrey proved most popular to the bees overall.

Gemma Sutton, who led the Garden Organic survey, said, “As long as we don't pave them over or make them overly tidy, our gardens can be very friendly spaces for bees. British gardening habits, whereby our gardens are in bloom for a large portion of the year, help by offering a diverse variety of flowering plants, which provide a consistent source of nectar and pollen. This is great news for bumblebees, which flock to plants like Pulmonaria early in the year and sedum late in the season.”

“It's vital that we do more to attract bees to the garden, but with concern over the disappearance of the honeybee we are forgetting that we need to conserve bumblebees too. The ongoing threat of modern farming techniques, which destroy the flowers bumblebees feed on and their nesting habitats, is just one of the reasons why we're urging people to fill their gardens with more of the plants that came out top in our survey. Leaving informal areas in your garden such as long grass, compost heaps and hedges and garden will also help to provide vital nesting sites.”

And it's not only flowers that could help bring the bumblebees back. This year's grow your own phenomenon could help too as Garden Organic also found that flowering shrubs and vegetable patches, which accounted for 23% of all sightings, also act as great attractants, with bees regularly visiting raspberries and beans.


The top twenty 'bee attracting' plants surveyed by Garden Organic members:

The # = Number of occasions each plant was recorded as being visited by bees

Family                Latin Name              Commmon Name         #

Lamiaceae Lavandula species Lavender 70
Boraginaceae Symphytum species Comfrey 54
Rosaceae Rubus species Raspberry 39
Plantaginaceae Digitalis species Foxglove 36
Boraginaceae Pulmonaria species Pulmonaria 35
Geraniaceae Geranium species Geranium 35
Boraginaceae Borago officinalis Borage 33
Ericaceae Calluna vulgaris Heather 29
Onagraceae Fuchsia species Fuchsia 27
Ranunculaceae Aquilegia species Aquilegia 26
Scrophulariaceae Buddleja species Buddleia 26
Crassulaceae Sedum species Sedum 24
Plantaginaceae Hebe species Hebe 24
Lamiaceae Origanum majorana Marjoram 23
Lamiaceae Rosmarinus officinalis Rosemary 23
Tropaeolaceae Tropaeolum majus Nasturtium 23
Rosaceae Cotoneaster species Cotoneaster 22
Caprifoliaceae Lonicera species Honeysuckle 20
Fabaceae Trifolium species Clover 19
Lamiaceae Salvia species Sage 19                                                                       

Further findings from the survey:
  • A total of 166 members took part in Garden Organic's 2008 bumblebee survey, and between them they recorded a total of 14,305 bees.
  • The buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) was the most common species during this trial, with 4,356 being recorded.
  • Of 166 participants, 128 participants stated that they actively encourage bees into their gardens.
  • The survey found that the most popular way of attracting bees was by growing flowers � a technique used by 116 participants.
  • Growing native flowers was also regarded as important by a 1/4 of the 166 participants.
  • A total of 13 participants had bumblebee nest boxes in their gardens, but 3/4 thought they were unsuccessful compared to natural nesting habitats
Top tips from Garden Organic on how to attract and support bee populations
  • Grow a mixture of flowering plants to provide nectar and pollen from spring until winter
  • Grow simple flowers, as their nectar and pollen is more accessible to bees
  • Include native wildflowers such as foxglove, Viper's bugloss and Geranium species in the garden as all are popular with bees
  • Tried and tested bee attracting plants include pulmonaria, comfrey, lavender, foxgloves, raspberries, marjoram and buddleia
  • Don't forget to leave parts of your garden informal to provide nesting sites
  • If you can, leave an area of your lawn uncut during summer to allow clover to flower
There are 25 species of bumblebee in the UK. Three species of bumblebee are now extinct and seven are listed in the Government's Biodiversity Action Plan (UK Bap) as priorities for conservation; only six of our native bumblebees are regarded as widespread and common. To read the full scientific report on the bumblebee survey visit . For more 'bee attracting' ideas visit Garden Organic Ryton in Warwickshire � ten acres of organic, wildlife friendly demonstration gardens, which include a dedicated bee garden.
For more information contact Charlotte Corner on 02476 217707 or email at:
Notes to editors
  • Garden Organic is the UK's leading organic growing charity dedicated to researching and promoting organic gardening, farming and food and has been at the forefront of the organic horticulture movement for 50 years.
  • The charity, which has over 40,000 supporters, reaches more than three million beneficiaries across the world and is based at Garden Organic Ryton in Warwickshire.
  • The organisation runs major research and international development programmes that help growers across the UK and overseas adopt organic methods.
  • To find out more visit
Note from Sustainable Urban Gardens: This article is not hot-off-the-press and is from the UK, but this important information is so clearly stated and is pertinent for all growing areas that we felt it was important to share with you.
We ask that you post how many of these bumblebee attractants you are growing in your urban garden or farm. We welcome your input and any comments!
Thank You!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

In L.A., a Breakthrough in Local Eating

In L.A., a Breakthrough in Local Eating

Jul 28 2010, 9:33 AM ET

Katie Robbins - Katie Robbins is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. She has covered food, culture, and lifestyle for a variety of publications, including Psychology Today, Saveur, Meatpaper, Tablet, and BlackBook, among others.

                                                                                                       Rebecca Fishman
Lunchtime at L.A.'s Forage restaurant
The simply named "early summer vegetables" recently offered at Forage, a new eatery in Los Angeles's hip Silver Lake neighborhood, was a crisp, fresh tribute to the area's bounty of locally grown produce. The dish featured blue lake beans from Tamai Farms in Oxnard, summer squash from Santa Paula's Coastal Organics, and the most local of all, a blanket of bright yellow sweet corn grown in a backyard in the nearby Highland Park neighborhood.
In a town where you can't swing a reusable canvas shopping bag without hitting a restaurant touting its locavore credentials, Forage and its talented young chef, Jason Kim, have managed to take the concept of "locally grown" to a new extreme. The restaurant's Home Growers Circle allows Los Angeles residents to trade produce from their backyard plots in exchange for credits at the popular restaurant.

When Kim, who honed his chops as sous chef at the acclaimed Lucques restaurant, opened Forage in January, he knew he wanted to try to take advantage of the fecundity of the city's backyards.

"I had a friend who grew stuff just for himself and ended up having tons of produce from this small garden," Kim recalls. "He couldn't eat it. I thought that would be cool if there were a lot of other people like him."

And so Kim put out an experimental call to neighborhood gardeners, requesting that they bring in any surplus produce from their backyards.

Since it was the height of citrus season, the two or three growers who responded in those early weeks brought a mix of blood oranges, tangelos, and lemons, plucked from the trees that are ubiquitous throughout the city. As the word spread, the number of growers quickly ballooned to 15, whose harvests revealed the rapidly changing growing season.

"Other stuff started coming in," Kim says. "Fava beans, broccoli, mustard greens. Some stuff that I'd never seen before." One Sunday, a month after the project's launch, he received a record 300 pounds of produce, all from amateur backyard gardeners.

For the growers, the program offered a home for excess crops, such as those grown by Lewis Perkins, a financial planner who, on a quiet residential street in Santa Monica, has created a tropical secret garden tucked away on the 7500 square feet that make up his front and back yards. With the help of his girlfriend, Tara Fass, Perkins has cultivated a miraculous array of exotic fruits like black and white sapote, Afghan mulberry, six varieties of guava, and even coffee. But before he discovered the Forage program, much of the produce went to waste.

"It broke my heart to see ripe fruit drop," says Fass, who works as a marriage counselor. "I kept seeing this kind of massacre with so much fruit on the ground." Though Fass and Perkins gave away fruit by the bag to clients, friends, and neighbors, there was always a surplus. "You can only make so many smoothies and pies," Fass says.

"When I heard about Forage, I said to Lewis, you gotta see this," she adds. "We had this huge tangerine crop."

Those tangerines made it onto the Forage menu as agua fresca, and blossoms from their pineapple guava bush were candied and used to decorate cakes.

"Other customers were shocked at first," Kim admits. "They couldn't believe what they were eating was grown in Echo Park." But when they tasted it, he says, those doubts were quickly allayed. "The stuff growing in backyards is good stuff. It's better than the stuff at [local supermarket] Vons."

 With so much confidence in these growers' produce, Kim listed them on chalkboards in Forage's dining room, alongside the big-name farms from which the restaurant also sourced its produce. Images of the home growers, also referred to as "foragers," were featured on the restaurant's website. Buzz about the hyper-local menu spread, eventually catching the attention of the county health department.

In April, Kim was instructed to stop taking produce from home growers. "We were not allowed to accept things from 'unapproved sources,'" Kim says. "People's backyards were not allowed." He was told that these unlicensed growers represented a liability if a customer were to become ill.

And so for several months, the program was halted, as Kim and the growers searched to find a way to reinstate the program. Because this type of extreme local sourcing is so unusual, there was little precedent to look to. The Food and Flowers Freedom Act, recently passed by the city council, offered some hope, as it allows home growers to sell their produce directly to the public, but it didn't address the "approved growers" concern when it came to serving homegrown produce at restaurants.

Ultimately, Kim and the Forage team learned that the backyard gardeners could actually be licensed through the same system that allows traditional farmers to sell at farmers' markets. By paying a $63 fee and undergoing an inspection, the home growers could receive Certified Producer's Certificates from the county agricultural commission, clearing them to sell their produce to restaurants and markets.

The foragers' gardens were inspected, fees were paid, and this month the program re-launched with five certified home growers. Forage is planning to expand the circle to 10 by August, selecting growers from an online application process. Kim stresses that the produce he uses from the home growers receives the same exacting scrutiny as the items he finds at the farmers' market. Together with the grower, he tastes every batch of produce before accepting it.

"These guys are all serious growers. They definitely know what they're doing," Kim says. "Now that they're approved, they're more legit. At the end of this, I hope they don't just sell to me. I hope that they're at farmers' markets so the whole city can tap into urban-grown produce. This is a whole new avenue to get food."

With this new legitimacy, some of the growers—like Warren and Lovejoy Ontiveros, who were part of the original program and among the first to receive certification—have begun to imagine a time when they might be able to use the food they grow as a livelihood. Although for now the couple sees their garden in Highland Park primarily as recreation, they hope it will ultimately become a profitable side business. "I'm practicing, sharpening my ax," says Warren Ontiveros, who works for the L.A. County Parks Department. "I'd like to see if we can make ourselves more self-reliant."

Beyond the publicity that Kim's well-reviewed restaurant brings to the concept of using urban farmed produce, it may be the initiative of growers like the Ontiveroses that solidifies this nascent trend into a lasting movement. In addition to Forage, the Ontiveros have shared squash blossoms from their garden with a neighborhood Salvadoran restaurant, which has also asked the couple to grow loroco, a flower currently only available frozen, which the restaurant uses to flavor its pupusas.

The ability of the backyard gardeners to grow small crops of plants not readily available from larger farms has been one of the advantages of the program for Kim, who says the growers have pushed him to work with unfamiliar ingredients.

Such was the case shortly after the re-launch of the program, when Fass brought in a basket of Surinam cherries, which resemble lightly ribbed, bright red cherry tomatoes.

"I've never seen anything like it in my life," said Kim, popping a crimson orb into his mouth. "They taste like a cross between a bell pepper and a berry."

And with that the chef's mind was whirring, as he considered how to incorporate the unusual fruit into a dish, debating between lightly pickling it or using it in a simple salad. He ultimately paired it with a recent harvest from the Ontiveroses' garden, creating a sweet and sour eggplant dish.

"No one in L.A. has those berries. I'm the only one who has them," Kim enthused. "Any chef would be happy to take them."