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Black Lives Matter: message from Grow Your Own Vegetables

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Like so many others, we are devastated and heartbroken by the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and countless others. Our thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones.

2020 has challenged us on so many levels. The silver lining of these challenges is that it is providing an opportunity to focus on what really matters even when it’s difficult. It allows us a chance to acknowledge aspects of our reality that open a deep and very old wound so we can reconnect as a whole Earth community.

There’s a painful divide in our culture, one that is hundreds of years old. 

If you’re following the Black Lives Matter movement, you’ve probably heard the phrase “structural racism”. But what does it mean beyond its definition?

What you may not know is that BK Farmyards (our first business name) was rooted in social justice… specifically food justice.

In our Brooklyn community, we recognized that there were higher rates of asthma and chronic diseases like heart disease, Alzheimers, and diabetes among people of color.

And there was also less access to fresh, affordable, organic and culturally appropriate foods among our communities of color. As we converted unused land to farms, we focused on how we could make a difference in our own community and bridge the fresh food gap causing higher chronic disease and illness happening in our own neighborhoods.

One of our projects, the Youth Farm, provided leadership and job opportunities for young people of color. It was a space for people of all races and ages to come together to explore what food justice means.

We started getting press because it was an exciting project.

So we made an internal agreement. Media and press were only allowed to cover the project if they were willing to use the words “structural racism” in their article. We wanted to use our platform to acknowledge biases in our country that lead to unequal health burdens placed on people of color. 

Some media agreed to use the phrase. But many editors took it out, because it was scary to acknowledge. As you might imagine, we also lost a lot of press. But it didn’t change our mission… or our minds.

The message that Black Lives Matters is prevalent now, because of all the people willing to take the risk to stand up and give voice to what’s important.

On the one hand, my heart hurts because it took hundreds of years and cost hundreds of  thousands of sacred lives to acknowledge this massive structural divide. 

On the other hand, it makes me want to sing.

Because we’re here now, acknowledging what’s been here for far too long and investigating it together.

This moment in history is beckoning us towards something new… 

It’s time for us to listen deeply.

It’s time for radical self acceptance.

It’s time for us to make space for all the uncomfortable conversations, because they are the ones that matter most.

We are being met with new information and all the ideas we stood by yesterday are going through a metamorphosis. Together, we have the power to shift this transformation into a beautiful new life and improve the health and well being of all our communities.

It’s time to acknowledge our own fears of speaking out and taking risks.

Conversations are the glue that holds us together, that connects us.

And it’s a time to forgive ourselves when we accidentally stick our foot in our mouth and say something that is unintentionally biased.

Because biases gone un-investigated can lead to fatal errors in judgment.

And if you feel called to DO something, there are a couple things you can do to amplify the message that Black Lives Matters.

You can join a protest and help the people of this movement create more peace simply by standing next to them and uniting your voice with theirs so they feel and are heard.

And have an uncomfortable conversation with someone that doesn’t look like you.

Have them with your friends and family too.

Remember, your garden is wonderful place to sit and listen and celebrate the biodiversity of this Earth too.

If you are interested in supporting food justice organizations, check out Just Food in NYC and Civil Eats throughout the U.S. 

If you’re anything like me you’ll want to jump to solutions immediately…it’s human nature. But I am reminded of a conversation I had with Nikki Silvestri in 2013 when she was Executive Director of  The People’s Grocery in Oakland. 

I was telling her that I felt helpless, that I just wanted to DO something…, to be part of a solution. 

And she told me that the only thing to do was to love.

To face the pain and bring love and radical and unconditional acceptance of myself and others.

It’s time the wounded voices of our communities be heard and the broken heart of our culture be healed. Peace comes from opening our eyes and ears and hearts.

Is it possible that we are ready for that? The Black Lives Matter movement gives me great hope. 

I appreciate you for reading this email. For listening and searching for answers to your questions about what matters to you.

Peace & carrots,
Stacey Murphy & the GYOV Team

Getting Started Growing Your Own Vegetable and Herb Seedlings

Garden Hacks - Simplify routines

Seedlings are the baby plants you see at the nurseries, ready to be transplanted into your garden. But you might want to grow your own instead. While there are many benefits of starting your own vegetable and herb plants from seeds, there is one BIG reason why you might consider purchasing instead. Here’s the most important considerations for growing seedlings at home. 

Benefits to growing your own:

  1. You know exactly how the seedlings were grown. Ensure your plants are grown organically without any toxic chemicals entering your garden. When purchasing ask whether plants have been treated. 
  2. You ensure your plants immunity is high for a healthy life. Temperatures and conditions are important to baby plants, and stress at a young age can cause transplant shock or a weak plant that doesn’t yield well. Sometimes you bring home a seedling, plant it, and it dies. And you’re not sure if it’s something you did. But it could just be a plant that wasn’t cared for properly.
  3. You have complete control of when you put plants in the ground. When purchasing transplants, you are relying on what’s available at the stores. And what you want is not always there when you need it. Growing your own means you can plan ahead for your most abundant harvest.
  4. You have access to hundreds of varieties of vegetables. There are so many varieties of mustard greens and tomatoes on the planet that nobody could even tell you how many there are. And that’s true of most vegetables. Choose exciting varieties for flavor, yield, what grows well in your climate. 
  5. You save money. Once you get the hang of growing HEALTHY plants and you have all the supplies, you will save money. However, the first few years, planting your own can actually be more expensive than buying transplants. This is the one BIG reason you may want to purchase instead.

Three garden supplies essential to growing your own seedlings

You’ll need 1) growing medium (not soil), 2) containers to put it in, and 3) grow lamps if you’re growing indoors. We’ll focus on containers in this article. But real quick, our favorite growing medium is Fox Farm Ocean Forest, It’s got everything your plants need in one bag, from earthworm castings, bat guano, sea-going fish & crab meal to forest humus and moss. This mix will not disappoint!   Click here to get it on Amazon. And here is a bulk order option

This article is too short to include recipes for making your own mix. A couple key ingredients to include are perlite, vermiculite, peat moss or Canna Coconut Coir and Wiggle Worm – Worm Castings. For small gardens choose the 4.5-pound size. For larger gardens choose the bulk 30-pound option.

This is not a complete list, just some of our favorites to get you started.

Reusable Containers for Starting Vegetable and Herb Seeds


Generally, plastic trays are flimsy and end up in the landfill after just one or two uses. However, one farm is changing all that and helping to redefine our relationship to the Earth. Bootstrap Farmer offers durable trays with a one year warranty against warping and breakage… that’s amazing! Clean trays between use to prevent disease spread.

These are the best, longest lasting trays on the market. And they have different cell sizes available. Get cells for smaller varieties like lettuces here and get larger six cells for your larger transplants like tomatoes and cucumbers here.

Containers You Plant Right in the Ground

Avoiding plastic altogether?, Consider Fertilpots over at Arbico Organics which compost right into your soil. Plant the whole thing in your garden and avoid any transplant shock from handling the plant. Unlike many similar compostable products, they are OMRI listed meaning the ingredients have been tracked as organic. Fertilpots are breathable and help prevent roots from getting root bound, too. However, the downside is that you have to keep buying more.

“Soil Blocking” Eliminates the Need for Containers

Soil blocking is a process where you press your growing medium together into squares that hold together without the need for containers. Once you have the right equipment for this process, you never have to buy containers ever again. However, you do have a higher initial investment to get started.

There are benefits to this method: no cleaning trays, conserving growing medium, and providing optimal root health. The details of how to soil block effectively is the topic of another post. NOTE: You’ll need to mix your own special growing medium (not one that you can buy at a big box store), and a bit of time to get used to the process. 

Soil blockers are for anyone who wants to get away from plastic, has a little extra time and money, wants the healthiest seedlings and plans to garden long term. 

20 Cell Soil Blockers come in a hand held and stand up  versions. The stand up soil blocker is much easier on your wrists, shoulders and back. 4” Soil Blockers are the largest blocker available and are perfect for your larger transplants like tomatoes, gourds, cucumbers, eggplant, etc.

How do you make your garden decisions?

Ultimately, there are many garden choices you will make. Some questions to consider: What do you really have time for? What feels like the best environmental choice for you? And what amount of investment feels good right now? Whatever suits you and your lifestyle is the right choice for you. And that goes for making decisions about seed starting at home, too.  

3 Keys for Successful Indoor Seed Starting

Here are the 3 most important keys to help you grow strong seedlings and transplants. Stick around for the BONUS key at the end… it may be the difference between killing all your seeds and being able to grow your own healthy babies. NOTE: This video is not intended to show you EVERYTHING about seed starting, just to help you avoid some common mistakes growers make.

Cutting Boards for Fresh Food Safety

Food Preservation

Food safety practices are important… especially when you start preserving and storing food. You’ve probably heard about sterilizing jars, and cleaning kitchen utensils properly. These are common practices to keep the bad microbes out of our food. But quite often, the one tool that’s overlooked is your cutting board. 

When chopping fresh produce, it’s vital to have a cutting board that won’t create biofilms and harbor the kind of bacteria you don’t want to ingest. If you’re preserving your food for later – whether blanching, freezing, canning, drying or fermenting – it’s even more important. Having a good quality cutting board is the foundation for keeping you and your loved ones safe.  

Simply put, a good cutting board is the one place you don’t want to skimp on. But what is the safest cutting board?  

Plastic, Glass, or Wood?

Many people think that plastic cutting boards are safer than wood. Even the USDA’s Food News for Consumers has recommended plastic over wood cutting boards. 

However, more recent studies reveal that plastic is not as safe as we think. According to the study, glass is the superior choice, followed by wood. Glass has a smooth surface, so no gaps to harbor bacteria. The problem with glass cutting boards is that the hard surface is hard on knives and might cause food-slippage accidents. Be careful! 

Wood however, does not cause slipping the way glass does and is easier on your knives. Wood also has an antibacterial effect not found in glass or plastic boards that scientists are still trying to understand. What’s more, wood doesn’t require harsh sanitizing the way plastic boards do. Once a plastic surface has been cut into, the grooves can harbor all kinds of bacteria and require sanitizing with harsh chemicals. But as time goes on and more grooves appear, sanitizing your plastic cutting board may become less and less effective. 

Sterilizing your wood cutting boards is easy and doesn’t require harsh chemicals. What’s fascinating about this study is that the scientists researching expected to find plastic cutting boards to be safer. Their intention was to discover how to clean wood to increase its safety. So they were quite surprised to discover that wood – specifically well maintained, close-grained hardwood cutting boards – were less prone to contamination.

PRO TIP: Historically, butchers used salt to keep the ‘bad’ smell away. Perhaps they also knew that using the salt kept people healthy, but there’s no record of that. Regardless, they had the right idea. Rinse your cutting board with warm water, sprinkle your cutting board with salt and rub the salt into the board using a lemon cut in half (flesh side down). Let sit for five minutes, rinse and let air dry in a place with good circulation. 

What kind of wood is best for your Cutting Board?

According to the study, hardwoods are best. When you think of hardwood, you might think oak, mahogany, or maple. It’s true that these woods are harder than pine, chestnut, cherry, and even walnut. But they aren’t the BEST hardwoods for prepping your ferments, preserves  and fresh food. It’s hard to imagine, but these woods are soft in comparison to other hardwoods. One quick look at a Janka chart will reveal just how soft in comparison these woods really are. 

The Janka Scale Reveals the Best Wood Choice for Cutting Boards

Wood is measured by its hardness using a process called the Janka scale. This test measures the amount of force required to embed a 0.444″ steel ball into the wood to half of the diameter of the particular wood. Woods with higher ratings are harder than woods with lower ratings.

So for example, Genuine Mahogany measures 800 and English Brown Oak rates at 1360. The scale goes all the way up to 4380! While you don’t need the hardest wood on the planet to safely cut your vegetables for ferments and preserves, it’s a good idea to find something that has at least a 2500 rating. Even though maple is the industry standard (1,450 on the Janka scale), a harder wood will be more scratch and impact resistant, leaving you with a safer cutting board.

Check out this amazing cutting board, the Stella Falone Reversible Cutting Board made of solid West African Crelicam Ebony Wood. Not only is it made from a hardwood measuring at a whopping 3080 on the Janka Scale, but it’s made by a company that harvests ethically, replants what they harvest, and pays stable living wages to workers. 


If you’re looking for a more affordable option, these mixed wood cutting boards made with Purpleheart Wood (2520 Janka Scale) are also good options.  Here’s a pretty one that could double as a fancy food tray at your next party. It’s a Ziruma Teak and Purpleheart Wood Cheese Board and it’s cured with Organic Beeswax, too.
 

 

 

The Downside of Supremely Hardwood Cutting Boards

Yes it’s true, there’s a downside. The hardwood cutting boards ranked higher on the Janka scale will dull your knives a little faster. But it’s a small price to pay for better protection for your health and well being. Simply choose good quality knives, and sharpen your knives more often.

Ultimately, the cutting board with the least potential for bacterial contamination is glass… but the safest cutting board? Hands down, properly cared for hardwood cutting boards are safer with no slippage plus antibacterial properties. Plus, these beautiful cutting boards can also be a fancy food tray for your parties. Enjoy!

AK, N., CLIVER, D. and KASPAR, C. (1993). Decontamination of Plastic and Wooden Cutting Boards for Kitchen Use. [online] Available at: https://meridian.allenpress.com/jfp/article/57/1/23/195718/Decontamination-of-Plastic-and-Wooden-Cutting [Accessed 7 Mar. 2020]. 

Meet Susan the Lifestyle Gardener – Ready for a long HEALTHY life

Climate & growing conditions

Susan is a dietician who knows that nutrition is absolutely fundamental to a healthy life. So Susan started gardening right at home…  And eventually bought a whole farm to expand what she could grow!

With the new location, Susan and her husband are running into some typical challenges, experiencing new pests and wondering how they can work with their climate better.

Watch the conversation here for some climate tips (and garden advice from a Dietician!).

Become a Closet Gardener and Grow Greens Indoor Year Round

Climate & growing conditions

Growing greens year round means you don’t have to rely on the grocery store for your fresh, organic food… which is great if you keep having recalls on greens in your local area! That’s why Shannon started this beautiful indoor closet garden. Plus some hidden benefits that her doctors can’t explain… gardens really do HEAL!

Recently, Shannon asked how she might improve her yields. Discover what she has already done how she might tweak her system to impove her yields with tips on watering, “flies” and lights here.