Friday, March 26, 2010

Compost Is...

"It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions... It gives such divine materials to man, and accepts such leavings from them at last."
-Walt Whitman "This Compost", Leaves of Grass.

Sarah the intern here... back again! When Salem asked me to look into composting methods, I had no idea the complex world I was about to enter. Worm bins, pails, piles, tumblers, trenches...? I Googled around and found some helpful sites that explained the various processes and the advantages and disadvantages of each (the most valuable site I found was Composter Connection, in case you're interested).

When I headed to the library, I picked up a small book covered in brown cardboard. Simply titled, "Compost," this book by Carolyn Goldsmith tells the story of the composting process from start to finish complete with detailed directions AND cartoon illustrations (it felt like I was reading Shel Silverstein for the first 20 pages). Though initially it seemed like a book for 8 year olds, this 1970s British booklet taught me Compost for Dummies...First, I read how to set up a compost pile - using layers of green matter, manure, earth, garbage, and vegetables. Then, compost needs to "cook" for an extended period of time (though there are other methods to speed up this process). Last, I learned what compost is like when it is "ready" - medium loose crumbly texture, moisture similar to a squeezed out sponge, and smells "earthlike" (which I don't imagine to smell good). In the image above, you can see how fun yet effective Goldsmith's illustrations are.

Salem and Margaret are about 10 steps ahead of me in terms of knowledge for how to create good compost, and they've certainly seen the positive effects in their beds. Currently, they have a large compost bin in addition to a greens, leaves and weeds pile. Worm compost is the newest endeavor at Beta Verde, where a medium-sized Tupperware bin holds organic matter with lots of worms squirming through it to create rich compost from worm castings.

I'll leave you with a little known fact I've gathered during my time at Beta Verde... People actually GIVE away manure on Craig's List... and who knew that free manure would be such an exciting find! I never considered manure to have a real market, but now it all makes sense!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Recap and Rejuvenate!

Meet Sarah! Sarah Chase has come on board as our spring intern to help us with our marketing and communication. Sarah has quickly become Beta Verde's 'whip it ' girl ( oh yes, a little 70's music..) , pushing us with her Virginia charm to look at what we are doing and where we want to go. Enjoy Sarah's writings as she 'recaps' our busy fall with some blog entries while we plot and plant!

"I’m so excited to be the newest addition to the Beta Verde team! As a senior at Wake Forest, I am helping out with a marketing campaign in order to complete the internship component of my Entrepreneurship minor. My Creativity and Innovation class visited Beta Verde last semester, and I was hooked! Margaret and Salem are doing great things, and I think more people should know about it.

A native of Richmond, Virginia, I have been at Wake since the fall of 2006. With a Communication major and Entrepreneurship minor, I have been lucky enough to intern with marketing and advertising firms over the past three summers. Hopefully my (somewhat limited) knowledge of marketing, PR, and advertising can come together to create a successful marketing plan for Beta Verde! In addition, I’ll be out at some of the Beta Verde events and doing some background research to help Margaret and Salem expand."

Margaret and Salem have kept busy, so they haven’t had time to tell you all the great things going on at Beta Verde – that’s where I’ll come in! I’ll be keeping you up-to-date on the Beta Verde blog over the next few months, so stay tuned! Since I came on board in January, I've seen tremendous progress as Margaret and Salem plan for the coming months. But before we get into that, here are a few highlights from the fall:

The theme in at Beta Verde was definitely GREENS! Arugula, collards, Swiss chard, Dutch salad, cress and spinach—mixed salad, anyone? But it wasn’t just the farming that kept Margaret and Salem on their toes

Beta Verde had been booming with activity! One dewy fall morning, my creativity and innovation class had the chance to tour the property and hear from Margaret and Salem while enjoying some fresh bread and Beta Verde preserves. Professor Lynn Book encouraged us to get involved, which is how I landed here as the Beta Verde Intern. By the way, her House Concert at Beta Verde back in June drew a great crowd!

The Edible Schoolyard at Greensboro Children’s Museum looked to Margaret and Salem as the go-to menu gurus for their fundraising event featuring Alice Waters (check out the picture below!). Making sure to use the freshest ingredients, Beta Verde contributed a few special appetizers, and helped select some of their favorite local farmers to contribute to the successful event!

Word has gotten out- Beta Verde special events are fun and delicious! Late summer potlucks kicked off a series of food fun including a fundraiser for PEA (Piedmont Environmental Alliance) an engagement party and some wild and wooly wine distributers… it’s a good thing these ladies have endless energy.

Constantly on-the-go, Margaret and Salem travelled outside the Beta Verde property to network with other Slow Fooders and organic farmers at several conferences. Check back for Salem’s recap of her visit to the Young Farmer’s Conference and the Young Farmer’s Roundup at Krakies that followed! As Slow Food-Piedmont’s president, Margaret traveled to Atlanta to exchange ideas at Slow Food’s Southern Region Leaders Meeting in March (Slow Food founder (and celebrity!) Carlo Petrini even made an appearance!) Networking with other local farmers and food enthusiasts always brings new ideas and inspiration! Be on the lookout for food on wheels ....

Fast forward to the winter months, I got to see the recap/reflect process in action as Margaret and Salem planned to gear up for spring. Working on a new business plan, we’re putting steps in place to move Beta Verde forward! Mushroom logs, a seed house, and raised beds are just a few of the new additions to the Beta Verde “compound.”

Somehow between the planning, travelling, and endless snowfalls, Margaret and Salem were able to harvest beets, carrots and a variety of pak choi. Cold and wet weather postponed a Slow Food Piedmont event at Beta Verde – check back for revised plans!

As the weather warms up, stay tuned for news! In the spirit for spring, new things are popping up all over the place as Beta Verde moves into year 3, season 9.