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We wish we had better news to report, but the bottom line is that the Town "won" today's case regarding our request for a "declaratory injunction", mostly based on technicalities. 

The Judge dismissed the evidence we had presented, rightly so as it did not pertain specifically to the motion before the court. 

We now have 30 days to appeal. 

Meanwhile, on the drive home, we were greeted with all the examples of Mount Jackson's arbitrary and selective enforcement of the Codes.  That aspect of our plight basically needs to go before a different court.


Just another bump in the road in our drive to support the local community and local farmers, and to improve a historic building in Mount Jackson.

Stay tuned...
"Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war." - Donald Trump
 
 
For those following our parking lot issue, we received a response from the Town's attorneys: Hall, Monahan, Engle, Mahan & Mitchell out of Winchester, VA.

It is estimated that retaining such a firm will cost the Town approximately $5,000, and perhaps another $5,000 to go to court, plus whatever a judgement the Judge may decide. 

On August 8, we will have a new hearing on a Demurrer.  (legal term for a pleading that objects to our filing.)

What we fail to understand is that our Town leaders could have simply chosen to grant us an extension, free of charge, when we requested it.  Everyone (us, our vendors, our community, and the Town leaders) could have come out Winners.

The Town could have also offered us a portion of the $100,000 in Economic Development Authority funds that is supposed to be used to develop business in Mount Jackson.  The Town would have looked like heroes; and we would have had our parking lot paved, our doors open, and been contributing tax revenue to the Town by now.

For those who view us as the instigators, we can only respond by saying that we have a pretty good case outlining many other businesses who are operating under all sorts of exemptions, including the farm stand at the north end of Town which is operating under an expired Special Use Permit at the north end of Town.  We certainly do not want to shut anyone down, but as Councilman Todd Holtzman pointed out in his letter to the editor, the Council needs to be fair in it's implementation of the codes. 

It's a darn shame that this is now costing each of us, and to what end? 

We accept the fight as our own, but would like to point out that businesses downtown need to work together and have a collective voice when it comes to Business in Mount Jackson.  Many businesses were told to pave their lots a few years back; yet there are many more who are operating with gravel lots.  Succeeding in our vision will bring more traffic downtown, which will effectively bring more customers to other downtown businesses' doorsteps.  

Again, we can only stress that we did not ask for an Exemption, but rather an Extension for this year only, and to hold a successful farmers' market that operated a total of 9 hours per week.


Just sayin'... 
 
 
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When we decided to take a trip to Polyface Farm in Swope, Virginia, I actually did not intend to be writing a blog post about it.

For those who may not know, Joel Salatin is basically a rock star of the Food Movement - many call him: "A Celebrity Farmer".  He knows it, but he is so much about farming, healthy living and education that he remains very approachable and wholly humble.

I've read many of his books (see list below), seen him in interviews and documentaries, and even met him once before today.  Today's trip was for other purposes, which we will reveal in the coming months, but I got so much more than I had bargained for this morning, that it has taken me all day and I still haven't processed it all.

I was immediately struck by all the "traditional" or "industrial" farms we passed on the way to Polyface.  I knew a fair amount about how Polyface farmed before ever stepping foot on the farm, and for some reason, it surprised me that so many of his neighbors (and mine too for that fact) are just "doing what they've always done."  I know there's the old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" motto, but the reality is that our food system IS BROKE.  Corporate Agriculture is killing each and everyone of us.  Just last week, the EPA raised raised the safety threshold of glyphosate that is allowed to be in consumable goods.  What's glysophate?  It's the toxic chemical found in Monsanto’s Round-up pesticide, which ultimately ends up in your food or in the feed that livestock consumes.  But that is just one example of how our Food system is broke.

The underlying theme that seemed to emerge in our discussion with Joel was "Food Integrity." 

To use a popular contemporary exclamation: BAZINGA!  (keep reading to learn more about food integrity.

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This evening, one poster on my personal page mentioned a local farm that smelled "so bad sometimes that the smell actually comes in the house, and I have everything closed and have air conditioning!"

I've been on a fair number of farms over the years, and what struck me about Polyface was not only that everything had it's place and purpose, but that there were no unpleasant odors.

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The chicken houses at Polyface were clean and fresh!  I swear you could eat off the floors! Even the pigs did not smell bad (and if you've ever been on a hog farm, you know that it can be one of the most foul-smelling places on earth.) 

The farm was not without odors - just that there were no odors that turned your stomach. 

The reason: Food Integrity. 

FoodWhistleBlower.org explains it this way, "The term “Food Integrity” implies a global perspective on food issues – from soil to plate. The term goes beyond food safety in capturing aspects of food production, methods of procurement, and means of distribution. Food with integrity is produced in ways consistent with community values, principles, and beliefs. Regrettably, as our whistleblowers can attest, industrial processes have undermined the general public’s common expectation of quality food."

The animals are not pumped full of hormones and antibiotics.  The animals eat what they are supposed to eat - not cheap GMO corn feed.  As Joel likes to say, "Pigs are honored for their pigness."

THIS approach to food is holistic, symbiotic and, well, just plain healthy. 

I can't wait for Joel Salatin's next book coming this Fall:
        Fields of Farmers: Interning, Mentoring, Partnering, Germinating

A short list of Joel's Books:



 
 
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Thanks to www.homegrownandhealthy.com for providing this great pic!
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Our big news is that we are going to be running a series of giveaways over the next few weeks. 

This week we will be giving away a Summer Smores Party Pack if we can reach 750 Facebook Fans by Saturday at midnight.  We know, not terribly healthy, but hey, it's summer and what better time for Smores?! 

The which includes a 5 Pound Hershey Bar, a ginormous bag of marshmallows and, of course, graham crackers as well.

More details are on our Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/MJFarmersmarket

Just look for the Rafflecopter logo, and click the link to enter.  And, share the page to get us to 750 Fans.

This is just the start to a great summer with more good news to come!

 
 
 
 
After the Council's ruling in April, requiring us to have the parking lot paved by July 1st or vacate, both WHSV and the Northern Virginia Daily newspaper contacted us.  Karen Kwiatkowski wrote an op-ed entitled "Local man vs. the 'machine'".  A well written Letter to the Editor from one of the Markets' "regulars", Mr. William Branigan, was published.  Subsequently, Councilman Holtzman wrote a Letter to the Editor as well stating that "The Town Council cannot cherry-pick businesses to exempt from the Town Codes."  Our Letter to the Editor in response was published this morning, along with an article about our lawsuit against the Town for arbitrarily enforcing codes. 

Yet, earlier this year, Mr. Holtzman demanded a bench decision from the very same Town Council to permit him to operate a newly purchased single family home as two units stating that "after purchasing the property, he found it not feasible to rent out to a single family.  The Council was smart enough to send the request to the Planning Commission, who then was able to find a way "legally" to permit Mr. Holtzman's request.  The new code implemented an "Overlay District" whereby the Town Council can permit, by special use, the conversion of a single family dwelling into a multi-unit occupancy.  Of course, such a request is reviewed on a case-by-case basis. 

Thus, exempting businesses is not permissible, nor is permitting extensions of time to meet requirements, but re-writing codes to benefit select businesses is?

There are those in the community who say "Just pave the parking lot - we had to."  To be sure, many have been required to pave their lots.  However, many of those businesses were either in operation at the time the code was enforced, or given ample time to get their doors open and make a profit before being required to do so. 

Furthermore, there are businesses in the community that have NOT been required to pave their lots.  The Council would likely state that those businesses have "on street" parking.  Well, SO DO WE!

The premise of our lawsuit is about Fairness - ironically, this is the premise for which Councilman Todd Holtzman gave as to why we needed to pave our lot - as well as common sense.

Leadership of small towns in particular need to consider what it means to start a business in the current economy.  It's one thing to say you want small businesses to succeed.  It's quite another to put that into action through incentives, relaxation of overbearing regulations that create undue hardships, and even promotion of businesses.

Developments take time.  Redevelopments can take longer.  As anyone who has started something from the ground up can attest to, plans rarely go as well as planned.  We make no excuses for our current circumstances, but the Town of Mount Jackson has to determine whether they really want a vibrant downtown, or just pretty sidewalks.

The Town of Mount Jackson is sitting on $100,000 in Economic Development Authority Funds alone, not to mention $3M in cash reserves.  The guidelines permit them to give low interest loans, and even grants, up to $25,000.  If paved lots are more important than small business and farmers', then why have we not been given even a grant to pave our lot?!  The tax revenue generated off our project will, eventually, pay that money back and even more.  We even presented the EDA with a proposal to temporarily use such a loan to leverage a larger loan in order to pave our lot, as well as make other necessary improvements. 

Earlier this year, the Council voted to give $5,000 to the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival (who we support), stating that the Town benefits from the Festival (which it does indirectly).  We are IN Town and will DIRECTLY benefit the Town's tax base and cannot get any help. 

As to the other small businesses in Town - our hats go off to them for sticking it out.  We know it's not easy.  We haven't talked to a single one who wouldn't like to have more business.  At our Market last year, we had lots of in-towners and out-of-towners  and would often direct them to surrounding small businesses.  

Small businesses and local farms are becoming more of a staple than ever, as the economy continues to lag, and people try to stay closer to home for fear of overspending their gas budgets.

As small businesses, we must work together, and our local officials must support us, whether you have a vote in Town or not (which we do!) 

I cannot stress enough how wonderful a small town Mount Jackson is, but every Town has room for improvement.

(For newcomers to our site, please like us on Facebook and/or Twitter to follow our progress.)
 
 

Ice Cream!

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By now you may have figured out that we like good things to eat.  We also like to MAKE good things to eat.  We've recently stumbled on a very simple way to make homemade ice cream.

It might seem a bit early in the season to discuss ice cream, but we want to give you time to perfect our technique.  And being Spring, the cows are producing a ton of extra milk.  What better milk product can there be than ice cream?!

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First, we should mention that we picked up a Cuisinart Ice cream Maker from the local thrift store a few years ago.  We also managed to pick up a few extra of the round container that gets frozen.  This machine is simply great!  We can make ice cream in less than 30 minutes.

The best thing is to make some simple syrup, which is nothing more than two parts sugar to one part water.  Boil it, then let it cool and store in the refrigerator.  We make a quart at a time.

True ice cream is made with eggs and cream.  For a REAL fast fix, we've found this to be the quickest and easiest recipe:

2 cups milk
1/2 cup of the simple syrup

That's the base recipe!

To this, we add a tablespoon or two of our favorite extract and/or whatever we want to mix in.  (We've become quite creative in recent days.)   The combinations are endless.

Simply dump this all into the mixer, turn it on, and wait about 20 minutes.  You'll hear the mixer's sound change when the ice cream is finished.  If you like your ice cream a bit harder, transfer to a container and put it in the freezer for a few hours.
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Image from the JoyofBaking.com
Try this: two tablespoons of orange extract and one tablespoon of vanilla extract to make a great creamscicle flavored ice cream.

To jazz it up a bit, add a tablespoon of freshly grated orange zest.

Other options are to use the base recipe, add a bit of vanilla extract, then stir in your favorite berries, fruit, nuts or chocolate syrup!

 
 
We are sad to report that we will not be opening this year.

On Tuesday, April 9th, we requested an extension of time from the Town Council, to use the outdoor parking lot in its current condition for the duration of this season. 

The Council discussed our request at length.  It was erroneously stated that we had written a letter complaining about other businesses' parking lots.  We have never written such a letter, nor ever mentioned other businesses' parking lots. 

Councilman Todd Holtzman stated that he did not have faith in us paving the lot and suggested a performance bond in an amount as great as $5,000 to be paid.* 

Councilman Rod Shepherd made a motion to permit the extension for the Market to use the gravel lot through July 1, with the contingency that we return to the Council in May or June to update them on the status of the paving of the lot.  We felt this was a good compromise to which we could be agreeable. 

Councilman Holtzman later amended Shepherd's motion to include the requirement that the parking lot be paved no later than July 1st or the outdoor market would need to close. Councilman Ken Hackenbracht seconded the amended motion and the Council unanimously approved it, with the exception of Kay Whetzel, who was not present.

Our goal for the outdoor farmers' market has always been to provide the community with something we understood was wanted.  We were in the process of applying largely because the outdoor market is not about us, personally, making a profit.  (Our profit will eventually come from what happens inside the four walls.)  

Considering we were promised signage to be in place by the opening of this year's market, but the Council has stated that their provision of signage is now contingent on the parking lot being paved; also, considering that the Council seems to be bothered each time we approach them in an effort to work together;  and finally, considering we have operated the outdoor market at a personal financial and emotional loss, we owe it to ourselves and to our vendors to be able to commit to the full season, which we cannot do at this point.  We have decided that the best possible situation is to simply not open this year. 

We want to deeply thank each and every one of you for your amazing support.  Perhaps, if things go well for us in the future, our paths will cross again very soon.


We highly recommend seeking out neighboring towns' farmers' market:  the Woodstock Farmers' Market, located at the Fort Valley Nursery in Woodstock; and the Harrisonburg Farmers' Market. They have some amazing vendors.

*Performance Bonds are typically used by municipalities to ensure that a private entity doing work within a public right-of-way, or for the municipality, will accomplish the work by a certain date and in a said manner.   Performance bonds are not typically used to make a private entity perform improvements by a certain date. 


**As of April 15, we have had over 2,000 unique visitors who have read this blog post.  Be sure to like our Facebook page for the most up-to-date information.
 
 
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Many are asking what the status of the Market is for 2013, so we felt it time for an update.

For starters, we are finally getting a few long-overdue projects underway - starting with cleaning out the 20-year old grain from the basement.  We found some really great guys who aren't afraid of getting dirty; and we are hoping to be able to employ them longer term.

We have also heard from last year's vendors, and a few new ones too!  With Spring quickly approaching, we are getting so excited about seeing everyone again this year.  

In October, we met with the Town Manager, Mayor and one of the council members.  We were assured the way-finding signs would be up in time for this year's market, and are looking forward to this promise being fulfilled.

In December, we discovered that the Town has funds available for "Economic Development".  And at February's Council meeting, $65,000 was approved for an engineering survey of the Town's sidewalks.  Since King Street is owned by the Town proper, we are not part of the Towns' sidewalk program.  Thus, we have requested a $25,000 economic development grant to provide sidewalks along King Street.   The meeting will be Monday, March 4th. 

Our biggest push now is to get our parking lot "hard-surfaced", as the Town Code requires.  Oil prices are sky high, and therefore "tar & chip" is quite costly.  Tar & Chip also is not terribly sustainable. 

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation points out that hydrocarbons are a huge problem in stormwater runoff:  "Hydrocarbon loading in urban runoff is often associated with automobile engine oil, lubricants, and other compounds. Hydrocarbon levels have been found to be highest in the runoff from parking lots, roads, and service stations."

We have confirmed that the stormwater drain in the Middle of King goes straight to the River.  Therefore, we are most concerned with doing our part to ensure that the water from our site is not polluting the river. 

After much research, we have found a wonderful porous concrete system that is comparable in price to asphalt, but will allow water to drain and be filtered on site, rather than washing pollutants into the river.

If there are any out there who have grant-writing skills and would be willing to volunteer, please email us!  We could use some help on this one.

Paving the parking lot is only one of the many goals of developing the building.  Besides the lot, we have a ton of work ahead of us to get the building ready for tenants.  We're up for it, but it will take time.  Rome wasn't built in a day, right?

Improving this property will be a great asset to the Downtown area.  Wouldn't it be great to have another great place in Downtown to go to on the weekends?  We have heard so many wonderful stories about how Downtown Mount Jackson used to be THE place to go just about any night of the week.  Let's bring that back!

Please be sure to ask the Town Representatives to continue to support our efforts, and to continue to focus on improving the Historic Downtown Business Core.

We will update everyone as soon as we have an opening date this year, but look for us in the May!
 
 
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Sad but true - we are closed for the season.  We wish to thank all the wonderful vendors and customers who have come out to support what we are doing.  Our first full season was not without challenges, but overall a great success.  And this past weekends' Harvest Festival was another great opportunity to spread the vision.

Now that Fall is upon us and winter is around the corner, we're already planning for a better Market next year.  The Town of Mount Jackson has installed the new lampposts along the entrance of King Street, and in front of the vacant bank building, so we are hopeful that the Way-finding signs will be installed soon, and definitely by next Spring.


As gas and food prices continue to rise, local Farmers' Markets will become more and more important.  Since the food comes locally, we can keep our prices very competitive.

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Brodé Galeux d'Eysines
In case you missed it, we had some wonderful heirloom pumpkins this weekend.  Their edible flesh tends to be much less watery, and much more flavorful, than those orange hybrids that you get at the supermarket.  So, what to do with a whole pumpkin?  Cut in half and bake at 350 for an hour or until tender; then let cool and simply scoop out the inside.  Use it for all sorts of things.

One of our more unusual pumpkins was the Brodé Galeux d'Eysines, which meas "Embroidered with Warts from " in French!  The "warts" appear when the fruit matures and are caused by the sugar inside seeping through the skin.  It makes for a great Halloween decoration too!

Here's a favorite classic French Pumpkin Soup Recipe (serves 8-10):

Ingredients:
One 5-6 pound pumpkin (Galeux D’Eyesines, Rouge Vif D’Etampes, or Musquee de Provence)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, sliced (white and light green parts)
1 yellow onion, diced
1 small fennel bulb, diced
2 sprigs rosemary, chopped
3 sprigs thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped sage
1/4 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
8 cups chicken broth (homemade chicken stock is preferable, and so easy)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar, optional
Grated fresh nutmeg, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

For cheese toasts:
Slices of French baguette
Softened unsalted butter
Finely chopped Thyme
Finely grated Gruyère cheese

Directions: For soup:
Cut the pumpkin in half with a sharp knife and scoop out seeds. Cut the halves into manageable chunks, then cut away the outer rind. Dice the flesh into 1-inch cubes. It’s really not so hard if you have a good chef’s knife.

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot, medium heat. Add the leeks, onion and herbs and sweat the aromatics until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the pumpkin cubes and the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let simmer until the pumpkin is tender, about 20-30 minutes.


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Puree using an immersion blender (you can also use a food processor or blender, if you puree in batches, but be careful). Swirl in the butter and the heavy cream. Add the nutmeg, then taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Use the sugar if you like a slight sweetness to your soups.

The soup gets better the following day as all the flavors have a chance to settle in.


For cheese toasts:
Prior to serving, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the baguette slices lightly with butter. Toast on one slide until lightly brown, just a few minutes. turn over and toast for another minute or two. Remove slices from oven and top with a little sprinkle each of chopped fresh Thyme and grated cheese. Put back in oven and toast another few minutes until cheese has melted.

Top warm bowls of soup with toasted baguette slices.

Enjoy anytime, but especially on a cold Fall evening, with a glass of Hard Cider!