Tag Archives: Gardening

Ample Harvest

19 Jun
St. Thomas' Food Pantry doors welcomes guests every Thursday from 10-12

St. Thomas’ food pantry doors welcome guests every Thursday from 10-12

Nestled in what is known as Ginter Park in North Richmond, sits St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, a place of simple hospitality that has served the community since 1907. We visited St. Thomas’ a few weeks ago to learn more about their food pantry, which regularly serves people in the 23222 and 23227 zip codes. What we found was a highly organized food market with volunteers dedicated to serving the community.

The food pantry, part of a three church network including St. Paul’s Catholic Church and Ginter Park Methodist Church, is a market-style pantry where guests select the food they like to eat according to USDA nutrition guidelines.

The goal? To provide three meals for three days for each person in the household.

Food Pantry Volunteer Linc Sparks

8-year volunteer Linc Sparks prepares to register guests of the food pantry.

St. Thomas' food pantry

In May, the food pantry served a record number of people: 282 households, totaling 1,114 people. This is up from 2012 (213 households), and 2011 (105 households).

Food Pantry

To date for 2013, the food pantry has served 2,502 households, a total of 9,536 people.

USDA Guidelines

St. Thomas’ serves people in the 23222 and 23227 zip codes — a restriction based on guidelines from the Central Virginia Food Bank as part of their effort to make sure food distribution is widely spread across the areas where food is needed.

At 19 cents a pound, the food is purchased through the Central Virginia Food Bank (CVFB), which is part of Feedmore, using funds from the church budget. Through CVFB, St. Thomas is able to access the USDA surplus food, which they receive for free and distribute according to specific guidelines set by the USDA.

St. Thomas is also a Food Rescue partner with the Food Lion on Chamberlayne Avenue, gleaning good food 2 times a week that would otherwise by discarded. Other supporters of the pantry include Panera Bread, and The Little House Green Grocery, among many other supporters who provide food on a weekly basis. 

St. Thomas Volunteers

Grace Sparks and her granddaughter prepare pastries gleaned from Panera Bread

St. Thomas Volunteer, Lilly

10 year old Lilly visits every summer from Ohio and serves as the “produce manager.” This is her second year volunteering with her grandparents.

St. Thomas Episcopal Church Hospitality

Coffee, water, and pastries are prepared and served to guests waiting their turn at the food pantry. A focus on hospitality is the trademark of St. Thomas’ volunteers.

St. Thomas revamped their food pantry over a year ago — rather than giving guests a box of food, some of which the clients may not be able to eat because of dietary restriction — they allow guests to choose food for themselves using the USDA guidelines as a tool. The pantry is set up each week, resembling a market, and the people they serve are given a grocery bag where they can “shop” for the food that they are able to eat. The foods the pantry is unable to keep on the shelves include tuna, peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, and cereal. They offer a limited supply of perishable items, mainly because they do not have the means to store fresh food for long periods of time.

Ray Jackson preparing the bread table

Ray A. Jackson, City of Richmond retiree and World War II Army Veteran, has volunteered at the food pantry since the 1960’s. He also helped The Farm Table blogger, Michele, pronounce Norfolk properly, the place where he grew up before moving to Richmond in 1952. He is St. Thomas’ longest running food pantry volunteer.

St. Thomas' Market-style food pantry

St. Thomas’ market-style food pantry allows guests to choose items they need based on USDA requirements.

Perishable items gleaned from local grocers

Perishable items gleaned from local grocers like Food Lion and The Little House Green Grocer on Richmond’s Northside.

This is where Ampleharvest.org and you, our readers, come in. The site links home gardeners and other supporters to the nearest food pantry in the community who accepts perishable items. As gardens begin to flourish with an abundance of food, linking up your food surpluses with pantries in need is a wonderful way to offer the people who need it access to good, healthy, and fresh food.

Dried beans ready for guests to take home

Food items gleaned from local grocers

Sharing from your garden is not the only way to give! Beginning this Thursday, June 20th, we will collect non-perishable items from Farm Table members who place canned, jarred, and boxed goods in their empty boxes. We will deliver them to food pantries in need, including St. Thomas’. We think giving back is one way we can broaden our food community, and we can do that with your help!

Food pantry volunteers, Ray and Bob, preparing to open the doors for guests waiting outside for the pantry to open

Food pantry volunteers, Ray A. Jackson and Bob Wiard, preparing to open the doors for guests waiting outside for the pantry to open. Today they celebrate one of their regular guests who is officially cancer free.

Looking for other ways to give?

Consider volunteering at your nearest food pantry. St. Thomas  is always looking for volunteers to assist with gleaning throughout the week, or helping on Thursday mornings when their food pantry is open to the people who need it.

Food pantry volunteer and member of the St. Thomas community, Andrea Marcinkevicius, hopes to see more youth helping out at local food pantries this summer. “People of all ages and abilities can help!”, Andrea says.

Farm Table member and Ministry Leader at Gayton Care Ministries, Stacy Deyerle, says she regularly donates food from her Farm Table box to the pantry at Gayton Baptist Church in Short Pump. Deyerle says their pantry serves people from Goochland, as well as “folks dealing with a recent job loss or serious health issues.” Food donated to their pantry really helps people in need.

We hope you will join us in supporting your local food pantry this summer and beyond — as we all enjoy the bounty of the season, let’s share it with others.

St. Thomas Episcopal Church   3602 Hawthorne Ave   Richmond, Virginia, 23222   804-321-9548 Food Pantry is open from 10:00am-12:00 noon on Thursdays Volunteers needed: Tuesdays at 12:00 noon to help unload food purchased at CVFB. Thursdays anytime between 9am-1pm Gleaning, Tuesdays and Saturdays

St. Thomas Episcopal Church
3602 Hawthorne Ave
Richmond, Virginia, 23222
Food Pantry is open from 10:00am-12:00 noon on Thursdays
Volunteers needed:
Tuesdays at 12:00 noon to help unload food purchased at CVFB.
Thursdays anytime between 9am-1pm
Gleaning, Tuesdays and Saturdays



Grow. Eat. Share.

17 May

Food Revolution Day

If you are a Farm Table member and received a box yesterday, you learned that today is Food Revolution Day, a global day of action focusing on good food, and keeping cooking skills alive.

Now this is something we can get behind!

Lindwood-Holton outdoor classroom

Linwood-Holton garden

We had the opportunity to visit the students at Linwood-Holton Elementary school in North Richmond today, where program staff were engaging a group of students who visited Holton’s outdoor garden and learning classroom.


Grow food with your children!

Students were able to tour the garden, learn about composting and growing their own food, and worked together to make lunch from scratch using basic ingredients from the garden. The results were delicious!


Strawberry Salad

Schools and organizations across the globe are participating in activities today, in an effort to promote cooking traditions by preparing good food, and teach children the importance of passing those traditions on. We were pleased to see these traditions taught in our own backyard, and were proud sponsors of the Food Revolution Day‘s Junior Chef Cooking Contest held at Kitchen Thyme and West Broad Street yesterday. To learn more about Food Revolution Day check out Jamie Oliver’s website where you will find recipes to share with your children.

Linwood-Holton Elementary School garden

What sorts of things are you doing to get the young people in your life cooking and eating fresh, whole food that is good for them? What kind of traditions are you passing down to them? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below, or on our Facebook page! Please share!

Spring Pop-Up Market at Hardywood

7 Apr

The Farm Table 2013 Spring Produce

The countdown has begun for fresh, seasonal food straight from the farmer to your doorstep! If you are getting impatient for The Farm Table’s anticipated April 18th start date, and you missed out on our last Spring Pop-Up Market join us for another fun evening at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery for our 2nd Spring Pop-Up MarketWith the weather forecast showing temps in the 80’s, join us while we celebrate the beginning of the new season,  renew your membership, or become a new member. 

The Farm Table Spring Pop-Up Market

The Farm Table Pop-up Market at Hardywood
Wednesday, April 10 at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery from 4-9 pm. 2408 Ownby Lane, Richmond VA 23220. Click here for directions.

We will have eggs, honey, greens, lettuce, carrots, Brussels sprouts, pastries, bread, Amish sweet butter, Harvest Hill Farm meat, and Quail Cove Farm cheese available, while you enjoy your choice of Hardywood’s excellent selection of craft brews in a laid back venue.

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

Hardywood Park Craft Brews

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
If you missed out on The Hardywood Community Hopping Project for 2013, be sure to check back next year to get in on the local action while you grow hops for their RVA IPA. Some of The Farm Table staff and members got in on the action this year — we will keep you updated on how the hops grow in our backyards!
Hops for RVA IPA
The Farm Table Pop-up Market at Hardywood 
Join us Wednesday, April 10 at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery from 4-9 pm. 
Hardywood Park is located at 2408 Ownby Lane, Richmond VA 23220.

New Beginnings

21 Feb

Signs of new life waiting to take over the 2013 season.

The 2013 season is almost here!

Home Garden

We can almost taste it.

Giving Thanks through Food

10 Nov

When my husband and I visited Monticello for the first time and came home with a packet of seeds from their gift shop, we never imagined the harvest that would come from this souvenir.

I mentioned several posts ago that my husband’s pride and joy from our garden this year were the Long Island Cheese Squash. He grew a little about a dozen of these beautiful pumpkins, and we have since gone on to make soup, desserts, pumpkin gnocchi, and bread with them.

We were excited about the opportunity to turn these tasty vegetables into an offering of thanks to our close neighbors who helped us with the arrival of our third child in September. Most of our family lives in the Pacific Northwest, so we relied on the kindness and support of our tight-knit neighborhood  to help us with our children while we were at the hospital bringing our now 2 month old into the world. They have since brought us dinners, desserts, homemade salsa’s, among a myriad of other thoughtful gestures. Seriously. You should move here.

How were we going to show our appreciation and gratitude? Through food, of course!

Needing a creative outlet, I decided to turn these glorious pumpkins into pies, and to bake a cake for our son’s 2nd birthday. How in the world was that supposed to happen with 3 children at home? Well, I did it over the course of 3 days, and enjoyed every minute of it. I am certain it could be done in 1-2 days, but not in this house!

I used Martha Stewart’s Brown-Sugar Pumpkin Pie recipe to treat our neighbors, and this Pumpkin Layer Cake recipe to celebrate our beautiful boy.

Day One: I halved 3 pumpkins total, scooped out the seeds, quartered them, and baked them individually, cut side up in the oven for 1-hour at 350 degrees. I placed a baking dish full of hot water on the bottom rack.

Out came this:

After cooling, I scooped  the pumpkin away from the skin and placed in our food processor.

I blended the squash for a few minutes and out came this  brilliant, bright orange, creamy puree. 3 pumpkins gave me approximately 13-cups of puree.

Day 2 and 3: I turned the puree into 6 desserts. One for each neighbor, and one for the birthday boy.

I had about 1 cup of puree left, and noticed after 2 days in the fridge that the puree lost its color, so recommend using the puree soon after you make it. It will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days, or you can freeze it for a couple of months.

A local friend who attended the New England Culinary Institute, and was the head chef and manager of a Bed & Breakfast in Vermont imparted this bit of knowledge along to me, “Pumpkins that come out of the can are drained of excess moisture before they are canned. This intensifies the pumpkin taste and ensures a great pie crust. When you cook a pumpkin at home, once its out of the oven and you can safely handle it (it should still be warm), you should puree it and then put it into a strainer lined with cheesecloth – this extracts some of the excess moisture in it and intensifies the flavor. This can all be done on the counter top.”

I recommend both recipes for your upcoming holiday meals, and encourage you to purchase a packet of these happy little seeds for your garden next year. You will not be disappointed, unless of course they don’t grow. In that case — try again.

I know at least one green-thumbed friend who is getting a packet of these seeds in her holiday card this year!

What sorts of things do you make to give thanks to those around you?

Here are some suggestions I found using pumpkins:

I do believe there are Pie Pumpkins available this week as an add-on.

Hmmm. How convenient!

A Horticultural Victory

28 Aug

Long Island Cheese Squash.

My husband’s pride and joy from our garden this year.

Long Island Cheese Squash

We picked up the seed packet during a visit to Monticello (part of The Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants collection) and planted some for the first time last year. Unfortunately, we grew only one lonesome “Cheese Wheel,” most of which was enjoyed by our backyard squirrels. This year was different, though. To our delight, this old, Long Island Heirloom has been prolific and grew ten plump, delicious, and versatile winter squash that made my husband’s gardening efforts more than worthwhile this year.

We look forward to making soups and pies, and sneaking the puree of this vegetable into our children’s macaroni and cheese, muffins, and anything else we can imagine.

You can pick up your own packet of this heirloom variety at Monticello’s Heritage Harvest Festival coming up on September 14th and 15th. 

What is the pride and joy of your garden? Post a picture for us on Facebook and tell us about it!

Get to Know: The Farm Table Blogger and a Giveaway!

13 Jun

As part of our Get to Know series, we would like to introduce you to our Farm Table Blogger, Michele Schwartz:

I am originally from the Pacific Northwest (a proud Oregonian and OSU alumnus), and made my way to Richmond nearly two years ago after spending 6 years in the Sonoran Desert, where my husband completed his graduate work at the UA in Tucson before taking his current position at VCU. I spent 10 years serving survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and 6 of those years at The Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault before taking on my new role as a stay-at-home Mom for our 4-year-old daughter, and 18-month-old son; we are eager to greet our newest family member, another son, this September. I have been blogging for 4 years, and joined The Farm Table at the beginning of this season.

I became a Farm Table member last year when a neighbor encouraged me to sign up. I was pleased with the variety of food that came each week, enjoyed the exposure to new produce, and the challenge of trying out seasonal recipes which have sparked my creativity, and improved the way we eat in our home. My husband is an avid gardener, so between what we receive in our box each week, and what he harvests from our garden, we enjoy the bounty it brings and our ability to share it with others. While I am not too keen on the actual gardening part of food production, (I like the idea of it, just not the actual humidity and mosquitos one must endure while putting in the work), I really enjoy cooking what comes out of the garden. 

We encourage our daughter to participate in the preparation of our food, and although as a 4-yea-old she insists she “doesn’t like” most of the food we pass around the table (regardless of whether or not she’s ever tried it!), we know that the exposure to whole foods, and family participation in preparing it will pay off in a big way someday. This is what we’ve enjoyed most about being members of The Farm Table.

Among many other favorite dishes, we enjoy our weekly homemade pizza night, Escabeche (my husband’s signature dish — a recipe we’ll share with you in the future), and our go-to recipe, Red Beans and Rice. In leaner times, when we were just “getting started,” this side was a staple in our home. We typically pair it with some kind of grilled sausage or chicken, a salad, and homemade corn bread. The lemon juice counteracts the chili powder, so don’t be afraid to try this recipe if you have an aversion to spicy food.

I especially like preparing Red Beans and Rice with Santa Cruz Chili Powder from Tumacacori, Arizona, a spice I found during our time living in Tucson. Used in many Mexican dishes, this Chili powder is bright orange in color, and offers a rich flavor to most dishes. A dear friend from the desert sent me a carton recently, along with an extra one to share with one lucky Farm Table member.

To enter to win this giveaway, please follow our blog by entering your email address under the “Follow The Tractor” heading on your right ,and then comment on this post to let me know you are following the blog by 9:00pm (EST) on June 17, 2012. The winner will be announced by June 24th and the Chili Powder will be added to your Farm Table delivered box.

Congratulations to Joi Lenczowski who was randomly chosen to win our blog giveaway. The Santa Cruz Chili Powder will be routed to your Farm Table delivered box. Thanks everyone for participating!

Tumacacori Red Beans & Rice


  • 2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup medium or long grain white rice
  • 3 Tbs Chili Powder (I say more!)
  • 1 Tbs chopped Basil
  • 1 Tbs chopped Oregano (or substitute the Basil and Oregano with a few tsp of fresh Cilantro, but not too much as this will overpower the dish)
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (1 can)
  • 1 can dark red Kidney Beans, rinsed and placed in a bowl
  • Half of a large lemon, juiced 


  • In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium, add onions and saute until translucent.
  • Add garlic and rice, stirring often, careful not to burn the garlic and rice.
  • Add the Chili Powder. I suggest starting with 3 Tbs, but I prefer more – make the rice dirty! Add half of the basil and oregano.
  • Add the chicken or vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and simmer on medium/medium-low, until the rice has absorbed stock, about 20 minutes. Add water if the stock has cooked off and the rice seems under-cooked. It is important to keep the rice covered the entire time to allow the rice to cook properly, and not to cook it too hot, as this will burn the rice and leave you with a messy skillet.
  • While the rice is cooking, pour the lemon juice, remaining basil, and oregano over the kidney beans, allowing the beans to marinate in the juice.
  • Once the rice is cooked properly, pour the kidney bean mixture evenly over the rice, and cover for a few more minutes, then stir everything together, making sure the bottom of the skillet comes clean. Again, add a touch of water if you need to and cover if the rice is still a tad under-cooked.
  • Feel free to play with the measurement of the herbs and spices to make the dish to your liking. I generally eyeball the measurement, and go back and forth between using fresh and dry herbs. 

Enjoy and thank you for reading!

We look forward to introducing you to our Twitter and Pinterest account manager, along with more highlights of The Farm Table’s Neighborhood Coordinators. Stay tuned!

Buried Treasure

3 Jun

We hope you will join us today at Echo Lake Park for The Farm Table Ice Cream Social, 3pm until dusk.  Please bring your favorite ice cream, we will provide toppings. There will also be some hand cranks available so people can make ice cream at the park.  Anyone who has a hand crank ice cream maker is welcome to bring them. See you there!


28 Apr

This weekend brings us a hodge-podge of information, and we’re not talking about soup:

Remember the radishes that were growing? Well, they grew.

Home grown radishes

We are so grateful for the rain that came this past week. Our farmers, whose livelihood depends on equal amounts of  rain and sun, needed it. The produce is sure to flourish because of it.

And it’s not just the radishes that are thriving — the weeds are happy about the rain, too.

Got dandelions and purslane? Consider taming  those offending weeds into something edible.

If your weekend plans don’t include pulling weeds for your dinner, you might be interested in this local Richmond event hosted by Bon Air United Methodist Church. Tanya Denckla Cobb, UVA professor and author of Reclaiming Our Food: How the Grassroots Movement is Changing the Way We Eat will speak at Bon Air United Methodist Church on Sunday, April 29 at 9:45 a.m. in the sanctuary. The event is free and open to the public.

Or, you have two more nights to enjoy Richmond Restaurant Week. Did you dine at a participating restaurant this week? Tell us about it!

How does your garden grow?

16 Apr

The radishes are growing.


What are you growing in your garden?

“Like” us on Facebook and post one picture of  the edible treats you are growing this year.