The inspiration for this project sprouted when we established a community garden on a vacant lot in our neighborhood where many families participate in food assistance programs. We didn’t really know many of our neighbors, but we thought surely they’d all like to grow their own food with us in a neighborhood garden. But the turnout wasn’t as robust as we expected the first year. People were curious, and they appreciated our having transformed this otherwise vacant lot into an attractive greenspace in the neighborhood, but they weren’t exactly flocking to the garden to “dig in” so to speak.
We did engage a half dozen or so children on our street the first year, and they were very eager to help in the garden. But we quickly realized, looking ahead, that when our harvest came in, these families wouldn’t use a lot of the vegetables because they didn’t know what to do with them. What’s the point in sending a bag of turnips home with someone who doesn’t know what a turnip is, much less how to prepare it? So we decided to help folks in our community feel more confident about growing and using fresh foods. We got busy compiling basic information for the most commonly home-grown vegetables, and writing instructions for the garden and asking everyone we knew for their favorite simple fresh-food recipies.
Thankfully, we've increased the number of neighbors gardening with us, and we’ve all learned a lot from each other. People come from different backgrounds with different food traditions, and many of those traditions have become lost through generations of increasingly more fast foods and processed foods, which often don’t provide the nutrition we need, and end up costing a whole lot more money than fresh food right out of the garden.
The information found in From Plant to Plate is intentionally presented in a very informal, approachable manner. The whole idea is to take the intimidation out of growing and using fresh foods. Gardening and cooking can be as simple or complicated as you care to make it—From Plant to Plate takes the simple approach to help encourage people to get started on their fresh food path. The gardening instructions are very basic with no more instruction than you need to get started. The recipes are all fairly simple and require no specialty ingredients or equipment. There are plenty of websites and books for people to move on to once they build their confidence and are ready to tackle more advanced techniques, but this site is focused on basic instructions that will produce positive results.
Thanks and appreciation to Fair Food Matters of Kalamazoo, Michigan, who resourced some summer intern hours toward compiling much of the planting information for the specific vegetables.
And thank you to the many people who submitted recipies for the Info Sheets!