Partner Spotlight - Helen's Hens

Between little comments and questions directed at a chicken mottled with black and white stripes, Laura Cotterman tells me that this particular bird has been around for almost four years ("She's a pet by now"). As she returns the chicken to the ground it scampers over to nibble at the watermelon that Laura has smashed as a treat.  I decide that watermelon and good company sounds like a pretty nice way to spend four years, before realizing that I'm envying a chicken's life.

Laura introduces a new friend
It's a Monday morning and the Mobile Market is making its biweekly visit to Helen's Hens, a pastured livestock operation located in The Plains, Virginia, about 50 miles west of Washington, D.C.
The bus cools off in some shade while eggs are loaded
While the vast blue sky and fluffy white clouds give the rolling green hills the background that one expects of farmland, down on the ground the watermelon is causing an excitement that breaks the tranquility.  Masses of different colored chickens hurtle around my feet as I try to get just one to stand still for a picture.  Needless to say, I am the least of their concerns.

The open sky surrounds the hen pasture

The Mobile Market picks up about 80 dozen eggs every two weeks from Helen's Hens (Helen is Laura's daughter and business partner), offering them at all nine of its market stops.  The partnership with Helen's Hens has existed since the Mobile Market's pilot season last year.

New this season is our ability to extend our matching incentive program to eggs and meats for our customers who use food assistance (thanks to a generous donation by Power Supply).  This is especially important since the eggs sold at the Mobile Market are pasture-raised, and thus, nutrient dense. Compared to commercial eggs, pasture-raised eggs are less concentrated in saturated fat and cholesterol, while providing higher levels of Vitamins E and D.

Birds of all colors flock together at Helen's Hens
The chickens are not given antibiotics or hormones, and are fed outside in an open pasture with a combination of forage, seeds, and grains -- and the periodic watermelon.  It was easy to tell from spending time with Laura and the chickens that the main ingredient in the production of the eggs is care. Laura's knowledge of her animals and their behavior was a clear sign of dedication. And having tasted eggs from Helen's Hens, I can vouch that they blow the commercially raised competition out of the water. 

A reluctant photo-op with the egg producers


Buzzing Bees Blog: The New Queen; A Reign or a Coup?

By Ian Northrop, Arcadia Bee Keeper and Volunteer
Edited by Marsha Johnston, Arcadia Farm Education Volunteer 

Several days after putting the queen cage in the hive, I returned to Arcadia to check in on the new queen bee.  She had not made it out of her cage, so I removed the sugar plug and laid the cage on its side so she could walk into the hive. 

This really was a moment of truth. I wasn’t sure whether the bees would accept and begin to take care of her, or whether they would attack and kill her.

Amazingly, they quickly surrounded her and began to clean and feed her.  Success!  The adjacent picture shows the moment she entered the hive (she is marked with a white dot on her back) and you can see how the other bees are already beginning to line up to take care of her.

I watched this for about 15 minutes – it really was fascinating.  I closed the hive and decided to come back in a few days to on everyone’s progress.

Over the next two weeks I checked on the hive twice. On the second visit, I was excited to see great evidence the new queen was reigning supremely.  The “brood frame” at left is a collection of larvae and baby bee cells – the vaguely oval-shaped capped cell area in the center of the frame.  This hive had not had brood like this since I originally inspected it.

Sometimes introducing a new queen can be tricky.  Since this was my first time attempting it, I asked several folks for advice on the process.  Karl from Hunter Apiaries, who doesn’t know me at all, spent about 30 minutes walking me through the process while I took notes over the phone.  I believe several of his tips made this a success.  His company also has one of the nicest beekeeping websites I’ve seen: http://hunterapiaries.com/.  Thanks to Karl for the help!


Buzzing Bees Blog: A New Arcadian Queen!

By Ian Northrop, Arcadia Bee Keeper and Volunteer
Edited by Marsha Johnston, Arcadia Farm Education Volunteer 

After more than a month of waiting for the weak hive to improve, I decided to replace the exisiting queen.  Each hive has only one queen.  The queen lays eggs non-stop for the first three to four years of her life.  The colony of bees will take on her genetic traits, such as aggressive behavior and disease resistance.  Because this queen wasn’t laying eggs fast enough to grow the hive, I decided I needed to replace her, and I was running out of time to do it.  It’s important to give the hive enough time to grow with a new queen and prepare the hive to survive the winter.  From a bee’s perspective, some of the best months for storing food for the winter have already passed.  Summer months are often not as good for finding pollen and nectar. 

I found a replacement queen bee online from another beekeeper that has queens that are a mix of the three most popular breeds: Italian (heavy honey producers), Carniolan (gentle and better winter survival rate), and Russian (strong pest/parasite resistance).  The beekeeper mailed the queen bee overnight to me in a small plastic vial that was sealed on one end with sugar.

Back at Arcadia with my new girl, I put her in the hive after finding and removing the old queen. Introducing a new queen can be tricky, as the bees will sometimes kill a new queen (most likely old queen loyalists).  In the photo above, you can see how I placed the new queen cage in between two frames using a paperclip. Leaving her like this for a week will allow the bees to get used to her without being able to attack her.  They should eat through the sealed sugar end, at which point they will accept her (or not) as their new queen.  I’ll give an update on the queen after my next visit!

During this visit, I also inspected the stronger hive.  The top hive body is living up handsomely to its role as the “honey super,” with some frames already more than half full with honey.  In the photo at left, you can see the white waxy area on the frame in the photo – that’s the sealed honey!  This hive is doing really well.


Cookbook Photo Shoot

"I'm too happy to sing the blues!" JuJu claimed today as we bustled around her home. The succulent aromas of her many dishes battled for our attention while photographer extraordinaire Molly Peterson snapped shot after shot of the beautiful food. Those present got to view (and sample) a number of the recipes that will be included in JuJu's forthcoming cookbook. The focus of the cookbook will be on healthy, nutritious eating using WIC staples as well as produce that can be found seasonally in the D.C. area (often on our Mobile Market).

JuJu shows off her homemade vanilla and her winning smile

All hands were on deck this afternoon, as our 8 person team arranged dishes, manipulated lighting, and snuck tastes from the serving bowls. We were lucky enough to shoot in the beautiful natural aura of JuJu's living room, giving the work a very colorful home-grown feeling.

Food arranging pro Kristen preps the next dish

The cookbook, which is going through a rigorous naming process, will be an important step in JuJu's work with nutrition outreach. As a complement to her Mobile Market cooking demos and her incredible person-to-person advice, the book will be a take home guide to whipping up delicious dishes. Speaking from experience, it will be hard to top the flavorful expertise that JuJu put on display this afternoon, but rest assured the cookbook will have every step for success.

Pam and Molly review the shots

While we can't reveal too much information about the dishes included or the inspired work that Molly did today, we look forward to sharing the finished product with the community in the near future. If today was any indication of the joy and fun that these recipes will bring, there are many tasty and enjoyable times to be had by those who welcome JuJu's ideas into their kitchen.


A Big Thank-You to Farm Camp Scholarship Program Donors and Community Partners!

Farm Camp is now in it's second week! Children from across the metro area are coming to Arcadia to learn about farming, food, and fun. From growing to cooking, campers get to explore the many exciting aspects of fresh, local food. Our campers become little farmers and cooks right here on the farm.

Where else can kids spend a whole week learning to care for chickens, working beside a farmer, and eating veggies straight off a farm? The unique experiences children have at Arcadia Farm Camp help lay the foundation for an interest in food, nutrition, and farming. Who knows, maybe our campers are our future farmers and chefs! 

This amazing camp experience wouldn’t be possible without the help of some generous donors and partners who contributed to our Farm Camp Scholarship Program. We would like to extend our deepest gratitude to the following people who helped make Farm Camp a possibility for many of our young farmers, chefs, and locavores:


Tiff MacIsaac
Pastry Chef at Buzz Bakery, Birch &Barley, and GBD
She and her husband, Kyle Bailey, without even being asked hosted a Go Fund Me campaign to fund Farm Camp Scholarships. Tiff will be teaching her donors to make her incredible apple pie in exchange for their support.
Washington's Green Grocer
Green Grocer pledged to match the first $1,000 in donations from their customers through a “Farm Camp Seed” campaign in which customers could “buy” a “farm camp seed” for $1. All the proceeds were donated to fund Farm Camp Scholarships.
Cowgirl Creamery
The staff at D.C.'s Cowgirl Creamery East funded scholarships by donating their tips and the contents of a charity jar they have on their counter. We were totally surprised and delighted when this unannounced check arrived in the mail. 

Grassfed Media
Sacha Cohen of Grassfed Media discovered us just before Farm Camp season and generously sponsored a child. She’ll be working to spread the word about camp and all of our farm education programs, and we’re delighted to have made such a great new friend.

Our neighbor Christiane “Gigi” Hyland
As a longtime friend of Arcadia, she galloped to the rescue in June when we had more scholarship applications than we did money.  She and her husband closed the gap, and allowed us to open camp to all our applicants.

Our first scholarship donor, Anna Hoffius
We received out first donation via paypal shortly after the announcement of the scholarship fund in our monthly newsletter. Anna really got the ball rolling for our 2013 scholarships. 

These contributions allowed us to provide 25 scholarships this summer, and we plan to increase that number to 30 in 2014. To contribute to the scholarship fund for 2014, please visit the Scholarship Fund Page.

Community Partners

These Community Partners are all active organizations in the immediate area surrounding Arcadia. They worked to connect us with families who qualified for scholarships, provided translation assistance in communications with families, and spread the good word of Arcadia! 

SCAN of Northern Virginia
StopChild Abuse Now of Northern Virginia is a community based organization that aims to promote the well-being of children, improve parent-child relations and prevent child abuse and neglect by educating the community, providing direct parent education, and advocating for children in the community. 

United Christian Ministries
UCM is a nonprofit, community based organization that serving Fairfax County.They provide services including emergency assistance, employment placement and training; developmental childcare, youth services, supportive housing services, homelessness prevention and child abuse and neglect prevention.

Good Shepherd Catholic Church  
Good Shepherd is located on Mount Vernon Highway in Alexandria. All of their offerings are in both english and spanish. They are an active advocate for faith and building community in this area

Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services 
FairfaxCounty NCS  works with everyone from youth to seniors. They engage, connect and collaborate with individuals, organizations, neighborhoods, and communities to strategically plan and provide responsive services, and build capacity to support community and neighborhood solutions. 

Thanks to the support of these organizations and businesses, 25 children, for whom camp would not be possible, have the opportunity to enjoy a truly amazing week of farm and food experiences.

For more information about Farm Camp, check out: http://arcadiafood.org/arcadia-farm-camp


Partner Spotlight -- Mount Vernon Estate

This week we'd like to highlight one of our neighbors and Mobile Market partners, the Mount Vernon Estate.  

Mount Vernon is a 500 acre historical site that is dedicated to preserving and sharing the life that its one-time resident -- George Washington -- lived and breathed.  With nearly a million visitors each year, the Estate provides a number of exciting areas for tourists to explore, including the mansion where he lived, his distillery and gristmill facilities, and the extensive Mount Vernon garden and grounds. In fact, Woodlawn -- Arcadia's home -- was once a part of Washington's Mount Vernon estate. 

The Mount Vernon staff maintain four separate gardens containing fruits, vegetables, flowers, grains and more, all of which bring crops that George Washington would have raised in the 18th century.  Upon harvesting, the Mount Vernon Estate distributes food to a number of local food banks, as well as to the Arcadia Mobile Market. This is an especially important step to recognize, as the estate's dedication to outreach allows the community at large to benefit from the fertile site.

Last week Gardens and Greenhouse Manager Peggy Bowers had a number of freshly harvested vegetables for us.  One of the heirloom vegetables Peggy grows at Mount Vernon is red, yellow and orange tinted carrots, which made a wonderful, colorful addition to our market offerings. We also gladly accepted two large boxes of green and purple cabbage, helping to flesh out our green offerings of kale, collards and spicy salad mix that come straight from the Arcadia Farm.  Potatoes were also plentiful in a couple of different varieties including purple and the more commonly found Yukon Gold -- we hope people will enjoy adding this traditional root vegetable to their meals.

Although we didn't take any on the bus, we took a peek at the flowers growing in the Mount Vernon nursery, and were they a sight to behold! The abundance of blossoming life on the Estate makes it an exciting place to be, and we hope to continue visiting them as much as possible throughout the summer.