Cows were born to roam and graze. Hogs were born to root and wallow. Chickens were born to scratch and peck. According to Will Harris and White Oak Pastures, these are the natural behaviors of animals, making them commonsense tenets of how to raise healthy livestock. “Nature abhors a monoculture,” is one of Will’s favorite sayings.
Five generations of Harrises have farmed a tract of land in Georgia that now raises livestock using traditional, multi-species grazing rotation, no hormones and no antibiotics. But, business was not always done this way. Post WWII, the Harris family farm moved away from the traditional ways of doing things and began raising livestock using more chemicals and fertilizers and blending into the industrialized complex of food production. In the mid-90’s, Will Harris, the current head of White Oak Pastures, made what some called a foolish decision to bring the family farm full circle: moving back to the traditional ways of natural grazing, healthy animals, and respectful butchering.
This weekend marks the 15th year of the Doo-Nanny festival, simply called ‘Doo-Nanny’. The folk art festival has grown and evolved into a temporary community filled with creative expression that occupies Butch’s 80-acre farm once a year.
When Butch speaks of the history of Doo-Nanny, his story begins with a turnip root that was plowed up in his garden by friend John Henry Toney. The turnip “had a face in it,” so he drew a picture of it and sold in a nearby junk shop to a folk art collector. And so, in 1996, Doo-Nanny was born out of a roadside art show. Years later, the folk art festival merged with a “lo-fi” movie festival and is now complete with solar showers, an outdoor community kitchen, art vendors, and culminates with a burning effigy for the celebration on Saturday night.
Ready for art and making, campers, artists, musicians, and free spirits arrive here for fun, food, music, and experimental architecture. Children run free (but supervised). I’ve heard first-time attendees say nothing could have prepared them for the spectacle of the weekend; this year’s event is certain to be another good one.
Husband and wife team Lance and April Ledbetter are protecting the sounds of our past with their highly acclaimed label, Dust-to-Digital. Founded by Lance a little over a decade ago, Dust-to-Digital is home to a growing catalogue of important cultural works from the United States and around the globe. I’ve been viewing their line-up for a few years and am constantly impressed by the amount of material and depth each release includes. The types of recordings they release are unlike most on the market. It’s really audio conservation in its finest form. I was lucky enough to meet them both last fall during our trip to Atlanta, when we both attended the Lonnie Holly show at the High Museum. Afterward, they attended our event with the Gee’s Bend Quilters at Grocery on Home.
Within the first few minutes of their arrival at the event, I barraged them with questions: “Can we carry your work? Can we do a blog post? Would you want to trade?”
The answer came back, “Yes.”
All of us at Alabama Chanin are so proud and honored to be able to introduce and begin to explore the work of Dust-to-Digital and to sell these treasured collectors’ items on our website.
I’ve heard Lubbock called the cotton capital of the United States, if not the world, by a handful of people in the industry. Flying into Lubbock, I saw farmland that continued as far as the eye could see. Once I landed, those fields became stretches of white that reached out to the horizon.
Today, thanks to Kelly Pepper and the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative, I visit these fields first-hand, along with a cotton breeding facility and test nurseries. For the first time, I will meet some of the farmers who grow our organic cotton face-to-face.
I’ll have a glimpse of the hard work that (as we have learned first-hand) goes into cotton’s growth and development. I will walk through the entire process, from the field to the gins and the warehouses where it is cleaned and stored, before it travels east to the Carolinas to be spun, knit, dyed, and finally sent to our factory in Florence.
I will listen and watch and then take this information back to Alabama so we can improve our field for next year’s crop. (Yes. Next year.)
All of us at Alabama Chanin are so grateful to Kelly Pepper and the entire Texas cooperative for paving the way for the future of Alabama organic cotton.
SFA moments in Oxford: Smoked dresses, BBQ, the talented John Currence, more BBQ, and our trunk show at Amelia’s at The Lyric Oxford. More to come…
As John T. Edge explains in his new book, The Truck Food Cookbook, (which we mentioned here) the food truck phenomenon that has swept the country over the past several years has been exciting to watch. Citizens of many American cities are challenging the regulations placed on food truck vendors in an effort to make streetscapes more alluring and encourage the street food movement. (Note: A simple Google search reveals an ongoing–sometimes heated–dispute between cities and food truck owners.)
Food trucks are practical on several fronts when considering the state of our economy – they offer value-driven meals and are relatively inexpensive start-ups. Plus, our current society has become accustomed to eating on the go, which has also contributed to the movement. Rather than venturing into fine-dining ambitions, young chefs have opted “to dish the culinary equivalent of the Great American Novel from retrofitted taco trucks.” Immigrants are using the mobile meals approach to showcase their native cuisine. Consumers have begun to blend a demand for “quick access food” with a desire for “honest and delicious food,” and street food has answered the call on both fronts.
If you’ve spent any amount of time at The Factory you know a thing or two about biscuits. There’s at least a dozen different recipes in the Alabama Chanin library, and Natalie can make some of the most flakey mouthwatering creations you’ve ever tasted with no measuring cup in sight, all while wrangling a six year old.
My grandmother had similar powers, but they must skip two generations as I haven’t quite mastered the technique. However, what I lack in skill, I make up for in appreciation. So when the opportunity to attend the International Biscuit Festival and Southern Food Writing Conference presented itself, my heart nearly leapt out of my chest. Storytelling, biscuits, Blackberry Farm = “Yes, Please”.
During the peak of New York Fashion Week, we played host to numerous events, presenting the pieces of our newest collection at meetings and trunk shows all across Manhattan. We had the joy of meeting with customers to showcase our latest pieces and help them design one-of-a-kind garments of their own.
Thanks to the generosity of a few dear friends, new and old, we could not have asked for a better show.
We will host our first One-Day Retreat of the fall season in New York’s beautiful Hudson Valley on Sunday, September 16th. Our day will be spent in a restored nineteenth century factory and will feature local food from Barbara Goldstein of Blima’s.
We were able to talk to friend Melissa Auf der Maur from Basilica to find out a little more about the history of the space, future plans for the center, and where to spend the rest of our weekend in the Hudson Valley.
Below we share what learned – which includes lessons on historic preservation and roof gardens.
It’s been raining every day here at Penland—such a change from the dry, dying fields of North Alabama over the last weeks. Like a miracle, it rained on our cotton field, too (more to come on that next week). My father reports that we did get 3 inches of rain at my house and I love how he called it a “good rain.” “Long and slow,” he drawls. I know what he means. It has been the same here at Penland, but I have a pair of rubber boots and, thanks to a Spruce Pine store, a camping poncho. And the mountains here just feel like they are particularly beautiful in the rain… I believe that they call them the “Smoky Mountains” for a reason. Continue reading