Nashville’s Green Thumbs

By William Harwood / Photography By Alyssa Jiosa & Jill Melton | December 28, 2016
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Folks, farms, and organizations putting sustainability into action.


THE CHEW CREW

The sheep prance up the steep hill at Nashville’s Fort Negley as though gravity doesn’t apply. “These are the girls,” Zach Richardson grins. Zach is a modern-day shepherd, practicing a craft millennia old while using gadgets of today: an electric fence to keep the sheep in the right place, for example.

Zach’s flock, his “Chew Crew,” has been tasked to clear the hill to help restore the fort to its Civil War condition. The terrain is too dangerous for a bulldozer, but the intrepid sheep rush in like lions. What would be dirty, difficult work for a flock of folks is–for the flock of sheep–simply a day at the buffet with tummies full of yummy, and all four chambers at that.

Zach and his business associates–dogs Loretta, Sturgill, and Dougie–love their job. The four expertly herd the sheep as one–a veritable chew-chew train–over tricky terrain. The sheep, as Zach points out, are not only environmentally friendly, but also connect the present to good practices from the past, a perfect solution to the restoration of Fort Negley.

When asked whether he eats lamb, Zach smiled sheepishly. “Oh, yeah,” he grinned. So keep chewing, Chew Crew. Ewe got this.

Visit nashvillechewcrew.com for more information.

MIEL: HONEY AND SUSTAINABILITY

Seema Prasad is the mind behind Miel, Nashville’s classically influenced, refined bistro. Crave some smoked onion soup with Chanterelle mushrooms and Gouda? Miel can deliciously provide that for you, and all while keeping its environmental footprint très petit. With Seema’s background in environmental advocacy, Miel is a litany of best practices: locally sourced ingredients, roof and patio gardens for herbs and greens, gradual transition to full LED lighting (hey, hard to get that stuff just right for dining rooms), repurposed wood for some decor, and–bien sûr–all food waste to compost bins.

Seema explains how it has become easier for her and Andrew Coins–Miel’s executive chef–to source Miel’s food locally. “Cool thing now,” she says, “is that all the local farms email us with, ‘hey, here’s what we have fresh this week.’“ Even the duck and the lamb are raised nearby.

However, as green as Miel is, Seema still isn’t satisfied. Her brainchild is Resource Capture or ‘ReCap,’ a non-profit to build Nashville’s first dry anaerobic food waste digestor. Like the making of sausage, the process of “cooking” food scraps in a sealed vessel isn’t pretty, but the outcome is environmentally delicious; 98% of what goes in comes out as three valuble products: compost, biogas, and “leachate” or liquid fertilizer.

At present, Seema has grants from several benefactors including Bank of America, HCA, and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. However, the site still needs to be secured, and the more public support the better. To have your voice heard in favor of an elegant solution to food waste, go to resourcecapture.com to sign up and stay in the loop.

KATHAROS FARMS: BEYOND ORGANIC

For Katharos Farms being green is not a bureaucratic list that you check boxes for. Instead, it goes to the fundamental principles of stewardship regarding soil/pastures, animals, and/or community.

Katharos is one of just a few farms in the country that base everything on purity and stewardship. Purity: Local feed, verified to have no chemicals. They pay to have every batch of feed tested. Stewardship: They don’t ship. They use moveable, nonintrusive infrastructure. They mimic nature to recreate the exact same environment found in the wild, in short they let the animals express their “animalness.” They also use NO chemicals on the property. The animals, for the most part, maintain the pasture, create a healthy and natural soil disturbance, and most importantly fertilize. Katharos farms offers a meat CSA to consumers at katharosfarms.com.  You can also find their meats at restaurants around town.

THE GLEAN PLATE CLUB

Waste not, want not. Good advice that the Society of St. Andrew more than takes to heart: it takes it to the bank–the food bank. SoSA is a non-profit with a mission to bring healthy food to those in need by gleaning farmers’ fields and salvaging surpluses. The seed of this idea was planted in the late 1970’s in Virginia. From there, the ecumenical organziation has blossomed throughout the Southeast to provide over 750-million pounds of nutritious food to hungry Americans, food that otherwise would have rotted in fields or have taken up space in landfills.

Here in our neck of the woods, SoSA’s efforts are led by Jeanie Hunter and Kelsey Miller. Jeanie, the regional manager of SoSA Tennessee, explains the economics. “When we salvage surpluses at warehouses, we save farmers landfill disposal costs. In addition, farmers can then write off the value of the surplus as a donation.” Of course, there is a social cost saved here as well in the form of methane reduction from landfills. Almost half of the national food waste problem–about 40% of the food we produce is squandered–occurs at farm level. However, as Pogo Possum once famously said, “we have met the enemy, and he is us.” We, the consumers, turn up our noses on perfectly good produce if it is too small, or too big, or too crooked, or looks like the face of Richard Nixon if held at a certain angle and squinted at.

Enter SoSA to organize volunteers to glean fields and rescue plain-Jane produce, finding it happy homes and hungry tummies. There is a lot around Nashville to gather and distribute, Kelsey points out. “We glean sweet potatoes, squash, green beans, tomatoes, even blueberries.” In short, anything that is healthy and wholesome and would otherwise go to waste, will–thanks to SoSA and its many helping hands–go to taste instead.

To become a pair of those helping hands, join The Glean Plate Club, too. To start, simply plant a little seed of an email here: sosatn@endhunger.org They’ll be happy to have you!

FIN & PEARL: SOLUTIONS ARE THE CATCH OF THE DAY

Table scraps generally wind up in landfills. For Fin and Pearl, Nashville’s newest seafood place, restauranteur Tom Morales had a better idea. It’s called an ORCA, a highfalutin “aerobic digestor.” Instead of food waste in landfills generating methane, the food waste in an ORCA sends environmentally safe water into the municipal system. Fin and Pearl boasts one of only two ORCA’s in the state (Vandy has the other).

Other examples of Fin and Pearl’s environmental leadership include using rescued glass from wine bottles for the water glasses and reclaimed teak trees for much of its wood. Even Fin and Pearl’s oyster shells get a second life; properly crushed, they make for bags of soil amendments on the Harpeth.

As Tom says, “Our mission is to create a sustainable, earth-friendly seafood restaurant in both our practices and buying strategies.” This includes transparent sourcing of its food, buying only highest quality fish from privately owned boats committed to sustainable methods.

Tom adds, “We hope to inspire others to embrace these simple tenets through our culinary efforts and a kind, hospitable attitude.”

GET GREEN: 3 PLACES TO VOLUNTEER

Nashville Food Project–cook, garden, deliver meals to the needy.

Society of St. Andrews–harvest and package”seconds” from fields

Farm to Families–help grow and harvest crops on local farms

Seema Prasad is the proprietor of Miel restaurant in Sylvan Park.
Photo 1: Right, Tommy Parker, Farm Manager and left, David Horwath, Business Advisor, Co-Owner of Katharos Farms
Photo 2: Organizing a gleaned green bean harvest for distribution.
Photo 3: Tom Morales, owner of Fin & Pearl, ACME and the Southern, is recycling oyster shells from the restaurants into The Harpeth, as just one of many sustainability initiatives.
Article from Edible Nashville at http://ediblenashville.ediblecommunities.com/about-us/nashville-s-green-thumbs
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