Posts filed under ‘Carol Peppe Hewitt’

How our community re-financed our grocery co-op

By Dee Reid

Mary DeMare, Herman Greene, Carol Hewitt, Paul Finkel and Bob Armantrout bringing it home and keeping it local.

They say, “It takes a village…” In this case it took 16 local-food friends.

It all started when Chatham Marketplace had a financial obligation looming. The Pittsboro-based co-op grocery was facing a $300k balloon payment on its start-up loan.  The note would come due in about a year. The bank might be willing to re-finance, but there was no guarantee about that, or whether the Marketplace would get the same terms.

Then Carol Hewitt recalled a great idea that came up a few months earlier when she was first co-founding Slow Money NC, the Pittsboro-based initiative that facilitates peer-to-peer community-based loans. Chatham Marketplace Finance Committee member Paul Finkel had suggested re-financing the co-op’s loan through individual lenders in the community.

Slow Money wasn’t ready to take on something that big last spring, Carol said.  But by fall, Slow Money had already facilitated more than a dozen micro-loans to farmers and food entrepreneurs. Maybe they could tackle the Chatham Marketplace loan after all.

Carol and Slow Money co-founder Lyle Estill began crunching the numbers. They would need to find 16 individuals willing to loan $25k each at a 4.5% interest rate. Each lender would receive equal monthly payments over an eight-year period, and the loan would then be retired.

Slow Money NC would help them aggregate their funds into one pool that could be managed centrally. That’s when Bringing It Home Chatham LLC was formed.

It didn’t take all that long to line up 16 lenders, Carol said. The folks who had helped start the Marketplace– Tami Schwerin, Melissa Frye and Katherine Conroy– met and suggested names. It was a community effort and one-by-one people agreed to participate. The loan was attractive to them for several reasons:  They believed in putting their money to work in the community. Many of them had already made micro-loans through Slow Money NC and they felt confident their funds would be repaid.

They knew the risks associated with supporting a small local business, Carol said, but they would rather see their money working on Main Street than riding the recession roller coaster on Wall Street. And, they would be getting a better return on the Marketplace loan than they would from a savings account or CD.

The loan was also a very good deal for Chatham Marketplace. It locked in a much lower interest rate, reducing the grocery’s monthly payment by 1/3. That means a savings of about $2500 a month – no small change for any food enterprise in these times.

“Now Chatham Marketplace is locally financed by people in the community who care deeply about its success,” Carol said. “That means we will do whatever we can to help the Marketplace succeed.”

“Bringing It Home Chatham is one of the first projects of its kind in the US,” Carol added. “It’s just the beginning of finding new and better ways to keep local food growing here in Chatham County and beyond.”

December 19, 2011 at 9:13 pm 6 comments

A great year for pecans

By Carol Peppe Hewitt

Arlo's pecan pie

The pecan drop this year is huge. The ground under the pecan trees that line our driveway is covered with them, and more seem to fall every day. Pecan pie (recipe below), pecan peach cobblers, toasted pecans with cinnamon, a handful of raw pecans to snack on, pecan granola, and more – so many great feasts ahead. Locally grown, fertilized by the ducks and deer who frequent the place, no pesticides, and free for the picking up.

I remember another year like this one, 1984, the year I was carrying Emma. Eight months pregnant, leaning over was out of the question. Luckily the ground was so densely covered with nuts that I could sit in one place, pick up 30 or 40 pecans and then scoot to a new spot and do it again. I managed to fill buckets that way. This year has been like that one. I have picked up about 100 pounds and there are still more on the ground.

Our driveway is part of the Old Raleigh Road, the carriage road that cut across Chatham County long before Route 64 was built. The trees are at least 100 years old.  The girth of the largest one is 12 and ½   feet.  Several years ago we were approached by the DOT. They wanted to pave the half-mile, dead end road that we live at the very end of, and the neighbors were all for the idea. So we agreed, but only with the stipulation that they stop at the top of the lane of pecan trees and leave the dirt road as it is for the last 200 yards that passes underneath them.

The fancy new paved road would have required cutting the trees down, a senseless slaughter that the DOT seemed to have no qualms about. But we did. Now the new paved road ends in a cul de sac, just short of these wonderful old trees, marked by a sign that says “State Maintenance Ends.”  Maybe I should add one that says “Pecan Preservation Begins.”

For many years I would look out the kitchen window this time of year and see somebody hunched over picking up pecans. The old timers knew about these trees and we were happy to see them filling their buckets. As I filled mine today I realized they have all stopped coming. One by one they have died off, and the next generations in the area don’t know, or don’t care, to come picking.

Instead we have a murder of happy crows, and the squirrels are keeping very busy as well. Which is fine. There is a generous plenty.

What’s next? The nuts need to dry for a while to concentrate the sugars and lose their raw flavor. Then there is the massive task of shelling them all. A few nights at the kitchen table with various styles of nutcrackers won’t get it done, and I’m open to suggestions.

With all the talk of GMOs, pesticides, food miles, and such, these are a treasure in our local foodshed, planted by our ancestors to nourish us.  Take a walk, there may be some in your neighborhood as well. And this is the moment to find them. Native pecan trees, I am told, take 15 years before they bear fruit. I am thankful for the farmer who had patience to plant these trees and wait.

And I am inspired to plant more fruit and nut bearing trees for those coming along behind me.  May they enjoy their own great years, just as we are doing with this one.

* * *

Arlo’s Fabulous Pecan Pie

Delicious Pie Crust

¼ c sugar

2 tsps freshly grated orange or lemon peel

½ c chilled butter, cut into chunks

¼ tsp salt

1 ½ c flour

1 large egg yolk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1-2 tbl  water if needed

Mix sugar and citrus peel until thoroughly blended. Add butter, salt, flour.  Rub together until mixture is crumbly, work in egg yolk until the dough is light yellow.

Sprinkle vanilla and water (if needed) over the dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Pie filling

3 eggs

2/3 cup sugar

pinch of salt

¼ cup local sorghum molasses and ¾ c maple syrup

1/3 cup melted butter

1 cup pecans

Fill crust and lay an additional ½ cup of pecans artfully on the top.

Bake for 350 degrees for 50 minutes in a 9” pie pan.

 

November 11, 2010 at 9:29 pm Leave a comment

Peaches now and later

By Carol Peppe Hewitt

The other day I picked two buckets of peaches, many still partially green, from our tree.

Now I stand at the kitchen sink, picking out the ripest ones and quartering them. The worms have gotten there first, so by the time I gently scrape out and cut around the brown mush they have created, and peel off the skins, I have only small chunks. They are not that big to start with, these white peaches, and so it takes 10 or 12 peaches to get even two cups of small pieces, enough for a snack bag. I dump them in, press it flat, getting out all the air, and slip it into the freezer.

And start again. Because they taste delicious, and they are mine. I know for a fact that they have never been sprayed with a noxious pesticide and their fertilizer is our compost and leaves from the yard. They’re like family.

As I work I try negotiating with the worms. How about next year we work out a deal, I suggest? You guys get all the peaches on the east side of the tree and I’ll take the west (not foolish enough to vie for the south side that gets more sun.) But they’re not very cooperative, nor communicative.

But that’s okay. About ever 7th or 8th peach I get a pleasant surprise. No worms! I got to this one before they did! And the bag fills more quickly.
It takes a while, but in the dead of winter, when there is nothing but fruit from faraway places in the stores, fruit that flew thousand of miles just to get here, I will be able to pop a few chunks of North Carolina peaches into my breakfast cereal. And it will make my day. Hopefully I will also get enough to make some peach muffins for the August Kiln Opening here at the pottery.

I saw a wonderful bumper sticker yesterday. “Local Foods, Thousands of miles fresher” (from AppalachianGrown.com). And thousands of miles more sane. Here in Chatham County we can grow food all year long. And with the help of a freezer, or some canning equipment, and our farmer’s markets, we can eat local fruits and vegetables most every day.

Which takes me back to these peaches, and the way they connect me to the land we live on. We planted this tree many years ago and I remember picking peaches with Emma and Meg when they were little, and making peach cobblers at Christmas.
If you don’t have your own tree, treat yourself to a basket of local peaches at the Chatham Marketplace, or your local farmer’s market. You may not find any worms to talk to, but you can skin and slice and find your way into a few bags for the freezer.

Hopefully in a few months you will pull one out and smile. And I’d like to think, those local Carolina peaches will make your day too.

July 27, 2010 at 7:47 pm 1 comment

Learn how Slow Money supports local food

By Carol Peppe Hewitt

The Abundance Foundation in Pittsboro has launched a Slow Money Project that has already raised $29,500 from local folks and given low-interest loans to two local food enterprises. If you would like to get involved as an investor or borrower, or if you would just like to learn how this works, come to a meeting on Monday July 12 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Chatham Mills (420 Hillsboro Street) in Pittsboro.

The objective of the Slow Money Project is to match people who wish to invest in improving the resilience of our community by enhancing our local food shed with borrowers who have compelling projects that can accomplish that goal.

Light refreshments will be provided, and you are welcome to BYOB from Chatham Markeplace.

Learn more about the Slow Money Project and the local food enterprises that have already benefited from it: http://theabundancefoundation.org/slow-money

Please feel free to pass this invitation along to friends, family and anyone else you care about who might benefit from this project; as in anyone who eats food.

Let’s start planting our local money in our local food shed.

July 6, 2010 at 10:52 am 1 comment

Opening day of a CSA

By Carol Peppe Hewitt

Carol, Keenan and Mark

Wednesday was an exciting day at the end of the Johnny Burke Road in Pittsboro, NC.  Mark and I had the pleasure of being the very first ever CSA pick-up from Duck Run Farm, owned and run by the multi-talented Keenan McDonald.

In August 2009 Keenan took on the transformation of the old Burke family farm, which we share. She brought in baby pigs to turn over the ground and a wonderful selection of the most beautiful ducks to class up the pond, while she began turning the large room off the breezeway into a certified kitchen. A chicken “tractor” was built and soon filled up with chicks, and a greenhouse sprang up on the crest of the hill.  A shelter and brick oven came next, and when the acres up on the hill were ready, tiny plants soon became long rows of spring vegetables.

We offered use of a tractor, and Keenan came down to help hoist Mark’s very biggest pots off the wheel. Big projects rely on extra hands and we have enjoyed being those for one another.

But mostly we have been her cheering section, arm-chair quarterbacks to her impressive undertaking.  Farming is work, and more work, but one also needs drive, passion, intellect and ingenuity to turn earth and seed into a successful business. Duck Run Farm has all those and more. The spring yield is excellent – the hilltop of kale, chard, spinach, lettuces, bok choy and more are inspiring and selling well on Tuesdays at Fearrington Farmer’s Market, Wednesday evenings at Johnny’s in Carrboro, and Saturdays in Saxapahaw.

Those baby chicks grew to healthy fat birds, and have been processed and now wait in the freezer to be included in the CSA bags.

Baker+Farmer, an apt title, takes the CSA concept to a whole new level as Keenan collaborates with other farmers, a goat dairy, a baker, and even a coffee roaster! Our bag included a tasty piece of garlic-and-chive goat cheese from Small Potatoes Farm, a fat frozen chicken and the most wonderful round loaf of crusty bread by the talented baker Lynette Driver.  That loaf didn’t last long:  We were tearing off large chunks to enjoy while it was still warm as we walked back down the lane to our house.

While we collected our bag about noon many more bags were being delivered to Family Health International and EPA in Research Triangle Park, the School of Government in Chapel Hill and beyond.  In the end sixty bags went out to very lucky customers on this inaugural run.

On May 5th, 2010 the world of sustainable agriculture took a tiny leap forward. I felt it. I was there. It was wonderful. Keenan has plans for dinner events and music on a stage, so bookmark her site and come and hear the ducks happily quacking down at the pond for yourself.

I’ll be there.  Just eating and dancing and celebrating the way we are making our foodshed and our community the way we really want them to be.

May 10, 2010 at 7:34 pm Leave a comment

Putting out the scream for local ice cream

By Carol Peppe Hewitt

At the four-day Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance  held every spring and fall in Silk Hope, NC, we try to model sustainability. Yes, that means we want the festival to survive and flourish.  We also want to reduce our carbon footprint, and to model and teach the moral imperative of caring for our planet while strengthening the community created during the event, as well as the larger one in which we live, work, and dance.

Which brings me to ice cream. We have been using a Raleigh-owned business, but their ice cream came from the massive big-box store with the best price. Where was it made? We didn’t know.  Ingredients? Farming practices?  Not sure.  But where else can  they easily buy over 100 gallons of ice cream in one weekend?

We’re about to find out. For the April 22-25 festival we’re looking closer to home. We want to offer ice cream from a local creamery, and one that promises to be free of hormones and antibiotics.  Staffed by friendly festival volunteers, we will be new at running an ice cream booth, but we’ll have fun.  (And if that is too big an order, fine…we’ll use more than one source.)

If you’d like to cast a vote for a specific creamery (or flavor) now would be your chance to do just that.  Leave me a comment to let me know.  I will be looking for a few dairy-free options as well.

Now I just need to find some local cones!

March 27, 2010 at 9:04 am 6 comments

Door to Door Daikon

By Carol Peppe Hewitt

At the end of a recent Local Lunch Friday Jason and Haruka presented us with a dilemma. They operate EdibleEarthscapes, and they were overstocked with daikon radishes. They brought boxes of daikon to the kitchen, and have hundreds more plants in the ground.

Sandi from ECO said she didn’t need them, as she is flush with daikon right now. I suggested we take them to the Asian markets in Cary to see what we could sell. Lyle jumped at the idea.

“Do you know where those stores are?” he asked.

Lyle has never shopped at an Asian market, and being on a hundred mile diet, it is unlikely he will shop there any time soon, as they specialize in faraway foods. Plus, Lyle says he doesn’t get out much.

“Sure,” I replied. “I even know the owner of one of them. ”

So the challenge was on and we set off with a box of big white tuber looking radishes. The mission was simple: come home with an empty box, a fistful of cash, and a buyer for the many boxes that would soon follow.

Our first stop was Grand Asia Market in Cary. The young woman in customer service rang for the produce manager and we explained our situation. “We have a box of wonderful local, sustainable daikon. Would you like to buy them? ”

We showed him a sample and he led us to the produce section to compare it with their selection. Theirs were much bigger. And tougher. And cheaper. We were up against the Shanghai price.

We countered that ours might taste better and out came a knife. Next thing we knew we were cutting samples and performing live taste tests in the aisle. The produce manager preferred their hotter radish. The young woman from the customer service desk preferred ours. Lyle commandeered an unsuspecting shopper to try each one and she preferred our daikon! Score! EdibleEarthscapes took the lead! Our product was a bit more expensive, but we worked out a deal.

They asked us to come back with a pretty sign that explains these are fresh, local, sustainable, and whatever other good “shelf talk” (as they say in the business) and they’d set up a separate display to see how they sell. They would also need to be individually wrapped or marked with a stamp on them to distinguish them from the other, less expensive product. OK. We could take the idea back to Jason and Haruka for consideration.

They sell fifty boxes a week. The trick is to deliver them into that market profitably.

Stop number two was the Triangle Indian Market on Chatham Street. I had met Nagi, the owner, before. He is an excellent businessman who not only owns the grocery, but also several restaurants and a movie theater. He and I had talked previously about finding local farmers that would be interested in growing some of the vegetable varieties he now imports from overseas. He was not there, but we got his card, took a good look at the vegetable offerings-where daikon was called “muli.” Here we were up against the Miami price, and out of luck. We would have bought a couple of warm samosas for the road, had we not stuffed ourselves with cabbage pancakes and homemade mayonnaise at Local Lunch.

The woman we showed our sample to said that only the people in the north of India would eat such a thing. Interesting.

Third stop was the Punjab Indian Restaurant across the parking lot. North or South India, we weren’t sure, but we took a radish in and asked to speak to the chef. The hostess that greeted us shook her head. The chef wouldn’t want any, but how much did they cost? She might take one for herself. “One dollar,” Lyle said, before I could jack the price. A second woman nearby said she would take one as well. We closed the deal and moved on. Back in the car Lyle called it a “sympathy sale,” since we were cold, and wet, and bedraggled looking. Fine, but we now had two dollars!

Lyle forced me to stop at a Korean restaurant he had spotted, assuring me that daikon would be big in Korean cuisine. We met the owner and she was gracious. She held our sample up lovingly and explained that it was only the Chinese that would eat such a thing.

Around the corner was a Chinese fast food place. We walked in and Lyle held up the sample daikon. She waved him off. “No, no, I don’t want that.”

Next stop was Patel Brothers, another Indian market. Again I showed our sample radish to the owner. The customers in the checkout line seemed interested as well, so I asked to borrow a knife to carve off some more sample pieces. “Oh no,” the man behind the check out quickly informed me. “They will not eat “mooly” in the afternoon, just the morning, because it ruins the breath.” Great. So much for my breath, which had clearly been ruined a few stops back. And now we have another word for daikon.

Lyle had cased out the produce section and noticed that their box of daikon radish was almost empty. He was convinced they would buy our entire box if we got the price right. Lyle brought the box in from the car and the fellow at the checkout began piling long radishes on their counter scale. After eight or ten they began to roll off. My suggestion that they not try to get them all on the scale at once fell on deaf ears. After a couple of avalanches they held. 16.18 pounds, and we got our cash.

A customer asked if we had brought the leaves. Darn. Not a one. They are very good cooked she said, and I promised to bring some back for her. Have we discovered another saleable product that is usually ending up in the compost bin? Now that would be exciting.

Going door to door with Jason and Haruka’s daikon was a tremendous success. We learned a lot. We made several connections that may pay off later and we got useful feedback everywhere we went. We went out with a full box and came home with an empty box and a bit of cash, so that counts for something. And we found out that the Asian markets are not a panacea for selling surplus daikon.

Good to know.

And what a blast. If we are going to re-engineer our foodshed, we are going to need to pay this tuition, to go talk to the grocers and get a thorough understanding of the markets we are playing in. Overstocked on daikon? Better knock on some doors.

Market research. What better way to spend a dreary February afternoon?

February 21, 2010 at 1:39 am 1 comment

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