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Meet Kate – Our Garden Expert

Recently, we sat down with our garden expert Kate Mason-Murphy. We’re so appreciative to have found an Austin community member who is so passionate and experienced in building community gardens. Kate has been a tremendous help in spearheading our garden partnership with St. Elmo– a local elementary school within a mile of our office. Our goal through this partnership is to provide opportunities for students and the local community to learn how to grow fresh fruit and vegetables and develop a connection to healthy eating. See below to learn more about Kate’s involvement in the Austin community, our partnership with St. Elmo Elementary School and tips for starting your own garden!

 

 

Q: How did you first become involved in community gardens? 

A: I started front yard gardening about 20 years ago and shared the bounty with friends and neighbors. In 2012 a few things happened. The City adopted the Imagine Austin Master Plan and embarked on a community engagement process that lasted 18 months. There was an incredible interest in protecting our green spaces, improving access to our greenbelt and trails, and for growing food locally. Food was always #1. During that same period of time, Austin was experiencing an explosion in population growth and development, and our community’s green spaces were disappearing at an alarming rate. And personally, I ran out of sun in my yard. 🙂

One Saturday, my husband and I built and installed 2 raised bed gardens at the front of our neighborhood at South 1st and Emerald Wood on City-owned land with a sign that read “Food is Free.”

Eventually, we installed a water tap, secured The Sustainable Food Center as our fiscal sponsor and gained City-approval. The Emerald Wood Community Garden currently supports at least 20 families, if not more. We don’t fence it because we were founded on a core believe that food should be free if you need it.

Q: How can a school community garden impact the livelihood of the students – and the broader community?

A: St. Elmo is a Title 1 School which means that 70% of the student population is eligible for free or reduced lunch. Most of the students live in two Foundation Communities properties, a progressive apartment complex system, which provides stable and long-term affordable housing. Residents have access to dry goods like beans and rice through a food bank in their apartment, but they don’t have access to produce. Now they have a small farm stand that opens one afternoon every other week, but they don’t have a place where they could go out every day to harvest.

We have a lot of land at St. Elmo. It’s our destination park for our community and it seems that engaging the community (especially 1st generation immigrants who aren’t that far removed from agriculture) and giving them the opportunity to grow their own food works because many remember gardening in their home country. That was part of it and then the new principle at St. Elmo – Mr. McCormack just secured funding for all St. Elmo students to have free breakfast and lunch starting in the fall. He envisions a garden to café model. The goal is that we start to utilize the food we grow to feed our kids and that all the supplemental food is for the families or for an affordable farmers markets for the families.

Q: What’s your grand vision for St. Elmo Elementary School?

A: What’s really awesome about St. Elmo is that there was nothing there when we started our partnership. I believe there are 7 acres co-owned by the city and the school district. We are putting in 10 raised bed gardens. We won a Bright Green Future School Grant for large scale rainwater collection. We’re looking around a 3,000-gallon capacity and an outdoor watershed education classroom.

There are two different areas where we could have small orchards – we’re looking at 14 fruit trees going in two different areas. There’s also an area where the kids are not allowed to play, as it’s too close to South 1st. It’s over half an acre and the principal loved the idea of that being our farm. Ideally, we will install the micro-farm in the fall and the 5th graders will run a farm stand. We don’t know the details; we’re hoping to work with Farmshare and the Central Texas Food Bank.

When we participated in the Imagine Austin community engagement process, one of the other things that came up repeatedly was the desire for more places to see music and other forms of creative and artistic expression. Austin is the Live Music Capitol of the world and what a better place to build than a neighborhood school! St. Elmo was on everyone’s radar because there is so much space and it’s completely underutilized at this point. The plan is to build an outdoor stage on the backside of the music portable with a painted mural backdrop. We’ll plant trees to protect from the west sun. We have already expanded one fence line to capture more green space for the school and we’re expanding another one so that we have more places for people to sit for live performances.

Q: What other Austin community sustainability projects?

A: Currently I’m working on a lot; I’ll pick the big ones. The Emerald Wood Community Garden is the one that we started about 7 years ago. Across the street from that is an early childcare center and we started a gardening and outdoor classroom program 3 years ago. The children in the Early Childhood Care Center garden at the community garden and on site.

All of this sits on the Williamson Creek and we’re working on the Williamson Creek Greenway Visioning project. Once complete, the Williamson Creek Greenway will connect McKinney Falls State Park in far East Austin to far West Austin separate from auto. There are hundreds of homes along this stretch that have been demolished as part of a flood buyout and are now open green space. They aren’t all together, they are in little pockets. We have 5 distinct pockets that we can create park amenities, trails, community gardens, orchards and places for people to congregate in the greater St. Elmo Elementary attendance area.

Q: What tips do you have for someone wanting to start a garden at their home? 

A: It’s easy to start. It’s a little bit harder to be successful. We do a lot of raised bed gardens because we have so much drought here and it’s a really good way to keep your plants watered. We use ollas, a sunken terra cotta pot that’s unglazed, filled with water. The roots tap underneath the surface. That allows us to not do much top watering and lose it to evaporation. When you top water in that kind of environment it helps weed seeds germinate. It keeps the weeds down and it keeps the plants growing from the roots.

At a school raised bed gardens using the Square Foot Gardening Method is awesome because it’s very mathematical. A 4’x8’ garden box is 32 cubic feet and so if you were to run string you would have 32 squares and 32 individual crops in every garden box, planted at different density levels. We’re going to have 10 garden boxes so we’re looking at 320 different crops if we wanted to. It’s a way to grow very intensely without a lot of water.

I would start with a garden box with untreated wood, you don’t want it to leach into your soil. My favorite has been rough cut cedar, like first cuts of Ash Juniper, but 2 x 6 cedar works well too. Bermuda grass is an Austin gardener’s nemesis for gardens, so we put down 3-4 inches of cardboard. It is a natural weed barrier that will break down in about a year and provides habitat in the process. We’ll put down about 3-4 inches of cardboard allowing for a one-foot border, lay the box on top, place the ollas where they reach as many plant roots as possible. If we have bagged leaves, those go in next. Add a good quality garden soil, something that fluffs it up a little, either a peat moss or a vermiculite, and finish the project off with 3-4” of mulch outside the box, covering the cardboard.

Then we plant them and give them some love and compost tea. The following season will be much better, it really takes about a year for the soil to settle in. At this point now you have your garden box, and it should be filled all the way to the top. All you need to do is top compost and lightly mix it two or three times a year. You never need to till. Some people don’t even pull their plants when they’re finished, they’ll cut them because there’s so much nutrient value in the roots.

Q: What’s your favorite Rhythm Superfoods snack? 

A: I love kale chips – pretty much any flavor; I was surprised how much I liked the Zesty Nacho. The Sea Salt Beet Chips are my other go-to when I want something a little sweet.

Thanks Kate! Stay tuned for more exciting updates on our partnership with St. Elmo Elementary School.

Snacking 101

Contributing Writer: Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, LD of Milk & Honey Nutrition, @milknhoneynutrition.

 

Have you ever had just a truly mind-blowing snack? Like, it was so good and tasty, and filling, and energizing, that you just thought… “Man, that was one crazy good snack!” No? Just me? (I do have a tendency to go a bit over the top with food… check out my Instagram feed for more details on that…)

 

Well, maybe you’d change your mind, if you knew what exactly a snack was supposed to do for you. Have you ever thought about that? Why do we eat snacks? Is it because we’re hungry? Need fuel? Are about to workout? Are bored? Really, why do we eat them? Whether it’s mid-morning, late afternoon, or bedtime… everyone enjoys a good snack. ESPECIALLY if it’s tasty and gets the job done.

 

But what exactly do I mean by “gets the job done”? There are many reasons we eat snacks (many I listed above), but the primary reason is we need something to get us from one meal to the next without us starving and feeling tired.

 

So, basically snacks keep us full (or at least keep our stomachs from growling) and energized. But how do they do that?

 

To really understand that, we need to do a brief review of our MACRO nutrients: carbs, protein, and fat.

 

These three things are the only things that provide calories to our bodies. (The exception to that is alcohol, which also provides calories, but isn’t considered a nutrient.) They each serve different functions in our bodies and are absorbed at different speeds. Carbohydrates are processed the quickest. This means they leave our stomachs and get absorbed in our intestines faster than protein and fat do.

 

Carbohydrates give us quick energy.

 

Protein and fat take a little longer to digest, with fat taking the longest. Protein and fat, help keep us energized over longer periods of time. This is why an apple by itself (mainly carbs) only keeps you full for an hour, but an apple with peanut butter (protein and fat) keeps you full for 2-3 hours.

 

So, whenever I’m working with clients, I always give them my “perfect snack” formula…

 

Carbs + protein/fat = sustained energy and fullness.

 

There are so many great carb and protein/fat combos to pick from:

  • Apple and peanut butter
  • Carrots and hummus (I especially love Rhythm Superfoods new Carrot Sticks with Lantana Foods hummus!)
  • Avocado toast
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Beans
  • Beet Chips and cheese

 

 

So, next time you’re wanting something to munch on between meals, make sure you’re giving yourself everything you need to keep you both energized AND satisfied!

 

Rhythm Superfoods Noodle-less Lasagna

Here at Rhythm Superfoods, we believe a positive mind, eating right, and staying active are the keys to health and happiness. That’s why we’re excited to celebrate National Nutrition Month by sharing some of our favorite healthy recipes! Our team members decided to get creative in the kitchen and create original recipes using their favorite Rhythm Superfoods snacks! First up is a noodle-less lasagna featuring Rhythm Superfoods Garlic & Onion Roasted Kale and zucchini.

 

Rhythm Superfoods Roasted Garlic & Onion Roasted Kale and Zucchini Noodle-less Lasagna

by Elizabeth

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lb. (approx. 6) green or yellow zucchini
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 3 c. (24 oz.) jar thick spaghetti sauce
  • 2 c. (15 oz. container) ricotta
  • 3 c. (12 oz.) shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • .75 oz container Rhythm Superfoods Roasted Garlic & Onion Roasted Kale

DIRECTIONS

Heat oven to 350 F

Slice zucchini lengthwise into 1/8” thick slices.  Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 10 minutes to draw out excess water. Dab with towel to remove drawn out water.

Brown beef in 3 quart saucepan; drain.  Add sauce; simmer about 10 minutes.

In bowl, stir together ricotta, one-half mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper.

Pour about 1 cup sauce on bottom of 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan. Layer slices of zucchini over sauce; place a layer of roasted kale over zucchini; cover with about 1 cup sauce. Spread 1/2 of cheese filling over sauce. Repeat layers of zucchini, kale, sauce, and cheese filling. Top with layer of zucchini, kale, remaining sauce, and remaining mozzarella.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil; bake about 15 minutes longer. Allow to stand 10 minutes before serving.  10 to 12 servings.

Thanks again Elizabeth for sharing this delicious recipe! You can keep up with all of Elizabeth’s adventures on her website or follow her on Instagram @bentoboxphotosatx!

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Interview with Rhythm CEO Scott Jensen

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Rhythm CEO and Incubation Station/SKU board member Scott Jensen talks about kale, BBQ, and supporting the Austin community.

Rhythm strives to be a transparent company, to the point of having an actual window to the product on every bag of Kale Chips. How does that concept carry through from production to the marketplace?

We’re getting fresh kale from a farm, mixing it with all kinds of wonderful ingredients, dehydrating it, putting it into a bag, sending it to a store, and then standing in the store with a table and offering people samples to try what we’ve just made. It doesn’t get any more transparent than that.

How does thriving in the city of Austin affect what you do?

A big part of my early career in Austin was an iconic BBQ brand (Stubb’s) and an iconic live music venue/restaurant (Stubbs BBQ) which is where I started. It’s on the stage. There’s no hiding from it. You can’t hide what you’re doing with BBQ, you can’t hide what you’re doing with live music. You’re open to critique on a daily basis, because the public decides whether they like your product or not.

How does that window relate to what I do? Both of these things are incredibly open to view, for people to see everything we’re doing. We’re right out there: standing with people, hearing that they don’t like this flavor, or that they love that one, or this one has too many crumbs. Or, of course, “why don’t you make another flavor that’s a little like this?”

How do the ethos of transparency and the relationship to Austin carry over into Incubation Station/SKU?

We open up Incubation Station to all people, and 75% of those people are from the Austin area. We have public happy hours for any startup companies that want to come and rub elbows with angel investors and mentors. So, coming from the Rhythm area, where everything is out in the open and there to be seen – we’re still doing it the same way.

When I think about the integration of what I do for a living as the leader of Rhythm, as well as a leader of the Incubation Station/SKU…these are two very publically-faced companies. We are out in stores meeting with hundreds of consumers every week. If you’re working at a public utility, generating electricity, the only interaction you have with your customers is the bill that comes to the house. You could be in some huge office building where no one has to sit there and take the beating of answering to bad service. But, we are. We are selling directly, indirectly, and standing in front of people in the supermarkets in the town we live.

“A kale as old as time”

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From the Farmacy: Rhythm Rx

Whoever came up with “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” wasn’t really that far off. Fruits and veggies are densely packed with nutrients your body needs to grow strong and healthy. Superfoods especially are nutrient powerhouses that cover all the bases, from the brain in your head to the bones in your toes. You might as well replace your medicine cabinet with a larger pantry and call it a day. Here at Rhythm Superfoods, we work for the Farmacy… and just your luck – the doctor is in.

Keep scrolling to learn about the many health benefits of kale.

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The Heart <3's Kale: Heart-healthy Benefits of Kale

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We all love kale, but did you know your heart loves kale back? Our beloved superfood has many heart-healthy benefits to consider when thinking about your heart and circulatory system. Some of the vitamins and nutrients in kale have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke, in addition to keeping your veins clear, your blood pressure low, and your heart pumping properly.

So go on – don’t be afraid to show kale some love!

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Keith’s Baked Kale Chips

Ingredients:
2 bunches of green curly kale (washed, stems removed, torn into small pieces and dried)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp course ground sea salt

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
2. Place the kale in a large salad bowl.
3. Pour the olive oil and sea salt over the kale, and toss thoroughly.
4. Spread the kale on a baking sheet.
5. Bake for 20-30 minutes, re-tossing kale every 10 minutes.
7. Remove when kale is crispy and just starting to brown on its edges.
8. Serve hot!

Keith’s Baked Siracha Kale Chips

Ingredients:
2 bunches of green curly kale (washed, stems removed, torn into small pieces)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp siracha chili sauce
1/4 tsp course ground sea salt

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. In a bowl, stir together the olive oil, siracha sauce and sea salt.
3. Place the kale in a large salad bowl.
4. Pour the sauce mixture over the kale, and toss thoroughly.
5. Spread the sauced kale on a baking sheet.
6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, re-tossing kale every 8-10 minutes.
7. Remove when kale is crispy and starting to brown on its edges.
8. Serve hot!

Rhythm Superfoods October Spotify Playlist

It’s October in Austin, which to all the music lovers here means one thing: ACL FEST! This past weekend was the first of two for the festival, and it was amazing! The weather was absolutely perfect, and the bands were incredible. We also got to represent Rhythm with our chips at the Snack Shack! In honor of Austin City Limits, we’ve put together a playlist for this month starring our favorite acts from the festival. We can’t wait for round two next weekend, but in the meantime, check out our October Spotify playlist and rock out to our festival favorites!