Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Designing the Perfect Farm

Jar of Marbles Farm

I love a good story. In fact, some of the motivation in starting this blog stems from my satisfaction in telling the stories of those I meet. Besides writing A Local Choice, my professional life includes working with talented designers and architects in and around Central Ohio. For this post, I am thrilled to share that my work and personal worlds have collided. The designers at the Columbus architectural firm M+A Architects clued me into the fact that one of their co-workers happens to be an architect by day and farmer by night. Once I discovered Jar of Marbles Farm I couldn’t wait to pay a visit and learn more about the commonalities (both design and food related) which owner Kirk Paisley and I share.

The dual career for Kirk began at the end of 2011, when his growing family packed up their city life in Columbus and moved to an eleven acre property in Springfield, Ohio. Kirk and his pregnant wife Sara didn’t originally plan on starting a family farm and business, but rather they possessed the desire to teach their young children where food comes from (other than a trip to the local Kroger or Giant Eagle). Kirk explained how neither he nor Sara had prior experience growing their own food or raising animals, but with a little help from Google and YouTube (yes, these are modern farmers folks), they were soon up and running. The couple worked in tandem building their farm - Sara researched which plants to grow and how to care for the animals, while Kirk used his architectural talents to design and build necessary structures around the farm. First came the chickens, and what started out as ten laying hens quickly grew to over sixty! The Paisleys added more animals, dug out a 40’x60’ garden space, and before they knew it Jar of Marbles Farm was established.

I arrived at the farm, but before heading out for a tour, Sara handed me a story entitled 1,000 Marbles and suggested that I read it to learn more about where the name “Jar of Marbles” stemmed from. This touching tale about not taking life for granted was circulating at the time Kirk and Sara met and they both knew it was the perfect foundation for their new business on the side. After understanding a bit more of the principles that are important to them, I couldn’t wait head out to meet their menagerie of animals and see their garden space. The energetic and adorable children lead the way as we went out to explore the grounds. We started by meeting the pastured raised chickens, immediately followed by the introduction of the turkeys. Big Turk, the ideal name a child would bestow upon a male turkey, dutifully followed us around every inch of the farm. At one point, I turned around and caught him right behind me...following in my footsteps! Sara laughed and said, “Some people have dogs, we have turkeys”. The turkeys, chickens, kittens and goats all seemed to be living in perfect harmony and will hopefully welcome the soon-to-arrive honey bees and pigs into the mix. The group, with Big Turk on our heels, headed over to the garden space stocked full of over seventy varieties of heirloom vegetables and we all finished my visit at the new fruit orchard lined with wild blackberries.

As the couple’s youngest demonstrated his talent of screaming in order to make Big Turk gobble, we picked fresh berries and talked about the future. To Kirk and Sara, this is not just about adding part-time work to their already full-time jobs, it is about their love of teaching children about food and building an anything-but-monoculture farm in order to aid them in learning. Currently, Farmer Kirk sells his eggs at the M+A office, but he hopes to participate in several upcoming markets in Central Ohio. The Paisley’s also look forward to hosting workshops on the farm and teaching other children and families these important lessons about sustainable food systems. Keep an eye on Jar of Marbles Farm; not only does their future look bright, it looks delicious too!


The Jar of Marbles Farm blackberries (pictured left) traveled 42 miles to Columbus. The blackberries (pictured right) traveled 2,485 miles to Columbus.

Blackberries are not only delicious, but they are small vessels of nutrition perfect to snack on or toss into numerous sweet or savory recipes. They contain a very high level of antioxidants as well as vitamin C, are low in fat and sodium and high in fiber.


Blackberry Facts: 10 Things You May Not Know About the Fruit

Blackberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

One Recipe: Bourbon Butter Pecan Granola

This post is another in the “One Recipe” series in which, in between destination visits, I am sharing recipes featuring previous Local Choice ingredients.

I wish you could smell the heavenly aroma that flooded my kitchen after baking old-fashioned oats and butter pecans with smooth, sweet Middle West Spirits OYO bourbon whiskey, aromatic Honeyrun Farm honey, and 100% pure Sticky Pete’s Pure Maple Syrup. Slow cooked until crunchy, the end product is sweet, salty and delicious. Butter pecans are not just for ice cream anymore!

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