Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Playing catch up y'all

Hi All!
I've been wanting to get back to writing, so here we are...

Keith and I have been in a working frenzy for the last few months.
This past summer we experienced our most difficult growing season ever.
Hot temperatures, little rain, & the fact that we were trying to open a business(Trolley Stop Market) in Downtown Memphis didn't make it any easier.

Keith and I are very much used to working as a unified team on the farm, but because of our new agri-business - we had to split our time together. Keith stayed at the farm, & I worked on managing the TSM. Keith had to shoulder so many of my responsibilities on the farm in addition to his own, and I had to learn how to run a restaurant with little to no experience doing so.

When we look back at June, July, & August it all just seems like a blur. Don't know how we did it, other than to say we definitely had & still have great talent at the TSM at the Farm, and we both know we had a lot of people praying for us during the most stressful time in our lives.

Keith and I have been saving our money for the last 5 years, not for any one particular reason other than to have a little nest egg. As time marched on we began to envision a year round market in Memphis. The more we talked with our customers & friends we knew we were on to something pretty good. We decided to take a chance and invest into our own little idea.

We had envisioned our store, not really based on anything other than the markets we had been attending, and how we wanted to give our fellow farming & artisan friends a place to sell their goods year round. We thought itd be awesome to have a little restaurant that showcased locally grown goodies everyday on the menu, with our farm being one of the main suppliers.

Keith and I searched for locations in Memphis off and on for about 2 months, until one day the perfect locale fell right into our laps. 704 Madison used to be a nightclub, and when we walked into the place you could definitely tell it was going to take some work to get it cleaned up.
After a lot of cleaning, scrubbing, vacuuming, building, chunking, painting, & moving, we had
the right environment for our little place. I'd like to add that we did all the work ourselves with the help of the Underhills from Peace Bee Farm, Jeremy Denno, and wonderful group of volunteers, many of which are now employeed at the TSM.

Now, just over 6 months old, we could not have anticipated a better response from the public for the Trolley Stop Market. I am thrilled to say that we have created well over 30 new jobs for some very special Memphians, and more to come if all works out!

Now that the market season is over, Keith & I are so very relieved to be working together once more. Only now he is COOKING at night at the TSM and I am still overseeing the general operations of the business. We have been sooooooooooooo blessed to have the team we have up there, and we are excited to announce that we are working on opening a 2nd restaurant in early 2011

We have been repeatedly asked if we will still be farming next year, and the answer is an emphatic YES! :) Farming is still our #1 passion, and we have already been planning for next year's crops. Many of our perennial beds have been planted, and spring crops have already been planted. We always thought we would continue to expand the farm, but we have decided to keep it small, just under 10 acres. We want to focus on crops for the Farmers Markets we attend & for the TSM. We have scaled our CSA way back, and plan to expand our shiitake mushroom operation. More to come in the weeks ahead!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Things are really taking off!

Hi Friends!

Life on the farm is going pretty good these days. We've got chores stacked a mile high, but we are gonna do our best to tackle them one by one. Last week Keith and our team of farmhands began digging the first crop of our potatoes. This year we are growing 7 different varieties, some of them are the same ole standard, and others are heirlooms we've been multiplying over the last 3 years. Happy to say that our carrots are really rocking it out in the field we limed in the spring. Keith and I have already been pulling a few of the babies up and they are so delicious and sweet. We've been roasting them in the toaster oven with some baby taters - drizzled with a little olive oil, and talk about a nice treat after a long day of back-breaking work.

We've gotten several emails and phone calls from concerned friends about the amount of rain we've received over the past few weeks, and I'm relieved to say we are doing just fine. Our here I guess we got a little over 3 inches of rain one Saturday, and following weekend we received just over an inch. Tonight Keith and I took a walk across the tomato fields and all is well. We'll start driving our stakes next week. Just wish the wind would die down a bit, its been enough to drive one mad!

The Trolley Stop Market is set to open next week, hopefully. We still have a couple inspections to pass(keep you fingers crossed) and lots of tidying up to do, but we've got a wonderfully talented staff hired and some good food to serve from our little restaurant - JillBilly's
I hope you guys are ready for Sharron Johnson, formerly of Buns on the Run. She's got quite a reputation around town for serving up some scrumptous meals, and its no joke! Next is the one and only Jeremy Denno. Jeremy is fresh out of Vermont & is a master when it comes to piling high on a pizza pie! Our menu at the Trolley Stop Market will feature a wide host of produce and goods that are totally locally grown & cultivated right here in the MidSouth.
So be watching for a notice of our soft opening, and then our GRAND Opening!!!
We're still moving in vendors, and talking to even more who just found out about the TSM. So keep spreading the word, and if you wanna stay in touch be sure to fan us on facebook to receive regular notices and specials of what we've got going on over at the Trolley Stop Market!

Endless Feast Television Show Update!
Last week Keith and I received a copy of the show in the mail, popped it in the dvd player and were amazed at how country I sound on camera ;) All we can say is the show was wonderful. The Endless Feast Crew did an exceptional job capturing the light of the Delta, and we are so very grateful to have been a part of the production. The show will air on PBS/AETN in Arkansas on May 22, 2010. Watch your local listing for showings in your region. We are going to arrange a watch party at the Trolley Stop Market, so if your interested let me know so we can keep you in the loop on all the fun!

Well gotta wrap this up y'all. It's almost 10:00 pm and I am really tired. Tomorrow we start preparing for market, and I've got buckets and buckets of flowers to cut. Thanks for reading and I hope all is well in each of your respective worlds.

Cheers, Jillbilly :)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Spring is here and I love it!!!

Hi All!

It's been a wild ride these past few weeks preparing the soil and the Trolley Stop Market! The farm is rocking and rolling for sure. Keith has already planted more in these past 3 weeks than we did all of last year! Potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, swiss chard, lettuces, greens, turnips, radishes, mustards, sorrel, and much more!!! The greenhouses are over flowing with all kinds of heirloom veggie transplants, herbs, and cut flowers. Here's hoping that the weather cooperates for all us farmers in the MidSouth this year!

A few new projects on the farm are in the works. We have finally constructed our giant gourd trellis, and our old school bus Irene that we used to live in has been officially converted into our new farm stand! She's looking pretty hip these days! Our 3rd greenhouse has arrived and construction will start in just a few days once the ground firms up a bit. Keith and I feel really good about having the ability to start our own farmers market right on our grounds each Saturday during the summer growing season. We are in the process of drafting policy and forming a board of directors for our own little Whitton Farmers Market! We know a few beginnnig farmers in the Delta who aren't quite big enough just yet to make the trip to a Memphis or Jonesboro Farmers Market, so we are going to allow area gardeners and small time farmers to set up for free at Whitton Farms on Saturdays and sell their goods right along with ours. Wholesome, local, food sources are somewhat scarce in the Delta so we feel its time to spread the "foodie" love and make it affordable for area residents. Vouchers will be accepted and we are in the process of learning more about which EBT program we'd like to participate in.

Good food should be available for everyone y'all!

Some of you have been asking about the Trolley Stop Market! We are still working hard to meet our projected opening date of April 21!!! Our TSM Team have been painting, building, cleaning, researching etc... We all have completely renovated what used to be the Complex Nightclub. It's been a hell of a job so far, but we are over the hump so to speak. Right now we are in the process of hiring our staff so if you know of anyone who might enjoy working at the TSM send them our way! Interior construction is coming right along. and the exterior is in the works! This week the outside of the building will be painted, and our brand new awning will be hung! We can't wait!

Well gang, that about does it for now. Just wanted to give all of you an update! Gotta stay on schedule!

Til next time,


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Trolley Stop Market & Deli - All Local - Farmer Owned

Remember me? Hopefully so! Keith looks really enthralled in this picture, but he'd been up since 5:00 am - brainstorming. He's getting really good at it!

Keith & I have had a pretty eventful Fall & Winter. We are adding several acres to our farming operation, and Keith's been a welding maniac creating new small scale equipment for the farm.We've both been selecting, storing, and researching seeds. Composting-can't get enough of it, and thanks to our Winter Intern, Ted Lusby, our shiitake farm is ever expanding. (The logs we are using for shiitake production were rescued from being bull-dozed & burned). At least now they have a function & new life living within them. We now have a nice place for our apprentices to dwell in over the growing season, and Keith is so proud of his plans for a new, washing station. It's gonna be large and in charge! Greenhouse work is my favorite job on the farm, except for cutting flowers and picking tomatoes. It's relaxing to be in the toasty greenhouse listening to the radio, sowing seeds, and transplanting seedlings.

Well, another major project we've decided to undertake, (after much thought, research, & debate), is to open our own farm-based business in Memphis.

I am proud to say that we have started a new business called the Trolley Stop Market!

Trolley Stop Market is a small "all local" grocery & deli located at 704 Madison, in Downtown Memphis, on the trolley line, no less. (Go green travel!). TSM is located next door to the UT Medical College, & right in the midst of the medical community over there. Our primary goal is to give the residents & consumers in the region an opportunity to have access to a wide variety of locally/sustainablly grown, & produced goods from the Mid-South.

The Trolley Stop Market will serve breakfast & lunch, and our menu will feature farmers and food artisans from across the MidSouth. Our shelves, crates, and bins will house local & certified organic produce, grains, nuts, mushrooms, fruit and more. Locally & humanely raised beef, poultry, pork, freshwater fish, and seafood will be in abundance too! A wonderful assortment of freshly baked goods, and desserts will be readily available as well. I can already smell the REAL strawberry muffins coming out of the oven!!! Come on April!!!

Don't you want to learn what's in season, and how to eat it -deliciously!?!

In addition to the food, TSM will also have a hip, floral & gift shop stocked with the finest, locally & organically grown cut flowers around. You're going to have to see it to believe it!

We will be open Monday - Friday, year round!!! Smoothie & juice bar coming soon, in addition to private meeting/party room, and a stage ready for local musicians to perform on! Plenty of wall space to display local art, and dinner club parties to begin this summer! If you've got a suggestion or interest in becoming a vendor you can contact us at
trolleystopmarket@live.com. Website coming soon!

One other important note about Trolley Stop Market is that it will be home to CSA- Memphis, a multi-farm partnership/local food subscription service. Participating farmers will be advertised each week, with recipes, and cooking classes available for participating CSA members! More information to come! TSM will serve as the pick up point & subscribers can simply choose the day of the week (Monday - Friday) they wish to collect their veggie or floral share!

TSM customers are encouraged to bring their own shopping bags - just trying to stay away from plastic ya'll. Periodically throughout the year we will accept recycled donations like: glass jars & newspapers. Composting & other green living methods will be showcased at the Trolley Stop Market!

If you are excited to see something like this come to Downtown Memphis, please help us spread the word!!!

We are all taking one more step toward revolutionizing the food culture of this region! Support local farmers, farmers markets, green living & locally owned businesses, especially ones like Trolley Stop Market! ;) Not only are we growing food, we are growing our own agri-related businesses right here in the Mid-South! Check us out on facebook ya'll!!!

Opening mid April, so come in... hungry for more than just food for your belly! How about some food for thought on that plate too!