Farmer Aaron Grier, owner of Leicester’s Gaining Ground Farm with his wife, Anne, says that when he first planted the seed for We Give a Share last March in response to COVID-19, the nonprofit program checked two boxes: supporting local agriculture and feeding the underserved. With a successful first year under their belts, Grier and WGAS are now seeking to partner with more local farmers.
We Give a Share began by recruiting Western North Carolina growers who had lost revenue from restaurant clients and tailgate markets during the pandemic shutdown to provide fresh produce for the meals chef Kikkoman Shaw and his crew in the Southside Community Kitchen cook five days a week for elderly, disabled and housebound residents of Asheville’s public housing communities. Similar to a community supported agriculture program, donors buy “shares” that allow farmers to be paid for their products. Besides Gaining Ground, other participating growers include Green Toe Ground Farm in Burnsville, Ten Mile Farm in Old Fort, Dry Ridge Farm in Mars Hill and Sunburst Trout Farms in Waynesville.
“Mark (Rosenstein, co-founder of the Southside Community Kitchen meals program) says We Give a Share provided 60% of the food [for the program] last year,” reports Grier. “We want to increase that this year.” To that end, 2020 participants will expand the amounts of produce they provide, and We Give a Share is recruiting additional farmers via its website. Additionally, the adjacent Southside Community Garden will plant and grow more vegetables this season to contribute to the cause.
Along with creating an income stream for farmers, We Give a Share intends to build connections between them and Southside chefs through volunteer commitment to the kitchen. Grier — who takes his kids, Cyril and Addiebelle, with him during volunteer shifts at Southside — counts that as a benefit. “Relationship building with communities that don’t usually have a conduit to get together behind the same cause is exciting,” he says. “We learn something from Kikkoman every time we’re there.”
To apply to become a WGAS producer or donate, visit avl.mx/94z.
Wine and dine
This month, chef Katie Button and her husband, Felix Meana — owners of Cúrate and La Bodega by Cúrate — launch a monthly series of virtual wine tasting and cooking classes hosted in their home kitchen. On Wednesday, March 24, at 8 p.m., the dynamic duo will feature Microbio 2017, a natural 100% verdejo, and demonstrate the preparation of sandwiches, salads and tapas using Spanish pantry staples. Local participants can order and pick up the wine and cooking ingredients from the La Bodega shop on Lexington Avenue. The class is free for Cúrate Spanish Wine Club members and $20 for nonmembers with 50% of ticket sales donated to Asheville Strong in support of Feed Our Cities.
The Thursday, April 15, class will feature a trio of Spanish wines, and Button will teach guests how to make her tortilla española, the classic Spanish potato and onion omelet.
For more information and to register, visit avl.mx/950.
Into the woods
Chef, author and foraging expert Susi Gott Séguret is bringing back the Appalachian Culinary Experience, a popular monthly series of foraging and dining adventures conducted on her wooded, pastured 200-acre Madison County farm.
“I suspended them completely last year, but I feel more confident now keeping it all outdoors and have been out there every day to see what’s peeking out,” she says. “March is just the beginning of the season, so it’s a good time to start again.”
Participants in the Saturday, March 27, hunt can expect to find early specimens of ramps, wintercress, crinkleroot (a three-leaf plant with a cabbage flavor) and spicewood buds. Morels are not yet in season, but Séguret will point out to participants how and where to look for them. The outing begins at 2 p.m. with an al fresco appetizer and beverage before foragers troop into the woods with knives and baskets (and appropriate footwear), then return to eat light fare she will prepare in advance.
Séguret will also conduct private tours for pandemic pod groups reserved in advance. Cost of the March 27 foraging expedition is $50. To register, visit avl.mx/951.
The transition from big screens in movie theaters to small screens in living rooms has not diminished the insatiable craving for film’s most popular snack — popcorn. With a record sales year in 2020, Poppy Handcrafted Popcorn — the Asheville-based company founded by Ginger Frank in 2014 — was feeling crunched for space.
In early March, Poppy began operations at a new shipping and fulfillment facility in Old Fort. The new location will allow Poppy to expand kitchen and production space at its existing Black Mountain facility and boost production capacity by more than 25%. Poppy’s new neighbors in downtown Old Fort are Hillman Brewing and Kitsbow Cycling Apparel.