Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Carol Rouse & Donna Organ: Carol’s Cakes

By Kasey Jones

When Carol Rouse was a little girl, her mother would buy the ingredients to make margarine and allow Carol and her twin sister, Donna, to mix the ingredients. Rouse traces her love for doing things in the kitchen to those younger days. She quickly progressed from mixing coloring with white lard, to make it look like butter, to baking cakes and other sweets.

Carol and Donna were born in Danville, Ill. When they were 8 or 9, they moved with their parents to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where they grew up and later attended Fort Lauderdale High School. After graduating from high school, they moved to Nashville where they went to Trevecca University.

Throughout the years, Carol and Donna have remained close in contact, if not proximity. “When we lived apart, anytime a certain amount of time went by, if we hadn’t heard from each other, we were trying to get hold of each other,” says Rouse. “We would try to keep in touch. Donna felt the same way. You just get busy with your jobs and your husbands, and you kind of forget to call, but we never did. We always kept in touch. Our older sister is more on her own, you know, because she’s older. But there’s just a connection when there’s a twin.”

When Donna moved to North Carolina, Carol followed, moving to Asheville. Rouse later moved to Jonesborough, where she and her husband had found a house.

“When we moved here,” says Rouse, “we told Donna about it and she said that she wanted to come back up where the mountains are, because she was down in Florida taking care of our mother, who wasn’t doing well and needed help. She’s since passed away. Donna wanted to come back to where the mountains were, so we said, ‘Come on up. We’ve got a place for you.’ ”

Rouse fell in love with Jonesborough and the Jonesborough Farmers Market. “We love historic Jonesborough,” she says. “It’s just beautiful and it’s quaint. We love the street that the market is on. There’s no other market that is on a street like this — not close around here. I know Johnson City isn’t like this.”

The Jonesborough Farmers Market, however, is not Rouse’s first experience working in a market. “I got started doing Farmers Markets and craft shows about 20 years ago in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.,” she says. “My sister and I – our older sister – did markets and crafts shows, so Donna and I went in to help her. We also made cakes and things like that to sell along with her. We got started here because of our experience and being involved down in Florida.”

Although Rouse has been baking under the name Carol’s Cakes for about three years, she has been running a baking business for nearly 20 years. Carol and Donna do the baking in Carol’s kitchen. While they enjoy baking together, their baking is very much a business.

Rouse’s primary product is cake, which she loves. Many of the cakes that Rouse makes and sells come from her family’s recipes. “I love cake. There are so many good cakes out there,” says Rouse. “We had a lot of them in our family recipes that we’ve sold over the years. And I thought, ‘This is a good thing and I like that. I like Carol’s Cakes.’ ”

In addition to the cakes, Rouse and her twin also sell cookies, cinnamon rolls (which their mother used to make for them with leftover pie dough), old-fashioned whoopee pies and muffins. While they make and sell the more traditional cookies, such as peanut butter, chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin, they also offer the more unusual breakfast cookies, made with bacon, cornflakes and raisins.

“We just started using the bacon in the breakfast cookies, since that’s kind of the craze right now,” says Rouse. “This is something that I got myself. [My mother] didn’t make these, but I found the recipe for that in the newspaper, no less, and I thought, ‘Hm, this looks good, so I think I’ll try it.’ Everybody loves it.”

Rouse not only sells muffins at the farmers market, she also sells muffins to the General Store in downtown Jonesborough. They buy a different variety of muffins each week,” says Rouse. “They order them pretty regularly every week. We sell chocolate chip muffins, pumpkin muffins, blueberry muffins, strawberry muffins and banana nut muffins. That’s just about the extent of it.”

She is working on creating a website through which she hopes to expand her business. Additionally, she sells her products through the Jonesborough Farmers Market’s online store during the market’s off-season.

Carol’s Cakes also offers gluten-free products in addition to wheat-based products. In their gluten-free products, the bakers use flour made from garbanzo beans, potato starch, tapioca, white sorghum and fava beans.

“There’s been a call for [gluten-free] more and more,” says Rouse. “I’m probably going to branch out and do some gluten-free muffins. I have the gluten-free red velvet cake, and I’m probably going to make another cake with the gluten-free flour.”

Regardless of what she is baking, Rouse maintains a high quality for each of her baked goods. “We wouldn’t sell it if we didn’t like it or we didn’t think that it tasted good,” she says. “That’s our mindset on it.” 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Robert Senn: Uncle Rob's Garden Fresh Produce

By Lise Cutshaw
At 15, Rob Senn’s first paying job was at a farm-fresh produce market in his hometown of Memphis. He pushed 40 bushels of peas through a shelling machine daily. Since then his swarthy, sinewy hands have handled auto parts or lawn equipment during the day and scratched in the soil evenings and weekends.

“Dad had a little rose garden,” recalls Rob, now in his 50s. “He grew roses and gladiolas for the church altar. I had a little spot on the side of the house and my first girlfriend, I planted her name in tulips. It was Toni, easy. So when they came up, she said, “Ahhhh.’ ”

“It was fun. I just like to grow things. Why? I’m a Taurus. It’s relaxing. Instead of going swimming or playing tennis, I like to get my hands in the dirt.”

Now that Senn has retired from almost 40 years of selling auto parts, moved to Johnson City and “It’s just me and my puppies,” he devotes about 40 hours a week to his gardens. He has a yard full of them and for the past several years has shared his wealth of produce, flowering plants and gardening knowledge with lovers of farm-fresh produce at the Jonesborough Farmers Market.

In the mornings and afternoons, Senn works with his brother, Max, in a lawn service. In the evenings, he “piddles.” “The first good day, you put peas in the ground as soon as you can work the ground,” he says, smiling at the thought of breaking out of the house after a winter. “That’s February. They might not come up until March but they’re in the ground doing their thing. It’s 50 degrees, I can go out there and piddle. My brother says, ‘What is piddling?’ ‘You can’t do a lot, so you take care of this and that, you scratch around here and clean up there.’ ‘Oh, he says, you’re just messing around in the yard.’ That would be my favorite saying, ‘I’m piddling in the yard.’ ”

Senn’s piddling – as daschunds Maggie, Marlow and Griffin watch – is mighty productive. Though the yard surrounding his house on Odell Circle is modest – less than an acre – it is rich in multi-use beds, filled with flowers, vegetables and unusual found items and rocks. Pots of pansies, colorful flags and tiny toy trucks overflowing with succulents adorn his porch, which is rimed with a bed of burgeoning gladiolas. He’ll cut those, as well as his sunflowers, peonies and roses, to sell at his Uncle Rob’s Garden Fresh Produce table starting May 4 in Jonesborough’s Courthouse Square.

In the last couple years, Uncle Rob’s piddling has spread. He now has beds in both next-door neighbors’ yards, one of his lawn service customer’s yard and at the Carver Community Garden.

Not only are Senn’s sentiments about gardening intense, so are his gardening techniques. “The first year, I didn’t have all the other gardens,” he says. “I just had my yard. People ask, ‘How do you get all this stuff out of this little space?’ It’s called intense gardening like they do in Japan. Say they plant beets, carrots and radishes together because they know the radishes are going to get through first and the beets and carrots come in together. When you pull a carrot, you are leaving room for the beet to get bigger.”

Senn packs a lot into his small spaces, wherever they are, “companion planting” when he can – heirloom tomatoes, torpedo onions, long red onions, garlic, fennel, rhubarb, strawberries, beets, snow and sugar snap peas, blue and pink potatoes, leeks, red okra, spinach, Swiss chard, arugula cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, peppers, purple potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes.

Jerusalem artichokes? “Around here they might call it a sun-choke,” says Senn, a Food Network fan, who has been cooking since he was 5. “It has a tuber like a potato. You can cook it like a potato, cream it like a potato. You can slice it thin like a radish and eat it raw. You can roast it in the oven.”

Senn loves bringing the unusual to the table, rather than the everyday that can be had in a grocery store. He shows off the stems of his orange and pink Swiss chard, purple passion asparagus and Egyptian walking onions with “bulbs” on their tips. His tomatoes are only heirlooms, raised in his “hoop house” in the bit of a back yard. “When I get the seed catalogs, it’s like the Christmas toy catalog is for the kids,” he says. “What’s new this year?”

Barrels of rainwater and barrows of leaves sit about, ready to mulch and water. Senn’s gardening is purely natural. “I grow organic,” he says. “If it has pests, I usually pick the bugs off or I have some pyrethrin, neme [oil] or spinosa. It’s all organic. No Seven Dust, no Roundup for weeds. You’ll see me out digging up dandelions.”

And you won’t see any overripe vegetables on Uncle Rob’s table. “If it’s not perfect, I won’t sell. I won’t even take it. It says in the [market] bylaws, if it’s not top-grade, you can mark it down. I won’t even take it to the market. I would rather just put it in my freezer.”

But nothing goes to waste – if Senn can help it. If overripe veggies can’t freeze, they are composted and their seedlings likely show up the next year in his composted beds. In Senn’s fertile brain, a black metal futon frame found on the side of the road provides a framework for vining peas; a discarded wheelbarrow is lush with glads, lavender, chives, perennial geraniums and creeping Jenny; and an old yellow toy truck becomes a planter for a load of succulents.

Down to the alpaca “poo” he hauls in to fertilize his beds, “reuse, recycle, repurpose,” is Senn’s mantra.

The “green” gardener loves to share his wealth of ideas, as well as produce and flowers. His Uncle Rob’s Garden Fresh Produce Facebook page is filled with tips for gardening – how to build raised beds, good seed companies to use, how to build a compost pile – as well as images of the fruits of his labors. And, if you ask, he’ll have a ready recipe for preparing the produce.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Aubrey & Linda Raper: Rogue Harbor Farm

By April Richardson
Tucked in the mountains of Madison County, N.C., is Rogue Harbor Farm, home to Linda and Aubrey Raper. Now in its 35th season, Rogue Harbor yields crops from early spring to the cold days of winter.
“We sell a mix of vegetables,” said Linda. “We start out with watercress in March, usually. We move through the kales, collards and baby bok choy in the cool season, then bunching onions, lettuces, cucumbers, yellow squash, beans, tomatoes and peppers.” 
Watercress comes back in early August and lasts until mid-October, along with fall greens and lettuces.
Once the warm weather has passed, the farm offers a different kind of crop. “We finish up with Christmas wreaths in December, because we raise a small number of Fraser firs,” said Linda.
Rogue Harbor Farm came into existence as a way for Linda and Aubrey Raper to ensure only the best food would make it to the family table. “We were living over on the coast of North Carolina,” Linda said. “Aubrey was teaching at a community college, and we had two little girls who were ages 2 and 3. We realized at the time, in the mid-’70s, that the food system was not trustworthy.
“We wanted to grow healthy food for our two girls and for us. We rented a farmhouse, had our first vegetable garden in two rows of our landlord’s garden and we were hooked.”
The Rapers set out to find a place where they could raise their food and their family. “We had already bought a horse, a goat and chickens, and we needed a farm to put them on, which is absolutely not the way you’re supposed to do these things,” Linda said. 
Their search took them to the mountains of Madison County. “We came up to the mountains one weekend and ended up staying,” she said. “We found a little farm and just sort of jumped right in.”
Though the Raper family was new to the area and its crops, they managed the work well. Kind neighbors offered guidance and assistance while the Rapers learned the rhythm of mountain farm life.
“Our wonderful neighbors really took us under their wing,” said Linda. “We shared work with them, and it was a great way to learn. Our three children were always involved in the day-to-day running of the farm, assisting in everything we did.” 
The family chose the name Rogue Harbor Farm after a ridge to the west of the farm. Aubrey and Linda could judge the time of day by the sun's progress over the ridge. “We’re a mountain farm in a ‘holler,’ surrounded by timbered ridges and abundant springs,” Linda said. “We’re blessed with the wonder and challenges of living and farming in a national forest [Pisgah]. It was through our early relationship with Madison County Extension, the Forest Service and Soil and Water Conservation Service that we were able to develop a farm management system that protected the natural resources of the farm.” 
Over the years, the Rapers experimented with different crops and practices. They grew tobacco for many years, conventionally and then organically. Initially, they raised milk goats, milk cows, wool sheep, pigs and chickens, produced their own meat, farmed with a work horse and raised a big garden.  “In our more marginal land, we planted Fraser fir Christmas trees,” said Linda. 
They came to realize that the best way to use their land would be to grow organic vegetables and Fraser firs. “With our two girls off to college and our son approaching high school, we couldn’t keep raising animals and vegetables, too.” 
They received their USDA Organic certification in 1997, after three years of transition.
Originally, the Rapers established themselves in the Asheville, N.C., area as wholesale suppliers of quality produce, selling to a variety of restaurants and grocery stores. While they still sell small quantities in the Asheville area, they joined the Jonesborough Farmers Market in 2011. “We were looking for a direct-sale market, and a fellow vendor told us about the Jonesborough market. He sent us the link to the Farm to Table dinner photos, and the website was so inviting. 
“We're thrilled to be selling in Jonesborough. It's such a good market to be a part of,” said Linda.  “And we get the bonus of being able to do much of our grocery shopping from our fellow vendors.”
Visitors to the Jonesborough Farmer's Market this week can meet Linda and Aubrey in their booth near Main Street. In Rogue Harbor’s harvest this week will be organically-grown Romaine lettuce, pickling cukes, yellow and patty pan squash, blueberries, cabbage, kale, collards, and bunching onions. Additional information about Rogue Harbor Farm can also be found online at

Marinated Kale Salad
By Linda Raper  
This is a favorite dish at Rogue Harbor Farm where we grow a lot of kale!  It's a delicious addition to any meal, or just by itself.

De-stem kale, ( any variety). --6 or 7 leaves
Chop the leaves as you would for cabbage in cole slaw--not shredded, but chopped somewhat fine.
Add some chopped green onions, garlic if you like, shredded carrot and/or radishes (optional). 
Toss together.
Pour over 1/4 cup olive oil mixed with 1/4 cup your vinegar of choice--you may need to add little more or a little less, depending on how much kale you chop up.

Add salt and pepper to taste.  Mix all together, cover and let sit at room temperature for several hours - really!  Re-mix occasionally during the marinating process.  The longer you leave it, the more succulent your salad will be--if you have left-overs, refrigerate, and take out to warm up to room temperature before serving.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mike & Karen Heiney: Kany Farm

By Kasey Jones
For Mike and Karen Heiney, it was all about flavor. They remembered chicken and eggs having a lot of flavor when they were younger, but as they grew older, the chicken that they purchased from the store, “just didn’t taste good anymore.”

Kany Farm, (“Kany” was Karen’s childhood nickname) grew out of those embryonic efforts and memories. When the husband and wife bought their farm in Greene County and began to raise their own chickens, they discovered that their poultry actually had flavor again.

“When I would eat at my grandparents’ house,” says Karen Heiney, “they would butcher their own chickens. Throughout our lives, my husband and I have had meat from the farm, so we knew what it tasted like and we just couldn’t figure out what happened. [Our chickens] really have a lot of flavor. When you open up our chickens, there aren’t big globs of fat, so you’re not paying for water or extra broth or salt.”

Heiney grew up in Minnesota where she worked in her father’s factory. She met her husband Mike, who works as a maintenance electrician, in Colorado. When they purchased property in Bulls Gap, it was just that, property, says Heiney. There was no farm. Since then, though, the couple has built up their land and expanded their livestock. Heiney works with the chickens full time, and Mike, who helps with the chickens as a side job, plans to work with them full time eventually.

Not only are Heiney’s chickens more flavorful, they are also chemical-free and organic. “They’re not full of antibiotics or preservatives or chemicals,” says Heiney. “We feed them whatever they get out of the pasture. We feed them grain that we get from the local mill. They do get grain and corn as a supplement, but it’s all locally grown from local farmers around here.”

Likewise, their eggs are pasture-raised and fresh. “They’re only a few days old,” says Heiney. “We sell at three different markets. We sell in Kingsport, Johnson City and Jonesborough. People can get them from us in Greeneville, too. They’re only a few days old, whereas at the store you don’t know how old they are. We have a couple hundred laying hens at home, so they’re very fresh.”

In addition to raising chickens, the Heineys also have a garden. They have a passion for fresh food, but often the garden takes a back seat to working with the chickens, which keep them extremely busy.

Heiney keeps the chickens outside all the time. The chickens live in a chicken tractor that she and her husband move all the time. Besides allowing them to feed off the land and the grain she buys them, Heiney also raises black soldier fly larvae, which she feeds the chickens in winter. The larvae, which are like mealworms, provide the chickens with protein during the winter, since they can’t glean much protein from the cold ground.

Unlike a lot of store-bought chickens, the breed of chicken that Heiney raises is meant to be eaten as meat and is not from a tough laying hen, she says, or an old bird that has been allowed to run around and become tough. “The breed of chicken that I produce is not meant for the crockpot,” says Heiney. “It’s a very tender chicken. It’s born and butchered in nine or 10 weeks. It’s a Cornish class bred chicken. They’re a breed that’s meant to be meat and they’re not going to be tough.”

However, raising chicken comes with a price, and raising and butchering chickens is costly. “I have to take my chickens to Kentucky to have them processed,” she says. “There is nowhere in Tennessee that does small farms right now and I can’t just take them to a butcher’s shop to have them farmed. I have to take them to a USDA poultry place, so I take them to Kentucky. That’s why it’s so expensive and that’s why you don’t find a lot of people who do poultry around here.”

In the end, though, raising chickens has been worth it. Unlike the chicken at the store, which Heiney says, “just get worse and worse all the time,” the Heiney’s have rediscovered fresh flavor by going back to the farm and raising their own chickens.

Karen Heiney’s advice for getting the most out of your chicken
The thighs and the leg quarters are less expensive cuts of meat that you can easily use in a number of different dishes. Picking a lot of the meat off at once and freezing it allows you to make quick, healthy meals when you don’t have much time.

To get the most meat off of the cuts, you can either bake or braise them. After choosing your method:

Pour a little bit of water in a closed pan
Place the chicken in the pan along with a few herbs and put the lid on the pan
Cook the chicken at a low temperature so that the pieces of chicken become crispy (you don’t want them to be rubbery)

After the chicken has finished cooking, you will be able to pull the meat right off of the bone (it’s nice and tender and comes right off). You can then freeze it, put it in a vacuum pack or place it in a jar and can it in recipe-sized containers.  It’s especially good for chicken salad, chicken tacos and chicken pizza. You get the most out of your meat, fresh chicken flavor, and cook-ahead convenience.  

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

John & Elizabeth Malayter: JEM Farm

By Kasey Jones

JEM Farm stands for the names of its owners, John and Elizabeth Malayter. Their partnership began in Atlantic City, NJ, where John worked as a mechanic at a casino and Elizabeth was a chef. Their meeting was “predestined,” John says, “there’s no other explanation.”

Their transition to establishing an organic-certified farm in rural Hawkins County was not as obvious.

Malayter, who grew up one of four children in a middle class family in New Jersey, had no interest in gardening as a youngster. “My parents were from that World War II era, and there wasn’t a lot of money,” Malayter recalls with a laugh. “I remember my father always grew a garden, although I didn’t help because I hated it. Elizabeth grew up in Maryland. Same kind of thing. Her father was a lawyer. I don’t think they did very much farming … Again, a typical middle class upbringing for the time.”

But the Malayters changed their minds about gardening, and in 2003 established JEM Farm when they bought a house in Rogersville. The couple hoped that the farm would “give [them] the opportunity to work [there] as opposed to working an outside job.” But that didn’t happen immediately. “It took us a few years to get settled and those kind of things,” says Malayter. “We started with some goats and we started to grow a large garden.”

It was while planning for the arrival of their first child, Emma, when the Malayters finally committed to organic gardening. “Having Emma and getting more educated about what the food system is doing to the populace – all the chemicals and herbicides that are being put into our food system – we didn’t feel that was a good way to raise a child,” says Malayter.  “When Liz became pregnant with Emma, we decided that if we were going to grow anything, it would be good to start the organic certification process.”

Between 2004 and 2005, they began to grow organically under Appalachian Sustainable Development’s organic label. Later on, they decided to become certified on their own. During this time, John and Elizabeth were both working jobs away from home and running the farm, as well. “Elizabeth always had a part time job at the Pig and Chick,” says Malayter, “which is a local barbecue restaurant, and I had a full-time job.”

Then two years ago, they decided to work full time on the farm.
“We were at that place where the farm couldn’t get any bigger,” says Malayter. “We couldn’t raise any more chickens or anything else. With one person on the land all the time, you can only do so much work. So we decided to go ahead and go full time.”

It’s more than full time, of course. The Malayters have enlisted the farm interns or “woofers” (from a farm program called WWOOF--willing workers on organic farms). This year’s intern, Dustan Stafford, is from Colorado Springs Colorado.  “Dustan is the fourth intern or WOOFer we’ve had, and we really couldn’t do all we do without this kind of help,” John said.

On JEM Farm, all produce is certified organic and all meats are non-GMO. After finding and having success with non-GMO feed, they decided to give all of their animals non-GMO feed. Their animals include goats, ducks, broilers (meat chickens), turkeys, laying hens and pigs.

They grow their produce year-round, using hoop houses, which are greenhouses without heaters, so in the winter and the spring they grow all their greens. During the wintertime, they keep their plants in the hoop houses, which are heated by the sun.

“The hoop house gets up to, depending upon the sunlight, around 70 degrees in the coldest season of the year,” says Malayter. “It goes down in the evening, but during the day it heats right back up. The plants do wilt a little bit in the evening, but they always come back to life when they heat up. Unless there’s a really hard frost, and then we always have to cover them. We make special arrangements when we know that it’s going to be cold for an extended period of time.”

JEM Farms offers a variety of meats and produce, along with herbs, edible flowers and eggs. In addition to selling in Jonesborough, they sell twice a week at farmers markets in Knoxville.

This week, during Jonesborough Days, JEM organic and non-GMO fed eggs, chickens, kale, collards and herbs will be available through the Jonesborough Farmers Market’s online ordering system, which will open Friday July 5th at

Best Fresh Collards
This recipe is contributed by Jonesborough Farmers Market Customers Clinton & Sue Smith.  JEM farm has collards all summer long.

3 bunches or about 24 collard leaves 
6 Tbsp. lemon or lime juice
6 Tbsp. olive oil (or 3 Tbsp. olive oil and 3 Tbsp. flax oil
1 tsp. minced garlic or granules
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
3 Tbsp. Bragg's liquid aminos

Wash collards and tear the leaves into bite-size pieces.  Mix the rest of the ingredients together and add to collards.  Allow to sit in refrigerator, mixing in bowl to keep all the collards mixed with the oil until well marinated.