Fosters Sense of Community Karen Thomas Transformed Historic African-American Community
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loom has taken on a new role, representing multiple perspectives and stories from our community. In our last edition, we expanded outside of the confines of being a “woman’s magazine” and we’ve continued that in this issue of Bloom — giving a voice to our neighbors regardless of gender or any other identifier while continuing our tradition of featuring content that we hope readers have come to positively associate with our publication. In the pages of this issue, we believe you will find diverse examples of what makes our Valley such a unique and exceptional place to thrive.
CONTENTS SUMMER 2019
FLAVOR 20 The Winding Road of the Food Truck Industry Vendors talk changes, challenges and success in the mobile dining option.
16 Bringing Community to its Original Vibrance How a tragedy shaped Karen Thomas and her impact on a historic African-American neighborhood.
Clarissa Cottrill, Editor
Three Intentional Choices Resilient Women Make to Become Better, Not Bitter Pivotal ways to determine your outlook.
6 Clarissa Cottrill, editor
Finding the time, importance in meditation.
Shelby Mertens, staff writer email@example.com
HOMES & HEDGES
Daniel Lin, photography firstname.lastname@example.org
Katie Fifer, design
Rhonda McNeal, ad director email@example.com
Special Thanks To Our Community Contributors
Campfire Grill chef Mike Rittenour works in the kitchen for a catered event at the Massanutten Conference Center.
Virginia Cutchin Ivelisse Estes Christina Kunkle Jason Cooper Chris Edwards Friendly Food Co-op
Cover: Karen Thomas, Northeast Neighborhood Association president, poses for a photo in front of the DallardNewman House.
Welcoming Wildlife in The Garden A guide to making your garden “nature-friendly.”
Will Reach Adult Stage by Summer.
231 S. Liberty St., Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Cover photo: Daniel Lin
10 New Pest Flies Into Virginia
Bloom is a quarterly publication of the Daily News-Record
For advertising information, call 540-574-6220. Copyright © 2019
Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There!
Tom Brenneman is one of the two lead farmers at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community’s The Farm at Willow Run. Brenneman helps harvest, package and deliver fresh produce to VMRC’s dining halls.
14 Local American Association of University Women Chapter Marks Milestone A look back at the American Association of University Women’s nine decades in the community.
22 Red Root & Co. Connects People to Plants Cocktails with fresh ingredients can be a signature of the summer season.
24 Chef Rittenour Enjoys Great Outdoors
Campfire Grill’s chef’s love of the outdoors influences his style in the kitchen.
27 VMRC Builds Sustainability with Strong Farm-toTable Ties The retirement community’s farm provides majority of its produce.
STYLE 29 A Visual Tour Through Some of the Valley’s Top Outdoor Wedding Venues 31 How to Have a Summer Bridal Shower What to consider when planning your pre-wedding event in the summer season.
33 Getting Your Skin Ready for Summer An area expert discusses how to protect your skin from the sun’s harsh rays. SUMMER 2019
Three Intentional Choices Resilient Women Make to Become Better, Not Bitter
By Christina Kunkle, Community Contributor, RN, CTA Certified Life and Wellness Coach, R.N.
e wake up every morning to a thousand tiny decisions — but none are more important than the very first one — whether to think in terms of possibility, gratitude and abundance, or have a day filled with doom, gloom and negativity. That’s the beauty of living in a free country, we have a choice. And it’s the choices we make that shape our lives. There’s no doubt about it; life has its share of trials and disappointments. Health problems, financial difficulties, a sudden family tragedy or relationship struggles are a few circumstances that can pull even the strongest among us into the downward spiral of resentment and anger. While we can’t always control what happens to us, we do have a choice about what happens in 2
us. And although it may seem otherwise, events don’t control us; our decisions do. Here are three intentional choices resilient women make to become better, not bitter.
Choice 1: To Follow the Path of Most Resilience When bad things happen, we can react by default as worriers, taking the fear-based path of least resistance — feeling like a victim of circumstances beyond our control and letting them define or destroy us. Or, we can respond by design as warriors, taking the faith-based path of most resilience — becoming a victor over adversity by using grace, grit and gratitude as fuel for confidence instead of falling apart, blaming or complaining when thrown a
curveball. To rise above reactivity when hard times it hit requires that you make intentional decisions ahead of time based on what I call the “NMW Philosophy.” Which is no matter what happens I will love and lead myself forward. Take action: What daily self-care routines could you wire in to help you F.L.Y. (First Love Yourself; First Lead Yourself) when pressures build? Because you can’t give what you don’t have, first loving and leading yourself builds a reservoir of resilience to draw from so you can influence others better.
Choice 2: To Lead by Example As heart-centered women we place a high value on peace. We know that bitterness will keep us going in circles instead of growing
to the next level, and that grudges are a perfect waste of happiness. Instead of waiting for others to resolve a misunderstanding, let’s take the high road and lead by example. Why is this important? Because the first to apologize is the bravest, the first to forgive is the strongest and the first to forget is the happiest! Take Action: Do a quick selfcheck. Is there resentment you’re harboring toward someone right now? You may even find that person is you. Holding onto anger burns up precious energy and weakens your spirit. What would it take to release your grudge and give a little grace? “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Choice 3: To Initiate Crucial Conversations It’s easy to communicate impulsively when relationships go sour. In the face of conflict, we may automatically accommodate, yielding to the needs of others without ever stating our own preferences, which can foster hidden resentments. Or perhaps we compete using an aggressive style, trying to manipulate an outcome by forcing others to accept our solution, which can create a war if everyone’s needs aren’t respected. Maybe we try to avoid dealing with conflict altogether by ignoring it, hoping that “if we don’t bring it up, it will blow over.” This only festers the longer we avoid an issue. The ideal approach, which also takes the most courage, is to collaborate.
This requires the willingness to look for a win-win solution and a spirit of cooperation. Instead of an “it’s my way or the highway” attitude, we approach others with a sense of empathy, openness and respect for their perspective. Take Action: Take full responsibility for the energy you bring into the interaction, and how you choose to think, speak and act. Be authentic and speak from the heart to keep the conversation constructive and appropriate. Say “I’m sorry” when necessary and graciously accept sincere apologies. Check to be sure your intentions are positive by answering the following questions: Who do I want to be? How do I want to feel? How do I want others to feel? What words would someone with those qualities use to express herself in this
situation? Life’s challenges are meant to make us find solutions to problems. And in the process, we find ourselves. So, forget bitter and choose better. Anything is possible, and everything is waiting for you.
Christina Kunkle, RN and CTA Certified Life and Wellness Coach, is founder of Synergy Life and Wellness Coaching, LLC, creator of the “Synergy Success Circle” and “ELEVATE,” a Heart-Centered Leadership Development Program. She helps busy professionals prevent burnout by promoting bounce-back resilience to stay focused, positive and excited about the challenges of work and life. To learn more, visit her website at www.synergylifeandwellnesscoaching.com
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Don’t Just Do Something,
Sit There! By Virginia Cutchin, Community Contributor, Health/Wellness and Leadership Coach
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
– Zen Buddhist saying
magine driving down the highway with your feet on the gas pedal and the break pedal at the same time. You’ll certainly move forward, but without the most efficient use of your car’s capabilities and with added resistance. If you keep this up over time, you will burn out. We live in a world of constant stimulation, from multiple sources both external and internal, often with contradictory messages. Commercials and advertisements urge us to buy some things and caution us against others. We are advised to care for our health while regarding food as entertainment. We are told to “trust the process” while witnessing untrustworthy behavior. We are urged to “seize the moment” but also warned about the dangers of failure to save for our future. We are told that the economy is fantastic but our personal lives may not reflect that. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. all promise social interaction and demand that we keep up. The effects of all the messages, pressure, expectations and obligations, which sometimes 6
compete with our own values, goals and temptations, can leave us feeling thoroughly exhausted, confused, conflicted and even a little insecure. Work, school, home, relationships, finances and our health compete for our attention and energy, bringing us to the breaking point. If you are like me, these scenarios sound all too familiar. In fact, I am hyperventilating just thinking about it all. Maybe you are too. What to do? “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.” - Zen Buddhist saying Such wise words. Many people would agree that this practice would be quite helpful to them, but who has time for this? As a health coach I’ve observed many behavioral characteristics common to most people, but two stand out. The first is that “the way we do one thing is the way we do everything.” This mainly refers to
how we categorize, balance and accomplish tasks. You may be a “perfectionist.” You may be more of a “good enough is good enough” sort of person. You may be a procrastinator. You may be a “people pleaser.” You may be the rebellious, “go-it-alone” type. Whatever your type, you will find upon thoughtful reflection that you approach nearly every aspect of your life in the same way. This principle applies to diet and weight management, relationship maintenance, self-discipline, habit formation, career-related issues, time management and the list continues. The other characteristic which stands out to me has to do with how we handle stress. In my observation, the level of stress caused by having many obligations, all of which demand our energy and attention, is directly related to “the way we do one thing is the way we do everything.” I like to apply the President Dwight Eisenhower’s “Urgent/Important” Matrix:
IMPORTANT and URGENT: DO IT IMPORTANT but not URGENT: PLAN IT NOT IMPORTANT but URGENT: DELEGATE IT NOT IMPORTANT and NOT URGENT: ELIMINATE IT
How do we decide what’s important or not important, and what’s urgent or not urgent? I think of urgent tasks as those that require immediate attention and the consequences of failing to do them could be unpleasant or costly. I think of important tasks as those that are less time-sensitive but the consequences of failing to do them could still be unpleasant or costly, inclduing making travel reservations and sending or replying to certain emails. Sometimes, urgent tasks are important tasks that we’ve neglected to do, let’s be honest. I’m sure you can think of others that you would place into both categories. When faced with multiple decisions and tasks, whether anticipated or not, most of us react habitually
in both how we categorize that task and how we approach accomplishing it. The operative word here is habitual. Habits (both thoughts and behaviors) simplify our lives and provide a level of familiarity and predictability. But remember: Habits are choices that get repeated! Yes, you read that correctly. Whether helpful or not so helpful, healthy or not so healthy, our behaviors and many thoughts become habits because we repeatedly choose them. Perhaps these habits served us well at one time and perhaps they still do, but many do not. Are your approaches to decision-making, problem-solving and task accomplishment working well for you? Do your approaches cause you more stress, or less? Are you too busy (or exhausted, or frustrated) to devise an alternative strategy? Most importantly, do you really want to? If the answer to that last question is “yes” then don’t just do something, sit there! Take
an inventory of your thoughts and behaviors around decisionmaking, problem-solving and task accomplishment. Categorize them according to the Eisenhower Matrix. Decide into which quadrant each one goes. Then, evaluate whether or not you are happy with the results. How can you reframe your attitude toward those thoughts and behaviors that you’d like to move from one quadrant to another?
Virginia Cutchin is a certified health/wellness and personal leadership coach, and an independent intercultural awareness consultant. Her Whole Life Health coaching program helps people thrive! Contact her at Virginia@TransitionSuccess.net or 571-527-6363. Read her blog at http://wholelifehealth.info. Attend her Spring short courses (Attitudes For Whole Life Health) at JMU’s Lifelong Learning Institute (https://www.jmu.edu/outreach/programs/all/lli/index.shtml)
You can use the observation that “The way we do one thing is the way we do everything” to your advantage. As you gain experience in thoughtfully reframing habitual thoughts and behaviors into new ones, you may find that other areas of your life also benefit. Many will find that your overall stress level will significantly decrease. So if you want to begin crafting new, more helpful habits around decisionmaking, problem-solving and task accomplishment in every aspect of your life, don’t just do something; sit there!
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Welcoming Wildlife In The Garden
By Shelby Mertens
arlene Condon, a locally based nature writer and photographer, encourages home gardeners to embrace Mother Nature with “nature-friendly” gardens in their backyards in her book, “The Nature-Friendly Garden: Creating a Backyard Haven for Animals, Plants, and People.” Condon’s yard was featured on PBS’s “Virginia Homegrown” in May 2005. Her yard is certified as a backyard wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. We interviewed Condon about how to create home gardens
Photos Marlene Condon
that welcome wildlife and native plant species, and how to sustain environmental balance in your yard. Q: What is a “nature-friendly garden?” A: “A nature-friendly garden is one that provides habitat for a variety of critters while providing beauty and/or food for you.” Q: How is your method different from typical gardening? A: “Most people are fighting the natural world, whereas I embrace it. I understand that every creature has a ‘job’ to do so, I study organisms to figure out what their function is and I try not to interfere with them. I also study
extremely attractive to hummingbirds and other insects. They pollinate them to provide seeds in the fall that help birds and small mammals to survive the winter.
natural occurrences so I can follow Mother Nature’s example. For instance, many years ago, I noticed that transplants fared wonderfully when a week of heavy rain followed by moving the plants into new locations. Ever since then, I soak the soil around transplants and keep them quite wet for a week if it doesn’t rain. I’ve never lost a plant with this method. Obviously, root hairs are damaged when plants are disturbed so, it makes sense to keep the roots wet so those root hairs can regenerate. Horticulturists don’t tell you to keep the soil very wet for a week, but you can get the message from Mother Nature if you become her student.” Q: What are ways you can attract and meet the needs of wildlife in your backyard garden? A: “Include as many kinds of native plants as you can, but if there is an overpopulation of deer in your area, you should include some non-native plants that are unlikely to get eaten. Minimize lawn area so it only covers an area that actually gets used for playing or socializing. Grow three levels of plant life: • A short level of nectarand-pollen producing flowers and wild grasses, which are a good source of food for many kinds of wildlife. • A mid-level of fruitproducing shrubs and small trees
or those with thick growth, such as evergreens, to provide food, nesting sites and/or shelter from the weather and predators. • And a third level of large trees, if you have space. If dead trees are not in danger of falling over, or if they are not very tall and do not present much of a threat, it’s good to keep them for woodpeckers and mammals that require natural cavities for nesting. Logs on the ground provide habitat for reptiles and amphibians. If you can put in even a small artificial pond, you can provide a place for frogs, dragonflies and other aquatic critters to breed. Q: What species of flowers and plants do you recommend for a nature-friendly garden? A: “Any native plant will be of use to some kind of wildlife. As for plants that deer do not generally eat:
Q: For those who may worry about upkeep, what does the maintenance of a nature-friendly garden entail? A: “There is no more work than when growing any other kind of garden. I always recommend just growing woody plants (a variety of shrubs and trees) if maintaining flower beds might be too difficult or time-consuming for someone. The main thing is to grow both an abundance and variety of plants, rather than lawn.” Q: Why is it important for home gardeners to sustain an environmental balance in their backyard? A: “As humans inhabit more and more of the landscape, we need to make sure to keep habitat for our wildlife to coexist with us. Remember, organisms keep the environment functioning properly. For example, slugs and snails help to recycle dead plant material to provide nutrients for your plants to grow — so you don’t need to buy fertilizer and take time to spread it.”
only flowers that make nectar and pollen — if you see insects going to blooms at the garden center, purchase those plants! Don’t send leaves to the landfill; you may be killing butterflies and other organisms that require leaf cover to overwinter.” In a follow-up, Condone said, “[F]or food gardens, you need a physical barrier to keep mammals from getting in. There are many kinds of fences that work well and my book discusses them in detail. Also, pesticides are not needed in a truly nature-friendly garden. By embracing all kinds of wildlife (it’s not true that you can garden for just birds or butterflies), you have your natural system of checks and balances in place that limit population numbers. Overpopulation of organisms are always going to be problematic. Nature-friendly gardening prevents this problem.” Edited for brevity For more information, visit www. marlenecondon.com.
Q: Any other tips or advice for people interested in starting a nature-friendly garden? A: “Allow woody plants to grow into their natural shapes and sizes. Create brush and compost piles with plant debris instead of sending it to the landfill. Try to buy
• Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) is an excellent late-season source of nectar for migrating monarch butterflies and other insects active in fall. • Glossy Abelia (Abelia X grandiflora) is a non-native shrub that provides a months long supply of nectar-rich blooms for hummingbirds, bees, and other insects. • Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) becomes a very tall tree with flowers SUMMER 2019
New Pest Flies Into Virginia Will Reach Adult Stage by Summer By Jason Cooper, Community Contributor, Central Shenandoah Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator Photos Courtesy of Eric Day, Virginia Tech Entomology
he trees are now all in full leaf, blooming and everything is springing to life and looking so beautiful and green. As the seasons change, there is also a new pest that is springing to life — the Spotted Lantern Fly. The Spotted Lantern Fly is a new pest that was found in Winchester, last year. As an adult, this is one of the most beautiful insects that you have seen, but it can also cause a lot of damage as well. The Spotted Lantern Fly is native to China. It has also been found in India, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. It was first detected in the United States in eastern Pennsylvania in September 2017. It is likely that the Spotted Lantern Fly arrived in the U.S. on shipping materials. This is a highly invasive pest and can spread rapidly when introduced into a new area. The host range of the Spotted Lantern Fly is wide, with more than 70 host plant species, and as far as we know there is a lack of any native enemies, thus allowing for the spread to be great of this pest. Should we be concerned about this insect? Yes, but we should not be frightened. Right now, we are in the process of knowing where the pest is located and really still trying to figure out what the best way to deal with the pest is going to be. It is important to remember that in Virginia it has been only confirmed in the Winchester area. So, what does this insect look like and what should you do if you see it? The Spotted Lantern Fly began to hatch on May 1 and will go through four nymphal stages before maturing. During the first three stages, the young are wingless and black with white spots on the body and legs. They will stay in this nymph stage until they become adults in July or August time frame. As the adults appear in July, they develop bright red patches over the body but still will have the black legs. The adults will be approximately 10
1 inch long and 0.5 inch wide. The Spotted Lantern Fly is a phloem feeder which means that they will suck the sap from the trees trunks and stems. The heavy feeding of the adults will cause wilting of leaves and young branches. The reduced photosynthesis due to the feeding will weaken the plant and leads to branch dieback, thinning crowns, and eventually the plants death. Heavy feeding can also cause the plant to weep or ooze sap, which ferments and produces a disagreeable odor. The oozing sap will leave a grayish-black honeydew type substance on the trunk and anything that is under the tree. This honeydew will also attract other sugar-seeking insects such as yellow jackets, hornets, bees, ants and flies. These adult Spotted Lantern Fly prefer feeding on Ailanthus altissima or Tree-of-Heaven and grapevine. The Tree-ofHeaven is an invasive tree that is all over the place and can be found just about around every corner. The Spotted Lantern Fly seems to favor laying egg masses on these trees, but it is still to be determined if they need this tree to complete their life cycle. What is being done about the Spotted Lantern Fly? There are a lot of banding traps that are being set out throughout the state to see if this pest is anywhere else. As of now it still has only been spotted and found in the Winchester area. Our local Master Gardener organization, the Central Shenandoah Valley Master Gardener Association has placed some of these traps in the our area. To date we have not found any of Spotted Lantern Flies. What should you do if you feel you see a Spotted Lantern Fly? If you feel you have seen one please contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office. If you would like more information on the Spotted Lantern Fly please visit www.ext.vt.edu/agriculture/ commercial-horticulture/spottedlanternfly.html. This website has a lot of great information on the Spotted Lantern Fly including a Egg Masses resource with some great pictures. It is important to remember that we are only in the preliminary stage of seeing and dealing with this insect, it has only been found in Winchester, but it is important to be aware of what this pest looks like and what to do if you come across it. Remember, if you think you see one of these pests please contact your local Extension office. It is really an absolutely beautiful insect, but unfortunately it can cause quite a bit of damage.
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Local American Association of University Women Chapter Marks Milestone
By Chris Edwards, Community Contributor
or 90 years the American Association of University Women-Harrisonburg has promoted women’s rights and girls’ educational opportunities, while members encounter challenges, fun and friendship. The local branch of AAUW, the oldest national women’s organization, began April 25, 1929. Fifteen women, meeting in Alumni Hall at then-State Teachers College at Harrisonburg (now James Madison University), elected college librarian Virginia Harnsberger president. They studied “laws affecting women,” supported a world court and naval reductions, sponsored a Denishawn Dancers show and, in the Depression, sewed “bloomers” for needy children, Jane Paul reported in a branch history. They grieved Harnsberger’s death at the young age of 39. Agendas included a Conference on the Cause and Cure of War, cooperative nursery school, the USO and war bonds. Postwar, Paul wrote, members studied “arts and crafts, French conversation, music appreciation, modern dance, flower arrangements, and fancy desserts!” — while sending Harrisonburg and Lucy Simms high school girls to visit the United Nations. The branch’s main fundraiser was its self-published cookbook, 14
from the 1950s through 70s, by which time members were campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment, member Sylvia S. Moore wrote in a 1979 history. Recent branch president Sylvia Rogers, a retired English professor, joined AAUW-Harrisonburg about five years ago when organizing a district conference. Her service on Virginia’s AAUW board gave the branch more connection to the state and national AAUWs, which study issues in depth. She’s registered voters and led in local support for state ERA ratification. In January, Harrisonburg City Council, sparked by Harrisonburg Mayor/honorary AAUW member Deanna Reed, unanimously endorsed the ERA. Reed discovered AAUW upon meeting Rogers and Deb Fitzgerald, member and chair of the city School Board. “I couldn’t believe as women we still do not have equal rights,” said Reed, who will continue supporting ERA as well as women running for office. Member Tina Updike recalls that in 1971, “When the ERA was introduced, we carpooled up to the first rally for it on the Washington Mall.” That campaign is by no means over, Rogers vows, though pay equity, human trafficking and Title IX need emphasis. When current branch president Laura Zarrugh joined in 1994, most
branch members worked full time. A cultural anthropologist with a doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley, she taught at JMU until retirement, and researches Shenandoah Valley immigration. Zarrugh recently organized a branch “Great Decisions” group, studying global issues. Priscilla “Pem” Liskey, 95, like most longtime members a former branch president, recalls joining in 1974 after accompanying her children to its sponsored puppet show. Her mother was active in AAUW, as are two daughters and a sister. Liskey, mainstay of the branch’s book club, has kept a list of its several hundred selections since 1984. When Rosemarie Palmer found AAUW in the late 1980s, at a talk by Moore on genealogy, she recalls, “I was looking for like-minded women, also for friends.” Having served in the Peace Corps in Malaysia, Palmer was business manager of JMU’s chemistry lab. She now heads AAUW participation in the annual STEM conference for girls, “Expanding Your Horizons,” co-sponsored by JMU. French professor emeritus Mary Perramond joined AAUW upon arrival at JMU in 1984. “A lot of JMU people were involved, faculty or staff” — plus some women leading local businesses. “It was just a lively, well-informed group for interesting conversation,” she said. JMU history professor emeritus Sidney Bland, the branch’s one man since 1988, researched early 20th century progressives and taught “Women in U.S. History” for decades. He’s one of three historians planning inscriptions for Turning Point Suffragist Memorial at Occoquan, honoring suffragists imprisoned following 1917 demonstrations. Recent branch members also include Mary McMurray, who tutored at JMU and founded Skyline Literacy; Terry Showalter, whose 2011 memoir, “From the Bronx to Bliss and Beyond,” chronicled her road adventures with
a theater company; and the late noted artist, JMU professor and Oasis Gallery co-founder Crystal Theodore, who served on AAUW’s national board. Theodore, Updike’s undergraduate mentor, introduced her to AAUW. “We were both of the activist bent. She was well-read and quite a lady,” Updike said. Updike became the art department’s slide curator and curated the extensive Sawhill donations. The branch then had “many members with young children; more programming but fewer social events.” Volunteering with Wildlife Center of Virginia, Updike helps rehabilitate injured or orphaned animals. Her work is featured on the center’s current WVPT series, “Untamed.” Recent branch programs have addressed political gerrymandering, Mediterranean cooking and women artists. AAUW-Harrisonburg annually awards scholarships to local high
This photo from JMU Carrier Library’s Special Collection shows Virginia Harnsberger, the chapter’s first president.
school seniors, based on essays. AAUW membership is open to anyone holding a two-year associate or higher degree from an accredited college or university. The branch, now numbering 45, plans an anniversary celebration in August. For more information on the Harrisonburg and national AAUW, visit https://harrisonburgva.aauw.net/ or Facebook, “AAUW Harrisonburg, Va.”; or contact Rosemarie Palmer at (540) 515-0097 or shenrose129@gmail. com.
Local Activist Brings Sense of Community Back to Northeast How Karen Thomas Transformed Historic African-American Community To Its Original Vibrance By Shelby Mertens Photos Daniel Lin
Northeast Neighborhood Association President Karen Thomas poses for a photo in front of the Newtown Cemetery.
ug. 20, 1983, is a day that will be forever etched into Karen Thomas’ memory. That was the day her sister, 28-year-old Sharon Johnson, was brutally beaten to death in the former Campbell Hotel on North Main Street in Harrisonburg. While her sister’s killer was on the loose for nearly 25 years, Thomas became a community activist who fought for justice and helped clean up her beloved Northeast neighborhood. “That was really a beginning for me, that I wanted to seek justice for her,” Thomas said. “My sister’s case was always a part of wanting to make the wrong right.” The family was sure Johnson’s killer was Ronald Jerome Jones, who was her boyfriend at the time. Johnson died from her injuries a week after the attack, which allegedly began as an argument over a missing $5 bill, according to a 2007 article in the Daily News-Record. It took authorities more than two decades to find Jones, who fled Harrisonburg and lived on the streets using fake names. But Thomas continued to search for her sister’s killer, consistently visiting the police department and the commonwealth’s attorney’s office over the years. “It took 25 years to find her murderer, but I never gave up,” she said. “I always had a feeling that they weren’t looking for him.” Rockingham County Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha Garst reopened the investigation after meeting Thomas in 2005. Garst 16
promised if he was still alive, she would find Johnson’s killer. “I was really impressed with her passion for her sister and her community,” Garst said. “I believed we had a very strong suspect and I believed I could bring justice to Sharon Johnson’s family.” Jones’ picture was shown on the television show “America’s Most Wanted” in the show’s “15 Seconds of Shame” segment, which led to dozens of tips. “All the tips that we got gave us many leads throughout the country,” Garst said. “I think it took a lot of good follow-up and police work, and in the end we were able to bring him to justice.” Jones was captured in Greensboro, N.C., in 2007 at the age of 52. Later that year, he was sentenced to 40 years for seconddegree murder.
Northeast Roots Thomas, 61, was born in Grottoes but moved to the Northeast neighborhood — Harrisonburg’s historically African-American community — at the age of 4. The northeast area of Harrisonburg was originally known as the Newtown community, which was built by freed slaves after the Civil War. Newtown became the home of many prominent AfricanAmerican figures in the community, including educator Lucy F. Simms and Elon Rhodes, the first African-American to serve on
Harrisonburg’s City Council and School Board. Most of the neighborhood’s original buildings were destroyed during the city’s “urban renewal” efforts in the 1950s and 1960s. During the early 2000s, the historic Northeast neighborhood suffered from drugs and violent crime. A murder that occurred in 2006 on the corner of Kelley and Myrtle streets hit Thomas especially hard because the victim was a friend’s son. Thomas grew concerned about the safety of her community.
Cleaning Up The Neighborhood She began to lay the groundwork for the Northeast Neighborhood Association, which became a nonprofit organization in 2006. The group started as a neighborhood watch program but morphed into much more, taking on historic preservation and beautification projects. NENA partnered with the Harrisonburg Police Department and the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office for neighborhood walks. NENA has been credited with helping reduce crime rates through its visibility in the community. “She was instrumental in cleaning up the community,” said Harrisonburg Mayor Deanna Reed. “There was a time when people were actually afraid to go in the Northeast neighborhood. There was a time when it was drug-infested … and that’s when Karen formed the neighborhood watch. Her and some other community members got together and became more visible in the community.” Garst agreed that NENA’s walks and other efforts have brought safety back to the Northeast neighborhood. “She has unified efforts for safety and a sense of community in Harrisonburg,” she said. “I think it’s fostered a sense of community.” NENA’s meetings on the third Thursday of every month have given residents an outlet to discuss issues in the community, as well as serve as a bridge between the Northeast residents and law enforcement. “NENA is a conduit for people to voice concerns and make sure all of the issues they’re facing are brought forward,” Garst said.
Historic Preservation Efforts NENA announced late last year that it had purchased the historic Dallard-Newman House on Kelley Street. The house is currently in the process of being renovated into a museum and library. NENA raised $50,000 through The Community Foundation of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County to help fund the project. The two-story house at 192 Kelley St. was built by former Yancey plantation slaves Ambrose and Reuben Dallard in 1895. The house was passed down to Ambrose Dallard’s daughter Lucy and her husband, Charles Cochran. When they moved out of the home, his other daughter, Mary Dallard, and her husband, George A. Newman Sr., acquired the property. Newman served as a teacher and principal of Newtown’s Effinger School, which educated area black students until 1939 when it was replaced by the Lucy F. Simms School. Simms was a student of Newman. Mary Carlotta Newman, the daughter of George A. Newman Sr., was the final owner of the home until her death in August 2015 at the age of 103.
The Dallard-Newman House and the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church next door are the only buildings in Newtown that survived the city’s “urban renewal” projects, Thomas said. “That house was so significant to me because there’s very few homes that withstood the urban renewal when it came through and tore a lot of the African-American homes down,” she said. “We don’t know why, but we’re just so thankful that it survived.” Thomas hopes to tell the history of not just the house, but the Newtown community, through the restoration project. The museum and library is expected to be finished by next year. “There’s a lot of history here that we want to tell and we feel like NENA and the people that live in this community are the only ones who can truly tell it,” Thomas said. “There’s so much rich history in this community that needs to be told, children need to know about it. They’re starting to get African-American history in the schools because it’s everyone’s history and it hasn’t been told.” Reed said the Dallard-Newman House project is an important step in preserving the history of the Northeast neighborhood. “She really wanted a place where our stories could be told,” Reed said. Thomas’ son, Steven Thomas, is NENA’s part-time restorative justice coordinator who has conducted extensive research into the history of the community. “He has really helped take NENA to another level when it comes to research and historic aspects,” she said. The Dallard-Newman House and the Bethel AME church are recognized together as a historic district by the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register, a process initiated by Karen Thomas. The Newtown Cemetery was placed on the National Register in 2015. Thomas has sat on the board of trustees for five years.
A Community Builder Thomas also helped establish a community garden in the Northeast neighborhood that was built across the street from the Simms school two years ago. The garden is funded through a grant from The Community Foundation. “This area was defined as a food insecure area so, we decided we could start a community garden where people can grow their own vegetables and children can come learn how to grow their own food,” she said. NENA also recently acquired Broad Street Mennonite Church by donation. NENA plans to turn it into a community center while still keeping it as a church. “It was an honor that they trusted us with the church, just to give it to us,” Thomas said. Thomas said Broad Street was the first Mennonite church in the area that allowed African-Americans to worship there. She plans to also apply the building for a historic marker. The nonprofit also acquired the house next to it, which is the original home of Roberta Webb. Thomas’ vision is to eventually make the basement of the church an affordable day care center.
“That was really a beginning for me, that I wanted to seek justice for her. My sister’s case was always a part of wanting to make the wrong right,” said Karen Thomas.
Northeast Neighborhood Association President Karen Thomas leads a monthly meeting at the Lucy F. Simms Center.
A Lifetime Of Community Service While Thomas has worked tirelessly on renovation projects and historic markers, she still works full time as a sterile supply officer at the Merck manufacturing plant in Elkton. Thomas has won numerous awards over the years, including NAACP Citizen of the Year, Commonwealth Attorney’s Citizenship Award in 2013 and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Community Service Award.
“What I’m mostly proud of is bringing people together, like at our gospel concerts, our community yard sales, the community garden and National Night Out,” Thomas said. “That’s the main thing — bringing people together and everyone knowing each other and getting along. I think that’s what I feel most happy about.” Reed has known Thomas for well over 30 years and considers her to be a mentor. “I always looked up to Karen because she’s always been a woman who cared about her community,” Reed said. “She has definitely been a leader in the Northeast neighborhood. She’s the reason why the Northeast neighborhood has become so essential to our city and to our community.” Reed added, “I believe she’s one of our unsung ‘sheroes.’ She does a lot of work and doesn’t ask for any credit for what she’s done. She’s truly been a trailblazer when it comes to being an activist.” Thomas has moved away from the Northeast neighborhood three different times in her life, but her passion for the community has always brought her back. “I just love this place,” she said. “I’ve always come home. I really love this community.”
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The Winding Road of the Food Truck Industry
By Shelby Mertens
lthough the concept of a mobile street food vendor is nothing new, food trucks exploded across the U.S. beginning around a decade ago, attracting entrepreneurs with their low startup costs in a time of economic recession. The trend trickled down from big cities like New York and Los Angeles to smaller American cities and towns by the mid part of the 2010s. According to industry market research firm IBISWorld, the food truck industry now rakes in $906 million in sales and is expected to reach $1.1 billion in 2022. The peak of food trucks in the Shenandoah Valley hit around 2015, according to Mikey Reisenberg, the owner of Mashita, a food truck that specializes in Korean-style cuisine, including steamed buns and ssam. Reisenberg opened his truck in September 2013. While Harrisonburg-area food trucks may have experienced initial success, many of them have since shuttered operations or changed ownership. Reisenberg estimates at least 16 food trucks have closed within the past two years. “We have not seen nearly as many food trucks opening up in our local area. The trend of food trucks is not quite what it once was,” Reisenberg said. “Harrisonburg was one of the latest areas, in my opinion, to embrace the food truck trend that was going on nationwide and it was explosive. You saw a lot of food trucks coming out in 2014 and 2015.” Several food truck-designated parking lots sprouted up across the city and county, including Rock’N Wolfe Food Truck Park at 120 W. Wolfe St., next to the brewery that is now Restless Moons. The food truck park opened in the fall of 2014 and began with spots for six permanent food trucks, according to an article in The Breeze. Another food truck court popped up off Va. 42 called Trucks, and Mashita parked in a lot with other trucks at 716 E. Market St. Annual food truck festivals and rallies were created in the Valley
Food trucks serve hungry guests at Bluestone Vineyard’s Toast to the Weekend. to showcase the plethora of food trucks across the region. Veronica Avila claims her taco truck, Tacos El Primo, which opened in 2006, was the very first food truck in Harrisonburg. She witnessed the hordes of food trucks that sprang up after hers. “I’ve seen an expansion of food trucks,” Avila said. “I’ve seen that it has become more of a trend.” Avila had just moved from California, where street tacos are the norm, and she felt the Valley needed some authentic Mexican food. During the early days, when Tacos El Primo was the only food truck around, Avila remembers how difficult it was to get locals to try it. “People weren’t so open about it,” she said. “I think that for us, it was harder to target customers. We didn’t know how people would accept it.” Tacos El Primo has moved locations twice. The bright blue truck initially parked on South Main Street before it moved to its current spot at 1110 Reservoir St. The business grew by wordof-mouth as Tacos El Primo’s customer base expanded outside the local Latino community. The wave of trendy food trucks was pivotal for Tacos El Primo’s success. “I think it’s been easier overall
because people are more open to it,” Avila said. “People are less intimidated and less scared to try a food truck.” Reisenberg said there are still some people who are hesitant to order a meal from a truck. “Harrisonburg has been quick to latch on to the trend because it’s new, fresh and different, but we’re still a very traditional small-town mindset,” he said. “They’re so used to being served at a sit-down restaurant.” Operating a food truck comes with many challenges, including working in a tight kitchen space, not always having a permanent location, and being dependent on the weather. “Three months of loss [during the winter] is enough to put someone out of business,” Reisenberg said. Those who think they can turn a profit faster than a brick-andmortar restaurant because of the low startup costs are in for a surprise, according to Reisenberg. “The food industry is very challenging and competitionoriented. It takes a lot of time and a lot of work,” he said. “The people that get into food trucks think they can put forward a small amount of money and be able to turn a massive profit easily, and I
don’t think they take into account the trials and tribulations of being in the food industry. It’s very demanding.” Avila also guessed around 15 have closed within the last several years. She said running a food truck requires persistence. “You can’t quit. You can’t give up,” she said. “A lot of people just give up.” Diane Roll is one of a few local food truck owners who hasn’t given up. She opened Mama’s Caboose food truck in August 2011 and now also runs a brickand-mortar restaurant, Dayton Tavern, and a catering business. Roll said Mama’s Caboose was the first non-Hispanic food truck in the region. She primarily serves in the southern part of Rockingham County as well as in Augusta County. Mama’s Caboose serves anything from cheesesteaks to reubens to crabcakes. “After a few years being here, I felt like something was missing,” Roll said. “Barbecue is fine, but we needed something different.” Among the multitude of challenges mobile food entrepreneurs face is regulations from local governments. In addition to certification from the health department, and vehicle inspection
and insurance from the Department of Motor Vehicles, Roll said she also has to pay for a peddler’s license every year, which becomes more complicated when a food truck operator moves to different localities. “Each one of those municipalities requires you to pay their business licenses,” Roll said. “By the time you add that all up, it’s incredibly expensive.” Truck maintenance is another added expense. Roll said food trucks are more successful in big cities, where businesses can park a truck or roll a food cart on busy streets or right outside of large office buildings. “I think a lot of people assumed it was very lucrative, but it’s different from being in a large city,” she said. “In a large city, you have a million people that walk in front of you every day. You have so many people walking by and people in offices stepping out for lunch.” Reisenberg thinks the local interest in food trucks has dropped significantly. He points to a blog called “i love my burg,” which posted a list of 24 Harrisonburg
food trucks with information about each truck’s hours and location. Many included in the post are no longer in business, indicating that the page has not been updated in awhile. The food truck lot off East Market Street was once populated by five to six food trucks, Reisenberg said. Now it’s just him and Flavor Savor BBQ, which is under new ownership. The Rockin’ Wolfe Food Truck Park is no more, according to Reisenberg, and La Taurina is the sole mobile eatery at Trucks. The death of the food truck courts is another sign that the industry is in decline. “There’s less opportunities for people to park their food trucks,” he said. Based on Yelp and Google searches, some of the shuttered food trucks include Wing It, NOMS Deli Food Truck, Belen’s Thrill Of The Grill, Truck 121, Lobsta Rollin, Doña Eva’s, Honey Hog BBQ, Rocktown Slops and Cuz & ‘Em Southern Cooking and Seafood, whose Facebook page says is closed indefinitely.
“It’s amazing how many of those have gone out of business or shut down,” Reisenberg said. Other food trucks have moved into brick-and-mortar spaces. Grilled Cheese Mania, once parked in the food truck court at 1321 S. High St., is now a brickand-mortar restaurant at 1476 S. Main St. The grilled cheese truck first opened in October 2012. The food truck, which has become loved for its unique twists on classic grilled cheese sandwiches, moved to the South Main Street location, next to Sunrise Church of the Brethren, in August 2017 while the house was being converted into a restaurant. Grilled Cheese Mania’s permanent location officially opened in January 2018. Owner Kathleen ManiaCasey said in a previous Daily News-Record article that the bitter cold winters, the hot summers and the lack of a bathroom is what motivated her to transition to a brick-and-mortar. “To be honest, it was just getting harder and harder every year for me,” she had said. “I just wanted shelter.”
Reisenberg is also in the process of opening a restaurant space for Mashita, which is slated to open this summer at 105 N. Liberty St. He plans to continue operating the food truck for catering and festivals. “We don’t want to forget where we came from,” Reisenberg said. Reisenberg attributes the decline in Valley food trucks to an oversaturated market. “We’re a very saturated town for restaurants so you have to have a food quality that is at a level people feel willing to pay for,” he said. But Avila still feels hopeful for the industry. She doesn’t see food trucks going away anytime soon. “I don’t think it will grow much bigger, but I don’t see it decreasing. I think it’s going to level off,” she said. “I think it’s going to maintain.” The key to longevity is building relationships with customers and having patience, Roll said. “That’s where I think we’re more successful. We understand the concept,” she said. “I think people with perseverance will succeed, if there’s a passion for it.”
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Red Root & Co. Connects People To Plants
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Friendly Food Co-op, Community Contributor
orey MacDonald and her team at Red Root & Co. are doing something truly unique. Using high-quality ingredients from the garden and the forest, they blend tradition and innovation just for your palate. Their delightful herbal infusions are delicious and nourishing. “We use whole botanicals (no juices or extracts), honey to lightly sweeten, small batch processing, and each recipe is infused with my background in herbalism,” MacDonald siad. “Flavor is one dimension of a fruit, vegetable, or herb; but, knowing various essences of plants helps create an elevated product. In the cocktail realm, it is nice to use pure ingredients—the flavors are superior and it’s a bonus to feel good about our indulgences. Red Root desires to connect people to plants with nourishing, delicious and delightful herbal infusions because “plants change lives.” “Just think of the way flowers make people feel—they bring smiles, lift spirits, warm hearts. Red Root & Co. increases the positive experiences people have with plants,” MacDonald said. “Our food system has gotten a little out of whack, which has impacted both human and environmental health. People are making choices each day to encourage healthier growth. Being a producer is a joyful place to be, supporting connections and opening opportunities for education and empowerment.” Mixing up cocktails may not be everyone’s glass of bubbly, but she encourages keeping it simple and starting with something you already enjoy. “If you like a Gin and Tonic, try making it with additional ingredients or swap out one ingredient for another. Perhaps substitute the part of the tonic with elderflower soda or add drops of fruity, floral bitters,” she said. “Bitters can round out a cocktail, similar to finishing a culinary dish with salt. Try trading lemon or lime juice for a bright flavored shrub can mix up a drink. Playing and experimenting is a great approach to making drinks.” MacDonald said she is drawn to lighter spirits, ciders and wines that bring in the flavors of the season. She suggests starting summer with sangria.
2 T Orange Marigold Shrub 2 T Summer Oxymel 1 Fat Tire Belgian White Ale 2 T Sweet Vermouth ¼ cup Berries, any type 2 Orange slices Combine shrub, oxymel, vermouth, berries and orange slices in a small bowl. Refrigerate at least 1 hour for flavors to infuse. Divide fruit mixture between 2 wine glasses and add 6oz of ale. Squeeze an orange wedge over each glass and gently stir to combine. STRAWBERRY RHUBARB BUBBLY 2 T Rhubarb Verbena Shrub 10 drops Hopnotch Bitters 250mL Archer Roose Bubbly ½ cup Strawberries, hulled and chopped 2 Lemon Slices Divide strawberries and shrub between two, 6 or 8 oz glasses. Mash mixture with muddler. Add lemon slice to each and mash a little further to release flavor. Add several ice cubes to each glass, then fill with sparkling wine, and add 5 drops of Hopnotch Bitters to each glass. BLACKBERRY CIDER MULE 2 T Blackberry Mint Shrub 12oz Big Pippin Ginger Hard Cider Splash of Elderflower Soda or Ginger Beer, to taste Squeeze of Lime Wedge Blackberries to garnish Fill 2 copper mugs with ice. Divide and pour in the shrub, cider, and squeeze of lime. Add elderflower soda or ginger beer and gently swirl to mix. Garnish with blackberries.
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Chef Rittenour Enjoys Great Outdoors By Shelby Mertens
ike Rittenour, the executive chef for Massanutten Resort, is a longtime hunter and avid outdoorsman. But he never considered bringing his love for the great outdoors indoors until an elk hunting trip in Wyoming with Mark Litz, the vice president of food and beverage at Massanutten Resort, about four or five years ago. “It’s not bad to go camping with a chef. You always eat well,” Litz said. “I thought, ‘What if we made a menu with all the items that you’ve always made while we’re out hunting?’ He looked at me like I was nuts.” But the idea’s spark never faded. The rustic, outdoors-inspired restaurant concept came into fruition two years ago when Massanutten decided to remodel the resort’s golf-themed Fareway’s restaurant and thus, Campfire Grill was born. Originally, Rittenour just wanted to share some of his favorite dishes from camping out West, but the restaurant has since evolved into offering an array of American camp food styles. “Camping gives you the ability to be eclectic because people in the Northeast versus the Southeast versus the Northwest have a very different idea of what food they’re going to take with them, so it leaves it open to do anything you want to do,” Rittenour said. With skillets and pots hanging on the wall, along with fire pits and camping gear on display, a trip to Campfire Grill feels like a day spent in the woods. Rittenour said it took Fareway’s regulars some time to adjust to the extensive changes, but the chef said customers have since come around to it. “Initially, we had a lot of problems because people were upset that Fareway’s wasn’t here,” he said. “But as the years passed, 24
Photos Daniel Lin
finally that has died off and now the restaurant is picking up. It has really started to escalate over the last six to eight months.” Approximately 2,000 more customers visited Campfire Grill in January and February than from those moths in the year prior, according to Litz. Rittenour has witnessed Massanutten’s massive growth in his 24 years leading the resort’s dining services. “Originally, we only had one restaurant — we had Fareway’s,” he said. “So, the first year I ran Fareway’s, the second year I ran Fareway’s and the ski lodge, and then we built the conference center, and then we built the deli and then we built the water park and we just kind of added them as we went.” He now oversees a dining staff that ranges between 150 to 175 employees, depending on the season. Rittenour spends his time in the off-season rewriting menus and planning for the next season. During the winter months, he’s primarily based in the ski lodge, while much of his summers are spent in the water park. The 49-year-old was born in Winchester but grew up in Boulder, Colo. He landed his first cooking jobs in high school. One of his early kitchen gigs that proved to be most formidable was the Wayside Inn in Middletown. Rittenour attended classes at Lord Fairfax Community College before furthering his culinary education at Baltimore International College’s Culinary Arts Institute, which was taken over by Stratford University in 2012. Rittenour graduated in 1990 with his culinary degree. During his two years in culinary school, he also continued to work in kitchens. “I felt even then that working
in an actual kitchen was more important than school,” Rittenour said. “I knew I needed to get the education, but I didn’t want to miss two years of working in a kitchen so, I did both.” Rittenour worked as a chef for a number of hotels, including Sheridan, Doubletree and Ramada. He also worked at a French restaurant in Baltimore. His culinary style is shaped by his experiences working in restaurants that served American fare while being trained in classical French cooking. Nearly 25 years ago, Litz hired Rittenour as Massanutten Resort’s executive chef in 1995, and their working relationship requires them to regularly sit down together to discuss dishes and new menu items. “We both see things different, but we definitely have the ability to look at each other’s different
Campfire Grill chef Mike Rittenour works in the kitchen for a catered event at the Massanutten Conference Center.
“Camping gives you the ability to be eclectic because people in the Northeast versus the Southeast versus the Northwest have a very different idea of what food they’re going to take with them, so it leaves it open to do anything you want to do,” Mike Rittenour said.
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sides of how it works for us,” Litz said. “The great thing about our working relationship, we are like two brothers … who truly care about the process. We’ve both spent 25 years at the same location working together. Traditionally, in our positions, you don’t see two people do that.” While many chefs specialize in a specific type of cuisine, Rittenour has learned to be a jack-of-alltrades as a resort chef. “We have to do a lot of different things and a lot of different styles of food, and we have to do all of them well,” Rittenour said. Campfire Grill’s biggest sellers are the sirloin steaks, grilled fish and beer can burgers. “It’s the stuff that you want to eat when you’re camping, but it’s also the stuff you want to eat when you’re not camping,” he said. “When you’re camping or cooking for yourself, most of us never eat the same thing twice. We evolve it as we go and that’s what this menu is doing.” The grill removed the dishes
served in foil pouches from the menu because it didn’t get the same response as the cast iron skillet options, which provide a more visually appealing presentation. They’ve since added pizza to the menu that is baked in an open hearth oven. Although pizza would be difficult to produce in a camping environment, the rustic nature of the open hearth oven “just lends itself to the building,” he said. Rittenour works with the chefs to craft new dishes and implement new cooking techniques. For example, the restaurant recently started dry-aging beef and purchased a bandsaw for cutting steaks and other types of meat. They also brought back the drunken salmon, a popular dish from Fareway’s menu. Campfire Grill and the resort’s other restaurants use locally sourced beef from time to time, Rittenour said, “but local farms can’t provide the type of volume that we do.” However, the restaurant is working toward
sourcing as much local ingredients as possible. The pastry chef bakes the burger buns in house and cornmeal is brought in from a local mill for cornbread and grits. For Rittenour, it’s not about the individual dish, but the collaborative process it takes to get a new item on the menu. “If I want good chefs to work for me, I have to let them be chefs and have their items and their food on the menu so that they are happy and comfortable,” he said. Litz said Rittenour’s greatest
strength as a chef is his open mindedness and ability to listen to his staff’s ideas. He said Rittenour is also “always thinking about what’s next. He likes to stay up on the trends.” As for the future of Campfire Grill, Rittenour sees the eatery continuing to grow and refine its operational processes. The resort started a mentoring program for culinary students, which Rittenour has come to enjoy. “I see him more and more as a mentor and teacher for a lot of our staff,” Litz said.
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Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community grows its own produce on The Farm at Willow Run, giving retirement community residents a unique farm to table experience.
VMRC Builds Sustainability with Strong Farm-To-Table Ties The Retirement Community’s Farm Provides Majority of its Produce Story and Photos by Shelby Mertens
any of Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community’s residents come from farming backgrounds living in the Shenandoah Valley, and their connection to the bountiful land is not lost once they transition into the elder care living facilities at VMRC. In 2008, VMRC purchased a 40-acre plot of land just minutes from campus at the end of Harmony Drive adjacent to Willow Run Road. Five years later, that land became known as The Farm at Willow Run, which provides the majority of produce for VMRC dining services. “We’re going back to the basics,” said Tom Brenneman, a farmer who lives at The Farm at Willow Run. “We’re interpreting a
resource that was underutilized that we’re trying to create greater value out of and it just so happens that something as practical and sound as growing your own food happens to be sort of fun and interesting right now and they call it farm to table.” Maureen Pearson, the director of public relations and outreach for VMRC, said the retirement community wanted to start its own farm for “the health benefits, knowing where your food comes from, knowing your farmers and just the health aspect of it.” In 2018, the farm supplied 28,312 pounds of produce during the season for the VMRC dining system, which is made up of eight dining halls around campus for its more than 700 residents.
“There is something special that VMRC has their own farm,” Brenneman said. “I think that’s quite unique at the scale that it does.” Brenneman, the farm operations coordinator has lived on the farm for nearly a decade, but has worked for VMRC for the past six years. He has a lifetime of experience as a home gardener and grew up in a farming environment in Iowa, but by trade he’s also a social worker and sociologist. Brenneman works alongside fellow farmer Nate Clark, the market garden coordinator. Prior to Willow Run, Clark operated Muddy Creek Farm in the Timberville area for six years. He farmed on a 2-acre “intensive garden” and sold
his produce at farmers markets. Clark has a degree in biology and environmental science from Goshen College. Both Clark and Brenneman harvest, pack and deliver the produce with seasonal helpers and volunteers from Eastern Mennonite University’s Sustainable Food Initiative as well as James Madison University. “Our emphasis is to grow for ourselves in house and to be our own food hub with what’s in season,” Brenneman said. “We’re our own catalyst. We’re our own producer. We’re our own customer. It’s sort of a self-contained seasonal produce system.” The farm grows greens, tomatoes, squash, potatoes, sweet corn and other seasonal SUMMER 2019
vegetables. “A little bit of everything, really,” Clark said. “Everything that dining wants, they tell us what they want us to grow for the season and we map it out and plant it.” Clark and Brenneman operate two tunnel houses that allow them to grow crops year-round. Each tunnel house is about 3,000 square feet, bringing a total of 6,000 square feet of covered crops. Additionally, the farm features a greenhouse as well as the infrastructure for propagation, plant starts and an on-site walk-in cooler and processing area. “It’s exciting to be able to produce a lot more in volume with these structures now,” Clark said. The process from farm to table can take just a few hours. “The other morning when Nate was harvesting spinach and other greens, it was processed here, taken into our cooler and pantry, processed by dining services, functionally, from seven in the morning to 10 in the morning — you can harvest, prepare and serve in the cafe,” Brenneman said.
“That’s not bad.” Jeremiah Moyer, the executive chef of VMRC dining services, meets with the farmers a couple of times throughout the year — usually after the season is over — to review and plan for the next year. Moyer makes a wish list of produce he’d like to see planted so that he can craft dishes out of the ingredients. “Right now, we’re getting mostly spinach and some kale and salad greens,” Moyer said. “We just started to get some beets and radishes in yesterday.” He expects approximately 5,000 pounds of different tomato varieties this summer. According to Moyer, in the peak of the season, roughly 75% to 80% of the produce served in the VMRC dining rooms are from The Farm at Willow Run. Dining services prepares 1,200 to 1,300 meals each day for breakfast, lunch and dinner at all the dining facilities on campus, also including Meals on Wheels, which accounts for approximately 250 meals per day. The Hartman Dining Room in
Rachel Moree, a cafe cook at a Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community dining hall, brings out the fresh salad bar greens.
Tom Brenneman is one of the two lead farmers at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community’s The Farm at Willow Run. Brenneman helps harvest, package and deliver fresh produce to VMRC’s dining halls.
the Park Gables building recently offered a Willow Run seasonal vegetable side, which consisted of sauteed spinach and garlic. Moyer said there are plans to start mixing in some of the kale and other greens sauteed with olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper. “It’s just nice to be able to play with some really fresh produce that was just picked that morning or the day before,” he said Signage in the dining areas and around campus lets residents know that their meals are locally sourced. “It gives them the sense that they’re eating their own food, basically,” Moyer said. “It’s grown right here. It’s fresher. They know where it came from so, I think they really appreciate that.” When produce is brought in from a food distributor, oftentimes it’s shipped from halfway across the country, Moyer said, or even imported from another country. “You don’t know how it’s been treated or what’s been done to it to preserve it or speed up the ripening process,” he said. “When it comes from the farm, there’s none of that.”
Left: Nate Clark and Tom Brenneman are the lead farmers at Virginia Mennonite Community’s The Farm at Willow Run, providing VMRC residents with fresh farm to table produce. Right: Tom Brenneman, a farmer for Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, walks through the tunnel house at The Farm at Willow Run on a recent Wednesday.
The farmers utilize sustainable farming practices, such as low pesticides and row covers inside the tunnel houses that are used for insect protection. “We’re not certified organic, but we know our imprints, and the footprints are a little lighter,” Clark said. VMRC recently began composting materials back to the farm to use as soil. The initiative started around the beginning of April at the cafe inside Park Gables and will eventually spread to the rest of the dining facilities. “Anything that we had been throwing away, like egg shells, coffee grounds, fruit trimmings, fruit rinds, vegetable peels, leftover vegetables from the dining rooms, starches, anything like that, we’re composting,” Moyer said. “We’re going to have some trash cans that we just load it into and they come over and take it back to the farm to compost it over there.” In the future, the farm may expand to perennial fruit and nut trees, Clark said.
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How to Have a Summer Bridal Shower
Ivelisse Estes, Community Contributor, Blogger, CarnationDreams.com
ith summer upon us, not only are vacations getting planned, but also weddings and bridal showers. Here are some helpful tips on how to have a marvelous summer
First Thing First
Unless the bridal shower is a surprise, communication with the bride is the most important element
of planning a bridal shower. Vacations are very common during the summer months, so you should begin planning early, in order to pick a date, or a range of dates, with the bride. Some attendees may need to make significant travel arrangements, so picking a date early, with the bride, improves the chances that those faraway loved ones can attend the shower. The invitations should also get sent out no less than a month before the event.
It’s All About Location If you are planning an outdoor bridal shower, make sure to choose a venue that can also provide shade, as the beautiful summer sun is often accompanied by the scorching heat. Lots of parks also have shelters which are great in case of storms. Another place you can consider is if you, a friend or the bride might live in
an apartment complex with some kind of clubhouse or community center that can be reserved at no cost. Some of these places even have a pool area which can be used for relaxation during the shower or even activities. Make sure to make the reservations as soon as possible. The last thing the bride needs is to find out her dream venue is booked.
Who Should Come? While it can be easy to compile a list of the bride’s friends and family, you don’t want to make the mistake of sending an invite to someone whom won’t be invited to the wedding. I suggest asking the bride for her wedding guest list so that the bride won’t have any awkward conversations later on.
Get Creative With Decorating I always suggest that you utilize your surroundings. If your bridal shower is outdoors, use Mother
Nature to your advantage. Grab a string of lights from any dollar store or your nearest Target and hang them on tree branches or around the trees for that extra sparkle of light. Something else that can look gorgeous is hanging up flower garlands and using them as a backdrop for photos. White crowns of baby’s breath are also very pretty decoration. Area craft stores are your go-to places for items like these. If your bridal shower is indoors then something that can add a nice touch of summer are paper lanterns. You could even use the bride’s favorite color or the same colors that will be in the wedding. If your bride is into the rustic look, use mason jars and fill them with flowers as centerpieces. Not only can they be used for the bridal shower, but for the wedding which makes for a great investment.
Fresh Food Summertime for a lot of people includes eating light foods and refreshing drinks. Consider the time of day your shower will be and plan accordingly. If your shower is mid-afternoon, try serving appetizers. If it is an early evening shower you could try an array of sweets. If you are on a budget it never hurts to create a meal sign up with a website like “Sign Up Genius.” Just make sure to ask the
bride for some of her favorite foods as well as any allergies she may have. Here are some ideas of foods you could have: 1. Cucumber tea sandwiches 2. Cheese and crackers 3. Crab Quiche 4. Deviled eggs 5. Potato salad 6. Ice cream cones filled with fruit (this is also delicious with whip cream) 7. Various dips 8. Tortilla scoops and Triscuits for the dips
Delicious Drinks Remember those mason jars that you brought to use as centerpieces? They would also be great for colorful summer drinks such as a mixture of lemonade, strawberries and kiwi, sweet tea or even sparkling punch. It could also be fun to have a drink bar where guests can mix their own kind of drinks with fruits if they would like to try something new.
Spice Things Up Think outside of the box when it comes to activities. If your bride is into floral arrangements, have a mini floral design workshop with her florist. Guests can learn how to create beautiful arrangements, a floral crown or jewelry. Some other activities should include ways that the guests can learn about the bride as well as the bride learning
about the groom. Here are a few I suggest: 1. Who Said It?: The bride and guests have to write down if either the bride or groom has said a funny quote. 2. Who Has The Groom: Print out celebrity face cut-outs as well as one of the groom and tape them under guests’ chairs at the shower before they arrive. Whoever finds the groom under their chair is the lucky winner. Those who don’t have the groom could also share about their actual celebrity crush. 3. Cold Feet: Fill large serving bowls with ice cold water then dump ten large metal or plastic rings inside. Players must compete to be the first to get all of the rings out of the bowl of freezing water just using their feet. 4. Date Night: Have your guests write date night ideas on small popsicle sticks and put them in a jar for the bride later. Not an activity, but have your bride tell provide her favorite summertime songs to play during the bridal shower. This way she is already in the mood to have some fun when her song comes on!
heart-shaped sparklers, a DIT sugar scrub, a vintage looking box with candy or even cute shades with the bridal shower date can work. You always want your guests to feel appreciated as you don’t know what hurdles they went through to make it to your shower. Also, have someone write down the gifts brought in for the bride, as well as the person who provided the gift so that the bride can send a thank-you card down the line.
Stay Late The bridal shower is done and everyone is heading out to enjoy the rest of the day but since you are the host you must make sure that the bride takes home all of her gifts and that the place is clean. I hope these tips help you have the most exciting summer bridal shower yet. ≠≠Love fashion, beauty and lifestyle posts? Follow Ivelisse Estes on Instagram and Twitter @CarnationDreams as well as her blog http://www.CarnationDreams.com
Send Guests Home With Favors These favors don’t have to be lavish or expensive. Something as simple as small potted plants,
Getting Your Skin Ready for Summer By Shelby Mertens
s summer’s arrival inches near, it’s important to remember how to protect your skin from the sun’s rays before heading out to the beach. Skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in the U.S., affects more than 3 million people a year. The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every day and one in five will develop it in their lifetime. Avoiding the sun all together is not feasible, but you can take measures to reduce your risk. Dr. Jerri Alexiou of Harrisonburg Dermatology said sunscreen can lower your chances of developing skin cancer by 40%. There is much debate about which SPF is the most effective, but Alexiou recommends using a sunscreen SPF of 30 or higher with broad spectrum coverage that protects against UVA and UVB rays. “Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every two hours, and more frequently than that if you are
swimming or sweating,” she said. And sunscreen is not just for the beach. Alexiou warned that even running errands or being outside intermittently can put you at risk. “Any area of the body that is exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun is at risk for skin cancer, and the areas that get exposed daily, like our face, neck, and hands, are the areas that need sunscreen applied to them every day,” according to Alexiou. “It is important to use sunglasses, and also to protect lips with a lip balm containing sunscreen.” There are additional steps you can take for more protection. Alexiou suggests also wearing sun protective clothing called UPF, which stands of Ultraviolet Protection Factor, for any kind of outdoor activity. “Wearing UPF clothing is even more effective than sunscreen, since it provides consistent protection as long as it is worn and doesn’t rely on reapplication like sunscreen does,” she said. “There are so many great choices for UPF clothing, and I find that when you get them wet, they actually keep you cool as well.” Indoor tanning beds are among the most harmful activities for the skin. The artificial ultraviolet
radiation emitted from tanning beds have been identified as cancer-causing agents, called carcinogens, by the organizations such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Dermatologists will always recommend using self-tanning sprays and creams found in stores before ever laying in a tanning bed. Alexiou said the risk of skin cancer is increased with the frequency of tanning bed use. “More people develop skin cancer from tanning bed use than develop lung cancer because of smoking,” she said. “People who have ever used tanning beds have a 67% increased risk of developing a form of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. Using indoor tanning beds before age 35 can increase your risk of melanoma by 59%.” It’s important to regularly examine your skin after time spent outdoors. According to Alexiou, the signs of skin cancer include “a mole that is changing shape, color, size or borders; a sore on your skin that won’t heal; a sore that looks different than all your other moles [the “ugly duckling” sign]; a spot on your skin that is growing very rapidly.” See a doctor immediately if you experience any of the signs.
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Make Memories In The Kitchen
Applesauce Barbeque Sauce Prep: 10 min Cook: 20 min Ready In: 30 min
1 cup applesauce 1/2 cup ketchup 2 cups unpacked brown sugar 6 table spoon lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 1/2 teaspoon paprika 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
In a saucepan over medium heat, mix applesauce, ketchup, brown sugar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and cinnamon. Bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat, and cool completely. Use to baste the meat of your choice. Nutrition Facts: Per serving- 49 calories; 0 g fat; 12.6 g carbohydrates; 0.1 g protein; 0 mg cholesterol; 92 mg sodium
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