In each issue Vegetarians in Paradise presents the 24 Carrot Award to an outstanding person or organization that endeavors to practice or promote education, natural health, wholesome nutrition, and ecology techniques for the mutual benefit of humans, animals, and the earth.
This month's award is presented to a man whose hobby has provided an invaluable service to the community of farmers' markets in the Southland as well as in Northern California. Mark Thompson created his web site, Seasonal Produce and Farmers' Markets, three years ago to keep farmers and market managers informed of any changing regulations that applied to farmers' markets.
The year before he went on the net, he was printing out the Farmers' Market Newsletter and distributing it to farmers and market managers free of charge. Although he hasn't earned any income from this hobby, he did get some local ads to help defray the cost of printing. This dedicated hobbyist earned himself some newspaper publicity that increased his distribution list.
He began adding recipes and crop reports to the newsletter and then decided it was time to go online. Today his site offers tips on how to choose and use fruits and vegetables, informative crop reports of what's in season, interesting feature interviews with individual farmers, and an extensively annotated list of farmers' markets in California.
On the Farm has a host of features from heirloom tomatoes to small scale mushroom growers. Visitors to his site can choose from several unique recipes on his Food Preservation page. The art work, consisting of many beautiful fruit and vegetable woodcuts, is colorful and adds zest to the pages.
Mark is a freelance writer for business and legal affairs publications. His interest in farmers' markets began when some of his freelance work led him to cover the legal aspects of controversial and regulatory issues related to farmers' markets. He became very knowledgeable about the latest regulations by the State Department of Agriculture and the County Agricultural Commissioners office.
He began visiting farmers' markets regularly, attending meetings of statewide organizations for farmers and market managers, and talking to farmers. Today he says, "I love to visit farmers markets. Whenever I go out of state I visit farmers' markets."
Recently, the financial industry has taken an interest in purchasing his domain name marketreport.com, and negotiations are in the works. Mark's concern is that he will lose readers by changing his domain name to seasonalchef.com.
His Food Presentations are the most popular features of his web site. He now has an artist who creates attractive woodblock prints to enhance the site, and plans to add more recipes and make better use of the Bulletin Boards. Some of the more interesting e-mails he receives include questions such as, "What will grow in my garden?" and "Do you know of any sources for quail eggs?" He has archived all three years of his site with no special links. However, some of his readers have linked to specific articles of interest which occasionally brings a sporadic volley of traffic to an old feature. One example was a past article on purslane that produced 500 hits in one week.
Mark refers to himself as a backyard gardener where he primarily grows vegetables along with some flowers. Between the produce he grows and the vegetables he buys at farmers' markets, he's well supplied for his favorite cooking adventures. His recent interest is making chutneys and pickles and canning them. He also expresses great enthusiasm for stir frying the vegetables he grows.
Mark lives in Los Angeles with his wife Roya and two daughters, Amanda who is 9 and 11-year-old Sarah. Amanda took a strong interest in vegetarianism two years ago at age 7. An observant child, she began asking questions like, "Did they kill that fish on the table?" When the family told her that it was true, the fish was killed, she commented, "That's mean!" Amanda has been a committed vegetarian for two years and has the support of two vegetarian friends that are her age.
Although Mark performs a major overhaul on his web site every quarter, he has recently set his goals to expand coverage of farmers' markets beyond California. With his projected addition of freelance writers around the country, he intends to have a web site that goes nationwide. He also envisions more art work to enhance his site.
To visit Mark's web site click on this address: http://www.seasonalchef.com