A good day for worms

nathanIt’s a very soggy day in the ‘burg. Very, very soggy. Think monsoon. A good day for worms and dirt and plants and compost…….

And all that reminds me of Nathan Lyon (’94), celebrity chef, 2012 Emmy nominee, 2013 Emmy nominee for Outstanding Culinary Host for his work with Good Food America with Nathan Lyon — and one of our Be the Change Dukes.

So why do worms and dirt remind me of Nathan?

Nathan has stepped up as spokesman for the U.S. Composting Council Million Tomato Compost Campaign. According to the council’s website, the campaign, which began in March, aims to “spread the word that compost is a key component to building the healthy soil needed to grow sustainable, local food that helps build healthy communities.”

It’s something Nathan believes in and has promoted throughout his career: healthy eating, healthy living. His philosophy is simple “great food starts fresh.” Foods that travel halfway around the world, he says, use fossil fuels and have less flavor and fewer nutrients. Foods grown and consumed locally are fresher, better tasting — and  better for the planet.

Urban agriculture and local gardening are essential for the production of local foods, but sometimes connecting compost producers with potential community gardeners is tough. Solving this by bringing them together is a fundamental goal of the Million Tomato Compost Campaign.

Here’s how it will work: (from their website)

  • USCC’s STA certified compost producer members will donate STA-certified compost to participating community gardens who sign on to the Million Tomato Compost Campaign.
  • Community gardens will use their compost to grow one million tomatoes, either for their own use or for donation to local food banks.
  • Chefs will work with the community gardeners, schools and nonprofits to teach people about using sustainably grown local food in recipes that even kids will love!
  • Chef Nathan Lyon is the spokesperson for the Million Tomato Compost Campaign, offering tips for cooking with garden-fresh tomatoes grown with compost.

The council has signed up a growing number of compost providers who will provide compost to community gardens at no cost. Both compost providers and community gardeners can sign up and get together via the campaign’s website. When gardens are producing, numbers of tomatoes will be tracked. In addition to growing one million tomatoes, the hope is that some of the produce will make its way into local food banks.

The website also has information about using compost the right way, how to estimate your compost needs, why compost is important and lots of other handy-to-know gardening tips.

It sounds fun, interesting — and with Nathan’s expert culinary help — delicious!

You can follow Nathan on his website and on Facebook. And if you’re watching the Emmy’s on June 16, root for Nathan!



Celebrity chef Nathan Lyon ('94)

Celebrity chef Nathan Lyon (’94)

Yesterday, Western Virginia and especially the Shenandoah Valley were treated to one long awaited (and for some, long hoped for) snow day. It was perfectly timed, arriving the week before the inauguration of JMU President Jon Alger, yet after most preparations were made.

Our snow day, at least according to my Facebook feed, meant big pots of savory soups and warm, comfort foods. I’m eager to find out what Cameron Young (’15) and Morgan Robinson (’13) cooked up. Cameron, by the way, recently learned that his new cooking club, Cooking at Madison, has been approved as an official JMU club.

Be the Change personality and celebrity chef Nathan Lyon (’94) would, no doubt, approve of Cameron and Morgan’s interest in food, as well as our snow day fare. The right food for the right season is Nathan’s message. He is an enthusiastic advocate for buying local, fresh foods and of sustainable cooking, which are healthier for the environment, better for health in general and very, very tasty.

After graduating from James Madison University with a Bachelor of Science in Health Science and a minor in Public Health, Nathan backpacked his way across Europe, learning about local customs, culture, and cuisine. Although every town and country along Nathan’s journey provided its own culinary lesson, the watershed moment occurred in an outdoor market just outside of Florence, Italy: an old woman, agog at the massive amount of produce Nathan was stockpiling, eagerly asked, “Why are you buying so much food? Why not just buy fresh every day?” Nathan immediately dumped out half his basket and began pondering those two simple questions. It was in that market, clutching a wheel of cheese, that Nathan discovered his truth: great food starts fresh. (from Nathan’s website)

Ever since, Nathan has been on a mission to promote healthy and sustainable foods.

We learned this week that Nathan, along with chefs Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) and Ted Allen (host of “Chopped’), is featured in the Spring 2013 edition of Celebrity Cooking magazine. Nathan has also published a book, “Great Food Starts Fresh,” which the Washington Post named one of the top cookbooks of 2012.

He’s also starring in a new series Good Food America with Nathan Lyon on Veria, a network about healthy living.

Check them all out. They are mmmmmmm…….good.

(Click the embedded link above to see a digital copy of Celebrity Cooking – page 80 – but be patient. It takes a little while to load.) You can also catch up with Nathan on Facebook,  his website and his WordPress blog.

You can learn more about Cooking at Madison from Tyler McAvoy’s (’13) story.

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