GreenTrips Article

Hi everyone!

We wanted to share the recent GreenTrips article. It discusses the numerous benefits of Mark & Gina’s use of bicycles on the farm. You can find the original article here, but I have copied the text below for your convenience. Let us know if you have any feedback!

For most of us, the word that immediately comes to mind after the word “farm” is “tractor”.

While Mark and Gina Tant, the owners of Tant Hill Farm, still use traditional heavy machinery for work, to get around the farm they have opted for a human-powered device.

“This thing came up at the same time we were buying our tractors and equipment—the biking idea came up as we were starting the farm,” Mark Tant said. “There’s another farm that uses bikes too … I remember thinking it makes total sense.”

“It’s always been a dream of both of ours,” Mark said, describing his first forays into farming.

“Our kids are grown; the last one graduated college last year, so we left Nashville with the view of finding some land and we landed in the Chattanooga area”, he said. “We both have always felt like we wanted to get out, away from the city, and spend the rest of our lives living off the land,” he said. With self-sufficiency in mind, the Tants settled in Lafayette, GA.

“We didn’t know anything about farming,” he admits. “I left my job of 28 years as a biomedical technician. We knew a little bit about food, but how to grow it we learned over time. We didn’t even own a lawn mower when we started looking,” he said. “We just picked it up. It was just a natural part of what we were trying to accomplish by living off the land and growing our own farm.”

As the Tants became more familiar with farming, their biking plans formed as well. “We bought five bikes about four years ago from an auction—it was a big farming auction—and some of the farmers were standing around saying ‘who wants a bike?’,” Mark said, recalling that the farmers were anxious for the next lot in the sale. Mark bought the bikes, but never used them. “It’s been in the thinking stage for a while; we just didn’t make the move until this year. We’ve picked up two; we plan to pick up a couple more just to be able to use them in place of a four-wheeler,” he said.

Adding bikes into their daily routine has provided many benefits, starting with practicality and fuel savings. “There’ll be times when I might be back (on the other side of the farm) somewhere on a tractor, and then I’ve got to get back here. If the bike is ready to go, it’s a ten-times faster method. It’s also an efficiency thing; the property is graded down from 1000 feet to about 100, going from the back to the front is all downhill. I can fly from the back to the front, and get a little workout getting back up. Throughout the day, all that adds up,” he said, adding, “we do see this as conserving fuel for sure, and that is one of the benefits: saving on the fuel costs.”

Mark has found health benefits as well. “I like it because I had knee surgery about five years ago, and the doc said I could extend (the knee’s health) out based on how I use it, so the bike will help a lot on that front.”

Mark also enjoys knowing that biking around the farm helps them contribute to more sustainable agriculture. “We do have a view for land conservation,” he added, “so we like the idea of going light on the environmental Impact. The bikes will help with that.”

Small farms are at an interesting point, Mark said. While their numbers have decreased in recent years, the growth of community support has emboldened farmers to try new things. The benefits of incorporating biking on the farm have grown out of that freedom. “I am at the age right now—57, 58, 59—it’s the average age of small farmers and small land. We’re serious about finding partnerships for young people, about picking up this land and carrying it on.”

“Now, even that 58-year old owner sees the possibility that his land can be held in a way that is better for the rural community and even for the urban community. So not only are bicycles part of what we’re doing, but (it) seems like every year we’ve got something new going on.”

Mark reminded us that “Farmers are the real rock stars. We’ve been idolizing the wrong people for too long.”  While they’re not likely to fill a stadium, we certainly think Mark and Gina Tant are rock stars for their innovative use of bikes for getting around on the farm. Incorporating cycling and other transportation options into your routine can bring you just as many benefits, regardless of how rural your surroundings are.

If you have a story about how you get around with GreenTrips, we encourage you to share it with us at greentrips@chattanooga.gov.


Greens & Cheese Frittata Muffins

This is an example of the type of recipe I love the most: simple, seasonal and with the option to vary ingredients based on what’s available. While I would call this recipe “simple”, I think it is important to understand a little science behind it. Specifically, the science behind how eggs cook and why it is beneficial to add a little (or a lot) of dairy.

First, let’s review how eggs cook. The next few paragraphs are from Cook’s Illustrated, who do a much better job explaining this than I can.

Eggs contain both egg whites and egg yolks. The white contains about 90 percent water and 10 percent protein. The yolk contains about 50 percent water, 20 percent protein, and 30 percent fat. The yolk also contains an emulsifier known as lecithin that keeps the fat suspended in the water. The protein strands in the egg white and yolk are all coiled up like a bowl of cooked spaghetti. For an egg to cook, the proteins need to uncoil. This process begins to happen when we mix the eggs in a bowl. The whipping action starts to uncoil the proteins. 

Once the eggs are heated and we start to cook the eggs, the now uncoiled proteins begin to chemically bond with each other. They form chemical cross-links—like strips of Velcro sticking to each other. This chemical bonding creates a network that traps water inside. This is observed as the coagulation temperature of eggs—the point when they begin to turn solid as they are cooked. As the eggs continue to cook, more bonds are formed until the network of proteins is strong enough to form the solid structure of a fully cooked egg with all the water trapped inside.

However, if you overbeat the eggs, the proteins will uncoil so much that they overreact and form a tough structure. In addition, too much cooking can lead to too much bonding between proteins, producing eggs that are also too tough.

So basically, we want the proteins to bond so the eggs will set up, but not bind so tightly that they become tough. Introducing dairy to the eggs will coat the protein molecules so that they can’t bind with one another as tightly. So it makes sense that so many egg recipes add some dairy to the recipe. The recipe below only adds 4 ounces of dairy to about 18 ounces of egg, whereas a quiche recipe is typically twice the amount of dairy to eggs by weight. So the texture you want in the end will determine how much dairy you will add.

Enough science talk – let’s get to the good stuff!

Greens & Cheese Frittata Muffins
makes 12 muffins

Recipe notes: 1) feel free to swap out the olives for just about anything else – a little bit of ground meat, chopped artichokes or sauteed mushrooms are just a few options; 2) you can use many different types of cheese here but I would avoid really dry, aged cheeses, such as Parmesan or an aged cheddar because they won’t melt very well. I have used both goat cheese and Cumberland from Sequatchie Cove but I think Monterey Jack, Fontina or even bleu cheese would be great.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup finely diced shallot (from 1 large shallot)
  • 8 ounces of tender greens (kale, tender collards, Swiss chard), stems removed, and finely chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 2/3 cup (3 ounces) pitted olives, roughly chopped (see recipe note)
  • 2 1/2 ounces cheese, shredded (see recipe note)
  • 9 large (18 ounces) eggs 
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) whole milk
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  • Adjust oven to middle rack and preheat to 350 degrees.
  • Spray a standard 12 muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add greens and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 3-5 minutes longer. Remove from heat, taste, and season with salt and pepper. Equally divide the shallot/greens mixture between muffin tins (about 1 tablespoon per muffin cup). Equally divide the olives and cheese between each muffin tin.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, whisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper together until fully combined. I found it helpful at this point to transfer the egg mixture from a bowl to a 2 cup liquid measuring cup to make it easier to pour into the tins. Fill tins with the egg mixture, leaving at least a 1/4″ space from the top.
  • Transfer to the oven and cook for about 23-26 minutes, checking the tops to make sure they are just set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and serve.