Welcome to Spring!

It's been an unusually mild winter - more like living in Seattle than in Tennessee. No matter the rain, fluctuating temperatures and early hints of spring, I know you can't really get excited about the arrival of spring until the calendar flips to March. In our area it means a profusion of spring flowers, countless shades of green, warm soil and the first plantings in the garden!

It's also CSA sign up time and I hope you'll check out our list of farms offering Community Supported Agriculture shares this season. There's bound to be one that fits your budget, cooking style and location - since the debut of Local Table Magazine five years ago, the number of CSAs in our area has nearly tripled and that's good for you! Feel free to speak to the farmer in advance and ask questions about growing practices, varieties, member events and farm visits. They'll love to speak to you about their operation and how it can work for you.

We've got a terrific line up of articles in our Spring issue. We've got features on what to expect locally at the spring markets, a piece explaining 'what sustainable' means when it comes to farming. We also take a look at one of the South's most treasured traditions - the country ham - not just for Christmas, but also a staple of the Easter dinner. Our local hero this time out is retired postal worker turned gardener Homer Dudley and our farmer profile is all about the farmer's daughter! Plus more on Table 3, Grow Local Kitchen, FEAST and reviews of a new Farmer Jason CD, the Loveless cookbook and the bee documentary Queen of the Sun.

And thanks to all the hard work from the Urban Chicken Advocates of Nashville, backyard chickens are now allowed throughout most of Metro - urban chicken farmer Melissa lays out all the rules & regs, plus gives tips on raising your own girls for the freshest eggs possible!

To me spring is the real time when the new year begins - a time of expectation, anticipation and so much natural beauty around us. For an obsessive gardener like me, I tick off the days to area plant sales and look for the perfect day to get my potatoes planted.

March is also the time for the Tennessee Organic Growers Association's annual conference and it's a great place for anyone - regardless of experience or interests - to learn more about our local food and farm system. This year it's being held Fri., March 23 and Sat., March 24th and will include farm tours, and workshops on bees, chickens, composting, growing organic vegetables, tomato grafting and so much more - plus fabulous food from Whole Foods, The Turnip Truck and The Nashville Farmers Market's Grow Local Kitchen. Check it out at www.tnorganics.org

As I write this I'm waiting for my goat girls, Jane and Lizzie, to have their babies - so it must be Spring!

Lisa Shively