Joel Salatin visits Farm to Family Bus

Joel Salatin from Polyface Farms visits the bus and talks to bus owner Mark Lilly during the FRESH screening for Congress reception at Poste Moderne Brasserie, Washington, DC, May 21, 2010.

Video by Tristen Scheitle; edited by Suzi Miles-Lilly.

F2F Wife Recipes

Off The Bus – Meal in a Flash

As my husband Mark and I get closer to our project where we eat nothing but local food off the bus for a year, I am trying to make our meals as much as possible from food Off The Bus, or grown on our own land. Last summer I managed to can, dry or freeze and preserve a lot of vegetables to use this year until the harvest comes in. Inevitably my husband will look at the food, look at me and suspiciously ask, “Where’d you get THIS!” and I will smugly respond, “Off The Bus! Last year!”
We have a lot of things to still work out on this project. We are reading Barbara Kingsolver’s thought provoking book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” Hopefully she will answer many of my questions. I know that once we start this, we’ll get very creative in foraging. If other people make it, and it is on the bus, then we can eat it.
For instance, there are a few staple things I really love to cook with, and they might be off the bus in the Mediterranean, but definitely not here in Virginia. Olive oil, lemons, olives, peppercorns…. I need to work out using them, or learning how to give them up. We have yet to find local vinegar, although I know fine local vinegars exist.
Last year my mother and my mother in-law each gave me books on making vinegars, and I could work with that delicious, unpasteurized apple cider we had for a few weeks last year. I can figure out how to make vinegar, and not applejack! We also have table grapes that grow along the fence in our garden. I might not give so many up to our neighbor for his winemaking this year. But vinegar takes time, and we have salads to make now from the lettuces, cress and kale and other greens on the bus. I need to plan for those salads later on in the season.
Another big problem to surmount is the fact that gluten makes me sick. Like many people these days, I’m allergic to wheat and its gluten. I’ve made my peace with gluten, mostly,  but substitutes I use for it, along with the lemons, are not likely to make it on the bus anytime soon unless Mark finds a great local source of almonds and coconuts.
We have delicious flour and baking mixes from Wade’s Mill, fancy family flour since 1862. We have the most glorious bread you can imagine – it tortures me when I go and pick it up from the bakers, fresh from the oven, warm in my hands. Foccacias, baguettes, sourdough rounds, honey wheat loaves shaped like babies, cinnamon loaves, and banana nut bread.  Not to mention the cookies and pies. The aromas fill my tiny car, teasing me to … just take a bite. But I resist, and tell people how good it feels in my hands and how wonderful it feels. I know good bread when I feel it. (-: Our search for a gluten free baker continues, because we have many shoppers on our bus, and members of our CSA who just feel better without wheat in their lives.
I am slowly learning that it takes planning to eat Off The Bus. Planning pays off when quick dinners are needed, which they often are in my house with a hard working hungry husband and a full time working wife. One of my favorite quick meals is the following:
Polyface Italian Sausage with Tomatoes and Rice
Handful of spring onions, with green tops
¼ cup multi-colored peppers (frozen, off the bus last year)
Olive oil – 2 tbs
Polyface Italian sausage links
Hot peppers, pinch or two (dried, off the bus last year)
Herbs – dried or fresh – I usually go out to the garden and grab a handful, or check out what I’ve dried from earlier. Oregano and thyme go well, but be adventurous.
Quart of tomatoes – (Hanovers, canned from last year. They are glorious.)
2 cups rice  – I like brown basmati (not off the bus, but I haven’t figured that part out yet)
Salt and pepper to taste.
Chop vegetables and sauté in olive oil. Cut sausage links into pieces and add to sautéing vegetables. Prepare rice – 2 cups rice to 4 cups water, with a little olive oil, and boil.
Crumble hot peppers into the pot, use according to taste, and how hot the peppers are (make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling any kind of hot pepper.)  When sausage is done, add the tomatoes, and stir in herbs, salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with bread off the bus, and a salad. Today I used the 3 types of lettuce we currently have, Bibb, red leaf and romaine. I also used watercress, radishes, tomatoes (hydroponics from the Mennonite farmer), spring onions and left over roasted asparagus from the other night. Top with dressing of your choice.
Dessert was fresh strawberries…Off The Bus!
Get Educated

Farm to Family: Beginning, by Mark Lilly

“People think of a bus as transportation,” said Zane Kesey, son of Ken Kesey, when speaking of his father’s 1960s odyssey cross-country in a magic school bus. He continued, “No. It’s a platform, a way to get your messages across.”

“Furthur,” the bus that was named from the combination of further and future, led a revolution in the early 60s and changed the consciousness of future generations. If we’re lucky, we eventually find our “furthur” destiny. We eventually find that job, that cause, that passion, that fills our life with joy and satisfaction.

I did just that in June of 2009 and founded Farm to Family. The “Veggie Bus,” as folks have nicknamed it, is a means of transporting food for the people, but in itself, is a vehicle that creates awareness and a way of life. I know it’s changed lives, because people tell me that it has. It’s changed mine, and there has been no looking back since the day I started.

I’m lucky to have found my destiny. After stints in the Marines and Army, college and traveling, after 20 years working in the food industry and getting no real fulfillment from it, I decided that I needed to let the universe know that I wasn’t happy and needed a change. That change finally came after losing my job in May 2009 and with my recent studies at the University of Richmond in disaster science I was primed, and empowered to start my vision. I started Farm to Family.

The idea is simple and direct. I will tell you without hesitation, it can help change the world for the better.

Conceptually, I’ve created a perfect local, sustainable food distribution system that can penetrate any demographic area in any city or town with nutritious, tasty, organic, local food. At the same time, I’m educating people on how it will benefit their health and support their community. I also tell how best to prepare what they purchase and how to make themselves and their family more food secure.

And I do it all from an old 1987 school bus that I bought for $3,500 off I retrofitted it with reclaimed lumber from an old barn, added bushel baskets, burlap, and chicken wire and created a mobile farmers market with a country store theme.

I source local products from family, friends or anyone that grows clean food within a 150-mile radius of where I am located in Richmond, VA. I build relationships with local farmers, drive to their farm, load up the bus, and then distribute it into the urban landscape through set routes. I post where I’m going to be, and what I have on the bus, and sometimes a photo on Twitter and Facebook, and then my shoppers come running. Literally. One girl fell and hurt herself running to catch the bus. So I decided she needed a house call.

There are other times I do house calls. We had some pretty bad snowstorms this past winter in Richmond. Everyone was snowbound. But the Veggie Bus has massive snow tires, so off I went powering through the snowdrifts. Neighborhoods would join forces, neighbors would call each other, call me, the post would go on Facebook, and then fresh produce would arrive at their doorstep, in the middle of the blizzard. I would drive up and everyone would come piling out of the houses in their snow boots. The kids would play store on the bus, taking turns weighing produce, and pretending to drive. Everyone would be excited and giddy. And dinner would be delicious, fresh, organic and local.

I also take food stamps, allowing low-income families and seniors, who may otherwise not have access, to buy fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables. I also visit schools with the bus, bring small farm animals like chickens and rabbits, hand out free seeds, and teach children about real food. They learn what it is looks and feels like in its natural, fresh from the farm form, and why it’s important they get involved and learn to make wiser choices.

My journey on the bus has just begun, and I eagerly wait every day to see what fresh insight and “furthur” adventures it will bring me, and the people I encounter on my magic “Veggie Bus.”

Mark Lilly is the founder of Farm to Family, a mobile farmer’s market in a retrofitted school bus that delivers fresh , local, organic produce to urban neighborhoods, and also offers CSA memberships in Richmond ,VA. In addition to regular route stops, he also visits schools, retirement homes, and workplaces teaching the importance of fresh, local, sustainable food and encouraging people to support local farmers. In addition to local news, he has been featured on BBC World News, and has upcoming features in People and Country Livng magazines.

Mark has a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, and spent 3 years in the US Marines and 3 in the US Army. He lives in Richmond, VA. You can read more about Mark and Farm to Family at

Mark Lilly, “Farm to Family: Beginning,” Huffington Post, April 27, 2010.


Farm to Family Bus on BBC