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Posts Tagged ‘food costs’

Lately it seems that every time I turn around I’m reminded of my time at Caretaker Farm in 2007. This morning I found an article posted last week on the College News blog by a Williams College student about local farmers withstanding the economic storm. One of the interviewees was my mentor, Don:

Caretaker Farm in Williamstown, Mass., has built a strong relationship with Williams College. Don Zasada, the farm’s owner, said, “We receive (Williams College’s) food scraps to add to our composting system.  The economic downturn has not had an impact on this. They have been very committed to bringing us their food scraps.”

What’s more, personal values about environmental stewardship, human rights, and animal rights aspect motivate people to make long-term commitments to locally grown food; such values—so fundamental to people’s worldview—remain intact despite economic changes.

Zasada said that a CSA enables consumers to “understand how the land and the workers were treated on the farm.”

Check out the article for more on the benefits of “close connection between consumer and food,” and remember, college students:  thanks for the compost, but please don’t throw your silverware into the bin. “Fork weeds,” as we called them, turn up in the veggie fields by the dozens.

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Remember school lunch? I do. Mostly I remember white bread-and-lots-of-butter sandwiches, kids finding dead flies hiding under their tator tots (no joke — I witnessed it), and not having anywhere to hide the food I didn’t want to eat since I don’t like drinking milk and therefore didn’t have an empty milk carton (at one point at my grade school, we were required to clean our plates before we could go outside for recess). Long story short, the food wasn’t great.

That’s why I was encouraged to hear that a number of excellent organizations are working together to plan a “Farm-to-Cafeteria” workshop for Northeastern Minnesota. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, check out Lee Zukor’s “Open Letter to Our Children:  We’re Sorry About School Lunch” at his blog, Simple Good and Tasty. I really appreciate the comment by the “School Lunch Landy” (sic) — it’s not necessarily the staff’s fault that the food is sub-par!

On a related note, one of the attendees at the Lake Superior Farming Conference suggested that schools open up their kitchens to farmers during off-hours (usually school lunch rooms close around 2 pm during the school year and are empty all summer) so farmers can make value-added products without the expense of building their own commercial kitchens. Sounds brilliant to me.

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The Rodale Institute has a new campaign, “Demand Organic,” that includes a great Q&A section called “All About Organic.” Among other questions, it covers “Why does organic cost more?” and “What’s better, organic or local?”  In case you’re wondering, Stone’s Throw Farm veggies will be raised using organic methods, though not certified organic — at least not this year. Organic certification is a topic that deserves its own post … some other day!

Not to sound like a Rodale commercial, but they also have a pretty good article on how to eat organic on a budget. My only beef with it is that not a lot of people on a tight budget have a chest freezer (or even room for a chest freezer, if they’re apartment dwellers), and if you’re trying to freeze enough fruits and veggies (when they’re in season) to last the winter, you need quite a bit of space, depending on household size. But every little bit counts, so it’s a good idea to freeze what you can. And you can always put a little chest freezer in the dining room and cover it with a tablecloth, right, Mom?

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It’s the time of year when farmers everywhere get together and exchange notes. Many of my farmer friends attended the MN SFA conference on Saturday , and many are heading to the MOSES conference this coming weekend. I’m holding out for the Lake Superior SFA’s conference in Superior on March 5-6 (you’re invited, too!).

It sounds like Vermont farmers had an interesting discussion with community organizer LaDonna Redmond from Chicago at the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) of Vermont’s annual winter conference. She raised a question that has been on my mind quite a bit these past few weeks while marketing Stone’s Throw Farm’s summer shares — Who has access to local, organic food?

Most of us in the Twin Ports are lucky enough to be able to develop a connection to the land and our food if we want — there are quite a few small farms located just outside of town. I’m very aware that there are plenty of people in the Twin Ports who don’t have a car and therefore can’t visit Stone’s Throw Farm on their own, however. There are plenty of people here who can’t afford to buy a summer share, either. That’s one reason why I love that the Duluth Farmer’s Market and the Whole Foods Co-op are located in the Hillside, where not everyone has a car.

Other CSA farms have invited their members to contribute more than the standard price of a share if they are able, to help pay for a share for someone who couldn’t otherwise afford to buy one. I really like that idea — how about you? Any other ideas about how to make sure everyone in our community has access to healthy, whole foods?

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Finke's Stawberries -- worth waiting for.

If you’re interested in another take on criticism of the local food movement that I mentioned earlier this week, check out a terrific post by Kurt Michael Friese of Slow Food USA, “Gather Round the Table: Another Assault on the SOLE Food Movement.” SOLE, by the way, stands for Sustainable, Organic, Local, & Ethical.

Friese takes as an example Missouri Farm Bureau vice president Blake Hurst’s recent essay on “The dark side of going green,” in which Hurst posits that it takes less total energy to ship strawberries to Canada in December than to grow those strawberries in Canada in a heated greenhouse. Hurst says, “The food miles are greater, but the carbon footprint is smaller.”

Friese counters that strawberries shipped from California in December taste awful, and that there’s another factor in the equation:  the local economy.

“Not only does food I trust from people I know taste better … it also keeps my dollars in my community. Consider this: there are about 50,000 households in Johnson County Iowa, where I live.  If each of those households redirected just $10 of their existing weekly food budget toward buying something local, whether from the farmers market or a CSA or eggs from the farmer down the road, it would keep $26M in the local economy rather than it being siphoned off to China via Bentonville.  Now imagine the same thing in larger communities.  That’s not a left or right issue, that’s a hometown issue.”

Growing up in a small town in the middle of nowhere (where what set us apart from other communities was our people, not our punctuation), I learned from my wise (albeit weird) parents that if I wanted my local grocery store to be there when I needed a quart of milk on a Sunday morning, I needed to buy my staples at that local grocery every week instead of driving 50 miles to the giganta-mart to save a few pennies (pennies that I’m guessing were spent on gas, anyway). Similiarly, if local businesses wanted any citizens to be around to buy their goods, they needed to support those citizens by paying them decent wages and supporting their businesses. Is this not a concept that we can all get behind?

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