Posts Tagged ‘local food movement’

I hope Stone’s Throw Farm members will be frolicking at our farm sometime soon — whenever all these cherry tomatoes are ready for picking! — but for now everyone is invited to Farm Frolic at Chelsea Morning Farm near Two Harbors this Saturday, August 13, from 2-6 p.m. The event is open to all and is a fundraiser for the Lake Superior Sustainable Farming Association’s Farm Beginnings course. Click here for details.

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I’ll be celebrating Earth Day by potting the rest of the pepper seedlings, and I hope to make it to hear Will Allen speak about “Growing Power and Growing Food” at 7 pm at UMD.

The baby veggies are all out at the farm now, and they seem pretty happy. The Napa cabbage and first set of broccoli plants are ready to be transplanted to the field, but the field isn’t ready. It’s been too wet to work the ground so far. Hold on, babies!

The rye that I seeded in the hoophouse last fall took off this spring and is huge. I need to kill it this weekend so it can be incorporated into the soil and break down before it’s time to transplant the first set of tomatoes into the hoophouse ground. It’ll add a good dose of organic matter to the soil.

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Local farmers will take the stage at Amazing Grace Cafe in Duluth on Friday, March 25th at 7 pm. The event is a fundraiser for the Lake Superior Sustainable Farming Association, so there’s a suggested donation of $10. I went last year and it was entertaining — farmers were singing amusing songs in tune, playing guitar and other instruments with actual skill, and generally raising a ruckus. I believe there’s been some fantastic storytelling in years past — this is the 9th annual stage-taking.

Mark your calendars if you want to be entertained instead of fed by farmers for a change. If you can’t make it to the show but you want to support the local non-profit organization that supports farmers like me, you can donate online. Thanks!

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Alert reader Jean Conover sent me an article from The Des Moines Register, “Will varietal pork be the next foodie craze?” In the article, Herb Eckhouse of LaQuercia says we lost the ability to recognize the difference between different breeds when the pig hits the plate (so to speak) when pork production became industrialized. That might be changing now that more restaurants are naming their sources on menus and specialty stores are indicating the breed of the animal on their packaging, however. If “name-dropping a specific breed of hog” really becomes a way to impress your friends as this article concludes it might, Stone’s Throw Farm pork buyers will be set!

Another foodie acknowledges later in the article that it’s difficult to compare taste unless you’re sampling pork from different breeds side by side, such as at a tasting event, but it’s certainly not impossible to sample each other’s food at a restaurant or buy several different packages of bacon and compare them at home.

I know I was impressed when I first saw a clipping about Berkshire pork taped to the display case at Northern Waters Smokehaus here in Duluth a few years back — I thought I was the only one in town who knew that Berks are “Sweeter tasting than most.”

I’ve also been reading about how what you feed pigs affects the taste of the meat in Pig Perfect: Encounters with Remarkable Swine and Some Great Ways to Cook Them, which claims that finishing (i.e., feeding an animal as it nears ideal market weight) pigs on acorns and peanuts makes for the best pork. We don’t have many oak trees at Stone’s Throw Farm, nor will peanuts grow well in this climate, but I’m planning to grow oats and field peas for our piggies this year and I’m open to ideas.

I didn’t read all of Pig Perfect because I got it through inter-library loan and didn’t get around to finishing it in time, but it was fairly interesting. I was hoping for more encounters with remarkable swine and less discussion about cooking them, but I was amused by the discussion of how pigs became domesticated in the first place. I like the idea that the friendliness of pigs played a part in it:

Pigs, the more I think about them, were born to be domesticated. They are the best converter of plant to meat of any large animal.  . . . Add to this the fact that pigs are friendly, don’t seem to mind being around people (in fact, they appear to like it), and don’t require a lot of management. If there is food around, they will eat it and stay close to home.”

That last sentence could be used to explain the behavior of a lot of people, too.

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Happiness is a loaf of Dave Hanlon’s homemade bread. Anyone who has experienced it knows what I’m talking about:  it’s the best bread money can’t buy. Sometimes donations will get you a slice or two, though. That’s because Dave — one of the most generous people I know — bakes for some good causes, including a couple of my favorites:  Trust in the Land, which benefits Northern Communities Land Trust, and the Sustainable Farming Association’s Annual Meeting.

I missed Trust in the Land this year, but at the SFA annual meeting last month we got an update on the Duluth Community Farm, a project that has been talked about for a while but might actually happen in the near future. According to the DCF’s website:

The Duluth Community Farm (DCF) is a community based, sustainably developed, urban edge agricultural social enterprise organization devoted to education around food and farming and the cultivation of new farmers.  The long term vision of the Duluth Community Farm consists of a food and agricultural employment incubator and educational site that provides a mix of internships and support for beginning farmers, and education to school age pupils and college students. The DCF is accepting applications for onsite farmers and proposals by interested onsite organizational tenants. Please see www.duluthcommunityfarm.org for more information.”

I’ve heard about Intervale, a farm incubator in Vermont that the DCF is modeling this place after (at least in part), so I was interested to hear that the executive director of the Intervale Center will be at UMD February 18th. I hope to attend.  There are some other good topics in their speaker series on New Food Regionalism, so check it out.

The deadline for applying to be the inaugural farmer at DCF is March 21, 2011. I hope the organizers find the right person to lead the charge.

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I really enjoyed the session on selling local food to institutional buyers at the Lake Superior Farming Conference last weekend. Rick Beckler, Director of Hospitality Services at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, WI, is a very good speaker, and his enthusiasm for local food was heartening. Co-presenter Pam Herdrich, RC&D Coordinator for River Country Resource Conservation and Development Council, was charming as well.

The two talked about the Producers and Buyers Cooperative of Western Wisconsin, which formed in 2008. It’s kind of like CSA, but on an institutional level. Sacred Heart was the first institution to sign on, and Rick had some pretty amusing stories about working out the kinks in the system. For example, the day the hospital staff were cooking the first local chickens, they called Rick down to the kitchen, saying there was a problem. They told him the chicken tasted excellent, but the pieces were too big to fit on the patient and cafeteria trays!

Rick applauded Sacred Heart CEO Steve Ronstrom’s committment to local food, which comes from the simple belief, “Local food is good medicine.” It makes sense, right — for a hospital to feed its patients the freshest, healthiest food available? Steve wrote a letter to the editor to that effect in July 0f 2008 and continues to be a driving force behind Sacred Heart’s committment to local food.

Institutions in the Twin Ports are getting on board, too. One example is Duluth’s St. Luke’s Hospital, which was recognized by the governor along with the Institute for a Sustainable Future for their Healthy Food in Healthcare Project.

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One of the more interesting sessions at the Lake Superior Farming Conference for me was the one called, “Locally Adapted Food System for the Western Lake Superior Region,” presented by Stacy Stark of UMD and David Abazs of Round River Farm. Back in November, David published an essay about the project in the Duluth News Tribune in conjunction with the Superior Grown Food Summit, which I missed, unfortunately. As David explained in the essay, the basic idea of the research is to determine,

Can we feed ourselves within this region? Do we have enough land to grow the food we need? What would a healthy local diet look like? What would a local food system mean for our economy, health, the environment and our western Lake Superior communities?”

Superior Food Web -- click to view more

As part of the project, a group of doctors, dieticians and nutritionists developed a healthy diet that can be grown in our region. At the conference Saturday, David explained that the “Western Lake Superior Healthy Diet” would require 369,567 acres of farmland to grow 100% of our food needs in this region, whereas 500,671 acres would be required to grow 83% of our food needs under the “Standard American Diet,” which is how most of us eat.


According to Stacy’s calculations, it seems we do have enough farmland in the region to grow our food. In Carlton County alone, we have 550,400 acres of land, and about 15% of that is “reasonable” to farm. That’s 82,560 acres in Carlton County alone.

So, if we could figure out a way to ensure that at least a portion of the so-called “prime” farmland in our area is reserved for growing food, we’d be set. It’s not a simple task by any means, but I believe it’s worth working on.

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Farm Film Feast website

There was snow on the ground the first week of my first farm apprenticeship at Caretaker Farm in 2007. It was the 2nd week of April, and there was only so much we could do outside due to the weather. So, we spent some work time watching “The Real Dirt on Farmer John,” a highly-entertaining film about Angelic Organics farm near Chicago.

I was reminded of our mini filmfest this morning when I saw this article about a new film fest in Williamstown, MA (home of Caretaker Farm), called “Farm Film Feast.” I wish I could be there — it sounds awesome. I bet the local films are the best, but several of the films they’re showing are available through Netflix, such as “King Corn” (I recommend it) “Our Daily Bread,” “The Garden,”  and “Dirt!”

Farm Film Feast also includes an event called “Carharrts and Cocktails” — I’m a total homebody, but I’d have to go to an event in Duluth with that name! Until that happens, I’ll watch my movies at home and wait for the Free Range Film Festival.

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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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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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