Real Flowers

Advocacy

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So glad to announce the new marriage between Farm to Fork and Foxglove Market and Studio. Christine Hoffman, proprietor of Foxglove, serves an unusual niche in the Cities, and that is local, seasonal and organic flower design. Many edibles find their way into her arrangements: raspberry branches, rose hips, herbs like rosemary and purple basil. Her bouquets are long-lasting, untreated (an anomaly in the industry), and refreshingly unusual.

Christine and I conceived of the Better Bouquet Share for Farm to Fork clients and now with each cooking session (or every other) Christine’s arrangements can be delivered on a client’s cooking day and left with the menu. Christine uses new and vintage vases and mason jars and those get switched out with each delivery, just as you replace a new box with a vegetable share.

We are only now beginning to apply the same values to flowers as we do to food when it comes to fair trade issues and sustainability. Read more on this subject in a piece off Christine’s website; you’ll never look at a simple bouquet of flowers the same again!

Save Cedar Summit!

Advocacy,Farmers

More dairy honors here since my last entry was devoted to that golden beauty, butter.  However, this is an altogether different sort of note.  Cedar Summit Dairy, a local 100% grass-fed certified organic dairy, produces the milk (whole, thank you very much) my family drinks every week, straight from the frosty glass jug.

I just learned in the last week that Cedar Summit, a popular and reputable dairy that has a long history, is in trouble.  The dairy is the path of a new high-voltage power line project called CapX2020 promoted by Xcel energy, among other corporations, that will run 700 miles across Minnesota farmland.  This will mean that Cedar Summit, as well as other small family farms, will need to relocate.

The issue now is that according to a rather unique state law called “buy the farm” the corporation responsible for such a project must compensate a farm for the property, relocation expenses and lost business, but the utility conglomerate involved in this CapX2020 project are fighting against that compensation through intense lobbying.

Not only will Cedar Summit need to move, but because they are a certified organic dairy, once they find another farm they will have to go through the required many-year long organic certification process again.  In the meantime they are vulnerable to losing much of their loyal milk drinkers.

Cedar Summit asks that you sign this petition directed toward the Minnesota Congress that asks their voice to be heard in the matter.  The Land Stewardship Project has other ideas as to how one can help.

Remember folks, however fabulously good and healthy this milk is, this is about more than milk!

Farm to Farm

Advocacy,Farmers

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A few weekends ago my husband, daughter and I visited Gardens of Eagan, a long-time farm in well, Farmington, MN. This is the place of the much-fussed about book Turn Here Sweet Corn by progressive farmers Atina Diffley and her husband, Martin.  I wanted to go because I’d been buying their produce for my family and the families I cook for for over 10 years.  When you do the math, I’ve probably consumed at least a few proper vegetable rows of  their food since I moved to MN 12 years ago.  It was about time I set foot on their soil, so to speak.

Like many farms that sell to the public they opened the farm up for their annual field day.  Vegetable art for the kids, vegetable theater, hay rides (which didn’t pan out because the trailor we were all sitting on collapsed in the first minutes, a few senior citizens toppling over dramatically), and the best part, a free-for-all harvest.  We didn’t find any tomatoes in the hoop house, but picked an arm load of crisp peppers.  Then we headed to the corn field (more of a patch than a field) and had one of those moments in life that will stick.  Picking corn for the first time with my 4-year-old daughter, pulling off the husk and hair, and eating ears raw in the field in the sun–for me, heaven.

There are so many farms to visit this autumn.  Look to the Land Stewardship Project page online to find events or get on some newsletters such as the kid-friendly Gale Woods Farm in Chaska where they have ongoing events for families. I’m a get-out-of-town advocate and what better place to take a day trip than to a local farm where you can take a walk, have a picnic, smell the earth a bit, and relax.

Advocacy

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There’s been quite a lot of hubbub in the news lately about the worth of the term organic, the label itself, especially in the context of the current farm bill renovation.  (Hugely important, by the way.)  Inevitably, the fuss also leads to skepticism of the trend in general.  I get asked too often about the trendiness, the real endurance, of organic eating.

Here’s my reply.  I do believe we’re in the midst of a trend, and I’m complicit, but unlike other trends like fluorescent-bedazzled sneakers or severe texting, it’s one worth keeping around, for the sake of our cosmic well-being. Anything that moves you closer to mother nature, reconnects you to the folks who produce your food or the folks in your community, for that matter, say at the farmers market or food co-op, is worthwhile and sustainable, in the true sense of that word.

Since my early days as a writer I’ve been pawing for connection, in nature, in myself, anything to make sense of my place in this life.  Now, it is food that gives me perspective and fulfills me on all those levels that creative writing once did.  When I pull a Sun Gold tomato off the vine in the quiet hour of the morning I’m closer to God then, I’m clearer and brighter and in tune.  I know quite the route that tomato took to get onto my tongue.  No slave was forced to maintain it, no patch of earth was choked with chemicals to grow it, no sleepy-eyed truck driver hauled it on the interstate from Florida.  I folded the dirt, tucked in the seed, got dirty and true while doing so, watered it on a windy afternoon after coming home from a trying day at work, picked it suckers gleefully, and took in that distinguishing tomato plant cologne.

I get the current concern over the gradual dumbing-down of what sustainable eating is.  But it’s a fight worth fighting and it’s a trend worth following and continuing to improve.  You literally can’t put a price tag on tomato plant cologne, no matter what the skeptics say…

Yards to Gardens

Advocacy,Farmers,Recipes,Tips

Alright, I have a new personal rule.  It’s this: Once I begin to feel any sort of self-pity or downtrodden I hurriedly take that energy and redirect it into something charitable or practical.  That said, a garden is a great place to encounter therapy and well, grow food.  A place for multi-tasking.

This is when I annually begin pushing and shoving you to begin a garden of your own, big or small, if you haven’t already.  I can’t possibly cover all the benefits.  But listen, no one will ever be able to call me a green thumb, I garden clumsily and just wish myself luck most of the time.  Gardening is something I’ve nervously fallen into, but each year I’m astounded by how much I learn.  If you’re just unable to do it yourself, and I do know how that feels, you could call A Backyard Farm, a local business that builds backyard vegetable gardens and provides maintenance and harvesting through the season.  If you don’t have a yard yourself, or sun, then you can either join a community garden in your neighborhood or share a garden.  Finally, if you just want to eat like you have a garden but don’t want to build or maintain one you can easily purchase a share of a CSA farm and receive a box of produce each week to eat.  We are lucky, there are endless possibilities for eating well in our community.

Here’s what I’m growing this season to feed my family, friends and clients (some of which will just not grow, of course):  tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, nasturtiums, carrot, mint, winter squash, melon, lettuces, chard, kale, cucumber, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, green bean, sage, tarragon, parsley, cilantro, basils, lavender, chives, beet, radish, summer squashes, turnips, strawberries, and asparagus.

One food I’m not growing this year but is one of those delicious, quirky, spring delicacies you should check out is the ramp.  I’ve told you about ramps before.  A wild onion, quite like a miniature leek that has a sharp, garlicky quality.  And either you fall in love with them (and have I seen ramp-lust before) or you despise them (like my husband, who suffers serious indigestion at the whisper of them).  If you’re intrigued now you must dash to your local food co-op now and pick up a bunch, for their season is spectacularly short.  I usually add ramps to eggs and egg dishes, but here is another quick recipe:

Ramp Butter

1 stick of unsalted butter (4 oz.)

squeeze of fresh lemon juice

pinch of sea salt

1 tablespoon ramp leaves, finely chopped

parchment paper

Leave your stick of butter on the counter for an afternoon to come to room temperature (unless it is very warm out, leave it until it begins to soften).  Place your butter in a large bowl and add the rest of your ingredients.  Cream the mix with a wooden spoon until it all comes together.  Cut a 10-inch square of parchment paper and dollop your butter into a long mound at the mid-bottom part of your square.  Now, slowly roll up your butter into the parchment, trying to create a log-shape.  Twist the end of each side and place your butter in the fridge.  When you’re ready to use you can slice the butter into coins.  Use ramp butter on toast, with noodles, on top of fish or chicken fillets, or grilled vegetables.

Eat well and be well,

Kristin

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