Local Foods Initiative

 


(click on graphic above to open Food Guide in new browser window)


August 7 - 13 : National Farmers Market Week

reposted 8/4/16 from Farmers Market Coalition -- NFMW is an annual celebration sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture, highlighting the important role farmers markets play in the nation's food system. Now in its 17th season, NFMW takes place the first full week of August, with this year's celebration running Aug. 7-13.by-the-bridge farm at Towanda Farm Mkt

Farmers markets:
•    Preserve America's rural livelihood and farmland
•    Stimulate local economies
•    Increase access to fresh, nutrition food
•    Support healthy communities
•    Promote sustainability

* Farmers Markets Preserve Farmland and Rural Livelihoods

What comes to mind when you think about a farmer? For many Americans, farmers exemplify the fundamental essence of our nation’s core values. Entrepreneurship. Industry. Self-sufficiency. Innovation. It’s difficult to understand how anyone who possesses these qualities could find themselves struggling to sustain their livelihood – especially when that livelihood produces what everyone in this country needs everyday: food.

Yet according to the USDA, between 1992 to 2007, 21% of mid-sized farms in the U.S. have gone out of business. In this challenging economic climate dominated by large corporations, small farmers – most notably young and new farmers – do everything they can to maintain a thriving business and keep their livelihood from failure. A 2012 USDA agriculture census illuminated a sobering statistic about the future of farming: there are almost 4 times as many U.S. farmers are over the age of 65 as there are under the age of 35.

However, for young, new and experienced farmers alike, farmers markets create opportunity. Over the past decade, the increased demand for fresh, local food has both sparked the exponential growth of farmers markets nationwide, and expanded the ability for small farming enterprises to enter the market, take root and grow. Farmers markets prove to be the ideal venue for new and young entrepreneurs to cultivate a small, burgeoning business.

So, how are farmers markets supporting small and mid-size farmers? (click here for more)

* Farmers Markets Stimulate Local Economies

With little fanfare, the nation’s several thousand farmers markets are growing jobs and strengthening local and regional economies. As demand grows for fresh local food, and shoppers seek relationships with the farms that make such food possible, farmers markets represent an important retail option that bolster local economies in communities large and small. (click here for more)

* Farmers Markets Increase Access to Fresh, Nutritious Food

Nutritious food should be for everyone. It sustains our well-being and makes it possible for us to pursue happy, healthy lives. But nutritious food is not always available – or affordable – especially for the millions of American families in low-income neighborhoods, struggling daily to make ends meet. Due to cost and access, fresh fruits and vegetables are a luxury many Americans can’t spare to indulge.

But with affordable, competitive prices and special programs for low-income families, farmers markets are expanding access to fresh, healthy food in communities that need it most. Unlike supermarkets, with their beguiling aisles of soda, candy and potato chips, farmers markets put fruits and vegetables front and center and create a shopping environment where nutritious foods are not only affordable, they’re celebrated.  (click here for more)

* Farmers Markets Support Healthy Communities

    Studies of Los Angeles farmers market shoppers reveal that 75% came to market to do more than shop, 55% felt the market increased their connection to community, 99% believed the market improves the health of the community, and 53% believed the market improves perceptions of the neighborhood.
    A study by the Project for Public Spaces revealed that people who shop at farmers markets have 15-20 social interactions per visit, while they would only have one or two per visit to the grocery store. Evidence of the clear correlations between social interaction and health mean the social space at farmers markets has important public health implications.
    The American Fitness Index includes the number of farmers markets per capita as a factor contributing to healthier communities, using it as an indicator for community members’ access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
    Proximity to farmers markets was associated with lower body mass index (BMI) among North Carolina youth, while density of fast-food and pizza venues was associated with higher BMI.
    92% of farmers markets have vendors that sell fresh fruits and vegetables. Market managers report that 45% of the produce sold at farmers markets is organic, and more than 30% is chemical-free and pesticide-free. (click here for more)

* Farmers Markets Promote Sustainability

Behind the rows of produce, busy vendors, and eager customers, farmers markets are a bustling hub of sustainability. Local farmers deliver fresh, local food to a growing number of shoppers demanding food that is not only healthy, but environmentally friendly. But farmers markets take sustainability a step further. They also ensure farmers can make a living off sustainably grown food, while providing an outlet where communities can find and purchase their products.

Sustainability is the overarching theme in this system. Farmers engage in sustainable farming practices to produce healthy food to sustain the local community, who in turn provide the money necessary to sustain the farmers. Each shares in the success of the other in a mutually beneficial relationship that has become a model for sustainability.

Farmers who choose to use sustainable practices face a challenging economic climate dominated by large, corporate farms. Many find they cannot compete with the massive volume, low market prices, and government subsidies enjoyed by large operations. Farmers markets offer small and mid-sized farmers a low-barrier entry point to develop and establish a thriving business free from the overhead necessary to sell in large retail outlets. But just as important, farmers markets create a space where the focus of food is on quality and farming practices rather than price alone.

Each year, more and more customers are drawn to farmers markets due to an increasing demand for natural and organic food. According to a USDA survey, markets that sell organic products report more customers per week, more vendors, and larger monthly sales. This upward trend depicts a rising consciousness among customers who are concerned with not just what they eat, but how it is produced. As a result, more and more farmers are adopting environmentally sound farming practices that improve, rather than degrade, the natural environment.

Farmers selling at markets minimize the amount of waste and pollution they create. Many use certified organic practices, reducing the amount of synthetic pesticides and chemicals that pollute our soil and water. A growing number are also adopting other low-impact practices, such as on-site composting, that help mitigate climate change and other environmental issues.

read more here: http://farmersmarketcoalition.org

 


Local Food Cards

Locally produced foods, competing with lower priced, mass produced goods, are challenged in competing on many levels, including economy of scale. As a result, their added value is often overlooked. The Northern Tier Chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local has developed 'Food Fact Cards' and a 'Local Food Guide' offering interesting information and highlighting local sources for a wide array of fruits, vegetables, herbs and meat products, and bringing a much needed focus to their added value. Endless Mountains RC&D partnered with the Northern Tier Cultural Alliance to grow those efforts, printing additional sets of the food cards to make them widely available for use in educational outreach - ie, in the classroom to:

  • Create healthy menus
  • Identify the difference between food groups
  • Learn by playing: Charades, Crossword puzzles(*), etc...   (* ie: discoveryeducation.com)

 

To broaden the outreach, educational programs and curriculum worksheets were created. One presentation, targeted to teachers, offers background education to help make connections between eating decisions, local food, agriculture and education; and includes take-home sheets for various grade levels listing websites and other resources they can use to help make these connections in the classroom. PA Common Core Standards were addressed to help incorporate the material into curriculum requirements.

It is hoped that the presentations may identify or inspire one or more teachers to become the foundation for school/community garden programs and increased local food use in school cafeterias.

"Farmer into the classroom" presentations were done at elementary schools currently using the Food Cards, setting the stage for, and encouraging schools to invite further "introduction to gardening" programs. The primary goal is to aid the schools in making the cards more interactive, helping the students appreciate the value of local foods and agriculture.

A shortened version of the program was also created to capture a moving audience, at events, fairs, etc, to engage adults in making the connections between local food production and consumption and personal and community health and welfare.

 

 

 



Improvisational Cooking

by Dan Waber, originally posted 10/19/2015 on buylocalpa.org/blog

When I used to cook from the supermarket, I was about 80% recipe-based in what I’d prepare for main meals. I’d improvise a few nights a week, and we’d improvise lunches, but most of what I was exploring with my cooking assumed that I’d be able to buy pretty much anything I needed. It might mean a trip to a specialty store, or planning ahead to have something really obscure shipped in, but, for the most part I could plan whatever I wanted to eat, and then go get the pieces and parts needed to bring those plans to the table.
buy fresh buy local logo
Now that we’re getting almost all of our foodstuffs locally, that technique doesn’t really work. And I’m glad. I’ve always preferred to cook in an improvisational manner, but going to the supermarket with no plan in hand isn’t very inspirational. There are too many possibilities to choose from. When anything is possible, it can become a hindrance rather than a help. Creativity involves working within a set of constraints to express originality. If there are no constraints, creativity can suffer. So rather than wander around in the weird lights like a food zombie, shuffling to the muzak, I’d hunt up some recipes I wanted to make, and collate them into reasonably sensible lists of hopefully overlapping ingredients. I’d usually end up with a lot of waste, because when you buy food for a recipe you always end up with a lot of waste. Half a lemon here, four potatoes there, quarter pound of shrimp, half a radicchio, it adds up.

Not any more. What drives meals now is what’s on hand. When I shop locally, in season, I just pick up what looks like it’s at its best. I don’t have a million SKUs to choose from, I have more like twenty, and those twenty are constantly shifting and revolving. This turns cooking from a mentally passive act of following the recipe to a really creative act of improvisation. I made a six-course meal (I had a seventh prepped but everyone was stuffed) for Sunday dinner with Nana this week and had no idea at eight in the morning what I’d be serving at three that afternoon. But I knew I had nothing but amazing ingredients to start with, and if you start with nothing but amazing all you really need to do is not screw it up. Two days before, I made a simpler dinner for us and a guest, and I think if I walk you through how that came together, I might make clearer what I mean by improvisational cooking.

I like to start with cheese. Or end with cheese. Or have cheese in the middle. OK, I like cheese. I never met a cheese I didn’t eat. We recently made a trip out to Valley Milkhouse to check out their facility and farm stand and pick up some cheese. OK, some of every cheese they had available. One of those was a version of their Clover, a fromage blanc, that had been rolled in Herbes de Provence. I put that out when I started cooking so that it would come up to eating temperature. Often I’ll make an elaborate board of cheeses and accoutrements, but this was a very casual meal with an open-ended sit-down time, so I figured on the cheese as starter with some crackers I made earlier in the week from emmer flour, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds (all organic and from Lemon Street Market).

The two dishes served as meal were the result of rummaging around:

The easy one was a sauté of quartered crimini mushrooms (from the Valley Milkhouse farm stand), onion slices (from the farm stand I can walk to), topped with some breadcrumbs made from ciabatta I made a couple of weeks previous whose recipe made more than we could eat before it started to stale, which I dotted with grass-fed butter from Springwood Farm, then baked until nicely browned.

The other one took some musing. At first I thought of doing something with all five ingredients (the mushroom and onions from above and the three below), and I still think it could have worked, but I am dedicated to my mantra of “simpler, less, let them shine.” I pulled the three remaining ingredients out and looked at them, tested their textures, and thought for a bit. There was a smoked ham hock (from Meadow Run Farm, where we pick up our CSA from Crawford Organics) I’d pulled from the freezer a few days before with no specific plan in mind. There were a few ears of corn I’d picked up at the farmstand around the corner because it was a type I hadn’t seen yet this year (Honey Select), and a bag of green beans from our CSA. Well, you can pretty much never go wrong combining any bean and any smoked pork, so that’s a natural. And the combo of green beans and corn has been making me really happy lately, though I’ll want to mix up the way I cut the beans if there’s pork involved. Does corn go with smoked pork? I couldn’t immediately come up with any dishes that specifically called for both, but they seem like they’ve been on the same plate together more often than not, even if they weren’t always chumming around in the same pan.

So I set the hock to simmer, covered in water, along with a smashed garlic clove or three, some celery stalks, a carrot cut into large chunks, an onion cut in quarters, and a bay leaf. After an hour and a half of slow simmering, I pulled the hock out, when, while waiting for it to cool so that I could pull the meat off, I caught a good whiff of the stock. That’s too good to pitch, too weak to use. I pulled out the carrot chunks (we’ll have those on salad one day soon) pulled out and discarded the other spent solids, then set the liquid to reducing. What started as probably almost a gallon of broth ended up being maybe half a cup when it was done. Super-concentrated flavor, a light glaze in viscosity. While it reduced, I pulled the meat from the hock, then fork shredded it, trimmed the green beans irregularly into roughly thirds, but made all the cuts at an angle and rotated the bean a quarter-to-a-half turn with each cut, blanched then shocked the beans in ice water, cut the corn off the cob. Then it went together easily. Some butter in a pan, add the beans, add the corn, add the shredded ham hock, toss/stir until it’s heated through, and finish by drizzling with that reduced poaching liquid.

Then served it all with the best loaf of bread I’ve had in recent memory, made in a wood-fired oven, found in a freezer full of miscellany at the Valley Milkhouse farm stand, re-crisped in a 375 degree oven. The crust was explosive, the crumb sour, elastic, dense, and simultaneously filled with all the air you could want. It was thumb-and-three-fingertip-kissingly good slathered with the Springwood Farm butter alone or with the addition of sopped-up plate juices.

If you start with amazing ingredients, all you need to do is let them shine.



Dan Waber is a poet, playwright, publisher, and digital artist whose work is almost (but not always) text-based (http://logolalia.com/). His professional life has been in food and sales and marketing. His life was well and truly changed by reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, and he has committed the next stage of his life to supporting sustainable food by all means possible. He can be reached at danwaber@gmail.com.