Archive for December, 2009

Food Banks Take the Lead in Soliciting Healthier Eats

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

This article is from the LA Times, and the farms featured are on a different scale than our New England farms, but the concept it there – more intentional connections between food banks and farms.

Here on the seacoast, we’ve got some relationships building between food banks and farmers’ markets, enabling consumers to purchase fresh foods and farmers to donate what they don’t sell and can’t take home. Food pantries love fresh foods - we’ve got a whole list of food banks that accept donations of fresh foods – and farmers and gardeners can (and often do) give generously. What I love most about this model is that the food banks have found a way to ensure that giving doesn’t financially hurt the farmer. They’re not making any money, but they are able to take the time and resources to make sure the food isn’t waste, rather than it being more cost efficient to let it rot. A very innovative solution.

“The common wisdom in food banks for many years was that we need to give people adequate calories,” she said. “Now we know that we also need to give people healthy food.”

All of these forces combined mean that food banks are becoming assertive shoppers. This year, Farm to Family, a program of the California Assn. of Food Banks, will secure 87 million pounds of seasonal produce, some donated but most of it purchased for pennies on the dollar, for 44 food banks all over California, said Ron Clark, the association’s food sourcing and logistics manager.

“Ten years ago, food banks were much more passive,” said Michael Flood, who runs the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, one of the largest food banks in the country. They took what they could get — packaged food that might have been supermarket rejects or new products that failed.

Today, 20% of the L.A. bank’s food is produce — by far the largest single category, Flood said.

Farmers have long donated food to their local food banks or have allowed people to glean leftovers from their fields. But in 2005, the California Assn. of Food Banks got involved, hiring one solicitor who procured 10 million pounds of food. In 2008, three solicitors got 64 million pounds of produce. A fourth solicitor begins work in January.

Sharp, whose family has long farmed in the Imperial Valley, is a deal maker in a Dodge pickup and a straw cowboy hat, seeking farmers in the Imperial and Coachella valleys who are willing to harvest or pack crops they can’t otherwise sell. They get paid just enough to get the cabbage or garlic or melons into bins.

Read the full article >

in Business Week: Entrepreneurs Keep the Local Food Movement Hot

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

Business Week hit on a new report from BALLE and the Wallace Foundation about community food enterprises, showcasing the strong economic, social, and environmental impacts of locally owned food businesses (large and small) that have both profits and their community’s well-being as their goals.

I especially like that this report showcases case studies from around the world, highlighting that the positive impacts of local communities feeding themselves know no bounds.

Entrepreneurs are flocking to local food, starting businesses devoted to producing and delivering food within their communities. Just as consumers focus new attention on what we eat and where it comes from, farmers, foodmakers, restaurateurs, retailers, distributors, and processors are rethinking the business models behind it. They want to create enterprises that will succeed in the long run for local food to be more than just a fad or a luxury for wealthy Western consumers.

A report, “Community Food Enterprise: Local Success in a Global Marketplace,” spotlights 24 ventures around the world that are pioneering models for local food.They range from the sprawling Organic Valley farmer co-operative, which ships more than $500 million in dairy and other products annually, to a caterer in Zambia that has branched out to selling processed food and equipment. The examples include private companies, co-ops, and nonprofits. Whatever the form, all the enterprises are locally controlled and aim to be sustainable business operations, not dependent on grants or government subsidies.

The 190-page report, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, highlights the role local food businesses play in economic development—creating jobs and bringing money into a community.Michael Shuman, an economist at the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies and co-author of the report, sees economic development intertwined with developing local food systems.

Beyond Financial Goals

Staying economically viable can be a challenge for food enterprises. Consider the growth of small farms in the U.S. Between 2002 and 2007, the number of American farms increased by 76,000, according to the latest data from the U.S. Agriculture Dept.’s Census of Agriculture, compared to a decline of 87,000 in the five years before that. But half of all farms in the U.S. have sales of less than $5,000, and just 5% have sales above $500,000.

Local food ventures often have goals that are not strictly financial. Most of the companies examined in the report factored in some nonfinancial issues into business decisions, such as their impact on the environment, workers, and communities. They’re also not interested in growth at all costs. “In the mainstream business universe, growth is the indicator of competitiveness,” Shuman says. “Most [local food enterprises] really see stability as a marker of competitiveness.”

Advocates for local food say success depends on nurturing an interlocking network of small companies that produce, process, distribute, and sell food. “We as a society and as an economy need to start optimizing for a large number of small things, not just relying on a small number of large things,” says Woody Tasch, founder of the Slow Money Alliance, a year-old nonprofit inspired by the Slow Food movement that is raising money from small donors to seed local food ventures.

Read the full article >

View the accompanying slide show with case study profiles >

Visit the Community Food Enterprise website >

Pilot Project: Funding for Hoop Houses

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

MInt?

Something to consider for the new year:

 

Funding available to help farmers extend the growing season while protecting natural resources

 

USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has announced a new pilot project under the ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ initiative for farmers to establish high tunnels — also known as hoop houses — to increase the availability of locally grown produce in a conservation-friendly way. See video of high tunnels installed in the White House garden.

 

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide financial assistance for the project through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the EQIP Organic Initiative, and the Agricultural Management Assistance program. NRCS will fund one high tunnel per farm. High tunnels in the study can cover as much as 5 percent of 1 acre. 

Local farmers who would like to sign-up for the high tunnel pilot should call or visit the NRCS office at a local USDA service center by January 15th. USDA service center locations are listed on-line at www.offices.usda.gov or in the phone book under Federal Government, U.S. Department of Agriculture.

 

Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont are among the participating states. Details.

Market Notes: Surf & Turf Reconsidered

Monday, December 21st, 2009

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Playing with the idea of surf and turf, the saline ocean brightness of seafood combines well with the earthy sweetness of root vegetables. Here’s another way to enjoy the sparkling fresh cod that has been available at the Winter Farmers’ Market — it’s local, it’s seasonal, and it’s begging to be put together for dinner.

 

Roast Cod with Potatoes

 

- 1 to 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

- 6 to 8 potatoes, peeled, sliced in half and cut into 1/4 inch half-moons

- A couple of tablespoons cooking oil, fat or butter

- 1 pound cod fillet (or other local white fish, such as haddock or monkfish), rubbed lightly with cooking oil

 

1. Heat oil with garlic in a large skillet until garlic is softened and starting to brown. Remove garlic, and save for making garlic mayonnaise. Alternatively, spread it on a piece of crusty bread and eat while making rest of dinner. Add potatoes to pan, tossing occasionally, and cook until browned around the edges. Season with salt and pepper.

 

2. Transfer potatoes to an oiled or buttered baking dish. Lay cod fillet on top of bed of potatoes. Season with salt and pepper. If desired, dress with chopped tomatoes, a coating of pesto, or a sprinkling of breadcrumbs.

 

3. Roast in a 400°F oven until fish is done, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cooking time will depend on thickness of fish. Serving suggestions include a salad, some sauteed winter greens, and a garlicky mayonnaise made with some whole grain mustard mixed in.

 

Serves 2 generously.

 

Stripped-down version: For a one-pan meal, cook the potatoes in an ovenproof skillet. Leave cooked potatoes in skillet, lay fish directly on top, and place skillet in oven to finish cooking.

 

Low-fat version: May boil or steam potatoes instead.

 

Dress-up options: Toss cooked potatoes with chopped herbs, such as parsley or green onions, before adding fish. For the fish, I usually make a topping of diced tomatoes mixed with chopped garlic and basil. For this winter version, I used some roasted cherry tomatoes that I’d preserved in olive oil.

 

Dinner rerun: Leftovers were cooked up as a fish hash —  pan-fry everything together, crack a couple of eggs on top, cover skillet and cook until eggs are done to your liking. Other ideas for leftovers: use as the base for a chowder, or add to a jar of canned tomatoes for a fish stew.

shrimp in the news

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Two great articles in Foster’s this morning on native shrimp:

Fishermen gearing up for a strong shrimp season
Foster’s Daily Democrat
Fishermen and people who love shrimp should benefit from a variety of factors that could produce one of the best shrimp seasons in recent memory.For the second year in a row, shrimp fishermen have a 180-day season that extends to the end of May. Northern shrimp in the Gulf of Maine are plentiful, fishermen are getting higher off-the-boat prices and there are more local markets where people can buy fresh shrimp.Padi Anderson of Dover said her husband, Michael, a commercial fishermen since 1981, is shrimping this season. She said they and other New Hampshire fishermen are working with the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension’s Sea Grant program to develop more local markets for their catch.

In the last year, commercial fishermen like Eddie Eastman and his wife, Carolyn, who own Eastman Fish Market in Seabrook have sold their seafood at local farmer’s markets. Carolyn Eastman was scheduled her fresh fish at the Wentworth Greenhouse Winter Market in Rollinsford on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Representatives with the Yankee Fishermen’s Cooperative in Seabrook were expected to be there selling fresh caught shrimp.

Read the full article

Shrimp at Candlelight Stroll promote local catch
Foster’s Daily Democrat
Local fishermen took a break from trolling fishing grounds Saturday night and instead took to the historic streets of Strawbery Banke in order to promote the Candlelight Stroll event as well as raise awareness about the local fishing industry.With over 1,000 pounds of native shrimp being donated to the cause from Seaport Fish Company, stakeholders involved in the local fishing movement stationed themselves along the dirt streets of the historic neighborhood and sold bowls of shrimp for $2.Rich Pettigrew, owner of Seaport Fish Company, kindly donated the seafood for the event and said all of the proceeds would go toward supporting Strawbery Banke Museum.

“We’re happy to be supporting Strawbery Banke,” said Pettigrew. “It’s also a way for us to educate the community about the historical significance of our industry.”

Read the full article

Representing at the Apple Extravaganza

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

rare apples

Congratulations go to several of our local apple orchards located here in New Hampshire — heirloom apples from Applecrest Farm, Poverty Lane Orchards, and Apple Hill Farm have been selected by Mother Earth News to be featured as part of their holiday display at the State Department! The artisan cider from Farnum Hill Cider of New Hampshire was also part of the selection:

 

Mother Earth News Spreads the Word about Unique Apples and Artisan Ciders 

 

As part of our effort to decorate the Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the State Department in Washington, D.C. for the holidays (See Magazine Holiday Design Showcase), MOTHER EARTH NEWS embraced the theme “An Extravaganza of Apples.” We coordinated with orchards and cideries around the country to showcase America’s most beloved apple varieties and hard ciders.

More than 50 apple varieties will be on display in the historic Adams Reception Room in the State Department’s Harry S. Truman Building during the month of December, and will be seen by hundreds of guests, including foreign leaders and dignitaries, diplomats, senators and congressmen. Besides being delicious and deliciously fragrant, each apple variety brings with it a unique history (learn more below).

Heirloom Apple Donors

Applesource  (Chapin, Illinois)

Poverty Lane Orchards  (Lebanon, New Hampshire)

Applecrest Farm  (Hampton Falls, New Hampshire)

Apple Hill Farm  (Concord, New Hampshire)

Prevedelli Farms  (Watsonville, California)

Gray Wolf Plantation  (New Oxford, Pennsylvania)

Century Farm Orchard  (Reidsville, North Carolina)

 

Read more…

Market Notes: A different kind of abundance

Friday, December 18th, 2009

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The vegetables to be found at the Winter Farmers’ Markets encompass a range of flavors appealingly different than those of summer. Many of these vegetables really come into their own once the weather turns, becoming sweeter and more complex with colder temperatures. Roasting them is a simple way to take advantage of these characteristics and explore the incredible variety available this season.

 

Roasted Root Vegetables

- 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch round slices

- 1 small celery root (also known as celeriac), peeled, quartered, and cut into ½-inch slices

- 4 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into ½-inch round slices

- Cooking oil

- Salt and pepper

 

1. Preheat oven at 400°F.

 

2. Toss cut vegetables, using hands, with enough cooking oil to thoroughly coat vegetables lightly.

 

3. Spread out on a low-sided baking sheet or pan. Pan should be large enough to hold the vegetables in a single layer.

 

4. Roast about 20 minutes, stirring or turning pieces 2 or 3 times to cook evenly. Vegetables should be tender and browned when done.

 

5. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes 4 servings.

 

Variations: This recipe offers an introduction to the basics of roasting vegetables. You may vary the combination of root vegetables, including rutabagas, turnips, kohlrabi, or potatoes. To prepare, cut the vegetables into roughly the same size and shape to ensure even cooking. Vegetables may also be tossed with fresh or dried herbs before roasting.

 

Improvisation: My last batch was made up of 4 different varieties of potatoes (Desiree, Nicola, Carola, and fingerlings) cut into large chunks, a couple of onions peeled and quartered, and some pork sausages (casing lightly pricked) tossed in with oil, rosemary and thyme. Cook at a slightly higher temperature of 425°F and for a longer time of 30 to 40 minutes, or until done, for an easy one pan meal.

 

Notes: Roasting vegetables isn’t limited to root vegetables, most any vegetable may be prepared this way. “The Art of Simple Food” by Alice Waters, from which this recipe is adapted, offers many tips on roasting vegetables in general.  “The Roasted Vegetable” by Andrea Chesman contains a useful roasting chart, giving times and temperatures for specific vegetables.

Holiday Farmers’ Market tomorrow!

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Just a quick reminder that we’ll have over 40 farmers and food producers selling their amazing foods tomorrow, December 19th, from 10am-2pm at Wentworth Greenhouses in Rollinsford.

The variety of locally grown and locally produced foods that will be for sale is astonishing: 25 different fresh vegetables, including salad greens (!!), broccoli, beets, Swiss chard, kale,  carrots, onions and potatoes, ten different farmers selling their locally raised meats, eggs, milk, honey, maple syrup, goat cheese, cow cheeses, breads and pies, jams and jellies, wines, and seafood – native shrimp and fish.

This will be the last market of 2009, and there will be three weeks until the next market on January 9, 2010. So come buy food for yourself, buy gifts for others, and enjoy the fabulous atmosphere of the Wentworth Greenhouses – more information, including directions and a full list of participating farmers and food producers, at www.seacoasteatlocal.org/winterfarmersmarkets

Action Alert: Maine Poultry Regulations

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

MOFGA and Food for Maine’s Future have issued action alerts regarding new rules proposed for the on-farm processing of poultry in Maine. These rules would have a potentially detrimental effect on the ability of many small-scale family farms to offer farm-raised poultry for sale:

 

Proposed Poultry Regulations A Challenge For Maine Farmers 

The Maine Department of Agriculture has proposed new rules that would affect any farmer who processes poultry on-farm under the existing federal exemptions for up to 1,000 birds. The proposed rules would be extremely expensive for many farmers to comply with.

The rulemaking hearing is scheduled for Monday, December 21, 10 a.m., in Room 208 of the Cross Office Building of the Legislature in Augusta. The hearing had been scheduled to take place at the Department but, due to the anticipated large volume of interested parties, the organizers moved it across the river! Details.

Your support of an exemption of direct farm-to-consumer sales on poultry helps rebuild our local food system. If you can’t attend Monday’s hearing, comments may be submitted to the Department of Agriculture by December 31st:

 

Hal Prince, Director, Division of Quality Assurance and Regulations

28 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333 

Phone: 287-3841

E-mail: Hal.Prince@Maine.gov

 

Ned Porter, Deputy Commissioner

Department of Agriculture Rule-Making Liaison

E-mail: Ned.R.Porter@Maine.gov

Workshop: Farming Smarter, Not Harder

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

MOFGA is offering the following workshop with Richard Wiswall, author of “The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook”:

Farming Smarter, Not Harder: Tune-up Your Business and Increase Your Net Profit

March 8 and 9, 2010

Farm business course at MOFGA’s Common Ground Education Center in Unity, ME

9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Farming Smarter, Not Harder: Tune-up your business and increase your net profit. Have an allergic reaction to business? Want to work less and make more money? Wonder where all the money comes and goes? Find out your farm’s profit centers — which parts of your farm make the most money and which may actually lose money. Learn efficient planning, office management, and financial tips for success. Set aside a couple of days to finally work on these, and other important farm business concerns. The workshop will address: • Planning for Profit • Setting your sights: Goals • Making a Profit on YOUR farm • Your marketing strategies • Efficient office management • Your farm’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT analysis) • Your farm’s financials • Business Planning • Quick business fixes.

 

You will leave with: 1. Several budgets for your different farm enterprises 2. Market analysis for your farm 3. A Production Plan to meet your potential marketing opportunities 4. An action plan and timetable to augment your strengths and address your weaknesses 5. A meaningful business Mission Statement 6. A roadmap of how to achieve your financial goals, that includes a five year projection, and a Balance Sheet that states your current financial net worth. 7. An elemental Business Plan for your farm 8. Tips to address common business mistakes. A copy of Wiswall’s book, “The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook,” will be included in the registration and sent ahead of time with pre-class homework.

Workshop led by Richard Wiswall, owner/operator of Cate Farm in East Montpelier, VT, and author of “The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook — A Complete guide to Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff — and Making a Profit”. Participants will focus on the farm’s profit centers — which parts of the farm make the most money and which may actually lose money, while learning efficient planning, office management, and financial tips for success. Fee: $150 for an individual, $225 for two people from the same farm. Register.