— Connie Carlson, Executive Director

Growers need markets for their products.
Chefs and Buyers are eager to buy locally.
Consumers want to eat local food.

Yet, in the Crow River Region, there are only a small number of places where you can order something locally grown off a menu or put it in your shopping cart.

The Crow River Food Council, in partnership with Wright County Extension, has been working to change that and make it easier for farmers to find markets, buyers to find farmers and consumers to enjoy it all.

Local farmers getting a tour of the Buffalo Community Middle School, the event was scheduled by CRFC board member, Sue Spike and included new Food Service Director, Penny Hoops.

Local farmers getting a tour of the Buffalo Community Middle School, the event was scheduled by CRFC board member, Sue Spike and included new Food Service Director, Penny Hoops.

In 2016, Connie Carlson, Executive Director of the Crow River Food Council, and Rod Greder, Wright County Extension Education, submitted and were awarded a grant through the MN Food Charter to bring together producers and buyers. Prior to submitting the grant, Connie and Rod had attempted to host a “Speed Dating” event for local growers and buyers. This event was advertised as an opportunity for attendees to participate in short meet-and-greet sessions to share information about their farms and businesses and spark new market relationships. Unfortunately, Rod and Connie quickly discovered that it was very challenging to get busy farmers and very busy business owners in the same place at the same time.

So, Rod and Connie went back to the drawing board to think through how to bring these two groups together in a way that worked for everyone. They determined their two biggest challenges to getting producers and buyers together were:

  1. Overcoming Mythology: Rod and Connie discovered through conversations and interviews that many small businesses don’t know or believe they can buy produce from local farmers. Licensing and regulations appear to be daunting and confusing and many small business, though interested in buying locally, don’t have the time or energy to figure it all out.
  2. Time is Money: For both growers and buyers, it is challenging to find the time in the day to attend workshops and events. For farmers, this is particularly true during the summer months. Restaurant owners and culinary professionals are equally busy and often have limited to no additional staff to allow them to take time away.

Rod and Connie devised a new plan with these two points in mind. The first part of the plan would be to host a workshop for growers and buyers interested in getting educated on buying local food. Although this didn’t tackle problem of workshops taking up time, the subject matter must’ve struck a cord because the event was very well-attended by growers and businesses.

Producers and businesses attending the Institutional Buying Event, listening to a panel of local food buyers, including the Buffalo Community Middle School.

Producers and businesses attending the Institutional Buying Event, listening to a panel of local food buyers, including the Buffalo Community Middle School.

The second part of the plan was to work with small businesses to arrange a time when they could open their doors to invite producers to visit with them, learn about their business, share information on what they are growing and start developing connections. This was the plan awarded funding by the MN Food Charter grant.

The Institutional Buying Workshop was hosted in May 2017 with approximately 40 producers and small businesses in attendance. Shortly thereafter, businesses such as Irish Blessings (Maple Lake), Rosewood (Rockford) and Harvest Moon Co-op (Long Lake) hosted events. Rod and Connie quickly discovered that summer was definitely NOT the time to host these events if they wanted producers to attend. So, they held off scheduling additional events until the winter months. Events held early in 2018 at The Abundant Kitchen (Buffalo), Buffalo Community Middle School and Baker Wilderness Reserve (Maple Plain) were well attended by farmers who were not busy in their fields.

The events were an hour and a half to stay efficient and respectful of everyone’s time. Each event included time for the business owner to give a tour of their business and talk about what they are doing. Growers were encouraged to bring samples and information on their farms, including contact information, product lists and pricing.

Iron Shoe micro greens at Harvest Moon Co-op.

Iron Shoe micro greens at Harvest Moon Co-op.

The results from these events have been slowly popping up here and there. Harvest Moon Co-op has been the most proactive, seeking garlic, potatoes and micro-greens from various producers who have connected since the event.

The Crow River Food Council is very interested in continuing to facilitate and host future events and are always interested in talking to businesses that want to meet and work with regional farmers. The grant money paid for lunches at the events, provided by the business (which was intended to be another perk–farmers got to try the food!). However, some of the events were hosted in the late afternoon and did not include a lunch, making the events very affordable.

Future work in this area will include hosting additional events, sponsoring produce handling workshops and finalizing a local directory of producers that will be housed on the Crow River Food Council website.

Have a suggestion for a business we should connect with? Know of a business doing great local food work? Send us a note. We’d love to hear from you!

— Katie Hansen, Food Council Member

Market Managers meet to connect and share.

Market Managers meet to connect and share.

Who’s ready for Farmers Market Season?! The Crow River Food Council recently hosted a pre-market meeting to connect with the Farmers Markets in the Crow River area. We had a great turnout and were able to connect with several markets! This gave them a chance to share ideas and tips for a successful market this season.

The Food Council will occasionally have booths set up at the markets, too, so be sure to stop by and introduce yourself if you see us out there! We would love to hear from you and your ideas to improve the community’s access to locally produced foods. For a printable list of farmers markets in the Crow River region, click here.

We’re also excited to announce a raffle at the Howard Lake Farmers Market this year. View the flyer here. They have a new location and new time – it will be Thursdays from 3-6 this year at Lion’s Park in Howard Lake. Each time you shop at the market you are eligible to enter a raffle to win a free basket of locally produced goodies! And they aren’t just doing one drawing, you have three chances to win, once each month! And the more times you shop the more times you can enter, happy shopping!

Additionally, the Power of Produce (PoP) Club continues to grow and expand throughout our region. PoP is a farmers market incentive program designed to empower children to make healthful food choices. Each week, kids age 4-12 receive a $2 token to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables and food plants. Find PoP at the following markets this summer:
WC PoP 2018 Social Media

Stay up to date on all things PoP, and where we’re visiting this summer by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter.

— Kristi Varner, Food Council Member

Every spring in our home there is a glorified sigh of relief and rejoice when the snow has melted and the new flowers and plants begin to poke out of the ground. For many that springtime elation grows to disdain over a yard overcome by dandelions and other undesirables. We are quick to fire up the lawnmowers, shovels and weed sprays, but some of these Wild Bunch serve some really useful purposes.

*Disclaimer: Always source foraged items from areas that are safe from herbicides/pesticides and soil contaminants. And ALWAYS thoroughly wash your new found produce. AND NEVER EAT SOMETHING YOU ARE NOT SURE OF! These are a few plants that are very easily recognizable and safe.


dandelion2Dandelions get such a bad rap! It’s always a hustle to try to manage these yellow annoyances, but actually dandelions serve an infinite list of worthy uses. Almost every part is edible and packed with good things!

Dandelion Greens: Perhaps the best reason to eat dandelions is the abundance of nutrients present in them. The leaves contain significant amounts of fiber, protein, vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, E, and K, folic acid, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and zinc. They can be eaten as you would eat most other types of greens. The best way to get the tastiest dandelion greens is to collect the young leaves in the spring. Wash your greens thoroughly to remove and dirt, grit, and insects. If you got very young, early spring leaves, you can eat them raw in a salad. They make a tasty addition and add a little kick to an otherwise plain salad. You can also cook your greens the same way you would sauté spinach.

Dandelion Roots: Dried Dandelion root tea has been used as a liver tonic since ancient times. After picking the roots, soak them in water for several minutes, and then rinse them until completely clean. Chop the roots into small pieces and roast them in the oven at 200 degrees for about an hour. This will shrink and fully dry them out, and then you can then place in an airtight jar and use for tea.

Dandelion Flowers: Dandelion flower petals make a great tea with some honey. They can also be used steeped in warmed coconut oil and mixed with beeswax to create a body lotion or salve that is great for achy muscles and joints as dandelion is considered an anti-inflammatory.

In Appalachia, a common recipe for using dandelion flowers is to batter and deep fry them. In our home every spring I look forward to making a batch of them for the family and dipping them in an herbaceous buttermilk dressing! Go ahead and try this at home, here’s the recipe:

dandelion_frittersDandelion Fritters
1 cup Milk
½ cup All purpose flour
½ cup cornmeal
1 Egg
1 teaspoon Baking powder
Lots of heat-tolerant oil for frying
1 cup Freshly washed and picked dandelion flower heads (If you pick them and store them in the fridge the flowers will close up. Also, my first attempt was a bit bitter. If you’re new to wild crafting take time to remove the bracts (the little downward leaf-looking things at the base of the flower head, where it joins the stem)

Whisk all ingredients together, except for the dandelion heads
Dip the dandelions
Fry in hot oil, flower side down (be careful!)
Flip and fry some more
Drain on a towel and serve hot
Season the freshly fried fritters with salt and pepper


purslanePurslane grows all over the place and is delicious, nutritious and versatile with a bright lemony flavor. It has the highest amount of omega 3 fatty acids than any other vegetable. It is also high in magnesium, so if you are someone who has a lot of sore muscles and headaches this might be a good choice to incorporate in your diet. Purslane is great sautéed or in a stir fry and makes a delicious pickled condiment. It is a fairly common ingredient in both Eastern European and Middle Eastern cuisines. To find out more uses and recipes for Purslane follow this link.

Lamb’s Quarters

lambs_quartersThe consumption of Lamb’s Quarters dates back to ancient times and has been found in the stomachs of mummies 2000 years old. During World War II some European countries facing starvation relied on Lamb’s Quarters as a viable nutritious food source and a remedy from scurvy. Lamb’s Quarters are rich in the minerals iron, phosphorus, and calcium. It also contains beta carotene and vitamins B1 and C. The young leaves can be sautéed with olive oil and garlic or added to a pasta dish much like spinach. Being a relative of both Spinach and Quinoa, the seed heads from older plants can be used as a grain and the seeds can be boiled and eaten like Quinoa.

So here are just a few ideas to utilize some of the wild bunch that will, like clockwork, start popping up very, very soon! We are just scratching the surface! It’s rather amazing to think about the literal smorgasbord that awaits outside free for the taking!!!!

To find out more about the wild edibles around you, here a few sites:
http://landbyhand.org – Cody, Megan and their team provide different programs and workshops that focus on wild medicine/nutrition, nature walks and permaculture AND some of their programs are in the Buffalo area!
www.ediblewildfood.com – A great site to learn about different plants and their uses.
www.gentlemanforager.com – Mike Kempenich’s Gentleman Forager provides wild foraged products to restaurants and retail.
The New Wildcrafted Cuisine by Pascal Baudar. Pascal Baudar is an urban forager who teams with his wife, chef Mia Wasilevich to create some amazing ways to think about sustainable food sources.

Feature image attribution: Background image created by Bearfotos – Freepik.com

What’s the Buzz?

— Gary Cobus, Food Council Member

Recently, the Crow River Food Council had a presence at the Buffalo Community Health Fair. I was asked to help-out and be at the CRFC’s table during the Fair, representing the CRFC as a Beekeeper. I was very happy to do so and I had a great day!

Charlie_Brandts,_a_White_House_carpenter_as_well_as_beekeeper_collects_the_first_batch_of_honeyI have been a Beekeeper since 2011 and I am constantly learning about honeybees. They are such interesting insects! I did not become a beekeeper with the sole purpose of getting honey. My main interest was to learn about bees and then to facilitate interest among friends, family, and acquaintances. Well that part of beekeeping has been a huge success for me. Wherever I go, when people find out that I am a beekeeper they have questions for me about bees.

What always amazes me and makes me happy is to know how concerned people are about honeybees. I kept busy for the entire four hours of the Health Fair talking to people about bees. Pretty much everyone knew the importance of bees as pollinators. If you are not aware of it, bees are responsible for pollination of our food; that equates to one out of every three bites of food that we eat. If not for pollinators we would be eating mostly grains and other wind pollinated plants. Our diet would be very dull and obviously less nutritious.

Many visitors asked about the biggest problems bees face and the best way they can help bees. Here are some answers:

  • Just about every honeybee hive in America has a problem with a parasite known as the Varroa Destructor, a mite. There is extensive study being done about how to eradicate this parasite but right now the only thing that can be done by beekeepers is to monitor how heavily infested a hive may be and to try to minimize the number of Varroa through mostly chemical means. This is not great but right now it is the only way to control the number of Varroa mites in a hive. This parasite weakens bees and makes them more susceptible to diseases. Controlling these parasites is one reason why beekeepers are important. These days, wild beehives do not last more than a couple years before they succumb to Varroa mites.
  • beautiful-bees-bloom-772571Loss of habitat is something that can be addressed by almost everyone. Individuals can help by planting pollinator friendly flowers and by planting a variety of flowers that bloom at different times throughout the season to provide food for the bees all Summer long and into Autumn.
  • Use of pesticides: Pesticides are bad for pollinators, especially systemic pesticides like neonicotinoids. Neonics rid your flowers of bad insects but they hurt the good insects too. We should not buy plants treated with systemic pesticides. If possible, we should not use pesticides at all. Most times there are better or natural ways to remove or reduce pests, such as using insecticidal soap. If you must use pesticides make sure to follow label directions. Don’t spray on windy days. Spray in the early evening when the bees have already returned to their hive.
  • Support legislation that helps pollinators. I am amazed at the towns that have anti-beekeeping ordinances. Bees are not a threat to us. They just want to gather nectar. I think people confuse bees with wasps and only remember those late summer/early autumn picnics in which our picnics are filled with wasps looking for carbohydrates and being nuisances in the process. Honeybees and other native pollinators don’t do this.
  • Education of the public about bees is crucial. Do what you can to become more educated about bees yourself. Read books, newspaper articles, etc., about bees. Talk to beekeepers. Google Honeybees!
  • queen-cup-honeycomb-honey-bee-new-queen-rearing-compartment-56876Eat local honey and support your local beekeeper. If you do this you will be helping your local beekeeper to continue raising, monitoring, and helping to keep pollinators in your area and possibly in your own garden. If you buy honey at the store, make sure to read the label and make sure that what you are buying is actually ONLY honey and not blended with corn syrup.
  • Go retro! Become a beekeeper! Of course, not everyone can do this but it is a fascinating hobby and there are clubs such as the Minnesota Hobby Beekeepers and the Tri-County Beekeepers with hundreds of members willing to help you. A great class to take, even if you do not become a Beekeeper, is the “Beekeeping in Northern Climates” class that is offered by the University of Minnesota. The class is offered at least once a year in the early Spring.

Of course, I am willing to try to help you with your questions about bees. I am not the ultimate bee expert but I can find people to answer any bee question you have that I may not know.

Thanks for supporting Honeybees and our native pollinators!

What Are We Reading?

— Jeff Aldrich, Food Council Member

This month we would like to share a few of the books recommended by Crow River Food Council members. As the following list demonstrates, CRFC board members are a diverse and curious group, and are passionate about food, health, nutrition, cooking, farming and sustainability. We hope you’ll find something here to pique your own interest. And if you have a book you’d like to recommend, please let us know about it in the comments section.

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 2.53.46 PMLocally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-Changing Egg Farm – From Scratch by Lucie Amundsen (Penguin, 2016). An honest, witty, and enlightening story about a couple in northeast Minnesota who wanted to change the egg business for the better. I’ve heard Lucie speak multiple times and she always has me crying with laughter. Her stories about the emotional pain, humor, and life lessons of mid-sized agriculture will change the way you think about chickens. –Ellie Vanasse

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 2.52.57 PMAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (HarperCollins, 2007). Author Barbara Kingsolver and her family abandoned the industrial-food pipeline to live a rural life—vowing that, for one year, they’d only buy food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is an enthralling narrative that will open your eyes in a hundred new ways to an old truth: You are what you eat. I’m also enjoying Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn’t Cook from Scratch by Jennifer Reese (Atria Books, 2011). –Katie Henson

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 2.55.01 PMThe Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen Cookbook by Sean Sherman with Beth Dooley (Univ Of Minnesota Press, 2017). Beautifully formatted cookbook with information on foraging, sourcing and preparing indigenous American fruits, vegetables, wild game, grains and fish. I believe that if I’m truly committed to changing/improving the food system, I need to listen to and learn from the wisdom of the people who cultivated the food and land of my region for centuries prior to the arrival of my ancestors. This book has helped me start on this journey of discovery and education. Available at Buffalo Books. –Connie Carlson

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 2.56.05 PMThe Lean Farm Guide to Growing Vegetables by Ben Hartman (Chelsea Green, 2017). Filled with tips on improving production practices on your small vegetable farm, Ben Hartman’s second book on lean farming is a hands-on, how-to guide to reducing waste, increasing efficiency, and becoming more profitable by applying proven principles and practices that have been developed and applied in Japanese industry for years. It includes everything from compost recipes to plant seeding and spacing recommendations, and tables showing the profitability of many common vegetable crops. –Jeff Aldrich

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 2.58.55 PMThe Energetics of Food by Steve Gagne (Spiral Sciences, 2006). “…Steve Gagne shows how to revitalize our connection to food and remedy our physical and psychic imbalances with the wisdom of food energetics. He provides a comprehensive catalog of foods and their corresponding energetic properties and explains how each food affects us at the deepest spiritual level. By demonstrating how to plan meals that incorporate both dominant and compliant foods, he shows how to provide truly healthy cuisine that nourishes the body and the soul” (Publisher description). –Sue Eull

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 3.02.03 PMThe Town That Food Saved by Ben Hewitt (Rodale Books, 2011). “In The Town That Food Saved, Ben explores the contradictions inherent to producing high-end ‘artisanal’ food products in a working class community. To better understand how a local food system might work, he spends time not only with the agripreneurs, but also with the region’s numerous small-scale food producers, many of which have been quietly operating in the area for decades. The result is a delightfully inquisitive peek behind the curtain of the town that has been dubbed the ‘Silicon Valley of local food’” (Publisher description). –Stacy Besonen

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 3.08.10 PMThe Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom by Melissa & Dallas Hartwig (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015). “The Hartwigs (It Starts with Food) are certified sports nutritionists and the creators of the Whole30 program, a regimen designed to transform how readers think about food, their bodies, and their lives. Their new book offers step-by-step guidance to help readers implement the Whole30 plan” (Publishers Weekly). –Sue Spike

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 3.09.56 PMThe Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by Dan Barber (Penguin Books, 2015). “Dan Barber, an award-winning chef, moves beyond ‘farm-to-table’ to offer a revolutionary new way of eating. After more than a decade spent investigating farming communities around the world in pursuit of singular flavor, Barber finally concluded that–for the sake of our food, our health and the future of the land—America’s cuisine required a radical transformation” (Publisher description). I’m also enjoying Street Farm: Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier by Michael Ablemen (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2016). –Mary Jane Miller

Screen Shot 2018-03-06 at 3.14.31 PMVictuals: An Appalachian Journey, with Recipes by Ronni Lundy (Clarkson Potter, 2016) “Victuals is an exploration of the foodways, people, and places of Appalachia. It explores the surprisingly diverse history–and vibrant present–of food in the Mountain South through recipes, stories, traditions, and innovations. Each chapter explores a specific defining food or tradition of the region–such as salt, beans, corn (and corn liquor). The essays introduce readers to their rich histories and the farmers, curers, hunters, and chefs who define the region’s contemporary landscape” (Publisher description). I’d also recommend The New Wildcrafted Cuisine: Exploring the Exotic Gastronomy of Local Terroir by Pascal Baudar (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2016). –Kristi Varner

Is a CSA Right For Me?

— Connie Carlson, Executive Director, and Jeff Aldrich, Food Council Member. Feature image by Mary Sue Stevens.

(Not sure what a CSA is? Read our article here.)

Solar Fresh Produce

Solar Fresh Produce

Thinking about joining a CSA but not sure if it’s right for you? Here are three important things to consider:

  1. Lifestyle
    In survey after survey, one of the most common reasons why a customer either doesn’t continue his CSA or didn’t enjoy the experience is because he was unable to use all of the food. Full shares often have enough produce to feed a family of four. Even ½ shares can have more fresh food than you may have experience and time to use. Few of us enjoy throwing out food, especially when we know how hard our farmers work to produce it. Ask yourself: Do I have time to cook or preserve fresh food every week? Are there others with whom I can share what we are unable to use? Friends, extended family members, or a local food shelf?
  2. The Little Boon Farm

    The Little Boon Farm

    Unless your CSA is delivered to your door every week*, you will need to carve time from your schedule every week (or every other week) to either pick your box up from your farmer on her farm, or meet-up at the drop-off location. When looking for the right CSA for you and your lifestyle, take into account how willing you are to add this effort to your schedule. For some, the pick-up time is a perk and they enjoy visiting the farm, running into friends, chatting in the late evening hours. For others, it can feel like an extra-to-do on an already full list. And, noone is happy when they completely forget to pick up their share! Ask yourself: Am I willing/able to add a new obligation to my weekly (or bi-weekly) schedule? Is there someone who would be able to pick up my share if I am unable to make it?
    * Some CSAs do offer home delivery and generally the delivery fee ranges around $3/week. If you are interested in this and your farmer doesn’t list it as an option, consider asking her. Perhaps something can be arranged!

  3. Mana Gardens

    Mana Gardens

    How much do you spend on fresh produce every week? How much are you willing to pay? An average CSA subscription is around 18 weeks and runs about $600 for a season. This is about $35/week for somewhere around 8-12 different varieties of fruits and vegetables, depending on the farm and the time of year. In basic economic terms, some may see this as a bargain, especially when considering how fresh the produce is and the quality of the food. But, different people have different measurements of what they value. Some buyers subscribe to a CSA because they want to support their local farmer, who may actually be a close friend or family member. Others value the fresh, nutritious food. Others love to cook.A CSA subscription is NOT a grocery shopping experience. You are investing in local food production and the direct return to you may not be immediately apparent. Ask yourself: How valuable is this experience to me?

    Mana Gardens

    Mana Gardens

    If you are concerned that you won’t “get your money’s worth,” consider the following:
    Start Small:
    A typical ½ share runs 9 weeks (often every other week) and is enough to feed a 2 adults. (And, remember: the food is fresher so it lasts longer!) Consider investing in a ½ share and seeing how that goes for you. (Farmers often have extras, ask to purchase more if you really enjoy it!)
    – Share the Experience: Find a friend to share a subscription. This is a great way to test it out and share the ups and downs. Splitting a full share is typically slightly less expensive than purchasing a half share. Splitting things like cabbages or melons at the pick up site, however, can present challenges.
    – Do Your Homework: Your CSA farmer is a wealth of information on the food and often cooks, prepares, stores and preserves her produce. Most CSA farms have a newsletter (ask for a copy before you sign up and you’ll know exactly what to expect!) and they are often packed with recipes and tips for storage.

Do you have additional tips or ideas to share about making a CSA work for you? We’d love to hear from you!  Share your ideas in the comments or find us on Facebook to continue the conversation.

Visit the CSA producers in our region to learn more:

SPECIAL EVENT:  The Abundant Kitchen in Buffalo will be hosting a CSA Fair on February 24th. This is a great way to meet local CSA producers and ask questions. More details: https://www.facebook.com/events/216259272250290

2017: Meeting our Mission

— Connie Carlson, Executive Director

Over four years ago, the mission of the Crow River Food Council was developed by a group of engaged local community members who wanted to find ways to work together to “promote healthy eating that maximizes the use of local, regional, and seasonal food produced with sustainable practices and creates prosperous communities in our region.”

As I sit back and think about the work we accomplished in 2017, I see very clearly how we continued to live up to that mission. Here is a snapshot of the great work the Crow River Food Council accomplished in 2017!

    1. Expert speakers informed market leaders at our Farmer's Market Workshop

      Expert speakers informed market leaders at our Farmer’s Market Workshop

      Farmers Market Leadership and Networking: The CRFC wrote and received a small grant to fund the development of a Crow River area Farmer’s Market networking group. The first event was held in April, 2017 and brought together leadership from 10 different area farmer’s markets! The CRFC shared information about the PoP program, SNAP/EBT and other opportunities for markets to serve the people in our region. Leaders from the markets also shared their best practices and brainstormed ways to tackle their challenges. The response to this event was so positive that it was decided to host another in the fall after the market season. The CRFC was also able to give away two small scholarships for markets who needed additional funding to start programming.

    2. PoP gives kids purchasing power at Farmer's Markets

      PoP gives kids purchasing power at Farmer’s Markets

      PoP Continues to Explode! The very popular PoP program continued to expand across our region. Maple Lake, Monticello, Albertville and Annandale all hosted PoP programs in 2017. In 2018, Rockford is already planning on starting a program with Delano and Buffalo getting pieces into place.

    3. Slow Cooker Classes: The CRFC partnered with Grace Place in Montrose to launch a new cooking series called Montrose Cooks! Funding was provided through an Allina grant. Originally slated to be one series of 6 classes, the series is now in its third cycle and is connecting with community members of all ages. Grace Place is working on expanding the classes and we hope to see it replicated in more communities in our region. You can read more about this program here.

      Participants work together to recreate the class dish.

      Montrose Cooks! participants work together to recreate the class dish

    4. Making Connections: Connie Carlson and Rod Greder of the CRFC also got funding to host events for farmers and businesses in our region to connect and develop relationships, with the hope that more of our area businesses will purchase from our farmers. Events in 2017 were hosted at Irish Blessings (Maple Lake), Rosewood (Rockford) and Harvest Moon Co-op (Long Lake). In 2018, events are scheduled for The Abundant Kitchen (Buffalo), The Buffalo School District, and Baker-Near-Wilderness Park. In addition, a program is in development to connect headstart programs with CSA farmers. Stay tuned for more great details as this work continues.
    5. Setting the Table: Late in 2017, the CRFC partnered with various regional organizations to host a Farm-to-Table Dinner. Sponsors included The Sustainable Farming Association: Crow River Chapter, Allina Health – Buffalo Hospital FoundationBuffalo Community OrchestraHayes’ Public House, IntegriPrintRandy’s SanitationBuffalo Books and Coffee, and an Anonymous Donor. The dinner was organized by a close team of CRFC board members and community partners and featured produce harvested from farms around our region, including Riverbend Farm, Living Song Farm, Mana Gardens, Sweet Beet Farm and TC Farm. It was a beautiful evening filled with great food and great conversation.

Whew! What an exciting year! Keep watching our Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates on our work and ways for you to get involved. We already have plans in place for great programming in 2018 and we hope you’ll roll up your sleeves and join us.

Montrose Cooks

— Sue Eull, RN, Crow River Food Council Member

An inspiring part of working with the Crow River Food Council is facilitating impactful programs within the area of the Crow River Basin. One such program is Montrose Cooks.

Montrose Cooks is in it’s second session serving and educating participants about food. There is a class community effort to slice, dice, grate, chop, sauté, and more to create delicious sweet and savory dishes. All while keeping fingers intact! Just ask Andrew Doherty, UM Extension class facilitator.

Andrew Doherty works with participants to prepare a meal.

Andrew Doherty works with participants to prepare a meal.

Montrose Cooks came to realization through a collaborative effort that arose from the Crow River Food Council. The idea was to create a class around the concept of offering cooking skills to individuals using crockpots.

The crockpot idea reached Grace Place in Montrose. Grace Place proved to be a perfect landing spot for the idea to become a reality. Pastor Kimberly, Executive Director and Founder of Grace Place, was approached about the concept of cooking classes featuring crockpot meals. She fully embraced the idea and felt it would be a great fit for the Montrose Community she has come to advocate for and know well. Even though it doesn’t have a full kitchen, the building which houses Grace Place proved to provide the perfect space to conduct classes.

Pastor Kimberly wrote for and received generous grant funding to cover the cost of the crockpots, Cooking Matters curriculum, and grocery items. That allowed the Montrose Cooks committee to move forward to create an actionable plan.

Participants work together to recreate the class dish.

Participants of all ages recreate the class dish together.

After a meeting involving Pastor Kimberly, Andrew Doherty, and myself, a plan was formed to move forward. Andrew came to the meeting well prepared with a specific curriculum, Cooking Matters, which offers an easy to use format with recipes to smoothly and skillfully conduct classes. We discussed what to name the classes and thought to keep it simple – Montrose Cooks.

Montrose Cooks first class was held this past summer on June 5th, 2017. The class was formatted to be offered for up to 15 individuals per class. We have four to five class facilitators present per class, offering a variety of support to allow the classes to run smoothly. The very first class hosted 13 students. Their ages ranged from 16 yrs. old to 83 yrs. old with both males and females in attendance. There were beginners to seasoned cooks present who were eager to learn more about food and how to cook in a crockpot.

Learning about the nutritional value of food as it relates to food choices was focused on with the Cooking Matters curriculum. Each student took home their very own Cooking Matters guide at the end of the six-week session. Crockpots were gifted to each class participant after the first class. Each class participant received a grocery shopping bag at the end of each class filled with all the whole food ingredients to make the featured dish made in class at home.

Guest chefs expertly demonstrate knife and other skills as they teach each recipe.

Guest chefs expertly demonstrate knife and other skills as they teach each recipe.

Montrose Cooks is running smoothly in it’s second 6-week session this fall. The classes have welcomed a delightful guest chef, José Madariaga. José brings a sense of humor to everyone as he demonstrates how to prepare the dishes, step by step, before the class breaks into groups to try their hands at preparing and cooking the recipe of the day. José also brings a wider perspective culturally surrounding food as he encourages the participants to not worry about making mistakes with seasonings. As he shares, don’t be afraid to try new spices and a variety of combinations.

Montrose Cooks, as a committee, will continue to explore additional opportunities to expand it’s presence and support within the community; in addition to the cooking classes. A special thank you goes out to Pastor Kimberly for the preparation of her delicious recipes cooked in her crockpot at home to feed everyone at each class.

I started with the word inspiring to write this post. Here is my viewpoint of the inspirational impact of using food to support an individual and a community.


  • Teaches nutrition based in whole food nutritional concepts
  • Teaches basic food prep skills
  • Teaches a variety of cooking techniques
  • Promotes confidence in the kitchen
  • Promotes creativity and new perspectives
    • Have you ever tried oatmeal with soy sauce and green onions?
  • Teaches food budgeting tips
    • Planovers – plan to have leftovers so as to cook once and eat twice.
  • Teaches food safety
After prepping the evening's recipe in class, participants receive all of the ingredients to recreate the dish at home.

After prepping the evening’s recipe in class, participants receive all of the ingredients to recreate the dish at home.

The above list features very measurable outcomes. The things that are not as measurable but equally as inspiring are as follows …

  • Laughter
  • Hugs
  • Sharing of tips, advice, concern, and food likes
  • Building a sense of community around food
  • Watching an individual eagerly learn
  • Watching a father and daughter learn to cook together
  • Learning the very first class graduates wish they had another class to attend as they had so much fun and miss each other

Who knew food could inspire all of the above!

Why I sponsored Farm to Fork

— Anonymous

I sponsored the Farm to Fork event anonymously because I wanted to share my story, and I wanted to share it anonymously because leaving this story without a name means that it can be OUR story, one that you will run across over and over.

When I heard about the work the Crow River Food Council was doing I was awestruck! The Montrose Cooks! program was one program that would have helped my family in a time of tragedy and struggle. Growing up in rural Minnesota, I had a very stable family life; my parents decided to always have one parent at home and one parent working. They decided that my mother would be able to bring home more money, with her education level, so she worked while my father stayed home.

We were going strong as a family unit, until the unthinkable happened; my mother got sick. I hear this time and time again. Medical bills pile up and families have a hard time keeping their heads above water. My parents burned through their considerable savings in no time, insurance covered some but not all. Things happen, people get sick, and die. My mother died, leaving behind a grieving husband and three small confused children.

Shortly thereafter our stove broke. We were struggling. At this time, we did not have the resources that there are now. My father found a local job that took him away from us most days and nights, and he also enrolled in school. He was our hero. When my mother was alive, she did more of the cooking, with my father as her sous chef. They worked together to make home cooked meals that we could thrive on and enjoy as a family. However, with my mother gone and no stove, my father didn’t have the knowledge or resources beyond the microwave, which mostly meant cheap, processed boxed options.

When I heard that the Montrose Cooks! program was about teaching families how to cook (with a free-take home-crockpot, hands on experience, sample meal, and grocery bag with the new learned recipe items to take home), I just had to sponsor this group of individuals who are making a huge difference in the lives of families like mine, like ours, and our neighbors who are struggling to get back on their feet. This is indeed an example of teaching a man how to fish, so he can eat for a lifetime!

Editor’s note: you can find more information on the Montrose Cooks! program we support at Grace Place in an upcoming Food Council post. In the meantime, like Grace Place on Facebook or contact them directly by calling (612) 532-3654.

Learn more about our Farm to Fork event.

Why Farm to Fork?

— Stacy Besonen, Crow River Food Council Member, et al.

Crow River Food Council’s focus is working on programming and policy changes to make the healthy choice the easy choice for everyone. This is the work you will support through our Farm to Fork gala. As a community, we have a large need around food insecurity and food accessibility. When we learned that a large number of households did not even have a stove or a working stove in their homes, we knew we had to do something!

The well-being of our residents is vital to the long-term sustainability and prosperity of communities. Regions thrive when residents can be active and healthy. In an effort to combat food insecurity (a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life) and food access in our region, we’re proud to be a part of programs such as:

Power of Produce Kid’s Club: Several local farmer’s markets have implemented the PoP program. Kids are able to sign up at the beginning of the summer at their local farmer’s market and each week they receive a free $2 token to use to purchase their own produce. This program is extremely successful in getting kids to eat vegetables, because research shows that if kids pick it they’ll eat it!

Council member Andrew Doherty works with participants to preapre their meal.

Council member Andrew Doherty works with participants to prepare a meal.

Montrose Cooks! is a program that was developed out of the Crow River Food Council. When a recent study concluded that several households in Wright County do not have working stoves, the council came up with an idea to help. With a generous donation from Allina Health through the Neighborhood Health Connection Grant, the council supported Grace Place in Montrose to create the Montrose Cooks! Program. 15 families signed up for the first six week series. On the first night each family received a free crockpot, a recipe, cooking class on how to make the recipe in the crockpot, a sample meal to enjoy, and finally, a grocery bag full of groceries to be able to go home and remake the recipe on another night! Five additional classes with recipes, money saving tips, sample meals and grocery bags followed. The program was so successful that three more class series are planned; that will be 60 households who will be able to feed their family.

Farmers’ Market Workshops: The council recognized that one of the few ways our region can currently access the food grown in our community is through Farmers’ Markets. They are also one of the easiest ways for farmers to sell their produce. It was decided that CRFC can play an important role in building and supporting our area Farmer’s Markets and one of the first ways to do that would be to meet and connect with our area Farmer’s Market leaders. We wrote and received a MN Food Charter grant to support this work. Our first activity was hosting a Mini-Conference for area Farmers Market leaders on April 22. This event was intended to share resources and information on various programs for Farmer’s Markets and also help the area markets meet and learn from each other. On-going work will include round-table discussions, newsletters, grantwriting and idea-sharing.

Jerry Ford of Living Song Farm and others meet with Harvest Moon Co-op.

Jerry Ford, Living Song Farm, and others meet with Harvest Moon Co-op.

Connecting producers/farmers with institutional buyers: If you enter a local restaurant, odds are that the food traveled for weeks from another state or country to get to your table! We’re working to connect producers/farmers with institutions so local restaurants (schools, daycares and others) purchase foods that are right in their back yards! This helps our local economy, the produce retains it’s nutritional value and improves health for consumers, and zero travel expenses means more affordable food for everyone.

More than an evening gathered with family and friends to celebrate local food in Downtown Buffalo, our Farm to Fork event is all about supporting food access and affordability in our region. Your attendance allows us to continue working to support our local farmers and producers, encouraging kids to eat new fruits and vegetables, creating access for everyone to the food grown in our region and much more. Help us fill our neighbors forks!

Sponsorship opportunities are also available.