— Elissa Brown, Crow River Food Council Member

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a simple concept that has a profound impact within local food systems. CSA farms, at their most basic level, create a mutually beneficial relationship between farmers and people in their community who agree to share the risks and benefits of producing food. Here’s how CSAs generally work:

A farmer decides before their productive season how many memberships they would like to offer to the public. Then, interested individuals or families sign up to become members for the season and pay the farmer a set price in advance. In return, members receive a share of fresh produce every week throughout the season. Vegetables are a popular option, but CSAs can also include shares of eggs, bread, meat, cheese, fruit, flowers, or any other farm product!

Farmers benefit from offering CSA memberships by gaining a reliable source of income before the work and expenses of the growing season, which helps immensely with cash flow. They also earn a safety net of support from members who essentially agree that the farmers’ work is worth paying for, even if the growing season turns out to be less than ideal.

Members benefit from gaining access to what often turns out to be an abundance of fresh, local, and seasonal food – often broadening their palettes and cooking expertise to make use of it all! Members also get the opportunity to form a deeper understanding of where their food comes from and how it is grown, as well as form lasting relationships with their farmer and the community of other CSA members.

Now that spring is upon us, it’s the perfect time to consider whether joining a CSA is the right choice for you this year! If so, you can start researching which local farm is a good fit by taking a look at our Crow River Area Directory.

National Nutrition Month

— Andrew Doherty, RDN, Crow River Food Council Member

March marks the 30 day, yearly recognition of National Nutrition Month, sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). The goal of the month long awareness program is to encourage Americans to understand the value of making informed decisions when selecting foods, and to communicate the importance of nutrition’s impact on overall health.

“There is not one specific eating pattern that a person needs to follow, but instead it can be achieved by including a variety of healthy foods from all of the 5 MyPlate food groups.” The simple act of choosing healthier options with the foods we are already buying and preparing at home can make a huge impact. When planning and shopping for food just following these simple guidelines can easily put you on the path to eating healthy in no time, and at no additional cost!

  • Make half your plate vegetables and fruit: Choose fresh whole fruits when able, frozen, dried and canned in 100% juice and/or no salt added will do just fine as well.
  • Choose sides of vegetables in a variety of colors, prepared in a healthful way: steamed, sautéed, roasted or raw.
  • Make half your grains whole grains: Looks for whole grains listed as the first or second ingredient on the ingredients list.
  • Vary your protein foods: mixing in options like seafood, beans, unsalted nuts, eggs, and lean meats and poultry.
  • Move to low-fat or fat-free dairy products: When choosing dairy foods selecting low-fat or fat-free options will still have the same amount of calcium and protein!
  • Eat and drink less sodium, saturated fats, and added sugars: Look at the Nutrition Facts label and ingredients list to limit items high in sodium, saturated fat and added sugar.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

March 2016 imageThink of each of these healthful changes as your own personal “win” on your path to a healthier, nutritious lifestyle. Taking on one win at a time that fits into your lifestyle will lead you to healthy behavior changes overtime.

For more information on how you can plan, shop, and eat your way to a healthy lifestyle visit www.choosemyplate.gov.

The History and Purpose of The Crow River Food Council, in a nutshell.
— Connie Carlson, Executive Director

Early in 2014, a team of interested people from the Crow River region met and formulated a work plan with Wright County Health and Human Services and the MN State Health Improvement Program (SHIP) to fund the formation of the Crow River Food Council (CRFC). Initially, the idea of the council was born out of the recognition that our region—spanning much of Crow River watershed—is rich with agricultural resources. Yet, this bounty is not easily accessible to the residents of this region.

The first step in the formation of the council was conducting interviews with dozens of Crow River citizens—farmers, business leaders, educators, policy makers and others—to determine the food challenges, interests, needs and assets of our region. These interviews helped shape the early strategies of CRFC and informed the creation of our mission statement:

The Crow River Food Council promotes healthy eating that maximizes the use of local, regional, and seasonal food produced with sustainable practices and creates prosperous communities in our region.

We are focusing on strategies that make it easier to purchase fruits and vegetables, support local farms, grow our local food system and address the wide range of challenges and disparities faced when trying to eat a healthy diet.

Jan 2016 Blog Image

But, the Crow River Food Council is more than a communication tool promoting local food. We work, develop and amplify efforts to make it easier for all ages and demographics in our communities to access the food grown here. Our power comes from the people who participate on the council. CRFC is comprised of people from a wide range of professions, expertise and experience. We have business leaders, farmers, health workers, teachers, communication experts, restaurant owners and government employees, each volunteering time every month to talk about our region, discuss our needs and develop strategies and programs that address the unique challenges to our region. Each person brings not only their expertise, but also their networks and connections to build and shape our initiatives.

For example, in 2015, the CRFC launched the Power of Produce (PoP) program with the Monticello Farmers’ Market. This program was intended to encourage the youngest shoppers in our community to explore the farmers’ market every week and get to know the people who grew their fresh raspberries, squash, cucumbers and other favorite foods. Any kid under the age of 12 who visited the market was given a $2 token to shop. The producers made sure they had food to offer at that price and every week, we watched kids and families joyfully walk away with their fresh food. We had over 400 children participate in this event and the producers considered it a resounding success. We are currently reaching out to other Farmers Markets’ in the region to expand our reach a little more in 2016 and hope to bring on one or two more local markets. (You can read more about this program here.)

The CRFC is run on volunteers, but has two part-time employees, the Director and the Administrative Assistant who direct, manage and track the ongoing initiatives and communicate the progress with the community. The council exists to represent the people in our communities and work towards making our region more liveable through better access to healthy food. You can read more about Crow River Food Council mission and council, our plans for 2016 and how you can get involved on our website. Be sure to find us on Facebook and Twitter, too!

Bring your kids to the Monticello Market.  Between July 9 and September 24, all kids ages 4-12 will be able to participate in the Power of Produce Kids Club. (POP Kids Club)

When kids come to the market, they register with the farmers’ market desk. Each child receives a token worth $2 and a reusable shopping bag.  Kids can then wander the market and pick their favorite fruits or vegetables and purchase them with their own money.  Each week families return during the POP Club weeks, kids will receive another token!

This is a win-win-win for families, farmers and our communities.

The Crow River Food Council, the Monticello Farmers Market and LiveWright are partnering to bring this great program to the market.

We are thankful to the Wright County Area United Way and Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electrical Association for financial sponsorship support along with funds provided by the Statewide Health Improvement Program of the MN Department of Health.

MonticelloPOPFinal

Success in 2015 for the Power of Produce Program

BoyPoP_webGirlsPoP_webAfter much preparation and planning, the first season of the PoP at the Monticello Farmers’ Market was a fantastic success. In total, over 400 kids signed up to participate in the program in Monticello. Using their $2 tokens, participants carefully selected everything from raspberries and cucumbers to squash and eggplant. At summer’s end, 1012 tokens were redeemed.

With a successful launch at the Monticello Farmers’ Market, the PoP expanded to the Saturday Market in Delano through the second half of the summer season. At this smaller market, 71 kids signed up and redeemed 185 tokens.

Positive feedback from kid participants, in addition to survey results from both parents and market vendors indicate the need to continue the program in 2016. In doing so, Food Council members will work to secure funding through sponsorships and grants and explore the potential of expanding the program to new markets in the region.

If you are interested in providing funding for the 2016 Power of Produce Program, would like to be involved with the program or have questions for the Food Council, please contact us at connect@crowriverfoodcouncil.org. Be sure to find us on Facebook and Twitter, too!

Long-time organic farmers Greg and Mary Reynolds of Riverbend Farm in Delano, Minn., are the 2015 MOSES Organic Farmers of the Year. This prestigious award recognizes organic farmers who practice outstanding land stewardship, innovation and outreach. The Reynolds received their award at the 2015 MOSES Organic Farming Conference last week.

Dedicated to experimenting with new systems to improve biodiversity and fertility on 30 acres of diversified organic vegetable and small grains production, the Reynolds are well known for their generosity in sharing their knowledge with both other farmers and consumers. Read more.

Nick and Amelia Neaton
Published in MinnPost, February 20, 2015

NEW GERMANY, Minn. — Sometime this spring, on 10 acres of farmland now lying fallow in the February cold, Nick and Amelia Neaton will once again plant vegetables for the people living in the small towns and villages of northwest Carver County.

Eighty “shareholders” will pay the Neatons $560 for a full share (or $330 for a half) of sweet peppers, red slicing tomatoes, Brussels sprouts and an assortment of other produce. A grocery store/restaurant in Minneapolis and a suburban school district are among the other customers that will look to this small plot of land for some of their food. Read more…