— Colleen Wolbeck, Crow River Food Council Member

Can local living create a culture to support our community? “Shop Local” is a phrase identifying products, food, and businesses rooted in the community. Patrons make a conscious effort to buy from local shops, eat fare grown by local farmers and obtain supplies from artisans in the area. The newest generation uses social media to routinely post about local stores, breweries, wineries and farmer’s markets. If they have started a trend to shop local, can the rest of the population do this also? Let’s find out how.

Which places entice the locals to buy from local shops and markets? The most gracious method to get local products is directly from the farmer or maker. Social media and websites have played a positive role recently to give producers a leg up in the marketplace. Many of these producers will most definitely give buyers a deal just to contact them in person. This feat will benefit the consumer only if they take charge of how they purchase. Subscribing to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share to obtain fresh vegetables and goods weekly during the growing season is the next best thing. Then, you have your neighborhood Farmer’s Market showcasing the locally grown products in the area. In recent years, grocery stores have included homegrown products on their shelves. Discerning shoppers need to read the fine print and ask questions as to “how” local is the product. Grocery store “Local” can mean made in the United States or within the general region, so shoppers should inspect where foodstuffs are actually sourced. Buying as close to the source will get you fresher and better merchandise in the long run.

Collage 2018-10-02 15_37_16Small businesses are a way to support the area’s commerce. Mom and pop shops, antique stores, eateries, food trucks and markets have a magnetism which draws in people. Chefs have started to source local seasonal ingredients from farmers and food producers. Restaurant goers then experience the food scene from the area. Artisans take great pride in expertly crafting their goods, and shoppers reap the benefit when buying local goods. The community of producers are a tight knit group who point consumers toward other producers developing a verbal farmer’s market.

Local living intertwines where we live to the people who create and grow. Marketers enhance the consciousness of local living. Attracting the population to this movement will benefit producers which feeds into the soul of the community. Take this as a call to action, support local! This is the best way to love where you live!

Editors note: we’re working to update our Regional Directory to make it even easier to find local products, food and businesses in the Crow River region. Keep an eye on our social media, newsletter and website for an announcement about it’s completion.

— Ellie Vanasse, Crow River Food Council Member

I sat at my first Crow River Food Council meeting about two years ago, surrounded by a passionate group of school workers, farmers, local health care representatives, chefs, community members, and more. Amazed by the diversity of background and perspective in the room, I thought to myself, “I’m going to love working with and learning from this group.”

Not only was I new on the Council, but I was also new to my position as a Public Health Nurse with Wright County (and new to the area!). I had been searching for a way to marry my passion for local food with my work in public health, which made this opportunity with the Council a great fit. What makes this possible is my work on the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP), a grant from the Minnesota Department of Health that focuses on obesity prevention and tobacco cessation.

Vanasse, center, at a spring Farmer's Market Meeting.

Vanasse, center, at a spring Farmer’s Market Meeting.

The Council was established by a few like-minded people who wanted to intentionally strengthen the local, healthy food environment in Wright County. With the support of SHIP since its inception, the Council has done just that; this is a reliable group of people who work to ensure consumers have access to healthy food from local producers. SHIP funds staff positions on the Council to coordinate projects at places like farmers markets, local food retailers, and food shelves. My goal, and the goal of SHIP, is to make the healthiest choice the easiest choice by adapting the policies, systems, and environments that impact the availability and accessibility of healthy food.

Since 2009, Community Health Boards across the state have received SHIP funding to promote active living, healthy eating, and tobacco cessation. We know that good health is created where we live, work, learn, and play; therefore, Wright County Public Health partners with schools, workplaces, child care providers, hospitals, and communities to make long-term, sustainable changes. My work, and that of my colleagues, is all about using local resources to enhance opportunities for our community to live happier and healthier lives.

If you’d like to learn more about SHIP and other local health initiatives, please visit www.livewright.org or feel free to contact me at eleanor.vanasse@co.wright.mn.us.

— Stacy Besonen, Crow River Food Council Member. Feature image: The Little Boon Farm, Maple Lake, by Mary Sue Stevens.

Did you know, most Americans don’t know where their food comes from – let alone who grew it or how it was grown? Our connection to food has diminished to nothing more than a quick transaction at the check-out line, with no thought to who is behind the kale in our salads or the chicken on our grills. As a society, we know we are nature deprived. Not enough Vitamin D from the sun, not enough contact with the ground to literally ground us, not enough fresh air to breath deep! This is where Farms and Farmers Markets can play a role in reconnecting!

Farms and Farmers Markets reconnect communities to their food system. They create an opportunity where farmers can simultaneously sell fresh, local food and serve as food educators, revitalizing the way consumers shop and eat. They are places where farmers and neighbors meet to socialize and exchange ideas around cooking, nutrition, and agriculture. What produce is in season? What’s a healthy way to prepare asparagus? How do you raise your chicken? These answers can be found at a farm or farmers market – answers that educate, inform, and build relationships between communities, farmers, and food.

Farms and Farmers Markets reconnect a sense of community among their customers. Not only do patrons shop for farm fresh food, but they also engage in conversation, meet neighbors for lunch, and enjoy the festive atmosphere with family and friends. Research indicates people thrive and are naturally happier when socially connected. Farms and Farmers Markets support emotional health by creating a cheerful space where people come together for laughter, fellowship, food, and fun.

Farms and Farmers Markets reconnect us to healthy lifestyles and diets. Many local area Farmers Markets have the Power of Produce program (POP), where kids receive a $2 weekly token to purchase food themselves. Parents report that their kids, who participate in the program, eat more veggies! Farmers Markets in low-income areas also report increased consumption of vegetables among people within walking distance. To find a Farmers Market close to you, visit: https://minnesotagrown.com/.

baby-potatoes-farm-farming-775707Amelia from Sweet Beet Farm says, “People who visit our farm get to experience the process of small scale organic vegetable production systems. They get to observe the diversity of perennials and annual plants, pollinators, all working together.” Sweet Beet Farm, as well as other local farms, have several events inviting the public to come together to spend time eating, planting or working on big projects. If you want your kids to experience farm life, call a farmer and give your availability and the farmer can put together a work project for your family to get your hands in the dirt! For more information on events at Sweet Beet Farm check out their website at www.sweetbeetfarm.com.

Many local farms welcome visitors at most hours of the day, however, it a good idea to call and set up an appointment before your first visit. To find a farm close to you, visit: https://minnesotagrown.com/.

Farms and Farmers Markets bring people together and improve the health of the community!

— 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.

Dandelions

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)

INSTRUCTIONS
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

Purslane

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

    Convenience
    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

    Cost
    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.