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.

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.

MONTROSE COOKS

  • 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 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.

— Stacy Besonen, Crow River Food Council Member

Event. Determine if an event is possible, whether assisting an established event or hosting our own. That was one of the goals we set for ourselves in 2017. We’re now excited to host Farm to Fork: A Lakeside Gala in Celebration of Local Food on Saturday, September 16 from 5:30-8:30 pm in Downtown Buffalo. But this, of course, did not just happen overnight. Months of research, planning and connecting have gone into an event not to be missed.

Gathering together, social connection and having a conversation around food insecurity and accessibility is the main focus of this meal. In our region, we have amazing farmers and produce; most of this produce is sold to high end restaurants in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The executive chefs there know the quality of the produce. The Crow River Region of Farmers are known as the ‘Napa Valley’ of the Twin Cities. Both the Crow River Food Council and the Sustainable Farming Association Crow River Chapter are working hard to connect consumers, you and I, with producers and local farmers!

With so much goodness available locally in our region, it may be hard to imagine not being able to take advantage of the food grown here, or any food at all for that matter. But, food insecurity and accessibility are real issues our neighbors face. As defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food insecurity is a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. This is often, though not always, limited by income, lack of resources and/or the ability to reach available resources. To combat these issues we’re working on programming and policy changes to make the healthy choice the easy choice for everyone, and that’s what this event will benefit.

SFA_CRiverC_CMYK-01But we can’t do it alone; we’ve partnered with Sustainable Farming Association Crow River Chapter. Encompassing an incredibly diverse part of the state that includes the Twin Cities and the rural counties to their west, SFA Crow River Chapter offers opportunities for farmers, sustainable farming supporters and consumers to participate in a vital and active organization. They represent not only the more “traditional” farmers – dairy, grains, etc. – but also a wide range of thriving specialty and niche market farmers: CSAs, goats, sheep, poultry, herbs, garlic, restaurant and co-op produce, etc. They have an emphasis on education in sustainable practices and an impressive roster of events, including farm tours, the Annual Crow River Chapter Annual Meeting, the Minnesota Garlic Festival, and the popular “farm social” gatherings.

We’ve also partnered with farmers, businesses and people who all call this region home, because connecting locally is our passion! We all have a twinkle in our heart for Buffalo and our region. Read about Farm to Fork Chef Mary Jane Miller and the farmers, businesses and others we’re working with here.

How will the proceeds benefit the Food Council and specific programs?
See our “Why Farm to Fork” post to learn about the programs your Farm to Fork support will benefit. In the meantime, save your seat at the table by purchasing tickets. Sponsorship opportunities are also available. You can find Farm to Fork updates on our Facebook page.

Through a program from Randy’s Environmental Services, residents in the City of Buffalo now have the option to recycle their food waste and food-soiled paper into nutrient-rich compost. Instead of sitting in a landfill, these recycled products make their way through an industrial compost facility and are converted to a compost perfect for lawns, flower beds, background and community gardens, small vegetable and berry farms and rain gardens.

organicsProgram-1000

For those who’ve never composted before, the process couldn’t be easier and takes no more time than tossing your food waste in the trash. Randy’s outlines the process in three simple steps:

  1. Discard food waste and food-soiled paper from meals, your refrigerator and the pantry into a kitchen compost bucket, separate from your other household trash.
  2. Empty your kitchen compost bucket into the 13-gallon Blue Bag Organics BPI-certified bag.
  3. For trash day, tightly hand tie the 13-gallon Blue Bag Organics liner and place it inside your regular garbage cart for curbside pickup. All Blue Bag Organics will be separated from other trash after they’ve been collected. And off they’ll go to an industrial composting facility.

What exactly is food waste and food-soiled paper? The following can be recycled in the Blue Bag Organics bag: spoiled leftovers, meat and bones, fruit and vegetable scraps, egg and nut shells, coffee grounds and filters, tea leaves and tea bags, dairy products, paper towels and napkins, pizza boxes, and BPI-certified products.

To begin this program, contact Randy’s Environmental Services at 763-972-3335. You’ll be provided with everything you need to begin your first year of food waste recycling, including a coupon for a complimentary bag of Blue Bag Premium Compost in early spring.

Learn more:

Excerpts of text used from this Blue Bag Organics flyer and a Randy’s Environmental Services brochure.

— Connie Carlson, Executive Director

In past blog posts, I’ve given you an overview of what the Crow River Food Council aims to do in our community and how we hope to do it. As a council comprised of community leaders and experts in food access, health, food production and education, we are uniquely positioned to impact our community in lasting and beneficial ways. Many of the people who sit on our council take the information, resources and connections they gain through our meetings and projects back to their place of business or organization and continue the ripple effect throughout their work.

Late last year, the Crow River Food Council embarked on a strategic review and goal-setting session for 2017. As a council, we reviewed the work and research we did in 2016 and applied that knowledge to the areas and communities we thought had the most need. From that work, we outlined 3 goals we hoped to accomplish by the end of 2017:

  1. Formalize a Farmer’s Market Working Group that provides support, communication, funding and opportunities for our regional farmer’s markets.

    Farmer’s Market Working Group: Andrew, Ellie and Jeff.

    The council recognizes that one of the few ways our region can currently access the food grown in our community is through Farmer’s 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.

  2. Host a Community-wide Local Food Event to build awareness for the food grown in our community.
    We are pleased to be part of a community-wide effort to host a local food event this Fall that celebrates the bounty of our region and highlights the people who grow our good food. We can’t go into much detail at this time, but suffice to stay, some exciting ideas are in the works. Watch our social media and newsletter for more details as they become available and ways to get involved.
  3. Improve our online mapping and directory to continue to be a local food resource for our region.
    If you tour our website, you’ll see a growing list of resources for local food, farmers and opportunities. We are always working on this resource and encourage you to send us information and updates if you spot something that could use some improvement. Send us a note if you want to be included or know of someone who should be on our list.

As of this writing, I’m pleased to tell you that the Crow River Food Council has exceed our goals already for this year, which is pretty impressive for a small, mostly volunteer run organization. Our next board meeting is scheduled for mid-May and during that meeting we will be reviewing our 2017 and charting out how we want the rest of the year to develop.

We always are seeking community input, suggestions and resources. Feel free to connect with us to share your food system ideas!

— Connie Carlson, Executive Director

You know you are busy when you sit down to write a long overdue blog reviewing a year’s worth of work and realize that it’s March already… whew!

Last year I wrote a short piece, “What exactly IS a Food Council?” that explained who we are and what we are aiming to do in our region. I’m pleased to report that we have held tightly to that vision and have seen tremendous progress in the past year toward growing our food network and goals forward. Here are a few of our accomplishments:

The Little Boon Farm. Photo by Mary Sue Stevens.

The Little Boon Farm. Photo by Mary Sue Stevens.

Our board and individual board members visited dozens of farms, small businesses, food shelves and schools in our region to talk to people in our community who work every day to build our local food system. Our board committed to meeting every month at a different location around our region. Some locations included Irish Blessings Coffee House in Maple Lake, where owner/operator Natalie McClory shared her vision for her Thursday night dinners, and local farmer, Mark Boon from The Little Boon Farm gave a walking tour of his farm and operation. Each visit was an eye-opening experience for the board and an in-person opportunity to understand what it takes to run a small business in our region.

The Little Boon Farm. Photo by Mary Sue Stevens.

The Little Boon Farm. Photo by Mary Sue Stevens.

We expanded our Power of Produce program into Albertville and served well over 1000 children and families in our region. This program has been a tremendous success getting families to try new foods, connecting farmers with new customers and engaging communities in local food. Our council was instrumental in working with a statewide group to develop a PoP Toolkit for other Farmers Markets around the state to implement this important program. The PoP program is slated to return to Monticello and Albertville in 2017 and a few more markets in our region are gearing up to implement it in their markets. Interested in helping YOUR Farmers Market start this program? Email us and we can help you get started.

In October, the Board met for their final meeting of year to go over the work from 2016, assess what we learned and outline our goals for the upcoming year. Our top goals for 2017 are:

  1. Formalize a Farmers Market Working Group that provides support, communication, funding and opportunities for our regional farmer’s markets.
    1. Pleased to report we received a grant through the MN Food Charter to support this work! Look for more details in our newsletter.
  2. Host a Community-wide Local Food Event to build awareness for the food grown in our community.
  3. Improve our online mapping and directory to continue to be a local food resource for our region.  Send us a note if you want to be included or know of someone who should be on our list.

Next month, I’ll outline the progress of these goals and provide some easy ways for you to get involved [Now posted; read more here]. Until then, connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!