Farm News

Posted 11/9/2010 5:35pm by Trent Thompson.

November 5th, 2010  By Kurt Michael Friese

You would never participate in slavery, right?

I know, it seems like a bizarre question in this day and age–of course no sane, civilized member of a modern society would take part in the indentured servitude of others. Lincoln ended all that 150 years ago, didn’t he? And of course you and I would never have anything to do with slavery in 2010.

The dirty little secret though is that millions of Americans are contributing to it each week and they don’t even know it. When you buy tomatoes at the local Publix, Ahold, Kroger, or Walmart, you become the last link in a chain that is attached to shackles in south Florida. We all know Walmart especially is well known for their tireless efforts to force suppliers to keep costs down for everything they buy. One of the results of this kind of business practice is that the wage that pickers are paid for those tomatoes has not gone up for more than 30 years. That wage is $0.45 per bucket of picked green tomatoes, or $0.0145 per pound. And that’s for the ones who actually do get paid.

Since 1993 the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has been working unstintingly to improve these situations, with much success (such as seven convictions for slavery in the last 13 years), but there is still a long way to go. Following on the heels of their victorious boycotts of Yum! Brands’ Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Subway, they also concluded successful negotiations with Whole Foods and BAMCO. Eric Schlosser called their talks with Compass Group “the greatest victory for farmworkers since Cesar Chavez in the 1970′s.” But the work is nowhere near complete.

Earlier this year the CIW launched the Florida Modern Day Slavery Museum, an exhibit mounted on the back of a cargo truck like the one used to imprison farmworkers in the 2008 US v. Navarette slavery conviction. It has been touring the country, and will be touring parts of the Florida, Georgia, and Alabama later this month.

Now the CIW is turning its attention to those big grocery chains in an effort to get them, like the fast food chains before them, to commit to paying an additional penny per pound for the tomatoes they sell and to verify that the extra cent goes directly to the pickers. To help spread the word about this campaign, IATP Food and Society Fellows Shalini Kantayya and Sean Sellers have collaborated on a video that sums up the situation nicely.

The migrant labor issue is the vital subtext of America’s ongoing immigration debate. You may have seen the recent attention paid to it by Stephen Colbert and the “Take our Jobs” campaign.  Some of the workers in and around Immokalee are undocumented, most are here legally. Either way though, surely we can agree that they are all deserving of basic human rights while Washington works (or not) on the larger immigration reform debate. You can play your part by spreading the word, and by telling the management of your local grocery that you’ll no longer be a party to slavery, and you hope they won’t either.


Chef Kurt Michael Friese is the founder of Slow Food Iowa City, serves on the Slow Food USA National Board of Directors. He is chef and owner, with his wife Kim McWane Friese, of the Iowa City restaurant Devotay for 13 years. Owner and publisher of Edible Iowa River Valley, Friese is a freelance food writer and photographer as well, with regular columns in local, regional and national newspapers, magazines, and online. His book, A Cook's Journey: Slow Food in the Heartland, was published in 2008.

Posted 10/26/2010 7:44pm by Trent Thompson.

Every season is a little different here at Green Gardens. Weather, pests, diseases, weeds can all negatively impact our ability to grow the food you love to eat! This year seemed to be particularly challenging for many crops, although we certainly also had some new sucesses which we were proud of. This process helps me as the grower and you as the consumer understand what went right/wrong this season, and the changes that will be made next season. Responses from the 2010 CSA member survey may alter plantings for 2011.

Here we go, crop by crop...

1. Artichokes: Almost total failure again. This summer was wickedly hot! Too hot for artichokes. Harvested about 200 small ones all season off of 210 plants...pitiful. We are eliminating them from our rotation in 2011.

2. Arugula: Very successful. Easy to grow, although a pain to wash. Some problems with flea beetles in mid-summer, but the spring and fall crops have been beautiful.

3. Basil: Good crop in 2010, but could have been better if maintained better by more frequent cuttings.

4. Beets: Very successful. We have struggled in the past with beets, but they were one of our better crops in 2010. We had several great harvests for CSA, markets, and restaurants over the course of the season. Would have done even better without deer pressure in Fall. Expect even more in 2011.

5. Broccoli: Mixed results. Pitiful in spring. Bolted. May experiment with new variety in spring or not plant next spring. Have struggled with spring planted broccoli last two years also. Fall broccoli crop was incredible again! Produced over 800 heads (some massive, 3-4X the size of store broccoli) , plus side-shoots over a 7 week period. Diplomat is the variety name. Will try two plantings in 2011, one in mid-July and the other in late July to extend the broccoli harvest even later into October and November.

6. Broccoli Raab: Good in spring and fall (although we are still waiting for the fall crop, it is looking great!)

7. Brussel Sprouts: Frustrating. Beautiful crop full of aphids. Yuck. We put in over 900 plants this year, so this was painful. We only harvest 300-400 before the aphids took over. Will grow less in 2011 and fertilize with feathermeal.

8. Bush beans: Successful again. Incredible yields off of all rotations. Only regret is not planting more rotations so we could have had them later in the year until October.

9. Cabbage: Great. Happy with spring and fall crops, especially a new variety called Farao that does well densely planted. Lost 30-40% in spring due to cutworm. Planting more in Fall of 2011.

10. Carrots: Continued frustration. Despite having a great crop last Fall, we struggled all year this season with carrots. We must have planted about 5 rotations before giving up on them. Poor germination and/or weeds were the culprits. Purchased a flame weeder this season and have spent some time looking at using burlap over seedlings. Will continue to try carrots until we figure them out!

11. Celeriac: Successful first year! Not sure what CSA members thought of this new, strange crop, but will eagerly await their response from the surveys.

12. Celery: Successful first year! Did incredibly well, although not as big as conventionally grown. Struggled selling it and probably overloaded CSA members with it. Will grow less in 2011.

13. Cilantro: Did very well. Planted more rotations this season. Put more in CSA boxes and sold much more at farmers markets...a surprise seller for us. Planting more in 2011

14. Collards: Successful spring and fall crops. Continued amazement at the productivity of the collards. Planting same in 2011.

15. Cucumbers: Short-lived. Produced for one month, normally we expect at least two good cucumber months. Lost due to virus/heat/fertility issues. Planting same in 2011.

16. Dill: Good. Two rotations. Each did well. Planting same in 2011.

17. Eggplants: Good. Plants became tired in early September due to fertility issues. Will plant large eggplant next season. Planting same in 2011.

18. Garlic: Very good crop in 2010. Put more in CSA boxes and sold more at market. Planted 20% more (3300 cloves) in mid-October of 2010.

19. Japanese Spinach: Great in fall. This is a fall crop! Will plant again for next Fall.

20. Kale: Very successful again. We did lose 50% of our spring planting due to cutworms, which was frustrating. However, the fall crop has been spectacular. CSA and farmers market staple.

21. Kohlrabi: Very Good. Spring and fall crops did reasonably well. Was very impressed by the giant Kohlrabi that we tried. Will plant more in 2011.

22. Leeks: Failure. Lost crop in greenhouse. Sorely missed it this Fall. Will try again in 2011.

23. Lettuce: Spring great, Fall bad. We had several nice crops in the spring. In the Fall, we tried to focus more on our salad mix amd other baby greens. The lettuce we did try in the high tunnel was almost entirely devoured by a woodchuck. He destroyed about 280 heads in two nights.  Will try to grow more in summer and fall in 2011.

24. Mustards: Performed solidly again. However, we will be planting less in 2011. We believe that demand is low from the CSA and FM crowd.

25. Onions: Ok. Although struggling with weeds, our onions did better this year than last. We managed to put them in 5-6 weeks of CSA boxes and sold for several weeks at market. Walla Walla and Mars performed better than our storage variety, Candy, which was a complete failure. Growing the same amount in 2011.

26. Pac Choi: Good. Performed very well this fall.

27. Parsley: Failure. Died in greenhouse. Will try again in 2011. High demand at FM.

28. Peppers: Good. Fertility problems arose in September, but good season overall. Poblanos did not mature in time for harvest. May reduce variety in 2011 and plant less.

29. Popcorn: Failure. Did not plant in time due to wet soil. Will try again in 2012 or 2013 when we are feeling more adventurous again.

30. Potatoes: Great. We did a great job this year with hilling and staying on top of the potato beetles. We were rewarded with a great harvest. All varieties performed great, but we look to be consolidating down to three varieties next season: Dark Red Norland (early), Keuka Gold (mid), and German Butterball (late). These were our best-tasting and most positively commented on. Will plant a little more in 2011 and will save some for October digging.

31. Radishes: Successful all year. Best crops, however, were in spring and fall. More in spring of 2011. Very few in fall.

32. Rutabaga: Failure. Weeds. Will try again in 2011.

33. Salad Mix: The mix was probably the all-star crop of 2010. This was something that we wanted to do big time this year and I think it was very successful. The mix improved over the year and we are beginning to experiment with new greens this fall, working on perfecting the mix. Expect more in 2011. Perhaps different kinds of mixes.

33. Scallions: Good. Success in spring. Would like to have in fall, too, in 2011.

34. Snap Peas: Ok. Poor germination and weeds plagued the snap peas. No snap peas in 2011.

35. Snow Peas: Good. Although weeds were a problem, the Oregon Giant variety we tried performed solidly and had excellent flavor. Will plant more in 2011.

36. Spinach. Ok. Spring crop was good. Fall crops were terrible and ok. We've learned that timing is everything with spinach. The seeds have to be sown at just the right time when the soil temperature is right and they have plenty of moisture.

37. Summer Squash: Short-lived. Produced for one month, normally we expect at least two good summer squash months. Lost due to virus/heat/fertility issues. Planting same in 2011.

38. Sweet Corn: Ok. Lost 50% of crop in 2010 due to corn smut. Looking for good smut-resistant variety for 2011. Will plant same amount.

39. Swiss Chard: Very good. Spring crop was amazing. Fall crop was ok. Greenhouse crop poor. Fall crop could have been better were it not for intensive deer pressure. High yields in spring and fall most likely due to side-dressing of feathermeal.

40. Tomatillos: Good. Produced enough for CSA for two weeks.

41. Tomatoes: Poor. Ok with early tomatoes from high tunnel. Sun Gold in high tunnel produced solidly until October. They were the big tomato bright spot for 2010. Field tomatoes performed terribly. Less than 500 LB yield off of 900 plants. Trying to figure out why exactly this happened. They did have some blight and the summer temps were very high. They may have simply overheated due to black mulch and high night and day temps. Seems strange, but may be true. Will try blight-resistant varities in 2011, along with some reflective solar metallic mulch to reduce soil temps. Will plant same number in 2011. We love tomatoes! No Romas, however.

42. Turnips: Continued success, especially in spring and fall. We has 2-3 rotations of salad turnips that had poor germ in the late summer, but, otherwise, excellent results.

43. Watermelon: Failure. Lost due to weeds/virus/fertility issues. Will plant again in 2011.

44. Winter Squash: Failure. Frustrating. Lost due to weeds/virus/fertility issues. A big loss for our Fall CSA boxes this season. Will consolidate down to three varieties in 2011: Kabocha, Butternut, and Delicata.

45. Zucchini: Short-lived. Produced for one month, normally we expect at least two good zucchini harvesting months. Lost due to virus/heat/fertility issues. Planting same amount in 2011.


Posted 10/20/2010 9:20pm by Trent Thompson.

Well, it's that time of year to get the garlic in the ground! Usually mid-late October is best for warmer Falls in Michigan (as this one has been). You want to get the cloves in the soil before the soil freezes up in November, but not too early so that the garlic grows too much in the Fall (making it vulnerable to a harsh winter).

Here are some photos from our Monday garlic planting and some quick garlic planting directions. We planted 3300 cloves, a 20% increase over 2009. Garlic is one our favorite low-maintenance crops here on the farm. We hope to grow more every year! Remember, to get nice beautiful bulbs next year, you need soil that is healthy. Compost works great or some form of pelleted organic fertilizer.

1. Start with great garlic. We used the cloves from the best bulbs of the 2010 harvest.


2. Create furrows for planting. We use an antique plow for furrows here on the farm. Furrows allow us to plant the garlic easier at a nice depth (4-6" beneath the soil surface).

3. Plant garlic seed upright with base of clove pushed down firmly into the soil.

4. Proper spacing is important. We space ours at 6" between bulbs in a row with 12" between rows.

Here you can see that we are really cramming them in! We have 12, 140 ft. rows. There are four total beds with three rows in each bed. A little extra room between beds, 15".

5. Cover with plenty of soil. Bury as much as possible. You want the clove to be at least 4" beneath the soil surface. Freezing and thawing cycles over the course of the winter can actually heave garlic out of the soil if it is too shallowly planted.

6. If possible, MULCH!

Mulch will reduce weed pressure in the Spring and moderate the weather for garlic over the winter, spring and summer. This year we are using two layers of ReeMay (sheet-like material) instead of straw because we were unable to find an organic source. We will be paying close attention to weeds in the Spring or else we will be in trouble. Garlic yields (like other alliums) can be greatly reduced if weeding isn't timely!

7. Watch it grow beautifully early next season:



8. Harvest scapes (garlic whistles first week of June). Then, harvest bulbs in mid-July after the top half of the plant has died back and turned brown. Cure for 4 weeks by hanging in a dry building. We blow ours with fans to endure dryness and prevent mold/rot.





Posted 10/9/2010 8:38pm by Trent Thompson.

October 7th, 2010  By Kristin Wartman

Wonder why childhood obesity is such a pervasive problem? Take a look at newly released data showing that children ages two to 18 get 40 percent of their daily caloric intake from junk foods like soda, sugary fruit drinks, pizza, cakes, cookies, donuts, and ice cream and wonder no more. That’s nearly half of their daily calories, or 800 calories a day based on a 2000-calorie diet. Call this a triumph for the food industry—a business that has mastered the art of making people eat more and more nutritionally void food—and a tragedy for our nation’s children.

Since the Nixon administration, farmers in the US have produced an additional 500 calories per person per day, which left the food industry with a huge problem–or as they saw it, a huge opportunity: how to entice people to eat more than they need to every day. They’ve accomplished this by engineering foods so that cheap, non-nutritious calories can be packed into highly-addictive processed foods, creating the perfect recipe for a public health disaster.

In research done on rats, one study found that overconsumption of high-calorie foods can create addictive responses in the brain. These foods were also found to turn rats into compulsive binge eaters. A similar response in humans is amplified by the fact that we are programmed to eat more than necessary to survive. Researchers call this trait the “thrifty gene.” Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate as much food as was available in order to survive—those who fattened up while times were good survived when times were bad. But this trait has become a problem in modern society where the opportunity to overeat always exists and the cost of highly caloric junk foods is extremely low—much cheaper than fresh, whole foods. In fact, these sugary and poor-quality fatty foods are the cheapest foods you can get, thanks in part to subsidies on things like corn, soybeans, and wheat, which make up a large portion of many processed foods.

Add to these food-engineering feats, the genius of marketing. Advertisers have made it their business to know how young children perceive the world and then create junk food packaging designed for maximum appeal, according to Anna Lappé, author of Diet for a Hot Planet. Lappe writes, “Children, research has shown, respond most to longer-wavelength colors, like reds, yellows, and oranges. What colors do you think are featured most prominently on sugary-cereal boxes?” Not surprisingly, a cereal box like Trix is bright red. Unfortunately, so is the cereal.

The General Mills Web site boasts: “There’s nothing silly about the nutrition in Trix cereal.” This is true. The second ingredient is sugar and a one cup serving has 11 grams; not to mention the Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 1, the ever-mysterious “artificial flavor” and the preservative BHT, which has been linked to hyperactivity in children and is suspected of being a possible carcinogen. Despite all of this, the front of the box reads: “Whole Grain & Calcium Guaranteed.”

Meanwhile, those 11 grams of sugar equal more than two and a half teaspoons per serving. While there are currently no limits on how much sugar a child should consume in a day (curious though that is) the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that an adult woman consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day. If we assume that the average child is about half the weight of an adult woman, that means one serving of Trix cereal is the upper limit of how much sugar a child could safely consume in one day. Problem is, that’s only breakfast. The AHA found that the average teen eats 34 teaspoons a day.

These sugary cereals are aggressively marketed to children, more so than more nutritious cereals, another recent study found. The long-term consequences of starting kids on sugar-laden and artificially flavored foods is that it taints their palates, making it harder for them to appreciate the flavors of whole foods. Researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity say that children will eat unsweetened cereals if they are offered it. “There are ways to train kids to eat healthier food, it’s all about what they’re exposed to,” one author of the study told ABC news.

This brings to mind a little-known study Nina Planck writes about in Real Food for Mother and Baby conducted by a pediatrician named Clara Davis in the 1920s and 1930s. She wanted to see what babies would choose to eat if a variety of whole foods were laid out before them, without any outside pressure telling them what to eat or not eat. After an analysis of more than 36,000 meals, Davis found that the babies ate a varied diet, were well nourished, and were not picky about the foods they were eating. Most interestingly, the babies seemed to have an innate knowledge of the foods they needed to thrive. A nine-month old with rickets drank cod liver oil until his rickets was cured and then stopped drinking it. One baby ate seven eggs a day, another had four bananas, one ate mostly bone marrow, and another regularly drank a quart of milk with lunch. None of the babies suffered stomachaches or other distress, and the meals the babies chose remedied their nutritional deficits.

As fascinating as this study is, we have to wonder what would happen if junk foods were also laid out before these babies—or maybe we don’t? In cultures where American junk foods have come to replace traditional diets, rates of obesity and chronic illness soar. But if we ensured that all children had access to real, whole foods and if these foods were encouraged and marketed with the same fervor as junk foods, then perhaps we would be seeing much different statistics than the very frightening ones we’re seeing now.

This is the third piece in a regular column by holistic nutrition expert, Kristin Wartman. (The first piece is here, the second is here.) She will examine food, nutrition, and the way the industrial food industry affects our food system and our health.

Posted 10/9/2010 8:36pm by Trent Thompson.

September 30th, 2010  By Kristin Wartman

Last week, when asked about his new trim physique, Bill Clinton stunned CNN’s Wolf Blitzer by revealing that he has lost 24 pounds eating a mostly “plant-based” diet.

The former President told Blitzer that he mostly eats beans, legumes, vegetables, and fruit and takes a protein supplement in his morning fruit and almond milk smoothie. Clinton underwent a quadruple bypass in 2004 and had two stents put in this past February after learning that one of his bypassed arteries was blocked again. While many commentators are hung up on his dramatic weight loss and the debate about the nutritional value of veganism, they are missing the most important story: Clinton’s change from a life-shortening Standard American Diet (SAD) to a plant-based diet of whole foods.

The SAD is loaded with sugar, trans-fats, refined carbohydrates, additives, chemicals, pesticides and hormones, while being basically void of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods. One of the many problems with the SAD diet is that it will eventually catch up with you. As part of the aging baby-boomer generation, Clinton is one of many dealing with a chronic condition or a health scare and looking for alternative diets or complements to medications to help reverse the damage.

Most Americans aren’t eating anything close to a plant-based diet, and are instead consuming large amounts of processed and packaged foods. In their most recent study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that only 26 percent of the nation’s adults eat vegetables three or more times a day. As a result, the SAD is typically nutrient and mineral deficient and has contributed to one third of the population being obese or overweight. It is also at the root of chronic diseases and conditions like heart disease, diabetes and many cancers. As contradictory as it may seem, many overweight people are also nutrient starved, and one theory holds that this is due to the fact that our bodies drive us to overeat when the foods we’re eating are not supplying us with the nutrients we need to thrive.

This is why it’s important to remember that what you don’t eat is just as critical as what you do eat, and when you stop eating junk, as Clinton has done, you’re bound to start eating whole foods. While I don’t know exactly what Clinton is eating, if he truly is eating a plant-based, whole foods diet, then there are several harmful ingredients being left out of his menu: high-fructose corn syrup, or refined sugar of any kind; trans-fats or other poor-quality oils; and refined flour products, like white bread in all of its forms. These are the real culprits behind obesity, elevated cholesterol levels and a host of chronic health conditions. And since Clinton was notorious for his love of junk food, sweets, and fast-food (in fact, Saturday Night Live even performed a skit about it), it’s no wonder that by cutting all of this out, he’s lost weight and feels better.

It’s nothing ground-breaking, or rather, it shouldn’t be. Eating healthy foods is not mysterious or all that hard. It’s just not what you see advertised on television and it’s not what you’ll see in the supermarket (unless as Michael Pollan has advised, you only shop the perimeters). Processed foods and beverages have become so commonplace that people often don’t see them for what they truly are: chemicals and additives masquerading as food. On top of this, big food companies are actively misleading the public through advertising, and as a result most people think processed, artificial food substances are actually real foods—and sometimes they believe they’re healthy foods too.

Kellogg’s was recently slammed by the Federal Trade Commission for making false claims about not one, but two of their cereals. They first claimed that their Frosted Mini-Wheats were “clinically shown to improve kids attentiveness by 20 percent.” Turns out that wasn’t true—big surprise! Then for the second time this year, they were reprimanded for claiming that Rice Krispies “now helps support your child’s immunity” and “Kellogg’s Rice Krispies has been improved to include antioxidants and nutrients that your family needs to help them stay healthy.” The bottom line is to be wary of any food that comes in a package and steer clear of foods for which advertisements or health claims are made. Even many so-called “health foods” are equally processed and are often just as harmful as junk food. You don’t see corporate ad campaigns for bunches of kale or spinach and there’s no ingredient list to read on the bulk bin of steel cut oats. You can be assured that these are whole foods with no agenda behind them.

Clinton’s shift in thinking about the foods he eats seems to be indicative of a greater movement underway. Although his change was born out of necessity, we can only hope that he will serve as a role model to others hoping to avert catastrophic events like bypass surgery. The more Americans who understand the connection between their diet and their health, and who can see behind the insidious claims the big food corporations make, the better off we’ll be as a nation. We need to shed extra weight, become more healthy, and rely less on a food industry that clearly doesn’t have our best interests in mind.

Clinton with Wolf Blitzer on CNN:

This is the second piece in a regular column by holistic nutrition expert, Kristin Wartman. (The first piece is here.) She will examine food, nutrition, and the way the industrial food industry affects our food system and our health.

Posted 10/9/2010 8:22pm by Trent Thompson.

Young Farmers Sprouting Up Across the Nation

October 6th, 2010  By Jared Pickard

In an attempt to explain what seems to be the seed of a cosmic shift in how farming is practiced and portrayed in America, I offer you my story:

I’m 26 years old, and after a three year stint working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and navigating the concrete jungle, I needed out.

I was interested in much more than a career change. My mind, my body, my immune system, my belief system, my soul, my skin, and my fingertips—every piece of me began aching to evacuate the city immediately.

Without any major physical ailments or health concerns to speak of, my ill feelings inspired me to reexamine what I, as a human being, truly needed to get by. All the things I felt I needed—fresh food raised naturally, exercising and sweating in the sun, getting dirt under my nails, breathing fresh air, walking on earth, feeling accomplished by my labor—these very personal things I craved were being hustled, bustled, and trampled on by my own over-stimulated, under-satisfied, never-sleeping, big apple life.

Exposed to organics, local farmers, and the flourishing Brooklyn farm-to-table restaurant scene, I had gotten a taste of what was possible and there was no turning back. I was hooked—something from deep inside me began to slowly bubble towards the surface.

As I looked around me–whether it be America as a whole, a particular state I was in, the strangers sitting across from me on public transit, or even my closest loved ones–I’ve seen that we are becoming a sick people. Fat and obese people everywhere, widespread learning disabilities amongst children, and cancers riddling away entire family trees are now cultural norms. Cont. here

Posted 10/4/2010 8:58am by Trent Thompson.
Good Morning All,

Just to clarify, anyone in Southwest Michigan can take Emily's local food survey despite the title saying Kalamazoo, MI residents. If you have any other questions, contact

Posted 10/1/2010 9:31pm by Trent Thompson.
Greetings all,

A good friend and fellow WMU Geographer is working on her Masters Thesis; her concentration being local food in Southwest Michigan. One part of her research is a 15-or-so minute survey asking for your thoughts on various aspects regarding local food, which she has asked me to pass this along to our wonderful Green Gardens customers and supporters. I feel this is a great way to share your thoughts, concerns, and participation on the matter. On that note, I'll let her introduce herself and provide you with a link to her survey.


Hello! My name is Emily Simms. I am a graduate student in the Geography Department at Western Michigan University. You are invited to participate in a research project entitled “Local Food: Perceptions and Realities in Kalamazoo, Michigan" which I am conducting with my thesis adviser, Dr. Lucius Hallett, IV. This project is designed to analyze local food systems and consumption practices in southwestern Michigan. This research is being conducted as part of my Master’s Thesis requirements. The questionnaire should take no more than 15 minutes of your time and your replies will be completely anonymous. Please following the link posted below to participate. The survey will be available until October 31st. I appreciate your time and help!

I really appreciate your help!
Posted 9/11/2010 7:18pm by Trent Thompson.

Fair-weather foodies

by Rebecca Thistlewaite

Boar with large testiclesDuroc-ing out: This boar has got what it takes.  Photo courtesy of Dave Hamster via FlYou watched Food, Inc. with your mouth aghast. You own a few cookbooks.

You go out to that hot new restaurant with the tattooed chef who's putting on a whole-animal, nose-to-tail pricy special dinner. You bliss out on highfalutin' pork rinds, braised pigs feet, rustic paté, and porchetta.

Later that weekend, you nibble on small bites as you stroll down the city street, blocked off for a weekend "foodie" festival.

Then you go back to your Monday-Friday workaday routine, ordering pizza and buying some frozen chicken breasts at Costco ("Hey, at least they're 'organic'!") to get you through your hectic week. (You make time for at least two hours a day of reality TV.) You manage to get to a farmers market about once a month, but the rest of the time your eggs and meat come from Costco, Trader Joe's, and maybe Whole Paycheck now and again.

Guess what? You are NOT changing the food system. Not even close.

You're no better or different than the average American. You pat yourself on the back, you brag about your lunch on Twitter, you pity your Midwestern relatives eating their chicken-fried steak and ambrosia salad, but you secretly loathe your grocery store bill -- which consumes only 8 percent of your income while your car devours 30 percent. Your bananas and coffee may be Fair Trade, but everything else is Far From It. The dozen eggs you splurge on once a month may be from local, outdoor-roaming birds, but all the other eggs you eat come from a giant egg conglomerate in either Petaluma, Calif., or Pennsylvania.

And even that pig in that nose-to-tail fancy dinner came from a poor farmer in Kansas or Iowa because the restaurant is too cheap or lazy to find local, pastured pork. And the ingredients for that foodie festival touting itself as local and sustainable? They mostly came from other states except a few ingredients they highlight as being "local." But those restaurants, caterers, and food trucks just go back to using the low-cost distributor once the event is over.

So. Want to make a difference?

Here's what a sustainable food system actually needs you to do, in no particular order:

Educate yourself:

  • Don't take anything at face value -- read, listen, observe, research. Look at both sides of an issue and all points in between.
  • Read not just the Omnivore's Dilemma, but also Silent Spring, Sand County Almanac, and anything you can find by Wendell Berry.
  • Learn why farmers and ranchers who don't earn enough to cover their costs are not sustainable and that something has to suffer as a result, whether it be quality, animal welfare, land stewardship, wages, health care, mental & physical health, or family life.
  • Understand why sustainable food should actually cost 50 to 100 percent more than industrial, conventional food. Figure out how to buy food more directly from farmers and ranchers, if you want to avoid some of the transportation/distribution/retail markup costs.
  • Know the names of more farmers and ranchers than celebrity chefs, including at least one you can call by first name -- and ask how their kids are doing.
  • Understand that if you want to see working conditions and wages come up for farming and food processing workers, that you will have to pay more for food. Be OK with that.
  • Learn about the Farm Bill and plan to write a letter/make a phone call when it comes up for re-authorization.

Chill out:

  • Don't expect a farmer to have year-round availability and selection. Alter your diet to match the seasonal harvests in your area. Get used to not eating tomatoes until at least July, apples in late August to December, citrus in winter, greens in spring. Don't complain.
  • Realize that even animal products are seasonal because animals have biological cycles. Know that chickens produce much less eggs in winter when days are shorter and even come to a complete stop when they are replacing their feathers (molting). Consequently you may have to eat less eggs and pay more for them during that time. Don't complain.
  • Don't expect the farmer/rancher to sacrifice the health and welfare of the animal for your particular fad diet du jour (no corn, no soy, no wheat, no grains, no antibiotics ever, even if the animal will die, no irrigation, no hybrid breeds, no castrating, no vaccines ... what is it this week?)
  • Understand that the tenderloin/filet is the most expensive muscle on the animal and that there is very little of it. Don't expect there to be filet every time you go to market. There are finite parts to an animal. Be OK with that. Embrace it. Learn to cook other parts.
  • Understand that there are not enough USDA-inspected slaughter and butcher facilities, which makes special orders difficult and limits how the meat can be processed. If you want a particular cut, organ meat, or process, then buy a half- or whole animal so you can ask the butcher to make that happen yourself.
  • Don't call a farmer a week before you're having a pig roast to ask for a dressed-out pig, delivered fresh to you, for under $300. We are not magicians, just farmers.

Get your hands dirty:

  • Sweat on a farm sometime.
  • Participate in the death of an animal that you consume.
  • Successfully cook a roast. You don't need steaks and chops to make an amazing meal.
  • Get a chest freezer and put some food away in it
  • Cook and enjoy at least one of the following: chicken feet, gizzards, liver, heart, kidney, sweet breads, head cheese, or tripe.
  • Save your bones for soup, beans, stock, or your doggies!
  • If you own land that's not being farmed, tell some farmers about it. If you rent land to farmers, offer a fair rental price or fair lease (long-term is better), and then stay out of the way and don't meddle or hinder the farmers. They are not your pet farmers nor your landscapers.
  • Throw your consumer dollar behind a couple beginning farmers or lower-income farmers. Be concerned about how landless, lower-income producers are going to compete with the increasing numbers of wealthy landownerss getting into farming as a hobby.

Help your local farmers do their job:

  • Bring your kids/grandkids/nieces & nephews to the farmers market and to real farms as often as possible
  • If you ask to visit the farm, also offer to help out or spend some decent money while you are there. Otherwise, wait patiently until the next group farm tour. Don't expect a farmer to drop everything just to give you a special tour.
  • Consider making a low-interest loan, grant, or pre-payment to a farmer to help her cover her operating expenses. Stick with that farmer for the long haul, as long as he continues to supply quality product and can stay in business.
  • Give more than just money to a farmer or rancher -- maybe a Christmas card, invitation to a party, offer to spiff up their website, or watch their kid for an hour at the farmers' market.

Really put your money where your mouth is:

  • Don't complain about prices. If price is an issue for you on something, ask the farmer nicely if he has any less expensive cuts (or cosmetically challenged "seconds"), bulk discounts, or volunteer opportunities. But don't ask the farmer to earn less money for his hard work.
  • Don't compare prices between farmers who are trying to do this for a living and those that do it only as a hobby (and don't have to make a living from what they produce and sell).
  • Share in a farmer's risk by putting up some money and faith up front via a Community Supported Agriculture share. And then suck it up when you don't get to eat something that you paid for because there was a crop failure or an animal illness.
  • Buy local when available, but also make a point of supporting certified Fair Trade, Organic products when buying something grown in tropical countries
  • Buy organic not just for your health, but for the health of the land, waterways, wildlife, and the workers in those fields
  • Figure out the handful of restaurants that buy and serve truly sustainable food and become loyal to them. Occasionally give them feedback and thank them.
  • If your budget doesn't allow you to eat out often, eat out infrequently but at the places with the best integrity that may be more costly.
  • Ask the waiter where the restaurant's meat or fish comes from, and how it was raised before you order it.  If the waiter gives an insufficient answer, order vegetarian and tell them what you want to see next time if they want your business again.
  • Don't buy meat from chain grocery stores, not even Whole Paycheck. Understand that for them to get meat in volume with year-round selection and availability, they have to work with large distribution networks and often international suppliers, and don't pay enough to the producers for them to even cover their costs.
  • Get the majority of your produce, meat, eggs, dairy, bread, dried fruit, nuts, and  olive oil from farmers markets, CSAs, U-pick farms, and on-farm stands. Try to buy from the actual farmer, not a middleman. Get the rest of your food from the bulk section, dairy case, or bakery of your local independent grocer.
  • Pay for your values. If it hurts, don't have fewer values, just eat less food (sorry, but most Americans could stand to do a bit of this)

I admit, this is a lot to digest.

What I am saying is that we can't be casual about the food system we want to see. If more people don't show some commitment, and take part in some of the hard work that farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers do on a daily basis, then we cannot build a sustainable food system.

You don't have to be a passive consumer. You are part of this system, too. Don't just eat, do something more!

Posted 9/8/2010 6:17am by Trent Thompson.

For CSA Members...

1. Broccoli crop looks fabulous. Probably 2-4 weeks off.
2. Cabbage looks great, too. Probably 2-4 weeks off.
3. Turnips again in 2-4 weeks.
4. Beets likely again in two weeks
5. Radishes on and off over next 7 weeks.
6. Broccoli Raab in 4-6 weeks
7. Kale, Collards, Chard on and off over next 7 weeks. They all look great.
8. Salad Mix will likely be a staple for the rest of the year.
9. Winter Squash last two weeks of October. Spaghetti and Bnut mostly. Will update after squash harvest next week.
10. Celeriac in 4-6 weeks. This is new this year. Looks great.
11. Pac Choi in 6-7 weeks.
12. Arugula on and off over next 6-7 weeks.
13. Brussel Sprouts. Lots. But mostly in two more weeks. Then, through October.
14. Lettuce. early- mid October through the end of October.
15. Peppers 'til frost. Pablanos still to come.
16. Eggplants are toast. No more.
17. Hopefully, spinach in October. No guarantees here. Germination is spotty.
18. Tomatoes do look much better. Fruit are getting bigger and rosier. But no guarantees here, either, esp. if cold Sept.
19. Hopefully, Mustard and Japanese Spinach last couple weeks of October (this depends on the weather).
20. Potatoes. Next week is last week. Keuka Gold.