Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Review: Greenup Cafe

There's a review of Greenup Cafe, which sources locally, over on Grazing Locally in the Bluegrass.

President Bush: Eat Local Foods

In yesterday's press conference, George W. Bush recommended Americans and the world eat more locally:

One thing I think that would be -- I know would be very creative policy is if we -- is if we would buy food from local farmers as a way to help deal with scarcity, but also as a way to put in place an infrastructure so that nations can be self-sustaining and self-supporting. It's a proposal I put forth that Congress hasn't responded to yet, and I sincerely hope they do.
Wow! I agree with the President. That's a new experience for me.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ohio beekeepers asking for help

The Ohio State Beekeepers Association is requesting letters from Ohioans to Governor Strickland and Ohio Director of Agriculture Robert Boggs protesting planned cuts in the Ohio Department of Agriculture's Apiary Program, which would eliminate the last remaining trained apiculturist from the program and assign his duties to pest inspectors. The OSBA believes this will cripple the program at a crucial point, when honeybees are already threatened.

Here is the OSBA position paper:
The honey bee, essential to crop pollination and a healthy environment, is threatened by planned cuts to the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s (ODA) Apiary Program. Honey bees not only produce honey, they are essential for the pollination of over 90 food and forage crops. One third of our food supply, or every third bite you take, depends on honey bee pollination. The USDA estimates the value of honey bee pollination to U.S. agriculture to be in excess of 14 billion dollars annually. A 2005 Ohio Department of Agriculture report estimates the value of honey bee pollination to Ohio agriculture to be 44 million dollars annually.

Mounting threats to the honey bee such as parasitic mites, diseases and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which has received much publicity in the past year, have endangered the honey bee and the beekeeping industry in Ohio and around the world. The ODA Apiary Program has worked to protect the honey bee in Ohio since 1905 through a program of inspection and regulation. However, a series of cuts in the Apiary Program over the past decade has reduced the trained apiary staff within the ODA from a total of six to one, a level of staffing that is barely adequate to maintain an effective program.

Due to the budgetary crisis and the need to cut expenditures, the ODA plans to reduce the apiary program even farther this summer. The sole trained and experienced apiculturist (beekeeper) responsible for supervising the apiary program will be eliminated and his inspection duties will be assigned to plant inspectors within the plant pest program. These hastily trained persons with little or no prior experience as beekeepers will be expected to fulfill the responsibilities of a state bee inspector while dividing their time between their duties as plant inspectors and bee inspectors. The ODA maintains that their plans are adequate to protect the honey bee industry in Ohio.

The Ohio State Beekeepers’ Association (OSBA) disagrees. To be effective the apiary program requires a trained, experienced apiculturist in a supervisory capacity not just to maintain the bee inspection program but to advise the ODA on issues affecting honey bees in Ohio and to represent the state of Ohio in critical cooperation and collaboration with other states and federal agencies to protect the beekeeping industry. If the ODA implements these reductions in staff as they plan to do this summer we feel that the safety net that has helped to protect the honey bee in Ohio since 1905 will collapse. These cuts would jeopardize the honey bee population in Ohio, an essential natural resource, and would in turn jeopardize Ohio’s agricultural production, Ohio’s environment and Ohio’s economy. Please contact the Director of the Department of Agriculture and the Governor to urge them not to make these cuts to this essential program.
Here are email links for Governor Strickland and Director Boggs.

Here's what I sent:
I am writing to protest the proposed cuts in the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Apiary Program. I urge you to rescind the proposed cuts to the apiary program. Rather than cutting this program, perhaps the funds to continue it could be found by raising fees to beekeepers for the services the program provides.

Thank you.

Make sure to sign it! And providing your phone number will let the recipients see you are indeed an Ohioan.

Recognizing rural America: soybeans

Around here, pretty much everyone recognizes corn. What many of us don't realize is that the corn we see in the fields isn't usually sweet corn but field corn. They look almost identical, so it's not suprising Americans don't realize those are acres and acres and acres of animal feed and industrial inputs, not people food.

But soy, we aren't so familiar with. Given that Ohio and Indiana are prime soybean territory -- it's Ohio's second- biggest crop after corn -- it's amazing how many folks here have no idea what a field of soy looks like at any point in its growing cycle. Here's a map of US soybean territory.

This is a young soybean plant (glycene max) close up.

Soy can grow as tall as a man, but generally the crops we see around here don't grow much above thigh-height. Farmers often will rotate fields between corn and soybeans to help control disease, so you'll often see a field of soybeans beside a field of corn. Here's a row of soybeans alongside corn, for size comparison.

Soy is planted in rows. Here's a field of soy just emerging.

A little later:

Here's a field of growing, healthy plants in early summer.

By later in the summer, the plants have filled out so much you can barely tell they were planted in rows unless you're standing in the field. From even a few yards away, a healthy field of mature soybeans will look like a sea of emerald green, about hip-height.

In late summer, the fields turn yellow and the leaves drop off. This is a field of soy ready to harvest.

Here's a closeup of the ready-to-harvest plant. You can see the individual bean pods have split open to reveal several beans within each.

Here are the harvested beans. Most soy beans grown commercially are used as industrial food inputs and animal feed, but they're also used in recipes similar to other dried beans, and of course many traditional foods such as tofu, miso, shoyu and tempeh are made from soybeans.

Soybeans are also eaten as a fresh garden vegetable, known as edamame. They grow well in our area and are great for the garden if you don't have a deer or rabbit problem. Here's what your edamame crop will look like if you do have a deer and rabbit problem.

Edamame pods look like this. If you've never tried them, get thee to a Thai restaurant (Amarin in Madeira is a good choice) and give them a shot. They're usually offered as an appetizer. They're steamed and arrive hot and salted, and you pull the pods between your teeth (a little like eating artichokes) to scrape out the tender beans inside.

Here's what the fresh beans look like, removed from the pod. They're sweet and slightly crunchy. You can also use them in place of lima beans in recipes. I love succotash, but my husband isn't fond of lima beans so I make it with edamame.
Here's my recipe, which since corn, edamame and jalapenos ripen together can be considered a mid-to-late summer seasonal recipe:

Serves 4

1 slice bacon, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped fine
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped fine
2 c sweet corn, removed from cob
2 c fresh edamame, removed from pods
salt & pepper to taste

In a medium saute pan, fry bacon until crisp. Add garlic, onion, and jalapeno and saute until onion is transparent. Add corn and edamame and saute 5 minutes. Correct seasonings and serve.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Still harping on Monsanto

Sorry to keep going on and on about Monsanto, but I had to call attention to a great article in Vanity Fair this month (thanks, Lucy, for the heads up) about Monsanto's long history of dirty tricks.

From the article:

Monsanto already dominates America’s food chain with its genetically modified seeds. Now it has targeted milk production. Just as frightening as the corporation’s tactics–ruthless legal battles against small farmers–is its decades-long history of toxic contamination.
Well worth reading.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Monsanto vs. farmers

Monsanto has recently settled with Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, whom they'd sued for patent infringement when it was discovered that their Roundup Ready canola seed had crosspollinated with his own plants. They've agreed to pay clean-up costs of removing any Roundup Ready canola in Schmeiser's fields. Schmeiser believes "this precedent setting agreement ensures that farmers will be entitled to reimbursement when their fields become contaminated with unwanted Roundup Ready plants."

Monsanto has spent years suing small farmers across North America for 'patent infringement' in cases in which Monsant's genetically-modified and patented 'Roundup Ready' canola seeds had been found to have cross-pollinated with local farmers' crops without those farmers' knowledge or permission. Monsanto's argument has been that whether or not the farmer knew of or wanted such cross-pollination, the resulting plants and their seeds belonged to Monsanto, thanks to its patent on the Roundup Ready seed. (For excellent and compelling background on this story, watch The Future of Food, the award-winning 2004 documentary by Deborah Koons Garcia (widow of Jerry Garcia) which is available from the Cincinnati Public Library.) Thousands of small farmers across North America have been sued by Monsanto for patent infringement because they'd inadvertently (and involuntarily) ended up with Monsanto seed in their fields.

Monsanto's solution? Buy all your seeds from Monsanto. Then you're safe. Oh, and pay Monsanto $15 an acre in royalties on the patented seed.

At the time of filming, Schmeiser, who had saved his canola seed for replanting for decades, carefully selecting over a progression of years that seed which was best adapted to his Saskatchewan growing conditions, was being forced to destroy the product of his life's work because it had become contaminated by the Monsanto gene and Monsanto was claiming ownership of the seed. And the courts have backed Monsanto up on the ownership question -- the genes are patented, and if a farmer knowingly replants seed that has been crosspollinated with Roundup Ready seed, even against his will, he is guilty of patent infringement.

Monsanto grows its research GMO seed in thousands of confidential locations. For all any farmer knows, the about-to-be-patented pollen from plants in the next field could be blowing into his fields right now and crosspollinating with his crop. It is the nature of genetics that once a gene enters the gene pool, it's nearly impossible to get it back out again unless it's both dominant and fatal before reproductive maturity. It is quite possible that hundreds of years from now every canola, corn, soy, and cotton seed in North America will have a Monsanto GMO seed as an ancestor. (Monsanto has discontinued its Roundup Ready wheat project.)

Monsanto, by patenting seeds and then using their wealth to aggressively protect those patents, is attempting to completely control the world's commodity crop production. Many will remember their plans to develop the truly evil "Terminator Technology," which produced seeds with the Terminator gene which rendered second-generation seeds sterile -- thereby ensuring the farmer couldn't save seed from one year to the next. The repercussions of such a gene escaping into the broader gene pool were horrifying, with visions of third-world farmers innocently planting their saved seed and waiting...and waiting. Monsanto did acquire Delta & Pine Land, the developer of Terminator, but after a public outcry at the technology's potential for causing disastrous crop failures and resulting starvation, they announced they will not use the technology. (The USDA is a co-patent holder on the technology, retains the right to develop it, and so far has refused to commit to not developing it in the future. Our government at work for you.)

Monsanto continues to aggressively market their Roundup Ready cotton, soybean, canola, and corn seed, including with disastrous results to developing-world farmers who can't provide the necessary irrigation to be successful with such crops. And even diversified farms aren't safe. Monsanto already owns Seminis, the largest producer of fruit and vegetable seeds in the world, and a few weeks ago Monsanto finalized plans to acquire De Ruiter Seeds, a producer of seeds for the greenhouse vegetable market.

Percy Schmeiser, in the meantime, is happy with his win but estimates his legal bills top $400,000 Canadian. And even if he could get his destroyed seeds back, they'd still contain the Roundup Ready gene and be the property of Monsanto.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sorrel soup

Sorrel (Rumex acetosa) is an early-spring easy-to-grow perennial which does well even in heavy clay soil like many of us have in the Greater Cincinnati area. Its flavor is tangy, almost lemony. The smaller, tender leaves can be used in mixed-greens salads and larger leaves can be made into sorrel soup, a traditional spring tonic. This is what sorrel looks like in the garden.

Vicky from Thistlehair Farms had some good-looking sorrel on Saturday at Findlay, big half-pound bags for $2.75 each. A big pot of sorrel soup seemed like a great idea on a blustery spring day, so I bought a couple of bags.

Sorrel is one of the easier greens to clean. After washing it to remove any grit (sorrel always seems to have lots of grit, so don't skip this step), instead of having to trim off the vein completely you can just fold the leaf in half lengthwise (front to front), grasp the vein at the base, and pull to remove any woody strings. With these removed, sorrel will fall apart as it cooks, melting into the stock to provide a thick velvety green base that looks as if it's been pureed. (Sorrel is sometimes called 'green sauce' because of this unusual characteristic.)

Here's my cleaned sorrel, chopped. It's a beautiful bright green, which unfortunately doesn't survive cooking. Even a short cooking time turns it a not-so-pretty muddy dark green, which doesn't exactly sing to me of spring. Fortunately, the spring-fresh tangy taste does survive the cooking.

This recipe is an adaptation from one in Bert Greene's Greene on Greens book, one of my all-time favorite vegetable cookbooks. The addition of potatoes would seem to make this a not-truly-seasonal soup, but nearly every sorrel soup recipe I've found does contain potatoes which tends to suggest the combination is traditional. Perhaps if you have a good root cellar, in April you're still pulling out potatoes that are in good enough shape to cut off the bad parts and chop the rest for soup?

Serves 4

4 strips bacon, diced
3 leeks, cleaned and chopped fine
1 onion, chopped fine
3 cups chicken stock
1 pound boiling potatoes, peeled and diced fine
1 pound sorrel, cleaned and roughly chopped
salt & pepper to taste
sour cream to taste

In a heavy pot (don't use cast iron, as the acidity of the sorrel will react with the iron and you'll end up with metallic-tasting soup), saute bacon until crisp. Add leeks and onions and saute over medium heat, scraping up brown bits from bottom of pan, 10 minutes. Add chicken stock and potatoes and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer 15 minutes. Add sorrel and continue to simmer another 15 - 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until potatoes are tender and sorrel has dissolved into the broth. Correct seasonings, ladle into bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream to serve. My son ate nearly three bowls, so I have to declare this one a winner.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Woodstone Creek vodka

Here are the locations carrying Woodstone Creek vodka, our own award-winning local handcrafted vodka distilled in Norwood by boutique distillers Woodstone Creek. You may want to call first and check, as at least one (my own local wine shop, The Wine Store in Montgomery) is currently out of stock.

If your local store is out of stock, ask them to reorder it. Woodstone Creek would love to release more of their distilled products. They have single-barrel pot-stilled bourbon, single-barrel single-malt, and small-batch blended whiskeys plus a small-batch rum in the pipeline, all handcrafted and bottled by hand, and I'd love to taste them! But until the vodka proves itself, they can't release their other products.

For the record, the vodka's excellent, well worth giving a try. I did, and it's since become my usual brand.

4100 Hunt Rd.
Blue Ash 45236

5440 Dixie Highway
Fairfield 45014

2719 Madison Rd.
Cincinnati 45209

8212 Princeton-Glendale Rd.
West Chester 45069

9905 Montgomery Rd.
Montgomery 45242

3760 Paxton Ave.
Cincinnati 45209

917-19 Miami Ave.
Madeira 45243

5215 Delhi Pike
Delhi Township 45238

350 Northland Blvd.
Springdale 45246

7737 Five Mile Rd.
Cincinnati 45230

4300 Lewis
Middletown 45044

7731 Tylers Place Blvd.
West Chester 45069

5830 Harrison Rd.
Cincinnati 45248

2621 South Smithville Rd.
Dayton 45420

309 West Loveland Ave.
Loveland 45140

7215 Wooster Pike
Cincinnati 45227

2902 Vine Street
Cincinnati 45219

10964 Hamilton Ave.
Cincinnati 45231

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Local Harvest reviews

Local Harvest has something new on their site -- reviews. So if your favorite CSA, farmers' market, farm or restaurant is listed on, go check their listing and give them a nice boost!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Boulder Belt Farm Store

The Boulder Belt farm store in Eaton is open for the spring starting tomorrow. Hours are 11-5 Wed-Sun.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Consumers (and cows) win one against Monsanto

When Wal-Mart last month announced their house brand milk will now come exclusively from cows not treated with growth hormones, they may have tipped the scales in favor of consumers and sounded the death knell for the use of artificial bovine growth hormone in commercial milk production.

Consumers and animal welfare advocates have long been leery of the artificial growth hormones that allow treated cows to produce up to ten percent more milk. Although Monsanto (who markets the hormones to dairy farmers under the Posilac brand) insists the hormones don't affect the safety of milk and scientists say there is no conclusive evidence to the contrary, many consumers are still leery. And animal welfare advocates point out that it can't be good for the cows -- in fact, a dairy cow raised on pasture will probably produce milk for ten years, as opposed to two years' production for cows raised in confinement dairies and given the hormones.

Conventional dairy farmers have been angered by the movement, fearing their incomes will decrease if their production decreases. But given the laws of supply and demand it seems obvious that if the entire industry is producing ten percent less milk, demand will drive prices per gallon up and eventually it should balance out for farmers (though of course being more expensive for consumers.) And according to the results of a four-year study reported in the Journal of Dairy Science, when all factors are considered, conventional dairy farmers might do well to go back to traditional methods:

Milk production was lower in this study for pasture-based systems but lower feed costs, lower culling costs, and other economic factors indicate that pasture-based systems can be competitive with confinement systems.

Kroger and Starbucks are also selling only hormone-free milk in response to consumer demand, and Safeway has switched its in-house brand to exclusively hormone-free. Monsanto, however, has stated that it has no plans to pull Posilac and that sales remain strong.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ramps in season!

Ramps (Allium Tricoccum), also called ramson, wild leeks, and in the UK wild garlic, are in season now. They won't be in season long, and when they're gone, they're gone until next year. So when I saw some at the Findlay Market Madison's I snapped them up.

Here's what ramps look like growing. They grow in damp woodlands wild all over the midwest and can be foraged from April through June, depending on how far north you are. Here in SW OH the ramps season is just starting and will last about six weeks. The taste is somewhere between an onion and strong garlic, and they can be used in any recipe calling for garlic.

This is a ramp, not yet cleaned.

I trim the roots, then stick them into a sink full of water and swish them around to get them clean. Like leeks, they tend to collect dirt in their layers, and if you don't clean them thoroughly your finished dish will be gritty.

Here's my bunch all nice and clean:

I chopped them, bulbs and leaves and all, and they're ready to go into my recipe.

I would have loved to pair these ramps with that other early-spring foragers' delight, morel mushrooms, but they were $40 a pound this weekend at Madison's. I think I'll wait for my morel foraging expedition in a couple of weeks to try that combo. This time I just used criminis.

Serves 4

16 oz Rotini
1 t olive oil
2 slices of bacon, diced
1 bunch ramps, chopped roughly
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb mushrooms, quartered
1/4 c cream
2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
2 T grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
salt & pepper to taste

Prepare pasta al dente according to package instructions and drain. In the meantime in a large saute pan, saute bacon until crisp. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon, add to drained pasta, toss to coat, and set aside.

In remaining bacon grease, saute ramps, garlic, and mushrooms until mushrooms are cooked through. Add cream and diced chicken; simmer on lowest heat to reduce, about 15 minutes.
Add veggies and parmesan to pasta and toss to coat, correct seasonings, and chill thoroughly before serving. Even better the next day. Thumbs up here at our house.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Cargill profits up 86% over a year ago

If there was any question who benefits from global food price increases, it's Big Ag. Cargill, the largest US agricultural company, this past week announced earnings of $1.03 billion for the most recent quarter. Cargill chairman and chief executive officer Greg Page reported, “Demand for food in developing economies and for energy worldwide is boosting demand for agricultural goods."

Too bad that "demand for food" -- otherwise known as hunger -- is causing riots and deaths in those developing countries. Here's a fascinating map of the food crisis (you may have to register first, but it's free) from the Financial Times of London. Click on the tabs to see where there's been food unrest and what governments in those countries are doing to combat the problem.

Forget the food miles argument

Can we just lay the whole food miles argument to rest? Food miles is not a primary reason to eat locally.

A new study, Food-Miles and the Relative Climate Impacts of Food Choices in the United States, published this past Wednesday by the journal Environmental Science & Technology reports that the type of food you eat and the manner in which it is produced are more important components of its contribution to your carbon footprint than the distance that food travelled to get to you:

The [greenhouse gas] emissions associated with food are dominated by the production phase, contributing 83% of the average U.S. household’s footprint for food consumption.

Transportation as a whole represents only 11% of life-cycle GHG emissions, and final delivery from producer to retail contributes only 4%. Different food groups exhibit a large range in GHG-intensity; on average, red meat is around 150% more GHG-intensive than chicken or fish. Thus, we suggest that dietary shift can be a more effective means of lowering an average household’s food-related climate footprint than “buying local.” Shifting less than one day per week’s worth of calories from red meat and dairy products to chicken, fish, eggs, or a vegetable-based diet achieves more GHG reduction than buying all locally sourced food.
Buy local because it's fresher and tastes better. Buy local to support farmers in your area. Buy local because you want to know how your food was produced. But to lower your food's impact on the environment, shift to sustainably-produced foods and to a diet focussed more heavily on plants than animal products.

Friday, April 18, 2008

New Cincinnati food blog

I discovered a new local food blog, Westside Foodie Wannabes, a hilarious and charming blog about LaRosa's, goetta, fish frys, and Frisch's tartar sauce airmailed to Italian penpals who didn't quite get the charm. They're just getting started, and I hope they'll keep on blogging. The foodie scene in this town could use a little more perspective from the west side.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Findlay Market Farmshed Spring Kickoff April 19th

The official start of the farmshed season at Findlay Market (although many vendors have attended occasionally throughout the winter depending on what they had available) is this coming Saturday, April 19th from 8 - 6. I contacted the attending farmshed and outdoor vendors and asked what they'd be bringing to market on opening day. Many vendors will also be offering a raffle item for the Farmshed Spring Kickoff. Raffle tickets can be purchased from the individual vendors.

Back Acres Farm
Jim & Patty Schwartz

Georgetown OH
Eggs from pastured chickens
Pastured meats

Bauer Farms
Vegetable seedlings
Cut flowers:
Bleeding heart
Raffle item: Container of tulips

Claddagh Farm
Rick & Linda VanSpronson

Batavia OH
Home-canned produce from their own gardens:
Tomato sauces
Jams & fruit butters
Vegetable butters

Donna's Delights
Donna Ziv
Unique recipes baked fresh with passion:
Homebaked breads, cakes, cookies

Kist Gardens & Greenhouses
Mark & Sarah Kist
Cincinnati OH
The Kist family has had a presence at Findlay Market for over 100 years.
Potted herbs
Vegetable seedlings
Hanging baskets
Raffle item: Hanging basket of Wave petunias

Linda's Luxuries
Lotions & salves
Raffle item: Soap & salve gift set

Margaret's Garden
Margaret McDonough
Potted herbs
Cut flowers:
Grape hyacinth
Possibly: Magnolia and forsythia sprays
Raffle item: TBA

Mockingbird Hill Farm
Tammie Stanley
Williamsburg OH
Naturally and sustainably grown cut flowers:
Grape hyacinth
Raffle item: Large mixed floral bouquet in vase

Neltner Farm & Greenhouse
Clara Neltner
Camp Springs KY
Hanging mixed and annual baskets

Northgate Greenhouses
Kathie Hogeback
Cincinnati OH
Bedding plants
Vegetable seedlings
Possibly: Hanging foliage baskets
Raffle item: Mixed flower container with gift certificate

Shady Grove Farm
Nancy Ogg

Corinth KY
Green garlic
Curly endive
Bay leaf
Early tomato seedlings
Raffle item: set of 6 field-ready early tomato seedlings, your choice of main-crop or small-fruit (or a gift certificate for the seedlings if you aren't ready to set them out yet.)

Thistlehair Farm
Vicky Tewes
Union KY
Spring mix
Buttercrunch lettuce
Swiss chard
Fresh-cut chives and parsley
Possibly: Rhubarb and asparagus, hostas, potted herbs, and tomato seedlings.

Originally posted 4/15/08 at

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Great Sunflower Project

All over North America, folks are joining The Great Sunflower Project, which during the summer of 2008 will collect data on honeybee activity across the continent. Honeybees are crucial to vegetable and fruit production -- many plants won't produce unless they've been crosspollinated by honeybees. Farmers need a healthy bee population.

Each participant will plant at least one sunflower (a specific kind -- Helianthus annuus, or the wild annual sunflower) and then at several points over the summer watch that sunflower to see how long it takes for five bees to visit. Participants report their data back to the project organizers, and The Great Sunflower Project tallies the data to see where bee activity is healthy and where it isn't, which may help discover the causes behind colony collapse disorder.

Why sunflowers?
Sunflowers are easy to grow and are great resources for bees and birds. And why this particular sunflower? Helianthus annuus is a native wildflower and produces a lot of nectar and pollen, which attracts bees. It's important that everyone use the same flower so that the data collected will be comparable.

Registering is easy and free, and they'll even send you a packet of seeds for the right sunflower! So if you'd like to help the honeybees, here's a fun way to do it!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Looking Nearby For Food: 1st Edition

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Looking Nearby For Food, the blog carnival of local eating!

Jen was lucky enough to be given ten pounds each of blood oranges by a coworker and Meyer lemons by a neighbor (she's in Northern California, so she has lots of local citrus) which she uses to make and can Blood Orange Marmalade with a Hint of Rosemary this month at Modern Beet. She shares some good hints for folks who are first-time marmalade-makers like herself.

Shannon talks about the benefits of joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) program and shares the resources she used to find one near Cincinnati, OH in Eat Local at Around and About.

Chef Erik, the Chef de Cuisine at Grassroots Natural Market in Denville, NJ which specializes in organic and local foods, posted at Chef Erik about the joy he gets from preparing healthy food for customers.

O'rene talks about one of her favorite local fruits, the guava, which is just ending this year's early season in Kids: Try an Exotic Fruit at CEOmum. In Jamaica, the guava has a second season later in the year.

Ellen gets up close and personal with some pastured cows in Real People, Real Food and Close to the Source, her two-part series about Shelburne, MA-based Wheel-View Farm's Scottish Highland and Belted Galloway grass fed beef cattle at Health Freedom Coaching.

Sharon at Casaubon's Book educates her readers about the Chicken Pax, a dangerous disease transmitted through contact with poultry that makes you want to start a flock of your own, as she did on her New York farm.

Jen in Madison, WI suggests some questions you should be asking about how your food is produced in Who Is On Your Team? at Eating In Place.

Linna from Loudon Co, VA discusses the new Victory Gardens in Victory Gardens...Call To Arms at Locavore Chronicles.

Judi over at Giving Gardeners is also talking about gardening, and especially about the relationship between eating locally and eating responsibly in Grow Your Own for National Garden Month. She's joined the Plant a Row for the Hungry campaign and is planning to donate her extra garden produce to a Los Angeles food bank.

Eden at Garden of Eden Farms offers a video of a minutes-old lamb standing for the first time and searching for his first meal in New Lamb, which she filmed on her farm in Northern Kentucky.

Submit your local eating blog article by May 12th for the next edition of Looking Nearby for Food using our carnival submission form. All submissions should cover some aspect of the topic of eating more locally -- truly seasonal recipes (please submit these as close as possible to the correct season for the main ingredients), your area's unique local ingredients, the current offerings at your local farmers' markets, small farmers and growers in your area, reviews of restaurants in your area that focus on sourcing locally, foraging, growing your own vegetables, canning and preserving the harvest, and many other types of posts are welcome! And if it's not obvious from your blog, make sure to let us know where you are located.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Corn at $6: what does this mean for pasture-raised meat?

Corn hit $6 a bushel last week, up 30% from a year ago and likely to rise higher according to government predictions.

What does this mean for those of us who are choosing pastured meats? I asked the farmers in my area I buy my pastured meats from if skyrocketing corn prices would affect farmers raising 100% grassfed animals.

David Simpkins of the Heirloom Beef Company in Adams County OH says yes:

Absolutely YES! We've seen a lot of acres that have normally been used for hay production being planted to corn. I think hay prices will be pretty high again this year. Not only the price of corn carrying other feeds higher, but the costs of fertilizers that go into hay production have gone through the roof.
Doug Weber of Weber Farms in Amelia OH agrees:
Yes, especially poultry. I supply my birds with a supplemental grain ration as well as pasture. The feed costs are skyrocketing. Hay is going up, corn is going up and gasoline is going up. All will bring about price increases in livestock and produce.
Trudy Mohr of Mohr Animal Acres in Urbana OH adds:
There are many other costs involved that have also increased. I know on my end, our processor has had significantly increased costs which I am trying to keep at minimum to my customers. Also, there are other feed supplements such as hay, mineral and probiotics that we feed to the livestock to maintain health so we do not have to feed antibiotics; all of which have increased in price. Most of these are due to fuel costs not corn costs, but these costs all seem to be tied together these days.

So I guess like industrial meat, prices for pastured meats are also going to be increasing.

I wonder if the silver lining here is that prices increasing to reflect actual costs of raising meat (rather than costs being subsidized by the government) will encourage all of us to treat meat as just another ingredient rather than as the star of the meal? We'll be healthier, and our diets will be more sustainable.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Albany Times-Union: local eating movement isn't elitist

Jennifer Wilkins, Sr Extension Associate at Cornell University, writing last week in the Albany Times-Union, defends the local eating movement against charges of elitism. Not only is the local foods movement not elitist, she says, but the opposite is true.

It's about transforming and democratizing the food system. It's about increasing access to high-quality, nutrient-rich food and making it available and affordable to all people.

It's about establishing whole food markets in poor inner-city neighborhoods plagued by "food deserts."

It's about keeping more farmers on the land by paying them the real cost of production and about consumers having a stake in the stewardship of productive land. It's about sustainability.

When farmers sell their crops directly to consumers, schools and restaurants, none of the cost is siphoned off by processors, distributors and marketers.

In reality, elitist is a term more aptly applied to the conventional food system that provides most of America's food and concentrates economic power among an increasingly "select class" (a dictionary definition of elite) of corporations. Just four companies, for example -- Tyson, Cargill, Swift, and National Beef Packing -- control more than 80 percent of the beef market.

So stop feeling guilty about the fact not everyone has access to great local food yet. By supporting it yourself, you can help fix that.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Last of the apples

At Findlay today I picked up a bag of Fujis from Hollemeyer's Orchards. The grower said they were the last he had stored from the season, so we won't see local apples again until summer's end.

Review of Slims from CincyScenes

Lotta reviewing going on in Northside. There's a new review over at CincyScenes of Northside's Slims, which is so dedicated to local food that they grow their own greens in a plot across the street.

Review of Melt from Veggie Option

Over at Veggie Option there's a new review of Northside's Melt, which sources locally when possible.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

TiVo alert: King Corn on PBS

If you haven't had a chance yet to see King Corn (and most of us here in Cincinnati haven't, as it hasn't yet shown in area theaters) it'll be shown on PBS next week. In Cincinnati, it's Time-Warner channel 48 CET on April 17th at 3:00 am on Independent Lens.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Call for Recipes: Asparagus

I pulled the leaf mulch back from my asparagus beds this morning and there beneath the mulch was a single slender spear sticking up its little white head! Now to go dig out my asparagus recipes, as once I can start harvesting we'll be eating asparagus every night.

If anyone has a good seasonal (that is, all the main ingredients are in season together) asparagus recipe, I'd love to have it! You can email me the recipe (there's a link to my email in my profile) or if you've got it on your blog, leave me a comment or shoot me an email with the URL and I'll update this post to link to it and give you credit. I also promise to try all recipes (or as many as humanly possible) and report back.

Anyone else have an asparagus report?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Foraging: hot new foodie trend, or the hottest new foodie trend?

Suddenly the world's foodies have gone crazy for foraging*.

Not that this isn't the time of year for it -- with morels, ramps, and dozens of other premium wild foods starting to appear in the edible landscape all around the country, we'd expect foraging to be associated with April, especially here in the Midwest. In the past couple weeks, I've seen blog posts on foraging and cooking nettles, wild onions, Japanese knotweed, morels, dandelion greens, dandelion blossoms, and even a recipe for making pickled dandelion buds. (Even Martha Stewart is talking about foraging -- the April issue of Martha Stewart Living features an article on wild foods, with recipes but without any instruction on how to identify and avoid nonedible lookalikes, natch. I'll stay on the alert and report back any planned litigation.)

Is interest in foraging growing? A quick blog search on 'foraging food' came up with 165 hits over the past week, as compared to 83 hits over the same week last year.


New York City-based forager Steve "Wildman" Brill has noticed it, too. "I've been getting large turnouts on most of my tours, including locations that bombed out in the past." What was seen as "really weird" in the 80s when Brill was busy getting arrested by Central Park Rangers for "eating the park," as then-Parks Commissioner Henry Stern put it, is now seen as interesting. Interest in foraged foods, says Brill, is "slowly growing." His foraging tours of New York City area parks attract a mix of local-eating enthusiasts, freegans, environmentalists, earth literacy educators, and survivalists.

Leda Meredith, based in Brooklyn, NY (and by the way what's with all the mega-urban foraging going on?) agrees. "My wild edible plants classes have been filling up quicker than in past years, and book and magazine editors have been receptive to the topic when I don't think they would have been as much so in the past. I think the local food movement has a big influence."

Beginning foragers may want to start with this helpful video series on YouTube called Eat The Weeds by Florida-based forager GreeneDean Jordan. However, as video 1 covers ten minutes on his personal philosophy of foraging and video 2 is an explanation of his system for reliably identifying plants, I'd start with video 3 (which is when he actually starts discussing specific edible plants) to get a feel for his style, and then watch video 2 before actually going out and eating anything.

Or start by joining ForageAhead, the yahoo group for foragers. The five-year-old twelve-hundred member email group has participants from all over the world and discusses finding, identifying, and cooking with edible wild foods, along with other topics related to wilderness living.

Maybe all this heightened interest is just a natural offshoot of the local-foods movement. Maybe it's fear of the predicted coming Depression causing folks to want to develop self-sufficiency skills. Either way, I've got to get me some stinging-nettle soup.

*In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit I've been foraging myself for wild garlic and a few other goodies. I've even signed up for a mushroom-hunting "foray" up in Bellefontaine in May. I'll report back on that, too.

Monday, April 7, 2008

NYT on the coming food crisis: Bad policy & bad luck

There's a great Op-Ed in today's New York Times on the reasons behind the coming food crisis.  Paul Krugman talks about bad policy (the focus on using grains to produce biofuels, the war in Iraq), bad luck (a combination of weather-related factors that have conspired to cut the grain supply worldwide), and a complacency about long-term trends (the increasing tendency of third-world countries to prefer a western, meat-based diet) as the causes of restricted global food supplies.

His conclusion? Cheap food may be a thing of the past.

Cincinnati Farmers' Markets 2008

There's a great new resource for those in the tristate who are interested in eating locally -- Cincinnati Farmers' Markets maintains a database of all area farmers' markets. You can search by market day and by zip code to find the closest market open on a particular day.

And on a closely-related note, here are all the planned opening dates for area farmers' markets. Click on the name of the market to go to that market's web site.

April 19thFindlay Market (Over-the-Rhine)Sat 8-6 Sun 11-4
April 19thBoone County (Burlington)7 days 9-6
April 24thThe Dixie (Erlanger)Thurs 3-6
April 26thRising SunSat 8:30-noon
April 26thSimon Kenton (Independence)Sat 8:30-2
May 1stVevayMon-Sat daylight to dusk
May 3rdOxford UptownSat 7:30-noon
May 3rdLanden DeerfieldSat 8-noon
May 6thWyomingTues 3-7
May 6thSayler ParkTues 4-7
May 20thCampbell County (Highland Heights)Tues 3-6
May 23rdCampbell County (Alexandria)Fri 3-6
May 24thNorthern KY Regional (Covington)Sat 8:30-2
May 24thCampbell County (Newport)Sat 9-noon
May 29thCollege HillThurs 3-7
June 1stHyde ParkSun 10-2
June 4thNorthsideWed 4-7:30
June 5thMt. WashingtonThurs 3-7
June 6thBrookville INFri 3:30-8
June 7thLawrenceburgSat 7-noon
June 7thMilfordSat 10-2 Wed 2-5
July 3rdMt. CarmelTues 2-5:30

If you know of any corrections or additions, please do leave a comment and I'll update the entry.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Gourmet: Family farmer in South Dakota rejects farm subsidies

Gourmet Magazine has an excellent article in the April issue about Matthew Stiegelmeier, a young farmer in South Dakota who has rejected government farm subsidies to run a diversified family farm. Stiegelmeier explains why his family converted to organic over twenty years ago:

[Stiegelmeier's father] Jim hated the farm program, thought it made farmers dependent on the government. “Grandpa Mil­ton thinks Roosevelt walked on wa­ter,” Matthew offers. “Daddy thought he was a Communist.” Most of all, Jim hated pesticides. Several times in the late ’60s and early ’70s he got sick from them.

“One night at dinner, my sister-in-law told him, ‘I don’t see how you can be a Christian and put poison on food.’ That was the clincher,” [Stiegelmeier's mother] Emily remembers. It was the early ’80s. Jim and Emily converted the farm to organic.

Jim and Emily turned the logic of the farm program upside down. Instead of planting one or two commodity crops and accepting whatever price the elevator offered, they went looking for organic processors who, ideally, would lock in a premium before they planted. Matthew shrugs. “Why put a crop in the ground that no one wants to pay for?"

The Stiegelmeiers diversified into organic spring and winter wheat, flax, rye, barley, and buckwheat and relied on age-old ways to fight weeds and fertilize the soil. They certified their pastures as organic and grew alfalfa to feed a herd of registered British White beef cattle. [Matthew's wife] Dan­elle started a small herd of sheep.This past year, Matthew made $11 a bushel on winter wheat at mills in Kansas and North Dakota, at the time a four-dollar premium over commodity wheat. Organic flax sold for $19.50 a bushel, a premium of ten dollars.

Unfortunately farm economies keep new young farmers from entering the market.

The value of [area] farmland today is more than $1,000 an acre. With federal subsidies built into the land values and wealthy pheasant hunters eager to invest in private preserves, the value of land has risen 15 to 20 percent every year for the past five years, far more than agriculture can support on a sustainable basis. In today’s market, Matthew Stiegel­meier could not purchase his own farm.

And most of his neighbors, surviving year to year with the help of government subsidies, have no interest in taking the risk of converting their farms to diversified organic operations.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Greater Cincinnati Independents discount gift certificates

Once again Greater Cincinnati Independents, a local organization of independent restaurants many of which focus on locally-sourced ingredients, is offering a limited number of 30%-off gift certificates to member restaurants. Purchase the discount gift certificates on their site starting the morning of Friday April 11th.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Local Foods Potluck

The Cincinnati Nature Center will host a Local Foods Potluck Wednesday April 16th 6:30-8:30 in Rowe Woods Auditorium at their Tealtown location in Milford. If you'd like to attend, bring a dish made from local ingredients, copies of your recipe, and your own plate and utensils. There's no charge to participate. For more information or directions, visit their site.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

NuVo Restaurant in Florence

Polly Campbell reports there's a new restaurant in Florence, NuVo, which will be focussing on "local ingredients, or at least American ingredients." No review yet, as it just opened Tuesday. I couldn't find a website for them, but their number is 859-283-2100.

Update: their site is up! Thanks, Skyler, for the heads up!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Increasing industrial food prices could be a good thing for local, sustainable food

Must reading from today's New York Times for anyone interested in local, sustainable eating:

As the price of fossil fuels and commodities like grain climb, nutritionally questionable, high-profit ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup will, too. As a result, Cokes are likely to get smaller and cost more. Then, the argument goes, fewer people will drink them.

And if American staples like soda, fast-food hamburgers and frozen dinners don’t seem like such a bargain anymore, the American eating public might turn its attention to ingredients like local fruits and vegetables, and milk and meat from animals that eat grass. It turns out that those foods, already favorites of the critics of industrial food, have also dodged recent price increases.

Higher food costs, [locavores, small growers, activist chefs and others] say, could push pasture-raised milk and meat past its boutique status, make organic food more accessible and spark a national conversation about why inexpensive food is not really such a bargain after all.

Obviously no one would wish increasing food prices to cause true hunger in America, which economist and Pace University professor Robert Parks called a possibility last week in the Christian Science Monitor. But to spark a national debate on the true costs of cheap food? The loss of the dollar burger might be worth it.

Planting time!

Hooray, it's the time of year again when I optimistically start seeds in pots indoors, planning an abundant garden to nourish my family all summer. Since I garden with much more enthusiasm than competence, much of my early spring efforts eventually come to naught. I know this to be the likely outcome; nevertheless each spring hope triumphs over experience (see definition of insanity) and I soldier on.

Here in SW Ohio, we're in hardiness zone 5b/6a. That means our average date of last frost is around the 15th of May. Which in turn means we can start seeds during the first week of April and by the time the seedlings are ready to be set out 6-8 weeks later, we can (with fingers crossed) expect them to survive.

This year I'm starting chives, tomatoes, and basil. Chives and basil because I know the deer and rabbits and squirrels will leave them alone until they get desperate; tomatoes because, well, see definition of insanity again -- I know the squirrels and rabbits will get most of them, but I just can't help myself when it comes to tomatoes. I'm also starting about sixty impatiens this year, as last year I purchased four flats and it started to get expensive.

I've also just ordered some wild onion and ramp seeds. It seems odd to be planting wild plants, even more so one that most gardeners would consider a weed like the wild onion, but this year I had plenty of wild garlic and no wild onions. I'd like to have some for next year. And ramps! I am so hoping I have success with those -- it would be quite the bragging point if I could claim to have ramps growing in my backyard.

Is anyone else getting their seeds in yet?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

What would you do with an unlimited food budget?

Inspired by this comment from Kelly and this one from Jen on a previous post about cooking from scratch, I thought I'd ask:

If you had an unlimited food budget -- that is, you could spend as much as you liked on feeding your family but had to spend it feeding yourselves and couldn't use if for any other purpose no matter how much you'd prefer to give it to charity or save it for a rainy day or buy other things -- how would you eat?

Would you eat nearly every meal in restaurants?

Order pizza or pick up Thai food most nights?

Buy convenience foods because that's what you really prefer?

Shop for the best ingredients and cook most meals from scratch?

Hire a personal chef?

I guess the bottom line is: how does our food budget affect our eating decisions? As food prices continue to increase (and prognostications say it's going to get worse), how will that change our food choices?

For me, my food budget is one of the less important issues in my food choices. That is, it affects the details (Chicken vs. beef? Hamburger vs. steak? Go meatless a few nights a week?) but there are other things I'd cut out before budgetary concerns spurred me to buy cheaper, lower-quality food.

And if I had a truly unlimited food budget? A personal chef sometimes sounds like a tempting idea, but then I remember I live in my kitchen anyway. I might as well cook. So even with an unlimited food budget, I'd probably do pretty much what I do now.

Looking Nearby for Food Blog Carnival

Announcing the Looking Nearby for Food Blog Carnival!

A blog carnival is an online magazine dedicated to a particular topic and published on a regular schedule. Each edition is in the form of a blog post containing permalinks to other blog articles on the particular topic and providing a digest of the best recent posts on that topic by a variety of bloggers.

Looking Nearby for Food
will be published monthly and cover topics near and dear to the hearts of local eaters everywhere -- truly seasonal recipes (please submit these during the correct season for your main ingredients), your area's unique local ingredients, the current offerings at your local farmers' markets, small farmers and growers in your area, reviews of restaurants in your area that focus on sourcing locally, foraging, growing your own vegetables, canning and preserving the harvest, and many other types of posts are welcome! If you have a blog and have a post on one of these topics that you are particularly proud of, please submit it to me here for consideration. Or just email me a link -- there's an email link in my profile. Here are some tips on what makes a great blog carnival submission. The carnival will appear each month here on cincinnatilocavore as one of our regular posts.

For bloggers, submitting your best blog posts to appropriate blog carnivals is a great way to attract new readers to your blog. From ProBlogger:

If I had to pick one tip to give new and aspiring bloggers, it would be this: participate in blog carnivals.

For readers interested in a particular subject, blog carnivals provide a vetted digest of the best recent posts on that topic and an introduction to some great blogs.

The first edition will appear April 15th. We'll accept submissions until April 12th; submissions after that date will be considered for the next edition.