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Posts Tagged ‘farmers markets’

When a group of high school juniors signed up for a shop class, they didn’t realize they’d be building real buildings that their community desperately needs.

How Bertie County Teens Built A Farmers Market Pavilion

The Windsor Super Market ©Studio H

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What if you could grow and sell food in the same place? What would that look like? That is the radical idea behind Ben Greene’s innovative sustainable agriculture project, called The Farmery.

Considering how far our food has to travel to get from the field where it is grown in, to a retail shelf for purchase, and the amount of energy used in this process, this is one of those things that can leave you wondering what we’ve lost. Mainly our connection to the actual way food is grown and processed.

Current attempts to meet the demand for locally grown organic food within the national food distribution network have largely failed. There is not enough locally gown organic food to meet the demand because it is very difficult for grocery stores to manage the inconsistent supply of locally grown food and it is difficult for new growers to find the stepping stones to financial success.  Grocery store marketing of locally grown food remains mundane with nothing more than simple signage, resulting in an identical shopping experience to conventional food, where it is left to compete on price. This retailing system makes it difficult for local growers to differentiate their product from produce sourced nationally from large, industrial farms.

– The Farmery

Greene and his investors envision a new way of buying food in their concept of greenhouse/grocery. It uses a collection of stacked shipping containers, vertical planters and a modular greenhouse structures. In his prototypes, Greene is already growing a significant amount of food as he tests his concept.

As we live more and more in cities, the idea of urban farms is appealing, and maybe more practical if variations on the Farmery are implemented in cities around the country. Find out more about this concept at their website: The Farmery

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It’s summer time and my thoughts turn to pickles. I’m a pickle fiend, right next to my olive obsession. I’ve learned how to make successful pickles. Not fermented pickles, I don’t have a cold, cool place for that happen, but I do make refrigerator pickles.

"B&B" PicklesI adapted a recipe from Alton Brown‘s Good Eats show. I used a locally grown English Cucumber, red onions, and garlic. I would have used locally produced apple cider vinegar, but I didn’t pick some up. I used a 60/40 mixture of sucralose and sugar, to make it diabetic friendly, but you could use just sugar if you like. So let’s start:

Ingredients

  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 4 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cups sucralose and 3/4 cup sugar or 2 cups sugar
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon pickling spice

Thinly slicing vegetables is an art. That’s why they made the mandolin. I use a cheap plastic one I got at from my dad’s girlfriend. It’s made of white plastic, it’s got notches to hook it over a bowl, three depth settings, a julienne insert, and two sided grater. And it works like a charm. I’ve sliced my thumbs and fingers on that sharp blade more than once. A mandolin is easier to clean than a food processor and you can slice on the bias, which is what I did with the cucumber, to get longer slices. I still tear slicing onions on the mandolin. 

After you slice  them up, combine the onion and cucumber slices, along with the garlic cloves, in a clean spring-top jar. Don’t use a plastic one. Glass is totally non-reactive and is easier to clean than plastic. Make sure the garlic cloves are in the middle of the slices. This will make sure that they get thoroughly pickled.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. After it boils, simmer for 4 full minutes to wake up the flavors of the spices.

Slowly pour the hot pickling liquid over the garlic cloves and the onion and cucumber slices, completely filling the jar. Allow the pickles to cool to room temperature before topping off with any remaining pickling liquid. Refrigerate.

You can eat these in two to three days. Yum!

This is a sustainable recipe because except for the salt, spices and sugar, you can source all the other ingredients locally. You can adapt this recipe by pickling peppers with the cukes or just pickle peppers. This is the first of several picklings I’m going to do this year, and I’ll be sourcing apple cider vinegar from a local cider press to be more sustainable. When pickling cucumbers come into season, I’ll be getting my pickle jars ready to go.

And this is both fun and empowering. You’re not tied to the grocery store for all your condiment needs. You can do it your self, just like we used to do a 100 years ago. Next on my self-made list: Ketchup!

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In today’s Crosscut article, Buy Local, Think National, it’s author, Floyd McKay, reports on the upswing of buy local organizations, highlighting the Bellingham, WA, group, Sustainable Connections, as one of the shining examples of a successful organization.

In many ways, this highlights the shortcomings of other regions in Washington state when it comes to encouraging local businesses. Many cities and towns, my own included, need to encourage the buy local ethic, and they need to encourage local businesses, either through tax incentives or by creating a business incubator for new local businesses. 

Now,we do have more than our share of farmers markets in the Puget Sound region, but they are very seasonal so that you only get a window on locally grown produce, fish, and meats. But we could do better. 

One common complaint I hear about my town, Kenmore, WA, is that while you have plenty of choices for lunch or dinner, or to have a drink, you can’t buy new shirt or underwear within a 20 minute drive. And drive is the operating word here. There is only one of two places I could go to without changing buses, the rest either take one or two bus changes and/or switch to a different transit company. 

The problem with that sentiment is that a business that sells clothes like that is typically not a local business, but a chain store. The reasons why are well known: chains can buy in bulk, substantially reducing the end cost of a good to the consumer, while local, mom & pop stores only buy lots of ten or twenty, thus paying a higher cost for the same goods, and passing on a higher price to the consumer. And consumers want low prices, despite the fact that it’s bad for their local economy and way of life. 

Can we turn the clock back to where it was more economical to buy everything locally? No, not unless we experience another major crash of the economy, one greater than the one we’re currently experiencing. 

Speaking of the current economy, one of the big problems most people cite about buying locally is that the prices are higher than for items shipped in from other countries. It’s one of those vicious circles: People don’t buy the local product, so that the local producer reduces the amount of that product he produces. Prices go up because now there’s fewer of the that product on the market and the producer has to cover his costs. People don’t buy the product because the price has gone up…

Eventually the local producer goes out of business because the cost of production just a few items is far higher than the return he gets selling the items.

One solution is to buy more of that locally produced product and encourage the local producer to make more.

That has it’s own nasty side effect. Take produce for instance. The sustainable farmer sells out of all his produce, so he opens up those fields that he had lie fallow or, more realistically, buys new fields and increases his yield for the next season. He may be able to lower prices and if he does well, he may expand again, if he can. And the demand for his produce increases.

The sustainable farmer is now faced with a dilemma: Not expand and maintain his current market or become a commercial farmer and drop sustainable farming in favor of production farming, using chemical fertilizers and non-ecological farming techniques. We all can hope he doesn’t choose the latter.

In the end, all we can do is to try to support those local businesses that we can and try to live a sustainable life.

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One way I’ve found to live sustainably, even a little bit green, is to cook only using local ingredients as much as I can. During the summer it’s fairly easy, as I can shop the various farmers markets here in the Puget Sound area for local produce, meat, eggs, even salmon and halibut.

Delicious beef stew

Delicious beef stew

 

 

But it’s winter and all those fresh veggies are not available locally. So one must adapt and change. My CSA, Spud.com, does a good job in providing locally grown fruits and vegetables, but right now the pickings are kind of slim. Lots of potatoes and onions, some parsnips, and leeks. But not much else.

That means I have to look back in history for a pointer: Cook for the season. So that means soups and stews with meat and potatoes. Luckily Spud.com does have access to local meat through Thundering Hooves, allowing me to still eat locally. So here’s a quick little recipe for a simple winter’s beef stew:

(more…)

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