Eat Local Challenge 2006

April 30, 2006

The Eat Local ChallengeI am honored and excited to have joined the Eat Local Challenge, a blog that will bring together information from a diverse group of U.S. consumers dedicated to supporting those who produce food that doesn’t travel thousands of miles before it ends up on your plate. My first post for this new site is entitled Full Circle, Almost. So far, twenty-six other Locavores have signed on to become authors for the Eat Local Challenge blog, and it looks like hundreds have pledged to eat local for the month of May! Others have chosen to take the challenge in another month.

The posts about my own eat local challenge will be archived here, so that anyone who is interested can follow my progress. The overall challenge is to eat food produced within 100 miles of your home, but each person sets his or her own personal goals and exemptions. I’ll keep you updated with the information I find about sustainably and humanely raised food produced within 100 miles of Greensboro. If any of you decide to join the challenge, please leave a comment!

It will be great fun and very enlightening to see how others find foods within their 100-mile foodsheds during a time of year when many places are just beginning to get fresh foods to the markets. Some traditionally lush harvests in California will be delayed due to unusually heavy rains. Here in the South, we’ve had drought. The Northeast is just now thawing out!

We are lucky to be able to find so many local foods in our markets here in the Piedmont Triad. Now we need to support our farmers and encourage the next generation of young farmers to continue the tradition by making good choices with our food dollars.

Now, here are my personal Eat Local Challenge goals and exemptions:

Goal: To eat food produced within 100 miles as much as possible, then extend the range to food raised, produced, or caught in North Carolina, South Carolina, or Virginia.

Exemptions: salt, pepper, spices, tamari, flour*, pasta*, rice, olive oil, lemon juice, apple cider and balsamic vinegars, tahini, sugar, other baking necessities, Parmesano-Reggiano, coffee, tea.

Challenge: I’m used to eating out for lunch in the neighborhood, and I don’t think that anyone serves local food. My addiction to Pepsi One, which I’ll try to kick in May. My new craving for olives. I’ll miss salmon and bacon. Local regulations will not allow pork producers to cure meat without nitrates.

Help needed in finding: Grains of all kinds, pasta. If I can find local sources for flour, pasta, and Carolina grown rice, I’ll take them off the exemption list in an update.

Tips offered: The Greensboro Farmers’ Curb Market sells locally grown chicken, beef, pork, dried beans, mushrooms, milk, butter, goat cheese, and eggs, in addition to seasonal fruits and vegetables. Chicken will be available from Back Woods Family Farm again in May. The corn for the grits and cornmeal from the Old Mill at Guilford is grown in Yanceyville. Donna sells their products at the Curb Market. The Piedmont Triad Farmers Market also sells sustainably raised lamb, and ostrich. Deep Roots Market carries some local products, including some fruits and vegetables, beef and dairy products.

NOTES:

I’ll buy my fair-trade organic coffee from Tate Street Coffee House, which is a short walk away, and sorry, but I have to have sugar in my coffee.

I’ll keep a pitcher of iced tea in the refrigerator to try to kick my diet soda habit. I can’t go without caffeine – my migraines are enough of a problem in the spring. The problem here will be my husband drinking it all. He loves sweet tea. I’ll flavor it with mint from my garden.

I’ll buy my bread from Simple Kneads, a wonderful organic bakery in downtown Greensboro, or from nearby Spring Garden Bakery, or pita from Dough Re Mi at the Greensboro Farmers’ Curb Market. Or bake it.

noodle cutterI am mulling over making my own pasta for the first time. After all, I have to justify buying this noodle-cutter at the Liberty Antiques Festival yesterday! Note that I bought a “new” baking pan that begs for lasagne as well. I think I found a source for semolina flour from Virginia. I’ll post more if I decide to do it – it looks like the fates have decreed this. Now let’s see if I have the time and energy.

I plan to eat a lot of salad, which is not really one of my favorite foods. The way I have decided to make this fun and challenging is that I will make my own salad dressings and marinades. I’ve been addicted to Annie’s dressings for years, but there’s no reason I couldn’t make my own from scratch. I’ve added a lot of the base ingredients for salad dressings and marinades to the exemption list, to which I plan to add herbs from my garden and other ingredients that I find at the farmers’ market.

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Farms in Decline

November 11, 2005

The New York Times recently published an article about the difference between organic and sustainable farming practices which mentioned a dairy in upstate New York about twenty miles north of my hometown.

As a native of the Hudson Valley, where Ronnybrook Farm Dairy is located, it is shocking to visit and see the demise of the family farm. As a child in Dutchess County many of my friends were from dairy farming families. Most of these were very small affairs where one of the parents also held an outside job. Others were owned by the very wealthy who hired farm managers for the day-to-day business. Less motivating than the tax write-off was the desire for their children to grow up with the farm experience–hard work with intrinsic rewards that offset privilege. One notable gentleman farmer who always gave me a thrill when I saw him in town was James Cagney. He retired ‘upstate’ and personally raised Scottish Highlanders on his small farm. Another ‘wanna-be’ farmer was Meryl Streep. She bought a dairy farm near Amenia specifically to expose her children to a more healthful lifestyle. Within a month she sold all her stock. In a magazine interview she explained, ‘I didn’t realize that cows have an odor.’ (That comment didn’t make her very popular at the local grocery store.) To her credit, she does support the Connecticut Farmland Trust which is decently upwind from her NY property.

Notably, all of these farmers (excepting Meryl Streep) used some sustainable practices. A bike ride through the county from early spring to deep into the fall showed expansive hillside pastures dotted with meandering cattle, their black and white hides contrasting sharply with lush green or bright autumnal backgrounds. Cows, by the way, are incredibly resilient creatures. On warmer days in the winter and especially during the January thaw, they slogged through mushy snow and mud to soak in fresh ‘dairy- air’ and sunshine. (You can imagine, the Far Side was a favorite comic strip of my peers.)

While my mother was wary of ‘raw’ milk, my favorite dairy beverage was a fountain drink. We would line up in the barn–kid, cat, kittens, kid, waiting for an obliging older brother or cousin to shoot us a stream straight from the udder before hooking an ever-so-patient cow to the milking machine. My mother, by the way, was a wiz with laundry.

Because of its proximity to NYC, Dutchess County is now overrun with the affluent overflow of that megalopolis. With the influx of upper middle class professionals, the value of real estate skyrocketed. This had a two-fold effect on family farms. Acres of pastureland became hugely desirable to developers who cut up plots of land into tiny checkerboards of fractional acre lots. A small home in a bedroom community can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Secondly, the time intensive, backbreaking labor and financial costs of running a farm with a marginal profit at best became less attractive as the family farmers aged. Ronny, who took over Ronnybrook’s Farms from his parents, is in a small minority. Very few children of farmers can afford to stay in the area.

I see the same thing that began in the Hudson Valley over twenty years ago happening right now in Guilford County. While I understand that financial health is very important and the availability of jobs that pay a living wage is necessary, at what cost? The old Dutch farming families from Dutchess County are gone–died off, their birthright sold, their children drifted away. I am just now appreciating how privileged I was to grow up healthy and strong from the wonderful foods and outdoor lifestyle my parents so graciously provided me. It’s crucial that we pull together and support the local farmer, sustainable practices, and the agricultural lifestyle before it becomes so much dirt before the bulldozer.

~Jacqueline Oates


Food and Farming Film Festival in Durham

October 28, 2005

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association as part of its annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference, November 4-6 in Durham will be featuring a selection of films on Friday night, November 4 at 8:30. The conference and films will be at the Durham Marriott at the Civic Center. For more information about the conference itself, go to www.carolinafarmstewardship.org.

Details about the films below:

FOOD AND FARMING FILM FESTIVAL

SPONSORED BY THE CAROLINA FARM STEWARDSHIP ASSOCIATION
& TRIANGLE SLOW FOOD GROUP

WHEN: Friday, November 4th, starting at 8:30 pm

WHERE: Durham Civic Center Marriot Hotel, next to the Carolina Theatre, rooms 105-108

WHY: CFSA is holding their 2005 annual meeting in Durham, November 4-6, and small-scale sustainable farmers from throughout North and South Carolina will attend. Slow Food is looking for ways to work with existing groups in our area to support sustainable farms and good food.

WHAT: Three longer films will be screened along with several shorts. The three main films (all documentaries) will be shown simultaneously in three different rooms. Discussions will follow the screening for those who are interested.

COST: Free for registered attendees of the Sustainable Agriculture Conference, donation of $10 to Carolina Farm Stewardship Assoc. for others.

FEATURE FILMS AND SHORTS ARE DESCRIBED BELOW

The Future of Food (88 minutes)
Directed, Produced, and Written by Deborah Koons Garcia

The Future of Food offers an in-depth investigation into the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled U.S. grocery store shelves for the past decade. This film gives a voice to farmers whose lives and livelihoods have suffered the consequences of this new technology. The health implications, government policies and push towards globalization are all part of the reason why many people are alarmed about the introduction of genetically altered crops into our food supply. Shot on location in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, The Future of Food, examines the web of market and political forces that are changing what we eat as huge multinational corporations seek to control the world’s food system. The film also explores alternatives to large-scale industrial agriculture, placing organic and sustainable agriculture as real solutions to the farm crisis today. http://www.thefutureoffood.com/

* * *
Voices of American Farm Women (40 minutes)
Directed by Cynthia Vagnetti
& The True Cost of Food-animated short (15 minutes)

Voices of American Farm Women is based upon more than 40 videotaped oral history interviews done by photojournalist and videographer Cynthia Vagnetti. In the past, our views of farming and its influence on American life and culture have focused on the roles that men have played as farmers, while women’s contributions to agricultural production were largely ignored, perpetuating the stereotype of the “farmer’s wife.” This film presents a contemporary perspective on women in agriculture. Cynthia Vagnetti has documented women from across the United States whose farming techniques promote environmental responsibility, economic stability, and community well being. Through their voices and presence, the women express the components of sustainable food systems and farming practices.

Cynthia Vagnetti is an independent documentary photographer and video producer. She specializes in collecting comprehensive oral histories of farmers and ranchers across America

* * *
Broken Limbs (57 minutes)
Produced by Jamie Howell and Guy Evans
& The Meatrix-animated short (4 minutes)

Wenatchee, Washington, the “Apple Capital of the World”, prospered for nearly a century as home to the famed Washington apple. But the good times have vanished. Apple orchardists by the thousands are going out of business and many more await the dreaded letter from the bank, announcing the end of their livelihoods and a uniquely American way of life.

After his own father receives just such a letter, filmmaker Guy Evans sets out on a journey to find out what went wrong. Over the course of filming, Evans witnesses small farmers struggling to compete against the Goliaths that populate today’s global food industry, only to be ultimately forced off their land. The future looks grim for the Apple Capital although Evans does discover a new breed of successful small farmers, practitioners of a model called “sustainable agriculture”.

Broken Limbs explores these hopeful stirrings within agriculture, outlining ways in which any individual can play a role in saving America’s farmers. http://www.brokenlimbs.org/

******************************************
Elizabeth Gibbs
Educational Programs Coordinator
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
P.O. Box 448
Pittsboro, NC 27312
Phone 919.542.2402
Fax 919.542.7401
http://www.carolinafarmstewards.org


naturally and humanely raised meat

August 27, 2005


Richard the Pig hangs out with his buds at Goat Lady Dairy farm

All right. I did it. I bought some baby back ribs this morning from Back Woods Farms at the Greensboro Farmer’s Curb Market. Wes Peterson changed the name of his business to avoid confusion with a Peterson who is selling conventionally raised meat at the Piedmont Triad Farmer’s Market at Sandy Ridge Road.

To understand the significance of this, you should know that I have boycotted pork since around 1996. I am enormously concerned about the effects of huge industrial hog farms on our state’s environment and quality of life. Plus, I had a mind-meld with a pig on a truck in which he was in a complete panic. I won’t tell you what he told me. It was a private thing just between us, and can’t be articulated in human words anyway.

In the past year, as I have become aware of the changing conditions of our food supply, and the importance of buying locally on the economy and the environment, I have finally come to this conclusion. I am going to support the small farmers who make an effort to provide us with healthy, humanely produced meat, poultry, egg, and dairy products. As much as I would like to become a vegetarian, it is not going to happen any time soon. And if I can eat something that used to breathe, what’s the difference between eating seafood and beef? Or pork? Or chicken? As long as these animals are raised in a pleasant environment in natural conditions and taken care of, they are better off than in the wild. My reasoning was that we’d be better off without pigs altogether than for them to be raised in horrible conditions. I still believe that is true, but it is not a practical solution. It won’t happen. But we do have choices now.

Until recently, you couldn’t get humanely farm-raised pork with no antibiotics or growth hormones unless you were buddies with a small farmer who raised his own. Now, with large companies like Niman Ranch and small farmers like Wes Peterson getting into the game, you can. It’s a different market these days. More and more consumers are demanding meat products that aren’t raised in filthy, disgusting conditions. You can also buy chicken, beef, turkey, and lamb. Deep Roots Market and Earth Fare carry organic, free-range, and antibiotic/hormone-free meats if you can’t make it to the farmers’ markets.

Now, I don’t know if I’ll be able to make myself eat these ribs. I’ve conditioned my mind against it for about nine years now, and you can convince yourself of anything if you work hard enough at it. My brain says, don’t eat a pig. It’s an intelligent creature whose only purpose in life is to suffer for our gain. But Wes is doing us, and pigs, a service here, and if I don’t eat these, my husband will be happy to have them all to himself.

I highly recommend that everyone watch The Meatrix. What will it be for you, the red pill or the blue pill? The video starts up when you open the page.


A Fast Slow Lunch

July 16, 2005

It was a very warm muggy morning at the Greensboro Farmers’ Curb Market. Fortunately the July weather also brings us delicious vegetables and fruits that require little or no cooking!

My husband and I prepared the following lunch, all from local farmers and food artisans, organic when possible.

  • Blue cheese/leek tart (from Nora Glanz)
  • Corn on the cob (from unknown farmer at GFCM)
  • Sliced tomatoes (from farmer who parks a produce truck at UNCG on the honor system)
  • Boursin cheese (from Goat Lady Dairy)
  • French bread (from Simple Kneads)
  • Shredded basil (from my garden)

    We warmed up the tart for a few minutes in the oven and boiled the corn. That took care of all the cooking.

    We spread the soft goat cheese on bread slices, sprinkled them with shredded basil and topped them with sliced tomatoes. I also tried a little goat cheese and basil on the corn. Yum!

    This lunch might have been fast and easy to prepare, but we savored it slo-o-owly.

    See, you don’t have to sweat for slow food! But the farmers do, so please remember their hard work the next time that you’re at the market.


  • Poughkeepsie Farm Project

    July 12, 2005

    I just returned from a yearly sojourn up the coast and
    wanted to share with you a project in the Hudson
    Valley.

    Poughkeepsie NY is not a pretty town. Like many urban
    areas, it is in a constant state of decay and renewal.
    While Vassar College is certainly a lovely place, the
    surrounding neighborhood has gone through the usual
    flux of affluence and poverty. A five block walk in
    any direction repetitively demonstrates the ‘two
    Americas’

    Last week my sister drove me through some grubby
    streets then hooked onto a narrow dirt and gravel
    drive into a stand of trees. Beyond a bend there were
    a couple of tiny buildings–and seven acres of
    thriving fields. Tucked between city streets, Vassar
    College, and office parks is the Poughkeepsie Farm
    Project. On land leased from that college, a group of
    people devoted toward a just and sustainable food
    system for the Mid-Hudson Valley have reawakened
    farmland not only for the use of members but to
    provide fresh and local produce for local soup
    kitchens and shelters and as an experiential learning
    arena for students and community members.

    My children headed for the strawberry fields where
    they turned over little leaves to find tiny sparkling
    sweet berries–nothing like the fat fruit we see in
    markets (the ones that emphasize the ‘straw’ not the
    berry). A local baker set up his goodies on a plank
    under the spreading canopy of a maple tree just before
    the distribution building, a cool cave of brick with
    barely room to walk through the crates and shelves
    stuffed with greens, garlic tops, zucchini, broccoli.
    They are still in the late spring season–salads,
    young and mature greens, peas, and the beginning of
    cucumbers and squashes. The ten pound weekly
    allotment is ample for my siter’s family of four.

    A few steps out of the doorway brings you to the herb
    garden which is protected by chicken wire and a woven
    vine fence. Paths separate the different beds with
    bee balm brightening the entrance. The oregano was
    so pungent you could find it in the dark and the
    basil! In the center is a small gazebo-meditation area
    built by members.

    It was so beautiful that I cried.

    If you are in Upstate New York up until November, I
    encourage you to stop by. The people, of course, are
    wonderful and the project is inspiring.

    Peace,

    Jacqueline

    oh–website–http://www.farmproject.org/


    Saturday at the Greensboro Farmers’ Curb Market

    June 18, 2005

    This morning, I did my grocery shopping at the Greensboro Farmers’ Curb Market. Here’s what I bought:

    Black Peppered Chevre Medallion from Goat Lady Dairy

    Amish Raw Sharp Cheddar and Extra Sharp Cheddar from the Molners

    Chipotle Pimento Cheese from REAL Catering

    (Um, do you get the feeling that I like cheese?)

    Old Mill yellow old-fashioned Southern style grits from Donna Myers at Carolina Coffee (gotta have something to serve the cheese on)

    A whole chicken breast from W & C Peterson Family Farms

    A half-gallon of low-fat milk from Homeland Creamery

    Zephyr squash from Dark Hollow Farm to hopefully last me until my plants start producing (which I bought from them too!)

    Oatmeal and honey soap from Mimi’s Soaps to wash up with.

    I could have bought lots of veggies, but I already have salad greens, carrots, beets, chard and broccoli growing in my garden. Normally I shop for veggies from Handance Farms, Weatherhand, Snow Creek, Peterson, and Dark Hollow. Oh, and that garlic lady next to the Goat Lady table, can’t remember her name! (UPDATE per Donna’s comment below: it’s Natalie at Cornerstone Farm.)

    If I had wanted to, I could have bought bread, eggs, honey, jams, savory tarts, desserts, coffee, gifts, jewelry, cut flowers,and Mediterranean foods. So if I don’t feel like cooking, well, I can STILL go grocery shopping at the farmers’ market for great chow. Not to mention the conversation.

    This is an excellent way to begin a weekend. I highly recommend it.