Showing posts with label farmers' market. Show all posts
Showing posts with label farmers' market. Show all posts

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Eating Thoughtfully - In August and Year-round

It's time for the Eat Local Challenge once again! The particulars for our local effort are much as they have been before, except that this year the challenge runs from August 1 to August 31.

Of course, the bounty of fresh, delicious, local produce at this time of year makes such a challenge about as easy as it could be in Minnesota. (Ooh, have you noticed that Grisim's sweet corn stand is now open on Water St. in Northfield?!) But it's not superfluous, because even for those who would be eating a lot of their food from local sources in midsummer anyway, the challenge nudges us to consider why we eat what we eat and how we think about food.

My own thinking about food has come quite a long way in the last couple of years. My very first Penelopedia post spoke of the inspiration I'd gained from Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and my feeling that by eating more locally, organically, and sustainably, I could "do some good for the local land, the global environment, and the local economy." I still believe that.

But I've learned more. In particular, I've learned about the benefits of grass.

To make a long and very interesting story short*, the evidence is powerful that when cows eat primarily grass (their natural food), not corn and other grains, they are healthier. Their meat is healthier for us to eat. The fats in their meat and milk are healthier - downright good for a body, in fact. (Really!) And the land, air, and water where they are raised is healthier (natural fertilizer is automatically provided, no need to raise lots of pesticide-intensive corn, more natural and diverse ecosystems to support birds and other creatures, and so on).

As I've quoted before and will doubtless quote again, "Eating is an agricultural act." (Wendell Berry) Where you buy your food and what you eat have effects far beyond your own household. Cheap industrial food comes at a real cost. Especially in the area of meat, dairy, and other animal products, I now find the hidden costs of "cheap" food unacceptable for myself. The high rate of production and resulting low price of meat or milk come at the cost of the animals' quality of life, the waste-disposal challenges caused by large concentrated animal production facilities, and a significant portion of the traditional healthfulness of the meat or milk itself. It's not a trade-off I can routinely make in good conscience anymore.

If you haven't put much thought into where your food comes from and how it is produced, perhaps the annual Eat Local Challenge is a good time to give it some thought. Consider cooking more whole foods from scratch, so you have more control over your ingredients. Buy from a farmers' market or a co-op or other source where you can determine something about how and where the food was raised. If you eat meat, choose meat from animals raised humanely and provided a traditional diet for which they are biologically suited. Seek out dairy products and beef from grass-fed cows. Favor traditional foods, raised well, over industrial foods.

And enjoy some wonderful local food this August.

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*If you want longer versions of the story, here are some books I recommend:
  • Real Food - Nina Plank (a book that may well turn your ideas about dairy products and about traditional fats like butter and lard on their heads)
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma - Michael Pollan
  • In Defense of Food - Michael Pollan
  • The Compassionate Carnivore - Catherine Friend (a local farmer and author)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Irises and Peonies


This morning's visit to the farmer's market yielded, besides various edible goodies, these lovely irises and the paler of the peonies - a sight fit to be painted - from Thorn Crest Farm. The darker pink peony came from a bush at our house. Perfect!
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Saturday, May 30, 2009

First Visit to the Farmers' Market


Today was the first time I've made it to the Northfield farmers' market this season. Lots and lots of bedding plants were on hand, from tomatoes to cabbage to pak choi to herbs and flowers. We bought some marigolds for our vegetable garden to add color and help deter unwanted insects, and some lemon thyme, cilantro, and two kinds of basil: Thai and purple (red).

Spinach and mixed salad greens appeared to be the main produce available, and these should be picking up in the weeks ahead until the weather turns consistently hot. Baked goods (including a gluten-free assortment), eggs, honey, and maple syrup were also on hand, and we bought a quart bottle of the syrup as well as some delicious cinnamon rolls. At one table you could get freshly made crepes!

The adjacent playground makes this a fun and manageable outing for young families and adds to the atmosphere for other browsers.
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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tormented by an Apostrophe

A few weeks after I began this blog, I succumbed to peer pressure and did a terrible thing. And I've felt guilty ever since.

This dreadful deed? Dropping the apostrophe in "farmers market" (there, I shudder just looking at it). It may be correct AP style. It may be increasingly accepted. But in my heart I know it's wrong.

I'm a grammar and usage junkie from way back. My mother paid me to check for errors in the galley proofs of one of her books while I was still in elementary school [well, on further reflection, more like 7th grade]. I got (blush) a perfect 800 score on what used to be called the English Composition Achievement Test. My father was a journeyman printer-proofreader, who learned to proofread movable type upside down and backward. Editing skills have been a big part of my career, though my proofreader's eye does tire and miss things sometimes. So this stuff means something to me; I'll readily engage in a 20-minute debate on the finer points of the English language. I am flexible in a number of areas and am not a strict traditionalist by any means. But "farmers market" sticks in my throat.

There was a big debate not long ago about the naming of Scholars Walk at the University of Minnesota. The no-apostrophe faction won, the prevailing argument being that the walk did not belong to the scholars, it was merely named in honor of them. That argument doesn't persuade me when it's about scholars and it doesn't persuade me when it's about farmers, though it persuades others. See, for example, a journalist's discussion of the issue. Here's another:
Today, the tendency is to drop the apostrophe where once it would have been required. We see this especially in company and organization names. A relatively new distinction has arisen: if the organization is for the benefit of, but not actually owned by a particular group, don’t use an apostrophe. Thus, we have Department of Veterans Affairs, Citizens Insurance, Consumers Energy, and Farmers Market, none of them owned by the group in question. But we’d have a veteran’s benefit check, citizens’ groups, and the farmer’s daughter.
Okay, so there is definitely support for this view. Peer pressure, as I said. And I gave in. But I don't like it, and it's been nagging at me. In my mind, a plural noun is not properly used as an adjective unless it is made possessive. Possessiveness, in grammar, doesn't indicate only ownership; it can also indicate some general relation, a "pertaining to." When you don't want to use a possessive form, you use the singular. We don't say "I'm going to buy a dogs collar," we say "I'm going to buy a dog collar" (or, more elegantly, "I'm going to buy a collar for my dog"!). We don't have employees benefits, we have employee benefits. Or we could, somewhat less elegantly, have employees' benefits, particularly if we're talking about particular employees.

So why do we have Kids Meals? Veterans Day? Farmers markets? Singles bars? That phraseology loses something significant in elegance and precision. I think we could have farm markets, or farmer markets (which sounds odd, but I think that's just because it hasn't happened to become our usual idom), or farmers' markets.

There are some traditionalists who agree with me, like the Lexington Farmers' Market and the Australian Farmers' Markets. And in the article linked above on the Scholars Walk controversy, I see that my favorite newspaper grammarian, Stephen Wilbers, sides with me on this one -- in part because it sounds nonsensical not to use a possessive form when the plural noun is irregular: "women sizes" ("women" being plural already, there is no such word as "womens" without the apostrophe, just as there is no such word as "childrens" without the apostrophe, as Blogger's spell-check is at this moment advising me by way of some red underlining). We don't have children meals at fast-food restaurants. I see no good reason to put up with farmers markets. I think the latter simply sounds more natural to us because the "s" sound at the end of the word suggests the possibility of a possessive, or relational, construction. But without the apostrophe, it simply doesn't work.

So now I have a dilemma: do I go back and edit all my posts that have referred to the "farmers market," and their accompanying tags? Do I resolve not to look backward, but to simply go and sin no more? Or do I live with my wishy-washiness and write it off as one more quandary of the humans condition?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Cornucopia of Local Goodies

This morning I stopped by one of the final farmers markets of the year. A few last hardy souls were there with their trucks, selling squashes (a wonderful variety), broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, salad greens, pies, jellies, eggs, flowers, and ornamental corn.

The morning's takings made a still-life worthy of capturing. Note the beautiful French heirloom squash at the right, looking like a pale pumpkin. The grower said her pumpkins had rotted from all the rain, but these had flourished, and would last well. Note also the deep purple cauliflower just behind the cabbage. The eggs were apparently from assorted breeds of hen; the white ones are actually a very pale blue. Also included here are Native Harvest maple syrup and bread I picked up at Just Food. The syrup (a must to go with baked squash, in my mind) is from the White Earth Indian Reservation's land recovery project, and the bread is a new variety from Brick Oven, baked especially for Just Food -- and called Just Bread.

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It's a multi-grain bread made with all organic grains and local honey. I made a peanut butter sandwich with it after shopping, and ate it with a local Honey Crisp apple. Yum.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

First Frost

Yesterday my desktop weather icon started flashing red to indicate a weather alert: a frost warning had been issued for a large swath of Minnesota. My backyard container garden of tomatoes and cucumbers has been looking wan and played-out lately anyway, but I've still been picking smallish fruit now and then and have hopes for a small continued harvest for another few weeks. So, along with many others last night. I hauled out sheets to cover the tender plants. This morning, though I couldn't see any signs of frost myself, my daughter on the phone from her dad's house (bubbling over with excitement at the thought of her first rehearsal with the Minnesota Youth Symphonies this morning in St. Paul) said there was a coating of frost on their grass that looked like a light snowfall.

Over my morning mug of tea, I finished the book Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally, by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, who spent a year eating food almost entirely from within a 100-mile radius of their British Columbia home. That put me in the mood for the farmers market. The sun was shining, the air was crisp, and my mood soared as I put on a sweater and light jacket and wondered vaguely where my gloves might be. I know people who sadden at the onset of fall because it is the first harbinger of winter, but I come alive with the cooler air. Fall is my favorite season. As I drove to the ATM to get money for the market, the First National Bank thermometer read 35 and I sang aloud to "Tiny Dancer" on the radio.

At the farmers market, it was clear that fall had arrived. I haven't been there for a couple of weeks or more. The winter squashes -- both edible and ornamental -- were everywhere. Late, partially green tomatoes and green peppers had clearly been picked in quantity yesterday to escape the ruining frost. I overheard Gary Vosejpka of Thorn Crest Farm saying he'd covered 1000 feet of young beans with tarps, looking ahead to more warm weather and hoping yet to bring those beans to harvest. That's a lot of tarps, and a lot of work.

For my $16 spent today, I came away with several large potatoes, a container of good-sized carrots and a big bunch of much smaller ones with greens attached, a loaf of freshly baked basil-and-garlic bread, a bunch of leeks, a large butternut squash, a large pattypan type squash, and a bag of tender-looking green beans. I've already trimmed and scrubbed the little carrots; they and some potatoes and leeks will go into a fish stew for dinner. Ah, the pleasure of being in the kitchen again after avoiding baking and long-simmering preparations for the past several months. Welcome, fall.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

This Week at the Farmers Market


Having resolved to eat more local foods, I'm hoping to make it to the Northfield Farmers Market just about every week this summer. Rather than shopping with particular foods in mind, I'll see what's ripe, plentiful, beautiful or otherwise appealing and then think of what to do with it.

Today's haul: Red potatoes (recently washed and still shining like jewels), a bag of dried Black Turtle beans and Italian parsley from a small family stand, tomatoes and green beans.

Potatoes, green beans and tomatoes always immediately suggest to me Salade Ni├žoise, which would traditionally include anchovies (or tuna) and olives, all beautifully arranged on a large plate and dressed with a vinaigrette or Italian salad dressing.

I had an interesting talk with the proprietor of Kirsten's Kitchen, a stand selling natural sodas (cherry, lime and rose hip-hibiscus), made via fermentation with live cultures. I particularly liked the lime.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

MPR's Speaking of Faith on The Ethics of Eating

Barbara Kingsolver is the guest on MPR's Speaking of Faith this week. Host Krista Tippett reveals she started frequenting the farmer's market for the first time after reading Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, about the merits and joys of eating more locally grown foods and the hidden costs of "cheap" supermarket food. Read Tippett's journal entry, "The Pleasurable Choice Is the Ethical Choice," and listen to the show here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

This is My Garden

This is it... my garden. I've never had a huge garden, and some years I've had no garden at all, but this year what it amounts to is five varieties of tomato and two varieties of cucumber in six pots on the southwest-facing patio of my current residence. Oh, and some parsley, basil and chives in windowsill pots. I've been picking cucumbers and the occasional tomato for a couple of weeks now.

I love eating out of my garden. And I've decided to start eating more sustainably in general. For me, right now, that involves a real commitment to shop regularly at the local farmer's market, to spend more of my grocery dollars at the local co-op, and to let my local supermarket know that I am interested in supporting local produce and other farm products. I'm going to participate in the co-op's Eat Local challenge next month (August 15-September 15), striving to make 80% of my food choices from our five-state area (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and North and South Dakota). I'll share my progress here. I don't mean to be fanatic about it, but I think I can do some good for the local land, the global environment, and the local economy by making some conscious choices about how and what I eat. When it can't be local, at least I'll try to choose organic or minimally processed options.

Eating more fresh, local food necessarily requires preparing it. Along the way I'll share some recipes and menus and musings about food in general.

I don't come new to an interest in this kind of thing, but due to things like my transition from part-time work while my kids were younger to full-time work, plus a divorce and subsequent move to rental property (at least for the next couple of years), I've let it slip. But I've just read Barbara Kingsolver's new book, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, about her family's experiences eating almost entirely locally in rural Virginia for a year, and I'm all fired up again. So, here goes.

In my kitchen this week:
  • New potatoes (white and red) from the farmer's market
  • Early zucchini (ditto)
  • Low-sugar strawberry jam I made a couple of weekends ago from the flat of local strawberries my older daughter gave me. It's almost more of a sauce, with a 4:1 fruit-to-sugar ratio and no added pectin. It's soft and intensely strawberry-y, and delicious on buttered bread.
  • 10-grain bread from one of our two local bakeries
  • Cucumbers and tomatoes from the garden
  • Milk, yogurt, sour cream, butter and cheese from Minnesota and Iowa dairies
  • Organic eggs from Owatonna, MN
Simple July potato salad:

Boiled and sliced new potatoes, with skins left on
Sliced cucumbers
Newman's Own Oil & Vinegar dressing (a perennial favorite)
Crumbled feta cheese

Gently toss, add some salt & pepper to taste, and that's it.