Summer of Local Foods

 

What does “Local” mean to you?

This winter, myself and a small group of self-proclaimed local food enthusiasts posed the question “What is Local?” to everyone we could get a hold of – neighbors, friends, business owners, small farmers, large farmers, gardeners…

Results were varied, to say the least. Although people overwhelmingly believed that local should mean grown in their community – the definition of community could mean their hometown; a certain mile radius; a portion of the country; or simply grown in the USA.

As I’ve mentioned before, living in downtown Minneapolis put me within walking distance of a handful of farmers’ markets.  These markets are as much of a social gathering as they are a means to stock up on items for the week ahead.

This summer I’ve made a commitment to drive the hour every Saturday to our local farmers market and hopping on board a #SummerOfLocalFoods

I find myself getting to know the handful of vendors that are so passionate about what they grow and raise; and in turn they get me to try new foods (pea shoots, kohlrabi… to name a few).

Now, is farmers’ market food more expensive? Maybe.  Depends if you’re talking about the actual money you dish out or the expense on our environment to get much of the produce you see in the supermarkets.  See what I did there?

Yes, an onion for $2 seems steep, but how often do you buy a bag of onions where half of them go bad before you get to them?

Or, when was the last time you’ve actually TASTED a carrot.  Not just a crisp, orange log that vaguely tastes like nutritious soil [clearly I’m not a big fan of the carrots I grew up with…] but a REAL carrot. Take it from me, more times than not if you try a farmers’ market variety you’ll discover that you may actually LIKE a vegetable you’ve previously written off.

These carrots were so pretty I actually put one bunch in a glass vase and displayed it on my counter for a day or two! (From Springerridge)

I find myself being more resourceful when not confronted with 10+ aisles of food and freezer-ready meals.  I find that I spend less time and money at the grocery store.

After all, in one day I was able to purchase from each of these food groups:

+ Baked Goods. Bleu Cheese & Bacon Loaf; Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
+ Meat.  Canadian Bacon; Soup Bones (for the pup!)
+ Veggies. Onions, Green Beans, Pea Shoots, Carrots & Scallions.
+ Herbs. Rosemary & Basil
+ Dairy. Tomato Basil Cheese

The farmers’ market trips are a start, and I’m proud of the movement in Pierre to get more local foods in peoples’ homes, grocers and restaurants.

One small step, right?  I dig it.

* Looking for the deets on the Pierre area farmers markets? Take a look at Country Farmers Market & Capitol City Farmers Market

** Check out the results of our foods study here!

*** Follow our Dakota Rural Action chapter “Greater Oahe Action League” on Facebook!

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A lunchtime collection from my backyard garden!

 

 

Food-Phobia

I hated eating as a kid.  Ask anyone from my childhood and they probably hated trying to feed me even more than I hated eating it.  I hated textures.  I hated temperatures.  I hated smells.  I even hated words to describe food – like meatLOAF (still working on that one).  Simply put, I had so many other things I’d rather be doing than sitting still and eating.

Then, it all started to change.  Slowly, but change was eminent.  My mama’s words “You EAT if someone takes the time or spends the money to FEED you. It’s not an option. It’s polite.” echoed in my head when I’d go to friends’ houses.  A particular BFF in middle school had a father who worked for one of the best seafood restaurants in Minneapolis (I know, SEAfood, in Minnesota?  Four words: Flown In Fresh Daily) and I had a crab cake.  Then I tried crab legs, cracking shells and making a mess.  OK eating could be FUN too!  So, the seafood love was cracked (pun pun).  The same family also introduced me to Chicken Chow Fun, featuring a sweet, yet spicy, sauce, wide noodles, deliciously cooked chicken and egg scrambled in.  So now I had two major food groups to work with: sea food and Chinese. I should note that Italian and pastas were always a favorite – spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, mac and cheese.

Ask me any of my favorite foods and I can tell you exactly when I first tried it.

Sushi?  California in 9th grade visiting one of my mom’s best friends from her Up With People days.

Scallops?  Our annual family trip to Florida for Spring Break at a place called Tin City in Naples.

Whole Roasted Garlic?  A trip where a friend’s dad thought it’d be funny to pressure me in to eating a whole garlic head.  Oh my gawd, like buttah.

I could go on, but really huge props have to go out to my roommate in college for forcing me to try new things. I also owe my slow-cooker abilities to her.  Hi Erin!

Denver was the first to open my world to farmers markets and the world of locally-grown produce.  Moving back to Minnesota, there were 3 farmers markets close to my downtown condo; a balcony to grow my own herbs; and a plethora of restaurants to explore and try new things (head cheese comes to mind as the most adventurous…)

Moving into the Heartland meant a huge adjustment to so many things – but one of the biggest was my grocery shopping.  I went from walking down the street on Saturdays with my reusable bag to driving to the town’s grocery store.  For the staples and packaged goods, it now means an hour drive… to shop at Wal-Mart (don’t get me started).

I’m not trying to throw myself a pity party.  After all, 46.2 Million people live in “rural America” according to the USDA ERS (if you like graphs and charts of this data, click here!).  Whatever that means.

Simply put, if I want it I gotta grow it, or find someone who does – and boy do I like a challenge!

As you’ve seen from my posts, I now have 2 years under my belt of SoDak gardening.  This year will be the first year I’ll have my garden in my own back yard – Hubby even tilled* an additional garden plot for me this fall (see post photo).  The pup has no problem getting comfortable, no matter where my garden is!

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Vinny in my Minneapolis balcony garden

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Vinny in our new home’s garden!

I’m currently in the planning stages and trying to maximize production and preservation this year.  Goals?  Well thanks for asking! Here’s what I hope to accomplish this year:

  • Seedlings.  Hoping to start my own seedlings of a majority of my vegetables, although I’m intimidated to start my own tomatoes.  I’ve had success with herbs, zucchini, squashes, beans and peas in the past.  Any extras I don’t use in my garden I’d like to donate to kids for their own gardening.
  • Efficiency.  I want to utilize every square inch of my garden – for example,  planting early-harvest veggies in the space that bigger plants (squash, watermelon, tomatoes) will take over when they are full-grown.
  • Canning. I mastered the “easy canning” technique with tomatoes last year, but I hope to get more proficient and have a lot more stored up for winter.  My 5 huge jars of tomatoes only lasted me until January. Whoops.

Have I rambled on enough?  Nothing gets me more excited than the prospect of sunshine and long, warm summer days!

My garden first had the Year of the Zucchini.  Last year was the Year of the Tomato. What will this year bring?!


 

*Note: As a woman married to a No Till Farmer, I must make a side note that in this case tilling was acceptable – breaking ground and adding in nutrients from fallen leaves and other yard waste to decompose over the winter months 😉

… Is anybody out there?

(Drumroll please…)

Here it is – the first post!

I’m officially a South Dakotan!

I’ve settled in to the family cabin nestled along the Missouri River – a part known as Lake Oahe.  Although surrounded on either side by other cabins, a resort and campgrounds, the river is in front of me and corn fields (at least this season) are behind me.  Vincent is absolutely loving our morning “runs” which end up as more of glorified hiking/exploration trips.

Panoramic - River Vinny Fields

(Click the photo for full-size)

Additionally, Tuesday marked the first official harvest from my garden!  Unfortunately, I missed the boat with my broccoli and kale, which passed their prime and are being devoured by various garden insects.  Not to be discouraged – it is my first garden after all – I still have promising zucchini, pumpkin, eggplant, sweet corn, popcorn, string beans, snap peas, tomatoes, and pepper plants! Below is a gallery of my Garden so far:

I’m excited with what the future holds for us.  After all, South Dakota is the land of “Great Faces, Great Places,” and so far, it is fulfilling that promise.

And with that, I’ll sign off for now.  What’s for dinner (aka “Lunch”) today? Zucchini Spaghetti with meatballs. Recipe and photos to follow!