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What if… Your Neighbor Was an Organic Farmer ?

15 Jan Photo of Pinterest Board
by Deanne

What if… your neighbor was an organic farmer?  Photo of Pinterest Board

The lead article in yesterday’s Des Moines Register begins with this line:

A Des Moines-area developer is betting Iowans not only want to know the farmer who grows their food, they will also want to live next door to him.

I would change “him” to “him/her” because there is also another trend that says women farmers are on the rise.

The article doesn’t mention the location that the developers are considering.  There is a realization that housing developers have moved away from golf courses because they are expensive to maintain.  It is exciting to see this trend develop.  I actually know two farmers who are in the process of building an organic farm and teaching center on 10 acres near Ankeny.  In fact, we had dinner them last night and had a chance to see their plans.  As their story unfolds I look forward to sharing more. 

In the meantime we can all dream about these types of developments by looking at the ones that already exist.  Check out the pins on our FarmerChefs Pinterest account.

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What if… Real Food was Convenient?

8 Jan
by Deanne

What if… real food was as convenient as picking it up at the end of a busy day? You know, kind of like a personal chef but a bit more affordable.

Good news!  There is an expansion going on in the good food movement.  As I wrote this post I got an email with a link to this article. To me, the article shows that there is a growing demand for better quality food that is convenient.

I’d like to introduce you to Brandy Lueders who owns The Grateful Chef in Des Moines.  She is the real deal in terms of a chef creating a business that supports her family doing what she loves.  Not to mention that she uses wholesome ingredients for those that want good food but don’t have the time in their day to make it.  I am kinda lucky because I live with a chef, but hey, even he needs a break.

thegratefulchefOn my way home from my volunteer work, I picked up two dishes that I ordered earlier in the week.  The way it works:  1. A person signs up to receive an email with the selections each week.  2.  Once you get the email, you decide if you want to order that week and place the order by Monday evening. 

Brandy uses the commercial kitchen at The Wallace House on 16th Street here in Des Moines.  She prepares the food to order and on Wednesday evenings her customers stop by the kitchen to pick up their food on their way home from work.  Today she also had farm fresh eggs available for sale from a local farmer.

Photo of orderI couldn’t wait till dinner, I just had to dig into the nutty quinoa apple salad.  Don’t worry, I didn’t eat it all, I saved some for Steve.  I also ordered a Moroccan Style Vegetable and Chickpea Stew.  Both of these dishes were vegan friendly for those that want to eat their #phytosfirst.   We are that new breed of eater who is not strictly vegan but like to order it whenever possible.  In our case we like to learn what you can do with veggies.

Please share with me any kind of service you find in your community that is similar, I would like to do a follow-up post and share ideas to support concept of eating real food.

Photo of Quinoa Salad

Volunteering at an Urban Farm

7 Dec
by Deanne

Edging near the top of my bucket list, was an adventure that is completely out of my comfort zone.  I wanted to volunteer at Growing Power, Will Allen’s urban farm in Milwaukee. 

(Photos included in this post are selected from Growing Power’s photobucket.)

 photo 017.jpgYou ask, why did I have such an obscure adventure on my bucket list?  I first heard about Allen’s quest for doing something to improve the access to food in his city when I attended the Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Conference (SAWG) in 2012.  Since then I have wanted to see a slice of his work first hand.  He sums up what Growing Power is all about with this quote from the organization’s the website:

If people can grow safe, healthy, affordable food, if they have access to land and clean water, this is transformative on every level in a community.  I believe we cannot have healthy communities without a healthy food system.

Twenty years ago, Mr. Allen took an old run down nursery with a few greenhouses in a neighborhood that didn’t have access to fresh food and started growing things.  More than growing food, he has allowed people who visit, volunteer, purchase food, and work there to experience a food system that has been slowly slipping away from our way of life.

 photo 006.jpg

Last Saturday, we (Steve and Deanne) showed up at 10 AM for their weekly free volunteer tour.  The tour lasts thirty minutes and covers the greenhouse operations, soil making operations, and a visit to other areas outside the greenhouses.  Rather than tell you about the tour, I recommend you visit for yourself.  If you are closer to Chicago, Growing Power now has operations there also.  If can’t visit, check out his book The Good Food Revolution. Photo of Good Food Revolution Book Cover

Volunteering at a farm is out of my comfort zone because electronic gadgets are about the only tools I utilize.  After the tour we asked for our assignments and the tour guide suggested we work in one of the greenhouses and empty pots of soil and gravel.  Wheelbarrows and hand shovels showed up just like magic so we could empty pots from one greenhouse by separating the soil into one of the wheelbarrows and the gravel into buckets.  When we finished that chore, we scrubbed the pots clean so they would be ready to use again. 

A sign of strong leadership is when things get done when the leader isn’t around.  The leader attracts people with their strong sense of possibility or vision and then discovers the passion in the people that show up.  Finally the leader, with the help of a team, sets up systems and gets mostly out of the way so the people can shine.  We didn’t see Mr. Allen, but his team had a sense of purpose in their work.

We wished we could have eaten at Growing Power’s MLK Cafe which is in another location.  I see from the website that DeShawn Parker is the chef.  His inspirational life story is told in the book.   It would be my guess that having a cafe in a neighborhood that needs access to food with a chef who grew up in the Growing Power community is an example of the organization’s simple goal playing out: to grow food, to grow minds, and to grow community. 

Have any non-farmers like me ever volunteered at a farm?  If so, it would be great to hear about your experience. 

Giving Thanks: A Virtual Farm Tour

28 Nov
by Deanne

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Join me on a virtual tour in honor of the farmers who supply locally grown produce to three of the restaurants we’ve reviewed from California to Arizona and then on to Arkansas. 

The dedication farmers give to their work can not be measured in dollars earned.  For me, it is so easy to lose my connection to the land and forget how hard it is to grow food. So today,  I want to give reverence for the bounty all farmers produce.  For them it is not about preparing for some odd Thursday in November, instead, they just keep giving to us all year long.  Even those of us that live in the cold states, we still get to enjoy apples and root veggies this time of year.

A photo of the garden

Since it is November, let’s start in warm and sunny Napa Valley and take a peek at the garden that grows right outside a restaurant.  This special place has two acres that provide 20 percent of the restaurant’s produce year-round and inspiration for the restaurant’s culinary team.  Francine visited Mustards Grill: Napa Valley, CA  and provided a review.  She snapped the above picture of the garden.

Next, join me as we will  head to Arizona for a look at a family farm that provides a supply of fresh produce for Desert Roots Kitchen:  Tempe, AZ 

I am glad I went on this virtual farm tour because I got a chance to read the blog of from Sunizona Family Farm.  This picture comes from a  blog post about the day a team of three guys harvested over seven tons of spaghetti squash in one day.  Check it out, it is quite impressive!

Photo of Squash HarvestNow let’s travel a little further east to Arkansas where I reviewed The Root – A Local Cafe:Little Rock, AK  

The Root has a whole list of farmers on their website.  For you meat lovers out there who are joining this virtual tour, I selected Falling Sky Farms and a picture from their facebook page that shows the turkeys growing earlier this fall.

Photo of turkeys from Falling Sky Farms

Another Way to Be Pink: Watermelon Radish Salad

29 Oct

By Deanne

When I was shopping at the farmers market on Saturday there were a lot of people running around with pink clothing and wigs.  Being a bit clueless, I finally realized that there must have been an event to raise awareness and money for breast cancer research.    

Photo of watermelon radish cut into matchsticks or ribbons

Have you heard the term pinkwashing? 

It is an ad and marketing campaign where a company or organization claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease.

One way to deal with pinkwashing is to learn more about the product you buy. 

In contrast to just mindlessly buying consumer packaged goods wrapped in pink ribbons, consider this Chinese proverb:

“Eating pungent radish and drinking hot tea, let the starved doctors beg on their knees.”

Digging a bit deeper, one learns that radishes are full of phytochemicals like zeaxanthin, lutein and beta-carotene. The lovely pink watermelon radish is a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

There seems to be a pattern unfolding on this real food journey:  nutrient-rich, plant based foods can have a large positive impact on our health.  If you agree, join me in developing a FarmerChef lifestyle by shopping and cooking mostly local and real foods. You might even consider planting a raised-bed garden.  It may seem overwhelming at first, but we can make it fun and make a difference to our health.

Francine introduced me to this pink beauty when she returned from China.  I picked one up at the Downtown Des Moines Farmers’ Market and decided to make this recipe.  A slight variation to Francine’s recipe which is also very good. The three spices:  cinnamon, turmeric, and cloves are added because of their health benefits and flavor. Photo of watermelon radish Photo of watermelon radish salad

Watermelon Radish Salad

  • 1 large watermelon radish, sliced as thinly as possible
  • 1 small white onion, also sliced thin
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper (fresh ground)
  • 2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric

Use a peeler to remove the outside of the radish.  Slice radish and then cut slices into lovely pink ribbons. 

Slice onion and place in large mixing bowl.

In a smaller bowl mix the juice, oil, sea salt, pepper, rice wine vinegar, cinnamon, cloves, and turmeric and make a simple dressing to pour over the radish and onions.

Do you think it would be cool to pass out these radishes at the next #bepink event?  Imagine the conversations and education about the value of real food.

A Celebration of Local Food: Downtown Farmers’ Market

27 Oct
 by Deanne

Before I left Southwest Minnesota, many people told me about the weekly celebration of local food that occurs in downtown Des Moines every Saturday morning from May until October. Photo of crowd at DSM Downtown Farmers Market

I have been able to visit the market three times since we have arrived in September. This last Saturday was the final day for the market this year.   Photo of lovely colors at DSM Farmers Market

It was a brisk, yet bright and breezy day to take in the sounds (local entertainment), sights (bountiful displays of vegetables and fruit), and the tempting aromas (lots of food vendors).  I got a little distracted by the beautiful fall colors at the honey table but then I snapped into focus and started filling my bag with eggs, eggplant, apples, garlic, spaghetti squash, bok choy, and watermelon radish.

Photo of eggs, garlic, eggplant etc.

I so admire the spirit of the farmers who work hard all week and diligently arrive (from long distances) early in the morning to set up their booths. More than a few farmers wore costumes and held down their canopies as the breeze turned into winter-y gusts that ripped through the canyon of city blocks.

Photo of vendors in costumes

In the end, I found a brochure that lifted my spirits…The Winter Farmers’ Market in November in December. (It is inside!)

I had a chuckle from this article that was re-tweeted on Saturday.  It explains the five types of people you might see at the market.  Check it out…which one are you?

 

 

How to Bake Spaghetti Sqaush

26 Oct
 by Deanne

Baking spaghetti squash is a fun and easy way to be a FarmerChef.  If you have kids, get them involved in the part where you  “play” with your food by shredding the baked squash onto a plate and then topping it with this recipe from GamerKitchen chef, Luke.

Photo of Split SquashCarefully cut it open and scoop out the seeds.

Photo of Squash in Oven

Before turning the squash halves fleshy side down, brush them with oil and fresh pressed garlic.

Even if you live in city like I do, you can buy the your squash at a farmers market and place it in a tiny apartment-sized oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Photo of Steamy Squash

When it comes out steaming hot, let it cool until you are able to handle the squash and then scrape it with a fork.

Thank you Mother Nature for making a vegetable act like a yummy pasta dish!

For more  Winter Squash recipes check out Francine‘s posts:

What to do with all this squash I, II, III, IV, and V from our first fall of blogging. 

Photo of Shredding Squash