By Jack Beuttell
Sure you can cook a mean rack of ribs. But do you know where they came from? Not the farm, but the part of the pig.
In the past I’ve tried to learn about where the different cuts come from on a cow or pig, but gave up in frustration because there are so many different names for the same piece of meat, and some of them are counterintuitive. Even Chef Hadley, Head of the Culinary Arts Department at Wake Technical Community College, who led the “Lessons from a Master Butcher” session on Sunday morning at the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Durham, confessed he had no idea why the forward shoulder of the pig came to be known as the “butt”.
Nonetheless, the master butcher proceeded carefully with his anatomical disassembly, offering tips on everything from the type of knife to use, to the angle at which it should be drawn against the carcass.
Admittedly, I don’t know the next time I will quarter a hog carcass and reduce it to chops, ribs and sausage. But it was still pretty useful information. I should now be able to remember that baby back ribs are cut from the section of the rib cage that’s closest to the spine, and that spare ribs are what’s left over. That St. Louis ribs are the middle part of the cage (between the babies and rib tips) and that the meatier country ribs may not be ribs at all since they’re cut high on the rib cage where the baby backs meet the shoulder blade. (More detail here).
The timing of this new information is perfect, since I’m new to Durham and have made it a personal goal to visit every noteworthy BBQ institution in the area. And don’t hate me for this—but I’m coming in with a little bias, believing that the best BBQ in the world is in Charlottesville, VA. Perhaps now with a little more sophistication, however, I’ll be able to compare apples to apples instead of country ribs to spare ribs.
Regardless, I think it’s time for lunch.
By: Amber Welch
A lively round table discussion was had by all, with producers, buyers, and restaurateurs sustaining the conversation. Below are key highlights from the discussion related to food costs, developing relationships, and general best practices from each speaker related to their area
General Discussion Highlights:
- Less than 5% of what we consume in NC is produced in NC.
- Developing relationships is key to advancement of local food purchasing models.
- New farmers trying to market their goods should consider a thoughtful approach to marketing. Drop off samples at the restaurant during a non-peak time, consistently call to follow up on and ensure the quality of your product, and anticipate demand.
- Non summer/spring season growing: There is a market need for winter produce.
Andrea: Andrea is most concerned with sustaining the relationship between buyer and producer as well as the volume of purchasing that supports the farm.
- Relationships: Work with your purchaser/farmer to develop a model that works for both of you. Keep lines of communication open and nurture your relationships.
- Pricing Models: Don’t try to extract the same
amount of profit from every dish.
- Food costs: Around 35%, in winter they are under 30%, labor costs are close to 38%.
Alex: In addition to Andrea, Alex acted as a strong moderator for the group discussion. After 30 years of growing, he enjoys providing food to restaurant businesses as they challenge him to try new crops, leading to diversification of offerings in the area-such as white turnips. Alex provides to about 18 restaurants. Alex encouraged farmers to be as professional as possible in their marketing, delivery, and maintenance of key buyer relationships.
Amy: Amy approaches buying locally as a priority. She sources 95% of her fish from Walking Fish co-op. She is also concerned with keeping business in town and supporting the local community by keeping the atmosphere and pricing at her restaurant casual.
- Costs of moving the menu to mostly local: Profit margin is miniscule, and is a complex relationship that many customers fail to understand.
- On buying retail: She buys at retail price when necessary.
- Relationships: Devoted to maintaining strong relationships with her farmers, is open to new relationships but primarily maintains and nurtures longstanding relationships.
- Food costs 35-40%.
Portia McKnight: Restaurant and wholesale purchases have increased, forcing them to streamline. She enjoys the reliability of restaurant orders.
- Selling Models: Encourages a tiered and diversified approach between retail and wholesale selling.
- Relationships: Key to sustainability of the industry. She comfortably exchanges large profit potential for the regularity of the purchasing relationship that can be established with local restaurants.
- Food Costs: Feels the price point of local foods needs to be addressed through increased dialogue.
Closing thoughts on the local foods movement:
- Community: Increase transparency in food production and buying practices, continue to extend the dialogue and increase awareness of food policy issues.
- Buyers: Encourage and support all farmers to transition to organic as your relationship with them evolves.
- Farmers: Expect to work with buyers who value your hard work; find the relationships that work for you.
By Sherry Walker
If you think a foodie tour is only about tasting food, think again. The CFSA foodie tour of Durham was about learning, connecting and understanding.
Durham farmer’s market manager Erin Coughlin shared that the market is producer only within a 70 mile radius. Currently 63 vendors participate due to physical space limitations, but more vendors are waiting in the wings to get in. The market Board of Directors is comprised only of vendors, which is unusual for farmer’s markets. This market also requires vendors to be inspected by two of the market’s board members before being allowed to sell at the market. They do this to ensure everything is produced by the vendor and to inspect quality standards of the market. The Thanksgiving market is held on the Tuesday before the holiday and is a big market. It has become an annual staple.
Next stop on the tour was Piedmont restaurant. Chef Marco shared how he manages to use all NC ingredients except for citrus, celery, and for a few months, carrots and onions. He shared insight into the challenges of cooking with only NC ingredients but stays focused on the benefits: fresher, more nutritious food with better flavor for his customers, a smaller carbon footprint, and the satisfaction of supporting local farms. Chef Marco has to work at obtaining his supplies more than a restaurant which simply orders from a wholesaler online or via phone but listening to him, you know he gets satisfaction from all of the effort. If you are in Durham, give Piedmont restaurant a try.
Onward, the tour landed at a private home in Durham which combines green building techniques with edible landscaping. The owner shared his yard and home to demonstrate urban gardening as landscape. His yard was full of fruit trees, perennial vegetables such as artichokes and asparagus, herbs, tomatoes and at this time of year, lots of greens. The Asian persimmons hanging on the tree looked divine. The chickens and their friends in the back yard wondered why so many people were invading their space. The house sports 6 solar PV panels, solar thermal for hot water, a green roof on the front porch, bamboo kitchen cabinets, and other low VOC materials inside, all to make a comfortable living space that is healthy and low impact on the environment.
The final stop was the Fullsteam brewery with the Farmhands sausage wagon parked out front. Fullsteam brews locally and uses local ingredients to help flavor their beer. Besides the flagship Fullsteam brew, we tasted sweet potato beer and pawpaw beer. I couldn’t taste the sweet potato in the beer, but it was very smooth. I did detect the flavor of pawpaw. Fullsteam continues to experiment with various local ingredients to bring customers good beer with local flair. In their quest to make local brews, they eventually hope to get local hops and barley.
Farmhand sausage wagon was a good accompaniment to the beer. Jennifer Curtis shared that Farmhand was an effort to connect people to local meats through their stomachs. The group tried spicy Italian sausage with fennel chowchow and smoked polish sausage with pimento cheese. Doesn’t that make your mouth water? Having learned from each of our tour stops, we finished the tour with happy taste buds, and then headed back for the CFSA local food feast for more.
by Danielle of eatbreatheblog.com
*If your mushroom curiosity has been piqued, be sure to check out Tradd Cotter of Mushroom Mtn. at this year’s Sustainable Agriculture Conference. He will be teaching about mushrooms in a Friday workshop and a Saturday conference session. Don’t forget to register for the 26th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference! Late registration ends Nov 5th. Visit http://carolinafarmstewards.org/sac11.shtml to register and learn more.
For many, the end of summer is something to dread. Gone are the days of sunshine and warmth, and all you have to look forward to is the damp chill that precedes winter. For mushroom hunters, however, this is the best time of the year, because it’s when these delectable fungi start sprouting up from the ground!
I recently began participating in this activity. My former college roommate became obsessed with mushroom gathering while studying for her biology degree, and she was always trying to get me involved, but I am averse to traipsing through the cold and wet. However, now that I have started, I find that it is not only fun, but downright addicting.
When hunting for wild mushrooms, you only need a few basic items: a flat-bottomed basket or box, waxed paper, something for digging, and a paper and pencil for note-taking. It’s also a good idea to have a quality book about mushrooms, such as The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms (Gary H. Lincoff), Mushrooms of North America (Orson K. Miller, Jr.), The Mushroom Trail Guide (Phyllis G. Glik), or The Mushroom Hunter’s Field Guide (Alexander H. Smith and Nancy Smith Weber).
When collecting mushrooms, be sure to pick the entire mushroom, including the base, and wrap it in wax paper (plastic wrap speeds up decay). Jot down notes about the mushroom, including where you found it, what it was growing on, appearance and distinctive features, and other information. This way, you can be sure that what you have found isn’t poisonous, and you will be better able to find more mushrooms in the future.
Additionally, you can make a spore print by cutting off the stem and placing the cap gill- or pore-side down on a piece of white paper. This is to show the color of the spores, and will aid in identification. Because there are so many lookalikes in the mushroom world, it is important to never consume a mushroom unless you are 100% sure that it’s okay to eat.
An article I recently read about mushroom hunting put it best: “The trick for most mushroom hunters is how to identify the choice from the poisonous. A saying often quoted among mycophiles [is], ‘There are old mushroom hunters and bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters.’ If you are a beginning mushroom hunter, remember this phrase and repeat it often. Some of the most beautiful wild mushrooms are poisonous or deadly.”
Once you have gained some experience differentiating edible mushrooms from poisonous ones, you will feel more confident about which ones to gather and which ones to avoid. The aforementioned article contains pictures and descriptions of mushrooms that are safe to ingest, or you can look through any mushroom field guide. When you know you don’t have to worry about this, then you can relax and enjoy a day of mushroom hunting!
Cooking local and farmstead cheesemaking classes give even more reasons to attend the Sustainable Agriculture Conference
*Don’t forget to register for the 26th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference! Late registration ends Nov 5th. Visit http://carolinafarmstewards.org/sac11.shtml to register and learn more.
In conjunction with their upcoming Sustainable Agriculture Conference, CFSA is offering two great classes that any local food lover would enjoy! Both the farmstead cheesemaking class and the cooking local class promise to be fun, informative, and above all, tasty!
The cheesemaking class will be taught by Fleming Pfann of Celebrity Dairy. Fleming has been making farmstead cheeses for over 25 years and is one of the foremost experts on cheesemaking in the Triangle. The class will cover both soft-curd (think fresh chevre) and heated-curd (think cheddar) cheeses, as well as the basics of starting a farmstead cheesemaking operation. Class size is limited to 24 participants so sign up soon! The cost is $35.
The cooking class is a great opportunity for home chefs and kitchen novices alike to learn more about cooking and eating sustainably. You’ll learn about sourcing ingredients locally, how to know what’s in season, preparation & cooking techniques, and recipes. Participation is limited to 20 people, and the cost is $45.
Both classes will be offered on Friday, November 11th from 2:30 – 5:30 in the afternoon at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro. CFSA has partnered with CCCC’s Natural Chefs program to bring you these two great opportunities, and you’ll have a chance to check out the Natural Chefs state-of-the-art kitchen and facilities while you learn.
For more information or to sign up for either the Farmstead Cheesemaking class or the Cooking Naturally, Locally, & Seasonally class, visit www.carolinafarmstewards.org or call 9129-542-2402.
(Note: both classes have been designed to be finished in time for participants to travel back to Durham for the opening dinner of the Sustainable Agriculture Conference)
by Kathiey Voshell
Yesterday afternoon Joe and I decided to go on the Piedmont Farm Tour. I had never heard of it, but this was their 16th year. There were 40 farms on the tour this year. We only had a few hours and wanted to see them all, but realistically knew we had to narrow it down. So with our guide in hand, we selected 4 farms to visit….let the fun begin….here are a few shots of our adventure!
Joe listened to the talk given by the farmer. He learned about sustainable crops. He said that after a field was harvested, turkeys and chickens came in and ate from the site; when they were done, they send in the pigs and they clear the land. Everything works together. Makes total sense. Of course I was off taking pictures and playing with the puppies so I missed most of the talk, but that’s ok because I love taking pictures…..and petting puppies:-)
As I was reading about each farm, I kept coming across lines like “happy chickens,” “happy cows,” and “happy pigs.” I could not imagine what this meant. But as I wandered the properties I began to understand. These animals were happy. They were in a great environment. Open spaces, plenty of room, plenty of food and water. They seemed content and were well cared for. Yes, I know the final end for many of these animals is our table, but it is good to know that they lived their life as they were meant to. We had heard horror stories about how some animals are kept, and I was glad to see a better way. I want to start buying my meats, eggs and veggies from local farms as much as possible. They need our support.
We saw this dog in the field with the sheep. He was HUGE. It was like he did not even see us. He only had eyes for his sheep. I thought he may be a Great Pyrenees, but Joe, who attended the lecture, told me that the breed name started with an “m.” So off to Google I went. I found one called a Maremma from Italy. This must be the one. They can weigh anywhere from 65-110 pounds and are bred just to be livestock guardian dogs. Someone asked the question, “what are they protecting the sheep from?” The answer was coyotes. We were told (well, Joe was told, I was taking pictures:-) that coyotes hunt in packs. One day the guardian was not with the sheep and a pack of coyotes killed 12 lambs. Awful! He also said you won’t find many stray cats in the area because they too are prey for coyotes.
Great saying….”Save water, drink wine.” I think that will be my motto:-)
When I was a baby my dad had dairy cows. I don’t remember much about it, but I do remember my mom saying it was hard work and that you had to be there every day to do the milking twice a day. When someone asked one of our hosts if they had to be milked daily, the response was, “yes, we have tried to explain holidays and vacations but they just don’t seem to understand”:-)
We had a wonderful,wonderful day at the farm tour. Next year I hope to visit more farms. Great fun and if you are good student like Joe, you will learn a lot too:-)
Enjoy Your World Everyone:-)
by Nicole Sanchez
Another April Saturday, another plethora of choices for family activities in eastern NC. We chose the Master Gardeners’ plant sale at the Lenoir County Extension Center, where they sure weren’t kidding when they said to get there early to enjoy a good plant selection. Thankfully our small kids enjoy plants and gardening, so it wasn’t hard to get them there early. We picked up tomato, pepper, herb, and ornamental plants for our garden, and some for friends. These plants were grown by the Master Gardeners and help them support their efforts in the community. There was an impressive selection of plants, including many old fashioned gardening favorites, and most were of quality comparable to that of a reputable garden center.
(For those who read my first post, which included a lengthy portion about how it is too early for tomatoes, all I can say is, try explaining it to my four year old. He’s got gardening in his blood, and is at the age where encouraging his interest is more important than providing the ideal conditions for a particular plant. )
The Lenoir County Farmer’s Market, nestled in downtown Kinston near the Neuse Nature Center, was also a hive of activity. The Lenoir County Extension team lined up live music, free hot dogs and ice cream, and a panel of local growers, dignitaries, and friends of the market to welcome both vendors and consumers.
The threat of an incoming storm did little to deter the steady stream of visitors, who lined up to purchase strawberries, bedding and herb plants, collards and greens, cabbages, sweet potatoes and more. Spice and barbeque sauce vendors added a little variety. The Lenoir County Farmer’s Market will is open every Saturday from 9-5 and on Tuesdays from 9-6, though when we got there last Saturday at 9 am, sales were already in full swing. I hear that different vendors participate on Tuesdays than Saturdays. To get the latest information on happenings at the Lenoir County Farmers’ Market, email Lenoir County Extension Director Tammy Kelly to be included in email updates about the market and its activities.
I have often heard people reflect on farmers’ markets that price is a deterring factor. Some folks have the impression that foods at farmers’ markets are more expensive, and I am sure that is sometimes true. But I have been pleasantly surprised at each of my buying trips, where prices seemed reasonable, and the quality was excellent.
While the market was steadily busy for the entire two hours our family was there, from my perspective there continues to be room for growth. I would have liked to have purchased fresh parsley and cilantro, which can be grown here this time of year, and I missed some of the other winter vegetables, like parsnips, that I love so much. At the Kinston market, I think several more vendors could take advantage of this location without negatively impacting the sales of the vendors already participating.
Our selection and availability of local foods in the counties I work in as an extension agent is truly impressive, but there appears from my perspective to be room for growth. North Carolina has climate and soils conducive to growing a wide variety of food crops. As agriculture in the state continues to transition away from tobacco dependence, foods are poised to fill the gaps. If you are considering trying to raise food or herb crops or sale, don’t forget to take advantage of your local extension service to help you get started on the right path.
by Tiffany Griffin
This past Saturday, I participated in the Grand Opening of the Briggs Avenue Community Garden in Durham, which was hands down one of the funnest events I’ve taken part in since moving to North Carolina! The community garden coordinator, Santos Flores, approached me a few months ago, asking me to be the guest chef for the event. Even though I’m not technically a chef (minor detail, in my opinion), I enthusiastically obliged. And then came the details–”we’d like for you to prepare something in the garden that highlights local, seasonal, farm fresh food from North Carolina. If you can raise awareness about an ingredient than many people may not know about, that would be great too.”
Ah, uh, cook in a garden? Raise awareness? My excitement turned to anxiety. Would folks shun my food because they didn’t know what it was? Would I prepare the dishes only for them to sit untapped on my demonstration table? In the days preceding the event, I became increasingly nervous. Nervous, mainly because I hadn’t decided what to prepare. In the end, I decided to make a vegan curry couscous with roasted yellow peppers, spring onions, and garden cress–my new favorite edible herb. I also prepared a vegan curry ‘chicken’ salad with grapes and pea shoots. On my demonstration table also lay freshly baked bread from a sliding scale bakery in Durham, local strawberries, and gorgeous rainbow carrots from the SEEDS educational garden in Durham.
All of my fears were eased once the first few people tried my dishes. Word spread through the impressive crowd for a rainy, rather cold Saturday morning, and soon folks were approaching my table saying things like, “I heard the tasty stuff is at this table!” and “Where are these wraps everyone keeps talking about?!?”
I also received an informal tour of the new Grilled Cheese Bus that had its soft launch at the event. Not only did they provide a super tasty grilled cheese (made with local bread and a southern favorite that I had never heard of before–Pimento Cheese), but they also let me on their bus with wings to see where they keep their food, as well as their fancy schmancy grilled cheese presses. I had never been on a food truck before so this was the icing on the cake for the afternoon.
My food demonstration was a success, I got a chance to meet everyday folks like me who are learning to grow their own food, and I talked with master gardeners, like Rick Fisher, who have been sowing seeds for years. And although I was exhausted by the end of the event, the grand opening left me with a wide smile the entire day and actually pretty much all week. I know I only played a small part, but I am so proud of the community garden and feel so honored to have had the chance to share my food with my fellow Durhamites. Hopefully, I’ll have the chance to play ‘chef’ again soon!
by Susanne Blumer
The South Carolina Festival of Flowers will be held in Greenwood, SC again this June. The Festival of Flowers is one of the top 20 tourist events in the Southeast and showcases many of our local farms and businesses. For a little town like Greenwood, South Carolina, the first two weeks in June mean a lot of visitors and a lot of fun!
One of the events we’re looking forward to is Flower Day at Park Seed. We’re fortunate to have Park Seed headquartered here.
Flower Day is Saturday, June 25, 2011, 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Flower Day at Park Seed Company is the heart of the South Carolina Festival of Flowers. It is the one day each year that Park Seed Company’s professional horticulturists provide guided tours of their famous 9-acre Trial Gardens. Bring the entire family — and a camera — to experience first-hand more than 2,000 varieties of gorgeous plants at their peak!
The famous Trial Gardens allow Park Seed and Wayside Gardens’ renowned research horticulturalists to compare new flower and vegetable varieties with old-time favorites and proven performers. Only the best are selected and featured in upcoming catalogs. The Trial Gardens present several special-focus areas in lovely landscape settings, including theme gardens, a container garden display, a Rose garden, and the prestigious All-America Selections trials.
Amateur and professional growers alike come from all over the globe to tour the grounds and see first hand the breath-taking variety of new and old horticultural wonders in the trial garden, at the peak of the growing season.
Our farm, Huckleberry Farm, is also participating in a new event at the festival called Farm2Fork. This is will be held on Friday, June 17, 2011 at Wyatt Farms. Local farmers and growers are providing all the food and local chefs are preparing the dinner. There will be live entertainment, cocktails, great food and fun. All proceeds go to local farmers and organizations that support small farms. We’re very excited to be participating! For more information, click here.
The downtown will also be host amazing topiaries throughout the two weeks and the kick-off event is a topiary viewing and wine walk. I can assure you that we will be there for that! There will also be private home garden tours, musical concerts, children’s activities, cultural exhibits and sporting events.
Ah, June is Greenwood! Could anything be better?!
by Jackie Blackwell
If there is one thing that I learned in my 4.25 years of college, it was how to research. Sure, most of it was spent either in the library pulling reference book after reference book, or at an assortment of ‘.org, .gov, or .edu’ websites. But I can say with wholeheartedness, everything I learned about raising chickens in our backyard was taught to me by a chicken forum. And a close friend who I still get new additions from to add to the flock.
I am more of a learn-as-you-go kind of girl. More trial by fire than trial and error. So when I got my first 4 pullets (young hens, not really chicks but not ready to lay yet), I had the expectation that while I didn’t know everything, I knew the right places to look for answers. And most of the issues I had were explained to me in terms I could relate to. Such as ‘why do my chickens follow me every.where.I.go.’? Well, that’s now apparent to me because I am the one with the food. Duh.
But at the risk of sounding a bit like an instant gratification backyard chicken mistress, I wish I had some type of in-person gathering with other chicken rookies to ask questions and compare stories. There is an opportunity for that being held at Furman University in Greenville, SC next Saturday, March 26th. The Great Backyard Chicken Chat is a few hour workshop open to the ‘chicken curious’. You can find more information here.
That’s what is so rewarding about chickens is that there is this community of people who spend time teaching others about their passion. I’m still learning, but I hope that I can spread some local chicken love in the Carolinas.