Winstead Farm has Successful First Year Farming
by Gwen Roach, New Farmer
photos provided by Winstead Farm
Editor’s Note: This is our third in a series of blog posts featuring current CFSA members during our Winter Membership Drive.
Food has always been a central and growing passion in our family. In 2008-09, while facing significant health challenges, we began to understand the huge connection between the quality of our food and our health. We read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, Adelle Davis’ Let’s Have Healthy Children, and watched the documentary Food, Inc. All of these thoroughly convinced us we needed change.
Gwen, Graham & Ephraim at the Cobblestone Market
We started to change our patterns of food consumption from buying and eating all commercially-produced supermarket food to sourcing larger portions of our diet from local farmers producing whole foods naturally. Gwen started to learn about and experiment with cooking truly wholesome, scratch-made, traditional foods without processed ingredients.
On New Years Day 2010, we looked forward to a new decade and found ourselves dreaming about a different life direction. The dream that was born in us that day was to raise our family close to Graham’s in NC, and to become producers of good, clean, high-quality food. We also wanted to share our passion for healthy living with our community. We spent the year researching small-scale sustainable farming. Reading Joel Salatin’s books, You Can Farm and Pastured Poultry Profits, got our wheels spinning and we were excited to get started. We felt like starting with pastured poultry and a bit of gardening before adding other ventures would be a good way to learn without taking on too much risk.
In early 2011, we purchased our farm and in June we packed up and left good work and friends in Houston, TX to become NC farmers. We spent summer and fall growing chicken and produce for ourselves and gearing up for business. We also shopped regularly at the CFSA’s Cobblestone Farmers Market open on Tuesdays in downtown Winston-Salem. We got to know other farmers and the local food scene that way.
We joined CFSA and attended their 2011 Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Durham. We made significant contacts there and gained a lot of encouragement and excitement about getting our farm business off-the-ground.
We found out at the perfect time that CFSA was helping to establish a Saturday Cobblestone Market at Old Salem for the 2011-12 season. This market would be producers-only, just like the Tuesday market downtown. We applied and were invited to participate as vendors. This was the best thing that happened to us. Being at this market just one day a week during our first season allowed us to build a solid customer base and maintain very good sales. We couldn’t have asked for a better outlet. The managers and other vendors have been marvelous. This new market was hugely supported by shoppers in the city and was amazingly recognized as the #11 Farmers Market in the nation by US News and World Report!
This season we sold pastured-meat chickens, eggs from pastured hens, and fresh-ground whole-grain treats baked at home. In the beginning, we struggled to meet demand for chicken. We were dealing with a learning curve and losing our birds to predators. On several early batches, we processed only 50% of the chickens we bought as chicks. After a good bit of research and some trial and error, we found a better way to secure our mobile coops from predators. With the last few batches of broilers, we were able to process almost the entire batch. We ended the season strongly with a great survival rate, a strong customer base, and excitement for the next year.
Winstead Farm chickens on pasture
This fall, we both attended the Sustainable Agriculture Conference again, and the value of the conference was magnified significantly after having a year of experience under our belt. We knew what questions to ask, and who to hear from and talk with. Graham went on the livestock tour, had significant discussions with experienced livestock farmers, and gained a wealth of great advice from the pastured poultry workshop. We were thankful to receive scholarships through CFSA and the Forsyth County Extension Office to attend.
CFSA has been a key resource in our first year farming by helping us make significant connections, get our product to market, and learn new skills to help us be successful. We’re thankful for those who support CFSA, and in turn, support farmers like us working to produce high-quality food for our local community.
Ephraim and his chicks
Gwen, Graham, Ephraim believe that humanely and naturally raised food is the tastiest and healthiest food. They are also excited to be welcoming a baby girl, due in March. Find out more about their story and farm-fresh products, visit their website: http://winsteadfarm.com/.
Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood…Farm
by Jim Dykes, Hundred Acre Wood and Sanctuary Steward
photos provided by Hundred Acre Wood
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of posts by current CFSA members during our Winter Membership Drive.
I am a retired physician, now farming. I have been a part of CFSA for more than 35 years. I was at the first organizational meeting of CFSA. I’d love to share a story about that meeting.
But first I need to tell you just how I happened to be there. In my second year of Duke Medical School a grateful patient gave me a book of poetry: “Farming, A Handbook,” by Wendell Berry. The book changed the course of my life.
I would read his poems whenever my work on the wards would let me catch a moment of rest. I’d put on some fresh scrubs, find an empty stretcher in a quiet room, and read. “A Man Born to Farming,” is the first poem in the collection. I began to wonder if I too might be such a man.
Though I was doing well in school, I started to believe I was called to be a farmer, not a doctor. To the consternation of parents and medical school faculty, I dropped out.
Back in those days, Graham Center in Anson County, NC, was the mecca for those interested in sustainable agriculture. It was a joint project of the Rural Advancement Fund and the National Sharecropper’s Association. I went to learn to farm organically and connect with others who had similar dreams. While I was there, what would become the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association had its first organizational meeting.
Rosie the dog, Cathy, daughter Lia, Jim and goats
The room was packed with farmers and would-be farmers. There was a general consensus that the name of the organization should be Carolina Organic Growers. But at some point in the discussion, a farmer from Virginia stood up and gave an impassioned, impromptu speech about the necessity of stewardship.
As farmers, our relationship to the land is vitally important. A good steward manages things in a way that
fosters the long term growth of the good, that improves circumstances rather than exploits them. Good farming is
more than our choice of fertilizer, it requires compassion for the land and the creatures on it. It requires stewardship.
So Carolina Farm Stewardship Association was proposed as a name and was adopted unanimously by all present. I was proud to be there.
Although I eventually returned to Duke Medical School and practiced medicine for almost 30 years, I have remained a staunch supporter of CFSA. Now, like I did 35 years ago, I retired from medicine to farm. My farm, the Hundred Acre Wood Farm and Sanctuary, is on the CFSA fall farm tour. I hope those who visit can see signs of good stewardship. Nothing could make me more proud.
Farm-fresh dinner overlooking the garden
Cultivating Connections: How CFSA Membership Can Benefit Your Farm
by Meredith Mizell, Farm Manager, Red Fern Farm
photos provided by Red Fern Farm
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of posts by current CFSA members during our Winter Membership Drive.
Farming is a great life: you can be your own boss, build community, connect with nature daily, and know that your work is meaningful and important. But small, sustainable farming also presents challenges for both new and experienced growers. When you’re growing and guiding your own farm, sometimes you need additional training in aspects of production or marketing. Sometimes you need help finding new markets. Sometimes that big blue sky and those long rows stretching out in front of you get a little lonely and isolated. And sometimes you just need a little reassurance that yes, all that hard work really does mean something!
That’s where an organization like the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) can make a substantial difference in the life of a farmer.
As the manager of a small family farm– Red Fern Farm in Gray Court, SC — I am constantly amazed and encouraged by CFSA’s work. My first experience with CFSA was at the 2008 Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Anderson, SC. I was 11 when my family moved to 100 acres south of Greenville in 1996, and throughout my teenage years I was just counting the days until I could leave for college. I graduated with a BFA in graphic design in late 2006, but by 2008 had decided a long-term career in graphic design just wasn’t for me. Working in a cubicle farm was hell. But maybe a real farm would be just the thing…
I attended the entire 3-day conference that year armed with pen and paper, determined to absorb as much information as possible. It was a memorable weekend; I enjoyed seeing Joel Salatin deliver the keynote, and I’ll never forget going to Tradd Cotter’s standing-room-only mushroom workshop on Sunday morning. There was so much to see and do, and so many like-minded people surrounding me. The possibilities were endless! What I learned at my first SAC helped form the foundation of my farming knowledge, and has definitely informed my journey.
Since 2008, I’ve been involved in a variety of CFSA events as a member–often as an attendee, and occasionally as a host or presenter. One of the most visible ways our farm has been a part of CFSA events is by participating in the Upstate Farm Tour for the past three years. It’s a lot of work (I admit that I’m something of a perfectionist leading up to a big event like that) but it’s a tremendous opportunity. We average about 300 visitors each year, most of whom are not regular customers. Through their efforts to organize and promote the tour, CFSA puts us in touch with a group that we might not otherwise reach. We get a nice revenue boost during that weekend from on-farm sales, and some of those visitors have become regulars. It’s a win for both us, the farmers, and for the consumers as they have a chance to connect one-on-one with local producers. It’s especially gratifying seeing parents with their children coming out on the tour, because that’s our future!
Speaking of organizing and promoting, I’ve discovered that CFSA is staffed by a cadre of extremely enthusiastic and very hard-working folks. Diana Vossbrinck, our regional coordinator, is a tireless champion of local farms; I love working with her because it’s obvious she cares very much about the people behind the movement. Her many connections–with farmers, chefs, retailers, the media, and consumers–are more than just names and phone numbers, they’re real relationships that benefit everyone involved. That kind of authenticity is a rare commodity, and I’m glad that people like her are a part of CFSA.
My CFSA membership not only connects me to educational opportunities, to potential customers, and to supportive staff members, but also to other member farms. The Sustainable Agriculture Conference is an excellent opportunity to meet other Carolina farmers and to exchange ideas and experiences, but even something as simple as the quarterly CFSA newsletter keeps me feeling like part of the community with farm profiles, an “ask the experts” column, interviews, and sustainable agriculture news. The member listserv also plays a vital role in keeping me up-to-date on training and grant opportunities, regional and national news, special events, and more.
These are all concrete benefits of my CFSA membership. But the value I get from my membership is more than the sum of its parts. Being a part of CFSA reminds me that we’re all in this together and we’re all working towards a better future–for farmers and consumers. Like anyone, I have moments of doubt and worry and insecurity. I get discouraged and wonder if pursuing the life of a farmer and herbalist will pan out for me. But then I remember that I’m not alone in this endeavor. While I cultivate the soil, CFSA is out there working to cultivate a more favorable economic and philosophical environment for small, sustainable farms. Knowing that there is an organization that is advocating on the behalf of farmers, working to help educate consumers, and believing strongly in this movement is reassuring to me.
I’m planning on being a member of CFSA for many years to come, and I’m looking forward to seeing what great things will continue to happen as a result of sustainable agriculture in the Carolinas. I hope you’ll consider becoming a member yourself or, if you’re already a member, telling your friends, family, and customers about CFSA!
Meredith Mizell is a graphic design artist turned full-time farm manager. While she loves growing and cooking our own produce, her real passion is herbs and she is currently studying to become an herbalist. Find out more about Meredith & Red Fern Farm: www.redfernfarms.com.
By Sarah Sinning
(cue incredibly hyperbolic orchestral duh, duh, DUH!)
I do love the taste of a good burger. The juicy, tender, can I have another napkin for my face?—yes, the entire face, and probably shirt—meatiness. The luxurious blanket of ooey, gooey, if this is wrong I don’t want to be right cheesiness. The cool, clean snap of fresh Romaine lettuce—swimming on the back of a dolphin couldn’t be more refreshing. The sweet, lusciously delicate but not on your life sissy tomato. The ever so light but all business Kaiser roll, taking one for the team to carry its delicious passengers directly to my belly. Hmmm. This is a tasty burger.
Want a bite? (It’s real tasty!) Let me tell you how.
Step One: Buy all local ingredients. Do you really think the above description (which took me at least half an hour to get right) could come from the sad, sad (did I mention sad?) offerings of your average grocery store? Moving on.
Need a little help finding said ingredients? No worries. I’ve got you covered.
Hint One within Step One: Your local co-op is your friend.
Now, I’m a loyal shopper at Weaver Street Market (and Chatham Marketplace when I lived in Pittsboro) for several reasons. First of all, I am highly allergic to institutional florescent lighting bouncing off white-washed walls with “happy” farm animals painted on them. (I know they’re happy because I can see their teeth.) Any one of these conditions is fine on its own, but together, the combination is deadly. Second of all, the food is better, ‘nuf said. Yeah, it bothers me a little that the majority of the produce, especially at this time of year, comes from California or Mexico, but you have to pick your battles. I, for one, cannot live without bananas and avocados. (Sorry.) But what they do have all year round is a plethora of locally produced goods, which luckily for us includes some really exceptional cheeses and breads.
To create the masterpiece that was The Burger, I chose a cheese out of Ashe County from a rather appropriately named creamery—Ashe County Cheese. The cheese itself was a mild cheddar, also appropriately named for its round shape—Daisy Hoop Cheese. (The creativity is astonishing.) Coming in at $5.99 per pound (more than enough to be the crowning glory of The Burger, and probably 25 quesadillas), it was a surprisingly good deal, and admirably served its regal purpose.
For the bread, I chose a long time favorite—Pittsboro Bread Shop’s poppy seed bedazzled Kaiser rolls. (Who says bread can’t be fun and functional?) At $2.49 for six freshly baked, preservative-free beauties, they were a steal.
Hint Two within Step One: Find your nearest farmers’ market.
Can you really beat vegetables that were picked within hours of purchase, or livestock that actually did lead a happy life in the pasture down the road? This is, again, rhetorical.
But for a lot of folks, making it out to the farmers’ market each week can be a bit tricky. Late night alcohol-induced shenanigans do not happy Saturday mornings make. There is, however, a truly brilliant solution to this dilemma—weeknight evening farmers’ markets! (If you’re still hung over by Thursday night, you, my friend, may have a problem.)
For those of us who live in the Chapel Hill-Pittsboro area, Angelina’s Kitchen (home to local, homemade Greek and New Mexican deliciousness) hosts a Thursday evening mini-farmers’ market in the parking lot in front of the restaurant. I strongly suggest you check it out if you can—it may be small, but it’s got the makings for one heck of a burger.
A regular at this market as well as the Carolina Brewery’s Saturday morning market (for those of you without substance abuse issues), Lilly Den Farm is my absolute go-to place for beef (although they also have veal, pork, lamb, goat, poultry, and produce…hmmm, perhaps I should stop shopping elsewhere). I purchased a grand total of 7 pounds of beef, including a dinosaur-sized chuck roast, a couple of strips, and a few pounds of ground beef, for around $40. This may seem like a lot of money to some people, but trust me, this will last FOREVER. Well worth the money and the trip out to Pittsboro.
And I mustn’t forget the lettuce and tomato! Yes, that’s right—I bought fresh, local Romaine and summer-worthy tomatoes in February thanks to the valiant efforts of Ralph “Screech” Sweger of Screech Owl Greenhouse in Pittsboro. Coming in at $13 for a humongous head of lettuce and 2 rather well-endowed tomatoes, this purchase wasn’t too shabby at all.
Step Two: Cook The Burger.
I’m pretty sure I don’t need to explain this too much. Make your burger patties any size you like, prep your toppings any way you like, cook the meat anyway you like, do I need to continue? You can most certainly use The Burger as a blueprint, but please, by all means, make it your own way. I mean, if Burger King can do it, why can’t you?
By Sarah Sinning
When I was still just a lowly Freshman in college, caught up in the excitement of being a real, bona fide adult (well, in my own mind, anyway) and trying to figure out what practical direction I was going to take with my life, I did the only logical thing for an 18 year old with near flawless grades and a father to support her for the next four years—I decided to become an artist. While the 27 year old author of this blog has many times since questioned this so-called “logic” of her former self, what’s the saying?—oh yes, hindsight is 20/20. Right. (Oh, to have beaten this logic into her head with a “Wake Up, You Daft [insert choice expletive] Stick” the size of Kansas.)
But never mind, the past is the past. No use crying over spilt milk. (Aren’t clichés grand?) All we can do is work with what we’ve got, and what I’ve got is a chronic, borderline debilitating appreciation for creative expression of all, strike that, most kinds. (Come on, there’s some really awful stuff out there.) Now, I’m not talking debilitating as in hit-by a-bus-while-wearing-stilettos-and-a-mini-skirt-in-a-snow-storm-debilitating (take a moment to just picture that for yourself), but I do mean debilitating in the strictly emotional sense that eventually takes over all motor function.
You want examples? Fine. Try this on for size: after seeing Romeo + Juliet for the first time in the theatre, I sequestered myself in my bedroom for at least 12 hours, refusing all proper nourishment and actual human contact so I could indulge uninterruptedly in songs like U2’s “With or Without You” on repeat. Leo’s life was over, so my life was over. Period. (And if I was going down, you’re darn right I was going down to Bono’s hauntingly melodic crooning. Like some hack’s music would do!)
Fast forward 13 some odd years, and what do you know—it’s still happening! And now that I’ve overcome a practically paralyzing case of adolescent shyness, these art-induced emotional breakdowns of mine have gotten even better—they happen in public! (Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be terrified of people again.) So what slightly sticky sentimental classic did it to me this time? I’ll tell you—David O. Selznick’s Gone with the Wind, that’s what. But before you go snickering off into your own corner, writing me off as just another overwrought female, I’ve got news for you—I wasn’t the only one this time. At the Varsity Theatre’s big screen showing of this 1939 Academy Award winning film over the weekend, I wasn’t the only sap in the building, I can assure you.
Now, I’m not saying that Gone with the Wind is a perfect film or that everyone should necessarily like it because of its reputation. (I wouldn’t be surprised if most people were inclined to dislike it because it has become so ubiquitous in our culture. But this, my friend, is another discussion.) But while seated in that theatre last Sunday, enjoying my fresh popcorn (the very best in Chapel Hill) and a Highland Gaelic Ale (yes, you can even drink local, craft brews during your feature), I witnessed something truly special—the theatre roared with laughter when Mammy “hmph’d” her disapproval at an undaunted Scarlett, we all held our breaths during the devastating burning of Atlanta, and there were few dry eyes in the house when Rhett walked out that door with his immortal line. Frankly, my dear, I don’t think a filmmaker could expect much more from an audience. No, everyone wasn’t reduced to a red, quivering, snot-ridden pulp like I was (I don’t think road kill could look less appealing), but for a few hours of the afternoon, we all came together despite our differences, and allowed ourselves to feel something outside of our own existences. If this isn’t a work of art, then I don’t know what is.
So why did I feel that this would be an interesting topic for the CFSA blog? Well, for starters, there’s the obvious fact that the Varsity is a locally-owned Chapel Hill business that partners with other local businesses to put on events such as last weekend’s Gone with the Wind Red Carpet Gala. This most recent affair included a buffet at intermission catered by downtown Chapel Hill’s own Mediterranean Deli; and although I must admit to being a little disappointed that we weren’t treated to down home, Southern favorites (can you get more Southern than Gone with the Wind?), Med Deli’s own classic lineup of hummus, falafel, spanakopita, and dolmas (grape leaves wrapped around rice and ground lamb—yum) certainly hit the spot. And because Med Deli also proudly makes its pita in-house with locally-ground, organic flour from Lindley Mills, this definitely added to the homegrown feel of the afternoon.
But I wanted to write about this event for another reason. Sure, I wanted to give you the scoop and entice you to check out these places for yourself, but there’s also something more, something not quite as tangible. While I’ve always thought Gone with the Wind a wonderful film and generally don’t pass up the opportunity to watch it on Turner Classic Movies, seeing this movie as it was originally meant to be seen was as much about feeling a connection to my roots as anything else—a connection to history, a connection to people, a connection to the land, even. Yes, that’s right, for what roots can we possibly have if we have nothing to anchor them to? Scarlett’s father, Gerald O’Hara, certainly believed this to be so—“Land’s the only thing that matters; it’s the only thing that lasts,” his words echo on even after his death. So let’s take care of that anchor, shall we? A lesson to live by, indeed.
By Sarah Sinning
Okay. I realize that I write about myself a lot, but really, when it comes down to it, do I really have any business writing about anything else? This is all I know, and I’ve at least tried to make my life look good on paper—the real thing, I fear, being much more questionable… But for better or worse, this is my story, and I’m sticking to it! And maybe, just maybe, someone out there—if anyone does actually read me!—will take a little something away about this crazy thing called life, or maybe just a few good recipes…
Welcome to the adventures of a culinary school intern.
In this week’s episode, we find Sarah (hey, that’s me!) sitting in front of her laptop, trying to think of something amazingly profound, knock-your-socks-off mind-blowing to kick-start this week’s round of blog posts. So there she is, sitting…thinking…sitting some more…staring at the screen with a blank, case of the Mondays looking face…nursing her third (or is it fourth?) cup of organic Darjeeling tea (delicious)…who the heck can remember things like that anyway?
Fine. A new direction it is. Maybe it’s safer for everyone involved if we focus on the lightly amusing instead…Mondays can be dangerous if you’re not careful! So, for your protection (of course), I’ve decided…I mean Sarah’s decided…wait…who’s writing this story? Let’s just get on with it, shall we?
Here is a response I gave to an online discussion board question, which is interestingly required for the completion of my culinary degree. Now, I very purposefully use the word “interestingly,” since my internship with CFSA in no way resembles the type of internships my fellow cyber-classmates are doing (or apparently any other student who has ever attended my school!). This is just starting to get funny…
“All Culinarians go through phases; what are your current favorite ingredients to work with. Explain why, discussing taste, texture, appearance, etc.
How are these ingredients incorporated into the menus at your internship site?”
VERY INCITEFUL RESPONSE
I know I don’t need to make this disclaimer yet again, but I will so we’re all on the same page—when I speak of ingredients and real, actual cooking, I’m referring to the type of cooking I do at home…because that’s all I’m doing right now.
Now that that’s done, let’s move on to the main event!
In my current phase as a “culinarian,” I find myself more and more pleased whenever I can actually utilize the contents of my fridge! Although I have been cooking more frequently since Alex (my fiancé and last year’s internship supervisor…wait, should I mention that?) has moved to a daytime schedule (yes!), there are still times when, more often than not, I buy ingredients for a particular dish I am craving, and then the remnants just sit at the back of my refrigerator until they die a slow, painful death—wistfully staring out at me every time I open the door for a glass of OJ, cursing the day they were born. BUT…I am happy to report that in the past week, I have found the time to SET THEM FREE—or at least give some of them a proper burial…
So let me tell you about a little something I like to call “making something out of a whole lot of nothing.” Walking through the aisles of our friendly, neighborhood co-op the other day, Alex and I happened to notice that whole, humanely-raised, antibiotic-free chickens were on sale for about 8 bucks a piece. Well, as we all know, this is unheard of, so we did the only logical thing—we bought four. Although three are now nestled snuggly into the icy cradle of our freezer, one lucky bird has provided us with three rather scrumptious dishes all in one week! Yes, on day one, we (although I should probably say I, since I must admit to possessing a rather sadistic affinity for cutting apart a pristine, organic chicken) broke down the chicken into its component parts—legs/thighs, breasts, and everything else. We then quickly brined one of the breasts, butterflied of course, in a rosemary-lemon solution, and then grilled them off a few hours later to make two of the most delicious chicken sandwiches ever created. Day two witnessed the sacrifice of the legs and thighs (all for the greater good, of course) as we braised them with a little left over celery and onion—I still have no idea where that came from—and some champagne we had been “saving” for more than a year—I told you we were making something out of nothing! And what happened on day three? Well, let me just tell you! We made quesadillas with the last remaining chicken breast and tenders, complete with a salsa that we threw together out of a can of Annie’s Organic Chunky Tomato Bisque and the remaining contents of our fridge. Delicious! (Actually, it was!)
So there you have it, folks! Culinary magic from the dark, somewhat questionable regions of a couple of interns’ refrigerator! Any questions?
Okay…enough of the self-indulgent, although hopefully entertaining, drivel, and on to the moral of the story—did you really think I would leave you hanging without a point?
Moral: Cooking doesn’t really have a thing to do with using the most impressive, expensive ingredients. Sure, truffles and caviar are nice (well, at least to the likes of my fellow interns—I, on the other hand, am still convinced that caviar would be better served along the rim of a margarita glass); but what it ultimately comes down to is knowing what to do with what you have on hand. Pure and simple. Of course, if you have nothing in your pantry, you may have a more difficult go of it than others, but as long as you have a few basics, you can pretty much fake anything!
Case in point: my recipe for canned soup salsa (which I think may actually be one of the best tasting salsas I have ever made!). In all honestly, it’s a fairly run-of-the-mill recipe, based of course on canned tomatoes. You could always substitute jalapeno, or any other chile of your choosing, lime or even red wine vinegar for the lemon, take out the cumin, etc, etc, etc. You just have to know what you like!
1 normal-sized can of Annie’s Organic Chunky Tomato Bisque (I think it’s in the ballpark of 15 oz)
¼ – ½ of a medium, preferably left-over onion
2 cloves garlic
About 1 T of ground cumin, or just as much as you like
Juice of ½ a lemon
2 small dried chipotles (reconstituted in hot water for about 20 min. or so)
A couple handfuls of cilantro
Pinch of salt
And now for the challenging part: put everything into your blender and turn it on.
Guest Blogger Mitra Sticklen
2010 was my first year at the Sustainable Agriculture Conference, and I was blown away by the organized networking events, workshops, hands-on activities, and panel discussions. Over 800 attendees this year meant that tickets completely sold out! If you missed the conference or want to revisit the main discussions and speeches, check out the new CFSA podcast page and leave comments! You can stream or download each event.
Or listen to a few sessions here:
SAC Guest Blogger: Sarah Sinning
If “no man can be a patriot on an empty stomach,” as William Cowper would have us believe, then the same logic must be true for local food advocates, right? This idea certainly seems to have been behind Kris Reid’s delicious offerings at this year’s SAC, for the variety of dishes at every meal was simply staggering. For those of you who couldn’t make it this year, here’s a little sampling of the goods:
Sweet potato bisque, collard wraps with winter vegetables and honey pecan dressing, shrimp and grits, autumn vegetable strudel, braised greens with apples and caramelized turnips, spiced pumpkin with Sea Island Peas and goat cheese salad, whole pork braised in rootbeer, carrot cake with goat cheese frosting…and trust me, the list goes on! Are you hungry yet???
But while this autumnal feast was certainly impressive given the fact that Reid had to source enough food to feed over 600 attendees more than 5 different meals over the course of a weekend, one of the biggest challenges was simply in finding it all! For those of you who are not familiar with how the food service industry typically operates, here’s a quick crash course. For most major hotels and restaurants, the most difficult part of ordering food for an event is generally in crunching the numbers. Once you have a menu drafted with the amount of prospective guests, placing your order can be as simple as filling out an online form with your distributor and hitting “send.” While a lot of establishments actually use a variety of distributors to assure the best quality and price, the key word here is DISTRIBUTOR. When Reid was asked to source the food as locally as possible, the luxury of using a pre-established distributor network pretty much went out the window! The problem is simple: although there has been a dramatic increase in the demand for local food across the state, we still lack an adequate infrastructure to make it truly accessible across all avenues. When CFSA introduced Eastern Carolina Organics a few years back, this was a huge stride in the right direction, for it finally gave time and cash-strapped restaurants and retailers access to the local food producers they desired. While it has certainly been no secret to professional and home cooks alike that local, seasonal ingredients taste better, most restaurants simply couldn’t afford the time and extra cost associated with not only tracking down the products, but also coordinating their delivery on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. But today the tides are changing, and as ECO and businesses like it continue to grow and more and more farmers are contributing to the overall supply, the infrastructure is slowly but surely filling in the gaps. This doesn’t unfortunately mean that Reid had the luxury of simply filling out an online order form and hitting “send,” but it’s because of the tireless efforts of chefs like her that the rest of us will one day be so lucky.
SAC 2010 Guest Blogger, Victoria Bouloubasis
Author Deborah Krasner spoke to a small crowd of farmers and cooking aficionados on Sunday with cheery enthusiasm and expertise on sustainable gourmet. The James Beard Award winner discussed her latest book, Good Meat: The Complete Guide to Sourcing and Cooking Sustainable Meat, the first published guide and cookbook to take an unadulterated look into how we raise, source and (better) cook grass-fed and pasture-raised meat.
Attendees were just as excited as Krasner about Good Meat. “A lot of the other books out there [on organic meat] are dreadful,” said one farmer.
“I wrote Good Meat for a number of reasons,” Krasner told the room. “One of which, I really understood that cooking pastured and grass-fed meat is very different than conventional.”
She also recalled an article she read in the New York Times in which the writer didn’t know what to do with lamb shoulder. “Wow, we have really dumbed down cooking if nobody knows how to cook anything except for a steak or a chop,” she said.
She was also a bit irked that sustainable meat was difficult to find in most U.S. cities. “I was angry that good meat went from being a birthright to everyone, to good meat being something that we have to search out.”
Her book, however, is anything but angry. After one brief peek into the pages of gorgeous photographs, beautifully executed recipes (lamb with ginger, cinnamon and apricot, anyone?) and recommended, affordable kitchen equipment, it’s no wonder this book is being touted as a complete how-to guide for sustainable meat. For three years, Krasner cooked meat from various farms out of her Vermont home to compile a tested recipe collection of beef, pork, lamb, rabbit, poultry (ducks, chickens, turkey, pheasant). Aside from retail cuts like flank and chuck, her book also features the bits and pieces many of us are hesitant to try cooking: lamb’s tongue, pig’s ears and tails, chicken feet, hearts, gizzards, sweetbreads and more.
“You’re obliged to honor the animal’s sacrifice by cooking the whole animal,” said Krasner. “That means cooking every part that is edible, not just cherry-picking the choicest cuts.”
On Sunday, Krasner unlocked a treasure trove of cooking secrets when dealing with meat. Among them: cook low and slow (with a tight fitting lid) or fast and hot; don’t cook anything past medium rare; distilling a half cup of red wine, apple cider, vermouth or beer into a hot pan of caramelized leftover meat bits makes for a “baseline fabulous” reduction; a $10 Chinese sand pot from an Asian grocery is just as good as a fancy Le Creuset.
The retail price for Good Meat is $40, though Krasner is offering wholesale prices for farmers. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. For an online excerpt, click here.
“In the end, what matters to me is that we make a sustainable meat movement in this country and we help everybody get healthy. It’s good for the health of yourself, your family, and guests at your table. It increases the health of small farmers and diversified farms, preserves your land from development. It saves the planet; its carbon footprint is correct. Land that cannot be used for farming can be used for grazing animals. I don’t care if you eat a lot of meat or a little bit of meat, whenever you choose to eat it, eat good meat.”
For gourmand folks looking to learn more about cooking sustainable meat, NC Choices Casey McKissick informed the crowd that there will be artisanal cooking classes for home cooks at the Carolina Meat Conference, March 25-27 in Concord, N.C.
SAC 2010, Guest Blogger Lisa Poser
I thought canning was for old ladies. Like sewing and knitting is…. right? Wrong. On both assumptions.
First of all, knitting has actually made its way into the spotlight over the past few years as a hobby for people of all ages. For evidence, see this fun site that has successfully helped to form social knitting clubs all over the world!
Canning is also arguably making its way into the spotlight as the push towards local food and gardening gains momentum. (After all, we need something to do with all that fresh, local, nutritious produce we’re growing!) Evidence? For starters, the Canning 101 workshop at this years Sustainable Agriculture Conference.
Granted I don’t know too many canners other than my Mom who use to make strawberry jam every summer and the lady at the farmers market who I buy pepper jelly from, but Dr. Anne Marie Scott, Kitchen Educator at the Edible Schoolyard Project, is definately one of the most passionate canners I’ve ever met! During this session she gave us a run down of what it takes to start canning. For those of you who are like me and haven’t tried it yourself yet for various reasons (don’t have the time, don’t know how, are scared of a pressure canner) read below and then give it a try. You may be pleasantly surprised!
Dr. Scott’s Main Message about canning was pretty clear and simple. Just do it! And don’t let that pressure canner scare you! If you follow the recipe directions to the T, your end product will be safe to eat.
- There are two approved canning methods. The type of food you want to can decides which method you use. Use Boiling Water Canning for high-acid foods like fruits. Use Pressure Canning for low acid foods like vegetables and meats.
- Start with Boiling Water Canning because it’s less complicated than using a Pressure Canner.
- Bad things like botulism can happen, but rarely do. If you follow the directions exactly, your product will be perfectly safe to eat.
- If you unintentionally make syrup instead of jelly, just smile and enjoy….it will taste equally as yummy!
- A tested preserving recipe
- Canning jars (like Ball Mason jars) with appropriate lids and bands
- Deep saucepot with a lid and a rack (for Boiling Water Canning)
- A ladel
- A jar grabber to remove jars from boiling water
- A magnetic wand to remove lids from boiling water
Where To Buy Canning Tools and Equipment? Online, your local hardware store, or your local grocery store (Weaver Street Market, Food Lion)
Where To Get More Information.
You can find everything you need to know including How-To Guides and Videos, a Problem Solving Guide, Recipes, Tools, etc to start canning at Ball’s website. The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest are also invaluable resource books.