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Our Next Generation of Farmers

On August 9, the Op Ed pages of the NY Times featured an article by Bren Smith, a shellfish and seaweed farmer on Long Island. The article, provocatively titled “Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up To Be Farmers,” was soon followed by published comments on August 14, including one by Joel Salatin (a well respected farmer, author, lecturer, and featured source in Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma).

The issues and dialogue are fascinating. If you’re interested in learning more about the nuances of the growing sustainable food movement, read the articles and then see my comments below.

My thoughts -

  • The financial challenges of small organic sustainable farming are finally coming out of the closet. This is refreshing and heartening!
  • The new food movement is not on secure financial footing and is therefore unsustainable. This means that farm models that are truly viable are still few and far between. Truly viable means that they are like a three legged stool… environmentally nurturing, socially responsible and economically viable. All three must be in balance or the stool will not stand. Many of our partner farmers are shining examples of this. They have spent years of incredible hard and brilliant work creating and balancing relationships to their land, their communities, and having it all work financially. They are highly creative, deeply intelligent, and persistent beyond most human standards. And they do it all for the love of the challenge, the land, and their craft. Farming is truly one of Earth’s most challenging, greatest and rewarding avocations.
  • Bren Smith makes some good points about needing to build new systems, but unfortunately is enrolled in the notion that sustainable farm’s food prices are too high (referring to the high prices of CSA’s). In fact, well-run CSA’s offer some of the best value, per pound, for high quality food. It always cost more to grow high quality food, and also have it include the cost of environmental, social and financial sustainability. We cannot complain that farm workers and small farmers are not paid enough and at the same time that food is too expensive. At Farmers To You, two thirds of the cost of each product goes directly to the farmers. This is unheard of in food retailing. We are building a food system that moves as much of the profit back to the farms as possible without the farmer having to do all the selling and distribution work themselves.
  • Going toe-to-toe with the industrial food system is a David and Goliath story where Goliath owns everything and always wins despite our romantic notions of the underdog. Together, we can (and are) creating something new rather than attempting to transform Goliath. We think the solution is found in an approach that embraces collaboration, balance and harmony with each other and nature, and rekindles relationships with urban families and rural farmers. Not an epic battle that will drain our energy, enthusiasm, and compromise our values.
  • I agree with Joel Salatin. It takes collaboration and cooperation between many if we are to attain a truly sustainable food movement. We (farmers and families) have to work together, share, create, associate, and connect. If we advocate for anything from the government, it would be to do away with subsidies altogether. They have always benefited those who need them the least: industrial agriculture and industrial food processors.

We started Farmers To You for our present and future farmers. We are experiencing an explosion of interest in farming from our younger generations… and I have seen so many young people discouraged and disheartened! Those of us who can, must work to create better opportunities and models so these youth can succeed.

These amazing young people I meet are not looking to make lots of money farming – they are looking for a fulfilling and purposeful life. We need to keep these bright, enthusiastic and hopeful young people engaged and full of possibility. They are our future farmers.

I do want my children to become farmers, because I know there is a bright future: a purposeful and most fulfilling one.

You, as committed family partners, are voting with your forks, helping us eat our way to a beautiful new food future, one farmer at a time, one family at a time. Thank you for your partnership.

~ Greg

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Rainbow Salad

rainbow salad

Rainbow Salad
 
A salad with brilliant color, texture and tastes. The sweetness of the grated beets sets off the sharp taste of arugula. Delicious.
Ingredients
  • 5 ounces+/- arugula
  • 1 head of red leaf letttuce (or romaine or other greens)
  • large handful of ripped radicchio leaves
  • 1 medium sized beet, grated
  • 1 pint orange and/or red cherry tomatoes
  • edible flowers
Farmers to You Ingredients:
Other Fresh and Pantry Ingredients:
  • radicchio

Instructions
  1. Wash greens and spin dry. Arrange in bowl.
  2. Grate beet and sprinkle on greens.
  3. Wash and cut cherry tomatoes in half. Add to salad.
  4. Top with edible flowers. Now gaze at your beautiful salad!
  5. Dress with several tablespoons of your favorite light vinaigrette or combine: ⅓ cup olive oil, ⅓ cup seasoned rice vinegar, 1heaping tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard, 1arge clove garlic, pressed, and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Combine in a mason jar, add lid and shake thoroughly.

Serves: 6

 

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Color, Texture and Form

color, texture and form

I’m a florist.  The color, shape and texture of flowers guide me as I work; tell me what to do, what stem to put where. When I’m in my vegetable garden I’m moved in much the same way.  My vegetables, like the flowers, inspire me by their form and possibility, suggesting what we should have for the next meal.  And in amongst those vegetables are the vagabond flowers:  nasturtiums poking out from around the tomatoes, purple poppies that volunteered amongst the peas, Johnny-jump-ups and borage taking up residence near the cucumbers, and daisies and hollyhocks that made their way into the asparagus patch.  It is a disorganized riot of color.

Sometimes, when I go out to “pick supper,” I find myself selecting an armful simply because they look so darn good together.  I’m still hoping someday one of my brides will allow me to do a vegetable bouquet for her.  They don’t know what they are missing.

And now, at the height of the season’s largesse, with less than a month left to what is “officially” summer, it always feels like time to absolutely revel in all that the land is producing in bloom and in fruit. And what better way to use this week’s reds, purples and greens than in a ratatouille?  And don’t stop there: if you haven’t used flowers in your cooking yet, try a glorious handful in tonight’s salad against a backdrop of grated beet.  No bouquet is more beautiful.

garden veggies

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Fresh Tomato and Garlic Pasta

This Week’s Real Good Basic-  Fresh Tomato and Garlic Pasta

Fresh Tomato and Garlic Pasta
 
Easy, quick and intensely flavorful, this recipe may be destined to become a work-night favorite. I call it “I’m hungry now!” Pasta with Tomatoes.
Ingredients
  • 4 medium to large ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1½ – 2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 12 – 14 ounces fresh pasta
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • few tablespoons of olive oil
Farmers to You Ingredients:
Other Fresh and Pantry Ingredients:
  • salt, butter, olive oil

Instructions
  1. Wash, core and chop tomatoes. Place tomatoes along with all their juice in a bowl. Season with salt. (The salt draws the moisture out of the tomatoes.)
  2. Cut basil into thin ribbon-like strips. Add a third of it to the tomatoes.
  3. Peel and finely mince garlic. Set aside.
  4. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the fresh pasta and cook to specifications on package. Drain, return to its pot and toss with a small amount of olive oil so that the pasta won’t stick to itself.
  5. Heat a tablespoon or less of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook carefully for a couple of minutes, so that the garlic begins to soften but does not burn. Add a bit of salt.
  6. Hold a colander over the skillet and pour your tomatoes into it. Gently press the tomatoes with a large spoon, urging the juice into the pan below. When all the juice has dripped through, place the colander with the tomatoes on a plate. Set aside.
  7. Simmer the garlic and tomato water. After a few minutes add the butter and stir until melted. The tomato-garlic-butter sauce will be brown and slightly thickened.
  8. Gently place the pasta in the pan with the sauce until it is completely coated. Divide pasta into individual bowls and top with tomatoes and basil.
Variation: Try this sauce on fish or chicken.

Serves: 4

 

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Sumptuous Blueberry Apple Crisp

Sumptuous Blueberry – Apple Crisp

Sumptuous Blueberry Apple Crisp
 
A flavorful dessert featuring the berries and fruit of the season that literally begs to be eaten. Simple to make, too.
Ingredients
  • 4 cups blueberries
  • 3 large apples
  • half a lemon, juiced
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon for berry mixture, 1 teaspoon cinnamon for topping
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • ½ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • ½+ cup walnuts (or pecans)
Farmers to You Ingredients:
Other Fresh and Pantry Ingredients:
  • lemon, granulated and brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, oats

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Butter a 9 x 13 inch baking dish (or 2 small pie pans). Set aside.
  3. Peel and chop apples into small dime-sized pieces. Place in mixing bowl along with blueberries. Add the juice of half a lemon, granulated sugar, ½ cup flour and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Thoroughly mix. Set aside.
  4. To make the topping, in a mixer, beat 1 stick of butter until soft. Add brown sugar and cinnamon and blend until smooth. Add flour, oats and chopped nuts. Blend until completely combined.
  5. Spread berry and fruit mixture in baking pan or pie pans. Sprinkle top with small chunks of crumbled topping.
  6. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until fruit is bubbling and topping is brown and crusty. Serve warm plain or with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
  7. Variations: Experiment by using whatever berries or fruit are in season.

Serves: 8

 

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