Thursday, February 24, 2011

What is Community Supported Agriculture?

One of the great things about local eating is that it builds community.  Not only can you get to know where your food comes from when you know the grower, but thanks to Community Supported Agriculture, also known as a CSA, you can support farmers, receive weekly produce, and share in the ups and downs of the growing season.  

If you're unfamiliar with what a CSA is, take a look at this excellent video about one in Brooklyn:

To learn more about how a CSA benefits the farmer and you...check out this article from Local Harvest.
Interested in joining a local CSA?  My next post will share CSA opportunities around Wichita!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Best Gift Ever

I love getting gifts I can use, rather than dust.  Chris scored points when he gave me an excellent gift this Christmas (and as much as he enjoys it, I suspect he got it for himself just as much as for me!)

What's the gift?  A year subscription to Mother Earth News magazine.  About a year ago I signed up for free Mother Earth News email updates and was pleasantly surprised after receiving a few.  They are full of great information about local eating, gardening, raising chickens, and being good to the earth.  This year I added a magazine subscription to my Christmas wish list, and I have thoroughly enjoyed each of the issues I've received so far.  Once Chris and I have read it, we pass it on to the local thrift store for someone else to enjoy...minus a few articles we ripped out to refer to again!

If you've never heard of Mother Earth News, or checked out the Mother Earth News website, I encourage you to do so.  You'll learn a lot and be encouraged in your desires to garden or eat more locally grown foods, and maybe it'll show up on your Christmas wish list next year.

Happy prepping for spring!    

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Old habits die hard.

Mmmm, apricots!

We've all heard it said, we are creatures of habit.  After nine years of experience as a dietitian, I know this especially true in the area of food choices.  A month ago I discovered how habitual I am when I realized winter is coming to a close (okay, so we've got some time left, but it makes me feel better to think it's ending), and the bulk of our winter food pantry remained in our home.  I'm a saver and wanted our yummy, tasteful treats for "a special occasion."  So, rather than eating the apricots we canned and froze, I stocked up on a Dillon's sale of canned apricots...waiting for "a special occasion" to use the home canned ones. 

Waiting was a mistake.  Turns out, while waiting for "a special occasion", the local apricots sat in the basement (maybe I need a more thrilling life).  Realizing we will need room for preserved foods again this summer, I said, "Chris, we need to start focusing on our pantry."  We started having home canned apricots on our morning yogurt, and my taste buds jumped for joy.  Really, there is no comparison between the store canned apricots and ours, which were picked at the height of their freshness.  Oh, so good, and hopefully we'll have the gumption to can even more this summer so there won't be competition between the store bought next winter.  What a goal!

Lesson learned:  Enjoy decadent food now - every day should be a special occasion! 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Alternative Things: No Impact Man

Chris and I enjoy eating locally because we feel, in many ways, we're making less of an impact on the earth and decreasing our "carbon footprint" when we grow our food or choose locally sourced products.  While not everyone agrees that this is a benefit, I know that I produce less trash when I get my produce from the garden or bring my eggs in from the hen house than I do when I'm purchasing it all conventionally.  For me, that feels good.

I was intrigued by a man who decided to live an entire year by making as small an impact on the earth as possible, and he created a documentary called, "No Impact Man," about his experience.  His "retail-obsessed, television-addicted" wife is documented on the journey with him.  Watch the trailer at his website.

We borrowed the video from the Wichita Public Library, and honestly I felt his experiment was definitely intertwined with a desire to sell books and movies (which, funny enough, creates impact on the earth).  However their experiment, as all people's experiences do, gave me some new things to think about.

How do Chris and I experience no impact, or less impact on the earth when we eat locally?
  • We know our honey producer, and go to his house to have him fill our honey jar when it is empty.  No container to throw away, because we reuse ours.  And...we can ride our bikes to his house.
  • Freecycling egg cartons:  Prior to getting my own chickens, I saved my chicken cartons in hopes of finding a use for them (yes, I'm an obsessive recycler).  I listed them on freecycle, and gave them to a local farmer who was incredibly happy to receive them for her plethora of eggs. 
  • We use less tin cans when we open up a jar of home canned apricots, pickles, or jelly we preserved from the fresh summer season, then reuse the jar next year. 
  • And, it all tastes better - which has nothing to do with impacting the earth, but it impacts my food choices, health and life.
So, here's to less impact on the earth, and loving local eating!

    Thursday, February 10, 2011

    Just in from Hawaii - Part 5: A living paint by number piece of artwork.

    While this blog focuses mainly on foods, today's post is actually about a tree that grows in Hawaii.  I wanted to share this tree with you because I have never seen anything like it.  Those of you who travel extensively may not be in as much awe as I was over this tree...but considering I've been to South America, Italy, France, Austria, England and many islands yet haven't had the feeling I felt when I saw this tree, I decided to share.

    According to Chris this beautiful plant is called a paper tree, and its appearance is incredibly unique, like something off a paint by number set.  After a little internet research, I think this is actually a Rainbow Eucalptus tree.  It gets its painted effect by the aging of the bark, which is "exfoliated" to reveal new colors beneath it.  The young bark is green, and as it ages it turns to darker green, bluish, purplish, pink-orange and finally a dark brown maroon before it is exfoliated and begins the process again.  

    Isn't nature just amazing?  

    Tuesday, February 8, 2011

    Locavore Valentine's Dinner - Feb. 12th, 6:30 p.m.

    Image from Prairie Harvest's page on facebook.

    I wanted to take a break from the Hawaii posts to tell you about this local opportunity:

    Prairie Harvest in Newton, one of my favorite detours on the drive to visit my parent's farm, is helping us celebrate Valentine's Day!  This fun, locally owned food store is one place people living in the area can find locally sourced foods.  It's also a place you could enjoy live cello music and a "Locavore" Valentine's Dinner with your special someone (or a good friend, or your mother, or anyone that deserves a yummy local meal on Valentine's Day.)  Reservations need to be made by February 10th and the cost is $25.00 per person.

    Here's what they're serving on Feb. 12th at 6:30 p.m.:

    Farm Fresh Appetizer Plate:
    Cream-filled eggs, raw cheeses, home-made crackers
    Sweet Potato Soup with Spicy Crumbles
    Entree Options:
    Rosemary-garlic Lamb
    Moroccan Glazed Chicken Breast
    Glazed Veggie Burger (vegan)
    Oven Roasted Beets and Potatoes
    Steamed Winter Greens with Cider Vinaigrette
    Herbed Focaccia from local wheat
    Blackberry Torte with Toasted Pecan Crust

    All menu items feature locally produced or locally grown foods.
    Call 316-283-6623 for reservations.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Just in from Hawaii - Part 4: You mean pineapples don't grow on trees?

     Really?  They grow on bushes?

    On a trip to the north shore of Ohau, Chris and I stopped at the Dole Plantation.  As we traveled there, I asked what kind of a tree pineapples grown on.  Yes, this Kansas farm girl really thought pineapples grew on trees - and I laugh when people don't understand where wheat comes from.  I'm beginning to understand why the woman from Chicago at the Newman University Fresh Movie showing didn't realize what a real potato was until she was twenty, but thought mashed potatoes came in a box.

    It turns out pineapple production is much like wheat production, with large fields growing the fruit that is harvested when it is ripe.  Driving through the countryside of Hawaii, I felt that I was back at home in the Kansas farm land, but the crop was different and there were beautiful mountains surrounding the valley.

    We purchased a couple of sweet, juicy, succulent pineapples at the farmers' market and loved them.  I find it interesting that while pineapples grow wonderfully in Hawaii, apparently they can be grown just about anywhere in the world.  Because they do not grow on trees, they can be grown indoors in a pot.  Maybe this is the new plant we'll try this season...imagine, growing a pineapple in Kansas?!  Or, maybe I can talk a local farmers' market vendor into growing that would be a market niche (and one that makes my mouth water!), but it can take up to two years to grow just one pineapple.  I'm doubting those odds would be profitable enough for the farmers' in our area.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    Just in from Hawaii - Part 3: Local Food Promotion in the Islands

    With increased consumer interest in local eating, advertising foods that are locally produced sells more product.  If it didn't, I'm sure none of the following pictures would have been captured on our recent trip to Hawaii.  As a person who is passionate about local eating, and someone who blogs to inspire you (and me!) to choose more locally produced foods, I am constantly snapping pics of products local to the area we are vacationing.  Here are a few from our recent trip to Ohau that I found interesting.

    Chris and I visited Chinatown, where the local fish in a small fish market was identified as fresh and local.  It's like picking a tomato from your garden vs. getting one shipped from this case it's the "garden" of the ocean...imagine the freshness!

    Here's a product that can also be found in Kansas, but was one of many local items this Chinatown Farmers' Market vendor was selling.

    We even found local products in the grocery store.  Apparently the "Hawaii Food Manufacturers Association" label is much like the "Simply Kansas" label that many products in our own state carry.

    Oh Hawaii, after shoveling snow four times today, I miss you.