Thursday, December 16, 2010

Full & By Farm - City Kids turned Farmers

Below is an e-newsletter from our good friends James & Sara. James and Sara are in their early thirties and grew up as city kids in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH respectively. In fact, James and I grew up across the street from each other! A few years ago, they decided to purchase land and start their own farm in Up-State NY. They ended up with 100 acres and endless stories that fortunately seem to match their limitless dedication to farming. I could go on and on about these city kids turned farmers. They have been such an inspiration, and source of life and farm lessons. I wanted to share this latest story from the Full & By Farm. Enjoy!

I woke just before dawn this morning to silence. It was a wonderful sensation after a day and a half of battering wind and rain. It was still dark but I could see from the beam of light coming in the window that the sky had cleared and the moon was gleaming. We faired much better than suspected, only 1.5 inches instead of the 3 that was predicted. Still it's soggy out there in the fields and barnyard.

We have two wonderful interns, Lindsey and Dave, staying with us this week and next from St. Lawrence University. They are taking part of a semester long program in the Adirondacks, studying community and how people interact with the environment. We are supposed to be "reintroducing" them to society after several months in a remote yurt
village near
Tupper Lake. They seem to be enjoying farm life and have already been a huge help with farm tasks in preparation for winter. Their first day on the job they teamed up with James to slaughter two pigs, and will be helping with the butchering today in preparation for pick-up.

It seems like it's been a while since I had any crazy animals tales to tell. This makes for poor story telling, but I like to think indicates better farming practices. I woke, however, as the light was just coming up Monday morning to James storming in the door from chores. It's never good when the sentence starts with "Sara we have a problem"
followed shortly by "the pigs are all gone". I hurtled from bed at this point and stumbled into some clothes.

In the several years that we have had pigs nothing like this has ever happened. In general pigs recognize fence lines remarkably well, even once you've removed a fence line they still don't want to cross it. They are able to remember exactly where the line was and can barely be lured with food to take the big step over that now empty space. We
both quickly imagined our 7 pigs somewhere on South Bouquet Mountain, or perhaps over to Brookfield by now. To our surprise as well as the horses James quickly spotted them in the horse pasture of all places, rather than the woods which pigs are native to.

They were more than happy to come straight to James, seeing through his bucket at the morning grain that was sure to be in there. They came right up and began to follow him as he walked. The main problem now being that we had two streams to cross to get them back to their rightful place. The group made it down the hill and through the brush
to the first opportune spot for a crossing. James managed to get one pig over with a lot of cajoling and a little pushing, thinking that the rest would surely follow. With a lot of fanfare and noise they all refused, turned and started to run in every direction. The single pig that had crossed was distraught over his abandonment, yet refused to cross back over. We decided quickly that this would never work and James should try to gather the pigs once again and head to the road. They could avoid the streams altogether and come up through the vegetable field and head back to the pasture that way. As James lead the now 6 pigs on this longer route I tracked the lone pig up and down the creak trying to keep tabs on him. As the herd made the big U and neared their pasture my pig heard their calls and abruptly went running north, they all met up joyously on the banks of the second creek. I pushed the resistant pig across a sandbar and they were happily reunited and on the trail uphill and back home.

We learned a couple of important facts from this episode. One: pigs really don't like streams. Despite their obsession with a good wallow soak, running water seems to freak them out. And Two: pigs are herd animals. The power of the group blew my mind and it so much easier to control a group than a single animal. Take whatever lessons that you
choose from that.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Food Bliss Workshop

Inspirational Food Journalist and Food Literacy Author Wendell Fowler in partnership with Raw Food Chef and Health Motivator Audrey Barron are organizing a 6 week vegan / rawist cooking workshop in January and February 2011. For more info visit

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Feeding a Family on Local Food by Katy Carter

Feeding a Family on Local Food
Guest Post by Katy Carter

When I first read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I was altogether inspired by the story of one family's year of only eating food sourced on their land or within their neighborhood. It challenged my deepest notions of how we decide what to eat; that as a generation of grocery-store-fed Americans, we've come to expect that anything is possible -- and even rightful -- when it comes to what's for dinner.

But then, as I considered how to feed our family in a similar way, I was struck by the belatedly obvious realization that not only did we not live on a farm, but we didn't even have a decent garden. And that while we were becoming surrounded by farmers and artisans who were selling their wares, our budget did not allow for purchasing all of our food from those sources. In short, Kingsolver's husband says it well in her book when he poses the rhetorical question: " can someone like me participate in the spirit of growing things, when my apartment overlooks the freeway and other people's windows? Shall I raise a hog in my spare bedroom?"*

And while our family does have a little more grass than a freeway, our lot is small and our thumbs lacking in green. How can our family eat in a way that supports local foods? And do our best efforts matter?

In short, we decided that yes, our best efforts, even when relatively meager, do matter. Supporting local farmers and artisans is on an economy of scale that allows every purchase to matter. So we currently do what we are able (both financially and organizationally -- with 3 kids ages 7 and under, it's often difficult just to keep up with cooking, much less plan well enough to make much of it local). Some things that have helped us in our endeavor:

1) We joined a CSA.
We've done this for the two years since we moved to Indianapolis, and it's a sure-fire way to get our veggies local. There's no need to grab our greens at Marsh when they've already come in our CSA box. It also forces us to
actually eat our veggies -- we cooked them and ate them because we had already invested in them, and didn't want to waste. We looked up cooking instructions online when we didn't know how to cook a new vegetable.

2) We shop the farmer's market, every weekend, all year.
It was a great day when we discovered that the farmer's market isn't just vegetables. From local cheeses to pastured beef to wild-caught salmon -- there's always a market for local goods. Thanks to the IWFM there is an extended season, allowing for a farmer's market
year-round in Indianapolis. This is a luxury, in our very own city.

3) We buy in bulk from local farms.
The meats offered at the markets are amazing in quality, but can get pricey. You can get the best deal when buying in bulk -- the average price of a beef quarter is about $4.50/lb -- which is the lower-end market price for grassfed ground beef, and an absolute steal for roasts and steaks. Most farmers will offer a price break for bulk orders -- you can buy a bushel of apples, a wheel of cheddar, a gallon of honey -- all for less money than purchasing in small amounts. An investment in a deep freezer is helpful in this endeavor -- we bought one on Craigslist, and sometimes split bulk orders with other families.

To finance these bulk purchases, we put a portion of our food budget each month into a savings account. When we write a big check for freezer beef, we can reimburse ourselves from that fund so it doesn't throw off an entire month's budget.

4) We are working on expanding our garden.
Obviously, the cheapest way to eat local food is to grow/raise it yourself. We are not natural gardeners, but value the results enough that we're working on our skills. This year we grew herbs, tomatoes, arugula, and sweet potatoes. Next year we hope to double our garden size and add many more favorites. Our discussions of the future often include adding a few chickens to our family, but until then we'll stick with the pastured eggs from the farmer's market.

In my experience, the commitment to eating local has been like learning a new language. At first it comes very slowly and is completely foreign; but as you continue to build on your vocabulary, the basics become like a native language. We'll continue to try adding new local items as our language skills evolve, with the ultimate goal being that if we can source a food locally, we will, at every turn.

* Barbara Kingsolver, et al., Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Harper Perennial: New York, 2007) 180.

Katy Carter is a wife, mother of three, and self-taught home cook. She blogs about her (natural) food obsession — including successes, failures, and nonsensical ramblings — at

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Family Time: Navigating the IWFM

by Carrie Abbott

Bringing children to a winter market has challenges that an open-air spring/summer market doesn't have. It's a little chilly out, everyone is inside and typically it's loud and bustling!

Here are some suggestions in making the most of the winter market shopping trip:

Ages 0-2: Baby wearing or a stroller is recommended. It helps reassure that you are close in a sometimes crazy Saturday market! We want them to have a fun time, not feel lost in a crowded place! (Besides a stroller is great path creator and an instant bag of all your great purchases!)

Ages 2-5: Walking is good. Go in with a plan. Tell them ahead of time that they can pick out one item and maybe just loop around once to look and on the second trip they can make their selection. If they pick farm fresh eggs as their one item, then you're job is done! If they pick the jar of honey, be sure to include it in your next baking project or sauce w/curry and chicken and mustard, oh yeah! If they pick some crazy looking vegetable just because it was eye level, well, you better get the farmer's suggestion or get on wikipedia when you get home. Have fun with it for sure!

Ages 5+ : Make a list or have them write a list with check boxes. Write this on a little notepad or notebook and have your child keep track of the purchases, like a scavenger hunt. Allow them to help keep you focused on the list. It's exciting to see other people that we know, but lingering too long may take the fun out of the whole scavenger hunt. OR, just send them ahead with the list and money needed and THEY can buy the next item. Create a budget that they can spend on anything they want there with two stipulations (1) they try what they buy and (2) they share with the class or their teachers something they learned about the item! Unless your kids are homeschooled, I'm fairly certain that the other kids are not eating as well as yours are...the other kids may want to know more!
Regardless of age, take time to help the kids understand what it means to be a *butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker* and all the other great vendors at the market.

Carrie is a downtown, modern housewife. She raises two daughters, Eva and Maddie who are 3 and 7-yrs old with her IT lovin' hubby, Jake. In her spare time Carrie dreams up sinful desserts, savory soups and tries her hand at international cooking. She is a partner in Full Plate Catering that specializes in in-home catered parties. Her degrees are in Geography w/Travel and Tourism and in Baking and Pastry Arts. Carrie is one of those friends that you can call from the grocery or in mid-recipe and ask any question. Her blog is designed to help her friends get cooking and offer some comic relief in planning and preparing the week-day meal.

5 Myths About Hunger in America

By Robert Egger
Sunday, November 21, 2010

Starving Pilgrims, food-bearing Indians -- in legend if not in fact, Thanksgiving has always been about keeping hunger at bay. Yet, four centuries after the Mayflower landed at Plymouth, Mass., not everyone in the New World can count on a full cupboard when mealtime rolls around. Since donated turkeys and cans of cranberry sauce solve our hunger problem only one day a year, it's worth taking a hard look at some myths about who's hungry in America and why.

1. No one goes hungry in America.

Hunger is supposed to happen in other places - in distant countries where droughts or storms or famine compel us to donate money and oblige our government to send relief workers and food aid. In reality, hunger also hits much closer to home.

According to a new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 17.4 million American families - almost 15 percent of U.S. households - are now "food insecure," an almost 30 percent increase since 2006. This means that, during any given month, they will be out of money, out of food, and forced to miss meals or seek assistance to feed themselves.

Even those who get three meals a day may be malnourished. Americans increasingly eat cheap, sugary foods whose production is underwritten by government subsidies for the corn and dairy industries. As the New York Times reported this month, the USDA loudly promotes better eating habits while quietly working with Domino's to develop a new line of pizzas with 40 percent more cheese.

Obesity is related to hunger, too, thanks to our poor food choices and the lack of healthy food options in many communities. Many of us may be packing on the pounds, but they are life-threatening. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30 percent of adults are obese. The number of children who struggle with their weight is increasing, particularly among Latinos. Diet-related illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes are now on the list of the leading causes of death in America. We are dying not because we aren't eating, but because we're eating the wrong things.

Read the full article...