Friday, July 31, 2009

Wall Street Journal: It's Salad Days for Weeds

It's Salad Days for Weeds

On a recent Saturday, Washington, D.C., interior designer Morrigan Green stopped at a produce stand and picked up some dandelion greens. $9 a pound? No problem. Says Mr. Green: "These are as good a yuppie green as you can get."

Gardeners have long waged war against weeds but one organic weed expert cultivates them as a new form of delicacy. Anne-Marie Chaker reports.

As suburban homeowners commence their annual battle against weeds, more people are paying top dollar to eat them. The dandelion -- perhaps the most common weed of them all -- is seeing a huge surge in sales at grocery stores. Other long-scorned greens making the leap to the dinner table include purslane, lamb's quarters and stinging nettles, a skin-irritating plant that can be eaten safely after boiling.

U.S. supermarkets sold $2 million of dandelion greens in the year that ended in March, a 9% increase over the year earlier, according to FreshLook Marketing, a Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based company that tracks grocery stores' sales of produce. While sales are still small, they're growing more than twice as fast as sales of vegetables overall. Grocery chain Wegmans Food Markets Inc. has seen a 25% increase in sales of dandelion greens for the year to date from the year-earlier period. Southern grocery chain Earth Fare Inc., based in Asheville, N.C., says it has seen a 40% increase in sales of dandelion greens for the year to date.

Greens "are trendy items," says Beth Eccles, owner of Green Acres Farm, in North Judson, Ind., which began harvesting and selling the wild purslane and lamb's quarters on its property about five years ago. Sales of the edible weeds, which sell for $3 per six-ounce bunch, have been rising by 20% each year.

Led by chefs and gourmets in search of new and interesting flavors, Americans have been eating a greater variety of greens in recent years. Tastes have moved from familiar greens like arugula to progressively wilder, more obscure plants. The interest in weed cuisine also taps into the current movement toward organic and local foods; as lawn owners have long complained, weeds are hardy and require no pesticides and little water to thrive. When picked in the wild, weeds also offer frugal consumers the thrill of foraging.

Bill Coleman, who runs Coleman Family Farms in Carpinteria, Calif., believes that in the recession, people are tightening their belts and savoring simple, old-fashioned cooking, rather than gourmet restaurant meals. "People are getting back to their grandparents' food," he says. This is an "especially good year" for edible weeds, whose sales have gone up by about 25% compared with last year, he says, and he has been raising more weeds such as dandelion, purslane and amaranth.

Until the mid-20th century, greens such as
wild onions, pokeweed and sorrel were eaten in many parts of the U.S. "The wild plants and the weeds were more commonly eaten until World War II, when they were seen more in disdain and processed foods began to move up," says James A. Duke, a former Agriculture Department researcher who has written a book on edible weeds.

Related Reading
The Mini Specialist from the WSJ. Magazine blog on plants that can be found in the wild and used in fine cuisine:
As immigrants and rural Americans moved to cities and left behind both their gardens and their ethnic origins, they turned to grocery stores for food, says Usha Palaniswamy, a professor at Excelsior College, a distance-learning program based in Albany, N.Y. Immigrants began eating more of what was considered upscale -- for instance, iceberg lettuce instead of dark, leafy greens. "Eating a certain kind of food [was] considered affluent," says Ms. Palaniswamy, who has for years studied why plants eaten in many parts of the world are considered weeds in the U.S. One weed commonly eaten abroad is purslane, which is used in French and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Nowadays, of course, it is well-to-do consumers who are leading the way back to weed-eating. Health-food fans in particular have taken notice as dark, leafy greens have gained a reputation as superfoods. Weeds carry a complex "matrix" of plant compounds that are beneficial when consumed, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, a Chicago-based dietician and spokeswoman for the
American Dietetic Association. These plants "learned how to protect themselves from the sun, the wind, the bugs," and those who eat them "are reaping the benefits of that matrix of immune systems," she says. "One man's weed is another man's wonder food."

All this is good news for farmers, who are able to charge more for the former weeds. Farmer Cinda Sebastian, who sells dandelion to customers such as Mr. Green, says "there are a whole lot of cool, indigenous greens" that she doesn't even have to cultivate on her Westminster, Md., farm -- though she spends hours every week picking them -- and she sells them at the same price as her fancier greens, such as tatsoi.

Another way to get weeds: Organic-gardening experts advocate foraging near your home. A tip sheet by the Montgomery County, Md., Department of Environmental Protection recommends that homeowners "make a salad" with such hand-pickable weeds as dandelion and wild garlic and onions.

But before running out to pick weeds, keep in mind that wild plants are not always safe to eat. Some guidelines:

Take care to identify the plants. "Don't go on your first foraging hunt alone," says Dr. Duke. Some edible weeds could easily be confused with toxic or poisonous ones. For instance, wild carrot could be confused with the poisonous hemlock.

Just because one part of a plant is edible doesn't necessarily mean the whole plant is. For instance, the root of the potato can be eaten, but the leaves and the berries are poisonous.

Cook carefully. Some plants need to be cooked thoroughly to prevent toxicity. Pokeweed, for example, can be dangerous. It needs to be cooked well, with the water it's boiled in thrown out and replaced at least twice.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How to Make Herb-Infused Vinegar

Our gardens have been producing lots of savory, thyme, parsley, tarragon, oregano, and sage. Jessica, one of our working members, is interested in making herb-infused vinegars. Here's what she found (thanks, Jessica!):

These instructions are adapted from the Bountiful Pantry class with Sandy Cruz ( She's having another class August 29, and I highly recommend it for learning about preserving foods without freezing or canning.

Containers: Use only
glass jars with screw lids, caps, or corks. Small canning jars work well. Wash and then sterilize the jars and lids in simmering hot water for 10 minutes, or run them through the dishwasher and use right away.

Vinegars: Use good-quality, distilled white vinegar for delicate herbs. Use cider or wine vinegar for stronger herbs.

Flavorings: Use culinary herbs (basil, mint, tarragon, etc.), as well as garlic and citrus peels. Everything should be very fresh and washed, with bad parts trimmed off.
Use 3-4 sprigs of herbs or 6-8 small cloves of garlic or chunks of citrus peel per quart of vinegar. Reduce the amount of flavorings for smaller jars of vinegar. You can still use 3-4 sprigs, but make them smaller. They should fit in the jar easily, with room for the vinegar to cover them. Try making several small jars with different flavors, and use no more than three flavorings per vinegar.

Examples: basil and
cider vinegar; sage and tarragon with white wine vinegar; garlic, mint, and lemon peel with white wine vinegar

Procedure: Put the flavoring in the bottle and add the vinegar to cover all of the flavorings. Cap tightly and place in a cool, dark place or the refrigerator for 2-4 weeks. Then strain out the flavorings and return the vinegar to the jar. Keep it tightly capped in a cool, dark place. It should last 2-4 months, but check for odd smell, color, taste, or appearance before using. Trust your senses. If something doesn't seem right, don't use it. If you're really worried about bacteria, stick to distilled white vinegar.

Colorado Local First Campaign

The Mile High Business Alliance has created a "Colorado Local First" campaign. They have a great list of 10 Reasons to think local first.

Class is in Session at Denver's New Urban Farming School

Article in Westword's "The Urbavore's Dilemma" series.

Meet Your Farmers: Morgan & Darin

Morgan and Darin live in uptown Denver with their cat, Moffat, and their tank of fish. They joined Heirloom Gardens to learn more about organic gardening and share in the veggie harvests. Morgan loves growing (and eating!) peas, cucumbers, and lettuces. When they're not gardening, Morgan and Darin enjoy snowboarding and skiing, cooking, eating, hiking, camping, and drinking Colorado microbrews and wine!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Denver Post: The High Cost of Cheap Food

Nice opinion piece in last Sunday's Denver Post by Megan Nix. The writer addresses something I've always wondered about... How many people who complain that local/organic food is "too expensive" own iPhones, have satellite or digital cable, and wear $150 tennis shoes?

Not that I'm presuming to tell anyone what they should spend their money on --- it's just that before we cry "too expensive!!!" maybe we should be honest about what we value.

De-Bunking the Myths About HR 875

HR 875 - The Food Safety Modernization Act - has spawned a number of viral emails over the last few months about how Congress is going to outlaw backyard vegetable gardens. Snopes did a little investigating to sort out the rumors from the facts, and here's what they have to say:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Colorado Fresh Markets Will Require Labeling of All Out-of-State Produce

I want to thank all of you who took the time to send an email and share your desire for accurate labeling at our farmers' markets. I'm happy to report that I received a very timely reply from Chris Burke, president of the Colorado Fresh Markets (reprinted below).

In short, Chris agreed to include a requirement in their 2010 contracts that vendors label all out-of-state produce. They will "monitor more closely" the labeling for the remainder of the 2009 season.

I'm glad to hear this, because I believe that consumers (especially those that take the time to shop at a farmers' market) deserve to know where their food is grown. It's great that Chris and Michele Burke are taking these steps to increase transparency at their markets. However, in order for this to be effective, we (as customers) need to help by looking for signs and pointing out when they're absent.

We're entering into a bountiful season for Colorado produce, so it's likely that much of what is at the markets in the upcoming months will be local. It is during the spring when there seems to be the highest rate of out-of-state produce appearing at the markets. I will be interested to see how the customers respond to accurately labeled food, and how frequently they will opt to purchase the items grown in Colorado versus the items that were shipped in from far away.

My guess is that many customers will prefer the local produce (and shun the Californian and Mexican produce, once they realize how non-local it is). What do you think will happen next? I believe that the farmers will start to plant more of what CAN be grown in Colorado in the spring. Lovely veggies like lettuces, spinach, arugula, cress, mustard greens, kale, collards, radishes, turnips, beets, peas, herbs, onions, garlic, etc... and the travel-weary vegetables from far away will have a less prominent place at the table.

Here's Chris' response (reprinted with his permission):

Hi Sundari,

Thank you for your letter. We couldn’t agree more. In fact we have been working on a program we hope to launch this August
that would highlight the products at Colorado Fresh Markets that are grown or made in Colorado. Although we go beyond the notions of a traditional farmers market, according to vendor applications CFM is primarily comprised of local products. We are very excited about this project and appreciate your suggestions. They are quite apropos at this time.

I was Executive Director of the
Boulder Farmers Market for 8 years in the 90’s and helped to grow that market into what it is today. I have served on agricultural boards and committees on a local, regional and national level. I am very familiar with the issues but my wife Michele and I found the Denver market to be very different from Boulder when we started Colorado Fresh Markets 12 years ago. There were many challenges. In short, we evolved CFM according to customer demand and aimed to create a viable and dynamic marketplace that truly supports local businesses and local growers with a strong and well attended food event. As growers ourselves for 18 years, the Cherry Creek Fresh Market was by far the most viable and successful retail outlet for our Burke Organic Farm products.

Your request for vendors to label the origins of their products is a reasonable request to make. Although we’ve always asked vendors to label their products (conventional vs. organic, local vs. out-of-state) and they are required to list the origins of their produce on their annual applications, we will monitor it more closely and add it as a requirement on the 2010 applications. You may not see it this year because by this time of the growing season, everything should be local. Usually, vendors only fill in at the start of the season to help the markets get up and running so that when the local produce comes in, the markets are in
full swing. We found that works best for the event and does the most to benefit the participants.

Thanks again for your comments.

Christopher J. Burke

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How You Can Help

Hello all,

I believe that consumers - especially those who take the time to shop at Farmers' Markets - have the right to know where their food is grown. There is an unfortunate practice at most of Colorado's markets of selling produce grown out of state (or out of the country) without clearly labeling it as such. Shopping at a "Farmers' Market" doesn't mean anything if the produce you're buying is identical to what you could get at Safeway or Whole Foods. We need to restore integrity to our Farmers' Markets, and this will not happen unless we ask.

The largest group of markets in the Denver area is the Colorado Fresh Markets, owned by Michele Burke. Today I sent an open letter to Ms. Burke asking for change (you can read the letter here). Please add your voice - and your vote - by sending a quick email to Ms. Burke. Feel free to cut and paste the template email below, edit it however you'd like, or write something new from scratch. You can also forward this email to everyone you know who cares about supporting local food.

Thank you for your help in getting Farmer's Market shoppers the information they need to truly eat locally!

Send your email to:

Sundari Kraft


Dear Ms. Burke,

I am writing to you as a consumer who cares about local food and supporting local farmers. I shop at Farmers' Markets, and do so largely because I would like to purchase food that is locally grown.

As the owner of Colorado Fresh Markets, you are responsible for operating the Cherry Creek, Stapleton, City Park, Civic Center, and Greenwood Village markets. These are undoubtably some of the largest and most successful markets in the Denver metro area. As such, you are in a unique position to influence the standards of practice at all Denver markets.

I would like to ask that you begin, immediately, to request that your vendors visually label any produce that is grown out of state. I understand that your contracts for the 2009 markets have been signed long ago. However, you could strongly request that they begin this practice for the remainder of the 2009 season, and include it as a requirement in your contracts for 2010.

I believe that requiring vendors to visually label all out of state produce is a simple step, and I would greatly appreciate it. It would make me more comfortable shopping at Farmers' Markets, and I would be likely to do so more often.


Open Letter: Request for Accurate Labeling at Farmers' Markets

Sent today to Michele Burke, owner of Colorado Fresh Markets

Dear Ms. Burke,

As the owner of Colorado Fresh Markets, you are responsible for operating the Cherry Creek, Stapleton, City Park, Civic Center, and Greenwood Village markets. These are undoubtably some of the largest and most successful markets in the Denver metro area. As such, you are in a unique position to influence the standards of practice at all Denver markets.

I would like to ask that you begin, immediately, to request that your vendors visually label any produce that is grown out of state. I understand that your contracts for the 2009 markets have been signed long ago. However, you could strongly request that they begin this practice for the remainder of the 2009 season, and include it as a requirement in your contracts for 2010.

Local food is becoming more of an important issue every day, as I'm sure you are aware. There are a multitude of reasons why consumers are interested in purchasing locally grown food, including food safety and security, environmental concerns, food taste and quality, and supporting the local economy. Farmers' Markets continue to receive press as the prime destination for anyone who wishes to buy food grown by Colorado farmers.

Food, especially produce, that is sold at a Farmers' Market (or a "Fresh" Market promoted as a Farmers' Market) is assumed to be local. This is something that I believe is critical we acknowledge. Although there are a small number of local food insiders who know that, more often than we would like, the produce at markets comes from California and Mexico (especially in the early part of the season), these folks are far and away the minority. If you were to stop 10 people at a Farmers' Market and ask them who grew the food at the nearby stall, I strongly believe that each and every one of them would state unequivocally that the food came from the local farm that is selling it.

"Local" is every bit as much a value-added concept as "organic." We would never sell conventionally grown produce as organic, so why is it acceptable to sell Californian and Mexican produce as local? I do know that many vendors will reveal the origins of the food to anyone who asks, but this is not enough. The vendors are far too busy to educate every person who comes to their stall, and many of the customers don't realize they should be asking.

Therefore, all produce that is grown out of state should be clearly, visually labeled as such. This is not prohibitively difficult for a vendor. The labeling could take the form of handwritten paper signs on the non-local items, or dividing the table with signs pointing one way for local and the other way for out of state, or the items could be labeled on the vendor's chalk or dry-erase board.

There is no reason why any responsible vendor would not agree to this. If they were to resist efforts to accurately label what they sell, they would be admitting that they are in fact invested in passing off their Mexican tomatoes as Colorado grown. I have heard the argument that Denver consumers demand variety at their markets (above and beyond what Colorado's seasonal produce can provide), and that's the reason the vendors "have" to sell out of state product. I don't necessarily agree with this premise (just look at the success of the Boulder growers-only Market), but I'm not trying to limit what vendors are allowed to sell. I am simply requesting that it be labeled properly. If someone wants to buy a melon from California that's fine with me, but I want them to know that it travelled 1,200 miles to get to them.

I am writing this as an open letter, as I feel this issue is critically important to many Denver consumers. I do happily make a portion of my living selling local food. However, I am not pressing this issue because of my business; I am asking as a Denver resident who loves Farmers' Markets. I also strongly believe in the rights of consumers to know the truth about what they eat, especially if they're taking the time to go to a Farmers' Market to shop.

I believe that requiring vendors to visually label all out of state produce is a simple step that will be greatly appreciated by your customers. I also think it will bring a level of transparency to the Denver markets that is currently lacking. I look forward to your response.


Sundari Kraft
Heirloom Gardens

The Good Life

"The Good Life" depicts a chance meeting between a fisherman in a small town and an MBA who thinks big. (thanks to Anais with Path to Freedom)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Early Summer Garden Photos

We're closing in on the end of the first month of summer, and the gardens are blossoming. It feels as if we are really on the cusp of something. This week the squash, cucumbers and tomatoes are trickling in, but soon they're going to explode!

Here are the gardens as of a few days ago. If you'd like to revisit some older photos so you can see the progression, look at the "See How We've Grown" post from late May.

Remember when this garden was hit by hail?

Recommended: Real Food

I've read several books and seen some great movies about local eating, so I wasn't sure if this book would have something new to tell me. It turns out that it has - I've really learned a lot. The author explores the worlds of milk, meat, oils (especially interesting for me - I didn't realize the hazards of vegetable oils), and produce. She explains what "real food" looks like, and gives lots of science to back up her ideas. It's helped inspire me to look harder at what I eat, and move my meals closer to real food and away from "fake" foods. I got this book from the library, and I'm sure they have more copies available!

Meet Your Farmers: Judy

Judy has been living in Sunnyside with her dog, Hailey, for the last 5 years. She joined Heirloom Gardens to help her diet become more local, healthy, and economic. She loves gardening, but enjoys it more when she can work with a group. Judy enjoys cooking, but keeps things simple. Lately she's been cooking lots of tofu and greens because of all the spring veggies she's receiving in her share. Judy just returned from a trip to L.A., where she got to visit her new nephew for the first time. She also enjoys hiking with Hailey, riding her mountain bike, and working on her home remodeling project.

Recipe: Fried Herbed Polenta

This is adapted from a recipe by Faith Stone of Shoshoni Yoga Retreat. Polenta is known in the south as corn grits, and it can be purchased in the bulk section of Whole Foods. I would guess that they also sell it at Sunflower, although I haven't checked. Ghee is clarified unsalted butter. It is popular in traditional Indian cooking, and it is also used for sauteeing in fine dining restaurants. They do sell ghee in Indian grocery stores, but it's much cheaper and easier to just make your own.

1 cup polenta
3 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of pepper
Dash of pepper sauce (like Tabasco)
Handful of chopped fresh herbs (oregano, parsley, tarragon, savory, thyme, or basil)
2 tsp ghee or olive oil
1/2 cup shredded cheese (optional)
Additional ghee or olive oil for frying

Add polenta slowly to boiling water, whisking. Bring back to a boil, whisking steadily. Add salt, pepper, pepper sauce, herbs, olive oil and cheese, whisking until smooth. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the mixture has the consistency of mashed potatoes.

Pour into a buttered bread loaf pan and chill until solid (about 3 hours). Slice the polenta cross-wise (like bread) and lightly fry. Serve alone or with fresh tomatoes or marinara sauce.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The End of the Day at the Market

We've been selling our veggies at the Highland Farmers' Market for about 6 weeks now, and we're having a great time. We have several "regulars," who visit us every week for a bag of the salad mix or a multi-colored bunch of beets.

We are most definitely a micro-farm, but at the beginning of the market we do have our bounty. The table is so full we can hardly find space for our brochures, and we have 4 coolers full of extra bags of greens.

We are fortunate enough to sell just about everything we bring with us, so by the last hour of the market our supplies have dwindled significantly. Brian took these pictures 30 minutes before the market closed, in his dual role of official-photographer/fabulous-husband-who-helps-load-the-truck.

Usually at the beginning of the market we're quite busy and focused on getting everything set up, but soon we'll remember to bring the camera and take a "before" picture. For now, enjoy these "afters."

Invitation to FREE screening of "Food, Inc."

On Saturday a woman stopped by our farmers' market table to issue an invitation to a free screening of "Food, Inc." I saw this movie recently, and I think it presents important information about our current food system (and possible alternatives).

Here's the info --- you're all welcome to attend.

Tuesday, July 14th at 7:30
Chez Artiste Theater
2800 South Colorado Blvd.

Five Farms: Stories from American Farm Families

I heard a little of this on NPR and look forward to listening to the whole thing online. Visit:

to listen to the stories and look at the photos.

CSA Info for July 8th

Garden Update
Summer is finally on its way to the gardens! We've spotted a few baby cucumbers, lots of green tomatoes, and...

Zucchini season is coming! This is a baby Tondo Scuro zucchini (a small round squash similar to an 8-ball zucchini). We had just a few that were big enough to pick, so we'll distribute what we can in the shares - but know that there are many many more to come!

Veggies to Enjoy this Week

Varieties harvested: Dark Lollo Rossa, Rocky Top, Amish Deer Tongue, Little Gem
Salad Greens Mix with:
Bloomsdale Long Standing Spinach, Arugula, and Rocket
Varieties harvested: Kuroda, Lunar White, Cosmic Purple
Turnips & Turnip Greens
Purple Top White Globe
Nasturtiums (edible flowers)
Varieties harvested: Tarragon, Savory, Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley, Oregano, Sage, Thyme
We're wrapping things up with the spring veggies, but we want to be sure to get everything we can out of the beds before we're done. We have just a few peas this week, so shareholders will get a choice of:
Laxton's Progress, Blue Podded
Beets & Beet Greens
Varieties harvested: Chioggia, Bull's Blood, Albino, Golden
(first-come, first-served on the choice)

Recipe Ideas

What to do with that weekly supply of herbs? Everything that comes in your bag - savory, tarragon, parsley,
oregano, sage, and thyme - can be used individually or together. Just strip the herbs off their main stems and chop for marinades, with chicken or fish, on potatoes, in pasta, stir fry, or on pizzas. You can saute the fresh herbs in olive oil or butter, strain, then refrigerate your flavored oil/butter for quick and easy use throughout the week.
One of my favorite ways to use the herbs is to make a vinaigrette. Just combine:

Oil (olive oil is best)
Vinegar (balsamic, rice, tarragon, sherry, etc)
a little water
a little sugar
a little powdered cayenne
if you'd like, add just a dash of Bragg's or soy sauce to give depth to the flavor
And blend in a blender or food processor. The fun part is tasting as you go, and adjusting the ingredients until you get the dressing where you want it.

What are your favorite ways to use the fresh herbs? Send me your ideas/recipes, and I'll share them with the group!

Meet Your Farmers

"Meet Your Farmers" will be a weekly feature to introduce you to the people that grow your food!

Tom lives in east Lakewood, near Sloan's Lake. He works as a plant biologist and spends most of his day in a lab with a microscope, but he loves getting a chance to spend time outside
in the gardens. Tom loves growing peppers and herbs, and his favorite veggies to eat (much to the dismay of his girlfriend Alison) are onions and garlic. Tom recently completed the Fort Collins marathon, and he also enjoys homebrewing, indoor & outdoor gardening experiments, and visiting new restaurants and pubs.

Asking for Change at Denver's Farmers' Markets

Some of you may have already seen the Westword article about the local vs. non-local produce issue at Denver's markets, or read my blog posting on the subject. If you haven't, you might want to read this:
Next week I'll be initiating a friendly email campaign to request the labeling of all out-of-state produce at Denver's major Farmers' Markets. I'll be asking all of you for your help - stay tuned!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Pretty Enough to Eat

This year I've planted many things for the first time, including nasturtiums. Nasturtiums are beautiful edible flowers that are great in salads and can also be used as a garnish. Since this was my first go-'round I decided to keep it small, limiting the nasturtium planting to the border of my front herb garden. The plants have been doing wonderfully well, and we get a new crop of blossoms pretty much every day. I've found that I really like this combination of herbs surrounded by flowers, as it makes a great decorative front border for our garden.

Our front yard garden in early July.

Kids and Chickens

This weekend was full of family fun. My sister Katie drove up for a visit from Albuquerque, with her husband Aaron and kids Denae (8), Nathan (6), Jayden (4) and Lincoln (2). On Sunday night we all had dinner at my house. The kids had fun harvesting herbs for the pizza and vinaigrette, and they also picked nasturtiums for the salad.

After dinner we indulged in a little barnyard fun. All of the kids took turns petting the chickens and goats, and Denae and Nathan also did some chicken-holding. The personalities of the chickens were readily apparent, with Cardamom patiently allowing herself to be held endlessly and Thyme kicking and scratching at anyone who tried to hold her.

I foolishly forgot to use my camera until these last snapshots at the end, but my mom and sister both took lots of pictures that they'll send to me (right, guys?) so we'll have a "part 2" of the barnyard fun soon. For now, we have these...

Nathan proudly holding Cardamom, who he caught all by himself.

Jayden with a found feather (which fell off of Sage), Nathan and Cardamom.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

In the News - Westword Blog (Who grows the food at your local farmers' market?)

A few weeks ago I called Westword writer Joel Warner to make a wager. "I'll bet you $20," I said, "That if you stop 10 people at a farmers' market and ask them who grew the produce at the nearest stand, all 10 of them would look at you like you were an idiot. They'd say, 'Duh, the farmer standing there grew that food.'"

You know... those eggplants and melons and corn that they're selling --- in June.

Granted, there are tons of savvy locavore market-goers who know what it means to eat in season, and understand that those offerings have decidedly distant origins. But I suspect that most people who come to farmers' markets to shop do so because they want to support their community's farmers and "eat local," and believe that they are achieving this by purchasing from the folks that sell at farmstands under a local farm's banner.

I know that this is what I believed for a long time. It never occured to me that the produce at farmers' markets came off trucks from California --- dropping off boxes at the market before making a stop at Safeway to unload the rest. I'll never forget the day I was shopping at the Cherry Creek "Fresh" Market (it's not actually called a Farmers' Market, which is what its organizer explained to me as a way to justify all of the out-of-state product) and stopped at the stand for an organic farm. I picked up a tomato, which had a produce sticker on it. From Mexico.

I told the young woman selling the food that I appreciated their honesty - at least they were not removing the stickers and trying to pass the tomatoes off as their own. She looked horrified. I wouldn't be surprised if they had been instructed to remove the stickers, but the task had gotten lost in the shuffle.

Anyway, fast-forward a few years and I find myself manning my own little produce stand at a couple of local farmers' markets. We have a wonderful base of customers, with many new people stopping by each week. We always go out of our way to explain what our food is and how it's grown: "All of our produce is grown organically right here in the neighborhood. It travelled just a couple of miles to get here!" We bill ourselves as "ultra-local" to distinguish ourselves from the hybrid local/California/Mexico/God-knows-where farmstand down the way from us.

We typically sell pretty much everything we bring with us to the market, so we have no complaints. My only wish was for transparency. I couldn't stand the thought of my neighbors making the trip to their farmers' market with the best of intentions to buy local produce, and instead unwittingly leaving with a bag of stuff they might as well have purchased from Safeway. I support the right of shoppers to buy melons from California if they choose to -- I just want them to know that the melons travelled 1,200 miles to get to them.

The other farmstand at the Highlands Market now displays signs --- local produce on this side, out-of-state produce on the other side. This makes me happy. We don't need signs like that at our farmstand, which makes me even happier. Sadly, no such signs exist at the Cherry Creek "Fresh" Market, or at the others markets around town. And, despite the claims made in the article below by the Cherry Creek market manager, I'm sure local & non-local signs at that market would be pretty enlightening for the shoppers.

Many thanks to Joel for covering this... I wish for even more bullhorns to spread this message.

You can help make change happen - consumer DO control what is sold at the market (and how it is labeled). Please share this post with anyone who might be interested. Ask where the food is grown the next time you visit the farmers' market. Ask to speak to the market manager, and tell her/him that you want your market to feature LOCAL food (and insist on labeling for anything grown or produced out of state!).

Friday, July 3, 2009

More Than One in Ten U.S. Farms Run By a Woman

Thanks to Everett for sending me this article from the Washington Post. How fantastic to learn about these women that are running successful farms. Be sure to click on the photo gallery in the right column of the article. The pictures are beautiful (and very inspiring!).

The Incredible Will Allen

I've met many people who are fans of Growing Power's Will Allen, including my friend Lisa Rogers of Feed Denver. The New York Times just did a great feature on Will, and how he's growing a tremendous amount of food using greenhouses, aquaponics, vermiculture, and other cool things in an underserved part of Milwaukee.