Tag: eat local

The Good Acre: Full Circle Food Hub

The Good Acre (TGA) provides Full Circle Local Food System Support. From soil to your table, TGA is there implementing the organization’s mission:

“We connect and strengthen farmers, food makers, and communities through good food.”

This is the place you can learn how to make kimchi, pick up a farm share with locally made add-ons, attend a beginning farmers conference, volunteer in a hoop house or find your child’s school lunch staff kicking up their culinary skills. Full circle!

There is also a contagious positivity running through those artfully slanted walls that makes it all gel.

I stumbled upon this powerhouse operation online while looking up local CSA’s. Turns out Community Supported Agriculture is the perfect term for part of what happens here, but The Good Acre goes way beyond the traditional CSA.

What is a Food Hub Anyway?

Farm Share Packing Day

food hub, as defined by the USDA, is “a centrally located facility with a business management structure facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and/or marketing of locally/regionally produced food products.”

The thing that the USDA missed in its definition is the community that takes root around an initiative like this. There are farmers who would not be making it if it weren’t for TGA. In 2016 around 65,000 pounds of food moved through the facility. That’s 65,000 pounds of food that traveled significantly less than the average 1,500 miles. Hello lowered carbon footprint.

Food Hubs like TGA aren’t prolific, and that may be in part because for now, they rarely turn a profit. They are often funded in part by donations, grants and in the case of TGA- significant support from the Pohlad Family Foundation.

There’s so much shaking at TGA on any given day, that’s it’s easy to overlook one of the ways they bring good food to the community. So, let’s break down how they put the mission into action.

Cala Farms

Farmers:
The Good Acre has a dedicated staff member to do farm visits and help with things from building soil fertility to crop planning for the items TGA has contracted to buy.  Staying up to date on the latest farm safety protocol and working with wholesalers on behalf of the farmers they partner with is another piece of the pie. Another thing that shows TGA’s support to making lasting change in the local food system is:

Grower Support Specialist, David VanEeckhout
“He’s been an organic farmer for over 20 years and helps our farmers implement sustainable and organic practices on their farm that will help them with pest management, soil fertility, and more.”

Photo credit: The Good Acre

They also tend three hoop houses of varying sizes and strengths as testing grounds for farmers interested in growing some seasonally-extended crops. They are used for instructional purposes, and supply berries, ginger, peppers and tomatoes to local food makers such as Chow Girls and You Betcha Kimchi.

Galen and crew brewing Kimchi

Storage:
They have both dry storage, cooler and freezer storage spaces available for rent. This type of space is hard to come by,  which Galen Kanazawa, of Fierce Ferments,can attest to that, “The Good acre offered us affordable and convenient storage space. Being able to make as much as we need to with no space limitations enabled us to scale up to a warehouse distribution level of business. Additionally, they helped us gain a higher profile by getting our name out there in front of some bigger accounts that we otherwise likely wouldn’t have noticed us.”

Photo credit: The Good Acre

Farm Share:
The new TGA CSA, Power in numbers. Simply pooling farmers produce and offering it up in a carefully curated box each week is another way TGA connects local community with the local good food. Because they work with a variety of ‘often’ organic farms you can expect to see up to 70 varieties of produce over the course of the season this year! Because of their close relationships with many local makers (like produce from their farmers, then made in their kitchens) they are able to offer some great “add-ons” to their farm share as well- like fresh eggs, bread, kombucha, kimchi and the like. More info HERE.

Sound like the perfect option for you? Sign up for their 18 week Farm Share HERE!

Wholesale:
TGA works with wholesale accounts in hopes the good food coming through their doors is spread wide and far. They work with a handful of local wholesalers, and increasingly, schools and hospitals, YAY! *we still have a long way to go on bringing this into the mainstream*

White Bear Lake Schools kitchen staff perfecting their roasting skills. Photo credit: The Good Acre

This hit close to home when I realized TGA had directly effected my kid’s lunchroom. Turns out TGA worked with our local White Bear Lake school district’s kitchen staff on how to cook with the local produce they are procuring through their wholesale program. “The Good Acre currently works with over a dozen area school districts, all of which have the opportunity to bring their Nutrition Service staff members in for training on scratch cooking techniques and development of healthy recipes scaled up for the lunch line and suited to kids tastes”, offers Nikki Warner, TGA marketing manager. A food hub that can offer locally grown produce and training on how to prepare it really is a win/win for our schools and our kids. This awesome service is funded by the USDA Farm to School Grant TGA was awarded in 2017. Keep it coming!

I’m jumping up on my soap box now:
This is such a great way to start that sea change in moving towards making local food systems sustainable. When we ask for healthier, local foods on our children’s lunch menus it has an effect that takes root. A child may be offered that food for a first time, or know the food and get others excited about it. Of course kids are always going to get excited for sweets, but they do get excited for brussel sprouts too- when they taste good. I love that TGA is there for the full circle from working with the farmers, the wholesalers and the kitchen staff to implement real change in the way our kids view food. I’m jumping back down now.

“We believe that the more that we can connect local makers to our network of growers, the more equitable, vibrant and resilient our local food system will be.”  The Good Acre website

Making Mushroom Jerky!

Commercial Kitchen: Rental
With Food safety laws as they stand, if you’re going to sell food in a store you need to make it in a commercial kitchen. Which is good for public health, but bad for start-up companies. Introducing the shared space commercial kitchen. These kind of ‘rentable’ kitchens are popping up in more places all over the country, there’s even a website, Food Corridor, that connects makers with kitchen space. These spaces give small companies, like ProCured Mushroom Jerky  a chance to break into the local wholesale and institutional markets. TGA currently rents this space out to 15 different makers every month. If you’re interested in adding your name to the growing list of renters- find more info HERE.

Commercial Kitchen: Classes

Ready to make my own yogurt thanks to Iman Mefleh of You Bethca Kimchi

I just took my first TGA class, a DIY yogurt class and I have to tell you the instructor made us all feel right at home in that stainless steel kitchen.  I’ve gone to some other cooking classes before and this felt more approachable and laid back- but with so many great tips and tricks thrown in there by Iman Mefleh of You Bethca Kimchi that is was worth every penny. Julia Cohen, the Culinary Support Specialist, is pumped about the wide variety of offerings in their kitchen, “We offer cooking classes truly ‘for the people’, our classes are approachable and our instructors are some of the best around.”

I was really impressed with how much information I walked away with for a very reasonable price. They offer tons of classes, on everything from Pho to kitchen skills ‘boot camp’. The best place to keep up with their class offerings is their TGA Facebook page. I can’t wait to go back and try something else new. If you become addicted to their classes, they have a Cooks Club membership that saves you money on multiple classes and gets you some awesome perks. For now, I’m excited I know what to do with the extra whey in my yogurt!

Maker to Market:
You guys, this program makes me so happy. It’s genius in its simplicity- and beautiful in its heart.  From the website:  “Lakewinds Food Co-op and The Good Acre have partnered under a shared purpose: bring new and diverse slow food products to the world as we strengthen our food community as a whole. We help independent food makers hit the ground running. We source ingredients from small, local, and disadvantaged farmers to cultivate our local food economy. And we give consumers amazing new choices at shelf. It’s a win-win-win.”

From Senoras de Salsa,to Caldo Foods sauces and spices, the results are delicious!

They are currently accepting applications for the 2nd Maker to Market! More info HERE.

mix and match fingerlings

Bringing  Food + Community Full Circle
This is one lean, mean food systems machine. Nestled into the east side of the Twin Cities Metro, and across the street from some U of MN test fields, TGA add such value to the food we eat, the farmers in our midst and the future of food systems.

Implementing the “Frost Mob” was another way I tried to get involved this past year. Interested in helping local farmers quickly gather crops threatened by unexpected frosts? Or maybe you’re interested in volunteering in another way? You can let their spunky marketing manager, Nikki Warner know by emailing her.

In so many ways they are doing the heavy lifting of laying a solid foundation. They’re working to make small farms viable thanks to the Pohlad Family Foundation, some large grants and individual donations. They hope to be self sufficient, and what will help that to happen is for us consumers to vote with our dollars. You’ve heard that before, but we can use our dollars not only to buy from local farmers via Farm Shares and  farmers markets,  but the larger food movers, the wholesale food side– like restaurants, school lunch programs, hospitals and other institutional wholesale opportunities.

Asking where your food comes from is a Good place to start.

I am a huge proponent of the Farmers Market and CSA (or TGA’s Farm Share) but thinking about making small farms secure far into the future we’ll need to do more than buy a few tomatoes from a few of them every week; we need to find a way for local to be necessary – not a luxury.

I can’t wait to Dig In to making my own yogurt. Thank you to The Good Acre for  doing Good Work!

Michelle

Winter Farmers Market Tomorrow!

I wouldn’t want you to miss out on all the food!

The first White Bear Lake Winter Farmers market is tomorrow, Saturday December 9th from 10am-2pm, at Tamarack Nature Center. Link to map and directions HERE.

This is a one day only event and a great way to fill your holiday tables and check off gifts with sustainable items from your neighbors.

HERE is a previous post all about the market, from vendors and community tables to the donated apple cider.

The Facebook Page, HERE will continue to have updates, like this  basket of goodies I’ll be raffling off at the market!

Thanks for following along on this journey to find good, simple, local food- I truly appreciate it.

Can’t wait to Dig Into the food this Saturday!

**Looking forward to sharing recipes made with all the local food I bring home from this market!**

Michelle

 

A Winter Farmers Market is Coming to Town!

White Bear Lake’s first time Winter Farmers Market has turned into something bigger and better than I could have imagined- all because so many people came together and energized this event. White Bear Lake was ready  for this farmers market, and I feel darn lucky I get to help make it happen!

The WBL Winter Farmers Market:  December 9  
10am – 2pm at Tamarack Nature Center

 

So many local people and groups have made this event a success even before the first shopper sips hot cider or scores a squash… Continue reading

Crispy Crunchy Dilly Beans

You had me at Crispy.

This recipe is why I fell in love with canning. I was a veggie virgin when it came to home preserving, only having canned jams and jellies before. I fell hard for these crispy pods packed with flavor that make you pucker up and smile at the same time.

This was a recipe that I first found online years ago and have played with it and made it my own, but there are probably tons of recipes similar or exactly like this already out there.

I add more of certain spices; dill, garlic or pepper flakes to different jars as I go along knowing that certain family and friends who get jars have certain taste preferences… like my parents, who like them heavy on the dill- or my boys who like the garlic kicked up a few notches. This is one of the reasons I LOVE home canning; you need to follow the recipe’s basic vinegar to produce ratios and processing times- but there is so much room for playing with spices and crafting something specifically for someone :-)!

One thing I have learned the hard way year after year is one of the keys to this recipe is NOT boiling the jars to process- but a steady simmer for 10 minutes. If you get them going with a hard boil (like most hot water canning calls for) you’ll end up with tasty dilly beans- but they won’t hold their crispness. And crunching into a crispy green bean in winter that tastes like it was picked yesterday is a big part of why I make these.

The most time consuming part of this recipe is getting all those beans to fit into the jars. I use a combo of tall jelly jars, wide mouth pint jars and big old quart jars, just make sure the boiling water bath is at least 2 inches above the tallest jar when processing and you’re good to go.

Dilly Beans

Ingredients:

2-3 pounds of FRESH green beans 

4 Cups White Vinegar

4 Cups Water

½ Cup Canning Salt

Garlic Cloves: 1 clove (or more) for each jar plus at least one for the brine to boil)

Dill: enough for a few sprigs of leaves and one head in each jar (or more)

Red pepper flakes: Use as desired, a little goes a long way!

Directions:

Sterilize 6 (1/2 pint) jars with rings and lids. Trim green beans to 1/4 inch shorter than your jars. Add 1 clove of garlic, sprig of dill and sprinkle of red pepper flakes to each jar. Pack green beans into the jars as tight as possible standing on their ends. (this is the tedious part)

In a large saucepan, stir together the vinegar, water and salt and one clove of garlic and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Ladle the boiling brine into the jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of the tops. Discard boiled garlic. Seal jars with lids and rings. Place in a hot water bath so they are covered by 1 inch of water. Simmer but do not boil for 10 minutes to process. If using Quart sized of jars, please add 3 minutes to the processing time. Cool to room temperature. Test jars for a good seal by pressing on the center of the lid. It should not move. Refrigerate any jars that do not seal properly, those will last for 2-3 months if kept refrigerated. Let pickles hang out for 2 to 3 weeks before eating to absorb the brine.

Dilly Beans Two Ways: Left = Vinegar/processed/shelf stable Right = Fermented/Sour/Refrigerator

As for my new passion with fermented foods, I am making more of the Fermented version of Dilly beans this summer too. I followed (as much as I ever follow recipes) the Cultures for Health Recipe found HERE . This website has so many awesome looking recipes it will take me a few seasons to make them all, but I love a good challenge!

Here’s an earlier recipe post on Sweet Zucchini Relish,   and one on Fermented pickles  you know just in case you’ve gone crazy like me.

Do you have another favorite pickling recipe? I love to try new things , actually I’m quite addicted to this pickling thing, so spread the word my way for the love of the pickle.

Dig in & Crunch away!

Michelle

 

 

Forks’ Weekend Spread: July!

Twin Cities farm & foodie fans, here we go again with an over the top summer weekend overflowing with possibilities. And this time, I’ll be here to partake in the farm fresh tastes, sounds and celebrations! Time to jump on this hay wagon and enjoy the ride 🙂

July 15: Eat Local Co-op Farm Tour 

The barn doors are wide open. Twin Cities co-ops have gathered 27 of their hard-working farmers together to open their farms, fields, milking rooms etc. to you for the day. Use this Farm Tour guide to map out your self guided tour and see which farms have special activities, music, even samples that match your interest. This is a great FREE way to let your kid milk their first cow, see actual farm work being done, pull their first carrot and talk to farmers about how they farm. Be ready to stock up on farm fresh produce-right from the farm! Last year my boys and I experienced a great sense of community at Big River Farms,  along with a great wagon ride, samples and music. We bought a few things that had been picked right from the fields we toured. This year they’ve added a little something extra with pollinators! I remember it as one of best days with my boys last summer.

Wagon riders at last year’s Big River Farms’ tour day.

Tips: Wear farm appropriate clothing (farm boots, sun hat), bring along some bug spray, a cooler for things you buy and a lunch if you want. Learn from my mistake last summer! Print out a google map, because these are RURAL farms, you may lose service once you’re on the road!

Stay up to the minute and Follow on Facebook. TC.Farm (also featured below in the Tullibee Butcher Dinner) went the extra acre this year and created their own guide; which looks awesome!

Details: 10am-4pm. 31 locations across the extended metro area.

Continue reading

Superfoods Assemble!

Move over Goji.
Watch out Acai.
Aronia has arrived.

Elderberry in bloom at the Oakdale Nature Center

This superfood might already secretly be growing in your backyard. Aronia even comes with its own super-powered sounding scientific name…it is also commonly known as Black Chokeberry, but I’m sticking with aronia 😉 And let’s not forget about another native super food,  elderberry.

The purple-black berries of both aronia and elderberries pretty much blow away other commonly revered superfoods with their antioxidant levels.

Antioxidant levels in food are measured by Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC). ORAC measures the overall antioxidant power of a food or supplement. USDA research shows Aronia berries has one of the highest antioxidant content of any fruits,” from the Aronia Berry Services of Northeast Iowa.

With all these local “super” fruits, you didn’t even miss Acai berries, did you?

Just saying.

Considering the list of berries that DO grow in our Midwest region, we don’t need to fly food halfway across the world to eat SUPER healthy.

Aronia, Elderberry, Wild Blueberry, Blackberry, Raspberry, Strawberry, Cherry. All grow local. All Superfoods. All things my kids will eat. Especially if I can keep this super hero theme going with them.

Both aronia berries and elderberries require some sweetening, in my sweet tooth opinion. Supposedly if you freeze them some of the starch turns to sugar and increases the sugar content enough for eating. This might also be why birds seem to save these berries until later winter. I’d rather add them to a smoothie, (yum!) muffins or cook up some jelly or syrup.

Gerry checking on an Aronia Berry Bush at the Oakdale Recreation Discovery Center

Which leads me to how I found out about these tart-n-tasty little health bombs…

Meet local superhero in disguise, Gerry Parenteau of Bearwoods Sugarbush.

This guy just keeps going! He’s fueled by passions like taking caring of and foraging for berries and educating the public about their benefits. I met him at the Oakdale Indoor Farmer’s Market earlier this year, when my own frozen berry supply was running low. We bought some of his elderberry syrup in a Flash (ha). That syrup has amped up the flavor of smoothies and kept my yogurt and granola breakfast routine more local for months. The best $9.00 I’ve spent in forever. He was also sampling his new Aronia Berry syrup, another winner. Continue reading

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