Monthly Archives: July 2012

More Family Farms Going Organic

Farm to Table, July 18, 2012

To earn a living as a farmer in the United States, farming families have, for the most part, been limited to two primary avenues: they could grow a standard, mainstream crop and connect with a large corporation that pledges to buy it or they could start a small-scale boutique farm that grows difficult-to-find produce for a selective, niche, or gourmet crowd. For many years, farmers were content to choose between these two categories.

Now, however, another type of farming has now emerged as a viable option for family farms. Suddenly, it is extremely lucrative to grow organic food.

You don’t have to look very hard to see that the interest and demand for organic foods has expanded into the mainstream. Just about every grocery store now has a substantial organic foods section because more and more people are seeking out organic fare. The result of this increased demand has been the emergence of the organic farm on the cutting edge of the farming community.

Organic Roots

Starting in about the 1990s, interest in organic foods began to grow, gathering momentum as awareness grew. And as demand grew, Amercan farmers began to take notice. In the 1990s, the American consumer began feel forced into buying produce that had been treated with pesticides and chemically treated fertilizers with few other options. Expressing their demand for pure, healthy, organic foods has empowered consumers and they’ve watched with satisfaction as the organic food section in their local grocery store grew larger. Now, due to more and more organic farms emerging, the once-astronomical pricing of organic foods has fallen to a much more reasonable range, making organic foods even more accessible to people in just about every income bracket.

More Options For Farmers

Farmers continue to respond, and organic farming is now seen as a viable pathway to success as a farmer. While all-organic farms are one option for farmers, some farm families choose to create a hybrid of both organic and traditional types of farming within one plot of land. In this way, they can diversify their output and ease into organic farming. From the combined income generated from both traditional and organic farming, the hybrid farm keeps them paying the bills.

From garden to natural pesticides, all-organic farmers have different choices to make than traditional farmers. Whether it’s bringing in insect-eating wasps or other natural predators instead of using chemicals to deter pests or making sure their garden tools and machinery leave the smallest carbon footprint possible, organic farming requires a level of care and vigilance not present in traditional post-industrial farming. Farm families that choose to grow using these processes, however, are usually people that see the value of such work for our planet. Most often, the organic farm is a mission, a calling, a labor of love.

With local food systems like organic farms, the buying public now has more alternatives. Shoppers love feeling empowered and have a variety of healthy choices when it comes to feeding their families. Some organic farmers see a time when buying locally from an organic farmer will actually be cheaper than buying traditional fare at the grocery store.

Weekly farmer’s markets continue to provide a wonderful way for a community to sample organic foods, get to know the family growing the food, and promote a caring, cooperative vibe within a town or community. Even as organic foods establish a permanent presence in the nation’s largest grocery stores, the family farms that grow them continue to keep things simple, basic and pure.

Cool Off with Herbal Lemonade

Erin Barnett, Director,

You know how after the heat index reaches a certain point your brain tends to focus on a single thing? Of late mine has been lemonade. I’ve devoted hours to lemonade fantasies, and once I worked up the energy to peel myself off my chair, hours more perfecting my technique. I was lucky to have a stash of lemon juice I’d thrown in the freezer last winter when the Meyer lemons were in season. Nine or ten days into the heat wave, that’s gone but now I have moved on to herbal versions of my drink. Rosemary lemonade. Lavender lemonade. They are sublime. Perfection. Ice cold they make sitting on the deck a pleasure again, heat and humidity nearly forgettable.

Herbal Lemonade
Boil 2 cups of water and pour over a 2″ sprig of rosemary OR 1 heaping tablespoon of lavender flowers. Steep for 5-8 minutes and then remove herbs. Add 1/3 c. sugar or honey and stir to dissolve. Pour into a 1 quart jar and add 1/4 c. lemon juice. Fill the rest of the way with cold water. Chill and taste, adjusting lemon and sweetness to taste. Serve over ice, with a small fresh sprig of rosemary or lavender if you like.

If this recipe sounds good to you, you’ll be happy to know that July is lavender season! The harvest is in, and this year we have several new lavender farmers selling their products through our catalog. There are dozens of uses for lavender, fresh, dried, and oil. I am a fan of them all! From fresh bundles to dried buds, salves to sachets, LocalHarvest farmers make hundreds of lavender products. What’s your pleasure?

Until next month, take good care, eat well — and breathe in the lavender!

What’s FRESH & LOCAL in July?

Loris Sofia Gregory, Healthy Kitchen Coach, Apple Valley, MN

Valley Natural Foods, 13750 County Road 11, Burnsville, MN 55337

July gifts us with a healthy abundance of flavorful FRESH & LOCAL produce: the crisp nutrient-packed greens of cilantro, collard greens, cucumbers, kales, lettuces, Napa cabbage, parsley and zucchini; the succulent reds and oranges of beets, berries, carrots, radishes, romaine and melons; and the captivating earthy palette of heirloom tomatoes. Satisfying summer meals and optimum health are not the only benefits of eating a rainbow of FRESH & LOCAL produce. When we buy local, we help our local farm families earn a living, which in turn preserves farmland around us. Buying fresh local food also supports our local economy and saves money through minimizing and eliminating processing, packaging, marketing and transportation costs. Take your taste buds on a lip-smacking tour of these July flavors, recipes and meal ideas. 

Harmony Valley Farm, Viroqua, Wisconsin

FRESH & LOCAL produce from Harmony Valley Farm reflects the benefits of the 30+ years farming experience of owner Richard de Wilde, who has been growing organic vegetables since 1973. Richard values soil fertility and an integrated, healthy, natural growing environment. Harmony Valley strives to offer the cleanest, freshest, tastiest variety of organic produce available anywhere, including cilantro, parsley, radishes and mini red romaine currently in stock at Valley Natural. Want to maximize the health benefits of your salads? The ample Vitamin C, beta-carotene, folic acid, potassium and fiber content of red romaine make it a heart-healthy “green.”

The super nutritional and detoxifying benefits of cilantro and parsley are often overlooked. Consider adding either of these fresh herbs to your green salads, your 4th of July potato salad, your favorite guacamole or replacing basil when making pesto. Marrying cilantro with lime juice, local honey and shredded cabbage leads to a standout coleslaw.

How about freshening up July picnics with Radish-Cilantro Salsa based on recipe from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything?” Dice fresh radishes and add some diced cucumber.  For every two cups of radishes, add 1/3 cup chopped red onion or green onion, 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic and 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves. Add zing with a few tablespoons of fresh lemon or lime juice or red wine vinegar plus chopped chile peppers or red pepper flakes to your taste. Delicious freshness!

Wisconsin Grower’s Cooperative, Black River Falls and Mondovi, Wisconsin

When you buy FRESH & LOCAL from Wisconsin Growers Cooperative, you are supporting 25 Amish farm families in rural Black River Falls and Mondovi. These farmers use horse-drawn plows and hand tools to provide VNF shoppers with some of the highest-quality produce grown in the Midwest. Most of the farms are certified organic and all the farmers follow organic standards. Taste the FRESH & LOCAL difference in Wisconsin Grower Cooperative’s beets, carrots, heirloom tomatoes, Napa cabbage and zucchini now at Valley Natural.

For a scrumptious July meal, consider Summer Stuffed Zuchini with Simple Spinach Salad and Strawberry Sherbert, including a ready-to-go shopping list.

Click here for summer fresh recipes for Tomato Soup (including carrots) and Pan-Seared Wild Cod with Tomato-Cucumber Salsa.

Featherstone Farm, Rushford, Minnesota

Featherstone Farm is a 250-acre certified organic farm located in the bluff country near Rushford, Minnesota. Founded in 1994 by Jack Hedin and Jenni McHugh, Featherstone Farm draws its name and focus on environmental sustainability from the Featherstone Township homestead (80 miles upriver) where Jack’s great grandfather farmed in the 19th century. Featherstone Farm has been certified organic since 1997. Look for Featherstone’s FRESH & LOCAL collard greens at VNF this month. Steamed collard greens outshine steamed kale, mustard greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage in terms of its ability to lower cholesterol and bind unhealthy acids in the digestive tract. Spicy Collard Greens are great with steamed brown rice, cooked adzuki beans and corn bread for healthy satisfying meal. Collards are also delicious with grilled tuna steaks or poultry.

Gardens of Eagan, Farmington, Minnesota

From a small roadside stand in Eagan, to 100 certified organic acres near Farmington, Gardens of Eagan has grown and evolved. Martin and Atina Diffley, national pioneers in fresh, local and organic, decided to take a breather after more than 20 years of growing vegetables.  In 2008, they leased their farmland to the Wedge Food Co-op, selling them 20 tractors and a well-respected brand name. Gardens of Eagan continues to be knowledgeable, committed, passionate folks dedicated to the organic stewardship of their piece of earth, while producing high-quality produce for the Twin Cities community and VNF shoppers.

For delicious, off-the-charts nourishment, notice Gardens of Eagan’s outstanding red, green or Lacinato kale. Once on your kitchen, slide the kale leaves off the stems. Chop or tear into bite-size pieces. Sauté in water for five to 10 minutes. Drain, drizzle with butter and tamari (or Bragg Liquid Aminos). Serve and enjoy immediately.

I look forward to meeting you at these FRESH & LOCAL July events. Registration 36 hours in advance is required for the films and class. Call VNF Customer Service at 952.891.1212, ext. 221 or  see more details and register online here.

DEMO: FRESH & LOCAL FLAVORS OF PEAK SUMMER. Tuesday, July 10, 11 am-2 pm, FREE

SUMMER FRESH FRIDAY FILMS: “The Miracles of Greens: How Greens and Wild Edibles Can Save Your Life,” Friday, July 13, 6-8 pm, FREE

CLASS: FRESH & LOCAL FLAVORS OF PEAK SUMMER, Tuesday, July 17, 6:30-8:30 pm

DEMO: EAT MORE WHOLE FOODS, Wednesday, July 25, 3-6 pm, FREE

SUMMER FRESH FRIDAY FILMS: “Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days,” Friday, July 27, 6-8 pm, FREE

Based in Apple Valley, contact FRESH & LOCAL health coach Loris Sofia Gregory at 952.431.5586 or Loris would love to hear your ideas and questions about eating FRESH & LOCAL. Request her earth-friendly recipes and healthy seasonal eating tips if you miss her monthly demos and classes at Valley Natural Foods.