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Quote of the Day: A Carrot is a Carrot

April 25th, 2010

“Even though most people can easily discern the quality difference between brands of automobiles or appliances, that same astuteness, with the exception of visible cosmetic quality, does not seem to be applied to vegetables. The myth has been successfully planted in the public mind (possible for the benefit of the homogeneous supermarkets) that biological quality differences do not exist and a carrot is a carrot is a carrot.”

Eliot Coleman (The Winter Harvest Handbook)


Once you start eating fresh local or homegrown vegetables, you can easily tell the difference between them and homogenous supermarket vegetables. The ones at the grocery store may be more perfect, without blemish, all shaped the same and all look the same. But an ugly tomato from my garden is certainly more lovely than a supermarket tomato. And can you get any better than fresh sweet corn from the side of the road?

Can you tell a difference between supermarket fruits and vegetables and those from the farmer’s market or your back yard?

Local Roots Market in Wooster, OH

February 15th, 2010

On Saturday I was able to head back to Local Roots Market in Wooster, OH. They closed for a few weeks over the holidays to do some improvements to their location. The cafe is finally open, serving coffee and some delicious food. They have a small kitchenette area where producers can cook samples of their products.

The most interesting change they made was to make the market more like a grocery store. The items have bar codes and you pay for all your items at a checkout lane, which is very convenient. At first I wasn’t sure if I would like this set-up, but it is very nice. They have all the meat and dairy in a few coolers. They’re on-line ordering system is up and running as well. This is a high-tech farmer’s market.

Many of the growers were attending a grower’s convention so there weren’t any fresh greens at the market, but they’ll be back next weekend. I was still able to fill 2 baskets with potatoes, onions, shallots, fresh mushrooms, whole grain flour, popcorn, dried beans, raw milk cheeses and a few baked goods. One of the things I was really happy to find was flour from organic grains grown locally. I bought a bag and I can’t wait to make something with it. But the best item I found was some organic free-trade coffee roasted by a local guy!

Year-round markets like this will encourage more people to eat locally. I think one of the main hurdles to local eating is the availability of food during the winter months, especially here in Ohio. If you don’t can or preserve food, it can be difficult to eat locally all year long. Year-round farmer’s markets will really help the local food movement.

I’m happy this market is doing so well because it will save me some time in the summer. I won’t have to can or freeze as much if I know there’s a local source for fresh vegetables during the long winter months. I will gladly support local growers and purchase fresh greens from them throughout the winter. I’m also happy to see that they offer non-food items. You can buy local wool yarn, roving, soap, lip balm, and even powdered dish washing detergent a local person makes!

Do you have any year-round farmer’s market in your area?

A big thanks to Mr Chiots for going with me and taking all these photos. And YES I wrote this post while watching the Olympics last night but ran out of time to put in photos, that’s why it’s posting later this morning :)

Organic or Local?

December 20th, 2009

Cal-Organic Farms, along with Earthbound, dominates the organic produce section in the supermarket. Cal-Organic is a big grower of organic vegetables in the San Joaquin Valley. As part of the consolidation of the organic industry, the company was acquired by Grimmway Farms, which already enjoyed a virtual monopoly in organic carrots. Unlike Earthbound, neither Grimmway or Cal-Organic has ever been part of the organic movement. Both companies were started by conventional growers looking for a more profitable niche and worried that the state might ban certain key pesticides. “I’m not necessarily a fan of organic,” a spokesman for Grimmway recently told an interviewer. “Right now I don’t see that conventional farming does harm. Whether we stay with organic for the long haul depends on profitability.

Philosophy, in other words has nothing to do with it.”

– Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
omnivores_dilemma_title_page
For the last several years Mr Chiots and I have been focusing on eating locally and organically. When I have the option, I like to buy local organic. When I don’t have that option, I chose local over organic. I could buy certified organic apples from Chile in the supermarket to eat instead of my non-certified semi-organic apples from a local orchard, and they’d probably be cheaper. Why do I choose a local product that probably has a few chemicals & pesticides on it? Because it’s important for me to know where our food is coming from. I know exactly what is on that apple because I can talk to the guy that grew it. I can visit his orchard and see what he does. I can’t visit the orchard in Chile, so how can I be sure it’s actually “organic”?
fuji_apples
I’ve had a few great conversations with our local dairy/beef/chicken/egg farmers about this topic. They used to be certified organic and it got too expensive and too constrictive to keep up their certification. They had trouble finding good quality organic hay to feed the cows in the winter. Someone they knew had good quality hay that wasn’t certified organic, but since it’s wasn’t certified they couldn’t use it. They finally decided to drop their certification. Now they label themselves as “Voluntarily Organic”. Personally, I don’t mind that they don’t have the government seal, I’m glad they’re putting the health of their cows ahead of a label.
market_seller_sign
I’m guessing some of you have heard of the 4-year study conducted in Europe that concluded that organic food (including vegetables, fruit and milk) contained up to 40% more antioxidants than conventional food and were more nutritious (the percentage were up to 60% more antioxidants for organic milk). I wonder how the raw milk from the farm would stack up to conventional milk? I’m pretty sure it would be way better than 60%.
raw_milk
The problem with studies like this is that it’s hard to know what kind of organic products they used in testing. Did they use big-box organic, or small organic? Did they use produce that had been grown, picked, processed in another country and was flown halfway around the world, then sat on a grocery store shelf for a couple days before heading to your home. Did they leave it in the fridge for a few days before testing to make the study more authentic? I try not to put too much credibility in studies like these, even if they support my viewpoint. Studies can be done in such a way to get the desired outcome (sometimes looking at the funding will give you a good idea of what the outcome will be). I try not to get caught up in the hype about what’s “healthy” what’s not, what’s the “in” vegetable, fruit, nutrient, vitamin at the moment. It’s really too much to keep up with. We now try to focus on eating real whole food. Our diet would probably not be considered healthy by some because we eat lots of butter, drink whole milk, eat lots of animal fat. Bacon anyone?
frying_bacon
The search for good quality real whole food is main reason I started to grow some of our food. I know exactly what’s in it, I know how it was grown. What I grow in my garden is the healthiest food available to me. It’s as organic and local as it gets. We’ve developed a hierarchy of food for ourselves.
Homegrown
Local Organic
Local
Organic from local health food store
Organic from big chain grocery
Conventional
tomatoes_in_Ethel_gloves
I still buy food from far away, mangoes and plantains will never be local for me, and they’ll never be out of my diet. Coffee is a big NEED in this household as is good chocolate, local sources for those are not feasible either. I’m not striving to make my diet to be 100% local, but I want eat local when I can! I don’t want to rule out delicious food from far away, but I don’t want to eat only long distance food either. I really appreciate some of the things that local eating had taught me, we’re enjoying a much wider variety of food now. I also appreciate that organic is gaining popularity because I am able to find an organic option for just about everything I want. It seems like in our lives we’re finally achieving that balance between local, organic, and exotic.

Which do you focus on Local, Organic or a patchwork of both?

Fresh Produce from Local Roots Market

November 24th, 2009

I love my local farmer’s market, it’s fantastic. I enjoy chatting with the vendors and seeing all the things they grow. If I want endive or arugula I have to grow it myself or do without, none of the vendors at my local market carry the more exotic vegetables. If I want regular potatoes I can find them, fingerlings – not a chance. If I wanted anything but apples past September I was out of luck. I thought I hit the exotic vegetable jackpot this summer when I spotted one savoy cabbage.
buying_at_the_farmers_market
Not so with the Local Roots Market. I spotted lots of arugula, endive, fingerling potatoes, bitter winter greens and lots of other interesting things. I mentioned yesterday that I was impressed with the variety of produce I spotted on Saturday. It was a hard choice deciding what to buy, but I finally settled on these things.
brussels_sprouts_on_stalk
Four stalks of brussles sprouts and a big celeriac root. The sprouts we’ll roast or saute with bacon and onions. The celeriac is most likely going to be made into this soup.
fingerling_potatoes
These fingerlings were roasted in the oven last night. We ate half last night and the other half will be eaten with eggs tonight.
mushrooms_and_winter_greens
These oyster mushrooms will be sauteed in olive oil and tossed with some soy sauce. The winter greens don’t have a plan yet, I think perhaps they’ll end up being paired with a warm mustard bacon vinaigrette and topped with those mushrooms and some caramelized onions.
Onions_from_local_roots_market
I scored a huge bag full of red onions and a few cipollini onions. The red ones will be caramelize and made into caramelized red onion soup to be enjoyed with a crusty bread. Some of them will make their way into braised red cabbage and others will most likely top potatoes and grace other savory dishes.
tri_colored_carrots_from_local_roots_market
These carrots were roasted in the oven whole and we enjoyed them with a side of fingerling potatoes, brussels sprouts, and mushrooms. I also bought a few more balls of hand spun yarn from Trinity Woolen Mill, I forgot to take a photo of them until too late last night.
sage_in_window
I also scored a few bunches of sage which will come in handy for our Thanksgiving feast on Thursday and for savory soups throughout the winter. I didn’t buy any endive, I forgot actually. I have arugula growing in the garden so I didn’t buy any of that either.

What’s your favorite exotic vegetable?

Local Roots Market in Wooster, OH

November 23rd, 2009

This past Saturday I went to the Local Roots Market in Wooster, Ohio. I heard about it this summer while at the local fair and I’ve been watching their website for news and updates. They opened recently and since I had Saturday off, I headed over to Wooster to see what the market was like.
local_roots_market_wooster
Their plan is to have an year-round indoor farmer’s market to connect the community with local sources of meat, dairy, vegetables, honey, and other locally produced products.
shopping_at_the_farmers_market
I was given a tour and told all about the future plans of the Local Roots Market. They plan on opening up a cafe that uses local food. A local butcher would like to open a shop in the back of the building selling locally raised meat. They want to install a commercial kitchen the farmers can use to add value to their produce. It’s a wonderful plan that I can get behind. I’m very excited to have a source for produce all winter long. I plan on attending several times a month (when I have a Sat off) and supporting this great initiative.
beef_farmer_at_market
There were a variety of farmers/artisans there on Saturday because they were holding their annual Holiday Market. Generally they don’t have vendors selling crafts. This is a nice change. I’ve heard that some farmer’s markets are more craft markets than produce markets.
note_cards_for_sale
The variety and quality of produce available was wonderful. I do love my local farmer’s market (which ended yesterday morning), but because it’s a very rural area the variety of produce is at times lacking. I’ve never seen arugula, endive, bitter greens, fingerling potatoes and other interesting items at my local market. This market featured many of the items I love to eat. I saw endive, arugula, purple and white carrots, all kinds of herbs, ground cherries, brussels sprouts on the stalk, spelt artisan bread, raw milk cheese, grass-fed beef, celery roots and much more.
grass_fed_cheese_at_market
carrots_at_local_roots_marketcauliflower_broccoli_at_market
cauliflower_for_sale
osage_oranged_at_marketfamers_market_produce_sign
potatoes_at_market
All the vendors have signs with their farm name, the type of farming they do: organic, conventional, integrated pest management, etc. This is great because you can look at the sign and know right away if the use chemicals or practice organic methods.
vendor_profile
shoppers_at_local_roots_market
The market was packed, which is always good to see. It’s clear that there are a lot of community members that are interesting in eating locally and strengthening the local food system and the local economy. I’ll show you all the delicious things I got tomorrow.

Have you found that the local food movement is growing in your area?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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