Here in the Bay Area, we planted our tomatoes, eggplants, and tomatillos in the spring. A couple of weeks later, we planted peppers, squash, cucumbers, melons, beans, and corn. Now, we’re be busy harvesting and preserving our bounty through drying, freezing, and canning.
Thinking ahead to our own canning made me think about how preserving has gained in popularity in recent years, and how I’ve see some really great recipes out there on the interwebs. I’ve also seen some really dangerous ones that scare me. I’ve seen so many bad ones, in fact, that I’ve decided I’m not going to judge canned goods at events anymore unless the recipe and canning process are included along with the sample. You can’t simply shoot from the hip and make up recipes that “sound about right” and expect them to store at room temperature for extended lengths of time. There’s a science behind canning to ensure safety that I can’t stress enough.
So, I figured that with our canning season fast approaching, and already here in many other parts of the country, we should discuss some guidelines on how to can safely.
1. Just because a recipe is on the Internet doesn’t make it safe.
Be critical of every recipe you see on the Internet. If it’s not pressure canned, check to make sure it has enough acid, is processed long enough, and uses low-acid ingredients, especially if it is raw packed. If it’s high acid, make sure it is water-bath canned long enough. The USDA has safe canning guidelines on its National Center for Home Food Preservation site that you can use as a cross-reference. Avoid any recipes that have dairy, eggs, and pureed low-acid food (such as lemon curd, pumpkin butter, and pureed bananas) and don’t instruct you to keep the finished product in the refrigerator for a limited amount of time (usually a month) or to freeze it.
2. Books are *usually* a safe bet.
I say “usually” because I’ve seen some questionable and downright dangerous recipes published in books. Check the book to make sure it says the recipes have been tested for safety. The most reliably safe books (though I can’t testify to the tastiness of all the recipes in these books):
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry
Put ‘em Up!
Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round
Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving (2009 revision)
3. If you find a safe recipe, do not alter it — but if you alter it anyway, know the guidelines.
Even adding a bit more onion to a recipe can alter the pH enough to make it unsafe. For water-bath-canned products, you want the pH to be 4.6 or lower. Unless you have a superdeluxe Vitamix blender, however, chances are simply blending and using a litmus strip isn’t going to give you an accurate reading of the acidity. The safest way to test an item’s pH is to send it to a food lab, but that can get expensive—so, just stick with a tested recipe, wouldja?
If you can’t help yourself and you do change the recipe, always follow the basic safety guidelines. If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and don’t alter it. The canning recipes I have on my blog always follow the safety guidelines, and I almost always increase the acid, even when I don’t need to, just to be on the safe side. I will not post low-acid recipes that require pressure canning. Recipes that don’t follow the safety guidelines, like our oven-baked heirloom tomato sauce, are always for eating immediately or for freezing (which is why we don’t include canning instructions with it).
4. Not all fruit is created equal.
While many fruits are high in acid and relatively easy to can, some are either borderline or low acid and must have acid added. Figs, bananas, white peaches, Asian pears, watermelon, mangoes, and tomatoes all fall into the category of not acidic enough to can on their own without adding acid. Be sure to follow the USDA guidelines when canning these items. I have posted tomato-canning guidelines that are based on the USDA guidelines and the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.
5. If it’s a low-acid food and you don’t add acid, don’t even think of water-bath canning it. Same goes for recipes with meat in them, even if you add acid.
I’m serious here. Botulism will kill you dead. And adding loads of salt or sugar won’t save you.
6. If a recipe says to pack pint jars, don’t pack quart jars and increase the time to what you think it should be.
Sometimes you’ll come across recipes that only give you the processing time for a specific jar size. Don’t simply pack your product into larger jars; you don’t know what the processing time is for them to be safe. Tomato paste is a good example of this. Due to its consistency, it’s best canned only in 8 oz jars. Never can using jars larger than a quart unless the recipe calls for them. (Tomato juice can be canned in 1.5 L jars, per the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.)
7. Don’t take shortcuts.
• Cut fruits or vegetables into your recipe’s indicated size, as this ensures that the center of the food reaches the correct temperature (and acidity, if using low-acid foods).
•Don’t “eyeball” the amounts of your ingredients. Think of this as a science experiment rather than an art project.
•If using a water-bath canner, start your processing time after the water has come back up to boiling or after you reach pressure when pressure canning.
•Pack hot food into hot jars that were slowly brought up to temperature, not directly into cold jars. (A sudden heat change caused by hot food will stress the glass, causing breakage.)
•Don’t reuse lids, except for Tattler lids. You can reuse rings, though.
•Follow your recipe’s head space rules. Don’t over- or under-fill jars.
•Always make sure there is at least 1 inch of water covering your jars in the canner.
•Do not skip the water bath for acidic foods. The water bath heats up the food in the jar, killing microorganisms. The heated food increases in volume—which is why you need to follow the rules for head space—and pushes out air. The water covering the jars makes sure no air reenters the jars. The air is heated, as well, making it expand and escape the jars. Less oxygen means less oxidation and less spoilage. (Except for anaerobic microorganisms like Clostridium botulinum, many microorganisms require oxygen.) You’re much more likely to get mold if you don’t conduct your water bath properly. Mold changes the pH of the product, making an acidic food more basic, which opens it up to C. botulinum, which in turn causes botulism.
•Remove air bubbles after packing hot jars. Sometimes the food can contain enough air to alter the head space. That, plus extra air, means extra oxygen—and more chances for spoilage.
•Always wipe the rim of your jars with a clean cloth before putting the lids on. This will help ensure a good seal and will remove yet another way for contamination to get inside the jars.
8. Take the rings off of your jars after they seal.
The rings are really just designed to keep the lid on while canning and should be removed after they seal. This will help reduce corrosion and rust on your jars—but, more importantly, removing the rings help you avoid a false seal. A failed seal indicates spoilage, but with the ring keeping the lid down, you wouldn’t necessarily know the food had spoiled. With some types of spoilage, smell, taste, and looks all can be deceiving. Once you’ve broken the seal, you can put the ring back on to avoid creating a mess.
9. Remember to adjust for altitude.
Determine your altitude then adjust your canning time. Please note that time differences may vary depending on the product you’re canning.
10. Use the right equipment.
Steam canners and oven canning are not recommended and cannot prevent the risk of all types of spoilage. A stock pot deep enough for your jars plus 1 inch of water is fine for water-bath canning. Make sure to fit a rack in the bottom of your pot, though. The rack helps keep water moving all the way around the jar and helps prevent the jars from breaking. Use a pressure canner, not a pressure cooker, when canning low-acid foods and meat. The gauges on most pressure cookers aren’t reliable, if they even have a gauge at all. Also make sure your pressure canner is in good condition. Old or poorly cared for pressure cookers are dangerous and can explode. Your county extension can test your pressure canner for you or direct you to someone who can.
By all means, canning isn’t something that should intimidate you. You just have to follow the rules to make sure your finished product is safe. (In fact, it’s similar to a trusted recipe: Following the proven guidelines actually makes things easier on you!) Properly canned foods are delicious and most times much healthier than what you can purchase at the store. So get out there and start canning!
My friends in college used to call me a Renaissance woman. I was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. I still am. Instead of arts and crafts, my focus these days has been farming as much of my urban quarter-acre as humanly possible. Along with my husband, I run Dog Island Farm, in the SF Bay Area. We raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. We’re always keeping busy. If I’m not out in the yard, I’m in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!
This post originally appeared on HOMEGROWN.org.
PHOTOS BY: RACHEL/DOG ISLAND FARM
August bears sweet blackberries from the wild brambles that run up the steep sides of our driveway. The soil is quickly drained of nutrients here and generally rocky and poor - just the way wild blackberries like it. According to John Vivian in his article Foraging for Edibles Wild Plants: A Field Guide to Wild Berries, blackberries thrive in "disturbed ground" that is sunny, dry and at the margins of fields or roads.
Each spring, our plants bear a profusion of tiny white, bell-shaped flowers. These flowers give way to a combination of white and bright red berries that turn a deep purple hue around the first of August, when the weather is hot and dry. The fruits begin to ripen just after the last of the raspberries have been picked, right around the time we also start to harvest blueberries here in New England.
Wild blackberries, unlike their cultivated counterparts, tend to be smaller and seeder but they are equally sweet if picked at their peaked and great for baking. I like to pick our wild blackberries in the evening, just before sunset so I can collect all the berries that have ripened during the day before the bears or animals do. It also saves me a step in the morning when I'm in a rush to put breakfast on the table and want to grab a handful of berries to add to our oatmeal or granola.
While our bushes are thick and sprawling, they bear remarkably few berries for the amount of plants that exist. (This is one of the reasons I favor recipes like the wild blackberry studded scones below. They come together in a flash and require only a handful of sweet berries). Like most other fruit and berry plants, wild blackberries greatly benefit from some nurture. This year, we are going to take Lew Nichols' and E.A. Proulx's advise in their MOTHER EARTH NEWS article, Taming Wild Apples and Wild Berries, to encourage more productive plants and sweeter berries. At the end of our berry harvest in a couple of weeks, we plan to tag the smaller, brighter canes that grew this year and bore fruit late in the summer, leaving the taller canes that we harvested heavily early in the summer unmarked. These canes are unlikely to produce again next year (see the article here for more information on identifying the differences).
In the spring, before new growth emerges on the plants, we plan to thin out our patch by either digging up the unmarked canes or cutting them back to the ground. With some luck, we'll have enough blackberries to make jam next. In the meantime, we've enjoyed these blackberry scones twice this week—they are that good.
Wild Blackberry Scones
This recipe is adapted from Deb Perleman's Whole Wheat Raspberry Ricotta Scones in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I imagine they would be lovely just as she makes them, but I swapped out the ricotta for sour cream because it was what I had on hand and used wild blackberries instead of the raspberries. The result was a hearty pastry with a delicate crumb - a perfect breakfast treat.
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 cup wild blackberries
3/4 cup (189 grams) sour cream
1/3 cup (79 ml) milk
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, sugar and salt.
Cut in butter with a pastry blender until the pieces are the size of peas. Toss in the blackberries and break them into chunks with the pastry blender.
Add the sour cream and milk, mixing with a spatula until the dough comes together. Using your hands, bring the dough together in a ball and turn it out into a floured surface. Pat the dough into a 1-inch high disk and divide it into six even wedges with a sharp knife. Transfer the scones to the baking sheet and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
Bake the scones for approximately 15 minutes until they are a golden color around the edges. Let cool for a minute and then transfer to a cooling rack until ready to eat.
Don’t be influenced by how it sounds — there are no people dancing and chanting around the animal, nor is the animal considered some sort of sacrifice. Ritual slaughter simply means killing an animal in a manner that allows it to be eaten in the way required by a specific religion.
Kosher and Glatt Kosher are terms for foods allowable under the dietary laws of Judiasm. Halal is the term applied to foods allowable under the dietary laws of the Muslim faith. These dietary laws cover all foods, not just meat.
But what about meat?
Kosher meat harks back to the Jewish Bible (the Torah), specifically, Deuteronomy (14:3-10), which states:
These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the deer, the gazelle, the roe deer, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope and the mountain sheep. You may eat any animal that has a split hoof divided in two and that chews the cud. However, of those that chew the cud or that have a split hoof completely divided you may not eat the camel, the rabbit or the coney. Although they chew the cud, they do not have a split hoof; they are ceremonially unclean for you. The pig is also unclean; although it has a split hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses. Of all the creatures living in the water, you may eat any that has fins and scales.
But simply eating one of the allowable animals doesn’t make meat Kosher. The animal must be slaughtered in a specific way known as Shechitah, performed by a person called a Shochet. A Shochet must also be a pious man trained in Jewish law, particularly relating to Kashrut (dietary laws). The Shochet kills the animal with one quick, deep stroke across the throat. He uses a razor-sharp blade, which cannot have nicks or unevenness. The method is painless and causes rapid unconsciousness.
Glatt Kosher: There’s an assumption that Glatt means a higher standard of kosher, but this is inaccurate (although generally accepted). The Yiddish word glatt means “smooth”, and refers to the condition of the animal’s lungs when inspected after slaughter. If the lungs contain adhesions or other defects, the meat will not receive the certification of glatt kosher. As simple as that. Glatt kosher cannot be applied to chicken, dairy products or fish. If you see cheese labeled glatt, it’s not!
Halal means “permissible” in Arabic. In butchery terms, it is applied to meat slaughtered according to Islamic dietary law. Like Kosher, Halal slaughter is done by cutting the animal’s throat. However, Halal requires praying to Allah at the time of slaughter.
Muslims are taught by the Qur'an (Koran) and the teachings of the prophet Mohammed that animals should be treated with respect and well cared for. Muslim law regarding how animals are killed is known as Dhabihah, and is quite specific.
The animal must be treated gently and should be offered water at the time of slaughter. Out of mercy towards the animal, the knife must be extremely sharp, not serrated, and should be kept hidden until the last moment. Slaughter must be done by an adult Muslim, Jew or Christian (termed “People of the Book” in Arab culture).
It is also preferable that head of the animal should be positioned to face Mecca; the animal is then killed in a respectful way that limits suffering or pain. When an animal is slaughtered, it must be done “with Ihsaan” (in a beautiful, caring way). This is done by cutting the jugular vein swiftly to cut off oxygen to the brain and pain receptors, then waiting as blood completely drains out (like Jews, Muslims are forbidden to consume blood).
Cole Ward (AKA “The Gourmet Butcher”) is a teaching butcher who lives in Vermont. His 2-DVD butchery course is available online at www.TheGourmetButcher.com and his book “The Gourmet Butcher’s Guide to Meat” will be released by Chelsea Green Publishing in late 2013, and is available for pre-order here.
Photo by Wiki Commons/Zummis
I walk through the Saturday farmers market near my home in Brooklyn, N.Y. A heap of beautiful French sorrel leaves for sale catches my eye. Their pleasantly sour, lemony flavor is so good with seafood, steamed vegetables or in soup. I’m not buying though— don’t need to. Every park, community garden and backyard near me —and across most of North America— has some kind of sorrel growing in it.
The most common variety is yellow wood sorrel, Oxalis stricta (other Oxalis species are also edible). Often mistaken for clover, this diminutive plant has leaves with three heart-shaped leaflets, small yellow flowers and seed pods that look like very tiny okra (I call them fairy okra). Oxalis loves to grow where it gets plenty of sunlight, but I find that plants growing in partial sunlight have the tenderest leaves.
When harvesting wood sorrel, gently strip the upper leaves, immature, green seedpods and flowers off the stems. All of these are edible, tender and delicious, but the lower stems are too tough and stringy to be good.
By the way, wood sorrel is unrelated to that French sorrel I saw for sale, but its taste and culinary uses are identical.
The other common wild sorrel is sheep sorrel, Rumex acetosella. This one is closely related to that cultivated French sorrel. Like the cultivated sorrel, sheep sorrel leaves are arrow-shaped. But sheep sorrel leaves are much smaller— often no more than 1 inch long. There are sheaths encasing the leafstalks where they attach to the stems. The leaves on the upper parts of the stalks are often smaller and more oblong than arrow-shaped.
Sheep sorrel also loves sun, and often grows amidst the grass in lawns. As with wood sorrel, though, I find bigger, tenderer leaves where the plants also get a little shade.
Any recipe that uses cultivated sorrel can be made with one of the wild sorrels. If you’re using sheep sorrel, you can skip the part of most sorrel recipe instructions that calls for stripping away tough midribs from the leaves. I’ve yet to find a sheep sorrel leaf that was big enough to have a tough midrib.
Sorrel Sauce for Seafood or Cooked Vegetables
1 pint wood sorrel or sheep sorrel leaves
2 tbsp butter or olive oil
Melt the butter over low heat in a medium pot. Add the sorrel and stir until the sorrel leaves are wilted (note: they will lose their bright green color as they wilt, but the flavor will still be great).
Spoon the sauce over the seafood or cooked veggies of your choice.
Sorrel sauce is also a great soup base. Just add chicken or vegetable stock, chopped potatoes, garlic or onion, and salt to taste. Cook until the potatoes are soft, then purée. Serves 2, recipe can be multiplied
You can freeze sorrel sauce for year-round use. I've got a quick video on making and freezing sorrel here.
Always be 100 percent certain of your identification before eating any wild plant or mushroom.
Leda Meredith teaches foraging and food preservation skills internationally. You can find out about her upcoming classes and her books at her website, watch her foraging and food preservation videos on her YouTube channel, and find her food preservation recipes and tips here.
August 19th is Empty Nest Day here. That’s when No. 1 son leaves for university at the Marine Institute of Memorial University, St. John’s, Nfld. Easternmost part of North America (see www.mi.mun.ca). So much so, they even have their own time zone, one half hour ahead of anyone else. (And yes, these lucky people get to celebrate New Year’s always ahead of anyone else on the continent.) This entails driving halfway across the continent, topped off by something like a thirteen-hour ferry ride. Sounds like the adventure of a lifetime to me. This is all very well and interesting, you might say, but what’s it got to do with food and related issues? As some of you may recall, my very first blog for MOTHER involved taking back the kitchen, and making your own food. Soup, to be specific.
So, the inevitable question came up, after No. 1 son realized his cooking skills were a little rusty, was, what’s for dinner (when on one’s own)? I made numerous suggestions, but soup came to mind first. This also involves a soup we recently had at Upper Canada Village last Sunday (check out www.uppercanadavillage.com). Yes, this all ties together. My husband liked the hearty vegetable soup so much, I thought, I can easily put that together. So, here we are with a simple but hearty soup recipe that closely relates to that on Sunday. Did I mention taste? It is soooo good! If you happen to have a cup or two of chopped chicken meat leftover, that is certainly a tasty addition. You might need to go back to Blog 1 to see how to make the stock.
Sue’s Hearty Vegetable Soup
2 tablespoons butter
3 stalks celery, sliced 1/8th inch
2 medium carrots, sliced 1/8th inch
1 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 quarts chicken or turkey stock, preferably homemade
1 (14 oz) can chopped tomatoes with garlic and herbs, or some homemade with herbs you like
1-2 cups chopped chicken meat, optional
2 bay leaves
In a large pot, melt the butter. Add the veggies and cook until almost tender. Add the rest of the ingredients, using the salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook until vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Serve with good crusty bread and cheese or butter as we did. Preparation takes about ½ hour to 45 minutes and makes enough for about six servings. Refrigerate leftovers. Hint: It’s even better the next day, providing there is any, and don’t leave where the dog can get it. My ancient hound went nuts when I put a couple of tablespoons in her bowl. Still have the bowl.
In our society, we’re all so afraid to talk about money. Money seems like a dirty word in “civilized” society. My grandfather often accused me of needing to go to charm school, so in drawing on my crass roots, let me put it all out there. My grocery budget for my family of three is $350 a month (less in the summer when my garden is producing). That buys me local meat, milk, eggs (if my new chickens ever start laying, I won’t have to buy them anymore!), produce, and some grains. The rest of our dietary needs are met by items from my garden, a standard grocery store, warehouse store or bulk purchasing club.
Walking through a traditional grocery store, it is simple to see how people can easily drop a large amount of money on groceries. There are so many items to choose from, and advertisers work hard to fight for your hard-earned dollars. My approach to cooking and food shopping confuses the heck out of food processors, but it serves the needs and stomachs of my family. So how do we do it? Read on to find out! Before we get too deep in the “art” of food shopping, please understand I am not telling you how to eat. The food my family enjoys may look very different from your family’s, but ideas can be applied to any situation.
Buy Ingredients, Not Food
Huh? Aren’t ingredients also food? Well, yes and no. By purchasing components of a meal instead of a meal in a box, I’m spreading out my dollars amongst many food groups. Parts of a recipe can be used in multiple dishes, thereby maximizing my food dollars. Let me give you an example: I can buy a complete chicken meal at a fast food restaurant for about $25. That meal will feed my family for one dinner, and possibly lunch the next day. It will save me time by allowing me to pick up dinner through my car window.
On the flip side, I can wait patiently for my favorite local grocery store to have their twice annual organic free-range whole chicken buy one get one sale and fill my freezer to bursting. Digging some potatoes from my summer garden, I can make homemade “jo jo” fries to roast in the oven while I’m roasting the chicken. Veggies could be picked from the garden, or a simple and delicious salad could be made out of the spinach I purchased at the grocery store.
Using the leftovers for next day’s lunch, my husband and I can save money by not getting take out at work. The leftovers are then put to work to create other meals, which brings us to the next concept of putting your scraps to work for you.
Eat Your Garbage
My family consumes a lot of fresh veggies throughout the year. Rather that tossing the veg scraps like carrot peels or celery tops in the garbage or compost, I put them in big freezer-proof Ziplocs and store them in the freezer. After picking the roasted chicken clean of meat, the carcass and a big bag of vegetable scraps gets put in my crockpot to make a nutritious and nourishing stock. I cover the meat and veggies with water, add 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar and spices like parsley, peppercorns, thyme, sage, and bay leaves, and I let my slow cooker convert the “trash” in to a stock that will flavor many future dishes. From my 7 quart slow cooker, I usually get between 3-4 quarts of stock that I then can in my pressure canner.
Invest in the Best When You Can
I try my hardest to purchase organic produce from the dirty dozen list (things like apples, strawberries, peaches, etc.), but don’t stress about a non-organic label for items on the clean 15 list (onion, avocado, asparagus, etc.). Additionally, I frequent local farmers and produce sellers, and I talk to them about how food is grown. If a small farm grows their fruit and veg using safe and organic practices, but can’t afford the organic certification, they can still have my food dollars! My top priorities for food: 1) local and organic if possible, 2) local 3) organic for dirty dozen, 4) non-organic for clean 15.
By being thoughtful about your meal planning, looking at “scraps” in a whole new light, and focusing on healthy priorities, your grocery budget and stretch further than you ever thought before!
Sarah C writes about doing more with less, gardening, wholesome from-scratch food, and DIY, with silliness and snark at www.beingfrugalbychoice.blogspot.com
Camps across the nation are awash with activity, the sounds and smells of summer personified in first kisses, spiders, homesickness, swim tests, madball, zombie pranks, kookaburra, grassfed beef burgers with marinated kale salad...wait, what?....That's right, grassfed beef and kale are just some of the vogue ingredients replacing the familiar camp foods of yesteryear. Today, many camps are serving up locally grown, humanely raised alternatives to the memorable green hotdogs and better off forgotten frozen tater tots. The New York Times pointed out this trend in "At Camp, It's Not Grub, It's Cuisine".
Whether pursuing education, allergy compatibility, environmental sustainability or marketing to foodie parents, sourcing local and organic products on this scale is a challenge, albeit rewarding. When I set out to overhaul the food purchasing system at our small camp in Southwest Michigan five growing seasons ago, I began building relationships with the local farming community from the soil up.
What did that look like? A Kitchen Manager tasked with lettuce delivery from one farm on Wednesdays, eggs picked up from another at the Thursday farmers' market, beef coolers collected from the Crane Dance Farm ladies between slaughters, chicken from one family, turkey from their cousins, non-homogenized milk from Mooville and, last but not least, raw milk cheeses from an Amish cooperative creamery north of town. The time commitment, cost increase and complexity proved substantial. And, each year I revisit our food purchasing system, looking for ways to tweak the ordering and transportation of produce, meats and dairy, with very little opportunity to streamline the process.
From a foodservice perspective, it seems that our regional local food system is fragmented, at best. My question is this: How can we accommodate commercial needs, while supporting our local farms and sustainable growing practices? The USDA Economic Research Service notes that one of the main constraints to the entry and expansion of local foods is the “lack of distribution systems for moving local foods into mainstream markets.”1 Added to the issue of distribution is the high volume demanded by commercial users, including camps. Conventional marketing channels seem ill-equipped to supply the growing demand for local or regional food products.
However, I'm hopeful that change is on the horizon. The work of creative entrepreneurs, coupled with the MI Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's $1.9M in grant funding in 2012, is leading to better regional food systems:
- Cherry Capital Foods is a unique food distributor based in Traverse City, MI that works with farmers, growers and producers to create efficiencies for food providers and customers. "One refrigerated truck, one delivery, one invoice - multiple, independent food sources."
- WIRED West Michigan is a creative approach in workforce development by the West Michigan Strategic Alliance, designed to train farmers in the ways and needs of supermarkets and other large buyers. Classroom training, coupled with field trips, demonstrate methods that farmers are using to get buyers what they want, when they want it.
- Many people point to the value of food hubs to address the problems of rural access. USDA’s working definition of a regional food hub is “..a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution and marketing of source-identified food products...” Food hubs are sexy and these projects are popping up around the state, bringing new opportunities for producers and
- The West Michigan Cooperative, started in 2006, is a non-profit organization providing farmers of Southwest MIchigan with an innovateve way to serve consumers all year long with the region’s first online farmers market.
Additional efforts being made to strengthen regional food systems are described by the Northwest MI Council of Governments and the Michigan Land Use Institute, in their publication "See the Local Difference: Regional Food Systems Become Essential Ingredient for Michigan's Future". Until these efforts migrate south and west in our glorious state, our camp will continue to source directly from at least ten separate local farms on seven days of the week, using a variety of transportation and payment options. And, at the end of the day, the extra effort and costs are well worth it.
The payoff is that kids are learning how to appreciate simple, whole foods over their processed alternatives, and training their pallets to taste the difference. Our food choices open doors to discussions about food systems, food justice and local food economies. Circle discussions, garden work projects and a hunger banquet accompany the many announcements made at meals characterizing the stories of people who grow our food. Mutualistically, we actualize our mission of social justice and environmental stewardship, while keeping kids healthy.
“Food is really creative and awesome,” says Annie Colburn-Jaynes, 12. “To think that the food we eat, we grow,” she says. “I eat my meals and think: I grew that; I picked that.”
Photo caption (Right): Story Gilson enjoys a camp breakfast of organic Michigan blueberries and farm fresh egg burritos on sprouted corn tortillas.
Photo caption (Above): Hector Santos-Castro and Kelly Carty dish up the love in the CPC kitchen.
SOURCES: Barham,James, Debra Tropp, Kathleen Enterline,Jeff Farbman,John Fisk, and Stacia Kiraly.
Regional Food HubResource Guide. 2012. U.S. Department ofAgriculture,Agricultural Marketing Service.Washington, D.C.April.