Friday, March 30, 2007

Laura knows "All About the Pig"

Last week, I went to my very first Slow Food Dinner: “All About the Pig” at Boston’s South End local foods landmark restaurant, the Garden of Eden. The evening was full of surprises, not the least of which was the fact that my favorite menu item was a delicate pastry puff filled with bits of organ, tongue and stomach meat. A happy first for me! They even featured two heritage breeds, a Yorkshire Reed and Gloucestershire Old Spotted, facing off for the title of “yummiest pig.” The menu featured a lot of non-traditional cuts of meat and parts of the pig. Why? The restaurant buys directly from two local farmers who sell their meat in half-pig allotments and to be fair to the life of the pig and the budget of the restaurant, everything goes! And for certain, Garden of Eden chef/owner Robert made magic with that “everything.”

I posed for a picture next to a complete half pig, thinking it would make an excellent addition to this post but the combination of a funny smile and a whole lot of red eye created a not so pretty picture. Instead, I managed to capture another highlight of the evening, which was a guided tour showing the making of fresh mozzarella. Cheesemaker Lourdes Fiore Smith turned loose farmhouse cheese (made with milk from an organic dairy in Vermont) into light fluffy boules of cheese that were still warm and dripping with an intensely flavorful salt brine. I have never had anything like it. Time briefly stood still as I contemplated the intersection of fresh warmth, lively salt layers and the light, smooth delicacy of this just made cheese.

Getting together with people who enjoy food, care about where it comes from and who want to talk about it can only be a good thing. By the end of the night, I had met a farmer who can sell me a quarter pig, made a deal with the restaurant to score some sustainably produced sausage casings (this year’s Valentines Day present was a meat grinder) and my boyfriend made a provolone to take home. Nothing like a good meal to reinvigorate my desire to make sure that there are plenty of family farmers out there to raise heritage breeds and produce fresh milk for me to eat!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Mark meets King Corn- the film

Last week I invited Curt Ellis, a local film producer, to our office to
discuss his new film "King Corn." The film is the story of Curt and his
friend, Ian Cheney, who decide to leave their Boston-area apartment and move
to rural Iowa to plant, grow and harvest a one-acre plot of corn. Curt and
Ian then follow their corn through the food system to see where it ends up.

King Corn is much more than a story about two city kids growing corn; it is a
powerful and accessible story about how our food system, and the policies behind it, have changed what farms produce and how, and what we end up
eating.

Watching the film with my two school-aged kids, one image from the film
stands out in my mind: mountains and mountains of surplus corn, fifty feet
tall. Where does all that corn go? Into the snack food that my kids and
their friends eat everyday. Those mountains of corn get processed into the
one of the most common ingredients of the American diet: a cheap sweetener called
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Many experts link HFCS to the recent
epidemic of childhood obesity.

After watching the film, my kids and I came up with a fun idea: we would
see if we could go a whole week without eating products that contain HFCS.

The very next morning, as I made and packed my kids' lunches, I realized how
difficult this would be. The more expensive whole grain "all natural" wheat
bread I used to make their sandwiches listed HFCS as the third ingredient!
The experiment would have to be delayed -- the sandwiches were made. On my
next trip to the grocery store I will take the time to buy bread, and other
foods, that don't contain HFCS. My kids and I are determined to succeed
with this challenge!

King Corn goes beyond the corn fields, taking the viewer to the board rooms and in to the Halls of Congress to understand the intricate ways corn has reshaped our entire physical and social landscape. To see a trailer of the film and learn more, visit:http://www.kingcorn.net

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Jeni urges you to usher in spring with an e-card

Back by popular demand, we have a whole new lineup of e-cards to celebrate the much anticipated start of spring. Last year hundreds of you shared the e-cards with friends. It’s the perfect way to remind folks to check out local farmer markets, join a CSA or just celebrate the season of family farmers starting to get back into the fields.

We’re thrilled to feature photos from the talented Jason Houston (thanks again Jason!). We’ve picked out a few of our favorites to choose from (the chickens are our fav), but you can also explore his entire amazing collection of 3,500 food and farm images here.

This year’s e-cards are special for us because all of the photos were taken at Moon in the Pond Organic Farm where Jen spent a week of her vacation working on the farm. Of course, Jen sent them the very first e-card.

Check out the photos and send your own e-card!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Jen Says Eat Your Veggies!!

A new study shows that we Americans are not eating our government-recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. The government’s goal is for us to each eat 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables every day. Most of us aren’t meeting that goal and the government is wondering why (I won’t even get started on that!). They suggest that perhaps a way to get us to eat more fruits and veggies is to find easy recipes and make smoothies.

Here’s a novel idea: PICK UP AN APPLE AND TAKE A BITE! Eat a banana. Cook up some broccoli or munch some raw carrots! It’s not that hard and fruits and veggies are delicious (I guess most of us have forgotten that in our age of pre-packaged, processed food.).

Today my coworker Wendy forwarded me information on a new CSA in our area, the Red Fire Farm in Granby, MA. Wendy and I are talking about splitting a share of the Red Fire Farm CSA, which will guarantee each of us 5 pounds of fresh produce plus farm-fresh fruit each week between June 11 and December 17. That’s going to go a long way in helping us meet our suggested intake of fruits and vegetables! And with the more than 300 varieties of 40 vegetables offered by the Red Fire Farm CSA, Wendy and I are bound to have some more creative examples of how to eat your veggies in a few months! If you want to increase your fruit and veggie intake, find a CSA in your area.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Nahreen's garden nineteen days later

Until the weather warms up, there’s a little gardening to be done in our office but nineteen days ago we planted our Aerogarden and it’s lookin’ great!

About a week after we planted we saw little the little sprouts making their way out! Last Thursday, Katie dropped in another nutrient tablet. As you can see in our pictures, all of our seven herbs have sprouted. As of today, the chives are already 3 inches tall and the cilantro is close behind at 2.5 inches tall. I wonder when we can start picking them??

Nahreen's update on the office garden

I read “The Edible Container Garden” by Michael Guerra this past weekend and now I’m really excited. It seems just about anything can be grown in a container. I took a trip up to our roof deck and I think my biggest concern is walking all my heavy supplies up three flights of steep stairs. That should be interesting! But if I take Michael’s advice and buy large, plastic containers, I should be fine. I think my next step will be reading to see what crops make good companions, to make some tentative decisions as to what I want to plant in my fairly limited space. I would love to hear any tips you might have for a first time gardener like myself! This photo is from one week after planting.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Link to good news about Judge Stopping Sale of GE Alfalfa

Yesterday, the New York Times reported that a federal judge has banned the sale of genetically modified alfalfa seeds. The court found that the United States Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) violated the law by failing to conduct an environmental impact statement before approving the seeds.

The ruling bans farmers, who already purchased the genetically engineered seeds, from planting the seeds this spring. Farmers should not have to pay for failures of the USDA and the seeds’ maker, Monsanto. Monsanto should refund farmers their money immediately so that farmers can purchase non-GE seed in time for the spring’s planting.

Read the story here.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Nahreen gardens IN the Farm Aid office

Spring is almost here and I can't wait!

It started with the Chia pet we planted here in the office a few months ago. It was a Garfield chia pet, but Katie renamed him Fast Eddie. I’m kinda a geek, I know, but I got real excited when Fast Eddie started sprouting. Then, just a few days ago, we got our office AeroGarden all set up! We’re growing Italian Basil (which will sprout first), Purple Basil, Mint, Dill, Chives, Parsley and Cilantro. And again, I can’t wait to see some life out of them. In case you’re curious, we planted on Wednesday, February 28th. The Italian Basil takes 4-7 days, so any day now we should see something!

All this made me think, why don’t I plant anything on my own at home. First I thought, I couldn’t. I live in the city; I don’t have a yard. Then I came to my senses; who needs a yard when I have a roof deck? Right?

I’m a rookie. My grandfather had a garden and my biggest accomplishment there was eating. He grew Armenian Cucumbers, which were my favorite! We would pick them, wash them off with the hose, break them in half, pour salt (from the salt shaker we had conveniently brought outside with us), sit on the grass and chomp away. Nothing’s better than that! So other than knowing I’m gonna have fun and the end result will be delicious, I don’t know much. But I’ve borrowed quite a few seed and gardening books from Jen, one of the many gardening experts here in the office, and I’m learning! But it’s just the beginning of March- before you know it, I’ll be a pro!