Monday, November 23, 2009

Staff Recipes: Roasted Heritage Breed Turkey

KariEven though my Thanksgiving will be a party of two, I like to prepare for the possibility of ten! When I heard Wendy was getting a Lilac turkey from Wells Tavern Farm in Shelburne, Massachusetts I jumped on board for a bird.

Wells Tavern has raised about 30 of their turkeys for fresh Thanksgiving birds. They are selling heritage breed birds that have had access to pasture throughout the spring and summer, eating natural Vermont grain and scratch feeds – with no antibiotics or added hormones. The turkeys are kept in large fenced pastures, which allows them to naturally scratch and forage, and provides them with protection from predators.

Wendy has been talking about her delicious turkey for a while now, and I am excited to see if I can find success with my first attempt at making Thanksgiving dinner.

Here is her recipe from last year:

Whether fresh or frozen, bring the bird to room temperature before cooking.

Cover the breast with a piece of brown paper cut from a shopping bag, rub it with cooking oil, and tie it in place with cotton string. Alternatively, soak a piece of cotton cloth in unsalted oil, such as corn oil. Remove the covering about 30 minutes before the turkey is done so the breast will brown.

Roast heritage turkeys in a hot oven pre-heated to 425F-450F and cook until an internal thigh temperature of 140F-150F is reached. Don't let the tip of the thermometer touch the bone. (Note: The USDA recommends turkeys be cooked to 160F-180F, but these temperature will dry out a heritage turkey. Heritage birds are much more free of disease and bacteria, unlike commercially-raised birds, and do not need extreme temperatures to make them safe for consumption).

Truly the thought of cooking at such a high heat terrified me but it worked out great. We had a 17lb turkey that cooked in 1 1/2 hours.

Cook any stuffing first and put inside the heritage turkey before roasting. Due to the reduced cooking time, stuffing won't become fully cooked. Alternatively, try adding a quartered orange, apple and/or pear inside the cavity instead of stuffing.

Let the roasted bird rest 10-15 minutes before carving.

Staff Recipes: Butternut Squash Lasagna

JoannaThis Butternut Squash Lasagna recipe is a great addition to the traditional Thanksgiving dinner. The color is beautiful with the bright orange squash and green sauce separated by the pasta. I let the lasagna cool slightly and cut it into 2 inch squares to serve as a side dish. It's surprisingly rich and adds wonderful flavor to the meal. This dish is perfect for leftovers as it is great reheated.

Here are some of my notes on the recipe:
  • I always buy local squash,and use more than the recipe calls for.
  • The amaretti cookies are not always easy to find, they are a key ingredient because of the flavor, I find them at Whole Foods market, I start to look for them in October and pick them up early!
  • I use a quality fresh prepared pasta.
  • I buy local organic milk and cheese.
  • Since I usually prepare this dish in the late fall, I need to purchase the local fresh basil from my local farm stand. I plan on trying to keep my basil plants growing in the house through the winter!

Butternut Squash Lasagna
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

1 tablespoon Olive oil
1 Butternut squash (about 1 1/2 to 2-pound), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup Water
3 Amaretti cookies, crumbled
1/4 cup Butter
1/4 cup All-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups Whole milk
Pinch Nutmeg
3/4 cup of Lightly-packed fresh basil leaves
12 No-boil lasagna noodles
2 1/2 cups Shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup Grated Parmesan

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the squash and toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour the water into the skillet and then cover and simmer over medium heat until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly and then transfer the squash to a food processor. Add the amaretti cookies and blend until smooth. Season the squash puree, to taste, with more salt and pepper.

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy medium-size saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, whisking often, about 5 minutes.

Whisk in the nutmeg. Cool slightly. Transfer half of the sauce to a blender. Add the basil and blend until smooth. Return the basil sauce to the sauce in the pan and stir to blend. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.

Lightly butter a 13-by-9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce over the prepared baking dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/3 of the squash puree over the noodles. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup of sauce over the noodles. Repeat layering 3 more times.

Tightly cover the baking dish with foil and bake the lasagna for 40 minutes.

Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses over the lasagna. Continue baking uncovered until the sauce bubbles and the top is golden, 15 minutes longer. Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Staff Recipes: Baked Butternut Squash with Breadcrumbs and Chestnuts

HildeYep, another butternut squash recipe (and actually, we've got another one coming up too). It's hard to resist the charms of butternut squash this time of year: they're very affordable, flexible in different dishes, and (most importantly) delicious! Below is a recipe adapted from Wilson Farm, a 125 year old, family-run farm and farmstand in Massachusetts. This recipe would also work well with other types of squash.

Baked Butternut Squash with Breadcrumbs and Chestnuts

2 pounds Butternut squash, peeled
1 large Yellow onion, sliced
1 ½ cups Plain breadcrumbs
½ cup Chestnuts, chopped
1 tablespoon Sage, chopped
1 ½ sticks Butter (½ stick melted)
2 tablespoons Brown sugar
1 teaspoon Ground cinnamon
Salt & pepper

Steam, boil or roast squash until tender.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mash with sugar, cinnamon, ½ stick butter and salt & pepper to taste.

Melt ½ stick of butter at medium high heat in a large sauté pan. Add onions and cook until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Season with salt & pepper.

Mix the onions in with the squash.

In another bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, chestnuts, sage, melted butter, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Put the squash/onion mixture in a baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top.

Bake until hot and golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Staff Recipes: Roasted Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter Sauce

AnnaAs a vegetarian on Turkey Day, I like to be prepared with a dish that can serve as a main course for me and a yummy side dish for the carnivores. This recipe is adapted from the great Emeril Lagasse. I make it simpler by using wonton wrappers instead of pasta dough.

Roasted Butternut Squash Ravioli with a Sage Brown Butter Sauce
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

9 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons minced shallots
1 cup roasted butternut squash puree
Freshly ground white pepper
3 tablespoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus 2 ounces
Pinch nutmeg
1 package square wonton wrappers
12 fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

In a large sauté pan, over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the shallots and sauté for 1 minute. Add the squash purée and cook until the mixture is slightly dry, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cream and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 3 tablespoons cheese and nutmeg, to taste. Season with salt and pepper. Cool completely.

Toss some cornmeal on a baking sheet to prevent sticking, then spread out the wonton wrappers. Place 2 teaspoons of the filling in the center of each pasta square. Bring 1 corner of the square to the other, forming a triangle and seal the pasta completely. Add the pasta to pot of boiling salted water. Cook until al dente, about 2 to 3 minutes or until the pasta floats and is pale in color.

Remove the pasta from the water and drain well. Season the pasta with salt and pepper.

In a large sauté pan, melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter. Add the sage to the butter and continue to cook until the butter starts to brown. Remove from the heat.

Place some of the pasta in the center of each serving plate. Spoon the butter sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle the 2 ounces of cheese over each plate and garnish with parsley.

"Cucurbita moschata Butternet" photo courtesy of Wikipedia author Spedona through use of Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Staff Recipes: Homegrown Apple Butter

CorneliaCornelia, the HOMEGROWN Shepherdess, recently shared a recipe for making Apple Butter with the Blog. Aside from smearing on toast, this apple butter is also yummy as a condiment for sharp cheddar sandwiches, in crepes, and as a glaze for pork loin. Grab those apples and head over to Craft to check out the recipe.

Staff Recipes: Braised Celery topped with Bread Crumbs and Cheese

MattOne of my favorite side dishes to share at family events is braised celery. Generally, I like celery best when it's raw and crunchy (and covered in salt), so at first the idea of not just quickly cooking celery, but actually braising it for a length of time seemed a little crazy. But the recipe, which I first saw on 101 Cookbooks, is a definite keeper. The recipe below serves 4, but I've successfully doubled it in the past and it worked just fine.

Braised Celery with Crunchy Bread Crumb Topping
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 head celery (about 1 3/4 pounds) - not just celery hearts, you want the whole thing
1 large shallot or 1 small yellow onion, finely minced
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth (I always use vermouth)
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1/3 cup freshly grated Gruyère cheese, or half Gruyère and half Parmigiano-Reggiano (I've tried it with all Gruyère, a mix, and all Parmigiano, and all three were delicious, so you can't go wrong)
3 to 4 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs made from day-old rustic white bread

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Using about half the butter, generously butter a large gratin dish or baking dish (9- to 10-by-13- to 14-inch).

Tear the celery stalks from the head. You should have about 10 or 12 sturdy outer stalks. Stop tearing off the stalks when you reach the shorter, pale, tender stalks, or the heart. Set it aside. Rinse the celery stalks, giving special attention to the inside of the base of each stalk, where dirt tends to lodge. You may need a vegetable scrubber to remove stubborn dirt. Trim off the top part of the stalk where it branches into leaves, and set the tops aside with the heart. Using a small paring knife or vegetable peeler, scrape the outside of each celery stalk to remove the fibrous strings that run its length. (This can take forever if you really try to get every string off the outside of every piece. When pressed for time, I've just done this as quickly as possible and definitely missed some. In my opinion, it didn't hurt the dish, but if you want to make sure every bite of celery is super-tender, you may want to take as many off as you can).

Cut the celery stalks into 3- to 4-inch lengths. Arrange them in a layer in the baking dish. It's fine if the sticks overlap some; they will shrink and flatten into a single layer as they braise.

Finely chop the reserved celery heart, with the celery tops and leaves. Melt the remaining butter in a medium skillet (IO-inch) over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, thyme, and chopped celery heart and leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Pour in the vermouth or wine and simmer until the pan is almost dry, about 3 minutes. Add the stock and simmer until reduced by half, another 6 minutes or so.

Pour the celery-shallot-stock mixture over the celery sticks. Cover with foil and slide into the middle of the oven to braise until the celery has collapsed and feels very tender when prodded with a knife tip, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Remove the celery from the oven, and increase the oven heat to 400 degrees. Sprinkle the cheese and bread crumbs over the celery, and return to the oven until the cheese is melted and the top is crusty and browned, about 10 more minutes.

Serve while hot or warm.

"celery" photo courtesy of flickr user Daveybot through use of Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Staff Recipes: Carrot Ginger Soup

WendyWendy makes a carrot ginger soup with no written recipe, but she promises this recipe from from the Food Network is pretty similar.

Ginger Carrot Soup
Adapted from

2 tablespoons sweet cream butter
2 onions, peeled and chopped
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper
Optional: Sour cream or crème fraîche
Parsley sprigs, for garnish

In a 6-quart pot, over medium high heat, add butter and onions and cook, stirring often, until onions are limp. Add broth, carrots, and ginger. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender when pierced.

If you've got an immersion blender, turn off the heat in the pot and blend until smooth.

If you do not have an immersion blender, use a regular blender: remove from heat and transfer to a blender. Don't fill the blender more than half way, do it in batches if you have to. Cover the blender and then hold a kitchen towel over the top of the blender. Be careful when blending hot liquids as the mixture can spurt out of the blender. Pulse the blender to start it and then puree until smooth.

Return to the pot and add cream, stir over high heat until hot. For a smoother flavor bring soup to a boil, add salt and pepper, to taste.

Ladle into bowls and (optionally) garnish with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche and parsley sprigs.

"Carrot Lemongrass Soup" photo courtesy of flickr user mellowfood through use of Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic license.

Staff Recipes: Brussels Sprouts with Shallots & Golden Raisins

CorneliaWhile it's fun to start off our recipe posts with dessert, as Mom always reminded us, you've got to eat your vegetables. Why not try out this easy and delicious recipe for Brussels Sprouts from Cornelia of fame?

Brussels Sprouts with Shallots & Golden Raisins

1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (if larger than bite-sized)
2 quarts Water
2 tablespoons Salt (Yes, 2 T! You won’t need to add any salt later.)
1 tablespoons Olive oil
2-3 Shallots, sliced
1/2 cups Golden raisins

In a large saucepan, bring salted water to a boil and cook Brussels sprouts until tender, but still firm to the bite.

Meanwhile saute shallots in olive oil until soft. Once Brussels sprouts are done, but before draining, add the golden raisins to the saucepan. Drain.

Combine with shallots. Serve hot or room temperature.

"Brussels Sprouts" photo courtesy of flickr user Chiot's Run through use of Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic license.

Thanksgiving Recipes from Farm Aid Staff: Pumpkin Whoopee Pies

MattTo go along with the Farm Aid staffs' replies to the question, "Why are you thankful for family farmers?" we're posting some of our staffs' favorite recipes for Thanksgiving.

What better place to start than dessert? This recipe's been passed around from person to person slowly making the rounds. While the recipe calls for canned pumpkin puree, if you want to use fresh pumpkin and puree it yourself, go right ahead!

Pumpkin Whoopee Pies

1 1/2 sticks (6 oz) butter (1 stick melted, 1/2 stick softened)
1 cup Packed light brown sugar
2 Large eggs
1 cup Canned pure pumpkin puree
1 Tbs Pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
1 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Baking soda
3/4 tsp Salt
1 2/3 C Flour
4 ounces Cream cheese, chilled
1 cup Confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper

Whisk melted butter and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in eggs, pumpkin puree, pumpkin spice, 1 tsp vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, and 3/4 tsp salt. Fold in flour with a rubber spatula.

Using a tablespoon, drop generous mounds of batter on baking sheets. Bake until springy to the touch, about 10 minutes.

Use an electric mixer, cream the softened butter with cream cheese. Add confectioner's sugar, 2 pinches of salt, 1/2 tsp vanilla and mix on low speed until blended, then beat on med-high until fluffy (about 2 minutes).

Spread and make sandwiches once fully cooled.

"whoopie pies one girl cookies" photo courtesy of flickr user cherrypatter through use of Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic license.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Farm Aid Staff Analyze Grant Proposals

JenFarm Aid staff members have been busy reading grant proposals for the past few weeks. During our annual grant cycle this year we received 147 proposals, requesting more than $1.6 million. Of course, we wish we had that much to grant out to the wonderful projects we're reading about, but unfortunately that's not the case. And in what has been a tough economic year for Farm Aid and a really difficult year for family farmers, we're buckling down and really focusing on where our dollars can do the most good for family farmers.

On the financial front, farmers entered 2009 at a disadvantage because of the credit crunch that made it hard for them to plant their crops and invest in any improvements on the farm. Dairy farmers continued to see abysmal milk prices that didn't cover even half of their cost of production--and prices have still not recovered. Pork and poultry producers suffered due to overproduction leading to low prices, and they too are still in that boat. And all farmers faced the highest production costs on record in many parts of the country.

On the weather front, farmers in the Northeast had to deal with late blight due to cool, wet weather, which wiped out tomato and some potato crops. The weather also meant farmers got a late start in the fields and as that weather pattern continued throughout the summer, crop growth was slow and in some cases, whole crops were lost. Come fall, there was more cold, wet weather across the country. In the Midwest, that made for some of the latest harvests in years, and in the Northeast, it led to apple crops left to rot in the orchards. These apples would normally be picked by families who come out in droves to pick their own, but this year they chose to stay warm and dry, rather than harvest the autumn fruit (which, because of all that rain, actually grew beautifully!).

You can see, then, why family farmers are foremost in our minds as we determine where Farm Aid's grant dollars will go this year. Once we get input from Willie and he approves our recommendations, we'll get the checks to him for his signature, and we'll get those checks out the door so that organizations across the country can do the grass-roots work of supporting family farmers all year long.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Food Safety Bill Progress Update

JenToday the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee will begin working on the Senate version of major food safety legislation already approved by the House of Representatives.

The bill focuses on foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which does not include meat and poultry (these are regulated by USDA).

According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the bill includes several key reforms that would put real teeth into federal regulation of large-scale food processing corporations to better protect consumers. However, the bill as written would also do serious harm to family farming, local and regional food systems, conservation and wildlife protection, and organic farming.

The good news is the HELP committee could fix those problems with the adoption of some logical provisions that take on the corporate bad actors who put our safety at risk. These provisions would effectively address food safety at the source without harming the small and mid-sized family farms, sustainable and organic production methods, and more local and regional food sourcing that are so integral to the growing Good Food Movement.

Farm Aid-funded groups and partners Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) and the National Sustainable Agriculture Campaign (NSAC) have been working hard on this issue. NSAC formed a food safety working group earlier this year and issued a position paper earlier this fall, which you can read at their website (PDF link). They also organized a sign-on letter (PDF link) to the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which has already resulted in positive changes in the legislation.

We'll keep you posted as the bill moves along.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Farmer Veterans

JoelToday is Veterans Day and Farm Aid thanks all the veterans who have served our country. In honor of their service, I want to introduce you to a group of veterans who are beginning new careers as farmers and growers of the Good Food Movement.
Not long after the Farm Aid concert in early October, we received an email from Michael O'Gorman, project director of the Farmer-Veteran Coalition (FVC). The FVC brought a group of veterans to St. Louis and mounted an excellent exhibit in our HOMEGROWN Village at the show. Reflecting on the experience, Michael wrote,

"Our group...included twenty two veterans—twenty of them post-9/11, fifteen who served in Iraq or Afghanistan or both, and fifteen of whom are pursuing careers in farming or the good food movement. It was a very powerful experience for these men and women to meet each other—some for the first time—and to feel part of a very unique group that shares such profound experience in common. Farm Aid was a wonderful experience for them to see young farmers treated as heroes—something they are both searching for and deserving of. And of course they all went absolutely berserk when Willie came on stage with our hat!!"

Willie and Farm Aid are proud to have hosted the Farmer-Veteran Coalition in St. Louis and honored to include the FVC as a member of our Farmer Resource Network. The FVC is a California-based non-profit organization whose long-term goal is creating 10,000 new farmers from the ranks of some two million returning post-9/11 veterans. This goal is not merely a pipe dream: rural Americans disproportionately over-populate the ranks of the military, representing roughly 65% of all service members. Fully committed to growing the good food movement and to the notion that nourishing the land helps nourish the soul, the FVC's mission is "to mobilize our food and farming community to create healthy and viable futures for America's veterans by enlisting their help in 1) building our green economy, 2) rebuilding our rural communities, and 3) securing a safe and healthy food supply".

The FVC, which is explicitly non-political, welcomes all returning vets and connects them with help in employment, training, and replenishing their lives on America's farms. In addition to working with veterans groups all over the country, the FVC is currently expanding its connections to new farmer training programs, building its mentoring program among established farmers and food industry professionals, and gathering resources to help veterans find financing for land or further education.

Click here to read more about the Farmer Veterans Coalition's visit to Farm Aid.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dinner at the White House

JenFood and politics have always been intertwined. But never before has food been at the center of the political sphere like it is now in Washington, D.C. That's partially due to the many policy issues currently being considered that involve the production and consumption of food—from climate change and school lunch to food safety and health care reform. But the visibility is also due to a commitment by the First Family to bring food and farm issues into their public lives and, therefore, into our lives.

For the first time since Eleanor Roosevelt's WWII Victory Garden, we have a garden on the White House lawn. Mrs. Obama's garden has produced nearly 1,000 pounds of food this year, supplying fresh food to local soup kitchens and learning experiences to schoolchildren from all over the country.

Did you know that in addition to the White House garden, there's a White House beehive (the first in history), and a lucky guy, Charlie Brandt, who has the title of First Beekeeper, or The Honeymaker of the United States. Check out this audio slideshow to learn more, including why Charlie has to inform the Secret Service before he harvests honey!

I've read and heard hundreds of debates on the merits of these projects—heated arguments about whether the administration truly cares about these issues and is committed to create real change for farmers and eaters or whether it's all just a publicity stunt. I suppose we'll continue to wait and see. But in the meantime you can't deny that the Obamas have succeeded in bringing food and farming into our culture, into our living rooms (The White House Garden and the First Lady will make an appearance on the Food Network on January 3, 2010, and around—if not on!—our dinner tables.

There are many opportunities for the President, and all of Washington, to demonstrate their commitment to agriculture beyond growing and beekeeping. From the ongoing dairy crisis to climate change and childhood nutrition, Washington will continue to be an important center for food and farm issues, even after the First Garden is turned over for winter.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Update on Ohio Issue 2

HildeThank you to everyone who spread the word about Ohio Issue 2 in last week's election. We were inspired by the many emails we received from Farm Aid supporters willing to speak up, raise awareness and rally neighbors against this dangerous constitutional amendment that threatens the very premise of democracy. Despite a good effort from the grassroots, the ballot initiative passed last week.

With relatively few resources and limited time, it proved difficult to counter the deceptive messaging of the multimillion dollar, corporate agri-business-backed campaign. With the help of our partner organizations we plan to keep a close eye on the development of Ohio's Livestock Care Standards Board to ensure there are sufficient checks and balances in place and opportunities for family farmers to get a shot at fair representation.

We will keep you in the loop, and please let us know if a similar measure comes to a state near you. This may feel like another case of David v. Goliath, but we all know good food from family farms is more than worth the uphill battle.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A visit to a Chicago restaurant that grows their own and supports family farmers!

GlendaI'm in awe of Helen Cameron and Mike Cameron, a dynamo couple who endlessly explore the possibilities of running two sustainable, community-oriented restaurants in Chicago, Uncommon Ground. These people promote farming and farmers! They start by serving family farm food in the restaurant, of course...

Last week Mike gave me and Paul Natkin, Farm Aid's rock and roll photographer, a tour of Chicago's (and the U.S.'s!) first organic certified rooftop garden. It's located on top of their newer restaurant location, Uncommon Ground on Devon. Mike showed off the fully irrigated raised beds, the trellises for vertical growing, the four bee hives, and the box that contained the bees that the post office delivered!

Mike and Helen grow their many of their own herbs and vegetables for use in the kitchens of both Uncommon Ground locations, while showing local school children how it's done. They also had a farmers market in the parking lot of the restaurant this summer.

With good food fresh from the farm (and their rooftop garden!), music all week, and art from local artists on the walls, Uncommon Ground builds strong, award-winning community support. It's kind of like Farm Aid every night of the week!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Spread the word: Vote NO on Ohio's Issue 2

MattAs you get ready to head out to the polls on Tuesday, November 3, please take a look at our post about Ohio's Issue 2 and why Ohioans should vote NO. If you don't live in Ohio, but have friends or family there, let them know that their no vote can keep corporate agri-business from taking over their constitution.

New and transitioning farmers, this "Farminar" is for you!

JoelBeginning at 7 p.m. CST on Tuesday, November 3rd and continuing each Tuesday through December 22nd, there will be a series of eight, 90-minute "Farminars" for beginning and transitioning farmers. Our friends at Practical Farmers of Iowa and the Iowa Beginning Farming Center are collaborating on the series, and each Tuesday's Farminar will focus on a topic relevant to new farmers and farmers in generational transition: whole farm planning, legal issues in succession, estate planning, enterprise and market identification, enterprise budgeting, product placement/pricing/promotion, and financing your enterprise. Every Farminar will include farmer presenters who will share their experience and expertise on these issues.

What's a "Farminar," you ask? A farminar is a farm-focused "webinar," an interactive presentation broadcast over the internet that includes both visual and audio elements, with live presentations coupled with slideshow images. What this means, of course, is that anyone anywhere with internet access can click on their browser to watch, listen, learn, and take part. To participate, simply click here at the time of the broadcast. Or visit this page to get more information prior to the first broadcast.

Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) is one of the nation's outstanding non-profit, educational, farmer-controlled organizations, and Farm Aid is proud to include them in our own nationwide Farmer Resource Network. PFI emerged out of the mid-1980s farm crisis with a mission to "research, develop and promote profitable, ecologically sound and community-enhancing approaches to agriculture." The "Farminar" series is just one of the many excellent programs PFI offers.

Besides, PFI has great hats! Check 'em out in this photo of me and my old Iowa buddies who volunteered at the Farm Aid concert in St. Louis on October 4th. Thanks to PFI's Suzi Bernhard for her good fashion sense, and for her work with Leigh Adcock of the Women, Food, and Agriculture Network in co-creating an excellent exhibit for our HOMEGROWN Village at this year's show!

25,000 Citizens urge USDA to end lending to factory farms

JenMore than 25,000 citizens—including nearly 6,000 Farm Aid supporters—have called on the USDA to suspend loans for specialized pork and poultry facilities. The Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment (CFFE), a coalition of farm organizations that have been working since 1995 on issues relating to factory farms, coordinated the campaign and sent the petitions to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack last week. The petition asks the USDA to discontinue loans to new and expanding facilities that are contributing to hog and poultry overproduction.

Overproduction has driven the price of pork and poultry down, forcing family farmers out of business. In twenty of the last twenty-two months, for example, pork farmers have received prices below their cost of production. And while taxpayer money has fueled this overproduction, at the same time taxpayers are funding USDA bailouts that seek to decrease the oversupply. So the government is on the one hand funding this problem and on the other funding the solution to the problem it has created.

According to USDA data, USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) made direct and guaranteed loans to build and expand hog and poultry facilities in the amount of nearly $265 million in 2008 and 2009. In 2009, the USDA has purchased $55 million of surplus pork and $42 million worth of surplus chicken in an effort to provide assistance to these markets. Another $100 million buyout has been proposed, and has the support of more than 100 members of Congress, according to Matt Ohllof of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.

According to Rhonda Perry, a grain and livestock farmer and program director of Missouri Rural Crisis Center, "This cycle of promoting the expansion of corporate livestock production with taxpayer money, then bailing out the industry because of overproduction with taxpayer money is an irresponsible practice and must come to an end."

In fact, CFFE's request is not without precedent. In 1999 the USDA issued a directive suspending all direct and guaranteed loan financing for the construction of specialized hog facilities, citing concerns that FSA loans could deepen the crisis of oversupply and low prices that were affecting the hog industry at the time. The USDA was quoted in the January 1999 Federal Register as saying, "It is inconsistent with USDA policies for FSA to continue to finance construction of additional production facilities... while other agencies within USDA expend resources to ameliorate over-supply conditions."

That same common sense applies today. And, as Rhonda points out, the money saved by not funding expansion in the first place and then not bailing out the surplus in the second-place, could be used to help family farmers produce sustainably—in ways that make sense for the market, for the environment, and for all of us.

To date, the USDA has not responded to CFFE's demand, but they keep pushing. We'll keep you informed.