Monday, November 28, 2011

Farm Aid Music Monday, Starring Arlo Guthrie & Thanksgiving Wrap-Up

MattToday's Music Monday features all 16.5 minutes of Arlo Guthrie's classic song "Alice's Restaurant," which has become something of a Thanksgiving tradition for many music fans. Arlo performed at the very first Farm Aid in 1985 and has joined us seven more times over the years in support of family farmers. Here's his performance from 2005 in Tinley Park, Illinois:

Last week, we asked people in our Putting it into Practice column and on our Facebook page for ways in which they're honoring family farmers on Thanksgiving. Here are a few highlights, starting with a haiku poem from the commenter "HOMEGROWNer" (there were a few other haiku poems submitted, so if you're a fan go take a look!):

Thanksgiving draws near
Haikus making me hungry
Thanks, family farmers!
Turkeys, turnips, yum
Stuffing takes the cake (or, pie)
Tryptophan, oh no!!
Nina M. responded on our Facebook page with the makings of a great Thanksgiving meal:

Picked up my turkey from a local farm yesterday. Today I picked up my pie from local baker using locally made cream, local eggs, fresh, local pumpkin. Whipping some local cream tomorrow for the pie. Locally made bread for my stuffing.

But the person whose table I would have liked to have been seated at has to be commenter "llc":

Turkeys - 45 lbs of local free range meat from Clark Family Farm
Roasted Root Vegetables - from MAD Farm & Hoyland Farm
Mashed Potatoes - from Hoyland Farm & Iwig Dairy
Goat Cheese Appetizer - from Goddard Farm
Asian Slaw - with radishes from Moon on the Meadow

Other ingredients include:
Eggs from Stony Point Farm
Italian sausage from Beeler Farm
Bread made with local flour from Wheatfield's Bakery

Everything else is mostly organic and sourced as local as possible.... the one "farm" we did not support was the farm that raises salmon... ours is wild caught from Alaska....

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!!!!!

Thank you for supporting your local farmers!

Looking for more Farm Aid videos? Find them on Farm Aid's YouTube channel.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Recipe: A Light Cocktail to Celebrate

MattWhen you think of supporting family farmers, you probably think about what goes on your plate. But what goes into your glass can also have an effect — see this Putting it into Practice column titled "Raise a toast to family farmers! How your drink choices can support them." for more. Fresh and local apple cider's delicious, as are turning fresh berries and juices into homemade sodas. Sometimes when you're celebrating, though, a little alcohol is called for.

With so much food typically served at Thanksgiving meals, I like to start things off with a light drink. In fact, this Dry Vermouth Sangaree cocktail has become my go-to alcoholic drink to serve at the start of a party. Why? It's delicious and also fairly low in alcohol, so guests won't fall asleep until after dessert's over. I like that it uses a couple ingredients usually underrepresented in cocktails: dry vermouth as a main ingredient, and maple syrup as a sweetener. I'll use almost any excuse to increase my maple syrup intake and find it adds a lot more interesting flavor than plain sugar in cooking or cocktails. It's also made by family farmers all over and I get some through my CSA. And dry vermouth is usually a dusty, half-forgotten bottle that some wiseacre at your party will joke about if you add it to your martini. But this drink shows it can be the star ingredient in a cocktail on its own merits.

The Dry Vermouth Sangaree
Adapted from Jeffrey Morgenthaler

Makes one drink, feel free to double or triple the recipe (if your cocktail shaker's big enough).

  • 3 oz dry vermouth (there are some interesting brands available nowadays, try something new out!)
  • 1/4 oz maple syrup
  • 1/4 oz hot/warm water
  • 1 tsp Allspice Dram liqueur
  • 1 large strip orange peel
  • Freshly grated nutmeg

Mix the water and maple syrup so it's a little less viscous, then add all other ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a cold cocktail glass. Garnish with a fresh strip of orange peel.

Alternatively, you can make a maple-nutmeg syrup and use 1/2 oz of that in place of the maple syrup, water and nutmeg listed above:

To make maple-nutmeg syrup, combine 8 ounces each of Grade B maple syrup and water, and 1 tbsp freshly-grated nutmeg. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Let cool, strain out solids, bottle and chill.

If you're looking for something you can make ahead of time and serve a large group, this Spiced Apple Cider Sangria should fit the bill!

Find more family farmer recipes and print your own menu to salute your family chefs and the family farmers who provided your food on our Thanksgiving page!

Maple syrup photo licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Thanksgiving Recipe: Roasted Carrots & Parsnips with Ginger-Scallion Glaze

MattThanksgiving approaches! Visit our Thanksgiving page to get more recipes and print out a menu you can fill in to honor the chefs in your family and the family farmers who grew the food you enjoy.

I've recently been going to my local "winter" farmers market despite the calendar date — I guess the cool weather makes it close enough (I wrote about the type of things I found there when I visited last January). One thing I always pick up is carrots, no matter what season is. They last pretty well in the fridge and I love munching 'em raw or roasting them in recipes like this. On Thanksgiving, sometimes you need an easy side dish you can do without thinking too hard and I think this fits the bill. I think carrots and especially parsnip match really well with the flavor of ginger, so here you go. The scallions help bring back some edge to counter the natural sweetness of the roasted vegetables.

Roasted Carrots & Parsnips with Scallion-Ginger Glaze
Recipe adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman.

Makes: 4 to 8 servings

  • About 1 pound of carrots and parsnips, or all carrots, sliced diagonally about 3 inches long
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced ginger
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped scallions
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400°. Toss carrots and parsnips with 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil on a baking sheet and roast them, shaking the pan and turning them occasionally, until tender and browned, 30 to 40 minutes.

2. While they cook, mix the ginger, scallions, garlic, and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt together in a heatproof bowl. Put the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a small saucepan or skillet over high heat until smoking. Carefully pour the oil over the ginger-scallion mixture and mix well, mashing a bit with the back of your spoon. (You can make this mixture ahead and can store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.)

3. Remove the carrots and parsnips from the oven and toss them with the ginger-scallion mixture. Serve warm.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Farm Aid Music Monday, Starring Willie & Lukas Nelson

MattIt's the week for Thanksgiving, so my thoughts turn to family on this Music Monday. Today we've got a video from this year's Farm Aid concert in Kansas City where Willie Nelson was joined onstage by his son Lukas to perform "Fathers and Mothers."

Check out more videos on Farm Aid's YouTube channel.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Farmer Hero Friday: Courtney & Jacob Cowgill of Conrad, Montana

MattToday's Farmer Hero Friday features Courtney and Jacob Cowgill. They raise heritage, pastured turkeys and grow a variety of organic vegetables in Montana, but their real passion is for their ancient grains. They hope to prove that small-scale farming is a relevant and effective way to make a living in modern agriculture.
Courtney & Jacob Cowgill
The family has now established a 40-member vegetable CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)—the only one within a 150-mile radius. Courtney explains that while CSAs have become fairly prevalent in more heavily populated areas, they are ironically more difficult to come by as you move further into farm territory.

"There are all these [CSAs] happening in urban agriculture, and we thought, ‘Rural places are where agriculture was born, so we might as well give it a shot and see if these kinds of things can happen in rural Montana too.'"

With the success of their vegetable CSA, they are also working on growing their grain and beans CSA that began last year. “We want to get people thinking locally and regionally about their staples too. We don’t want to do vegetables forever. It’s these grains that sort of captured our fancy.”
Click here to read the rest of our profile of Courtney and Jacob.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Farm Aid Music Monday, Starring Neil Young (and a Happy Birthday wish)

MattToday's Music Monday post features Neil Young. Please join us in wishing him a belated Happy Birthday, as his birthday was on Saturday, November 12. We're grateful for all he has done for Farm Aid over the past 26 years and for his musical contributions for years prior to that.

We've finished uploading all of his Farm Aid 2011 performance to our YouTube channel and you can watch all six videos using this playlist:

Check out more videos on Farm Aid's YouTube channel.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lauren's Farm and Food Roundup

LaurenGIPSA (Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration) rules recently received a metaphorical kick in the shins. While some important changes to the poultry and pork markets are moving forward, it appears that for now, the four beef packing companies who control 90 percent of the industry will continue to make it impossible for small ranchers to get a fair price for livestock.

Seventy eight percent – more U.S. families than ever before – say they are choosing organic foods, according to a study published today by the Organic Trade Association (OTA). The strongest motivators for doing so included the belief that organic products are healthier, concern over the effects of pesticides, hormones and antibiotics on children and the desire to avoid highly processed or artificial ingredients.

A study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that as ozone levels (resulting from industrial emissions) decreased, worker productivity in the affected area increased. The study presents a counterpoint to those who argue that jobs would be lost if stricter government regulation of air pollution was put in place. On average, when ozone levels declined by 10 parts per billion — approximately the level of tightening proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency — worker productivity climbed 4.2 percent. It is estimated that this boost in productivity might yield a $1.1 billion annual increase in economic value in the nation’s agricultural sector.

Grist’s Tom Laskawy offers his thoughts on how to sustainably feed the now seven billion occupants of the world—namely, by overcoming political obstacles that cause us to wreak havoc on the planet.

Bruce Bradley, a former food marketer at companies like Nabisco, General Mills and Pillsbury, dishes on food industry deception and his transition from the Big Food world to Community Supported Agriculture. Bradley says, “Cheap food is very expensive once you add up the true costs -- like the taxes you pay to subsidize Big Food companies, health consequences like obesity or diabetes, the devastating harm to our environment, and the inhumane treatment of animals raised within the industrialized food system.”

The National Young Farmers Coalition has released their first report, Building a Future With Farmers: Challenges Faced by Young, American Farmers and a National Strategy to Help Them Succeed, on the resources that the next generation will need to overcome the tremendous barriers to starting a career in agriculture.

According to new data released by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, sales of antibiotics intended for domestic food animals increased 6.7 percent from 2009 to 2010, while total meat production only increased 1.3 percent. I think I’ll take a rain check on that hamburger.

On a more positive note, on November 1st Chicago Public Schools began serving local chicken raised without antibiotics to students in 473 schools. The program includes about 1.2 million pounds from Amish farms—no other district in the nation is serving this kind of poultry regularly at such a scale. Students will be offered bone-in chicken two to three times each month.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Farmers Helping Farmers: The Farm Aid Haylift

JoelSince mid-August, Farm Aid has engaged in hay lift efforts to Oklahoma and Texas to help funnel livestock feed to low-income farmers and ranchers in those drought-plagued states.

The Oklahoma hay lift was initiated on August 12 with a direct appeal for help from Willard Tillman of the Oklahoma Black Historical Society at the National Meeting of Farm Advocates in Bonner Springs, Kansas. In response, Farm Aid immediately teamed with Family Farm Defenders of Wisconsin and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives to set up a hay pipeline as quickly as possible. Wisconsin farmers responded quickly and generously to Family Farm Defenders’ call for hay donations, while Farm Aid and the Federation undertook fundraising and Farm Aid arranged for transport of donated hay. The first shipment arrived in Oklahoma City within 12 days.

Since then, we have arranged three more hay runs to Oklahoma. All told, the effort so far has delivered close to 20 tons of hay to limited resource producers in Oklahoma, with the total dollar value of hay (all of it donated) and transport (much of it of donated) topping $50,000. Farms in Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan have all donated hay to Oklahoma, and we are proud to report that this is effort is all about farmers-helping-farmers. One farmer who received hay wrote us, "I just wanted you to know it has truly been a blessing to us and we appreciate it and the cows do too!"

Meanwhile, in Texas, Farm Aid has worked with several partners to assist ally organizations in shipping donated hay to the Lone Star state. We arranged transport for a hay run between Iowa and Texas for the Lutheran Church, whose Texas pastors appealed to Iowa pastors to ask their rural congregations for donated hay. We made a disaster grant of $2,500 to the Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association (TOFGA) to help pay for transport of certified organic hay donated from Iowa, and have put TOFGA in touch with additional organic farmers in other states willing to donate hay. We are also working with contacts in central Texas to line up hay donations from various states, including Louisiana, Virginia and elsewhere.

Watch a video of the hay arriving in Texas and being distributed to ranchers here.

Just as farmers in other parts of the country have stepped up to help Texas and Oklahoma farmers who are in trouble, we know those Oklahomans and Texans receiving hay now will return the favor when the natural disaster wheel of fortune spins again and lands elsewhere. Though the scale of drought disaster in those two states is staggering, and state and federal government cooperation and intervention are clearly needed, Farm Aid is proud to be working directly with farmers, truckers, and farm support, social service, and religious organizations that have taken it upon themselves to try to provide help as fast as possible where it is most needed. We thank everyone who has pitched in so far. If you or someone you know may be able to help us out, please contact me directly at

Monday, November 07, 2011

Glenda Learns About Organic Cotton Production

GlendaA Farm Aid T-shirt has quite a story, and I'm on a mission to find out more. I'm riding on a bus next to Darlene Vogler, organic cotton grower from Lamesa, Texas. Darlene attended Farm Aid 2011 in Kansas, and had never been anywhere where farmers are celebrated more. Concert-goers thanked her for being a farmer!

The bus pulls off the highway onto dusty red soiled roads so we can get into the fields. Puffy cotton plants, almost ready to harvest, stretch to the horizon. Irrigation rigs arch above the fields.

The farmers and staff from TX Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative (TOCMC) lead this tour, and we can easily see that the drought has taken a toll this year. This is the lowest yield in 15 years, says the USDA Cotton Classification office. The farmers are disappointed, of course, but thankful for loyal buyers of the crop.

Anvil Knitwear is the biggest buyer of US organic cotton, and TOCMC is the biggest producer of US organic cotton. I'm so impressed by the farmers, whose perseverance through drought and adversity is strengthened by their solid cooperation with each other. The 30 farmer members cultivate about 10,000 acres. Rotation crops include peanuts, beans, wheat, and blackeyed peas. The farms are organically certified by the TX Department of Agriculture. The farmers grow what is ordinarily a highly chemically produced crop without the use of synthetic fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides. Livestock compost builds up the soil and farmers save their own seeds.

Farm Aid is always pleased to participate with sponsors and supporters in telling the story of farmers who grow our food and fiber. Anvil Knitwear produces Farm Aid T-shirts from these farmers. The organic cotton seeds become high nutrient feed for dairy cows on Horizon Organic farms. And another of our supporters, Chipotle Mexican Grill, was on the tour because they are sourcing organic cotton for their uniforms.

It takes all of us to help farmers thrive, growing crops in a way that is good for the soil and for us.

I love wearing my organic/transitional cotton T-shirt from TX farmers. What a talkative shirt!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Lauren's Farm and Food Roundup

LaurenAn interactive graphic from Scientific American depicts estimations of when minerals, water, energy sources and plant and animal species will be exhausted if humanity continues on its current trajectory.

Back in August, the historic Texas drought had caused $5.3 billion in losses in the agricultural sector. We have already seen impacts in global commodities like cotton and beef. With projections that the drought could last until next summer or longer, it is becoming increasingly apparent that extreme weather patterns are a global issue.

Eddie Miller will mow your lawn. Well, his sheep will. For a fee, he’ll rent out his herd to Ohio residents for a few hours to a few days to keep grass and weeds at bay. Free food for the sheep and a zero carbon emission trim for the lawn. I’ll “baa” to that.

According to a study by the Center for Food Integrity (CFI), consumers appear to be losing faith in “Big Food.” In one piece of the study, CFI tested the difference in consumer attitudes toward two farming styles and found that, while consumers by and large thought family farmers shared their values, they believed corporate farms did not. Rock on, family farmers!

Seeking to increase opportunities for the young farmer demographic, the bipartisan Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2011 has been introduced in the House. An identical bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate in early November. According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), the bill addresses many of the barriers that prevent young people from pursuing agriculture, such as limited access to land and markets, high input costs and a lacking support system.

The U.S. Supreme Court has taken up a case concerning how the pork industry is required to handle "nonambulatory pigs" – pigs unwilling or unable to walk when they arrive at a slaughterhouse. In California, under the current law (the subject of dispute), they are required to remove such animals and humanely euthanize them out of concern that they might be sick and taint other meat during processing. Federal law, however, does not stipulate that non-ambulatory animals cannot be slaughtered and introduced to the food system. The meat associations want the California law struck down.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) reached an agreement this week to withdraw a controversial dairy labeling rule. In 2008, the State of Ohio issued an emergency regulation to prohibit labeling dairy products as produced without the use of the artificial growth hormone, recombinant bovine Growth Hormone (rbGH). Finally, Ohio dairy farmers have won the right to make sure consumers know their milk doesn't contain rbGH!