Tag Archives: farmer

Three tips for visiting the farmers market this weekend (and a story)

It’s the weekend and I hope you’re heading to a farmers market. The best ones are always on the weekends. Lots of farmers and variety, as well as crowds, but if you arrive early you can avoid them and get the best selection. Here are a few tips for shopping at the farmers market this weekend.

Hold your cash in one hand and the food in the other. I use this trick all the time. As a regular at the market I know exactly what I want and I usually know the farmer. But that doesn’t give me any special privileges. I have to wait in line with everybody else and sometimes that can take forever. A new person asking lots of questions or ten people in line. But if you walk up to the front and show your cash and food – you can skip the line. I know it’s cutting in line and a cheat, but with exact change you can complete the transaction in second. And with the growing crowds of people at the market it can be needed to get in and out quickly.

Save everything you get from the market, from little ties and rubber bands, to fruit and egg boxes. You can return all of them for a smile and nod of appreciation. Look closely at every market and you will see this happening. Someone returning a collection of thirty rubber bands or another with 5 empty egg cartons. It’s the sustainable side to the market. And the farmers love it because it saves them a few dollars on supplies.

Look for the special item at every table. I’ve learned a secret about farmers that I can share with you. Each one has several products that are their specialty. They grow lots of them and have great variety – their staple crops. But they also like to experiment, grow something new, or cook something different. Usually just a small amount to see if it sells or for their own family. Which means they quickly sell out, but if you can find one, take a look. It’s usually exotic or rare and you probably won’t know what to do with it, but it’s always a treat.

Finally, a quick story about one of my experiences. A few years back, I found a farmer with a single walnut tree in his yard. His father had planted it 40 years ago so his family could have walnuts, but now it was so big they couldn’t eat all the fallen walnuts. So he began selling a few of them at the market for dirt cheap prices, but he always placed them in the corner and sometimes didn’t even put them out. I learned all this as I began buying from him, and they were delicious. The best walnuts I ever had.

Soon my girlfriend was eating them and I was buying double. Some weeks I would walk up with a huge bag and buy every single walnut he had. At this point he realized walnuts could sell and gave them more table space with a big sign. To my chagrin, they did sell and I was now fighting other market shoppers for walnuts. Some weeks I would get some and others not. The price went up a little, but every time he saw me I would get a discount and a smile.

 

Do you have a tip or story, please share in the comments? 

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Sharing my joy of visiting the farmers market

Through the crowds and into the market a world awaits me. Exotic fruits, luscious vegetables, and peculiar personalities. An uncharted world for one raised on the supermarkets of America. I learn simple things like knowing to smell a melon or mush a peach (but only on top). It is a food education and the market is the classroom.

I forget the real world and act like a kid. I squeeze and smell, question and query, fondle and forage. Nobody yells or gets angry, it’s what you’re supposed to do. The farmer smiles like a proud father just waiting to tell a story. All I have to do is ask the right question, or in most cases the dumb one. How do I eat this?

The answers are always unique and deep. How to pick, prepare, cook, cut, eat, and enjoy.

Every week is a surprise for what I will find. This time it was jalapeño peppers. I thought I knew about them, until I found the pepper farmer. He offers a colloquial description of each variety and I go with the ones that are semi-hot but not really.  At home I cautiously sample one and his description was precise.

This is my food life. A weekly adventure where I dive into the world of food. I become a curious kid encouraged to learn and ask questions. My teachers are the farmers and their friends and family who have devoted their lives to growing food. When I buy their wares I’m supporting that devotion. Something I never felt at the supermarket. This way of life fills my belly and my heart. I am a part of a community. I am connected to the land, to my neighbors, and eating like a king.

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Helping China, the world’s largest smoking country, move away from tobacco farming

Curbing tobacco use by growing less

In China, 350 million people smoke. Each year, 1 million die from smoking. Many more become disabled. Approximately 20 million Chinese farmers produce the world’s largest share of tobacco, nearly 40 percent of the global supply.

A compelling story of how one scientist created a for-profit organization for the farmers. It teaches them the skills to grow other crops, like fruits and vegetables, which allow them to increase their revenue while decreasing the supply of tobacco, something China is committed to doing.

 

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The Beekeeper – “first time in my life when I’ve felt absolutely on the right path”

Local farmer Megan Paska has witnessed beekeeping as it morphed from an illegal (and possibly crazy) habit to a sustainable, community-supported skill. Mirroring beekeeping’s own ascendance, she found more than just a living: “This is the first time in my life when I’ve just felt absolutely on the right path.”

thisismadebyhand.com
brooklynhomesteader.com
growingchefs.org
rooftopfarms.org
sonoio.org/
crewcuts.com

Artificial insemination and too-fat-to-fly – the real Thanksgiving turkey

Something scary is happening in the turkey world. Our scientists and farmers have created a Frankenstein-like beast called the broad breasted white. This creature is created in a lab, through artificial insemination, and then grows fat so fast that it often cannot walk. It usually needs antibiotics to survive to be butchered.

Needless to say, it cannot fly. It can also barely walk, but it does create the biggest turkey breast you could ever imagine.

If that wasn’t enough these creatures are shoved into tight pens with thousands of other birds. All of them too fat to walk around, struggling to survive, and sometimes even injected with butter and salt.

“These birds are grown in large grow-out barns that are fully automated and may house as many as 10,000 birds.” (Wikipedia)

Why is this happening?

Profit, pure and simple. Americans want $5 turkeys and don’t care how they get it. When there is a will there is a way, and this way has been found.

The only thing I can think to say…is it worth it?

Photo credit: INSADCO Photography/Alamy

Go local: an explanation of foodsheds

With all this talk about eating local and counting miles I thought it would be good to explain what it really means. The foundation for local eating starts with a foodshed.

Foodshed: a region or area from which a population draws its food.

The typical limit on these regions is 100 miles. Draw a 100-mile circle around where you live and that is your foodshed.

In economic terms this is ideal distance a farmer, or her goods, can travel to reach a market. That way it arrives on your plate as fresh, ripe, and nutritious as it can be.

Go outside of this limit and there is an increasing reliance on fossil fuels and a decreasing quality of the food.

For those concerned about pollution, global warming, or oil-addiction these “food miles” are a cause for concern. Farmers face similar concerns, albeit from the other side, with a rising cost of gas and oil-based fertilizers that narrow their profits.

Still for others the “go local” movement represents a desire to get the very best food they can find, and that is the fundamental reason for foodsheds.

I’ve tried to document what happens to our health with the advent of low quality foodour acceptance of it, and the difference in nutritional content.

These rings of farmland surrounding our communities represent the ideal of sustainable living. Where the countryside is not poverty-stricken, but instead a vibrant economic sector known as much for its wineries and ‘farm-days’ as it is for fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts.

Even more these areas are often recession proof as evidenced by their continual rapid growth during the past half-decade.

It is for all these reasons that the locavore movement is popular and gaining momentum, there is something in it for everyone. Even the beefiest of meat eaters.

For further reference I’ve pulled together several maps of America’s foodsheds. Take a look.

san francisco california foodshed map 100 mile local locavore
Click for a larger image.

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I Too Was Raised On Processed Foods…

The following is a response to an email asking me about food, health, and nutrition.  The initial email is included at bottom and the person’s name has been excised.

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Hey #### – thanks for reaching out to me.

I too was raised on processed foods and so a lot of this was new to me as well. The best piece of advice I can give you is to give it some time. I have helped a lot of people make the change and they are always shocked and surprised by where this path takes them.

For instance, the food sold in supermarkets is the worst kind you can buy. The only thing worse than them is something like hot dogs from 7-Eleven, but in terms of nutritional value they’re not much worse. This includes the produce as well.

There are a whole lot of reasons why this is true like they have a monopoly on the food supply and a need to make profits, so quality is forgotten in favor of quantity. Thankfully the folks behind our food system are rallying together. There is a resurgence in quality seeds, quality farming, and improving distribution systems to get us this food.

The difference between a quality food product and a supermarket one is dramatic. This study which delves deeply into the details found a 1:3 difference. Meaning that a high-quality seed can be 3x more nutritional than a low-quality seed.

Personally, I find it greater than that. The food that I buy is so high quality that I eat very little and have so much more energy. I would say it’s more like a 1:6 or something. I often joke that I buy so little food nowadays that I often splurge on things just because.

This quality food has yet to break into the supermarkets, not even Whole Foods is carrying it yet. We are still stuck in the race to offer the cheapest food we can, though some stores are focusing on improving quality. Which means the only “safe” place to find quality is at farmers markets or food co-operatives.

I can say that I shop twice a week at a farmers market and never shop at supermarkets (tho I do occasionally buy beans/rice from the open bulk bins at Whole Foods). It does take some time to learn a whole new set of routines but that is the ideal if you want to really improve your health, here is why.

The food industry spends a lot of money trying to include nutritional information about food. The trouble is that no two apples are alike. One picked when ripe will be much different than one picked weeks after that. To account for this they just make it up (i.e. educated guesses). More and more studies are coming out showing just how wrong these nutrition labels are. Here is one that shows how vitamins are more marketing than science.

The truth about nutrition is different than what most people think. Every food item has a ton of vitamins/minerals/carbs/fat/etc. For example, Broccoli contains varying amounts of the following:

Protein, Vitamin E, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Selenium, Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Folate, Potassium and Manganese.

The question is how much of each does it have. Well, for plant based foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts) that depends on the starting seed (high, low quality stock) how it is grown (to produce maximum nutrition or to be picked quickly) and when/how it is harvested (at peak times or a few days/weeks early).

With all this variability in farming a single item of broccoli could either contain all you need or nothing at all. This holds true for every single food item out there.

So back to the beginning. Supermarkets sell the lowest quality food they can find (to offer the lowest prices). Farmers markets offer the highest quality they can find (often at higher prices).

The question then for most people is what happens if they switch from low quality to high quality food? Will they spend more or eat less? Are supermarkets just too convenient or is my health worth the trip to a farmers markets?

Steve

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Hi Steve,
You commented on a post here back in April

The 10 Cheapest, Healthiest Foods Money Can Buy

I’m new to healthy eating and haven’t really got a clue what I’m doing, I’ve been pretty much raised on processed foods but have recently decided to learn to cook and educate myself about nutrition. Though I’m in the early stages of transforming my diet and way of life I’ve noticed that a lot of foods that are purportedly healthy, turn out to be not so great. I want to gather as much info on nutrition as possible in order to make the right dietary choices so any info you could send my way would be greatly, greatly appreciated. You also mentioned studies into supermarket food quality which I would be very interested in reading. Thanks for your time Steve, hope you can help.

Kindest regards,
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[photo: denn]