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Posts Tagged ‘local foods’

The crowd checks out information on Go Wild for Local Foods activities at the Athens Farmers Market

This past Saturday, 30 Mile Meal, WellWorks, Live Healthy Appalachia, and Athens Healthy Community Coalition folks arrived at the Athens Farmers Market with pots and pans. Ready to host their Go Wild for Local Foods event, we had two purposes: to offer a local foods cooking demonstration for Market shoppers and increase support for the Market’s vendors and Community Food Initiatives‘ Donation Station.

Info table promoting food-related programs in Athens area.

Under the Market’s Cafe tents, organizers set up food prep and cooking areas for guest chef, Pam Nalbach, from The Wilds. Local foods for her mystery basket of ingredients were collected from generous Market farmers and vendors.

Go Wild volunteers from the Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity and the OU Dietetics Club fanned out across the market to pass out yellow punch cards and to punch the tickets of shoppers who purchased from at least four Market vendors and made either a cash or food contribution to the Donation Station. These cards were then entered into a drawing for prizes, including Safari Tours at The Wilds.

Pam at work.

Plenty of fresh produce populated Pam’s food basket: leeks from Shade River Organic Farm, tomatoes from Green Edge Organic Gardens, peppers from Cowdery Farms, black Russian kale and spinach from Duff Farms, Asian greens from Dexter Run Farms, Sassafras Farm’s butternut squash, a bag of Cherry Orchards’ Melrose apples, and frozen elderberries from Herbal Sage Tea Co. Rounding out the menu possibilities were cheddar and Swiss cheeses from Ohio Farm Direct, Casa Nueva’s Shitake ginger vinaigrette, and black beans and spelt, precooked and donated by Shagbark Seed & Mill Co. What would the chef make?

Salad is almost ready for tasting...

 

 

Pam began chopping, stirring, seasoning, and simmering. Not long after, the audience was enjoying samples of a spinach, Asian greens and spelt salad, dressed with Shitake and ginger vinaigrette and a butternut squash, leek, and apple soup.

After the event, Pam was presented with a 30 Mile Meal canvas bag filled with foods from the region, including corn chips from Shagbark Seed & Mill Co., tea from Herbal Sage, Gillogly Orchard’s apple cider, rolled oats from Starline Organics, romaine lettuce from Vest Berries and Produce, Cantrell’s honey, Mex-City’s red raspberry chipotle salsa, Dale’s Creations apple pumpkin butter and chocolate clusters from O’Chocolate.

We’re delighted to report that the Donation Station received $300 more than its typical Saturday cash donations and considerably more produce as a result of this event.

Many thanks to all who made this a great showcase for our local foods community including Kip Parker and Michelle Gorman from the Athens Farmers Market, Pam Nalbach, Danielle Bray, the APO and OU Dietetics Club volunteers, Francie Astrom, Ruth Dudding, Mary Nally, Louise DiLullo, Heather Anderson, Kim Valentour, and all the farmers and food producers who donated their fabulous foods for this event!

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While 30 Mile Meal Restaurant Week officially began yesterday, we were delighted to find Avalanche Pizza‘s John Gutekanst jump starting things with his 30 Mile Meal Bread at  Saturday’s Athens Farmers Market. Our 30MM table was just a few spaces down the aisle from his and we were quite happy when he gave us a loaf (can a loaf be less than 2 inches tall?) to put out as samples along with some blackberries from Vest Berries and brownies from Casa Nueva and Shagbark Seed & Mill Co. (made with black beans).

As usual we were located next to the live music spot. This week’s musician was a grandfatherly type, playing some fine Appalachian tunes on his guitar. It wasn’t long before his granddaughter, perhaps 6 or 7, found her way to our table. Standing just a foot or so above the platter of 30 Mile Meal bread, she asked if she could try it. “Of course,” we said, though we did mention that it contained some hot peppers. She took a bite and smiled. “Is that corn, too?,” she asked. Sure was, along with bacon from King Family Farm, parsley and cornmeal from Shagbark Seed & Mill Company. Pretty sure she came back for seconds. Good work, John!

We’ll be by to try your 30 Mile Meal Pizza, made with local vegetables and cheeses, later this week.

John must have been up all night baking...

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The crowd checks out the auction offerings

Next Thursday is the opening day of the Chesterhill Produce Auction (CPA) and you are invited.  Morgan County (OH) is home to this well-known local foods destination, with auctions scheduled for Mondays and Thursdays through October.  Each event offers the opportunity to buy seasonal produce, plants, crafts, and more, in a wide variety of lot sizes, for both the home and business.

Children enjoy the fruits of local farmers

The May 12thfestivities will begin at 3pm with a community potluck and speakers, followed by the auction at 4pm. Children are invited to take part in planned nature activities. This year’s opening day celebrates the unique combination of public and private investment that has made this regional local foods hub possible.

The auction is owned by Rural Action, a membership-based organization promoting economic, social, and environmental justice in Appalachian Ohio.  After working for five years with the founders of the CPA,  in 2010 the organization brought together stakeholders throughout the region to secure the future of this community-based economic infrastructure. Financial support came from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), as well as a core group of local community investors, farmers, and supporters, and a loan from the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development in Berea, Kentucky.

Won't be long before the auction has an abundance of tomatoes

In 2010, ARC –  a regional economic development agency which represents a partnership of federal, state, and local government – announced funding of $50,000 in support of CPA, as part of its economic initiatives in Appalachian Ohio. The mission of the commission is to be a strategic partner and advocate for sustainable community and economic development in Appalachia.  According to Louis Segesvary, ARC’s Public Affairs Officer, “The member states of the Appalachian Regional Commission are funding more and more food-related job creation projects to take advantage of Appalachia’s resources.”

Rural Action’s Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator, Tom Redfern, notes, “With the increased emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables as a way to improve health, initiatives that support the local farm production necessary to capture those markets allow us to win at both the economic and health level.”

For more information on the Chesterhill Produce Auction, contact Tom Redfern by calling 740.767.4938, or by emailing tomr@ruralaction.org. Information on the Chesterhill Produce Auction is available here.

The Produce Auction takes place at 8380 Wagoner Road in Chesterhill, Ohio.

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Eco Cafe time

Despite yesterday’s sunshine and outdoor pull of spring, the Front Room at Ohio University’s Baker Center was abuzz with students, faculty and members of the larger community. Over 70 people attended the Eco Café, an on-going series of presentations on social, economic, and environmental issues impacting southeast Ohio, sponsored by Rural Action and OU’s Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Studies.

Ann welcomes everyone

Ann Brown, a volunteer with Rural Action and the series’ organizer, welcomed the crowd and introduced the panel.

David Holben, professor and Associate Director, Nutrition at the School of Applied Health Sciences and Wellness, began the conversation, framing the topic for the next hour and a half.

David Holben

He noted that while the term ‘food security’ is often confused with food safety issues such as post 9/11 fears that our drinking water could be attacked with a substance like arsenic, it is really about universal access to food that is healthful, nutritious, safe, and culturally acceptable. David observed that the panel represented the depth and breadth of the region’s local foods advocates.

Tom

Up next was Rural Action’s Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator, Tom Redfern. Tom explained that RASA supports established farmers markets in the region, and works with communities wanting to establish their own marketplaces. Since 2003, Rural Action has also been leading the way in bringing local foods into institutional systems, including Ohio University. Passing out the ever-present-in-his-briefcase, beautifully designed, Chesterhill Produce Auction brochures, he described how this market aggregation of Amish and other farmers in the area around Chesterhill increases earnings for growers and adds vitality to our regional food economy.

What about access to healthy, fresh foods for those who may not know how to grow or preserve them or are unable to afford them? Ronda Clark, executive director of Community Food Initiatives, told the crowd how her organization serves low and moderate income populations in the city of Athens and in some of the highest poverty areas of Appalachian Ohio – rural Athens and Morgan counties. CFI assists people in growing, cooking and preserving their own food through their Appalachian Foodways workshop series. The organization has also created and supported several community gardens, including the expansive and beautiful Westside Gardens in Athens.

Ronda's homegrown and heirloom seeds

One of CFI’s most far-reaching efforts is the Donation Station, located at the Athens Farmers Market each Saturday from 10 am to 1pm. Staff collect produce donations from both farmers and the public. Collected cash is used to purchase additional fresh foods from the market’s vendors. Hundreds of pounds of local food are distributed across the region each week to food pantries and other feeding sites. Ronda ended her presentation by pointing to several Ball jars filled with colorful seeds on the table before her. Harvested from her own garden, she offered to share them with anyone interested in trying some heirloom beans and squash.

I had the opportunity to speak next about the 30 Mile Meal Project and to encourage the audience to take even small steps to increase their use of local foods and to support businesses that source their menus locally. Here’s a video I made for the occasion.

Leslie

Described by Tom Redfern as the region’s most long-term and knowledgeable local foods activist, Leslie Schaller, Director of Programming at the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet), concluded the program. Much of ACEnet’s work has centered on building, aggregating and supporting a local food-based economy. Its kitchen incubator has launched hundreds of local food businesses. Able to trace the region’s embrace of local foods back three decades or more, she noted the incremental development of the resources and networking that make this economy so robust. She described the typical farm ‘commodity to mouth’ supply chain – one with no possibility for interaction between the distant producer and the consumer and how different it is when the chain is locally-based. She also shared a visual presentation of the many people and places that make our food, real local, and real good!

Following the talk, there was plenty of time for questions and to pack up a few of Ronda’s seeds to plant.

Going for the seeds

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Last week’s spring-like temperatures had me imagining all the garden bounty that will be ripening in the coming months. But with this week’s return of drab and chilly weather, I remembered how lucky we are to have access to fresh foods any time of year, thanks to the year-round Athens Farmers Market.

Inside crowd

Every Saturday (between 10 am and 1 pm) I grab my 30 Mile Meal canvas shopping bag and head off to the Market on State Mall on East State Street. During the winter months the market’s vendors can be found both inside and outside the mall building. Usually 20-25 vendors offer their goods in the mall lobby.

My first stop last week was to say ‘hi’ to Becky Rondy from Green Edge Gardens (wow, nice Belize-induced tan). I filled my bag with their micro greens (green and purple radish), mixed leaf lettuces, spinach and shiitake mushrooms.

The pawpaw guy

Next I headed over to see Chris Chmiel from Integration Acres where I purchased some of their goat milk cheeses – chevre (the BEST I’ve ever had) and their luscious, creamy blue cheese rolled in ash. The week before I couldn’t resist some delicious cookies (the baking assisted by Chris and Michelle’s kids) with pawpaw and spiceberry jam sandwiched between two melt in your mouth whole wheat and rolled oats cookies.

King Family Farm sign

Across the lobby, I visited with JB and Charlene from King Family Farm. Before my move to Athens County, I didn’t eat much meat or fowl, but once I learned about the way the Kings raise and feed their animals, I gave their chicken a try. It is so tender and tasty. This week I bought some of their Italian chicken sausage.

Just down a few tables I purchased some pretty carrots (some orange, others purple) from Star Hamilton’s Shade River Organic Farm. She also has fantastic cilantro that keeps for at least two weeks in my frig.

Crumbs' Jeremy Bowman

My last indoor stop was Crumbs Bakery. This worker-owned business makes everything from tofu pasta to cookies. The line around their table is often 4-5 people deep, but worth the wait. I usually buy a few pastries and especially like their apricot and cherry rolls. I also recommend Crumbs crackers. Many are made with local grains, including spelt.

 

Outside crowd

Then it was back outside. On this Saturday a dozen vendors braved the cold.

Hola, Michelle

I was delighted to see that Michelle from Casa Nueva was back after a few weeks off and gladly bought a half pint of guacamole and some of their zippy bbq sauce.

Pizza Goon extraordinaire, John Gutekanst

Knowing I’d be hungry by the time I headed home, I stopped at Avalanche Pizza‘s spot and got one of their eight inch pies – mine made with plenty of mushrooms and cheese.

Matt Starline makes some change

Which got me thinking about Sunday breakfast and replenishing my dwindling supply of Starline Organics fabulous crunchy Maple Spelt Cereal – a million times better than Grape Nuts!

Another hearty farmer

Nearly done, I couldn’t resist getting some fresh green onions for the soup I planned to make with the Italian sausage, spinach, carrots and cilantro.

Cold and crisp apples

 

Oh, and a few apples from Cherry Orchards, because their apples are so good anytime of the day (or year).

One for the road home

 

 

My final stop, Brew du Soleil, for a Cappuccino.

Many thanks to all the farmers that make mine and others’ 30 Mile Meals possible!

 

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inside the new oven

Over the last year Christine Hughes and Bob O’Neil have been making substantial changes to their side by side restaurants on E. State Street in Athens. Solar panels now grace the roof of the Village Bakery & Cafe and work was just completed on a new brick oven and remodeling of the dining room and kitchen for Della Zona.

 

Christine keeps watch, ready with the next pizza for the oven

Last week Christine and Bob invited staff, several of their suppliers, and a few friends to sample their pizzas as they fired up the new oven and tested some recipes.

 

Della Zona (Italian for from the region) lives up to its name, with a menu fashioned from ingredients produced nearby. Their pizza crusts are made with organic flours, including an Etruscan one made with 100% spelt flour which has fantastic flavor and is a great alternative to wheat. DZ’s marinara sauce marries locally farmed organic Roma tomatoes with onions, garlic and basil. Toppings include fresh mozzarella and ricotta made with milk from Snowville Creamery, naturally and humanely raised meats, and organic vegetables and fresh herbs, as Christine notes, “without bar codes.”

 

Last week’s crowd devoured dozens of pizzas that will soon be on the menu. Whether a vegetarian, vegan or meat-lover, the choices abound. Guests enjoyed pies loaded with greens and other veggies, mushrooms, cheeses, as well as sausage, ham and other meats. My favorite was topped with King Family Farm chicken sausage, onions, and a tangy barbecue sauce.  All had the subtle, but lovely flavor of the wood-fired oven.

pizza perfection

Della Zona also offers house made pasta, so tender it melts in your mouth. Eggs from locally pastured chickens are kneaded into freshly ground organic durum and Kamut wheat, stone milled in house. The dough is then rolled, cut and cooked to perfection as part of their daily and seasonally changing menu. Be sure to check out their great wine and beer selections, too.

Della Zona re-opens this Thursday (February 17th). The restaurant will be open Thursdays through Saturdays from 5 to 9 PM.

 

All three of Hughes and O’Neils’ eateries (the third is the Catalyst Café) hold our highest 30 Mile Meal partner ‘something to crow about’ designation. This uber 30MM status is reserved for those eateries that when given the choice between local and at a distance ingredients, buy local first.

 


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The ARTS/West building, formerly a church, seemed an appropriate venue for Monday night’s talk by Warren Taylor, Meigs County dairy evangelist and co-owner of Snowville Creamery. The pews were packed with the faithful, both young and old (later referred to by Warren as the AARP contingent or Athens Area Radical Progressives).

colorful posters

Just inside the doors on the right were cookies and, yes, samples of Snowville’s ‘the way it used be’ milk. On the left was a donation jar for the Art Gish Peacemaking Fund (more about that below). Anyone donating could take posters, Snowville T-shirts, and other paraphernalia.

Will Perkins

The evening began with some rousing folk songs and fiddling by Will Perkins, with The Answer My Friend is Blowing in the Wind setting the stage for the evening’s topic, Food Sovereignty vs. Corporatism: The Battle for Personal Choice and Freedom in the New Millennium.

Angie Starline

Angie Starline, co-owner of Starline Organics welcomed everyone on behalf of the evening’s sponsor, the Ohio Ecological Farm & Food Association, and then introduced Warren and Victoria Taylor. Warren asked Peggy Gish to say a few words.

Peggy Gish

Peggy’s husband, Art, was known locally and internationally for his work as an activist. He died this summer in a tractor accident at his Athens County farm. He devoted much of his life to peace and social justice issues, as has Peggy. She told the crowd that the Art Gish Peacemaking Fund will provide small grants to youth or adults who want to develop new peacemaking projects or who want to take the first steps in getting involved in work to foster peace and justice. She noted that they are focusing on groups and individuals in Athens County, Ohio, with limited access to other sources of funding. Donations will support this work.

Warren

Warren began his talk (or walk since he never once stood behind the podium, preferring to pace the stage as he spoke) by describing his recent trip as one of ten delegates from Ohio participating in the 4th gathering of Terra Madre (Mother Earth) in Turin, Italy. The five-day meeting brought together food communities, cooks, academics, youth and musicians from all over the world, who share a desire to promote sustainable local food production in harmony with the environment while respecting knowledge handed down over the generations. Here are some clips from the conference.

Citing a NY Times article on USDA support for Domino's Pizza chain

Warren described the sorry state of the dairy industry and government regulations that favor large producers. He led the crowd through the labyrinth of the Federal Milk Market Order System (FMMOS) and its actions that penalize the smallest dairy processors. Did you know that one half of the milk produced in the U.S. comes from 3% of the country’s dairy (mega) farms? That dairy farmers have no control over what they are paid for their milk? Last year America’s milk makers were paid as little as $12 per 100 pounds of milk while their cost of production was $17 a pound. This meant they had to borrow and take on new debt, with their collective debt greater than the worth of all the dairy cows in the U.S. At the same time, Dean Foods, which processes, packages and sells nearly 40% of America’s drinking milk, made their greatest profits ever. Warren asked is this capitalism or corporatism?

Answering questions

And what about the issues that aren’t even on the table yet? Like requiring that dairy workers at least receive the minimum wage or the need for “honest and informative” labeling?

How fortunate we are here in southeast Ohio to have the Taylors’ Snowville Creamery. Milk you can feel good about – good for the cows, the land, the workers, and the taste buds!

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