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Pepper your summer: Our new issue is out!

Our July-August 2013 issue is now out!edibleTwinCitiesJuly-Aug2013.indd

The latest issue focuses on “Urban Ag: Gardening and Growing,” and features several articles related to this topic. You’ll read about Stone’s Throw Urban Farm; the trend of keeping bees and raising chickens by some city dwellers; the creative ways people are growing veggies in small spaces; and the abundance of resources available in our area for those who want to do more of their own gardening and growing.

Plus, you’ll also find some tasty ideas to “pepper your summer” with our cover feature on peppers. For more pepper recipes, click on Recipes/Recipes 2013. Finally, Edible Traditions columnist Beth Dooley goes camping–and cooking.

Happy Summer!… Read the rest

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Big growth news at Wedge

The Wedge Coop announced to members in a mailing over the weekend plans for three growth initiatives,  one of which is the potential for a second Wedge store. This news comes not long after recent announcements by Seward and Lakewinds Coops that they too are planning additional locations.

The Wedge calls its plan “Food, Floor, Store.” The “Food” piece relates to plans for an off-site, commissary kitchen, which will help “meet customer demand for prepared foods and open up more retail space at the store,” according to the coop’s mailer.

The “Floor” phase calls for a major remodeling of the existing Lyndale Avenue store.

Finally, the “Store” initiative would add a second Wedge location. As the mailer states, “For many years, members have requested another Wedge store in their neighborhood.  We have members driving from far and wide. A second store will serve these members while helping to alleviate some of the congestion at our current store.” For now, The Wedge says it is looking at compatible locations.

All three phases of the expansion are expected to be completed in  the next two to three years, the mailer states.

For more details, visit The Wedge’s website: http://www.wedge.coop/pdf/wedge-big-news.pdf

 … Read the rest

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Life in suburb becomes life on the farm

Rebecca Pelfrey convinced her husband to buy land and become independent farmers. (Laurie Schneider Photography)

Rebecca Pelfrey convinced her husband to buy land and become independent farmers. (Laurie Schneider Photography)

(The following story is from Savvy, a Twin Cities women’s magazine that is a sister publication to Edible Twin Cities.)

By Amy Rea

Many people enjoy cooking, like animals, love the outdoors, and care about where their food comes from. But not many people gather up those passions and manage to convince a non-farming spouse that it might be nice to move from a suburb to a farm and strike out on their own.

Rebecca Pelfrey is one of those rare people. Back in 2000, she found a 50-acre site outside of Stillwater that she thought would be a perfect place to revisit her childhood love of animals, especially horses. But it was also perfect in that instead of being a run-down old farmstead, the land had been nicely cultivated into something akin to a pristine country estate — a much easier sell to her non-farming husband. “We started with a couple of chickens and a couple of horses,” Pelfrey says. “Then we added a lamb, added a pig, and pretty soon I’d become an advanced hobby farmer.” The “advanced hobby farm” now comprises a 30-ewe breeding flock and 20 Berkshire hogs, along with the chickens and some cows.

But it was closer to what she truly wanted to do. She wasn’t raised on a farm, but grew up in Nebraska, living close to a river and vast undeveloped land. Days were spent exploring on horseback, and early ambitions focused on a cabin in the mountains with a horse, cow and chickens, living the self-sufficient life off the land. By the time she went to college and met her husband, other interests led her to a career in graphic design and art direction, although she also spent some time working as a horse trainer.

It was the fateful trip to the farm for sale that brought back the idea of raising and training horses. Her husband was amenable to that idea and willing to commute to his work in Golden Valley. “But he didn’t know he was marrying a farmer,” Pelfrey says, laughing. “Here we had this beautiful land, and it seemed wasteful not to use it.”

Her husband is still mostly hands-off. “I’m the farmer and the farmer’s wife,” she says. “If only I could have a wife!”

Putting that beautiful land to work also allowed Pelfrey to pursue another passion: cooking and good food. “I like to eat something somewhere and then try to reproduce it,” she says. The farm gave her a unique angle to pursue; when she discovered that Berkshire pork tasted far better to her than standard grocery-store pork, she brought a couple of pigs to the farm and began raising them. Why is Berkshire better, in her opinion? “It’s a heritage breed that grows slower than commercial breeds,” she says. “Plus it’s darker meat, naturally marbled, with a very unique flavor.” It’s so unique and delicious that her children will no longer allow her to serve anything else.

As it turns out, pigs can be for more than just eating. Pelfrey’s pigs are not just free-range, but allowed to root, because their predilection for rooting means they act as porcine rototillers, turning over the ground that becomes the annual vegetable garden. “Some farms prevent the pigs from rooting,” Pelfrey says. “But it’s their nature. They have to be monitored so they don’t dig too deep, but they enjoy it.” Bonus — the fields are tilled without machinery.

Pelfrey’s farm is organic, and her animals are fed with organic feed, in addition to being humanely raised. She likes knowing where her food comes from and how it’s raised, and she envisions a future in which many others learn via her farm. Her goal is “50 Families on 50 Acres”— in other words, she wants her farm to feed 50 families. Right now she feeds about 30 families and plans to increase the vegetable production to raise those numbers.

Feeding is only part of the goal, though. Pelfrey wants to help people learn about the intricacies of farming and food. Currently she hosts two annual events for her customers, a Cinco de Mayo festival and a fall Pork Fest/Oktoberfest. For both occasions, she provides meat from her farm which she cooks herself. Near future plans include adding an outdoor pizza farm. One of her customers is a builder who works with her on a barter system, and he took a course at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais on building outdoor ovens. Pelfrey envisions such an oven at her farm, not only to provide events (with pizzas made with sausage and cheese made on the farm as well as vegetables grown there) but also to develop workshops where she could teach people how to cook and bake in an outdoor oven.

She’d also like to teach people about the “nose to tail” approach to buying half or whole animals for consumption. “So many people are used to buying meat at the grocery store,” she says. “They like pork tenderloin. Then they buy half a hog and say, ‘Where’s the tenderloin?’” As it turns out, the tenderloin is the meat that’s normally attached to the bone in a pork chop—which is how Pelfrey’s customers receive it. Adding workshops to teach people about the different cuts they’re getting, and what to do with them, would reduce the hesitance some new customers experience, she says.

Cooking in general would be another focus for Pelfrey. “I want to do farmer-chef events, teach people to cook real food,” she says. These could be anything from making lard to making cheese to the myriad ways cooks can use the tender pork shoulder cut.

Pelfrey invites the local elementary school for a field trip each year, relishing the opportunity to teach kids at a young age about where their food comes from and life on a farm. It’s not an easy life, but it can be so rewarding. “The thing you love and hate is that you’re out there every day,” she says. “That physical work, being outdoors—it can be wonderful, and other times, not.”

But the end results make it worth it, and make Pelfrey happy to be herding her lambs, no matter the weather.… Read the rest

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Festival of Farms tour is July 13

The Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota (SFA) is holding its annual Festival of Farms on Saturday, July 13, and Twin Cities-area residents are within easy driving distance of the Crow River Chapter’s events.

The SFA chapter will hold tours of four farms in the Montrose and Watertown areas of the western metro, with an end-of-the-day social gathering at a fifth farm. The entire event is free to the public, with donations to SFA’s Crow River Chapter accepted at each location.

You can see a diverse array of sustainable farming techniques, including techniques for raising vegetables, sheep, turkeys, chickens, cattle and more. There are three tour times at three of the farms, so you can pick and choose which ones you want to visit at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. True Cost Farm in Montrose (below) will only tour at 11 a.m., so if you want to see them, go there first. Participating farms include:

True Cost Farm, located at 4432 County Road 12 S., Montrose, MN 55363, will do one tour only, at 11 a.m. Owners Jack and Betsy McCann raise a variety of rare livestock breeds, selected for their deep flavors and excellent health. Grown in natural living conditions, the animals are treated with care and respect, and are regularly rotated to fresh fields of pasture, ensuring their access to the most nutritious organic feed possible. Pork, beef, chicken and eggs are available monthly through their delivered seasonal packages.

The second farm near Montrose, JPR Acres, located at 10389 Baker Avenue S.W., is a family owned and operated farm built around producing food that is nutrient-rich and tastes great. Emphasizing an environment-friendly approach, the Skelton family uses a rotational grazing system to improve soil life and animal health. All of the farm’s livestock and poultry – turkey, duck, chicken, lamb – are traditional heritage breeds chosen for their ability to thrive on pasture as well for their reputation for outstanding flavor.

Sweet Beet Farm, located at 11549 Highway 25 S.W. in Watertown, MN 55388, is a fourth-generation family farm founded in 1883. Young farmers Nick and Amelia Neaton and their family are in their fifth year supplying quality, 100-percent naturally grown produce, eggs and lamb to the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Also near Watertown, at 10330 Highway 25 S.W., Prairie Sun Farm owners Julie and Dan Geiger have been transitioning their 40-acre farm from conventional corn and soybeans into a diversified, productive landscape. In 2010 they received organic certification and started a 25-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operation. They believe that this constantly evolving farm continues to teach them how to live with nature and grow great vegetables.

At the end of the tours, all Festival of Farms attendees are invited to a “post-festival social” at Nature’s Nest Farm Bed & Breakfast, 5412 Brighton Avenue S.E., Montrose, MN 55363. Festivities begin at 4 p.m., and will feature light refreshments using products from the participating farms. Feel free to bring a dish or beverages to share.

For further information about the events, go to http://www.sfa-mn.org/festival-of-farms/Read the rest

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Seward Coop plans second location

The Seward Coop is planning to open a second location, the Star Tribune reported over the weekend.

The site of the second store is at East 38th Street and Clinton Avenue South in Minneapolis, one block east of I-35W.

As the Star Tribune noted, the site is in the center of what the U.S. Department of Agriculture has identified as a food desert, an urban neighborhood where a significant percentage of residents live without ready access to fresh, healthy and affordable food.

The second Seward Coop could be open in 18 to 24 months.

Seward’s news follows the December 2012 announcement that Lakewinds Natural Foods, which operates stores in Minnetonka and Chanhassen, has plans to open a third location—in late 2013 or early 2014—in Richfield on the site of the former Lyndale Gardens on Nicollet and 64th Street.

You can read the Star Tribune article here:

http://www.startribune.com/business/212580461.htmlCB_Exterior_MoreSkyRead the rest

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A surprise defeat for a new Farm Bill

“Surprise” and “dysfunctional” were among the terms used to describe Thursday’s defeat of a Farm Bill by the U.S. House.

The new legislation was defeated on a 234 to 195 vote, the result of Republican conservatives arguing it would cost too much, while defecting Democrats crying that it would not spend enough on priorities.

A Politico article called the outcome a surprise because the Farm Bill, for many years, has been a beacon of bipartisanship in an increasingly rough-and-tumble House, but Thursday’s defeat showed just how dysfunctional and chamber and its leadership have become.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post called it a rebuke to House GOP leaders, who have struggled to get their caucus to pass major legislation.

The New York Times said the nearly $75-billion food stamp program was the focus of most of the Farm Bill debate. Democrats said the cuts to the program were too steep, but some Republicans said the cuts and other changes to the program were about fraud, not cutting food assistance for the needy.

It’s hard to say what the future of the bill is. Congress could elect to make an extension of old legislation, as it did last year, or try to win more votes by tinkering with the details.… Read the rest

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Asparagus: easy to love

Are you enjoying the 2013 crop of asparagus?

Are you enjoying the 2013 crop of asparagus?

(Editor’s Note: We occasionally feature stories from our magazine, a kind of “best of Edible Twin Cities.” This article by Beth Dooley appeared in the May-June 2013 issue. Asparagus recipes are on this website under Recipes 2013.)

By Beth Dooley

In my grandmother’s starched Victorian home we ate asparagus with our fingers off a crisp linen napkin set on a formal white platter that now belongs to me.

“Pick them up mid-stem,” she’d demonstrate, “and do not dangle the tips over your mouth like a fish.”  Just cut from her garden with giant clippers, the stalks blanched for mere seconds in a roiling pot, were vibrant green. They tasted of clipped grass and the tin bucket we carried them in, of morning fog and weak sun, they tasted like spring.

The stems we neglected to harvest would branch out into asparagus ferns that, many years later, I recognized at the plant shop where I purchased pots for my first apartment. When we moved to Minneapolis, and I had my own backyard, I planted asparagus, but by harvest time, we’d moved on to a different house on the other side of town. It takes at least three years for the crop to establish itself.

The season’s first vegetable crop, asparagus, like spring, is easy to love. Every year, I’m surprised by those persistent sun-seeking heads that poke up through winter’s waste , the damp leaves and muck. No wonder asparagus was considered an aphrodisiac, full of hope and mystery. It’s also rich in potassium to fight fatigue. Suspicious wives knew if their husbands had been cheating when dining with other women in the spring, by the smell of their pee that reflects its high sulfuric acid and phosphorous content.

My grandmother grew thick, plump asparagus that rivaled the notion that skinny stalks are best. To this day, I find the fatter stalks more meaty and succulent, well suited to pan-frying, oven-roasting, and grilling. And though most cookbooks encourage undercooking, I prefer my asparagus to be more tender than crisp. A little extra time calls forth the rich flavor and silky texture of the stalks.

Right now, our farmers’ markets are venues of verdant asparagus and I’ve been hauling them home in abundant bundles. I always buy more than we can ever eat fresh, so I freeze some for later, pickling the rest for gifts.

The best way to handle asparagus is to trim a quarter of an inch off the bottom of the stalk, set them upright in a bowl of water, and store them, uncovered, in the refrigerator. Very fresh asparagus will keep several days, sometimes up to a week, this way. Just before cooking, remove the woody ends by gently bending a few spears to find the natural breaking point where the tenderness ends and the toughness starts. Then trim the remaining stalks at the same point. One pound of asparagus serves two to four people, and yields about two to three cups of diced stalks. No doubt the best asparagus are those straight from your garden or the farmers market. Like these fleeting days of spring, they’re not here long.… Read the rest

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New bar, farm-to-table restaurant to open

From the folks who brought you the much-loved French Meadow Bakery & Cafe comes a new place: Bluestem Bar + Table, set to open this Monday, June 17 on Lyndale, adjacent to the French Meadow.

Owners say Bluestem Bar, which is named for a deep-rooted, native Minnesota prairie grass, “is an intimate gathering spot for drinks and small plates.” It fills the vacant bakery space just south of the French Meadow.

“Bluestem and French Meadow share a building, but these are two very different venues,” says French Meadow co-owner and founder Lynn Gordon. “Bluestem’s space and menu are decidedly more upscale and more experiential.”

Both Bluestem and French Meadow are located on Lyndale Avenue South, just south of 26th Street in Minneapolis.

For more information, visit http://bluestembarandtable.com.Read the rest

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Seed Savers’ annual event is July 19-21

Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, will hold its 33rd annual Conference and Campout July 19-21 to share information from international leaders in the seed movement.

The event, at Seed Savers’ Heritage Farm, will include as speakers Dr. Gary Nabhan, founder of Native Seeds/SEARCH, who will talk about adapting food production to climate change; Rome-based Dr. Jeremy Cherfas, who will speak on the changing regulations governing seed production in the European Union; Dr. Jack Kloppenburg of the University of Wisconsin, who will introduce the Open Source Seed Initiative, an alternative patent protection system for breeders; Sara McCamant from Seed Matters, who will talk about “Seed as a Tool for Community Organizing; and “Edible Landscaping” author Rosalind Creasy, who will present “Confusion in the Edible Garden: What Most Gardeners Want to Know.”

Tours of the 890-acre Heritage Farm, the Seed Savers lab facilities and preservation gardens are part of the event.

For more information or to register, go to www.seedsavers.org.

Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization that works to conserve and promote America’s food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.  At Heritage Farm it maintains thousands of heirloom garden varieties, most having been brought to North American by members’ ancestors who emigrated from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and other parts of the world.… Read the rest

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$12M given to College of Food and Ag

Millicent Atkins

Millicent Atkins

The University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Science (CFANS) will receive more than $12 million from the estate of a successful farmer and businesswoman who owned prime farmland near Aberdeen, S.D.

The gift comes from the estate of Millicent Atkins and is the single largest gift ever designated for CFANS, which has about 1,800 undergraduates studying 14 major degree areas and 25 minors, including minors in food systems, sustainable agriculture, and sustainability studies.

“Ms. Atkins has placed a great deal of trust in our college to use her gift as we think best,” Allen Levine, dean of the college, said in a University of Minnesota news release on Thursday.  “We are concerned about the financial burden of getting an education and the impact it has on students and their families, so increasing support for undergraduate and graduate students is a priority for the college.  Millicent Atkins’ generosity will have a significant impact in helping students.”

The news release said the gift came as a surprise. Atkins attended the School of Agriculture, which was then a high school associated with the University, in 1937-1938, but she did not graduate and did not keep in touch with the school, according to the U of M.  Her mother, Blossom (Gibson) Atkins, graduated from the School of Agriculture in 1905.  “It is truly heartening to know that she held our college in such great esteem through all these years,” Levine said in the announcement.

According to the college, Atkins, born in 1919, lived most of her life near Columbia, a small town east of Aberdeen.  She grew up on a farm settled by her grandparents and, after attending the University of Minnesota for one year and obtaining a teaching degree at Northern State University in South Dakota, followed in the footsteps of her father, Fred Atkins, as a land owner and farm manager. She eventually owned more than 4,100 acres of farmland in Brown County, S.D., and farmed the land through a crop share arrangement with about a dozen tenant farmers.… Read the rest

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