Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
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Local Peach Sources

{Image Credit} Aloha Organic Fruit

{Image Credit}
Aloha Organic Fruit

Another fruit season is underway – it’s time for Michigan peaches! I’ve spent some time looking for pesticide-free peach sources and I’m having a rough time. Molter Family Orchards has organic peaches, but only in limited quantity due to losing some to a May frost. Their CSA members get first dibs (rightly so) and they did delivery a few to the People’s Food Co-Op in downtown Kalamazoo last week.

In essence, that means my efforts to turn up other natural peaches in the area have turned up ‘fruitless’. For those of you who have fervently set your mind to buy only pesticide-free, local produce, I’ve listed an of out-of-the-way source. (Also, I commend you!). For those who are willing to settle for merely local, I’ve also listed some sources for peaches that may have been sprayed but are on the less expensive side. If you happen to know of any local sources for pesticide-free peaches, please please please share with us!

Naturally-Grown Peaches

KlineKrest USDA Certified Organic Produce Farm

U-pick by appointment; Already-picked fruit available at market

1067 Somer Road

Lyons, Michigan 48851

$1 for 3 Samplers
$4 per quart Pre-Picked
$3 per quart U-Pick
$5 per Peck
$20 per Bushel

Conventionally-Grown Peaches

Schultz Fruit Ridge Farms

Call Ahead for U-Pick Hours & Availability

60139 County Road 652

Mattawan, MI 49071

269-668-3724

http://www.schultzfruitridgefarm.com/peaches.php

Price: Estimated at $32/bushel – won’t set price until picking starts

Fruit Acres Farm Market & U-Pick

9:00 AM to 5:00 PM Saturday and Sunday

3390 Friday Road

Coloma, MI 49038

Farm Market Phone 269-468-3668

Farm Phone 269-468-5076

http://www.fruitacresfarms.com/

$0.99/pound up to 40 pounds and $0.89/pound above 40

Crane’s U-Pick

Hours: MON-SAT 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM; SUN 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM

NOTE: Closed for peach picking until August 9 - always call ahead to make sure they haven't been picked clean!

6017 124th Avenue

Fennville, MI 49408

269 561-5126

http://www.cranesupick.com/index.htmv

$0.75/pound

They also have nectarines and plums ($0.85/pound)

 
 

Local Blueberry Sources

blueberries

I love blueberries. When I was growing up, my Aunt and Uncle owned a blueberry farm. In fact, my first job was picking blueberries. This also means I grew up spoiled – free blueberries, as many as I could pick. We (my family) usually picked three or four 1-gallon ice cream pails worth which would find their way into the freezer. Farm-fresh blueberries all (or, at least most) year long!

The farms near my hometown are near Lake Michigan so the blueberry season didn’t really kick off until the beginning of August. This correlation was so engrained in me (August = Blueberry Season) that for nearly a decade of living in Kalamazoo I missed out on blueberries. (Round about the second or third week of August I would think “I should probably pick some blueberries” and they would be all-but-gone.)

Last year I finally remembered to pick blueberries in July. But after so many years of free blueberries, I was completely, utterly disturbed when I coughed up cash for blueberries at Leduc Blueberries last year. (I don’t even remember what I paid – but it wasn’t free!)

This year we had a our own, first-ever crop of blueberries! While it was exciting to pick blueberries from my own garden, the berries totaled about a pint when all was said and done. Clearly this is not going to satisfy my blueberry needs for the year. Instead, I headed off to Bangor, Michigan and picked 21 pounds of berries from Schemenauer Blueberries. The owner, Luka Schemenauer, happens to be the same guy who helped us dig the pits for our hugelkultur beds last December. These berries are not pesticide free, but they are inexpensive – $1/pound. All of the berries are U-Pick and the farm is “open” 24/7!

Conventionally-Grown Blueberries

Schemenauer Blueberries

24/7 U-Pick!

1 Mile North of M-43 on 54th

Bangor, MI 49013

$1/pound

Harvey’s U-Pick Farm

Contact Farm for U-Pick Hours (usually 8 AM to 6 PM)

2651 15 Mile Road

Tekonsha, MI 49092

517-767-3408

http://www.harveysupick.com

$1.50/Pound

Naturally-Grown Blueberries

Looking for pesticide-free blueberries? Check out what I found – naturally-grown, pesticide-free berries for the same great $1/pound price at Kendall’s Blueberries! Maybe I’ll mosey over that way sometime this week… you can never have too many blueberries, you know!

Kendall’s Blueberries

Mon – Sun:  8:00 AM through 8:00 PM

2124 Coburn Road

Hastings, MI 49058

269-945-3735

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kendalls-Blueberries/121427532362

$1/Pound

If Kendall’s isn’t an option for you, here are some other choices for naturally-grown berries. But hurry – it’s practically August and blueberries won’t last much longer… trust me!

Pleasant Hill Blueberries (Certified Organic)

Hours: By Appointment

5859 124th Avenue

Fennville, MI 49048

269-561-2850

http://pleasanthillblueberryfarm.com/

$2.50/pound

Understory Farm & Orchard

Open whenever the sun is up!

28120 County Road 215 (54th Street)

Bangor, MI 49013

Chanterelle 1-269-808-7773 Matt 1-810-701-6522

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Understory-Farm-and-Orchard/261227237287212?fref=ts

Contact Farm for Prices

Big Head Farm

Hours: Contact farm for U-Pick Hours

3835 Pier Road

Benton Harbor, MI 49022

269-605-9527

http://www.bigheadfarm.com/blueberries/zacharys-natural-blueberries.html

Contact farm for prices

Have you heard about Locavore90?

Locavore90 is a FREE program provided by Arcadia Farms and Flowerfield Enterprises that challenges and equips families in Southwest Michigan to incorporate more local foods into their diet during a 90 day period. Click here to learn more!

 

 
 

Local Sour Cherries

sour cherries in southwest michigan

{Image Credit}
Understory Farm and Orchard
This picture is from June 19. On Monday (July 1)
the trees were bursting with fully-ripe cherries!

It’s cherry season! On Monday Owen and I picked 30 pounds of beautiful sour cherries at Understory Farm and Orchard in Bangor. Understory has been under the stewardship of Chanterelle Vogtmann and Matt Steele for two seasons. According to their Facebook page:

“Understory is a 20 Acre Farm and Orchard with a focus on sustainable/organic methods. Owned and operated by Matt Steele and Chanterelle Vogtmann, two Michigan natives with a shared passion for good farming and land stewardship.”

We were fortunate to meet Chanterelle and Wendell (the farm dog, whom Owen thoroughly enjoyed!) during our visit Monday. The orchard is absolutely beautiful, bursting with cherries and according to Chanterelle, probably “at peak” right now. If you’re looking for sour cherries for baking and preserving, you’ll want to visit very soon. (They’re decent for fresh eating too.) Here are the details:

Understory Farm and Orchard

28120 County Road 215 (54th Street)
Bangor, MI 49013
Chanterelle 1-269-808-7773 Matt 1-810-701-6522
UnderstoryFarm@gmail.com

Open whenever the sun is up!
U-Pick Sour Cherries: $1.50/pound
Pre-Picked Sour Cherries: $2.50/pound

Later this week I’ll be sharing about our adventures in cherry pie making and canning for future use!

Anyone know of a source for sour cherries at a better price? We’d love to hear about and share with everyone!

Locavore90

Have you heard about Locavore90?

Locavore90 is a FREE program provided by Arcadia Farms and Flowerfield Enterprises that challenges and equips families in Southwest Michigan to incorporate more local foods into their diet for 90 days. It includes a monthly meal plan that incorporates in-season foods. For details, click here.

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.  

 
 

Where to Find Raw Milk

7.9milk

{Image Credit}
www.mercola.com

Last week I wrote about the benefits of raw milk (and the irony of the corresponding dangers of pasteurized milk.) In that post I said that I would be bringing you answers to the following questions:

  1. If it’s illegal to sell raw milk in Michigan, how am I going to (legally) get it?
  2. Where can I get raw milk?
  3. Show me the numbers – how much is it really going to cost me?
  4. What about milk from animals other than cows, like sheep and goats?

In this post I’ll be answering the first three questions. The fourth question regarding milk from animals other than cows will wait until next week. Despite the fact that raw goat’s milk has lots of health benefits and I personally like the taste, I can’t convince my family to go that route. That’s a bummer because many of my farming friends and acquaintances are goat farmers. Just because we won’t be enjoying milk from a goat share doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the opportunity – more on that next week!

How to Legally Buy Raw Milk in Michigan

Did you know that Michigan was the first state in the U.S. to ban the sale of raw milk? Silly Mitten… Despite the ban on milk in its healthiest form, farmers and attorneys have discovered a way to get around this legal hurdle. It may be illegal to sell raw milk but it is still legal to drink raw milk from a cow that you own. Don’t worry – you don’t have to run out and buy a cow (and hope your neighbors won’t notice the mooing from your garage). Instead, you can lease a cow from a local farmer. This arrangement is called a herdshare and it typically involves a boarding fee (for the care of your cow) and share fees (which cover the cost of milk).

Where to Find Raw Milk in Southwest Michigan

I found this fabulous website called www.realmilk.com that provided information about raw milk farmers in Michigan as well as an overview of each farm. Using this list, I narrowed my research down to a few farms within 100 miles of us which sell cow’s milk. You may want to look into some of the other farms listed, but here are the farms I researched.

Hickory Creek Dairy


 http://www.hickorycreekdairy.com

Location: Baroda, Michigan

Delivery: Delivers to Benton Harbor; On-farm pick up available; Willing to deliver to Kalamazoo/Portage Area (see Other Notes)

Type of Milk: Cow

Type of Herd: Unknown

Farming Practices: Raised on pasture from early spring to late fall (grass-fed); Hay in winter; Non-GMO grain only when milking; No hormones; Antibiotics only as necessary for infections but never as a pre-treatment; If antibiotics are used, that cow’s milk is withheld for 96 hours (double the recommended withhold time).

Herd Lease (Annual): $57

Share Fee (Monthly): N/A

Price Per Gallon: $6.50

Annual Cost (1 Gallon/Week): $395

Half Shares Available: Unknown

Other Notes: A share of Hickory Creek Dairy allows you to purchase up to three gallons of milk per week – an excellent option for those who want additional milk for cheese, butter and yogurt making! Hickory Creek also sells cheese, butter and cream.

Also, Hickory Creek Dairy is willing to deliver to the Kalamazoo/Portage area if there is a standing order of at least 12 gallons of milk from herdshare owners. If you are interested in purchasing milk from Shafer’s, please contact me as soon as possible to make arrangements: katie@arcadia-farms.net. This is an excellent opportunity to help a Southwest Michigan farmer increase business with mutual benefit to those of us who want convenient access to healthier milk.

Moo-nique Dairy



http://www.mooniquedairy.com

Location: Vandalia, Michigan

Delivery: Monday deliveries to Portage and Thursday deliverers to Kalamazoo; on-farm pick-up available

Type of Milk: Cow

Type of Herd: A2 Jersey

Farming Practices: Raised on pasture (intensively, rotationally grazed) from early spring to late fall (grass-fed); Hay in winter and as a free-choice (they eat it if they want it) feed year-round; Free-choice non-GMO minerals and molasses lick available to herd; Non-GMO grain only when milking; No hormones; Antibiotics if necessary to save a cow’s life but never as a pre-treatment; If antibiotics are used, that cow’s milk is withheld for “a very long time.”

Herd Lease (Annual): $10

Share Fee (Monthly): $27

Annualized Price Per Gallon: $6.23

Annual Cost (1 Gallon/Week): $334

Half Shares Available: Yes

Other Notes: A share of Moo-nique Dairy entitles you to one gallon of milk per week – since some months have five weeks it brings the cost per gallon down slightly. Moo-nique also provides raw milk cheese (aged appropriately so that it is legal) and Greek yogurt made from their milk. Both are available to herdshare owners only. Cheese: $8.50/pound. Yogurt: $5.99/quart.

Bluebird Farm


http://www.bluebirdfarmandorchard.com

Location: Three Rivers, Michigan

Delivery: None currently; Delivery to Portage or Three Rivers may be negotiable

Type of Milk: Cow

Type of Herd: A2 Jersey

Farming Practices: Raised on pasture April to October, weather permitting (grass-fed); Hay in winter (alfalfa, grass); Non-GMO grain only when milking; No hormones; Antibiotics only as necessary for infections but never as a pre-treatment; If antibiotics are used, that cow’s milk is withheld for several days

Herd Lease (Annual): $25

Share Fee (Monthly): $35

Annualized Price Per Gallon: $8.56

Annual Cost (1 Gallon/Week): $445

Half Shares Available: Yes

Other Notes: Bluebird Farm is a low-carbon farm. For example, they use a team of draft horses for haymaking operations, clipping pastures, logging, plowing, and cultivation. This commitment to sustainable farming may mean more time and expense than conventional practices, however the result is as natural a product as you can find. For those who are willing to pay a little extra for dramatically reduced impact on the environment, I encourage you to read more about their farm philosophy by clicking here.

Step-N-Thyme Farm


http://www.localharvest.org/step-n-tyme-farm-M8862

NOTE: I was not able to connect with this farm so all information listed is simply that which I was able to glean from the internet. Click on the link above for contact info.

Location: Scotts, Michigan

Delivery: Unknown

Type of Milk: Cow

Type of Herd: Unknown

Farming Practices: Pasture-grazed cows. No hormones or antibiotics used with any animal on the farm.

What Will It Cost Me?

While I’m sure you’ve already taken stock of the prices listed above, I thought I’d provide a quick-references summary of prices for these farms as compared to the cost of store-bought milk, namely Meijer Organic milk.

Milk Price Chart Organic

In addition to the costs of milk for drinking and baking, I’m working out comparisons for the cost of other dairy products such as cheese, butter and yogurt. Stay tuned! And don’t forget to check back next week to learn more about the benefits and costs of local goat’s milk!

 
 

Locavore90 Meal Plan: Roasted Chicken & Veggies

Can you believe June is almost over? Per the Locavore90 June Meal Plan, I made a roasted chicken and veggies yesterday. Super yummy! The meat from this chicken and the veggies will make three meals for us this week. Want to know how to stretch a roasted chicken into three meals? You can find the original recipe here, along with leftovers recipe one and recipe two. For the entire meal plan, join Locavore90 by entering your email address in the box in the upper-right corner of this page.

roasted chicken and vegetables

Here’s an organic roasted chicken with veggies. Normally we’d also have potatoes but I was in a hurry this morning!

 
 

Why Raw Milk?

Why Raw Milk?One of the commitments our family made as part of the Locavore90 challenge is to find local sources for our meat, eggs and dairy. This week I had the privilege of speaking with several local dairy farmers as part of my search for the right source of our family’s milk. As I began thinking through our personal dairy needs I started asking myself a bunch of questions, like…
  • Should we even be drinking milk?
  • Why is it again that I want to drink raw milk?
  • How much am I willing to pay for local, raw milk?
  • How am I going to find a way to purchase enough milk to drink and make our own butter and cheese?

That’s when it occurred to me that before I can share information with you about where to find local, raw milk, first I should share about why you should find local, raw milk.

Local and Raw

Yes, I said local. If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, that shouldn’t be a surprise to you. After all, the mission of our farm revolves around buying local and Locavore90 is all about incorporating more local foods into the diets of families in Southwest Michigan. (If you’ve not yet become convinced that buying your food locally is beneficial to the health of your wallet, your body and your community, click here.)

I also said raw. This post may be a little long, but it will explain to you why during our Locavore90 conversations about dairy I will be talking exclusively about milk that is:

  • Local (see above)
  • Raw (unpasteurized)
  • From grass-fed animals
  • For cow’s milk, from A2 cows only

 

Raw Milk

Research – both scientific and anecdotal – suggests that raw milk has several health benefits not retained by its pasteurized counterpart. Or perhaps a more accurate way to say it is that pasteurized milk has been altered in ways that reduce its health benefits and, in some cases, actually cause the milk to be more harmful than healthful.

The general premise is that raw milk contains proteins, antibodies, a perfect balance of minerals and good bacteria that are destroyed, altered or diminished during the heating process of pasteurization.

Pasteurization

According to Wikipedia:

“Pasteurization… is a process of heating a food, which is usually a liquid, to a specific temperature for a predefined length of time and then immediately cooling it after it is removed from the heat. This process slows spoilage caused by microbial growth in the food.

Unlike sterilization, pasteurization is not intended to kill all micro-organisms in the food. Instead, it aims to reduce the number of viable pathogens so they are unlikely to cause disease (assuming the pasteurized product is stored as indicated and is consumed before its expiration date). Commercial-scale sterilization of food is not common because it adversely affects the taste and quality of the product. Certain foods, such as dairy products, may be superheated to ensure pathogenic microbes are destroyed.”

In general terms, Americans pasteurize milk to reduce the possibility of “viable pathogens” causing disease or spoilage in the milk. Sounds good, right? But in reality “some research suggests that unpasteurized milk contains antimicrobial components absent in pasteurized milk. These studies found that pathogens grow more slowly or die more quickly when added to raw milk than when added to heat-treated milk. This does not mean that raw milk cannot be contaminated with bacteria, nor does it mean that raw milk ‘kills pathogens’. Rather, unpasteurized milk may be somewhat less susceptible to contamination than pasteurized milk due to its probiotic bacteria and antimicrobial enzymes.”

Natural News provided an excellent overview of the health benefits of raw milk – all of the things we’re missing out on when we drink commercially pasteurized milk from feed-lot cows. Here is a verbatim copy of the info they shared here.

Proteins

Raw cow’s milk has all 20 of the standard amino acids, which saves our bodies the work of having to convert any into usable form. About 80% of the proteins in milk are caseins (reasonably heat stable but easy to digest). The other 20% fall into the class of whey proteins. These are also easy to digest, but also very heat sensitive.

The immunoglobulins are an extremely complex class of milk proteins also known as antibodies. These provide resistance to many viruses, bacteria and bacterial toxins and may also help reduce the severity of asthma symptoms. Research has shown a significant loss of these important disease fighters when milk is pasteurized.

Carbohydrates

Lactose is the primary carbohydrate in cow’s milk. It is made from one molecule each of the simple sugars glucose and galactose. People with lactose intolerance do not make the enzyme lactase and so cannot digest milk sugar. Raw milk has its lactose-digesting Lactobacilli bacteria intact. This may allow people who traditionally have avoided milk to drink raw milk.

Fats

about two thirds of the fat in milk is saturated. Saturated fats play a number of important roles in our bodies. They construct cell membranes and key hormones, they provide energy storage and padding for delicate organs, and they serve as a vehicle for important fat-soluble vitamins.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) is abundant in milk from pastured cows. This is a heavily studied, polyunsaturated Omega-6 fatty acid that has promising health benefits. Some of CLA’s many possible benefits are (1) it raises metabolic rates; (2) it helps remove abdominal fat; (3) it boosts muscle growth; (4) it reduces resistance to insulin; and (5) it strengthens the immune system and lowers food allergy reactions. Grass-fed raw milk has 3-5 times more CLAs than the milk from feed-lot cows.

Vitamins

Whole raw milk has both water and fat soluble vitamins. No enriching is necessary. It’s a complete food. Pasteurized milk must have the destroyed components added back in, especially the fat soluble vitamins A and D.

Minerals

Raw milk contains a broad selection of minerals ranging from calcium and phosphorus to trace elements.

Calcium is abundant in raw milk. Its benefits include a reduction of some cancers, particularly colon; higher bone density in people of all ages; lower risk of osteoporosis in older adults; lowered risk of kidney stones; the formation of strong teeth; as well as a reduction of dental cavities.

An interesting fact about minerals as nutrients is the special balance they require with other minerals to function properly. For example, calcium needs a proper ratio of phosphorus and magnesium to be properly utilized by our bodies. Raw milk is in perfect balance.

Enzymes

The 60 functional enzymes in raw milk have an amazing assortment of jobs to perform. Some of them are native to milk and some come from beneficial bacteria growing in raw milk. When we eat food that contains enzymes devoted to its own digestion, it’s less work for our pancreas. Other enzymes, like catalase, lysozyme and lactoperoxidase help to protect milk from unwanted bacterial infection, making it safer for us to drink.

Cholesterol

Milk contains about 3mg of cholesterol per gram. Our bodies make most of the cholesterol we need. This amount fluctuates by what we get from our food. Cholesterol is a repair substance. It is a waxy plant steroid that our body uses as a form of water-proofing and as a building block for key hormones.

Beneficial Bacteria

Raw milk is a living food with amazing self-protective properties. As most food goes bad as it ages, raw milk gets better. From helpful bacterial fermentation, the digestibility of enzymes, vitamins, and minerals all increases.

Flavor

In addition to all of these health benefits, many people think that raw milk has a superior flavor and texture to pasteurized, homogenized milk. Here is a quote from Emily Weinstein who blogs for The New York Times. She describes her first raw milk experience in this way:

“The milk — oh man, the milk! — was creamy and full of flavors, not white like supermarket milk, but yellow-tinged. It was milk with a taste that wasn’t just defined by it texture — it was distinct, satisfying, delicious. All food should be like this, I thought, so natural it seems to redefine the word.”

With all of this fabulous info in mind, it’s difficult to believe that selling raw milk is illegal in all but 1 of the United States, isn’t it? More on that later (don’t worry – there is a legal way to still get it.)

Who cares what the cow eats?

Dairy From Grass-Fed Animals

For optimal health (and conversely, to avoid health detriments) it’s important for raw milk to come from humanely raised, grass-fed animals. Why? Because dairy animals (we’ll focus on cows and goats) have a digestive system that includes a rumen. The rumen is the first chamber of the digestive system of animals that graze (including cows and goats). It serves as the primary site for microbial fermentation of ingested feed. The rumen was not designed to digest grains such as corn – it was designed to digest grasses. When we feed grain to cows (the majority of US dairy cows are not pasture raised but eat corn and soy) we are feeding them an unnatural food and their bodies react in unnatural ways. Add on top of that unsanitary, inhumane and anti-biotic laden food-factory practices and you have a recipe for ‘milk’ that is not the same product as the milk our grandparents and great grandparents used to drink.

Here are a couple of videos that do a much better job of informing you about the consequences of feeding grain to dairy cows than I ever could.


This video may seem a bit long and off topic at first, but hang in there! You need the corn explanation to get to the cow-pertinent part at the end.

 

Devil in the Milk

What is an A2 Cow?

While talking to a local dairy farmer this week I learned about the important difference between an A1 cow and an A2 cow. I’m no expert, but let me do my best to piece together resources from those who are experts and provide you with an introduction. The most direct way I know to give you a solid overview is to share this article at www.mercola.com verbatim:

“Prominent food researcher Dr. Thomas Cowan has been involved in thinking about the medicinal aspects of cow’s milk virtually his entire career.

His studies on the subject started in earnest when he read the book The Milk of Human Kindness Is Not Pasteurized, by maverick physician, William Campbell Douglass, MD.

Cowan became convinced that a large part of the disease in this country is related to the way we handle, or rather mishandle, milk and milk products.

However, he still felt that a piece of the puzzle was missing. Many of his patients, in spite of eating only the proper dairy products, still had illness and still seemed not to tolerate milk. Recently, he was asked to consider writing the foreword to a book called The Devil in the Milk, written by Dr. Keith Woodford, which was again an eye-opener for him.

All proteins are long chains of amino acids. Beta casein is a chain 229 amino acids in length. Cows who produce this protein in their milk with a proline at number 67 are called A2 cows, and are the older breeds of cows (e.g. Jerseys, Asian and African cows). But some 5,000 years ago, a mutation occurred in this proline amino acid, converting it to histidine. Cows that have this mutated beta casein are called A1 cows, and include breeds like Holstein.

Proline has a strong bond to a small protein called BCM 7, which helps keep it from getting into the milk, so that essentially no BCM 7 is found in the urine, blood or GI tract of old-fashioned A2 cows. On the other hand, histidine, the mutated protein, only weakly holds on to BCM 7, so it is liberated in the GI tract of animals and humans who drink A1 cow milk.

BCM 7 has been shown to cause neurological impairment in animals and people exposed to it, especially autistic and schizophrenic changes. BCM 7 interferes with the immune response, and injecting BCM 7 in animal models has been shown to provoke type 1 diabetes. Dr. Woodford’s book presents research showing a direct correlation between a population’s exposure to A1 cow’s milk and incidence of autoimmune disease, heart disease, type 1 diabetes, autism, and schizophrenia.

Simply switching breeds of cows could result in amazing health benefits.”

Conclusion

At the beginning of this post I shared some questions with you – questions I’ve been asking myself about the dairy products I feed my family. You may be asking some of the same questions, so I thought I’d conclude with some answers.

Should we even be drinking milk?

There are some schools of thought out there that milk should be avoided completely because of the (substantiated) negative consequences milk has on health. I do not refute in any way that milk consumption has caused health issues in our society, but after learning more about the negative health consequences of pasteurizing milk, it stands to reason that the issue may not be milk itself but the unintended consequences of our attempts to improve upon nature. How ironic that the same food which has been discounted as dangerous to your health actually has medicinal value when consume the right (natural) way! Our family will continue to consume dairy – the right way.

Why is it again that I want to drink raw milk?

In short, because raw milk contains numerous health benefits while, conversely, processed milk can be damaging to health. The significant benefits of raw milk and the significant risks of processed milk make it a clear choice. Some would argue that raw milk is actually dangerous to drink because there is an increased chance of pathogens (it hasn’t been boiled at high temperatures like pasteurized milk). Click here for more scientific data to address that claim.

How much am I willing to pay for local, raw milk?

The reality is, buying local, raw milk will cost you more than buying a gallon of pasteurized milk at Meijer. Local, raw milk costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 per gallon but, depending on the farm, can be as high as $8. That number comes with some sticker shock when you’re used to spending $2.99 per gallon! We personally drink about 1 gallon of milk a week. Your family may drink more, but let’s use the 1 gallon per week rule as an example. Before you decide that you can’t afford to buy raw milk, please consider that there are very reasonable ways to save an extra $3 per week on other items (i.e., drink one less latte a week; grow your own spinach; conserve gas so you buy one less gallon, etc.). On the flip side, the real cost to you in allergy medication, over-the-counter gas treatments and other potential side effects of pasteurized milk cost more than $3 per week. In some cases, the difference between your life drinking raw milk verses pasteurized may be the kind of difference that a price tag cannot depict.

How will you know if you don’t try?

Now What?

I hope you’ll review this information carefully and talk with your family about it. For those of you who’ve decided that local, raw milk is worth serious consideration, I’m going to be sharing info next week that answers these questions:

  • If it’s illegal to sell raw milk in Michigan, how am I going to (legally) get it?
  • Where can I get raw milk?
  • Show me the numbers – how much is it really going to cost me?
  • What about milk from animals other than cows, like sheep and goats

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.

 
 

Making Strawberry Jam for Dummies

how to make strawberry jam

Why can’t my life be simple?

Let me preface this post by saying that, when all was said and done, I ended up with delicious, beautiful, properly-thick strawberry jam. If you’re here looking simply for instructions on how to do the same – without the ‘dummy’ narrative surrounding the process – you’ll want to scroll to the end of this post. Look for the heading that says Strawberry Jam Recipe. If you’d like to learn a little about what not to do whilst making jam, read on…

Jam Making for Dummies

We had a lot going on Monday night so I wasn’t able to make jam as planned. No worries – I decided I’d go to bed early, wake up early and get crackin’ on jam right away Tuesday. And that’s just what I did – got up early, put away some laundry and filled up the canner all before 7:00 AM. Still in my jammies, I started smashing berries and going over recipes.

Berries smashed – check!

Lemon juice added – check!

Canner rolling – check!

Jars sterilizing in the oven – check!

Pectin added to berry mixture – cheee… uh… wait…

My recipe calls for tablespoons but my box of pectin tells me ounces. Do I have enough? Surely Google will know. After quickly pulling up Google’s conversion calculator and entering the pertinent numbers, I determine that I’m short on pectin. By half. Crap.

I scour the cabinets. No more pectin. I text a neighbor (who is probably thinking “Who wants pectin at 8:30 in the morning??). I think about the dreaded amount of time I’ll spend driving to the store and back if I leave now. Then I remember that I’m wearing my pajamas… and I’d have to put on real clothes and possibly bathe myself before going into public… and that seals it: I’m gonna have to wing this.

Winging It

Thank God for Google (kind of… more on that in a minute). I started searching for pectin alternatives… there are several out there, but keep in mind I’m a jam novice so some of these “just use green fruit” (which I don’t have) or “just add cranberries” (which I do happen to have but are you kidding me?) options just aren’t going to cut it. In the end, I settled on two possibilities:

  1. Cornstarch and a little sugar.
  2. Boiled down orange peels.

Cornstarch and “a little sugar” sounds like a pretty safe, almost-like-my-packet-of-powdered-pectin option. Buuutttt… then I see all these warnings about “it burns” in your recipe and also I’m trying to make jam that leans more towards natural than unnatural and who knows what’s really in my cornstarch. And how much is “a little sugar” anyway?… no one in the cyberworld seems to know.

On the flip side, we don’t eat oranges. Ever… except (!!) many months ago when they were on such super-duper sale that I bought some… and I saved the orange peels in the freezer with plans to make orange extract out of them (because, we never eat oranges and I thought having extract around would be handy for natural flavoring). In all of my Google-please-help-me searching I ran across an experienced cook’s shot in the dark at how you could get usable pectin out of orange peels. Sounds natural enough – why not?

boiling orange peels for pectin

So…

Split strawberry mixture into to two covered bowl and place them in the fridge – check!

Turn off the burner under the roaring canner – check!

Look with disdain on my 1.75 ounce bag of pectin – check!

Start boiling orange peels – check!

Put on a bra and take a shower – pshaw!

Getting Pectin from Orange Peels

So for those of you who are as new to jam making as me, you might be wondering what this magical pectin stuff even is. According to our buddies at Wikipedia, pectin is:

“a structural heteropolysaccharide contained in the primary cell walls of terrestrial plants. It was first isolated and described in 1825 by Henri Braconnot. It is produced commercially as a white to light brown powder, mainly extracted from citrus fruits, and is used in food as a gelling agent particularly in jams and jellies. It is also used in fillings, medicines, sweets, as a stabilizer in fruit juices and milk drinks, and as a source of dietary fiber.”

In short, it helps your jams and jellies to thicken rather than being a runny mess. The recipe I found for extracting pectin from orange peels looked pretty much like this:

  • Peels from 2-3 oranges (frozen in my case)
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ cup lemon juice

Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce mixture by half (20 minutes). Remove peels. Reduce by half again. Cool in fridge… add to strawberry mixture.

So that’s just what I did. And here’s what I ended up with:

Orange Peel Pectin

Here’s hoping there’s a whole heapin’ mess of pectin in this boiled-down-orange-peel water.

Making Strawberry Jam (Finally)

What if the pectin-from-orange-peels doesn’t work? I decided not to take the chance of ruining ALL of my strawberry jam so I set out to make two separate batches – one with store bought pectin and one with orange peels pectin.

And that’s when it happened.

I opened up the pectin packet to measure out the 3 tablespoons of pectin needed for half of my strawberry jam recipe… and oddly enough, there was some left over. And oddly enough, the leftovers measured out to 3 tablespoons. Now it’s been a while since I’ve had an arithmetic test, but according to my math, 3 tablespoons + 3 tablespoons = 6 tablespoons, which is the amount needed to do the WHOLE recipe. 6 tablespoons… right there… in the little 1.75 ounce pouch I’d been looking upon with scorn all morning. Everything I needed… right there… the whole time.

Fie on you, Google conversion chart, for telling me that 1.75 ounces is only 3.5 Tablespoons!

At this point, I’m sure the sensible thing to do would have been to just mix everything back together, make the jam as designed and get on with my life. But after all the effort I’ve invested into this orange-peel-pectin thing, I’m all in now! When am I going to have (or rather, take) another opportunity to see if this works?

So with the berry mixture in two separate sauce pans, I begin boiling. The recipe says “Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.”  And that’s just what I did. The only problem is, in my haste to do two separate batches (Why did I feel the need to do both at the same time?) I unwittingly placed the orange-peel mixture into a too-small saucepan. A too-small saucepan now sporting a strawberry goo in a “rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.” It can, however, explode over the side and onto the burner. Also, because of its high sugar content, it can quickly catch on fire. But it cannot be stirred down… just so we have that part straight…

Fortunately after catching fire, it can be extinguished.

Me: Owen – pause that game, I need you to come here quickly!

Owen: Do I have to?

Me: Yes!

Owen: *Owen appears* What?

Me: Open the door and the window so the smoke can get out…

Owen opens both…

Me: Now come and stir this for me so I can catch up on the other one. I don’t want them to burn.

Owen begins stirring… two seconds later

Owen: Do I have to do this?

Me: Yes.

Owen: Mom – it’s burning me alive.

Me. No it’s not.

Owen: Yes, it is.

Me: Just keep stirring…

Owen: *singing* Just keep stirring, Just keep stirring… much like this…

 

Once everything was under control and Owen was no longer singing while burning alive, I observed that, alas, the orange-peel pectin mix was not thickening. My guess is that if I let it boil a while longer, it would eventually. However 1) I didn’t want to lose all of the goo that would evaporate to make that happen and 2) I was a little afraid of what might happen next if I kept going! So, I abandonded the experiment, added about 1.5 tablespoons of pectin and moved on.

The end result? Six hard-won jars of appropriately thick strawberry jam! And also a disastrous kitchen mess…

how to make strawberry jam

Victoriously secured in the face of both flame and mental anguish (even if they were self-inflicted obstacles…)

Strawberry Jam Recipe

What to make your own? Here’s the recipe (adapted from this one).

Ingredients

  • 5 cups crushed strawberries (about 5 lbs)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 6 Tbsp pectin
  • 7 cups granulated sugar
  • 8 (8 oz) half pint glass canning jars with lids and bands

Instructions

  1. Fill boiling water canner and heat to boil water.
  2. Sterilize jars in the oven (225* for at least 10 minutes) or heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
  3. Combine strawberries and lemon juice in a large saucepan. Gradually stir in pectin. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.
  4. Add all of the sugar at once, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.
  5. Scoop hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim clean and place the lid and band on tight.
  6. Process jars a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.
 
 

Freezing Whole Strawberries

Freezing strawberries is easy peasy but there are a couple of steps you can take to optimize the outcome. The method I used works best for freezing whole strawberries. Timing is key too – try to freeze them as close to the time they are harvested as possible in order to retain nutrients and taste. Here’s the scoop on freezing whole strawberries:

  1. Rinse the berries in cool water – don’t leave them in the water for too long or you’ll lose some flavor.
  2. Let the berries drain in a strainer for about 3 minutes and then gently pat them dry with an absorbent towel.
  3. Hull the berries (remove the green stem) and remove any spoiled berries/cut out spoiled spots. (These can go into your compost… or you can feed them to the chickens like I did!)
  4. Place the strawberries on a baking sheet in a single layer (try to avoid letting them touch) and freeze for 24 hours. NOTE: I placed the berries on a layer of paper towel so that more water would be absorbed as they were freezing. This worked well except for the berries where portions I had cut were touching the paper towel (i.e., where the hull was cut away). In these places the berry stuck to the paper.
  5. Transfer strawberries to a an air-tight container (freezer bag or jar). Label with the date and contents, then store in the freezer for up to six months.

That’s it! Pretty simple, right? Now when the weather turns cool and strawberry shortcake sounds yummy… or you have a hankering for a strawberry smoothie… you can go shopping in your freezer. It doesn’t get much more local than that!

how to freeze strawberries

Ta da! Frozen berries that will keep for about 6 months.

how to freeze strawberries

Waste not, want not – the chickens had a strawberry feast on these puppies! If I hadn’t given them to the chickens, these scraps would have gone to the compost.

how to freeze strawberries

Whole strawberries, ready to freeze.

how to freeze strawberries

These strawberries have been cleaned, hulled and placed on a baking sheet to freeze overnight.

Anyone else have strawberry freezing tips?

P.S. Looking for naturally-raised strawberries in the Southwest Michigan area? Find them here.

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally. 

 
 

Local Strawberries

Basket Full of Strawberries

This spring may have been cooler than usual but it is still, after all, spring. My goal for May and early June was to stock up on three early-spring crops: Asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries. We’ve purchased and preserved more than 12 pounds of asparagus already. (Two or three pounds were consumed right away!) We sampled some tasty rhubarb, however, I discovered that my family is not as fond as I am soLocal Strawberries I opted not to preserve any. And now *drumroll* it’s time to pick strawberries!

We do have strawberries here at Arcadia Farms, but the plants are still getting established and not bearing enough to supply our customers. (Next year!) I needed to find a pesticide-free source of strawberries both for our family’s preservation plans (jam, anyone?) and to pass along to our CSA members. Thanks to the Eat Local, SW Michigan! Yahoo group I was able to connect with Shirley at Patch & Pasture in Battle Creek (20975 Pine Lake Rd; 269-964-3942). In her own words she has “gobs” of naturally-raised berries. A quart is $3.50 pre-picked or $2.00 if you pick yourself. Patch & Pasture is open from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM Monday through Saturday. They also have naturally raised turkeys for sale (pre-order).

While there are several no-spray strawberry options around the area, of the few we looked into, Shirley had the best prices. Battle Creek seemed like a reasonable distance away for pesticide-free berries and such great prices and since I was going to be east of Kalamazoo for a birthday party on Friday anyway, I decided to make the trip. First of all, the drive was much longer than I was thinking… took me 40-some minutes to get there from Portage. Yikes. With the cost of gas these days, I figure the berries ended up costing me about $3.05 per quart. Not too bad for naturally-raised berries… (plus I was happy to give my money to a local farmer).

Preserving Strawberries

There are lots of ways to preserve strawberries. I plan to spend some time today making strawberry jam (for the first time!). We don’t eat very much jam or jelly at our house so my goal is to have twelve 8 oz jars of various jams created by the end of the summer. We eat jelly at the rate of about 1 jar a month (maybe longer) that should supply us for the year. (We still have 1 jar of violet jelly left from early this spring!) I’ll be sure to share my jam-making adventures later this week.

I’ve also frozen about two-and-a-half quarts of strawberries. It was super easy and I’ll be sharing about that tomorrow.

Other preservation options include canning strawberries in syrup (perhaps for pie making later) or dehydrating. Neither of those options work well for the food our family eats so I decided to skip them.

Honestly, I’m also wishing I had picked enough berries to make strawberry extract for future baking. Thankfully, my helper (thanks Owen!) and I did pick enough to have strawberry shortcake tonight!

Does anyone else know of sources for naturally-raised berries in the Kalamazoo/Portage area? Anyone have strawberries at home? I can’t wait until ours are abundant enough to supply our customers… and our family!

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally. 

 
 

Locavore90 Meal Plan: Beef Stroganoff

As of today we’re on track with the Locavore90 June Meal Plan! Today’s meal was Beef Stroganoff. Ours was made with locally-raised, natural beef from Comstock Limousin Freezer Beef (Jack and Selma Comstock) in Mendon, MI. I also used the breadcrumbs I talked about creating in this post. It was sooo yummy!

Creamy sauce (we used plain yogurt rather than sour cream).

Creamy sauce (we used plain yogurt rather than sour cream).

Beef Stroganoff over New Potatoes (Red Potatoes).

Beef Stroganoff over New Potatoes (Red Potatoes).

The kid version. Could be served with a little ketchup... our guys actually liked it with the creamy sauce!

The kid version – Could be served with a little ketchup… our guys actually liked it with the creamy sauce!

Want the recipe? You can find it here. For the entire meal plan, join Locavore90 by entering your email address in the box in the upper-right corner of our website: www.arcadia-farms.net.

 
 

My McConfession {A Locavore90 Update}

Jute shopping bag with groceries IILocavore90 officially started this past Sunday, June 2. Locavore90 (hereafter lovingly referred to as L90) is a free program that helps Southwest Michigan families incorporate more local food into their diet. I’m excited about leading the L90 participants on this adventure of finding, buying and eating local foods during the summer months! But… with our lives changing so dramatically during the last month (we recently became a foster family for the first time) I must confess that I am not nearly as prepared for this adventure as I had hoped to be.

Best Laid Plans

My plan was to spend two to three weeks prior to the Locavore90 kick off sourcing local staples like dairy, meat and eggs. After buying these things in bulk, I’d be set to simply incorporate ‘local’ veggies from our own garden (or the farmers market in some cases) into our meals. Top all of that off with buying bulk amounts of in-season produce for canning and I’d be living in Locavore bliss!

Enter life…

Instead of spending those two to three weeks getting my resources (food!) together, I spent that time figuring out how to incorporate another little one into our home and address all of the family challenges that come with such a huge change.

Enter guilt…

Originally our family’s Locavore90 Commitments involved eating 100% local food for 90 days. A lofty goal, but a blog-worthy one as well – one that could be tackled with advanced planning. Since that advanced planning didn’t happen, we’ve been eating some local foods this week, but our diet has certainly not been exclusively local during Week 1.

Enter my confession… My McConfession…

Not only has the majority of our food this week been from Meijer, but… ahem… we… umm… have eaten at a restaurant twice. Even once at… the big dirty McD. [hangs her head in shame.] Not. Local.

It’s time for me to face the music: Managing a 100% local-only diet for our entire family was going to be challenging enough, but based on where we are in life, it’s just not going to happen. Our commitments are going to have to change… good thing I signed that L90 prenup…

Our New Locavore90 Commitments

Here’s the new plan (Our Locavore90 Commitments)

  1. Two times per week our meals will be comprised exclusively of food raised within 100 miles of our home. Exceptions to the 100 mile rule will be made for cooking and baking supplies (flour, baking soda, oil, spices, etc.), condiments, coffee and tea. On other days we will incorporate local foods as often as practicable.
  2. By the end of August, we will have selected an ongoing local source for our dairy, eggs and meat.
  3. Each month we will select at least two in-season produce items to buy in bulk and preserve.

So there it is… my dirty little L90 secret. I told you I’d keep it real! And next week I hope to focus both my personal L90 efforts and the posts of this blog on finding local sources for dairy products and strawberries. (I sense strawberries and cream on the horizon.) Finding local sources for eggs, meat and other eating staples will follow soon!

How is your family doing so far with your Locavore90 Commitments? I’d love to hear about the commitments you’ve made since each family will be so different. Anyone found great sources for local foods? Have you tried the meal plan? Let me know what you’re up to both here in the comments section or in our Facebook support group (Locavore90 Community): https://www.facebook.com/groups/locavore90

 
 

Freezing Asparagus

asparagus closeup

A couple of weeks ago I bought a LOT of asparagus… like 15 pounds. We ate two pounds of it that week and the remainder I’ve saved for the future. (You know, like some January evening when asparagus sounds good for dinner but I refuse to buy food that came all the way from California in the dead of winter.) There are several ways to preserve asparagus, including canning, dehydrating, pickling and freezing. I opted for freezing because I feel like this option best preserves the texture and flavor of asparagus. Freezing asparagus was easy – here’s what I did!

How to Freeze Asparagus

  1. Begin boiling water in a large pot – I used a canner.
  2. Wash the asparagus thoroughly.
  3. Sort the asparagus into three categories – small, medium and large diameter. This step is important because it will enable you to more accurately blanch them.
  4. If the asparagus is especially dirty and there is some trapped dirt under the side scales, remove them with a knife. I didn’t need to do this step.
  5. Check to make sure your asparagus is sized to fit into your freezer bag or container. If they are too long, cut them into even sizes. (Or if you just like everything neat as a pin, trim them to matching lengths. That just sounded like extra work to me so I left them at their original lengths.)
  6. Fill a large bowl or sink with ice and water.
  7. Assuming that your water is boiling by now, it’s time to blanch your asparagus!
    1. Small spears 1 ½ minutes
    2. Medium spears 2 minutes
    3. Large spears 3 minutes
    4. When spears are done blanching, scoop them out and immediately add them to the ice water bath to stop them from continuing to cook.
    5. Remove the spears from the ice water bath and place them into a strainer to drain off excess water. Next place them on a towel to dry.
    6. Allow spears to dry as thoroughly as possible… I patted mine dry with a clean dish towel. I wish I’d had more time to allow them to dry but I did this process late at night after the kiddos had gone to bed and I needed to get to sleep myself.
    7. Pack asparagus into a frost proof container: Plastic freezer bags, freezer boxes, vacuum bags or can-or-freeze jars. Seal, label and freeze.
Asparagus sorted into small, medium and large piles.
Asparagus sorted into small, medium and large piles.
This asparagus has been blanched and is drying on a towel.
This asparagus has been blanched and is drying on a towel.
The asparagus is (mostly!) dry. Packed away in freezer bags, they just need a label before they meet their destiny in the freezer.
The asparagus is (mostly!) dry. Packed away in freezer bags, they just need a label before they meet their destiny in the freezer.

My asparagus is a little frosty because it should have dried longer, but I’m still pleased with the result! It took a little bit of time, but not as much as I expected, and the process was super easy.

Anyone else have tips on freezing asparagus? Thoughts on other ways to preserve like dehydrating or canning? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 
 

Where to Find Rhubarb

pesticide free rhubarb

The weather has been cool in Southwest Michigan. That means you won’t find much at the local market beyond greens, herbs and radishes until the weather warms a bit. It also means that May goodies like asparagus and rhubarb may last a while longer. A couple of weeks ago (before my life got super busy) I shared a post with you about where to find asparagus in the area. I’ve also done a little looking for rhubarb, although I confess that my search hasn’t been as exhaustive as my asparagus search. All the same, I want to share what I’ve found with you – a local source for both conventional and a pesticide-free rhubarb.

Conventional Rhubarb

Right around the corner from our farm there’s a family that grows rhubarb in the backyard. This crop does receive at least one treatment of pesticide early in the season. Rhubarb is $2.50 per pound. You’ll find “The Rhubarb Family” at the corner of South Westnedge and Osterhout and their phone number is (269) 327-6987. There’s a sign on the Osterhout side of the street that indicates whether or not they’re open, so if you’re traveling a ways, be sure to call ahead.

Pesticide-Free Rhubarb

I’m so thrilled to have found pesticide-free rhubarb without having to call 10,000 different places! This weekend at the Texas Township farmer’s market I was able to buy it from Bonamego Farms ($3.00 per pound or $5.00 for 2 pounds). Bonamego Farms is in Lawrence (58041 48th Street). Their phone number is (269) 674-3541. If you stop by, please be sure to tell them that you heard about their rhubarb from our website!

We have two teeny-tiny rhubarb plants at Arcadia Farms and this year I planted several more from seed. If we’re lucky, we’ll be harvesting some for our customers next season instead of sourcing it from other growers. I can’t wait, because I love rhubarb and I love the hands-off benefits of perennial foods!

Does anyone else know of sources for pesticide-free rhubarb? Has anyone found a cheaper price? I saw that Rajzer’s Farm in Decatur had rhubarb cheaper (I think $2.25 per pound) however it is conventionally raised (sprayed with pesticide).

I still haven’t decided how I’m going to preserve my leftover rhubarb… I’m leaning toward making sauce or jam. More on that next week!

Have you heard about Locavore90?

Locavore90 is a FREE program provided by Arcadia Farms and Flowerfield Enterprises that challenges and equips families in Southwest Michigan to incorporate more local foods into their diet during a 90 day period. Click here to learn more!

 
 

Asparagus Guide

Have you heard about Locavore90? Locavore90 is a FREE program provided by Arcadia Farms and Flowerfield Enterprises that challenges and equips families in Southwest Michigan to eat a locavore (local-only) diet for 90 days (or as often as reasonably possible). Sound like a lot of work? It won’t be. Click here to learn more about what we’ve done to make it simple.

Asparagus in Bowl

May is asparagus season. Several years ago our family went through an asparagus “phase” where we ate it three or four times a week. (That’s when Owen was too young to realize he could not like certain foods!) These days we don’t eat it as often, partly because we just got sick of sooo much of it and party because we prefer to buy it in season. Now that the time is right, I’m hoping to buy a large quantity of asparagus – some to enjoy now, and some to save for later. After making some phone call and poking around the internet, here’s what I discovered about buying and preserving in-season, local asparagus in Southwest Michigan.

When to Get It

Asparagus is in-season during May and sometimes as late as the first week of June.

Where to Get It

As part of our family’s Locavore90 Commitments, we’re gearing up to buy all of our food from sources within 100 miles of our home in Portage. To start my search for local asparagus, I went to my go-to resource for finding local food – www.localharvest.org. I did a quick search for farms within 100 miles of Kalamazoo which sell asparagus. For your convenience, I dumped all of that info in a handy spreadsheet which you can download by clicking here.

Keep in mind that just because a farm is listed on this spreadsheet doesn’t automatically mean that they have asparagus for sale. It just means that they indicated on Local Harvest (or I heard through word of mouth) that they have asparagus. For some small farms like mine, the food being grown may be reserved for CSA members or some other kind of arrangement. With that in mind, be sure to call ahead before you show up expecting to bring home so green goodness.

Calling ahead is just what I did. For my convenience, I chose the farms that are closer to my home and contacted them to get availability and pricing. Spring is a super busy time for farmers so I had some difficulty getting phone calls back. Once I received all the information I could get, I discovered a few farms with great prices but had major difficulty finding pesticide-free asparagus. There may be farms on the spreadsheet above which have pesticide-free asparagus for sale, but of the ones I contacted (and the ones that called me back), I didn’t find any. (NOTE: Bear-Foot Farms can get pesticide-free asparagus very early in the season – I missed it – and Bishop’s Sunny Ridge farm has very small quantities of naturally raised asparagus available for non-CSA customers.)

So… I know this is going to wound some of you… but… I decided to go ahead and buy conventionally raised asparagus. I’m certain that someone out there has naturally-raised asparagus for sale in our area, but if I wait too much longer to hear back from farmers, I’m going to miss out entirely.

Local Asparagus Sources

Of all the farms I contacted, here are the winners for best price:

Rajzer’s Farm Market in Decatur: $1.50/pound {269.423.4941}
Bishop’s Sunny Ridge Farm in Paw Paw: $1.75/pound {269.655.0091}
Harvey’s U Pick Farm in Tekonsha:  $1.80/pound {517.767.3408}

How to Save Money

Besides doing some comparison shopping to find the best price (you’re welcome) buying in bulk is another way to save money on asparagus. A bulk purchase helps you save because it provides you with the impetus to ask the seller for an additional price break. (“If I buy 20 pounds, is there any way you could give me a bit of a price break?”). When asking for a discount, remember to be respectful – this farmer has invested a lot of time, money and effort into producing your food. Expecting a 40% discount is probably unreasonable at best, insulting at worst. My advice is to ask without suggesting an amount and just take what you can get (even if it’s 0%).

The other way that buying in bulk saves you money is simply because it reduces your overall cost for a long period of time. You could buy 3 or 4 pounds of asparagus now while the price is cheap ($1.50/pound)… but if you want asparagus again in September, you’re going to pay a little bit more ($3.00/pound). Instead, why not buy a bulk amount and preserve some for future use?

How to Preserve It

Asparagus can be preserved in several ways including canning, drying, freezing, and pickling/fermenting. My family’s favorite way to enjoy asparagus is steamed and tender-crisp, so I’m opting to preserve our extra asparagus by freezing it. (I personally find canned asparagus to be too mushy.) If I didn’t have 10,000 projects on the horizon I’d love to experiment with pickled or lacto-fermented asparagus as well. You can be sure that I’ll be sharing all about my asparagus-freezing adventure soon! Meanwhile, to learn more about the options – and make the best choice for your asparagus mother lode – check out the resources below.

Preserving Asparagus Three Ways – Freezing, Drying and Lacto-Fermenting

How to Preserve Asparagus Well

Grow Your Own

The best way to get locally raised asparagus is to grow your own! For a guide to growing your own asparagus, click here.

 
 

Locavore90

grocery shopping

Guess what? I’ve been keeping a little secret (ok, a big secret) and I’m super excited to finally spill the beans! For the last several months I’ve been hard at work planning a community-wide program that revolves around our core values – saving money, eating healthy and buying local. The program is called Locavore90 and I’m thrilled to finally be able to share it with you!

Locavore90 is a FREE program that challenges and equips families in Southwest Michigan to eat a locavore (local-only) diet for 90 days (or as often as possible). Southwest Michigan already has a fabulous culture of local eating! The goal of this program is to spread that message even farther, as well as to give tips, tricks and support to those who are already eating local but want to do it more or for less money.

So here are some questions you might be asking:

  1. Yikes… won’t that be a lot of work?
  2. What is a locavore?
  3. Why in the world would I want to be a locavore?
  4. How does Locavore90 work?

So glad you asked…

What is a Locavore

A locavore is a person who eats a local-only diet. For purposes of the Locavore90 Challenge, local-only means food raised within 100 miles of your home. (For more details – and exceptions to the 100 mile rule – click here to read our family’s Locavore Commitments.) A locavore also eats food that is in season. That means no watermelon in May. Why would you give up watermelon in May? So glad you asked… read on to find out.

Why Would I Want to be a Locavore?

locavore90

Being a Locavore isn’t for everyone. It’s only for those who are concerned about health, who love great tasting food, who want to save money on groceries, would like to contribute to environmental health and love to see their local communities thriving economically.

Here are six great reasons to eat a local-only diet as much as possible.

  1. Food Tastes Better. There’s no denying that food harvested at the peak of freshness tastes better. Many eaters also believe that naturally grown (organic) food tastes better than the alternative. A naturally grown, in-season tomato will always taste worlds better than a cardboard counterfeit shipped from out of state in April.
  2. Food is More Nutritious. After produce is harvested, something begins to happen: It loses nutritional value – dramatically. The older your produce is, the more nutrients it has lost. Locally grown food was likely harvested within the last 24 hours so it comes to you as a more nutritionally complete food than anything from California ever could.
  3. Food is More Varied. Local farmers are not bound to produce only varieties that will sell well at Wal-Mart or that can travel long distances before spoiling. As such, you’ll discover tasty delights at the farmers market you never even knew existed… and soon won’t be able to live without.
  4. You Save Money. Produce is always less expensive when it is in season. When you add buying in bulk to buying in season, you have potential save good money on good food. Many farmers will give you great discounts when you buy in bulk or buy frequently as a regular customer. We’ll give you tips and tricks to help you stretch your local-only dollar.
  5. The Local Economy is Sustained. According to Eat Local First, on average, produce purchased from chain stores results in 15 cents reinvested into the community for every dollar spent. When you buy directly from local growers or stores which stock from local sources, that amount increases to 45 cents for every dollar. That’s 30% better for the Southwest Michigan economy.
  6. The Southwest Michigan Environment is Helped. Many small farms have sustainable practices that focus on improving soil fertility and habitats, as well as eliminating the use of pesticides. These practices can have a dramatic impact on our water sources. In addition, buying local reduces our collective carbon footprint because food travels shorter distances from farmer to consumer (and skips a lot of transfers in between!).

How Does Locavore90 Work?

Even if you can’t make the entire 90 days, making a commitment to a local diet in smaller ways can still have a positive impact on  your health and your community.

Step 1: Join

To join, simply enter your email address in the Join Locavore90 box on our website (Click here and look in the right-hand column). You’ll get lots of support, including monthly meal plans, recipes, information about local sources for food, info on great deals to save you money and tips for preserving in-season produce so you can include more local foods into your diet after 90 days. We’re starting the challenge on June 2, 2013 but you can absolutely join us even after that date.

Step 2: Create Your L90 Commitments

Locavore90 is meant to be challenging without being burdensome. We realize that the balance between those two points is different for each family so I’ve designed the program to allow you to make your own rules called Commitments. You Locavore90 Commitments are the guidelines your family pledges to follow with the goal of incorporating more local foods into your diet. Click here to get started. (Don’t worry –your Commitments are private!)

Step 3: Do It!

Before each month begins, you’ll receive a meal plan for the entire month via email. The meal plan takes the guess work out of what’s in season and how to prepare it. Meals are family-friendly. (If I can find the time, I’m also hoping to create a foodie-friendly meal plan for those of you who are a bit more adventurous about what you eat!) If you don’t like what we’ve picked, you can select a substitute recipe from the online library. I’ll also share tips on local sources and ways to save money.

Step 4: Relax

You’ll receive tons of support to help you keep your Locavore90 commitments (including the opportunity to join a Locavore90 Facebook group if you want). But at the end of the day, the only person keeping track of your progress is you (and probably your family). No pressure.

After 30, 60 and 90 days, be sure to reward yourself! You’re doing something great for your health and your community. I’m not promising that you won’t miss watermelon in June, but you will be reaping all the benefits of eating in-season and your tastebuds will thank you for it!

Won’t That Be a Lot of Work?

I’ve invested a lot of time into developing a program that takes the guesswork out of local eating and that does a good chunk of the planning up front for you. But even with that being the case, eating local is likely to mean a change to your routine. You might have to drive somewhere to pick your milk up for the week… you might build weekly trips to the farmers market into your weekend… you might start using a meal plan where before you’ve always just decided on your drive home what you’ll make for dinner. The thought of making these changes might make you groan at first thought, but I think the health, taste and community benefits will make you feel good about it before long. And remember, YOU set the pace. YOU track yourself. No pressure.

And heck, you might even grow to like weekly farmers market visits… I know I do!

Are You In?

Locavore90 officially kicks off on June 2, 2013. (If you sign up now you’ll get the meal plan before June begins. The Recipe Library will debut around the same time.) Before then, I’m hoping to spread the word about this program and get as many people on board as possible. I’ll also be doing some prep work through this blog talking about local sources not only for fruits and veggies, but also sustainably raised meat, eggs, milk, cheese and any other food stuff I can track down! We’ll be talking about what’s in season, where to buy, how to preserve it and so much more. And as you might expect, I’ll be sharing our family’s personal Locavore90 journey with you per my usual transparent fashion. It’s going to be a great summer and I hope you’ll help me by sharing about Locavore90 on Facebook, Twitter and over coffee with your friends. Are you in?

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.

 
 
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