LocalHarvest Newsletter, March 25, 2009

It's been a big month for people who love real food. As you've no doubt heard, the First Lady planted a garden. On Friday my email inbox was full of messages triumphantly singing out the news. We'd like to send our own congratulations and thanks to Kitchen Gardeners International, a small organization that worked on this idea tirelessly and with great creativity over the last 15 months. It's a good one, and we believe the nation will be better for it.

Over the last couple of weeks, I've also received a barage of emails about the "Food Safety Modernization Act", or HB 875. The tone of these was somewhere between concerned and hysterical. From what we have learned, HB 875 is not the horror story it has been made out to be. It would not, for example, result in "totalitarian control" or "the planned elimination of farmers" as one oft-forwarded email put it. It actually contains some sound ideas. But for some reason, myths and misinformation about this bill have taken root and spread like a noxious weed.

It got me to thinking. First, truth be told, it made my head spin. All this justifiable jubilance stuffed in next to that screeching panic felt downright disorienting. The administration could not publicly promote organic gardening, and then sign off on a bill that would "criminalize organic farming and outlaw home gardening." It's absurd.

But what does it mean, to have so much exuberance in the locavore community on the one hand, and so much fear and loathing on the other? I think it comes down to this: food, and the ability to grow it honestly, is fundamental to our well-being. We celebrate when we see the food we love, and the values behind it, being respected by influential people. And if we feel that our right to grow that food without undue interference is threatened, we react strongly.

That said, it seems to me that we need to take a breath and put both of our hands to work. We can, each of us, sow at least one seed this spring. If the First Lady thinks pulling a few weeds is a good activity for her family, it's probably good for ours too - and it is. We can, each of us, also follow the food safety bills as they make their way through Congress, writing to our representatives to tell them how important small scale, organic agriculture is to us and to our communities.

It turns out that HB 875 is unlikely to go anywhere. And that's not necessarily great news, given that it contained some ambitious, positive changes. Our friends at the Cornucopia Institute tell us that 875 has been passed over for another food safety bill, HB 759. They, and others like Food and Water Watch think that we will need to make our voices heard as HB 759 moves forward, to ensure that the bill that is eventually passed includes exemptions for small food processing facilities and the same kind of smart, risk-based inspection processes that are contained in HB 875. We'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, enjoy the rest of the newsletter, take good care, and eat well.

Erin Barnett
Director, LocalHarvest

From the LocalHarvest Store:

It used to be that people tried to keep up with the Joneses. Gardening-wise, at least, we've got the Obamas to keep up with now! We put together a special catalog page featuring seeds for all the foods Michelle Obama is planting in her garden this spring.

With allergy season and spring colds upon us, we thought it would be a good time to offer a sale on our top-selling herbalist's products. From now through April 30, get 15% off of all of Sharon Hubbs-Kreft's products. Take good care of yourself!

If a farm-fresh ham is part of your family's Easter Sunday tradition, you’ll want to check out our fine selection of hams. Bone-in, boneless, smoked or not, nitrate and MSG free.

What with their unbelievable color, plus the juiciness, flavor and nutrition, blood oranges make the perfect snack. Get some from McManigle Farm today!

Special Offer for LocalHarvest readers:  YES! Magazine

We just love to pass on a good thing, and YES! magazine is definitely a good thing. The editors over at YES! have generously offered LocalHarvest newsletter readers an introductory annual subscription rate of just $10! (regularly $24) And get this – the current issue, Food for Everyone, is devoted to great ideas for a new food system, and inspiring stories of people revolutionizing food production. Here's an overview from their website. YES! calls itself an "ad-free, quarterly, national magazine that provides positive solutions for creating a more just and sustainable world." We call it food for the journey. We highly recommend you take them up on this great offer. Here's how.

Have a Thing for CSAs? Got 24 minutes?

If yes, we recommend spending the first five minutes making yourself a nice bowl of popcorn, and then settle in to watch, "Fridays at the Farm." It's short documentary and a personal essay exploring the experience of writer/director Richard Hoffmann when his young family joined a community-supported farm. Compiled from nearly 20,000 time-lapse photos, the film is visually rich. "Fridays at the Farm" has been on the international film festival circuit for the past year,  won two nice awards, and is part of the Green Series on the Sundance Channel. Just enter the password fridaysscreener to watch the film. And if it inspires you to look for a CSA near you, you know where to go.

Syrupin' Time

When Caroline Foote from Maple Hill Farm offered to write an article for us about how maple syrup is made, we jumped at it. Having seen the whole thing first hand, we know it to be an fascinating, if labor intensive process. If you have always been curious about how 40 gallons of sap is extracted and boiled down to make a single gallon of pancake-worthy syrup read on!


Chances are that many of you have heard about chromium. The name of this mineral has been tossed around quite a bit lately as a supplement that may aid in weight loss. The jury is still out on whether it is truly useful in that area, but we do know that chromium is an essential micro-mineral. In other words, we need it! An element is considered essential if a dietary deficiency of that element results in suboptimal biological function. In this case, chromium plays a critical physiological role in the body’s use of sugar and insulin. Chromium helps insulin transport glucose (sugar) into the cells. It is also involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
(Read on...)

Recipe from Sweetwater Farm: Grandmother's Pot Roast

Thanks go out to Karen Davis of Sweetwater Farm for sharing this month's farmer recipe - her grandmother's pot roast. Our recipe tester, Danny Dobrow, used this recipe to make a beautiful grassfed beef roast last night, and it was lovely. Karen recommends using a chuck roast, but says that rump roasts are fine too. The sauce is rich and savory, and the herbs infuse the meat with flavor. Leftovers would make great sandwiches... if there are any leftovers.
(Recipes and More...)