LocalHarvest Newsletter, March 3, 2015

Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.

In our last newsletter, LocalHarvest president Guillermo Payet reflected on the last 15 years in the local food movement. Several people commented on his article, including one John Ubaldo of John Boys Farm who felt that small scale farmers should talk up their strengths. "We have a lot more power than we are given credit for," he wrote. I was intrigued by this idea, so I looked him up and was entirely taken by his description of his farm, and by his photo. Anyone who looks equally comfortable carrying a piglet and a baby is somebody I want to talk to.

My hunch proved right. I like talking to all farmers, but the fiery ones might be my favorite and John is all fire. Exhibit A: "One of my jobs at the farmers market is to beat people over the head about how much work actually goes into farming. Most people have no idea! I've been doing this for a long time and I'm still staggered by how much work goes into doing it right. People have to get that. You have to be willing to beat people up."

"Doing it right" is one of John's catch phrases, and you get the idea that there isn't much wiggle room between right and emphatically not right. He never sprays anything on his crops, even organically approved products, and he gets even more "angry and militant" (his words) about GMOs. In short, he's a purist about producing the highest quality food, and a purist who takes his role as a health educator seriously. "Small farmers are in a is a powerful position because of our ability to impact people's health. How many other jobs offer the ability to change people's lives so positively, on such a basic, human level? Not many. That's not something we farmers can squander. If we do, we're idiots!" There's that fire again.

John wants customers not only to pay whatever he asks for his products, but to thank him afterward. And it seems they do. "I am not the only meat guy at our farmers market, but mine is the only stand with a line. If you're doing it right, your products are going to set themselves apart. Telling the story about what your farm does gets people excited about your food, and then people from all walks of life choose to eat properly and are willing to pay for it."

When talking with his customers about their food choices, John will sometimes go dollar for dollar with them comparing the cost of taking the family to McDonald's versus what they could get for the same money at his stand. "I'll tell them that the main difference, besides their health, between fast food and my food is convenience. I'm not afraid to call people out on being lazy. At the beginning, it was tough sell, but now, every week they're there, and they eat what we bring down." His style wouldn't work for everyone, but it seems to work very well for him, perhaps because he does it with so much heart. "The way I see it, I have hundreds and hundreds of family members. We do a lot of education and we find out what our customers are cooking at home. Then they are either talking to me at the stand every week, or avoiding me because they are doing something stupid and don't want me to bop them."

I loved this John Ubaldo character, and if I ever find myself in his neck of rural New York you can bet I'm going to look him up. Meanwhile, I am taking his words to heart. Farmers who produce good, clean food should be extraordinarily proud of it. And maybe the rest of us could raise the bar a little higher in our food choices and move a little closer to our own version of "doing it right."

As Guillermo mentioned last month, 2015 is LocalHarvest's fifteenth anniversary. We are going to devote most of our newsletter space to our members' voices this year. We created LocalHarvest to serve farmers, and this year we want you to hear directly from some of them, like John Ubaldo. If you have topics you'd like our farmers to weigh in on this year, please submit your ideas via our comments page.

Until next time, take good care and eat well.

Erin Barnett

New Feature: Coupons

Everybody likes a good deal! Many of our online catalog vendors wanted to be able to offer their own sales on their online products, and this month we rolled out a new coupon feature allowing them to do just that. Each Friday we publish new coupons, each valid for two weeks. Make yourself a note to check the "LocalHarvest Deals" page each week! You are sure to find some deals you will want to try.

From the LH Store

Still craving citrus? Many people have been enjoying LocalHarvest citrus all winter long. The season is still going strong, and this week we have lots of great fruit with free shipping!

Last month we encouraged readers to check out the seeds LH growers offer. Many of you did - hooray! Tending even a small garden is one of the surest paths to joy that I know of. Thinking of doing so this year? The fun begins now, with all the tantalizing decisions. How many tomatoes and what kinds? There are all kinds of seeds to sow from LocalHarvest seed growers!

CSAware: Looking Ahead to the new season?

CSA Farmers: It's a great time of year to consider upgrading your business processes. CSAware can help. If you'd like to ask us some questions about it or take an online tour, let us know!

Food from the Farm: Roasted Chicken and Winter Veggies

In talking with John Ubaldo about his work, chicken came up, and he mentioned roasting a bird for one meal and then making stock out of it to use in a second meal. “All of a sudden my food becomes a bargain!” he said. I couldn’t agree more. Roasting a chicken and vegetables, and then making stock is something I do once or twice a month year round. It is a foundational part of the way I cook. As John suggests, it does stretch the food dollars. If I pay $16 for a good chicken and we enjoy it for supper one night and lunch the next day, and that night I serve a rich white bean soup I’ve made with the chicken stock, the investment in that beautiful chicken comes out just fine.