Locavore

Pastured paradoxes

I raise pigs on annual pasture crops. Am I farming sustainably?

Bob Comis with his porkers. Will they leave the land more productive than they found it? Photo: Zach Phillips The concept of sustainability isn’t very useful as a critique of industrial agriculture — all you have to do is create a friendly definition of “sustainable,” and the critique is turned on its head. However, sustainability does interest me as it relates to my own farm. Am I farming sustainably? That is, am I farming in such a way that the land I work will be as, or even more, productive for future generations? Or, am I farming unsustainably — that …

Getting sappy

What’s the season between winter and spring? Maple time! [VIDEO]

Spring doesn’t seem like it would be maple syrup time (based on the pictures on Vermont syrup bottles), but so it is. At the cusp of freezing and melting snow is when the sap is running. And while the rest of the country is praying for warmth, the maple farmers are wishing for cold. The longer it stays cold, the longer the syruping season lasts. Last year, the season here in Minnesota was short, but I made it out just in time to spend the day with Chris Ransom. His operation is based on his backyard trees as well as …

Choice nuggets

Radiation-tainted milk in Japan, Pollan on food movement elitism, and more

When my info-larder gets too packed, it’s time to serve up some choice nuggets from around the web. ——— Nuke disaster hits Japan’s food supply Note to planners: Don’t plunk highly volatile industrial projects onto rich farmland. Doing so ensures that industrial disasters will quickly cascade into food crises. Tragically, Japan’s Fukushima region isn’t just a source of nuclear-derived electricity. It’s also a major source of milk and vegetables — and its farmland has already been impacted by the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. From Saturday’s The New York Times: As Japan edged forward in its battle to …

gleaning your plate

Ask Umbra on how much food Americans waste, and what to do about it

Send your question to Umbra! Q. Dear Umbra, Do you have a reliable source/figure for the total amount of food wasted by Americans?  I read somewhere that up to 40 percent of the food we buy may be thrown away. That means people spend an additional 66 percent on food products they don’t/can’t actually consume. Most of this “subsidy” goes to food processors, not to mention packaging, transporting, fertilizer, and, of course, agro-corps like Monsanto. Do you know if those figures are accurate? Professor IkeWichita, Kan. Someone has too much food on their plate …Photo: jbloomA. Dearest Ike, It’s true …

Just like how granny didn't do it

Forget farmers markets — I want to sell my pastured meat at Price Chopper

This pastured piggy went to Price Chopper.Photo: Kevin SteeleIt is time to make local passe. It is time to make regional the new local. Enough of farmers markets, CSAs, and direct on-farm sales. Yes, they are exciting — they feel like they are getting us somewhere. And, to be honest and give them their due, they have gotten us somewhere. The reality, however, is that they will never get us there, whither goest we must if we want to make a change — real change. I will say it as straight as I can: I want to see my pork …

Eat your words

I’ve got a good food story to tell: yours [VIDEO]

The Perennial Plate has been creating weekly videos about real food in Minnesota for the past year. Today, we released our 52nd video: a trailer for our upcoming project. This spring, I will be travelling across the country for six months, documenting stories about good food in America. Each week we will be filming, editing, and releasing unique short films about sustainable eating … and for that we need your help. We want this cross country film project to be made up of the stories you tell us. So, do you have an opinion about what good food is? Submit a story. Know of an …

I scream, you scream

Teaching kids to make ice cream — with snow [VIDEO]

This video has a lot going for it: cute kids, a grass-fed dairy farm, backyard chickens, and — most compelling of all — a recipe for ice cream. But there’s an added gimmick: this isn’t ordinary ice cream — it was made with snow, not some fancy kitchen device. So watch the video and, while the snow lasts, whip up some ice cream outside with your kids (or cousins, as was the case with me). And use the best-quality milk you can find! Outdoor Milk Ice Cream “Fleur de Lait” 2 cups heavy cream 2 cups milk 1 cup sugar …

Co-oped, but not co-opted

Fed-up college kids take food buying into their own hands

Someone’s forming a co-op, my lord: college students organize to create the food system they want. Photo: Kitty BolteSay you’re a college student ready to eschew the standard pizza-burrito-pretzels-beer diet and start eating more whole, sustainably produced foods. Say you want to take it a step further and work to make healthy and ethical food widely available on your campus — without having to pay gourmet grocery store prices. Well, you might consider starting a co-op. “There are so many students learning the theory behind food systems who are itching to put it into practice, and co-ops are the way …

Flip the bird

How to cook and eat a whole duck [VIDEO]

Nose-to-tail eating sounds like a trend, but it’s really just good practice. Indeed, even before British chef Fergus Henderson made “whole beast” cooking popular, the whole animal was getting used. Slaughterhouses big and small make sure to use every bit of every animal — that’s how they make their money: livers go into dog food, bones get made into gelatin, etc. The real treat of nose-to-tail is more about getting the whole animal onto your plate. And that comes down to a matter of supporting your farmer. They make more money selling a half a pig or a few ducks …