Tag Archives: local food

It’s harvest time! How far did your food travel?

Oh Bounteous Garden…

Pickled peppers

August was supposed to be the month we looked at reducing our carbon footprint in the area of transportation. What was I thinking?! I’m spending any non-work hours trying to stay ahead of the garden. We have learned how to can and pickle and ferment.

We’ve pickled green beans and peppers, cukes and beets and cherry tomatoes. We put up stewed tomatoes. I’ve got two containers of tomato puree in the fridge, a big mess o’ green and purple beans, and an abundance of fridge pickles cuz I let the pickling cukes get too large.

Garlic harvest

Produce from the garden

I’m waiting until all the pickling is done before I freeze the remainder of the 16 heads of garlic – absolutely luscious and interesting to experience the drying process. We had to dry them indoors because of the high humidity in July. We’ll be doing that again.

The tomatoes are starting to slow down now in the cooling weather. The peppers are still going strong – we’ll have a big batch of jalapenos and hot hungarians and a few more gorgeous green peppers. The eggplants are still going strong – we have purple and long, thing green ones. Collards look nice but didn’t get very big.

While I was out harvesting, a neighbor came by. I like him a lot and usually think he’s a very sensible guy, but he said he sees no value to gardening. He knows where he can get a tomato any time of the year – at the grocery store.

I pointed out that my tomato only traveled 10 feet, was picked in its prime and was never exposed to toxic chemicals. He thinks it’s a waste of time. While the industrial food system is working, he wants what he wants, when he wants it.

Canning and pickling

My neighbor believes in global warming but he doesn’t think there is anything we can do about it. Getting food closer to home – reducing the carbon footprint of food – is not a meaningful solution to him. On the other hand, he believes we have an “excess population” problem and coming food shortages are nature’s way of balancing.

That’s a pretty scary thought. I would rather be more hopeful and life-loving. I would rather enlarge my garden and learn how to grow more and preserve more. Maybe my garden can’t get us through a winter but let’s see what we can do with my garden and local farmers.

We’re learning. We thinking about issues. And I guess I was paying attention to my transportation footprint after all, in the form of food.

Experiments in Square-Foot Gardening

This month the mini-challenge is localizing our food.We’re paying attention to where our food comes from at the coop, choosing Minnesota or Wisconsin-grown, rather than California or Mexico. At our last trip, 24% of our purchase was local.

raised bed garden box

One of our square foot garden boxes

The other big effort – especially this time of year – is in the garden.

Last year we worked with the Permaculture Institute for Cold Climates and had an urban farmer create and work our veggie garden. This year we’re back to doing it ourselves, but with a twist. We’ve planted several square foot gardens in addition to a more traditional vegetable plantings directly in the dirt (the circular bed). The square foot layout is intended to maximize yield while minimizing space, to virtually eliminate weeding, and to generally simplify gardening.

Continue reading

June Mini-Challenge: Eat Local

June in Minnesota means gardening!

Our mini-challenge this month is to take steps to make our food choices more local.

Gardening: If you’ve got a yard, you can start a garden. At our house, we are trying out square foot gardening. We’ve planted some plants in the traditional manner. We’ve got some in boxes with our own soil, and we’ve got 3 boxes planted with the special Mel’s mix. We’ll see how they do.

Don’t have space for a garden? Try a container garden on a patio or deck. One group member who had no sun in her yard walked over to a neighbor and asked if she could garden in her spare lot. The neighbor said yes.

Shop local: Maybe you don’t have time to garden. You can still shop more locally by buying at the Midtown Farmer’s market or the coop. Or visit your favorite restaurant and see if they source their foods locally. Consider signing on to the Eat Local challenge.

A group member reported that if you shop the Seward Coop, your receipt will show you what percentage of your purchase was locally grown. She recently took a class on shopping the coop on a budget and reported that it was very informative and inspirational. She realized she could save a lot more money. There is another class coming up on July 16.

Understand Food Issues: Maybe you’d like to get a better understanding of the issues. Consider joining a book group at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. The next book the group is reading is Slow Death by Rubber Duck, by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, July 19, 6:30–8:00 p.m. at Peace Coffee Shop. “How a dare between two friends became a revealing lesson about how toxins in everyday products affect us all.”

Whatever you do, happy eating!

Continue reading

Join the Local Food Conversation

Growing food as locally as possible is a key component of the sustainability movement and addresses a number of problems:

  • Increasing cost of healthy food due to high cost of fuel to transport
  • Lack of access for some people to healthy food options
  • Better control over food quality (big agri-business practices have created some big health problems)
  • Reduced use of pesticides and herbicides
  • Allows more careful attention to health of plants and soil than large industrial farms

The city-wide group, Gardening Matters, has been very active throughout Minneapolis in getting gardens started. But there are a host of other challenges to increasing urban agriculture.

A wonderful conversation is taking place at Gandhi Mahal restaurant around issues of local food. A group of Longfellow neighbors has been meeting for the past two months to talk about the practical needs people encounter with growing, harvesting, distributing and storing food. Topics have included:

  • Increasing the number of community gardens
  • Garden planning
  • Ways to help existing gardeners share their produce with those who do not have enough to eat
  • How local restaurants can coordinate with local gardeners to increase their use of organic local produce
  • Food preservation — classes for cooking, processing and preserving produce
  • A food storage bank where residents can cold store processed produce for later use
  • Energy efficient greenhouses

Longer-term food storage (finding the right conditions to keep your produce through an entire winter) is one of the immediate projects the group is undertaking.

If you are interested in joining the local food conversation, leave a comment on the blog. I’ll connect you with the organizers.

What’s Up This Week!

The Longfellow Sustainability Group meets this Saturday, June 4, at 10:30 am at Peace Coffee. Last month’s mini-challenge was reducing garbage so we’ll hear from attenders about what they tried. As always, we’ll share resources and info on events.

Northern Spark: The Twin Cities’ first-ever Northern Spark festival is an all-night party at which about 200 artists will roll out 100 projects along the Mississippi River. Art projects include multi-story projections, floating works on barges, headphone concerts, bioluminescent algae, sewer pipes for organs, banjos and puppets. Festivities start at sundown Saturday (8:55 p.m.) and end at sunrise Sunday (5:28 a.m.).

If you go, check out Mobile Hotspot, an exploration of alternative energy, sustainability, and human powered solutions to rising fuel costs. “These explorations are founded on the concept of freedom, from reliance on unsustainable consumption of energy firstly, but more broadly by the social freedoms demanded in the recent uprisings in Egypt, Libya, and even Wisconsin. The Mobile Hotspot will be tracking thoughts on freedom across the world by projecting live feeds of tweets containing #freedom and #energy paired with imagery related to power use, development, and innovation.”