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How do I “go local?” Part Two
If you’re super serious about eating as much awesome, locally sourced food as possible, you may have already done your homework. You may have talked to farmers, procured extra freezer and pantry space, bookmarked recipes, and filled your planner with notes about things like when strawberries will hit The Market. Unfortunately, you can’t plan for every eventuality, and problems will come up. Some of those problems are logistical, but perhaps the biggest is cultural.
If you’re the only one in your social circle who values locally sourced goods, the best case scenario is that your friends aren’t interested. Worst case scenario, they may actively poke fun at the “insanity” of waiting all year just to pay more for those weird looking tomatoes. Don’t let it discourage you! They just don’t know better.
As much as you’d like to, you can’t force your friends to share your beliefs or priorities, but there’s still room to advocate as long as you do it gently. Going out for lunch? Suggest The Root! Having everyone over for dinner? Set out a spectacular smorgasbord, and be sure to mention that fresh and fantastic played starring roles in your recipes. Gift giving occasion coming up? Consider pairing an ALFN gift certificate with something from our
Market that you know your friend will love.
For some of you, the “opposition” may hit even closer to home. What do you do when your family or housemates aren’t even supportive? This can be an especially tricky and discouraging scenario. Presumably, you see these people every single day and they have the right to fill the pantry with ConAgra and Kellogg. (No, not that Kellogg.) If your role happens to include the majority of food shopping and preparation, you’re already golden! Buy local and make it delicious. Who can argue with that? If it’s not, ask to take on a few shopping trips and meals. The designated chef will appreciate a break, and it gives you a chance to showcase all that Arkansas has to offer.
If you don’t push too hard, maybe the flavor and quality of everything Arkansas has to offer will speak for itself. And maybe not. You can’t change the unwilling, and there’s no need to make it a point of contention when you could spend time enjoying the many other qualities that make someone great company.
But where does that leave you? With whom can you share the glee of tracking down those first few asparagus stalks in the spring? Even if you can’t enlighten your current companions, that doesn’t mean you can’t expand your social circle. There are plenty of great ways to engage like-minded, local folks. First and foremost, you could volunteer at Food Club! Get to know a couple of fellow volunteers during the early shift, or meet and greet dozens of other members during the late shift. We also frequently offer volunteer opportunities at local food and sustainability related events. Email us or inquire at pickup if you want to know more.
Of course, we’re not the only locally-minded folks in town. Make time to mingle at conferences, and other events around town. We try to mention happenings that may be of interest to our members, but there’s a lot going on out there! Check out relevant blogs, venues, and follow your favorite farmers and Facebook folks. Seek out groups that share your inclinations and pastimes. No matter how specific your pursuits, someone around here feels the same way. So if you can’t find the club you’re looking for, start it!
p.s. Don’t forget to place your order before The Market closes tomorrow morning at 7:30, and stay tuned for more tips on eating local!
The Market is Open!
The market is open and blooming with business! Something else has been blooming in North Little Rock…Project Bloom from Cereus Solutions. Project Bloom will be giving away about 1,000 edible plants to residents of a community in the Historic Argenta neighborhood. They’ll provide gardening equipment and education about urban farming to help residents make changes that are both healthy and beautiful to improve their lives and their community. You can show support by purchasing a Project Bloom t-shirt in sage or lilac or contact Dr. Sarah Brown at 501-516-1464 for more information.
Another great way to support local communities is check out the market. There’s tons of exciting products this week!
- All sorts of great stuff from the ever-creative minds at Maison Terre. Their jalapeno cheese grits are a quick, easy, and scrumptious breakfast with the perfect balance of cheese and spice. There’s their famous pomegranate vinaigrette loaded with antioxidants and perfect for greens, veggies, and fruit. Their banana date chutney is an incredible pairing with cheese, on sandwiches, or as a veggie or meat glaze. And I can now personally attest to the power of their total hair care, which left my hair feeling tingly clean all day!
- New Spring and garden-themed gift baskets from Tammy Sue’s Critters. Locally-made soaps, lotions, lip balms, and body butters make perfect Easter and Springtime presents.
- Just in time for bug season comes Skeeter Beater from Homayd Natural Care Products. This insect-repelling soap contains lemongrass and citronella essential oils to keep the bugs at bay while you’re at play!
- I did it: I cooked beef heart the Peruvian way. After watching some instructional Youtube videos on how to cut it, I marinated it overnight in garlic, cumin, chili paste, vinegar, salt, and pepper, and skewered and grilled it with red onion the following night. The result: Delicioso! It was my first time trying heart and it basically tasted like an awesome, marinated grilled steak. Order yours from Bluebird Hill Berry Farm or MeatWorks Butchery & Market today!
- You know Spring has truly arrived with the listing of Jersey Knight Asparagus from Willow Springs Market Garden. There’s only a few and they go fast, so consider yourself lucky if you get this prized possession in your Food Club cart.
- We’re so, so glad to welcome Eddie of Kellogg Valley Farms back on the market. After a tough winter we served as the trustee on Eddie’s $5,000 kiva.zip loan, and thanks to supporters here and all over the world, Eddie was able to raise the funds he needed to get growing in less than a week. Growth is what we got, and now Kellogg’s got certified naturally-grown bok choy, gourmet lettuce mix, kale, red leaf lettuce, green romaine, and frozen zephyr squash and zucchini.
This is part of what I love most about living in Central Arkansas. We’ve got great farmers and an incredibly supportive community, the main ingredients for a thriving local food economy. With more and more organizations like Project Bloom, The Southern Center for Agroecology, Village Commons, the Central Arkansas New Agrarian Society, and the Dunbar Community Garden Project sprouting up each day, we’ve got all the ingredients for a healthy and sustainable local food system. Thanks to all of you for supporting it!
- Alex Handfinger
How do I “go local?” - Part One
If you’re reading this, you’re probably not wondering why you should eat local. Despite scrutiny, the reality locavorism is still the best option in an imperfect world. What you may be wondering is “How can I eat local?” or “How can I eat more local?” or, my personal favorite, “How can I eat 100% local?” Basing your diet on locally grown foods does take a little more effort than picking out what looks good at the megamart, but it doesn’t have to be daunting. Here are some things you can do to make the transition a little easier.
Know what’s in season, and how to use it. These two pages can give you an idea of when your favorite foods are in season, but they’re not definitive. Weather is a major factor, as is farming method. The Market is living proof that you can have fresh salad all winter long.
Find new ways to prepare the most abundant crops. Some especially prolific crops almost become burdensome. Instead of eschewing the most bountiful veggies, find new ways to use them. This summer, when squash season feels never-ending, rejoice in the positively endless recipes that can transform this humble veggie into a new experience.
Experiment with things you think you don’t like. Maybe you’ve only had cabbage boiled within an inch of it’s life, or slimy sauteed okra. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you avoid perfectly awesome ingredients just because they can be terrible when prepared certain ways. Instead, actively seek out the things you’ve overlooked in the past. You may even stumble upon a new favorite.
Obviously, you’ve heard about the Little Rock Local Food Club. We do our best to provide you with a wide selection of foods from dozens of farmers all year long. However, it’s worth mentioning that there are other markets and you should check them out, too. While we offer the convenience of ordering ahead of time and are happy to answer your questions all week long, open-air markets give you the opportunity to talk to your farmer face-to-face. If you’d like to source as much as possible from a specific grower, ask them about CSAs and which venues they bring the most product to. Ask them why they don’t grow more of your favorites, and how you can best support their endeavors.
Buying in bulk is a great way to take advantage of short seasons and there are a variety of ways to make the most of your delicious local foods once you bring them home. Freezing is simplest and is applicable to almost any item. I consider blanching to be optional, but you’re mileage may vary. Regardless, be sure to consider how you’re likely to use something and freeze it an an appropriate way. Things like zucchini are too soft to cut after thawing so meal sized, prepared portions that are vacuum sealed will be most convenient. Mind how you prepare it as well. Cubed squash is great if you make soups, but shredded suits casserole. Fruits and vegetables that don’t require processing (peas, beans, berries, etc) are best individually frozen on a cookie sheet before being bagged. That way you can scoop out however much you need at any time.
Another popular storage method is canning. Canning allows you to store prepared foods like sauces and give you the option of having a home cooked meal ready in minutes all year long. If you haven’t already learned how, I highly recommend picking up a few books or taking a class. You’ll be so glad you did.
Less popular, but equally useful, are the traditional techniques of food preservation. Drying, salting, and fermentation are just a few ways you can make your bounty last. It may seem a little outside the box, but it’s worth perusing a couple of good books on the subject before you dismiss it. People were preserving their harvest long before electricity and pressure cookers were an option, and the efficacy of these methods will surprise you.
Utilizing even some of these tips will help you reap a little more benefit from living in The Natural State. Even so, challenges will arise. Thankfully for anyone actually reading this entire weblog, that’s a topic for another post.
p.s. The Market closes at 7:30 tomorrow morning!
The Market is Open and Seed Exchange!
The market is open for business and as per usual, there’s tons of exciting products! Spring has most definitely sprung, and we’ve got holidays to prepare for, gardens to grow, and tons of great local food events to attend. Thank goodness the market is here to make it easy to fill even the busiest of times with delicious local food. Here’s just a small taste of what we’ve got…
- We are so incredibly thrilled to welcome Crimmins Family Farm back on the market. This is an outstanding, USDA certified organic grower that was hit especially hard this winter, but is back in force with arugula, escarole, red butterhead, red romaine, red oak leaf lettuce, and sorrel.
- Easter is just around the corner, so now’s the time to get your locally-raised Easter ham. Whether you order from Farm Girl Meats or Falling Sky Farm, you can rest assured that your holiday centerpiece came from woodland-raised, happy hogs.
- The folks at Bluebird Hill Berry Farm can liven up your celebration with Easter napkins handmade from 100% cotton and dyed Easter eggs to send the little ones off searching. Food for Thought Farm is using all-natural dyes to create beautiful flower patterns that should last for years.
- I’m excited to try out the Total Hair Care: Regenerating Herbal Rinse from Maison Terre. Local volunteers reported that the rinse stopped hair loss, started new hair growth, stopped dandruff, and left their hair silky and bright. Everything else seems to be growing back right about now, and I know I sure could use some…
- With the storms starting to pick up, now’s the perfect time to get a rain barrel from the ALFN-sponsored Victory Garden Project. Made with an upcycled, food-grade soy sauce barrel, these blue beauties can hold 50 gallons of water that can be used to irrigate your flower bed while also providing a temporary reservoir for roof rain runoff. Water conservation and property erosion protection at its finest. Note that gutters are not included but necessary for collecting roof rainwater.
- Corn mache from Willow Springs Market Garden. 10 foodie points go to anyone that’s heard of this one before. It’s an ancient European green that can be a nutritious and tasty addition to salads. Thanks to Robert at Willow Springs for his constant enthusiasm in growing and introducing our palates to new and exciting flavors!
- Nothing says warmer weather to me quite like seeing all the awesome new plant starts from A B C Nature Greenhouse and Herb Farm. Those as adventurous as Willow Springs’ Robert can grow pepper varieties such as Craig’s grande jalapeno, golden marconi, lemondrop, lipstick, orange bell, poblano, purple beauty, purple marconi, red marconi, shishito, fish, thai yellow chili, Tunisian baklouti, cayenne, pepperoncini, TAM jalapeno, Roberto’s cuban seasoning, bullnose, patio pot marconi, and of course, my personal favorite, the Syrian goat horn.
Part of what I love about A B C is that they use GMO-free seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. GMO-free seeds help us protect and improve genetic diversity of unique heirloom seed varieties. Another way to do this is through trading with other local growers at a seed exchange. Lucky for us, our friends at the Southern Center for Agroecology and First Christian Church are hosting the Little Rock Seed Exchange next Saturday, April 12th from 11-1. Anyone may attend to exchange and distribute open-pollinated seeds of food crops, herbs, or ornamentals. Even if you don’t have any seeds to trade, seed swaps are a great opportunity to connect with growers and learn more about how to save seed. There’s going to be awesome people, food trucks, and artisan cupcakes, so I hope you’ll join us!
- Alex Handfinger
Events in Local Food!
Spring has definitely sprung and it’s time to fill your calendar with all the great, local events that can’t be missed. Come see us on April 19th at the Arkansas Earth Day Foundation’s Annual Earth Day Festival. We love seeing our members out and about! And if you need a snazzy new shirt to bring to the DIY Tie Dye station, check out the CANAS T-shirts that just hit The Market. Buy it now and you can hit the tie dye booth in plenty of time to wear it with pride at the 1st Annual Spring CANAS Conference! At the CANAS Conference, you can learn how to become a part of Arkansas’ ever expanding local food community. Then on May 3rd, you can tour one of the most integral farms in that community. Falling Sky Farm is hosting an Open Farm Day. Enjoy a tour of the farm followed by a potluck picnic. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org and you’ll get to see a successful, sustainable farm in action, get to know some of your favorite farmers, and mingle with like-minded local folk!
Whew! If just the thought of all that fun stirs up your appetite, don’t forget to get your order in before The Market closes tomorrow morning.
The Market is Open
a guest Hello from former Food Club family member Sam Hedges
Sam Hedges here, recently transplanted from Arkansas’ fertile soil into the New Mexican desert.
I’ve lived in Albuquerque for three months now, and in this time I’ve crystallized an important message for all of you…
Food Club is awesome. I say this because Albuquerque is devoid of anything like Food Club. No locallygrown.net, no year-round market, no convenient source of locally grown food.
Believe me, I’ve tried. In my four years with Food Club, I forgot the experience of buying produce from California in a grocery store. Having to go back to it is a bumpy transition, but without a Winter farmers market, I don’t have much choice (why you don’t see year round farming in a mild climate like NM is a whole ‘nother conversation). And an open-air market is great, but it’s no Food Club. What I’ve been missing is a way to really shop locally, and my move to Albuquerque has helped me appreciate just how unique Food Club is.
The closest I’ve gotten here is a place called Skarsgard Farm. They run a giant CSA, where you can order farm boxes week to week. It seemed to be the thing I was looking for. Imagine my surprise when I received a box of organic produce, mostly grown in Texas and California. Turns out I missed the fine print. I don’t care. It feels enough like Food Club that I can pretend it’s local. I even trick myself into thinking it tastes better. As long as it keeps me out of the grocery produce aisle.
Complaining aside, New Mexico is a great place, always worth experiencing. I’ve been farming for a month now, and most Arkansas farmers would be envious of the 60 degree days in February, the lack of humidity, absence of bugs, and unceasing sunshine. Turns out, the desert is an ideal place to farm as long as you have water.
I’m sure there are great things on the Market, but I’m not going to look, because it’ll make me jealous.
Merry Spring Break, All!
As you enjoy the crisp, sunny spring day (or possibly a warm, sunny spring day in some exotic locale) don’t forget to take another look at The Market before it closes tomorrow morning at 7:30AM CST. You don’t want to miss out on these latest additions:
Certified Organic Bloomsdale spinach from Green Acres Atkins. This heirloom variety offers the classic dark, savoyed leaves and superior flavor that spinach is meant to have. Modern hybrids just can’t compare.
If you lack the space for a full garden but find yourself itching to get dirty, check out the latest offering from ABC Nature Greenhouse & Herb Farm: patio pot Marconi pepper plant. This compact plant is perfect for container gardening and produces the same large, sugary-sweet, red peppers you undoubtedly already love.
Masion Terre has a delicious new treat for all the gourmands out there: banana date chutney. This versatile condiment goes with a wide variety dishes and is sure to please the most discerning of palates.
Rest assured that you can soften the unpleasant return to normalcy ahead by ordering all this and more.
The Market is Open and Cultivating Community Conference!
The market is open, and we’re so excited to have grassfed meats, naturally-grown vegetables, gourmet cheeses and breads, and SO much more to offer. With each passing week that separates us from that horrid winter, the array of fresh produce continues to expand, until we’ve got more colors of tomato than there are in the rainbow.
We’re equally excited about the upcoming First Annual CANAS Spring Conference: Cultivating Community. On Saturday, April 26th at the Unitarian Universalist Church, Cultivating Community will be a day-long series of workshops devoted to backyard gardening, food security, skill sharing, and community food culture. Participants will learn to plan, grow, source, and use the freshest food and products in Central Arkansas. Topics covered include: Backyard chickens, natural health and wellness, preserving the harvest, urban aquaponics, gardening with your kids, home brewing, and much, much more! The keynote address will come from the amazing Kathy Webb of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance. This is the perfect opportunity to become a part of Little Rock’s growing DIY food community so sign up now while there’s still space!
In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours. -Mark Twain
If I didn’t know better, I’d think Mark Twain lived right next door to me. Yesterday starts with a dusting of snow, yet today sunshine warms the army of bees taking advantage of my untended yard. What does this mean for The Market? I have it on good authority that once the pollinators get busy, the endless days of meat and frozen veggies are nearly behind us. But don’t take my word for it, log in and witness the earliest indicators of the glorious growing season ahead for yourself.
Chickens are often the first to know when that subtle switch from late winter to early spring finally happens. That’s why farm fresh eggs are everywhere you turn right now. In fact, there’s so many happy hens out there that you, our members, have a tough choice to make. Which eggs do you want this week? With nine growers to choose from, you may be tempted to mix and match, sampling one or two each week to see if you have a favorite. Go ahead! I won’t tell.
Plants, plants, and more plants are the next sign that the ice and snow will soon be a distant memory. Before there can be Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and tomatoes, there must be Brussels sprout, broccoli, and tomato plants. If a gorgeous garden is your goal this year, ABC Nature Greenhouse and Herb Farm has you covered. In addition to the old standbys, they’re bringing in new varieties our market has never seen.
Last but not least, the most universal sign that spring is upon us: flowers! Feast with your eyes as well as your stomach by ordering a a bit of beauty to bring home this week. A dozen daffodils from Willow Springs Market Garden is just the thing to brighten up your home on even the wettest, chilliest day.
If you’re ready to welcome these earliest signs of spring, make sure to get your order in before The Market closes tomorrow morning at 7:30!
The Market is Open!
Good Day Foodies,
The market is open and waiting for your orders of local goodies! And thanks to all of you, we’ll have plenty of certified naturally-grown food on the horizon from Eddie Stuckey at Kellogg Valley Farms. We’re SO excited to announce that his $5,000 kiva.zip loan has been fully funded! In less than a week, 146 lenders from all over the world lent a small Arkansas farmer the money he needed to get back on his feet after a devastating winter. I am continually inspired and amazed by the power of people coming together, and thank kiva.zip for providing this awesome platform that allows regular folks to empower small businesses across the globe. Most of all, thanks to all of you for continuing to support a strong local food system.
Speaking of a strong local food system, in the market this week….
- IT’S HERE IT’S HERE, American Ricotta cheese is on the market. Sorry for the excitement, but this rich and creamy cheese is PERFECT for lasagnas, pizza, salads, and so much else, and I can not wait to try it from the gourmet folks at White River Creamery.
- Realizing the superiority of a local tomato is what first drew me in to the local food scene, and I’m counting 9 kinds of tomato plants from A B C Nature Greenhouse & Herb Farm. Varieties such as black icicle, blue berries, gezahnte, indigo apple, large barred boar, Paul robeson, placero, purple bumblebee, and St. Pierre will be sure to wow your taste buds and impress your friends. Even better that they’ve all been started from GMO-free seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.
- For those of you that like your food already grown, try some lady cream peas from Kornegay Berry Farm. A sweet flavor and creamy texture are the perfect way to Southern up any meal.
- While my roommates have gone meat-free for Lent, I’ve loved having sliced deli ham from Falling Sky Farm for a quick and tasty sandwich on-the-go.
- Yet another new flavor of hummus from the culinary brains over at Geek Eats. This time it’s Yemen Lemon with the scrumptious-sounding Mediterranean blend of clove, coriander, cumin, and of course lemon.
- Lardy Dah laundry soap from Homayd Natural Care Products. This soap can serve as the base for a natural, economical laundry detergent, with the added benefit of allowing you to say lardy dah all day long.
Lastly, I wanted to mention an awesome opportunity for young folks looking to make a difference in the Central Arkansas community. Our friends over at Little Rock Summer of Solutions are recruiting motivated and passionate individuals ages 16 to 30. Summer of Solutions is a program for youth interested in growing the green economy, social justice, urban and sustainable agriculture, sustainable community development, and other environmental and social justice initiatives. Last year they cared for a community garden, hosted community dinners, led cooking classes, learned to weatherize and repair homes, developed a youth-run garden maintenance business, took field trips to Arkansas farms and natural places, and made some lasting connections with amazing youth and community members.
Please forward this great opportunity along to any young folks you know that may be interested. To apply to participate in the Summer of Solutions program they can fill out their application here.
Thanks so much for supporting local producers and community!