The Weblog

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With any luck, the last bit of winter weather really is behind us. It’s time to invest in the season ahead.

Whether you order Italian wild arugula for your salads or a Eureka lemon tree to add that homegrown touch to your gin and tonic, you can plant with confidence knowing that ABC Nature Greenhouse and Herb Farm uses organic practices such as Integrated Pest Management and natural fertilizers instead of synthetic chemicals. Keep an eye out for the annual migration of gorgeous tomato, pepper, and cabbage plants. They’re due to hit The Market any week now.

Is your thumb a little less than green? You can still invest in a delicious year by helping one of our favorite farmers get back on track after an especially harsh winter. Due to a dedicated local food community and YOU, our generous members, Kellogg Valley Farms has already raised 70% of the necessary funds to rebuild damaged infrastructure and secure the supplies and labor needed to ensure that this season’s offerings are every bit as spectacular as we’ve all come to expect. Only $1,515.00 to go! You can give a loan in any amount at Kiva Zip. I’m already looking forward to the bounty of Certified Naturally Grown Swiss chard, zephyr squash, banana peppers, and more.

In the meantime, there’s plenty of great stuff to keep you fed right now, as long as you order before The Market closes at 7:30 tomorrow morning.

~Rebecca Wild

The Market is Open!


Good Morning Foodies,

As we start to close the door on this long and dreary winter, many of our growers now emerge from their farms to survey the damage done. Long-time friend of ALFN Eddie Stuckey at Kellogg Valley Farms was hit particularly hard this winter and is seeking a $5,000 loan to help rebuild infrastructure and hire farm hands to get back to a place where he can continue to provide markets like ours his incredibly tasty, certified naturally-grown food. Instead of getting an interest-laden loan from the bank, ALFN has become Eddie’s trustee for his kiva.zip loan. Kiva.zip is a platform that allows small businesses like Eddie to crowdsource bank-free, interest-free loans of any size from regular, every day folks like you. All you have to do is go to this link, and you can give Eddie a loan of any size – Truly, every little bit counts. Your loan will help an amazing Arkansas farmer get back on his feet and would prove (yet again) the power of our local food community.

In the market this week…

  • Despite the weather, Kellogg Valley Farms has still got some certified naturally-grown plant starts for sale, including broccoli, cabbage, kale, and romaine lettuce. I’ve been hearing from more and more folks that are anxious to get their gardens growing that it’s finally time to put those plants in the ground.
  • Something that doesn’t just grow on trees is Kent Walker Artisan Cheese. We’re so glad to have his garlic montasio, habanero cheddar, leicester, and ophelia enhancing our now booming gourmet dairy section.
  • I can’t think about cheese without thinking about a burger to put it on, and I’m officially sold on the ground elk from Ratchford Exotic Meats. Leaner, healthier, and dare I say tastier than the average burger, it is simply undeniably cool that we have local, grassfed elk and buffalo.
  • And for the non-meat lovers out there, that cheese would go just as great with any number of the veggies springing back into the market. I’m particularly fond of the small nelson carrots from Willow Springs Market Garden. I had the privilege to taste one of these pulled straight from the ground and am thoroughly convinced that these are hands-down the greatest carrots on the face of this planet.

It’s so exciting to see our already booming market grow in variety with each week. We are so lucky to have such a diversity of incredible growers right here in Central Arkansas, and just as importantly, a dedicated cadre of foodies committed to supporting small, local farmers that grow humane and healthy food. Thank you for continuing to support a stronger local food system!

Sincerely,

Alex Handfinger

Brrrrr!


The calendar may say March, but the icy layer slowly melting off the trees sure does say January. It’s been a particularly long and white winter, but thanks to our hardworking farmers, there’s still plenty of green to go around!

Just toss a little arugula, snow pea tendrils, and baby spinach from Arkansas Natural Produce together and you’ll have a great salad that may even convince you spring is on the way, at least for a moment. Top it with a few spicy and fragrant edible flowers and you’ll believe summer is right around the corner. If you’d rather dig in your heels and cherish this last winter hurrah, perhaps heavier fare is the ticket. Whether it’s arm, chuck, or rump, you can’t go wrong with a tender, slow-cooked beef roast from Bluebird Hill Berry Farm.

Whatever your tactic to survive this extended chill, everything you need is available now on The Market. Get your order in before 7:30 tomorrow morning, or you’ll have to make due with Wonder Bread and Spam. I wouldn’t wish that fate on my worst enemies.

-Rebecca Wild

The Market is Open!


Good Rainy Day,

To any of those brave folks running the Marathon today: I hope that this delicious local food fuels you all the way across the finish line. For the rest of us, fear not the weather, for when you can’t go outside, what could be better than a home-cooked meal of local food to fill your home with comforting aromas and tastes? Lucky for all of us, the market is open, and there’s plenty to get excited about.

  • Farm Girl Natural Foods brings us the best deal they’ve ever offered. Ordering their farmer’s choice bundle gets you 5 lbs of a variety of cuts from their animal welfare approved, woodland-raised hogs. Be it smoked hams, boneless loin roasts, link sausages, ribs, or countless other cuts, I’m excited to get this amazing pork at an incredible price!
  • For those looking for a taste of Mardi Gras but can’t make it down to N’awlins, check out MeatWorks Butchery & Market’s Butcher’s Buy: Cajun Links Combo, which includes 1 lb each of their andouille and cajun green onion sausages, which sound like a perfect start for a homemade, spicy jambalaya.
  • The plants just keep on coming from A B C Nature Greenhouse and Herb Farm. Be the only gardener on your block growing Green de Belleville sorrel, a Buddha’s hand citrus tree, or Red Freddy Genovese Basil.
  • For those of you that like your food already-grown, there’s rarely a week that I don’t order shiitake mushrooms from Arkansas Natural Produce. Organically-grown on logs, these mushrooms are incredible at soaking up butter or oil to top your steak or mixed in with your favorite stir-fry.
  • There’s something so rejuvenating about a warm shower on a cold, rainy day, and I use a washcloth made by Tammy Sue’s Critters to spread my suds with hand-crocheted, 100% cotton.
  • It’s never too early to start thinking about ordering dyed Easter eggs from the talented folks at Bluebird Hill Berry Farm. Custom and beautiful hand-dyed eggs that you can order for delivery on either April 11th or 18th.

Thanks to you, it was a truly momentous week in Food Club history. Last Saturday, our friends at White River Creamery took our old fridge to try and put it to good use. On Monday, our shiny, new fridge was installed and made storing and distributing this week’s Food Club orders a breeze (and one that stayed the proper temperature, at that)! Make no mistake about it: This new refrigerator is a testament to the generosity and support of you, our network. We are forever indebted to our countless customers for so quickly answering our call, to growers Laughing Stock Farm, Willow Springs Market Garden, and Tammy Sue’s Critters for doing the same, to the Arkansas Community Foundation for their rapid response, and especially to Sarah Brown of Maison Terre and Brainstorm Business Consulting for her incredible effort in helping us secure the anonymous donation that really put us over the top. I think that our refrigerator breaking was one of those bad things that turned out to be good, because as much of a pain as it’s been working without it, this whole experience was an opportunity to learn and be absolutely floored by the amount of support we have throughout our network. We truly can not thank you enough for your generosity and continued support, this is your fridge and you have proved to us that we truly are a local food network.

Sincerely,

Alex Handfinger

Real Food. Real Easy.


The question I hear most frequently at pickup is “What do you do with your [inset fabulous local food here]?” More often than not, my answer is “Something simple.” When you start with great ingredients, achieving a tasty outcome doesn’t need to be a lengthy, laborious affair.

Point and Case: Kale Chips

Start with far more kale than you think you need. It shrinks a lot. I find that 8 ounces makes about two generous servings. Prep the kale by stripping out the larger stems and tearing the larger leaves into smaller pieces. Wash and dry thoroughly. Toss the kale into a large bowl and set aside.

Now is the time to impart a little flavor. Again, kale shrinks a lot. Don’t be too heavy-handed with the seasoning, but do be creative! Start with 1 or 2 tablespoons of your preferred oil. In 1/8 and 1/4 teaspoon increments, add any spices you like. Try sea salt and apple cider vinegar. Nutritional yeast and parmesan. Black pepper and lemon juice. Curry, garlic powder, and flaked red pepper. The possibilities are nearly endless! Don’t be afraid to branch out into the non-powdered ingredients either. Cut back on the oil and substitute nut butter, barbecue sauce, or a dash of sriracha. There is no wrong move here.

Whisk your oil and spices together, and drizzle over the kale. Massage the kale until the leaves are a bit softened and the oil is evenly distributed. Spread leaves as thinly as possible on a baking sheet. In fact, you wouldn’t be crazy to use two or work in batches. The thinner the layer, the more evenly it will cook.

Cooking temperature and time are the only potentially tricky hurdles. Opinions vary widely, and are undoubtedly influenced by oven variation and preferred crispiness level. I prefer 300*F, but anything between 250*F and 350*F will get the job done. Cooking time will be heavily dependent on how densely your kale is packed. I recommend checking every 5 minutes at first, stirring things around if needed. Your finished kale should be dry, crisp, a little bit brown, and absolutely delicious!

Kale may be the current trend, but this procedure works for any sturdy leaf. Try it with chard, collards, turnip greens, and broccoli leaves. You can even use the loose leaves that fall off Brussels sprouts. With all these options, there’s no excuse for not eating your greens!

~Rebecca Wild

P.S.
The Market closes tomorrow morning at 7:30. Get your order in while you still can!

The Market is Open!


Good Afternoon Foodies,

What is there to talk about besides beautiful weather and delicious, local food? A lot! But yes, the market is open, and it sure is jam-packed with local goodness. We’ve been busy, spending much of this beautiful weekend inside the Statehouse Convention Center for this year’s Arkansas Flower and Garden Show, surrounded by everything from garden flamingos to ghost pepper pickles. Thank you so much to all of our amazing volunteers, and Willow Springs Market Garden, The Sweet Life Apiary, and our very own Rebecca Wild for their generous donations to liven up our table. Lots of folks have been thrilled to find out about our wonderful year-round market, so a special welcome goes out to the newest members of our Food Club family.

Here’s just a taste of what we’re offering on the market this week:

  • Happy 83rd birthday to the incredible Bob Barnhill of Barnhill Orchards, who continues to provide us with tasty butternut and acorn squashes, the perfect winter veggies for soups or roasting.
  • I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about Hmong Sausage (pronounced Mung) lately. This Southeast Asian recipe is packed with flavor and a bit of a kick, and be it from Farm Girl Natural Foods or Falling Sky Farm, you can be sure its coming from happy, woodland-raised hogs!
  • It’s that time of year to get that garden growing, and the market has most everything you’ll need to encourage those seeds. Enrich your soil with cinnamon drops rabbit manure, sifted organic compost, or compost tea, get a leg up with a variety of all-natural plant starts, and you might want to grab some row cover hoops just in case we get another frost.
  • There are plenty of good deals to be found within the specials section, including a range of organic teas from Maison Terre. Now’s the time to try yerba mate, which provides enough of a boost to be a healthy alternative to coffee.
  • It can be easy to get into a groove and at least think know you what you’re searching for, but sometimes it’s nice to peruse the entire market and remember that you can purchase locally made and extremely tasty jams, jellies, salsa, bbq sauce, banana nut bread, muscadine juice, peanut brittle, and peanut butter fudge, all from Bluebird Hill Berry Farm. Heck, those talented folks will even make you a dish cloth, fleece baby blanket, or a custom quilt!
  • I must admit that browsing the Bath & Beauty section usually leads to my tummy growling. The quality and variety of locally-produced soaps, deodorant, insect repellent, goat’s milk lotion, lip balms, and SO much more are too numerous to list, but rest assured that the market can take care of your whole body, inside and out.

Next Saturday, March 1st a TEDxManhattan one-day conference called Changing the Way We Eat is happening in New York City. There is going to be a range of really diverse and dynamic speakers addressing a host of issues in the sustainable food and farming movement. If you’re like me and can’t catch the next flight to NYC, you can thank our friends at the Central Arkansas New Agrarian Society for hosting a TEDxManhattan Viewing Party at Vino’s from 12:30-5 to watch the webcast live. We hope you can join to learn more about pressing issues in the food movement with some great local folks!

Sincerely,

Alex Handfinger