Last week I had the opportunity to attend the 12th Annual Sustainability Summit and Exposition in Milwaukee. Along with sessions on water, solar power and climate change, there was a generous smattering of food-related discussion from Urban Farming to the Farm to Table movement.
Milwaukee has been blessed to be the home city of speaker Will Allen, founder of Growing Power. For 20 years, Growing Power has been developing the idea of sustainable urban agriculture. In the process they have supplied healthy food to local customers, provided jobs and training in agriculture, spawned entrepreneurs and helped to launch similar efforts across the world.
Farm to Table Movement
Closely aligned to efforts like Growing Power, is the farm to table movement, which per Wikipedia “refers to a movement concerned with producing food locally and delivering that food to local consumers.” Farmer’s Markets reflect this trend and are now viewed as both more mainstream and more diverse. The number of farmer’s markets tripled between 2000 and 2011 going from 2500 – 7500 nationally.
Many new businesses, such as (Growing Power graduates) Tom & Meghan Findley’s Hartland Organic Family Farm, use farmer’s markets to help them get started. Older, established businesses use them to build new clientele or help weather a downturn. Eric Rose of River Valley Ranch and Kitchens hit a business snag when his sellers moved more to brand names. Fortunately, he was able to shift focus to farmers markets, living “hand to mouth” while he established additional products and was able to grow again.
Benefits of buying food close to the source include freshness, price, supporting the local economy, better nutrition, and reducing the environmental damage caused by shipping. Restauranteurs are becoming increasingly interested and, in addition to the marketing value, mention that local food lasts longer and tastes better and that local merchants are more responsive to requests and complaints.
A restaurant recently approached the Findleys to become a supplier and said that they would adapt their menu on a weekly basis based on what was available. Their reaction? “That’s pressure on the kitchen but exciting for the consumer.”
In the end, I think that this may be the best summary of Farm to Table. You get few challenges (including in your home kitchen), but the benefits are so exciting that it is worth the effort!
5 Recipes for Using Old Veggies
And speaking of local food challenges in the kitchen (or pantry), shortly after the summit, I opened my email to see an interesting idea. Erica of the blog NW Edible Life, would be eating out of her pantry for the entire month of April and challenged her readers to do the same. With a fridge and freezers loaded with last year’s local food, and a farm to table session under my belt, how could I refuse?
Here are some old favorites for using up any old root veggies that may be lingering. Anyone care to join me in a little spring (refrigerator) cleaning?
Creamy Carrot Soup (without the cream)
A simple soup that gets its creamy goodness from ground almonds and skim (or almond) milk.
Potatoes au Gratin (without cheese) aka Pommes à la Dauphinoise
Potatoes layered with garlic and topped with cream, it is an great brunch dish that can be put in the oven and forgotten. Always garners lots of compliments, then completely disappears.
A cross between a dried (potato chip like) chip and candied (think candied ginger or orange peel) beets, these were a delightful surprise from Martha Stewart that can disappear like candy.
This casserole is a bit time consuming with all the veggie cutting, but the cheesy goodness makes it worth the effort. A standard on our family holiday table for Christmas or Easter and another great brunch dish.
This galette can serve as an entrée, side dish, or appetizer, and brings together tangy goat cheese and flavorful herbs with any hodgepodge of root vegetables that you have on hand. Use a prepared crust if you want to streamline preparation.