Posts tagged with Local

A warming seasonal salad, both savory and sweet

Savory Sweet Potato and Cranberry Salad.

Savory Sweet Potato and Cranberry Salad. by Sarah Henning

As much as I love salad year round, coming home to a dark house and a cold salad isn't that fun this time of year. Yet, I don't want to miss out on the nutrition that a salad for dinner provides.

Thus, I've really been digging having "warm" salads these days.

I shared my "burger" salad a few weeks ago. It's awesome, but it's also not the only warm salad in my arsenal.

A single warm ingredient can winterize any salad, meaning, depending on the foods you like, your possibilities are endless. Plus, in my estimation, the warm ingredients usually soften the rest of the ingredients and provide texture and flavor, meaning you can probably skip the dressing all together.

The one I'm going to share today has a bunch of texture, flavor and tons of nutrition. This salad is a great source of vitamin A from the sweet potato and spinach, omega-3 fatty acids from the hemp seeds, vitamin B-12 from the nutritional yeast (which also adds a nice, cheesey flavor), while the avocado provides good monounsaturated fats and loads of vitamin E. And the cranberries bring a necessary sweetness plus a bit of fiber, iron and vitamin C.

Yeah, basically, it's a nutritional powerhouse in one bowl. And it's super tasty.

Savory Sweet Potato and Cranberry Salad

Handful baby spinach

1 small sweet potato, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces and steamed

1/2 avocado, chopped

Handful dried cranberries

1-2 tablespoons hemp seeds (or ground flax, if you prefer)

1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Pinch black pepper

Line a salad bowl with a bed of spinach, top with hot sweet potato, avocado, cranberries, hemp seeds, nutritional yeast and pepper. Mash the sweet potato and avocado into the greens for a creamy, filling salad. Serves 1.

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Chefs’ Challenge features local foods, cooking skills

Wallace Cochran, food services manager at The Merc, center, and kitchen manager Nick Amburgey, right, prepare a dish using locally-grown and locally-produced ingredients Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012, during the second annual Chefs' Challenge at the Douglas County Fair. Cochran, who competed agains two other local chefs, won the challenge and will have the opportunity to return next year and defend his title.

Wallace Cochran, food services manager at The Merc, center, and kitchen manager Nick Amburgey, right, prepare a dish using locally-grown and locally-produced ingredients Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012, during the second annual Chefs' Challenge at the Douglas County Fair. Cochran, who competed agains two other local chefs, won the challenge and will have the opportunity to return next year and defend his title. by Mike Yoder

Dozens of people gathered under the shade of a huge, white tent Thursday evening at the Douglas County Fairgrounds to watch three Lawrence chefs create dishes filled with locally grown or locally produced fare.

As the chefs grilled and mixed, they talked about where they got their ingredients and how to prepare them.

They were participating in the second annual Chefs' Challenge, which was part of the Farmers’ Market at the Douglas County Fair. While the chefs put on a cooking demonstration, nearly 30 vendors were selling a variety of produce, meats and homemade goodies nearby.

The event was organized by a broad coalition of organizations that seek to support local growers and businesses.

“It’s really to celebrate our creative chefs and the delicious local produce that’s available right now,” said Eileen Horn, sustainability coordinator for Douglas County and the city of Lawrence.

The competitors in the challenge were: Dave Nigro, of Clinton Parkway’s Hy-Vee Food Store; Wallace Cochran, of The Merc; and last year’s champion, Russell Iverson, of Free State Brewery. Each year, the champion receives the opportunity to defend his or her title against two new contestants.

The champion is named by a panel of three judges and from those in the audience who sampled the dishes.

Sadie Keller, who will be a sophomore at Lawrence High School, said she liked Nigro’s dish the best. It was a rack of goat with ratatouille and an arugula salad with tomato vinaigrette.

“I really liked the goat and I thought there were more interesting flavors going on, and it was something that I had never tried before but I really liked,” she said.

Keller, who enjoys cooking and has been featured on the local cooking show “Jayni’s Kitchen,” said the chefs gave her ideas to try at home.

“It’s pretty amazing how they can creatively come up with different things to make," she said.

The champ was Cochran, of The Merc, and his dish of beef barbecue with a cold tomato melon salad.

“It was fun and I really enjoyed it,” said Cochran, who has been a chef for about 20 years.

He said there was a bounty of local produce to work with despite the area’s drought and triple-digit temperatures. Cochran used produce from a variety of local farms, including a school garden and Maggie’s Farm. The owner of Maggie’s Farm, Barbara Clark, served as one of the judges along with Douglas County Commissioner Nancy Thellman and Michael Beard, chef at 715 restaurant.

“It was an extremely difficult job,” Clark said laughing. “Having to sit in the shade and eat fine food. I mean it’s not too bad. It was great.”

She said the hardest part was voting on a winner.

“They were all wonderful dishes, and everybody was great with using local produce. It was a tough decision.”

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Peachy keen: In northeast Kansas, a banner year for mid-summer stonefruit

David Vertacnik, who lives at 1403 E. 1850 Road, east of Lawrence, has a banner first year of peaches.

David Vertacnik, who lives at 1403 E. 1850 Road, east of Lawrence, has a banner first year of peaches. by Richard Gwin

Last week, rural Lawrence resident Karen Frick made her third peach-buying visit to nearby Vertacnik Orchard, where there’s an unusually bumper crop of the sweet, juicy, fuzzy-skinned fruit.

“We have been through I don’t know how many pounds now,” Frick said. “We’re totally absorbed in peaches.”

So is orchard owner David Vertacnik.

Vertacnik Orchard, 1403 E. 1850 Road, has grown apples for decades and just planted peach trees four years ago. After the 2011 Kansas winter resulted in a summer with little to no peaches, he and some other area fruit growers are experiencing a banner year. The day Frick picked up her latest batch, it was more than 100 degrees, the sun was scorching and brown patches of grass in Vertacnik’s yard crunched underfoot.

His peach trees, aided by irrigation, were like an oasis.

“Look at this,” said Vertacnik, lifting a baseball-sized specimen from behind a leaf. “Look how big these things are.”

Vertacnik has thinned his trees twice, but the branches are still heavy with fruit. He has four different peach varieties and hopes to continue harvesting and selling throughout July, possibly event into early August.

David Vertacnik, who lives at 1403 E. 1850 Road, east of Lawrence, has a banner first year of peaches.

David Vertacnik, who lives at 1403 E. 1850 Road, east of Lawrence, has a banner first year of peaches. by Richard Gwin

Gieringers Orchard, 39675 W. 183rd St. in Edgerton, specializes in peaches and usually has them every year, said Melanie Gieringer, who owns the orchard with her husband Frank. But last year, even the Gieringers didn’t have a one.

“We froze out,” Melanie Gieringer said.

This year’s crop may have been worth the wait. Gieringer is convinced their peaches are even juicier and sweeter than usual, something she said she’s heard from customers, too.

“Even the small ones, they’re tremendously sweet,” she said. “They’re really good.”

At his orchard in Eudora, Floyd Ott also had no peaches last year but had to thin his trees more than once this year.

“I’ve got so much fruit it’s a problem,” Ott said. “I have the most intense fruit this year I have ever seen.”

Fruit growing in Kansas can be a finicky business.

Ott, 86, has been at it a long time — he planted his first trees in 1954, to be exact. This year he had a hearty crop of apricots for the first time in years and his apples are looking as good as ever, but his plums lost all their blossoms and he didn’t get any. Ott said he’s even had some years where his neighbor had beautiful peaches and he had none.

“Don’t ask me how,” he said.

David Vertacnik, who lives at 1403 E. 1850 Road, east of Lawrence, has a banner first year of peaches.

David Vertacnik, who lives at 1403 E. 1850 Road, east of Lawrence, has a banner first year of peaches. by Richard Gwin

Maybe hot weather could be helping this year’s peach crop. Or maybe, Vertacnik wonders, a summer with no fruit allowed the trees to store up their energy for this year.

Most people point to the mild winter to explain why Kansas fruit crops are coming on three weeks to a month earlier than normal — including peaches.

Frick said she’s been enjoying hers with fresh cream from Lawrence’s Iwig Family Dairy store, 1901 Mass., peaches and granola for breakfast, peach crisp and even fresh peach daiquiris.

But especially on a hot summer day, Frick said, it’s hard to beat the simple pleasure of leaning over the kitchen sink and biting into a perfectly ripe peach — juice running down your arms and all.

“That’s the best,” she said.


Buy local peaches

Vertacnik Orchard, 1403 E. 1850 Road, sells peaches from noon to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Pull up to the garage and, if David Vertacnik’s not already out there, honk for service.

Floyd’s Fruits and Vegetables sells peaches and other produce at the Saturday Lawrence Farmers Market, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Ninth and N.H. streets.

Gieringers Orchard, 39675 W. 183rd St. in Edgerton, is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. They also sell regularly at several area farmers markets, including Olathe, Overland Park and the Tuesday Lawrence Farmers Market, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at 11th and Vermont streets.

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State leader celebrates farmers’ markets

By Aaron Couch

The Downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market proves the zoo isn’t the only place where visitors can see hundreds of different species in one place. There’s everything from broccoli to bok choy, from garlic to gooseberries.

In celebration of that diversity, Gov. Sam Brownback declared this August Kansas Farmers Market Month.

“Farmers’ markets form a connection between the community and the farm,” said Chris Wilson, Deputy Secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

Wilson was on hand Saturday at the market to celebrate Farmers’ Market Month. In an age where many people are removed from the farming roots of the state, it’s easy to forget that food does not come from the grocery store.

“It’s a benefit for people to recognize food comes from the farm,” Wilson said.

Wilson noted that Lawrence market is special because it is so large. There are between 60 and 70 venders on a given Saturday and around 100 who participate in the market throughout the year, said Tom Buller, marketing coordinator for the market.

Wilson also liked that while many career farmers bring in goods, there are also people who grow food on the side. Those people tend to grow unique fruits and vegetables you might not otherwise find.

Gregory Rudnick of Lawrence weighs his options while selecting tomatoes from, Jennifer Kongs, a seller at the Avery's Produce stand, left, on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011 at the downtown Farmer's Market. Chris Wilson, the deputy secretary with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, not pictured, was on hand to talk about the importance of farmer's markets in regards to strengthening the relationship between grower and buyer.

Gregory Rudnick of Lawrence weighs his options while selecting tomatoes from, Jennifer Kongs, a seller at the Avery's Produce stand, left, on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2011 at the downtown Farmer's Market. Chris Wilson, the deputy secretary with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, not pictured, was on hand to talk about the importance of farmer's markets in regards to strengthening the relationship between grower and buyer. by Nick Krug

According to the governor’s office, there were just 27 farmers’ markets in Kansas in 1987. There are now 102. For longtime advocates of local food, that growth in popularity illustrates why farmers’ markets deserve their own month.

“The Department of Agriculture has been very supportive,” said Mercedes Taylor-Puckett, a market coordinator.

She said various grants from the KDA have helped increase people’s access to the market, such as one allowing people to use food stamps there, and another helping seniors get access to market food.

While farmers’ markets have a reputation for being more expensive than the grocery store, several studies have shown that is not always the case. A study released earlier this year by a graduate student at Bard College in New York state found that for organic food, farmers’ markets were cheaper than at a typical grocery store. For nonorganic-grown produce, farmers’ markets beat grocery store prices for some items such as peas, cucumbers and lettuce.

“We need to correct all of those misconceptions about farmers’ markets,” said Taylor-Puckett.

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Farmers’ Market celebrates 35th anniversary

Beth McKeon, left, picks up a start of a forsythia bush from vendor Micky McKillip on the opening day of the 2011 Lawrence Farmers’ Market.

Beth McKeon, left, picks up a start of a forsythia bush from vendor Micky McKillip on the opening day of the 2011 Lawrence Farmers’ Market. by Mike Yoder

Grab the kids and the dog — it’s time for the Lawrence Farmers’ Market.

In what’s become a Lawrence tradition during the past 35 years, the market at 824 N.H. opened for the season Saturday.

Shoppers casually strolled among dozens of vendors, who were selling everything from free-range eggs to pork skins to stout-flavored cupcakes.

“It’s just fun to look around,” said Ryan Ramey, who was out doing a little shopping with his wife, Jordan, and 14-month-old son, Matthias.

Lawrence residents Erin Frykholm and Dale Dorsey are regulars at the market, and stopping by has become part of their Saturday morning routine. Frykholm said she usually doesn’t buy much, except for some barbecue sauce from Cook’s BBQ.

“We usually come for the atmosphere,” Frykholm said.

Market organizers said they saw a record number of vendors this year for the market, which is open every Saturday from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. through September, then 8 a.m. to noon until Nov. 19. The Tuesday market, which runs from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., opens May 3 at 1020 Vt., while a Thursday market opens May 5 at 4931 W. Sixth St.

While it’s still early in the growing season, vendors offered spinach, lettuce and plants, along with meat, eggs, honey and bread.

Saturday’s shoppers were treated to warm weather, sunny skies, and a nice breeze. For Sus and Chris Kramer, who brought along their very social pug, Ninnah, the conditions and atmosphere at the market gave the couple a good start to the weekend.

“We both had a long week,” Chris said. “We decided we’re going to have a fun Saturday.”

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Kaw Valley Seed Fair draws garden enthusiasts

Chauncey Willesen, 4, tries his hand at corn shelling Saturday at the second Kaw Valley Seed Fair at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

Chauncey Willesen, 4, tries his hand at corn shelling Saturday at the second Kaw Valley Seed Fair at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. by Kevin Anderson

Lawrence resident Dana Parfitt had some ambitious garden plans growing as she collected more and more seeds Saturday at the second Kaw Valley Seed Fair.

“Wow,” said Parfitt as she thumbed through the small packets of asparagus, watermelon and zucchini seeds, just to name a few.

Parfitt, a Kansas University graduate student who recently moved to Kansas from Arizona, also chatted with some of the older, more experienced gardeners at the event, picking up tips about what will grow well in Lawrence soil.

“I’m still learning,” said Parfitt, who joined hundreds of garden enthusiasts at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, visiting vendor booths, listening to speakers and swapping gardening stories.

Dianna Henry, one of the fair’s founders, was all smiles when asked about the turnout. “When we did it last year, it blew us away,” said Henry of the 300 visitors who stopped by for the inaugural event. Just a couple of hours into this year’s fair, Henry said it was clear they’d easily exceed those numbers this year.

“People are waking up to growing their own food,” she said.

Brothers Ryan Beach, 6, and Noah Beach, 4, McLouth, tried their hands at making some seed bombs at the second annual Kaw Valley Seed Fair Saturday, Feb. 26,2011, at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

Brothers Ryan Beach, 6, and Noah Beach, 4, McLouth, tried their hands at making some seed bombs at the second annual Kaw Valley Seed Fair Saturday, Feb. 26,2011, at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. by Kevin Anderson

Seed fair participants had the chance to exchange seeds as well as find new seeds to try in their gardens.

Seed fair participants had the chance to exchange seeds as well as find new seeds to try in their gardens. by Kevin Anderson

Tanna Hess, Lawrence, had to keep a keen eye on the tiny wild Peru tomato seeds she poured into her envelope at the second annual Kaw Valley Seed Fair Saturday at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. Participants got a chance to exchange seeds and find new ones for their spring gardens.

Tanna Hess, Lawrence, had to keep a keen eye on the tiny wild Peru tomato seeds she poured into her envelope at the second annual Kaw Valley Seed Fair Saturday at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. Participants got a chance to exchange seeds and find new ones for their spring gardens. by Kevin Anderson

Gannon Minnick, 7, Lawrence, checks out plants at a vendor at the seed fair.

Gannon Minnick, 7, Lawrence, checks out plants at a vendor at the seed fair. by Kevin Anderson

The activities at the fair were designed to garner interest in local food, Henry said, as well as promote the Kaw Valley Seeds Project’s mission of building a reserve of local seeds for future generations. The group has garnered several local seed varieties, including white flower corn and pink plum tomato, and it hopes to continue building the reserve.

The project gained some supporters Saturday, such as first-time seed swapper Parfitt. After gathering some seeds and knowledge, Parfitt said she’ll head home and start her plants indoors in preparation for the growing season.

It’s definitely a lot more work than simply buying plants at the store, but Parfitt said she’s looking forward to the challenge.

“I think that this is more satisfying,” she said.

For more information about the Kaw Valley Seeds Project, visit its website.

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Iwig Family Dairy opens its Topeka store

http://www2.ljworld.com/photos/2006/apr/24/96468/

Iwig Family Dairy, which has struggled to stay open during the past couple of years, is celebrating the grand opening of its Topeka store this afternoon.

The store is located at 724 SW Gage Boulevard, across the street from the Topeka Zoo. It is open from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The store offers many flavors of milk, ice cream, and other dairy products.

You can also visit the store at their farm at 3320 SE Tecumseh Road.

The farm's milk is sold in many grocery stores in Lawrence, including The Community Mercantile.

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Winter squash plentiful at Lawrence Farmers’ Market

Roasted butternut squash is a simple and healthy meal for fall. The flesh tastes somewhat like pumpkin, and the squash can be substituted for pumpkin in many recipes.

Roasted butternut squash is a simple and healthy meal for fall. The flesh tastes somewhat like pumpkin, and the squash can be substituted for pumpkin in many recipes.

There will be plenty of winter squash at the downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market on Saturday.

Among the varieties: butternut squash, turban squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, delicata squash and pie pumpkins.

Tom Buller, market coordinator, said there are differences within the varieties, but all are somewhat interchangeable in recipes.

“Grab a few and give them a try,” he said.

Here’s the other produce that is in season at the market: garlic, kale, mushrooms, potatoes, basil, zucchini, green beans, eggplant, field tomatoes, plums, anaheim peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, okra, heirloom tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, hatch chili peppers, asian pears, apples, salad mix, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and arugula.

Also, mark your calendars for Oct. 2. The market will be having Applooza! There will be a variety of apples for you to try.

Here's a recipe that Buller provided in the farmers' market newsletter. He said he tried it with butternut squash this week and it was delicious. The recipe is from Lidia Bastianich's cookbook "Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy."

Ingredients

2 pounds winter squash

1 cup onion cut in 1-inch chunks

1 cup carrot cut in 1-inch chunks

1 cup celery cut in 1-inch chunks

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon kosher salt

5 cups hot water of light stock, plus a bit more if needed

2 cups Italian short-grain rice, such as Arborio

For Finishing

2 Tablespoons butter, cut in pieces

1/2 cup freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano

Trim, peel and remove seeds from the squash. Cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Using a food processor, mince the onion, carrot, and celery chunks into a fine-textured paste.

Put the olive oil and better in a saucepan and set over medium heat. When the butter is melted scrape in the onion paste and season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Cook the paste for about 5 minutes, stirring it around the bottom of the pan until it has dried out and just begins to stick.

Pour in the hot water or stock, and bring to a boil. Drop in the squash, then all the rice, and remaining salt, stirring as you go. Bring back to a boil, cover the pan, and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 14 minutes until the rice and squash are cooked and creamy.

Turn off the heat and drop in butter pieces for finishing and stir in vigorously. Stir in grated cheese, and serve.

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Unique garden project taking root at Free State High School

Free State High School agricultural teacher Laura Priest, right, and her students are excited about a new garden project that will be located on the southwest corner of the campus where they are standing. The project will include a school garden and community garden. Priest is looking forward to using the garden project for hands-on lessons.

Free State High School agricultural teacher Laura Priest, right, and her students are excited about a new garden project that will be located on the southwest corner of the campus where they are standing. The project will include a school garden and community garden. Priest is looking forward to using the garden project for hands-on lessons. by Kevin Anderson

A garden project — the size of a football field — is taking root at Free State High School.

The garden will serve two purposes.

First, it will be a school garden. Students will plant, maintain and harvest produce. The food will be served in the cafeteria and sold at a school farmers’ market with funding going back into the project.

Second, it will be a community garden. Plots of various sizes will be rented to the general public for individual use.

“It’s a great joint venture — just the number of organizations that have come together to make this happen in the planning process is exciting,” said Ed West, principal at FSHS.

About a dozen community and school leaders began planning for the project — called the Lawrence Community and Learning Garden — at the end of June. They have formed two subcommittees: one to come up with the policies and another to hammer out the garden’s design and layout.

They plan to have a community forum this fall and form an official board. The goal is to break ground in November before Thanksgiving and begin planting in the spring.

The garden will be on the southwest corner of the FSHS campus, where the band used to practice. It’s the area between Overland Drive and the baseball field.

“Because our band is able to practice on our artificial turf at our new facility, we have adequate space that’s close to parking and that has close access to water. The timing kind of all fell together,” West said.

West said the garden will provide a number of learning opportunities for students who are members of FFA or taking agriculture classes. For example, the ag business classes could collect fees from the community garden and help manage the books.

“There’s a whole bunch of things that can go on in terms of our curriculum that’s really exciting,” he said.

Laura Priest, agricultural education teacher, is looking forward to incorporating the garden into her lessons.

“When I first heard about the project I was like, ‘Wow, what a cool project to work into my plant science class and get the kids more hands-on experience because you can only do so much in a greenhouse,” she said. “My goal is to get the kids out there and just appreciate how their food is grown.”

Jennifer Smith, horticulture agent with K-State Research and Extension — Douglas County, had been looking for a potential site for a community garden since December. She said there are several community gardens on privately-owned property in Lawrence.

"Many community gardens around the country are on on city, county, or state property and I think it provides a different atmosphere," she said.

Smith said she gets a lot of calls from people looking to rent space in a garden.

“It’s a great opportunity to increase the fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet and get the great feeling of growing something for yourself,” she said. “You also get a little bit of physical activity, taking care of things in the garden. I want people to have that opportunity.”

There are also the cost savings.

“If you buy some plants and get a space for just a little bit a year, you can grow way more than you could buy at the store for that amount of money,” she said.

Smith said this project is unique.

“There actually are quite a few communities who have a typical community garden, and there are a lot of school gardens popping up, but not a two-in-one,” she said.


INTERESTED IN THE PROJECT?

Plans are under way for a community and school garden project at Free State High School.

About a dozen community leaders serve on a planning committee. They will have a community forum this fall, and also will form an official board for the project.

If you are interested in serving on the board or volunteering with the project, send an e-mail to Ed West, FSHS principal at EWest@usd497.org. He will be collecting names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

Those serving on the planning committee include Ed West; Patrick Kelly, Lawrence school district; Jennifer Smith, K-State Research and Extension — Douglas County; Laura Priest, FSHS ag teacher; Rick Martin, Free State Brewery; Maisie French, FSHS parent; Chris Wiltfong, Hy-Vee Food Store; Mike Ryan, Johnson County Community College; Eileen Horn, sustainability coordinator for the Lawrence and Douglas County; Emily Hampton, Americorps VISTA volunteer; Laura Zell, Lawrence resident; and Tom Bracciano, Lawrence school district.

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Eating foods that are locally grown and produced can be challenging but rewarding

Eat Local Challenge — Days 8-9

Karrey Britt, WellCommons reporter, from left, Anne and Jonathan Kealing, assistant director of media strategy for The World Company, and Sarah Henning, food and features reporter, holding her son Nate alongside her husband, Justin, celebrate successfully completing the week-long Eat Local Challenge. A special reception with local food, music and speakers was held at The Community Mercantile Sunday evening. This is the third year of the challenge but the first year those who completed the challenge were invited to a celebratory reception.

Karrey Britt, WellCommons reporter, from left, Anne and Jonathan Kealing, assistant director of media strategy for The World Company, and Sarah Henning, food and features reporter, holding her son Nate alongside her husband, Justin, celebrate successfully completing the week-long Eat Local Challenge. A special reception with local food, music and speakers was held at The Community Mercantile Sunday evening. This is the third year of the challenge but the first year those who completed the challenge were invited to a celebratory reception. by Richard Gwin

I did it! I earned the coveted “Eat Local Challenge” T-shirt by shopping and eating local foods during the past week. I received my T-shirt during a reception Sunday evening at The Merc.

The challenge has raised my awareness of where to shop and buy foods that are grown and/or produced within 200 miles of Lawrence. I learned that there are quite a few local options: stores, farmers’ markets, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and restaurants. But, you have to do a little digging to find out where these places are and what hours they are open.

I also learned eating local can be pricey, but there are good deals if you shop around. For example, a watermelon was the same price — $4 — at Dillons grocery store and the farmers’ market, but peaches were quite a bit more at the farmers’ market.

During the challenge, my husband and I re-arranged our schedules to attend the downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market — both Saturdays. This past weekend, I bought a seedless watermelon for $5 and six peaches for $5. It was enough for two stickers. Unfortunately, we were late getting around and I had to work at 10 a.m., so we missed out on trying the salsas — darn it, but maybe next year.

We also ate at two downtown Lawrence restaurants that we hadn’t tried before: 715, which I wrote about last week, and Local Burger. On Saturday, we had lunch at Local Burger, 714 Vt. We were pleasantly surprised at the variety of menu options. My husband ordered a double buffalo burger ($10) with progressive potatoes ($2.75) and a small house salad ($2.75). I ordered the “world famous veggie burger” for $6. The total cost: $21.50. I earned the final sticker that I needed for a T-shirt.

We wondered why we had waited so long to try Local Burger, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary in September. Our food was delicious.

After getting my T-shirt on Sunday, I made a quick trip inside The Merc to buy a few local items: Iwig Family Dairy skim milk, about a pound of lean ground beef, two chicken breasts and a tub of homemade salsa — for $20.13. (Note: I will get $2.25 back when I return the glass milk bottle). Although it was a little pricier than if I had bought the items at my usual supermarket, it felt good knowing that I was supporting local farmers, producers and the economy.

More importantly, it should taste better!

The "Eat Local Challenge" also inspired a produce day at work. We have tomatoes, okra, peppers, herbs, black-eyed peas and squash to pick from. How cool is that?

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Lawrence area residents talk about their challenge to eat local

The Community Mercantile's food service manager Sula Teller served up plenty of local fare on Sunday, Aug. 22, 2010, during a reception for participants in the "Eat Local Challenge." About 80 people attended the event.

The Community Mercantile's food service manager Sula Teller served up plenty of local fare on Sunday, Aug. 22, 2010, during a reception for participants in the "Eat Local Challenge." About 80 people attended the event. by Richard Gwin

The third annual “Eat Local Challenge” drew 432 participants, up 72 percent from last year.

The goal of the weeklong event, which was Aug. 14-22, was to challenge people to buy and eat local foods — at farmers’ markets, restaurants, Community Supported Agriculture subscription services, and The Community Mercantile, which sponsored the event.

“It’s a way to promote local and show shoppers where their dollar goes,” said Joshua Kendall, brand manager at The Merc.

Participants received a T-shirt if they purchased enough local foods to earn six stickers. For example, if they bought one bag of goods at a farmers’ market, they received one sticker. So far, 65 people have earned a T-shirt, but they have until Wednesday to pick up a shirt if they earned it.

This was the first year that the event featured local food options beyond The Merc, 901 Iowa.

Kendall said they plan to partner with more businesses, farmers and restaurants for the fourth annual event, and they also want to recognize people who grow their own food.

“We are planning to expand,” he said.

Also for the first time, The Merc hosted a reception Sunday evening for participants that featured local foods and music, and about 80 people attended.

Here’s what people had to say about the challenge:

Rae Jaan Spicer, 13, West Junior High School student

Rae Jaan Spicer

Rae Jaan Spicer by Richard Gwin

Her school started a garden this spring, and the produce is being sold at a weekly farmers’ market and it is being served in the cafeteria.

She earned stickers by buying foods at the WJHS market.

“Local is better and it’s delicious, and I am also helping my school,” she said. “I tried our tomatoes last Thursday and they was delicious. The tomatoes were so fresh,” she said.

Rae Jaan also ate at Local Burger, a downtown Lawrence restaurant that features a local menu.

“Their french fries are delicious.”


Anju Mishra, 47, financial counselor

Anju Mishra

Anju Mishra by Richard Gwin

This was her third time to participate in the challenge.

“I like eating fresh food. I cook — that’s my passion, that’s my hobby, so I like to use fresh ingredients. I think they are the best tasting,” she said. “It supports the community. I have taken roots here and I love it.”

She thinks the awareness of local foods is growing, and there’s more options than even three years ago.

Anju said the prices are reasonable because the food is “truly satisfying.”

She eats what’s in season, and her favorite produce now is tomatoes. She uses them in salsa, curry dishes, sandwiches — “a lot of things.”


Dick Meidinger, 71, retired physician

Dick Meidinger

Dick Meidinger by Richard Gwin

He has participated in the challenge for three years.

“Local food is good and it’s good for us. It really encourages people, I think, to try new things — local things,” he said. “It encourages the local economy, and certainly we need more local farmers.”

He said he grew up in a farm community near Hiawatha, where the number of family farmers has diminished.

But, he does his part to support them.

“Ever since we’ve moved here, it’s been my Saturday ritual to go the farmers’ market. In fact, I really plan my weekend around that,” he said.

He also talked of his fondness for the food in Italy.

“They don’t have as much refrigeration. They don’t have much in the way of big supermarkets, so what you eat over there is fresh," he said. "It's crisp, fresh and really good."


Kara Bollinger, 23, Kansas University student

Kara Bollinger

Kara Bollinger by Richard Gwin

The first-time participant said it wasn’t as hard as she thought it might be.

“I feel like you have to make somewhat of an effort, but not a huge effort,” she said.

During the challenge, she “treated herself” to lunch at The Merc a couple of times, and shopped at the farmers’ market. She bought eggplant, zucchini, squash, apples and watermelon.

“Obviously, in the winter it would be much more difficult,” she said.

Kara said eating local can be expensive, but worth it.

“The quality of the food is so much better,” she said.


Jerry Feese, 57, computer programmer

 Jerry Feese

Jerry Feese by Richard Gwin

He participated in the challenge for the first time.

“There’s more local food around than we realized,” he said.

He tried a downtown Lawrence restaurant, 715, for the first time that boasts of a local menu. He thought it was a bit pricey.

Jerry also shopped at the farmers’ market, where he bought peaches, corn, chicken, tomatoes and pie.

He tries to buy local if the choice is available, although he finds it typically costs more.


Deborah Altus, 51, Washburn University professor

Deborah Altus

Deborah Altus by Richard Gwin

“I think it is so important to try to support the local growers and the local economy,” said Deborah, a second-time participant.

She tries to buy local when it’s available. This time of year, she said, it’s easy.

“It does make me think more about eating in our local region and how important that is, and how I want to do more of it,” she said.

Deborah described the prices as reasonable, especially at the farmers’ market.


Priya Mishra, 23, Kansas University student

Priyra Mishra

Priyra Mishra by Richard Gwin

The first-time participant said, “It turned out to be easier than I was expecting. There were lots of choices.”

She bought peaches, watermelon and chicken at the farmers’ market.

“We go to the farmers’ market pretty regularly,” she said.

Prya also ate at Local Burger and Free State Brewery, which features seasonal dishes and uses as many local ingredients as possible.

She really liked the local chicken taco at Free State.

“It was delicious. You could really taste the difference,” she said.


Kristin Wilson, 41, school teacher

Kristin Wilson

Kristin Wilson by Richard Gwin

The first-time participant said she tries to buy local foods for a number of reasons.

“I think it’s really good to promote the businesses and community. I think it’s certainly good to support the local restaurants,” she said. “I do it healthwise — to promote healthy eating.”

During the week, she shopped at The Merc, farmers’ market and ate at Local Burger.

Kristin said she could do better when it comes to buying local foods.

“You kind of get in a habit of shopping and buying certain things and kind of forget about that (local),” she said. “So, I think the challenge makes me aware that there are more opportunities out there to do that.”


Note: Check back Monday morning to find out what I've learned from taking the challenge!

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‘Eat Local Challenge’ draws 400 participants, including me

Eat Local Challenge — Days 4-5.

There's still time to sign up for this week's challenge at The Merc, 901 Iowa.

Although it might be hard to earn the six stickers required to get a T-shirt by Sunday, it's worthwhile to sign up. You get a packet of information about where to buy local food — CSAs, farmers' markets, restaurants and, of course, The Merc, which is sponsoring the third annual event.

I have earned three stickers so far, and have no doubt that I will earn a T-shirt. I do most of my food shopping on the weekend because I have little time during the week.

On Tuesday night, my husband made bruschetta with local tomatoes, parsley and basil. It was delicious. The tomatoes were from my garden, 6News TV photographer Steve Jones' plants, and my parents' garden. Steve and I were bragging about our tasty tomatoes, so we decided to swap and try each others.

That sprouted an idea — we should have a day at work where everyone brings in their produce for a swap. For those that don't have gardens or plants, maybe we can convince them a trip to a farmers' market is worthwhile, if they haven't been!

Bruschetta with local tomatoes, basil and parsley.

Bruschetta with local tomatoes, basil and parsley.

On Wednesday night, I made a quick chicken wrap with local tomatoes and cucumbers. Of course, I paired it with the local fruit that I bought Saturday. Before this challenge, I mostly thought about how "healthy" I was eating, and now I find myself thinking about if I could get it locally and at an affordable price.

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‘Eat Local’ challenges me to try new Lawrence restaurant

Eat Local Challenge — Day 2

Thanks to the “Eat Local Challenge,” my husband and I tried a new restaurant in downtown Lawrence — 715 — on Sunday afternoon. It's located at 715 Mass., hence its name.

It is one of five Lawrence restaurants featured in this year’s “Eat Local Challenge."

Unfortunately for me, the restaurant was featuring its weekend brunch menu. Almost everything had eggs and/or some version of pork. I am not a fan of either. However, it was a hit with my meat-loving husband, who also likes eggs.

The menu listed 17 Kansas suppliers, including Iwig Family Dairy, Anthony’s Beehive, Hoyland Farm, WheatField’s Bakery Café and Grandma Hoerner’s. About a dozen meats are made at the restaurant.

No surprise — my husband ordered the three-meat special, which contained porchetta, house-cured bacon and a duroc link sausage with two fried eggs and potatoes. Everything was local, but the potatoes. The cost: $15.99.

I ordered a whole-grain waffle with fresh fruit. The fruit — cantaloupe, blueberries and strawberries — was local. Many of the waffle ingredients also were local — eggs, milk and butter. The cost: $6.99.

Everything tasted great, and we agreed that we would go back and try the dinner menu which boasts of pizza, pasta, salads and main dishes such as chicken, pork chops and duck.

For my order, I earned another sticker for my “Eat Local Challenge” passport. I am already halfway toward my goal of getting a T-shirt.

Other restaurants participating in this week’s “Eat Local Challenge” are:

Free State Brewery, 636 Mass. Its August seasonal items are the Free State BLT and a Tomato Bread Salad. It uses local produce when in season, such as corn, asparagus, tomatoes, squash, broccoli and fruit. It also uses local beef, honey and chocolate. Of course, this place is well-known for its local beer.

Pachamama’s, 800 N.H. Its menu changes with the seasons to take advantage of local food sources. It buys food from nine local farmers and producers.

Local Burger, 714 Vt. Its menu features organic, local and sustainable fare that’s free of additives and preservatives. Among its local offerings: meats such as elk, beef and turkey; sunflower oil from Hoxie to make french fries; tofu, honey, and cheeses.

WheatFields Bakery Café, 904 Vt. The menu features local produce and meats. Staff members often shop at the downtown Lawrence farmers’ market for ingredients. Its August menu features three local dishes: vegetable primavera ziti, local beef tenderloin tips, and local pork tenderloin medallions.

Besides eating at the restaurant today, I enjoyed snacking on the watermelon and cantaloupe that I purchased at the farmers’ market on Saturday. I also had my first local peach — yum!

On Sunday evening, I picked a bowlful of cherry tomatoes, five regular-sized tomatoes and a handful of jalapeno peppers from our garden. We also have a bounty of produce from my mother’s garden left to eat. We are looking forward to BLT’s and steamed squash in the coming days.

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Farmers’ markets in Lawrence

Here's a list of farmers' markets in Lawrence:

The Downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market:

• Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., between Eighth and Ninth streets on New Hampshire Street.

• Tuesdays, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., between 10th and 11ths streets on Vermont Street.

• Thursdays, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., northwest corner of Wakarusa Drive and Sixth Street.

Others:

Cottin’s Hardware & Rental, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays, 1832 Massachusetts St., back parking lot of store.

West Junior High School, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays, 2700 Harvard Road.

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‘Eat Local Challenge’ begins with trip to downtown farmers’ market

Eat Local Challenge — Day 1

About 3,000 people attended Saturday morning’s downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market, including me.

Tom Buller, market coordinator, said the attendance was about average for this time of year.

My husband and I didn’t get there until 10:30 a.m. — just 30 minutes before closing time — but lucky for us, there were plenty of melons to pick from.

We bought a watermelon for $4. Then, we purchased two large tomatoes and a big cantaloupe for $5. I couldn’t resist trying locally-grown peaches, even though they were pricey — $6 for 7 peaches.

For $15, I felt like we walked away with a bounty of fruit, and it was very gratifying to put the money into the very hands that helped grow the food. I earned two “Eat Local Challenge” stickers for my purchases. I only need four more to get a T-shirt!

I can’t wait to see how everything tastes. The peaches still need to ripen a little bit.

I just cut up the melons, so they are chilling in the frig. I tasted a few bites of watermelon — delicious! Now, we can snack on that throughout the week or use it in meals.

Here's a list of farmers’ markets in Lawrence:

The Downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market:

• Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., between Eighth and Ninth streets on New Hampshire Street.

• Tuesdays, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., between 10th and 11ths streets on Vermont Street.

• Thursdays, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., northwest corner of Wakarusa Drive and Sixth Street.

Others:

Cottin’s Hardware & Rental, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays, 1832 Massachusetts St., back parking lot of store.

West Junior High School, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays, 2700 Harvard Road.

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Melons will be in abundance at Saturday’s downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market

Alexis Leonard, 10, with the Eudora 4-H Club, chews through a slice of watermelon.

Alexis Leonard, 10, with the Eudora 4-H Club, chews through a slice of watermelon. by Mike Yoder

There will be watermelon, cantaloupe, crenshaws, honeydew and more.

“Short of air conditioning, I have found little that beats the heat quite like a cold slice of watermelon,” said Tom Buller, market coordinator.

I couldn’t agree more. I cut up a watermelon last Saturday and have munched on it all week. Last week, I bought it at a nearby supermarket. This week, I will buy it at the farmers’ market because I am taking part in the “Eat Local Challenge.”

Other produce that’s in season this week: Onions, greens, garlic, kale, mushrooms, potatoes, basil, zucchini, green beans, apples, sweet corn, eggplant, field tomatoes, plums, blackberries, summer squash, peaches, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, okra and heirloom tomatoes.

The market will feature music by the F-Tones.

The downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market is from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays in the 800 block of New Hampshire street.

http://www2.ljworld.com/photos/2005/dec/28/71813/

Next week: The market will feature salsa!

If you are interested in seeing how your salsa stacks up, you can bring samples of a fresh salsa (nothing canned) for the customer contest. The market will have prizes for the best overall, most exotic, and the hottest.

Customers will get the chance to taste salsas that are sold by vendors, and ones that are made at the market by Kate Gonzalez and Alejandro Lule.

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Iwig Family Dairy still in business thanks to loyal customers

Iwig Family Dairy is no longer facing foreclosure. Instead, there are plans to grow.

Owners Tim and Laurel Iwig, of Tecumseh, needed at least $150,000 to stay in business. So, they began offering $500 membership units on May 1.

So far, they have raised $215,000. The money is being used to reduce bank debt and fund improvements. The farm still has 70 membership units available.

The offering has been registered by the Kansas Securities Commission, and Kaw Valley Bank is the escrow agent.

Tim Iwig said about 200 people invested in his business, and the majority were dedicated customers from Lawrence and Topeka. He said the investments ranged from $500 to $30,000.

“There were all kinds of people, but most of them were people who buy my milk that wanted us to keep doing what we do,” he said.

Iwig Family Dairy produces, processes and markets dairy products from its 95-cow dairy farm.

Among its products are milk, butter, cream and ice cream. Its milk is sold in glass bottles and can be found on most Lawrence grocery shelves. It sells about 360 bottles per week at The Community Mercantile, its best-selling grocery.

In 1983, the Iwigs grew a longtime family farm into a business and started bottling milk in 2005.

By the first quarter of 2008, it had a positive cash flow.

Shortly thereafter, it was hit by the perfect storm: high fuel and feed prices and the lowest commodity price for milk in decades. The farm’s bank debt had grown to $680,000.

Now, Tim Iwig is planning to grow the business.

The Iwigs are opening a store in Topeka, near Gage Boulevard and Southwest Eighth Street, within two weeks. The store will offer all of the Iwig products, plus other Kansas-grown products that are sold in its farm store.

A new concrete storage area was completed this week. It allows him to buy feed in bulk and save money.

“We’ve got to move right along. There’s no stopping to catch your breath,” he said matter-of-factly.

Tim Iwig’s next goal is to find and install a more energy-efficient pasteurization method.

That’s not easy when he’s working from before sunup until after sundown seven days a week. He feeds and milks the cows, operates the plant, trains employees, and does much more.

“It’s hard to make me quit,” he said.

http://www2.ljworld.com/photos/2009/oct/07/178724/


FOR MORE

Tecumseh-based Iwig Family Dairy is offering membership units for $500.

For more information, call the dairy at 379-9514 or stop by the farm at 3320 S.E. Tecumseh Road. The store is open 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday.

You also can send an e-mail to iwigdairyfarm@sbcglobal.net.

Investors need to fill out a subscription agreement, which can be obtained from the Iwigs. They also have copies of the offering circular.

For more information about the farm, visit iloveiwig.com.

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A feast from our neighbors’ gardens

It is two billion degrees outside. It is far too hot to cook. I was too sweaty and tired on Sunday night to think about putting together a "hot, brown, and plenty of it" sort of meal. Plus, we spent the weekend at Grand Lake in Oklahoma and came home to a bare cupboard, save what produce my neighborhood has gifted us.

I have cried and gnashed my teeth all summer, telling anyone who will listen how despondent I am that I never got a garden planted. I don't have any fresh basil, no tomatoes, no odd-looking gourds or freaky pole beans dancing in my back yard.

My neighbors, kind souls that they are, have taken pity on my vegetable-less self. My neighbor to the south, Larry, is growing cucumbers, among other things, in his yard this year, and it is fortuitous for me that those cukes are vining on my chain link fence. Larry declared that anything that grows on our side of the fence is ours, and it is much to his chagrin that it turns out, most of the fruit is appearing on our turf. I guess we'll share.

Down the road a piece (I spent the weekend in Oklahoma. What do you want from me?) are Jenn and Scotty, and they dropped off a bag of tomatillos and some herbs last week, so all of that was waiting for me when I arrived home from the lake, sweaty and tired. Cooking or grilling anything over any kind of heat on Sunday night sounded about as fun as pulling my nose hairs out one at a time. While listening to Nickelback on a continuous loop. No thanks.

Thankfully, I was able to pull all the donated produce out of the fridge and whip up a meal that not only required very little stove intervention, but it was easy and healthy to boot.

I started with the tomatillos and cucumber. I decided a gazpacho was just the thing for a summer night when the low was going to be around 97 degrees.

Start by cutting two cups of tomatillos into bite sized pieces, Peel and dice one cucumber, two cloves of garlic, and a half cup of red onion (or whatever kind of onion you have). I didn't have any fresh peppers on hand, so I included about 2 teaspoons of Sriracha, but a jalapeno or habanero would have been excellent in this capacity. Add in a tablespoon of sugar, just for balance. Salt and pepper liberally.

Add in two tablespoons of olive oil and one tablespoon of red wine vinegar as you puree. Make sure to get it as smooth as possible. No one wants a chunky gazpacho. The cucumber should provide plenty of liquid so you don't need to add water. I didn't have much laying around for fresh herbs, but you could put whatever you like in this. I think some mint or cilantro would be delicious. Or what about some pineapple or even a peach?

I told Mr. Meat and Potatoes he didn't have to eat the gazpacho since it's a little bit outside what I consider to be his comfort zone, but he tried it anyway and announced that since it is just basically a "pureed salad" and spicy to boot, he thought he liked it. A ringing endorsement, indeed.

I served it in a coffee cup so as to save real estate on the plate, with a dollop of sour cream on top for a cool garnish.

Cucumber-Tomatillo Gazpacho
2 C tomatillos, cut into bite sized hunks
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp Sriracha (or fresh jalapeno or habanero)
1/2 C red onion
1 T sugar
2 T olive oil 2 T red wine vinegar salt and pepper to taste

(other herbs welcome)

I had to save that space on the plate for the main event: sauteed shrimp and pesto pasta.

Pesto was perfect for our dinner last night. Not only had Scotty and Jenn gifted me a large bag of sweet basil, but pesto doesn't require any heat whatsoever in the making.

Into the food processor's bowl, stuff three cups of fresh basil, one 2.25 oz bag of pine nuts, 1/4 C grated parmesan (fresh), 3 cloves garlic, 2 tsp lemon juice, 1 tsp lemon zest, and salt and pepper.

Drizzle olive oil (about four tablespoons) into the bowl while pulsing, until everything is finely pureed.

Some recipes will tell you to keep adding olive oil until you get the runny consistency you desire, but I'm not all about a greasy pesto. Instead, I set the pesto aside until I am ready to use it, and then add in a little water to thin to the desired consistency for serving.

Nothing is easier or tastes better to me, than fresh pesto. Mr. Meat and Potatoes was duly impressed that I could make it myself, and I chose not to tell him how very easy it is, as it works in my favor to hold those cards close to the vest.

Easy Pesto
3 C fresh basil leaves
1/3 C parmesan
1 clove garlic
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
salt and pepper
4 T olive oil
water, to thin

When it came time to actually put a meal on the plate, I boiled enough spaghetti for the two of us, and heated a little olive oil in a pan over medium high heat.

When the oil was hot, I tossed 3 C of large-ish shrimp in, with a clove of minced garlic and one diced up roma tomato. Salt and pepper. And then I turned the heat to low, and the shrimp were cooked in under three minutes.

Top the pasta with the pesto and then the shrimp mixture, and with very little stove-interaction, you've got a summer feast: fresh, filling, and fast.

Pasta and shrimp saute 1/2 bag spaghetti
3 C shrimp, peeled and deveined - large in count
1 roma tomato
1 clove garlic
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper

But now, dear neighbors, I'm out of produce. So produce, please, some produce. We're forever in your debt.

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Saturday’s Lawrence Farmers’ Market features tomato tasting

Yellow Pear tomatoes

Yellow Pear tomatoes

Tomatoes!

Starting at 8:30 a.m., customers will get the chance to explore the tastes and textures of a variety of tomatoes.

“If you have ever wondered what is the difference between a Violet Jasper and White Tomosol, tomorrow could be your lucky day,” said Tom Buller, market coordinator. http://www2.ljworld.com/photos/2010/j...

Other produce that’s in season at the market: onions, greens, garlic, kale, mushrooms, potatoes, beets, carrots, basil, zucchini, green beans, cabbage, apples, sweet corn, eggplant, field tomatoes, plums, blackberries, summer squash, peaches, fennel, cucumbers, leeks, cherry tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe and okra.

The downtown Lawrence Farmers' Market is from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays in the 800 block of New Hampshire street.

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Lawrence farmers’ market offers plenty of Fourth of July fare

A bucket of freshly picked peaches.

A bucket of freshly picked peaches. by Richard Gwin/Journal-World Photo

Peaches!

They will make their first appearance of the season at the Farmers’ Market in downtown Lawrence.

The market will have an assortment of summer treats that can be served at Fourth of July barbecues and picnics.

Among the produce: field grown tomatoes, sweet corn, blackberries, potatoes, onions, zucchini, beets, carrots, green beans, blueberries, apricots, plums and summer squash.

The market features a variety of local meats, including beef, lamb, emu, elk, chick and pork.

Shoppers will also find baked goods, prepared food, plants, flowers, honey and much, much more.

The market is from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays at 824 N.H.

If you can’t make it Saturday, there are markets:

• Tuesdays, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., 1020 Vt.

• Thursdays, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., 4931 W. Sixth St.

Also, West Junior High School students will begin their farmers’ market July 12 at the school. The markets will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays.

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If you like meat, you won’t want to miss Saturday’s Farmers Market

The Farmers’ Market in downtown Lawrence will feature local meats tomorrow (June 19).

Hilary Brown, of Local Burger, will be grilling burgers and chicken for taste testing.

The market offers a variety of meats: beef, pork, lamb, goat, elk, emu, bison, chicken and turkeys. Several of the more exotic meats will be available to taste as well.

Summer favorites such as apricots, blueberries, black raspberries, squash, cucumbers and green beans will be available.

The market also will feature new music acts, “Antiques and Collectibles” and “Sky Smeed.”

A reminder: The market is from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. at 824 N.H.

Here’s a list of the other produce available:

Green onions, greens, chard, lettuce, green garlic, kale, arugula, tomatoes, mushrooms, turnips, rhubarb, potatoes, mulberries, beets, bok choy, broccoli, snap peas, carrots, cherries, shelling peas, Chinese cabbage, basil, cabbage and snow peas.

If you can’t make it Saturday, there are markets:

• Tuesdays, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., 1020 Vt.

• Thursdays, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., 4931 W. Sixth St.

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Urgent The Progress We

URGENT: The progress we've made on the Child Nutrition Bill is in jeopardy-

Senate leaders are thinking about postponing the bill for another year or two. Instead of new funding for healthier food, stronger nutrition standards, and grants for Farm to School programs -- which are all in the current bill -- schools could end up with the same-old system next year.

A "Dear Colleague" letter is circulating in the Senate, urging Senate leaders to schedule time for the bill. The letter will be submitted to the leadership on Wednesday, May 19 -- so our Senators need to sign it ASAP.

Can you ask your Senators to sign the letter today? Click here to send an email:

You can also learn more about the issue at slowfoodusa.com

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A New Kind of Green Beer by Lauren Cunningham

http://www.flickr.com/photos/48727061@N07/4482650018

This post was written by Lauren Cunningham as part of Simran Sethi's KU journalism course "Media and the Environment," which focuses on environmental reporting through the lenses of food and agriculture.

I’ve always wanted to have a green beer on St. Patrick’s Day, and last St. Patty’s Day was my first as a 21-year-old.

I guess I get a small thrill from drinking an unnatural-colored beverage for the wow factor. But the concept of green-colored beer got me wondering about the other type of green beer — beer brewed in a sustainable way. Green, or sustainable, beer can include anything from organic beer to beer brewed in breweries that use solar energy or use waste to help fuel the process.

When I went to Brooklyn Brewery this summer, I didn't even know it was a top green brewery in the U.S. (Huffington Post). I had a local beer with New York honey and orange peel. I’ve heard my parents or my friends say they like local beers more than generic beers, and I agree. Until recently, I had been under the impression that it was a matter of taste. I’ve tried both beers from local breweries (Ad Astra Ale from Free State Brewery being my favorite) and beer, such as Budweiser, Miller, etc., and I definitely notice a difference in quality.

But drinking local means so much more than just quality or taste. Because beer is made from ingredients that are grown outside of where it’s brewed, local breweries are likely to get most of beer’s necessary ingredients from local areas. Of course, this means less emissions because less travel goes into getting those ingredients to a brewery.

I spoke with executive chef at Free State Brewery Rick Martin about the beer at Free State Brewery. He said although the beer at Free State isn’t organic it’s still a natural product because of its ingredients.

Martin also said their beer is almost a zero-waste product because leftover grain from the brewing process at Free State Brewery is sent to local farms to serve as feed for animals.

Until now, I just thought there were local beers and generic beers. Maybe it’s because I’m relatively new to the drinking scene, but I didn’t even consider that there would be such a thing as organic beer. I’m always quick to assume that the word “organic” always applies to food when it really can be applied to items from clothing to beauty products.

Like any other organic item, organic beer’s ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides. Brewing organic beer even produces a clearer beer and a faster fermentation, which I know people like my uncle (who brews his own beer) are always looking for.

There are even green breweries around the U.S. that brew in a sustainable way, using wind energy or recycling waste products.

Thinking about drinking green-colored beer now kind of freaks me out. Most green beer is made by adding food coloring, which is made of food and color additives, to beer.

Not that I’ll now only be drinking organic beer, but I have found ways in which to make smarter beer choices.

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Family Farming to Industrial Agriculture by Ben Pirotte

http://www.flickr.com/photos/59732787@N00/4534929935/sizes/m/

This post was written by Ben Pirotte as part of Simran Sethi's KU journalism course "Media and the Environment," which focuses on environmental reporting through the lenses of food and agriculture.

My grandfather, or “Granddad,” as we call him, grew up on a farm in western Kansas.

Like most of his generation, he grew up healthy, happy, and with strict values. One of those values: frugality. But why is frugality such an important value of a person who grew up in the Depression? Because they had little to nothing. So, surviving on just a few dollars a week, and only buying the materials necessary to clothe, feed and house your family became what was important.

Just a few years ago, my family and I were able to go visit the land my great-grandfather used to till. Strangely enough, there’s a plaque installed on the property marking the geodetic center of the lower 48 states! Today, it is an “active cornfield,” which goes to show just how important farming is in the makeup of the United States, being right at its heart.

However, much has changed from the days of Granddad’s childhood. What used to be a country of many small farmers that made up 21% of the US workforce, all insistent on making a new life for themselves and their family, has now turned into just a few “desperate” farmers trying to make ends meet, and a few giant business conglomerates.

So, has the nostalgic, pastoral idea of farming died? With the mechanization of farming as an industry, and with yields from farming being more productive than ever, large, mono-crop facilities produce the vast majority of our food at a cheaper price to the consumer. But what about the cost to the environment? Industrial agriculture requires more use of pesticides, and with mono-cropping, soils are depleted through time and eventually need more and more fertilizers to create the same output. There seem to be alternatives to this model–such as buying organic and local. But are these ideas realistic?

While it is clear that we most likely won’t be returning to the days of small farmers in places like western Kansas, there is a need to reform our food system. Industrial agriculture is imposing a problem not only to the quality of our food, but is also a major problem to the health of our environment. Small steps can be made to reforming the system, but until our world as a whole is able to factor in all the costs associated with industrial farming, and not just the cost to grow, produce, harvest and ship a product, we won’t be able to see the necessary change.

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Loco for Locavore by Kayla Regan

http://www.flickr.com/photos/48218422@N02/4420723600/sizes/m/

This post was written by Kayla Regan as part of Simran Sethi's KU journalism course "Media and the Environment," which focuses on environmental reporting through the lenses of food and agriculture.

By definition, I am not a locavore, the New Oxford American Dictionary’s 2007 word of the year. Depending on the source, a "locavore," (noun, pronounced ˈˈlō-kə-ˌvȯr) is someone who exclusively or primarily eats food that is locally grown or produced (typically within a 100- to 250-mile radius).

I’d like to wake up in time for a Saturday morning farmers market, but I just can’t sacrifice the only day I can sleep in (I love sleeping) for food. Although I prefer shopping at stores with a wider organic or local selection, I rationalize that I’m reducing my carbon footprint by driving to closer chain supermarkets. I do make it a priority to save money so I can spend some extra cash on local fresh produce, but I still crave and buy tomatoes every month of the year.

Two of the four items shown above are considered local — the honey (made and manufactured in Belton, Mo., about 50 miles from Lawrence) and my semi-surviving cilantro plant. Check the Lawrence farmers market (which is closed in the winter) to see what local produce is in season.

To me, going "locavore" doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing. Instead, it’s about finding a balance between the things you want, the things you can afford and the things that are available.

With the “Iron Chef” White House garden episode, the popular Academy Award nominated documentary “Food, Inc.," Michelle Obama promoting garden vegetables on “Sesame Street” and countless other examples of media attention, the "locavore" message is indeed more accessible than ever. For $2.99, there’s even an app for that. Locavore, an iPhone application, shows what produce items are in season near you and what farmers markets carry them, apparently making buying local easier than ever.

According to the market research firm Packaged Facts, more people seem to be finding their own locavore balance. The firm's latest poll found that 54 percent of respondents favored supporting local farmers, a marked increase from 28 percent in 2006. Local food sales rose from $4 billion in 2002 to $5 billion in 2007 and are predicted to reach $7 billion in 2011.

Representatives from Lawrence supermarkets, such as Sheila Lowrie, Dillons spokesperson; Mike Smith, Checkers store director; and Brett Hansen, assistant manager of Hy-Vee, all said that they were carrying more locally grown and manufactured products and that demand for those items was increasing. Megan Dudley, manager of natural food store The Community Mercantile, also reported that business was especially good and was getting better.

Many think that eating locally is simply a trend that’s popular now but that will soon die down. Locavore was listed in Time Magazine’s 2009 Top 10 iPhone applications, but now it’s not even in the top 100 most downloaded apps. “Iron Chef” didn’t end up using the produce items they picked from the White House garden, and media outlets from the left and right have reduced eating habits to a subject of political debate. Here in Lawrence, the owners of The Casbah, a locally owned and operated organic market and café, recently announced the market was closing.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/48218422@N02/4420723310/sizes/m/

This Google Trend graph suggests that people were eating locally long before "locavore" was the word of the year and long before they saw Michelle Obama on TV. Despite the dips and spikes in the search volume and media tags, public interest in eating locally continues to increase.

Even after the spotlight on local eating turns off, people will, at the very least, remember its message. When society is a pendulum that swings both ways, it’s all a matter of finding your own balance.

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