Thursday, December 1, 2011

Check out a CSA

The excitement of waiting for your weekly CSA box must be how the Iron Chef feels waiting for the secret ingredient to be revealed. However, instead of one secret ingredient, you get a box full of secret ingredients with a CSA. Much like the Iron Chef, you then get the challenge of deciding what to make with the unveiled items.

A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is program where members pay a farmer a set fee at the start of the season in exchange for a weekly share of produce throughout the season. As a member, you never know what you are going to get. The quantity varies depending on the weather and growing conditions: if there is a good crop then members get a larger box, and if there is a smaller crop due to unfavorable weather the members share that risk with the farmer.

One of the best perks of participating in a CSA is the opportunity to build a relationship with the individuals that grow your food. As a member, you often have the option to visit the farm to see how the food is grown. Another benefit is that you occasionally get unusual fruits and vegetables such as celeriac and romanesco which encourages you to try new things in the kitchen. You may discover a new favorite fruit or vegetable!

This is the time to think about your CSA for 2012 as many fill up quickly. Reserve your spot today!

CSAs in the Des Moines area:

Berry Patch Farm in Nevada

Edge of the Woods Raspberry Farm LLC in Indianola
Nature Road Farm in Boone
Twin Girls Garden in Madrid

Wilber’s Northside Market in Boone
Raccoon Forks Farm in Redfield
Small Potatoes Farm in Minburn
Blue Gate Farm in Chariton
The Homestead in Pleasant Hill
Turtle Farm in Granger

Grinnell Heritage Farm in Grinnell

One Step at a Time Gardens in Kanawha

Monday, November 21, 2011

Farmer Spotlight: Blue Gate Farm

Jill Beebout & Sean Skeehan are the talent behind the delicious produce at Blue Gate Farm. In 2005, they left their professional theatre jobs in Houston, Texas to start a sustainable, diversified farm on their family’s land near Chariton, Iowa. They provide Certified Naturally Grown fruits and vegetables, raw honey, and free range eggs. All products are raised without synthetic herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers. “When people think of conventional farming, this is what they should think of,” Beebout said, “This was conventional farming the way it started- small family farms doing sustainable, diversified farms.”

“We each have our different skill levels and interest,” Skeehan said. “I like the honey bees and dealing with livestock and mechanics. Jill’s full time focus is growing great produce.” They offer a variety of vegetables including arugula, peas, beans, carrots, edamame, eggplant, tomatoes, beets, garlic, onions, peppers, radishes, and sweet potatoes. Their tapestry salad mix featuring more than 40 salad greens, herbs, and edible flowers makes a great addition to any meal.

The majority of the fruit grown on the farm is devoted to jams and jellies. They make a variety of preserves ranging from apple butter to shallot-lemon basil jam. Their infused syrup made from thyme, rosemary, lemon balm, and ginger is a favorite, especially when made into the lemonade they sell at the market on hot days.

You won’t find any Blue Gate Farm products in stores. They only sell direct to consumer through their CSA and the Downtown Farmers’ Market in Des Moines. If you would like to visit the farm, they participate in the Farm Crawl every October. Visit their website for more information about their products and the CSA program.

Skeehan (right) giving a tour of the farm at Farm Crawl 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Iowa Food Cooperative

Finding the time to go to a farmers’ market is sometimes difficult between all the other tasks that life demands. If you don’t have time to go to the market, there is an easy way to buy local foods online.

The Iowa Food Cooperative is an online food buying club that connects consumers with Iowa grown products. Producers post what food is available and members order online and pick up the food at a designated location. There are several locations in the Des Moines area including Merle Hay Mall, West Des Moines, Ankeny, and Ames. Membership is required to participate. The initial fee to join is $50, with an annual fee of $10 after the first year.

There are approximately 100 producers that sell throughout the year. Types of products include fruits and vegetables, cheese, eggs, jams, grains, honey, meat (beef, elk, goat, lamb, and pork), poultry, condiments, wine, baked goods, household supplies, and other non-food items.

Visit the Iowa Food Cooperative website for more information.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Buy Fresh Buy Local Harvest Party

The changing leaves and cooler temperatures mean that winter will soon be here. To an Iowa locavore, that means the availability of fresh produce will begin to dwindle. This is the time to celebrate the bounty of the season at the Buy Fresh Buy Local (BFBL) Harvest Party.

The Greater Des Moines BFBL chapter held it’s 2nd annual Harvest Party as a fundraiser on October 9th at the Olmstead Center at Drake University. The celebration featured foods grown in the nine county Greater Des Moines BFBL region. Menu items included locally raised lamb, warm potato salad with bacon, roasted squash, steamed beets with citrus zest apple salad, caprese skewers, prosciutto, apple crisp with caramel ice cream, and a sampling of local cheese and produce. Everything was local and most of the food was donated by BFBL farms.

The Harvest Party is a great opportunity to meet farmers and network with others in the community that support local food. Join the celebration next year! Visit the Greater Des Moines BFBL website for more information.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Farm Crawl

For the past 5 years on the first Sunday in October, hundreds of Iowans cruised the gravel roads of Lucas and Marion counties to visit eight small family farms. The masterminds behind the Farm Crawl are Jill Beebout & Sean Skeehan of Blue Gate Farm. When the couple lived in Houston, they attended “art crawls” where they wandered from studio to studio. “When we first moved to the farm we didn’t know many people in the community,” Beebout said, “We thought it would be neat to do something like that on an agricultural basis.” They met their neighbors who had interesting small farming operations and thought, “We could be a destination spot.” The Farm Crawl was born.
The idea is for participating farms to hold an open house on the same day and visitors crawl (or drive) from farm to farm. Guests have the opportunity to tour the farms, visit the animals, and buy locally grown products.

Reichert's Dairy Air

Matt Russell, from Coyote Run Farm, said they didn’t know what to expect the first year. “We didn’t know if we would have 50 or 100 people and we ended up with 500 to 600 the first year,” he recalled. Now in its 5th year, the event has surged in popularity. The 2011 event had record breaking attendance with over 1,350 visitors.
The eight participating farms for the 2011 Farm Crawl were Blue Gate Farm, Coyote Run Farm, Dan-D Farms, Pierce’s Pumpkin Patch, Reichert’s Dairy Air, Schneider Orchards, White Breast Pottery and Weaving, and Crooked Gap Farm.

Russell said one of the best things for him was to see how much fun the visitors were having. He said, “These people are having a fabulous time! I mean they are having crazy fun... on our farm!
Join the fun the first Sunday in October every year. Visit the Farm Crawl website for more details.

Coyote Run Farm

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Greater Des Moines Buy Fresh Buy Local

New to the locavore scene? Looking to support local farms, but don’t know where to start? If so, the Buy Fresh Buy Local (BFBL) program is the resource for you. The goal of this national program started by FoodRoutes is to connect consumers to local food. Chapters can be found across the nation and Des Moines is lucky to have an active chapter hosted by the Drake University Agricultural Law Center and Iowa Heartland Resource Conservation and Development.

One of the best local food resources is the biannual directory developed by Greater Des Moines BFBL which lists farms, farmers’ markets and businesses that sell locally grown food. The 2011-2012 directory included 81 farms and 22 businesses. The directory is available free of charge online and in stores such as Gateway, Campbell’s, and Tallgrass.

Another great resource from Greater Des Moines BFBL is the free electronic newsletter produced one to three times per month depending on the season. The newsletter features local events and highlights what produce is in season. You can read current and archived issues here and sign up for the mailing list to be notified when a new issue is released.

Take the Pledge!

Show your support to local food by taking the BFBL Pledge which states that you will spend at least 10% of your weekly food dollars with participating BFBL partners. Take the pledge online or at the BFBL table at the Downtown Farmers’ Market.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tallgrass Grocery Coop

If you strive to buy local, organic food and you live in the Des Moines area, your life just got a little easier. West Des Moines is a Mecca for Iowan shoppers with a variety of stores, but until now, there hasn’t been a grocer dedicated to local foods. Enter Tallgrass.

Tallgrass Grocery Coop opened its doors in Valley Junction on September 15th, 2011. The retail cooperative’s mission is to provide access to healthy, local, organic food and products at reasonable prices. Their goal is to sell food without fertilizers, pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, GMOs, high fructose corn syrup, or artificial ingredients.

Although you don’t have to be a member to shop, a lifetime membership of $100 earns you a 5% discount on everything in the store, a weekly newsletter, and discounts on bulk orders, classes, and events.

Visit the store and website for more information:

Valley Junction
116 5
th Street
West Des Moines, IA 50265