Rep. Schakowsky “Mobilizing for Change”

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Posted: February 28, 2009 at 10:33 am

The Evanston Health Community Task force is asking concerned constituents of Rep. Shakowsky to attend the Democratic Party of Evanston’s (DPOE) “Mobilizing for Change” planning session to voice concerns about the federal Child Nutrition Act:

Dissatisfied with USDA guidelines that shape the D65/202 meal programs?

Voice your concerns to U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky this Sunday at the Democratic Party of Evanston’s “Mobilizing for Change” planning session. Several of us plan to attend. The more Cong. Schakowsky hears from her constituents, the more she will be emboldened to act on our behalf. Below are event details as well as specific reforms being recommended by advocates on the pending re-authorization of the federal Child Nutrition Act.

Sunday’s DPOE/Cong. Schakowsky “Mobilizing for Change” planning session takes place at 3:30-5:30pm, March 1st at Levy Center, 300 Dodge. DPOE says the event “will resemble a larger version of the house parties held throughout the Obama campaign and now being implemented by the ‘Organizing for America’ initiative.” For more info, contact DPOE’s Toni Gilpin; 847 494-7302 tonigilpin.DPOE@gmail.com

A reform agenda for the federal Child Nutrition Act:

–Fully Fund the Access to Local Foods and School Gardens Initiative (Section 122 of the 2004 Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act) to $50 million in mandatory funds over five years to increase fresh fruits and vegetables consumption in school meals. This would include funding for staff training and menu planning needed for preparing unprocessed products, as well as for experiential nutrition education opportunities integrated with school gardens.

–Provide $10 million a year for non-food assistance grants to schools to facilitate purchases of purchase food preparation equipment (such as refrigeration, salad bars, etc.) to improve kitchen facilities and provide meals consistent with the Dietary Guidelines.

–Increase the Department of Defense (DoD) Fresh Program Funding or its equivalent up to $100 million per year, and encourage the purchase of local produce when possible.

For more information from the Evanston Health Community Task Force, visit their Google Group page.




Some Scattered Thoughts on Gardening and Farming

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Posted: February 27, 2009 at 1:30 pm

My window-garden spinach leaves have matured from rod-shaped to oval. The mesclun has burst into a variety of reds, yellows and greens and the container smells of a damp earthiness that seems outdoorsy if I close my eyes.

It’s not quite spring, and I’m not quite a backyard farmer yet. But as I’m growing something just on the other side of the window from my backyard, maybe I’m more of a bedroom farmer. No, that seems like a crass double entendre, although I’m not sure how.

A Chicago Tribune article in mid-February about a Marengo woman growing salad fixings in a spare bedroom caught my eye. Judy Leach grows vegetables all year round, pollinating flowers with her electric toothbrush. Between the growing lights, the electric toothbrush and other power consumption, she paid at least one $600 electric bill. That’s some hardcore locavorism. And some pricey tomatoes. Coincidentally, another recent story says local dairy farmers are suffering from low milk prices and selling or slaughtering cows at a loss just to cut down on feed and care expenses.

Recently a friend and I agreed that–and I know this is an oversimplification–farmers garden for money and gardeners farm for pleasure. So what would you call someone who goes into debt in order to grow vegetables?

The answer, of course, is a typical American farmer.

From Benjamin Franklin

There seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth. The first is by war, as the Romans did, in plundering their conquered neighbors. This is robbery. The second by commerce, which is generally cheating. The third by agriculture, the only honest way, wherein man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle…as a reward for his innocent life and his virtuous industry.

Franklin had planned to retire to 300 acres in New Jersey and farm them the rest of his days. But one thing led to another, and before you knew it, he was back in Philadelphia plotting to overthrow the government. Nonetheless, the bi-focaled city boy maintained a fond respect for farming and advocated for those who grew cotton, hemp, tobacco and food for the colonies.

Others have commented on the irony that founding fathers who owned plantations or were pro-agriculture spawned an industrialized nation in which farming is often seen at best as an anachronism and at worst as a dangerous, unrewarding venture best suited for migrant workers. While there are exceptions, those who grow our food don’t earn a lot of money, get a lot of respect, enjoy a sense of security or a relaxing work week. One might argue that our founding fathers had such profitable plantations because their labor was free. I would add that modern farms manage to feed our nation economically in large part because farm wages are so low.

As a member of Angelic Organic’s farmer training initiative (CRAFT), I receive notices about land for sale, internships and careers at farms in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, and a variety of resources available to small farmers.

Months ago, I had seriously considered going into the field (figuratively and literally) and did a lot of research; reading books, blogs and websites, talking with farmers at Sunday morning markets and visiting farms. The clearest conclusion I reached was that unless you own your land free and clear, farming is nearly financially untenable. Paying rent or a mortgage threatens the thin profit margins a farm can offer you. And those profit margins depend on really knowing exactly what you’re doing, working your buns off and finding hardworking labor willing to work cheap at just the right time. (Nobody can take their vacation during harvest season). Nobody gets into farming for the love of money.

To take up this vocation, you’ve got to enjoy living in a rural area or the smell of hay or chatting with customers at farmers markets. Farmers aren’t getting rich, though many are going broke. The average age of farmers continues to increase (meaning that their kids are not staying on the farm) and each year, our corn-and-cow-based agro-economy becomes more precarious due to our country’s shabby energy policy.

As I watch my container garden grow, I consider the labor and capital it would take to raise enough greens to feed my family for a year. Then, what would it take to grow enough for ourselves and to sell enough to afford our health insurance, utilities, taxes, car expenses, vacations, college and retirement savings and all the other items modern life provides. I reel at the notion of farming for a living and take heart that I’m not growing my garden to earn a bunch of dough. I just want a little lettuce.


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Local Markets, Local Calender

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Posted: February 27, 2009 at 10:14 am

Yesterday, we asked but did not yet answer the question, “Why Can’t We Have Public Markets Like Cleveland.”  Well, at least we linked to the Reader’s smart guy, Cecil Adams, who tackled the question.   So, maybe this weekend, you want to see what some of fuss is about public markets.  We link below to several area public markets  for possible weekend road-tripping.  Before covering that, however, we provide our weekly update on local buying opportunities and other things we think are good ideas(tm).

On Saturday, the Winter Market convenes nearby in Oak Park.  On Sunday, the market convenes very far away in DeKalb.  As in every Saturday, out west, there’s also Geneva and Heritage Prairie.  As in every day, there’s Green Grocer Chicago and almost every day, Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand.  Another store with a strong local food focus is Oak Park’s Marion St. Cheese.  Come on Tuesday to meet local cheesemaker (and fruit seller) Leslie Cooperbrand.  Where else are you finding local foods?

Two times coming up to have soup and benefit the Greater Chicago Food DepositorySunday Custom House is holding a soup-off.  People pay $15 for all-you-can eat sample-size bowls of soups created by several top area chefs.  Wednesday, it’s back to the Hideout.  More info at Martha’s soup blog.

So, not a huge amount going on.  Hit the road to see what some of the public market fuss is about.

Mike Sula found much to love in Cleveland, especially their public market.  Knowing Mike, I think he’d equally enjoy Detroit and its Eastern Market (see also).

The Indianapolis City Market is an example of an old-time fixture spruced up for modern conditions.  The Soulard Market in St. Louis never went away nor did Cincinnati’s Findlay MarketMilwaukee is trying to create a 21st century version.   Minneapolis, likewise has something new and market-ish.

There are public markets in some of the smaller cities in the Midwest, for instance South Bend.   Columbus, Ohio does not really count as a small city does it?

Thinks these places can teach Chicago a trick or two?


One Comment



Winter Farmer’s Market – Sunday – DeKalb

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Posted: February 26, 2009 at 5:28 pm

Sunday in DeKalb
Sun., Mar. 1 ~ 9:30am to 1:30pm
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of DeKalb
158 N. 4th St.
DeKalb, IL 60115
• Admission to the market is FREE and open to the public.
• Brunch (made with ingredients from the participating farm vendors) will be served beginning at 11:30am while quantities last. A donation will be requested to cover the cost of the meal.
• Before the brunch, there will be coffee, tea & cider available as well as muffins, biscotti & other treats from our vendors. No need to leave the market hungry!
• See below for information on pre-ordering meat and poultry for pickup at the market

 

Pre-order meat, poultry & eggs

 

Tom Arnold from Arnold Farm, Elizabeth, IL, will be glad to take pre-orders for grass-fed beef, grain-fed beef, pastured pork and poultry.  He’ll bring plenty of cuts to the markets, too, but for best selection, consider pre-ordering.   

  • To pre-order, go to www.arnoldsfarm.com.  Though much of what is shown there is bulk/whole sides, most cuts of beef and pork listed in those packages are for sale individually.  Also, plenty of whole chickens, and turkeys in the 24# to 26# range. If you are interested in any of the packages, definitely pre-order those to ensure availability.
  • New this week!  Tom will be bringing lots of free-range eggs from Hasselmann Family Farm, Milledgeville, IL.  If you’d like Tom to add eggs to your pre-order, just let him know.
  • Add 10% to web site pricing to cover Arnold Farm’s contribution to Harvest of Hope Fund, a beneficiary of these Winter Markets.
  • Email Tom at arnoldfarm@juno.com.  Email is best, but you are welcome to call Tom’s home phone:  815-858-2407.
  • Cut-off time for ordering is Thursday evening, Feb. 26, at 8pm.  [If you're reading this after the cut-off, you can still try calling and Tom may be able to accommodate you.]
  • Be sure to let Tom know which market (Oak Park or DeKalb) you’ll be attending for pickup. Pick up your order during the market hours (above); plan to pay when you pick up with cash or check. 

A variety of cuts of grass-fed lamb will be available (at the Saturday market only) from Kinkoona Farm, Brodhead, WI.

 

 

t you’ll find this week at the Winter Farmers Markets 

  • Grass-fed & grain-fed beef
  • Pastured pork
  • Free-range poultry
  • Grass-fed lamb (Sat. only) 
  • Free-range eggs
  • Fresh mushrooms
  • Organic lettuce & greens  
  • Milled flours & wheatberries
  • Popcorn & corn meal
  • Goats’ milk soap for people & pets
  • Fresh basil
  • Onions & shallots
  • Dips & spreads
  • Infused vinegars & dried herb blends
  • Sweet basil vinaigrette
  • Frozen blueberries
  • Hand-dyed yarns
  • Handmade mittens & rag wool socks
  • Yogurt 
  • Catnip toys
  • Spa & beauty products made with home-grown herbs
  • Honey & beeswax candles
  • Farm kitchen goodies, both savory & sweet
  • Potatoes
  • Apple cider
  • Organic blue corn tortilla chips
  • Salsas, sauces & soups
  • Preserves
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Cheese & cheese curds
  • Fruit tarts, croissants, baguettes & pastries
  • Fair trade olive oil
  • Fair trade coffee
  • CookbooksCSA subscriptions (more info below)
  • Info about on-farm classes & summer camps (more info below), open houses & events
  • Reusable shopping bags

      . . . and much more!   




Winter Farmers – Saturday – Oak Park

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Posted: February 26, 2009 at 5:25 pm

 

 

 

Pre-order meat, poultry & eggs

 

Tom Arnold from Arnold Farm, Elizabeth, IL, will be glad to take pre-orders for grass-fed beef, grain-fed beef, pastured pork and poultry.  He’ll bring plenty of cuts to the markets, too, but for best selection, consider pre-ordering.   

  • To pre-order, go to www.arnoldsfarm.com.  Though much of what is shown there is bulk/whole sides, most cuts of beef and pork listed in those packages are for sale individually.  Also, plenty of whole chickens, and turkeys in the 24# to 26# range. If you are interested in any of the packages, definitely pre-order those to ensure availability.
  • New this week!  Tom will be bringing lots of free-range eggs from Hasselmann Family Farm, Milledgeville, IL.  If you’d like Tom to add eggs to your pre-order, just let him know.
  • Add 10% to web site pricing to cover Arnold Farm’s contribution to Harvest of Hope Fund, a beneficiary of these Winter Markets.
  • Email Tom at arnoldfarm@juno.com.  Email is best, but you are welcome to call Tom’s home phone:  815-858-2407.
  • Cut-off time for ordering is Thursday evening, Feb. 26, at 8pm.  [If you're reading this after the cut-off, you can still try calling and Tom may be able to accommodate you.]
  • Be sure to let Tom know which market (Oak Park or DeKalb) you’ll be attending for pickup. Pick up your order during the market hours (above); plan to pay when you pick up with cash or check. 

A variety of cuts of grass-fed lamb will be available (at the Saturday market only) from Kinkoona Farm, Brodhead, WI.

 

 

tWhat you’ll find this week at the Winter Farmers Markets 

  • Grass-fed & grain-fed beef
  • Pastured pork
  • Free-range poultry
  • Grass-fed lamb (Sat. only) 
  • Free-range eggs
  • Fresh mushrooms
  • Organic lettuce & greens  
  • Milled flours & wheatberries
  • Popcorn & corn meal
  • Goats’ milk soap for people & pets
  • Fresh basil
  • Onions & shallots
  • Dips & spreads
  • Infused vinegars & dried herb blends
  • Sweet basil vinaigrette
  • Frozen blueberries
  • Hand-dyed yarns
  • Handmade mattress toppers & comforters stuffed with wool batting (Sat. only)
  • Handmade mittens & rag wool socks
  • Yogurt 
  • Catnip toys
  • Spa & beauty products made with home-grown herbs
  • Honey & beeswax candles
  • Farm kitchen goodies, both savory & sweet
  • Potatoes
  • Apple cider
  • Organic blue corn tortilla chips
  • Salsas, sauces & soups
  • Preserves
  • Hand-crafted ice cream
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Cheese & cheese curds
  • Fruit tarts, croissants, baguettes & pastries
  • Fair trade olive oil
  • Fair trade coffee
  • CookbooksCSA subscriptions (more info below)
  • Info about on-farm classes & summer camps (more info below), open houses & events
  • Reusable shopping bags

      . . . and much more!   

Saturday in Oak Park
Sat., Feb. 28 ~ 9am to 1pm
Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church
405 S. Euclid Ave. (Washington Blvd. & Euclid Ave.)

Oak Park, IL  60302  
  • Admission to the market is FREE and open to the public.
  • An a la carte cafe during the market will offer  

    Fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon rolls and veggie rolls made by Jacqueline of Bread from the Heart using locally sourced organic flour

    *  Individual galettes and made-to-order panini sandwiches from the kitchen at Heritage Prairie Farm made with produce preserved from the farm’s harvest and other locally sourced ingredients
     

  • See below for information on pre-ordering meat and poultry for pickup at the market
______________________________



Why can’t we have a public market like Cleveland’s?

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Posted: February 26, 2009 at 1:56 pm

My cause may not be quite as  important for the commonweal as Melissa’s, but I still believe strongly for the cause of public markets.  Mike Sula having seen gold in Cleveland asked the same, and this week got Cecil Adams to reply in the Reader.  I will have more to say on this topic in the days to come.




The Season for Dried Fruit

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Posted: February 25, 2009 at 9:05 am

More than an attic full of food, more than the willingness to schlep around, more than about anything, I say our ability to be a Local Family stems from the kids ability to never tire of apples.  Apples store so well.  Even if we did not have a good inventory in the Bungalow, we could find local apples at stores (including Whole Foods!) and at the winter Green City Market.  Until the first rhubarb and then strawberries appear, there will always be apples.  Yet, a day or so ago, my younger daughter, a young woman who could practically exist on fruit, said to me, “I’m sick of apples.”  Were we into the season of dried fruit.

Melissa Graham in a comment to yesterday’s post, mentioned dried cranberries.  It reminded me that I had meant to include dried fruit as a staple of our pantry.   See, dried fruit can provide a needed break from apples about this time of year*, but dried fruit is also a critical part of the pantry.  Dried fruits add contrast and texture to many a-dish. Raisin pies are classics of Midwestern cooking, and proof that dried fruits have their own profile.  We have much good local dried fruits to use.  The season for them is always now.

Raisin pie, you know we had an awfully sweet yet very eatable version of this dish at the so called world’s largest cafeteria back in December.  The thing about raisins though, despite their place in Midwestern cooking, and despite the plethora of grapes grown around here, are just not found locally, at least as far as I’ve seen (and boy would I’d be keen to find a local raisin source.)  Paul Virant at Vie makes his own raisins.  That’s at least one option.  Make raisin pie to celebrate our regional cuisine, but generally use the other dried fruits available.

We have two classes of dried fruit available to us in the Chicago area.  First, there’s what I’d call commercial dried fruit.  Second, there’s what I’d call artisanal dried fruit.   I use this terms more to define the producer and seller, not so much to distinguish in quality.  I pretty much love all local dried fruit I find.  When I think of commercial dried fruits, I think of two red items: cherries and cranberries.  Both provide jolts of sweet-tart intensity, and can be in fact too good.  I’m sure a lot of you are like me, quite able to pound away a pound of dried cherries in one sitting.  Commercial dried fruits can be found all over, including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Costco.  Just read the labels to find the ones that are local.  My wife finds these red fruits add the perfect counterpoint to one of her bread puddings.  Beyond the red stuff, you may also find commercial, local, dried blueberries.

When I think of artisanal dried fruit, I think firstly of the items packaged by Seedlings Farm of Michigan.  They take their excess fruits, all kinds including strawberries and pears, and dry them.  If you think it is too easy to eat too many commercial cherries, try getting your hands on these.  My older daughter once killed our purchase without us knowing.  Thing is, you pay a bit more to be excessive with these, and she ate about $15 worth of dried fruit that day.  Think of these fruits as a condiment.  Beyond Seedlings, several other Michigan fruit farmers that you see at the farmer’s markets offer dried fruits.  Even when their supplies of local fruit are robust, stock up on this dried fruit. 

The Seedlings products can be found at some area stores including Green Grocer and Pastoral.  Seedlings also shows up weekly to the winter markets.  Where are you getting your dried fruit?

We’d love to hear about your season of dried fruit, including the types of local dried fruit you find and your dried fruit recipes.  All raisin pie recipes will be re-posted.

*We are not immune to buying in the winter, citrus, pineapples, bananas and other non-local food.

Follow my up to the minute attempts to be local at http://twitter.com/localfamily




Legalize It!

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Posted: February 24, 2009 at 8:50 pm

Corporations, municipalities and organizations all over America are making zero-waste commitments, setting five- and ten-year goals to create programs that will ensure nothing that they buy or use will end up in a landfill, but will instead be reused, recycled or composted. Many experts, such as the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, consider zero-waste programs to be one of the quickest, cheapest and most effective ways to fight climate change. Given Chicago’s reputation as one of the greenest cities in America, it probably would surprise you to learn that it neither has made nor could make a zero-waste pledge at this time. What’s the hold-up? The law in Illinois as currently written effectively prohibits commercial composting of food scraps. In this feature, I’ll explain why and, more importantly, what you can do help get the offending and out-of-date provisions off the books.

Illinois requires commercial composting facilities accepting any material, other than landscape waste, to obtain a pollution control facility permit from the State Environmental Protection Agency. The Chicago Ordinance requires any composting operation to have a permit unless the waste, food or landscape, is created on-site, composted in-vessel (conducted in a fully enclosed container), and the resulting compost used on site. To explain, if a school were to compost its food scraps in full enclosed composting equipment, like an Earth Tub, it would have to use all of that compost on its property – it could not sell it or give it away to farmers, community gardeners or landscapers. Some may ask ‘what’s the big deal?’ A lot of businesses have to get permits or licenses to operate. Perhaps, the answer is found in the name of the permitting section, the Pollution Control at the State Public Nuisance Cessation and Abatement at the City. Composting, a life creating process, is considered a nuisance, a pollutant, by the government. And as a result, the permitting process is going to be an arduous and expensive one.

This has been the practical effect. According to Ken Dunn of the Resource Center, a municipality could charge up to $300,000 to site a composting facility within its limits. Consequently, as of today, there are no commercial composting facilities in Chicago that accept food scraps. In fact, according to findacomposter.com, a service of BioCycle Magazine, there is not a single composting operation in Illinois that accepts food scraps. The Resource Center’s composting site on 70th Street in Chicago was shut down by the City in 2003. A project that was to involve the Resource Center and the City of Chicago never materialized. The Resource Center is still operating, funding its operations through its recycling activities. The Center collects compostable food scraps from a limited number of restaurants and events, like Green Fest. It then brings these compostable materials to a composting facility in County Line, Indiana, where it is mixed in with other materials. Because of this mixing process, the resulting compost is used for landfill cover, not for farm purposes. Food waste represents 15-20% of residential garbage, without food scrap composting, we are squandering a valuable resource that could be used to enrich our soil.

So much for the bad news; the good news is that change may be on its way. Senator Heather Steans has introduced a bill, SB99, that would allow food waste to be commercially composted in Illinois. The bill seeks to amend the Illinois Environmental Protection Act to remove food scraps from the definition of garbage. It then defines “food scrap” to mean “compostable material that (i) results from the handling, processing, preparation, cooking consumption, or sale of food and (ii) is separate from either a household waste stream or a municipal waste stream.” It includes within this definition biodegradable food containers, i.e. compostables. The bill also goes on to exclude composting facilities that accept food scraps from the definition of pollution control facilities, thereby removing them from the arduous permitting process. The bill essentially treats food scrap composting in the same manner as landscape composting, allowed in Illinois for years.

The Fact Sheet, which accompanies the bill, focuses on the economic benefit of the amendments. It recognizes that the cost to process a food scrap composting site in Illinois is prohibitively expensive. It then asserts that “the bill will open up the ability for investors to form food waste composting facilities, creating jobs in Illinois and selling Illinois-made compost all over the country.” Only after the Fact Sheet concludes that the bill would prolong the life of Illinois’ landfills, does it note that it would reduce gases that contribute to climate change.

In the current financial and political climate in Illinois, starting with the economics of the situation is probably the best approach to take with the legislature. While it may seem that SB99 is a win-win piece of legislation that creates jobs, increases business opportunities and saves the environment, there are deeply held misconceptions about composting, which sank a similar piece of legislation in 2005 despite strong support by then Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn.

To pass, the bill needs your help. SB99 is before the Senate Environment Committee on Thursday February 26. Call or email your State Senator and urge them to support this important legislation. Food scrap composting is critical to the fight against climate change. It would reduce the amount of waste brought to our landfills, thus decreasing methane emissions. It is also a valuable soil conditioner that reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides. As Kay McKeen of SCARCE (School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education) put it, “our soil is a valuable resource, one that can be healed.” This cannot happen through chemical means, but instead by the nutrient-rich compost from our food scraps.

Click here to find your state senator. Use the script below to call or email them with your support for this important bill


Hello. My name is ________. I want to ask you to co-sponsor Senate Bill 99. SB99 is a bill that will allow commercial food waste composting in Illinois.

I support SB99 due to the following:

(Choose any of the following)

  • Composting reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Properly aerated composting significantly reduces methane produced by decomposition. Methane has many more times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide.
  • Composting reduces the amount of waste going to landfills. Currently, organic waste that could be composted makes up 1/3 of the waste in Illinois landfills.
  • Creating commercial composting facilities separate from landfill facilities will create new jobs throughout Illinois. Currently, many organizations that wish to compost food waste export it for composting to surrounding Mid-western states. We should keep these jobs in Illinois.
  • Using nutrient rich compost, the product of composting, instead of chemical fertilizers in crop cultivation and gardening will reduce the quantity of chemicals leached into our drinking water and food crops. Reducing dependence on chemical fertilizers is beneficial to ecological, animal, and human health.
  • Illinois law should follow the example of states such as Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, California, Pennsylvania, and New York that have well established composting regulations. Illinois law should not lag on this issue.

I strongly believe that Senate Bill 99 will provide significant environmental and economic benefits to the state of Illinois. I request that you co-sponsor Senate Bill 99. Thank you very much for your time.


3 Comments



Looking Deeper into the Local Pantry

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Posted: February 24, 2009 at 8:25 am

On Sunday, we took advantage of the very good deal offered by Chicago’s Restaurant Week  to have the very non-local lunch special at Joe’s, in Chicago not just Stone Crab.   Briefly, I’d say this about the Chicago Joe’s.  Joe’s in Miami is about my favorite restaurant in the USA.  This aint no Miami Beach.  About perfect renditions of key lime pie and hash browns no way made up for the lack of savoir fare in hospitality, the cramped feeling in space and the shell or two in the crab.  On the other hand, I spent about a third less, at least.  Joe’s is on Grand, and being on Grand led us, one way to Fox & Obel and the other to Cassie’s Green Grocer.  At both shops we made purchases to supplement our local pantry, and it got me thinking that my previous pantry post hardly dented the nooks and crannies of the pantry.  Here, my friends, is another journey inside.

Whether the tomatoes are skinned first or run through the passato, it’s a lot of work to put up tomatoes.  Yet, one taste, one use of home canned tomatoes, lets you know you made the right call.  No San Marzano needed here.  In addition to the cans of whole, puree and sauce, we (meaning mostly my wife), made tomato concentrate that is frozen and also oven dried tomatoes.

My wife spent so much time on tomatoes, it’s amazing she found any time for chutney, but she spiced up a big bushel of Michigan peaches with mustard seeds and other ingredients to make a rich, dark brown sludge that goes very well with some local cheese or compliments a ham dinner.

If you remember back around September-October, I had my babies, bowls and bowls of hot peppers from the markets, especially from Farmer Vicki’s Genesis Growers.  She sells the bestest, hottest peppers imaginable.  Of course I could not eat those peppers fast enough, but luckily Mother Nature is on my side here.  I dried a good many of the peppers.  In turn, I make harissa from the dried peppers.  To make harissa, re-hydrate several peppers, then pureeing the mixture with garlic,  a bit of cumin and add olive oil to make a decent consistency.  Harissa stays for a while in the fridge.  I like to make a Tunisian style salad of harissa marinated grated turnips.

The Chicago area locavore is well stocked in mushrooms.  An outfit called River Valley Kitchen in Wisconsin supplies many area markets with cultivated mushrooms year-round.  These mushrooms hit the spot a lot of the time, but sometimes, we want the intensity and goofy flavors of wild mushrooms.  River Valley also sells some dried mushrooms.  On the road in Michigan last summer, we were lucky enough to pick up a big bag of dried morels.

I mentioned Tunisian turnip salad.  Well, the palate I most enjoy cooking is a broadly Mediterranean.  I like to think there’s some Sephardic blood in my line.  Although many local ingredients like hot peppers, pumpkins and turnips feature in Tunisia, there’s a few items that cannot be local.  Our kitchen is almost never without capers and olives.  I get all types of olives but stick always to capers packed in salt.

Do I always stick to anchovies packed in salt?  I vacillate.  There are many a-source that will tell you to only use salt-packed anchovies, but I see other authorities fine with tinned, oil packed.  Filleting anchovies is one of the pain-y in the ass-y things one has to do in the kitchen, but you get so much better texture.  Still, if it’s just the raw salty-unami funk you need, canned anchovies work.  I get my salt packed in Greektown or at Caputo’s; tinned, I liked the Roland resealable containers.  Note, you can freeze salt packed anchovies until needed.

I cannot leave the Mediterranean without mentioning canned tuna.  If our Bungalow budget were bigger, we’d get the Spanish stuff.  We do spend a bit more than average on the Italian packed in oil tuna.  I like my sardines from Portugal or California.

If you have nothing else in the pantry, have crackers, ’cause with crackers everything else becomes “meal-able”.  There are some very good local crackers including Potter’s from Madison and Nicole’s from right here in Chicago.

Bacon’s another product that can turn anything into a meal.  Kids balking at fried egg sandwiches?  Tell them they can have bacon too, and they calm down.  As with crackers, there’s no good reason to stray from the local with bacon.  Think first the farmer’s markets like the C&D Pastured pork.  In the stores, you can’t beat Nueskes. 

One more product that always adds pizzazz: nuts.  Pears, greens, blue cheese, you have a salad; nuts too and you have a dish.  I love the dental crunch of almonds, including and especially the Spanish Marcona, but we try to keep mostly to local nuts.  This is not very hard when you sample a black walnut.  At the Madison Farmer’s Market, one can also find hickory nuts and butternuts.  When we went south to the Urbana market, we found farmers in warm enough zones of Illinois to grow English walnuts.  We did not expect any part of Illinois to be warm enough to support pecans, but it turns out that 3 Sisters, not even that far away, grows pecans. 

What’s missing in our pantry?


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Sunday Winter Market

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Posted: February 23, 2009 at 8:15 pm

What a Sunday!

The Winter Farmer’s Market in Old Irving Park this past Sunday was more crowded than the summer markets that I attend in my neighborhood in Independence Park. Sure, the church-basement space was a little more confined than the outdoor park field, but at the peak of the market there were simply more farmers and more customers than I’ve ever seen at the Sunday morning summer markets.

Read about Rob Gardner’s winter Saturday at the Green City Market

I bought honey from Dennanne Farms in Elgin, crimini mushrooms, potatoes from Scotch Hill Farm, cheese from Saxon Creamery (re-sold by Scotch Hill), winter sprouts from Heritage Prarie, yarn for our knitting babysitter from Farmer Vera, and aquaponic lettuce from Robin Schimmer, the market organizer. I barely scratched the surface of what was available: meats, eggs, pickled and jarred vegetables, dried fruits, cider, breads, soups & stews, baked sweets, soaps, and pet treats. Nearly every time, I had to wait behind someone else to get near the goods or briefly chat with a farmer.

To anyone who thinks that the winter months are are the lean times for local foods, they obviously haven’t been to a winter market like this. Green City Market may be the shining star of Chicago markets, but to see so much good food and activity packed into a hidden NW-side church basement on a cold and icy Sunday afternoon was a testament to the power of good food to bring people together.


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Soup and Bread

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Posted: February 23, 2009 at 9:33 am

The crew from Gaper’s Block’s Drive-Thru helps make the soup and bread for the Wednesday night fundraiser at the Hide-Out for the Greater Chicago Food DepositoryDetails.




Saturday at the Green City Market

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Posted: February 22, 2009 at 7:07 pm

There are simple Saturdays.  We get up.  We go to the Borders in Oak Park.  We read magazines and cookbooks.  Drink so-so coffee and listen to the best free show, a cadre of five or so local musicians, a few guitars, a mandolin, a bass and ideal pre-noon harmonies.  Then there are other Saturdays.  Mom needs to see the Reader to finish her Oscar study.  One daughter plays lacrosse (GLax!) at noon; the other wants her hair cut despite Dad’s pleas.  That Dad, he wants to see Pat Sheerin give a 11 AM demo at Green City Market.  With much time spent on repeating warnings/instructions to the kids, something eventually gave.  Dad walked up to Green City Market about the time Pat wrapped up.

Read about a visit to a winter market in Old Irving Park.

Quite a show still.  Dad opened with Three Sisters who bring an interesting mix of  to the market.  They sell things no one else does including black beans, pecans (yes!) and our local truffle a/k/a corn smut a/k/a huitlacoche.  I skip all of that–well I would have purchased more nuts if they had them whole instead of shelled–for something I actually already have, sprouts.  See, I figure the girls need, even if not expressed, a vegetable in their lunch besides carrot.  A bag of sprouts will do.  Or I can make the Sheila special: cranberry-cheddar, jam and sprouts.

With Farmer Vicki sunning away, I need a source for eggs.  I generally like the products of Mint Creek so go for their eggs.  One of the Mint Creek guys open my dozen to ensure wholeness.  They seem assured but I espy something.  Looking like a crack, it’s just a bit of grass, nice proof of the natural-ness of these eggs.  I think real hard about the croissants at Bennison’s, wondering if they will be as good as they look the next morning.  The croissant thought dissipates when I see Floriole has canelles.  I will always go for the canelle.  This one was good but cannot erase (can any?) the canelles from New York’s Balthazar.

On one side of me is Heritage Prairie Market.  They put on a strong show of four season farming with a range of grown now and grown then products.  They are also baking and making candy.  On top of that they have several types of honey.  I just buy a couple of caramels though.  On the other side is Nichols Farm, the encyclopedia of growers for Green City.  If Northern Illinois grounds can support it, they have it during the seasons.  This time of year, they have a small supply of apples and more than decent supply of potatoes.  From their hoop house, they had some arugula, but that went much earlier to people with less complicated mornings.  Although the bungalow is fine with potatoes, I cannot resist buying more Yukon Golds at $1/per.  I’m hoping my wife will try this potato shingled fish recipe I saw in some recent mag.  Nichol’s promised beets and green onions (Louisa) and a bigger supply of arugula when the market reconvenes in two weeks.

I do not know if Joe Burns has made money off of me over the years.  I cannot resist sampling his Brunkow/Fayette Creamery cheeses when I ever I pass him, either at GCM or Saturdays in Oak Park.  This week, he got the better of the deal as I believe the block of bandaged cheddar, really one of the best cheeses around, and just damn proof of the worth of something like GCM, cost more than the taste of melting bread cheese I sampled.  Joe also foreshadowed some new cheeses including washed rind cheeses.

My final stop was to Blue Marble Dairy, positioned in the entrance hall.   While waiting, a daughter called.  Next thing you know, I’m collecting my bags and walking to the car.  It was a Blue Marble man racing from his truck back to the market, coat-less, that shocked me back to the notion that I never did get that cream I wanted.  Next thing you know, the rather chilly Blue Marble man is making the time to sell me some dairy direct from the truck.  What a company.

A great food day.  The path of local really leads to the best foods.  What did you buy at Green City?  Or Sunday’s Winter Market?

Follow this link to the second winter market report in this two-part feature.




The Local Beet & You/The Local Calender

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Posted: February 20, 2009 at 10:55 am

The Local Beet has been filling the Internet with materials towards a practical approach to local eating for several months.  Many of you have been following along.  We recently made ourselves more official (thanks Dish and Gaper’s Block), and we know a few of you recently jumped aboard.   We welcome all of you.  Each week we post information on upcoming eat local events and related material to assist you in your attempts to find and eat real food.  Before getting into this week’s calender, let’s look at some of the other ways the Beet helps.

OK, before telling you what’s here, let me tell you what will soon be here.  We are in the process of building the most complete, user friendly guide to area farmer’s markets.  We’ve already given you a guide to area CSAs (and addressed some of your CSA concerns).  For those who do their local shopping at farmer’s markets, our resource will be invaluable.

Our primary way to promote local eating is to lead by example.  Want to know what it’s like to subscribe to a CSA, well, we’ve been subscribers.  In the middle of winter, we are making dinner from local foods.  We try not do be didactic but instead emphasis how fun local food is.

We hold no monopoly over local food knowledge.  A few weeks ago, a friend asked me why we did not include a certain restaurant in our (admittedly work in progress) list of local-friendly restaurants.  It was no slight I assured her.  Let us know any restaurants or shops that sell “our kind of food.”  Please add generally to our resources.  We have a forum to collect and disseminate data.  If you need info, ask away. 

That said, here’s what you can do in the upcoming weekend, and days ahead. 

That’s a lot for now, so we’ll post a roadtrip idea some other time.

Follow our efforts to eat local on Twitter: http://twitter.com/LocalFamily


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Meeting of Advocates for Urban Agriculture

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Posted: February 20, 2009 at 9:48 am

The next Advocates for Urban Agriculture (AUA) meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m., March 11, at the Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., Chicago.

Please join us for a potluck dinner (please bring your own utensils) and networking at 5:30 p.m., followed by a panel presentation at 6 p.m. We will be welcoming Karen Lehman, Executive Director of Fresh Taste Initiative, to speak on “Fresh Taste and Urban Agriculture”. Following her presentation, Harry Rhodes, Executive Director, Growing Home, Martha Boyd, Program Director, Angelic Organics Learning Center, and Tim Wilson, Farm Manager, City Farm, will discuss a variety of topics, including the creation of an urban agriculture district, land acquisition for urban agriculture, and financial issues related to urban agriculture. AUA will be taking comments on the subject of a permanent steering committee for the organization. The committee will be charged with responding to ongoing urban agriculture issues in Chicago and proposing future actions to ensure the growth and success of the urban agriculture movement. About AUA: AUA is a network of organizations and individuals working to promote urban agriculture in Chicago. New blog for AUA is currently being developed, and will act as an information hub for the organizations and individuals involved with urban agriculture in Chicago: http://auachicago.wordpress.com. About Fresh Taste Initiative: The Fresh Taste Initiative was formed to advance the growth of diverse local agriculture and healthy eating in Chicago and across Illinois. Initiative partners, including a number of Illinois foundations and the City of Chicago, are committed to changing the manner in which food is produced, distributed, and consumed in Illinois. Funded by the partners and a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant, Initiative will provide leadership that brings together stakeholders across all sectors of the state’s food system for conversations and action that will lead to this change.




Dive Into a CSA

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Posted: February 19, 2009 at 10:39 am

We recently published our 2009 Guide to Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. These programs allow you to pre-buy a subscription to a local farm’s harvest.

I’ve spoken to many people who are interested in CSAs but are scared off by the idea of a subscription. The word “subscription” can conjure up ideas of “commitment”. A commitment is an easy thing to say no to. People want to test the waters, but a commitment feels like you’re diving right in.

It’s true, compared to buying a couple tomatoes every once in a while at a farmer’s market, a CSA subscription is a commitment. If an irregular trip to the market is dipping your toe in the water, a CSA subscription is a dive into the deep end.

I’m here to tell you that the water’s fine. Jump in.

I shared most of the benefits in our CSA guide, but what I want to do here is address some of the fears that keep people from taking advantage of regular deliveries of fresh, local produce.

I can’t cook
If you can turn on your oven you can cook vegetables. Almost every vegetable in the world can be cut up, tossed with olive oil and salt & pepper, and roasted at 400 degrees until golden brown. All you have to do is check on them every 10 minutes or so. Plenty of other stuff you get in a CSA can (and should) be eaten raw: tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, fruits.

I live alone (or in a small household
Many CSAs offer half-shares which are suitable for two people. If you live alone, find a friend or a neighbor to split the share with you.

I’m afraid of getting a bushel full of the same veggie.
Most CSAs make a commitment to variety (some deliver from a consortium of different farms). Many will publish their growing charts on their website along with a general idea of what you can expect to find in your box.

Isn’t it expensive?
Simply put, no. Check out my “Anatomy of a CSA” to see what I got for my weekly cost of about $35. A similar haul of fresh organic produce would have probably cost 50% more at a supermarket. Plus, you’re paying the people who grow it and drive it to you rather than helping finance a large supply-chain and marketing budget.

My family is full of picky eaters.
Picky eating is probably the hardest problem to combat, but I believe it can be tackled head-on with a little kitchen creativity. Soups are an easy way to get some veggies into someone who might not normally eat them. And you’re likely to stumble across something that everyone finds delicious.

One of the things that I like most about my CSA subscription, beyond the food itself, is that much of my shopping is done for me. All I really need to do is supplement with a few things from the farmer’s market (I don’t always get everything that I want in my box), some bread (which I’m now baking myself), dairy (which is easy), a little meat (which I’ll be getting from Cedar Valley Sustainable this year), and pantry items (Rob covers them nicely here). I have no use for big-chain supermarkets anymore, and food shopping has become a much more enjoyable experience. I always know that I’ll be well-stocked with plenty of in-season, locally-grown produce.

After I took the dive into becoming a CSA subscriber, I can’t see myself turning back. I’m constantly aware of the benefits and the costs or problems are negligible. I hope you’ll check out our 2009 CSA Guide and my Anatomy of a CSA and take the plunge this year.


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Praying for Snow is Not the Answer Thursday, February 19th, 2009
Winter Market Sunday – Chicago / Old Irving Park Thursday, February 19th, 2009
Local Pantry Wednesday, February 18th, 2009
Soup and Bread at the Hideout for Chicago Food Depository Wednesday, February 18th, 2009
What’s For Dinner Tonight? Tuesday, February 17th, 2009
Shrimp n’ Grits – Heartland Style Monday, February 16th, 2009
Harvest Moon Sunday, February 15th, 2009
Buy Your Lover Something Local Using Our Local Calender Friday, February 13th, 2009
Take Stock Thursday, February 12th, 2009
Mac n’ Cheese SMACKDOWN Featuring Local Beet Contributor KennyZ Wednesday, February 11th, 2009
Purple Aspraragus Family Dinner – Tampopo Wednesday, February 11th, 2009
Winter Market – Sunday – Downer’s Grove Wednesday, February 11th, 2009
Winter Market – Saturday – Austin/Chicago Wednesday, February 11th, 2009
How Do They Do It? Wednesday, February 11th, 2009
Thank God It’s Getting Colder Wednesday, February 11th, 2009
Market Day 2/7/2009, St. Ben’s Chicago Tuesday, February 10th, 2009
Local Harmony Tuesday, February 10th, 2009
Local Hassles – Chicken Wings/Parts Monday, February 9th, 2009
Pear-Shaped World Sunday, February 8th, 2009
Food for Thought Thought Sunday, February 8th, 2009
Tyranny of the Fresh/Local Calender Friday, February 6th, 2009
No Reservations Chicago (2012) Thursday, February 5th, 2009
Eat Local Fish Wednesday, February 4th, 2009
Winter Market – Glen Ellyn Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009
Winter Market – St. Bens Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009
I Cheat Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009
Hope and Change at the Table Monday, February 2nd, 2009
Market Day 1/31/09 Monday, February 2nd, 2009