FarmRaiser is all about giving people healthy choices to help them lead healthier lives. That’s why we LOVE this hilarious new video from the American Heart Association, who partnered with comedy production company Funny or Die to highlight just how important it is to protect and continue the progress made by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids act…and give us a good laugh in the process.
Learn more by checking out the American Heart Association blog and following the #KeepSchoolFoodHealthy hashtag, and don’t forget to contact your lawmakers to urge them to continue to protect our children’s healthy futures. FarmRaiser sends a huge thank you to our friends at the American Heart Association for bringing attention to this critical issue!
As always, thank you for strengthening your community and local food system with FarmRaiser. Together, we can make sure real food from real farms -not pizza farms- are feeding our nation’s young people.Permalink →
There is so much to be said about honeybees. One of the hardest working creatures on the planet, an industrious worker bee can visit up to 2,000 flowers in one day. They are incredibly complex creatures, with intricate communication and learning systems. It is said that apart from primates, honeybees have the most complex symbolic language of any animal on earth.
Perhaps the most amazing thing to be said about honeybees is just how much they have contributed to human civilization over the past several centuries. Honeybees pollinate around 80% of the world’s flowering crops, which constitutes about 1/3 of everything we eat. While some plants can pollinate themselves, or rely on the wind to do it for them, others must rely on animals to assist them in this process. Apples, blueberries, cucumbers, broccoli and cherries are just a few examples of the flowering plants that would no longer exist without the help of honeybees for pollination.
It’s not just fruits and vegetables at risk if honeybees disappeared. Much of our meat and livestock industry relies on crops such as alfalfa for animal feed, a plant that also relies on honeybees for pollination. In short, bees are essential to human agricultural productivity. They also help maintain plant biodiversity, which not only helps prevent the emergence and spread of many agricultural pests and diseases, but also is crucial to the overall health of the planet.
Honeybees, as pollinators, play a huge role in supporting the human diet! But on top of all this, they also provide humans with some other amazing natural gifts such as beeswax, propolis, royal jelly and honey.
Beeswax is known for its skin healing properties. It is used as a naturally nourishing moisturizer, and is also known for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also used to make candles, lip balm and a variety of other products.
Propolis is a sticky glue-like substance made when honeybees combine beeswax and the resins collected from trees. Bees use propolis as a glue to repair cracks and holes in their hive. Humans use propolis for its natural antimicrobial and germicidal properties.
Royal Jelly is a milk-like substance made from worker honeybees. Royal Jelly is fed to the Queen Bee to support her health. Humans often use Royal Jelly as a dietary supplement, as it is loaded with nutrients, particularly B vitamins.
Last, but certainly not least, is honey. Honey is an easily digestible, pure food that has long been utilized by humans all over the world. It is a delicious, mineral rich, healthy alternative to sugar or other sweeteners and is also known for its various health benefits. Honey is often used as a natural cough suppressant, as an aid in healing wounds, and for boosting the human immune system.
To celebrate the magic of honeybees and the many health benefits of honey, we want to turn the spotlight over to some of our wonderful honey vendor partners!
Jelenik Honey is located in beautiful Suttons Bay, Michigan. The Jelinek family has been caring for bees in Leelanau County since 1926! These years of experience help create a truly special product. They offer 100% pure honey made in beautiful Leelanau County, as well as handmade beeswax candles, beeswax lotion, honey lip balm, and honey soap! In the summer months you can find them at all of the Leelanau County farmers markets.
Champion Hill Honey:
Champion Hill Honey is located in Benzie County, just a few miles from the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Their hives are owned and maintained by Greg Griswold, who is an experienced beekeeper. He is a proponent for natural methods used for mite treatment and overall bee health, even though these treatments can often be more time consuming and costly.
Their hives are located in rural fields where the star thistle plant grows wild. The result is a star thistle honey that is very sweet and mild tasting.
Sleeping Bear Farms Honey
Sleeping Bear Farms Honey is located in Beulah, Michigan. Founders Kirk and Sharon Jones began their adventure in beekeeping about 30 years ago when they purchased their first two beehives from a local beekeeper. They enjoyed it so much that within a few years beekeeping became a full-time endeavor. They teamed up with Dave Nesky, another beekeeper from Michigan, around 1990 and expanded their operation to include pollination services for local cherry and apple farmers.
Today, their bees spend the summers in Northern Michigan, making honey from the nectar of the star thistle plant. During the harsh Michigan winters, the bees travel to either Florida, to make tupelo honey, or to California to work pollinating almond trees. Their pure honey is a local favorite in the Northern Michigan area!
Withers Mountain Honey Farm:
Withers Mountain Honey is located in Flint, Michigan and is owned by Jim Withers, who fell in in love with beekeeping after retiring from his career and starting it as a hobby. They offer a wide variety of bee-related products including honey, creamed honey, beeswax skincare products and other products from the hive!
Dancing Bee Apiary
Dancing Bee Apiary is located in Eatonville, Washington, just about an hour out of the city of Seattle. Their bee’s graze on a wide variety of flowering and fruit producing trees including raspberry and blackberry bushes, lavender blossoms and squash blossoms! They use all natural and organic methods, never using insecticides, pesticides or herbicides of any kind! They offer a variety of organic skin care products including soaps and salves, as well as pure beeswax and, of course, honey!
In this day and age, most Americans are aware of the grave health troubles affecting our country. Lizarondo reveals that this issue is much worse than many of us could have imagined—today, one in three Americans has pre-diabetes or diabetes, and over 2/3 of our population are overweight or obese.
These statistics are astounding to say the least, but perhaps even more frightening is the estimate that, if we keep living the way we do right now, 1 in 3 children born after 2000 will develop diabetes, and in about 6 years every other person in American will have contracted this deadly disease. Additionally, “As of 2010, diet surpassed smoking as the No. 1 risk factor for disease and death in America” (Lizarondo).
The Simple Solution That We Can’t Seem to Implement
According to Lizarondo, we already know the answer: maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a healthy diet. In fact, studies have shown that simply eating 7 servings of fruits and vegetables per day lowers mortality from all causes; Lizarondo herself is living proof of this. In her 20s, she was diagnosed with the chronic, multi-symptom disease fibromyalgia. The doctors told her she would have to take pills to improve her symptoms every day for the rest of her life.
However, Lizarondo found that merely altering her diet to include healthier, more balanced meals and excluding fast foods cured her symptoms completely. Immediately following this experience, she decided to dedicate her life to sharing her knowledge to others and figuring out why making this diet change is so difficult for people.
Lizarondo believes that mush of this issue resides within our relationship with food. As a country, we have progressively spent less and less money and time on food—fast food and processed meals have replaced home-cooked meals prepared from scratch. Lizarondo notes that “in 1900, 2% of meals were eaten outside the home” and by “2010, 50% were eaten away from home and one in five breakfasts is from McDonald’s”
The Last Mile – Cooking
She refers to this underlying issue as the food system’s “Last Mile,” or the connection that actually delivers the product to its users: Cooking. All the work being done within the food movement to provide access to fresh and organic foods means nothing if the majority of our population doesn’t start preparing food at home.
People tend to use two main excuses for not making meals at home – lack of time to spend cooking and it being too expensive. Lizarondo quickly dispels those excuses with a few quick facts.
The American Time Use Survey shows that we spend about 27 minutes preparing food but almost 3 hours a day watching TV. With a little less time in front of the TV and a little more time in the kitchen, we’d quickly be on our way to healthier meals.
Contrary to popular belief, cooking food from ingredients bought from scratch ends up being significantly less expensive than purchasing prepared food. Take a look at this New York Times comparison visual of McDonalds vs home cooked meals.
Lizarondo concludes that the principal reason we don’t cook turns out to be that we no longer know how. A 2011 cooking survey by Bosch, a maker of appliances, showed that 1/3 of Americans do not know how to cook. 53% feel they have less knowledge than their parents did.
Fixing The Last Mile Problem
Lizarondo hopes to communicate the idea that cooking must become its own initiative, rather than the small part of the food movement it constitutes today. She proposes that the federal government make relearning how to cook a public health imperative. In 2005, the federal government spent $80B in diabetes management vs. $0.2B for diabetes prevention. The government must begin prioritizing preventive measures, such as subsidizing mandatory culinary education and nutrition counselors in all schools.
Teaching people to cook will make people healthier, but also more interested in where their food comes from. “Cooking makes us more intimate with our food and deepens our relationship with it. Its how the farm gets to the table” (Lizarondo).
Curious to hear from Leah Lizarondo herself? You can watch a video of the TEDx Talk here.Permalink →
When you ate your last meal, did you stop to think about the huge role soil played in building the food on your plate? Just about everything we eat starts with plants, so the importance of soil in our food system cannot be understated. In fact, all land-based vegetation on our planet relies on soil to provide the water and nutrients necessary for sustenance and growth. In turn, we depend on healthy soil to produce the crops we require to feed our ever-growing population.
Soil is a living, dynamic ecosystem that requires tender care in order to remain fruitful. Unfortunately, conventional agriculture has greatly disturbed this ecosystem, depleting its nutrients and failing to replenish them. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, 25% of the planet’s land is highly degraded and only 10% is improving!
Food Tank, a non-profit organization dedicated to pushing for food system change, contends that land degradation is primarily caused by overharvesting and deforestation, which both lead to erosion and loss of fertile topsoil (the upper layer of soil containing the highest concentration of organic matter, which gives plants the nutrients they need to grow). For example, Brazil loses 55 million tons of topsoil every year due to commercial production of soybeans.
However, this pressing issue can be resolved if we take necessary actions to maintain and improve soil quality. The process will take years, but Food Tank recognizes steps already being taken to save our soil. Michigan State University, for instance, is working on examining the ability of perennial grain crops to prevent soil degradation in sub-Saharan Africa. In the United Kingdom, the Soil Association inspects organic farms and businesses while supporting and promoting best practices by farmers. Books such as Roland Bunch’s Restoring the Soil and documentaries like Dirt! The Movie increase public awareness of the land deterioration problem and present sustainable solutions. You can see Food Tank’s full list of 14 distinguished soil-saving efforts here.
If the world is able to learn from these endeavors and implement soil protecting techniques in all agricultural activity, we can protect the land used for food production, which takes up almost half of the planet’s land surface. Furthermore, in successfully maintaining healthy, fertile soil we may even be on our way to sustainably providing food for all for years to come.
Cherry Season is here!
As many locavores might agree, living the seasons by what is seasonally available makes for a lot of excitement when the harvest of certain produce arrives. With cherries comes the knowledge that the heart of summer has arrived and plenty of pit spitting at the beach! Cherries have a short growing season with the peak of it falling at the height of summer.
Cherries can only grow in cool climates because their seeds must be chilled before they are able to germinate. The trees blossom every spring in a beautiful celebration of warmth arriving after a long winter. Despite their affinity to colder climates, cherries are susceptible to damage from rain, hail, and other weather, which contributes to their higher price compared to other fruit. Cherries come in a seemingly endless array of varieties ranging from tart to sweet and pale yellow to both deep and bright red.
Cherries have been enjoyed for millennia all over the world. Their indigenous range was broad, extending through most of Europe, Western Asia, and parts of Northern Africa. Today, around 40% of the world’s cherry crop is produced in Europe, while about 14% is produced in the United States.
FarmRaiser currently works in two parts of the country, both of which are known for their production of cherries!
Cherries in Washington
Washington is the birthplace of the famed Rainier cherry variety, which is a cross of Bing and Van cultivators. They were named after the iconic Mt. Rainier. They have a notable creamy and pink color, and are very sweet. Washington, along with Oregon and California, are the leading producers of sweet cherries in the nation.
Cherries in Michigan
In Michigan, the most productive cherry growing region is the Traverse City area, which has led the town to claim their title of “Cherry Capital of the World”. Cherries first arrived there in 1852 when they were brought over by the first European settler in the area. Peter Dougherty planted an orchard on Old Mission Peninsula where the sandy soil, cold Artic winds in the winter, and warm summers provides the perfect climate for cherry cultivation.
Michigan produces over 70% of the tart cherries grown in the United States on over 3.8 million trees. Michigan also produces sweet cherries, which can be found at roadside stands dotted throughout the state. There is truly nothing better than a sun-warmed bag of cherries as a summer road-trip snack!
Cherries are known for their use in pies and other sweet dishes, but there are plenty of savory uses for them as well! Here are a few recipes to help you make the most of this summer’s cherry crop!
This Apple, Dried Cherry, and Walnut Salad with Maple Dressing would be a great in the fall when the apples are in season.
Pork Medallions with Port Wine-Dried Cherry Pan Sauce by Bruce Weinstein. Do your best to buy organic, humanely raised pork (preferably from a farmer in your community!).
Cherry Crisp by The Pioneer Woman. This recipe calls for frozen cherries but fresh cherries would be even better – just remember to pit them!
And of course Pie, made with Fresh Cherries.
Enjoy the cherries, and enjoy your summer!Permalink →
CHILDREN IN THE GARDEN
Planting a seed, tending to it, and watching it grow until it flourishes into a mature plant can be a magical experience. Planting a seed, and watching it mature until it produces a fruit that you can consume can be life changing. Observing this process helps adults and kids alike understand where the food they eat comes from. Food is no longer anonymous or mysterious. Not to mention, something you grow yourself always tastes better than something bought at the grocery store.
In recent years, schools across the country have been putting in school gardens and providing children with the opportunity to experience the joy of growing food. The gardens provide a safe and holistic environment for children to practice working cooperatively in groups; to learn how to plant, grow, harvest, preserve, and share food (an invaluable lesson that many people today never learn); to hone artistic skills by designing and implementing garden plans and creating art inspired by the garden; to have a hands-on experience while learning science and nutrition; to move their bodies and engage with their classmates. Schools that have started a garden program have done so in different capacities. Some gardens are small, and tended by volunteers or clubs. Some schools have built gardens that are big enough to supplement or even fully accommodate the needs of the school cafeteria. Some schools have found creative ways to integrate garden education into the general curriculum.
Children receive many benefits from working in the garden; here is a list of a few of them.
Make a light slaw, instead of potato salad.
Vinegar based slaws are tangy and crispy, a fantastic addition to any sandwich or as a simple and healthy side. This fennel and citrus recipe is a wonderful substitute for creamy, rich mayonnaise-based potato salad. Mayonnaise is highly processed, calorically dense, and contains many hydrogenated fats – so it’s best in moderation. If you’re determined to include Potato Salad in your 4th of July meal, try this vinegar based Tarragon Potato Salad, instead of the classic “mayonnaise approach”.
If you’re planning on having the grill going, don’t forget to roast some local veggies!
Simply toss some summer veggies in olive oil, salt, and pepper then roast on the grill. Here’s a more thorough recipe, but don’t feellimited to only those vegetables! You can grill most veggies and there are many in-season and available at your local farmers market this time of the year.
Try using local & grass-fed beef for your burgers.
Hamburgers are a 4th of July classic, and though they have a reputation of being an unhealthy food, there are some easy changes you can make to improve their health benefits without sacrificing flavor.
First of all, buy grass-fed, lean beef. Many people don’t realize that the animal’s nutrition and lifestyle dictates the quality of the nutrients you receive when eating meat. The label “grass-fed” implies that the animal was fed only hay and grass for its whole life, which is the natural diet of cattle – making the animal’s meat have more nutrients and better fats. Interested to learn more? Check out this list of Ten Reasons to eat Grass-Fed Beef.
Burgers can be a great source of protein and when coupled with a whole grain bun, healthy condiments, and plenty of veggies – they can make a complete meal. This 4th of July just remember that not all hamburgers are created equal.
To end your meal, why not take advantage of fruit’s natural sweetness?
Early July is the perfect time for strawberries, and Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie is one of summer’s classic combinations. Head to your local farmers market to find strawberries and rhubarb. Or, if you’re lucky enough to live in a place that has blueberries available right now, try a strawberry-blueberry shortcake for a red, white, and blue, dessert that everyone will love.
Happy 4th of July! Enjoy your loved ones and the weather, but most of all be sure to eat good food!Permalink →
Since the Medieval era asparagus has been praised as a harbinger of spring. However, its history as a food source and medicineextends back much further than that. Ancient Greeks and Romans ate it fresh when in season, and dried it for use during the winter. It even appears in artistic friezes from Egypt, pictured as an offering, dating as far back 3000 BC!
Today, asparagus continues to be enjoyed all over the world. It is featured in Asian, European, and North and South American cuisine. Michigan alone produces up to 25 million pounds of asparagus each year, ranking third in the nation. One quarter of that crop is sold fresh while the rest is usually frozen or canned.
Why is Asparagus Good for Me?
Because of its many health properties and its rich nutrients, asparagus has been enjoyed as a vegetable and in medicine for millennia.
Asparagus has plenty of great nutritional qualities – here are a few star points:
Where Can I buy Michigan Asparagus?
Asparagus is a popular spring and summertime dish, so it’s usually available at your regular grocery (just make sure you check the label to ensure it was produced in Michigan and that it’s organic). Michigan asparagus season usually runs from early May through mid June. However, it’s always fun to meet the people who cultivated the Asparagus in person. Shopping at your local Farmer’s Market is a great way to foster that relationship, as well as to maintain a closer relationship with the food you are buying for yourself and your family. Here’s a link that will help you find a Farmer’s Market in your area – there are hundreds in Michigan! Aren’t we lucky?
How Should I Eat My Asparagus?
Asparagus is a spring favorite for many, and a really easy vegetable to prepare. It can be simply steamed, sautéed, or grilled and seasoned it with a little olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
For more information about Michigan asparagus, visit the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board online.Permalink →
Doing a portion of your shopping at your local Farmers Market is an easy and enjoyable way to insure that you are eating with the seasons and supporting your local economy.
The concept of a market has been around for millennia.
The first agricultural revolution allowed human beings to settle in one place and support themselves with cultivated crops and domesticated animals. It gave them the freedom to specialize in one task and then trade for whatever they still needed. Market places sprung up to facilitate that trade and still prevail in many places as the primary gathering and shopping place. Despite their many benefits, our society has moved away from patronizing markets in favor of the convenience of supermarkets. Farmers markets offer so much that your local supermarket cannot – fresher food, kinder vendors, and an overall better shopping experience.
There are plenty of reasons to love your local market!
Buying local food is good for the environment too!
In America, the average meal travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate. Imagine how drastically carbon emissions could be reduced if the majority of the food we purchased was produced within 100 miles of our home? Farmers markets help make that goal achievable. It is true that there are some products that simply aren’t available locally, but why purchase a tomato that was grown in Mexico when you can get one grown close to home? Shopping at the market also gives you the opportunity to have an in-person conversation with the farmer, and the chance to ask about the methods they employed to produce the goods they’re selling. So you can know whether harmful pesticides and herbicides were used in growing your food.
There’s a spark of life at the farmers market that is just absent in even the most beautiful grocery store.
We can’t recommend enough that you find a farmers market near you and make a point to check it out sometime this summer. You surely won’t be disappointed, and hopefully you’ll even find a new favorite place to shop!
WHY FAMILY MEALS ARE IMPORTANT
We all lead busy lives. Often times, our individual interests, goals, passions, and responsibilities pull us away from the people we care about. Therefore, it is essential that we all to take the time to slow down occasionally and re-engage with loved ones. Dinnertime provides a wonderful opportunity to take a break from the rest of the world, take an interest in your family, laugh, recharge, and, through storytelling and sharing, form a sense of your family identity.
Family dinners are incredibly beneficial. Sharing a meal brings family together, gives each person an opportunity to share what happened during their day, the chance to listen to one another, celebrate successes, and offer comfort for difficulties. This engagement can play a huge role in families creating a strong bond and support system. Family meals also help children to develop a sense of confidence, security, and a feeling of place and belonging. Some studies have even shown that family meals promote brain functionality that results in better performance at school; for example, dinner conversation acts as a better vocabulary-booster than reading for young children.
Family meals don’t need to be a stressful affair. The meal can be simple. Many people prepare a week’s worth of meals over the weekend and then freeze or store them so they can be reheated when they’re needed throughout the week. There are thousands of recipes that can be prepared and then served in this fashion. In order to allow your children and young adolescents to reap the benefits that family meals offer of a reduced risk of eating disorder and obesity, it is important to serve wholesome meals. Just remember that it may take a child multiple (sometimes up to 10-15) exposures to a new flavor – like broccoli – before they develop a taste for it, so be patient. Here are some healthy ideas:
Family dinners are an easy thing to incorporate into your family routine- everyone has to eat, so why not eat together? There is no exact formula for how many meals you must eat to get the benefits mentioned above, but safeguarding even just one meal a week can have a tremendous impact. In my house, Sunday night was family dinner night. It didn’t conflict with sports practices or meetings and gave us a chance to reflect on the past week and prepare and plan for what was in store during the next.
I challenge you to take the time this week to intently focus your attention on your people, instead of work or daily challenges. I think you will find, as my family did, that it will help bond your family into an ever more closely knit unit.Permalink →