TLT Guest Blogger: Mark Abbott, CEO of FarmRaiser – Innovative, Healthy School Fundraising

January 21, 2015 / All, FarmRaiser in the News / Comments: 0

 by  2 COMMENTS

FarmRaiser Founder and CEO Mark Abbott describes here what led him to create his organization and, at the end of the post, you’ll learn how you, too, can set up a FarmRaiser fundraiser in your own school.

A New Idea for Healthy School Fundraisers

By Mark Abbott

Our cFarmRaiserompany, FarmRaiser, is a new idea for healthy school fundraisers.
We use a web and mobile platform that connects schools with local farmers and food artisans to help students sell healthy, locally grown or made products to raise money for school activities.  

So many schools today resort to candy, processed foods, and items with a three-month shelf life like tubs of cookie dough to raise much needed funds. Worse, my children’s previous elementary school once promoted ‘family dinner night’ at McDonalds, where the energetic teachers donned aprons and served fast food to the kids and their families to collect 10% of profits from every transaction that night.  For anyone following The Lunch Tray, I probably don’t have to describe the visceral reaction I had to this well meaning, but terrible idea. 

We live in a time where obesity rates in kids have been skyrocketing and processed food aisles overrun the grocery stores. And despite some really great educational programs about the need to be active and the benefits of a healthy, balanced diet, when it comes to product fundraising we’re sending mixed messages.  You should eat healthy and exercise more, but sell this candy because we really need the money.  So FarmRaiser is a practical alternative that fits with the growing movement to support sustainable farming.

It works like this: Our platform partners with local farmers and food artisans who have products that schools can sell, most grown or made within 30 miles of the school. Students and their school select the items they’d like to promote, and the school gets a dedicated webpage on our platform with stories about each one.  There they learn about the farmer and some fun facts about the items they’re selling.  Students can also be involved in visiting the farms and can help package food on delivery day if they choose to do so.  

Some of our best-selling products have been apples, seasonal veggie baskets (like a one-time CSA delivery), honey, and locally roasted coffee.  We have even offered you-pick blueberries in a FarmRaiser (families purchased coupons to pick blueberries at a later date) and they generated a lot of excitement. Another feature of FarmRaiser is the community basket, where customer/supporters can choose to donate their purchases to a charitable venue selected by the students — often a food bank or students in need at their own school. It opens the door to helping those in need eat local food as well, and teaches the students about helping others. 


Personally, I have always tried to eat local foods in season (a concept my wife, who prefers to eat
strawberries year-round, still has a hard time understanding). I have also always tried to give my kids a
tlt postconnection to where their food comes. I have such vivid memories of tasting that first Michigan sweet corn in late summer, and how it was well worth waiting for—there was nothing better. I want my kids to have similar memories, to know where their food comes from, and to support the people producing it. I also hope that when they’re raising their own kids they’ll look back at the industrialization of our food—the aisles upon aisles of over-processed, sugar-laden offerings, and grimace.  They’ll wonder how anyone survived their childhood on such a diet. 

Of course FarmRaiser is just a small part of this growing movement, but we like to think we’re making a difference and giving others the chance to do so as well.  

Mark Abbott is the Founder and CEO of FarmRaiser, as well as the parent of two kids. He is a nationally recognized expert in service-learning and civic engagement, an experienced grant making executive, and an entrepreneur with start-up experience in the non-profit and for-profit sectors.

* * *

Many thanks to Mark Abbott for coming by TLT today!  If you’re interested in starting a FarmRaiser in your area, just enter your information on the home page of the organization’s website or send an email to info@farmraiser.com.

It’s a simple idea born in part from my frustration with the sea of candy and processed food (cookies and pizza kits) that have become associated with school fundraising, which my kids were consistently asked to sell. The concept struck like a lightning bolt when my son, then 8, announced after selling $300 worth of candy to our neighbors: “We wouldn’t eat any of this at home dad.” He was right, and his observation led to the creation of FarmRaiser. 

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Go Local This Holiday Season

December 17, 2014 / All / Comments: 0

While FarmRaiser is most cued in when it comes to local food, we want to encourage you to go local with any gift you might be purchasing this year. That includes food of course, but also toys, art, jewelry, books, and so much more! By supporting a local artisan or local business, more of your money spent will stay right in your community – brightening both the lives of your gift-receivers and those people who own businesses nearby!

Here are a few pro tips and suggestions for supporting more local businesses this holiday season!

1) Keep an Eye on our Facebook PageFrom now until Christmas Eve, we’ll be posting gift ideas from our incredible FarmRaiser vendors. Maybe you’ll be inspired to buy what is posted or look for a similar business in your own community!

2) Shop Downtown: Downtown shopping districts are often made up of locally owned stores. While the products won’t all be made locally, supporting a locally owned business still ensures more money is staying in your community!
3) Visit your Local Farmers Market: More and more farmers markets are staying open all year round or hosting special holiday markets – make sure to take advantage as markets are often a great place for gifts! Value-added products like jams and soaps are commonly found at markets and make great gifts, but you can also think outside the box! A few vegetable farmers at our local market allow you to purchase credit in their stall — a gift of farm credit means weeks of market shopping without needing any cash!

4) Go to Art Fairs: Every community has one or more (I think we have 20 or more!) holiday art fairs with vendors of all types. These are members of your community who have special talents to create beautiful or useful products which make great gifts! Often a community will have a variety of these events, find one that you think will fit your style!

5) Make Big Box Stores your Last Resort: Sometimes it is so easy to stop in a big box store that sells everything under the sun to find your holiday gifts — consider saving that option as a last resort this year, visiting locally owned stores first!

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We’re Thrilled To Announce Our New Michigan Vendors!

December 2, 2014 / All, Artisans and Farmers / Comments: 0

Naturally Nutty Peanut Butter

 

Naturally Nutty Peanut Butter began with a Mom in Traverse City who loved peanut butter and began searching for a pure, healthy product with all natural and organic ingredients that she could
feel good about feeding to herself and her kids. When she couldn’t find the perfect product she was looking for, she decided to create it herself! Naturally Nutty offers a variety of nut and seed butters featuring many unique recipes such as cherry butter toffee peanut butter and pepita sun oatmeal seed butter. Each recipe is created in small, careful batches to ensure health and happiness for peanut butter lovers of all ages!

 

Evergreen Market

Evergreen Market is a local foods market just north of Traverse City that features Michigan-made products and locally grown foods.  Evergreen Market works with over 50 local farmers and a variety of local food producers to stock their shelves, but they also make many of their own unique products. Homemade pies, tamales, kale chips and apple granola bars just to name a few! If you are in Traverse City, be sure to stop in and check them out! With a great variety of products, there is sure to be something for everyone in the family.

 

Second Spring Farm

Second Spring Farm is a certified organic vegetable farm located near Cedar, Michigan on the beautiful Leelanau peninsula. Founded by Reid Johnston in 2008, the farm strives to produce some of the most delicious, nutritious, and beautiful vegetables in northern Michigan – and they’re definitely succeeding! With absolutely beautiful produce piled high, their market stand is easily one of the most colorful you’ve ever seen. Second Spring’s produce is available at area farmers markets, Oryana Natural Foods Market, and is frequently found on the menus of local restaurants.

 


Fresh Food Fairy

The Fresh Food Fairy thinks that fresh food is the best! And we think The Fresh Food Fairy is pretty great, too! Not only does she make small batches of kale chips, using locally grown kale and organic ingredients whenever possible, but she also offers nutrition programs for students in Kalamazoo schools to help them make positive associations with fresh food. Her kale chips, also known as “Kaleamazoo Chips”, come in two unique and delicious flavors including “Lemony Kick-It” and “Lime Coconut”! We are happy to be offering these fun and healthy snacks in Kalamazoo campaigns.

 

Water Street Coffee

Water Street Coffee is a local coffee roaster in Kalamazoo, Michigan. They source the finest green coffee beans and craft them by hand in their roasting machines, carefully monitoring the roasting process to reveal unique flavors and ensure a high quality cup of coffee every time! Frequent taste testing also ensures the quality of their roasts batch after batch. Water Street Coffee also has four cafés in the Kalamazoo area. If you are in the area, be sure to stop by for a delicious cup of coffee to warm you up on a cold winter day!

 

BarrieBeau Herb Farm

At BarrieBeau Herb Farm, herbs, flowers and heirloom vegetables are organically grown and preserved in each of their products for you to enjoy. BarrieBeau Herb ​Farm was established on the belief that herbs and flowers deserve special attention in our lives to enhance, soothe and nourish our souls and bring harmony into our homes.​ Some of her products include a culinary herb rub, herb infused jelly and a variety of organic herbal teas! We are so happy to now be offering these products in our Grand Rapids campaigns!

 

Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters

Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters are a locally owned micro-roaster, known for their exceptionally smooth and well-balanced coffee. They say this is because they roast their coffee slowly and over a lower heat to ensure a smooth, never bitter cup of coffee! Their coffee roasting facility is open to the public every Saturday from 10am-3pm. Come pick up some coffee, see how the magic happens and enjoy custom roasted coffee while you wait!

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Thanksgiving Special!- Having a Healthier Holiday

November 21, 2014 / All / Comments: 0

On Cooking:

  • Work with what’s locally in season for you…Which means winter squash, root vegetables and brassicas for most of us.

  • If possible, get your turkey from a local producer, and even better if they are pastured and/or organic. Find some tips in this guide to buying a turkey.

  • Consider going organic for some common Thanksgiving ingredients. Check out this great guide to buying organic for Thanksgiving for more information.

  • It’s a holiday so of course you should keep one or two rich dishes, but consider going a little lighter on the rest of them (think more sweet potatoes and less heavy cream).

  • Veggies sometimes get pushed to the side burner while potatoes, rolls, turkey, and gravy take center stage. Make sure there are plenty of veggies in your Thanksgiving spread (see the recipes below for some inspiration).

Try one of these simple recipes as-is, or get a little creative! 

  • These Roasted Veggies are easy, and everybody will ask you how you made such a delicious dish! You can add just about any other spices and vegetables into the mix. I like to add other squashes or potatoes, large chunks of peppers, mushrooms and broccoli (make sure to add things with thin skins like peppers, mushrooms, & broccoli, about 20 minutes before the rest are done, since they need less time.)

  • Think you hate brussel sprouts? Try this Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad and change your mind on these delicious, nutritious veggies. This is another “base” recipe that is easy to experiment with and add your own flair. I like to add chopped apples or pears, or try a Dijon Mustard or Honey Mustard Vinaigrette dressing.

On Eating:

Raise your hand if Thanksgiving often ends with you on the couch thinking “I really shouldn’t have eaten that much.” It’s a common problem, and there are plenty of things you can do to avoid that over-stuffed feeling after the meal. These portion control tips are helpful on holidays where we gather around food, but consider making them a part of your everyday eating habits!

  • Take small portions and go back for more when you need. Don’t worry, if your thanksgiving is anything like ours, you won’t run out of food.

  • Make vegetables your main dish, and meat your side.

  • Try to eat slowly; actively engage in the conversations around you and put your fork down between bites. You’ll enjoy your food and your company more, while allowing your stomach to catch up with your brain to let you know you’re full before it’s too late.

After-meal activities:

What happens after you eat is just as important as what happens while you’re eating – here are a few tips to escaping the post-dinner food coma!

  • Volunteer to clean up, you’ll be much appreciated, and won’t be tempted to pick at leftovers or have that second piece of pie.
  • Before dinner starts, announce that you will be taking a stroll after the meal and invite anybody else who’s interested. Most likely, at least a few people will join you, making it more fun, and harder to back out of after you’ve eaten.

 

We wish you all a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends, and (most of all) great food!

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Reinventing the school fundraiser

November 19, 2014 / All, FarmRaiser in the News / Comments: 0

By: Jenn Savedge

November 19, 2014, 9:44 a.m.

 

If you manage to squeak through the first fundraiser with minimal damage to the environment and your wallet, you can bet that another one will follow quickly in its footsteps, either for the school or for your child’s sports team, Scout troop or chess club.

As much as we hate them, it’s a cold hard fact that fundraisers are a necessary evil to fill the gaps in dwindling school budgets. Depending upon the school, fundraisers may pay for everything from field trips to computers to playground equipment. And fundraising is big business. National companies vie for the chance to sell their wares at your child’s school by offering school-wide inflatable play days and other marketing promotions. But at a time when school administrators and parents are scrambling for ways to address childhood obesity, forcing kids to sell candy and cookies seems slightly off-message.

That’s where FarmRaiser comes in. A few years ago, FarmRaiser founder Mark Abbott was taken aback when his fourth-grader noted that his own family would never eat any of the cookies and candy that he had just sold for his school’s fundraiser. “It’s too bad we couldn’t try something healthy like apples,” said his son. Well, why couldn’t they?

So Abbot set about trying to remake the school fundraiser. Instead of candy, cookies and candles, why not help schools make money by selling healthy food from local farmers, beekeepers and food artisans? In 2012, Abbott launched a pilot fundraising program in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. The following year, FarmRaiser ran 30 fundraising campaigns for schools in Michigan and Washington state.

Similar to traditional catalog-based fundraising programs, students in a FarmRaiser promotion sell products from a set list of vendors. But unlike traditional programs, the students aren’t pushing cookies and candy. Rather they’re selling locally made and harvested products such as fruits, vegetables honey, pasta, granola, spice mixes, artisan breads and jam. Most vendors are located within 30 miles of the school. And if the school has a personal connection to a vendor, farm or food artisan, FarmRaiser will add the vendor to the product list. “We love to sell products that directly connect back to the students at the school,” says says FarmRaiser’s campaign manager Christina Carson.

Local vendors get to expand their customer base, parents can purchase products they believe in, and the schools get a cut that can be used to support a child’s education. That’s a big win all around.

Read more: http://www.mnn.com/family/family-activities/blogs/reinventing-the-school-fundraiser#ixzz3h6avsJjy

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FarmRaiser Benefits Northern Michigan

November 13, 2014 / All, FarmRaiser in the News / Comments: 0

By  on November 13, 2014

 

For elementary school students in Central Lake, that scene and others like it have been a reality for 15 years. That’s because the school has participated in the Farmer to Community Fundraiser, a program that has students selling locally grown produce, fish, meat, honey, milk, and jam to raise funds for school field trips in the spring.

It all began when Pepper Bromelmeir of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (and former Central Lake parent) received a survey from the school asking how she felt about the school’s annual candy sale. She believed the candy sale promoted poor eating habits and missed an opportunity to benefit the community, so she set about finding a solution.

She reached out to several farmers who sold locally and asked them if they’d be interested in selling their products through the school as a fundraiser. A critical element to her plan was explaining to farmers that she was not seeking a donation, but rather asking them to sell to her so that the students could up the prices from the farmer’s sale point.

“That way it shows the students that they need to support the local farms, and it keeps the money here in our community,” Bromelmeir said. “After the farmers were on board, I went to the PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) to see if they were interested. The rest is history!”

Today, dozens of schools across the country have embraced non-traditional fundraisers featuring local products. With new regulations on school snacks and many districts adopting or looking to enforce wellness policies, fundraising tends to be a “pretty easy target area for change,” said Christina Carson, the Chief Cultivator for FarmRaiser, a new Michigan-based company that has sprung out of this increased interest in creating healthier options for school fundraisers.

In fact, Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) recently announced a partnership with FarmRaiser that will offer locally made products to benefit TCAPS Learning Enrichment & Athletics Program (LEAP) and individual schools. Through the program, families can purchase healthy products from local businesses like Naturally Nutty, The Redheads, Higher Grounds, Brownwood Farms, Sleeping Bear Farms, Grocer’s Daughter and Esch Road. There’s even an option to purchase a community basket, which will be given to a local food pantry. The products will be sold through FarmRaiser’s online platform and will be available for pickup at Central Grade School on December 17, just in time for the holidays.

This year’s total funds raised at Central Lake Elementary are still being tallied, but to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the school’s Farmer to Community Fundraiser, Tim VanderHart and Michelle Perkins’ third, fourth and fifth graders were met with an added incentive to sell the local products. For every five items they sold, they would get a water balloon to throw at their resident food and nutrition educator—me!

So how many balloons are headed my way when the fundraiser products are distributed this year? I’ll be thinking warm thoughts of how this fundraiser helped support healthy kids and communities when I try to dodge 104 water balloons later this month.

 

More about FarmRaiser:

FarmRaiser is working to reinvent school fundraising with a healthy, local spin by having students sell fresh produce and healthy products made in their communities. In the process, students learn about good food, local economies, and a food system they can easily get involved in! Anyone interested in getting involved can find more information on its website, or email info@farmraiser.com.

To learn more about the TCAPS fundraiser, (and order local products through the end of November) visit farmraiser.seeyourimpact.org/leap.

Meghan McDermott is a FoodCorps Service Member working with area schools through the nonprofit Michigan Land Use Institute’s farm to school program. If you have a farm to school story to share, please send it to diane@mlui.org.  You can keep up on area farm to school activity at https://www.facebook.com/NWMIFarmtoSchool

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An Intro to Our 7 New Seattle Vendors

November 3, 2014 / All, Artisans and Farmers / Comments: 0

Volunteer Park Cafe

Volunteer Park Cafe is all about celebrating fresh, local, and seasonal bounty of the Pacific Northwest. Their approach to food is,simply put…Always Fresh Goodness. Stop in for one of many creative and delicious pastries or dishes. If you’re looking for something extra special, try one of their Sunday Suppers; a once a month family style chef’s whim 3 course dinner!

NuFlours 

NuFlours is a gluten free bakery dedicated to fresh, locally sourced deliciousness. They started out on the farmer’s market circuit, and just last month, opened a permanent store on North Capitol Hill! Whether you’re gluten free or not, they are sure to be a new neighborhood favorite with items like garlic parmesan bread, spinach tomato gouda puff pastry, and a spicy hot chocolate cinnamon cake.

The Kitchen Imp

The Kitchen Imp was named to convey the spirit of enthusiasm, whimsy, and magic that can give rise to cooking and that cooking can bring into one’s life. They operate on the principle that anyone is capable of cooking well and they provide many of the tools needed to do so easily. The Kitchen Imp offers a wide range of spices, cooking blends, salts & sugars, and teas. Their products are organic and fair trade whenever possible!

We couldn’t talk about new FarmRaiser vendors without introducing you to a few farms!

Bellewood Acres

Bellewood Acres, located just a few miles south of Canada, is one of Northwest Washington’s largest apple orchards. They cultivate 25,000 fruit trees, grown with a philosophy of strong community and responsible farming practices. Bellewood Acres is more than a farm that grows insanely delicious apples (which they do!), they are an experience, with U-pick days, a farm market and bistro, and newly opened distillery!


Sno-Valley Mushrooms 

Sno-Valley Mushrooms is not your typical farm, growing most of their products in a highly controlled greenhouse, this small company delivers year-round gourmet mushrooms to various Seattle farmer’s markets. With mushrooms that are as beautiful to look at as they are to eat, they are not to be missed!

Seattle Tilth

Another one of our new farmers is actually a handful of many small farmers. Seattle Tilth is a well respected non-profit organization, whose mission is to “inspire and educate people to safeguard our natural resources while building an equitable and sustainable local food system”. The produce we source from them will come from their various farms and farmers.

Finally, we are proud to partner with two larger producers of treats we all love and covet. While the agricultural aspect to these products takes place far from Seattle, Stumptown Coffee Roasters and Theo Chocolate make sure to procure the best beans from around the world, using the best practices possible.


Stumptown Roasters 

Opened in 1999 in Portland, OR, Stumptown Coffee Roasters has been dedicated to sourcing the best beans in the world, paying a living wage to the farmers that grow and harvest them, and raising the level of discourse and expectations that surround a cup of coffee. Stumptown practices direct trade sourcing from coffee bean producers around the world. Once in Seattle, beans are meticulously and carefully roasted, and baristas are trained to make the best cups of coffee – you really just have to try it for yourself!

Theo Chocolate

I was lucky enough to go on a tour of the Theo Chocolate factory recently, the first Fair Trade, Organic, bean-to-bar chocolate factory in North America. Since 2006, Theo has been making the highest quality chocolate from the world’s best cocoa beans, grown in the most sustainable way possible. Look for their staples, like 70% Dark Sea Salt chocolate, and their more extravagant specialty items, such as Ghost Chili Caramels or Coconut Curry chocolate bars. Theo is dedicated to creating amazing flavors, making people happy, and changing the wo

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School fundraisers are in desperate need of a makeover

October 21, 2014 / All, FarmRaiser in the News / Comments: 0

Katherine Martinko (@feistyredhair)
Living / Culture
October 21, 2014

The season of school fundraisers has begun. Last week my son brought home his fundraising info package from school, full of glossy flyers advertising chocolate, cookie dough, baking and spice mixes, bizarre kitchen implements (plastic cheese labellers? pot lid holders?), cheap jewelry, and fragrance-laden candles. An accompanying letter urged me to shop in order to support the school’s campaign, and to encourage all my friends and family to shop as well.

I do not. I am that parent who takes one look at the fundraising info package and tosses it straight into the recycling bin. No matter how much I would love to support the school’s fundraising campaign, I am not willing to waste my money on overpriced, over-packaged, imported products, especially non-fair trade chocolate, that – in my opinion – reinforces our cultural addiction to sugary junk food and our tendency to buy cheap crap that will eventually end up in a landfill nearby.

Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks it’s time for school fundraisers to undergo a serious makeover. I was very happy to recently discover a new organization called FarmRaiser that is on a mission to reinvest school fundraisers. This ingenious company, currently operating in Michigan and Washington states with plans to expand as interest grows, wants to “restore value and purpose to an annual ritual that has lost its way in a sea of sugar and junk food.” 

Instead of the usual list of fundraising items, FarmRaiser offers alternative and far healthier selections that include apples, maple syrup, dried cherries, bread, coffee, artisanal pasta, and honey. Produced by local food vendors, this means that 90 percent of profits stays within a community, reinforcing the local economy. Kids become real-food advocates, selling products that they can feel proud of marketing. Their families discover a wonderful world of local food production that they may want to support further, after the campaign has ended.

There is no reason why local, healthy food cannot be part of school fundraisers; it just means that participating families have to be willing to break out of the rut in which they’re currently stuck. By continuing to use our children to market and sell junk food, we inadvertently reinforce the poor eating habits that many schools and parents are trying to reverse. It makes no sense – but there is an alternative, as FarmRaiser has demonstrated, and it’s time for us to take that leap if we ever want to salvage our food system.

You can bet I’ll be presenting this idea to Parent Council long before next year’s fundraising season begins!

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FarmRaiser: Freshening Up the School Fundraiser

October 16, 2014 / All, FarmRaiser in the News / Comments: 0

Mark Abbott dreamed up the idea for a fundraiser that offers wholesome products that people actually want after his son sold hundreds of dollars worth of highly processed foods one year. From that initial seed grew FarmRaiser, a fundraising program that allows schools to purchase farm-fresh foods and products from local purveyors at wholesale prices, sell these items at a retail price to friends and families, and then keep most of the profits within their community.

“One of the best things about FarmRaiser is that kids get excited about the products they’re selling, not just the prizes they might get for selling something,” says Christina Carson, chief cultivator at FarmRaiser. “They love seeing farmers bring in boxes of fresh, local produce, smelling freshly baked breads, and learning how to use scales in weighing products.”

Our friend Cheri Bloom who runs the gardening education curriculum at Montlake Elementary introduced us to FarmRaiser in 2013. Cheri is always looking for creative ways to build funding for her program while staying true to its mission. FarmRaiser offered the perfect solution, supplementing grants from Les Dames d’Escoffier, Whole Foods Market and the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.

“What I love about FarmRaiser is that I have seen how successful it has been for local farmers and food artisans and at the same time directly linking with our school’s mission,” says Cheri. “Last year’s campaigns did as well, if not better, than other fundraisers we have had. I expect this year to be better with more awareness of FarmRaiser and the students involvement in the campaigns.”

After teaming up with FarmRaiser at Seattle schools last year, we knew we wanted to take part in this program once again in support of Stevens Elementary, Montlake Elementary and Queen Anne Elementary. This year you’ll find our Cranberry Apricot Nut Bread peeking from FarmRaiser bags alongside Mt. Townsend Creamery cheese, Willie Greens Organic Farms produce, and Loki Fish Company seafood.

“I think it is a win-win,” says Macrina Bakery Founder Leslie Mackie. “We get to expose new customers – young and old – to our products and they get to enjoy a hand-delivered fresh loaf of artisan bread made from flour grown here in Washington state. It’s a really smart way to get kids jazzed about buying local and celebrating the wonderful businesses in their neighborhood!”

Check out FarmRaiser online for more information.

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Celebrating the Arrival of Local Apples

October 15, 2014 / All, Local Food and Amazing Products / Comments: 0

Apples have long been a fruit tied closely to the coming of fall. In Michigan, droves of people (local foodies or not) flock to the apple orchards come fall for fresh pressed apple cider – making the apple orchard one of the most common ways for Michiganders to connect with their local agriculture scene. Although apples can be found quite easily at your local supermarkets year-round, none are quite as incredible as local apples ripened right on the tree.

 

The Apple Industry

According to the US Business Insider in 2009, 71 million tons of apples were produced worldwide for a total of $30 billion, falling just $2 billion short of (the computer company) Apple’s annual revenue. The United States is second in apple cultivation after China, which produces almost half of the world’s total.

Within the US, Washington State remains the largest producer of apples with more than 60% of all the apples sold commercially! Every single one of the 10-12 billion apples harvested in Washington each year is handpicked, so it is no surprise that about 35,000 to 45,000 apple pickers are employed during the peak of harvest.

Despite the fact that Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman omitted the state in his apple-growing excursions throughout the Midwest, Michigan has become the second-largest apple producer in the nation. The 9.2 million apple trees in Michigan cover about 36,500 acres, and average $700-$900 million in annual economic contribution, as reported by the Michigan Apple Committee. Family apple orchards remain predominant in Michigan, where 65% of orchards have fewer than 200 acres in apples.

 

An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!

Its no wonder apples are one of the most widely cultivated fruits in the world, as they provide a range of health benefits to their consumers:

  • Raise good cholesterol, lower bad cholesterol, and contribute to weight loss.
  • Can help prevent spikes in blood sugar levels.
  • Help lower your risk of developing heart disease.
  • Enhance the body’s ability to protect from colon, prostate, and lung cancer.
  • Improve lung, heart, and brain health—even lessening symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

The average US consumer only eats about one apple per week. While eating a fresh apple is always good for you, to get the full nutritional benefits you should eat at least one apple every day, hence the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!”

 

Make Something with Apples!

While fresh apples are great right on the core, there are plenty of other ways you can get in your apple-a-day! Apples, like most fruits, are quite versatile in their culinary uses. While often eaten raw, dried, candied, or chopped up in a salad, apples can also be utilized in preparing many different foods and baking breads and treats.

If you’re looking for an apple challenge, try making these Cardamom and Brown Butter Apple Cakes. The almond and oat flours combined with browned butter make for an incredible nutty flavor. Before making these, stop by your local orchard or farmers market and look for some small apples that you can slice for the perfect apple topping to your little cakes. Here in northern Michigan a few farmers grow the variety known as chestnut apples, which are the perfect size. That said, plenty of farmers have smaller apples of all varieties!

For when you want an apple treat packed with fiber and protein, here is a quick and easy way to prepare a healthy, tasty snack:

  1. Spread one side of sliced apple with almond butter and sprinkle with cinnamon.
  2. Dip the apple slices into granola to cover the almond butter.

Use sweet Delicious, tart Granny Smith, tangy Fuji or your favorite variety of apple; in seconds you’ll have a satisfying snack or dessert.

 

Happy Apple Season Everyone!

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