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Fall Is Here

Hi Farm blog readers! My name is Courtney, and I am a dietetic intern from the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. I am super excited to be rotating with the Farm at St. Joe’s! I have no prior experience with gardening or farming, but I am very eager to learn a lot during my time here.

This past week, we have been very busy on the farm. Since summer is sadly behind us, it is time to remove the summer crops and prepare the hoop houses for planting for winter harvest. I am very sad to report that we had to clear out a row of the tomato plants to make room for the next crop. It was a tough task to remove a beautiful crop that was still producing perfect tomatoes; however, it was a necessary evil to ensure there will be enough food during the winter months. I do have good news— the tomato plants were composted and will be incorporated back into the farm next year! Luckily, we had a group of volunteers from Mercy High School Farmington Hills on Tuesday. Having lots of help on the farm really made a difference, and we were able to accomplish a lot in a few hours. Next on the agenda is to remove more summer crops that have run their course and start planting for winter.

No more tomato plants!

No more tomato plants!

 

Kale and Swiss chard ready to be planted!

Kale and Swiss chard ready to be planted!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Too Much Fresh Produce?

Hi again blogreaders!

I was thinking that now is the time when you may (or may not) have too MUCH fresh produce and you are either trying to gift to strangers or thinking it’ll all have to go into your compost pile… well I may have a better idea:

how about storing it for the upcoming winter??  

Now is definitely the time for harvesting and honestly, you have to get it when it’s good. But, you may be hesitant because you don’t know what to do with it. Honestly, I own a small deep-freezer and found it to be an excellent way to store most of my food so that I can have farm-fresh produce all year round!

I especially wanted to focus on how to freeze and store greens like collard greens, kale, spinach, and even Swiss chard.  If you have ever frozen fresh produce before, the method is pretty similar across the board: blanch, ice-bath, package, and freeze. I’ll go through the process with a bit more detail though.

For preparing to freeze greens you will need:

  1. Fresh greens you wish to store
  2. Large pot of boiling water, 2/3 of the way full
  3. A bowl filled with ice and cold water
  4. Strainer
  5. Vacuum food sealer or ziploc freezer bags for storage
  • Before you begin with the fresh greens itself, I find it easiest to set a pot on the stove to begin boiling the water and prepare the bowl for the ice and cold water.
  • First, you will want to use fresh, crisp greens.  Wash them first before you use them and then you can choose to prepare them whatever way you would like (tearing them into smaller pieces; chopping them; dicing; etc).  You will want to remove any tough stems and damaged pieces.
  • Then, with the water at a good boil you will blanch the greens by placing them into the boiling water for a few minutes (2-3 minutes).  The blanching process can counter the aging process in the plant allowing it to stay for a pretty long time.
  • After the 2-3 minutes in the boiling water, you will want to scoop the greens into the ice and water bowl.  Generally, you will give them a cold-bath for the same amount of time as the blanching process.
  • After the greens have bathed in the cold water for the allotted time, you are able to place them into your storage bags.  I like to use smaller ziplock bags for easy use after they are frozen and then place the smaller bags into a large freezer bag.  Once you have as much air out of the bags as possible upon sealing the bag,  you can place them in the freezer and you are DONE!  You can leave greens in the freezer for about a year, just don’t forget about them!
    • Note: you can use a strainer for any of these steps where you have to remove greens from the water.

If you want more information, you are welcome to visit this site for freezing fresh greens.

If you wanted to freeze other fresh produce, usually a rule of thumb is the thicker the vegetable itself, the longer (but not by much) it’ll have to blanched.  I’ve found that zucchini, bell peppers, green beans, and carrots are all easy and last to the freezing process. This website has a pretty good list of how to do other vegetables and this one will tell you how to long to blanch those vegetables.

Hi to all the Farm at St. Joe’s blog readers!

My name is Brooke and I am the new dietetic intern working with the farm for the next two weeks.  I am from a tiny little farming town in Michigan near the thumb.  No, I did not grow up on a farm; however I lived near many, many horse farms.  My parents have always had a garden to grow our own cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, and occasionally watermelon; but I never stopped to talk to them about HOW they did it.  All I remember is planting the seeds, watering the garden, and viola here’s some food you can eat!  And oh, how it tastes so good! Some years we would have an over abundance of zucchini, so we would gift zucchini left and right to our friends, family, and people we meet.  It never occurred to me that there is much more that goes into producing and growing your own food.  So here I am now, a dietetic intern who is, like all interns, interested in nutrition and food, but also interested in how to educate others so that they will be able to grow their own healthy food.

I first set foot onto the Farm at St. Joe’s on a cool September morning.  I took a breath and looked around.  I saw the three hoop houses, the trailer, the equipment, the fields.  With a breath of fresh air, I took everything in.  I was going to be here for the next two weeks and I knew that I was going to have an experience unlike any other.  Farmer Dan took me around, orienting me to everything on site–the accessible hoop house with the raised beds and the wheelchair accessible aisles; the rows of tomatoes, peppers, kale, and carrots; the composting pile; the beehives…  As we walked around, we chatted about different farming things, some of which I had to look up later to fully understand (like a tomato blight map).  He told me about the idea behind the accessible hoop house and how it is meant for a type of recreational therapy and that there is a Farmer’s Market inside St. Joe’s main hospital.

And let me just say this: I am completely awestruck!!

St. Joe's Farm at the Farmer's Market

Look at all the color–Swiss chard, carrots, collard greens!

 

 

Hello Farm blog readers! My name is Emily Shoemaker, and I’m a dietetic intern from the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. Over the course of my short internship rotation at The Farm at St. Joe’s, I’ve managed to pick up quite a bit: an armful of fresh produce to bring home, plenty of weeding experience, and a surprising glimpse into the future of local farming. In this post, I thought I’d share some thoughts on a topic that might seem a little out of place amidst the talk of cherry tomatoes and kale—the importance of marketing in the world of local farms and sustainable agriculture.

Confession: As a dietetic intern, I’m primarily concerned with the eating aspect of food rather than the growing aspect. However, I have always believed that sustainable agriculture is fundamental to promoting good nutrition. Simply put, both sustainable agriculture and good nutrition share a foundation in fresh, healthful food. And both face the same obstacles: large-scale commercial agriculture and food processing corporations. These entities possess enormous resources, including huge marketing budgets, significant political clout, and a food distribution infrastructure that is aligned with their needs. Local farms and healthy diets don’t stand a chance. Or do they?

Will sustainable food be mowed down by Big Ag?

                                     Will Big Ag mow down sustainable food? 

Farmers, dietitians, and those of similar ilk actually have a number of tools at their disposal to raise consumer interest in local and sustainable food products. From my experience at The Farm, I’ve come to realize that farmers are highly aware of the need for marketing of their goods and implement number of marketing strategies. Some of the Farm’s current marketing projects:

  • Social media promotion (Twitter, Facebook, and this blog)
  • Recipe cards and tastings at the Farmers’ Market (St. Joe’s Lobby, Wednesdays 11:00 am to 1:00 pm)
  • Distribution of produce to foodservice operations within St. Joe’s hospital (including some awesome snack-sized cherry tomato cups)
  • Ongoing efforts to increase signage around the hospital to draw in new customers from outside of the hospital

The St. Joe's Farm sign! Look for other signs around the hospital campus.

 The Farm at St. Joe’s sign! Look for other signs around the hospital campus.

These projects are great for getting the word (and cherry tomatoes!) out there, but there’s plenty of room for even more innovative marketing—and not just at St. Joe’s. What this means is a HUGE amount of potential for increasing consumer awareness of sustainable agriculture and for grabbing a larger portion of American food dollars. There’s already been some discussion of smart marketing strategies that sustainable food growers can use to gain visibility, such as marketing outside of traditional supply lines and focusing on specialty grocery outlets. However, farms and farmers need to be even more innovative to draw in more consumers and greater interest. Some ideas:

  • Aggressive social media campaigns 
  • Emphasizing the unique, desirable attributes of locally-produced foods to a wider audience
  • Branding and packaging (e.g., attractive website design, recognizable logos, convenience packaging)
  • Greater use of promotions (e.g., sales, student discounts, giveaways)
  • Seeking and incorporating consumer feedback…often!

 

"Bursting with flavor"..."Take on the go!"..."Bite-sized snackables" (Hint: I'm not talking about Doritos)

“Bursting with flavor”…”Take on the go!”…”Bite-sized snackables” (Hint: I’m                                                                  not talking about Doritos)

While individual farms will obviously have to pick and choose the strategies that work best for them, the basic idea is the same: in order to thrive, sustainable agriculture organizations must keep on top of the latest marketing trends. Innovative and aggressive marketing has the potential to benefit consumers, farms and farmers, and the sustainable agriculture movement as a whole. And a thriving sustainable agriculture culture can only mean positive things for good health and good nutrition!

Farmers’ market shoppers and sustainable foods enthusiasts, you’re not off the hook! Connect with The Farm via social media, share your farmers’ market experiences with your friends and followers, and help us get the word out there!

 

 

As another new and excited dietetic intern arriving at The Farm at St. Joe’s, I have to say that my first week was a testament to the therapeutic powers of nature. My name is Ann Lokuta and I’ll be spending the next week at St. Joe’s absorbing as much food for thought as I can from Dan and all of the farm’s amazing volunteers about gardening and growing delicious edibles for the promotion of health.

A plentiful carrot harvest for Wednesday's market!

A plentiful carrot harvest for Wednesday’s market.

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Please join Amanda from Green Things Farm for a special flower farmers’ market today from 11 am – 1pm. Green Things Farm will hold this special market most Fridays from now through the fall, and will focus on fresh cut flowers, along with a limited offering of  vegetables. You can follow me, @dzbair, on Twitter for the latest and greatest Farmers’ Market at St. Joe’s news.

Amanda from Green Things Farm with some of their popular fresh cut flowers.

Amanda from Green Things Farm with some of their popular fresh cut flowers.

It’s been a busy season here at the Farm. One of our most popular crops are our delicious cherry tomatoes, and we’ve picked over 100 pounds this last week alone! Take a look below to see where at St. Joe’s these lovely tomatoes can be found:

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