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Locavore Equinox: Balancing Out and Celebrating Each Moment

22 Sep

The last stretch of the Locavore challenge comes after the equinox.  That means it’s officially fall, but the balance of daylength and nighttime have symbolic power for the locavore.  The last week on the blog will focus on celebrating the delicious food and the truly awesome organic landscapes around us.  This is a week for us to show off a bit, with the celebrate the harvest dinners you might be planning for the weekend, but also to reflect on ways to work the locavore joy into our lives for the long term.  You’ve likely tried activities that you wouldn’t keep up all year round, simply because you can’t (think of berry picking in February–it’s just not possible in New York) or because you realize that the activity is a bit of a reach for you to do daily or weekly (not everyone wants to bake bread for their family every week).  The theme of balance that comes with the equinox (night and day are the same length) reminds us to think about the ways to pull back from the mania of checking off all the different locavore activities, to slow down after summer, to savor those locavore moments that really bring us happiness.  Sure, the abundance of September also encourages certain obsessions and the drive to put up lots of tomato sauce and salsa while we still can, but in the spirit of the equinox, let’s approach the last few weeks of overflowing market tables with a calm mindset.  Let’s not forget the joy this food (and the sound farming practices that got it to market) brings us and the local food it permits us to eat into the winter.

How to celebrate AND have balance?  This part of the challenge can be the point when you:

  • Decide to become a NOFA-NY member, because you know that this helps sustain farms in New York over the long term;
  • finally pick up a book related to food, farming, agricultural history, food justice, etc. because reading about farming is a different way to engage with your locavore brain;
  • take one last you-pick farm trip
  • engage the photographer or artist within yourself to create a lasting image that will remind you about how important farms are to our culture and communities
  • invite friends over to celebrate bounty (just don’t let it stress you out);
  • decide to patronize a locavore restaurant, because going out to eat is indeed part of your lifestyle and having a locavore option captures that balance that you’ll embrace as a locavore in the next 11 months (until September 2014).

Do whatever means most to you!

Last week, we heard from some of you on Facebook and Twitter about some of the celebrations of local food and farming.

On Facebook, Lynn Clow Burko told us “[I] resolved to purchase only local meats for my family and stuck to it. It can be done!”  Well done–sounds like you challenged yourself to do something new, and realized it was something you might work into your lives year-round.  A great example of stretching your assumptions and then realizing this fit into the balance of your budget and meal planning anyways!

Sarah’s family update for the week also exemplifies the concept of the change of seasons and inserting some slowing-down and balancing-out joy in her locavore activities. “With our CSA shares coming to an end and the vegetables taking a bit longer to grow and ripen in our garden, we have begun thinking about the fall season. Basil  has been plentiful in our CSA shares and garden this summer, and our final CSA share this week came with a basic recipe for pesto, so we’re making and preserving pesto for the final Locavore activity for my kids’ Locavore journals. It’s really the perfect recipe for my kids, simple and easy. Plus, we have a manual hand pump food processor that makes the whole process take a bit longer, letting us savor the work a bit more than with an electric processor. My kids help me cook often, but I suspect that making pesto will bring together a lot of our conversations and activities from this past month, making it a bit more of a memorable cooking experience for them. I also like the idea that through food preservation my kids will learn to avoid letting food go to waste and to think ahead when it comes to food and taking care of themselves.

A few Facebook friends shared their culinary endeavors with us.  Shannon Sodano told us that her potluck included, “homemade applesauce, stuffed tomatoes, sweet potato and leek soup, pumpkin apple and sage soup, beet salad with pistachios apple and arugula and homemade ice cream and watermelon and peach pie for dessert.”

A locavore potluck in Brooklyn.  Photo credit--Shannon Sodano, Sept. 2013.

A locavore potluck in Brooklyn. Photo credit: Shannon Sodano, Sept. 2013.

MaryBeth Anderson, also via Facebook, shared this image of a panzanella salad with us.  The local produce, herbs and homemade bread were balanced out with some special ingredients like olive oil and garbanzo beans.  A great example of finding the locavore option that works within her lifestyle.

MaryBeth Anderson local panzanella

MaryBeth Anderson’s local panzanella salad.

As for yours truly, I plan to visit the longer articles I’ve bookmarked for myself to read about our food system, to gain a more internal appreciation of the work we’ve been doing at NOFA-NY.  I won’t promise to finish the agrarian landscape-setting books I have checked out from the library, but I’m excited to make some forward progress this week, as the preserving projects take less of my time (I’ve called the end of my tomato-canning season since I have run out of pantry shelf space) and the new chilly fall weather encourages me to curl up in bed a little earlier each night.  On my list (still): Wendell Berry’s work, Turn Here Sweet Corn and A Thousand Acres.  I’m also planning to soak up more of the beauty of the farming landscape as I travel for one final on-farm work trip before frost settles in.

Let’s conclude this long read with something more powerful than words about balance and celebration.  This image of a sheep farmer (who is also our dedicated NOFA-NY board president) at dawn exemplifies the patience and passion of those who care for our land and for our bodies.  We celebrate these farmers every time we choose local and organic food.  Having this food available depends on all of us (don’t forget the ways you chose to take action), keeping a balance of locavore-positive moments all year.

Maryrose Livingston of Northland Sheep Dairy walks her pasture at dawn. (Photo credit: Liz Henderson, Sept. 2013)

Maryrose Livingston of Northland Sheep Dairy walks her pasture at dawn. (Photo credit: Liz Henderson, Sept. 2013)

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Gathering Around a Locavore Table: Tips for the best food event you can throw!

13 Sep

Today’s post is from Annie Levay-Krausse, writer of The Land of Peapodriot, a blog “Focused on seasonally, organically, locally and ethically sourced dishes; this blog is interspersed with posts on gardening, seed saving, soap making and Food Ethics.” She’s also the founder of SOLE of Buffalo, “a burgeoning food movement that connects people with Seasonal, Organic, Local and Ethical resources and information.”  She’s sharing her wealth of experience in planning great food-based events with us today.  These are the hot locavore tips, folks!

Congratulations! You took on NOFA-NY’s Locavore Challenge and are so excited about it that you’re planning a local food get-together.  Maybe it’s one of the Harvest Dinners–and you think you have a great chance at winning one of the prizes–maybe it’s a community event, a potluck, or an extra-special meal you’re planning on hosting for friends (like that all-one-ingredient party mentioned in Sunday’s Long Read).  Local food lovers are all starting to talk about these events and so should you!  They give you the opportunity to connect with a community of people who come from all walks of life but agree that food should be experiential and exciting and engaging and local.

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If you are eager to host an event this September, take the time to plan. It doesn’t have to cost you anything, but it will take time and patience to do it well. There are so many ways to make your event a success. These ten tips are ones I’ve developed over the last 12 years of hosting my International Dinners and a couple end-of-challenge potlucks, and will help eliminate the majority of your headaches, whether your party is four or one hundred and four.

  • Location: Pick a location that can handle changeable weather. It’s the end of September and New York is known for anything and everything weather. Snow squalls, thundershowers, 90 degrees and sultry, windy and icy cold? We’ve seen weather that can make your toes curl, and wouldn’t you know? It always seems to make an appearance just as your party gets started. So choose a place where you and your guests can dine in comfort. If it’s not your home, make sure you get permission and secure it on a calendar. A tailgater and potluck and baby shower happening in one location? Yes, and I’ve been there because I didn’t plan ahead. If it’s in a park, you will need a permit, which are inexpensive and very easy to secure.
  • Invitations: Paper invitations are quite lovely, but also consider your audience and the way you’re gathering information.  Either follow up with an e-mail or send an online invitation to start off.  This is an easy way to keep track of the head count. If you’re hosting a potluck, have the guests indicate which dish they’ll be bringing. This is a great way for both you and your guests to see what is being offered and what is still needed. It’s also a fantastic way of quickly answering questions, offering suggestions, and often can include a map and directions.
  • Food safety: Food can spoil fast. Consider chafers for hot foods and ice for cold foods. If you’re hosting a potluck, encourage your guests to bring dishes that do not need either. Otherwise, make sure you have enough space set aside in your kitchen, an oven or microwave, and plenty of refrigerator space.
  • Prep Ahead: Encourage your guests to prepare their dishes before they arrive so you don’t have to worry about providing cooking space.
  • Sharing: Have each of your guests bring enough of a dish for at least eight servings.  Request that they write a label with the name of the food and its ingredients so be set up with the food.  This is also a great way to have people display local-food pride!  They can label when something is a generations-old recipe, or when the main ingredients are organic and local!  Ask guests to bring more side dishes than desserts, and be sure at least one of the guests brings a salad.  For smaller parties, not everyone needs to bring a filling food.  Some extra-special pickles, condiments or sauces that complement the other dishes are quite welcome, and ensure that people leave feeling (slightly) less over-full.
  • Setting Up: Get an estimate at least three days before the party. Plan to rent, borrow, or ask guests to bring a few extra chairs and maybe even tables for your larger gatherings.
locavore spread staff inservice

Getting set up at a recent NOFA-NY staff potluck. A collection of dishes that we could serve at room temperature, and our collection of serving utensils at the end. We also boiled a big pot of water and enjoyed corn on the cob fresh from a staff member’s organic farm!

  • Serving and Layout: You can bet most of your guests will not remember to bring a serving spoon to go with their dish, I almost never remember and I’m always asking the host. Keep extras on hand. Organize the food layout with a definite beginning and ending. Set the plates, napkins and utensils at one end of the table near the food, so guests know where to line up. Start with the main dishes, then sides, then breads, and finally desserts. I recommend keeping beverages and glasses on a separate table.  If possible, set up a traffic flow that allows people to move down both sides of a table and still access the majority of foods.  If you’re serving a sit-down meal or a more intimate gathering, maybe keep a table to the side where extra dishes are to be kept.

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  • Glassware, Plates, and Silverware: Consider biodegradable and recyclable. Don’t forget you will need napkins, plates, spoons and forks. Guests tend to fill up whatever size plate they have, be it small or large. Go with a smaller plate (8 to 9 inches) so guests don’t overfill and waste food. They can always go back for seconds if they are hungry for more. [Editor’s two cents: We have a set of real plates that we use for NOFA-NY monthly staff potlucks and the occasional field day where we’ll serve food.  Our collection is entirely from thrift stores, which usually have very good prices on lightweight but durable sets of dishes and cutlery.  This is a worthwhile small investment for anyone who wants to regularly host meals, no last-minute trip to the store for biodegradable plates, which are probably more expensive than second-hand dishes after a few parties.  Cloth napkins also add an element of luxury to a meal, but that really depends on the size of your party.]SAMSUNG
  • Beverages and ice chests: So many others would ask their guests to bring a beverage along with their dish, but I can assure you, that’s a nightmare! Unless that’s their offering to the event, be sure to have water, teas, coffee on hand, and plenty of ice. All the other “stuff” can be an extra bonus. You do not want to have nothing but Kool-Aid like drinks because everyone left their organic ice tea or juices they made on their kitchen counter at home.
  • Cleanup: No one wants to clean up after a party, much less a big dinner, but it’s just as important as the prep was. Have plenty of trashcans and recycling bins available during the event, and plan some time at the end of the event to allow for cleanup. Make it a group effort. The fastest “cleaner-upper” could earn a prize of some sort, besides your adoration. [Editor’s tip: If someone is a last-minute guest or someone you know won’t have time to bring an edible contribution, they’ll probably welcome the chance to contribute by being the clean-up captain]

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Editor’s Ideas: While filling bellies is the main activity at an event like this, and though conversations will naturally flow once people sit together, don’t waste the potential of your event to really get people talking and building great locavore-positive moments.  Since this week’s theme is all about sharing stories, making friends and building community, perhaps you’ll think about a way to have people engage around locavorism at your event.  

  • As the host, make sure you introduce people with similar interests or roles within the food world.
  • Have some conversation-starters ready in case you need to break the ice.
  • Think of a quick introduction activity (could be as simple as having extra-large nametags and asking people to write their name AND their favorite September local food).
  • Print out some Locavore Challenge worksheets or interesting short articles on our food system and place them on tables, just in case people need a prop to start conversation.
  • Set up a photo-taking spot with some props and a backdrop (a bedsheet or some streamers will do).  Or do like Think Local Geneseo is doing with a laminated sign and dry-erase markers, where people write why they’re locavores.

Enjoy your Locavore party!  Thanks for being an example of local eating in your community!

Upcoming: Potluck at Glenwood Church (Long Island)

20 Sep

Sustainable Sea Cliff Cooperative along with Glenwood Arts and Slow Food Huntington are excited to host NOFA-NY’s 3rd Annual Locavore Challenge
and Potluck Across NY

Sunday September 30th –  5:30 PM
@ Glenwood Church
70 Grove Street, Glenwood Landing, NY 11547

Please join us for an evening of conviviality and lively discussion.
Topics will include our industrialized food system, GMO’s, fracking, our own community garden and how we can create and support a healthy, local food system.

For more information, please visit: www.seacliffcoop.org

Reports from Local-Food Celebrations this past Weekend

17 Sep

Nancy, our Finance and HR Manager, had a great time working at the NOFA-NY table at last weekend’s Greentopia EcoFest here in Rochester.  Here’s her summary:

We had a great day speaking to many Greentopia folks – and many people were interested in our support of organic farmers.  We handed out many of our fall newsletters and discussed the Locavore challenge to promote the purchase of locally grown food – yet another way to support New York state farmers and producers!

Speaking of Locavore- –the “food court” for Greentopia was filled with LOCAL foodies.  All of the food provided through these vendors met the Locavore Challenge – plus had to provide biodegradeable packaging to help lower the trash footprint left by the event.  Greentopia EcoFest integrated many industries focused on sustainable practices, so it went beyond food.  Information ranged from utilizing recycled or upcycled materials, alternative energy vehicles, methods for heating and cooling, as well as overall focus on biodegradable or no-waste generating products.

Megan, who came to EcoFest with Nancy, took a break in the middle of the food court to hula hoop. Looks like that potato farmer was entertained.

Rachel was able to be a guest at a farmer-forward event in Branchport, NY.  Stacey and John Grabski have been hosting their “Big Cook” event for 14 years now, and in the past few years they’ve held a dessert contest that benefits NOFA-NY.  Entrants paid a small amount and had their desserts judged (this year Rachel was one of four expert judges, and she used her vote to sway towards Locavore or seasonal-inspired entries).  Winners received a NOFA-NY Locavore goodie bag (thanks to many of our sponsors who donated their products), but NOFA-NY really won this one, receiving a generous donation from all the entrants plus the chance to expose even more people to their work and the Locavore lifestyle.  Aside from dessert, there was a very long buffet line that featured so many different local meats (including bison), corn and potatoes.  Wine and beer from the region were also served, and clearly this was the place to be if you were at all connected to farming at the northern end of Keuka lake.  The event also supports the local FFA with an auction–it got pretty rowdy.  It’s truly amazing how a single family with a great idea can effect change in their local farming scene.

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Brighton Town Supervisor Bill Moehle registering for the Challenge!

2 Sep

Brighton Town Supervisor Bill Moehle registering for the Challenge!

We saw lots of friendly faces in the crowd at Brighton Farmers’ Market (a favorite market for NOFA-NY HQ staff) today–and received close to 30 new registrations for the Locavore Challenge! Issues discussed: getting to the point of liking vegetables (getting self, husbands, children, etc. to like vegetables), taking the Challenge even if you’re already a locavore, dairy farming, Rochester’s prime location for local eating: fruit, veg, meat, eggs, dairy and grain all nearby!

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