Tag Archives: locavore

Making a Locavore Community, One College Student at a Time

17 Sep

Editor’s Note: I asked Madeline Smith to write from her personal experience about the great way she decided take action on behalf of local organic food and farming, which fit too perfectly into this week’s blogging theme.  Maddy’s work has a primary impact on the ground in Geneseo, but secondary potential to inspire each reader to consider ways and means they each have to boost the farm-to-table connections in their communities.  Thanks, Maddy, for sharing your project’s top objectives and inspiring us to think about how we can make an impact beyond our kitchens and backyards!

As a second-year NOFA-NY intern I, Maddy Smith, learned most things I know about local organic lifestyles and food just from being at this place, working with the Locavore Challenge and field days.  My lunchtime peanut butter and banana sandwich, eaten alongside avid gardeners and CSA members at lunch, would be a prime example of where I started with locavorism (editor’s note: nobody on NOFA-NY staff is judgmental toward others’ lunches, though we try to encourage each other to embrace local and organic eating.  Maddy’s sandwich choice may have remained constant over the years, but I have it on good authority she’s sourcing local bread and locally-produced nut butters).  In June 2012, I was under the assumption that organic was good and local was Wegmans.  To no one’s surprise – not even my own – I was wrong.  Those boxes of organic cereal, pita chips, and organic mixed greens that I piously bought weren’t homegrown (well, not near my home), though their manufacturers successfully marketed them to appear as such. Sure, they were somewhat tasty, but not in the multi-faceted way that homemade bread, granola, and dirt-covered beets are; the supermarket organic packaged foods were an attempt to bring the feel-good feeling of local, from 3,000 miles away.

And that’s the mindset that I’m trying to debunk and expose, right here in upstate New York at the State University of New York (SUNY) College at Geneseo, my future alma mater, and current home. The college rewarded me with a hefty grant, or ambassadorship, to bring a local foods program to the community. With the help of a newly formed Local Food Council comprised of students, faculty, and community members, I’ll have much help, and can ensure that the program lasts after I (hopefully) graduate in May.

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An overhead shot of SUNY Geneseo in the heart of the Genesee Valley

The project is called Think Local Geneseo, and it involves three parts:

  1. Increasing student and community participation in direct-market agriculture like the Geneseo Farmers Market and facilitating a partnership between Geneseo’s Campus Auxiliary Services and a Rochester food subscription/delivery group called the Good Food Collective to provide shares for students, faculty and community members
  2. Encouraging a large percentage of local foods in the college’s dining services, which will be further promoted through the Local Food Council’s participation in Food Day, part of the national Real Food Challenge
  3. Organizing events in Geneseo, including college-community cooking classes, a Locavore dinner, and local food speakers. Oh yes – and tabling for the Locavore Challenge, of course547097_715530565130453_1210342970_n

I know – it sounds like a lot! Put another way, we are interested in getting people to eat local organic food, to understand and appreciate where their food originated, and building relationships between the community and its surrounding farmland. At Geneseo, we have everything we need for a local foods program to thrive: curious students, like myself; the lush agriculture of New York State, especially in the Rochester region; knowledgeable and supportive faculty; and a vibrant community already playing host to a weekly farmers market. What we don’t have is someone, something, tying all of these components together.

That’s where I come in. Consider me the “ambassador” of local foods in Geneseo, NY. You see, Through my small and hopefully high-impact creation, I aim to increase local consumption in the town of Geneseo and show people the benefit of supporting local and/or organic farmers, while also transcending the boundary that exists between the college and the community. It’s through places like the farmers market, produce share drop-off days, and local food cooking classes and dinners that this can happen. College students can embrace the town that plays host to them for eight months, and the community can appreciate the students as they loosen their grip on the stereotype of college students that pinpoints them as junk-food eaters, night crawlers and mailbox destroyers.

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A summer shot of a Thursday at the Geneseo Farmers market

It’s a project that involves a lot of planning, coordination, and self-motivation, as this is a completely self-directed pursuit. It takes confidence to implement a completely new program for a whole town, without having a single clue as to how it will pan out; while hoping for the best, I do have some self-doubt sometimes. When that happens, I reach out to others for support, like key students and professors who will provide apt feedback, along with community members who can lend many hands. Fortunately, as this is a food-based project, I can also turn to Geneseo’s dining services for help.  Dining services’ Executive Director is the force behind the grant, not to mention the brains behind the cooking classes and dinners. With support from New York State organic producers like Once Again Nut Butter, and donations from small businesses in Geneseo, I have high hopes for the fall and the 2013 Locavore Challenge, and what it promises for Geneseo and small farmers alike.

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I’m slowly realizing that I have a bundle of local food and farming information and resources that will be valuable to others who are eager to learn, and to those who already know: NOFA-NY folks, farmers, and leaders of the sustainable food movement included, who will all reap the benefits of each fresh Locavore to add to the growing list. Follow along with Think Local Geneseo, and share the Locavore Love!

For more examples of college-level farm-to-school initiatives, check out: Winter Sun Farms connects to area colleges, Skidmore College local foods initiative, Cornell Dining defines local and regional food items, Emory University’s sustainable food initiative, Local Food to Local Institutions pamphlet (free download)

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A “Live with the Parents” Locavore Musing

29 Sep

A guest blog post by our intern Kim:

I’m not extraordinarily proud of it, but like many college graduates these days (or so I tell myself), I have moved back home with my parents. Moving home certainly wasn’t my first choice, but after obtaining an unpaid internship at the NOFA-NY headquarters near my Rochester-suburb hometown of Honeoye Falls, moving home seemed like a good option. And, come to think of it, the only real downfall has been the reentrance of sister-clothes-sharing-related problems into my life.

The upsides to living at home are many. Most notably, free food. And, since the beginning of this month, a definite upside has been sharing the Locavore experience with my family. I’d say we’ve always been about middle of the road when it comes to family meals- we eat together several nights a week, but certainly don’t stick around for a family game night. However, the combination of locavore month and my guilt about living parasitically off of my family without pitching in financially has led me to help out by taking the reins when it comes to cooking dinner.

I never cooked much before college, or even thought about food much for that matter. But when I began to learn about the food system in various courses, anything relating to food, organics, health, and agriculture really began to catch my attention. And, I met some great people in college who could really cook. Like most people, I could always make a few simple things, but I never really got to experiment with cooking until I moved back home this summer.

Having more local ingredients in the house and ingredients from our garden has basically led to a large increase in the number of fresh vegetables we have laying around at any time. This has changed the way I cook because it has allowed me to tryout dishes that I would never have thought of cooking from scratch before. For example, one of my favorite comfort foods is grilled cheese and tomato soup. I’ve always used the typical canned Campbell’s tomato soup for this. However, when I was craving it last week, we were basically drowning in tomatoes from our garden, so I decided to make home-made tomato soup- which I really had no idea how to make, but it ended up being delicious!! I added ingredients that I liked, and some things from our garden- like green peppers and chives- and a lot more onion than the recipe called for. The difference from a can of Campbell’s soup was extraordinary. I liked my soup because it was unique!

I have four sisters, and it is definitely nice to be known now as ‘the one who can cook.’ And, I love the feeling of cooking for my family- especially when they enjoy it, which they most often do!

A Taste of NY Wines

28 Sep

A guest blog post by Erin Brind’Amour, Tasting Room Manager-New YorkWine & Culinary Center

Four days ago New York’s newest winery, A Gust of Sun Winery & Vineyard, opened their doors to the public with a grand opening celebration. This marks winery number 309 (and counting) for New York State and there is only more to come. In recent years, the wine industry has seen tremendous growth and a surge of new wineries, putting New York State on the map as a World Class Wine Region. Just like the famous European regions of Germany, Champagne and Burgundy, New York is considered a cool climate wine area producing award winning wines with high acid and lots of complexity, making them extremely food-friendly. There are five official wine regions (also know as American Viticulture Areas) that grow more than 35 varieties of grapes and produce wines that range from bone dry to lusciously sweet. In fact, New York makes more varieties of wines than almost any other wine region in the world, so there is a wine for every taste out there.

Riesling is one of the most award-winning wines for New York State and is the ‘signature’ grape of the Finger Lakes Region. With extreme versatility in styles, Riesling is typically crisp and refreshing with lively acidity and flavors and aromas of peaches, honey and flowers. One of the best wines to pair with food, Riesling is wonderful with chicken, pork, seafood, dessert, and spicy foods. You won’t go wrong with a Riesling from Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, Paumanok Vineyards, Mazza Chautauqua Cellars, Red Newt Cellars or Anthony Road Wine Company. Of course, these are just a few examples and with the majority of wineries producing at least one style of Riesling, you are bound to find something you will enjoy. Another grape varietal that has gained recent recognition and popularity in New York is Cabernet Franc. A traditional grape grown in the Bordeaux region of France, Cabernet Franc thrives in a cooler climate and displays red fruit, spice and pepper aromas and flavors. A great compliment to food such as strong cheeses, pasta dishes (red sauce), and heavier meats, like beef and lamb. Swedish Hill Winery, Atwater Estate Vineyard and Palaia Vineyards all produce a phenomenal Cabernet Franc.

In addition to Riesling and Cabernet Franc, New York State produces other European varieties such as Chardonnay and Merlot, Sparkling wine, Ice Wine, Fruit Wine, and various Hybrids and Natives, as well. There is truly something out there for every taste and budget. When it comes to pairing wine with food, you just need to remember two things, local food pairs with local wine (they are a match made in heaven), and drink what you like! Don’t worry about following any rules or making a wrong pairing, all that matters is you like what you (and your guests) have in your glass. Even more important, drinking locally not only supports the wineries, but the grape growers and farmers, local store owners, local organizations and boosts your local economy. Next time you are in your local wine shop, think twice about the cheap imported wine you may be interested in purchasing. With a few more dollars spent, you will not only find something much higher quality, but be supporting your neighbor, as well.

Home Composting De-mystified

18 Sep

Home Composting De-mystified

A guest blog post by our friend, Karen S. Klingenberger.  Consumer Horticulture Educator, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Monroe County.

Why don’t more people try home composting? Some publications make it sound like a science experiment and that can put people off.  But really – Compost HAPPENS – so home composting is simply us doing our best to imitate nature and perhaps speed up the process a bit. Fall is the perfect time of year to get those yard and kitchen wastes started toward creating a wonderful soil amendment.

 Here are the basics:

Select a location in your yard that will be convenient for you (so that you will actually USE it) and away from your neighbor’s view (so that they won’t complain about it.) Decide if you want a plain old pile or would prefer to use a bin.  Bins can be as simple as a length of snow-fencing fastened into a circle or as elaborate as a three-bin turning system.  Plastic commercial units can be found in home improvement stores or on-line, but these tend to be too small for the average gardener.  Keep in mind that whatever you choose should ideally be at least a yard in diameter in order to retain heat.

This time of year, you can start the pile with fallen leaves or other ‘brown’ materials such as straw, twigs or even newspaper (not glossy).  If you can shred these materials with a shredder or mower, they will break down faster.

Mix in the ‘green’ materials – grass clippings, spent garden plants, fruit and vegetable peels or cores.  No cooked foods, dairy products or meat so you don’t attract rodents – but tea leaves, coffee grounds and eggshells are fine.  Again, the smaller the pieces, the faster they’ll ‘cook’.

Three bags of brown material to one bag of green has been suggested as the best ratio, but really it’s hard to do it wrong.   Add water while you’re adding materials.  The micro-organisms and insects need water and air to keep working.  You’re looking for the materials to be about as moist as a wrung-out sponge.

Turn the contents occasionally with a garden fork (once every month or two would do) to add air and add more water at that time if the contents seem dry. The more you work your pile, the faster you will make compost!  You’ll know your compost is “finished” when you can’t identify any original material in the pile.

Compost piles get a bad rap that they smell bad.  If they do, it’s because they don’t have enough air. Turn it to get more air inside the pile.  A pile that has a good mixture of brown plus green, and air plus water will not smell bad – it should smell like fresh earth. 

How will you use your finished compost? Add it to your sandy soil to help it retain water.  Add it to your clay soil to help it drain better.  Add it to your perfect soil to make it even more perfect!  There is no soil that will not benefit from the addition of compost.  I add compost to my vegetable beds every fall after harvest and use it to make new gardens.

In September I created a 4’x8’ raised bed and filled it entirely with the contents of a 3’x3’ bin that has been working since last fall. I will cover the bed with leaves sometime in October and in the spring I expect to have nice friable soil in which to grow more vegetables.  I didn’t have to purchase soil from an unknown source or dig it up from another part of my yard. And since I made the compost myself, I know exactly what went into it.  Now that’s real peace of mind!

You can easily turn your organic waste into a FREE soil amendment and use it with pride!  For more information, call our CCE Gardening Helpline at 473-5335, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to noon.  Information on building compost bins can be found at: http://www.mycce.org/Monroe/ click on Horticulture then Home Gardening then Factsheets.

The Eldest Locavores

13 Sep

A post from Lea about the octagenarian locavores in her life. 

Last year I posted about the “Littlest Locavore,” my best-friends daughter.  This year, I seem to have the opposite thought in mind with my post the “Eldest Locavores.”

On Labor Day my mother and I paid a visit my great-aunt Laura who is 83 years old and was hosting my grandfather (87), my great-uncle Tony (85), and my great-aunt Alice (89) for an early supper.  After about thirty minutes of my Aunt Laura and my grandfather convincing the other two octagenarians that they have indeed met me before (at least twice a year for 30+ years), and repeating my age (32) six times we settled into a five course “light supper” my Aunt Laura (again aged 83) whipped up for us all.  Since I already had to explain my own existence, I was prepared to have to explain in detail what it is exactly that I do for work, and why it was that I was eating certain things (the local foods) and not others.  I showed the aging crew a video on my phone of my recent TV interview about the Locavore Challenge and showed them a write up in the paper earlier that week.  Somehow, the great-aunts and uncles were familiar with the concept of streaming the internet over a phone and even Facebook, but were still doubting my existence up until this supper. 

But after the fascination of my new-found existence was settled, my great-uncle, aunts and grandfather told my mother and I about their father’s (my great-grandfather’s) urban farm in the 20’s and 30’s in Rochester.  My grandfather was one of 11 first generation children of Portugese immigrants and they grew up in a very poor Rochester neighborhood.  My great-grandfather and his then young crew of urban farmers (grandfather and siblings) rode the bus each day armed with farming tools.  They had an approximately ½ acre plot at which they grew a myriad of vegetables (surely organic back then), and according to my aunt-nothing as delicious or enjoyable as a fruit (or anything sweet for that matter).  They ate mostly from their urban farm, the bounty of which they also carried home daily on the bus, and  the occasional chicken.  Despite their gaping memories of most of the early 21st century, my grandfather and his siblings have vivid memories of each and every vegetable they grew, where the plot was, and even went to the point of drawing my mother and I a crude farm plot map of how the plantings were laid out. 

I have always laid blame to the longevity and increased craziness of my older family members to just good ‘ole Portugese genes, but I am now beginning to think that maybe the early days of urban farming and a mostly plant based, local and organic diet are what keeps them living so long into their 80’s, even if the are a bit wacky-though I am pretty sure that really is genetic.

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