I grew up visiting the local grange in the small town of Los Olivos, California. The lawn outside was always abuzz with activity. Picnic tables were laden with potlucks, babies lounged on blankets, and streamers were flying high. It was the place where everything in our town happened, at least that’s how it always seemed to me. We went to the grange to see films, attend dances, and sit through my parents’ boring grownup meetings. There was a close-knit spirit of support, collaboration, and family that I rarely see anymore. Read more
If you meander down the DIY road long enough, you will end up doing things that are far from easy or convenient. You stop thinking about the time it takes to complete a project and begin focusing on the value to the end result, liker the integrity in knowing that your entire dinner can be traced back to your own property. Part of the DIY thrill is that the steps encourage you to keep digging deeper. What starts one year as a nice gift to your neighbors of dried, home grown herbs might result in the decision to add salt crystals you harvested from local seawater to the next batch.
When it comes to baking, the next DIY frontier is grinding whole grains into flour. Read more
The U.S. maple syrup season ended around Easter this year, making it short and sweet. A long, cold winter in New England prohibited the right combination of freeze and thaw that maple trees need to let their sap flow until March; even when they did flow, they were off to a slow start. Read more
Many of us will ante up the extra dollar or two for sustainable food, or food that we believe closes the gap between producer and consumer, knowing that where we spend our money has power. But how does that approach apply to the other things we consume? Read more
Thirty-four years ago the very first EcoFarm conference took place in Winters, CA. It was called “To Husband, The Earth” and was the brainchild of Amigo Bob Cantisano. At the time, he was running the only organic farm supply company and thought it would be valuable to create an event for farmer friends to gather. So he sent out a mailing and 45 people showed up for a big potluck. Read more
I’m writing this as my parents and my in-laws are about to descend upon our tiny household for Thanksgiving. This is the first year we are hosting and my husband’s parents decided to make the trek from upstate New York for the occasion and to bond with our 15-month-old daughter before she becomes a teenager. Read more
If you’re up on sustainable farming, chances are good that you’ve heard of The Greenhorns. But, if by some chance you have not, let me fill you in. The non-profit organization was founded in 2007 by Severine von Tscharner Fleming with the primary goal of promoting and supporting the young farmer movement in America. Their first project, the eponymous documentary The Greenhorns brought attention to the plight of young farmers and introduced viewers to a myriad of grassroots endeavors. Through new media production, events, publications, workshops, and actual farming, The Greenhorns aim to organize, build, and bring attention to a network of budding agrarians. I’m happy to report that the latest Greenhorns project has arrived and it’s an impressive body of work that deserves some attention. The 2013 New Farmer’s Almanac is an adventure. Read more
Of all the life changes that having a baby brings on, perhaps the most pivotal is that it makes you examine what would happen to this new little being if you were suddenly gone. Our own mortality is abruptly mirrored back to us with the entrance of offspring, so some of us sign up for life insurance, talk about creating trust accounts, or set up legal documents and wills. I think that to truly take care of our children and create a stronger sense of security, separate from the paperwork and bureaucracy, parents need to take care of themselves first. And there is no better time like the fresh spring season to start. Luckily, we have Rebecca Katz’s newest book, The Longevity Kitchen , to guide us. Read more
It’s hard to believe, but this year marks the third annual Good Food Awards, in which American food producers are celebrated and recognized for their work towards responsibly crafted and delicious edibles. The 2013 finalists in nine categories: beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, confections (new addition!), pickles, preserves and spirits were announced at the end of November, and will gather at a gala awards ceremony coming up at the Ferry Building in San Francisco on January 18th. The following day, all of the winners will present their goods at a bustling Marketplace, an exclusive chance for the public to access this bevy of products in one place. Read more
Before Whole Foods, Martha Stewart and Anthropologie got wind of Anarchy In a Jar, Laena McCarthy’s jam, jelly and preserves company was simply a way to put her passion into practice. She grew up watching her mom can food, and then in college, made the connection between those early impressions of DIY sustainability with a new curiosity for food politics.
A botched batch of strawberry jam eventually led to launching her own company in 2009, amidst what McCarthy describes in her new cookbook, Jam On, as “a food-production renaissance blossoming in Brooklyn.” Perhaps it was luck, as she says, or perhaps her key to success is her innovative ingredient combinations, sourcing directly from small farms, or choosing to recreate recipes with less sugar than usual. What began as a revolutionary idea against the norm, to share with the public pure, concentrated, clean flavors, is today flourishing from coast to coast. Although somewhat ironic, from “anarchy” to popularity, the wide approval is a heartening sign that the consumer is primed for knowing more about where their food comes from. And in this case, that food happens to be quite delicious. Read more