Posts Tagged ‘local foods’

Turn Your Zucchini or Summer Squash Into “Pasta”

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014
Zucchini Spaghetti 2

Julienne slicer



Standard vegetable peeler



Large holed grater or microplane



Wide vegetable peeler



Serve uncooked as a salad….



… lightly sauteed and seasoned…



…or topped with your favorite pasta sauce.



Use your imagination!


Posted by Sylvia Hacker, Dona Ana Co. New Mexico EMG

National Farmer’s Market Week – August 5th to 11th

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Farmer’s Markets are in the news…

As an avid food gardener and Extension Master Gardener Volunteer, I love to visit and explore Farmer’s Markets.  I always find something new there! I posted a Wordless Wednesday: The Bounty of Summer – Farmer’s Markets, and also About Master Gardener Programs and Farmer’s Markets – Do You Volunteer? 

Then I discovered that August 5th to 11th was National Farmer’s Market Week as proclaimed by Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture. This was the thirteenth annual National Farmer’s Week and all across the country people celebrated fresh, local food and the farmer’s markets that make them available. Farmers’ markets have become an essential part of the local food system, increasing access to nutritious foods, educating consumers and bringing communities together through the many events held at local Farmer’s Markets.

Native Hill Farm at Larimer Farmer's Market
Native Hill Farm at Larimer Farmer’s Market – Photo courtesy of Larimer Farmer’s Market

Farmer’s Markets Experiencing Record Growth…

I visited my first Farmer’s Market in the 1980s in Grass Valley, CA. Their Farmer’s Market was held in the Nevada County Fairground’s parking lot shaded by towering pines. The market was only two rows of pick-up trucks where farmers sold their fruits and vegetables out of the back of trucks but I remember the air of festivity and bustling purpose as people lined up in front of their favorite vendors or for a particular crop in season – like the long line in front of the tomato man. Although it was only a dirt parking lot, the space was filled with happy noisy people as we shopped for our families, visited with friends and neighbors and chatted with farmers. Since then, the popularity of farmers’ markets has grown steadily. In a report released this August, the Agriculture Deputy Secretary, Kathleen Merrigan, announced a 9.6% increase in Farmer’s Market Directory listings for 2012. Last year (2011) more than 1,000 new farmers’ markets were reported across the country – a whopping 17% growth. The Directory now lists over 7,800 farmers’ markets operating in the US.

Top 10 States for Farmer’s Markets…

What's a farmer's market without beautiful flowers?

What's a farmer's market without flowers? Photo courtesy of Larimer Farmer's Market

The states that top the charts for the number of Farmer’s Markets listed in the USDA Directory were: California (827 markets), New York (647 markets), Massachusetts (313 markets), Michigan (311 markets), Wisconsin (298 markets), Illinois (292 markets), Ohio (264 markets), Pennsylvania (254 markets), Virginia and Iowa (tied with 227 markets) and North Carolina (202 markets). Together these states account for 49% of the farmers markets listed the directory.

With over 46 million people on food assistance, the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service which administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program), has made farmers’ markets accessible to their recipients too. In 2011, more than $11.7 million in SNAP benefits were redeemed in one year, a 52% increase! This means more needy families have access to fresh, local produce than ever before.

Farmer’s Markets are a Dynamic Part of Local Economies…

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition says the surge in consumer demand for organically-produced food and agricultural products from local and regional markets is an important incentive for the growth of farmer’s markets.

Bernadine Prince, President of the Farmers Market Coalition said, “Farmers markets are the ultimate green sector of the economy. They are stand-out successes in spurring sustainable economic development.” She also said that farmers’ markets act as small farm incubators, stimulate entrepreneurship and nourish both rural and urban economies.

So in addition to being purveyors of fresh cuisine, Farmer’s Markets are also a significant part of the local economy, bringing produce to residents and restaurants alike, offering specialty varieties that can’t be found in local grocery stores. Here in North Carolina we also have a 10% program which encourages people to spend 10 % of their food dollars locally – maybe at a farmer’s market or roadside vegetable stand.

Fresh Discoveries at Farmer’s Markets…

As an Extension Master Gardener who likes to grow some of my own vegetables, I enjoy trying some of the new varieties found at the Farmer’s Market. Last year I discovered Cubanelle peppers (sweet peppers). They were outstanding – they took the heat and humidity, lack of water and insects and still produced so heavily that I had to prop the plants up – that’s my kind of vegetable! This year I discovered Armenian cucumbers. Last fall I learned from a grower how to use or cook giant sweet potatoes – the ones that had grown to 8 pounds or more. There’s always something new to learn or be discovered at the Farmer’s Market.  That’s why Farmer’s Markets are not only places where Extension Master Gardener’s can help the public,  but they can also be places for us to make new discoveries and new connections.

What are some of your favorite Farmer’s Market discoveries?

Master Gardeners at Clayton Farmer's Market, NC

Master Gardeners at Clayton Farmer's Market, NC - Photo courtesy Johnston County Extension

by Connie Schultz, Extension Master Gardener/Composter (Cornell ‘95) currently serving in Johnston County, NC

The Giving Garden, Part 2: Planning, Managing, and Sustaining the Giving Garden of Over 15 Years

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

As I mentioned in my last blog on the history of the Giving Garden, many volunteers and partners work to plan, prepare, manage and sustain the Giving Garden of over 15 years.

Work begins each spring as early as weather allows and ends when harvest has been completed. The garden is prepared for winter, usually early November. Our committee of Master Gardener Coordinators meets three times during the winter to plan for the next season. Past season activities, planting and harvest are reviewed and adjustments are made where necessary.

Coming up with practical planting plans

One of the hardest things we have to do is to control our enthusiasm so we don’t plant more than we are able to manage! Here are the nuts and bolts of how we put together our planting plan:

  • We currently plant 1.8 acres of the approximately 5 acre area.
  • We also have sixteen 25′ x 30′ plots for private or personal gardens that are offered to community residents. Employees of the companies whose land we use have priority.
  • We use a computer generated planting guide, developed by one of our coordinators, that dictates where everything is to be planted and how much (see fig 1).
  • Taking plant families into consideration, the planting guide insures proper crop rotation.  Using our plan, crops cycle every three years. Some areas are allowed to go fallow and cover crops are planted to help recondition the soil and add nutrients. The planting guide also allows us to better estimate the number of seeds and bedding plants that we will have to order. All seeds and plants that we need are donated by local merchants.

Below is Figure 1, a picture of the computer generated planting plan. A larger version can be downloaded as a PDF here> 2011 Humphrey – Kendall Master Gardener_GivingGarden_Kalamazoo.


Planting Plan for the Humphrey-Kendall Vegetable Garden

Planting Plan for the Humphrey-Kendall Vegetable Garden

How the work gets done

Planting the Giving Garden

Planting the Giving Garden (Photo: JC Schneider)

As soon as the ground can be worked, a local farmer plows and disks the garden for us and spreads the fertilizer. After work begins, we have five three-hour work sessions scheduled each week. We get an average of 10 volunteers per shift, some work as many as three shifts, others lesser amounts. Two coordinators are assigned to each shift to assign duties, instruct where necessary and oversee volunteer activities. All volunteers sign in so we can monitor the number of volunteers and how much time they give to the project. The work includes cultivating, planting, mulching, weeding, and harvesting vegetables, as well as maintaining the garden equipment and keeping the area mowed and well groomed.

Following each shift, one of the coordinators prepares a “Garden Log” that is emailed to all coordinators. The log documents the volunteers present at that shift, what was accomplished, and what needs to be done by the next shift. A notes section is used for general information. The log allows the coordinators for the following shift to prepare ahead of time for what needs to be done and servers as “diary” that documents activity for the year which helps us plan for the next season. The logs also serve as historical documentation for the project.

Controlling the Weeds – Mulch

We mulch our entire garden to help control weeds. We have a win-win agreement with the city to provide our mulch. They deliver around 250 cubic yards of compressed leaves each fall. We get the leaves for mulch, and the city saves time and gasoline by not having to drive to their landfill which is much further away than our garden.

Delivery leaves for mulch

Delivering leaves for mulch. Mulch is used to control the weeds (Photo: JC Schneider)

On site Storage

We have two sheds on site to store equipment. One shed belonged to Humphrey Products. In 2010 we constructed a 10’x16’ wood-framed shed for additional storage. Garden equipment includes a small 25-year-old tractor, walk-behind rototillers, and hand tools that have been donated over the years. This equipment has allowed us to enlarge the area cultivated, increase productivity, and improve the quality of the harvest. Mechanical equipment has contributed to increased output and decreased sweat equity, always welcome enhancements.

Giving Garden Shed

Giving Garden Shed (Photo: JC Schneider)

Harvest at the Giving Garden

When harvest begins, vegetables are picked, washed and or wiped, placed in boxes and weighed. The Food Bank picks up the harvest in refrigerated trucks for delivery to their warehouse. The frequency of pickups is coordinated with the Food Bank based on the amount of vegetables ready for harvest.

On Saturday, the harvest (up to 100 lbs) is picked up by the Ministries for Community, for local use. Our harvest has ranged from 15 to over 22 thousand pounds since 2006. Variation is caused mostly by weather conditions and pests. 2010 was our best year, producing 22,502 lbs. That included 9,879 lbs of tomatoes, 2,500 lbs of cucumbers and 1,700 lbs of winter squash. This past year our total was 17,312.

Cleaning and Boxing Vegetables

Cleaning and Boxing Vegetables (Photo: JC Schneider)

Following is a list of the vegetables we grow at the Giving Garden:

  • Snap Beans (Green & Yellow)
  • Pole Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Egg Plant
  • Cucumber (Slicers & Pickle varieties)
  • Peppers (Sweet and Hot)
  • Tomatoes (Slicers & Roma’s)
  • Pumpkins (Pie and Jack-O-Lantern)
  • Squash (Summer & Winter varieties)
  • Cabbage
  • Collard Greens
  • Kale
  • Okra
  • Turnips
  • Potatoes (Red & White Skin)
  • Tomatillos
  • Muskmelon
  • Watermelon

-Blog post article submitted by JC Schneider
Kalamazoo Michigan Extension Master Gardener

The Giving Garden, Part 1: The History of Sustainable Volunteer-Led Garden Project

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Editors note: This story about the Giving Garden, a Kalamazoo Master Gardener volunteer-led project, was submitted by JC Schneider a Kalamazoo County,  Michigan Extension Master Gardener. This is the first of several posts where JC shares the story of the Giving Garden and how Master Gardener volunteers and partnerships with local businesses and organizations have sustained the Giving Garden for over 15 years.  When I asked JC to share what was most interesting and unique to him about this project he replied:

One of the most interesting things about being involved with this project, is that this is the only project I have ever been a part of, run by a committee, that works, and it works well.

Thus this blog post will be followed by two other blogs posts with details of how the Giving Garden has sustained it’s efforts and provided rich learning opportunities over the years. Through these blog posts about the Giving Garden, I hope you’ll be able to take away some “nuggets of wisdom’ from what the Kalamazoo Master Gardener have shared through these posts, or perhaps share some of your own insights about sustainable garden projects via the comments section below.

– Karen Jeannette, eXtension Consumer Horticulture Content Coordinator

How The Giving Garden Began

Mike Blakely,

Mike Blakely, Kalamazoo County Master Gardener, planted the seed for this volunteer project. (Photo: JC Schneider)

From the late 70s through the early 90s, Mike Blakely, a local Master Gardener and retiree, was asked to judge personal gardens grown by employees of Humphrey Products, a local maker of small machine parts, on land the company owned. They awarded a prize each year to the employee judged to have the best garden.

In the mid nineties, the economy was good and interest in gardening waned. By the late nineties, gardening on the property ceased altogether.

Mike requested permission from the company to garden a portion of the land.  He proposed donating the vegetables harvested to Loaves and Fishes, a local organization that provides food for those in need via 26 local pantries and kitchens in the Kalamazoo area.  Humphrey Products generously agreed to provide the land and water for irrigation. Water lines had been installed by the company for use by employee gardeners. It was then that Mike “planted the seed” of this volunteer garden project.

Growing the Garden through people, plants, and partnerships

Mike gathered a few Master Gardener volunteers and in 1997, the project began. The garden has matured over time; the area cultivated has grown, as well as the amount and varieties of vegetables planted. In addition, efforts to teach young people to garden were added to the plan.

Our harvest has improved and the number of volunteers has increased significantly. Coordinated by Mike until 2008, when he thought it was time to “retire” at 84 years young, the garden is now overseen by a core group of nine volunteer Master Gardener “Coordinators” consisting primarily of retirees from a wide range of professions including scientists, a physics professor, a fireman, a schoolteacher, and others. Additionally, some 60 people, mostly Master Gardeners, volunteer various amounts of their time to the garden each year.

In 2006, our production exceeded Loaves and Fishes capacity so we made arrangements with the Food Bank of South Central Michigan to have them distribute our vegetables. The Food Bank serves an eight county area serving over 200 organizations that provide fresh, healthy, locally grown food.

Community and Volunteers Make the Giving Garden Possible

Spring Plow

Spring Plow (Photo: JC Schneider)

Without the help we get from the community and all our volunteers, this project would not be possible. In 2008, Humphrey Products sold much of the land we were gardening to Kendall Electric. When Kendall realized what we were doing on that property, they supported us 100% and along with Humphrey, have been wonderful partners. Humphrey supplies all the water for irrigation, Kendall donated money for a new top of the line rototiller to replace our two 35 year old models.

Donations as well as fundraisers, held by the Kalamazoo County Master Gardeners, help fund the garden. A local radio station included us in a fundraiser; the money donated was used to build our new shed. The Food Bank also helps with expenses. We cannot thank the community, local businesses, Michigan State University Extension and all the Master Gardeners enough for helping to make the seed that Mike Blakely planted 15 years ago grow into a project that benefits so many people, much like Jack and his beanstalk.

-Blog post article submitted by JC Schneider
Kalamazoo Michigan Extension Master Gardener

A Few Words About Local Foods and the Connection to Extension Master Gardeners

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Attending Two Events Focused on the Local Food Movement

Local Foods from CSA

Local foods from CSA (Photo attribution: Flickr-whitneyinchicago)

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had the chance to attend two events that largely focused on the Local Food Movement.

Annual Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) Conference

For those of you who aren’t familiar with CFSA, it is an organization of North and South Carolina farmers, gardeners, and consumers formed more than 30 years ago to promote local, sustainable agriculture. This year’s conference was held in Durham and drew 1,300 attendees. In addition to sessions ranging from seed saving and season extension to mob grazing and mushroom cultivation, the conference offered an opportunity to tour local farms in the surrounding counties.

One of the stops on the tour we joined was the Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro. CCCC is nationally known for its emphasis on sustainable agriculture and technologies, and already offers associate degrees in green buildings and green technologies, as well as sustainable agriculture. But one of the new programs that caught our attention was the Natural Chef Culinary Program. This program teaches the culinary arts, but with an emphasis on sustainability, nutrition, and whole foods. It started out as a continuing education curriculum but has been so popular that it will become a full-fledged degree program this Fall.

The Program operates a café onsite offering lunches and one dinner a week, with meals prepared from, according to Head Chef Greg Hamm, “98% local ingredients”. They served us a lunch of roasted free-range chicken, sweet potato fingerlings, two types of salad, and fresh-baked bread that was delicious.

Half-day workshop on Creating a Local Food System in Wake, Co.

The second event was a half-day workshop sponsored by Wake County and AHA (Advocates for Health in Action), on Creating a Local Food System in Wake County. The workshop brought together farmers, food brokers, restauranteurs, health professionals, teachers, healthy food advocates, and food writers to discuss ways to improve access to, and distribution of, locally-grown food and create public demand.

So, what’s the connection from these two events to Master Gardeners?

Butternut Beet Soup

Butternut Beet Soup (Photo courtesy: Foy Spicer)

For both of these events, the key finding was the importance of education: educating chefs-in-training of the importance of sustainable practices, educating consumers on the health and environmental benefits of local food, and educating families that good nutrition is the best defense against childhood obesity.

As educators who deal with the public on a daily basis, Master Gardeners are uniquely situated to actively promote these initiatives through our work with community gardening programs, farmers market events, growing workshops, demonstration gardens and youth horticulture. Keep up the good work. And the next time you’re in Pittsboro, stop by the CCCC for lunch. Tell them Farmer Bob sent you.


–Bob Kellam, Wake County, North Carolina farmer and the current president of the North Carolina Master Gardener Volunteer Association (NCMGVA).

This article originally appeared in the NCMGVA Winter 2011 Newsletter

2011 Search for Excellence Community Service Award Winners- 1st Place

Monday, November 14th, 2011

Seed2Need- The Corrales Food Pantry Project- Sandoval County, NM

The Sandoval County, New Mexico Master Gardeners received the first place award in the Community Service Category at the International Master Gardener conference in October in West Virginia.

Master Gardeners transplant tomato seedlings to go into the garden.

Seed2Need is a collaborative effort between the Sandoval County Master Gardeners (SCMG) and local property owners.  Our mission is to address hunger in our community by growing fresh produce for our local food pantries. Participating property owners provide the land, electricity and irrigation water.  SCMG volunteers make up our core group of volunteers.

Volunteers address hunger issues in  their communities

We also receive help from friends, neighbors, family members, scout troops, 4-H, church groups, private individuals and from several food pantries.  Funding is donated by local businesses.  In order to make these donations tax deductable, Seed2Need was organized as a project under the fiscal sponsorship of an existing non-profit.  Crops are selected based on interviews with the food pantries, nutritional value, productivity and length of harvest.

In 2011, 45,200 lbs of produce donated to food pantries

One days harvest ready to go to the local food pantry.

In 2010, we grew 30,700 pounds of  produce on 8/10 acre.  In 2011,  our gardens were expanded to 1 1/2 acres and our total harvest was 45,200 pounds.  During peak harvest, we donated produce to ten food pantries in Sandoval and Bernalillo Counties.

According to a recent Census Bureau report, New Mexico ranks 2nd in the nation in terms of poverty and 5th in terms of food insecurity.  51% of our food pantries report turning people away to lack of food.  Federal and state funding has been cut and charitable contributions are down 8% nationwide. Hunger is a serious problem in our country. The need is great… and as Master Gardeners, we can help . . . one garden at a time.


For more information, e-mail or see Facebook page Seed2Need

Written by Pamela Davis, Sandoval County New Mexico Master Gardener