local foods

Is It PawPaw Time Already?

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                            This is a pawpaw →

 

It’s a delicious fruit with a flavor best described as mango-meets-banana.
It’s native to North America, a tropical fruit that grows in a temperate zone, and is found in 26 of the United States.

1024px-Seal_of_Ohio.svg

 

 

The pawpaw is the official state fruit of Ohio.

 

 

09-pawpaw1←It’s celebrated in festivals

It has its own song→Paw Paw Patch

and a lovable mascot ↓

pawpawman_wide-d3e709cc9a5abbfce70181dbf55f41d35a8609db-s6-c30and a queen ↓526e682153cfd.image

So why have you never had one?

It’s because farmers can’t figure out pawpaw harvesting9-2152710-bun171213paw1_t460
They ripen unpredictably and at varying rates even on a single tree. And when the fruit is ready it just drops to the ground.

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and they don’t travel well
Pawpaws bruise easily and rot within the first 72 hours after picking.

Pawpaw Flowers - 4

 

and because pawpaw blossoms smell like wet carpet
Backyard gardeners aren’t too keen on growing them either.

 

Pawpaw is an autumn delicacy that is both fleeting and elusive. And you know you really want to try one. Here’s some help with tracking it down:

NealWppsNeal Peterson is the ‘Johnny Appleseed’ of the pawpaw. He has cultivated and patented numerous pawpaw varietals and on his website he shares a list of sapling nurseries and fruit retailers the sell them.

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Ohio food artisans are selling a taste of the pawpaw with products like pawpaw jam, mead, and beer. Or visit Logan, Ohio for a pawpaw facial at the Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls.

Explore the pawpaw resources available through Kentucky State University, home to the world’s one and only full-time pawpaw research program. It also hosts a very active Facebook community of pawpaw lovers.

Of course you can always strap on the Bean boots and go pawpaw foraging in one of the woodland pawpaw ranges in the U.S

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Detroit: From Food Desert to Food Sovereignty

 

 

movie still, Grown in Detroit

movie still, Grown in Detroit

 

There aren’t enough jobs, enough people, or enough tax revenue, but one thing Detroit has plenty of is vacant land.
The city is barely standing after decades of a free-falling economy, fruitless renewal efforts, and a local government that was feckless at best and more often corrupt. Two-thirds of Detroit’s residents streamed toward the exits, leaving 40 square miles of abandoned buildings and empty lots—a space equal to the entire city of Boston—that arson, bulldozers, and nature are transforming into a massive urban prairie.

Most people look to Detroit and see a ruined space prowled by looters and packs of wild dogs; some see a field of dreams.
Visionary citizens and a progressive administration are rehabbing and reshaping the city. To them it’s not blight but unplanned green space, and a prime test case for large-scale urban farming. Detroit has become the nation’s hub for advocates of urban agriculture and the shrinking cities movement that reimagines distressed, post-industrial cities as smaller metro cores surrounded by green belts of food production.

In April 2013, Detroit passed a comprehensive urban agriculture ordinance that changed the way the city is zoned.
Urban zones traditionally fall into one of five major categories: residential, mixed residential-commercial, commercial, industrial, and special zones (school, hospital, airport, etc.). Zoning establishes dedicated land uses; the local government can regulate the activity but it also offers legal protections. Detroit’s ordinance established agriculture as an urban planning priority. It gave formal legal status to an array of land uses including community gardens, rainwater catches, and aquaculture, and permits even small, backyard gardeners to sell homegrown produce from their own farm stands.

The ordinance has been embraced by a public and private cross-section of the city.
Citizen groups like Be Black and Green and My Jewish Detroit have helped to establish the nearly 2,000 gardens flourishing in the city’s ethnic enclaves. More than 1,000 volunteers showed up for last weekend’s spring planting day at the for-profit Hantz Farm, creating the world’s largest urban farm. The school district has converted one of the city’s many abandoned public schools into 27 acres of gardens to provide produce to its school cafeterias. 
Even the automakers have joined in with projects like the Cadillac Urban Gardens which has recycled and repurposed hundreds of steel shipping crates into raised-bed planters.

Detroit’s food activists are aiming for a food sovereign city.
That’s a lofty goal of 51% or more
of the fresh foods consumed in Detroit to be grown by Detroiters within the city limits. It’s especially gutsy when you consider that just a few years ago Detroit was the poster child for urban food deserts, with fully half of its residents living without reasonable access to fresh groceries. Empty lot by empty lot, the city is transitioning there.

 

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Where Does Your Milk Come From? Learn how to read the carton code.

 

image via whereismymilkfrom.com

image via whereismymilkfrom.com

 

There are dairy farms in all 50 states, but that doesn’t mean the milk in your refrigerator came from anywhere nearby.

Trace your milk with Where is My Milk From? 
The website decodes the numbers stamped on your milk packaging and identifies its source based on the FDA system known as FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standards). To find the FIPS number, look for the string of numbers near the sell-by date stamped on your carton or jug. There may be different sequences of numbers depending on the brand, but the part of the sequence you’re looking for has a two-digit number followed by a hyphen and then another number, which could be two to four digits.
The two-digit number before the hyphen identifies the state.
The number after the hyphen identifies the specific processor. 

The results can be surprising or even unsettling.
A lot of milk is taking cross-country jaunts—more than ever before. In recent years dairy production has been quietly gravitating to a handful of states that house gigantic factory farms, and they’re driving small, locally-owned dairies out of business. Since 2001, the number of large dairy farms with 2,000 or more cows has more than doubled from 325 to nearly 800, while almost 35,000 small farms (500 or fewer cows) have disappeared. We used to get most of our milk from smaller farms, but not any more. The big dairies tripled their market share in the last decade.

Not just farm to table. Now it’s farm to fridge.
We’re all too familiar with the dark side of factory farming, from the mistreatment of animals to threats to public health. The virtues of local food systems are equally well-documented. Where is My Milk From? is welcomed for the way it sheds light on our notoriously opaque supply chain.

 

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Whole Foods Brooklyn: Fits Like a Glove

whole-foods-hipsters

 

What took them so long?
That was the obvious question when Whole Foods opened its first Brooklyn store this week.
The largest retailer of natural and organic foods and the borough that’s home to the most hobby brewers and pickle makers per capita are like a match made in heaven.

Brooklyn is of course much more than just a borough across the bridge from Manhattan.
It’s a lifestyle brand; the locus of the urban artisan food renaissance; an edgy-artsy-smart meeting of old and new, tradition and technology, rustic and haute. Its population skews toward a young, educated, creative class with deep pockets and well-traveled palates. They infuriatingly blend genuine knowledge and discernment with their hipper-than-thou pretensions of alder-smoked Himalayan sea salt caramels and secret coffee handshakes of cuppings and pour-overs.

Whole Foods is the rare retailer that speaks fluent Brooklynese.
Highlights of the new store include:

  • a bike repair station (plus dedicated fixie parking, or if you must there are two electric car charging stations)
  • knife sharpening from a local maker of knives and cutting boards whose website describes him as ‘an American multi-disciplinary visual artist and designer
  • something they call the vinyl venue, selling albums and accessories made from old, recycled records
  • a pickle and kimchi bar
  • a 20,000 square foot rooftop garden that promises to grow plenty of kale

It’s a who’s who of the borough’s food luminaries.
Brooklyn’s food heroes are all there, like Roberta’s, Mast Brothers, and Frankies Spuntino. They share shelf space (built of wood reclaimed from the Coney Island beach boardwalk) with hundreds of local, small-batch purveyors who are shooting for the same foodie stratosphere with locally-accented treats like cage-free, Sriracha-spiced mayonnaise, parsnip yogurt, vegan vanilla-hemp granola, and grapefruit-smoked salt marmalade. The Brooklyn angle is underscored by the store’s abundant signage, tags, banners, and stickers so shoppers can have no doubts about a product’s provenance.

Whole Foods has sold itself to Brooklyn as a creative, communal endeavor. 
Yes, it’s a supermarket, but it’s also a participant in the local economy, fighting the good fight against the GMOs and monoculture of corporate agribusiness alongside the visionary butchers and worker-owned collective bakeries of its urban enclave. 
A second Brooklyn Whole Foods is already in the works, this one in the uber-affluent and hipsterish neighborhood of Williamsburg.
To Whole Foods, it’s just so much low-hanging fruit.

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Be a Bad Ass in a Betty White Kind of Way

image via Granny Cart Productions

image via Granny Cart Productions

 

No wrinkles, no age spots. Is that a new young hand I see pushing the granny cart? 

The granny cart is the right product for right now.
But it’s having a tough time shaking off old associations— of slow-moving urban decrepitude, a loss of youthful vigor—in other words, the stigma of grannies. The new adopters often come to them reluctantly, flashing sheepish grins to other granny carters in recognition of their mutual defeat.

They need to see themselves in the vanguard.
They should proclaim themselves a new generation of city dwellers pioneering a mode of self-reliant, self-propelled, carbon neutral transport.

Granny carters are edgy eaters. 
They put their discernment and sophistication right out there when they announce to the world “I shop on foot. I shop small. I shop local.” It shows that they know their way around urban enclaves and farmers markets and can point you toward the quirky grilled cheese sandwich truck or the neighborhood food artisan who sells small-batch alder-smoked Himalayan sea salt caramels.

There’s none greener.
Reusable shopping bags? Sure, they save some paper and plastic waste, but how many are really carried home on a shopper’s shoulder? Granny carters save on packaging waste and food waste with smaller, more frequent trips, and they limit fossil fuels and greenhouse gases by walking and by skipping the frozen foods aisle (it melts before they make it home).

Granny carters are cool.
Let the mockery ensue, the ‘Grandma’ catcalls, the derisive references to arthritic hips, the comparisons to walkers; cart pushers are unshaken, unwavering. They’re free thinking and defiantly nonconformist. They don’t follow trends, they set them. They’re change agents with the confident knowingness of the righteous.
And you thought they were just schlepping groceries.

 

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Don’t (necessarily) Buy Local

[image via Science Photo Library]

[image via Science Photo Library]

Buy local food for its freshness. Buy it to preserve open space and support the local economy. But don’t do it to save the planet.

The flawed logic of food miles: here’s where we went wrong.
We always knew that there was something wrong about eating air-freighted raspberries in the dead of winter, and when the term food miles entered the enlightened lexicon it gave us a way to quantify it. Food miles taught us to measure the distance that food travels from farm to plate and to calculate the related carbon emissions based on that mileage. Fewer miles was supposed to mean less environmental impact.
If only it were that simple.

At first glance monitoring food miles seems to be a fine way to reduce carbon emissions. Now we know that it’s not how far the food travels that counts, but how it’s grown and how it gets to market. If you’re not careful, cutting food miles can actually increase your food’s carbon footprint.

Miles are only part of food’s carbon impact, and they turn out to be a pretty small part.
Studies show
that 83% of the carbon emissions produced by the food system come from food production and 5% from wholesale and retail activities. On average only 4% of total emissions are generated by delivery transport from the producer to the retailer. And closer is not necessarily better. Unless your local farmer or wholesaler makes deliveries in a hybrid truck, a big rig hauling tons of produce in a single, long-distance load will produce less carbon dioxide per pound of food. Air-freighted winter raspberries, though, are never the right choice: food that flies can produce up to 15x more carbon emissions than food that’s trucked in, and 100x the emissions than if it traveled by ship.

Whatever the mode of transportation, the environmental impact of food miles is dwarfed by the carbon emissions produced by food production. And once again, local doesn’t always mean better. Even after accounting for the food miles, fruits and vegetables that can be grown outdoors in distant, tropical climates will nearly always be greener than local crops that have to be grown in greenhouses.

The key to eating local foods is to eat with the seasons.
When food is local and in season, the emissions created by both production and transport are limited. And of course fresh, local, seasonal foods just taste so much better.

The National Restaurant Association named local foods a ‘hot trend in 2013.‘ Lay’s potato chips is running commercials featuring farmers who bring the simple happiness of farm life to big cities across America— including one whose ‘local farm’ covers 17,000 acres in 11 states. See how Big Food is co-opting the local food movement in Gigabiting’s Buying Local: Is it style over substance?

 

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Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

currency cover art from 'Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money'

 

The Wall Street Journal said: ‘Forget conventional 401(k)s; think goat cheese and fennel.’
Business Week called it one of the ‘big ideas that will change small business and entrepreneurship,’ and Time Magazine explored its potential to ‘remake America’s food industry.’
They’re all talking about the nascent Slow Money movement bringing seed capital to local food systems.

This is an idea whose time has come.
Local foods are in the spotlight, focusing our attention on the need to strengthen and promote sustainable regional food systems and move away from corporate agribusiness. And our food interests happen to coincide with an opening for new investment models. The last financial market meltdown convinced us that we need to understand our investments. Forget about credit default swaps and subprime-backed derivatives—let’s put our money in investments we can sink our teeth into. Literally.

Kickstarter (and the similarly structured Indiegogo) has had great success applying its crowdsourced funding platform to food-related projects.
It began as the go-to place for filmmakers, designers, and other creative media types, but food entrepreneurs quickly staked out their own small but vibrant corner. Last year more than 30,000 Kickstarter investors pooled their funds- in increments as small as $5.00- to fund 241 food and beverage projects like a community gristmill, a magazine for high school foodies, an urban apiary, a doggie cupcake bakery, and lots and lots of food trucks (plus one tricycle vendor).

This is not a loan or an investment; Kickstarter participants are patrons, and their patronage is usually rewarded in the form of project mementos or perks— a $10 pledge might entitle you to a snack bag from an organic nut roaster, or $200 to a pickle maker could get you a weekend brining workshop.

Not all your eggs in one basket
Credibles nudges the model closer to an investment.
If an individual were to make a direct investment in, say, an egg farm or a jam maker, payment in-kind would bring them more eggs and marmalade than they would know what to do with. Intead, Credibles creates a single fund from the contributions of multiple investors. The loans it makes to small and artisanal producers are repaid in-kind—a farm returns crops, a restaurant returns meals, a small-batch ice cream maker returns pints of rocky road—but since an investor is buying into the shared pool, repayment comes from the collective pool of businesses in the form of edible credits, ‘credibles,’ that can be redeemed for a wide assortment of products.

Slow Money for Slow Food
These new investment models are part of the larger concept of Slow Money. Equal parts movement and investment strategy, it takes more than just its name from the global grassroots Slow Food organization. In the same way that Slow Food is a response to fast food and the globalized, industrialized state of our food supply, Slow Money offers an alternative to the fast money of our global financial markets. It asserts that our current paths, both agricultural and fiduciary, are irresponsible, unhealthy, and ultimately unsustainable.

Slow Money redefines investment returns to measure not just profits, which will come more slowly, but to also consider the value of social responsibility in return-on-investment calculations. Land preservation, crop diversity, food safety, and strong local economies all pay their own dividends.

Crowdfunding just got a lot easier.
Earlier this year, a bi-partisan group of senators introduced a piece of securities legislation called the Crowdfund Act. While it adds to the compliance burden of funding portals like Kickstarter, it’s a boon to both individual investors and entrepreneurs, lifting many of the regulations that restricted the crowdfunding of small businesses. Approved resoundingly by the Senate, this month President Barack Obama signed it into law as part of the JOBS Act.

You can read the full text of the Crowdfund Act (Senate Bill 2190) at the Library of Congress website.

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The Porkapalooza Roadshow is Coming to Your Town

Pignal via Cochon 555

The traveling pig fest rolls on in 2012.
Now in its fourth year, the high-profile touring porcine bacchanalia known as Cochon 555 will travel the country looking for this year’s King or Queen of Pork.

555: 5 chefs, 5 pigs, 5 wines
Cochon 555 holds culinary competitions in 10 cities—NY, SF, Napa, Portland, and the rest of the usual foodie suspects. At each stop, five prominent local chefs are paired with five whole heritage breed pigs and matched with five wines. They’re given a week to prepare a whole hog feast that’s judged by attendees at a public tasting. The 10 regional winners face off in a grand finale when the tour wraps up at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic.

The chefs dream up menus utilizing every bit from snout to tail: all manner of charcuterie; pork belly slabs and tenderloin slices; liver-stuffed dumplings and heart-stuffed ravioli; salads of lardo topped with lardons; ribs and chops galore. You’ll drink pork fat digestifs with bacon swizzle sticks, and dessert might bring a piggy popsicle or sweet and crunchy pig ears.

Brady Lowe, Cochon 555’s founder, thought up the pork Olympics as an entertaining way to educate consumers about heritage breeds and the sources of a more natural, sustainable food system. It pits chef against chef, but also breed against breed: the rich marbling of a Berkshire pig against the bacon-friendly Tamworth, the lardy Ass Black Limousin against the beefy Red Wattle; each with its own deeply distinctive flavor and fat distribution. Breed loyalties and passions run so high that a food fight broke out in the aftermath of the Portland round, complete with tasers, contusions, and chef mug shots, when a local hog was slighted.

You can expect plenty of fireworks, culinary amd otherwise, when the tour kicks off in New York later this month.

Cochon 555’s 2012 Schedule 22:
· New York, January 22
· Napa, January 29
· Memphis, February 4
· Portland, March 11
· Boston, March 25
· Miami, April 1
· Washington DC, April 22
· Chicago, April 29
· Los Angeles, May 6
· San Francisco, May 20
·The Grand Cochon, Aspen, June 17

Tickets will be available on the Cochon 555 website.

 

 

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American is the New Ethnic

photo via Meat America

There’s a culinary frontier right in our own backyard.

We spent the past few decades mastering the fine points of regional cooking from all around the globe— we know our Szechaun from our Cantonese, our Burgandy from our Provençal, and can spot a Neapolitan pizza at fifty paces. It’s time to come home.

America’s regional cuisines are getting their due. Finally.
For years, American food was ridiculed abroad and ignored at home. American food was what we ate in diners and fast food joints; fine dining was synonymous with French cuisine and Continental restaurants.

Not anymore. Seriously credentialed and pedigreed chefs are exploring the foods of every region and sub-region from every corner of the U.S. They’re treating our regional dishes with the respect previously reserved for the imports, elevating both the cuisine’s stature and our pleasure.

Chefs are combining contemporary aesthetics and local ingredients into modern incarnations of regional cuisines. They’re exploring indigenous flavors and products from the well-known regional cuisines of  New England, New Orleans, and the Southwest; fast-rising regions like the Gulf Coast and the Pacific Northwest; and newly emerging sub-regions like Hawaii and Florida’s Panhandle.

Of course we’re still a big, old melting pot. We have a vast and complex culinary heritage that continues to be renewed and enriched as new ethnic groups and generations add to the mix.

Regional American food is constantly evolving and will never truly reach its fullest enunciation. Some are troubled by the notion of a cuisine that defies a tidy definition, wondering if there is a true American cuisine. But that’s just culinary semantics. American food is in a constant cycle of rediscovery and renewal, and that’s what makes it so exciting.

Open Table has just released its 2011 Diners’ Choice Awards. They culled over 10 million individual reviews to name the top 100 restaurants serving American cusine.

The all-American food marketplace Foodzie offers carefully curated tasting boxes that let you choose representative regional products from small-batch producers.

 

 

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Arrested for Feeding the Homeless

ab·surd
adj \əb-ˈsərd, -ˈzərd\
1: ridiculously unreasonable, unsound, or incongruous
2: having no rational or orderly relationship to human life

—from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

12 members of the all-volunteer, anti-hunger group Food Not Bombs have been arrested for feeding the homeless in an Orlando, Florida park.
That’s right; it’s illegal to feed the poor and hungry.

Food Not Bombs, after obtaining the appropriate permits, began distributing free food every Wednesday in Orlando’s Lake Eola Park in 2005. More recently, the City Council passed an ordinance limiting any group that holds a food sharing-event that attracts 25 or more people to two events per downtown park per 12-month period. The Food Not Bombs members, who were handcuffed and loaded into a police van, will each face 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Several U.S. cities, including Las Vegas, Nevada, Santa Monica, California, and Wilmington, North Carolina have adopted ordinances limiting the distribution of free food in public, with many more considering similar legislation. Most have restricted the time and place of food handouts, hoping to discourage homeless people from congregating and, in the view of officials, ruining efforts to beautify parks and gentrify neighborhoods.

The criminalization of homelesness.
The ordinances are aimed at the broader blight of public homelessness. The cities have already tried to shield their citizens with selective enforcement of anti-camping policies and public intoxication laws. Failing that, they are switching tactics and criminalizing the activities of good Samaritans, religious groups, and other humanitarian efforts.

According to the United States Conference of Mayors, in 2010, requests for emergency food assistance increased by an average of 24% in cities across the country. At the same time, resources are dwindling as financially strapped state and local governments cut their funding to aid agencies. It’s estimated that about one-third of the need is not met, and the the shortfall between demand and resources keeps growing.

The right to food is a well-recognized, basic human right. It’s protected by over 100 instruments of international law, and guaranteed by the domestic constitutions of many of the world’s nations.
But not ours.

Free the Orlando 12!
Food Not Bombs is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to nonviolent social change. It shares free vegan and vegetarian meals with the hungry in over 1,000 cities around the world. And the group’s name? It answers the question:  With over a billion people going hungry each day how can we spend another dollar on war?

You can download the full Status Report on Hunger and Homelessness from the United States Conference of Mayors.

 

 

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Backyard Goats? Think long and hard.

Go to "Raising Goats For  Dummies" page

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Suburban goat-keeping is the latest topic to get the Dummies treatment from the popular series of how-to books. It’s a sure sign that backyard goats have reached critical mass.

This time last year it was chickens. Stories in the press fueled a nostalgia-tinged notion of endearing, pet-like creatures, deliciously fresh eggs, and serious locavore status. The dream ran up against the reality of filthy, shrieking fowl that barely edge out snakes in cuddliness, and are prone to ailments like poultry mites and pasty butt. Egg dreams were dashed by fragile hen health and the surprise of chicks that matured into roosters. Animal shelters around the country are overflowing with last year’s fad. [...]

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Home Grown

animated logo

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This post is for anyone who has ever dreamed of owning an olive grove on a sun-drenched Tuscan hillside or a vineyard in the Loire Valley.

And this post goes out to all of you who prefer not to be up with the chickens, who hate dirt under your fingernails, and get queasy from the smells of tractor diesel and manure.

Why buy the farm when you can rent?

Growers and producers with a wide range of offerings will lease you a portion of their operation— for one growing cycle you can lay claim to your own beehive, apple tree, oyster bed, or row of grape vines, and then reap the benefits of the harvest. [...]

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Cool Coffee for a Hot Planet

graphic-coffee-cup-thumb3380699

There’s fair trade and organic coffee, shade-grown, and even bird-friendly. You can drink it in a recycled cup with organic soy milk and sugar from plants that haven’t been genetically altered.

But still… carbon neutral coffee? [...]

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Community Supported Foods

farms-logo-web2

It started with Community Supported Agriculture.
CSA programs invite consumers to buy advance shares of a local farm’s harvest. Each week of the growing season shares of the harvest are distributed to the participants. What started in 1986 with two small farms in Western Massachusetts looking to improve their pre-harvest cash flow has grown into a full-fledged movement involving more than 12,000 farms in all 50 states.

Now the model is spreading beyond corn and kale with consumers subscribing to everything from sauerkraut to bacon. [...]

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The Return of the Milkman

cow

Remember the milkman?

Once a fixture of the early morning landscape, making deliveries to about a third of all households in the United States, the milkman was all but extinct as the 20th century drew to a close, with sales down to a paltry 0.4% of the retail dairy industry. It appeared that the milkman would remain a bit of quaint nostalgia for those old enough to remember, and younger generations would never know home delivery that doesn’t arrive in an Amazon box. [...]

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Will Tweet for Food

twitter

4869_TasteCasting-Logo-v4

Marketers have long understood the value of tastemakers- individuals with large social and professional spheres who possess great peer influence. The marketing concept is to provide new and innovative products and services to these key individuals in the hope that they will endorse and promote them within their spheres. [...]

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Check your food odometer

odometer

We’ve all heard the benefits of local foods, from taste and freshness to preserving open space and contributing to local economies. And we know intuitively that there is something wrong about eating air-freighted raspberries in the dead of winter or apples trucked cross-country when they grow in all 50 states. Now we have a concrete measure, as food miles enters the enlightened lexicon. [...]

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