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Archive | Bloomin’ Summer

Red, White and Blueberry pound cake

From the U.S. highbush blueberry council

Ingredients

1 package (10-¾ ounces) frozen pound cake

Raspberry-Orange Sauce (recipe follows)

1 container (8-ounces) whipped cream cheese

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

2 tablespoons orange juice

1-½ cups fresh blueberries, divided

1 cup sliced fresh strawberries

Instructions

Slice frozen pound cake lengthwise in three layers

Arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet with top layer cut side up

Pierce layers with fork tines

Spread each with 2 tablespoons of the Raspberry-Orange Sauce

Let stand 10 to 15 minutes so that the cake absorbs the sauce

Meanwhile, in a bowl stir together cream cheese, sugar and orange juice until well blended

To assemble cake: Place bottom layer on a serving plate

Spread evenly with a third of the cream cheese mixture

Arrange a third of the blueberries evenly over cream cheese

Drizzle about 1 tablespoon Raspberry-Orange Sauce over blueberries

Repeat with center slice of cake

Place top layer cut side down

Spread with remaining cream cheese mixture

Decorate cake to resemble an American flag using remaining blueberries and the strawberries

Serve with remaining Raspberry-Orange Sauce

Number of servings (yield): 8

 

Raspberry-Orange Sauce

Instructions

Stir together until smooth ¾ cup seedless raspberry jam and 6 tablespoons orange juice

Quick notes

Yield: about 1 cup

Posted in Bloomin' Summer, Featured, RecipesComments Off

“One swipe” farmers market pilot program in Kent County

from the Kent County Health Department

 

Eating more fruits and vegetables just got easier for clients of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC). One swipe of a WIC Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card can be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at participating farmer markets this summer.

The Michigan Department of Community Health WIC Division selected the Kent County Health Department as a pilot site for a new project, allowing WIC participants to use their Cash Value Benefits (CVB) to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from participating farmer markets.  Previously, WIC participants needed a coupon at Farmers’ Markets to make purchases there, and could only use their electronic cash benefits to buy fresh produce in local grocery stores.
“Employees of the KCHD WIC office were instrumental in our selection as the sole pilot agency for this program, thanks to past successes in piloting and initiating new programs and changes, such as MI-WIC and EBT,” said Cathy Raevsky, Administrative Health Officer for the Kent County Health Department.  “It’s an honor to be the first in the nation with this great program.”
The pilot project runs June 1 through October 31, 2012.  During 2011, the KCHD WIC Program issued over $1,955,701 in Cash Value Benefits to WIC participants.  “This is money that goes back into our communities to our farmers, their employees and their families,” Raevsky added.
In addition to the Cash Value Benefit Farmer Market Pilot Project, the KCHD WIC Program will also be piloting an enhancement to the already successful WIC Project FRESH program.  Through this pilot, WIC participants will now receive their Project FRESH benefits electronically via their WIC EBT card. In the past, participants of Project FRESH were given coupon booklets, containing 10 individual coupons worth $2 each, which can only be spent to purchase fresh, locally grown, fruits and vegetables.

In addition to receiving their WIC Project FRESH benefits electronically, those participating in Project FRESH this year will also receive $30, an increase from $20 last year. During the 2011 Project FRESH season, the KCHD WIC program provided $12,720 worth of coupon vouchers to eligible WIC participants.

Posted in Bloomin' Summer, SeasonalComments Off

Berries survive killer spring

Unseasonably warm weather in March and killer frosts in April have decimated cherries, apples and juice grapes statewide. But blueberries seem to have escaped with minimal damage, and all signs are pointing toward near-normal production for the year or better—just ask Merrill Post.
“If we can get the size, it looks like we will have the biggest or second biggest crop we’ve ever had,” said Post, owner of Post Farms, 9849 Myers Lake, in Courtland Township.

He said that last year he put in 500 more blueberry bushes, and brought in bumblebees. “Every blasted blossom must have pollinated,” he remarked. “They are really thick.”
Post said he frost-protected the blueberry bushes with water. “When the water freezes, it protects them,” he explained.
Michigan is the no. 1 blueberry-growing state in the nation, producing more than 100 million pounds of blueberries each year, which is 30 percent of the national crop.
Post, who has put in an average of 500 bushes each year for the last few years, said he will continue adding bushes for another three or four years. “I can’t seem to grow enough for people,” he noted.

Raspberries are another popular item at Post Farms that are just starting. “They were hurt a little, the canes got touched a bit (by frost),” he said. Last year was his biggest raspberry crop to date, but he said he hasn’t really made money on them yet because he hasn’t had the volume he needs. Post said he plans to beef up his raspberry production over the next few years.

Post said he will have more corn than he’s ever had this year, including the standard corn, super sweet corn, and a new early corn, which he expects to harvest mid to late July. “I’m continually upgrading to increase my volume,” he explained.

Check out the Post Farms Facebook page for more information on what produce is ready to pick, and for pricing on both u-pick and pre-pick produce. You can call for availability at 874-7569.

Posted in Bloomin' Summer, FeaturedComments Off

The public has voted and the results are in

Rockford’s Farm Market stands atop the nation

Cliff and Nancy Hill were volunteer campaign managers during the farm market contest. Using the tried and true “hunt and peck method,” Cliff laboriously inputs one of the 3,405 farm market contest votes collected Saturday mornings during the 13 weeks of the America’s Favorite Farmers Market contest. Rockford won with a total of 6,083 votes.

by Cliff and Nancy Hill

When the online polling site closed last Wednesday evening at midnight, the Rockford Farm Market found itself atop the leader board in all market size categories in the 2011 America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest.

The online contest is an annual nationwide challenge, sponsored by the American Farmland Trust, a pro-agriculture organization with headquarters in Washington D.C.  More information and complete rankings across the country can be found at www.farmland.org .

With 6,083 votes, Rockford found itself in first place nationwide in the small market size category (16-30 vendors), followed by the Venice Farmers Market of Venice, FL some 475 votes behind.  Our little sister, the Manistique, MI farmers market (up in the U.P., eh) finished second nationwide, with 3,208 votes, in the boutique market category (2-15 vendors) to another Florida farm market in North Port, FL.

All Michiganders have much to be proud of with two small-town farm markets, strictly vending locally harvested and fresh from the field Michigan produce rising (as cream does) to top rankings.

The Rockford Farm Market has actually pulled off a trifecta in this contest. First, our Farm Market claims the prize as Michigan’s Favorite Farm Market.  Second, our Farm Market claims the prize as America’s Favorite Farm Market in the small market category.  And third, market categories aside, having polled higher vote totals than any market nationwide, our Farm Market has earned the right to claim it is truly, “America’s Favorite Farm Market”.

Each week the swell of media coverage of Rockford’s lead brought new visitors to Rockford and its Farm Market seeking to discover what all the “buzz” was about.  They loved the “charm” of our town and its “Pure Michigan” farm market and added to our vote totals at the market’s polling site. A big thanks to the readers of the Cedar Springs Post for your help in making Rockford America’s favorite farm market!

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More wildlife photos

Sue Harrison, of Nelson Township, sent us these photos of wildlife that were taken in her yard. “I saw this ‘hummer,’ the butterfly and the praying mantis all in the same day as I was watering my potted flowers,” noted Sue. “I thought they were each beautiful in their own way.”

According to Sue, the praying mantis was stalking a small spider on the handle of her planter and he was successful!

She said the hummingbird and the butterfly were both after the nectar of the Rose-of-Sharon flowers on the bush next to their house.

Great photos! Thanks, Sue!

If you have wildlife photos you’d like to send, email them to news@cedarspringspost.com with a short summary or explanation.

Posted in Bloomin' Summer, FeaturedComments Off

VOTE

Even if you’ve never been to farm market or hate vegetables

Picture perfect setting: A recent Saturday morning at the “soon-to-be” (hopefully) America’s Favorite Farmers Market in downtown Rockford, MI.

by Cliff and Nancy Hill

Listen up people. When the fat lady sings next Wednesday evening (Aug. 31) at 12:00 p.m. midnight, the America’s Favorite Farmers Market contest will be over.
Rockford’s Farm Market has been clinging to the lead in this nationwide contest for the past 8 weeks. Not only do we lead overall in all market size categories, more importantly, we also lead in our small market size category.
Our opponent, Venice, FL, is wily. Their strategy in this contest has been to hang just behind Rockford in vote totals and then overnight close the gap. We are fearful of what might occur in the final hours of voting on August 31. Remember we are talking about Florida, the state of the “hanging chads.”
To those of you who have already voted, we thank you! However, your support is still needed in these final days and hours of the contest. We ask you to use your considerable social media networking skills to reach out to any and everyone to also cast their votes for Rockford’s great farm market.
This contest has become somewhat more than farm market vs. farm market.  It has somehow morphed into a state vs. state competition of bragging rights. With two farm markets in Michigan (Rockford and Manistique, in the U.P.) vying for titles in their respective market size categories against two farm markets in Florida (Venice and North Port). We ourselves like to think of this as a contest between “Pure Michigan” and “Alligator Alley.”
Now for one very last time let’s win two for Michigan. If you haven’t voted, go online to: www.farmland.org/vote or simpler still, visit the Rockford Farm Market this Saturday (your last opportunity to vote in person) and add your vote to the more than 4,000 that have already been cast. We need your vote to prove that Rockford’s Farm Market is truly America’s Favorite Farmers Market.

Posted in Bloomin' Summer, FeaturedComments (1)

Colorful caterpillar

We recently received a photo of an unusual looking caterpillar that was found by Wendy Conely, of Solon Township. She wondered what type of caterpillar it was.

We guessed it to be a cecropia moth caterpillar, and naturalist Ranger Steve Mueller, of Cedar Springs, confirmed it is indeed a cecropia moth larva. “If it was crawling about, it is probably looking for a place to spin a cocoon,” said Steve. “It will over winter and emerge in May if kept outside. If the cocoon is kept indoors it will emerge as an adult early and will not find a mate for reproduction.”

Ranger Steve is the state coordinator for Michigan and Utah for the national database of Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA), a citizen science website. He said it was a good year for the silk moths, and he received several photos of adult moths that people submitted to document the species for their county.

“When people submit a butterfly or moth record, I verify the identification and then it is posted on the national database,” he explained.

Anyone can take photos and submit them to BAMONA, no species knowledge necessary. To learn more, or to get involved, visit www.butterfliesandmoths.org.

Posted in Bloomin' SummerComments Off

Mushrooms!

David Marin took this photo of mushrooms on his property, southeast of Cedar Springs, along a woodland lane.
“With the recent rains and cool nights, mushrooms are popping up everywhere around the woods,” said Marin. “I found this particular group of boletes unusual and engaging. Does it remind you of a dog with a litter of new pups? How about a mom trying to keep her kids out of the rain? A hen and chicks?
“Remember to be absolutely sure of their identity before you eat any wild mushrooms. This type of bolete would taste fine but would soon make you regret having eaten them!” he warned.
Send your wildlife or nature photos to news@cedarspringspost.com.

Posted in Bloomin' SummerComments Off

Roller coaster week in Farm Market contest

Long time Cedar Springs/Rockford area farmer, Merrell Post from Post Farms, is back for the 11th year at Rockford Farm Market. Post Farms produces fruits, vegetables, flowers and the “best sweet corn in the world.” (L – R) Walt Chapton and the man himself, Merrell Post.

by Cliff and Nancy Hill

What a ride it was last week for Rockford’s Farm Market in the America’s Favorite Farm Market contest.  Our once comfortable lead in the small market size category (16 – 30 vendors) was nearly wiped out by our evil archrival Venice, FL.  Almost as bad, towards the end of the week we lost our lofty position as overall leader in all market size categories to Las Cruces, NM.

The news is much better this week however.  Rockford’s Farm Market is maintaining a respectable lead against Venice, and we are happy to report that we have closed the gap with Las Cruces, NM and are in striking distance of again regaining the nationwide lead (as of Tuesday evening). Our little sister farm market in Manistique, MI is also holding its own against its competition (Punta Gorda, FL) with a slight lead in their boutique market size category (15 or less vendors).

We woke up early last Saturday morning to a thunderstorm dumping buckets of rain on Rockford threatening to wash the Rockford Farm Market into the Rogue River.  Just what we didn’t need because voter turnout at farm market has been our greatest source of votes in our ever-increasing voting totals.  Thankfully, the storm clouds parted around 8 a.m. and the market faithful, along with first timers, turned out from near and far.

In response to radio, TV, and newspaper coverage regular market goers, who hadn’t as yet voted, and first timers, wanting to see what all of the buzz was about, arrived from all over West Michigan to swell our vote totals and fill their market baskets with a cornucopia of freshly harvested, locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Sitting at our voting table every Saturday we have been heartened by people telling us they have become addicted to checking voting totals on the contest’s website (www.farmland.org/vote).  They tell us they are also using social media (facebook, twitter, etc) to reach out to their many “friends” urging them to also vote for Rockford’s Farm Market.

Apparently our news partners, the Manistique, MI Pioneer Tribune newspaper and closer to home, the Cedar Springs Post are reaching out to their readers in a way that is also increasing our voting totals.  First time visitors to our market from Cedar Springs have told us that they didn’t even know of our farm market, let alone the contest, until they read about it in the Post.  Our mutual aid pact has resulted in voters from West Michigan voting for the Manistique Farm Market and voters from all over the U.P. voting for Rockford’s Farm Market.  We even learned that the Sault Indian Nation peoples of the U.P. have also been encouraged, in their regular newsletter, to support the Rockford Farm Market by casting a vote our way.  Talk about gratifying.

It only gets better. Market Master “Lion Bob” Winegar has secured the presence of a new vendor at Farm Market. This particular vendor might turn out to be the long-sought missing link needed to round out the market’s offerings.  New at market last week was the Woodbridge Dairy Farm from Byron Center, MI who fills the need for a vendor offering grass-fed beef and milk-fed pork processed and packaged in various cuts.  A limited selection is currently available until September when they harvest their animals and refill their freezers.

Woodbridge Dairy Farm’s animals are treated with no drugs or hormones.  Their steers are born and raised on pasture. Grass-fed, they do get the option of corn silage and hay (also chemical free) raised on their farm. Pigs are treated to the luxury of fresh milk from the farm’s dairy cattle. They love it and grow well with milk. They have the farm’s corn available to them but they like the milk better. Milk fed pork has a creamier taste and a texture that cuts with a fork. The farm’s butchered offerings are processed and packaged by the USDA certified Byron Center Meats. A full and complete line of all of the farm’s meat offerings will be available at the Rockford Farm Market during the entire month of October.

We encourage everyone who hasn’t cast a vote for Rockford’s Farm Market to climb on the bandwagon. Votes may be cast online at: www.farmland.org/vote or by visiting Rockford’s downtown Farm Market Saturday morning (8 a.m.–1 p.m.) during the final two weeks of the contest to cast your vote in person. Remember Manistique’s Farm Market would appreciate a vote also.

Posted in Bloomin' Summer, FeaturedComments Off

Green ways to freshen outdoor spaces, without breaking the bank

(ARA) – Sprucing up outdoor spaces doesn’t have to cost a lot to create a big impact. Rather than buying new, consider refreshing or upgrading furnishings, equipment and features you already have. You will save some green and give new life to items that might otherwise wind up in the trash and ultimately in the landfill. Here are some summer spruce-up ideas:

Reviving patio furniture

Time, use and weather can leave outdoor furnishings looking withered and faded. Whether your patio set is wooden, painted aluminum, cast iron or even wicker, you can make it look new again with a fresh coat of paint. Gentle sanding and the right type of paint will have your set looking new in no time. Add in new cushions in bright colors and you’ve created a whole new look at a fraction of the cost of buying new.

Winning water features

Water features can add a splash of beauty and relaxation to an outdoor environment. Consider repurposing a flower pot or large colorful vase into a fountain by waterproofing it and adding a pump. Or if you bought a fountain a few seasons ago and it’s sitting there unused because the original pump has burned out, it’s actually simple and cost-effective to get it going again with a replacement fountain pump found at your local home improvement store. As the weather heats up and evaporation causes water levels to drop in fountains, traditional pumps can burn out from too-low water levels. smartpond’s Fountain Pump with Low-Water Shut-off, found at Lowe’s, automatically turns off the pump when water levels dip low in your fountain, and automatically turns back on when you add water. The energy-efficient pumps are ideal for small- to medium-sized fountains and come with or without a light for evening enjoyment.

Fences and decks

Large surface areas such as fences and decks are the first to get noticed. Improve the aesthetics of worn, neglected surfaces with a new coat of waterproofer and stain. First, inspect for damaged boards and replace with appropriate materials when necessary. Check to be sure deck fasteners are secure and tighten them if they’ve come loose over the winter. If a fastener can’t be tightened, you may need to replace it. Next, power wash and waterproof (either in clear or stain finishes) decks and fences. You can also spruce up decks by making small changes, such as adding decorative rails or post caps. Lighting, decor and accessories can also freshen the look of an existing deck.

Keeping your grill great

New gas grills can cost from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. You can refurbish your old grill for a fraction of the cost. Start by cleaning all parts and surfaces by following the manufacturer’s instructions. If you no longer have the manual that came with your grill, check the manufacturer’s website to see if you can download one. It’s possible to repaint rusted, faded or scratched parts as long as you use a paint rated for high temperatures. For stainless steel surfaces, use an appropriate polish to freshen the shine. Worn-out igniters are also a common problem with gas grills, so check yours to see if it still works. If it doesn’t, you can likely buy a replacement either through a home center or from the manufacturer.

With a few cost-effective upgrades, it’s possible to spruce up the outdoor equipment you have, so you can enjoy it—and the savings you’ll reap—for another season.

Posted in Bloomin' SummerComments Off

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