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Archive | Bloomin’ Summer

Rockford’s lead evaporates in Farm Market contest

Let’s win 1 for Rockford and 2 for Michigan

Cradled on his father’s chest, 3-month old Brady Cronkright, assists his father Tom as Dad votes for the Rockford Farm Market.

by Cliff and Nancy Hill, Rockford Squire

The America’s Favorite Farmers Market contest voting website shows that the Rockford Farm Market is not alone in Michigan in trying to win a title as America’s Favorite Farmers Market. There will be four winners named, one for each of four market size categories: boutique (15 or less vendors), small (16 – 30), medium (31 – 55), and large (56 + vendors).  Currently Rockford leads the entire nation in all market size categories.  Winning overall would be like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

With three weeks remaining in the contest, we find this is no easy task. Every time Rockford (pop. 5,700) builds up a comfortable lead in the small market size category our chief competitor, Venice, FL (pop. 22,000), comes charging right back. In a 36-hour period over the weekend, Venice voters cast a whopping 400 new votes that cut deeply into our once comfortable lead.

This smiling lass, Hannah Ott (9), greets visitors as they enter the Manistique, Mich. Farmers Market.

Manistique, Mich. (pop. 3,050), in the boutique size category, finds itself in the same position in an even more hotly contested race. They find themselves with a weekly flip-flopping lead against another Florida market in Punta Gorda (pop. 17,100).

What we have here, in essence, are two Davids vs. two Goliaths. Somewhat even more ironic is that, at this time in the growing season of Florida, much of their farm market produce is shipped down from the north.

So, in an effort to assist one another in this contest, the Manistique Farmers Market, with the strong support of the Manistique newspaper, The Pioneer Tribune, have joined forces with the Rockford Squire Newspaper in promoting our respective markets in the remaining weeks of the contest. The Cedar Springs Post is also joining in and we welcome their support.

This would be a great way to bring some positive national attention, for a change, to Michigan.  “And to think we are only the little guys,” says Kerry Ott, Market Master of the Manistique Farmers Market. “We will promote this to our supporters as: Let’s win 1 for Manistique and 2 for Michigan.”

Making a strong connection with Rockford, Manistique Market Master Ott tells us his mother, Doris (Andrews) Ott, graduated from Rockford High School in 1942 and after marriage raised her family in Greenville. “If she were still alive, she would be so excited to see a connection between Manistique and Rockford!” said Ott.

So wherever you reside, if you’ve already cast your vote for Rockford in this nationwide contest consider casting an additional vote for our “little sister” the Manistique Michigan Farmers Market. Contest rules permit voting for one farm market in each market size category. Manistique voters will attempt to return the favor by voting for Rockford’s Farm Market. A vote for these 2 farm markets is a vote for Michigan and all Michiganders, regardless of where they reside, are encouraged to support both markets in this endeavor.

If you have not as yet voted for Rockford’s Farm Market you may do so online at: www.farmland.org/vote or better and easier still pay a visit to Rockford’s “Pure” Farm Market on Saturday morning (8 a.m.—1 p.m.) and cast a live vote on site.

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Fresh food and opportunity at your local farmers market

Solon Farm market offers fresh produce, a flea market and craft market each Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

By Elisha Smith, Center for Rural Affairs

August 7th–13th is National Farmers Market Week. Farmers Markets are expanding to communities across the nation at an amazing rate. This year over 1,000 new farmers markets have been created nationally.

According to the USDA’s 2011 National Farmers Market Directory, 7,175 farmers markets operated throughout the United States this year, up from 6,132 last year, as more farmers are marketing their products directly to consumers.

Farmers Markets are good for rural communities. They bring farmers and consumers together to create a stronger local economy, provide consumers with fresh, nutritious, affordable local food, and create opportunities for family farmers and ranchers – especially beginners – to diversify their operations and sell what they produce.

Make sure you visit your local Farmers Market this week and return often. To find a farmers market near you check out the USDA National Farmers Market Directory (http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/)

If you don’t have a Farmers Market nearby, help create one in your community. Get started by giving our Farm Bill Helpline a call at 402.687.2100 (ask for the Farm Bill Helpline) for more information about available assistance, then check out the Farmers Market Promotion Program (http://www.ams.usda.gov/fmpp/).

Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) grants provide an excellent opportunity for market farmers, market gardeners and rural communities to recoup some of the costs of establishing a farmers market, promoting an existing market or other direct-to-consumer food marketing as well as satisfying the need for fresh, nutritious food in places where people hunger for that access the most.

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DNR urban and community forestry grants now available

Grant applications for community forestry activities are available from the DNR’s Urban and Community Forestry (UCF) Program. These grants are funded through the USDA Forest Service, State, and Private Forestry Program.

“Trees provide many benefits to communities, including shade, oxygen, and beautifully landscaped streets,” said Kevin Sayers, DNR UCF program coordinator.  “These grants will help enhance the livability of our communities through tree planting and improve the management of our valuable natural resources.”

Local units of government, nonprofit organizations, and schools are eligible to apply.  All projects must be performed on non-federal public land or land open to the public.  Community forestry projects considered for funding include:

• community tree management and planning activities
• training and education activities
• purchase of trees, and
• Arbor Day celebrations

Grant applications must be received by Sept. 16, 2011, to be given funding consideration for this grant cycle.  Projects must be completed by Sept. 1, 2012.

This year up to $100,000 may be awarded statewide for approved projects.  All grants require a one-to-one match of funds.  The match may be made up of cash contributions or in-kind services, but may not include federal funds. Depending on the category, grants up to $20,000 may be requested.

For a grant application or more information, visit the DNR website at http://www.mi.gov/ucf or contact Kevin Sayers at 517-241-4632, via email at sayersk@mi.gov, or in writing at DNR, Forest Management Division, P.O. Box 30452, Lansing, MI 48909-7952.

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America’s Favorite Farmers Market contest enters final month

Rockford Farm Market still leads entire nation

Farm Market vendor table laden with the very first of the season Michigan apples and peaches.

By Cliff and Nancy Hill

Let’s color this as an athletic event. We are about to enter the 10th week of a 13-week contest—the America’s Favorite Farmers Market contest. One might say we are entering the 9th inning of a ballgame.

The Rockford farm market is holding the lead, however slim, and it’s time to bring in the “closers” to protect our lead. Our opponent is tenacious (Venice, FL) and has been dogging us in the vote tallies for the past five weeks.  Time to put the Venice Farmers Market away and raise our hands in victory on August 31!

Now just who are these “closers”?  It turns out that they are the ones who have, as yet, not voted and have been holding themselves in reserve for this very moment in time.  It’s their time to step to the plate and hit one out of the ballpark.  It’s time for Cedar Springs Post readers, many of whom love and attend the Rockford Farm Market, to be designated hitters in this prestigious nationwide election.

Are you a “closer”? Then go online (www.farmland.org/vote) to cast your vote for Rockford’s Farm Market or visit Saturday morning’s farm market in downtown Rockford and cast your vote in person at the voting booth in front of the Lion’s Market Master stall.

Thanks to those of you who have already voted. You can also be a “closer” by using all of your social networking skills to spread the word and encourage the vote. Vote totals as of 11 p.m. Monday, August 1, 2011 for top 5 in all market size categories:

·      Rockford Farm Market (sm. mkt.) – 1886
·      Venice, FL (sm. mkt.) – 1697
·      Snellville, GA (med. mkt.) – 1550
·      Fayetteville, AR (lg. mkt.) – 1252
·      New Braunfels, TX (lg. mkt) – 1133
·      Las Cruces, NM (lg. mkt.) – 1014

If you have been following this contest online, you may have noticed that Michigan has another player in this contest. The Manistique Farm Market is no threat to Rockford’s standings but nevertheless is leading the nation in the boutique market size category with 271 votes.

Imagine the possibility of Michigan, the doormat of the nation for the last 10 years, having two small city farm markets being declared America’s Favorite Farmers Markets in their market size categories with Rockford’s Farm Market #1 overall in the entire United States.

It’s not that improbable a scenario when you consider the fact that Michigan is the 2nd most agriculturally diverse state in the nation and nowhere is that locally grown and freshly harvest bounty more apparent than every Saturday morning at Rockford’s “Pure Michigan” Farm Market.

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Improve your landscape and lower your water bills at the same time

(ARA) – You turn the faucet off when brushing your teeth and installed low-flow toilets and showerheads, but your outdated irrigation system could be undermining your efforts to save water.

The average American household uses 30 percent or more of its water outdoors in landscaping. Bigger users might be closer to 70 percent in some cases, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Some experts estimate that up to half of the water used to irrigate landscapes is wasted due to evaporation, wind or runoff caused by poorly adjusted sprinklers, improper design or overwatering.

Summer is the time when water use spikes the most and is the reason why the Irrigation Association created “Smart Irrigation Month.” Saving water doesn’t have to be complicated; you can find water efficient choices to accommodate any budget.

Smart products: water less, save more
Like cell phones, video games and cars, irrigation technology has advanced dramatically in the past 10 years. You can do more with the irrigation technologies of today. Consider adding these water-saving devices to your irrigation system:

* High-efficiency nozzles: Replace conventional spray heads with high-efficiency nozzles to apply water more evenly and reduce your landscape water use by 30 percent.

* Rain/moisture sensors: Sensors will override an irrigation controller to turn off the system at the first detection of rainfall or the presence of moisture in the soil.

* Low-volume drip irrigation: Drip irrigation systems reduce water use by applying only the required amount of water directly to the plant, minimizing evaporation and water waste.

* Smart controllers: These controllers take into account weather conditions, soil type, plant material and other factors to automatically adjust irrigation system run times to deliver only what is necessary, conserving thousands of gallons of water annually.

* Rainwater harvesting: The collection of just 1 inch of rainfall on an average roof is enough to provide more than  500 gallons of reusable water. Capturing and storing water for reuse in the landscape is easy using belowground catchments or aboveground cisterns or barrels.

* Pressure regulated valves or sprinkler heads: A five-point reduction in psi (a standard measure of water pressure in your irrigation system) can reduce water use by 6 to 8 percent. Proper system pressure also improves performance and life expectancy.

Don’t overlook the simple solutions that can help save water, such as watering in the early mornings when winds are calm and temperatures are cool, and properly adjusting your sprinklers to prevent sidewalk watering.

Getting started
It is important to ensure your choices are the right choices for your landscape. The right products, combined with proper management techniques, will help your landscape look its best while saving water and money. Before you run out and buy a new smart controller, you should consider a few things to help you get started:

* Check for leaks. The EPA reports that an irrigation system leak about the thickness of a dime can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month. Fixing leaks can reduce water use by more than 10 percent.

* Check for local rebate programs. Many water agencies offer rebate programs for water efficient products, so check with your local water provider to see if they offer product discounts or free products.

* Consult a professional. Hire a certified landscape irrigation auditor to visit your home and conduct a site inspection and water audit to determine water-wasting inefficiencies. An auditor will provide a results report that lists opportunities for irrigation system upgrades or repairs. Or, hire a certified irrigation contractor or designer to talk with you about the best water-saving technologies for your landscape.

* Plant choices. Know the water needs of the different plants in your landscape, and give each plant just the right amount; this is the key to a healthy landscape that uses less water. When possible, choose plants with low water use requirements. Check with your local water agency to obtain a recommended plant list for your region, or spend a few minutes on the Internet. You may be surprised by how many beautiful native plant choices are available.

For more tips on how you can use less water in your landscape all year long, visit the Irrigation Association’s Smart Irrigation Month website at www.irrigation.org/SIM.

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July is national blueberry month

July is almost over, but it’s not too late to enjoy some fat, juicy, delicious blueberries for national blueberry month! Did you know that over 18,000 acres of blueberries are grown in Michigan, the largest blueberry-producing state in the U.S.? Michigan grows more than 20 varieties. They are a favorite at farmer’s markets, and in regular grocery stores, too.

Blueberries are considered a super food. They are the fruit that is highest in antioxidants, and are an excellent source of Vitamin C and fiber. They are also a good source of Vitamin A and iron.

Eat fresh blueberries within a week after purchasing. Store berries in the refrigerator in a covered container. Do not wash until ready to eat. For long-term storage, place completely dry berries on a cookie sheet in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer to a plastic freezer bag or container.
Below is a recipe for those watching their sugars and carbs. You can have your blueberry cheesecake and eat it too!

Blueberry cheesecake for carb counters

From the U.S. highbush blueberry council

Ingredients

2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs*

3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese

2 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

2⁄3 cup granulated non-nutritive sweetener

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Sour Cream Topping, recipe follows

Blueberry Sauce (recipe follows)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375°F

Spray bottom and side of a 9-inch pie plate with vegetable cooking spray

Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and tilt to cover evenly

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, eggs, milk, granulated sweetener and vanilla until smooth

Carefully pour into crumb-coated pie plate

Smooth top

Bake until set in the center, 18 to 20 minutes

Cool 10 minutes

When pie is set, spread the Sour Cream Topping over the top

Bake 7 minutes longer

Cool to room temperature on a wire rack

Chill until cold

Serve with Blueberry Sauce

Sour Cream Topping

In a small bowl, stir 1 cup sour cream, ¼ cup granulated non-nutritive sweetener and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Blueberry Sauce

In a medium-size saucepan, over medium heat, stir 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries with 2 tablespoons granulated non-nutritive sweetener and 1 tablespoon each lemon juice and water until berries are soft, about 5 minutes

Chill

Quick notes

Per portion (including 1-½ tablespoons blueberry sauce): 413 calories; 13 g carbohydrate; 36 g total fat (22 g saturated fat); 1 g fiber

* Note: Breadcrumbs are optional If made without breadcrumbs, subtract 1 gram carbohydrate per portion

Number of servings (yield): 8

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Two more reasons to eat local

The Post has challenged readers the last two weeks to try some of our local farms and farm markets, in a quest to eat local.  We’ve given you four good reasons to try it out, and this week we’ll give you two more.

Reason #1: Taste the difference.

At a farmers’ market, most local produce has been picked inside of 24 hours. It comes to you ripe, fresh, and with its full flavor, unlike supermarket food that may have been picked weeks or months before.

Reason #2: Know what you are eating.

Buying food today is complicated. What pesticides were used? Is that corn genetically modified? Was that chicken free range or did it grow up in a box? People who eat locally find it easier to get answers. Many build relationships with farmers whom they trust.

Reason #3: Meet your neighbors.

Local eating is social. Studies show that people shopping at farmers’ markets have 10 times more conversations than their counterparts at the supermarket. Reason #4: Get in touch with the seasons.

When you eat locally, you eat what’s in season. You’ll remember that cherries are the taste of summer. Even in winter, comfort foods like squash soup and pancakes just make sense–a lot more sense than flavorless cherries from the other side of the world.

Reason #5: Discover new flavors.

Count the types of blueberries offered at your supermarket. Did you know that Michigan has over 20 varieties? You’ll probably only find one type in the grocery store. And what about lettuce, cucumbers, onion, peppers and squash? There is sure to be several types you haven’t tried, but can find at the farmer’s market.

Reason #6: Explore your home.

Visiting local farms is a way to be a tourist on your own home turf, with plenty of stops for snacks.
(Info from www.100milediet.org.)

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Veggies aplenty? Ways to share your bountiful harvest

(ARA) – Plenty of tender, loving care went into those vegetable seedlings planted this spring. Weeks of watering, weeding, pruning and feeding have likely resulted in a harvest so bountiful it is beginning to overwhelm the kitchen.

What an exciting sight to have watched that seedling grow with sunshine, water and good soil in the backyard garden or patio container garden to produce such a plethora of fresh vegetables. By harvest time, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and cucumbers weigh down the vines and stems of the formerly tiny seedlings, and many gardeners are running out of storage space and recipe ideas for all the incredible vegetables picked at the height of freshness.

So what can be done with the garden leftovers? Donating and gifting are two great ways to help friends and the community with fresh produce. Miracle-Gro and America’s Test Kitchen teamed up to provide  recipes that are perfect for parties, providing a delicious meal for a shut-in and sharing with co-workers.

Tomatoes from the garden can be canned and easily transformed into chili, spaghetti or pizza sauce even into the winter months. From salsa and pico de gallo, to zucchini bread and cucumber salad, these popular foods will have family and friends enthusiastically eating garden vegetables all summer long. Expand the menu options by growing some different vegetables or herbs each year, and investigate new recipes that may become family favorites.

Create gift baskets for friends and neighbors with excess fresh produce. Whether celebrating the summer holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, or for no reason at all, summer crops can inspire a variety of gifts. Ask your friends for their favorite recipes featuring delicious vegetables and herbs. Then, print out the best recipes on colorful cardstock and bundle up the ingredients, including fresh produce from the garden, giving the whole package as a gift. Who wouldn’t be overjoyed to receive a fabulous gourmet meal in the making?

Donate any extra harvest to a local food shelter where it will benefit members of the community. Contact local food pantries prior to harvesting the vegetables to find out what restrictions they might have on garden vegetables. If the local food pantry does not accept fresh produce, contact area churches to see if any have a food donation program established.

While the first harvest is exciting, do not forget to continue nurturing remaining plants in the garden. Some plants will produce vegetables until the weather gets considerably cooler, allowing for the enjoyment of fresh produce well into the fall. Ensure that plants have aenough water, and continue pulling weeds competing with vegetable plants for water and nutrients.

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Why eat local?

Over and over again we hear the mantra “shop local.” And it makes good sense; we want local shops to stay in business. But what about “eat local”? What does that mean and how is it different than shopping local?

Eating local means eating food that is grown and produced locally. It might mean seeking out farmer’s markets, dairy farms, or local farmers for your meat, dairy and produce. Some have tried to do this by following the 100-Mile Diet (www.100milediet.org), where you eat only foods made within 100 miles of where you live. But that can be frustrating if there is food you like that is not made or grown locally.

So the Post would like to challenge you to take baby steps. How about trying out some of our local farms and farm markets, starting with the ones advertising on this page? Over the next few weeks, we’ll give you some good reasons to give it a try.

Reason #1: Taste the difference.

At a farmers’ market, most local produce has been picked inside of 24 hours. It comes to you ripe, fresh, and with its full flavor, unlike supermarket food that may have been picked weeks or months before. Close-to-home foods can also be bred for taste, rather than withstanding the abuse of shipping or industrial harvesting.

Reason #2: Know what you are eating.

Buying food today is complicated. What pesticides were used? Is that corn genetically modified? Was that chicken free range or did it grow up in a box? People who eat locally find it easier to get answers. Many build relationships with farmers whom they trust. And when in doubt, they can drive out to the farms and see for themselves.

Reason #3: Meet your neighbors.

Local eating is social. Studies show that people shopping at farmers’ markets have 10 times more conversations than their counterparts at the supermarket. Join a community garden and you’ll actually meet the people you pass on the street.

Reason #4: Get in touch with the seasons.

When you eat locally, you eat what’s in season. You’ll remember that cherries are the taste of summer. Even in winter, comfort foods like squash soup and pancakes just make sense–a lot more sense than flavorless cherries from the other side of the world.

(Info from www.100milediet.org.)

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Solon Farm market

The Solon farm, craft and flea market was bustling last week with vendors and customers from around the area.

There were a lot of items to choose from, including fresh produce, plants and flowers, farm fresh eggs, pure maple syrup, jams and jellies, homemade candles, wood crafts, pet supplies, horse supplies, free wagon rides, popcorn, and even a spray paint artist creating and selling his pictures on site.

“I really appreciate the way everyone worked together to make it happen, and especially thank Rich Straub for bringing his horses, Ford and Chevy—to offer the free wagon rides,” said Vicky Babcock, who is helping organize the farm market. She said the free wagon rides would be there again this Saturday.

If you haven’t checked out the Solon Township farm market yet, head on over this weekend it’s located at 15185 Algoma Avenue, between 18 and 19 Mile, and is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. They offer free sites to vendors to sell their goods and a covered pole barn. Doors open at 8 a.m. Interested vendors should call 696-4227.

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