What a bountiful time of year this is at the SKY Farmers Market. There's an incredible mix of spring and summer produce available now. While everyone's excited about a sneak peek at summer's bounty of tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, squash and zucchini, cool season crops are still in their prime for just a little longer.
It's been a great season for strawberries and it's time to look for blueberries and possibly some raspberries to begin taking up the slack. This mixed berry season is a great time for smoothies and pancakes and home made ice cream with fresh fruit. Berries tend to be very seasonal fruits, but are easy to freeze in order to preserve their fresh flavor for use throughout the year.
SKY Market farmers also have some of the most tender and flavorful pastured poultry and pork, lamb, and grass-finished beef you'll find to throw on the grill this weekend and throughout the summer.
Whether you're looking for fresh-picked vegetables, luscious fruits, whole milk or free-range eggs, meat for the grill, fresh-baked bread, or something special like rhubarb, a piece of handmade jewelry, or a cut flower bouquet, the SKY Farmers Market is your best source for 100% locally grown seasonal food, farm products, artwork and crafts direct from your own local growers and artists.
See you there!
2012 Slow Food Terra Madre Conference
Congratulations to Laura Goodwin who was recently selected as a US delegate to the 2012 Terra Madre conference, the "World Meeting of Food Communities" to be held in Torino, Italy this October! As a member of the International Congress, Laura will be meeting with thousands of delegates from around the world to exchange ideas about the social, political, economic, and environmental significance of food and farming. This year the conference will also be held in a united event with Salone del Gusto, a biennial international food fair. These are two of the defining events organized by Slow Food, the global, grassroots association which promotes food and farming, commitment to community and the environment.
Many of you know Laura. She's been a true friend of SKY Market for many years, serving on it's Board of Directors for over 4 years and then as the market's manager. She is a dedicated advocate of the local food network in our region and has helped coordinate many events promoting public awareness of food-related issues over the years. The recent screening of The Vanishing of the Bees on Earth Day was one of these noteworthy events.
Regarding the Terra Madre conference this fall Laura says, "One of my next goals is to help begin a Slow Food chapter in South Central Kentucky. I feel that the training and experience that I receive at this conference will better prepare me for reaching this goal."
Again, congratulations Laura! We look forward to hearing all about your trip.
Pasture-Raised and Grass-Fed Meat
Memorial Day weekend is the grand opening of the summer season and for many that means firing up the grill. One of the most exciting new developments in the small-scale, local and regional food movement is the growth in pasture-raised meat.
Animal products raised by industrial farming systems are among the worst foods flowing through our national food distribution system. Meat, milk, eggs, and dairy products have gone from being the central basis of a healthy diet to a vilified and dangerous indulgence. Industrial production methods have had an immense influence on the quality of meat that is currently available through mainstream channels.
But small farmers are stepping in to reclaim the pastoral ideal of raising happy, healthy livestock as an integral part of a small-scale mixed farming operation. The result is stronger, healthier farms and a superior product for consumers who make the effort to engage with their local food system.
It doesn't take any special knowledge to appreciate the quality of pastured and grass-finished meat. Anyone can immediately taste the difference. To understand that difference is a simple matter of examining what pasture-raised meat is being compared to.
Concentration, Confinement, Contamination
In the industrial model, animal production and processing is concentrated in areas far removed from the source of the feed. Cheap, efficient transportation and economies of scale make this distance economically feasible, but do nothing to alleviate the environmental imbalance. The consequence is that soils in grain growing areas are depleted of nutrients which then become pollutants that contaminate air and water in the animal producing areas. Massive environmental impacts like fish kills and groundwater contamination in North Carolina, Maryland, and the Chesapeake Bay area, the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, and dangerous levels of nitrates in community drinking water sources are some of the additional, not-so-hidden costs of industrial meat production.
Factory farming relies on high-density confinement housing for raising animals, whether it's layer cages, broiler houses, cattle feedlots, intensive dairies, or hog confinement houses. Most meat and dairy products are now produced on large farms under high-density confinement management. Packed together as closely as they can tolerate, animals live in an atmosphere of fecal dust and puddles. Fecal matter and its heavy load of pathogens coats everything: skin, hair, feathers, nostrils, respiratory linings and mucus membranes, feed, and water. High concentrations of ammonia burn their skin, eyes, and lungs, leaving external sores and internal lesions.
Because of the inherently unhealthy conditions of confinement housing, productivity must be maintained and bolstered with antibiotics, hormones, and feed additives that can include poisons and toxic heavy metals. Sensitive individuals can have violent reactions to factory farmed meat, eggs, and dairy products from the grocery store but tolerate small farm, pasture-raised food without trouble.
The Grass-Fed Difference
Besides the inherent contamination of meat with pathogens, medications, and toxins, there is a fundamental difference in the quality of meat raised in confinement compared to animals raised on pasture. Think about human health. There's no better way to maintain a good foundation for general health and well-being than eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting plenty of rest and exercise, and reducing stress. These "lifestyle changes" can have a profound impact on levels of saturated fat, blood sugar, toxins, and other metabolic balances and processes within the body.
Now consider densely confined, physically and psychologically stressed animals fed a cheap grain-based diet devoid of fresh green material. No surprises here. Just as you'd expect, pasture-raised meat has:
- lower saturated fat and cholesterol
- higher omega-3 fatty acids
- higher minerals, vitamins and nutrients
- better flavor and texture
Forage-based animal products are simply better. It's an entirely different type of food. What's more, animals raised on pasture as part of a mixed small farm live well and make a positive contribution to the health and vitality of their farms and local communities rather than imposing a burden of pollution and social degradation.
Conventional, modern meat production is fundamentally flawed. Pastured poultry pioneer Joel Salatin says, "We end up with a chicken that has been raised in a horrible way, fed horrible feed, processed horribly and isn't fit to eat. The entire establishment does not deserve consumer patronage." It's not a pretty picture. But you can make a direct and tangible contribution to reforming the system by simply enjoying the healthy, great-tasting, pasture-raised and grass-finished beef, chicken, pork, and lamb available directly from your local SKY Market farmers.
Best Broccoli Ever
This spring has been terrific for growing just about anything! Farmers in the area have been harvesting some of the biggest, best and sweetest produce ever. As some of you may know, you can even further enhance the already tremendous flavor of these vegetables by roasting them. It's remarkably easy, too. Just chop them into rather large chunks, roll them in a little oil and seasoning, then expose them to some intense heat. If it's too hot to turn on the oven, you can wrap them in foil packets and throw them on the grill. This recipe from amateurgourmet.com is an adaptation of a recipe from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, and has many enthusiastic fans. Some even go so far to say it's:
The Best Broccoli of Your Life
PREHEAT oven to 425º
CUT 4-5 lbs. (about 2 large heads) broccoli into relatively large pieces
(HINT: make sure the broccoli is thoroughly dry)
TOSS broccoli with about 5 TBSP olive oil, salt, fresh ground pepper and 4 peeled and sliced garlic cloves
SPREAD on a cookie sheet
ROAST for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender and a little browned
REMOVE from oven
ZEST and JUICE a lemon over the broccoli
ADD 1 1/2 TBSP more olive oil, 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 2 TBSP chopped fresh basil and (optional) 3 TBSP toasted pine nuts
Dr. Temple Grandin is an autistic woman who used her unique understanding of how animals think to design ground-breaking humane livestock handling and processing systems that are now widespread in the industry and have drastically improved economy and efficiency as well as the welfare and humane treatment of animals in livestock facilities.
If you haven't yet heard of her, she's someone well worth learning more about.