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If you’re reading this before dinner time on September 11th you still have time to catch a fabulous meal – featuring local ingredients – at 7 area restaurants.  I have done my part to enjoy the offerings (and to show my support) and I’m really getting full, but boy is it worth it!

So here’s the skinny (although I’m not – expecially after this event).  For Dine Fresh Dine Local between yesterday and today I’ve had a Bison Burger at Dalles House, Ari and I split the Spinach Salad and Bruschetta at Our Place Cafe, at Grecco’s I had the Chicken and Garlic Ravioli with a Ratatouille of Vegetables and an Heirloom Tomato Sauce, and finally – I just had lunch at Cafe Wren where I enjoyed their Summer Salad, Creamy Carrot Soup with Curried Beet Creme Fraiche, and Chocolate Beet Cake.

Other restaurants that are participating that I didn’t have time to eat at – yet – are Eichten’s Market and Bistro, Indian Creek Winery and Grille, and Tangled up in Blue.  BTW, there are about 15 more restaurants in Stillwater and Hudson participating.  For a full list go to www.dinefreshdinelocal.com

Followers of the blog know I have a penchant for taking pictures of food, and I wouldn’t want to disappoint, so enjoy…..

Creamy Carrot Soup - Ingredients from Anathoth Community Farm, Burning River Farm, Crystal Ball Dairy

Creamy Carrot Soup - Ingredients from Anathoth Community Farm, Burning River Farm, Crystal Ball Dairy

Summer Salad - ingredients from Anderson's Syrup, Burning River Farm, Van Meters, Baker Orchard

Summer Salad - ingredients from Anderson's Syrup, Burning River Farm, Van Meters, Baker Orchard

Cafe Wren's Chocolate Beet Cake - the great news is that they froze enough of Burning River Farm's beets to make this cake all winter!

Cafe Wren's Chocolate Beet Cake - the great news is that they froze enough of Burning River Farm's beets to make this cake all winter!

Gosh I love my job……..

St. Croix Falls was fortunate to have some visitors last week who absolutely love our town.  They definitely saw how we’ve really created something special and unique in our city.  The trails, the energy, the flavors.

The visitors were Lisa Kivirist, her husband John Ivanko and their son Liam.  Lisa and John operate a bed and breakfast near Monroe, Wisconsin called Inn Serendipity.  Inn Serendipity is a green bed and breakfast in that they actually create more energy through solar and wind then what they need for the Inn and they also use only local foods.

Lisa brought her family because she offered a free workshop  called “See Jane Grow” that brought together 24 women in our area to learn and network about how to have, or how to create, a business that is profitable and green, or ecopreneuring.

Lisa and John are also noted authorities and authors on different aspects of the “eco” world including eco-tourism.  That’s why their  inenthusiasm about SCF is so important and we should listen.  John blogged about his visit here -here’s the link. Enjoy!

The most recent op-ed piece from Michael Pollan is titled “Big Food vs. Big Insurance.” Because it’s two pages long, I’ll just post the link here for people who are interested in exploring links between the health care debate and the local foods movement.

Check out this article that appeared in the Wisconsin section of the Pioneer Press September 2nd!

Community Supported Agriculture thrives around Osceola, Wis.

Osceola, Wis., is just close enough to the Twin Cities to make it the hub of a new Community Supported Agriculture hotbed.

Updated: 09/02/2009 11:59:54 PM CDT

As hunger for Community Supported Agriculture grows in the Twin Cities, the small-farm community in western Wisconsin is reaping the rewards.

The area is a hotbed for the CSA food movement, in which farmers provide customers a weekly delivery of fresh vegetables, fruits, meats and dairy products. The number of CSAs serving the Twin Cities rose by nearly 50 percent over last year, according to the Minneapolis-based Land Stewardship Project.

It’s a sense of community that makes the area so special, said Christine Elmquist, co-founder of Community Homestead, a live-and-work farm for several families and people with special needs.

“People are very community-minded,” she said of the Osceola area, which Community Homestead has called home for the past 15 years. “We really feel like we belong to our local town.”

Community Supported Agriculture farms sprouted up steadily around the metro area in the past two decades as people learned about the programs and demand grew.

This past year, however, numbers have skyrocketed.

“It’s huge growth,” said Brian DeVore, communications coordinator for the Land Stewardship Project, which advocates for sustainable farming in the Upper Midwest. Last year, DeVore’s organization counted 33 CSAs serving Minneapolis and St. Paul; this year, there are 48.

“We were really interested in watching what would happen this year because of the slow economy,” DeVore said.

“There’s a real desire of going back to basics —people are cooking at home more,” he added. “It turns out to be, especially if you eat a lot of vegetables, a pretty affordable way to get your food.”

Many CSAs serving the Twin Cities are 30 to 90 miles away in western Wisconsin, where the food movement is said to have gotten its start 20 years ago. One of the first such farms was Common Harvest in Osceola, Wis., a village that now serves a hub for several CSAs.

The village’s proximity to the Twin Cities, along with a culture of small-scale farming in western Wisconsin, makes it a prime location for CSAs, said Dan Guenthner, owner of Common Harvest.

“The scale of agriculture in Wisconsin has always been a bit smaller and a bit more family-farm-oriented than Minnesota in many regards,” said Guenthner. West and south of the Twin Cities, farms grow in size, but traveling east, “that isn’t the case so much,” he added.

Patty Wright and her husband, Michael Racette, were living in Minneapolis when they began searching for land to start a CSA farm. They looked at communities about 90 miles out of the Twin Cities — St. Cloud, Rochester, Hutchinson — but the land was priced out of their means.

“It was just so much more expensive in Minnesota,” Wright said. They found more affordable land in Western Wisconsin, and the couple settled on the village of Prairie Farm, where they have run Spring Hill Community Farm for 18 years. The farm delivers about 150 shares of vegetables to customers each week, and all but 15 go to Minneapolis and St. Paul.

There is a unique partnership between area CSAs, which sometimes combine crops to form group orders or share equipment, Wright said. A few years ago, hail destroyed part of the crop at Spring Hill Community Farm, and Common Harvest came to the rescue with green beans.

“That spirit of cooperation between CSAs has been pretty amazing,” Wright said.

CSA farming has been so successful in the area partly because a core group of farmers serves as mentors for the new generation of growers, DeVore said.

“It’s a very good way for a beginning farmer to get established at farming at a low cost,” DeVore said, adding that as the movement has established itself in the region, more people are looking at it as a feasible farming opportunity.

But CSA farming is not without its challenges.

“You need to produce not only one thing but many things every week for the entire growing season,” Racette said. He estimated the failure rate of CSAs is proportional to that of other small businesses.

However, resources such as the Land Stewardship Project “help smooth the road for new growers,” said Racette, who added, “It’s a great time to be a grower.”

Established farms also have to be cautious they don’t get too caught up in the CSA movement’s growing popularity.

“Probably the biggest concern is to grow cautiously and not be overexuberant in the marketing potential,” Guenthner said. “It would be easy for us to add 50 more shares, but we also have to be in tune with our land.”

After the Land Stewardship Project saw the surprising rise in new farms this year, the group checked in with growers to see if the farms were hurting their bottom lines. They discovered, however, that many farms were selling out their shares faster than they ever had, said DeVore.

“It seems like demand is still outstripping supply,” he said.

Andy Rathbun can be reached at 651-228-2121.

ONLINE

For a listing of Community Supported Agriculture programs that serve the Twin Cities, visit landstewardshipproject.org/csa.html.

//

More and more commercial kitchens are renting out their space for people to whip up their wonderful edible wares to sell.  In St. Croix Falls, Fine Acres Market has been renting out their kitchen to some bread bakers who sell their goodies at the Eureka Farmers’ Market on Fridays.

Linda taking rosemary bread out of the oven, but they're also making dill bread so I can't decide which I'll buy.  Maybe both!

Linda taking rosemary bread out of the oven, but they're also making dill bread so I can't decide which I'll buy. Maybe both!

Linda is also very good at making gluten free breads and sweets.

Ashley with gluten free Gingersnap cookies

Ashley with gluten free Gingersnap cookies

Myrna loves to bake bread as is evident from the looks of her cinnamon rolls. I have a feeling I’m buying a lot of good baked goods today!

Bakers 003

If you’re interested in renting out the commercial kitchen at Fine Acres you can contact them for more information at 715-483-9918.

If you would like to sell your own high acid canned goods you need a special license.  Katelin Holm, our education VISTA, is working on hosting a workshop for that licensing here in our area sometime this fall or next spring.  If you’re interested in signing up or learning more about this workshop you can email Katelin at kholm(insert @ sign)cityofstcroixfalls.com

Last night we had our first Chef at the Market event in St. Croix Falls.  It was a lot of fun, and we had a great crowd.    Chef  Justin Grecco of Greeco’s restaurant in SCF cooked up a  three course meal using vegetables and chicken available at our farmers’ market.   I got to be the sous chef which was a kick for me.

Chef did a great job of teaching people how to prepare the vegetables

Chef did a great job of teaching people how to prepare the vegetables

Chef also showed how to butcher a chicken

Chef also showed how to butcher a chicken

Notice the little boy watching the Chef.  He and his  brother are now big fans of edible flowers and "fresh chicken"

Notice the little boy watching the Chef. He and his brother are now big fans of edible flowers and "fresh chicken"

We also had wonderful acoustic music for the market thanks to Dave Frank, Cynthia Rintala, and Jane Aleckson.

Dave Frank playing at the market.  BTW, the tent is tilted to shade them from the sun

Dave Frank playing at the market. BTW, the tent is tilted to shade them from the sun

After the three courses Justin had to get back to the restaurant, so Arianne and I took over and prepared the recipes again so we could serve more people and made special delivery of  samples to all the vendors who so generously donated their food to the Chef.

Chef at the Market 013

Check the events section of our website to find out who will be the next Chef at the Market.

Chef at the Market in SCF is being organized by VISTA Katelin Holm which is made possible by the Northwest Wisconsin Regional Food Network, The PriceDirect Initiative, the SCF Buy Local Initiative, The Farm to Community Alliance, local farmers of the St. Croix Falls Farmers’ Market, and local chefs.

It’s one of many events being presented throughout northwestern Wisconsin as part of the Nourishing Northern Wisconsin Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin grant project funded by the Dept of Ag, Trade, and Consumer Protection.  The goal is to increase the purchase of locally grown or produced food products for sale to local purchases.

We had the Polk County Fair last weekend.  The weather was very nice – not too hot – but extremely windy on Saturday.  We had a couple of heavy bricks as extra tie-downs, and I’m glad we did!

The Buy Local Initiative and Farm to Community shared tent space, and some nice connections were made with fair-goers.  Thank you to all who volunteered in our space – we really appreciate your help!

Arianne at our fair booth

Arianne at our fair booth

Since our mission is to bring local foods, and the awareness of it to the community, we couldn’t help but wonder what variety of local foods we  could find at the fair.  Here’s what we found….

Polk County brats at the Sportsman's Club food stand

Polk County brats at the Sportsman's Club food stand

The brat was really good.  I created quite a stir though when I asked for onions and pickles.  “Pickles!  On a brat?  I’ve never had anyone order pickles on a brat before!  That’s a first.”   I said “Hey, I’m from Sheboygan I know what I’m doing.”  Of course since Sheboygan is widely considered the bratwurst capital of the world that pretty much made me legit and not crazy.  A guy in line said “Well, if you’re from Sheboygan you’ll have to have a beer with that brat.”  I explained that I’ve been living here too long and I’m passing on the beer.  LOL.

The next photo is of Brad with his slushy.  We’re stretching the local here, but he figures they must be using local water to make there ice   🙂

Slushy 004

I walked passed the Bone Lake Lutheran Church food stand twice hoping to catch someone eating a Van Meter’s hot dog, but everyone was busy eating pie at the time.   You’ll just have to use your imagination….

I saw that the Osceola FFA had beef sandwiches, so I asked if it was local beef, and it surely was.  In conversation with the Ag teacher we look forward to partnering with them for the next fair in offering some locally grown healthy options from area growers.  I know there are others like me that are searching for healthier options at the fair.  I just can’t take the fried food like I used to.

Volunteers at the FFA food stand

Volunteers at the FFA food stand

It’s been a chilly summer, so I wasn’t feeling too hopeful that the Lion’s Club corn was local.  Although they purchased from a local store the corn itself was from Georgia.  In a few weeks the corn they sell will be local.

There are alot of cheese curds at a fair, but we did manage to find a stand selling Ellsworth Cheese curds.  We have more local options for cheese producers, but at least Ellsworth is from a neighboring county.

Cheese Curds 007

I was very excited about my final stop.  It was fabulous honey ice cream made by the University of River Falls.   It’s called Falcon Ice Cream and you can find it at the Polk County Beekeepers booth.  I could hardly hold the camera straight – I just wanted to dive in.  Yum!

Ice Cream 006

Wait until next year – we’re going  to double the local options!