Archive | Fall 2010

Sky High: Farming On Top of the Town

By Kris Woll

The sky isn’t the limit for Dayna Burtness’s new venture: It’s the setting.      

Burtness recently founded Sky High Harvest, a for-profit business aiming to create, right here in Minneapolis, the first large-scale agricultural green roof west of the Hudson River.

Burtness’s initiative is rooted in the conviction that food should be grown close to where it is consumed, even in an urban core, and that such initiatives are good for people, for business, and for the planet.  

“Cities are for people,” explained Burtness. “I’m a big supporter of urban density, and rooftop farming allows for development—of condos, new restaurants, stores—and then on top of that development you can have rooftop farms.”
Other large-scale agricultural green roofs currently exist in New York City, and smaller roofs—featuring raised beds, or more of a rooftop garden model—exist in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Richfield, Minnesota. These projects have provided structural and logistical models for Sky High Harvest.

Burtness’s current work focuses on finding a site for the farm. “Right now I’m taking tours of every single rooftop I possibly can in the hope of finding the first site,” she explained. “I’m establishing a pilot to show people this is neat and successful and possible. In the long term, I want to establish a network of rooftop farms in Minneapolis and St. Paul to really have an impact on local food supply.”  

Burtness sees her niche not just as providing access to locally sourced food in the city, but also as providing the job opportunities in a growing green economy. “In ten years, I’d like to have ten rooftop farms in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. I would like to employ a lot of people as part-time and even some full-time urban farmers.”

Sky High Harvest got a recent boost when it was awarded a $6,000 grant from MinneSpark. The money—$2,000 cash and $4,000 in services—has assisted in business-building efforts including filing the paperwork necessary for becoming an LCC, as well as creating a website and designing a logo. And support for the project has come in other ways as well.

“People are already signing up to volunteer,” Burtness explained. “I get e-mails every day from people who want to know more or send suggestions for roofs.”

And demand for her still-unplanted produce is growing.

“I’ve had lots of interest from core area restaurants, which will keep 100% of my product within a five-mile radius of where it is grown.” Burtness’s efforts blend her agricultural heritage—her family history leads back to farms in southeastern Minnesota—with her metro upbringing—she grew up in the suburbs of the Twin Cities, the first generation in her family to be raised off the farm.

“My dad says that he worked so hard to get off the farm and here his daughter is working so hard to get back,” she laughed.  

Of course, she’s not really trying to get back on the farm—she is working to get the farm here, right on the top of the city she calls home.

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Lucille’s Kitchen Garden

By Kelli Billstein

img_3519When you visit Zoie Glass of Lucille’s Kitchen Garden at the Mill City Farmers Market, she’s eager to share her best dessert tips. Try her strawberry rhubarb basil jam over a couple scoops of vanilla bean ice cream, she says. If you add a handful of Bliss Granola (a neighboring vendor at the market), the dish tastes just like a rhubarb bar. In between the savory recipe banter, you’ll see that Zoie is not just in the business of postprandial delicacies; for the most part, she’s known for her artisan jams and chutneys.

Every Saturday for the past three years, she’s been selling at Mill City. Inventive combinations of preserves like green pepper jam, garlic pepper jam, cranberry white balsamic chutney, and the ever-popular raspberry pepper jam have made her a valued addition to the market. The jam, named after Zoie’s 8-year-old daughter, Lucille, does one better: it helps to sell other products at the market. When Zoie combines her strawberry jam with Bliss Granola, or passes a jar to her friends at the Bramblewood Cottage stand to pair with their shortbread cookies, she’s working with her fellow sellers to expose customers to the possibilities of combining local products.

“I love the market,” says Zoie. “There’s just great energy. And it’s nice to work together for exposure at more than one booth. The cheese stand serves my jam with their cheese, and sometimes Star Prairie Trout will be sampled with my garlic pepper jam.”

Working with the other vendors and staying in communication during the growing season is what makes the market function as well as it does. Creative collaboration between the stands inspires us, too, to experiment in our own kitchens with local products, and we’re all the happier for it.

Lucille’s Kitchen has new fruit spreads with less sugar content (Little Lucy’s Strawberry Vanilla and Old-Fashioned Raspberry Lime) as well as fresh apple butter for the fall. Check out their website for more information: www.lucilleskitchengarden.com.

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Sunflower Oil: Everything’s Coming Up Sunflowers

By Kelli Billstein

img_3459-1The only complaint that Tom and Jenni Smude are hearing about their new cold-pressed sunflower oil is that customers like the flavor so much that the bottle basically empties itself.

“When are you coming back to the market?” a woman from Onamia, Minnesota asked Tom one day this summer. “I’m already out of your sunflower oil, and I need more.”

Tom advised her to go to one of their supermarket or co-op carriers to pick up another bottle, to which the woman said she’d tried that already without any luck: the shelves were empty.

The Smudes are newcomers to the sunflower oil industry. They’ve been raising beef cows and crops on their farm near Pierz, Minnesota since 1999. In 2009, they expanded to include a processing plant for cold-pressed sunflower oil. Though a very young operation, it’s already seeing success.

Sunflowers do well in dry climatic conditions, which suited the Smudes’ farm well. After harvesting the plants, they separate the hull from the seed. Then the meat (inside of the seed) is crushed to release its oil. This oil gets filtered and cold-pressed in a natural, chemical-free environment.

“The taste is unbelievable,” Tom says, describing it as sweet and nutty. He explains that sunflower oil can be used in all the same ways that olive oil and butter can, but it’s better for your health. For sunflower oil’s one gram of saturated fat per serving, olive oil has two, and butter has seven. Sunflower oil is also high in Vitamin E.

The Smudes recommend using their oil for flavoring popcorn or for sautéing vegetables. Currently, the oil is being put to use in restaurants like Spoonriver and is finding its way onto (and just as quickly, off of) shelves in co-ops and grocery stores around the Twin Cities. A listing of distributors can be found at: www.smudeoil.com.

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Growing Lots: Paradise has Returned to the Parking Lot

By Kris Woll

img_6463growinglotsThere is a CSA pick up every Thursday in one corner parking lot in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis. But these shares are not trucked in from a farm outside of the 494/694 loop. Instead, they are grown right there—in Minneapolis, in Seward, atop the pavement at the corner of 22nd Street and Snelling.  There, urban farmer Stefan Meyer is cultivating melons—and basil and Swiss chard—in the lot itself.  

The farm, called Growing Lots, sits on a ¼ acre of a four-block parcel of land owned by Seward Redesign. The project, new this year, is the first of many steps in the redevelopment of the site. The development will eventually feature commercial and residential properties as well as urban agriculture.  

Growing Lots is starting small, with seven CSA members and occasional extra weekly shares to donate or sell on a per-item basis. Each of the seven members works or lives near the farm.  

“Ideally I think I could run twenty to thirty CSAs from this project,” said Meyer. “I’m using a very bio-intensive method of growing, which is something you can do on a smaller scale. It requires a lot of hands-on work, but produces more food per square foot.”  

Because the area’s landscape and the site of the farm itself will change greatly as the redevelopment project moves forward, Meyer constructed the farm out of easily movable but reusable materials. Straw and soil fill the center of the parking lot; melons and potatoes in small “pots” of the same straw and soil and wrapped in fencing dot the perimeter. The soil used this summer will be reused next year. He plans to eventually construct high tunnels, or large unheated greenhouses, to lengthen the growing season.  

Meyer brings a wealth of knowledge about farming to his work. He grew up on a large turkey, corn, and soybean farm in southwest Minnesota and has been “playing in dirt” for as long as he can remember. He spent over a decade living, working, and studying sustainable agriculture in the Pacific Northwest, where he completed a degree in environmental science at the University of Oregon. Upon his return to Minneapolis, Seward Redesign contacted him to discuss moving forward on the agricultural piece of their development plan. He signed on, excited to grow food for an urban neighborhood right in the urban neighborhood.  

Meyer sees Growing Lots as an important part of a larger transition to sustainable food production and sustainable living in general.

“Urban farming will never replace rural agriculture, rather it is another aspect of creating a healthy and sustainable food economy,” Meyer explained. “I hope the project will inspire others to think creatively around where and how we can expand urban food production.”  

He added, “I want to actually be producing food that directly feeds the local community of south Minneapolis, while finding a way to make it an economically viable business model so urban farmers can feed their economic livelihood.”

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Cooking Fresh: Cabbage

cabbagewebWith descriptives such as basic, sturdy, and compact, cabbage may very well be considered the wallflower of vegetables. Purchased by the head and almost always hanging around, choice cabbage has unblemished leaves making up hard, tightly packed spheres, the heavier the better. But as with so many things of real value, it’s what’s inside that counts, and when fall is upon us and cabbage is at its best, you might find it worth your while to take a second look. A member of the cruciferous family,
cabbage boasts almost twice the cancer-fighting phytonutrients compared to other vegetables, especially when not over-cooked. It contains so much vitamin C that Dutch sailors once relied on the fermented version, known as sauerkraut, to stave off scurvy. It was considered a cure-all by the Greeks and Romans, who ate it in large quantities, and the pickled version known as kimchi is currently hailed as Korea’s national dish.

Cabbage as we know it derives from a wild plant akin to kale, with leaves loosed and not shaped into a head. Napa and Celery Cabbage stay true to this heritage, slim and elongated in body with mostly white, ruffled leaves. Other varieties such as pak choi or bok choy, (choy meaning “greens” in Cantonese), are not always considered “true” cabbage and are actually types of Chinese chard. Red, green, and savoy are your three main types of head cabbage, with leaves ranging from shiny and green to crinkly and white. The red varieties with their deep purple leaves offer six to eight times more vitamin C and can be used interchangeably with green, but will discolor whatever they are cooked with. The compound anthocyanin that gives it such an alluring hue can also change to an odd blue when cooked in water, so be sure to add a teaspoon of something acidic, such as vinegar, lemon juice, or wine. Even if you forget and add it afterwards, the agent will still usually restore the original color. It just goes to show that even the humblest vegetable among us is capable of looking and tasting good, if given a bit of tender loving care.

Cabbage Chemistry

Do Slice: Chopping or slicing cabbage releases its anti-carcinogenic agents. To get the maximum health benefits, enjoy raw or allow the cabbage to rest 5-10 minutes after slicing before cooking, then stir-fry or steam lightly.

Don’t Buy Shredded: The vitamin C content of this vegetable is greatly compromised if pre-shredded and stored for days, so it pays to buy fresh from your local growers and cut it to size yourself.

Do Buy Organic: As with any crucifer plants, cancer-fighting phytonutrient levels in cabbage are much higher in those organically grown as compared to those not.

Do Wrap: Cabbages are best kept wrapped in plastic in a cool place, and most varieties will keep this way for up to two weeks. If not using the entire head of cabbage that day, wrap tightly in plastic and store in the crisper of your refrigerator.  

Do Stuff:
For an easy, healthy version of the traditional stuffed cabbage, use the tender, sweeter leaves of the Savoy, spoon in any leftover rice or vegetable dish (quinoa pilaf works wonderfully), roll up into little packages, then bake until tender. They are delicious with a marinara sauce poured over the top when baking.

Do Juice: Raw cabbage juice is known for its restorative treatment of the stomach lining. Add a few fresh cabbage leaves to any juicing recipe; especially good with apple and a few carrots.

Recipes

Amma’s Hot Red Cabbage

Sweet Savoy Slaw with Cranberries and Apples

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Fall 2010 Table of Contents

FEATURES:etcfall10coverweb

BEAN ADVENTURES
By Jerry McClelland

KNOW YOUR FARMER, KNOW YOUR FOOD
By Aimee Witteman

MUSINGS OF A HUNTER/GATHERER
By Teresa Marrone

THE RABBIT IN MY FREEZER
By Carol J. Butler

DEPARTMENTS:

NOTABLE EDIBLES

Paradise Has Returned to the Parking Lot

Farming on Top of the Town

Everthing’s Coming Up Sunflowers

Heirloom Apples

Lucille’s Kitchen Garden (Web Exclusive)

 

COOKING FRESH
Cabbage
By Carol J. Butler

OFF THE SHELF
Bergin Fruit and Nut Company
By Teresa Marrone

EDIBLE NATION
Fall Fruits
By Deborah Madison

ROADSIDE DIARIES
Small-Town Wisconsin
By Chip Walton

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