Thanks to my non-farmgirl friend from Chicago for a tip about a Tennessee man's quest to grow rare, delicious black truffles on American soil. Millions of dollars have been spent trying to grow the truffles in the U.S., but to no avail.
But finally, paydirt. Indeed, plant pathologist Tom Michaels struck Tennessee gold with his grove of hazelnut trees that sprouted the elusive Périgord black truffles so enticing that they are the first American crop to excite some of the country's top chefs. At least so says the New York Times in its story, "Coveted, French, and Now in Tennessee."
The Times reports how Michaels, who grew up on a mushroom farm near Chicago, mastered the art and science of tending a truffle orchard. It takes some six to 12 years for the fungi to form the truffles, the Times says: "Mystery and scarcity are part of the truffle's allure."
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Despite concerns from FDA opponents to unpasteurized dairy, California farmer Mark McAfee is hitting the road to stump for what he considers the nutritional supremacy of raw milk. McAfee, from the 600-acre Organic Pastures farm in Fresno, traveled cross country recently to speak at the Southeast Pennsylvania Grazing Conference. Lancaster Farming reported that
McAfee is using his past marketing training to trumpet the "good bacteria" in raw milk that is "essential in strengthening a a human body's immune system." The report quotes McAfee saying, "You're drinking a living food that is really essential to life." But the article also is careful to point out that there are many who are wary of raw milk and bacteria from unpasteurized dairy that can cause illness.
Also check out this fairly recent story in the Washington Post about Maryland farmer Kevin Oyarzo, who is suing to challenge the state's restrictions on raw milk.
Monday, February 26, 2007
I was in a meeting today on a topic about as far from farming as possible, yet I found myself talking to someone whose brother raises chickens on some land in Anderson, Ind. Or at least he tries to raise chickens. I say tries because apparently the coyotes keep raiding his hen house. I suggested his brother check out some cool sites for some sturdier chicken coops. Meanwhile, thanks to a tip from my hubby, I discovered that the Brooklyn Brownstoner blog has hosted a running discussion about urban backyard chickens. One poster refers to Just Food, an organization with the ambitious goal of bringing sustainable living to New York City. More importantly, the CSA-supporting Just Food has a City Chicken Project, which supports city dwellers who want to raise their own egg-layers. WNYC had a program, complete with downloadable MP3 and slide show on the project.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
I've been trying to come up with an Oscars-related post, but the only one I can think of is that Farmgirl Marsha Mason, a nominee for her role in the 1977 film The Goodbye Girl, is now running an organic herb farm - Resting in the River - in beautiful arid Abiquiu, New Mexico. Then, of course, there's the Oscar-winning farmer Paul Newman, the drop-dead gorgeous philanthropist founder of Newman's Own, and inspiration for his Farmgirl daughter Nell Newman, who launched Newman's Own Organics. In her bio, Nell talks about her farmgirl upbringing, toiling in the garden, raising chickens and learning from her father how to fish and how to cook from her Oscar-winning mother Joanne Woodward.
Sadly, I didn't see Marsha, Paul or Joanne during the Academy Awards. And my Oscar night pix were rotten. I half stopped listening when Sacha Cohen didn't win for Borat.
Sadly, I didn't see Marsha, Paul or Joanne during the Academy Awards. And my Oscar night pix were rotten. I half stopped listening when Sacha Cohen didn't win for Borat.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
I read a couple of provocative stories this week. The first was in Salon.com, based on a new study by Manchester School of Business for the United Kingdom's Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, that challenged the notion that sustainable organic is indeed better for the environment. The second was in Capital Press, a sort of first-person rant about the word "sustainable" and whether that's just a fad term imposed on traditional farmers by outsiders or "wanna be" farmers. Both articles seem to push against sustainability, without getting the point, that sustainability is about more than just food production. It's about, among a laundry list of other things, environmental harmony.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is celebrating Black History Month by promoting Carver's Secret Garden, an agricultural program developed for inner-city urban youth. Created by Rick Sayles, a 4-H Urban Youth Development Educator with Penn State Cooperative Extension's Capital Region, the program was named for the famed agricultural inventor George Washington Carver, who was known as "The Plant Doctor." Sayles has planted seven of the gardening clubs throughout the Capital region, all designed to help youth develop teamwork, responsibility and leadership skills.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Wal-Mart announced this week that it is partnering with North Dakota's Tri Campbell Farms in an effort to show that it is working harder to buy produce from local growers. In the deal with Wal-Mart, the family-owned Tri-Campbell will provide homegrown potatoes to stores in the North Dakota region. In a release about the deal, the VP for perishable foods - Bruce Peterson, says, "We understand that consumers want to purchase quality products that help support the local economy and we're proud of our ability to bring wholesome, home-grown selections to our customers in North Dakota. This commitment not only allows us to offer fresh, quality selections but also generate savings on distribution costs that we can pass on to our customers."
Posted by Virtual Farmgirl at 9:18 PM
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Here's a photo Hoosier Outsider sent today near Eastbrook, just south of Indiana 18 in Grant County. This certainly shows there's more than one way to report the news and get your message out. Clearly this barn owner is no fan of CAFOs for a number of environmental and health reasons. The "Barn News" refers passersby to several sites, including The Iowa Policy Project and what I'm pretty sure is supposed to be the link for the University of Iowa's Environmental Health Sciences Research Center.
Monday, February 19, 2007
We got a belated Christmas letter from our friends in New Mexico this weekend and learned that there's a fabulous new co-op in the area where I used to live near Ojo Sarco. The Dixon Market, in addition to providing food for locals, supports small farming and sustainable agricultural operations. Dixon Market hosts a weekly farmers market (through October) that boasts, what I'm sure are outstanding tamales and tortillas. [I also learned from our friends that Sipapu lift tix are only 40 bucks. A great deal. When I was skiing, there were no chair lifts, just a rope to pull my 6th-grade class up the mountain. I'd save my money to buy peppermint sticks and hot chocolate after I made it back down the mountain. I see from their site that kids 6 and under are still free!] Image: I can't tell if Farmgirl Sylvia Vergara of La Carreta sells at Dixon, but her small farm and gallery are worth a look.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
I've been busy with the kiddies this weekend, but I didn't want another day go by without mentioning this piece about "Green Weddings" that I was forwarded last week from the New York Times. Some great organic, sustainable-oriented businesses are featured in the piece, including organicbouquet.com. Even more noteworthy, the story features couples such as Josh Houdek and Kristi Papenfuss who are in the midst of planning a "zero waste" wedding - complete with "compostable plates and utensils, organic and fair trade-certified food, locally brewed beer and organic wine and wedding rings that are '100 percent reclaimed, recycled, ecologically responsible gold,'" the NYTs reports. And, of course, the whole affair will be hosted on a farm. If brides, the NYTs calls them the "anti-Bridezillas," are at a loss for how to go from white to green on their wedding day, there's even a publication for them: Portovert Magazine, which premiered with its first issue in 2007. And while there appear to be many working farms that will host weddings, there are others that have converted old barns and farmhouses into all-purpose event spaces for just such an occasion. [Image: Plantable Daisy party favors from FavorIdeas.com.]
Friday, February 16, 2007
I'm getting closer to finally checking out my town's ordinances on pets and whether I can get away with having backyard chickens. More on underground chicken movements here, though the site hasn't been updated in a while. I wasn't sold on the idea until I did more reading about the nutrients packed into fresh eggs. They certainly didn't hurt me when I was growing up. And I'd love for my kids to tend to their own birds. I had ducks for a while and loved taking care of them. I've seen several sites I like, but My Pet Chicken is my new favorite. Check out this archive story in Backyard Poultry Magazine about the Backyard Chicken Coop Tour in Madison, Wis., last summer. Felt chicken hat from My Pet Chicken's store.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
For those of us (with enough space) considering backyard chickens or looking for a cheap easy way to build a coop, Small Farm Today published an article recently about how to build a straw bale chicken house. These are probably not for the urban farmer, but look pretty easy to set up. Article author Ron Macher swears by the sturdiness of the coops...something I can completely buy considering we have friends in New Mexico who built their house out of straw bales. Macher says he has coops that are seven years old and expects they will last at least 10 years.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
I have been waiting for Belk to come out with its line of home decor collection designed by Idaho Farmgirl guru MaryJane Butters. The MaryJanesFarm Home collection by Homestead was announced in October and was supposed to be available by this month. But so far, I can't seem to find the products at Belk.com.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Photographer John Ficara has a beautiful traveling exhibit as part of his "American Black Farmers Project," which the media, including this piece in the Roanoke Times, is reporting during Black History Month. The series purports to document the demise of black family farmers in the United States. A description of Ficara's photos, says "Through his photographs we feel their dignity, grace, humor and spirit as they battle the onslaught of globalization, changing agricultural technology, and discriminatory lending practices by the U.S. Department of Agriculture." Check out Ficara's online gallery to see more image, though there aren't many Farmgirls in the mix. This photo of 91-year-old Rosa Murphy appears in a couple of stories I've seen.
Monday, February 12, 2007
A story in the Capital Press this weekend featured an Oregon family who turned grain silos into contemporary bedrooms for their "country contemporary" bed and breakfast at Abbey Road Farm. The one-time 82-acre horse farm now attracts wine tourists and bicyclists who visit area vineyards near Carlton, which is about 35 miles north of Portland. Insurance expert turned Farmgirl Judi Stuart and her husband John, who run the B&B and the farm, have restored a wetland to use as a drainfield, which attracts birds and wildlife. Guests are treated to farm-fresh eggs and veggies. The family also keeps llamas, goats and donkeys. When guests go wine tasting, they can try the goat's milk produced at the farm or buy goat-milk soap at the farm's gift shop. The story details the couple's journey from city life to farm life.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
The Associated Press had this story today about the latest fad for farmers: the Internet. According to interesting, but not-so-groundbreaking piece, more than half (51 percent) of U.S. farms had Internet access by July 2005. That's up from 48 percent in 2003. Forums are busy with farm talk too. The AP reports that Farm Journal Media's Net division has seen double the traffic between October 2005 and October 2006. None of this is surprising considering all the great information I'm finding about all kinds of farming on the Internet...not to mention the absolute generosity of small- to large-scale farmers looking to connect and share what they know. Too bad there is no mention of farmgirls in the story. Considering that women farmers are breaking into the field at a healthy clip, it was an unfortunate omission.
Posted by Virtual Farmgirl at 10:54 PM
Friday, February 9, 2007
The family headed to southern Indiana to visit my mother-in-law this weekend and listened to the Feb. 3 edition of Geek.Farm.Life (http://www.three-elms.com/gfl/) on the way down. Loved all the info about making cheese from excess goat's milk and the teaser about spinning yarn. I'll be eager to hear more about both, which Farmgirl Misty and Andrew plan to podcast about once a month. I can also sympathize with Misty and Andrew about the cold. We had 10 below in NW Indiana, double that with the wind chill. Brrrrr. [Photo from Andrew's gallery this week.]
Thursday, February 8, 2007
The big Farmgirl celebrity gossip is that Bedazzled star Liz Hurley is giving up the glory and glam of Hollywood for the "simple life" of farming. Farmgirl Liz says: "When we get our organic status we're going to farm properly and we're going to have a heard of cows and proper sheep and proper chickens, and we're going to have small amounts of Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs...I would like to go for some kind of organic food production and I plan to do it – maybe something Indian." But Hurley isn't the only celebrity Farmgirl out there. Goodbye Girl star Marsha Mason owns and runs the Resting in the River organic farm outside of Santa Fe.
Tell me about any more celebrity Farmgirls you know about by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
After buying the most flavorless tomatoes I've ever seen at the local grocery this week, I fully appreciated this story in the Indianapolis Star about where to find fresh veggies, meat and other farmers market items mid-winter. The story features Zionsville, Ind., small grass-fed dairy Traders Point Creamery. The dairy hosts several vendors every Saturday morning through April, then opens up on Fridays through late spring and summer. The Star piece lists the other vendors at Traders Point - including One Sky Farm, Harvest Lodge, Brown Family Farm and Valentine Hill Farm - and this scrumptious-looking recipe for four-mushroom stroganoff.
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
I was looking through my first issue of Ornamentals & Edibles and came across Wisconsin tree-Farmgirl Caron Wenzel, who wrote a short piece [Not Online] about the curious-looking root veggie celeriac. I'm anxious to try one (or both) of the recipes the magazine printed the magazine, especially the Celeriac and Bacon Chowder.
Monday, February 5, 2007
Mother Earth Living had a nice piece about raising backyard chickens to ensure your family is eating healthier eggs. Healthier indeed. Mother Earth News says it tested four flocks of free-range chickens and found that their eggs had half the cholesterol than the USDA's official average. The study also found the free-range eggs had 50 percent more Vitamin E and more beta-carotene and Omega-3 fatty acids. Check back with Mother Earth News in their April/May issue. They promise to publish a design for a low-cost portable chicken pen. Thanks to Ethicurean for the tip about the story.
Sunday, February 4, 2007
I was going to blog about how even Hawaii, with all its majestic shorelines and dramatic cliffs, mountains and lava veins, is recognizing the value of Agri-tourism and is forming a Hawaii Agtourism Association. But we're celebrating the Colts win, Indy Coach Tony Dungy and MVP Peyton Manning.
Saturday, February 3, 2007
A very special Virtual Farmgirl thanks to the husband for directing me to a story in the Indianapolis Star headlined, "Just a Very Thankful Farm Girl," about 113-year-old Edna Parker, who reigns as the oldest person in the United States. She also happens to be a Colts fan! I was wondering how I'd manage to work the Super Bowl into a post. At 113, it's no surprise Edna was born into farming or that she married a neighbor farmer. And she still prefers the simple life, according to the Star, which says Edna "never watches television, preferring the radio and newspapers." This AP story from WTHR has just a few more details about Edna giving up her teaching career after having graduated from my sister-in-law's alma mater, Franklin College, to take care of her family and cook for the farmhands. Hats off to Edna and her caregivers in lovely Shelby County.
Friday, February 2, 2007
The Miami Herald had this story today about the growth of niche vegetable farming. For 40 years, the Capote family has grown a Cuban sweet potato called boniato. They're one of a growing number of family farms responding to the tastes of fast-growing immigrant populations around the country. It's hard to immagine in my house, but cilantro is on the list of ethnic veggies. Less familiar to me is malanga, chayote and zapote. Rutgers has been following the trends and is developing marketing plans for ethnic veggies, which can bring in more money than mainstream veggies. The Herald cites one example: eggplant sells for $10 a box. But Japanese, Chinese and Indian eggplant can bring in $30 a box. USA Today had a similar story, focusing on New Jersey farmers here.
Thursday, February 1, 2007
For the third year, Progressive Farmer Magazine named its "Best Places to Live in Rural America," selecting Barren County, Kentucky for the No. 1 slot. A promo about the top 10 talks about a growing interest in "new ruralism" in which over the past 20 years 71 percent of rural counties gained in population. Editor Jamie Cole explains: "We feel our rankings reflect the newfound energy and vitality of rural America and showcase places that offer the very best in quality of life and comfort for their residents and workers."
Here are the rest of the Top 10:
2. Warren County, Pa.
3. Randolph County, Ill.
4. Gillespie County, Texas
5. Union County, S.D.
6. St. Lawrence County, N.Y.
7. Sac County, Iowa
8. Garfield County, Okla.
9. Amador County, Calif.
10.Polk County, N.C.
Posted by Virtual Farmgirl at 7:58 PM
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