Archives

Shop Local at the Farmers’ Market

We’re all about local at Minnesota Grown. This month, we’re celebrating one of our favorite ways to shop lots of Minnesota Grown members in one stop: farmers’ markets!

June is opening month for many summer farmers’ markets. Strawberries bloom and ripen, fresh flowers and herbs abound, and products like jams and jellies, honey, meat, and eggs are available and easy to find.

Look for these Minnesota Grown in-season products in farmers’ markets in June.

Look for these Minnesota Grown in-season products in farmers’ markets in June.

Sara George, market manager of the Wabasha Farmer’s Market, is excited to kick off another season with a large variety of local produce.

“In June it’s so fun to see asparagus and taste the radishes and the fresh spring mix lettuces… and strawberries are coming!” said George. “If I had to choose my favorite vegetable it would be really, really hard because it’s what’s in season. Spinach right now is incredible!”

George is also a vendor at the Wabasha Farmers’ Market and is currently vice president of the board of the Minnesota Famers’ Market Association. George credits community support of the Wabasha Farmers’ Market with its success and says that because of their loyal customers, the market has been able to open on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings.

“Our locals are really loyal and we’re so thankful to have a fabulous farmers’ market in Wabasha,” said George. “We want to reach the crowds that are able to come after work, and a lot of people want to do their weekend shopping on Saturday mornings. We want to have fresh produce available whenever they come.”

Farmers’ markets are not a new idea. In fact, St. Paul had a regularly scheduled farmers’ market as early as 1852, according to their website.

The recent boom in number of farmers’ markets makes shopping local more convenient than ever. The Minnesota Grown Directory lists more than 180 farmers’ markets selling locally grown and made products directly to consumers.

“The growing number of Minnesota farmers’ markets is exciting for customers,” said Karen Lanthier, Minnesota Grown Member Services Coordinator. “We have member markets in every area of the state, so people can find markets nearby where they live and work. We’ve also seen more weeknight and weekend markets, which can give busy families more times to buy directly from local farmers.”

Shopping at farmers’ markets is a great way to make sure produce is fresh, in-season, and tasty. For many families, it’s also a fun way to purchase healthy foods together.

“Each and every farmers’ market is made of something special,” said George. “Get out and try local, because the flavor of local is so different from the flavor of grocery stores.”

Whatever your reasons for shopping local, Minnesota Grown can help you find a farmers’ market in your area. Check the Minnesota Grown Directory for the dates and times of a farmers’ market near you and look for the Minnesota Grown logo to find local foods, fibers, jams and jellies, gifts, and home décor. Thanks to Sara George and the Wabasha Farmer’s Market!

Sweet Strawberries are in Season

It’s almost berry season in Minnesota. We spoke with strawberry producers across the state about the upcoming season, asked for some preservation and freezing tips, and even got a delicious Strawberry Shortcake Bars recipe.

Strawberry farms in the metro area, central, and southern Minnesota are expected to open mid- to late June. Opening dates depend on soil conditions, berry varieties, and weather. “The crop looks good this year,” said Julie Townsend of Dassel Hillside Farm in central Minnesota. “We did not have frost and the strawberries are blooming. We are expecting to open the week of June 11.” For northern Minnesota counties, the berry season is expected to start in late June or early July. Thaddeus McCamant, a specialty crop instructor at Central Lakes College in Brainerd, explains. “The cooler northern climate causes a later season,” said McCamant. “Mild temperatures extend the picking season because it slows the ripening of the berry,” which can improve a crop’s color, taste, and size.

Strawberries can be picked 21-30 days after a plant blossoms. Unlike other fruits, once a strawberry is picked, it will not get any riper. Choose berries that are firm, plump, and bright red, with the green top still attached.

Tonya Sanner of Firefly Berries told us that the season generally lasts 2-3 weeks for June bearing varieties, which is most common for Minnesota berry patches. Everbearing varieties have 3 small spurts of ripeness throughout the summer. Regardless of the variety, remember that the demand is high during the first few days of picking. It’s always a good idea to call ahead or check farms’ Facebook pages before visiting. Even if a farm is open for the season, growers will know the best times to come and can help you plan for a great berry picking experience.

For many Minnesota families, strawberry picking is a great way to involve multiple generations in a beloved tradition. From picking to preserving, berries can also provide hands-on educational experiences.

“Strawberry picking is a family activity,” said Katherine Brozek of Hilltop Harvest Strawberry Farm in Redwood Falls. “We love to watch young kids learn where their food comes from.”

Brozek recommends picking berries in the morning when the air is cooler and berries are firmer. After picking, get them to a cooler as soon as possible. Fresh strawberries should be processed or eaten within three days of picking.

Berries should not be washed until they are ready to be eaten. To freeze the berries, wash them, cut the tops, place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and freeze for thirty minutes. Once frozen, place the berries in Ziploc bags for smoothies or fresh strawberries later in the year.

The Minnesota Grown Directory has 80 strawberry farms, 31 blueberry farms, and 41 summer raspberry farms. Thank you, Dassel Hillside Berry Farm, Firefly Berries, Hilltop Harvest, and Thaddeus McCamant for your insight on Minnesota Berry farms and the 2017 picking season!

Member Spotlight: Redhead Creamery

We are not moo-staken… June is National Dairy Month! To celebrate, we talked with Alise Sjostrom from Redhead Creamery, LLC. After Alise spent time learning the trade in Vermont and Wisconsin, she and her husband Lucas moved back home to Minnesota, joining her parents to launch Redhead Creamery. In 2013/2014, the family built a cheese plant on their dairy farm in Brooten and the business continued to grow. Today, Redhead Creamery sells cheese in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, and will soon be selling in Illinois. Check out their full interview below.

Minnesota Grown: How long have you been making cheese?

Redhead Creamery: Our dairy farm has been in the family for over thirty years. We have been making cheese for four years. Prior to Redhead Creamery, I worked at other companies perfecting cheese making. For full history, check out the Redhead Creamery website history page.

MG: Where does the milk come from?

RC: We have 180 milking cows on-site. We use our own milk for our cheese. The remainder of the milk goes to Bongards’ Creameries in Norwood Young America.

MG: How do you make the cheese?

RC: There are four basic ingredients in cheese: milk, rennet, culture, and salt. We add the cultures depending on the variety of cheese because it ripens the milk and provides the flavor profile. Rennet coagulates the milk, giving it a pudding consistency. Next, we cut the curd, which separates it from the whey.  For cheese curds, you cut the curd, drain the whey, go through a cheddaring process, stack the slabs of curd on top of each other, mill the curd, and add salt. For an aged cheddar, we place the cut curd in a round mold and press it overnight. Our Lucky Linda Aged Cheddar must age for at least six months. For Brie, the process is very different from cheddar in that you mould the curd with the whey, which helps control the texture of the cheese. Cheeses are flipped upside down and upright several times during its four weeks of aging. We make cheese two times per week, totaling 800 pounds per week.

MG: What flavors of cheese do you offer?

RC: We make cheddar, Lucky Linda (a cave-aged clothbound cheddar), fresh cheese curds, Little Lucy (a Brie), cloth bound cheddar, cave-aged garlic cheddar, St. Anthony (a Redhead Creamery original), Red Temper (a chipotle honey cheddar), North Fork Whiskey Washed Munster and a few seasonal cheeses.

MG: Do you host any events throughout the year?

RC: On June 15, we will partner with Usborne Books and host a book fair at the farm that features agricultural education books for kids and a small petting farm. We also have an open house on June 24 with food, drinks, and live music. Throughout the year, we host beer and cheese tastings, wine and cheese pairing parties, and a holiday open house.

MG: How do you celebrate National Dairy Month?

RC: The easiest answer would be making cheese. However, we do so much more. Every Saturday at 12:30, we have tours of the farm. We talk about the history of the farm and the cows themselves. We emphasize the life of a cow, what we feed her, how we take care of her, and why the cow is important to us. We focus on the farm-to-fork aspect of agriculture for an estimated 8,000 visitors over the past three years.

MG: How do you practice sustainability on your dairy farm?

RC: Highlights include reducing our farm’s energy use by 20% by utilizing an energy efficiency program, not using any commercial fertilizer on any of our 258 acres, and feeding whey byproduct generated while making artisan cheese at our on-site cheese processing operation back to our cows. Our farm has also achieved Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification, improving water quality of the nearby Crow River for local residents and wildlife.

MG: Why should consumers buy local products?

RC: Local foods build a community around your food and makes life a little more enjoyable. We try to integrate other local foods in our shop. We offer Minnesota honey, maple syrup, jam, apples, and mustard for sale.

Thank you Redhead Creamery for talking with us about dairy cows and cheese. As Minnesotans, we love nutritious dairy products! The Midwest Dairy Association and the United States Department of Agriculture recommend having three servings of milk, cheese, or yogurt every day! For more dairy resources, nutrition information, farm facts, and recipes, visit the Midwest Dairy Association website, or find a dairy farmer near you. The Minnesota Grown Directory lists 15 local farmers who sell dairy products directly to consumers.

Don’t Be a Bird Brain!

Microorganisms (microbes) can make our food very delicious or very dangerous. We have bacteria, fungi, and yeast to thank for many of our favorite foods like yogurt, blue cheese, beer, and sauerkraut. Microbes are key to making these foods. Minnesota Grown member Mill City Farmers Market highlighted some of the fermented foods people can enjoy by harnessing microbe power.

Although we can thank microbes for many delicious eating and drinking experiences, they can also be dangerous in other scenarios. Certain strains of bacteria like E. coli, salmonella, listeria, and campylobacter can cause discomfort, serious health problems, and even death. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food Safety Website helps people understand food poisoning symptoms, take steps to prevent illnesses, learn about food recalls, and use smart food handling practices to avoid food poisoning.

Good food safety practices are important for all foods, including locally grown and organic foods. Minnesota Grown member Jane Jewett of Willow Sedge Farm shared some of her insights on food safety.

“There is no magic that prevents food-borne illness in locally grown foods, so you should take the same food safety precautions with locally grown foods that you take with any foods,” said Jewett. “Unfortunately, even pastured chickens can shed salmonella from time to time, so taking the recommended [food safety] precautions with chicken and eggs is important.”

Farmers around Minnesota work hard to keep their food as safe as possible between growing/raising it and selling it to their customers. Jewett noted, “One important way we keep our chicken safe at the market is by maintaining freezer temperature. I plug in my freezer at our market and even carry a back-up generator in case the market ever lost power.”

Given the hard work farmers are doing to sell high-quality, safe food, it’s important that customers help keep food safe in transport and at home. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends four simple steps for food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.

Four Steps for Food Safety by Karen Lanthier

It’s important to clean your hands, surfaces, fruits, and vegetables to wash off any contamination. (Note that meat, poultry, and eggs should not be washed.) Keeping higher-risk foods like meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separated from your other food is important when placing foods in shopping carts, packing your food in bags, refrigerating foods, and using cutting boards. Cooking helps eliminate bacteria that pose a food safety risk, but use a food thermometer to be sure food has reached a safe temperature. Lastly, don’t leave food sitting out that needs to go in the refrigerator or freezer, and never thaw or marinate food outside of the refrigerator.

A final recommendation from Jewett fits well with the four-step method for food safety. “Don’t forget the simple things like washing your hands. It’s one of the best ways to prevent cross-contamination.”

So whether you’re cooking at home or grilling at the cabin this summer, don’t forget to clean, separate, cook, and chill to enjoy Minnesota Grown foods all summer long. For inspiration, check out the wide variety of delicious, local foods in the Minnesota Grown Directory and use the What’s In Season chart to find foods that are tastiest right now. Many thanks to Jane Jewett at Willow Sedge Farm for sharing her insights on farming and food safety with Minnesota Grown.

Member Spotlight: Helstrom Farms

May is National Beef month! We talked with Minnesota Grown member Jason from Helstrom Farms in Hibbing, MN and asked about his beef operation and environmental sustainability practices. The land has been in the family name since 1904. After attending a Sustainable Farming Association grazing conference, Helstrom Farms adopted the mob-grazing management, which prevents cattle from overgrazing. The combination of healthy soil, plants, and animals have allowed them to offer nutritious, premium, grass-fed beef to consumers.

Minnesota Grown: Tell us about your farming operation.
Helstrom Farms: At our farm, we focus on the health of the soil through grazing. Our improved Angus cross genetics have thrived in Minnesota environments. We believe in the practice of true animal husbandry. The cattle are certified True North Woods Organic. Because of our management style of mob-grazing and no added input, we have actually increased grass production by 2-3 times.

MG: What is mob-grazing?
HF: Livestock who eat the grass down to the soil weaken the root of the grass. With mob-grazing, cattle are only allowed to eat off tall stocks of grass. With the solid grass cover, the ground is cooler, protected from erosion, and drought resistant. We also help with the ecosystem within the organic matter layer of soil. Our rotational grazing management helps the ecosystem of bugs, worms, and microbes that are in the soil, which in turn, support a strong root system. Mob-grazing is proven by the EPA to restore damaged land and improve sustainability. For further information on mob-grazing practice and evidence of its effect, check out this USDA article.

MG: Environmental sustainability is important to farmers. Please tell us about your efforts to preserve the soil and the environment.
HF: Through proper management, we can reverse our carbon footprint and improve the environment. To start, we do not overgraze, we thrive with mob-grazing. We let the grass grow tall and allow the cattle to eat in each section for only twelve hours. We also preserve our waterway through solar or RAM water pumps. We do not let the cattle go into the pond near the farm.

MG: Why should consumers consider beef in their diet?
HF: Eating beef is an excellent source of protein. It provides the amino acids and Omega-3 fatty acids needed for a healthy diet. Beef is also low in carbohydrates. Check out our website for more health benefits of grass-fed beef.

MG: What is your favorite cooking method or recipe for beef?
HF: I love a juicy burger off the grill. I tend to quickly sear the outside then finish cooking on med-low until the juices run clear. Never flame up the meat, preserve that juiciness!

MG: Do you have any tips for cooking grass-fed beef?
HF: I would suggest to cook the meat low and slow, avoiding over cooking and increasing tenderness.

MG: Why should people buy local beef?
HF:  There are numerous benefits to knowing where your food comes from and how it is raised. It is so important to have transparency to the farming operation, after all, these animals are the nutrients which sustain our health. The best thing is for consumers to have full disclosure to how their food is produced and have the confidence to purchase for themselves.

Thank you Helstrom Farms for sharing their story.

The Minnesota Beef Council and the American Grass-fed Association have more information about the beef industry and recipes to try. Be sure to thank a Minnesota Grown beef farmer and help them celebrate National Beef Month through purchasing locally raised beef!

The Sip on Local Wine

We’re calling on YOU to help bring more local wine into area restaurants!

This guest post is provided by Lauren Voigt, Minnesota Uncorked™
Follow Minnesota Uncorked: Facebook  Twitter  Instagram

Minnesota Wines ARE Minnesota Grown!

Minnesota Farm Wineries are required by statute to source at least 51% of their fruit from Minnesota growers, supporting thousands of acres of vineyards across the state, and hundreds of jobs.  Minnesota wines truly are a boon to our local economy!

Farm-to-table dining is a strong and growing movement — yet Tami Bredeson, President of Carlos Creek Winery notes that the “local food movement has pushed farm fresh produce to the menus of top restaurants, [but it] stops short when it comes to local wines.”  Having taken a close look at leading Twin Cities restaurant menus, she adds that “even restaurants hailed as leaders in local sourcing often have few, if any, local wines”. (For more reading, check out Where’s the Local on the Wine List?)

Since Minnesota wines have been racking up medals across national and international competitions in recent years, we can only make assumptions on the why more aren’t seen on restaurant menus. Here are a few of the challenges:

Local Sourcing = More Effort?

Many local wineries self-distribute, which can make sourcing more effort for a restaurant than simply calling up a distributor and placing an order for non-local wines.  And, who wants more work?

While this is a challenge, there are benefits to compensate including the opportunity to taste and learn about the wines directly from the proprietor — who in some cases will deliver your order personally — to having the option to place smaller orders as frequently (or infrequently) as needed.

Lack of Familiarity?

The University of Minnesota Extension reported that from 2011 to 2015 the number visitors to Minnesota’s Wineries doubled — and revenue increased to $80.6 million in economic activity, from $53.6 just four years earlier (source).

This suggests to me that twice as many restaurant patrons may also more familiar with Minnesota’s wines today as they were just a couple years ago — and willing to spend money on them, too. The trend continues to rise!

Having visited a tasting room doesn’t necessarily mean you’re familiar enough with local wine to order it from a restaurant menu, though — and even less likely the server will have much background on it to offer. Familiarity with cold climate wine varieties is a widely acknowledged concern — and really, the industry is just getting to know the potential of these new wines as well!

As Drew Horton, the Enology Specialist with the University of Minnesota put it, “most of these grapes are so new, we hardly know where to begin in describing, or categorizing” — referring to understanding the flavor profiles of cold climate wines.

Minnesota Uncorked is taking a stab at working with the U of M on documentation to help consumers understand local wine (and to help the professional industry pair them for their menus, and describe them for consumers) — we expect to have that coming out over the summer, and you can keep an eye out for it here.

Join the Drink Local Wine Movement!

Minnesota Uncorked in conjunction with Minnesota Grown are encouraging a “drink local” movement calling for more local wines to be carried on restaurant menus, by enlisting YOU to help encourage restaurants to carry them!

“Table talk” cards are available from Minnesota Grown and will be mailed to you FREE upon request by contacting Kristin at Kristin.liepold@state.mn.us.

Table talk cards will help you to start the conversation about local wine the next time you’re dining out: If local wine isn’t available on the menu, simply present the card to your server, and suggest they consider adding local wine to their menu.  Ask them to give the card to the restaurant manager, or manager of the wine program.

Minnesota Grown winery members will also have cards available for you to pick up in their tasting rooms by the end of May - view the directory here.

Support Establishments Already Pouring Local

We’ve rounded up over 150 area restaurants already pouring local wine — so, stop in for a sip and show your love for local!  Map available, here.

If you’ve got any tips on establishments we’ve missed, drop a line to: news@mnuncorked.com so we can get them added.

#MNwinedining

Join us in using #mnwinedining on social media to share your favorite pairings, restaurants, and photos of local wines in the glass or on the menu!

 

 

 

 

Local Gardening Tips

Spring is here, which means it is time to spruce up your outdoor space! Minnesota Grown members and nursery centers have plenty of options to help you create beautiful container gardens, hanging baskets, windowsill herb gardens, and community gardens. Whatever your space or interests, purchasing bedding plants from a local Minnesota Grown producer ensures your plants are suited for Minnesota’s unique weather conditions.

Since starting a garden can be tricky, visit a local Minnesota Grown producer of bedding plants, annuals, perennials seedlings, nursery stock, or other garden plants. They’ll be happy to give you tips. Minnesota Grown member  Bachman’s Floral, Home & Garden has many locations throughout the Twin Cities.  Click here to watch their informational video with great tips for designing a brand new garden.  Bachman’s also has a How-To video for growing container gardens if you prefer something smaller.

The Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA) has given us the inside scoop on annuals, which are flowers used in the garden or landscape for one growing season only. Typically, annuals are planted in the spring and bloom for most of the summer. They are then killed by the first hard frost. Many people use annuals in hanging baskets and planter boxes, mixed with perennial plants and shrubs. To ensure a healthy annual, plant after the danger of frost has passed. Most annuals like warm soil, but three exceptions that can be planted earlier in the season are Alyssum, Snapdragons, and Pansies. Make sure your soil is loose, healthy, and well drained before planting your annual. Mulch can assist in keeping down weeds and retaining moisture and temperature after planting. Water your annuals thoroughly after planting, and ensure regular watering for hanging baskets and containers.

The MNLA also shared some pointers for perennial plants. Unlike annuals, perennials bloom during the growing season, go dormant in the fall, and then come up again each spring. There are literally hundreds of varieties of perennials to choose from with an almost infinite variety of blooming times, color, and texture. By using an assortment of perennials, you can have variety throughout the growing season. Since perennials will occupy their spot in the garden for several years, good soil preparation is important. A well-drained soil with high organic matter is ideal for these plants. Additionally, mulching can help keep the soil cool and moist and reduce weeds. In the winter, a four to six inch layer of leaves, marsh hay, or straw will provide protection for shallow rooted perennials. If you would like your perennials to stop spreading, the MNLA recommends using rock mulch.

Contact your local Minnesota Grown garden center to help answer your questions. Thank you to Bachman’s and Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association for sharing your gardening tips!

Bon appétit: Balancing Minnesota wine

Have you ever wondered how to pair your entrée with wine? It can be tricky, so we asked Minnesota Grown member Scott Ellenbecker from Round Lake Vineyard & Winery to offer some insight to pairing meat and cheese with wine.

“Everything in wine is balance,” Ellenbecker explained. “Think of the big picture. Parents cook certain foods as you are learning to cook. Today, you cook these same foods. Think about the balance and the finish of the wine.”  Here are several examples of proteins to match with wine.

Beef is a bold flavor, you will want a red wine, such as a Marquette, to complement the meat. Prominent flavors in the meat and seasonings should match the sweetness or acidity of the wine. However, a lighter beef appetizer such as a roll of roast beef with a cream sauce will need an aromatic and citrusy wine with a light finish.

Sliced chicken on a bed of greens with fruit, nuts and vinegary dressing will correlate with a sweet white wine, such a La Crescent. If the grilled chicken is paired with a creamy sauce, Ellenbecker suggests a light wine such as Brianna or St. Peppin. Consider the colors on your plate when choosing a wine. A chicken breast with a honey glaze and steamed carrots will pair with a sweet white wine.

Pork varies with seasoning and preparation. A pork chop with a cracked red pepper rub has a big flavor that will dominate any light wine. In this case, a peppery red wine would pair well. Chutney is a fruit reduction, essentially it’s nice to balance acid with something sweet, such as La Crescent. Temptation, which is Round Lake Winery’s apple wine, can be paired with an apple based chutney. Ellenbecker suggests to try different wines with different proteins to find your preference on pairings.

Since Mushrooms have an earthy taste, a Marquette will match the flavor. If the mushrooms are in a buttery sauce with dill and light herbs, a citrus medium bodied white wine would connect the flavors together.

Pairing cheese with wine is a similar theory. A successful pairing will come with balancing flavors. Gouda and smoked cheeses have a big flavor. Peppery cheeses should be paired with a bold red wine. Brie has a bite; therefore, it should be on a lighter saltine cracker. Because of the stinky flavor of brie and blue cheeses, your palette may portray different flavors depending on the wine. Aged cheddar has a crunch and aggressive bite, a Zinfandel or Marquette will balance the flavors. A younger cheddar agrees with a lighter white wine.

The palette evolves as a person becomes more experienced with wine. He explained that people generally do not initially enjoy red or dry. Ellenbecker reinforced that wines can vary in finish depending on soil conditions, locations, sunlight, and weather. Therefore, wine tastings are important to discover new wines! Always picture which seasoning and preparation method would balance with each wine sample.

Are you hungry and ready to put your new skills to the test? Now that you have inside knowledge on pairing wine with meat and cheese, it is time to stock the wine rack with local wine from the forty-one wineries in the Minnesota Grown Directory! We would like to thank Round Lake Winery & Vineyard for taking the time to discuss pairing food and wine.