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Illinois Food Policy - 2019

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On Friday, February 15, I attended the Chicago Food Policy Summit in Chicago and got a chance to hear about many of the policy topics that are being addressed in Illinois this year that have a direct impact on our food system. While some of the initiatives were Chicago-centric, many of them were statewide.

Some of the ones that really caught my attention I have listed and linked to below. Many of the groups that I listened to have not yet released their Policy Agendas for 2019 (at least not online) so make sure to check in with your local policy groups to see what their legislative agendas for the year look like and give your support whenever you can.

Here we go...

 

Illinois Stewardship Alliance (https://www.ilstewards.org/)

Maybe You Should Just Do It Yourself.

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This week I’m going to keep my food-centric entry brief. I could list all of the fun things I’ve been cooking (lots of soups and soba noodles with various braising greens and bok choi) or what I’m going to be making for New Year’s Day, but I’m going to focus instead on a newly inspired direction Rey and my food choices have taken. While I was visiting Rey’s family in central Texas over Thanksgiving I got to break down my own deer. It was a thrilling experience that I will never forget, and it turns out that it was one that has only deepened my appreciation for (and focus on) where my meat comes from. Since moving down to Champaign from Chicago we always tried to purchase locally raised and slaughtered meats whenever we could afford to. It meant a lot to us. We got to know the farmers who were raising the animals. Plus, the meat just tasted a million times better than the stuff you get at a general grocery store. It also meant that we naturally ate less meat, simply because we paid a little bit more for it, and in turn, we savored what we did buy even more.

Preservation Tips for the Bounty of the Fall Harvest

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It’s that time of year when everyone seems to be inundated with fresh, local produce. The late summer / early fall harvest just seems to keep on going and going with this continued warm weather. It’s October and it’s 90° outside...I thought central Illinois already had its week-long second summer?!?! As farmers and gardeners continue to harvest and begin to pull plants for winter planting, it seems that I’m being buried in eggplant, peppers, squash, green tomatoes, and bunching greens (kale, chard, and collards). Last year I was too busy to process all of the produce I bought or was given, and a good amount ended up going to compost (enter ashamed emoji here) but this year is going to be different!

Too Many Tomatoes!!!

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It is the time of year when tomatoes are starting to come in hard and fast. Your own garden has become a squirrels candy store as you just can’t seem to get them off of the vine fast enough. Your friends and neighbors have resorted to leaving bunches of tomatoes on your patio table, front porch, and even back stairs (if I knew who put the tomatoes that I stepped on in front of the door I would go throw them at their house, seriously?!). Now, as your drowning in tomatoes and sitting at your kitchen table shaking your head and thinking to yourself “what the hell am I going to do with all of these?” don’t worry, there is hope!

If you’re like me you LOVE tomatoes, especially sun-ripened tomatoes, bursting with a flavor that the greenhouse tomatoes just can’t match no matter how great the variety is. I will eat plate after plate of tomatoes with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper all summer long, and even I will start to get tomato fatigue come early September. But then I remember that I just have to get creative in how I use them.

Food for Thought - Grilling Peaches (and just Grilling)

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Last Sunday, Rey and I decided to have some friends over for a little grill-out in our backyard. We are very proud of our backyard and have gardened it to within an inch of its life, which seems silly given that we rent our house, but it is our oasis and our escape, and we want to enjoy it. So we garden, garden, garden. And then we talk about inviting friends over to hang out and enjoy it, but inevitably we are too busy, or we forget, or we’re too tired. But, this time I just threw it out there and all of a sudden we were hosting some friends for a grill-out.

 

Food for Thought (Summer Edition) - Basil & Garlic Scapes

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Farmers Market season is one of my favorite times of the year. Walking up and down the aisles past mountains and mountains of fresh produce, freezers full of local meat and poultry, and vendors selling anything and everything you can think of is so exhilarating.

 

One of my favorite things to do is go to the market towards the end of the day, as it starts to wind down, and really chat with the vendors. You can talk to them about what moved that day and what didn’t, what they have leftover, and what they are looking to off-load. It’s fascinating to me when things that typically don’t move at all end up selling out in the first few hours, or when a typically “hot” item doesn’t seem to move at all one week. This is when I challenge myself. I will go and buy a bunch of the things that didn’t sell well, with no actual meal in mind. I’ll just buy a bunch of things, sometimes at some sort of discount because it can’t move forward, and go home and see what I come up with.

Looking to Irish History

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Happy post-St. Patrick’s Day everyone! As a proud Irish-American (I have my family crest tattooed on my back) I just want to take some time to point out some misconceptions about Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day.

 

1: Four-leaf clovers have nothing to do with St. Patrick. They are symbols of luck and have more to do with the fairy Leprechauns than St. Patrick. St. Patrick’s symbol is the three-leaf clover which he used (as the story goes) to teach the holy trinity while spreading Christianity to the Emerald Isle.

Heirloom, Organic, and Heritage, Oh my! - An Interview with Jill Brockman-Cummings

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As all of us at The Land Connection are gearing up for our 2nd Annual Organic Grain Conference & Trade Show on February 1st here in Champaign, I thought it was only fitting to feature organic grains in this week's blog. I found out about The Mill at Janie’s Farm this past fall and was incredibly impressed and inspired by what they were embarking on, namely stone-milling locally grown organic grain and heritage and heirloom wheat for local and regional consumption. I emailed back and forth with Jill Brockman-Cummings, the Mill Manager at The Mill at Janie’s Farm in Askum, IL to learn more about The Mill at Janie’s Farm and Janie’s Farm Organics, and this is what I found out.

How long has Janie’s Farm been growing organic grains?
Janie's Farm Organics has been growing certified organic grains since 2005. Harold Wilken started with 30 acres, and now Janie's Farm Organics farms over 2300 acres organically.

What crops are grown organically on the Farm?
Crops grown organically on the farm include: wheat, oats, rye, corn, soybeans, popcorn, black beans, and hay.

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