Friday, May 30, 2014

On A Budget? Meal Planning Helps!

The USDA's MyPlate campaign suggests that half of our plate at every meal should be fruits and vegetables (more veg than fruit), with the other half made up of whole grains and protein (more whole grain than protein). At the Youth and Family Fair, the Community Food Council for Del Norte and Adjacent Tribal Lands asked a simple question:

If the USDA's MyPlate is the standard of a "healthy meal", what barriers make it difficult for families in our community to serve meals that fit that standard?

We know from surveys in the schools that many children in Del Norte schools report eating NO fruit or vegetables in the 24 hours leading up to the survey. While children not eating vegetables does not mean they weren't served vegetables, this is still an indicator that the MyPlate meal is not the norm in our community (or in most others).

We asked fair attendees to indicate what they felt were the two biggest challenges for families. Not too surprisingly, the biggest answers were time and money, with a lack of skills or knowledge not far behind. We will focus some attention on these challenges over the next year through our DIY Food Workshops, on our blog, and in other aspects of our work. Today is a start.
Menu planning can help diminish the challenges of both time and money by limiting the number of shopping trips, allowing for some bulk preparation and purchases, and matching easy meals on your busiest days. There is some upfront time to start getting used to menu planning, but it will pay off in the long run.

The USDA MyPlate campaign is not just public service messages about how the USDA thinks we should be eating. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) arm of USDA provides a lot of tools to help families eat healthier meals.

At the Grocery Game Plan website, the USDA offers a variety of tools to help people create a weekly menu plan, build a shopping list, and tips on saving money at the grocery store. There are links to their healthy recipe finder and sample menus to help get you started. You can even build your own cookbook within the recipe finder!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Farmers Markets As Social Spaces

The first farmers markets of the season are just around the corner! The Wednesday Downtown Farmers and Artisans Market is opening in less than a week, with the Crescent City Farmers Market opening a few days later. It's time to get your veggies on! 

It's also time to dust off your market basket and visit with old friends because farmers markets are great "third places" in many communities, including ours. The concept of third places -- social spaces that are not work and not home -- was popularized by Ray Oldenburg in his book, The Great Good Place, in the late 1980s. Third places allow people to socialize with a cross-section of community in ways that are not bound by neighborhood or profession.

Farmers markets highlight many of the features of a classic third place:

  • They are neutral ground. Nobody is required to be there (except the vendors) and it is free to enter.
  • All members of a community can participate; third places often act as levelers, minimizing class barriers.
  • Conversation is a major activity. If you look around a farmers market, you'll see conversations everywhere. People who rarely see each other or see each other only in formal settings, are able to chat, share recipes, catch up on grown children, or make plans for seeing each other again.
  • They are accessible and accommodating. Farmers markets are often centrally located so that people can reach them easily and even walk or bike to them. 
  • There are regulars and anyone can become a regular. If you are yourself a regular at the farmers market, you know that there are people you can count on seeing. Some of them are the vendors, but others are people you see at the market week in and week out.
  • Third places are typically low key. They are wholesome and welcoming to all walks of life. You see young families, single adults, older couples...everyone can come to the market.
  • Farmers markets are cheerful or playful, like other third places. Even though business is being transacted, it feels happier and less stressful than other errands and shopping trips. Vendors and customers build relationships.
  • Third places become a home away from home. People look forward to returning and feel a sense of belonging and ownership. 
Third places are important centers for community life. At home, you see your family and immediate neighbors. At work, you interact with colleagues. In third places, you might see people from both home and work, but you also see parents of your children's friends, or their teachers; you see people from a job you left three years ago; you see friends from church or synagogue; you see the actors from the most recent local play; and you see people you recognize as your restaurant servers, supermarket checker, bank teller, and more.

Third places let us mingle and see our commonalities, while our immediate neighborhoods and work settings often divide us by economic class, race or ethnicity, and history.

I am definitely looking forward to buying fresh, local produce when the markets open next week. But I am equally excited to see the vendors again, to share recipes with people buying the same things I am buying, and to have a few minutes with a lot of great people I rarely see in my day to day life.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend

Memorial Day is only a few days away, and barbeque and picnic planning is well underway. Unfortunately, sugary drinks and potato chips have become picnic staples here in the U.S. NPR recently revealed that Americans are eating only 1.5 cups of the recommended 2-3 cups of vegetables per day. The majority of these vegetables come in the form of processed potatoes and tomatoes, with only ten percent coming from dark green and orange veggies (sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, and other leafy greens).

A twelve-ounce cola, small by today’s standards, has over ten teaspoons of sugar. A great way to ditch the soda and “Rethink Your Drink”  is to make infused water. Simply add any combination of sliced strawberries, citrus, fresh herbs and cucumbers to a large pitcher of water and chill.

Since the holiday weekend is fast approaching, I thought it would be a great time to share some quick, simple, and healthy recipes that could be made as an alternative to salty and sugary treats for a picnic or barbeque this weekend.

         It’s looking like we’ll have nice weather to look forward to here in Crescent City. I hope you all enjoy good company, and even better food this weekend!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Toddlers and Tomatoes: Getting kids from 0-5 involved at your local farmers market

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The beginning is finally in sight of the long-awaited farmers market season. There is fresh produce abound, and as an adult (who enjoys to cook), it comes easily to be enthusiastic about attending the farmers market. Some kids on the other hand, may need a little extra encouragement to have a positive experience at the farmers market that will make them look forward to its weekly occurrence. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy ways to get toddlers and preschoolers excited about coming along.

First 5 Del Norte encourages all parents to read, talk, and sing to their children to aid brain development and get a jump on early-literacy skills. There are simple ways to incorporate reading, talking, and singing into the farmers market experience.

1. Talk to your kids about food. Name and show different fruits and vegetables. Use words to describe their taste, touch, and smell. Talk about different colors, shapes, and sizes of produce.
2. Read a cookbook to your child, showing pictures to go along with the recipe or read a food-related story before making the trip to the local farmers market (We suggest Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert or Farmer’s Market Day by Shanda Trent).
3. Singing songs is an easy way to make fruits and vegetables more fun. Rhyming can also help to build a child’s vocabulary.

It’s also great to get the kids engaged while they’re at the market, in turn making your shopping experience pleasant and enjoyable! Children are naturally quite curious. Encourage them to ask questions to the vendors and farmers.  For example, “What is your favorite vegetable?” “Why do you like being a farmer?”

Try letting older kids carry their own reusable shopping bag and choose a few fruits and veggies they like, along with one new fruit or vegetable to try. When they feel responsible and included, they are more likely to get excited about the meal that comes from their selection. Let them become involved in the meal planning and preparation for the week. Two-year-olds can even help tear lettuce for a salad. Kids of any age can feel included by handing over the money to the farmer.

Exposure to healthy choices at a young age is an important building block for a positive lifelong relationship with food. Once kids are exposed to new things multiple times, they are more likely to try them (any even enjoy them!).  So bring your kids to all four of the local farmers markets happening in Del Norte County this summer, and maybe they’ll discover their new favorite vegetables themselves!

Monday, May 19, 2014

More New Farmers Markets

Del Norte is well on its way to becoming a farmers market community. We all know the Saturday Farmers Market has been thriving and expanding rapidly over the years. Our Wednesday Downtown Farmers and Artisans Market has become a weekly Summer fixture, providing produce, crafts, and hot food during the week. And now we have two more markets starting in Summer 2014. We already did a blog post last week on the upcoming Gasquet Farmers and Artisans Market, but we'd also like to share some info on the new "Pel-son Market" in Klamath.

Just like in Gasquet, there has long been talk of creating a farmers market to serve the Klamath community. There have been many attempts by various organizations to win funding to create one; and now the Yurok Tribe has come in to help start this market. The Pel-son Market will be held on Sundays, starting June 15th in the Yurok Tribal Office Parking Lot, from 10:00-2:00. That means that every Sunday through the summer, Del Norte will have two farmers markets, providing fresh produce to two outlying communities that are generally considered "food deserts."Additionally, these markets will provide another opportunity for the huge amount of summer tourists to stop and enjoy our area. If you are interested in learning more about the Klamath Pel-son Market, contact Linda Cooley at the Yurok Tribal Office. There will also be an informational meeting for the Farmers Market, held on June 1st at the Yurok Tribal Office parking lot at 12:00pm.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Gasquet Farmer's & Artisan's Market!

The US Highway 199 corridor is a consistently popular road for the summer tourist season and is the only route for accessing the beautiful Smith River National Recreation Area. The hot summer months bring a swarm of out-of-towners and locals alike through the outlying regions of Del Norte County, like Hiouchi, Patricks Creek, and Gasquet. This Summer 2014, visitors to Gasquet will have a new reason to stop and enjoy the area: The Gasquet Farmer's & Artisan's Market!

It's long been a dream of many residents of Del Norte to have farmers markets in the outer areas of the county, due to the difficulty of traveling into Crescent City for the Wednesday and Saturday markets. A Gasquet farmers market has always been a popular idea, owing to the consistent summer traffic on 199, the large number of gardeners in the area, and the tight-knit feel of the Gasquet community. It has certainly been a dream of Susan Stewart, the Gasquet resident who is responsible for starting the Gasquet F&A Market. Susan is no stranger to organizing farmers markets in Del Norte; years ago she was the first person to start a market in Downtown Crescent City, which eventually evolved into the Crescent City Saturday Farmers Market. A few years later, she once again started a market in Downtown Crescent City which grew and still exists to this day as the Wednesday Farmers Market on Front St.

After handing over the management of the Crescent City Wednesday Market to Ocean Air Farms, Susan set her sights a little closer to home, and began gathering community support to start a market for Gasquet residents and the tourists who visit this area. Not only will there be local farmers, gardeners, and craftsman, but additional farmers from Southern Oregon and Humboldt County will make the trek over to sell their wares. With 32 spaces available, Susan is anticipating that spots will easily fill up, and she encourages anyone who is interested in being a vendor to fill out an application ASAP and claim your spot! This is yet another opportunity to increase the availability of good food in our community, support our local small businesses, and improve the public image of Del Norte to the outside world.

Vendors will include Ocean Air Farms, Stewart's Produce, local soap makers, breads and pastries, hand-crafted furniture, and much more!

The Gasquet Farmers & Artisans Market will be held in the Gasquet Station's parking lot, right alongside Highway 199 on Sundays from 11:00-3:00. The first market is on June 15th and will be held every week throughout the summer months.

If you are interested in more details, or want to fill out an application to be a vendor, you can contact Susan Stewart at (707) 954-4010 or