Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat?

Most candy that will be handed out to kids this Halloween Eve will contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). While HFCS tastes great it may not be the healthiest thing to be feeding America's children. According to the Mayo Clinic:
High fructose corn syrup is made by changing the sugar (glucose) in cornstarch to fructose - another form of sugar. The end product is a combination of fructose and glucose. Because it extends the shelf life of processed foods and is cheaper than sugar, high-fructose corn syrup has become a popular ingredient in many sodas, fruit-flavored drinks and other processed foods.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has increasingly been linked to childhood obesity and other health problems. According to Science Daily in a 2007 article:
Researchers have found new evidence that soft drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) may contribute to the development of diabetes, particularly in children.
The potential health consequences related to consuming high fructose corn syrup doesn't have to rule out Halloween candy. Candy sweetened with other unrefined sugars such as barley malt, brown rice syrup, date sugar, fruit sweeteners, honey, maple syrup, molasses, stevia, suscanat and turbinado are available. All of these less refined sugars can be substituted for high fructose corn syrup, though each has its own sweetness ratio when compared to HFCS or sugar. Most home recipes call for refined white sugar. As a rule of thumb:

Sweetener/ Amount to Replace 1 Cup of Sugar / Reduce Liquid By

Barley Malt / 1 - 1 1/4 cup / 1/4 cup

Brown Rice Syrup / 1 - 1 1/4 cup / 1/4 cup

Date Sugar /2/3 cup / none

Fruit Sweeteners / 1 cup / 1/4 cup

Honey / 1/2 cup / 1/4 cup

Maple Syrup / 1/2 - 1/3 cup / 1/4 cup

Molassas /1/2 cup / none

Stevia / 1/2 cup / none

Sucanat / 1 cup / none

(NCGA Sweeteners Pamphlet, 2007)

Though the evidence regarding the potential risks of HFCS is still in debate, it cannot hurt to substitute natural unrefined sugars whenever possible. Tidal Creek stocks many of these alternatives to refined white sugar and high fructose corn syrup, and, increasingly, more main stream grocery chains are beginning to carry alternatives to HFCS.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Small Plot of Land

It doesn't look like much (yet), but this is the land that I will be farming in the spring. I have spent much of the last few weeks considering the style of vegetable production that I want to use on my small plot of land. Currently I am leaning toward biointensive methods.

Promoted by Ecology Action (, biointensive growing methods maximize yields in small spaces. Working toward sustainable solutions for growing food, biointensive methods seek to grow the largest food crop possible while still caring for the land. Ecology Action seeks to promote a system of vegetable production dubbed sustainable mini farming, which:
"nurtures soil, produces high yields, conserves resources and can be used successfully by almost everyone. Our goal is to help this system be known and used locally — on a worldwide scale."
As the current economic downtrend continues it is likely that more and more people will turn to kitchen gardens to supplement regular grocery shopping. I believe biointensive methods are one way to grow vegetables for your family while ensuring the continued fertility of the land.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A farming we will go...

It was with some trepidation that I got myself ready to volunteer at Oakley Laurel Farm (the small CSA farm which I joined) this morning. Farming on the one day I have off this week?

Though I have only been back in Wilmington since the beginning of the month, it feels like forever since I had my hands in the dirt. I wondered if I would still enjoy it. Would it feel more like work and less like play? Luckily, I liked it just as much as I remembered. I love the feeling of the sun shining down on my back as I hand weed the garden, separating baby carrots from weeds. I love looking up across the way the bok choi and the broccoli plants that I know are not so long away from my dinner table. It was great to talk to Robb, the farmer, about blossom end rot and what kind of mulching strategies work best.

Cool season farming is something new to me. I have not yet had to confront freezing temperatures. After hand weeding two of the eighteen 50ft beds, Robb and I put a thin layer of hay over the carrots, radishes and turnips. The hay insulates the root systems. We are supposed to drop into the 40s over night tonight. Hopefully this small layer of insulation will help the babies along.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Veggies...what are they good for?

Cream of Leek and Potato Soup

From The Wilson Farm Country Cookbook: Recipes from New England's Favorite Farm Stand:

Serves 8

Wash the leeks thoroughly before you start, because sandy soup isn't very appetizing. This soup, whether hot or cold (vichyssoise) is so delicious. I'm probably in the minority, but I like it better hot [As an aside, so do I. In my opinion this is a thick winter soup and should be served hot] .
  • 3 tablespoons butter [Organic Valley]
  • 6 cups sliced leeks (5 to 6 white part only) [Oakley Laurel Farm's CSA Box #1]
  • 3/4 cups coarsely chopped onion [Oakley Laurel Farm's CSA Box # 1]
  • 4 cups peeled, 1/2 inch-diced white potatoes [Colchester Farm]
  • 1 teaspoon salt [Morton's Sea Salt]
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream [Maple View Farm (a local dairy servicing the Co-op)]
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper (optional)
Melt the butter in a 4-quart pot. Add the leeks and onion and cook for about 5 minutes or until they are wilted but not brown.

Add the potatoes, broth and salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes or until the vegetables are very tender.

Puree in small batches in a blender or food processor, or press through a sieve.

Return the puree to the pan, and stir in the cream and pepper. Add salt if necessary. Heat gently. This soup may be chilled, but check the seasoning just before serving (p. 52).

I found this recipe particularly appealing because it incorporates Colchester and Oakley Laurel Farms. Making this soup I was able to use the last of my Colchester potatoes and my first CSA box from Oakley Laurel Farm, literally blending the two experiences together.

I licked the spoon and it tastes great to me, but the real test will be when my boyfriend and his friends try it. I will be handing it out over the course of the next few days. I will keep you posted....

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Special Delivery

Yesterday was the first delivery from Oakley Laurel Farm's CSA. The members' boxes were delivered to Tidal Creek for pickup. Unlike Colchester, Oakley Laurel Farm does not allow its members to select the content of our boxes. Instead, the boxes are packed on the farm and each member receives a box containing the same produce. In our first boxes we received leeks, an onion, radishes, a head of lettuce. a turnip, a pear and pecans. Not a bad haul. The pecans and the pear will make a lively addition to tonight's salad.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don't have a lot of experience in the kitchen. One reason that I like the idea of receiving a CSA box is that it forces me to try out new recipes instead of sticking to the same tried and true salad that I have been making for the last several years. Salad, along with a couple of pasta dishes and a very basic stir-fry thrown into the mix, accounts for 99% of my dinners.

This morning I happily paged through some of my cookbooks to see what recipes I might like to try out using ingredients from my box. This weekend I will be making Cream of Potato and Leek Soup with the leeks from Oakley Laurel Farm and potatoes which I brought back with me from Colchester. Please check Sunday's post, Veggies...what are they good for?, if you are interested in the recipe and/or the results.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Are you an owner of the Co-op?

The first thing I ask each customer is, "Are you an owner of the Co-op?" Most of the time the customer pulls out their ownership card. But, when the customer is not an owner, I try to educate them about the benefits of owning an equity share in Tidal Creek.

"Becoming a Tidal Creek owner by purchasing an annual equity share creates many more opportunities to support a locally owned and operated natural food store AND save. Equity shares support the co-op's financial stability and makes it possible for us to thrive and better serve the community."

If that isn't enough incentive, I list the benefits to the individual:
  • Should the Co-op be profitable, based on the amount spent in the fiscal year, the owner may receive a patronage refund;
  • Eligibility for the Wild Card Discount - 5% off an entire order 6 times a year;
  • Owner appreciation day - 10% off an entire order twice a year; and
  • 10% off special orders;
The cost of an equity share is $30.00 per family per year. I know this seems expensive, but in my opinion it is well worth it. Patronizing local businesses and having access to high quality food are priorities of mine, and purchasing an equity share is a key way to support these ideals.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Veggies...what are they good for?

As it turns out, nothing this week. At Oakley Laurel Farms, the Wilmington Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm that I am a member of, the deer and the weather are causing a slow start. CSA farms are set up differently than traditional farms. Members pay in advance for a share, a box of produce, that is delivered each week throughout the season. Farmers receive the price of the share at the beginning of the season which provides them with capital and ensures that even if it is a bad season they are not bearing the burden alone. This means that if the harvest is small this year, our share sizes will be reduced. No matter what the harvest, the produce will be spread evenly among the members.

Our weekly produce delivery was set to begin the first Thursday in October. However, the start date has been pushed back for several weeks. Robb Prichard, our farmer, says not to worry. Last year she encountered similar difficulties but was up and running before the end of October. I am hoping to spend some time volunteering at the farm late this week or early next week. I miss getting my hands dirty!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Button Up!

Most of us are too busy thinking about what we need for dinner to consider the the environmental impact of our shopping bags, but the grocery bags we use really can and do make a difference. According to, Americans annually dispose of almost 400 billion plastic bags. With every 14 bags containing enough petroleum to drive a car for a mile, that's a lot of miles! As gas prices continue to rise, impacting the cost of food, one way that individuals can contribute to resource conservation is by purchasing reusable bags.

Tidal Creek offers sturdy, reusable bags for $0.99 each. Additionally, Tidal Creek runs the Button Up! Program. For every reusable bag a customer brings in $0.05 is donated to charity. At the front of the store there is a jar of buttons and two jars representing charities. Shoppers who use reusable bags can move a button to the charity of their choice. From July 1, 2008 to September 30, 2008 Tidal Creek shoppers used 5,609 reusable bags saving enough gas to drive a car 400 miles and sending approximately $280 to charity. This is a green consumer choice I can really get behind.

(My boyfriend would surely agree that I am promoting this program. Like so many of us I end up leaving my bag by the front door on my way out prompting me to purchase another. His front door is starting to be wallpapered with reusable bags. Oops!)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Just Say Moo!

According to Sustainable Table, a website devoted to educating consumers about food choice:
Despite opposition from scientists, farmers and consumers, the US currently allows dairy cows to be injected with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), also known as recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST). Developed and manufactured by the Monsanto Corporation, this genetically engineered hormone forces cows to artificially increase milk production by 10 to 15 percent. Today, controversy still surrounds whether or not rBGH is safe for cows and humans.(
The producers of rBGH want to make it illegal to label milk as rBGH free claiming that it would unfairly prejudice the consumer against milk containing the hormone. According to the Columbia News Service, "The FDA does not require dairies to indicate if their cows have been treated with rBGH. Instead, the agency has strongly suggested that dairies that do not use rBGH and claim to be synthetic hormone free to include information on their packaging that states "the FDA has found no significant difference between cows not treated with rBGH and milk from cows treated with rBGH."" ( milk)

Increasingly, consumers are seeking out milk that is free of synthetic hormones. Consumer demand has led Starbucks and Walmart to stop carrying milk from rBGH treated cows. At Tidal Creek we offer consumers a wide variety of alternatives to conventionally produced dairy products. The rBGH hormone is not used in the production of any milk sold at the co-op.

If you want more information about rBGH and its possible effects on human health check out:

Your Milk on Drugs - A film by Jeffrey M. Smith (Part 1) (Part 2)

Monday, October 6, 2008


Due to the nature of CSAs, members often encounter vegetables that they are unfamiliar with. To be honest, there were things that we grew at Colchester that I had no idea what to do with when I first got there. Our members always had good questions. What do you make with leeks besides soup? How do you pickle a cucumber? What do you do when your eggplant is bitter?

Now that I am an employee of the co-op I find that I am confronted with all kinds of new and interesting questions. Is oil of oregano good for sore throats? Why would you want to eat sprouted bread? Where do you keep the sodium bicarbonate?

I can hardly answer any of them. I guess there is always a learning curve.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Veggies...what will they be good for?

Now that I am no longer an intern at Colchester Farm, I have to find new ways to participate in the local food economy. In order to continue my producer/consumer relationship (and to eat delicious fresh, local veggies), I have purchased a share in Oakley Laurel Farm's fall CSA subscription run by Robb Pritchard. Oakley Laural Farm is located in Castle Hayne, North Carolina (just outside of Wilmington).

The cost of a share is $200.00. For 12 weeks, beginning in October and ending around Christmas, the members will receive weekly boxes of produce. The boxes will be delivered on Thursday evenings to Tidal Creek. Members will have until the store closes on Friday to pick up their box.

Unlike Colchester, Oakley Laurel Farm does not offer its members a choice regarding the produce contained in its weekly shares. Instead, cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, turnips, kale, carrots, parsnips and herbs will be making guest appearances in the boxes. I don't know how I would chose anyway. It all sounds great to me!

CSA shares require that members become familiar with many types of vegetables, which is why the traditional Sunday post is "Veggies...what are they good for?"
Now that I will be receiving a weekly box of produce, I will have to learn to adjust my menu accordingly. Next Sunday after my first share delivery, I will begin posting what I made with that week's box.

Keep it local!

Friday, October 3, 2008

How Much is that Apple in the Window?

As a farming intern I had access to fresh, pesticide-free vegetables any time that I felt a little peckish. If the mood struck, I could pick an apple or a pear off the tree, but, now that I am back in Wilmington, things have changed. Though I knew that food costs were rising, it wasn’t until my first trip to the grocery store that it really hit home for me. Organic lettuce mix at my local Harris Teeter is $3.50 for an 8 oz package, and that is on sale. I can eat that in one sitting! Then yesterday on my lunch break I decided that I was going to buy an apple and even with my employee discount it cost $1.51. I thought to myself, “How am I going to eat?”

According AFBF Economist Jim Sartwelle, “As energy costs have increased, it has become more expensive to process, package, and transport food items for retail sale. In addition, soaring demand overseas for U.S. dairy and meat products has reduced quantities available at home, resulting in retail price increases at the grocery store. ”

One way that individuals can lower their food costs is by shopping locally and in season. This cuts down on the fuel consumption associated with food production. Shopping at Farmers’ markets and purchasing CSA shares are two ways to ensure that your foodstuff is local and seasonal. An even more cost effective way is to grow your own fruits and vegetables when possible.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My New Post

As I make my way back to Wilmington, North Carolina, I am planning to continue my work with sustainable, healthy food systems. One way that I plan on doing this is by working part-time at Tidal Creek Food Cooperative ( According to the Cooperative Grocers’ Information Network:

A co-op is an organization that takes the idea of working together and puts it into a business structure. A cooperative is a business voluntarily owned and controlled by the people who use it—its members. It is operated solely for the benefit of its members, to meet their mutual needs. When groups of people have similar needs—such as the need for lower prices, more affordable housing, or access to telecommunications services—cooperatives offer great potential to meet those needs.

A co-op is a member-owned, member-controlled business that operates for the mutual benefit of all members and according to common principles established for cooperatives.

There are three basic types of co-ops:

Producer co-ops provide goods or services to members who are involved in producing products, such as farmers or artists.
Worker co-ops are owned and controlled on a democratic basis by their employees.
Consumer co-ops provide goods or services used primarily for personal consumption. Food co-ops are typically organized as consumer co-ops.

Tidal Creek is a consumer co-op with a vision of fostering individual, community and planetary health by providing:

High quality natural and organic foods and other environmentally sound products;
A comfortable, affordable place to shop and share knowledge;
Education and training to help people make informed choices towards well being; and
A sustainable and economical model which invests in the local and cooperative communities.