One of my favorite things to do is attend area farmers markets. Whenever I travel I immediately look up any surrounding farmers markets, and you better believe if we can attend, we do!
Here are my Top 5 reasons to support our local farmers markets.
1. Support your local economy by supporting your local farmers & entrepreneurs!
As educated consumers we want to know where our food is coming from. We’re tired of food being mass produced on assembly lines with labels sporting names of ingredients that can’t even be pronounced. We want clean & healthy food locally sourced & grown. Where do you get this great stuff you ask? You get it at your local farmers market!
According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Agricultural Statistics Board, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Released August 17, 2020, “On an average market day, 916 households shopped across markets in the U.S. and spent $14,547 per farmers market. Farmers Market Managers served as paid employees in 4,321 markets, while in 3,162 they served as volunteers. On average, the paid Farmers Market Managers earned $18.40 per hour. Managers worked an average of 19.4 hours per week. “ Taken from https://downloads.usda.library.cornell.edu/usda-esmis/files/pz50hd694/gx41n598k/jd473j98z/nfar0820.pdf
2. Support your local farmers & entrepreneurs!
Direct marketing of farm products through farmers markets continues to be an important sales outlet for agricultural producers nationwide. Small businesses can get their product out to a fresh target market at a very reasonable cost. Markets can eliminate the need for a brick and mortar facility and all the expenses associated with it. Most importantly, it allows customers to build relationships with producers. You can see the positive impact of supporting local from this infographic for the Kalamazoo Michigan Farmers Market.
3. Explore new varieties of fresh fruits & veggies, & other healthy foods!
I’ve often been asked, “What’s an Heirloom?” or told “I’ve never seen a purple carrot!!!” Well, you’ll find a plethora of Heirloom varieties including purple carrots at most farmers markets!
Tomatoes are by far the hottest item in the Heirloom market, but there are several varieties of eggplant, squash, carrots, beans, and so much more.
Besides providing a wide range of fresh fruit and veggies, you’ll be dazzled by a slew of delicious baked goods, dairy, egg and meat products, honey and maple syrup, body care products, both fresh and dried herbs, along with all types of artisan products. Some of these include handcrafted baskets, wooden bowls and cutting boards, as well as beautiful pottery, jewelry and several forms of art media. Pricing is typically very reasonable when compared to brick and mortar stores. Everything at the market is fresh from that day or the day before, unlike grocery store produce which has been shipped and transported for days.
Many markets incorporate kid’s programming, cooking demos, health fairs, & live music, to name just a few! The reason is simple: it is every market’s mission to provide healthy, nutritious, reasonably priced food to all people.
The farmers market is an ideal project for every community to incorporate. It promotes healthy eating, and enables community members to build relationships with their local producers.
One incredible program many farmers markets offer is The Power of Produce Club (POP Club). The POP Club provides both an educational & entertaining opportunity for children to engage in their market with the opportunity to discuss produce with the market farmers while exposing them to new & unique fruits and vegetables. ” In addition to participating in educational activities, POP Club kids receive vouchers to spend at the market, allowing them to make their own shopping decisions at the market.”
Ask your farmers market manager if this is available, if not tell them how to participate!
5. Connect with your community!
Farmers markets provide a place where the community can come together, meet and shop locally. The market is a gathering place for friends and family. Markets offer fresh products locally produced, face-to-face interaction with producers and artisans, live entertainment, family activities, all the while supporting the local economy.
“According to the USDA, Farmers Markets are an integral part of the urban/farm linkage and have continued to rise in popularity, mostly due to the growing consumer interest in obtaining fresh products directly from the farm. Farmers markets allow consumers to have access to locally grown, farm fresh produce, enables farmers the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with their customers, and cultivate consumer loyalty with the farmers who grow the produce.
Thanks for taking the time to read my article. Please like it & leave me a comment! Let me know what your favorite farmers market is, and where it’s located! I’d love to visit if I’m ever in the area! Maybe we can meet up for a coffee!
Please share this blog if you found it informative, and follow me on Facebook for fun & informative content! Happy day, Jean!
The longing of my soul for warmth and sunshine is becoming deeper everyday… especially now that the calendar says it’s truly spring. I, as I’m sure so many others, are anxious for warmer days. This winter was a trial for many of us die-hard gardeners… even for winter lovers.
I long to place my hands into the warm soil… sense the life force that dwells within the seeds… watching life spring forth out of nothingness… yes we are gardeners.
Many of you who are my friends on For Dragonflies And Me Facebook page have witnessed many changes take place in my life over the last several months. I’ve sadly left my beloved farm in the thumb of Michigan for a newer, brighter location that I now call home. I am blessed to be living at a wonderful greenhouse/nursery that I am in my literal heaven on earth. I would like to thank all of my followers for their patience as I needed a hiatus from the love of my life… my writing… But now things are in order and I feel that I can put my whole heart back into my passions…
We are like plants… we are conceived… we are born… we live… we struggle… then all too soon we will die. But… in the midst of all this we find joy in life and living it to the fullest…
It is spring… and I am ready to live my life to the fullest… I hope all of you will continue to join me here as I share my love with all of you…
It’s time to start thinking about starting seeds and planning our gardens. Starting Seeds in doorsis very easy and extremely rewarding! All you need is a few everyday household items~
*If you buy organic baby lettuce, greens or spinach than you will have access to those handy clear plastic containers with lids. These are perfect for seed starting. Be sure to poke several drainage holes on the bottom of the container.
*Fill your container about 2/3 way full with a good organic potting mix. Plant your seeds as package describes. Be sure to follow planting dates on packet. Water accordingly.
*Put the lid on, which will give a greenhouse effect. You will not have to water due to the condensation that will be created.
*Put in a sunny window and wait until seeds start to sprout see seed packet instructions.
*Once the seeds start to germinate, remove lid and water according to packet instructions. Another easy but more extravagant way is to set your flats on a table and hang lights on ‘s’ hooks with light chains from the ceiling in a warm basement or other room. The lights must be no more than 3 to 6 inches from the top of the flat (or the plants once they start growing), so be sure to make your light set up adjustable. Plain old fluorescent shop lights work best for starting seeds, or you can even purchase ‘grow lights’ from greenhouse supply companies or seed catalogs.
*You can go to any big box retailer and purchase really slick ‘seed starting’ kits. Follow instructions on kit…. and enjoy! Transplant outdoors following packet instructions.
Here’s an easy and inexpensive recipe for liquid fertilizer. You can use this for both house plants as well as your outdoor potted plants. I’ve shared this recipe before, but it’s worth a repeat.
Easy Liquid fertilizer~ to give your house plants and potted outdoor plants an extra boost, add 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt and 1 teaspoon of fish emulsion plant fertilizer to 1/2 gallon of water, then stand back and watch’er grow! Extra fertilizer water can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 months.
Please feel free to share this information with your friends… and I hope you’ve found it helpful. Please be sure to follow me on Facebook for daily posts!
“It’s raining but the tulips are still managing to poke their green shoots out of the mud, a promise that spring is coming, and so is the sun. I suppose I owe it to them to at least keep my head up until then.”
Quote adapted from one by Writers Block
Only 57 days till my beloved spring. The new life I long for along with all her secret promises will soon come up out of the ground. The snow drops and crocus’ and then the daffodils and tulips rising up to greet me each day. Sending me silent messages of love to encourage me on through the last of winters dead days.
New life… but presently life is dormant. Still and cold.
Winter is filled with dreams and anticipations of planning new garden projects.
Spring is one of new beginnings… fresh hopes… dreams of what will be…
The dream I’m ever longing after is feeling the dirt once again along with the warmth of the sun.
I thought with all this dreaming we’d look at something all of us die-hard gardeners are doing… planning our gardens.
Here are 5 garden planning tips to get you started in the right direction.
1. Gather all your seed catalogs, sticky notes, a pen and high-lighter along with a note pad. Once you’ve decided on the amount of space you have in your garden you’ll know what you need and the quantities.
2. Decide on the varieties that you want to grow. The best way to do this is to plot out some time when you can sit and peruse your catalogs. Read variety descriptions carefully to determine light, soil, moisture and spacing requirements.
3. Draw your garden design out. I always draw out my gardens so I have a visual to see. You don’t have to get as detailed as mine… I just enjoy the whole planning aspect. You can use graph paper or a piece of notebook paper. Be sure to think on your space and it’s limitations.
4. Determine available space. When planning your garden you need to keep in mind space limitations and each plants growing habits. For example, a tomato plant should have three square feet for proper growth and maturation. Think about your isle ways when planning this. If your isles are two feet wide, then plan your tomato row with three feet and then two on both sides. You’ll need a total of 7 feet minimum for a row of tomatoes. Look at the plant descriptions in the catalogs.
5. Soil testing. I advise, especially for first time gardeners to test your soil. You can buy a simple soil test at most garden centers or take your sample into an agency that offers this service. You will have better success if you know what your soil may be lacking. It could be something as simple as calcium/lime or copper.
Although there are many other aspects to getting your garden plan done, these are the basics to get you on your way!
“How lovely is the silence of growing things.” Author unknown
The aromas of fall leave a lingering, longing feeling within me. The burning leaf piles scratchy scent wafting through the air. That damp smell in the morning through the dense fog. Fall holds a beauty of her own that no other season can mimic.
I’m dreaming of more time…
More time before the white stuff begins to fall…
More time to dig in my gardens rich, loamy soil…
More time to feel the suns rays warm the back of my neck…
More time to garden.
Time is not on my side though. The calendar is telling me to get a grip and grasp hold of reality… cause the white stuff will be here all too soon.
There’s work to be done!
Planting next years garlic. Seeding spinach and transplanting lettuces into the hoop house… I’ll defy winter, at least for a while there.
Harvesting the winter squash and potatoes, apples and carrots. The bounty is rolling in and filling not only my can shelves and freezers, but the root cellar as well.
Keeping these areas organized through the year can be a challenge. Here are some tips to organize your can shelves, freezers and root cellars… and keep them that way!
I’ve often mentioned my love to journal… well, it carries right through into my preserving efforts through the season. I keep a Canning Record/Journal. This little book documents the last fifteen years of what I’ve ‘put-up’ for my family.
Each spring we do an inventory of canned goods on the shelves as well as in the root cellar and freezer. This way I know what we need to preserve that season and what I have plenty of.
I write this list in my Canning Record/Journal… it’s actually the first page to start each new season.
After my inventory is complete I make a list of what items I need to can/freeze and the quantity I want to do. This is the second page in my journal for the current canning season. As each product gets put on the can shelf, in the root cellar and freezer I have the sheer joy of crossing that item off my list! A job well done!
In my canning record/journal I document:
*The item preserved
*The quantity I started with and if it was purchased- how much it cost and where; if given- by who and how much; or produced on farm.
*The amount of finished product
*If it went into freezer, can shelf or root cellar
*The page number and cookbook I used if a new recipe
*Whether or not we liked something or not
*Any other pertinent info that I don’t want to forget.
During the canning season, we often have to move jars and reorganize to make more room for a particular item. I always keep similar items together. This makes it much easier for the children when I ask them to go and fetch me something. For example, I keep all my tomato based products together; Spaghetti and marinara sauces, Bar-B-Que sauces, ketchup, salsa, pizza sauce and V-8 Juice. The one exception to this rule is Tomato soup~ that goes with the soups I can.
I can apple, peach, blueberry and cherry pie fillings… these all stay together. Fruits, juices, jams and condiments are next to one another; potatoes, carrots, beans, beets are together as veggies; meats are right beside the veggies, then broth and soups, and so on.
I follow the same rule for the root cellar and freezers. Two freezers hold veggies, fruit and jams, while the other two hold meat items. Again, this makes it easier for the children.
Organization of the root cellar is equally important, It needs to be kept clean and sorted through the winter. Unlike the jars and freezers, the items in the root cellar will spoil. Certain items should not be stored together such as apples and onions or potatoes.
My main goal is to use the items ripening or not holding well first and purge spoiled/ing items. The old saying of one rotten apple will spoil the whole bushel is true!
My basement is very wet and damp and is not conducive to root cellaring. We tried for several years with little success. I therefore only store a few things. I can, freeze and dry most others for this reason. The only things I do store are winter squash, onions, garlic and apples. I keep cabbage in the garage in crates.
Root cellaring is a great way to store many of your root and storage crops. I highly suggest you read up on the topic before you start. There are many tips and tricks that will help you have a successful experience. Give it a try… you won’t be disappointed!
A great resource on this topic is “Root Cellaring” by, Mike and Nancy Bubel, published by Storey Publishing, www.storey.com. This book is a must have if you intend to store crops in a root cellar.
Keep posted for my NEW article coming this week from The Detroit News, The Good Life blog on Root Cellar tips!
Stay tuned tomorrow for some yummy Root Storage crop recipes… yum!
Here are a few links to see more great info on root cellar storage
I stood and gazed at my beloved gardens today… My winter crops are growing beautifully and with the rain we were blessed with all through the night along with the warmer days and cool nights we’ve recently had, they look happy.
My gardens were so generous and fed my family lavishly this year. My heart gets a warm, fuzzy feeling just thinking about it… Then there’s all the goodness I’ve stored in jars and freezers from her as well. Now it’s time to do for it, like its done for me… it’s time to feed the garden!
Fall’s when we need to prep our garden soil for next years crops. Just when you thought you’d be able to till it all under and forget about it until next spring, here I come with this news. Your gardens productivity depends much on how you care for it… the soil I mean. Feeding your soil nutrients in the way of manure, compost and cover crops will mean bountiful yields year after year.
I recommend using at least one or a combination of all four methods to improve your soil as opposed to commercial fertilizers. They’ll offer short-term help, but the key to healthy, living soil is feeding it a healthy, regular diet.
Here are four easy ways to revive your garden soil for springs planting.
1. Compost added to your garden in the fall will provide your soil with many types of sustainable organic materials and nutrients. If you have a compost pile you’ve been working at all summer, now’s the time to add it in.
After we’ve removed all the plant debris from our raised beds, we put some manure on and then top with straw. When spring arrives it’s nicely broke down and we top with a bit of compost. Then we’re ready to plant.
2. Cover crops are often referred to as ‘Green Manures’. In the Mid-West we can plant cover crops in September through October. The key is that it gets at least a couple of inches in height before our blustery winters come full force. In the spring once the crop is between three to six inches up, we’ll till it in.
The benefits of cover crops include helping eliminate soil erosion and prevent weed development while adding essential nitrogen into the soil.
We don’t plant cover crops in our raised bed gardens because it would have to be worked in by hand. We feel that the manure, straw and compost add enough.
3. Adding manure to your gardens in the fall will allow it enough time to compost over the winter and be tilled in come spring adding rich, organic nutrients to your soil. Manure makes things grow as the old timers use to say. If you contact a farmer, they may be willing to let you have some, especially if you’re willing to ‘help yourself’. Using cow, chicken, sheep or hog manure makes no difference… they’re all rich in nutrients.
4. Leaves are free! That makes them priceless… at least to the serious gardener. We have a few large maples that we use the leaves from. We add them into the garden and even mulch heavily around and over some of the perennial crops such as rhubarb and asparagus. They’re both heavy feeders and adding leaves provides them with the extra they require to produce abundantly.
I often see lines of leaf bags along the side of the road just waiting to be picked up. Don’t be shy… it’s worth it especially if you don’t have any trees of your own.
Designing and planning your garden is the fun part, but the key to success is your soil. The following information was found and adapted from “Michigan Gardener” magazine, April 2012 issue on page 9.
“Soil is comprised of three materials: sand, clay, and loam. The best soil has equal parts of all three. Problems arise when there is too much of one material. Sandy soil is too loose and drains too quickly… Clay soil is too hard when dry, repelling water and making it difficult for roots to grow. When wet, it holds too much water, leading to root rot…. Spending a little time becoming familiar with the soil type in your backyard will greatly improve your gardening success. If you need help, bring a sample into your local garden center and an expert will help you determine your soil type…. You’re not necessarily stuck with the soil you’re given. Adding amendments will help create a rich, loamy composition that’s a great environment for plants to thrive. For sandy soil, add organic matter, such a peat moss or compost, to give it more texture add water holding properties. To break up clay soil, add gypsum, pine bark fines or ceramic pellets. It is also important to know your soil’s pH as well as nutrient composition before applying fertilizers…. Tests are available for about $20….” There is much information to be had on this topic that I wouldn’t have time to get into here. I would advise you to get a soil sample done and get your soil prepped for maximum benefits.
Your soil is the number one component to growing healthy, abundant fruits and vegetables… Just like anything else in life, feed what you want to grow and starve what you want to die.
The aromas of fall elate this warm, fuzzy feeling that seems to linger within my soul… I want to hunker down somewhat, but the gardener in me refuses to let go of my love. The plants are telling me by their exasperated appearance that they’re ready to call it a season…
“Farewell, our garden matron, it’s been a great year Jean, but now we must depart… see you in the spring!” I wrestle with this and fight it because deep down in my lonely soul of winter days, I can’t bear the thought of the winter world that will all to soon envelope everything I love.
So in efforts to capture and hold on… I ‘put-up’.
All winter long I can go to the freezer, cupboards and can shelves and remember the feeling of the prickly leaves of zucchini as I carefully reached in and took hold of her bountiful beauty.
I can look at the jars of salsa and reminisce of summer days strolling through the hoop house and gazing over the Heirloom tomatoes heavy with their colorful fruits.
Bringing up a jar of vegetable soup and tomato juice… blending their beauties together in a kettle and slowly warming up for all my loved ones. This rich, romantic aroma wafting through our home… but best of all… “Oh mom… that smells sooooo good!” That’s my reward.
Life is good on the farm.
Herbs are such a blessing to any kitchen and as I’ve been showing, extremely easy to preserve. For those of us whose winter months don’t allow for growing, we are able to enjoy the fruits of our labor by preserving.
Here I am harvesting basil
Here’s a step-by-step super easy way to freeze your garden herbs in olive oil. You can use this technique with any herb or combination of herbs.
STEP 1: Using a 12 compartment cupcake tin, cut 12 squares of plastic wrap to fit into each hole. Be sure they’re large enough
to come up over the rims at least 1 1/2″.
STEP 2: Filling only one hole at a time, place plastic wrap and press in; Take 1 Tbsp. of herb and place in hole.
STEP 3: Carefully pour olive oil into hole, filling until level with tin.
STEP 4: Repeat process until all holes are filled. Place in freezer for 48 hours to allow oil to completely solidify.
STEP 5: Lift each ‘puck’ up; if they stick a bit, carefully use the tip of a knife to help it pop out.
STEP 6: Quickly remove plastic and place them all in a large freezer bag. It is fine that the herbs and oil separated.
STEP 7: Store in freezer and enjoy all winter long! Yum!
How to use you herbed oil pucks:
*Toss them into cooked, drained pasta.
*Let thaw in a bowl and use in a pasta salad… yummy fresh herb flavor with that white stuff on the ground.
*Toss in with a stir fry.
*Use to sauté meat for fajitas in.
*Thaw and brush on a roast before putting in the oven.
*Use when frying potatoes for home fries.
… and of course, like I always say, the uses are only limited by your imagination!
You can also do these in ice cube trays, but for my size family… that’s kinda’ funny 😉
Many of us have harvested and dried our herbs… did you ever think to use them to create your own spice blends? Even if you didn’t grow and preserve your own, by purchasing your herbs in bulk and combining them to make your own blends you’ll save big in the wallet.
I thought I’d share some of my families favorites and most commonly used… at least in my home! Here are some awesome spice blends that I know you’ll all love…
Mix all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight container.
2/3 c dried chives
1/3 c white sugar
4 T. sea salt
3 T. garlic powder
3 T. cilantro
2 T. onion powder
2 T. cumin
1 T. oregano
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients into a food processor and blend until thoroughly mixed. Store in an airtight container.
3/4 c dried chives
1/2 c. white sugar
1/4 c. plus 1 T. basil
1/4 c. sea salt
3 T. celery seed
3 T. dill weed
2 T. garlic powder
Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly and store in an airtight container.
To Make Dip:
Combine 1 T. dry mix to 1 cup sour cream. Use with veggies or pretzels.
Ranch Dressing Mix
2 T. parsley
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. onion powder
1/2 t. sea salt
1/2 t. pepper
1/4 t. paprika
Mix all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight container. To Make Dressing:
Add dry ingredient mix to:
2 cup real mayonnaise and 1 1/2 cup buttermilk- you can exchange the buttermilk with regular milk.
Let set in fridge for at least an hour to allow flavors to blend. If too thick add a bit more milk. It will thicken while it sets.
I would multiply this recipe several times and keep stored. When you want to make the recipe, add 3 Tbsp. dry mix to 2 cup mayo.
Creamy Italian Dressing Mix
1/2 cup white sugar
4 T. sea salt
3 T. garlic powder
3 T. onion powder
3 T. oregano
3 T. parsley
3 t. basil
2 T. marjoram
1 T. rosemary
1/4 t. salt
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients and blend thoroughly and store in an airtight container.
To Make Dressing:
Add 2 Tbsp. dry mix to:
2/3 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup sour cream and 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar.
Blend together and let set in fridge for up to an hour before serving to allow flavors to blend.
Making home made spice blends and dressings is so easy and saves a ton of money… not to mention homemade just always taste better!
We’ve had three light frosts here in the Thumb of Michigan already. I’m not ready to loose my garden… not yet… I’m just not ready. I still need to feel the life that it provides me with. I still need to touch it’s bounty…
I just started harvesting the Roma beans.
The lettuces are quite big enough to be transplanted into the hoop house.
The two fall zucchini plants are just making their babies. I just don’t want to see my gardens die yet…
But my gardens are getting tired and beginning to show the signs of all its hard work.
Fall has moved in even though I’m not done with summer. But it’s here and there’s work to be done in preparation for the all to soon coming wicked days of winter.
Along with all the food preservation that I do each year, I also preserve something else… my seeds for next years garden and bounty.
So why save your own seeds? Just buy them right? Well… that’s an option and if you purchase seeds from local, small family owned businesses you’re keeping your dollars within your community or at least your state.
But for me, I’m interested in being self-sufficient and not relying on seed companies, local or not to feed me and my family. It’s very important for me to know what I’m getting and where it’s been.
Saving my seeds also saves me money and depending on the size of ones garden, this can be a substantial amount.
Today lets look at a quick and easy how-to on saving Heirloom seeds without the fermentation process.
*The reason that some people teach and stress the fermentation process is because some believe there’s a better chance of killing any and all bacteria’s that may be in the produce.
NOTE: I’ve been using the following method that I’m about to show you for over 10 years and I have never once had problems with disease or poor germination.
Step 1: It’s very important to find as perfectly shaped specimens as possible, harvested when fully ripe off a disease free plant to ensure successful seed saving.
Step 2: Using the small end of a melon baller, carefully scoop out the seeds. You’ll get some pulp but that’s fine for now.
Step 3: Using your fingertips, separate the seeds from the pulp as best you can. You won’t be able to get it all.
Step 4: Put the semi-cleaned seeds in a colander and wash with cold water. Gently press the remaining pulp through the holes being careful not to damage the seeds.
Step 5: Place a paper towel folded in half and then half again so it’s 4x thickness on a paper plate and put the washed seeds on it. Be sure they’re in a single layer and not mounded one on top of another. Be sure to label your paper towel by writing directly on it or using a sticker as I’ve done here. Allow the seeds to dry on your counter for 2-3 weeks being sure to keep them out of direct sunlight. Once you’re sure they’re dry, fold the paper towel in half and store in a labeled zip-lock baggie and keep in your freezer till next spring.
This method of seed saving can be done with all seeds that come from ‘juicy’ fruit or vegetables. Here are a few other photo’s of my saved seeds.
This red tomato is my Russian Big Roma and I’ve been saving the seeds for well over ten years. This is one of my favorite tomatoes. Because I’ve carefully selected only perfectly shaped and the largest tomatoes each year, the plants from these seeds will produce plants that are stronger, more disease resistant with larger fruits/veggie.
Saving your own seeds will be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do for your family. Knowing that the produce you eat, grow, harvest, preserve and eat again each year has been possible because of your efforts…. this will give you a sense of true accomplishment.