Archive for the ‘Education’ Category
When you find yourself at Urban Roots, you’ll never want to leave. Only a few miles from downtown Austin, this piece of land used to be called Oasis Gardens Farm, and we understand why. Not only does this farm produce incredible vegetables (if you haven’t had an Urban Roots beet yet, you’re missing out) they’re also a non-profit teaching teens leadership and farming skills while providing access to healthy food in Austin.
Yep, this is what an oasis looks like.
Urban Roots was founded in 2007 as a program of YouthLaunch, and started the process of becoming an independent non-profit agency in the fall of 2011. Each year, the farm sets the goal of growing 30,000 pounds of produce with 40% of it going to local soup kitchens and food pantries. For 25 weeks during the spring and summer, Urban Roots provides paid internships to Austin youth, who develop life and job skills while growing food for the Austin community. The interns get to know this 3.5 acre plot of land, getting their hands dirty and learning what it takes to grow a tomato.
With open volunteer days Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8-12 and some select Saturdays, there are plenty of opportunities to go check out the farm. After spending a volunteer day harvesting carrots, I was reminded how much work goes into growing food and how much joy can be found in getting outside and getting involved.
While on the farm, I had the pleasure of talking with Blake Hill, Urban Roots farm manager, and Meg Mattingly, the Farm Education Specialist. As we chatted amongst the tomato plants, it became clear that while they love farming, this place, and their work, is for the youth. “The most important thing Urban Roots does is serve these teens. It gives them skills that they can carry with them for the rest of their life,” Mattingly said.
During their most recent open house, I had the honor of hearing from four of their youth interns. It was inspiring to listen to these young people talk about the impact Urban Roots has had on their lives. They spoke of the opportunities this organization provides, how they never thought they’d be good at public speaking, and how much confidence they’ve gained from their internship. “Out here, these kids learn to be the best versions of themselves,” Hill said.
While food insecurity, obesity and hunger rates are on the rise, Urban Roots is a breath of fresh air. Check it out for yourselves, you’ll leave the farm a better, more inspired person… We promise.
Ali Baba Watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) is quite possibly one of the best watermelons we’ve ever had. Originating in Iraq, this watermelon can survive the brutal Texas summer sun – thanks to its pale colored rind that prevents sunburning.
Size: 1-2 feet H x 6-7 feet W, 12-20 lbs melons
When to plant: Spring-Early Summer (Early April-Early June for Central TX)
How to plant: Sow outdoors after the last frost date when the soil has warmed, 1/2 inch deep. Watermelons hate to have their roots disturbed, so transplanting is not recommended. Space 2 feet apart in rows, or sow in hills spaced 4-6 feet apart. Thin to 3 plants per hill. Requires full sun.
Square foot spacing: Not recommended for square foot gardening.
Harvesting: Determining when a watermelon is ripe is probably one of the most difficult things for a gardener to do. It is nearly impossible to determine watermelon ripeness visually, so here are some tips:
- Thump it. If the watermelon is ripe, it will sound dull and hollow; however, this can be difficult for the untrained ear.
- Color. The watermelon is ripe when there is little contrast between the stripes on the melon, and the surface color becomes dull.
- The underbelly. Look for the spot where the melon rested on the ground; a yellow or a cream color spot suggests ripeness, while a white or pale green spot indicates immaturity. The rind at the soil spot should toughen and resist denting with a fingernail when ripe.
- Check the tendril. If the tendril is green, you should wait to pick the melon. Harvest when the curled tendril near the stem begins to shrivel and dry up. If it dries while the leaves and rest of the vine look healthy, the melon should be ripe.
Culinary use: The flavor of this melon is superb. It’s very sweet and luscious, with a nice crisp texture. We recommend eating a melon of this quality straight, but it also makes a beautiful caprese salad: substitute melon for the tomatoes and mint for the basil, and drizzle with strawberry balsamic vinegar.
Medicinal use: The flesh of watermelon contains 90% water, while the other 10% consists of a small number of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamin C, folic acid, alkaline substances, and decent amount of magnesium and potassium. For therapeutic purposes, use the fruit, including rind. Watermelon is a diuretic, and may lower blood pressure.
Companion planting: Grow watermelon with corn, nasturtiums, peas, sunflowers, squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, oregano and radishes. Nasturtium helps to deter bugs and beetles, and oregano provides general pest protection.
It seems appropriate, as we enter this holiday season, to add one more thing to celebrate – Meatless Monday.
Let’s give a little history behind the movement. The idea started way back during World War I when the U.S. Food Administration (USDA) urged families to reduce their consumption of food staples. Using the slogan “Food Will Win the War” they asked families to have meatless Monday. In one week 10 million families, 7,000 hotels and nearly 425,000 food dealers pledged to observe the national meatless day. In November 1917, New York City hotels saved 116 tons of meat over the course of a single week.
That’s a lot of meat. To put it in perspective, that’s the same approximate weight as 116 Volkswagen Beetles. And that was in a single week, in one city.
The campaign was again used during World War II and was recently revived in 2003 by health advocate, Sid Lerner. The recent initiative was backed by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future and has been endorsed by 30 schools of public health.
So what’s the point? No longer urged for the sake of rationing, there has to be a reason that thousands of people world-wide are pledging to go meatless on Mondays.
Let’s start with the health benefits. If you go meatless once a week, you will help reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.
It turns out your body is a fan of taking a break from meat, so is the planet.
By cutting out meat just once a week, you can greatly reduce the size of your carbon footprint. The USDA estimates the meat industry generates nearly 1/5 of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change, polluting more than transportation. Cutting down on meat also minimizes water usage. It takes an estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water to get a single pound of beef.
Besides saving water, you’re also taking steps towards reducing fossil fuel dependence. On average, it takes about 40 calories of fossil fuel energy to go into every calorie of feed-lot beef in the U.S. Comparatively, it takes 2.2 calores of fossil fuel energy needed to produce one calorie or plant-based protein.
Perhaps you’re feeling inspired and want to take the pledge. Good on you. Needing inspiration of what to make this Meatless Monday? How about falafel with a yogurt dill sauce. We offer up this recipe using falafel mix found at in.gredients, as we want to give quick and easy dinner options. Recipes that are easy to whip up on a moments notice.
This dish is filling and packed full of flavor, we promise you won’t miss the meat.
Happy (meatless) eating!
Falafel with Yogurt Dill Sauce
From A Couple Cooks
For yogurt sauce:
- 1 container (7 oz) of Mill King greek yogurt ($6.00 for a container)
- 1/4 cup fresh mint ($2.80 a bunch)
- 1/4 cup fresh dill ($2.25 a bunch)
- Splash of lemon juice or white wine vinegar (optional)
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- 1.25 cups water
- 1.75 cups falafel mix- vegan and organic ($7.00 a lb)
- 1/2 pound of baby spinach ($6 a 1/2 lbs)
Start by making the yogurt sauce. Chop up the fresh mint and dill. Combine the herbs with the yogurt and add in garlic salt and pepper. Add a splash of white wine vinegar or lemon juice to taste. Set aside.
For falafel, mix 1.25 cups of water with 1.75 cups of falafel mix. Let stand for 15 minutes. Form the mixture into 1-inch balls. On the stove, heat .5″ of vegetable oil to 375 degrees over medium-high heat. Pour in falafel balls and fry until brown and crisp, about 3 minutes.
If you are looking for a healthier option, you can place the balls onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush the top of the balls with olive oil and bake them under a broiler for about 3 minutes per side.
When you’re done cooking your falafel, place them on a bed of spinach and drizzle with the yogurt sauce. You can be creative with the recipe, adding any vegetables you want to the salad.
It’s Presidential election time. Which means debates, attack ads and a lot of politically charged discussions.
Before election day rolls around (Tuesday, November 6th) take some time to get to know where the candidates stand on issues that matter to you.
A big one for us is food (surprise, surprise). With legislation like the Farm Bill, and government agencies like the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), it’s important to know where the candidates stand. Having served as president for four years, it’s easy to see what Obama has done in regards to food policy and safety. Luckily, with a little digging we came up with a good foundation on where BOTH candidates stand when it comes to food.
Food Republic published an agriculture policy cheat sheet that gives a good overview of food policy. Let’s start by looking at Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.
His position on America’s farmers and subsidies have changed over the years. Starting back in 1994, during a Massachusetts senate campaign, Romney called for the “virtual elimination” of the Department of Agriculture and for cutting back farm subsidies. Fast forward to a 2012 statement in January, where Romney declared farm subsidies a national security issue and maintained they were vital to the safety of the American food supply.
With his announcement of his agricultural advisory committee in March of 2012 Romney said, “I will work to ensure that our food supply will remain steady, safe and affordable for all citizens.” Later that month, when asked about maintaining current farm subsidies by WDAY-TV in North Dakota he said, “We’re competing with other nations around the world, and other nations, in many cases, have various subsidies, which they use to take advantage of market dynamics around the world.” He went on to say that making unilateral changes in our current policies could put as at a disadvantage in a global context.
In regards to food safety, Romney believes a major problem over successive presidencies is the burden regulations have on the economy. He stated that regulations function as a hidden tax on Americans and cited that such regulations are barriers to growth. He believes that the farmers and producers have a long history of taking responsibility for their own safety measures, and preventative practices should be developed by the growers, handlers, processors and others in the supply chain. There isn’t any record of where he stands on labeling genetically modified organism (GMO) foods.
Romney believes that the Federal Government shouldn’t dictate what American’s eat, but notes that there are health challenges of the growing obesity epidemic that represents a public health crisis. He believes in an emphasis on a balanced diet, and plans on having public health programs highlighting the importance of healthy eating.
Now on to President Obama.
In the last four years, food policy and safety has been given the spotlight. We all remember in November of 2011 when congress declared pizza as a vegetable (in reality, it was the 1/8 cup of tomato paste that counts as the vegetable, but still.) Along the lines of food access, food stamp use has increased by 46% since 2008. When a proposal to reduce the amount of sugar, salt and fat marketed to kids came to congress, it was struck down without any intervention from the White House. And in January of this year, the USDA announced it was closing 259 domestic offices.
On the flip side, within the first 100 days in office, President Obama established the Food Safety Working Group, passing the most comprehensive reform in food safety in 70 years. Obama also believes that GMO food should have mandatory labeling. Obama has endorsed the Senate’s version of the farm bill, which would eliminate costly subsidies for farmers, and increase spending for healthy food initiatives.
Under the President, the USDA approved a new nutrition guide known as MyPlate, and although it has been criticized by some, has had more positive reactions than its predecessor, MyPyramid. Obama wants to lend support to regional food hubs and the establishment of grocery stores in underserved neighborhoods, providing effective ways to promote healthier food choices.
The USDA also revised nutrition standards for school lunches (which passed in January of this year) requiring more vegetables and fruit, a whole grain requirement and milk that is 1% fat or less. First Lady Michelle Obama has started Let’s Move, a national campaign bringing issues like healthy eating, food deserts and childhood obesity to the forefront of the nation’s dialogue. She also had a garden planted at the White House, using it for nutrition education. There is even a blog, Obama Foodorama, following White House food initiatives from “policy to pie”.
There you have it, our candidates and their view on food policy.
Hopefully this gives you a better idea of where the candidates stand. With the election less than a week away, it’s time to buckle down, educate yourself and get out and vote!
October 24th is national Food Day, an annual event to address the issues of our food system. The goal of Food Day is to strengthen and unify the food movement, with aims of improving our nation’s food policies. We should work towards a food system that bolsters the health of our communities, not one that increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and cancer. To make matters worse, our food is produced in a way that is harmful to workers, the environment and farm animals.
The ultimate goal of Food Day is to transform the American diet. Everyone- regardless of age, race, income or geographic location- should have access to healthy foods.
To celebrate Food Day, we want to touch on an issue near and dear to our hearts. Organic eggs.
At in.gredients we carry Vital Farms eggs. This small, Austin based network of family-owned farms supply pasture raised eggs and poultry. These hens get to spend time outdoors, eating organic feed and they’re only moved inside at night when it’s time to lay eggs. Each hen gets at least 108 square feet of space, ample room to spread their wings and move around.
That is what a humane egg looks like.
Founded in 2007, Vital Farms is growing quickly as consumers around the country acknowledge the importance of supporting humane and sustainable farming practices. As Vital Farms grows, some conventional egg farmers are changing their ways to join the Vital Farms network. This transition, costing approximately $25 a hen, isn’t a cheap or easy process.
Fortunately, there is a way to help. Vital Farms has turned to crowdfunding to raise money to help a farm in Georgia go the pasture-raised route.
Tomorrow, take the time to celebrate Food Day. Eat an egg from a happy chicken. Learn something new about our food system. Support a local farmer.
Dig a little bit deeper into the story of the food on your plate.
We are big believers in snacking.
What is an afternoon without your 15 minute snack break?
Having something that is healthy and filling can make all the difference when you have a long day ahead of you. There are a number of choices, but one of our favorites is hummus. This middle-eastern dish is easy to prepare, and it makes enough for the whole week.
Pop it on a carrot stick, smear some on pita bread or spoon it directly into your mouth. This hummus is versatile and can also make appearances in your lunch (greek inspired wrap, anyone?)
Worlds Best Hummus
Adapted from The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen
- 3 cups cooked garbanzo beans ($1.20 for 1/2 pound)
- 1/2 cup sesame tahini ($1.52 for 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 cup squeezed lemon juice ($2.00 a pound)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil ($1.64 for 1/4 cup)
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed ($1.10 for a head)
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1-2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/4 cup water
Approximate in.gredients total: $7.46
First things first, you’ll need to cook the beans. You can either soak them overnight, or you can place the beans in a pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat. Simmer for 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and let the beans soak in the warm water for 1 hour.
Now to cook the beans. Drain the water and rinse the beans. Then, dump them back in the pot and cover with several inches of cold water. Bring the water to a boil. Let simmer on medium heat, covered, for an hour or until tender.
Once those bad boys are done, all you need to do is combine the ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. You’ll want to taste the hummus and add more lemon, tahini, garlic or salt to taste.
Any hummus you don’t plan on eating during the week will freeze well.
Some days you need a hearty meal. One that sticks to the ribs and leaves you full for hours.
The kind of dish that has the family licking the plate clean.
A big dish of creamy pasta will hit that hearty-meal-craving. Using local vegetables from the store, you can add a healthy spin on the traditional fettuccine alfredo.
We priced it out for you so you can come to the store knowing exactly what (and how much) you will need of each ingredient.
Fettuccine Alfredo with Kale, Zucchini and Italian Pork Sausage
Adapted from Eating Well
- 2 cups Mill King whole milk ($3.75 for 1/2 gallon, $.47 for 2 cups)
- 8 cloves german red garlic from Tecolote farms ($1.10 per head)
- 2 tbsp Nancy’s cultured cream cheese ($2.80 for 8 oz, $.35 for 2 tbsp)
- 3/4 cup parmesan sarvecchio cheese ($6.25 for 1/4 lbs, about 3/4 cup)
- 1/2 tsp salt ($.02 for 1/2 tsp)
- Pepper to taste ($.14 for 1 tsp)
- 1 lbs tri colored fettuccine from Gourmet Texas Pasta ($5.50 a lbs)
- 1 tbsp olive oil from Napa Valley Naturals($.20 for 1 tbsp)
- 1/2 lbs Italian pork sausage from Burgundy Pasture Beef ($9.00 a lbs, $4.50 for 1/2 lbs)
- 1/2 lbs zucchini from Perdernales Valley Farms($1.25 for 1/2 lbs)
- 1/2 a bunch of JBG’s curly leaf kale ($3.00 a bunch, $1.50 per half bunch)
Total for recipe in.gredients: $23.73
Cost per person for a family of four: $5.93
you will have some extra milk, cream cheese, pork sausage and kale. All great ingredients you can use for another meal.
Boil a large pot of water
Chop zucchini and wash, remove stems and chop kale.
Combine milk and garlic in a heavy medium saucepan; bring to a simmer over low heat. Simmer gently until the garlic is tender and the milk has reduced to 1 1/2 cups, 15-25 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Puree milk and garlic in a blender until smooth (or use an immersion blender.) Return to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Keep the sauce warm.
Meanwhile, cook the fettuccine until tender, 8-10 minutes and transfer to a warmed large bowl.
Heat olive oil over medium high heat and cook crumbled pork sausage. Once pork sausage is almost down, add in chopped zucchini. Cook for another 3-4 minutes, adding the kale in last. You will want to only cook the kale for only a couple of minutes, so make this the last step of the meal.
Whisk cream sauce and 1/2 cup parmesan into the sauce. Add the fettuccine, sausage and vegetables. Toss and serve immediately. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup parmesan over the dish once served.
You may have heard the term “carbon offset” thrown around – but what does it actually mean?
What do things like breathing, turning on a light, and driving a car have in common? These simple, every day activities – as well as industrial processes – emit carbon into the air around us.
In 2006, only 13 percent of emissions were naturally removed from the atmosphere. A carbon offset is a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions made to offset an emission released elsewhere. Businesses or individuals can buy carbon offsets by “supporting a renewable energy source or by funding activities like planting a tree” (GOOD). While carbon offsets alone won’t save the planet, according to Planet Green’s Jessica Root explains why they’re a proactive step to help reduce or at least offset your carbon footprint.
With the costs of cleaning up the environment rising, some countries can no longer afford to not to invest in sustainable development. The World Bank has estimated that “bad sanitation and water pollution cost India 6 percent of national income” (The Economist). According to The Economist, that’s where the idea of “green growth,” an attempt to reconcile the “often destructive relationship between economic development and the environment,” comes into play. So what does all this mean? The Economist concludes development needs to be “green” from the start.
(image: Earth Times)