‘Accept some damage and embrace ugly fruit.’ Guy K. Ames’ statement about growing fruit organically grabbed my attention and brought a smile to my face. In the session, ‘The Key to Growing Fruit Organically in the South’ at the 2016 SSAWG conference, Ames got right to the point with organic fruit growing in zones 6, 7, 8 – the hotter parts of the country. Fruit production is no stranger in our area, as there are orchards and vineyards dotting the landscape, but most, if not all of them rely on chemical cocktails to produce good-looking fruit. For those that would like to have their fruit without chemicals, there is a way.
Growing fruit organically in our region is possible, but according to Ames we must first accept that some fruits are just not going to work as well as others. Most apples, pears, peaches, plums, sweet cherries and raspberries are going to present problems with production. Sure, you might get some fruit, but it’s going to be ugly, not fit for market or grocery store sales. Ames went on to list fruit we should grow, fruit that works better with organic applications: persimmons, strawberries, blueberries, elderberries, blackberries, pawpaws, service berries, gooseberries, hardy figs and Chinese mulberry. Some apples and pears can produce wonderful fruit, but check the rootstock: MM 111 rootstock and pears with Pyrus calleryana rootstock will be better at resisting common fruit tree diseases like apple cedar rust.
Starting with a good foundation is also key to better fruit. Ames went through a list of good practices dealing with pests and diseases. The list includes selecting the right varieties, the right sight, modifying the soil to create active soil (wood chips are best for mulching!), diversifying the crops and preventing plant stress. More active approaches after planting involve pruning, keeping the area clean and fostering beneficial insects. Also being patient as not every year will be great for every fruit (diversify!). Ames pointedly reminded us to ‘accept some damage.’
So with this damage, what to do with the fruit? Value-added products! Have great tasting apples with too much fly speck? Applesauce! Apple pies! Apple cider! You get the idea. It’s quite possible to grow and produce wonderful, healthy fruit in our region, organically using no chemicals, but we might want to think outside of the box.
Ames’ approach to growing fruit organically is three fold: 1) Choose the right variety, right plant for our hot & humid region – check the rootstock. 2) Good foundation: soil, sight and diverse plantings. 3) ACCEPT SOME DAMAGE and carry on! Guy K. Ames shared a similar presentation on slideplayer.com, with more information and variety names: http://slideplayer.com/slide/4271034/
The second annual Rock the Plate event celebrating local food and local music packed the Old Feed Store in Cobden, Sunday, August 28th. The Swamp Tigers rocked the house after an array of local chefs rocked the plate using all-locally grown ingredients, right down to the cocktails.
The food included ratatouille quiche by Walkers Bluff, Israeli Salad from the Neighborhood Coop Grocery, Vegan Potato Salad by Town Square Market, LaColina Linda’s Spanish Gazpacho, Fat Pattie’s Zesty Squash and Rice Soup; from Yellow Moon Café Pork and Veggie Kabobs with a Chimichurri Sauce; and for dessert, Cristaudo’s Mixed Berry and Peach Boo Boo Bars and the Longbranch Cafe & Bakery’s Lemon Basil Bars.
Local farms represented included Lick Creek Beef & Pork, All Season’s Farm, SIUC Farm to Fork Sustainable Vegetable Farm, Flora Bay Farm, Washington Street Gardens, McKaskle Family Farm, Marcoot Jersey Creamery, Rendleman Orchard, Dayempur Farm, Grier Lost Creek, Toad Hill Farm, Angie’s Farm, Mileur Orchards, Five Hens Farm, and Spring Valley Farm. Thanks to all of you who raised the food that gave us an amazing taste of our region!
Local wine from Orlandini and Owl Creek Vineyards, Hard Cider from Apple Knocker Ciders, beer from Big Muddy and from Scratch Brewery, and Coffee from Steam Shovel Coffee comprised the array of beverage choices (with local water and iced tea as well). Two custom local cocktails, the Lemon Black Berry Tiger (Grand River Lemon Moonshine and Rendleman Orchard’s Blackberry Cider garnished with Lemon Balm) and the Apple Crisp (Appleknocker’s ‘The Bad One’ Hard Cider with Grand River’s Red Eye Pie Moonshine) showcased local spirits and ciders.
The event sold out for the 2nd year in a row! Proceeds will support Food Works programs.
Thanks are also due to everyone who donated for the raffle items including The Old Feed Store, the Carbondale Farmers Market (at Murdale), Rendleman Orchards, the Community Farmers Market, Scratch Brewery, Grand River Spirits, The Swamp Tigers, Orlandini Vineyards and Apple Knocker Cider.
Many, many people and organizations came together to make Rock the Plate happen. Thank you to all of you! We owe an especially big debt of gratitude to Amanda Pankau who took the organizing lead. Thank you to Nathan Graham, graphic artist. Thank you to Food Works staff Reanna Putnam, and volunteers Brent Pease, Ryan Pankau, and Ben Russo. We are grateful to our generous sponsors who make it all possible: Lawler Brown Law Firm, Scratch Brewery, Grand River Spirits, and Apple Knocker Hard Cider.
We heard your calls for bigger bowls next year…we’re listening!
Photos by John Longmire. Click here to view a full album of photos from the night.
Nine months ago we started a year long journey to inspire our farmer community about cooperative farming projects and food hubs. In January we hosted Amy Randazzo of Legacy of the Land llc. in Bloomington, IL at our Farming Alliance Annual Gathering at the Old Feed Store. She gave us background on her farm and how Legacy of the Land LLC has helped her farm business grow. Read more about how Legacy of the Land operates on their website.
We loved this model, but knew that there were others out there that and that should be explored. We hosted three events at John A. Logan College where we showed food hub webinars previously recorded by the Wallace Center and brought in a speaker from another regional food hub. In March we hosted a roundtable discussion about food hubs and talked about the different models and resources that we needed to cultivate in order to get one off the ground. One of the key themes that emerged that night was the need for a solid foundation that clearly outlines how decisions are made, product standards, and policies. In June we met to go point by point through the Legacy of the Land bylaws shared with us by Amy Randazzo. Twelve farms were present at this June meeting, and all felt confident that the by-laws outlined by Legacy of the Land would be appropriate with minimal revisions moving forward with a multi-farm LLC for southern Illinois.
We met twice in August to talk next steps moving forward with adapting the Legacy of the Land model for southern Illinois. At our meeting on August 2nd we discussed the need for member recruitment and drafted ideas for a name. The name that everyone gravitated towards was L.E.A.F. or Little Egypt Alliance of Farmers. On August 29th we met again to discuss how member recruitment was going and to talk about potential marketing strategies. At this meeting, the group emphasized wanting to work on building relationships with restaurants and small grocers like Carbondale’s Neighborhood Grocery Co-op and Town Square market and to begin explore a meal kit style CSA.
We currently have 3-5 farms moving forward with this vision and are looking for more producers to join us! If you have any interest in being a founding member in this new venture, please join us at the next meeting on Monday September 19th, at 6pm, at the Old Train Depot in Carbondale. At this meeting we will introduce prospective members to our vision and to continue our conversation about marketing strategies and needs. Our plan is to have membership finalized by the October 24th meeting so we can move forward with crop planning for the 2017 season in November.
We are happy our Farming Alliance members are such good cooks, because we love to eat! The monthly Farming Alliance field day potlucks are simply spectacular. There was the un-planned bean themed potluck during the CoolBot Field Day in April, and a delicious spread at the Summer Social at Scratch that donned not one, but two batches of fresh-from-the-goat chevre. Know your farmer, know your food gets taken to a new level when you know the name of the goat that produced the milk for your cheese!
Southern Illinois Farming Alliance monthly field days are a great opportunity to learn about our member farms and to enjoy farm fresh food with the people who grew it. In March we toured the productive sugarbush at Principia College near Elsah to learn about the production of maple syrup in southern climates. We learned about the unique challenges of the freeze thaw patterns in southern Illinois that prevent big sap runs like they get in cooler climates. Though producing maple in areas with warmer winters is less productive, we are learning valuable lessons that will help prepare northern maple producers for the warmer winters we have been experiencing as a nation with global warming.
We toured Countrysprout Organic in April and learned how a low-cost walk-in cooler made using Coolbot technology can impact your farms productive capacity. Being able to properly cool vegetables fresh from the field can greatly extend their shelf life allowing you to stretch your harvests across multiple markets. In May, we visited Backacher’s Farm and learned a bit about berries and a bit about mulching. Heavy mulching can dramatically change the character of your soil by adding back in necessary carbon, all while suppressing weeds. It’s a win-win for the farmer, especially if they’re also in the hay business like our host Phil Mendenhall is.
Our permaculture field day scheduled for June got pushed back until July 11th. This was our most well attended field day of the year with 15 people making the trek down south of Tamms to Jim and Mary Maginel’s Organic Energy Works farm. Jim and Mary have thoughtfully built up a linear food forest along their lane that is easy to monitor on their evening walks. Keeping a close eye on fruits and nuts as they ripen is one way to ensure that you get to enjoy the harvest before the wildlife digs in! We enjoyed seeing their multi-species livestock in the silvapasture as the wooded hills are integrated into their farm and homestead.
The Community Farmers Market weathered some big changes during the summer season this year. We moved the market to a new location on 200 N. Washington Street in Downtown Carbondale at new time, Wednesdays 3-6 pm. We decided that it was time to put all of our effort into building a complementary weekday market and did not operate an outdoor Saturday market at the Carbondale Community High School. This move allowed us to increase our vendor diversity - we had 19 vendors at our largest market of the season! - and to offer a wider array of products including pasture raised pork and eggs, grass-fed beef, prepared foods, baked goods, and even locally made soda from Scratch. The new location was close to supportive downtown businesses like Town Square Market and Longbranch who both buy and sell at the market. A vibrant community garden adjacent to the market gave customers and vendors a welcoming place to walk and see food growing .
We are grateful to our sponsor and neighbor WDBX Community Radio for helping us coordinate live music every week at the market, and for helping to promote the market on their station. The City of Carbondale has been very accommodating in our use of the space. They even made us a new sign board to display our market hours!
All were taken by Katherine Accettura at the April 27th and May 4th markets.
Despite the positive factors it’s been a challenging inaugural season in the new location. We battled rain and excessive heat all summer. Three violent thunderstorms forced us to closed market early and destroyed several vendors’ tents. When it wasn’t raining, it was very hot and steamy with heat indexes often reading over 100 degrees with 80% humidity. Very sticky! The weather challenged both customers, who struggle to make it to the market, and produce vendors who encountered standing water, pests, and weeds in the fields. Fingers crossed for cooler weather for our fall markets!
Despite a challenging season, our Double Up Food Bucks program has been an overwhelming success. We received funding through the Jackson County Plan4Health Initiative to offer Double Up Food Bucks at the Downtown Community Farmers Market for the 28-week market season. We have thus far served 61 new customers, and have doubled over $1,300 in SNAP benefits at the market. Customers are happy to stretch their limited food budget and to get healthy local produce using their SNAP benefits. We also had three groups of employees from Southern Illinois Healthcare tour the market with their wellness coaches to learn about shopping for healthy foods at farmers’ markets. There’s nothing more satisfying than introducing new customers to the market!
We are currently working with both local and state organizations to expand Double Up Food Bucks to more markets in southern Illinois in 2017. We plan to help get 4-6 new markets accepting SNAP by 2017, and Double Up Food Bucks at 1-2 new markets before the end of 2016.
by Reanna Putnam
Farmers Market Program Manager
Southern Illinois Farm Beginnings Now Enrolling in the Metro East!
For the first time, St. Clair County will be the site of the 2016-17 class of Southern Illinois Farm Beginnings (SIFB), a farmer-taught, community based program for people seeking to create a sustainable small farm business.
The 12-month program includes 48 hours of winter seminars where experienced farmers and farm advisors share their expertise with students as they are writing their business plan and building their skills. A six-month mentorship then pairs students with an experienced farmer while students develop specific skills pertaining to their enterprise – whether it’s hogs, hay or honey. Graduates also receive a 12-month membership in the Southern Illinois Farming Alliance, where they will have opportunities for on-farm field days and workshops.
Farm Beginnings is built on a model pioneered more than 20 years ago by the Land Stewardship Project in Minnesota and is now offered in 11 regions of the United States, including in three regions in Illinois. Nationally, the programs train hundreds of farmers every year.
“We wanted to bring the opportunities of Farm Beginnings to the Metro East, which is in the northernmost area of our service territory,” said SIFB Coordinator Kathleen Logan Smith. “Entrepreneurial farming is attracting people from all backgrounds and this program helps people create viable farms.”
The 2016 Southern Illinois Farm Beginnings classes will meet in Millstadt and Belleville, at classroom and farm locations. Interested people from the Metro East, surrounding communities, and Southern Illinois are encouraged to apply at Food Works’ website: http://www.fwsoil.org/farm-beginnings.html or call (618) 370-3287. Seminars begin in October and meet until February. Students may enroll through Oct. 12th, 2016.
Hear how farm beginnings helped these beginning farmers...
Now Enrolling through September 30th
Classes start in October
Southern Illinois Farm Beginnings® a farm business planning program for anyone wanting to engage in sustainable, entrepreneurial farming.
Now offering Southern Illinois Farm Beginnings® in St. Clair/Monroe Counties, IL (Metro East)
In Southern Illinois Farm Beginnings® you will:
Rock the Plate 2016 highlights locally grown music AND food!
With The Swamp Tigers rocking the house and amazing local eateries dishing up delicious farm to table creations - you can count on fun. Plus, you can win prizes and raise money for Food Works' mission - Sustainable Food System Development for Southern Illinois.
We have eight local chefs creating delicious small plates for you this year, and libations from local breweries, vineyards, and distilleries available for purchase. Doors open at 5pm on Sunday August 28th, food will be served starting at 5:30, and music will start at 6:30. This was a sold out event last year, so reserve your tickets today!
Tickets are $25 for non-members; $20 for members who have the secret password. The secret password has been sent to all paid members of Food Works and the Farming Alliance. There is also an option to make your Rock the Plate ticket purchase count towards a Food Works membership, a great value for those of you looking to renew! More information about our Food Works and Farming Alliance memberships are available on our website.
As America gears up for National Farmers Market Week, August 7-13, 2016 there are still thousands of people who’ve never shopped at a farmers market. Become a savvy farmers’ market shopper by reviewing these tips.
Below, please find a list of southern Illinois farmers markets. This list does not contain roadside farmstands and on-farm stores which are also great ways to buy directly from farmers. This list may not contain every market. Please notify Food Works at firstname.lastname@example.org with any corrections or additions.