Farm Fresh Answers

Cultivating conversations about food & farming

Category: Food (page 2 of 6)

All things food, cooking, recipes, nutrition, health and more!

Farm Fresh Podcast: Pure Maple Sirup fresh from Funk’s Grove

The first hints of spring bring maple sirup season to central Illinois. As the ground starts to thaw and the sap starts to run, workers at Funk’s Grove Pure Maple Sirup spring into action to collect the sap and turn it into sirup.

Mike Funk, fifth generation maple sirup producer, talks about the tradition in this week’s Farm Fresh Podcast.

For more on the sirup making process and where to find Funk’s Grove Pure Maple Sirup, check out their website or take a look at this article from the Illinois Farm Bureau® Partners magazine.

Tune in every Wednesday at 12:45 p.m. for the Farm to Table segment on WJBC radio.

Garbage in, Compost Out

What do you get when you mix municipal yard waste, manure from the Illinois State University Farm and food scraps from several Bloomington-Normal food service facilities?

A recipe for diverting more than one million pounds of waste from the McLean County landfill every year and converting it to a usable product: compost.

“The program started as a research project on how urban areas and agriculture can work together to solve problems,” says Russell Derango, ISU Farm Manager.

The town of Normal wanted a better solution for disposing leaves, grass clippings and yard waste. High phosphorus levels in the livestock manure at the ISU Farm limited its use as fertilizer. In 1993, the two entities established a partnership to address both problems.

“We expanded and started whole food waste composting about four years ago,” Derango says.

Food scraps from ISU dining halls as well as corporate food facilities and a couple of local grocery stores are hauled up to the 16 acre compost site at the farm.

Composting is essentially managed decomposition of organic materials. Mixing carbon and nitrogen containing wastes in the right ratio creates favorable conditions for microbes to breakdown the materials into a soil like substance.

“The process produces heat,” says Dr. Ken Smiciklas, ISU Agronomy Professor. “The compost needs to reach 140 F to kill harmful bacteria and weed seeds.”

 

Compost Aeration

A compost aerator mixes the materials and incorporates the air needed for microbial aerobic digestion to decompose the materials

The windrows of waste are periodically turned with a compost aerator for even decomposition and incorporating air.

After about six months, the compost is ready to be used to add organic matter and nutrients to soil. The compost is used on the ISU farm, for landscaping and sold to the public.

 

“The biggest issue we have is the amount of trash mixed in with the yard waste,” Derango says. “We really need people to follow the rules and separate their trash.”

Anything that is not biodegradable like plastics, metals and rocks has to be screened out and it can also be dangerous for the farm workers.

“We’ve had large rocks get kicked out by the aerator and thrown through the back windshield of the tractor,” Derango says.

If you would like to purchase compost, for  the cost is $25 per pick-up truck load and it can be picked up at the farm during regular business hours. Click here to contact the ISU University Farm.

Farm Fresh Podcast: Raw Milk

Illinois food safety regulations now allow dairy farms to sell raw milk, but consumers should be aware of the risks.

Get the whole story in this week’s Farm Fresh Podcast from Jim Fraley, Livestock Program Director for Illinois Farm Bureau.

Raw milk does not go through pasteurization – the process of heating the milk to kill bacteria or pathogens.

For more on raw milk & food safety, check out these posts from Food Insight, Midwest Dairy Association & Ask the Farmers.

Tune in every Wednesday at 12:45 p.m. for the Farm to Table segment on WJBC Radio.

 

Pesticides on Your Plate?

What does a mom who makes pesticide recommendations for farmers feed her own children? Organic. Homemade. Conventional. Store bought.  I use it all.

Yes, I sometimes bought organic baby food. I bought it for the convenience of the pouch packaging. I bought it for the unique food combinations. I did NOT buy it because I thought it was more nutritious or better than conventional.

I am somewhat particular about the country of origin of the foods I feed my children. Any food grown in the US or Canada I am completely comfortable purchasing.

I will admit that I think twice when I see produce, particularly berries, from other countries and often opt not to purchase them. Berries have soft skin that can be easily bruised during transport and I am not as comfortable with the control measures for complex pest management strategies in other countries.  But, I obviously buy foreign grown bananas because they aren’t grown in the US.

My master’s degree is in Weed Science. I studied Herbicide Physiology and lots and lots of chemistry.  My master’s thesis involved glyphosate (aka Roundup). Yes, I sprayed it myself – gasp!

I studied the chemical structures of herbicides, how they breakdown in the environment and at what speed, which products should be used in what situations, and how the herbicides fit into the entire cropping system.

I am very comfortable the pesticides used on our food in the US. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registers chemicals after review of the pesticide ingredients, crops to be used on, the amount and frequency of use, timing and also how the pesticide should be stored and disposed.  They determine the risk of potential harms to humans, wildlife, and non-target species.

The EPA also determines a pesticide tolerance – the maximum amount of pesticide residue that can legally remain in or on a particular food. It takes generally 8-10 years from discovery to registration of a herbicide.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitors and enforces pesticide tolerances in both raw and processed foods.  Meat, poultry and eggs are monitored and enforced by the USDA. Food grown domestically and imported food are both monitored for pesticide residues.

Bottom line – I trust the safety of the food I buy because I trust the science behind it.

What’s Cooking Wednesday: Minestrone Soup

Scrumptious, savory soup often starts with good ‘stock’ (a flavorful liquid base).

You can make your own beef, chicken, turkey or ham stock by boiling meat scraps or bones in water and saving the liquid. Vegetable stocks are generally made with carrots, onions, celery and sometimes tomatoes. Garlic, thyme, bay leaf and other herbs make flavorful seasoning combinations.

Another approach to stocking your soup is to save the broth and/or pan drippings from other dishes.

My mom’s method is a quart container of beef broth in the freezer. Any time she cooks a roast or other beef dishes, leftover broth gets added to the container. Once the container is full, she uses it to make a soup- like this Minestrone recipe (below).

Of course you can always buy broth in a can or carton from the grocery store or use beef bouillon, but look out for the salt content! Ready made broth tends to be high in sodium. By making your own you can use herbs and other spices to add flavor while keeping your salt content lower.

Minestrone Soup

Ingredients:

  • 4 c beef stock (or broth)
  • 2 c water
  • 2 large carrots, peeled & chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 can chili beans (or 1 can black beans, drained & 1 tsp. chili powder)
  • 2 cups rotini pasta (uncooked)
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced & quartered
  • 1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. basil
  • 1/2 tsp. parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch

Instructions:

  1. In large pot, heat beef broth and water to boiling.
  2. Add carrots, tomatoes, onions & beans. Cook until carrots are tender.
  3. Add seasoning.
  4. Dissolve cornstarch in a small amount of cold water (Shaking it in a sealed container works well). Add a small amount of the hot liquid from the soup and shake or stir to combine. Pour cornstarch mixture into the soup, stirring constantly as you do.
  5. Add zucchini and pasta. Cook about 15 minutes until pasta is done. Add spinach for the last 5 minutes.
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