The University of Nebraska Food Processing Center is offering a one-day seminar for all individuals interested in exploring the idea of starting a food manufacturing business. Interested individuals are encouraged to attend the “Recipe to Reality” seminar, which will be offered on May 16, 2014. Pre-registration is required and space is limited. Registration deadline is May 2, 2014. Contact Jill Gifford at 402-472-2819 or firstname.lastname@example.org for an information packet.
(This is a public notice. The event described is not sponsored by the Nebraska Food Cooperative)
Kudos to the Daily Nebraskan staff for shedding light on the important issues of food access and eating habits with two pieces on UNL City Campus as a food desert on Feb. 5. Having lived near campus without a car for three years, I agree that a downtown supermarket would be very convenient. However, if “greening” the food desert is to truly create healthier eating habits, we must think beyond the food desert as we know it.
Last week, a National Public Radio piece showed that opening a new produce-stocked grocery store in a Philadelphia food desert did not change people’s eating habits. This is not surprising. Think about it: even if we succeeded in locating a grocery store in downtown Lincoln, would most students gravitate towards fresh fruits and vegetables, or pre-packaged snacks and frozen/instant meals? Somehow, I don’t see the “drunk O Street post-2 a.m. masses” satiating their munchies with broccoli and bananas.
While inconvenient access to fresh food is a major barrier to healthy eating, our “fast food culture” is an equally, if not even greater, challenge to healthier diets. Our 24/7 lifestyles are filled with marketing messages that continually emphasize that we have limited time to prepare or eat real food (but, somehow, plenty of time to surf Facebook). Additionally, those who do have an intention to eat well may not have the knowledge or resources to prepare healthful meals for themselves. We need to acknowledge that UNL students are living in both a physical AND cultural food desert. One cultural solution is better nutritional and culinary education. Another is the prioritizing of time for one of our most basic biological needs and cultural traditions – connecting with, preparing and savoring our food.
The fact is that food does not have to come from a store. After all, are we not in Nebraska? The agricultural state that claims to feed the world? By embracing the simple truth that real food comes from plants, animals and farmers, we can begin moving towards more transformative and innovative ways to address our physical and cultural food desert. We can start with two simple initiatives:
(1) An on-campus farmers market: Many universities (including others in the Big Ten consortium) have weekly farmers markets where local farmers and producers come to sell their products. My undergraduate school, Vassar College, hosted weekly farmers markets selling an array of local fruits, vegetables, meats, bread, flour and honey in the student union building, even in the deep of winter. My regular interactions with farmers at this market not only taught me fun and simple ways to prepare new foods, but also allowed me to better understand plant genetic diversity and the local farming landscape. A farmers market at UNL can be an ideal opportunity for both nutritional and educational nourishment – especially if incorporated into course curricula and combined with programming such as cooking demonstrations.
(2) Encouraging urban agriculture: What better way to green the food desert than to engage in actual greening? While gardening takes time and commitment, it is a transformative activity that tackles the root of our cultural disconnect with food. In essence, it’s a “slow food” counter to our “fast food” culture. In my first year as a grad student, my friend and I joined one of the dozens of community gardens around Lincoln and grew our own delicious tomatoes, peppers, greens and herbs. Research shows that people who engage in gardening are more likely to eat what they grow, and thus have healthier diets overall. Sure enough, not only did my friend and I eat incredibly well, but we also got plenty of exercise and stress-relief from working in the garden. Perhaps even more rewarding, however, were the connections we strengthen with other gardeners and our friends by sharing our garden abundance (we were quite popular at potlucks). As a land grant university, UNL should actively support and create opportunities for students to grow their own food.
In a nation faced with a serious epidemic of obesity and diabetes, issues of food and diet are critical. If our goal is to develop truly healthy, vital communities, we cannot solely rely on infrastructural solutions. More supermarkets might erase physical food deserts by increasing food access, but they cannot change our unhealthy cultural behaviors. We need a constellation of solutions to build a healthier community food system. Let’s start by thinking outside of the (big) box.
Are you an NFC producer? Do you know someone who has a desire to get into gardening or small-scale farming as a business? Are you involved in your local school? Are you a parent who wants your child’s school to serve up ‘healthy, local foods’? Or as a community member, are you interested in starting a school garden?
Then this afternoon workshop is for you. Attend the Farm-to-School Summit March 18th at the beautiful Nielsen Community Center in West Point and see what other states are doing in their school cafeterias! You’ll like the new face the Center for Rural Affairs – along with collaborators from the Department of Education, Farmers Union, and Nebraska Food Cooperative – is bringing to our rural schools.
The word is getting out about the Nebraska Food Cooperative and the local food movement! Since the start of the year, new memberships have exploded with a 300 percent increase. So what does that mean? We need more micro-sites to staff customer pick up.
Two sites are newly in action as of the February order cycle: Beatrice and Unadilla. And two more sites will be open very soon: Hastings and Lincoln in the Farmers Union parking lot. As interest increases, we plan on expanding in even more markets! So spread the word. NFC is coming your way!
Congratulations, Jennifer Nichols, for signing up as NFC’s 2000th member! Joining as a visitor and hitting the jackpot, Jennifer received an upgrade to a one year, non-voting membership, a $40 value. When you see Jennifer around, be sure to congratulate her on hitting 2000!
Stop by our exhibitor booth Friday, February 7 and Saturday, February 8 at the Younes Conference Center in Kearney.
If you bring a friend who is not yet a member of the Nebraska Food Cooperative and they sign up for a FREE TRIAL, they could win a FREE ONE-YEAR MEMBERSHIP (a $40 value). NFC will be gifting several of these non-voting memberships during the conference.
Many schools in Nebraska are now buying local fruits and vegetables for their school food programs. Farmers can learn how to participate in these growing “farm to school’ initiatives in a series of free training sessions offered in the Loup Basin RC & D area in February and March.
“Farmers can access an increasing market for fresh produce while providing healthy food to children in their community,” said Wyatt Fraas, lead trainer for the project. “At these sessions, farmers will learn what schools are looking for and how to assure them that their crops are clean and safe.”
Six Loup Basin area communities will host the two-part series of workshops. In the first round of sessions, “The Business of Selling to Schools”, farmers will learn how to sell foods to local schools, including business basics and marketing, regulations, and production practices.
In the second of the two-part series, “Farmers are Food Handlers, too”, farmers will learn ways to use and document a “safe food handling plan” that satisfies concerns of school and retail food buyers and also reduces risk of food contamination on the farm.
Training sessions are sponsored by the Loup Basin Resource Conservation and Development Council of Burwell and by the Center for Rural Affairs. Funding for the project is provided in part by USDA Rural Development.
Trainings will be held in the following six locations in February and March:
Ord, Volunteer Fire Hall, 1628 M St. from 1-4 pm on February 25 and March 4
Loup City, Community Center, 803 O. St. from 1-4 pm on February 26 and March 5
Spalding, Clear Creek Organic Farms, 82228 499th Ave. from 1-4 pm on February 27 and March 6
St. Paul, Miletta Vista Winery, 1732 Highway 281 from 1-4 pm on March 11 and March 18
Burwell, Sandstone Grill, 416 Grand Ave. from 1-4 pm, March 12 and March 19
Broken Bow, Custer Public Power, 625 E. South E St. from 1-4 pm, March 13 and 20
Visit www.loupbasinrcd.org for more information, or contact Sarah Smith, Center for Rural Affairs Farm to School Coordinator at 307.321.9766 or email@example.com, or Janet Sanders, Executive Director of Loup Basin RC&D at 308.346.3393 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Nebraska Food Coop is growing, plain and simple. That’s great news! And that means more opportunities for both customers and producers.
Most shoppers prefer to purchase food more frequently than just monthly. As the local food movement grows, conscientious shoppers prefer more options on a more frequent basis. With NFC’s commitment to an “every other week” cycle, more consistent buying habits will follow.
Just think! You now only have to remember that everySunday is an order day…by 6 pm, of course!
Running a four-week cycle, NFC found that an increasing number of orders often maxed out the delivery truck’s capacity, which caused additional juggling of product in and out of the truck.
By going to an “every other week” cycle, the delivery driver doesn’t have to go through needless and time-consuming gyrations to get all of the products to fit and properly sorted into the appropriate pick-up site containers. So logistically, it makes better sense to open up a second cycle in a given month so that products can be properly sorted and stored until the driver reaches the appropriate pick-up/delivery site.
Once we move into the vegetable season, it gets even more complicated. Perishables typically don’t keep so well for a month at a time, especially those delicious cucumbers!
Likewise, laying hens don’t have on and off switches. And customers typically don’t like eggs that have a pick date older than two or three weeks.
So by increasing the frequency of deliveries, you are reaping the benefits of fresher produce, eggs, and fewer number of lost products!
Shopping NFC every other week also reduces stress. How so, you may wonder? To determine all of your shopping needs a full month ahead can be stressful. You never know when you need to plan that special meal to impress someone, and you might not have a whole month to plan ahead. By opening up the cycle to every other week, one only has to plan for two weeks instead of four weeks at a time.
More and more of our vegetable producers are not raising produce as a hobby… it is their livelihood. Timely harvesting – for the freshest possible fruits and vegetables - requires frequent cycles. Unlike the grocery store where produce is maintained via ethylene inhibitors for months, NFC farmers know that you want your tomatoes, cantaloupes, zucchini, etc, as fresh from the ground as possible.
Many NFC vegetable producers have invested in greenhouses and hothouses to extend their growing season and meet the increasing demand. This means that NFC producers may have local produce available before area farmers markets ramp up in May. What a boon for NFC customers!
NFC has been blessed with our current delivery driver, Kevin. As tight as the job market is these days, how can NFC ask our driver to commit to driving only one week out of a month? NFC needs to maintain enough job stability so that the products you ordered are assured of being properly delivered in a timely fashion on a consistent basis.
As NFC grows through increased volume for both the coop and our family of producers, we will eventually be able to offer discounts for certain products. But until then, we continue to expand our market of producers in order to meet the new demand for emerging farm-to-customer activities. Two new initiatives that are taking shape are the farm-to-chef and the farm-to-schools opportunities. More information will be forthcoming soon about these programs as they are just getting off the ground.
Look forward to more news about our growing cooperative that you helped us grow with every single local product that you ordered. So thank you, for your continued support of the Nebraska Food Cooperative.
NFC is starting the new year in DOUBLE time…that is, delivery days now occur every other week.
Doubling the delivery opportunities will help not only the producers get more product to you more often, but come summer and fall, vegetable producers will get it to you fresher!
Some delivery sites will sometimes choose alternate schedules, so be sure to verify with your site coordinator that your delivery site is open for both monthly cycles.
If your particular site decides to take a cycle off, don’t worry. You can still order, but you will need to select another delivery site for that cycle.
Just refer to the Select Locations to find an alternate delivery site. Likewise, any producer may opt to only provide products one cycle per month so be sure to check product offerings during both cycles in a given month.
Note:BELV1 will only be open for pick-ups on January 23, February 20, March 20, April 3, and April 17 for the first quarter of 2014.
And Kevin, NFC’s truck driver, is definitely steeped in providing superior customer service.
Kevin dedicates four and a half very full days to picking up products from producers in 16 towns, sorting each item into its respective delivery site bin, and delivering products to each of the 23 customer sites in 11 cities and towns across eastern Nebraska for each cycle.
NFC knows that without the dedication and attention to detail that Kevin provides many products would be incorrectly sorted. But, Kevin is keen on getting it right the first time.
So when you see Kevin on his very long route, give him a friendly nod of appreciation.
So how do you decide if you are paying too much for eggs? Let’s first take a quick look at the differences between conventional and farm-raised eggs.
Then, once you read the linked true-to-farm reprint So You Want to be a Chicken Farmer? about raising chickens and its follow-on comments, you’ll completely understand about the heartbreaks, sacrifices, and hard work that goes into providing healthy, nutritious, farm-raised eggs.
I’m sure you have heard that conventional hens are raised in enormous confinement houses in tiny battery cages with only about a half square foot of space each and are fed genetically modified grain that contains antibiotics.
There is little-to-no human contact and the lifespan of these hens are just about one year before their egg-laying productivity peak is reached.
Conversely, hens raised on a family farm have a much more humane and much longer life. Most, if not all, of the NFC chicken farms operate on a free-ranging or pasture-raised basis.
Farmers get to know their chickens and happy layers produce eggs for up to ten years. Being fed grain that is GMO-free, antibiotic-free, and organic is the standard fare that most chickens enjoy.
Pasture-raised eggs have 50% more folic acid, 70% more B12, higher levels of Omega-3 and Vitamin E. The result? Healthy, nutritious eggs with orange yolks that are more firm with an amazing rich flavor from very happy hens.