Can You Manage Your Sweet Tooth?

We just made an amazing batch of Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream Sauce.  Maybe the word “amazing” is unnecessary.  Redundant. Superfluous.

The Stellas are a deep purple, almost black sweet-tart cherries, grown overlooking  Newberg at Sunshower Hill Farm. We add just a touch of sugar and then a bit of lemon to punch up the flavor. Then the 73% Creo chocolate. By leaving it a bit tart, the contrast with the sweet ice cream is phenomenal. But then again, you have to be the kind of person who allows yourself a treat like that. And if you do, it should be something excellent, like this!choc cherry ice cream sauce

Enough said. We have 24 9-ounce jars. They will be priced at $8.  If you want one, let me know. They will be popular.

Can-Do Online Shopping!!

Yes! You CAN!

You can now order delicious dehydrated products from Can-Do Real Food by going to the website  and clicking on the link to Store Offerings! There you will read about the products that are available to purchase.

The software I used to help with the online purchasing offered a way for local people to opt to arrange for local pick-up instead of needing to pay for shipping. I only entered the zip code for McMinnville. If you live in the Valley and are willing to come to Mac, just process the shipping option but leave a note for me that you want to arrange local pick-up and I will refund the shipping fees.

When I got the shopping system installed, Graham and I ran some testing and I determined that the software’s effort to combine the items into the least expensive shipping option did not always work right.  I will gather your purchases and put them into the smallest envelope or box possible, refunding any difference in shipping rates as well. (One very positive aspect of the PayPal system allows for easy reimbursement.)

So now, you need no longer wait until I am at a market to enjoy Can-Do Real Food!!!

Know Your Farmers…and Appreciate Them

A friend shared a post from a farmer  friend of hers and it is important to read.  As you know, I feel my ability to grow anything is challenged…..no green thumbs. I do like good food, however, so I honor my farmers not only with my business to preserve their surplus and give them another income stream, but I tell people again and again that the best they can do with their food dollar is to support their local farmers.  If you personally do not know where that steak came from, that tomato, or that egg, you are missing out on the best the agricultural work has to offer.  And you probably really do not know the real taste of the food you are eating. 

Soul Food Farm is quietly tucked into the rolling hillsides of Northern California. Since 1988, the Koefoed family has continued the legacy of this historic farm, and today it is bountiful with both wild and artisan flowers, lavender fields, and an estate olive orchard where,  every year, the local community gathers to help with the harvest. Happy chickens sunbathe in the fields while the sheep, goat, steer and cow nurture the soil with their grazing. Whether you’re visiting the farm for one of our many workshops or attending a farm-to-table dinner or special event, Soul Food Farm will leave your heart enchanted and your soul nourished. Read more about our story here.

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Over the years I made a deal with myself to stop apologizing for the price of our farm products. It took a long time to develop that frame of mind, but eventually, I understood that hard work needs no defense. End of story. But, yesterday at a Farm to Fork event I had an encounter with a couple that stopped me dead in my tracks.

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A couple walked up to our little Soul Food Farm table and so naturally, I expected them to be interested in our olive oil Why else approach the table? Instead, I got this look of suspicion while they picked up a bottle and turned it over and then it came. They looked at me and said, “we don’t want to be rude, but why is it sooooooo expensive.” And then I was face to face with a choice. Try once more to explain what it takes to farm or dismiss the question. The irritation this dilemma caused in the past crashed through my memories and in a moment I decided to answer her question. Deep breath, positive expectation, begin. I started to explain that I prune the trees myself, and we pick the olives by hand, and we pay the mill upfront to press the oil, and as I ’m talking, she waves her hand in my face and says’ yeah, yeah, whatever” and walks off.Image may contain: table and outdoor

Instead of getting mad I was left wondering why is there still this lingering suspicion that farmers are price gauging? Customers would never walk into a grocery store and expect a discount before they bought an item or demand a sample. The utter contempt that’s conveyed not only by demanding to know why farm food is priced the way it is but just the plain rudeness of walking away when someone is speaking to you astounds me. Now, I could brush this off as a one-time occurrence but I know it’s not. I have many farmer friends who are up against this every time they sell at a farmers market. The constant and varied questions about price that always fall just short of an outright accusation of trying to cheat the customer.

As I walked around the farm today putting animals away, collecting eggs, filling water troughs, my frustration started to compound. What is it going to take for us to bridge the gap between farmers and consumers? When are small farmers going to be treated with respect? Not only from folks shopping at farmer’s markets, but the restaurants that buy their food, and the farm to fork dinners, festivals and conferences that are continually popping up. What do I mean by respect? I mean not haggling with farmers at the market over their price per pound. Do folks think farmers are running some racket? A get rich quick scheme with carrots and tomatoes? Restaurants need to start paying farmers at the time of delivery, COD. Farmers already cover the total cost of production; it is simply wrong to expect farmers to wait thirty to sixty days for payment after deliveries. And all those farm to fork events, how about actually having a good representation of local farmers at these events. Better yet, stop asking small farmers to donate food items to events that charge a ticket price.Image may contain: plant, fruit, outdoor, food and nature

We have to let go of the imagery that farmers are part of a pastoral fantasy. Farming is not a fable but a job, that’s necessary to the very fabric of our existence. Farming is often soul crashing hard work. Long, lonely days in the field. Planting seeds. The sun beating on your back. Nights comforting animals. Cold, early mornings, to harvest, pack and get to market. The burden of the cost of production yours and yours alone. Farming is not only a career it’s a service to the surrounding community. In return, only one thing is asked or expected, that the work is appreciated and treated with respect.

One rude couple, won’t make or break a small farm, but it’s a good reminder we have a long way to go.

Change, the only Constant

Seeing the writing on the wall……and it is time to make a decision and then issue an appeal to you.

writing on the wall

 

If you follow me on my personal blog or you actually stop and chat with me at the farmers’ market, you are probably aware that this has been a difficult year for me with my health.  First breathing issues had me at 30% of my lung capacity…that finally has improved to about 70%.  Then a second opinion on my bad knee agreed with the first guy that my issue was “only” arthritis, even tho I was in a new world of pain since I twisted my knee in June 2016. Then my opposite hip started complaining loudly. Then I needed a cornea transplant.

Still, I kept on with lots of help from alternative medicine but I am concerned that all the needed activity is not helping me heal nor is this boding well for my husband who has admirably stepped up with no (audible) complaints. I do not want the extra workload to get him ill.

So, it is with a rational mind but a disturbed heart that I have to end Can-Do Real Food after this harvest season.

It has been an amazing journey and I hope someone out there wants to take over the activity. dv1636041

The concept of helping small local farms gain a new income stream with the sales of preserved foods from their farms is important. Reducing food waste is something we each recognize needs to be done. And yes, local consumers have been learning they can eat this year’s harvest even during the winter using the canned and dehydrated foods Can-Do has prepared. mission

You need not have vast canning experience to do this job, just enjoyment of the task. Some of you may know, but most probably do not, is that I learned to can four years ago. I started the business the next July 1 with my certification achieved over the winter.  Did I make mistakes…..oh yes, but that’s what life is. If you never make mistakes, you probably are playing it too safe.

You do need to be a planner personality. You need to know what will be needed before it is needed. Today, for example, I will pick up one ingredient for a new dehydrated meal mix we hope to make tomorrow. Since it needs to be dehydrated itself, I will get that going so it is ready for the morning Kitchen time.  For every hour in the Kitchen I spend an hour doing planning or wrap-up.

You need to be a people person, too. Selling products at the farmers’ market is a lot of fun when you enjoy chatting with strangers and turning them into friends. You also need to be able to communicate effectively with the farm partners.

One benefit to whoever might want to take on this endeavor: you will have a mentor and not have to learn by the seat of your pants, as I did. I can provide a certain amount of information as you gear up before the harvest and market seasons begin, and while the kitchen time gets busy.

mentor

Please email me at BethRankinOR@gmail.com if you are interested, even if only a bit. I can help you determine if your skill set will make this feasible!

Highest and Best Use

I learned a new term in college that has  always been part of any evaluation since then: highest and best use. In terms of land planning, it relates to the greatest economic development that is permissible by law on any given piece of land. For example, a forest has some potential for income generation through recreational fees as well as tree harvesting, but a factory that produces whatever widgets it makes can end up with lots of value.Profit

Highest and best use in those terms relate to economics only. What is the most money you can earn from any piece of property.

But there are other meanings to highest and best use, really.

Yesterday, at the Oregon State Fair I had some time prior to my Can-Do Real Food presentation, so I went around and sat with people in the audience and chatted. Most were really receptive to conversation but one person cut it short.

I started by asking if they were a farmer or a gardener. Yes, I farm was the proud answer. I held up my thumbs and clearly showed they were not green and told her I highly respected the work she did to produce food.

So far so good.

I then told her I am a food processor using the surplus food from area farms.  She asked what that meant.

I told her how I had worked on a farm and had been really surprised and pretty appalled how much food ended up in the compost pile only because it was shaped funny.IMG_1690

So? she responded…and there was an edge to that tone of voice.

When I explained how I had developed my business to capture that unsold healthy produce to preserve it for local consumers she was visibly shaken. She informed me that compost has value.

I agreed,. I know, as the farmers at my partner farms have told me, that compost goes back into the soil as green fertilizer.

But, I suggested, it can be used to not only feed people, but to provide another income stream for the farmer.

At that point she stood up and told me that she didn’t NEED any more income. She then walked out.

So, she is probably right. When I was in college and learned about highest and best use I was being taught that the epitome of best is collecting the most money.

Perhaps this woman had a message she could share that would be valuable.

Buying Club Now Open

We have had two very exciting weeks at the McMinnville Farmers’ Market and have an interesting problem. We are concerned we will run out of products before our member farms start sharing surplus with us.

We’ve been working diligently to prepare for this week’s market and I think we will have a full table:

Fruit Preserves of Various Types:

Pinot Noir wine jelly – rich and deep. Great with cheese but surprisingly perfect with peanut butter also.

Pinot Gris jelly – a lighter touch.  Great on crackers, ideal with a super creamy cheese.

Lemon Peppered Pinot Gris Jelly – zipped up with lemon peel and black pepper. Not hot but full of flavor and can stand up to a stronger cheese.

Naughty Zuc marmalade – got you scratching your head on this one?  Well, you know how zucchinis just take over a garden? We tried to offer a lemon zucchini marmalade last season to a limited success but we have zipped this up with double the lemon and a touch of limoncello…hence the naughtiness.

Berry Naughty – a freezer raid netted blackberries, golden raspberries and strawberries. The naughty touch is an orange liquor.  Adults only.

Asian Plum Sauce – wonderful sweet and sour sauce that you are used to when you dip your eggroll at a Chinese restaurant. Also called Duck Sauce, it is excellent as a basting sauce for poultry. You can use it on the grill, in the oven, or even on the cooktop.

Rhubarb chutney – chunky relish like mixture that also has sweet and sour flavor notes with raisins and vinegar. Perfect on salmon. Also excellent on pork.

 

Flavored Salts:

Pinot Noir salt – a finishing salt perfect on your steaks or burgers

Pinot Gris salt – a finishing salt great for chicken, pork or fish but absolutely superb on vegetables

 

Herb Blends:

Scarborough Fair blend – sing along now…are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Amazing mixed with softened butter and tucked under the skin of chicken. We introduced this last fall and sold out prior to Thanksgiving. Now the herbs are growing again so you can enjoy this blend this summer.

Italian herb blend – superb to use in any and all cooking, but it shines with tomatoes and cheese and the yumminess of pasta. Great on meats as well.

 

Craftsy Things:

Breadboard – Graham made me a breadboard to knead my dough. Works for rolling out pie crusts also. Treated to minimize sticking. Beautiful as well.

Cutting boards – Several sizes and wood types and designs, some with a “show” side and a “cutting” side so you can hang it on the wall when not in use. Can be custom ordered with a design of your choice.

Anniversary trivet – This is a custom order item that is perfect for a wedding, graduation, or other very special event. Design it with Graham and receive it in about 2 weeks.

Rice bags – With headaches and muscle aches, I keep one in the freezer for a cold compress and store another in a cupboard to pop into the microwave for a warm touch. Ahhhhhh Just a hint of lavender in some to provide additional soothing aromatherapy.

Being a member of the buying club will offer you several benefits.

  1. Once you receive your email you can request to reserve an item. You will need to indicate about what time you will make it to the market so we can offer it for sale if you don’t show up.  We know this system can work especially well for people who can’t get to the market when it opens at 1:00.
  2. Once in a while we will produce a very small batch. Buying club members will have first dibs.
  3. A volume discount is offered. If you want to purchase a mixed half case (6 products) you will get a 10% discount. If you want to purchase a mixed full case (12 items) you will get a 15% discount.

Anyone can come and taste whatever we are offering and purchase all they desire!!!  If you want to join teh Buying Club, just provide your email address.

Thanks to the Focus Group

Here in test kitchen land imaginations run wild. My head is full of new ways to use the crops the partner farms are planting this season in the dehydrated products. It seems that instead of doing same old same old, like the soups anyone can buy at the grocery store, our line-up is leaning to international flavors.

A good friend suggested we consider making tortilla soup and when we went to a Mexican restaurant a few days ago I ordered it. It was very flavorful, spicy but not “hot”, but it had chicken. Since our license does not permit any recipe to have more than 5% meat, I then turned to Google for recipes for vegetarian tortilla soup and there were many. Epicurious usually offers recipes that are delicious AND achievable without much work, so that is the one I decided we will test today in the kitchen.

But I ran into a problem. The recipe calls for corn tortillas.  And corn tortillas that are inexpensive are made with GMO corn.

Since I market these products locally,  I wanted to know what kind of food ingredient concerns people in the area have,  so I threw the question out to the Newberg Community Discussion Group on Facebook.  I was pleased at all the responses and appreciate that people took the time to write about their needs.  I heard about the need to avoid gluten (corn is okay, so as long as I avoid any corn-flour combinations, that is easy), a good number of concerns about GMOs (corn is a major GMOS crop, so not just any corn tortilla will take care of this concern), and the request for farming practices that, if not certified organic, at least avoid the conventional farming practices of chemical herbicides and pesticides.idea

Now, Can-Do Real Food can’t be all things to all people with diet concerns, but one issue I am trying to address is to bring food that is healthy to eat to more people in the region. And one concern where I sympathize is to try to avoid GMOs. That means we needed to find organic corn tortillas and my store did not have any. Now, there are some available and perhaps even in my town at another market, so we will explore that if the recipe is one we want to pursue. Meanwhile, I think we can proceed.IMG_0595

 

Excitement is Building!!

So many things are coming together!!!

A friend in a nearby town let me know there was a specialty food store going to open there soon. I contacted the owner and as we chatted, not only did I explain about Can-Do Real Food and we found our missions to be compatible, but I was also able to provide her some information about local farms to contact based on the people I have met and work I have done since I got to Oregon two and a half years ago. Today she called and placed an order for some of our products to be in the shop!! This is my first “in a store” situation and also, being in another town, will extend the marketing zone of my products!  More information later as that shop gets closer to opening in a few weeks.

This past Monday evening we drove into Portland to attend FIX, the Food Ingredient eXpo.  Since then we have been receiving samples of items we believed might enhance our products. These, for example, are frozen herbs.  frozen herbs

While we use fresh herbs as much as possible, even our organic farmer at Bethel Springs Farm does not have enough basil for our most popular item, the Loaded Pasta Sauce. Last summer we supplemented with dried herbs but we know fresh still has volatile oils that dry up in the dehydration process. This option to use frozen herbs just may be a great way to keep the quality up up up.