Strawberry season!

The true flavor of strawberries, how to use our market token system, our compost program and baby goats

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The two fruits that really highlight the difference between grocery store produce and fresh picked market produce for me are tomatoes, more about them when the season warms up, and strawberries. When I was young, my family went to a farm near the Cheddar Gorge in Somerset, England, close to where I grew up, for an annual strawberry picking outing. I must have stored away the memory of that true strawberry flavour because it came back to me in a storm of taste delight the first time I tasted a field grown strawberry. After years of only knowing the taste of their poor grocery store cousins (I was a city girl back then and there were only a few thin farmers’ markets around) I was astonished to find such an acute difference in the richness of flavour. This same delightful berry experience is available to those of you early birds who arrive in time for the local berries awaiting your attention this Saturday morning at the Maplewood Farm stall.

Fresh Bucks return to the markets

After some struggle with our federal government we finally have the token system back that some of you may remember from previous summers. If you find yourself short of cash at a market, but have a debit or credit card with you, go to the market stall where, for a $1 fee, you can swipe your card and receive $5 tokens that can be used to make purchases at all market stalls. SNAP program recipients may also use their EBT cards to swipe and receive $1 tokens for fresh foods and produce. Both tokens can used at either market throughout the summer. Hooray!

Bring your kids to pet our kids on June 14?

half an haflA new market vendor, Silk Tree Farm from Little Compton, joins us for the first time tomorrow with goat milk soaps and candles and …. baby goats, Cup Cake and Half and Half. Do go say hello to Cathy Bardsley, hear about her farm and pet the babies. I think this one must be Half and Half….Cathy will be vending at our Saturday markets on alternate weeks, sometimes with the kids, so please visit her website for more information.

Bring us your vegetable waste, your electronic waste!

Our partners, Sustainable Aquidneck, send volunteers to both markets every week to pick your vegetable waste for composting and use in the fields at the Island Community Farm on Green End Lane. Please check their website for a list of Do’s and Dont’s of composting. Those of you who accumulate a lot of scraps may want to bag and freeze them between visits.

tiny Indiecycle

Indiecycle will be visiting the market again on June 28, August 30 and October 25 to pick up all old electronics for recycling – free of charge!

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A summer of luscious local food ahead!

A summer of luscious local food ahead!

With spring finally sprung we are eagerly anticipating our summer market openings in the first week in June; Newport on Wednesday June 4, 2 to 6 pm, and Middletown on Saturday, June 7, 9 am to 1 pm, and anticipating a big season ahead as more and more people come to understand and value the importance of eating locally.  Below are 10 reasons why we should do that, with thanks to David Korten and Living Economies for articulating so clearly why eating locally is critically important!  And, if you finish reading the reasons and still need convincing please watch the new documentary about our food industry: Fed Up!

Spread the word market people!  Vote with your forks!

10 Reasons To Shop and Eat Locally

  1.  The food tastes better!  Local food was probably picked within the last day or two and is crisp, sweet, and loaded with flavor. The closer you are to your food source, the fresher and healthier that food is for you and your community. There’s no taste like home.
  2. The food is better for you! Fresh produce loses nutrients quickly: Sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality. Buying local lets you get food at the peak of its flavor and nutritive value. Our bodies naturally crave seasonal crops, requiring more hearty potatoes and cabbages when weather turns colder, and lighter salad greens and cucumbers when it is warmer. Shopping locally tunes you in with the seasons.
  3. Local food supports local farming families! From Polyface Farm to Skagit River Ranch, we can support talented and hardworking farm families to stay on their land. Each five-year agricultural census shows more families getting out of farming–less than 2 percent of the population is currently a farming family. A typical farmer gets paid 10 cents of each retail food dollar, but buying directly from the producer or conscientious retailer keeps more money in the farmer’s pocket and a family on the land.
  4. Local food creates a strong agricultural economy! Local food means a strong local economy and preserves the viability of local agriculture. Local farms and food producers are crucial to a healthy and diversified economy. While dollars spent with large corporations almost immediately leave the community, dollars spent on local food products circulate within the community eight to 15 times, drastically improving the value of your purchase.
  5. Local food builds community! Chat with  your famers at the market – it’s a great connection for eater and grower. Knowing farmers gives you insight into the seasons, the weather, and the accessible miracle of raising food, plus you can trust the food you eat when you know the person who grew it and their agricultural practices.
  6. Local food preserves genetic diversity! The modern industrial food system favors crop varieties with thick skins that can survive packing and shipping, leaving few varietal options. Family farmers place value on different things, such as varieties that are uniquely suited to their region, often favoring heirloom varieties that have been passed down from generation to generation. Old varieties contain genetic material from hundreds of years of human selection; they may someday provide the genes needed to create varieties that will thrive in a changing climate.  Local food is free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)! Many US consumers now want labels on GMO food – most so that they can avoid it. Biotech companies currently license GMO fruits and vegetables only to large commercial growers, which means that local farmers are a guaranteed non-GMO source.
  7. Local food is better for the environment! Local food means fewer food miles and dramatically reduces transportation, days of refrigeration, and tons of pollution and packaging. Unlike most food in North America, which travels 1,500 miles over the course of seven to 14 days to reach your plate, local food is usually sold within 24 hours of harvest. How fresh and healthy would you feel after a week on a truck?
  8. Family farms value resources like fertile soil and clean water! According to some estimates, farmers who practice conservation tillage can sequester 12 to 14 percent of the carbon emitted by vehicles and industry. And the habitat of a farm – the patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds, and buildings – is the perfect environment for many beloved species of wildlife.
  9. Local food preserves open space! When more people put their dollars into the pockets of farmers and show that their work is valuable, farmland becomes less likely to be developed. We face enormous pressures all over North America to develop farmland into suburban housing and shopping facilities.
  10. Local food preserves a region’s unique character! By supporting local farmers today, we can help ensure that there will be farms in our community tomorrow. By preserving farmland, we are guaranteeing that our rural landscape remains beautiful and productive, and that future generations will have the opportunity to work in environmentally sustainable and culturally valuable industries like food production.

……©Copyright 2010 | info [at] livingeconomies.org | 360-746-0840 ..

And while recognizing contributors to this site, we also thank Emily Totten of Greenview Farm for the banner photo of their luscious vegetables.

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Our Winter Market opens at St. Mary’s in Portsmouth

Saturday, November 9, is opening day of the second season of the Aquidneck Growers’ indoor winter market in the old parish hall at St. Mary’s Church on East Main in Portsmouth. A wide variety of locally grown fruit and vegetables will be available through the winter in addition to fresh breads and pastries; locally sourced fresh seafood; pasture raised meat and eggs and changing weekly artisan vendors. The shopping experience can be completed with a cup of great coffee while meeting friends and checking out tunes from live musicians. 

Shopping at a farmers’ market not only supports local agriculture and the preservation of open space but also keeps more grocery dollars in the regional economy.  Market founder, Lisa Lewis, is thrilled by the increase in market visitors over the past few seasons “Thanks to all our local shoppers for a fabulous summer season; we welcome your continued support at our winter location.”

 The Aquidneck Growers’ Market at St. Mary’s Old Parish Hall, 324 East Main, Portsmouth, on Saturday, November 9 through May 2014 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. closed February 15 and 22.

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Tomorrow will be a lively and green day at the Newport market!

MaxMan, Rhode Island’s friendly recycling superhero, will be visiting the market to celebrate the market’s new recycling and composting programs between 2 and 6 p.m. tomorrow. Visitors to the market can now bring compostable materials to market for composting at Island Community Farms and can recycle many market materials during their visit thanks to a collaboration between the Growers’ Market, Sustainable Aquidneck, The City of Newport’s Clean City Program, Island Community Farms @ Green End, EcoRI Public Works and Newport Restaurant Group, sponsors of the new composting program.

By bringing kitchen food scraps to the market for composting supporters will close the loop between food waste and food production, turning material that would otherwise end up in a landfill into food for the future, turning kichen waste into “black gold” at this local farm. Please go to EcoRI’s website for a full list of acceptable materials for composting or email aquidneckgrowersmarket@verizon.net.  Questions about Island Community Farms and likes of support can be made through www.facebook.com/sustainableaquidneck.

 In addition to these new programs this week also marks the first annual Bike to Market week, sponsored by Farm Fresh RI with the support of the Growers Markets in Newport and Middletown and Bike Newport.  Bike riders to tomorrows Newport market will be able to park their bikes safely and enjoy a basic bike tune-up/repair courtesy of Bike Newport who will also offer bike safety equipment, bike  cargo solutions and information about bike safety and community ride calendars.  Anyone riding their bicycle to the Newport market on Wednesday (2-6) or the Middletown market on Saturday, August 25 (9-1) will have a chance to win a gift certificate, donated by Newport Bicycles and Pedal Power.

 Bari George of Bike Newport said “We’re so pleased to partner with the farmers markets to encourage market-goers to trade their car for bikes to the market! Pull up without any parking worries and ride home with panniers full of the freshest and healthiest local products.  Biking to a local farmers market is a pretty darn ideal experience, so hop in the saddle and find out the best way to the market is on two wheels!”  Bike Newport works to improve and encourage bicycling in Newport and encourages residents and visitors to have fun while reducing traffic congestion by replacing their cars with bicycles for local short-distance travel.

 Newport’s Clean City program will be selling recycling bins & compost bins at the Aquidneck Growers Market from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., on Wednesday, August 22.  Recycling bins will be $5 each and compost bins are $45 each for Newport residents with proof of Newport residency.  Cash and credit/debit cards cannot be accepted so please plan to pay by check.  Residents may also turn in old recycling bins for recycling. The Clean City Program will have information available at the market about the City’s solid waste and recycling collection program.   For more information please call 845-5613.

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Profile: Barden Family Orchard

A closer look at Aquidneck Growers’ Market vendor, Barden Family Orchard.

John Barden and Hazel Dean were married in 1930 and founded Barden Family Orchard in 1931. They planted some of the first apple trees along the eastern edge of the orchard. These trees are the oldest trees on the farm, and are evidence to John Barden’s keen interest in the science of apple growing. They were “grafted” many years ago, meaning that a new cutting was placed in the notch of a branch of an existing tree to produce an additional variety on that tree. These particular trees have a mixture of Cortland, Macintosh, and Macoun branches on them. John was excited to experiment with new apple varieties and enjoyed growing fruit into his early 80’s.

Like his grandfather, Gilbert also has a strong interest in horticulture, and loves to farm. In the 1980’s, he and his grandfather began to replant much of the orchard to both semi dwarf apple trees as well as peaches. He also began to plant pumpkins and winter squash for more diversity. This was an exciting change for the customers. Not only could they pick apples and peaches, but they could also pick a pumpkin for Halloween.

Barden Family Orchard now grows many varieties of apples, pumpkins, winter squash, peaches, and sweet corn, and has added raspberries, tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers and eggplant. We are excited to offer blueberries in 2009. We thank our customers for their encouragement, ideas and patience as we have grown.

As our love of farming and the land have expanded, so have our farming and conservation practices. The Natural Resources Conservation Service helped to design a drip irrigation system that was installed on the farm in the early 1990’s. The same type of drip irrigation system was installed in 2008 on the remainder of the farm. This is the most efficient use of one of our most important resources. As members of the Rhode Island Fruit Growers Association (www.rifruitgrowers.org) we attend meetings in cooperation with the Massachusetts Fruit Growers Association. We work closely with the Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts Cooperative Extension Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Programs to produce our fruit in the safest and most environmentally conscious manner. We use IPM to more effectively use the safest crop protectants, (IPM www.epa.gov/opp00001/factsheets/ipm.htm).

In 2005, we became fulltime farmers, dedicating ourselves to growing quality fruits and vegetables for those who are dedicated to buying locally grown produce. Since then, the entire Barden Family has been involved in the farm. We work together from crop production through harvest, attending farmer’s markets around Rhode Island, and meeting our customers who make their annual trip to pick apples and peaches, or those who purchase freshly picked fruits and vegetables at our new farm market that opened in 2007. Currently, Gilbert, Sandra, Andrew, Stacey, and Luke Barden actively work during the growing season at the farm, and are dedicated to growing the finest quality and best tasting fruit and vegetables for your family. We invite you to come and enjoy our farm.

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Profile: Aquidneck Farms

A closer look at Aquidneck Growers’ Market vendor, Aquidneck Farms.

Aquidneck Farms raises grass-fed beef & pastured poultry on conservation land overlooking the scenic Sakonnet River in Portsmouth, RI.

HISTORY

The story of Aquidneck Farms begins in 1998 when the van Beuren siblings took control of a run down 240-acre farm. Once a country estate renowned for its prizewinning Jersey dairy cattle and Hereford beef, the property had been out of active agriculture for decades. None of the siblings were farmers but all had a passion for land conservation. Portsmouth like much of coastal New England was and still is under enormous development pressure. The siblings were unified in their mutual interest to find an environmentally sustainable, economically viable use for the property. After five years of planning the land was divided between the three. A conservation easement limited future building and restricted land use to agriculture. Inspired by the property’s livestock legacy one sibling decided to reestablish cattle. And so in 2003 Aquidneck Farms began making hay and grass silage and experimenting with cattle breeds with the intention of building a grass-fed beef business.

Today Aquidneck Farms manages close to 400 acres of prime agricultural land all within one mile of the original farm. Our 125 head herd is a mix of pure Angus and an Angus/Hereford cross. Last year we added poultry and produce eggs and chicken broilers. In addition we make hay & grass silage to feed our animals and compost to fertilize our pastures. Any surplus is sold in the local farm community. Aquidneck Farms products are available at local farmer’s markets, in specialty stores and restaurants as well as directly off the farm.

GRASS-FED BEEF

In today’s market there are a number of labels used to describe sustainable meats. At Aquidneck Farms we have chosen just one: grass-fed.

Most of our cattle is born on the farm, raised on mother’s milk and naturally weaned on lush legume pastures. The herd is carefully selected for genetics that will thrive in a grass-based system. Aquidneck Farms beef is 100% grass-fed. During the summer months the herd is rotationally grazed on our carefully managed pastures. For winter feed we grow, harvest and store specially planted grasses in the form of dry hay and grass silage. We do not use hormones or add prophylactic antibiotics to our feed. Nor do we finish with grain. We avoid pesticides and fertilize the pastures with our own manure, chicken droppings and farm made compost.

All of our beef is slaughtered and processed in USDA facilities in Rhode Island. Our farm management plan is approved by NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service) and all our practices reviewed by DEM (Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management)

Why should you eat grass-fed beef?

  • Grass-fed beef contains elevated levels of vitamins A & E, conjugated linoleic acids and omega-3 fatty acids all of which have been shown to lower cholesterol & high blood pressure and decrease the risk of cancer & diabetes.
  • Grass-fed beef is lower in fat & calories. A typical 6oz. steak has 100 less calories than its grain fed commercial counterpart.
  • Ruminants (cattle) are not biologically designed to eat grain. Corn makes them sick. That is why commercial producers add antibiotics to their feed. The dramatic increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria is partially attributed to the use of prophylactic antibiotics in animal feed.
  • Feedlots are breeding grounds for bacteria that cause food born illness. In addition e-coli is naturally present in a cow’s digestive system. Corn/grain feed proliferates its growth. There is a significantly lower incidence of e-coli contamination in cattle raised on grass pasture.

 

PASTURED POULTRY

 Commodity poultry practices have a lot in common with commodity beef. Birds are raised in enormous, overcrowded, enclosed pens with little light, no exercise and medicated feed. Because of the scale and resulting conditions commodity birds are also more prone disease and bacteris such as salmonella.

Our pastured birds are raised in mobile outdoor pens with built in coops called “chicken tractors”. The “tractors” are placed in recently vacated cow pasture and are moved daily. Our birds never lack fresh ground nor their favorite meal: bugs and insect eggs. They have plenty of light, air, fresh water & exercise and are protected from predators. (We have a healthy hawk population.) We supplement their diet with grain but do not medicate the feed.

Aside from bird health, raising poultry outdoors has a beneficial impact not only on our pastures and but also the herd. Chicken droppings are nitrogen rich. Along with aerating the ground in their search for lunch poultry reduce the need for store bought fertilizers. Chickens also aid in herd pest control. The fly population is dramatically reduced when chickens are on site.

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