Support Local Businesses, Especially Local Agriculture

IMG_2361Today we vote each and every day.  But the vote that we cast is not in a ballot box.  We vote with our dollar and we cast our vote for what kind of community we want to engage and live in.  Most of the time we don’t think of this as voting.  Convenience has become a bigger value than the story behind the good or service.  Convenience is king.  Instead of supporting your locally owned coffee shop, its likely easier to hit up the drive through.  Instead of getting a CSA or visiting your local farmers market, it’s easier to hit up the local grocery store that has everything in one stop.  I get it.  Life is at a fast pace….but some things are really worth slowing down for.

Before children, my wife and I lived in the foothills of Denver.  We didn’t have a garden or grow anything for ourselves.  We didn’t notice how much we relied on big box grocers and really had no idea where our food was coming from.   We attended farmers markets a few times a year, but really relied on the convince of the grocery store and open all hours options.  We really missed something living there too.  We couldn’t quite put a finger on it, but something was missing.

IMG_0117When we moved to small town Salida, CO, everything about our consumption changed.   We were surrounded with small businesses and we engaged with the owners.  There are more small businesses than large retailers here and it totally shapes our community.  This is a lovely thing.  Small businesses supported by a small town!  We attended the farmers market every weekend, and got to know the farmers of our area for the first time.  After a couple of years, we decided to start our own farm and now we sell our produce at that same farmers market.  Now we know full circle what happens when you support local agriculture and local business.

IMG_2473Supporting local businesses makes for a stronger local economy.  The dollars earned by locals are spent locally.   This creates an amazing sense of community.   All of the small businesses in our town is exactly what makes our community so special.  We all support each other, and it’s noticed.  The atmosphere that brings so many visitors to our town is a direct result of the small businesses that create it!

When it comes to agriculture, when you support local farmers and ranchers you get fresher produce!  The food grown and raised locally is not transported long distances.   This helps with the carbon footprint and environment.  This also helps people get the nutrient dense food that they want….the freshest food possible.  Local farmers are more likely to grow heirloom and specialty crops which will increase food diversity.   Many of the best tasting foods don’t transport well, so the big box retails don’t carry it, and the large farms don’t grow it.  Then there is food safety.  With recalls all over the news, its more important than ever to know your farmer and how your food is being grown or raised.

IMG_2002When you support a local farmer, rancher, or small business owner, you investing in their family and therefore your local community.  Youre helping that farmer put their kids through college.  Youre helping that small business owner pay their mortgage or rent.  You’re helping that farm expand to bring more to the local market.  When you vote to spend money at the big box stores, your money leaves the local community.  It goes into the bank for a large corporation and is not noticed.  The big businesses look at the bottom line, not the community impact.   When you choose to shop local, every sale is noticed.  Every sale is a vote for a more vibrant and caring community.

 

Our Recycled Kitchen Garden

Spring kicks off this week and we are excited to get our outdoor garden space in order!  The beds are thawing out and all of the snow is melted.   As soon as these temps heat up, we will be in business!  We wanted to take a moment and shine a spotlight on all of the free and recycled or repurposed materials used to create our extensive kitchen garden!

When you’re establishing a garden for your family, there are lots of great free materials out there!  With our growing homestead, our budget is light so we have to be very thrifty while expanding.  Every penny counts, and who really has extra money to throw into a garden these days?

Here are all of the free and repurposed materials that we were able to acquire and incorporate into our outdoor garden space:

  • Raised Beds – We were able to come across some old barn wood that was gifted to us by a neighbor.  We created almost 250 linear feet of 3 feet wide raised beds.   The lumber was 1″ x 12″, so it was a little flimsy for the longer beds but all in all the lumber worked great and the cost was right….free!IMG_0134
  • Curved Raised Beds – After the barn wood was gone, we had a family friend that replaced their deck, and gifted us their old Trex Decking!  We installed a curved bed around our walkway and will be adding another bed around the exterior of the dome that will be planted with pollinator attracting flowers!img_0551.jpg
  • Wood Chip Mulch – All in all we had 6 dump truck loads of wood chips delivered.  After the raised beds were in, we filled in-between with the wood mulch.  The mulch ranged from 1′ deep to almost 2′ deep which has done a wonderful job of smothering the weeds and grass that we installed the garden over!  All of your arborists in town would love to deliver their wood chips to your yard for free instead of paying any kind of dump fee.  Call around and you’ll find them for free…delivered too.IMG_2445
  • Raised Bed Soil – We are lucky when it comes to our bed filling.  We are able to compost our microgreen soil and then use that material to fill our rasised beds.  The material is awesome potting soil that needs just a little compost added to make a great mix for our outdoor garden space!IMG_2326
  • Then there are the materials, pots and equipment.  Shovels, rakes, hoes, and other gardening tools are easy to find at garage sales or by scouring craiglist.  We were gifted some large planter pots from our family.  There are always pots being given away.  Be patient and ready to pounce when free items come available.img_0691.jpg

Thats pretty much the basics for a small garden.  And all for free.  All repurposed and recycled materials.  The food that is grown is top notch too.  Now lets see what we spent money on.

  • Geodesic Dome Greenhouse – We spent way too much money on our dome.   Its a great space for our personal gardening but it was expensive.  We saved lots of money over purchasing a kit greenhouse, but it was still an expensive build for our family.   We now use it for our personal produce more than a commercial space, which works for us, but we could really use more commercial greenhouse space.  If we started our farm before building this, we would have gone with hoop houses to increase the space, but we have an amazing small space for our family!cropped-img_0130-2.jpg
  • Fence Posts and Deer Screening – 10 Wood Posts, 10 Metal T Posts and 6′ Deer Screening was purchased in order to fence in our garden space.  Under $100 and the deer no longer have access.  We were able to find the screening on the facebook marketplace for a deep discount too!  Now we have roughly 1/10th of an acre fenced in.img_2229.jpg
  • Finished Compost – We have a compost area, but just not enough space to provide enough quality compost that we add to our raised beds prior to planting.  This gives our garden all the organic materials that it will need to produce all summer long!img_0126.jpg

With a few changes, mainly the greenhouse structure, we could have a huge garden space for under a couple thousand dollars including a greenhouse space.  If you want just a simple outdoor garden space, it can be almost free!  Its fun to re-use materials and grow your own food.  Don’t let your budget control your food growing aspirations.  Even a container garden on your patio can grow some amazing produce!

Check Facebook and Craiglist along with your local classifieds ads for fun materials that could be repurposed into a garden.   Check with friends and neighbors for anything they want to get rid of.  Call your arborists in town and schedule your first delivery of wood chips.  Get a shovel and a wheel barrel and start on the sweat equity.

 

 

Microgreen Guacamole!

IMG_0942We have been talking a lot about the versatility of micro-greens in the kitchen.   Really the only thing you need to avoid is heat exposure, so they are really useful in the kitchen.  They go way beyond sandwich and salad toppers.  One of our favorite uses is to wow people with our homemade dips and sauces.  The fan favorite to date is by far the guacamole with our cilantro micro-greens!

Micro-greens are perfect to blend into any sauce, and in this case they smash well into some homemade guacamole.  The huge flavor in these small micro-greens really work well with guac because they are delicate enough to mix into the creamy avocados, but the flavor comes through with every bite!

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Here is what you will need to make this amazing dish:
– 2 Ripe Avocados
– 1 Lime – squeezed fresh
– 1/4 cup Diced Red Onion
– Garlic Powder – just a dash
– Onion Powder – Just a dash
– Salt – Just a dash
– Cilantro Micros – add to taste

Start with the avocados.  Find the most ripe ones and dice them into a bowl.  Then we add some diced red onion.  For the spices we add a dash of onion and garlic powder and salt to your taste.  Then squeeze 1 lime into the bowl and place the cilantro greens (with seed husk) on top and mix all of the ingredients together with a  fork.  We use lots of cilantro micros, but feel free to add as little or as much as you like.  It doesn’t take too long before the guac is creamy and ready to go to the fridge.  This would also be the time to add any other toppers you may enjoy like diced tomatoes or salsa.

Cover with plastic wrap or a lid and place in the fridge to cool.  After chilling, this guac is going to be ready for your toast, chips, tacos, or even to eat by the spoonful.  This simple guacamole is a game changer.  Be a party hero and bring some superfood guacamole to your next get together!IMG_0431

 

 

Microgreens and Smoothies…A Perfect Pair!

A few years back our family made a big push to incorporate more fruit into our diet. Our kids always like snacking on fruit, and due to our food allergies, we don’t have typical snack food in the house. The go to for them is almost always a banana or an apple…or two. We found that my wife and I weren’t eating enough fruit though. We always enjoyed smoothies, so we made the goal of eating one big smoothie each day.

IMG_0409After a while we discovered that microgreens mix perfectly in a smoothie. Their delicate texture and powerful taste blend well with all sorts of smoothie recipes. Their big nutritional value also boosts the vitamin and mineral content too!

Our go to smoothie base is 2 bananas, 1/2 lemon fresh squeezed, and roughly 12 oz filtered water. From there we typically add a cup or two of frozen fruit. Wild blueberries are always in the freezer so that’s what we use most often. If we want to mix things up we may add mango, strawberries or raspberries too. We also like to add an avocado if it’s more like a meal. Then come the greens. A little or a lot.  Its up to you, but we typically use  a heaping handful!

The mild varieties like Kale, Broccoli, Kohlrabi and Red Cabbage all mix well with fruit smoothies, much like spinach or full leaf kale. The Sunflower Shoots have a higher fat content which pairs well with the avocado for a creamier smoothie. The pea shoots really push the flavor with big pea taste. We shy away from the spicier varieties because the taste is so big, but if you want a smoothie with a kick, try arugula, mustard or wasabi!

IMG_1474Microgreens are fun to play with in the kitchen and know that no matter how you add them to your diet, you’re doing your body good! We all could use extra vitamins and minerals, and microgreens are some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet! That’s why their really a perfect pair with fruit smoothie.

Oh, and if you have kids like ours, they love ice cream. Instead of using fresh peeled bananas, use frozen ones and instead of water just just a splash of coconut milk. Throw in the avocado, microgreens and berries and you’ll have a really nutritious ice cream snack. Go ahead and have an extra bowl! It’s good for you!

Proud to be Colorado Proud!

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If you live in Colorado, you have seen the Colorado Proud stickers around the grocery  store.  There are lots of great products that proudly display this sticker on their packaging.  When you see this sticker, you can be assured that it was produced within the State of Colorado.  We are excited to announce that our micro-greens  are now certified Colorado Proud and will be showing off this colorful logo soon!

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“Better for you, better for Colorado” is their motto.   Colorado Proud is a program within
the Department of Agriculture that was developed in 1999. The goal is to make it easier for the consumer to locate Colorado Food and Agriculture products, as well as raise awareness of the benefits of shopping local.

Shopping Local is trending right now, and for good reason.  Shopping local supports local small businesses.  And in this case, it supports local farms.   When you spend your dollar locally, it creates a stronger local economy and fosters a closer community.   Since there is less transporting and shipping local goods, the carbon footprint of locally produced food and goods are much more sustainable for the environment.  Colorado Proud also wants to keep Colorado Unique, stating that when you shop local you get better and more persoanlized customer service.   And in todays day and age, with all of the food recalls from massive farms and production facitlities, its better than ever to “Know Your Farmer” and shop locally.   When you support a large farm, your support is unlikely to be noticed by that large business.  But when you support a small local farm, you’re helping pay their mortgage or send their kids to college.   Think of that impact on the local economy.

img_0193In order to qualify to be Colorado Proud Certified, the product must be grown, raised or processed within Colorado.  All fresh produce must be grown in Colorado and livestock must be raised in Colorado.  All value added items must be made in a commercial kitchen in Colorado and procucers are encouraged to use Colorado grown products as well.  This means that our new cottage foods items will not be adorning these lovely stickers…but you bet we will be having them all over our micro-greens!

This is a wonderful program that really helps spotlight our local producers, and they have the stats to back that up.  When the program was launched in ’99, only 59% of respondents recognized the CO Proud logo.  In a recent poll, that awareness rose to 72%!  Additionally, they note that 90% of consumers polled would purchase products from Colorado if the option was available!

I encourage you to check out the Colorado Proud website HERE.  You can search for Colorado Proud Certified companies like ours, find local farmers markets, check out the colorado produce calendar, and browse some popular recipes.  There are also links to find more about Colorado Agriculture, Colorado Forest Products, and local Agritourism opportunities.  You can even search for a local winery!  A great source for all things Colorado Proud!