Even though we have frozen ground and cold temperatures here in Minnesota, most people who grow food in the summer, whether they are gardeners or farmers, do not have a winter vacation. When they are not planting, weeding, harvesting and marketing their produce, they are evaluating their last season, current budget and making plans for the upcoming season. January is a very busy preparations time for many growers here in our cold climate.
If you are growing in a container, backyard or a farm plot, now is the time to start thinking about what you would like to grow. Some herbs and vegetable crops require indoor transplanting in February and March (tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc.) while some like to be directly sown in the ground (cilantro, dill, beans, lettuce, etc). Here is a basic transplanting and seeding chart for Minnesota that can help you figure out when to grow what in terms of garden crops.
Finding good seed varieties (crops) that meet your needs is part of having a good plan for the season. There are plenty of good organic seed companies that you can buy seed from (see below). Also look for local seed swaps in your neighborhood to find a variety of free seeds available from your neighbors. Good sources for seeds and plants include:
Eggplant Farm Supply (Saint Paul, MN)
Kitazawa Seed Company
Mother Earth Gardens (Minneapolis, MN)
Plum Creek Seeds (Wisconsin)
Seed Savers Exchange
Wild Garden Seed
Once you have your crops picked out, spend a few hours sketching out where your crops will go. If you are growing in a small
space or in containers, figure out if your plants need full sun or not. Do you plants need a trellis (peas, pole beans, cucumbers, etc.)? If you are growing in a small yard or farm, figure out where your good soil resides and where the sun flows. Map your plantings according to the dimensions you have to grow on. Most of the time, people plant either too little and weeds take over their gardens. Or they plant too much and their gardens turn into a jungle, unmanageable. Follow the planting instructions on seed packets in order to being to understand proper spacing. To help guide larger garden designs, mapping with these free online design programs can help too.
In the spring, we will have a few rooftop container planting classes at the Tiny Diner (April and May) to show direct-seeding methods in the garden as well as healthy transplanting methods. Make sure to sign up for our newsletter to get these classes on your calendar!
Come join our wonderful and friendly staff at the Tiny Diner and warm up this winter. We have plenty of main dishes, appetizers, beverages and desserts to feed your body and heart so that you radiate heat all day long. Here are a couple of highlights on the menu this month:
Seasonal Macro Bowl
Beef Cheek Stroganoff
Carrot Cake and Flourless Chocolate Cake with honey mascarpone
Cheap beef: it’s whats for dinner. Or chicken or pork for that matter. In this age of industrial agriculture, “cheap” meat actually comes at high costs to the animals we eat, to the land on which it is raised, and to our bodies.
As I was driving through Dodge City, Kansas, last week, I could smell the stench of cruel and inhumane animal farming practices well before I could see it. As I neared some hillsides I caught glimpses of endless seas of CAFOS around me. They were hidden from most lines of sight from the road I was driving on, kind of like landfills are hidden from all of us who use them. Out of site and out of mind.
For those of you who have never seen a CAFO or are not familiar with what they are: CAFO stands for “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation”. They are defined as farms that raise animals in confinement, with over 1000 animal units (“units” depending on animal type: 1,000 cattle, 82,000 chickens, etc.) being held for over 45 days per year. There are so many costs that these operations do not have to pay for and we pay for indirectly over time. Environmental pollution is rampant: wastewater (urine and feces) from CAFOs goes directly into the waterways in those communities. Methane, one of the worst greenhouse gases that is causing climate chaos, is produced by the cubic tons. The incredibly inhumane lives of these animals is evident in just a glimpse. The animals, by definition of a CAFO, do not have space to move. They are not allowed to live full lives before being slaughtered. They are fed genetically-engineered feed and an incredible amount of antibiotics to keep them healthy in these dire conditions. The meat that eventually ends up in our digestive tracks floods our bodies directly with GMO/GE and antibiotic residues that over time, may very well make us sick.
As the demand for cheap meat by the market (us) continues to grow, and small-scale farming practices and farmland is gobbled up by an industrial drive to control food and make money off of it at any cost, we have to choose the higher road. In 1966, 1 million farms in the United States produced 57 million pigs. By 2001 (17 years ago), 80,000 farms raised the same number (Polly Walker’s “Public Health implications of meat production and consumption”). The concentration has increased since that time. We need to support small-scale, humane animal-raising farms through our purchase power by asking for high quality meat at groceries, delis, and restaurants. We must choose to avoid meat from farms that torture animals and pollute our land and bodies. w
For 2018, make a healthy and ethical decision for yourself and your family to decrease the amount of meat you eat in general and avoid buying cheap meat (fast food, super sales at box grocery stores, etc.) when you decide to eat it. While it seems cheap at the market, the animals that are tortured, the land that is wasted, and our bodies that are absorbing contaminated meat are paying the price. It is not worth it. Plus, homegrown small-scale meat is so delicious your mouth with thank you for the observant switch.
More on sources for local, small-scale meat farms coming soon. In the meantime, start asking questions and demanding better practices where you are.
Would you like a perfect way to give a great gift AND give back to the community? At the Tiny Diner we have a special holiday gift card promotion. You receive a $5 promo card for every $25 gift card you spend. Or you can choose to give the $5 (for every $25 gift card) to Sabathani Community Center. This Center provides many resources to the community including a community garden, adult education classes and more. It is a win-win situation for everyone when we decide to share!
Gift cards are available in any denomination. Offer for a limited time so get yours today!
Snow days have finally come. While many of us will complain about how cold and laborious our climate is during the winter season, let us understand and be grateful for the snow instead. Snow in the north country is a sign of ecological health. It offers us and our fellow earth friends many benefits.
Snow’s ecological offerings:
- A “Blanket of snow” is literally a blanket in its effects. It slows the freezing of our gardens if it is freshly fallen and loose. This type of snow is 90-95% air that reduces heat transfer from the warm ground to the cold air
- Good snow cover is an excellent soil insulator. It protects roots systems of trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs and ground covers, strawberries, and ground inhabitants from alternating and damaging freezing and thawing cycles
- Preserves soil moisture over the winter
- Melting snow replenishes the water supply
- Aesthetically, good snow cover accentuates trees, shrubs and grasses and makes them stand out, look even more brilliant during drab winter months
Whatever is good for the earth is usually good for us as well. Snow gives us many community and body benefits:
- Snow makes us work out having to walk more carefully and aerobically than usual
- Snow days allow us to sleep in and recharge fully
- Snow makes us slow down and be healthy with each other – more time for cooking, safer speeds for driving, and share free outdoor activities with neighbors
- Cold temperatures help boost blood norepinephrine levels that reduce pain. And we can ice injuries with snow too!
Snow is a blessing to us in the north country where it protect our bodies, our communal energy, our plants and soils, and our water supply. Instead of cursing winter, lets enjoy all it has to offer. Its the little things, like snowflakes, that can make the difference in our northern wonderland.
Keep your body, your farmers, friends and local soil healthy by choosing the BEST ingredients and foodstuffs for your holiday cooking this winter. While some of you may already know how to source high-quality eggs, meats and vegetables, the United States food system and diluted corporate marketing schemes are riddled with efforts to make us buy bad products with feel-good words. But don’t be fooled.
These terms do not guarantee nor mean the product is healthy or safe for you nor better for the soil and animals from which it came:
fresh natural all-natural healthy gluten-free naturally sweetened cage-free
Whether you shop at a national grocery chain or a small local foods market this winter, be aware of the greenwashing label methods used above. Instead, look for certified foods and simple ingredients listed on the nutritional label. Try to find foods produced near you that can show you their practices and/or have a trusted, detailed certified product. Reliable certifications include:
BIODYNAMIC NON-GMO PROJECT VERIFIED CRUELTY-FREE USDA ORGANIC
SEAFOOD WATCH CERTIFIED SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD MSC
Basic Staple Tips
EGGS: Buy pasture-raised when possible. Organic, cage-free and hormone-free do not mean ethical chicken treatment.
Meat: Buy pasture-raised when possible. While it is not necessary to eliminate meat form your diet, eating meat at every meal is completely unnecessary for your body AND UNSUSTAINABLE FOR THE PLANET. Be mindful of this when planning your winter menus for parties, holiday events, and daily meals.
Dairy: Certified organic, growth hormone-free, whole milk. The dairy industry is rampant with animal rights abuses. Try to find a small-scale supplier that is local. Call them and ask them what their
Veggies/Greens: Certified organic, seasonal. Buy veggies, fruits and herbs that are chemical-free. No sense in truing to eat healthy if your fresh foods are laden with pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Also, eat seasonally to reduce the environmental impact of shipping and growing the food out of season. Seasonal foods: squash, potatoes, brussel sprouts, onions, garlic, leeks, sweet potatoes, apples, and local frozen and canned goods.
Sources for Clean, Local Ingredients in the Winter
Indoor Farmers’ Markets
Winter Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs)
While advertised deals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday (project $6 billion in sales this season) call many of us to fulfill the gift lists of our loved ones, take a breath. Slow down and think about the purpose of gift giving as well as the effects our purchase power may have on other people and ecosystems around the world.
According to the World Watch Organization, consumption is at an all-time high. Americans over-consume many things, from oil to gas to food to other goods. The waste produced (whether it’s through the production or the landfill future of that product) is enormous, especially considering most of the things we buy in this country are non-renewable. Given the fragility of many ecosystems with the burden of 7+billion population and rising consumptive patterns, we cannot afford to give gifts carelessly.
“Calculations show that the planet has available 1.9 hectares of biologically productive land per person to supply resources and absorb wastes—yet the average person on Earth already uses 2.3 hectares worth. These “ecological footprints” range from the 9.7 hectares claimed by the average American to the 0.47 hectares used by the average Mozambican.” – World Watch Organization
Lets counteract the over-consumptive tendencies of American excess and holiday material gift-giving this season by giving locally to individuals, businesses and organizations who are doing great work and who care about renewable, high-quality gifts and services.
Remember: Multiply your actions by at least 1 million, if not more. whether you are buying that cute cheap doll for a child or using plastic cups or buying your partner the latest iPhone, ask yourself, “Is this necessary? How else could my purchase power connect my loved ones to a beautiful world tomorrow? Years from now?” Here is a list to help you give long-lasting gifts that reverberate energy and health and local empowerment, not merely throwaway residue.
Donate to Organizations who support Whole System Health
Community Solar Join a local community solar garden and create a better energy system in Minnesota. Give the gift of healthy heating/lighting to your family today.
Eat for Equity This is a great organization that gives to many causes through catering events and local food use. Check out all of their efforts and pass on funds that will help more local efforts for health and responsible behavior in our communities.
Environment Minnesota is a citiizen-based environmental advocacy organization that works on protecting clean water, clean air, pollinators and more. Their campaigns like, “Solar for All” and “No Bees, No Food” get the word out for individuals like us to understand issues AND connect us to doing something about it. Donate to this wonderful organization today so they can continue their work for all of us.
Open Arms of Minnesota Give nutritious food to those in dire need. Donate to Open Arms where some of your funds will go to helping their Open Farms grow some of the ingredients for their meal programs.
If here are still things you would like to give to your loved ones, try to find local sources and makers so that our money can stay local AND so you can know more about the production of that product. Gifts should not just be healthy (non-toxic, etc.) for your loved ones but should also be healthy for the person who produces them (good working conditions, etc.)
Into hibernation we go. As the daylight hours grow shorter this month and the cold comes to blanket our gardens with snow, our plants retreat just like we feel like doing. Our annual accenting flowers like zinnias and sunflowers will die completely along with our rooftop peppers and tomatoes. Our perennial plants like apples, sedums, hazelnuts, and jerusalem artichoke will pull all their energy back to their roots and lose their leaves to protect themselves from the freezing temperatures.
To make sure our garden plants and soil are safe this winter and next season, here is what we do at the Tiny Diner to winterize the living spaces:
Thick straw bale mulching on vulnerable perennials
We mulch any exposed area that will not get snow with straw bales. For example, our dry creek bed which does not get covered with snow due to the solar array, will have 2’ thick straw bales to insulate the plants throughout the winter months.
Seeding cover crop to prevent soil erosion
We add cover crop like winter rye to our annual areas (we do this at the beginning of October to make sure the seed sets and roots before the ground freezes). This holds the soil stable where it could blow or wash away if left bare.
Straw-filled coffee bags for insulating small spaces
For more fragile herbaceous plants, new fall perennials or small trees that have not had time to root properly and go deep, we stuff re-purposed coffee bags with straw and place them around trees and on top of herbaceous perennials to help insulate in case there is no snow cover this winter.
Leave grasses and flower stalks alone and refrain from “super-tidy-stripping” life
We DO NOT cut down the flower stalks and grasses on our property to “tidy” the space. This would leave a pollinator dead zone that we do not want to cause. By leaving the stalks and grasses at least 24” around the property, we provide adult insect pollinators and their baby larvae a refuge from the harsh winters before spring hatching.
Last week we cut the last of our flower bouquets from the gardens as the icy sleet came down. This week we will put the finishing touches of insulating mulch and check on our water cistern (make sure it is empty!). The last task that we have to prepare for the very end of the growing season is to dismantle our thicket to make way for a new, more sturdy structure in the spring. More on that soon. Good luck with putting your gardens to sleep in a healthy way!
If you need winterizing tips, feel free to write to the Garden, Market and Farm Adviser: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eating seasonally in the north country can be yummy, colorful, and nutritious – especially if you use squash. Unlike summer squash, winter squash has a hard, protective skin that allows it to be stored for months in the winter if stored in a cool dry place. It comes in many different varieties of diverse shapes and sizes – yellow to green to white to bright red spheres, doughnut shapes, hook shapes, etc. We typically eat the flesh of squash but their seeds and blossoms are edible too.
Did I mention that squash is pretty nutritious? According to Berkeley Wellness, it has tons of cancer-fighting agents like beta carotene, lutein, dietary fiber, B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium and vitamin E. Knowing this, and that you can use squash to make bread, soup, bars, pies and other warming dishes, what more can you ask for from our bountiful earth?
So where can you find squash? Given that it is winter squash season, you can find winter squashes at local farmers’ markets and in grocery stores. Common varieties include Butternut, Acorn, and Spaghetti but don’t stop there. Very beautiful and tasty varieties like Cinderella, Delicata, Candy Roasters, Seminole Pumpkins, and Pennsylvania Dutch Crooknecks are other fantastic options to name a few. Right now, you can find the Cinderella Pumpkin (ornamental as well as delicious) for sale at a huge discounted price at the Tiny Diner through Tuesday November 7th (this squash variety is grown by squash specialty farmers at Piney Hill Farm).
And once you buy squash, there are so many recipes to try. Here is a list of 16 really simple recipes get you started. Buy squash now during the height of squash season so you can get a fair price and so that you have a plethora of squash to use throughout the winter. If you find a variety and recipe that you really love, we would love to hear about it at the Tiny Diner! Send to the Garden, Market and Farm Adviser, Koby: email@example.com.
Stay warm with squash this season!
It is with many heavy hearts that we inform you of the passing of Bruce Frederick Bacon. He died 2 weeks ago on September 30th, 2017. For those of you who did not know him, he was the energetic activist farmer and philosopher who owned Garden Farme in the City of Ramsey. He strongly encouraged all farmers to focus on soil-building biodynamic and organic farming long before it was popular. For the past 30+ years, he has been growing the soil as well as organic produce, teaching and sharing his knowledge through farm internships, soil convergence workshops, farm dinners, small-scale no-till farm rental and so much more.
As a supportive farm-to-restaurant establishment, we have been renting a rural plot of land from Bruce at Garden Farme since 2014. We have rented various gardens at the Farme, employed a farm manager, and call our rented plot, “Tiny Diner @ Garden Farme.” Our Rural Farm Manager, Tony Root, has grown produce for the Tiny Diner as well our other restaurants (The Bird, Barbette, Red Stag, Pat’s Tap, etc.) all season long. He has worked with Bruce on establishing new fall planting garlic beds, efficiently utilizing the Upper Garden wonder soil space, and greeted Bruce weekly throughout the season.
We hope to continue our relationship to Bruce and his legacy to keep his farm building soil, biodiversity and habitat for years to come by continuing our TD@GF farm-to-restaurant plot. As the season ends and family and friends have time to process this huge loss of our friend and leader in holistic food and farm production, we will keep our community updated on the next steps in Garden Farme’s future.
His funeral was held on Sunday October 15th. To find out more about Bruce, his farm and agricultural legacy, come to his Memorial (TBD – we will post on our Tiny Diner Calendar) and check out these articles written about him and Garden Farme.
Garden Farme: A Cool Garden on a Really Hot Day. Photo Journal by Stephen L. Garrett and Matt Frank