Survey Results Reveal Concern for Small Farmers in Drought

EmailHeader-for-droughtAs the drought continues to worsen, many water-use limitations and regulations are being enforced upon all California residents and businesses – including the state’s first-ever mandatory water restrictions. Many California residents are arguing that agriculture is not being held to the same water restriction standards. Popular media sources have published that agriculture uses about 80% of the state’s surface water, in most cases irresponsibly. Meanwhile, many in the agricultural industry wonder if communities are fully “doing their part” in reducing residential water-use.

Recognizing these two contrasting views and sentiments, Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association (PCFMA) hopes to help bridge the gap by organizing a campaign that opens a dialogue between communities (farmers’ market shoppers) and agriculture (PCFMA’s farmers), allowing for a greater understanding of how both groups are working to conserve water. In addition, PCFMA hopes to educate the public on how small California farms are responsibly adapting to become more efficient with the state’s most precious resource, and are struggling to survive due to the lack of sufficient funds and access to water. Supporting these water-conscious, small farms by shopping at your local farmers’ market is a simple means of helping the state better endure this historic drought.

Before PCFMA could develop its campaign, a survey was needed to research and gauge the farmers’ market customers’ interest and concern for the drought and the role small farms play. The short online survey was distributed through a majority of PCFMA’s e-newsletter lists and social media outlets, concluding with over 1,400 responses.

PCFMA found that farmers’ market shoppers are aware of the drought, but are unaware of and would like to learn more about the water saving methods currently being used by California’s small farms.

  • 98% of respondents reported that they are aware of the drought and 80% of those responses indicated a “very aware” level. Survey results also revealed that a majority of the respondents believe California agriculture uses between 61-80% of the state’s water each year.
  • In spite of how much water farmers’ market shoppers believe agriculture to use, 90% of respondents still find it important to support small California farms during this difficult time. This is reflected by a Santa Teresa Farmers’ Market shopper who said, “If consumers were more aware that small family farmers are taking steps to conserve water, it would become another selling point – purchasing locally-grown, responsibly-watered produce.”
  • The fear of potentially losing small farms due to the drought was clearly conveyed by farmers’ market shoppers throughout the survey.   72% of respondents are conscious of the impacts of drought on small farms with 90% aware of reduction in operations and 76% aware of the loss of jobs. A big concern of 92% of respondents is the threat of small farms being bought up or operated by large corporate farming ventures. A shopper who frequents the E. Santa Clara St. Farmers’ Market stated that she is most anxious about “a reduction in crop diversity, a reduction in sustainable/organic/non-GMO options, and an increase in produce prices,” which summarizes the main concerns expressed by most of our respondents.
  • 84% of respondents are interested in learning more about how farmers are doing their part to conserve water, and 78% are interested in learning how they can save water themselves in their own home and garden.

It is encouraging to see that there is an awareness of the potential effects of losing small California farms due to the drought. From this information, PCFMA is developing a campaign in which farmers who participate in PCFMA’s farmers’ markets will share their stories with the public, open a conversation on why buying from small California farms is more water-responsible, and create an understanding of how collectively consumers and agriculture can be a solution to the over-consumption of our state’s precious water resources. A Castro Farmers’ Market customer said that there should be a “fair, full voice” for small farms and PCFMA can help amplify that voice.

If you belong to a group, organization, or company that has nonpartisan, drought-related information or demonstrations and would like to be featured at any of our markets or shared through PCFMA’s drought education efforts, please contact Alyssia Plata, PCFMA Marketing Specialist at drought@pcfma.org.

5 Ways to Eat Cantaloupe

melonsIt’s melon season and there’s nothing better than the sweet taste of cantaloupe. Selecting a cantaloupe is easy. Look for:

  1. Prominent cream-colored ridges
  2.  Stem end should be smooth
  3. Sweet, musky aroma

Easy Cantaloupe Recipes
Other melons can be substituted for cantaloupe – Crenshaw, honeydew, watermelon, etc. will all work.

  1. Cantaloupe kabobs – Make balls with a melon baller. Skewer alternating small mozzarella balls, cantaloupe balls and chunked avocado.
  2. Cantaloupe wraps – Wrap slices of cantaloupe with good quality prosciutto.
  3. Grilled cantaloupe – Place big slices of cantaloupe on the grill or in the broiler for salads or side dishes. Grilling caramelizes the fruit.
  4. Cantaloupe salsa – Chop cantaloupe, cilantro, jalapeno, red onion, avocado, and red bell pepper in a bowl. Add squeeze of lime juice, salt and pepper. Serve over fish or shrimp – or get out the tortilla chips!
  5. Shaved melon salad – Slice melon with a mandolin into thin strips. In a bowl, toss melon with small chunks of feta cheese and sliced red onion. Add a bit of cracked black pepper, if desired. Serve chilled.

Recipes by PCFMA Staff.

Pick of the Week – Heirloom Tomatoes

livermore 047

“It’s difficult to think of anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”
Lewis Grizzard

There’s nothing better than  a homegrown tomato fresh from the fields. A big juicy heirloom is truly awesome in flavor as well as really interesting in looks.

Heirloom tomatoes are generally considered to be a variety that has been passed down through several generations of a family because of its valued characteristics. Some varieties have been cultivated for over 100 years. They are “open pollinated” tomatoes as opposed to today’s hybrids. Varieties with long histories include Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra, Jubilee, and German Green.

Each variety is truly unique, exhibiting a special taste, color, texture or shape. Many varieties do not travel well because of their thin skins and have a shorter shelf life than conventional tomatoes but they are ideally suited to being grown by the small farmer who can quickly bring them to market once they are fully ripe.

Since “heirloom” varieties have become more popular in the past few years there have been liberties taken with the use of this term for commercial purposes. In addition to these old-time varieties, a growing number of new varieties are being developed by plant breeders. These new varieties are aimed at the home and market grower, and they also may be marketed as the inclusive term “heirloom.”

Taste is the main factor for purchasing heirlooms. They are not always pretty tomatoes, have unique form and shape, but the flavor will win you over. Pick up some truly delicious heirlooms at the farmers’ market for a taste of what a tomato should be.

Green-Tomato-Caprese-webHere’s a Cookin’ the Market recipe made with fresh green tomatoes to enjoy.

Fresh Pick of the Week: Raspberries

berries smRaspberries are now at your farmers’ market. They come in both red and golden varieties, each with its own distinct flavor. They’re full of nutrition with 44% of the daily requirement of vitamin C, tons of fiber, plus other important nutrients like folate, iron, and calcium.

Raspberries, as with all berry and nut crops, are a water-intensive plant to grow and, with the drought in California it has been a tough time for berry farmers. Most berry farmers have decreased their acreage in order to provide water for the remaining crop. This comes at a time when, over the past 10 years, more and more farmers were planting berries and nuts because they are a more valuable crop than other products. There are 80% more raspberries grown in California than in 2003. Now farmers are having to cut back.*

There has been a slight increase or no increase at all in the price of berries at the farmers’ market, as farmers find ways to keep their berries watered without waste. Drip feed and soaker hoses are what’s being used now. Hoop houses provide cover to lessen evaporation as well.

Talk with some of the raspberry farmers at your farmers’ market and find out how they are surviving the drought, but be sure to pick up some sweet raspberries while you’re there. Support your farmers while we’re all going through the drought.

Raspberry Salad with Goat Cheese and Nuts
2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
4 ounces mixed field greens
4 ounces fresh raspberries
4 ounces yellow grape tomatoes, sliced
2 ounces crumbled goat cheese (or flavored goat cheese)
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds (or walnuts, pecans or other nuts of choice)

Combine raspberries, greens, tomatoes, goat cheese, sunflower seeds and vinaigrette and toss until blended. Add to bed of greens.

*Source: California Dept. of Food & Agriculture

5 Ways to Enjoy Sweet Summer Corn

IMG_9984Corn, wonderful sweet corn. There are so many ways to prepare fresh corn. Here are some delicious ways to enjoy this summer treat.

  1. GRILL: This is the easiest, simplest, and most enjoyable way to eat summer corn. Remove husk and silk. Wrap cobs loosely in foil (add a few dabs of butter if you like). Place on the grill for about 20 to 25 minutes.
  2. CORN SALAD: Great for picnics. Just remove corn from cob, toss with chopped veggies of your choice – red and green bell peppers, zucchini, red onion, tomatoes, or other veggies. Add sliced olives and chives, and toss with vinaigrette. Chill and enjoy.
  3. JALAPENO CORNBREAD: Another favorite. Take any traditional cornbread recipe and add finely chopped jalapeños and, if you like, some finely chopped red bell pepper for a colorful side dish.
  4. CORN CAKES: Great as a quick easy side dish. Crisp and creamy, these are a real treat. See the recipe below.
  5. CORN WITH FRESH HERBS: Fresh summer herbs are the best and when paired with sweet summer corn, they’re awesome. Sauté corn with chopped onion for a few minutes. Add fresh chopped chives, sage, oregano, and a bit of salt and pepper. Sauté quickly and serve hot.

Corn Cakes
2-1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 5 ears)
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal (yellow or white)

8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, grated
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

  1. In a food processor, pulse corn, eggs, milk, and butter 3 to 4 times or until corn is coarsely chopped.
  2. In a large bowl, mix flour, cornmeal, cheese, chives, salt, and pepper.
  3. Stir in corn mixture just until dry ingredients are moistened; do not over-stir or beat.
  4. Spoon 2 tablespoons batter onto a hot, lightly greased skillet or griddle to form 2″ cakes; do not spread or flatten cakes.
  5. Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until tops of corn cakes are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked.
  6. Turn corn cakes over and cook for 2-3 additional minutes.
  7. ENJOY!

Solstice Inspirations and Climate Smart Farming

Last week, I marked the summer solstice dining under a beautiful twilight sky at Glide Ranch in Davis at the “Celebrate the Solstice” dinner.  The evening was notable not just for the food – which was outstanding – or for the company – which was very entertaining – but also for the opportunity to show support for an amazing organization: Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF).

caff-solsticePCFMA is a longtime fan and partner of CAFF and their work to support and sustain our state’s family farmers. CAFF’s work extends into many areas including farm-to-school, food safety, and now, climate-smart farming. As the ongoing drought demonstrates, the ability of California farmers to continue to produce high quality and nutritious food is limited by a multitude of factors outside of their direct control. The impacts of climate change are equally serious – reduced chilling hours has the potential to decrease production of popular stone fruits and apples, extreme heat threatens the health and safety of farm workers, and climate changes have the potential to increase plant stresses which farmers may try to treat with increasing uses of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

To help address the challenges of climate change on California agriculture, CAFF is co-sponsoring SB 367, the Agriculture Climate Benefits Act. The bill is authored by Senator Lois Wolk and is co-sponsored by California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN). SB 367 promotes climate-friendly agricultural practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and store carbon, such as increased composting and additional application of compost to rangeland, planting hedgerows and riparian habitats alongside production acres, and a shift to no-till crop production. California’s cap and trade funds are identified within SB 367 as the potential funding, not the state’s general fund, ensuring that these costs are not borne by California taxpayers.

Recognizing the urgency of this issue and the opportunities that SB 367 presents to support California’s farmers in their efforts to not just mitigate the impacts of climate change but to also begin removing carbon from the atmosphere, PCFMA has signed on as a supporter of SB 367. I encourage you to visit CAFF.org and CalClimateAg.org to learn more about this important legislation.

PCFMA will continue to monitor this legislation and other efforts in Sacramento to help our state’s farmers address the challenges of climate change and the drought. Closer to home, PCFMA is continuing its work to better educate farmers’ market customers about the impacts of the drought and how they can be a part of the solution to better management of our state’s precious water resources. A recent online survey of PCFMA’s farmers’ market customers about the California drought has resulted in over 1,200 responses to date. We are in the process of analyzing the responses and will have information to share in the coming weeks.

Thanks for all of your support of PCFMA and our markets. I look forward to seeing you in the market soon.

Allen-Signature

Allen J. Moy
Executive Director

Market Thymes Newsletter – July 2015

July 2015-1Market Thymes July 2015

Summer’s Sizzlin’ at the Market
Summer is in full swing at your local certified farmers’ market. There is a bounty of fantastic summer produce with everything from sweet Brentwood corn, squash, peppers, and eggplant to berries, stonefruit, and tomatoes. There are mounds of fresh salad greens, big red onions, fresh piquant herbs, and more carrots and celery than you can count!

Best Pick: Cooking with Padron Peppers

padronsIt’s pepper season and the padron pepper is a market favorite. These bright green peppers are one of the mild chile peppers but, short of eating one outright, some can be a bit spicy. The saying goes, “Os pementos de Padrón, uns pican e outros non” (“Padrón peppers, some are hot, some are not).

These small chiles can be used in a variety of ways.

  • Simple frying or sauteing is the best. Add olive oil to a hot pan, toss in a big handful of washed and dried padron peppers and cook until blistered. Remove from pan and toss with salt. Serve.
  • Toss with olive oil and salt and add to your outside barbecue grill until browned.
  • Mix with olive oil and salt and lay in a single layer on a cookie sheet fitted with foil. Roast at 400 degrees for about a half hour or until skin is blistered.

All the padrons in these basic recipes can be fried, roasted or grilled with other vegetables, too. Cooked padrons can be added to salads, used as pizza or focaccia toppings, added to sandwiches or just eaten out of hand.

Be sure to stop by the farmers’ market and pick up a big bag because you’re going to love them!

PCFMA Seeks Market Match Technology Partner

The Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association is seeking a technology partner and database developer to help PCFMA increase the efficiency of its Market Match program. The goal is to create a machine-readable farmers’ market scrip and a database system that will improve the counting and detailed tracking of that scrip.

Market Match is an incentive program that is designed to encourage increased purchases and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables by low income families enrolled in the CalFresh program by allowing them to increase their food budgets when they shop at their local farmers’ markets.

To learn more about the Market Match program, PCFMA’s vision for this project, and how to submit a proposal, please download the Request for Proposals.

Proposals are due to PCFMA by 5:00pm Pacific on Monday, July 27, 2015.

 

5 Ways to Eat Summer Squash

Summer Squash 5-26-2010 Happy BoySummer squash tops the list of easy-to-prepare and good-for-you summer fare.  A very prolific vegetable, summer squash is soft-shelled with thin edible skins and seeds. It has tender flesh that requires only a short cooking time.

Common varieties of summer squash include zucchini, pattypan, and yellow crookneck. Other varieties coming to the market are the globe or “eight-ball,” the golden zucchini, the pale green English zucchini, and the bright yellow Sunburst squash with its green stem. There are even squash that are half yellow and half dark green!

Summer squash is very easy to prepare. Wash thoroughly, trim the ends, and you’re ready. Here are some quick and tasty ideas for preparing squash:

  1. Grilled Squash: Cut zucchini and yellow squash in half lengthwise, sprinkle with a little olive oil, salt and a touch of chipotle powder (not too much – it’s very strong and spicy), and place on the grill for 5 minutes or until soft.
  2. Grilled Zucchini & Onions: Cut a variety of summer squash and yellow onion into chunks or slices, place in a bowl, toss with a little olive oil, grated Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and a bit of crushed garlic. Lay a length of aluminum foil on the counter and pour squash mixture onto foil. Fold foil around squash, creating a foil packet, sealing tightly. Place on the grill for about 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Skewers: Cut squash in big chunks and toss with button mushrooms and cherry tomatoes in a favorite marinade, place on skewers and grill for a veggie kabob.
  4. Ribbon Salad: Thinly slice 2 raw zucchini into long ribbons. Place in a bowl and add chopped sun dried tomatoes and pine nuts. Gently toss with a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Serve room temperature as a side salad.
  5. Baked Zucchini: Slice a zucchini and a yellow squash into circles. Lay in a greased 8×8 glass pan. Melt two tablespoons of butter and drizzle evenly over the squash (use olive oil if you’d rather use it), sprinkle with panko bread crumbs and them 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 to 25  minutes or until softened and browned on top.

PCFMA Blogs – pcfma.com