From the Market Manager
Asparagus season is in full swing. It’s not a long season, so get it while you can. There are many ways to prepare it, so be adventuresome. A very easy way to have it is to steam it, chill it, and serve it with some mayonnaise with lemon juice added. Simple and delicious.
It’s also rhubarb season. Although most of us use it in something sweet, I found some recipes that have it prepared in savory recipes. Go online and you’ll find them. I’ve never used it that way, but I’ll try it.
Rhubarb freezes beautifully also. I wash it then cut it into inch long pieces, and put it into plastic bags.
The following is an editorial that was published in the daily Hampshire Gazette by Claire Morenon who is the communications manager at Community Involved in Sustain Agriculture (CISA) in South Deerfield. Used with permission.
INEQUITIES IN LOCAL FOOD SYSTEM
At Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, we talk often about our local food system which refers to the regional web of businesses, markets, and people who produce, process, transport, prepare, and eat local food.
Here in the Connecticut River Valley, we’re blessed with excellent farmland and a vibrant network of food businesses and engaged shoppers. Our local food system has been strengthened by years of work from advocates, businesspeople, and policymakers.
But as much as we celebrate the successes and strengths of our local food system, we must acknowledge the inequities built into it, including widespread hunger, unequal access to farmland and business opportunities and troubling circumstances for farm workers. Our local
food system doesn’t exist in isolation from the larger world, and our current structures don’t exist in isolation from our nation’s history.
The price of food is one of the defining characteristics of the United States food system, and it has an enormous impact on local farmers and workers. Americans spend less on food as a percentage of income than anyone else in the world, and that percentage has fallen by 45% in the last 55 years.
This might seem like good news in a nation where 12% of the population struggles with hunger, but these low prices are possible because of costs that are borne elsewhere including environmentally damaging growing practices and exploitative labor practices. Many local farmers are acutely aware of the tension between wanting to pay fair wages to their employees and needing to compete on price with food produced in a global system that doesn’t value the environment or workers.
U.S. food production is dependent on immigrant and undocumented workers. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 72% of all farm workers nationwide are foreign born, and 46% are undocumented.
This is not a new circumstance; following on the heels of slavery and the share-cropping system came decades of federal “guest worker” programs. The most famous of these was the Bracero Program that brought an average of 200,000 farm-workers from Mexico per year between
1942 and 1964. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was implemented in 1994, approximately 2 million Mexican farmers have lost their land which had an enormous impact on migration to the U.S.
Here in Massachusetts, there’s not much data on the makeup of the state’s agricultural workforce, or on working conditions although the 2006-2010 American Community Survey estimates that 33% of agricultural workers living in Massachusetts are non-citizens. Last
fall, in a widely reported event, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained 3 farmworkers who were on their way home from work in Hatfield, and we hear that many local farmworkers are fearful and owners are concerned.
The Northeast doesn’t exist apart from the current plight of undocumented workers, from the history that has shaped the national data on farm labor, or from pricing structures that don’t allow for fair wages. Another reality of our local food system that must be understood in the context of our national and regional history, is land ownership and access. In study after study, new farmers cite land access as their biggest challenge. Recognizing that land access is a challenge for all new farmers, however, can obscure the fact that people of color have been denied access to land for generations. Today, people of color own less than 1% of the farmland in Massachusetts despite making up 18% of the population.
This racial discrepancy isn’t spontaneous or mysterious. It’s based on a long and complex history of discrimination, starting with the genocide of native people and generations of stolen labor in the form of slavery and sharecropping, continuing through a long history of discrimination in lending and government agricultural programs, and maintained today in discriminatory employment practices and pay discrepancies. Together this history has made it harder for people of color to buy and hold on to land and homes.
One group of leaders to watch is a network of activists organizing in the Northeast who have built a Black-Indigenous Farmers’ Reparation Map to encourage person to person reparations (www.soulfirefarm.org/support/reparations) and who are now working to create a land trust that will make land available to farmers of color.
These issues are complex and painful, and there are no simple solutions. For many marginalized people, this isn’t new information. For others, the first step is to accept that even a localized food system, with all of the possibilities and hope inherent in that concept, is bound to the challenges and inequities of our larger world.
Only with that understanding, and a shared sense of history, will the vision of a truly resilient, inclusive and equitable local food system be possible.
• 3 cups fresh or frozen unsweetened, sliced rhubarb
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 1/2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
• 1 cup packed brown sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 cup shortening or butter
• 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1. Grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan; set aside. For filling: In a medium saucepan, combine rhubarb, the 1 cup granulated sugar and water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the 2 tablespoons flour. Stir into rhubarb mixture. Cook and stir about 1 minute more or till thick. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Set aside.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the 1 1/2 cups flour, oats, brown sugar and baking soda. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, (or use a food processor) cut in shortening till the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 1/2 cup pecans or
walnuts. Reserve 1 cup of the crumb mixture.
3. Press remaining crumb mixture into the bottom of prepared pan. Evenly spread rhubarb mixture on top. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture and additional chopped nuts, if you like. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until the top is golden. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes 45 bars.
Community Supported Agriculture
A CSA is where you get to share in a farmer’s harvest. You pay them a certain amount of money (usually prior to the growing season), and then each week (or in the case of meat or poultry) each month, you get a share of what they have. At our market, Red Fire Farm (produce) and Chicoine Family Farm (meat/poultry) have CSAs. Sometimes a full share is too much, so many people buy half shares, or split the share with someone else. You can pick up your share either at our market, or at their farms.
Sometimes in the case of a produce share, you can go to the farm and pick your own depending on the fruit or vegetable.
I know in some places there are even flower shares. I think Red Fire has that also.
Don't forget to follow us on our Facebook page for more updates!