Drive due south of Michigan State University’s campus and in 5 short miles you’ll happily find yourself at Swallowtail Farm. This charming diversified fruit, vegetable and flower farm is operated by Anne Rauscher with help from her husband and two children. The 150 year old farmstead was purchased in 2005 and planted with its first fruits (raspberries) in 2006. Over the last 11 years, Anne and David have worked tirelessly to promote healthy land and soil, develop strong community, and grow delicious food. Visiting the farm, these values are on obvious display.
Taste the Local Difference (TLD) is excited to announce a new partnership with the Veterans in Agriculture (VIA) Network of Michigan Food and Farming Systems (MIFFS). The Veterans in Agriculture Network seeks to ensure the personal and professional prosperity of military veterans through connections to careers and opportunities in Agriculture. They offer farmer veterans access to resources, education, mentorship, and advocacy throughout Michigan, and their vet-to-vet approach provides a community for Michigan’s farmer veterans who work together to ensure the long-term success of one another.
My favorite holiday is, easily, Thanksgiving. I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and farmer and food has always been an expression of love in my world. A holiday centered on seasonally inspired meals shared with loved ones gives me all the feels. To help you savor the full flavor of the season, without sacrificing health, I wanted to share some of my favorite locally inspired recipes. I hope you create many special memories while eating these dishes!
Rutabaga (also called swede) is a Brassica family (think kale, cabbage, turnips, broccoli, etc.) root vegetable commonly known to Michiganders as a pasty ingredient. Beyond the pasty, this humble cabbage and turnip cross shines in many dishes and packs a nutritional punch.
As sad as I am to see summer go, I am ready for the fall. I love the way the golden light hangs in the trees this time of year, how cozy the foggy mornings are, and the changing colors of the trees. My favorite things about the season, however, are the food (surprise, surprise!) and the many fall flavors. These connect me to happy memories of shared meals and conversation with family and friends.
The fall food that pulls strongest at my heartstrings is the humble and versatile apple. This fruit always conjures up my Grandma Wills and I cannot see a Northern Spy apple without feeling her presence or tasting her “famous” apple pie. The thought of her pie’s perfect flaky crust, warm and gooey apple filling, a dollop of ice cream or a slice of sharp cheddar cheese on top send me back to time spent in her kitchen; one of the reasons I pursued a career in food and agriculture. I’m forever grateful she taught me how to make her perfect pie before she passed so every time I bake and eat it she is there with me.
Apples also bring back memories to my first farm job in Minnesota. Before leaving for the fall, we gleaned apples from a neighboring farm littered with hundreds of decrepit Volvos (I swear it looked like they were farming cars rather than fruit!). The apples we picked became golden sauce after hours of peeling with Beth and her young boys. A slightly more “formal” apple picking experience in New Hampshire made me fall in love with the East Coast and my cohort of dietetic interns. The time in the orchard catalyzed personal and professional relationships that are still strong almost a decade later. These memories are strong examples of why I love food. Not only does it nourishes us physically, but also spiritually; it draws us together and connects us strongly to people and place.
As the weather turns cooler this fall season, I hope you can slow down, open up a cookbook, and share some food and memories with your loved ones. If you want to try your hand at a simple dish, try this delicious apple cake. The recipe comes courtesy of my grandmother, Frances Wills, and is shared with you in love. Note that this cake is best shared as the flavor improves in the presence of good company.
Want to learn more about Michigan apples? Check out this guide from Michiganapples.com
Kelly Wilson, RDN is the SE Michigan Local Food Coordinator for Taste the Local Difference and owner of Simple Gifts Farm in Oxford, MI. Contact her at email@example.com
The farmers’ market stalls are overflowing with produce and your garden is producing more tomatoes than you can handle. What to do? Lock in peak nutrition and summer flavor and try your hand at basic food preservation! Your taste buds will welcome the hint of summer during the colder months.
Like many first generation farmers, Joannée DeBruhl came to agriculture in a roundabout way. After being laid off, Joannée and a few friends started a community garden to benefit Gleaner’s Community Food Bank. The success of this project ignited Joannée’s deep passion for agriculture and her desire to become a full-time farmer. Recognizing her need for a more formal agricultural education, Joannée enrolled in the MSU Student Organic Farms’ Organic Farmer Training Program (OFTP) in 2010. In the OFTP, she spent 9 months immersing herself in the nuances of growing healthy, organic plants and running a farm business.
On the edge of Ann Arbor, at the Tillian Farm Development Center, dark leafy greens and crisp, flavorful salad mixes are artfully tended by Hannah Rose Webber. A first generation farmer, Hannah is in her third season cultivating crops as The Land Loom. She currently rents 1.5 acres at Tillian where she follows organic practices to produce high quality greens and summer fruits (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, etc.).
Did you know that farmers receive only 17 cents per retail sales dollar (on average) when their food is sold through traditional channels? The remaining 83 cents of this dollar goes to middlemen, distributors, and other players in the food system. Selling direct to consumer (farmers markets, roadside stands, CSA programs, etc.) generates higher margins for farmers (and strengthens consumer’s ties to their food) but can come with its own set of unique challenges and risks: unfavorable weather impacting sales, large time/energy demands, lack of convenience, and seasonality.
The Oakland County Farmers’ Market has been bringing good food to Oakland County for nearly 100 years. Originally located in downtown Pontiac, the market first opened in 1922. Thirty one years later (1953), the market moved to its current location a few miles away in Waterford. The market still exists in this location and is currently operated by Oakland County Parks and Recreation.