Just a quick couple things…. Tomorrow I’ll be at Riverbend Market in Red Wing Minnesota giving a class on how to make my delicious, nutritious Beet Kvass. The class starts at 10:30 a.m. and there’s a $10 suggested donation for the class per person. So get your snowboots on and come down to Red Wing!
Also, I’ve had some requests from customers for young sauerkraut. That’s a ferment that doesn’t go the whole 6 weeks, which is the usual fermentation period for my Sauerkraut and Red Cabbage/Ginger. So I’ll be sending some batches of these younger krauts out onto the market in the next few weeks. They are a great source of probiotics, however, they are not as sour as my standard krauts.
I’ll be back soon with at least 1 more blog about GMOs before the month of April is up. Think spring!
First I want to thank all of the customers out there who’ve purchased Angelica’s Garden products this month to help with our campaign to give 5% of our April revenues to Right to Know Minnesota. Sales are going great this month, and with your help, we’ll be able to give this organization some much needed funds to keep up the hard work of labeling Genetically Modified Organisms.
As promised, I’d like to share some information about GMOs that scares me as a farmer and as a sauerkraut maker. My job demands that I deal with the natural world every day, and I am dependent on it being healthy and abound with diverse microflora, both good and bad. This balance is necessary for my sauerkraut to ferment properly and for our vegetable plants to grow and thrive in a healthy, living soil and environment. The abundance and health of the organic matter found in our soil depends on our decisions as farmers. Do we neglect our organic matter and apply toxins to the soil and plants to get rid of weeds and pests? Or do we feed our soil microbes clean, balanced nutrients from healthy sources such as compost from our own pasture fed cattle and clean sources of sea vegetables and fish? We’ve chosen the latter path at Angelica’s Garden because we believe that the health of the soil directly impacts the nutritional value of the food we produce and bring to market for our customers to enjoy. I am reminded of the necessity of managing the health of the soil when I talk with people who share their health problems with me. Healthy soil=Healthy Bodies
So it was back in May of 2011 when I sat down and paged through my latest issue of Acres USA magazine (a magazine dedicated to eco-agriculture), that I came across an interview with Dr. Don Huber, Ph.D. , a plant pathologist of 50 years and current Emeritus Professor at Purdue University. The interview was like a smack-in-the-face wakeup call about the dangers of GMO crops and the herbicide, glyphosate used on GM crops. Up until reading that article, I had my reservations about GMOs, but never to the point that I felt driven to get them out of our food supply. The Acres interview unveiled research done by some of Dr. Huber’s colleagues making several accusations that GM technology and glyphosate are causing serious problems in agriculture.
The problem he posed that scared me the most about GM crops is the “discovery of an electron microscopic pathogen that appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals and probably human beings.” This pathogen was discovered in high concentrations of GM soybeans and GM corn sprayed with glyphosate (Roundup). Also the pathogen was found in large concentrations in the soil after a glyphosate application killed off beneficial soil microbes (as well as the intended weeds). So big deal, right?? Well, it is a big deal, since the researchers discovered a link between this pathogens and outbreaks of plant diseases: sudden death syndrome in soybeans and Goss’wilt in corn. Well, who cares about corn and soy anyways….? Well, researchers are also linking this pathogen to spontaneous abortions and infertility in livestock, which interestingly correlates with increased infertility rates in US livestock in recent years. So, one of my questions is, what the &@()@@!*+?!?!?! is this doing to people that eat GM foods on a daily basis?? No research has been done on this yet to my knowledge. My other question is, can this superbug-ninja-pathogen jump ship from a soybean plant and come hang out on and around my cabbage plants in high concentration? Probably not, because I’ve got the superbug-samurai-good microflora dominating the environment around our cabbages and around our farm. But geez, it makes me nervous thinking about how this assault on the microscopic world could affect the future of agriculture and human health for the worst.
Ever since I read this article, my eyes are wide open on this issue and I pray that the powerful, beneficial microbes that are on our cabbages and control the fermentation process of our sauerkraut, kim chi and other ferments are not affected by our neighbors’ farming choices. I also hope that my conventional farm-neighbors can wake up to this issue, understand its severity and make efforts to change their farming practices.
Now, I ask you as citizens, who have the power to vote with your pocketbook and actions, please support the GMO labeling efforts in your state and choose NOT to purchase products with GM ingredients in them. Let’s work together to clean up our food system. The future of food depends on us.
(quotes and information taken from the May 2011 Acres magazine. Article: GMO, Glyphosate & Tomorrow, page 50-58)
Right now, across this great land of ours, many state legislatures are debating the issue of labeling Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, on food products meant for human consumption. Behind these state efforts are grassroots organizations and individual consumers concerned about what they eat, or don’t eat as the case is here. Next door in Minnesota, where Angelica’s Garden does the lions share of its business, is where one of these great debates is now taking place at the legislative level. Behind the efforts to move GMO labeling into state law is the grassroots organization, Right to Know, which started in 2011 by concerned citizens. I contacted them back in February when I learned about their efforts and I wanted to help them in any way I could. So here’s the deal: during the month of April, 5% of all sales of Angelica’s Garden products will be going to Right to Know to help with their efforts to label GMOs in the state of Minnesota. When you’re buying your jar of my Sauerkraut or Kim Chi in April, you’ll know that you’re helping to support a safe and healthy food system for all. Another thing, if you live in Minnesota, consider calling your legislative representatives to encourage their support of this initiative. Also, contact Right to Know and ask what you can do to help! (www.righttoknowmn.org) And finally, put pressure on your natural health food co-op to find out which of their products have GMOs in them.
During April, I’ll also be posting GMO themed blogs on my website, because I would like to share with you what I’ve learned through the years about this form of bioterrorism. As an organic farmer, consumer and mom, I think it’s imperative that consumers have the right to know exactly what’s in their food and how GMOs are altering agriculture in a less than positive way. Check Back!
Lately it seems like my posts have been reflective. It’s probably due to the time of year, the rhythm of the season, a real winter for once. One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is our business relationship with the natural health food co-ops and small grocers that support our farm and our business, and ultimately make it possible for our family to live and thrive in rural America. It’s been about 13 years since I first started selling farmstead foods to these unique health food outlets in and around the Twin Cities. This opportunity was catapulted by a long stint as a vendor at the St. Paul Farmers Market where I sold a large variety of value-added farm products. I loved being at that market, talking with the customers and other like-minded small farmers. It was an opportunity to leave the farm once a week and be a part of a community I held dear. Customers valued me as a farmer and food processor, and valued the food they bought from me and fed to their friends and family. After about 8 years as a vendor I decided to leave the SP Farmer’s Market and spend those Saturdays at home with my beautiful baby boys and loving husband. Before my departure however, I had established relationships with a number of area co-ops who were eager to bring my products into their stores. I couldn’t let down the customers who still wanted access to our farms products. Thus, my relationship with the co-ops was born.
As it currently stands, the Twin Cities has more co-ops per capita than any metropolitan area in the country. It also has one of the largest grossing (revenue) co-ops (the Wedge) in the nation, last I heard. It’s a true testament to the kinds of people and communities that make up the whole of the Twin Cities. These folks find it important to eat healthy food, support sustainable farming practices and build vibrant communities. What a beautiful thing!! And simply put, without their support, our farm doesn’t exist. Our 44 acres would go the way of most of the acreage around us, assaulted by destructive farming practices, and we would probably be living in the city.
When my husband or I go in to deliver our pickled veggies, we have a direct connection with many of the stores we sell to. We know the buyers and some of them have become good friends of ours, and consequently we trust them and their decisions. We also distribute our products through the Co-op Partners Warehouse. They are an awesome crew of people devoted to helping the co-op system grow and thrive in the Midwest, while supporting small, organic farmers here and around the country by purchasing their products for resale. Without them in our court, it would be challenging to distribute our farmstead foods.
So as the snow falls and I assess the past year and ponder our farms future, at the center of my thoughts are how fortunate we are to have built solid relationships with those we do business with. If big box grocery chains could adopt even some of the principals brought forth by co-ops, I think both consumers and farmers could benefit, in addition to store employees hungering for good pay and respectful treatment.
So, where do you shop?
It was about 10 years ago or so now that I first started selling my live cultured sauerkraut. If memory serves me right, I think the first co-op that took my sauerkraut was Mississippi Market on Selby in St. Paul. Luckily I already had my foot in the door at several of the Co-ops in the Twin Cities region, because a few years earlier I started selling them fresh (off the farm) take and bake pizzas. Some of you who were co-op shoppers back in those days may remember seeing my spinach or roasted garlic, sun dried tomato pizzas. There were a number of folks who commented on how much they liked them and wished I would start making them again for the co-ops. For several reasons I gave up on that venture and turned my focus on vegetable fermentation, which I have discovered is my passion.
I remember my first batches of sauerkraut packed into my mother’s 10 gallon Red Wing crock that she loaned me. I would make the sauerkraut in my processing kitchen, but then I would carry the full crock upstairs and put it on our home kitchen counter, because the temperature was better for the fermentation process. When the kraut was ready to jar, I’d carry it back into the processing kitchen. The full crock probably weighed at least 100 pounds. I’m not sure what I was thinking breaking my back like that. When the time came and I was pregnant with my first son, my husband Mike would carry the full crock up and down the stairs for me, bless his heart. Now 10 years later (and body still intact), it’s hard to imagine that those baby steps of running a business would evolve into the business that it is today
My introduction to true sauerkraut happened when I got to know Janet and Wayne Brunner of Midvalleyvu Farms in Arkansaw, WI. They also introduced me to raw milk some 15 years ago and I became hooked. Janet is a Weston A. Price chapter leader and is to this day a big advocate for quality, farm direct, whole foods. She started selling her sauerkraut not long after I met her and I was astounded how amazing sauerkraut could taste. Having grown up eating sauerkraut that came out of a can, like most Americans, I had a natural aversion to it. Janet’s unadulterated, raw, delicious sauerkraut was a tastebud sensation. After a while Janet didn’t have time to make her kraut on a regular basis and I started making my own filling the need I had for this wonder food. And the rest is history. Well, kinda, but there’s more…….
Learning the art and craft of vegetable fermentation has been a journey to say the least. When I started making my sauerkraut I used a hand grater to shred the cabbage and soon advanced to a food processor. I like hard work as much as the next person, but it became apparent quickly that if you want to fill a 10 gallon crock, you gotta make the job of processing cabbage one that you will not resent. From the small food processor I graduated to a large Robot Coupe processor that shreds a whole head of cabbage at once. I still use it, but I’m always on the lookout for a better way of doing things. As I’ve used different tools through the years to make my krauts, I could never ignore the fact that fermentation is its own wild process. Anyone who’s read Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation and done some fermenting on their own can attest to the “wild” factor of fermentation.
This “wild” concept first came to me when I learned about making sourdough breads. The idea that we can harness living bacteria and yeasts that are all around us in our environment to make things like sourdough bread and sauerkraut is mind boggling. What blows my mind even more is that these wild bacteria and yeasts have the power to turn basic raw ingredients into the most powerful nourishment and medicine for our bodies. And the list is long of foods that are brought to us by the elegance of fermentation, especially wild fermentation.
I’ve had a run in once in a while with this elegance. When I started making sauerkraut my mindset was that of most people who depend on a good recipe. It should be simple and straight forward if you follow the directions. But over the years I have learned that this is not the case when making sauerkraut the natural way. Mastering fermentation is an exercise in occasional disappointment, because harnessing the right bacteria all of the time is like herding cats. Plainly put, it’s a crap shoot. One fallacy buzzing around fermentation circles is that you can take a bit of kraut from a finished batch that tastes spectacular and put it into a new batch of kraut to inoculate it. This is sadly not how fermentation works. In a nutshell, I’ve learned that wild fermentation has its own process or evolution.
Once the cabbage is shredded and put into a fermentation vessel, bacteria immediately start going to work. The bacteria that start the fermentation process are replaced after a short period of time with whole new strains that take over the process. It’s akin to watching the Olympic torch being passed from one athlete to another as it makes its way to the Olympic stadium. Additionally, just as each athlete runs at their own pace, each strain of bacteria has its own life span before new strains of bacteria take over in its place during the length of the fermentation process. (I dare Big Pharma to try and sequence that and stamp a patent on it.) This goes on and on for about 6 weeks until the fermentation process is complete and no more new strains are taking over, leaving a final profile of bacterial and sometimes yeast strains. I learned this from an experiment that a University of Wisconsin Bacteriology Professor did with a class of students about 15 years ago. The papers are somewhere in cyberspace and they are fascinating. The experiment was for each student to make a batch of sauerkraut and record the bacterial changes taking place using a microscope. Each batch had its own unique bacterial variations and similarities over the 6 week process. Yeasts were also found to slip in and out at different phases of fermentation. The results for the students? Each batch turned out a little different.
At one point in the last 10 years I had a series of very mushy batches of krauts and I learned that making fermented vegetables is not an exact science, but an art. Realizing the amazing process that allows vegetables to go from a state of freshness straight from the field to a well cultured sauerkraut gives me pause about the existence of a higher power…. It also humbles me about how fragile this process is.
After 10 years of making my krauts, I’ve realized that I am still learning and fine tuning my craft. Some things I believe are certain though. A real sauerkraut, needs the full 6 weeks of fermentation in order to truly be done and at its most healthy and delicious state. Right now all of my ferments are being jarred after a 6 week fermentation period, except for the kraut salad. The kraut salad is on a 5 to 10 day ferment and is considered a “salad” because of its youth. Another thing I stand by is that stoneware crock fermenting yields the best results. I’ve tasted ferments made in glass, stainless steel and plastic and they just don’t compare in my opinion to stoneware crock ferments. (However, I do use glass jars for making my kvass, because it’s more practical for that product.) I think also that over the past 10 years, my vegetable ferments have taken on their own distinct flavor profile. This evolution is due in part I believe to using stoneware crocks. So for those who say fermenting vegetables is easy, I say, yes, sometimes it is.
And finally to close this assessment of my last 10 years as a fermentation disciple, organic farmer, and mother, I’ll leave you with this to ponder…..
If wild fermentation is an expression of the complexity and necessity of the wild microbial world, then what of its future, when our earth undergoes daily assaults from man-made poisons and other destructive, man-induced activities?
Some gals get their nails done, while others shop til they drop. I prefer the indulgence of a sweet piece of old iron. Oh yeah, nothing warms my heart like tractor parts and equipment that harvests things. Before I was born my mom was hoping for a boy, but she ended up with a crazy daughter who loves the beauty and utility of old iron…
Pictured above is an old International Harvester all-in-one harvester. Eat your heart out. I picked ‘er up at an auction today, dreaming about the small grains I’ll be harvesting in June and July of this year. Most of the farms around here wouldn’t waste their time with this old piece of machinery. In fact, had I not picked up this gem, someone would have bought her for the scrap heap, and another piece of history would have been flushed away. My husband, Mike, is an accomplice in all of this, having a soft spot for old stuff that needs t.l.c. As we were bumbling down the road hauling our new find homeward, he admitted that he could have married a high maintenance gal, but then she would not appreciate his taste in old machinery.
Some may wonder what a sauerkraut farm gal finds so interesting about an old harvester…. Well, our diversified farm also feeds chickens and the occasional pig. And maybe somewhere down the line, Angelica’s Garden Oatmeal? You never know.
Just want to let folks know that I finally opened up a Facebook account. I’m a Luddite at heart, but am slowly realizing that communication between customers and our farm is a great way to keep things fermenting…. If you facebook, visit our page and click the” like” button. You’ll find more information on what’s going on the farm on a day to day basis, and I’ll be posting information on product specials that may only be going on at 1 or 2 co-ops. For instance, People’s Food Co-ops in both Rochester and LaCrosse are running a special on the Beet Kvass. Normally, I wouldn’t necessary post that here, since it is not a co-op wide special. You’ll also be able to ask product/farm questions on FB, but I will continue to answer questions here on the website too. See you on FB. -Angelica
The beginning of the new year is here and I’m brimming with a good dose of satisfaction about 2012. It was an amazing, watershed year for many reasons. First off my husband, Mike, decided to work on the farm full time in late August for the start our record harvest season when we gathered approximately 10,000 pounds of cabbage, beets and cucumbers. It was a humbling experience reaping what we sowed; this beautiful, organic bounty. Heavy, dense heads of green, red and napa cabbage were packed into crates and stored for late fall processing. It was also a humbling experience building soil and observing how years of cover-cropping and grazing cattle on a piece of land can create tilth, living soil and in the end lush, nutrient-dense produce. And as we watched severe weather strike our community sending semiloads of soil into ditches and washing into streams in late May, our fields absorbed the pounding rains without any erosion, despite fresh tilling and sloped ground. Caring for the soil is something I never get tired of.
I am humbled once again by the customers who support our farm and our foods. Angelica’s Garden does not exist without you, the folks who walk into their local co-ops and put their hard earned dollars down in exchange for the products we produce on our farm. It is a pleasure and honor to provide high quality cultured and pickled vegetables to communities around the Midwest through the natural health food cooperatives.
As 2013 settles in it is my goal to be a bit more active on our website and make it a more user friendly tool for all of you interested in reading about our farm/products. I’m wearing a lot of hats in this family business and will do my best to get back to people who post comments or have questions. And please check back once in a while to see what is new on the site.
And one last thing as the new year starts up, happy new year and we at Angelica’s Garden wish you great health and happiness in 2013.
Hello folks. It’s been a while since my last post and I’ve been hip deep in kraut and kim chi since then. This summer has been a hot one and I want to take a moment here and remind folks about the care active, living foods like my Krauts and Fermented Beverages require. After you purchase a jar or bottle of any of my products from your local food co-op(thank you by the way for your support), please consider refrigerating them a.s.a.p. Once you take a jar out of refrigeration at the store, the temperature of the product starts rising. And once you leave the store and step out into the blazing sun, the process quickens and may cause the jar to explode if it is left to warm up in- for example- a hot car or in a plastic bag you are carrying home. Please consider bringing a cooler to the co-op during this warm time of year to place products like mine into. Or if you walk or bike to get your groceries, you could bring a few small cold packs and surround the ferments in them. Once you get home, consider unpacking the ferments immediately and putting them into the coolest part of your fridge. All of this care will help prevent the product from exploding. And if the ferments do fizz like crazy after you open them, they are still fine to eat. They are just expressing their liveliness. Please contact me if you have any questions. I’ll be back with more blog posts about the farming season, new ferments and all the stuff going on at Angelica’s Garden. Keep cool!
It’s been quite a while since my last post. The first annual FESSA Conference in late March was a total hit. Over 40 participants turned out to learn more about how to start their own small-scale on farm businesses from my great friends at LTD Farm, Encore Farm, Very Prairie and myself. Our hope is that the rural revival of the small farm continues to grow and that more folks will be creating high quality foods right off of their own land. I am excited and optimistic!
The growing season is upon us, but despite the early beautiful weather I am too seasoned a veteran to put too much out into the garden just yet. The greenhouse is full of healthy, happy transplants of cabbages, tomatoes and more. We’re in the process of rotating our cattle and portable chicken mobile around the farm to add fertility to the soil and keep the animals well fed. I get a kick out of the monkeying around that the local conventional farmers do with collecting manure from their confined animals and hauling it all over kingdom come to fertilize their fields. Then they have to seed their fields, spray chemicals on them and harvest and haul the feed back to the animals. And many of these animals languish on these harvested rations, because they need diverse fauna in their diet. I guess it’s no wonder the conventional food system is such a mess. On the other hand, our animals just graze the land, foraging their food (grass and legumes) and their medicine (burdock, nettles, dandelions….) out in the sunshine, creating fertility in the soil. It’s a beautiful, uncomplicated thing.
So, I’ll segway into business now… You may be seeing a few new products on the shelves at yourlocal co-op from our farm. The first is the Beet Kvass which is available now at 3 Co-ops around the Twin Cities and at the Viroqua Co-op. I love this product. Right now I’m using organic red beets out of California to make it, but soon I’ll be harvesting the beets right here for processing. Cant’ wait. It is a health and digestive tonic in the truest sense. It’s a tad on the sour side, but you can always add a little honey or stevia to add sweetness. Also, you may have seen the Kraut Salad at the Wedge. This is a great accompaniment to any meal. I use horseradish and dill to spice up green cabbage, beets, and carrots. Lately I’ve been hiding it from my husband who’s been known to polish off a jar in one sitting. On a different note, I’ve had to stop processing Pickled Beets in the winter. It is just not cost effective to offer them year round. I will keep you posted on when and where they are available when the time comes. I apologize to any disappointed pickled beet lovers out there.
Check back for product updates throughout the summer as I will be offering some seasonal products from time to time.