HDT was recently invited to attend the We Are Water Summit, part of a statewide traveling interactive exhibit led by the Minnesota Center for the Humanities and statewide partners. According to their website, “We Are Water MN” explores the connections between the humanities and water through an exhibit, public events, and educator resources. Visitors reflect on local stories and the meaning and experiences of water in Minnesota with space to add their own stories. By creating relationships around water, we are creating networks that can promote positive social norms, and share a vision for and participate in water stewardship.
Here’s a short video on the exhibit:
As the fields turn from gold to brown and the leaves shake off their final layer of foliage, now is the time to revisit the recipes that may have a special importance to you, recipes that your family have kept in a little box, pulled out every time the winds start to get a bit brisk.
These are the recipes that bring you back to your childhood. The smells of an evening as you sit near the window, feeling the crisp cold of the chilly night on your hands, as you see the snow start to drift down on your driveway.
These smells from the kitchen bring you comfort. They are the promise of warmth and happiness, of a good night’s sleep.
It’s kind of a made-up word, right? Some people use “agritainment,” instead. (Agriculture and tourism. Agriculture and entertainment. Makes sense, yes?) The basic gist of the term is a fun outdoor activity that focuses on farms, orchards, or any sort of food production location.
This is not a new tactic. Local producers have incorporated into their economic repertoire (along with CSA subscriptions, farm to school programs, and farmers markets, to name a few others) for generations.
I mean, pumpkin patches, corn mazes, hay rides, cider festivals, and Halloween themed events are ingrained in our culture. Some of my best memories with my family are centered around agricultural destination events.
My kids love our annual trip to The Farm on St. Mathias where we pick out our pumpkins and try to beat their corn maze.
The garden in all its splendor. Photo taken in early August.
The last CSA shares were distributed out last week, (nothing but rave reviews in terms of quantity and quality!) Dave and the garden crew are spending this week and the next few to finally put the garden to bed. An annual tradition of pulling irrigation hoses and planting garlic (for overwinter germination) have been completed, and now the time to look back is on us.
The variety and flavor of the garden was out of this world.
Dave gave me an amount the garden produced this summer. Counting all the lettuces, garlics, tomatoes (cherry and sliceable), onions, zucchinis, squash, and (of course) all of carrots, we came up with 5,472 lbs out of the garden. Here’s the funny thing, the garden isn’t done giving it’s best. We’ve got a full hoop house that has full raised beds of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and peppers. We’ll add to the almost 3 tons of food for a couple more weeks.
If you’ve been keeping up with the HDT harvest, you’ve seen that this year has been particularly good for us. We’ve been inundated with a bumper crop of Scarlett Nantes, or in other words, we’ve got a load of carrots!
Britney & Dave during the great carrot crop harvest of 2019.
With wheelbarrows overflowing, our campus chef, Chris G. has the pleasure of making use of these flavorful root veggies, and not just through salads and roasting. He’s been treating us to rare forms of carrot use, and we couldn’t be happier.
BBQ pulled carrots are SOOO good.
Try this on your vegan friends. They’ll love it.
But, wouldn’t it be great if you could get the fresh carrot treatment all year long? We talked with our food production coordinator, Dave W, and he says that carrots harvested during the fall can last all the way through until the end of spring. You just have to prepare and store them properly.
Cash and Dave showing off their garlic bounty, harvested in mid August.
A quick internet search of “garlic benefits” gave in 303,000,000 results. Need I say more? One of my go-to remedies for just about anything that ails me is raw vinegar and garlic shooters. In theory the raw vinegar balances stomach pH and rejuvenates the gut microbiome, while the garlic provides beneficial nutrients and compounds that support health. It seems to work, but it could just be the psychology of my brain telling me to get better so I don’t have to suffer through another shooter.
Holy smokes. When did summer end? Didn’t it just start? I swear I was just helping my kids clean out their lockers. Now we gotta get back in a schedule? Here’s what we’ve learned that might help out your busy school year.
1) Make Dinner Time a Priority
Sometimes a simple act can have important life-long benefits. According to studies, having a set aside time for meals can do the following:
- Improved grades – It’s not the meat & potatoes. It’s the communication and reinforcement of expectations (like a simple “Got any homework, left?”).
- Foster family bonding – Again with the communication. With busy schedules, dinner time is the perfect time to just reset and be with your family.
- Improve nutrition – This includes picking out more healthy foods, understanding proper cleaning techniques, and proper portions.
- Save Money! – Who would think that eating out costs more money than prepping and cooking every night? There’s a reason that restaurants are so popular! It’s found that a family of four could save over $150 a week simply by choosing to eat dinners at home. Save going out for special occasions. Your pocketbook and kids will (eventually) thank you.
We don’t want to be an alarmist blog. But there’s something you need to know.
Modern Agricultural Practices Will Kill Us ALL!!!
Did I get your attention? Good. Now, let me walk that statement back a bit.
The industrial agricultural model, or “conventional” farming, is built on a combination of mono-cropping and use of chemical inputs. This is an efficient system designed to produce high volumes of a specific product (like corn, wheat, soy, or cotton) to meet the demands of a growing population.
This system produces more than enough to feed and cloth our entire planet and has its benefits. The people that utilize this combination are meeting the demand in a way that works, but at what cost? And, to generalize, instead of prioritizing soil health or diversity, farmers who utilize this method are prioritizing scale or the commodification of crops, which isn’t a bad thing! It is a “big ask” to feed the world, and with the use of appropriate technology, more people are able to be fed by fewer farmers. We need to look at farming through a different lens, one that views farms as ecosystems.
This month we are focusing on the importance of the pollinator. Coming from an urban background (Brainerd, MN so please allow me to be liberal with the term) I have a limited experience with pollinators in general. However, looking into the many types of bees and then looking at the central focus they have on pollinating our yards, gardens, and crops, it can be eye opening to see anything more than the common honeybee.
It’s no surprise that with the popularization of the honeybee in our culture, it’s the most recognized pollinator out there. There are THOUSANDS of species of bees in this world. But, did you know that the vast majority of the pollinating done by bees is NOT done by the socially inclined bee.
Pollinating is done mainly by solitary bees, like Carpenter Bees, Leaf cutter Bees, and Sweat Bees. These species perform the majority of pollination throughout the world. And it’s pretty easy to get them naturally in your garden.
I found out that there are, in fact, stingless bees! Check out this video. Stingless bees don’t make honey at the rate of the honeybee, so it’s pretty neat to see them part of someone’s yard like that.
On campus, we’ve housed several colonies of honeybees, but are currently taking a break from hosting duties. We did this as a method of getting our gardens pollinated adequately, encouraging a natural ecosystem, and, (of course!) for the honey. On some of our collection days, we collected up to 14 quarts of the sticky gooey treasure. But we also fed the bees sugar water before the plants bloomed and kept them safe from natural predators with a fence around their hives. Check out this video from when we harvested our honey.
So, the question stands: What does your garden (or even just your lawn) need to attract busy little bees (stingless or otherwise)? Instead of creating a common green desert of Kentucky bluegrass you should try to grow things that bees will actually like…you know, like flowers.
Summer is in full swing and our lakes are busy. What is more paramount to Minnesota than summer time at the lake; swimming, fishing, boating, water skiing, paddle boarding, the list of fun goes on and on.
But many of our lakes are hurting.
Decades of use, and sometimes abuse, have led to water quality declines for many of these precious resources. Just last summer, one of the most popular and enjoyed lakes in our region, Upper Whitefish, had a major weed and algae bloom. For much of the summer, vast areas of the lake were unusable for recreation. In agricultural regions of our state we’ve unofficially given up on our lakes and rivers, with as much as 98% of the waterbodies in some watersheds failing to meet minimum water quality standards.
What is it that we appreciate about our lakes and how do we protect these values?
Upper Whitefish early August 2018 photo Credit: WAPOA, Kent Brun
Over my years as a resource professional I’ve seen results from several surveys on what people value in the Lakes Region. Without exception, ninety percent or more of the people who respond to these surveys say they put a high value clean water. And that’s where I see the breakdown – the connection between clean water and the health of our soils.
Clean water starts with healthy soil.
Soil health is defined by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service as “the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem”. Soil function is the ability of soil to cycle nutrients and water. Eighty five to ninety percent of nutrient cycling is through biology, so without living soil comes the inability of soil to function and to clean water. Impaired water has excess nutrients or temperature, a sign the soil within the watershed is not properly functioning.
To value soil is to value water.