Sustainable Table: Our kitchen-management class this spring

In April we’ll be teaching a kitchen-management course through the Columbia Area Career Center. We’ve long practiced and espoused a form of whole-kitchen management that integrates creative cooking with using seasonal items that are available and on hand, without being overly time-consuming or fussy. A good example is the “Preparing a CSA share in an hour” demonstration we gave last year, which showed how easy it can be to turn an full-share of farm-fresh produce into simple, delicious, and wholesome dishes.

Here’s the catalog description (p. 44) followed by a more detailed outline of our curriculum and goals, drawn from our initial proposal to CACC. Please considering sharing this with anyone you know who might be interested, or even signing up yourself!

Sustainable Table

Tuesdays 4/14 – 5/12, 7:00 – 8:30 pm

Getting the most out of your ingredients and your budget requires flexibility in menu-planning along with creativity and improvisation in the kitchen. Explore ways to source and prepare meals that are simple, delicious and economical. (5 Sessions)

Skills to be gained: Students will learn how to: find and choose fresh ingredients; assess and adapt recipes to match their supplies & needs; use seasonal menus and food preservation to improve their food budget; and explore kitchen techniques and items that can benefit their cooking & time budget.

Presenter biography: We have been honing our cooking skills for over 15 years, first as farmers market shoppers and CSA members, then as professional producers of fresh ingredients at Chert Hollow Farm in northern Boone County. Eric also holds a Masters degree in teaching and has extensive experience with public speaking and education.

Outline of learning activities per session:

  1. Sourcing ingredients: Discussions of seasonality, growing methods, sources of ingredients, what to ask farmers or grocers, ways to identify better or worse ingredients, storage and preservation methods.
  2. Recipe analysis: What makes a good or bad recipe, how to rewrite or adapt a recipe to be easier or faster to follow, how different ingredients contribute to a recipe, how to swap or supplement ingredients.
  3. Master recipes: Step away from specific recipes and discuss the structure of different classes of meals. What defines a soup, a pasta, a stir fry, a sauce? How can we develop a master recipe that can be adapted to whatever ingredients are on hand?
  4. Kitchen management: Ways to use your kitchen more efficiently, including advance preparation, recipe doubling, appropriate shortcuts, spreading preparation over multiple days vs. a scheduled cooking binge.
  5. Budgeting & valuing food: Economics of how food is produced, sold, and purchased, minimizing waste, efficient approaches to sourcing ingredients, analysis of personal and general food budgets, buying in bulk vs. not over-purchasing.

Experiencing pesticide drift, part III: how drift isn’t taken seriously

Part I, Experiencing pesticide drift
Part II, Calling in the government

Pesticide drift is a threat to sustainable farms like ours, and to the environment as a whole. While pesticide labels clearly spell out legal restrictions and boundaries for proper use, these rules are only as effective as the enforcement activity which punishes misuse. Where illegal and dangerous activity is unpunished, it tends to continue (think speed limits). Our experience clearly demonstrates that the Missouri Department of Agriculture does not take threats to small farms or the environment seriously enough to deter illegal and irresponsible pesticide applications. Consider just some of the warnings and restrictions on the official Priaxor label, which were clearly violated by the confirmed presence of drift contamination on our farm (no emphasis added):

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Experiencing pesticide drift, part II: Calling in the government

In this series:
Part I – Experiencing pesticide drift
Part II – Calling in the government
Part III – Aftermath, conclusions, & ramifications.


After a week of waiting to hear from the farmer responsible for the spraying operation (calls/messages went unanswered), we gave up and pursued other avenues. Our local extension office referred us to the Bureau of Pesticide Control (hereafter referred to as “the Bureau”), part of the Missouri Department of Agriculture. The nice lady on the phone advised us on how to file a formal complaint, which was needed to initiate an investigation into any suspected pesticide drift incident. The actual process was easy, but we had a question: Continue reading

Bird list & natural events, December 2014

December turned warmer than average, though it was so cloudy you’d be forgiven for thinking it was cold. This grey stability really shows up in the NWS monthly graph, which looks rather bizarre for here. We also had very little snow, but as the Kansas City NWS office pointed out, this says nothing about the rest of the winter:

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Cooking with kid: Introduction to a series on preparing goat

Joanna and CrystalWe recently butchered our last two goat kids of 2014, and we’ve designated one of them for a bloggable project in the tongue-to-tail cooking genre. I’m taking responsibility for preparing one whole goat, cooking it in many different ways to practice as many different meat-cooking techniques as possible to compensate for the fact that I’ve never really learned how to cook meat.

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Experiencing pesticide drift, part I

On July 14, 2014, our vegetable farm experienced pesticide drift from a crop-duster. It has taken nearly five months for the resulting investigation to run its course, and only now can we tell the full story with all the information. In this three-part series we’ll discuss (I) the actual experience and immediate aftermath, (II) the arc of getting the government involved, and (III) the practical and philosophical considerations drawn from this experience. Throughout this topic we’ll use the phrase “pesticide” as defined by the EPA:

Though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests…Under United States law, a pesticide is also any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant”.

The following narrative is drawn from written statements requested by the Missouri Bureau of Pesticide Control as part of their official investigation into the incident. We each wrote a separate narrative of our memories and experiences, which I have woven together here using the original text with only minimal editing to remove redundancy and confusion, and a few notes added for clarification where needed. These are our words from the time presenting what we experienced, as we recorded it several weeks later.
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Agroforestry symposium Jan 8; Mark Shepard speaking

Interested in forestry practices? Concerned about climate issues and how appropriate land management can help? You may well enjoy attending the 6th Annual Agroforestry Symposium next Thursday on the MU campus; it is free & open to the public. We’re particularly excited to hear Mark Shepard of New Forest Farm speak, as his book Restoration Agriculture has been very influential in our discussions about transitioning this farm to a more perennial-based system. Eric has also been asked to participate in a “landowner panel discussion”, which will include a 10-minute presentation on our diversified forest management. We’ve long found the MU Center for Agroforestry a useful and valuable resource for diversified sustainable farmers like ourselves (among other things they got us started on shiitake mushroom production), so we hope many others can attend this symposium and support their creative and interesting work.