Category Archives: Uncategorized

Farm to table sustainability stories: Iron shoe Farm in Princeton, MN

“I was not a farmer by trade, but it’s in my blood” ~Carla Mertz

It has been my goal over the last two years to connect shoppers/diners/home cooks with the origin of their ingredients through my writing. I feel that documenting the journey from farm to table is important and it is why I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to share the stories of local farmers like Carla Mertz, Owner of Iron Shoe Farm in Princeton, MN. What follows is a meaningful narrative of hard work, dedication and resiliency. One where farmers like Carla have had to cultivate alternate methods of reaching out to buyers during the chaos of a pandemic while continuing to maintain their busy day to day farm schedules.  Online ordering and a new mobile pantry are just a couple of the innovative ways she has been marketing her products (and the products of other purveyors as well) during this time. She communicated that while farming during COVID-19 has been quite a shift, it has also brought with it the opportunity to shine a light on the crucial aspect of sourcing food locally and the importance of looking out for each other.

Carla is staying focused on the positive. Her strong sense of responsibility and the aspiration to do good starts on her her farm, with her family and extends to the broader food community. She is extremely knowledgeable about the importance of sustainable agriculture and its relationship to the production of healthy, well-bred animals. She is an advocate for other Minnesota farmers and businesses. Partnerships are important, especially now. If she doesn’t have something that a restaurateur or customer is looking for, she doesn’t hesitate to connect them with someone who does.  This is the just one example of the helpful collaborations that are taking place.  

This focus on connection has its rewards.  It has been well received by some chefs/buyers in the twin cities because they’ve learned that they can use Carla as a distributor. It’s also been a wake up call for us as consumers, who have seen empty grocery store shelves during this pandemic. We have become keenly aware that farmers are not just on the periphery of things, they are a bright light on the horizon during an unprecedented time. They are absolutely indispensable.

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Shopping The Farmers Market Safely During COVID-19 + Seasonal Dishes Created With My Bounty From The Mill City Farmers Market

“If you ate today, thank a farmer” ~ Author Unknown

Farmers are the chief essential officers and caretakers of our food supply and they should be celebrated as such. During this pandemic, adaptability and nimbleness have become essential to their survival, and ours. The fallout from COVID-19 has illuminated the critical nature of acquainting ourselves with exactly where our food comes from and how to access it.  Our support for those who grow and source it is imperative.  Farmers markets are categorized as essential grocery providers and have historically been a place for community to gather.  They are the conduit to a healthy diet and now more than ever, they are one of the vital connections that link consumers to their local food chain.

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Tattersall Distilling: Leading The Way In Sustainable Spirits

“If you are working on something that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed.  The vision pulls you” – Steve Jobs

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When we think about sustainability in the food and beverage realm, spirits haven’t typically been at the forefront of what comes to mind.  Until now.  Back in January, I attended the launch event for a USDA certified, Non-GMO organic vodka at Tattersall Distilling in Northeast Minneapolis. From seed to bottle, their vision and commitment to the creation of this ethereal spirit via the use of organic grains is something to be celebrated.  Following that event, I had the opportunity to meet with Co-Founder and Chief Officer, Jon Kreidler for a tour and discussion.  I am thrilled to be able to share the narrative of this organic vodka journey, as well as the various ways that Tattersall Distilling is making sustainable spirit production a central part of their mission.

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Bushel Boy Farms: A Minnesota Story Of Sustainable Agricultural Innovation

“Investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty, and they have made life better for billions of people” ~ Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Bushel Boy Farms is at the forefront of innovative indoor agriculture and has been “extending Minnesota’s growing season” for the past 30 years.  Jay Johnson launched this business in Owatonna, Minnesota in 1990. Mr. Johnson began growing high quality tomatoes in his backyard and offering them to locals.  As the demand for his distinctive tomatoes grew, he started selling them via food stands and to grocery stores in town. Bushel Boy amassed a large following and began building green houses in order to expand the thriving business.  In 2018, Bushel Boy Farms was acquired by another Minnesota company, Shakopee-based Rahr Corporation. Rahr has provided the support to expand the assortment within the tomato category, but also look beyond tomatoes. Their drive to build off the rich history of growing premium quality tomatoes, along with the dedication to continue to innovate, has led to perhaps the most exciting 18 months in the company’s history.  What follows is the story of how Bushel Boy Farms came to be one of the most well known and respected produce companies in MN.  

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Chef Danielle Leoni: Global Sustainability Activist and Conduit for Change

“For my whole life, all I’ve wanted is to do good” ~ Chef Danielle Leoni

On a recent trip to Arizona, Executive Chef and Co-owner of The Breadfruit & Rum Bar, Danielle Leoni gave me the gift of her time, which happens to be in short supply these days.  We conversed about what launched her path as a chef activist and restaurant owner, as well as the innumerable innovative impacts that she has been making in the world of food.  In particular, her support of local agriculture, school nutrition issues, responsible sourcing of sustainable seafood and her newest business venture, Big Marble Organic Ginger Beer. She exemplifies what it means to have a full plate.   Continue reading Chef Danielle Leoni: Global Sustainability Activist and Conduit for Change

The Liberian Agricultural Project

“I do think this next century, hopefully, will be about a more global view.  Where you don’t just think, yes my country is doing well, but you think about the world at large”   ~Bill Gates

I embrace the opportunity to share stories of local people who are inspiring global change.  I made John Paye’s acquaintance while touring the HAFA Farm in Vermillion, MN in the Fall of 2018.  I was in the initial stages of gathering information for my farm to fork sustainability series.  My articles feature farmers and the restaurateurs/chefs/businesses that source from them.   John was there to gain knowledge regarding how to give life to a project similar to the one HAFA has created in Minnesota.  John’s farm is in Bong County, Liberia which is located on the West African Coast. I recently met with John again to learn about the progress of The Liberian Agricultural Project .  I hope you are as moved by his work as I am.

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Sustainable Travel: 3 Days at CASA MÃE In Lagos, Portugal

“Putting tourism on a sustainable path is a major challenge, but one that also presents a significant opportunity”  ~ Klaus Töpfer

We find travel to be exciting and alluring and John & I derive an indescribable amount of positive energy from immersing ourselves in other cultures. In our daily life, we try  try to live by the adage, “take only memories, leave only footprints.”  This is why the ability to combine our adventures in Lagos, Portugal with a stay at a hotel that shares our passion for sustainability was remarkable in so many ways.

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Farm to Fork Stories: Meet Your Farmer, Tony Root

We have neglected the truth that a good farmer is a craftsman of the highest order, a kind of artist.”   ~ Wendell Berry

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Farmer Tony Root (Anthony Schaden is his family name).  If you’ve dined at any of the 9 marvelous restaurants within the Bartmann Group this summer, you’ve more than likely experienced the outcome of Tony’s endeavors.  Tony is the farmer in charge of planting, growing and harvesting the bountiful produce exclusively for this restaurant group.  Kim Bartmann leases a 1 acre plot at Riverbend Farm* in Delano, MN and Tony skillfully tends to all of it.  Tony works with the chef’s to coordinate the distribution of the produce to all of these establishments during the summer/fall months.  Kim Bartmann and her team have created a true farm-to-table framework that has been scaled to meet their demand.  Continue reading Farm to Fork Stories: Meet Your Farmer, Tony Root

The Tiny Diner Permaculture Garden: A Sustainable Urban Oasis In Minneapolis

“We will continue to create a new world – seed by seed, person by person, community by community – until this planet is embraced in a circle of resurgent life and resurgent love”  ~ Vandana Shiva (Indian Scholar, Environmental Activist, Food Sovereignty Advocate)

The permaculture garden project at the Tiny Diner is 6 years old.  From the vast array of edible plants, to rain water re-use, to the pollinator gardens and solar panels, the Tiny Diner garden is the quintessential example of the concept of resurgent life.  The meaning of resurgent is “to rise again” and every season the Tiny Diner garden does so with fervor.  It is used to generate energy, nourish customers, share knowledge and build community in the most eco-friendly and sustainable ways possible.

This urban permaculture garden was Kim Bartmann’s vision. Kim is a chef & restaurateur, a positive change agent and a sustainability leader in every sense of the word.  She is a two time James Beard Award semi-finalist and self described “instigator”. She has made significant and inspiring contributions in all areas of sustainablity within the restaurant industry and in the communities that her businesses are located in.  There are 9 restaurants in the Bartmann Group portfolio and all of them have sustainable measures built into their day to day operations.  The Tiny Diner is an amazing representation of the abundant returns that are possible in a small, urban garden space.

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Welcome To The Ultimate Minnesota Fish Fry

“Fishing is much more than fish.  It is the great occasion when we may return to the simplicity of our forefathers”  ~ Herbert Hoover

Hello from the land of 10,000 Lakes!  Growing up, I spent a lot of quality time fishing with my father and grandfather on our annual summer outings to lakes and cabins throughout the state.  Those memories are so precious!  Regretfully, I haven’t been fishing in many years.  It’s lucky for us that we have incredible friends, Anne and Wayne Minske, who happen to be phenomenal anglers.  Last week John and I were invited to their home for a viewing party and the ultimate fish fry.  The scents and flavors of the walleye and northern wafting from the fryer brought me right back to my Minnesota childhood.

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