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74 People Took the Winter Eat Local Challenge

By Joey Robison

I’m proud to announce that 74 people took the Winter Eat Local Challenge this past March. These local eaters proved that you can eat at least half of your food from local sources, even at the end of winter when the the root cellars are at their lowest. Congratulations to you all!

One big thing that the Winter Challenge points out is how important it is for our region to have commercial food preservation facilities. We’ve got an amazing selection of food in our local area. Supporting and creating places where our local growers can store excess root vegetables, farmers can freeze fruits for winter sales, and entrepreneurs can create and can anything from pasta sauce and ketchup to snacks and soups will make eating much more locally in a Minnesota winter not only possible, but delicious.

The Quick & Easy Guide to the Winter ELC

By Joey Robison, Marketing and Member Services Manager at Just Food Co-op

If you’re like me, you need some quick and easy go-to meals for nights that you just can’t commit to cooking everything from scratch. I’ve created the Quick and Easy Guide to the Winter Eat Local Challenge for us.

In it you’ll find a list of events, 5 reasons to eat more local foods, and lots of great—and easy—winter meal ideas that are well over 50% local.

Click on the image to download the pdf, print it back-to-back and fold in half. Or just pick one up at the Co-op.

I was raised on Potato Buds

Posted by Joey Robison.

I used to live off of junk food. It’s true, I did. I was raised on processed foods, and I wasn’t taught how to cook anything. I didn’t know mashed potatoes began as anything more than a “bud” until I was in my double digits. My awkwardness in the kitchen was balanced only by my mad microwaving skills.

You can read about my journey to local food over on

Point is, it’s a process to get from a diet of processed foods to eating a decent amount of local and whole foods. But I did it, and you can too! Taking the Eat Local Challenge is a way to try it out for a short period of time, exploring and discovering along the way that there are actually a lot of local foods available to you, even in winter.

We’ve had a few really good requests from Facebook fans for materials that will help folks be more successful at taking the Winter Eat Local Challenge. We’re going to create a list of the local foods available right now. We’ll also put together a “quick meal” guide, giving you suggestions for quick and easy meals and snacks that meet the 50% local goal. And we hope you’ll keep coming back here to read about the progress of your bloggers during the week of the Challenge!

Winter Eat Local Challenge is Coming!

The Winter Eat Local Challenge is almost here! For one week (March 1 — March 7, 2010) Just Food Co-op challenges you to eat 50% of your food from the 5-state area. Unsure if there is even that much local food available? Check the sidebar to the right to discover all of the wonderful local foods available at Just Food today.

Click on Winter Eat Local Challenge at the top of the page for more details!

Make eating local a year-round habit

marybellbookPosted by Joey Robison.

We hold the Eat Local Challenge each year in August because harvest season is the most obvious time to focus your diet around local foods. But we hold a week-long challenge in the winter, too, in order to draw attention to the many local foods that are also available in the cooler seasons. During winter we’ve got meats, cheeses, grains, milk, and more. But processing some of your own foods can give you even more than a sense of satisfaction and food security. It can also save you money.

I discovered just how much one can save a couple of winters ago, when I was buying a beautiful red bell pepper to top a homemade pizza for our weekly pizza night. I have to admit, I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the cost of my food, because it is the one thing that we don’t scrimp on. It was the middle of winter, and for some reason I glanced at the price. I was shocked— like, speechless shocked— to discover that this one little topping was a whopping $6 per pound. It also came with a side of guilt, because it was coming from California (side note: I am a good midwesterner, proven by my super-sized guilty conscience. When dealing with food, my guilt creeps in when I buy foods that we grow here but aren’t in season right now. I have no problem buying an avocado from California or Mexico- they won’t grow in Minnesota no matter how hard I try. But a tomato, lettuce, or a red bell pepper in February? I can feel bad about that purchase for a week!)

That was the day I stopped buying red bell peppers in winter. I realized it was too much of a luxury for a single pizza topping, and one that I just could not afford on a weekly basis. The next fall I learned that bell peppers are really easy to preserve for later eating- you just wash them, cut them to the size you’ll be using them in, put them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, freeze, and toss into an airtight container in the freezer. Easy peasy! And because I was now buying them when they were in season and plentiful, they were much more affordable.

Another easy way to preserve food is by dehydrating it. It’s a great way to take advantage of the bountiful herbs and fruits that will be available in the coming weeks. But, just like with any type of preservation, if you haven’t done it before it can be very intimidating. Which is why we’ve invited food drying extraordinaire (and author of numerous books on the subject) Mary T. Bell to Just Food this Thursday, August 13 to teach a class on food drying. The class is $15 ($12 for Just Food Co-op member-owners) and preregistration is encouraged (we need a minimum of 10 participants signed up to hold the class). I attended Mary’s class in March, and it was fun and encouraging. I assure you that by the time you leave, you will have a list of foods you want to dry and the knowledge you need to do it.

Sure, we live in Minnesota, and the growing season is shorter than in some other areas of the country. But we can all put up a few foods for winter, and now’s a great time to learn how!

“Fresh” Showing for One Night Only in Northfield


Food has been in the news a lot lately, from problems with our food system to the struggles of farmers. A new film called FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are reinventing our food system. Forging healthier, sustainable alternatives, they offer a practical vision of our food and our planet’s future. FRESH addresses an ethos that has been sweeping the nation and is a call to action America has been waiting for.

Just Food Co-op, the Northfield Arts Guild, and the Cannon River Sustainable Farming Association Chapter will be showing the film “Fresh” at the Northfield Arts Guild Theater at 411 West 3rd Street in Northfield on Friday, August 7 at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m. Please purchase your tickets in advance to guarantee a seat).

The film will be followed by a lively panel discussion, moderated by local CSA farmer John Ostgarden. Panelists are Atina Diffley (Consultant, Organic FarmingWorks, and former farmer and co-founder of Gardens of Eagan), Matthew Fogarty (Executive Chef for Bon Appetit at St Olaf College. His crew serves 32,000 meals per week while fulfilling Bon Appetit’s mission to provide fresh food grown sustainably, and purchased locally whenever possible), and Erica Zweifel (Northfield City Council Member, Third Ward). Tickets are $10 and are available at Just Food Co-op (516 Water St S, Northfield) or online at Seating is limited, and we expect to sell out, so get your tickets early!

FRESH empowers us to realize that our individual actions in fact do matter. Throughout the film we encounter the most inspiring people, ideas, and initiatives around the US. And thus, FRESH showcases real people first and foremost, connecting audiences not with facts and figures or apocalyptic policy analysis, but with personal stories of change.

Producer Ana Joanes is a Swiss-born documentary filmmaker whose work addresses pressing social issues through character-driven narratives. After traveling internationally to study the environmental and cultural impacts of globalization, she graduated from Columbia Law School in May 2000, awarded as a Stone Scholar and Human Rights Fellow. Thereafter, Ana created Reel Youth, a video production program for youth coming out of detention. In 2003, Ana and her friend Andrew Unger produced Generation Meds, a documentary exploring our fears and misgivings about mental illness and medication.  FRESH is Ana’s second feature documentary.

Among several main characters, FRESH features:

Will Allen – 6ft 7” former professional basketball player Will Allen is now one of the most influential leaders of the food security & urban farming movement. His farm and not-for-profit, Growing Power, have trained and inspired people in every corner of the US to start growing food sustainably. This man and his organization go beyond growing food. They provide a platform for people to share knowledge and form relationships in order to develop alter

natives to the industrial food system. Joel Salatin world-famous sustainable farmer and entrepreneur, made famous by Michael Pollan (also in the movie) – author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Joel Salatin writes in his website that he is “in the redemption business: healing the land, healing the food, healing the economy, and healing the culture.” By closely observing nature, Joel created a rotational grazing system that not only allows the land to heal but also allows the animals to behave the way the were meant to – as in expressing their “chicken-ness” or “pig-ness”, as Joel would say. David Ball supermarket owner, challenging our Wal-Mart dominated economy. With the rise of Wal-Mart and other big chains, David Ball saw his family-run supermarket dying, along with a once-thriving local farm community. So he reinvented his business, partnering with area farmers to sell locally-grown food and specialty food products at an affordable price. His plan has brought the local economy back to life.

FRESH empowers us to realize that our individual actions in fact do matter. Throughout the film we encounter the most inspiring people, ideas, and initiatives around the US. And thus, FRESH showcases real people first and foremost, connecting audiences not with facts and figures or apocalyptic policy analysis, but with personal stories of change.