Food safety bill coming to Senate floor

Today I received an action alert from the folks at WORC, who’ve been working to amend the Food Safety Modernization Act, S. 510. The bill may come to the Senate floor as early as Thursday, Sept. 16, so please take action now! Contact Senators Johnson and Thune, or whomever your home state senators are, and ask them to support Montana Senator Jon Tester’s amendment.

I have contacted both South Dakota senators about the bill and received mixed reactions from them; neither of them promised to support Tester’s amendment at the time, which was earlier this summer. Both senators expressed a desire to see our food system made safer, which is admirable; however, both also seemed to believe that small farmers were already exempted from the bill, which is incorrect. I have read S. 510, and as it stands, there are not clear exemptions for direct-sale farmers nor are there exemptions from HACCP for small processors. Tester’s amendment is necessary to prevent S. 510 from crippling our fledgling local food systems.

For more information on S. 510, and to contact your senators no matter where you live, contact our good friends at WORC. Their action page has all the information you need, and they make contacting your senators a snap. Do it now!

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Holy mole(y)!

A big basket of peppers picked from just seven plants.

After a few nights of dutifully covering my raised beds, I threw in the towel (or tarp) and picked my peppers, eggplants, basil and zucchini. I left the tomatoes covered since they were still the color of tennis balls.

I had a bumper crop of hot peppers, as you can see my basket was full enough that I didn’t even chase the dog when he stole one. Well, that was a Hungarian Hot Wax, so the joke was on him. The long, almost-black ones are Holy Mole (forgive my lack of acento); these mildly hot peppers are great for grilling and add a little bite to your meal without making your lips sweat. I add them to my salsa, but I still rely on jalapenos for heat. The plants bear prolifically, even at a mile high, which wins them high marks in my book.

The yellow peppers are not banana peppers but hotter Hungarian Wax (ask the dog, he’ll tell you). These babies do have some heat and also bear well in our short season. I also got a few anchos, but unfortunately they were still green; these peppers really shine when allowed to redden on the vine.

Local foods story in RCJ

From today’s Rapid City Journal:

Could you eat only local foods for week?

Calla Eidem, 7, holds an onion she picked from the family garden on Thursday, August 26, 2010. (Ryan Soderlin/Journal staff)

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DeAnn Eidem likes to can, freeze and eat garden-fresh produce. So when her friends invited her to be part of a local foods contest, she thought, “Why not?”

 “I like a challenge,” she said.

It meant shopping at the Black Hills Farmers Markets at Founders Park, which is only open three times a week, sifting through recipes for using produce and keeping a diary about the experience.

 It wasn’t difficult, she said.

 Her family’s diets didn’t change that much with ample selections of vegetables, fruits, milk and eggs available at the market stands, she said.

Because of her children’s food sensitivities, Eidem had to buy flour products from Montana — more than the 200-mile radius of the contest — to make her own bread. Yet she was able to buy these ingredients as well as gluten-free cookies at a Rapid City food cooperative and the farmers market.

 She introduced her family to goat’s milk and learned to make cheese.

 “It was surprisingly fun and enlightening,” Eidem said.

Eidem participated in last month’s Eat Local Challenge initiated by Tanya Gomez of the Dakota Local Food Network. Gomez was inspired to organize the contest after reading “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver.

“Food has always been something that I’m passionate about,” Gomez said.

Eidem and Barb Cromwell, both of Rapid City, tied for first in the challenge. Liz Field of Rapid City was influenced by her daughter, Lisa, to participate, too. Both Fields received honorable mentions in the one-week contest.

“We didn’t eat much different than we had before, and most of the time, the food tasted better,” Liz Field said.

 Beets, boiled new potatoes, broccoli and rhubarb pie made with homegrown, ground whole-wheat flour were mealtime favorites.

“We did eat more vegetables, and there were many more opportunities to eat local meats,” Field said.

 The Fields made and preserved pesto sauce for the food-storage portion of the challenge.

“We’ll use it over rice or pasta this coming winter,” she said.

 Eidem, who grows her own vegetable garden, will can and freeze produce for the oncoming winter months. She liked the idea of spending most of her grocery budget on produce supporting local farmers.

 “I didn’t know how well I would be able to do it,” she said.

 Eidem also made an interesting discovery.

 “We can make an almost local pizza,” she said.

All the toppings, sauces and even the cheese were either local or something she made.

The Eidem family invited friends over, had the ingredients ready and created a dinner and a pizza party at the same time.

Guests can make their own pizzas,  eating them as they are grilled. There is plenty of time to enjoy a glass of wine, relax and visit, she said.

Home-processed foods bill workshops

For those of you interested in selling your home-processed foods, Dakota Rural Action (DRA), in cooperation with the SDSU Cooperative Extension Service and the SD Department of Health, is hosting a series of workshops designed to help you understand the new regulations passed under HB 1222 last winter.

This is a great way to learn about the regulations so that you can sell your foods at farmers’ markets and roadside stands. The workshops are free and open to the public; there is no need to pre-register. All of the workshops begin at 5:00 p.m. local time and will feature a presentation followed by a question-and-answer period.

Here is the schedule:

  • Watertown: Thursday, Sept. 9th at the Watertown Extension Building in the Codington County Extension Complex at 5:00 pm
  • Brookings:  Thursday, Sept. 16th at the Brookings County Resource Center on the east side of the Swiftel Building at 5:00 pm
  • Rapid City:  Monday, Sept. 20th at the Pennington County Extension Building on the east side of the Pennington County Fair Grounds at 5:00 pm
  • Turner County:  Monday, Sept. 27th at the Turner County Community Building at 5:00 pm

 If you would like a copy of the HB 1222 Fact Sheet or the HB 1222 Q & A sheet, please contact Holly at hollyt@dakotarural.org or Stephanie at stephaniet@dakotarural.org or call the Dakota Rural Action office at 605-697-5204