One, Two, Three Orchards: Local Apples Galore!

For most people, keeping one orchard going strong would be challenge enough. But Ron Knutson (aka Ronnie Appleseed) has his hands full currently caring for not one, not two, but three orchards. Halverson’s Orchard was the first. “Around 2009/2010, my wife’s (Shelly) Aunt Kay knew the Halversons, and Dennis Halverson was needing help with pruning, so we met and reached an agreement: we would prune the trees in exchange for some apples,” Ronnie explains. “In 2016 Dennis, who had cancer, passed away, and the family graciously turned over the management to us.  Also, in 2015, we heard at the Wisconsin Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference that Class Apple was looking for somebody to manage it. A small 1.5-acre pick-your-own orchard was just what we wanted. We made inquiries about the orchard and contacted Lorretta. She had lost her husband, Dale, the year prior, also to cancer, and with the family living out of town, she needed someone to take care of it. So we took that on as well.”

Their third (original) orchard is AVEnue Orchard. Ronnie notes, “We purchased what was formerly known as The Apple Tree Inn Bed and Breakfast in October of 2007 but didn’t move in until January 31, 2008, after General Billy Mitchell Air Reserve Base, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, closed, and I retired. Instead of a bed-and-breakfast, we are an adult family home. I was going to retire and just do a little woodworking, primarily making flag cases, but the great outdoors called me, the trees were crying for help, and a new adventure was born. WE HAVE AN ORCHARD! So we added 1,500 more trees and two more small orchards.”

AVEnue Orchard sells jarred and canned goods, as well as prepicked apples. “I think we have as many varieties of jams, jellies, fruit butters, sauces, and pie filling as we do apple varieties, which is at twenty-six and counting,” Ronnie laughs. “And we are always dreaming up new recipes. This year’s leader in our jarred and canned goods is our Strawberry Rhubarb, followed closely by Chai Apple Butter, and who would have guessed but gaining fast is our new Apple Watermelon.  Strawberry Jam, Strawberry Hobenaro, and Apple Pie Jelly are neck-and-neck and close behind.”

What kinds of apples does AVEnue Orchard offer? This year there will be twenty-six varieties available:

Chestnut Crab
Connell Red
Cortland
Daybreak Fuji
Duchess
Empire
Grimes Golden
Haralred
Haralson
Honey Crisp
Honey Gold
Jonamac
Liberty
McIntosh
Northwest Greening
Paula Red
Prairie Spy
Red Delicious
Regent
Snow Sweet
State Fair
Sweet 16
Whitney Crab
Wolf River
Yellow Transparent
Zestar

Our pears are:
Bartlett
D’Anjou

Available for pick-your-own at Class Apple, are Honey Crisp, Cortland, McIntosh, Connell Red, Empire, and Honey Golds. “At Class Apple, we have cider, our very own blend from our very own apples. Class Apple is a quiet place to come and enjoy the greatness of God’s country,” Ronnie says. “Bring your picnic baskets along, you ain’t gonna wanna leaf,” he jokes.

AVEnue Orchard generally opens around mid-August. Class Apple opens September 9 and is open Saturdays and Sundays 12:00 to 5:00 pm, and will close October 8. Halverson’s is not open to the public.

Ronnie seeks to promote access to and use of local food products. “I love it. As much as possible, all our products are from local sources. It is a well-deserved and an awesome show of support to the local farmers, who work hard at bringing you a quality product. Besides, it always tastes better when it ripens on the vine.”

“Oh,” he hastens to add. “I forgot honey! We have honey. Yes, we have the bees here. Fascinating creatures they are.”

Mike’s Star Market: Local Meats Equal Good Eats

In business since 1990/1991, Mike’s Star Market in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, offers beef, lean pork sausage and brats, as well as handmade condiments and custom spice mixes. All their beef is hormone free, and they also offer some grass-fed beef. They have hormone-free chicken and local lamb too.
The “Mike” in Mike’s Star Market is Mike Maier.

“I actually got into the meat business because I needed a job in the late fall of 1987. My grandfather was working for a guy that was looking for help with venison processing, cutting, and wrapping. I gave it a try. My grandmother first taught me how to wrap steak and ground venison. Then after a bit, my grandfather taught me how to cut. Being a farm kid, I already knew a little about it, just not how to do cuts. I for some reason picked it up quickly. Then after that first season I was kept on part-time to cut and learn how to make some sausage items. I came back in the fall to take over my grandfather’s spot as he moved to Arizona. I cut and learned more cutting and then sausage making from Jan, who owned the shop.”

Of the various meat markets in the area, Maier feels his stands out, primarily due to the great employees. He notes, “It is not just a Mike thing, it takes others to help.” Another thing that makes the market stand out is a desire to always learn more and to strive to make already good products better. Maier notes that their products undergo only minimal processing. He adds, “We also, like other small businesses, care about our customers. Being in business this long, many customers can be called friends.”

Mike’s Star Market provides meat to some local businesses, and they also have a retail counter and freezers. Maier says, “You can stop in and buy what you like or order in large amounts. Not much we can’t do or offer. If we can’t do it, we know other meat shops in the area that can, and we will point you in that direction.”

What is important to Maier and his staff is to provide good meat to customers. “I want you to be satisfied with first quality and flavor,” he says. “Because we make sausage here, we can control the quality. We try to hold ourselves to a higher standard and offer a good price for what the consumer buys or wants—which is always changing.”

Mike’s Star Market also offers venison processing, from cutting the whole deer to making a very wide variety of sausage items. They offer custom smoking of most anything, excluding fish. They can do custom cut animals for farmers who bring them in or have them butchered on the farm or another facility. As Mike says, “Not much we can’t or won’t do, meat related.”

Baby Food 101

By: Emily Schwartz, Festival Foods

Food introduced in the first year of life can impact future nutrition habits. For the first six months of life, breastfeeding is widely recommended. However, between six to eight months of age, most infants are developmentally ready to try pureed, mashed, or “lumpy” foods to compliment breast milk (or iron-enriched formula). These new foods and textures may take multiple offerings before acceptance. So to start, it is important to gradually offer a variety of foods one-at-a-time to help the infant’s palate and digestive system to adjust.

Jarred baby food is a quick and convenient way to help growing infants get the nutrition they need. It offers a consistent texture and flavor that may be better received by “picky eaters,” and they are produced under strict food safety guidelines.

Homemade baby food is another option. Compared to commercial baby food, homemade baby food may be a more affordable option and may offer a wider variety of flavors. Whether looking to supplement or replace commercially produced baby food products, one of the easiest ways to start is to simply mash foods that may already be on your grocery list, like bananas or avocados. Or, try incorporating nutrition-packed foods that wouldn’t necessarily be found in jarred varieties, like pureed eggs, broccoli, kiwifruit, or no-salt-added canned beans.

Regardless of the food served, infants and young children are very impressionable. The actions and behaviors of those around can impact the development of food preferences and eating behaviors. Whenever possible try eating (and enjoying!) the same food your baby is eating.

Steps for Making Baby Food

  1. Start with clean hands, cooking surfaces, and equipment.
    1. Even though infants and children are more susceptible to food-borne illness, it is always a good practice to wash hands with warm, soapy water and sanitize any surfaces or equipment before food preparation.
  2. Prepare food; washing, peeling, and trimming, as needed.
    1. Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly. Peel and trim, if necessary. If preparing meat or fish, remove all skin, bones, gristle, and excess fat.
  3. Cook and/or process food.
    1. Cook food, if necessary, until very tender. Boiling, steaming, or microwaving food with water is often ideal. When preparing meat or fish, cook to well done. Allow cooked food to cool slightly before pureeing or mashing to reach desired consistency. Adding a small amount of water may be necessary to achieve an appropriate texture.
  4. Serve or store.
    1. If food is not going to be eaten right away, store it in the refrigerator for up to two days, or freeze for use within a month. Freezing baby food in ice cube trays can help provide baby-sized portions when they’re needed. Small portion sizes are important because any leftover food, regardless if it is homemade or commercially prepared, should be thrown away due to exposure to bacteria.

Some combinations to try after introducing individual foods:

  • No-salt-added canned black beans (drained and rinsed) and avocado
  • Kiwifruit and banana
  • Baby cereal and berries
  • Sweet potato and applesauce

Emily Schwartz is a nationally accredited, registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN) serving the Eau Claire and La Crosse communities as Festival Foods’ Western Wisconsin Regional Dietitian.

Ta-Da! Dinner is DONE! Meals from Together Farms

by Stephanie Schneider, Together Farms

Imagine it. You walk in the house to the tantalizing aroma of a meal that is nourishing and ready to eat. Instead of hearing “What’s for supper?” or “Can I have a snack?” you hear “Mmmmm…what is that yummy smell?!” and “I’ll set the table!” as everyone shifts into supper mode instead of starving-while-waiting-for-supper mode. Having a dinner that is cooked and ready to be dished up as soon as you get home completely shifts the entire dynamic of how evenings usually play out, taking it from one of stress, chaos, and frustration to one of calm, contentment, and happiness!

Time and organization are also required to feed the family well. After years of frustration and trying different methods, I finally came across the system that worked for me: freezer to slow cooker meals!

The beautiful thing about freezer to slow cooker meals is that you are not cooking them before you freeze them, so they don’t taste like leftovers. You are just labeling a bag, prepping, and freezing. Then, when you need a break from figuring out what everyone should eat, you just pull it out and put it to work.

Here are some of the benefits:

There are no limits. The options are extremely versatile in flavors and meat types and cuts. They can be complete all-in-one meals or just meat and sauce.

Your brain gets a break. I struggle most with making the decision of what to eat. As you know, the classic response of “I don’t know” and “I don’t care” are less than helpful.

No struggle with allergens. All the meals we offer are free from most allergens, including gluten and dairy with soy-free an option too!

Lose weight. I’m not making any promises here, but I lost a lot of weight when I started really relying on these meals. If nothing else, you’ll feel so much better eating home-cooked, no-weird-stuff meals than fast-food crap full of unpronounceable ingredients using meat filled with hormones and antibiotics.

Get out of a cooking rut. Do you keep recycling the same recipes over and over again and need to try something different? Together Farms’ meals are changed frequently, and we currently have eleven different options available in the store.

Enjoy guilt-free ingredients. We use our own high-quality meats, certified organic vegetables, spices, and sauces.

Labels that help. Each meal you receive will have a waterproof label on it explaining how to cook it, showing all the ingredients, and suggesting ways to serve it as well as side dish ideas.

Customized for you. Hate green peppers? Ingredients can be left out at your request.

They make the perfect gift. Struggling to find something a new mom can actually use? Or, maybe you want to prepare before the baby comes? You can stock up now on finished meals to take the stress and worry out of cooking once the new baby arrives.

Pro tip: Moms usually get bombarded with way too much food, help, and attention in the first week or two after baby arrives. The freezer meals are happy to wait in the freezer until she runs out of (or throws out) all the chicken soup.

Host a Party
Get our ebooks and either have a big meal prep day or make it part of your baby shower. Or, leave all the work to us and call/text or email Stephanie today to set up your own private party.

Meals Currently in Stock
Beef Tips with Mushroom Gravy, Chicken Curry, Chicken Fajitas, Jalapeno-Lime Shredded Pork, Korean Beef Lettuce Wraps, Lemon Chicken, Pork Carnitas, Pork Ramen, Sausage & Peppers, Southwestern Pork Chili, Steak Fajitas, Teriyaki Pork Chops.

Order for you (or someone you love) TODAY!
Visit togetherfarms.grazecart.com/store/freezer-meals.

Cut Your Carbon Footprint with Festival Foods

A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (https://food-hub.org/files/resources/Food%20Miles.pdf) on the environmental effects of agricultural products shipped into the state of California found:

  • “In 2005, the import of fruits, nuts, and vegetables into California by airplane released more than 70,000 tons of CO2, which is equivalent to more than 12,000 cars on the road.”
  • “Today, the typical American prepared meal contains, on average, ingredients from at least five countries outside the United States.”
  • Neighborhoods near airports and other transport centers tend to be inhabited by low-income people of color, making this an environmental justice issue.
  • “Almost 250,000 tons of global warming gases released were attributable to imports of food products—the equivalent amount of pollution produced by more than 40,000 vehicles on the road or nearly two power plants.”
  • “More than 6,000 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides were released into the air—the equivalent of almost 1.5 million vehicles or 263 power plants!”
  • “300 tons of sooty particulate matter were released into the air—the equivalent of more than 1.2 million cars or 53 power plants.”
    “Approximately 950 cases of asthma, 16,870 missed schools days, 43 hospital admissions, and 37 premature deaths could be attributed to the worsened air quality from food imports.”

 

What can you do? Buy local from Festival Foods!

  • Taste the difference–buying local usually means that produce has been picked very recently (usually within the last twenty-four hours)
  • At Festival, we’ve developed unique relationships with our suppliers allowing us to bring fresh produce items from Wisconsin growers straight to you as part of our Days Fresher program.
  • Eating locally allows you to eat seasonally, which often means enjoying produce at peak ripeness.
  • Wondering what’s at peak ripeness? Check the “Peak This Week” feature at FestFoods.com where you’ll find out what’s in season and at peak, what’s coming up, what’s out of season, and what to watch.
  • Although transportation times are increasingly getting shorter, local produce often takes less time to get from field to fork.
  • After harvest, some nutrients in fruits and vegetables may degrade over time. Antioxidants, like vitamins A, C, and E, and B-vitamins, like vitamin B6 and thiamin, are particularly susceptible.
  • Loss of nutrients is inevitable but can be managed or reduced with proper storage.
  • Ideal storage conditions (temperature, humidity, lighting, etc.) can vary quite a bit based on the fruit or vegetable.
  • Our knowledgeable produce experts at Festival can help provide information on proper storage.

 

Emily Schwartz, MS, RDN, CD – Western Wisconsin Regional Dietitian at Skogen’s Festival Foods.