Dribs and Drabs

I JUST RETURNED from a couple days of meetings in Minneapolis.  Visiting cities is fun to see trends and get new ideas and see what’s goin’ on in the metropolitan world, but I’m not a city girl at heart.

The biggest city I’ve ever lived in was Madison, WI (which, of course, is not big at all), and I wasted little time in finding work on a farm outside town to supplement my diet and income and to fulfill my deep need to work with the soil.

I know urban farms are growing in numbers and popularity, and working on one might make a decent stopgap measure for a person like me, but constant noise and light are anathema to my mental health.

I’ll admit that, despite my intention to check out a few Twin Cities foodie hotspots I follow on Twitter, the traffic, slick streets, and crazy snowbound parking issues made me decide to head out when my last meeting got over early.  It’s just not fun to traipse around in below-zero temps.

Then there was that near-miss of an accident on Thursday morning, when a sedan cruising out of a side street would have broadsided me had I not pulled my truck so far up the mountain of plowed snow that my pickup was precariously close to flopping over on its (my) side.  Luckily, one of the rear wheels was still on pavement, and I extracted myself quickly–I guess there are occasional advantages to RWD.

Another advantage can be found by traveling across the state at night in 10-15 below temperatures–at least the deer have enough sense to stay out of the roads and snugly bedded down–no comment on the sense of the driver other than, Hey, I made it.

ONE OF THE TAKE-AWAYS from our couple of days of meetings is how those of us working on community-based food systems hold up businesses and cooperatives as models of success–it’s important to look deeper and see what makes them a success and how they have attained it.

Not all of the widely-celebrated models are really as viable and promising as they seem–they may still be operating with borrowed capital or grant funding or have serious structural/operational flaws.  That is not to say they don’t have some good strategies or replicable ideas–only that we should be careful about handing out “blueprints to success” before we look deeper.

We also talked about how cows on well-managed, fiber-rich summer pasture fart less.  I dare you to think I’m kidding.  Methane emissions from livestock are an important consideration in sustainable farming systems, after all.

And of course, there was a lot of other good discussion, sharing of project updates, learning, and brainstorming of ideas.  I work with a talented, thoughtful, and genuinely nice group of people.  And that is a very cool thing.

WHEN I GOT HOME last night, it was fifteen below zero and now, at a little after noon the next day, it’s still eight below.  I see the forecast is for us to reach a balmy 3 degrees, but I bet we don’t crack zero.  I guess that’s better than International Falls’ reported low of minus forty-six this morning.

Had a little leftover pork Italian sausage I’d picked up at the Vermillion (SD) farmers market last weekend, and browned it with some onion, garlic, and peppers (hot and sweet) from my gardens, then simmered it together with home-canned tomato sauce and ratatouille (eggplant-vegetable stew).

That sauce over whole wheat spaghetti was my lunch and will probably also be my supper as I answer e-mails and prep for a Farm Beginnings marketing workshop tomorrow and generally try to stay as warm as possible without resorting to deep hibernation under five feet of blankets.

A pot of fruity tea laced with hot chilies can’t hurt, either.

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