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4 Surprising Reasons To Buy Local

More than ever, consumers are choosing to buy locally sourced food and products. ALFN’s mission is to connect Arkansas to these farms and businesses so that everyone can enjoy locally grown goods! You might have heard that locally grown food is good for you and supports the local economy, but here are 4 more reasons to buy local food that might surprise you:

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  1. Local farms preserve open space. Having nearby farms preserves open space and keeps developers from sprawling outside of urban areas. In New York City the CENYC stated that nearly a million acres of local farmland had been covered in cement and asphalt over the past 50 years alone. Thanks to strong support for local food, Little Rock residents can enjoy green spaces like the Dunbar Community Garden, Little Rock Urban Farm, and Heifer Urban Farm.
  2. Local foods attract tourists. A variety of farmer’s markets, local restaurants with access to fresh food, and the chance to visit local farms promotes tourism in a region.
  3. Local food is good for the soil. Local farmers generally use more environmentally-friendly farming practices than industrial farmers, which means healthier food and healthier soil. Sustainable agriculture reduces erosion, which is responsible for the loss of 30% of the world’s arable land. It also keeps our soil and water free from harmful pesticides, fertilizers, and chemicals.
  4. It is a safer food supply. Food traveling a long distance has a greater opportunity to be contaminated on the journey, and outbreaks become harder to trace due to the multiple points of contact in the food supply chain. The high volume demanded from industrial farms and confined animal feeding operations can mean weaker food safety standards. When buying local food take the opportunity to research the vendor you’re buying from, what their farming practices are, and (in the case of meat) what processing plant they use.

Storing July’s Fruits and Veggies

The heat is rolling in and so are the summer fruits and vegetables. Below is a list of produce that are now available on the market, and how to best store them to outlast the summer heat.

First up and my personal favorite, PEACHES!

Freestone and clingstone, yellow, white and red: peaches are queen of Arkansas in the summertime. Offered by Barnhill Orchards and Green Acres Atkins, consider packing these ripe jewels in jars, cakes, cobblers and parfaits for a wonderful summertime treat. And for those fruits that make it past their prime, consider processing them into a savor BBQ sauce courtesy of Ball Canning Company.

Next up, King Corn reigns supreme in the vegetable kingdom.

Order them from Barnhill Orchards or Kornegay Berry Farm. Grill, steam, or boil them then drizzle with butter, salt and pepper and let the summertime stick to your teeth.

And of course, who could forget the versatile tomato!

The season has just begun with green, red, vine ripened, cherry, Roma and Slicer varieties; all available on the market.

To round out the dinner plate consider the fiber filled magic of purple hull peas available from Arkansas Farm to Table and Kornegay Berry Farm. Add a bit of Grass Roots bacon, a corn muffin from Lily Chanel Sweets and some ANP Mustard greens for a true southern summer meal.

Enjoy the summer bounty and visit the ALFN Online Market to plan your next seasonal meal.

-Written by preservation extraordinaire and ALFN Board Member, Angela Gardner

Images courtesy of Frugal Living NW

10 Ways to Eat Local Foods

We get asked these two questions a lot:

1) How do I eat local foods?
2) Where do I find them?

For those of us who live in central Arkansas, the answer to those two questions has become much easier over the last several years. We are blessed to have dozens of family farms within 100 miles of the Little Rock metro area who bring their produce, meats, eggs, honey, and other goodies into the city for sale. You can buy almost everything you need to eat from local Arkansas farms!

The article below is from a blog we like called The Spruce. It lists 10 great ways to start eating locally and the tips they share are exactly what we tell friends who ask us the same question.

At ALFN, we are proud to say that we have the best selection of locally grown and produced goods of any market in our area. It’s all conveniently available on our online market. For more information about how our market works, visit this link or call us at (501) 396-9952.

Written by Board Director Tifany Hamlin

Seasonal Produce: July In Arkansas

EatThisNowJULY.jpgWe’re counting down the top produce to expect this month at the market, and it’s looking pretty tasty. If you don’t see any produce listed yet, be sure to check back soon! Here’s what’s in season during a hot, Arkansas July:

Watermelon

Apples

Cantaloupe

Grapes

Butter Beans

Eggplant

Sweet Corn

Tomatoes

Don’t forget that blackberries and blueberries will be out of season soon. Now is your chance to eat them while they’re still fresh!

Best Selection of Local Food In Arkansas

Did you know that the online market through the Arkansas Local Food Network has the best selection of any of the farmer’s markets in Arkansas?  I say that confidently because for the market this weekend, there were more than 1,000 different items – 1,039 to be precise.  There are 58 different vendors approved to sell at the market and their products are as diverse as you can imagine.
 
If you want fresh zucchini, we’ve got it.  But if you want zucchini pickles or zucchini bread, we’ve got that too.

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There’s sourdough and sandwich bread too.  And rolls, ciabatta, and gluten free hamburger buns.
We’ve got bacon, bratwurst, and baby back ribs.  We’ve even got lamb, buffalo, and elk.  Of course, there is everything from filet mignon to chicken wings.  We’ve have dried black peppercorns, cumin, oregano, and chili powder (a many more) to season everything up right.
 
Want ultra-fresh eggs?  We’ve got them in 6 packs, by the dozen, or 18 at a time, if that’s what you need.  Oh, and did you want chicken or duck eggs, I forgot to ask.
 
baby_romaineThere are fresh blueberries, blackberries, and peaches right now. And if you don’t have the freezer space to stock up, we have frozen ones along with jams and jellies year-round for you.
 
If you are not feeling well, stock up on some herbal tea blends, or make your own with fresh herbs in whatever mix you need.  Have sensitive skin? The homemade soaps, creams, and cleansers might be the perfect fix.  There’s even bug spray for those sultry summer picnics.
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Have a sweet tooth?  There are cakes (cheese, pound, pineapple upside-down, to name a few), cookies (like ginger molasses, lemon tea, pralines), pies (banana cream, blueberry, or buttermilk).  Did I mention the ice cream? Strawberry buttermilk is my favorite.
 
Not hungry?  Maybe you need a hand knit dish cloth, crocheted washcloth, or even hand-pieced quilt.  Or maybe you fall in love and want to spread the love by wearing an Arkansas Local Food Network t-shirt or apron, or sporting a canvas tote or even a bumper sticker.
 
I could go on and on (clearly), but I think it’s time for you check it out for yourself.
-Larissa Barry, ALFN Board Member

Tips for Soil Testing: A Gardening Necessity

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If you want a vegetable garden this fall, get your garden soil tested soon. Tests are free from University of Agriculture Division of Agriculture through your county extension agent. A test will tell you this about your garden’s soil:

  • Levels of 10 soil nutrients critical for health and vigor, as well as flowering and fruit.
  • Its pH, which affects growth and how well plants can absorb nutrients from the soil.
  • Recommendations for three major nutrients (nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium), if your soil needs them. (A standard recommendation for nitrogen is given rather than specific to your test results. It is too unstable to test for reliably, an agent told me. The other two are based on your test results.)
  • What to add to correct a pH if it is too acid or too base (neither is good). Plots that have never been gardened can be extremely acidic, far below range for vegetables to thrive.

The report recommendations for home gardeners will be per 1,000 square feet and will be phrased something like: “Apply 2 lbs. of urea or 3.5 lbs. 34-0- 0.” You may be stumped by such a statement. You don’t know if urea is something you’d want to use on your garden, even if you knew a source. You may want to use something else but don’t know what or how much you’d need.

The 34-0- 0 tells you the percentages by weight of nitrogen (N), phosphate (P), and potassium (K) in urea. Urea is 34 percent N.

If this is already sounding too complicated, DO get the test done and then DO this, ideally a month or so before you plant: Sprinkle as evenly as possible over your garden, and work in well all at once, the following:

  • Lime at amount recommended. Be sure to get agricultural lime, NOT gypsum or dolomite, unless the report says to.
  • A layer of well-decayed compost, two inches or more. Do not rely only on compost to supply needed nutrients. Its main value is added organic matter, which improves availability of other nutrients.
  • A good all-purpose organic fertilizer, one that covers the spectrum of essential nutrients. Apply at a higher or lower rate, depending on what you know about your soil needs.
  • Optional: Trace minerals. Two sources: Azomite volcanic rock dust or kelp meal.

You may want to be able to select specific fertilizers (e.g., blood meal or kelp) to remedy a specific deficiency. To calculate how much you’ll need, use your report recommendations. In the example above, the report said the amount of pure N needed was: .68 lbs. (34% of 2 lbs.)

If you know the rates of N in other products, you can do the math or a make rough estimate:

Blood meal (12% N) has about one-third the N that is in urea (34%) so you would need almost three times as much (6 lbs.). Or you can solve for x: .68 divided by .12 = 5.66 lbs.

Feather meal (16% N) has about half the N that is in urea so you would need nearly twice as much (4 lbs.). (.68 divided by.16 = 4.25 lbs.)

Alfalfa meal (3% N) has about one-tenth the N as in urea so you would need a little more than 10 times as much. (.68 divided by.03 = 22.7 lbs.)

If any of what I just said makes sense, you are now off to the races!

Locally I look to Farmers Association for OMRI-approved amendments such as soft rock phosphate, kelp, potassium sulfate, greensand, and the three meals list above. Nitron Industries in Fayetteville stocks a wide array of such products that make the day’s drive worthwhile. And then there is always Amazon.

-Written by ALFN Vendor Nancy Dockter of Great Day Natural Produce

Why I Support ALFN

Alex Handfinger is the Cooking Matters Director at the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, and a longtime supporter of the Arkansas Local Food Network. Not only does he serve as Secretary for the ALFN Board of Directors, he is also Secretary of the Board for the Arkansas Coalition for Peace and Justice, and a founding member of Little Rock Collective Liberation. He also enjoys playing music, soccer, and going to the dog park. We asked him to write a little bit about why he loves ALFN so much!

I’ve been involved with ALFN for about seven years now! When I first moved to Little Rock from Gainesville, Florida, I quickly sought out the best farmers’ markets in town. When I was at the Argenta Market on the last day of their season, I met someone tabling for ALFN (well, ASN at the time) who let me know that I could still shop from a lot of these same vendors year-round at their online market. The ease and convenience quickly hooked me, and then I started volunteering when they’d send out desperate last-minute pleas for volunteers. I eventually became a Saturday Food Club Coordinator, then Director of Operations, and now serve as Secretary of the Board!

I’ve spent all of this time with ALFN because I believe it’s part of a bigger picture of how to build a stronger and more resilient community. Every single day, we vote with our wallets on what kind of world we want to see, and I want to see a world with thriving small, diversified, and sustainable farms run by family-owned businesses. I want food at the peak of its’ nutritional quality and taste, with varieties and flavors that you simply can’t find at the grocery store. And I believe that if we want healthy, local food to be accessible to everyone, that those of us that can have to quite literally put our money where our mouths are. It also doesn’t hurt that we have the BEST and widest selection of any farmers’ markets in the state, plus I don’t have to be up early on Saturday to get the best produce ; )

It’s been amazing to watch ALFN grow and evolve over the years, and it’s hard to imagine Little Rock without it.