RTF: Not Just the Coffee

This most recent visit was to the outstanding cooperative, Just Coffee Cooperative. The team behind Just Coffee has grown over the past ten years to create an economic business structure that supports the Madison community and the farmers who grow the coffee beans behind their full-bodied brew. Their company focuses on supplying coffee to the local food establishments in Madison, they’re also involved in a variety of events and they have a presence at local markets and Farmers’ Markets.

Just Coffee is not  only focusing on just coffee, they are establishing themselves within a movement that is shaping society through their efforts to bring fair trade and equal working opportunities to the farmers who provide many American’s with their early morning cup of joe. Meeting with Julia, a strong member of Just Coffee who spends much of her time abroad getting to know the farmers and helping them set up strong practices, I was able to see a small glimpse of all that Just Coffee is doing.

The economic model they are working hard to create involves a team of about seven people who are at the forefront of the collective, beyond that they have dedicated workers who make up the entire team of about 13 members. All of the invested people are using coffee as a vehicle for social change and they hope to truly make a difference.

             

Just Coffee receives parcels of coffee from South America, Africa and Asia. They work with small farmers who need support of equal working rights, who need to make enough money to survive. These farmers are hoping to become self sustainable  by developing  a market  in America. The Just Coffee team encourages the farmers to grow organic beans and to use farming practices that benefit the environmental, ultimately allowing them to offer a higher quality bean that can produce the outstanding Just Coffee sip.

    

Once the coffee beans arrive they are inspected, roasted, ground and bagged in their processing plant in Madison, Wisconsin. The coffee is immediately bagged or separated into bulk buckets and biked throughout the city. They deliver  to local food establishments and many Madison Farmers’ Markets, and to local grocery stores. These markets can request specialty blends  or create their own mixtures of the beans. A wealth of information is printed on the bag regarding the blend and the farmers behind each bean and bag.

The appearance of the bag is a true piece of artwork as Just Coffee chooses to work with many local artists when creating each bags logo and design. Many are focused on human rights and offer a visually appealing bag of coffee. The different blends have also been used to raise money for local fundraisers, raising awareness of the need for positive social change here, and around the world.

This is a small glimpse of the route their coffee takes when it travels from the farmer to your mug, and the positive impact Just Coffee Cooperative employees have been able to make during their ten years of business. Julia just took off with a one way ticket to La FEM in Nicaragua where she hopes to make a positive contribution working with a female cooperative of coffee growers. Keep a look out for many more posts about the social change and the big difference Just Coffee is making in the lives of independent farmers around the world.

All hail a GOOD cup of joe.

Amy Verhey

2012 Summer Food Warrior

RTF: A walk in someone else’s hooves.

When walking through the pastures, barns and enclosures Temple Grandin strives to sense what the animals experience. Her autistic nature allowed her to understand the feelings of America’s farm animals. Her years of experience and research have helped farmers all over the country reconstruct their enclosures, pasture landscapes and even the route to which an animal takes as they exit the farm and head for the processing plant. Temple’s work has inspired many farmers to change their thought process from viewing the animal as a commodity but rather how to better treat the animals with respect. The approach Temple shares through lectures and literature, guides farmers to treat animals in a way that keeps them happy, safe and ultimately healthy. These animals are producing a higher quality meat that is raised more humanely with flavor that is greatly appreciated.

Today’s farming is shifting away from the ‘commodity farmer’ and moving towards a more sustainable and wholesome approach to farming. A commodity farmer is helping to feed America and produce high quantities of food. However, many farmers are starting to approach this differently and follow some of Temple Grandin’s suggestions. This allows farmers to consider the animals’ point of view in their day to day work.

      

Golden Bear Farm is located just outside Sheboygan, Wisconsin where their open pastures extend to roughly 200 acres. The slightly rolling meadows are home to about 50 cows, 100 Berkshire pigs and a handful of horses. The animals graze and incorporate each other as they rotate through various parts of these 200 acres. While one area of their land is being repaired and restored to grow grains for another season the animals are helping to graze the neighboring section. The animals manure along with hay and local fish help to create a fresh and wholesome fertilizer rejuvenating the land once again. Within five years Steve and Marie, founders of Golden Bear Farm, have cultivated their land to offer a home for the animals we currently view as food.

   

Steve and Marie first started looking into Temple Grandin’s work when they purchased some horses; hoping to truly understand the beautiful creatures and train them to some day assist with the farm work. The philosophies and psychology behind working with horses and their ability to sense human’s energy soon because how Steve and Marie approached their cows and pigs. The more they thought about this approach the better sense it started to make while today it is deeply ingrained in their approach to farming.

Golden Bear Farm follows the stages of farming all the way to the end – the butcher. They spent many years researching butchers to make sure they were able to offer a wholesome product through and through. Golden Bear Farm works very diligently to make sure the animals are raised 100% grass-fed, organic and with absolutely no antibiotics or hormones. Beck’s Meat Processing in central Wisconsin follows through the organic process by avoiding the use of nitrates and any other impure substances while processing Golden Bear meats.

The Golden Bear Farm’s success lies in an idea that Steve and Marie stumbled upon years ago, grass is not simply grass. They came to the realization that the animals raised should be treated like “you and me”. These two farmers said, “we choose to look at it from the whole picture, soil on up.” Their own philosophies regarding food and the land its grown on, Temple’s inspiring work and the animals themselves have all helped Golden Bear Farm produce a pure and divine product that is appreciated by all who enjoy it.

All hail the spirit of animals.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior

RTF: The Golden Bear hogs

As a part of the food warrior internship a video is to be produced in order to help our journalistic skills evolve. While visiting Golden Bear Farms I spent some time with the happily grunting piglets and their trusting farming. Here is a look at the life of a pig.

RTF: Bakers’ Window

Baker’s Window is more than simply the name of Madison’s hit new bakery, instead it is a way for Midwesterners to peer into the world of Parisian artisanal baked goods. Karin and Brian have taken bread in America to a whole new level, the level at which Europeans consume. The best part about all of this is that they are a block from the Madison Capitol building and about four blocks from the University of Wisconsin campus, a bit of serendipity.

The large arched window with a stone brick border is a perfect frame for the passerby to peer in and see what is on the shelves that day. Tuesdays through Saturdays their sourdough breads and baguettes are hot and fresh along with an assortment of baked goods ranging from savory ham and cheese croissants with local meats and cheese to sweet yet tart lemon lavender danishes and so much more.

Beyond the rustic breads and croissants pulled out of the ovens all day, Karin and Brian spend time crafting pain au chocolat, pain aux raisin, foraged vegetables with thyme quiches, pies and more. Their baking skills have allowed them to craft a high quality product from the most pure and wholesome ingredients that are seasonal and full of flavor. The bakery sources their dairy and cheeses from Castle Rock along with Hook’s cheddar cheese, Sartori parmesans and Uphoff Farm’s Berkshire ham. Their sugar is a raw local sugar along with all the different flours they bake with.

   

Baker’s Window strives to uphold something that is becoming very popular in Madison and throughout the rest of the United States – homemade food from wholesome, organic and local ingredients. Karin and Brian stock the kitchen with local flour and homemade yeast starters that offer the most pristine product. They make everything in the back of the bakery, most by hand and in small batches. They pour their love into the baked goods which allows the rest of us to fall right back in love with each bite we take.

   

It would be an understatement to give them a ten out of ten, so if you are in the area or even in the lovely Wisco state make sure to stop by and if you want a wide variety of piping hot baked goods, come before 10 a.m.

All hail croissants, baguettes and baking experiences.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior

Bon appetit: thumbprints

It’s a lazy day Monday and in order to avoid the papers piling up, I closed the books and sifted through my long list of recipes waiting to be given a test run. I came across these thumbprints that had high hopes of satisfying my sweet tooth and were easy enough to whip up.

The ingredients list is short and simple but produces a rock-star cookie.

2 cups whole almonds
4 cups quick-cooking oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour, divided
1 cup canola oil
1 cup maple syrup
Assorted jams of your choice (see note)

One little fun fact about these cookies is that yes indeed they are VEGAN! I have secretly been on a search for a good vegan cookie. While my batch was a bit dry and crumbly I blame it on the fact that my pantry didn’t hold all the necessary amounts of the ingredients. I decided to mix and match somethings but following the recipe will lead to an ideal cookie munching situation.

You can follow the step by step instructions by following this link to the lovely Kitchn blog but I’ll give you my personal advice on what to fill these puppies with.

I choose an assortment that stuck out to me! First up is a homemade raspberry jelly made in our Slow Food UW kitchen, along side an organic peanut butter. Next up was a raw and organic honey that is too-die-for! And finally, without a doubt I made one with dark chocolate chips.

 

As always I don’t listen with my mom and play with my food via the route of snapping pictures. Feast your eyes on these not so exciting food porn pics.

   

Bon appetit.

All Hail Darn Good Bread.

As a foodie my one weakness tends to be good bread. In my family we are aware we tend to be snobs when it comes to bread, orange juice and chocolate. There are some other things we are picky about but that is only because we plain and simply love good food.

Upon deciding to spend the summer hanging out in SF I looked into some options of working with food. After getting an email from my favorite foodie website, Tasting Table, I read about Josey Baker, a cool guy that was doing what he loves, baking GREAT bread! I contacted him in hopes of helping him out but my summer in SF ended up being a few weeks, so we will save that adventure for when I live on the California Coast. This, however, didn’t stop me from sampling his raved about bread.

From what I understand, his whole approach to baking bread started as word of mouth from his friends and others who fell in love with his talent of crafting amazing breads. He now has a blog, http://joseybakerbread.blogspot.com/, that supports his CSB, Community Supported Bread! He sells the bread fresh and hot in various locations around the city and when it is gone, it’s gone. Wednesdays and Thursdays the bread arrives at Bi-Rite Market at 5pm and usually lasts until 7pm, if you’re lucky! Bi-Rite is a quick ride from Cow Hollow, so last Thursday my sister and I decided to venture out for good, hot bread, and that is exactly what we returned with.

Bi-Rite is a narrow grocery store filled with exquisite foods including a deli, bakery, organic and local produce, as well as all jams, jellies and spreads you could imagine. Their chocolate section was also mouth-watering as you are waiting in a line as long as the store itself. Upon arrival at approximately 5:15pm there were three different kinds of Josey’s bread piping hot and ready to be purchased. We choose the recommended walnut bread which was a great decision. As a kid I never liked sourdough breads and always opted for the stained white “french” bread that is not always the healthiest choice. This sourdough however, was addicting and had us both at its mercy the whole way home where we arrived with only half a loaf, oopsy!

The next morning we toasted the bread and smothered it in our favorite spreads like Peach Butter or Fig Preserve with Ginger from the California staple, Arcangeli Grocery Co. in Pescadero. Unfortunately and embarrassingly this loaf only lasted us two days after adding it to all of our meals. Wednesday is only two days away and I know where I will be when 5pm rolls around!

Bon appetit to darn good bread!

Bon Appetit with UW Slow Food

Once again it was time to feast on the fine food of UW Slow Food’s café lunch on Wednesdays! I had the pleasure of volunteering with them to help out with some last-minute preparations before the doors opened. The lucky little duck that I am was grating Gruyère and parmesan cheeses for about an hour which left me stuck with a cheesy aroma for the rest of the day, turns out me not so lucky but instead stinky! Regardless, I met up with some friends and waited in a very long line catching up on our week while starting to smell the kitchen’s fragrance floating through the air.

While waiting in the line one of the volunteers surprised us with samples of Amuse Bouche, a crostini with goat cheese, herbs, roasted beets and olive oil. My oh my so divine and really left us wanting more!

We were able to choose from a menu with Venison tacos including sautéed onions and peppers, served with sour cream and gallo pico on local tortillas. The other main dish option was an open face Croque Monsieur with sweet potato, kale, béchamel sauce and my grated cheeses! This is what we all had our eyes on but I also decided to sample the lemon tart for desert and of course selected the salad made of water crest, wheat berries, sunchokes and a sunflower seed oil dressing. The rest of the menu was made up of a Tuscan and bean vegetable soup, potato salad or a granola bar hunk with peanut butter, walnuts and chocolate chips, mmm mmm.

Finally, if you are reading this and dying to get more involved and sample some of this extravagant cuisine but worried that it is too late since the semester is over… no worries!! Next friday is their end of semester kick off which will be a picnic in the park with Chef Tory Miller, the head chef of L’Etoile and owner of Graze. The tickets are 7$ in advance and 10$ on the day of the event. This will be held in a park, TBD, next Friday (5/6) starting at 5:30pm. There is also an event before the dinner where UW Slow Food will be promoting their very first cookbook. This will begin at 4:00pm and free copies will go to the first people to arrive. This is an awesome event to enjoy the end of a great semester with good food and fun people.

We made sure to buy our tickets at the this weeks café lunch so hurry up and come one, come all!

For more information check out their website or blog!

Join the movement and Bon Appetit!