Follow Your Food: Juice Counter

Simply put, one of the cardinal reasons we eat fruits and vegetables is because they are healthy. They are healthy because vegetables convert solar energy into varied sources of sugar, starch, vitamins (or pigments) and are often high in mineral nutrients from the soil. Consuming a highly diverse diet, balanced with fiber, protein, mineral nutrients fat, is a prophylactic approach to personal health. Sometimes this sort of lifestyle reflects in a pricier grocery bill. Rather than viewing this simply as just expensive dining, look at it instead, as shifting the cost burden away from general medical care and towards the establishment of healthy living. A microeconomist might tell you that this is a reallocation of resources, from market consumption, to household production. Eventually, this habit could lead to fewer visits to the doctor’s office, and increased daily vitality for the activities you enjoy. Medical care is not a biannual affair. It is something that we can monitor and adjust every day.

Eating diversely though a variety of ingredients is important in a diet, and does way more that eating a high quantity of one healthy selection. While that is ideal,  it can be difficult to find a way to include the vast range of requisite vitamins and minerals into a daily routine. What juicing does is take a wider variety of produce, puts them into one glass, and fills in the gaps of nutrition where your diet falls short, an efficient boost if you will. It is this line of thinking that led to the founding of Juice Counter here in Bend. Phyllis Swindels and Manya Williams started juice counter about a year ago, here in Bend. Their philosophy from the start was to do it all raw, as in as pure as possible. This means that all of their juices contain only raw fruits and vegetables, no ambiguous flavorings or colors. Raw also defines how they source and process their produce. Most of their fresh product, ranging from ginger to kale, comes from regional farms within 50 miles; whatever they buy outside of that, is certainly organic. They do all of their bottling by hand and choose to use glass so that they can reuse containers and eliminate plastic waste. The other day we had the pleasure of receiving a tour of Juice Counter’s production process in their new facility in the Maker’s District. Phyllis was able to take some time to show us around. The atmosphere was fun, everything fresh. A warm light glowed through the windows and music pulsed off of the walls, and we watched as they chopped and measured their produce to the nearest ounce to make their Hot Shot. Everyone working their was happy and felt fulfilled with their work, as I’m sure the farmers were who supplied them, and their customers after a first taste of juice.

This is a new generation of personal awareness, as it relates to our actions affecting neighbors and generations down the lines. It is important that we have community partners like Juice Counter who have the social consciousness to create a business that improves the value of living in every step of their process; to improve our personal health, the economic health of local farmers, and environmental health by lowering their ecological footprint.


Turmeric Cooking Tips

This week our produce boxes provided a small bag of something different. Turmeric is one of those ingredients that usually just goes into a meal because a recipe says so, without much thought about it as a food on its own. Although included in seemingly innocuous portions, turmeric adds tremendous flavor and color into a wide variety of dishes. Since the plant is endemic to southeast Asia, many recipes that include turmeric are ethnic in origin. I would say take this rare opportunity for fresh turmeric and get creative and cook something new, maybe even try to make your own curry powder from scratch. However, before you jump into your weekend meals here are a few tips and recipe suggestions:

In an earlier post I mentioned how Turmeric, along with other Zingiberales, is high in curcuminoids. This group of plant compounds are responsible for the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric and ginger, and constitute  4-6% of fresh turmeric. To maximize the effect of these compounds, it is recommended that turmeric be cooked with ground black pepper and a source of monosaturated fat (olive oil works well). The measured proportion amounts to about 1/2 teaspoon black pepper to 1/4 cup ground turmeric, so not much is needed. This combination will increase the bioavailability of curcumin to the body, that way you can get more out of less and hold onto to that fresh turmeric longer!

The sharp mustardy flavor and rich orange color of turmeric make it a fantastic ingredient in homely winter soups. I decided to make one today after skiing; combining carrots, onions, sweet potatoes and some of last weeks ginger. I roasted the veggies and got the spices brewing in broth. When the veggies were done, simply dumped them in the pot, blended it up and served; 35 minutes all said and done. The end result was something fantastic, and really, I must say that the turmeric was the keystone here. The flavor was rich and sweet, with a spicy tang at the end. I’ve got leftovers for what looks to be a little cold snap and I’m pretty stoked!

Here’s a link to the recipe that I used, but there are an abundance of others out there with some slight variations the this one:

Roasted Carrot Turmeric Soup


Follow Your Food: Turmeric

To start off the story of Follow Your Food, we want to introduce a new producer to the region and supplier to Ag Connections, Tumalo Fish and Vegetable Farm. Just north of Bend and outside of Tumalo, proprietor Bob Camel has established a progressive operation and supplies us with fresh ginger and turmeric, inventory that was previously unavailable in the area. Both of these crops are rhizome roots of plants within the ginger family, Zingiberaceae, and endemic to a more humid Asian climate. As such it has required Bob a tremendous amount of personal research to design and construct the infrastructure necessary to locally cultivate these exotic crops in our high desert ecosystem. The end results are the complex, climate controlled greenhouses on site, where everything from temperature, humidity, soil biology and even atmospheric CO2 levels are controlled with nuanced care. What is more, Bob built it all by hand, and expresses a self-educated encyclopedic knowledge on his biosphere. The greenhouse precision exemplifies his effusive passion for the importance of turmeric and ginger in an everyday diet, which he subscribes to personally.

There is reason behind Bob’s nutritional endorsement for Turmeric. Most people have long acknowledged the value of ginger, the officionale associated with strong anti inflammatory properties. Turmeric is a cousin of ginger, boasts some similar medical benefit and substantial nutritional value. It has long been used in eastern cultures as medicinal spice to add into curries and soups. The medicinal compound present is curcumin,  which gives the deep golden, red rhizome its strong flavor that can be best described as sharp; both slightly bitter and a touch spicy. Curcumin is a secondary compound known to be a strong anti inflammatory, useful for providing relief to gastronomic distress, Crohn’s Disease, and stomach ulcers. Research has also indicated that curcumin also has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties which would aid in building a resilient immune system. While turmeric is no dietary cure-all, which is a myth in the first place, it plays a strong part in building a wholesome and healthy diet. And the best part is, this turmeric is coming in on a truck from 15 miles away, not a plane from afar.

Below are some pictures from our visit to Tumalo Fish and Vegetable, and check in later for some recipes and cooking tips for turmeric!


Follow Your Food: Story Hill Farm

Earlier, over the weekend, we put up a quick Instagram post after a farm visit out to Story Hill Farm. The operation is set up just east of town, off of highway 20 and is a beautiful set up from both a sustainable and aesthetic perspective. The farmer, Jack, just recently discovered his passion for farming, last year was just his first in operation, but his love for food and land has grown rapidly. Since it was new to the industry last year, Story Hill tested its growing methods to see what sort of yields were possible before entering into local markets. Needless to say, it was a wild success, and his greenhouses were overflowing with a verdant bounty of greens and fruits all through the latter end of the warm winter. Since he had not expected such expedient success, Jack had nowhere to sell his crop. To fix that, guess what, he just began giving produce away! Well now Jack knows what his land is capable of, and has approached us and offered to sell through Ag Connections.

At first we are going to just be selling his eggs. As a cornerstone protein in most diets, sustainably raised eggs are of critical importance. Story Hill’s chicken’s certainly provide just that product. All of his hens live in large houses, with open access to ample forage. What they cannot find from the earth, Jack supplements with Scratch and Peck feed. This feed is soy free, GMO free and grain based, with all of the grains coming from Pacific Northwest farms. But eggs are not the only story here. Story Hill has hundreds of seedling starters underway in a shaded greenhouse. Soon they will be transferred over to his raised beds. In slight variation to traditional bedding, Jack uses straw bails to elevate the soil, serve as a secondary growing medium and provide a carbon source. The straw is topped with compost from his farm, which serves as the organic soil horizon and the primary bed surface. In pursuit of water conservation, all of his greenhouses and raised beds are irrigated with drip lines. It is awesome to see what can happen in a short time with hard work and passion! Take a look at the video below for a visual tour through the operation:


Follow Your Food

Every product that we offer to you, our customer, has a story. It is a story that is complex in relation to the unpredictability of nature, but involves a simple chain of partners to get food from the field to your home. In a world that has become increasingly digitized and efficient, we have lost the nuance of human connection in how we eat. Conventionally, food has been cast to the side as a means to fuel more important work. In the process transparency from producer to consumer has become opaque, if not forgotten altogether. The modern way of translating information about producers far and wide is through a rigorous push for third party and federal labeling. This is by no means a step in the wrong direction, but I would rather hear it from the source, see it with my own eyes. What we strive to do at Agricultural Connections is to help rebuild the “old way”, where people know who grows their food, where they are located, and how it is produced. A critical part of our job in this cycle is to open the doors on the whole process and introduce transparency once again. As a part of that professional charge, we introduce a new ongoing story, “Follow Your Food”. Here we will try and present the history of one product every week, and follow its journey from the land to the plate, including the care and work of the individual producer who made it possible.  There is a great book titled “One Straw Revolution”, in which author Masanobu Fukuoka focuses on the philosophy of farming and humanity’s connection to nature. One of his more quoted lines from the book is “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” While perfection is a strenuous goal, it is nice to know that we are all engaged in bettering ourselves, the community and the land through how we choose to to eat. For that I thank you.

Stay tuned for information about the origins of the local food you choose to purchase through Ag Connections.