The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) just announced more than $17 million in grants for organizations that will develop training and provide other resources for beginning farmers and ranchers across the nation. The awards are made through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which is administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
“When new farmers and ranchers start their operations, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program can help them implement tested strategies and new ideas that in turn benefit all of us by reducing food insecurity, growing economic opportunities, and building communities,” said Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden. “Today, we are partnering with organizations who recognize that an investment in our beginning farmers and ranchers is also an investment in our future.”
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program was first established by the 2008 Farm Bill and was continued in the 2014 Farm Bill. The program provides support to those who have farmed or ranched for less than 10 years. NIFA awards grants to organizations throughout the United States that implement programs to train beginning farmers and ranchers, which may take place through workshops, educational teams, training, or technical assistance.
The 2014 Farm Bill mandated that at least five percent of BFRDP funding must support veterans and socially disadvantaged farmers. This year, more than 15 percent of the funded projects have a substantial component that supports veterans and farming, while about 50 percent of the projects focus mainly on socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
Since 2009, 184 awards have been made for more than $90 million through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. These awards are part of USDA’s deep commitment to empowering beginning farmers and ranchers across America.
Fiscal year 2015 grants include:
NIFA expects to make two additional awards this fiscal year by December 2015. Information on past awards can be found on the NIFA website.
By Lorrie Baumann
Crunchy like a cookie, but not a cookie. Gooey like a brownie, but not a brownie. Shaped like a cupcake, but not a cupcake either. It’s a Tennessee Teacake.
Tennessee Teacakes are a southern tradition that, legend has it, originated during the Civil War as a result of severe food shortages in the Old South. According to the legend, a young Southern belle, known for her multi-layered party cakes, wanted to bake one of those when her brother, a Confederate officer, brought home a friend of his to visit. The young woman wanted to make him a cake for his birthday, which happened during the visit, but because food was in short supply during the war, she could only make several small teacakes. They were such a hit with the young man that he returned after the war to marry her.
Jeff Stewart, Director of Marketing – and most everything else – for Mountain Jim’s Tennessee Teacakes, won’t swear to the veracity of the legend, but he says that’s how he heard it when he was growing up, and the tale is popular among Tennesseans who enjoy the treats.
Mountain Jim’s Tennessee Teacakes came to be after Mountain Jim’s, which had been buying its teacakes from another baker to mix into ice cream, had to find a new source. “We were using her teacakes with ice cream that we made, Mountain Jim’s Ice Cream’s Whistling Dixie, which was vanilla ice cream with inclusions of teacakes and praline pecans,” Stewart said. “It was crunchy; it was chewy; it was creamy. It was very popular.”
After the baker’s death in 2011, Stewart couldn’t find anyone else making the teacakes he needed for the popular ice cream flavor. “I had to go into a kitchen and learn how to make tea cakes – and it wasn’t easy. Baking is chemistry, and I failed chemistry in high school,” he said.
Stewart’s three sons, now 14 and a pair of 11-year-olds, were the product testers – and the disposers of the rejects – during the two years that it took him to perfect the recipe. “They would come home from school and ask if I’d made any failures,” he said.
By 2013, his recipe was ready to go. “Everybody says these are delicious. They love the flavor and the mouth feel,” he said. “We’ve been steadily growing since then.” The teacakes have proved so popular that these days, Mountain Jim’s makes ice cream only for special occasions so the company can concentrate on the teacake business.
Mountain Jim’s Tennessee Teacakes are sold in a tin of a dozen that retails for $20 for all vanilla flavor and $22 for assorted flavors and in a glossy white decorated gift box. The box with a dozen vanilla teacakes retails for $12 and the assortment is $14.
For further information, visit www.tnteacakes.com or send orders to email@example.com.
Packaged in a tin of a dozen is $20 for vanilla and $22 for assorted flavors.
By Lorrie Baumann
Simply Gum is a snack with a mission. “Our goal is really to inspire people to live simply. Because the product uses all natural ingredients, packaging is very minimalist. It’s our overall approach that simplicity is better than complexity,” said Adeena Cohen, Senior Marketing Manager for Simply Gum.
Simply Gum is an all-natural chewing gum that comes in six flavors and is made with just six all-natural and transparent ingredients. “Conventional gum is made with plastic and rubber and aspartame, along with other ingredients,” Cohen said.
The product was invented by Caron Proschan, an entrepreneur who’d been eating a healthy lunch and then reached for a stick of chewing gum in a neon-blue wrapper. “It seemed so discordant with the other healthy choices she’d been making that she decided to look into what was in it,” Cohen said.
Proschan was shocked to find out what was hiding behind the ingredient listed as “gum base” on her chewing gum’s label, according to Cohen. “Gum base is a Food and Drug Administration-approved term that can include up to 80 other ingredients, including plastics and BHT, which is used to make tires and glue,” she said. “’Gum base’ sounds like a pretty harmless term, but it can include these unappealing ingredients.”
After she’d found out what was in the gum she’d been chewing, Proschan began looking around at the market to see if she could find an alternative that would be a better match for the lifestyle she’d adopted. “There wasn’t anything offering an all-natural alternative, and she decided there was an opportunity there,” Cohen said.
Proschan’s entrepreneurial instincts had been aroused. “She has a lot of resilience, and she became very passionate about making a better chew,” Cohen said.
After some research to find the right recipe, Simply Gum was developed, with chicle, which comes from a natural tree sap, instead of “gum base.” Handcrafted in New York, it now comes in six flavors: mint, cinnamon, fennel licorice, maple, ginger and coffee. “Our flavors are more subtly sweet than in conventional gums because it’s all natural, and we prefer that approach,” Cohen said. “It’s more sophisticated flavor profile, but once you try this gum, regular gum seems more overpowering and chemical tasting, people tell us.”
“Another thing that makes our product unique is that because there’s no plastic in our gum, it’s biodegradable, and our packaging is paper too, so overall, it’s better for the environment,” she continued. “We don’t recommend swallowing it, but it is less harmful for you than conventional gum because it doesn’t include the plastics. We still don’t recommend it, but it’s not as detrimental.”
A 15-piece pack of Simply Gum, which is available in Whole Foods as well as at independent retailers, has a suggested retail price of $2.99.
For more information, visit www.simplygum.com.
By Lorrie Baumann
Cheese has taken Corinne Coniglio into a life that many downhill skiers would trade their souls for. She’s the full-time cheesemaker at the Deer Valley resort in Park City, Utah, and she makes her cheeses in a room a step away from the ski slope. “It’s really awesome. It’s right on the ski slopes, so it couldn’t be better. It’s so beautiful to see the mountain when I go to work,” she says. “It’s so beautiful and inspiring as I create the cheese.” But, as is true of many ultimate destinations, the road to Deer Valley Cheese was long and the journey was arduous.
Her dedicated cheese-making space was created for her after a pilot season two years ago in which she made her cheeses in the resort’s restaurant kitchen, working at night between 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., when the kitchen was unused and empty. “You need peace to make cheese; it takes time to allow the milk to curdle. You can’t have chefs running around with knives,” she says.
Once it became clear that house-made cheeses were an attraction valued by the resort’s clientele, Executive Chef Clark Norris convinced the management to invest in the construction of a new cheese room for Coniglio. “The customers really like the idea. One day we had a cheese tasting right there in Royal Street restaurant. We made a big cheese board to bring in, and customers coming in in their ski gear were asking if they could have that,” she says. “It’s a pretty high-end food place, so we have direct customers for the fine cheeses we’re making here on the resort. It’s nice for the people who are coming skiing.”
“It’s really unique to have access between ski times to a cheese board and charcuterie made from scratch. Everything is made right here on the ski slopes,” she adds. “There’s a nice sunny terrace with a lot of flowers in the summer and great food and everything made from scratch.”
She’s now making cheese all year round, supplying the resort’s restaurant kitchen as well as a local grocery chain that’s selling her cheeses in 16 stores around Utah. Coniglio makes European-style cheeses from local raw milk. “We go pick up the cow milk at Heber Valley Farm just 15 minutes away. The goat milk, from Sweet Deseret Farm, is directly delivered by Daniel the farmer, who always has nice stories to tell about his high-quality registered dairy goats. I pasteurize both milks myself at the lowest temperature allowed by the USDA,” she says. “I make a double cream brie that is really nice. There’s a triple cream brie with black truffles that Clark uses over a bison steak with foie gras on top at the Mariposa restaurant. I make a goat cheese with vegetable ash…. A marinated goat cheese with grapeseed oil, cipollini onion, lemon peel and a little sweet red pepper that looks like a little chocolate kiss. It looks really cute. Blue cheese with cow milk, which is not pasteurized and ages a minimum of 60 days. I have a French friend who told me that it reminded her of a Bleu des Causses.”
The road to Deer Valley had its beginning when Coniglio, who was born in Belgium, started making cheese 12 years ago. “I had my own little farm in Colorado, where I had goats and took cheese to the farmers market,” she says. “We had a little piece of land and there were a lot of wineries there, but nobody was making cheese. I was missing my cheese from Europe, where it’s possible to get cheese from Spain and everywhere. I bought some goat milk from a local farmer and took the cheese to little wineries, where they loved it. We bought a goat, then another goat, and soon there were 50 goats.”
Coniglio found places to learn more about cheese. She’s a native French-speaker, and she found an online forum which allowed her to connect with French farmers, and they invited her to come and tour their farm and cheese facility. A few years later, she contacted a French manufacturer while she was looking for cheesemaking equipment, and the company became interested in what she was doing in the United States. “After a few months, they actually hired me as a director of sales for the U.S.,” she says.
As part of her training for the new position, the company brought her to France and then to Germany to visit cheesemakers and learn about the equipment. “They sent me back to the U.S. with that knowledge,” she says.
She had the chance to visit cheesemakers all over the U.S. until the company decided to close down its U.S. sales. “That’s when I started my own company, Fromage Without Borders,” she says. “Colorado was a lot of fun with raising the goats and doing the local farmers market at the end. We were doing some pasteurized cheeses for the market because the law did not allow us to sell raw milk cheeses. We had the good stuff under the table, and good customers knew about it. It was kind of a black market.
That part of her life ended when the farm was sold, and Coniglio moved to Utah along with her goats, which had been sold to a Utah farmer interested in starting a cheese business. “Deer Valley was buying my cheese,” she says. When the farmer decided that raising goats wasn’t for him and sold the flock, Deer Valley offered her the chance to come to the resort. “This is a permanent situation. I told them they need to bring some cows with some bells to put on the ski slopes and have their own cows and goats,” she says. “Right now I’m working on a little project with some ewe milk. We want to do a bloomy rind with a little bit of a blue touch inside. The difference in the milk is so interesting.”
As she continues, she’d like to try her hand at a raclette cheese. “That’s the thought for the future. If we start that, we’re going to have to have a bigger cheese room and a bigger aging room to store all those big wheels,” she says. “But I would love to do that. I would love to make raclette. That would be the next step.”
By Richard Thompson
The holidays are quickly approaching, and specialty confectioners are looking beyond fruit infusions to cater to more exotic tastes in their chocolate lines. According to the National Confectioners Association, while shoppers are drawn to traditional favorites, they continue to look for new and different items.
Confectioners haven’t been shy to embrace this taste shift and the $79 million dollar market share it represents.“You have got to get exotic now,” says Jack Epstein, Owner of Chocolate Covered Sweets and Gifts. “This is a global craft chocolate thing now…. Some of the more exotic inclusions that I’ve sold have been the bacon bar, Parmesan bar, blue cheese, porcini mushroom bar and paprika bars.”
The salted caramel and chile infusions that ignited the popularity of flavored chocolates has inspired customers to looks for more unique specialty blends such as the Chocolate Covered Company’s Gourmet Chocolate Covered Jalapenos. This gourmet combination comes in sweet peppers or spicy jalapenos and offers a fiery flavor of sweet and spicy.
The Mo’s Bacon Bar from Vosges Haut Chocolat is infused with applewood-smoked bacon, alderwood-smoked salt and rich milk chocolate, for a campfire aroma that offsets the sweetness of the chocolate. The Super Dark Parmesan-Peppercorn Bar is part of the company’s super dark line, containing 72 percent dark chocolate, yet still maintaining a gooey texture.
“You know, a lot of surprising things can taste great in chocolate. With savory flavors, you can go as far as you’d like, even including umami,” says Brad Kintzer, Chief Chocolate Maker at TCHO. Known as the fifth flavor, umami is finding home in chocolate as a savory inclusion, offering a new chocolate-eating experience, says Kintzer.
Traditional pairings with chocolate are making a comeback too, according to Kintzer.“Maple is a beautiful partner,” he says. In addition to maple flavored chocolates, Kintzer has seen bourbon-infused nips come back into favor, this time with less sugar and fewer preservatives.“It’s chocolate re-calibrated for grown-up tastes,” he says.
Jacky Recchiuti, Creative Director and Owner of Recchiuti Confections, along with her husband Michael Recchiuti, has brought out a new Shiitake Mushroom Truffle, which has an earthy, sweet flavor. “We want to maintain our relationship with Far West Funghi, our neighbor in the Ferry Building, and their shiitake mushroom. It’s not about shock value with these infusions; it’s about pairing [the mushroom] with chocolate and finding a nice balance of flavors,” says Jacky Recchiuti.
Currently, Recchiuti Confections continues to refine its flavor combinations with earthy, smoky hints in its chocolate. The next few months will see the introduction of the company’s new line of nougat candies that will be infused with Chinese Five-spice powder, nullifying the traditionally honey notes with a more earthy punch. This line is expected to be launched by the holiday season.
In a statement released as a post on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s blog, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said this week that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, due to be released later this year, will not consider sustainability of food sources in their recommendations for how Americans ought to eat. In its report to the USDA and HHS, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee had recommended that sustainability be considered as a factor in recommending a diet emphasizing plants over meats.
Although this year’s guidelines have not yet been finalized, they are likely to be similar to those of past years, according to the post. “Fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains and lean meats and other proteins, and limited amounts of saturated fats, added sugars and sodium remain the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle,” the post says.
The post notes that the USDA invests billions of dollars each year in sustainable food production, renewable energy, water systems, preserving and protecting natural resources and research into sustainable practices. The USDA will continue to make these investments, but considerations of environmental sustainability do not belong in the dietary guidelines, according to the post.
Consistent with its work to help end hunger in the local communities it serves through Food Lion Feeds, grocer Food Lion is donating $25,000 to American Red Cross disaster relief and is partnering with its 10 million customers a week across more than 1,100 stores to help deliver aid to those facing devastating flooding in South Carolina.
“For nearly 60 years, Food Lion has been a proud neighbor in many local communities across our 10 states,” said Food Lion President Meg Ham. “Part of being a good neighbor is being there to lend a hand to support communities during a time of need. Caring for our customers and communities is an integral part of who we are as a company and what our associates do every day. And, it’s times like these where we have the responsibility to be there for our communities in and around our stores affected by these historic floods. We’re humbled and proud to bring our resources together to get much needed food, water and other supplies to our food bank partners in the areas affected by this devastation and partner with our wide network of customers to raise additional disaster relief funds to aid communities across South Carolina. We hope our customers will join us in lending much needed support to these communities recovering from severe flooding.”
Food Lion has made a $25,000 donation to the American Red Cross and is partnering with its customers to accept register donations to support Red Cross disaster relief in the wake of these floods and other crises across the country. Donations help provide assistance such as food and water to victims of disaster. Food Lion customers can donate in-store at any Food Lion location Oct. 6 through Oct. 13. Customers can visit foodlion.com/stores to find their nearest Food Lion location.
As travel restrictions ease, the grocer is also sending truckloads of priority items, like water, ice, pre-packaged meals and snacks, canned goods, bleach and more, to its feeding partners in South Carolina, Harvest Hope Food Bank and the Lowcountry Food Bank, and their associated feeding agencies.
The Meijer Simply Give campaign held this fall generated more than $3 million for food pantries throughout the Midwest, making it the most successful campaign in the program’s history.
Meijer customers donated more than $809,000 during the fall Simply Give campaign that began in late July during the second annual Meijer LPGA Classic presented by Kraft. That commitment to supporting hungry families, combined with a donation from Meijer, raised the fall campaign total to more than $3 million, making it the most successful campaign since Simply Give began in November 2008.
“We cannot thank our customers, team members and food pantry partners enough for continuing to rise to the challenge and help us feed hungry families in the communities we serve,” Co-Chairman Hank Meijer said. “It’s inspiring to see this level of engagement.”
The Grand Rapids, Michigan-based retailer began its Simply Give program as a way to help local food pantries throughout the Midwest achieve their mission of feeding hungry families.
Thanks to the fall campaign that ended in mid-September, Simply Give has generated more than $18.6 million for those partners to restock their shelves and feed hungry families. That total includes an estimated $750,000 donation from the Meijer LPGA Classic to the Simply Give program.
But, more importantly, those donations stay local, said Janet Emerson, Executive Vice President of Retail Operations for Meijer.
“We know how important it is to our customers that their generous donations remain local,” Emerson said. “That’s why each of our stores partner with a food pantry in their community during the Simply Give campaigns.”
During each Simply Give program, which runs three times a year, customers are encouraged to purchase a $10 Simply Give donation card upon checkout. Once purchased, the donation is converted into a Meijer Food-Only Gift Card and donated directly to the local food pantry selected by the store.
“Hunger is a problem that continues to increase in all of our communities,” Hank Meijer said. “The Simply Give program gives everyone a chance to work toward ensuring no one has to live without food.”
Few cocktails have enjoyed such wide appeal as that of the Appletini. Stonewall Kitchen decided to take it a step further and add delicious cranberry to create this amazing Apple Cranberry Mixer. Made with sweet apple juice, tangy cranberry and a dash of spice, it’s a refreshing mix that’s both sweet and tart with a crispness all its own. Simply mix it with your favorite liquor and enjoy. Available in a 24-ounce bottle.
Suggested Retail Price: $7.95
A Bethlehem, Pennsylvania convenience story is pilot testing a new dinner kit that allows time-starved customers to quickly prepare nourishing family meals in less than 30 minutes. The all-in-one kits provide healthy options to consumers and eliminate three significant downsides to many popular meal-delivery kits: cost, packaging waste and the need to plan a day or more in advance to order them.
Square One Markets is selling The Six O’Clock Scramble Fresh & Fast Family Dinner Kits™, developed by The Six O’Clock Scramble, a company dedicated to sharing fresh and fast family dinner solutions. The dinner kits provide all-in-one meal ingredients and recipe cards that contain everything time-stressed families need to prepare a fast, fresh meal. They sell for around $20 and are designed to feed a family of four. At $5 per person, the dinner kits are less than half the price of meal-delivery services — and without the packaging waste and carbon footprint from shipping. The kits also will feature some locally grown and produced ingredients from the Bethlehem area.
The September 30 launch at the Square One Markets store in Bethlehem included cooking demonstrations and recipe sampling featuring the creator of the dinner kits, renowned cookbook author and The Six O’Clock Scramble CEO Aviva Goldfarb.
Square One Markets and The Six O’Clock Scramble worked with the Project on Nutrition & Wellness (PNW) and the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) to develop the family dinner kits. Square One Markets, with nine stores in the area, will offer the dinner meal solutions for the next 10 weeks as part of the pilot test. A new meal will be offered each week at the test store.
“The evening hours are when families stress about dinner preparation plans. It also is the most popular time to buy gasoline. This is a great way to combine two trips into one,” said Square One Markets CEO Lisa Dell‘Alba.
Only 50 percent of families today have dinner together at least five nights a week, and one in three American children is obese. “The family meal kits provide a convenient and affordable solution for busy families, and gets them on their way quickly to a healthy family meal,” said Goldfarb.
Families that want to cook more meals together but can’t say that the main reasons are busy schedules (43 percent) and they are too tired after school or work (31 percent), according consumer data from NACS. This dinner kit addresses both obstacles.
Meanwhile, demand for meal kits is there. More than three in four consumers (77 percent) say that they would be interested in purchasing an all-in-one meal kit from a store. Convenience store customers are especially receptive: 85 percent of weekly convenience store customers would purchase a dinner meal kit, according to survey data.
Square One Markets Inc. is a convenience, food and gasoline retail chain with nine stores operating across five counties in Pennsylvania. The chain is headquartered in Bethlehem.