KAYTE YOUNG: Production support comes from Bill Brown at Griffy Creek Studio, architectural design and consulting for residential, commercial and community projects. Sustainable, energy positive and resilient design for a rapidly changing world. Bill at griffy creek dot studio. And Insurance agent Dan Williamson of Bill Resch Insurance. Offering comprehensive auto, business and home coverage, in affiliation with Pekin Insurance. Beyond the expected. More at billreschinsurance dot com.
(Earth Eats theme music)
KAYTE YOUNG: From WFIU in Bloomington Indiana, I’m Kayte Young, and this is Earth Eats.
CHRISTINE DAVIES: The idea behind the farm was to really connect people more with their food and promote wellness. So it’s easy to tell someone they need to eat healthier, I mean we’re kind of finding out that just saying you need to eat healthier doesn’t really have that impact.
KAYTE YOUNG: This week on the show, connecting gardening, fresh produce and community health. As COVID-19 drives a renewed interest in home grown food, we give a second listen to my conversation with Christina Davies on the community farm at Anderson Hospital North East of Indianapolis.
Harvest Public Media has a story on how the pandemic has affected Rural Grocery stores and We have a story about commercial fishing in Oregon from Josephine McRobbie and Joe O'Connell. That’s all coming up on Earth Eats, thanks for joining us.
KAYTE YOUNG: Since the start of the pandemic, grocery store aisles have been crowded, and shelves emptied of basic food items. To avoid the mayhem, some shoppers are turning to smaller markets in more rural areas. As Harvest Public Media’s Dana Cronin reports, that’s giving rural grocery stores a boost.
DANA CRONIN: Winchester, Illinois is a town of fewer than two thousand people. Great Scott! Community Market opened in an old shoe store there less than a year ago. Before then, the nearest grocery store was about 20 miles away.
JOHN PAUL COONROD: Where the previous owner sold shoes, we've got our dried goods and canned goods and all the grocery staples that you find in any grocery store.
DANA CRONIN: Market President John Paul Coonrod says they also sell your standard craft beer, wine and frozen foods, and have a deli section in back. Since the pandemic started, he says business has been booming, with sales through the roof for the first 10 days.
JOHN PAUL COONROD: After that, we've settled in to a pretty good stasis of sales that are about double, I would say, what they were pre COVID.
DANA CRONIN: Coonrod says he usually recognizes most of his customers. Lately, though, he says it’s been a lot of unfamiliar faces. And there could be any number of reasons for that.
For one, due to lockdown orders, people who live in rural areas like Winchester aren’t travelling as much into urban areas for work, and are likely choosing to shop closer to home.
Robin Lyons would usually shop at the Kroger 20 miles away, but now frequents Great Scott.
ROBIN LYONS: This is the time because these are our neighbors and our fellow townspeople. So we've got to shop local.
DANA CRONIN: The appeal of smaller grocery stores might also be driving city-dwellers into more rural areas, says Shannon McCord who owns Ideal Market in Superior, Nebraska.
SHANNON MCCORD: Of course, Wal-Mart's are always packed with people.
DANA CRONIN: He says that makes it hard for customers to socially distance.
SHANNON MCCORD: So I think they decided to stay local, which what it ended up doing, is causing my store to be packed with people.
DANA CRONIN: He says he’s seen a 20-30 percent increase in sales since the start of the pandemic. Business is so busy, in fact, that he’s completely burnt out.
SHANNON MCCORD: It’s been tremendously difficult. I've been putting in super long hours.
DANA CRONIN: McCord says he’s been working 70 or 80 hours a week, mostly on inventory.
SHANNON MCCORD: I've been doing that for 10 weeks straight.
DANA CRONIN: Supply chain disruptions have made it hard to keep items like meat, flour and toilet paper in stock.But in many cases, smaller grocery stores have found workarounds by turning to their local communities.After meatpacking plant closures, for example, McCord started working to pair area hog farmers with local butchers in hopes of keeping his meat case stocked.And at Great Scott! Community Market in Illinois, it was flour that was in short supply.
JOHN PAUL COONROD: We're a small grocery store and we're absolutely at the bottom of the supply chain. You know, we'll be the last ones to get something if it's scarce.
DANA CRONIN: So, Coonrod decided to buy and repackage flour from local restaurants so he could sell it off his own shelves. Rial Carver with Kansas State University’s Rural Grocery Initiative says this is a good example of how these stores can adapt in difficult situations. According to Carver, more than 20 percent of rural grocery stores in Kansas closed between 2008 and 2018. When one closes, she says it can hit a community hard.
RIAL CARVER: And often the folks that are hit the hardest are the older adults in the community and the lower income individuals in the communities who may not have the means or the capacity to get to a further away grocery store.
DANA CRONIN: As stay-at-home orders begin to loosen, rural grocery store owners hope their new customers will continue to shop local. I’m Dana Cronin, Harvest Public Media.
KAYTE YOUNG: Harvest Public media is a reporter collective covering food and farming in the heartland. Find more at Harvest Public Media dot org.
(snappy transition music)
KAYTE YOUNG: There’s been a lot of attention on healthcare and hospitals recently, as we grapple with COVID-19. The disease has resulted in nearly 100,000 deaths in the US in less than 4 months. But as we learn about the ways in which pre-existing conditions can affect the severity of the response to the virus, preventative health and wellness are also in the spotlight. Have you ever heard of a produce prescription? The idea is simple: If a patient needs better nutrition to improve their health, then the medicine might be a basket of fresh vegetables rather than a bottle of pills. That’s the inspiration behind the Farm at Community Hospital in Anderson Indiana, North East of Indianapolis.
CHRISTINE DAVIES: A portion goes into our dietary department, some of it we call our “farmacy” program, goes to the farmacy which is like if you’re familiar with a CSA box, community supported agriculture, where traditionally people will pay up front and get an assorted box of goodies. This is that, without the payment. So we have, they’re called Care Navigators, employees who help out patients get to all of their appointments, keep them on schedule cuz it can be a little overwhelming. The care navigators are working with people through their kind of process of care. And they can identify who has a need for produce, and get that produce to them. So some of our produce goes into that “farmacy” program
KAYTE YOUNG: Did you catch that? That’s Farmacy, with an F. The medicine is the farm fresh produce.I visited the farm in late summer of 2019 and spoke with the farm manager
(sound of footsteps on gravel, arriving, greeting)
CHRISTINE DAVIES: My name is Christina Davies, I’m the farm project coordinator at Community Farm at Community Hospital, Anderson.
KAYTE YOUNG: I also met the marketing manager for the hospital, Michele Hockwalt. I’d never been to Anderson, and didn’t know much about the community where the hospital and farm are located.
MICHELE HOCKWALT: Anderson has just had some struggles for the past about twenty years and has just really been focused in the past several years on rebounding. But there are food access issues, a lot of the communities around here are food deserts, and access to fresh, healthy, nutritious food is a problem. And we do have a lot of older--it’s an older community as well, and so when we’re able, through hospital channels to get food to these folks we can really make a difference in their nutrition. Particularly for those diabetics and people with heart conditions, and just improving that access for them. Uh, transportation’s a problem, as well. Madison county doesn’t really have a lot of public transportation. And we’re really happy to help get it to them.
CHRISTINE DAVIES: The idea behind the farm was to really connect people more with their food and promote wellness. So it’s easy to tell someone they need to eat healthier, I mean we’re kind of finding out, it’s 2019, that just saying you need to eat healthier doesn’t really have that impact. So with our programs we get kids out here through a couple of different organizations to interact with the farm, they have their own garden section to kind of get them interested in food. We also send the produce into, to go to out-patients and to local hunger relief programs. And we try to provide education about how to prepare the food, what to do with it, to get people excited about eating healthier foods and trying new things. We give out recipes to accompany the food, seed packets, information about saving seeds, information about planting seeds, we, in conjunction with the local library did a seed swap in the spring. We just kind of have various programs to promote not only eating the food but also how to grow it-both as a point of access and also like it’s a low impact physical activity-it’s really healthy to garden as well as eat the food you’re gardening too.
KAYTE YOUNG: Is part of the mission of it getting people interested in growing their own food or learning to garden or taking up gardening as a hobby?
CHRISTINE DAVIES: Absolutely, yeah. We try to provide information about how to do that. We also have an employee garden here that’s separate from the farm, so that’s around 30 raised beds, it’s mostly managed by the committee of employee volunteers. It’s a sharing garden concept so we’ll plant everything out there in the spring, the beds are marked what’s ready to pick and what’s not ready to pick and uh folks who work here will go out on their lunch break, get produce, or before they go home it’s like self serve garden, which is really great, people are getting into it and, I don’t know, it feels awesome to drive up to the building and see a bunch of people picking stuff from the garden. And the first year I was here we weighed everything we grew and it was almost 2,000 pounds of produce that we got out of those like 30 raised beds, so it’s awesome.
KAYTE YOUNG: Christine took me on a tour of the farm in its late summer peak.
CHRISTINE DAVIES: The farm is a 2 acre mixed vegetable farm. We have, I think it’s about 20 hundred foot beds of winter different kinds of winter squash pumpkins, watermelon, and cantaloupes and then we have a field of solonatia which is tomatoes, peppers, um eggplant, um so we group everything we plant by the type of plant it is ‘cuz then we know what types of disease they might get in that area and what types of, um, pests will be there and then we can rotate our crops so we don’t want to plant tomatoes in the same place every year because of pests so we plant by family group. Our sunflowers are all pollenless sunflowers we cut them to go into patient rooms we have our sunflowers timed to hopefully produce regularly throughout the season late june through the frost to have sunflowers every week. So we’ve got those three times a week and they’re taken around to patients and so they’re pollenless so, you know, there’s no allergy problems so they don’t shed pollen when they’re in a vase we have some other we have uh zinnias and some sadas planted that we cut those and if we have extra sunflowers we’ll do this with them too we take those to our neighboring long term care facility and they make into bouquets to put around the facility. Kale and collard greens we have a little bit of napa cabbage planted for the fall, some beans and peas--the peas aren’t up though we just seeded them last week. And then uh that far field was all of our root crops and then this area right here is the kids garden so kids from the Madison County Youth Center and Alternative Incorporated’s uh kid connection program they planted all of the plants in there we started seeds inside and made like little paper pots out of toilet paper rolls and newspaper with them in the spring we and transplanted those out here. So in there they planted a bunch of different kinds of tomatoes, some herbs, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, leeks, squash, their own sunflowers, mini broccoli, like there’s all kinds of stuff in there and then the kids that come out here who have come to interact with the farm through our programming this season they’ll pick stuff from both their garden and then sometimes go through the farm and harvest stuff and they take it back. One of the groups we work with um, they’re preparing food--they are really excited about the produce--it’s super cute but also amazing that they’re excited to eat the vegetables that they take back with them. These kids come out they’re usually like 5 to 13 and, um, I remember there were like 4 kids that were like “Zucchini? That’s gross! Carrots? I don’t wanna eat that!” and then we went through and harvested them and they were like “Oh I wanna pick that one! Oh can I pull this carrot!” you know, they were so excited by the time they left but when they got here they were like “Ugh, I don’t wanna do that” so that kinda, I don’t know, just providing the opportunity for that transformation is amazing.
We have honey bees this year. We have two hives we were able to get those with support from a grant from the Whole Kids foundation and the Bee Cause. So we got a youth education grant to incorporate that with our youth programming this year so we got all these different sized bee suits, we have the two hives so, uh, the kids that we’ve worked with we’ve had them come out and they put on the gear and they’ve gotten the opportunities to look into the hives and, you know, go in there and really interact with them you know like most of the kids you say bees and they’re like “I don’t wanna do that why would i do that you know I don’t we don’t like bees cuz usually all people hear is “Ew a bee you know you’re gonna get stung” really that’s not quite the case with uh honey bees and even most native wild bees if you don’t bother them they won’t bother you. So our bees are actually very friendly and um I have not been stung.
KAYTE YOUNG: Christine pulled a dark red tomato from a vine and handed it to me
CHRISTINE DAVIES: Would you like a cherry tomato?
KAYTE YOUNG: Sure, not gonna say no to that
CHRISTINE DAVIES: They’re black cherries they’re amazing. Did you have these before? It’s my favorite.
KAYTE YOUNG: That’s very sweet!
KAYTE YOUNG: In addition to the rows of delicious food growing within the beautifully fenced 2 acre farm, they also have two small structures. One is a garden shed for tool storage and the other is a walk-in cooler which they purchased last year thanks to a grant from the Madison county community foundation. The first thing I noticed inside were some miniature spaghetti squash, which they grow as a less intimidating size for people who haven’t tried it before
CHRISTINE DAVIES: So these are really nice you cut em in half and cook ‘em and then it’s like one serving per half so you know you put spaghetti sauce or something in there like you’re good to go. Two meals, no dishes, it’s great.
KAYTE YOUNG: The walk-in is stacked with plastic crates filled with produce. Peppers, squash, eggplant, and on such a hot day, it feels great in there. But it’s not as cold as your home fridge. It doesn’t need to be, since there are no prepared foods stored inside. Spaghetti, squash, and tomatoes would be damaged by the lower temperatures.
CHRISTINE DAVIES: So, we can set it at 60 and our tomatoes will not get damaged, our squash won’t get damaged, it’s great. (Right!) Yeah. And I was actually thinking about this today my farmhand is out and my volunteers weren’t able to come out this morning so I’ve been harvesting all day literally up until you got here from 7 AM to like 2 o’clock and I still have more a little bit more to do and I was thinking you know like if i was out here by myself and I did not have this walk in cooler I would have to stop every two hours like figure out where this produce is gonna go, ‘cuz it couldn’t just sit out here. Um, so it’s incredible it’s next level having a walk-in cooler. The Madison County Community Foundation helped us with our walk-in cooler, um, Italpollina, is a fertilizer they make organic fertilizers so they donate a substantial amount of organic fertilizer to our program. When you talk about it you’re like “oh wow we have so much support” talking about all that and realizing all that makes those really difficult days you know that are inevitable happen some days are like “I’m alone, this is so hard” being able to realize how much people want this here, its valued. Right. Community gardens are not just about feeding the community but also making a sense of community which is so important to live in a vibrant place people need to know each other and to feel like they’re supported in doing things that are difficult cuz starting new things--anything--is difficult, and it’s so important to be able to find that support.
KAYTE YOUNG: Christine is also one of the founding members of the Madison County food network, which serves as a food council for the county. They’re working to share resources and support across the various community gardening projects and to generally increase community food security in Anderson.
KAYTE YOUNG: Find out more about that and about the Community Hospital Farm in Anderson, on our website, Earth Eats Dot org.
(Earth Eats Production Support Theme)
Production support comes from:Bloomingfoods Coop Market, providing residents with locally sourced food since 1976. Owned by over 12,000 residents in Monroe County and beyond. More at Bloomingfoods dot co-op. Elizabeth Ruh Enrolled Agent with personal financial services assisting businesses and individuals with tax preparation and planning for over 15 years. More at Personal Financial Services dot net. And Bill Brown at Griffy Creek Studio, architectural design and consulting for residential, commercial and community projects. Sustainable, energy positive and resilient design for a rapidly changing world. Bill at griffy creek dot studio.
KAYTE YOUNG: In this next story, we’ll get a taste of the Oregon coast, courtesy of producer Josephine McRobbie and public folklorist Joe O’Connell. It features the voices of commercial fishers and seafood entrepreneurs, recorded in August 2019. O’Connell conducted the original research for the Oregon Folklife Network, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: Hoppy micro-brews, Tillamook Cheddar, Pinot Noir, these are a few of Oregon’s favorite flavors. But there’s also something in the water
LAURA ANDERSON: What we have out here in our ocean is very special. We have these cold water fish.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: Salmon, tuna, halibut
LAURA ANDERSON: They have high oil content, they’re good fish, they’re fatty and they just taste awesome compared to skinny little tropical fish (laughs), in my opinion, and in a lot of people’s opinions.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: It takes hard work to bring fish and seafood to the plate. Laura Anderson, Amber Novelli, and Terry Hartill are all small-scale seafood entrepreneurs. Laura owns Local Ocean, an upscale restaurant and market on Yaquina Bay in Newport. Just across the street, fishing boats dock at Pier 5. Some of these boats are her direct suppliers.
LAURA ANDERSON: We have relationships with over 50 different fishermen to get the catch required to feed on a day like today, in the summer, in August,We might feed 900 meals today.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: Amber and her husband fish from two boats, the Midnight and the Aquarius. They bring their catch directly to customers at their small floating seafood market in Florence
AMBER NOVELLI: And that’s one of the biggest things--when people come to the coast, they're looking for fresh fish,They're not looking for something that is frozen, that could be farmed, that could be anything. You want what is caught here.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: In the town of Seaside, there's a giant, glowing, neon crab. That sign marks Bell Buoy of Seaside, where Terry oversees one of the coast’s few remaining seafood canneries.
TERRY HARTILL: There were all kinds of canneries back in the 1800s,There were20 canneries along the river. Now if you don't home-can yourself, in your own kitchen, your own product, where else do you get it? You have to come to people like us.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: Fishing, canning, running a restaurant -- these are all pritty distinct business ventures. But these three entrepreneurs all have roots in seafood.
TERRY HARTILL: Yes I was born and raised in this area, been in the seafood business since 1966, in some capacity.
AMBER NOVELLI: My husband and I are both from from Monterey, California, they have a huge squid population down there, the Italians have huge industries down there, a lot of old school families
LAURA ANDERSON: I grew up in Westport, Washington, it’s a very small fishing community, probably had a population of less than 1500 people, most of them were fisherman or fishing families and my dad was a commercial fisherman.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: Keeping these family and community legacies going involves careful thought and planning. To bring fish to market, local producers navigate a dynamic set of state and federal rules.
AMBER NOVELLI: I can imagine if we were all just out there catching with absolutely no regulations, no size limits, no amounts of what we could catch, then we would be destroying the ocean. But we all have our part in what we do to keep everything sustainable.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: Take for instance one local delicacy, sweet flavorful razor clams. To sell them, Bell Buoy needs the correct license.
TERRY HARTILL: Razor clams, We’re the only ones in the state of Oregon that can process razor clams.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: The diggers Terry buys from need the correct licenses
TERRY HARTILL: You have to have a human consumption license. If can’t have a sport license, you’ve gotta have all the proper paperwork
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: And the digging has to take place on the clams’ calendar,
TERRY HARTILL: We have about a dozen commercial diggers that dig for us when the season’s open. Currently, it’s closed because of the spawning of the clams October first then it’ll re-open all the way to July 14th again.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE:Species-specific measures like these are standard. They foster a balance between food harvesting and ocean health. Amber wonders if outsiders to the industry understand the extent, and the rigor, of environmental regulations.
AMBER NOVELLI: I don't know who they think writes these rules, it isn't just some redneck sitting in a hut. It's biologists, it's scientists. It's people that know this stuff that set us up with it, and tell how you can keep a species in check.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: Like Amber, Laura is protective of commercial fishing. She’s not only a restaurant owner, she’s also studied ocean science at the graduate level.
LAURA ANDERSON: I get really defensive when I hear too much, uh, uneducated ramblings about how the oceans are all dead, and all the fisheries are over-fished, and how we should stop all of these activities. And I’m one of the more aware people that I know about these issues, and I just don't believe that that's true.
JOSEPHINE MCROBBIE: The future of local seafood in Oregon depends on balancing environmental and market imperatives, a task made all the more difficult during a global pandemic. But Laura thinks the past offers a powerful model of how to move forward.
LAURA ANDERSON: Look at our Dungeness crab fishery,We've been fishing it the same way for over 100 years. And the crab keep coming back year after year.
All of these fishing families out here that we work with have children that they want to see be able to continue into the future, feeding people and harvesting, whether they just like the harvesting part or whether they really realize that this is about food security for a lot of us in a lot of ways and it’s a healthy way to feed the planet. I think about all of that and I have a lot of pride in it, and I feel privileged to be born into this, and I want to see that continue.
KAYTE YOUNG: That was producer Josephine McRobbie with Folklorist Joe O’Connell. In coming episodes, we’ll hear more stories and voices from the Oregon coast seafood industry - one woman’s quest to make a better fishing net, crabgrass stylings from the Fisher Poets Gathering, and why you should never bring a banana on a commercial boat. Make sure you never miss an episode of Earth Eats, subscribe with Apple podcasts, stitcher or wherever you listen to podcasts. And consider leaving a review of the show. It helps other listeners find us. Thank you.
(Earth eats theme music)
That's all for our show this week, thanks for listening. Stay nourished, stay safe.
RENEE REED: The Earth Eats team includes Eoban Binder, Chad Bouchard, Mark Chilla, Abraham Hill, Taylor Killough, Josephine McRobbie, Daniel Orr, the IU Food Institute, Harvest Public Media and me, Renee Reed. Our theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey. Earth Eats is produced and edited by Kayte Young and our executive producer is John Bailey.
KAYTE YOUNG: Special Thanks this week to : Christina Davies, Michele Hockwalt Joe O’Connell, Laura Anderson, Amber Novelli, and Terry Hartill.
Production support comes from Insurance agent Dan Williamson of Bill Resch Insurance. Offering comprehensive auto, business and home coverage, in affiliation with Pekin Insurance. Beyond the expected. More at billreschinsurance dot com. Bloomingfoods Coop Market, providing residents with locally sourced food since 1976. Owned by over 12,000 residents in Monroe County and beyond. More at Bloomingfoods dot co-op.