The good, the bad, the absolutely ugly, and hope. US Senate Ag Committee approves DARK Act

It was interesting. This morning’s US Senate Ag Committee hearing was carried live on the Internet, and watching it was an education in and of itself. I, along with thousands of others (I hope) looked on as 20 committee members (Senators all) considered a proposal to amend the “Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946” that would establish a national voluntary labeling standard for bioengineered foods. Transparency – that’s good. Why the amendment? Because some businesses and elected officials want to make it illegal for any state to require GMO labeling on our food. So much for truth-in-labeling. It’s why this legislation … Continue reading

Baking French Sourdough – Class March 20, 9:00AM-1:00PM

By request, another sourdough bread baking class is scheduled for
March 20th, 9:00AM-1:00PM.
Where? The teaching kitchen at Bull Brook Keep, an easy ride from Minneapolis/St.Paul

Yes, you can made hearth bread -a French sourdough, and variations – in your home oven to fit your schedule.
Click here for more information and to register.
Class is hands-on and limited to 6 students.

Questions? Sylvia Burgos Toftness, 651-238-8525,

Hearth breads made with poolish. Say, what?

Why is it that the hearth breads taste so good? Why do they have those wonderful brown crusts that crunch and shatter when you bite into them? And those holes! When you slice or tear them, their interiors are filled with large glossy holes perfect for holding butter and olive oil and tapenades. Why can’t you make them at home? Do you really need a wood-fired oven? Hold on…let’s get rid of the myth first. You can bake hearth breads in your home oven. It’s not rocket science, but like anything worthwhile, hearth baking takes a bit of planning and … Continue reading

Of snow plowing and sourdough baking

Feb. 3, 7:00AM Last night, before shuffling off to bed, put two baskets of raw dough into the very chilly root cellar for a slow rise. (Could’ve used the frig, but it’s packed right now.) I also set the oven to pre-heat to 500 degrees by sun up this morning. The snow was still falling horizontally at 11PM, driven by a strong and nasty north wind. A quick flick of the deck light told the tale: sloping drifts packed hard as cement. The snow fall had started benignly enough yesterday at about noon – big, beautiful flakes swirling over the … Continue reading

Beth Dooley, live, Sat. Jan. 30 – local winter recipes in the land of ice and snow

In last Saturday’s (Jan 13, 2016) Deep Roots Radio interview, chef/author/journalist Beth Dooley described how she came to live in the chilly Upper Midwest, and how it’s not only possible, but delicious to cook with local ingredients in snow-covered Minnesota. This history and grounding is at the heart of her new book, In Winter’s Kitchen. This Saturday, Jan. 30, Beth will take us to the next step and describe actual recipes – ingredients and spices – for winter cooking. Join us! What: Deep Roots Radio conversation with Beth Dooley on winter cooking in the land of ice and snow When: … Continue reading

Where to get garden seeds not owned by Monsanto

This is a quick dash, but here are a couple of sources to start: – Mother Earth News has a few posts that list sustainable seed companies. This is just one of them. – The Seed Savers Exchange is a national network devoted to growing out and sharing (for a small cost) open-pollinated vegetable, herb, and flower seeds Here are three of my faves: – High Mowing Seeds – Prairie Road Organic – Johnny’s Seeds Sylvia … Continue reading

Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin: Taking local, sustainable food to scale. It’s about the chicken crossing the road.

Reginaldo (Regi) Haslett-Marroquin gets the big picture…the very big picture when it comes to understanding what’ll take to re-imagine and re-install a sustainable food system in America. No, not just sustainable; resilient. And, no, he’s not just about an abstract picture of the economics, agricultural theory, social linkages and ideal delivery systems. He’s very much about dirt under the nails: about working with Latino immigrants to develop an integrated set of systems to get and grow chickens, feed them, process and market chickens, package and transport chickens, and get them into the hands of everyday buyers – you and me. And while doing this create a web of capabilities that provide living wages, future growth, and ability to respond to changing markets. He’s fostered a working model in Minnesota. It’s exciting to hear what happening, what’s showing real results for a growing community.

I hope you’ll enjoy this Deep Roots Radio conversation with him.Resilient agriculture

Regi is the chief operating officer of Main Street Project, in Northfield, Minnesota, and designer of MSP’s Sustainable Food and Agriculture program. His work started, however, in much warmer place and very different circumstances. A native of Guatemala, Regi received his agronomy degree from the Central National School of Agriculture and studied at the Universidad de San Carlos in Guatemala. BA in International Business Administration from Augsburg College. He began working with indigenous Guatemalan communities in 1988. He has served as consultant to the United Nations Development Program’s Bureau for Latin America. He also founded the Fair Trade Federation and co-created Peace Coffee company. He has also organized several stewardship-certified cooperative forestry businesses in the Midwest and Guatemala.

About Main Street Project
Mission: To increase access to resources, share knowledge and build power in order to create a socially, economically and ecologically resilient food system.

Its strategy is to: change the current food system, which is dominated by major producers, by deploying an alternative, small-scale sustainable poultry-based system that’s accessible and economically viable for aspiring Latino and other immigrant farmers, and easily scalable to meet market conditions.
MSP focuses on building a sustainable food and ag economy that offers pathways out of poverty for low-way, primarily for the Latino workforce.
They’ve developed new models of sustainable production that provide opportunities for ownership and control – key to building rural family and community prosperity.


Sat., Dec. 5, 9-9:30AM CT, GMO labeling – why the fight

What: Live conversation with Tracy Singleton, owner of the Birchwood Cafe (Minneapolis, MN) and good-food activist about consumer demand for – and Congress resistance to – clear and truthful labeling of GMO (genetically-modified) foods. When: Saturday, Dec. 5, 9:00-9:30AM Central Time Where: Broadcast and streamed live from the studios of WPCA Radio, 93.1FM, and More and more consumers are demanding good foods – local, grown organically, high in nutrition, humanely raised, grown to restore soil and protect water. At the same time, there are legislatives moves to keep consumers in the dark about everything that’s in our food. For … Continue reading

#GrazingItalyUK – B&B breakfast and Slow Food at Casa Visconti

Nov. 19 Not all food is authentic Bolognese
The Casa Visconti B&B in the heart of Bologna is proving to be a find, in great part due to lively proprietress Claudia Visconti. Our room and sitting area are bright and art filled, the bathroom tidy and efficient, and the breakfast lovely and tasty. (What’s not to like about frothy espresso, sliced stawberries and Kiwi, and an assortment of pastries?)
The gem, however, is Ms. Visconti herself: energetic, enthusiastic about her city, and discerning about the origins and preperations of meals.
Not everything is “authentic,” she asserts, and she goes out of her way to point us to bistros and restaurants grounded in sourcing from local farms anchored in sustainable practice and in excellent preparation. I’m hoping I can connect with the Slow Food leaders she recommended.
Dessa and I shared our table with a couple from Luxemburg, owners of a store dedicated to artisinal foods from around the world. Real food devotees, they were in town for a Dillan concert. They shared their outlooks on the slow appreciation of links between agricultural practice, nutrition, taste and the cost of good food.
More on these conversations in a future posts.