Pumpkin Time – Tips & Tricks to Extend Freshness

If you have ever experienced an uncut pumpkin that has gone moldy, soft, and then rotten much faster than it should–here’s a bit of advice (works for winter squash and gourds, also):

One tablespoon of bleach (or 100-150 ppm in commercial systems) per gallon of water will kill most molds, bacteria, and fungi. I have heard some say that for non-eating pumpkins a ratio of 10:1 water to bleach can be used, which is probably overkill. I do not recommend that much if you plan on eating the pumpkin.

When carving a Jack-O’-Lantern, the same 1 tablespoon per gallon of water, immersing the pumpkin fully, will kill off molds, fungi, and bacteria. Turn the pumpkin upside down (unless you cut the bottom instead of the stem as I do), and allow it to completely dry. Two tablespoons of vinegar, one tablespoon of lemon juice, and one gallon of water…apply liberally to all exposed areas…and voila! Your Jack-O’-Lantern now has a long-life extension!

Another option to replace the vinegar/lemon juice solution is to simply apply mayonnaise to all exposed areas (cut areas & interior). This does not last quite as long, yet it does extend the life of a Jack-O’-Lantern quite a bit.

Pass this on to your friends!

National Food Hub Survey Results Are In!

This is an excerpt from the main page of CRFS (Michigan State University) and the Wallace Center at Winrock International:

“Food hubs are businesses or organizations that manage the aggregation, distribution and marketing of source-identified food products. In early 2013, CRFS and the Wallace Center at Winrock International conducted the National Food Hub Survey to identify economic growth trends for food hubs across the nation and monitor changes in services offered and the variety of customers served.

Researchers also sought to:

Help shape national understanding of food hubs and informing future policy and program initiatives
Gain greater exposure for food hubs nationally
Inform new potential relationships between food hubs and investors, grant makers and other food hubs looking to find success.
The recent survey results from more than 100 food hubs demonstrate that hubs throughout the United States continue to develop as financially viable businesses providing locally produced food to restaurants, schools, grocery stores and other wholesale customers. Food hubs may also provide much needed size-appropriate infrastructure and marketing opportunities for local food produced by small and midsized farms and ranches.”

I will read up on the specific results, attend tomorrow’s webinar, and update with more specific information posthaste.

Virtual Regional Hub Providing Local Supply and Markets For All?

Something that I’ve been working toward, somewhat behind the scenes as of late, is coming back around to the forefront. It’s hardly a novel idea, yet the innovation surely seemed novel in the early, less researched stages.
I do not take credit for the idea–by the time it passed between my ears it had already been implemented in many areas of the nation. However, this could be something novel and great for us, here and now.
The idea is a variation on my first business plan of the year. That plan was basically a Centralized Regional Food Hub with Satellite Local Food Hubs, coordinating to meet supply and demand needs while keeping foods as locally as possible. The evolution is in the idea of multiple Local Food Hubs, Farmers Markets, Farmers, Grocers, Restaurateurs, Schools, Institutions, Wholesale Buyers and Sellers, and more to be able to access the same online resource, yet specific for each user profile. The added benefits are too numerous to list as of now.
I have struggled with how to prevent harm to direct-to-consumer sales (through venues such as Farmers Markets, On-Farm Sales, etc). I have a pretty good idea regarding how to best accomplish this, and it is incorporated into the Virtual Hub. In addition, I’ve been striving to use the research that I have conducted, day-in and day-out, in a manner that increases profitability for farmers, keeps local foods as local as possible, reduce losses and field waste…and turn those combined works into lower-cost local foods for schools and other wholesale buyers. That, also, is incorporated into the idea.
I am in the early stages of working with a group that can put such a resource together. The group is experienced and recommended–in fact, I received the first recommendation about six months ago through a user of the service provider.
The online resource virtually automates the local levels’ time and labor resources without taking a bit of personal choice away. In addition, this resource can make the coordination of planning, planting, harvesting, marketing, ordering, logistics, sales, and accounting such a streamlined process that it will add true value to a multitude of regionally-located local food chains! (My “regional” is within most definitions of “local”).
Needless to say, I am extremely excited about the possibility of such a beneficial forward movement. Much conversation, both on the design side and with local producers, still remains to be addressed. There must be more time spent pursuing this opportunity for our area, yet all signs point toward boundless possibilities!!!

USDA Healthy School Meals Standards Are Proving Popular

I have heard and seen some really great things regarding the implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. I have seen a couple of posts stating that their children are still hungry during school.
I am going out on a limb and guessing that the healthier foods may temporarily cause hunger in those children…just on an assumption. I know that when I, personally, eat healthier I also tend to want more meals in a day.
Good reports so far–good job all!

FDA’s Proposed Produce Safety Rules – Food Safety and Modernization Act

I am unsure at this time whether, and how much, information provided via direct email messages (as a Produce Industry Member), which include disclaimers at the bottom of the emails, can be disclosed. I will clarify this, and hopefully readers can then be directed toward webinars, research, definite decisions, and updated proposals. Until then, a vast public database exists; reference the link below.

In a nutshell, the Food Safety and Modernization Act is an Act of Congress mandating the FDA to increase Food Safety in the United States. It is comprised of two separate “Rules,” each of which is open for comment and viewing–and full of sectors that need more public input.

A simple online search provided a link to public information. If/when I learn what can and cannot be revealed (whether the public information contains all that the Produce Industry Member information does), I will attempt to break this down a little better, at least as well as I understand current decisions and proposals.

Until then, a vast database of resources and comment areas on each specific area that has not been decided upon can be found via the following link:

http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/ucm247546.htm