News from The Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative
Recipes + Millers' Reflections + Policy Briefs + ASFC Updates
by Michelle Ajamian
As we pass the darkest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere we have five fewer daylight hours than we do near the Summer Solstice. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that so many connect their spiritual and food traditions to the lengthening of days.
The I Ching’s 24th hexagram, The Return or The Turning Point, marks the Winter Solstice and the rebirth of the sun. Ancient Chinese emperors welcomed the lengthening of the days ahead by halting commerce and lighting celebratory fires. Before we had artificial light, people throughout the Northern Hemisphere rested before taking on the winter work.
In readying ourselves to make the necessary changes for equitable and climate smart food systems, I know the isolation and economic uncertainty many of us faced was not easy. How have you found ways to stay connected despite whatever most impacted your life? Did you reach out to your neighbors, play with your children, and return to your kitchens in ways that you had not experienced before?
This issue offers you a look back on 2021, our recent updates, and recipes such as Hoppin' John for your New Year’s Day meal. Check out our calendar and other regular features to forge a deeper understanding of how we might work together to create food systems that are equitable, climate smart, and hold up the footways of our ancestors.
Hoppin' John with
Carolina Gold Rice
Looking for good fortune in the coming year? This classic southern recipe by Rollen Chalmers is believed to grant prosperity when eaten on New Year's Day.
The Hoppin' John dish originates from rice growers in West Africa and was brought to the southern United States by enslaved people in the 17th century. Traditional Hoppin' John recipes feature Lowcountry crops like Sea Island Red Peas and Carolina Gold rice which offers a nutty flavor. The Carolina Gold rice purchased at ansonmills.com.
Photo by Laura Murray
Alexis Nikole Nelson's
This recipe for Acorn Pancakes is by Columbus, Ohio local Alexis Nikole Nelson, known on TikTok as the Black Forager.
Her joyful videos offer foraging tutorials and recipes for common Midwestern nuts, seeds, and plants. For this recipe, the pancake flour is made from foraged acorns and nocino, nutty, sweet liqueur made from unripe Ohio black walnuts.
Watch her Acorn Pancake recipe on TikTok or click below to read a printed version featured in Bust Magazine.
Photo: Rachel Joy Barehl
Millers Peer Group Members Reflect on the Year
by Kayla Bennett
As we look back on 2021 with a few of the members from ASFC’s Millers Peer Learning Group, we learned that many mills took steps towards expanding operations.
Aaron Grigsby, one of three partners at Deep Roots Milling, noted that “We were able to get running again in March and since then, we've just been kind of steadily growing. Every month is kind of bigger, more busy, more efficient – learning more about the process and how to manage our time and resources.”
At the same time, climate disruptions have taken a toll on mills and farms in the West.
At Capay Mills in Esparto, California, David Kaisel said that ongoing drought and high temperatures in 2021 affected his heirloom wheats and other crops. Kaisel pointed out that climate disruption exposed blind spots in the commodity system that drives the food industry. Like Grigsby, Kaisel has been able to emphasize local crops in his business and build support for regional food markets when the global supply chain failed.
Dillon Green of Shagbark Seed & Mill, a regional seed cleaning and milling business located in Athens, Ohio, said this year has been a lot more consistent than 2020, when the pandemic meant the loss of most of their restaurant and other food service customers.
Although 2021 posed many new challenges, Shagbark’s retail sales leveled out and food service accounts eventually came back.
“Our online sales are better than ever right now,” said Green. “I think people are actually thinking about supply chains now… and keeping things local is more meaningful than ever, because they've seen what it looks like when stores do run out of things.”
Capay Mills and Deep Roots Milling also experienced an increase in online sales this year.
Looking forward to 2022, all three mills are planning to expand production capacity and farmer support.
Kaisel said Capay Mills is in the process of fundraising and obtaining investments for the production expansion. He’s also in discussion with a few national brands about being an ingredient supplier for their products.
“It’s a good problem when customer interest lets us know our facility is too small.” Green said. “2022 is about how do we do more and what do we need to do more?”
India to Repeal Controversial Farm Laws Amid Mass Protest
by Eleanor Reagan
Farmers in New Delhi witnessed a surprising retreat by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi this month, signaling a victory after more than a year of protest against the country’s controversial agriculture reforms. The new amendments, referred to as the Farm Bills, were passed by Indian Parliament in September 2020 with the intention of modernizing India’s agricultural industry through massive deregulation and the introduction of private buyers to the wholesale marketplace. These amendments would repeal the existing Minimum Support Price (MSP) for staple crops which currently protects small scale farmers from exploitative market prices.
Despite the Prime Minister’s concessions, farmer unions are refusing to step down in an effort to push for land ownership and food distribution reforms in addition to increased governmental oversight of minimum support rates. Unmet demands also include an expansion to the list of 22 eligible MSP staple crops, currently covering seven cereal and five pulse crops. The historic mobilization marks a significant challenge to the agricultural sector’s excessive corporatization and a monumental win for workers everywhere.
Biden Administration Attempts to Tackle Methane Emissions
by Kwase Lane
Following a report from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the shortcomings of the 2015 Paris Agreement pledges, the Biden administration has revealed plans for cutting methane emissions. The proposed rules were released at the U.N. Climate Summit on November 2nd and include more extensive leak monitoring and a requirement to capture natural gas that might be released into the atmosphere.
Methane, the second-highest contributor to global warming of all greenhouse gasses, is predominantly released by industrial agriculture. Because of this, methane regulation and food systems were critical topics at the climate summit. Although environmental justice and labor communities have tirelessly promoted regenerative frameworks that challenge these extractive economies, the Biden Administration made no promise to regulate the extensive corporatization of our food system.
Neighbor Loaves Project Announces Mini Grants for Local Chefs and Bakers
Thanks to a $3,000 grant from the Ohio Farm Bureau we are about to expand the Neighbor Loaves [& Meals] project with $250 mini grants to local chefs and bakers for recipe development using staple crops, as well as an additional $1200 to match customer purchases in 2022. We will also expand our reach, including the development of promotional materials and an updated logo.
We are eager to add recipes from existing and new business partners, and welcome chefs and bakers to reach out to us by email with 'Neighbor Loaves mini grant' in the subject line.
Millers Peer Learning Group Increases Listserv Queries
The activity among millers ramped up in the last few months through queries and discussions on our listserv. More than a dozen millers from around the country weighed in with answers to questions about their milling equipment, climate adaptation, lab tests, pricing and employee pay and benefits. In the coming months, we aim to use our platform to collect and share advice from members and hopefully compile the data for new millers.
Welcome Eleanor Reagan, AmeriCorps/VISTA
In late October, just before our last issue of the Staple Pulse, Eleanor Reagan joined ASFC to help build capacity for the program and its projects. In under two months, Eleanor has supported new interns, organized and written for the newsletter, covered our social media platforms, and helped promote Neighbor Loaves [& Meals].
She has a wide scope of skills from textile art to illustration, and teaches woodworking classes at the Athens Makerspace. Eleanor returned to Ohio after working with houseless individuals in the Bay Area for three years and hopes to continue to support community-led programs here in Appalachia. As we move into 2021, Eleanor plans to develop our mapping projects and support ASFC’s grant writing team to fund our vision for a just staple food system in our region.
North American Staple Network (NASN) Updates
Our network of food system leaders meets quarterly to work together to advance staple crops across North American regions. Here are some annual updates from a few of our members across the country:
In November of this year, Common Grain Alliance was awarded a USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program grant to continue their mission to support an integrated grain economy in the Mid-Atlantic. Part of this multi-year, $749,217 grant will enable CGA to work with FRESHFARM to host grain stand pilot at farmers markets in the DC-metro area in an effort to promote consumer awareness of regional grains.
Cascadia Grains hosted Grains Week, an interactive online educational event featuring research, information, community sustainability and health of regional value-added small grain economies for farmers, bakers, brewers, distillers, millers, maltsters, and consumers. The online series has amassed over 4 thousand views since its premiere in May.
Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance
Six years, 194 trialists, and 300 varieties later, Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance’s Heritage Grain Trials Program is coming to a close with a vetted collection of Top 20 adaptable and well-performing ancient and heritage cereal grains for the Mountain West. This work was made possible with grassroots efforts of nearly 200 volunteer and research trialists.
Visit their website to try varieties of the Top 20 grain collection, or other grains from the Heritage and Ancient Grain Collection.
Whole Farm Planning and
Seeking beginning farmers in Appalachian Ohio or West Virginia! Are you looking to start a farm? Do you have plans to begin selling a food product? Are you a couple years into operating your farm or food business and could benefit from refining your business plan?
Hosted by Rural Action, the Whole Farm Planning & Mentoring program is an 8-week series that leads 15 beginning farmers and food entrepreneurs through the process of planning their business.
Soul Fire Farm:
Uprooting Racism in the Food System
Uprooting Racism Training is a theory and action online workshop for environmental and food justice leaders to uproot systemic racism in our organizations and society.
"We delve deep into the history and structural realities of racial injustice and develop an understanding of the movement strategies of frontlines communities struggling for food sovereignty."
Workshop dates: January 20th, February 2nd, February 10th, & February 16th.
Perennial Farm Gathering
The Savanna Institute will be hosting the Perennial Farm Gathering online this year and adapting many of the sessions to monthly webinars or field days.
This annual Midwest agroforestry event includes interactive networking opportunities, presentations on financing agroforestry, environmental and social justice, specific agroforestry crops, and more.
Admission costs are waived this year.
43rd Annual OEFFA Conference: Rooted & Rising
The Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association conference will be a hybrid online and in person event in 2022. Join online on February 12th or attend in person February 17-19th in Dayton.
Ohio’s largest sustainable food and farm conference offers up to four days of live learning, sharing, and connecting with sustainable farmers, gardeners, and local food supporters.
We'll be tabling with Rural Action's Sustainable Agriculture in the exhibition hall!
Watch: Gather documents the growing movement among Native Americans to reclaim their spiritual, political and cultural identities through food sovereignty. Watch now on Netflix!
AmeriCorps/VISTA: Editor , Writer & Layouts
OU Intern: Writer
OU Intern: Writer
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