Great Pumpkins, Great Seeds

SPumpkin SoupIf you like the circus act where a crowd of clowns emerges from a tiny car, then you’ll love spaghetti squash.When I see the stacks of orange orbs in front of grocery stores, I can’t help but think that pumpkins have been hijacked for that trick without a treat, the Halloween jack-o-lantern. The hijackees have been bred not for their texture or flavor, but for their bright color and substantial stems.

Not Your Typical Grocery Store Pumpkin

To find a truly great and delicious pumpkin, look for the opposite of the typical jack-o-lantern pumpkin. The best ones are either the small “sugar” or “pie” pumpkins on the one hand, or the large “cheese pumpkins” on the other. Either way, you will get two treats of the season in one – soft pumpkin flesh and crunchy pumpkin seeds.

At farm stands and farmers markets, you’ll find pie pumpkins ranging from light cream to taupe to a dark bronze or dull orange. Their stems may be thin or even broken off. But remember, you’re buying this pumpkin for the beauty within.

Pumpkins of All Shapes and Sizes

The cheese pumpkins (Winter Luxury, New England Pie, Long Island Cheese, and Cinderella) are flattened and squat, just like a big round of cheese. Some have vertical pleats running from the stem end to the blossom end.

New England Pie is the classic orange pie pumpkin. The flesh is stringless, giving it a nice consistency without putting it in a blender or food processor.

Winter Luxury is my favorite culinary pumpkin. It has a russeted, finely-netted soft orange-gray skin, and smooth, velvety, rich-tasting flesh.

Whichever pie pumpkin you choose, start by cutting it in half and placing it cut side down on an oiled baking sheet. Bake at 350 F until you can easily pierce it with a fork. Then cool to room temperature and scoop out the flesh to make a soup, stew, or your favorite pumpkin dessert. Any way you use it, it will make for a deeply satisfying meal on a chilly autumn evening — another reason to revere the great pumpkin and give thanks.

Spicy Pumpkin Soup with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients

4 Tbsp butter
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons curry powder
½ teaspoon ground coriander
Pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional)
6 cups roasted pumpkin flesh
5 cups of chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
2 cups of milk
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add spices and stir for a minute more.
  2. Add pumpkin and 5 cups of chicken broth. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Transfer soup, in batches, to a blender or food processor. Cover tightly and blend until smooth. Return soup to saucepan, and add brown sugar. Slowly add milk and cream, stirring to incorporate. Adjust seasonings to taste. Re-heat gently.
  4. Serve in individual bowls, and sprinkle with roasted pumpkin seeds.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients

Seeds scooped out of a pie pumpkin before roasting
Salt
Olive oil

Instructions

  1. Place the seeds in a colander and rinse to separate the seeds from the strings and flesh. Measure the pumpkin seeds and then in a saucepan, put 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt for every half cup of pumpkin seeds. Bring the salted water and pumpkin seeds to a boil. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Drain.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat the bottom of a roasting pan or heavy baking sheet with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Spread the seeds out in a single layer. Bake on the top rack until the seeds begin to brown, 5-20 minutes, depending on the size of the seeds. Keep an eye on the pumpkin seeds so they don’t burn. When nicely browned, remove the pan from the oven and let cool on a rack.

Creative Commons LicenseThe Land Connection Foundation

The best way to enjoy healthy, seasonal produce is to buy it from your local community farmer. To locate the farmers’ market or CSA nearest you, visit www.localharvest.org.

Farm Fresh Now! is a project of The Land Connection, an educational nonprofit that preserves farmland, trains new farmers, and connects people with great locally-grown foods. This series is made possible with generous support from the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Speak Up About the Farm Bill

The Farm Bill will soon come up for a vote, and we need to keep up the clamor for a bill that preserves, protects, and supports small struggling farmers and that enables us to continue buy fresh fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices at farmers’ markets. I cringed at a Washington Post headline the other day that referred to lobbyists gearing up for the next budget fight. Most lobbyists shouldn’t even have a role in the process, much less the kind of access that allows them to write the bills, which is exactly what has happened with large parts of the Farm Bill.

Farm-Bill-Petition-Opening-Graphic-Alert-Image-Web.jpgI was heartened, though, by another story in the paper this past weekend about grocery stores coming out against stocking and selling GMO salmon in opposition to the government’s permitting the sale without notification. These retailers are responding to a huge grass-roots groundswell of antagonism to the idea of eating these fish, and while our own government isn’t listening, the retailers are getting the message.

We can make a difference, and as in any battle, we just have to recruit and train the troops and provide them with the ammunition they need to argue a point and get it across. I will surely receive more emails from a variety of organizations over the next few weeks letting me know how to let our voices be heard on the Food Bill. Some go as far as to send prefab notes and emails and to provide a list of our representatives in Congress, as well as committee members who will vote on the language.

Having worked for my own congressman in a district office, I know that a call or a note can mean even more. The staffers who pass messages along will include your personal comments. You might even know more about the bill’s impact than your representatives do. Let them know, and share what you have learned. It will be a more credible comment than a computer-generated message. This is the way of the world of grass-roots lobbying now, but those messages that pour in from interest groups who have passed along their wording to thousands still do not carry the weight of a personal note, email, or call to your representative’s office.

I won’t comment on the Farm Bill again — there is too much other good and bad news to pass along — but I will continue to include links to updates. Thanks for caring and getting involved: this bill could make or break some of your favorite small farmers.

Remembering a Generous Relative

Sibs_in_Caux.jpg
Barbara Jackson, center, with brother Joe Appleton and sister Sherry Constable

I was reminded this past weekend why I am doing what I do now – combining my love of good food and working to help good people into a pretty nice gig. I was reminded by the voices of memory, by the children and siblings of a dear cousin, Barbara A. Jackson, who died tragically and too soon three weeks ago.

My family met to celebrate her life Saturday along the banks of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River at her sister’s farm. Amid all the memories involving her love of food and cooking was one particularly close to my heart. My cousin Barbara was the member of the family who took over the job of making the squash bisque that I took to our Thanksgiving reunions for over 10 years. Finally some years ago she offered to make it herself so that I could bring something new to replace it. And I was quite happy to have her do that. I still make the recipe at home and sometimes bring it to market for sampling, as it is one of our most popular and simplest recipes.

In speaking of Barbara at the gathering, her brother told us a secret about that offer. As it turned out, Barbara hated the chore of making that soup because she almost always made it for a crowd of at least 40 and usually more for our Thanksgivings and other events. I know just how she felt about peeling all those acorn squash. I even told her once that I had tried just baking the squash and then scooping out the softened meat of the squash to add to the soup before pureeing it. But it didn’t taste the same because the squash missed being cooked together with the minced veggies and the potatoes in the broth. So she wasn’t having any of that idea, either.

So we both persevered for all those years until just over a year ago when I learned something new. I happened to watch a segment of Jamie Oliver’s At Home series on PBS and saw him peel the squash for another dish by taking off only about two-thirds of the outer rind, which is just like him – he always avoids removing any part of a vegetable just for show. I had reminded myself just a few weeks ago to let Barbara know about a tip that was worth taking before Thanksgiving rolled around this year.

In his talk, her brother Joe assured us that Barbara didn’t regret her offer at all and stuck with her commitment out of love and out of that nurturing instinct so prevalent in my family. If even one person loved that soup and expected to enjoy it on Thanksgiving, she was not going to disappoint them. I missed my chance to lighten her load a little, but I won’t regret that – she never wanted any of her children or anyone else to regret anything they did, just to learn and move on.

I need to update the introduction you see at the beginning of this recipe. It will mention Barbara as the good and gracious (and old) soul who adopted the recipe as her own and brought it to Thanksgiving dinner for at least 10 years. And I will make it again this year in her honor and in honor of a family that loves to cook and eat good food. Those opportunities to cook and eat together will always be with us as some of our best memories. I hope that it is true for your families.

Making the Most of Downtime, for the Farmers

In Northern Virginia, we have been relatively unscathed by the recent recession, but many of us are feeling the effects of the government shutdown. It affects not so much the government workers who now know they will be paid for the lost time, but the recipients of government health and welfare programs who are not receiving care or services and those businesses that depend on government workers or contracts. Hopefully it reminds us that we do have a say in how these things play out and that it all comes down to deeds rather than words. Voting, rather than posturing, makes a difference in the end.

But in our system of government, we can also participate in other ways as laws and policies are under consideration. I often link to announcements and alerts from various organizations that care about the issues that directly affect your ability to shop for the produce, meats, and dairy that you want at a farmers’ market. Numerous groups are working to save the small family farmers and their farming methods, to preserve our freedom to choose the foods we want to eat, and to promote expansion of our access to additive-free foods. I have been receiving weekly updates about the farm bill from most of them, and occasionally I pass them along to you.

I know how easy it is to leave petition-signing, emailing, and phoning congressional offices to others, but each comment is tallied and means even more if it comes in your own words. You are capable of learning everything you need to know to form an opinion and share that opinion with a legislator or regulator. And you may now have time on your hands to do just that.

Make yourself useful for a larger purpose. Take a break zipping through that “Honey-Do” list or cleaning out the nearest closet. Visit one of the websites listed below, sign up for a newsletter and immerse yourself in these issues that will affect you sooner rather than later. The Farm Bill is still pending; new Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations are being considered, and several organizations need your support to continue their good work. The farmers you have come to know this season are depending on us — some will not be farming in the future if some of these laws are enacted and these regulations adopted.

The farmers are for you; let’s show them what you can do for them.

Here are some sites where you can learn about these issues:

A Spate of Good News

It’s always fun to pass along good news in the world of health and nutrition, especially when it broadens our understanding of the importance of a healthy diet to our overall good health. The Washington Post pointed out Sept. 23 that a large majority of older men and women are now taking calcium pills and spending a total of $1.2 billion on them. Surprise! They don’t really need to and maybe shouldn’t be.

apples.jpgAccording to the Post, “recent evidence suggests that getting calcium from pills might not be as safe or effective for some people as getting it from food.” The article recommended food-based sources of calcium, including dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified foods.

And what do we have in abundance in our farmers’ markets now? Leafy greens — not just several varieties of kale, but chard, collards, mustard greens, and beet greens. Just imagine the farmers we would have competing to sell at farmers’ markets if even half of the expenditure on calcium pills was diverted to greens!

McDonald’s once again deserves a nod for its renewed and expanded commitment to introducing more fruits and vegetables as alternatives to french fries in their adult-oriented value meals and to aggressively promoting healthier beverages for its Happy Meals. This is a long-term program that will be phased in slowly — primarily to develop the supply chain, I suppose — but there is no doubt that these efforts will have an impact on the American diet. Since McDonald’s began encouraging children to choose milk instead of a soft drink with their Happy Meals, their milk sales have increased by 50 percent since the mid-2000s. They have also learned from experience that they cannot dictate those healthier choices, but they can offer them and let the customers move to them at their own pace.

There is reason to believe that those choices will improve over time. Science has finally caught up with the common sense of centuries, and proof is pouring in that what we eat can make us healthy, wealthy, and wise. How and what our children eat can affect their their ability to learn, as well as their ability to earn. The choices we provide as responsible adults influence and maybe control what they eat as kids. Those choices also build a foundation that affects what they choose for themselves as adults.

This process must involve — and ideally be led by — our schools, where all of our children are exposed to some of the worst foods they can eat. Even in our area, there is progress here too. Visit Realfoodsforkids.org to learn more about what is happening in Fairfax County. They need volunteers to expand their good advocacy work throughout the county; check out what you can do for the school in your neighborhood.

And one last thing: Guess what? An apple a day can keep the doctor away! According to a Sept. 26 Post article, apples were recognized for their health benefits by ancient Roman and Anglo-Saxon civilizations. More recently, apples have been proven to lower bad cholesterol when eaten every day and also seem to prevent strokes. The Post also pointed out that apple skins are loaded with fiber and quercetin, a phytochemical with anti-inflammatory and heart-protecting qualities, and may reduce the spread of cancer cells.

With all those locally grown great greens and appealing apples out there now, this is the time of year to get healthy, and I can’t imagine two better-tasting ways to do that. Buy a mess of greens and a bushel of apples and get crackin’.

And remember the children out there who aren’t yours when it comes time to devote some of your valuable time to a valuable effort such as improving the health of the community.

Helping Lower-Income Market Shoppers, Nonprofit or Not

There was an interesting article in the Washington Post Opinion section Sunday written by a gentleman farmer who has sold produce for many years at the Sunday farmers’ market in Takoma Park, Md. His name is Michael Lipsky, and he is also a former professor at MIT and now a fellow at Demos, a public-policy think tank and advocacy group. His story was prompted by his one day of selling at a new market in Takoma Park that appears to target the immigrant and lower-income population of Takoma Park and its suburban environs.

market_sign.jpgWhile he did not indicate that prices were any lower at that market than at the other Takoma Park market, he did indicate that the organization that manages the market had raised money to supplement by matching dollar for dollar the food stamps (now called SNAP) and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) vouchers that many of the shoppers bring to market. The organization can do that because it is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) that can raise corporate money and receive grants, which Smart Markets cannot do.

When I started Smart Markets in 2008, organizations such as mine were springing up all over the country to fill a burgeoning demand for locally grown and more carefully grown fresh food. Over a two- or three-year period, the number of markets more than doubled, and the IRS was overwhelmed with this new breed of organization that was needed to provide the organizational underpinnings of those markets. Because farmers are not inclined to organize themselves unless maybe they are farmers who are cultivating many thousands of acres.

We were caught like many other small and similar organizations in a expansion warp that swamped the IRS and caused them to do everything they could to delay our applications without actually declining them. Their problem was that they could not actually justify declining them because they did not have rules in place to do so. Our problem was that we needed to get up and running with some legal structure before the picking season began.

Sound familiar? This is just how the IRS operates — and it makes sense for a bureaucracy for which you and I are paying the bills. They do not waste time formulating rules for situations that have not arisen yet, or at least not in such huge numbers that staff all over the country cannot take care of one at a time with serious attention paid to each application. Which is what we as taxpayers should expect, unless of course you are one of those taxpayers who would like the exemption to get on with your business. We didn’t have millions of dollars and access to a public forum to complain; we just had to accept our fate and wait a couple of years to begin operation or lose our application money, as I did, and move on with another business plan.

Smart Markets can still address some of these issues brought up by Mr. Lipsky, and we can do it without grant money. We are planning to move one market next year into a lower-income community with the express purpose of trying to duplicate the outdoor markets that are familiar to the surrounding immigrant population and with every intention of offering our existing outreach and education programs in languages besides English. We expect to host a workshop for a diverse population of cooks and bakers whom we can teach to cook at home to sell at farmers’ markets. We will also offer assistance at the market to shoppers who will need to know how to shop, how to use EBT cards at the market, and how to substitute unfamiliar ingredients for those that they grew up using in their home countries.

We will work to train and support vendors who are willing to accept SNAP cards, and we will continue to advocate for the state of Virginia to participate in the WIC and Senior Farmers’ Market programs that they have dropped. For a mere 20 percent of the overhead cost of those programs, the state of Virginia has chosen not to spend the money to feed the 15 percent of its population that is hungry most of the time. After all I have read and written in the last five years about the connection between a nutritious diet in the early years and school readiness-to-learn, I see no good sense in the determination and no good result coming from that decision. But here again, we learn to muddle through the red tape and do what we can — thank goodness we look good in red!

We want to ensure that our markets reach out to everyone, but in the course of doing that we can also make special accommodations for those who need a little help to avail themselves of the best foods our local area has to offer. We already share the leftover bounty of the market with several food banks in our area, but we can do more. We all can do more to advocate for ourselves and others, and it doesn’t cost a penny to advocate.

The Meat Industry Is Backing Unsafe Practices

If you’re reading this, you may already be a member of the proverbial choir. You may be at least generally aware of what is happening to the food-supply chain in this country, somewhat familiar with the writings of Michael Pollan, aware of the work of activists such as Jamie Oliver, and committed already to buying local. I also know that there is a lot more that we do not know that would appall us. But how often do we see a story about food safety inspections on the front page of a national newspaper for all to read?

This Washington Post story is good news and bad news all in one revelation. The bad news is obvious: the U.S. Department of Agriculture is in the process of expanding a new pork-inspection program that has utterly failed us in its pilot stages; the good news is that this is news at all.

At the same time, another story has not yet made the front page and hasn’t made it into any of the newsletters devoted to the safety and security of our food chain that I already receive. We have a loyal shopper to thank for alerting me last week.

The USDA ruled Aug. 30 that China may process chicken that has been raised and slaughtered in the U.S. or Canada and export it back to the U.S. in the form of soups and chicken nuggets, none of which will be required to have “country of origin” labeling. We have been assured that none of this chicken will be fed to our schoolchildren, but that hardly qualifies as even a nugget of good news. Four plants in China were audited and subsequently approved, but there will be no USDA inspectors on site from now on and only periodic on-site reviews (not inspections) of the Chinese operations. China has been poisoning their own people for years with water, soil and air that is unfit for human consumption.

The most interesting aspect is that the push comes from the U.S. beef industry, which has lobbied heavily for this change. The beef interests believe that opening this opportunity for China will encourage them to reopen their country to our beef exports. Even the U.S. poultry industry is only “cautiously optimistic” that this is a good idea for food safety or a business advantage for the U.S. So we are back to Big Beef and its influence on our food system once again. I think it’s time for Big Consumer to be heard on these issues because obviously no one is asking us.

Case in point: The USDA website has two pages devoted to Frequently Asked Questions, and not one of those “questions” or answers mentions the recent history of China’s food-safety system or deals in any way with the labeling of these products. I can’t help but think that if the public was actually asking the questions, these issues would have been raised.

The worst-case scenario would be if the Chinese processors slip their own chicken into the processing plant or subcontract with processing plants that are not on the list. And why wouldn’t they do that if they could sell more chicken, make more money, and get away with it? Just look at what the garment makers across the world get away with under the radar until a plant collapses and kills hundreds of people.

Even our plants here in the U.S., which do have USDA inspectors on site, can’t always turn out meat products that are safe for us to eat, and now we are asked to trust Chinese plants with our health and safety. And as far as we know, they will not have any inspectors. I am sure that government risk assessors have combed the data for the potential for bad outcomes with this new policy, but I would rather trust my own safety and that of my family to the friendly farmer and grazier at the farmers’ market and the small Virginia- and Pennsylvania-based businesses that process their animals.

It’s too bad that most people in this country do not know about their options or do not have the opportunity to buy local. I have a sneakin’ suspicion that they would look to buy local as well if they knew the facts.

Do You Know Beans?

Curried OkraKnowing Beans

Besides being different colors on the outside, there’s not much difference . . . after all, they’re just beans, right?

Henry David Thoreau, and anyone who has ever grown their own, or had fresh-picked beans from a local farm, would beg to differ. In Walden, Thoreau writes about his “singular experience” of “planting, and hoeing, and harvesting, and threshing, and picking over and selling them,” concluding: “I was determined to know beans."

A Spectrum of Knowledge

If you too are determined to know the many excellent flavors and textures of beans, you’re likely to find these and more at your local farmers market:  succulent Blue Lake,  skinny French Filet or Haricots Verts,  Kentucky Wonder, Yellow Wax, Royal Burgundy,  tiny Tres Fin, and the large, broad Dragon Tongue and Italian Flat beans. 

Many people gravitate toward the slender French beans and steer clear of the big, broad Italian Flat (also known as Romanos) and Dutch heirloom Dragon Tongue beans, jumping to the conclusion that big beans must be over-mature, tough, and stringy.  But in keeping with the general rule that the worse something looks, the better it tastes, those big beans are sweet and tender, with rich deep flavors.

Easy to Prepare

All varieties of beans are super-easy to prepare.  Simply put a pot of salted water on to boil, and while it’s heating up, remove the tips and tails, and snap the beans into 2-inch lengths.  Then drop them into the boiling water and taste-test after 3-4 minutes. A tiny Tres Fin will take less time than a standard green bean, which will take less time than a Romano.  Keep testing every minute or so until the beans are no longer crunchy, but just barely tender. After you drain the beans, toss them with plain butter, herbed butter, or garlic mayonnaise and serve. Or try this great combination of summery tomatoes and beans. 

Summer Beans with Fresh Tomatoes and Garlic

Ingredients

2 cups beans (any variety)
2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup fresh chopped tomatoes

4 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp chopped parsley, basil, tarragon (or herb of your choice)
Salt and black pepper to taste

Steam or boil the beans for 3-4 minutes. Drain well and put in a frying pan with the remaining ingredients. Cook until beans are tender.  

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss well to combine flavors. Allow to sit at room temperature at least ½ hour, then re-season as needed. Serve at room temperature.

Seasonal Cook’s Notes: Crunchy raw beans are OK on a tray of raw veggies, but they will not reveal their full flavors until they are fully cooked – but catch them before they are over-cooked and limp!

Creative Commons LicenseThe Land Connection Foundation

The best way to enjoy healthy, seasonal produce is to buy it from your local community farmer. To locate the farmers’ market or CSA nearest you, visit www.localharvest.org.

Farm Fresh Now! is a project of The Land Connection, an educational nonprofit that preserves farmland, trains new farmers, and connects people with great locally-grown foods. This series is made possible with generous support from the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Okra: Out of Africa

Curried OkraIf you grew up in Illinois, you were probably like me and okra never crossed your mind–or plate. The fact is that I never laid eyes on an okra plant or ate an okra pod until my brother started growing it on his central Illinois farm. Now I pluck it off the tall beautiful flowering plants and eat it raw, stir fried, or sauteed with fresh tomatoes and sweet corn.

Although it is native to Africa, okra grows beautifully in hot, humid Midwestern summers. And it’s a perfect plant for edible landscaping as well, since it’s a member of the Hibiscus family, and puts out many showy yellow flowers throughout the summer.

A Well-Traveled Veggie

From Africa, okra traveled far and wide, becoming the bhindi in Indian curries, the bamies in Arab and Mediterranean food, and lady’s fingers in England and the English Caribbean. But long before, when it grew wild on the White Nile, it was nkurama in the Twi language of present-day Ghana. Nkurama crossed the Atlantic with the slave trade and the name became shortened to okra.

Don’t Fear the Slime

Even though okra has become a common sight at mid-summer farmers markets, it is still a vegetable that gets few raves — mainly because of the perceived slime factor. And yes, if you cook the living daylights out of it, there will be a thickening effect, which is precisely what it has been used for in soups and gumbos.

But when you get very fresh okra, and cook it lightly and quickly, there is no slickness. Millions of people all over Africa, India, the Middle East, the Caribbean, South America, and the Balkans enjoy okra cooked in many ways, and you will too.

In addition to being packed with fiber that can lower cholesterol, one cup of okra is only 33 calories, and contains lots of vitamins (A, C, K and B-complex), minerals (calcium, manganese, and magnesium), and antioxidants.

Curried Okra

2-3 Tb vegetable oil

1 medium onion or two shallots, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced (optional)

1 lb fresh okra, stems cut off, and okra pods cut into ¼-½ inch pieces

1 hot pepper of any sort, minced (optional)

2-3 Tb Curry Powder or to taste

  1. Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until golden.

Add garlic, pepper, curry powder, and okra. Stir-fry about 5 minutes or until okra is bright green and tender-crisp. Serves 4.

Creative Commons LicenseThe Land Connection Foundation

The best way to enjoy healthy, seasonal produce is to buy it from your local community farmer. To locate the farmers’ market or CSA nearest you, visit www.localharvest.org.

Farm Fresh Now! is a project of The Land Connection, an educational nonprofit that preserves farmland, trains new farmers, and connects people with great locally-grown foods. This series is made possible with generous support from the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

A Lack of Free Space

We have been working hard with some wonderful partners to find space and times for enough classes to teach more than 400 people who have signed up to take free classes in home canning. I will make time and space to thank each and every one of those partners once we have completed the class schedule because it has taken lots of cooperation, patience, and organization to put this together.

Ball Jar Family with Tomatos, Marmalade and Pickles_hires.jpgWe will end up with enough classes to meet the demand this fall, but I have been surprised and disappointed to learn that so many nonprofit organizations that have the space we need want to charge us for its use to teach their own neighbors. In all cases, the classes will be made up of people who live in their communities, and where we have reached out for help, we have offered to include clients, staff, and/or members of these organizations in the classes.

I know that monetizing everything from the sides of buses to high-school scoreboards, not to mention the Web, is big business, but since when do we need to be paid to do good—or the right thing? I know as a child of the ’60s that I still carry with me lots of that unbridled idealism that led to our activism. Even then, though, I was considered something of a cynic because I was always realistic about projected outcomes. But I never expected to find that organizations that depend upon the good will of the communities they serve for their own success would need to charge for the use of a room—a room that would not be disturbed in any way and would look just as it did before the class when the class was over.

Our needs are simple: tables, chairs, running water nearby, and an electric outlet. We are flexible as long as we have a three-hour window; we are hoping to offer classes at various times of the day and on different days of the week. And many of the facilities we know about sit empty of activity most of the time. So I wonder where this comes from. In the ’60s, finding a location to teach free classes in anything would have been a cinch. It isn’t anymore. And I am sad about that.

If you signed up, watch for a follow-up email to arrive soon with details and instructions. If you did not sign up this year, wait till next spring. We are going to do this again, even without all the supplies we have received from the Ball canning company.