Friday, June 23, 2017

Farmer Friday- Deep Root Mushroom Farm

Groups of inoculated sugar maple logs in "Shiitake Land"

             Whether they are developing in the garden, sprouting from stacks of logs in an area described as “shiitake land”, or growing in bags within a protected shed, it is evident that mushrooms encompass the entire property of Deep Root Mushroom Farm, in Canton, NY, and that is just the outside. Inside the Corse’s mountain home, one can easily come across bags of mushrooms in the kitchen, the laundry room, the basement, the bedroom, along with numerous mason jars housed in the upstairs mushroom lab. What is most astounding is that Mike Corse, of Deep Root, explains that his mushroom growth is currently in a state of limbo. There are times, he explains, when the refrigerator is stocked with multiple varieties of mushroom and has to halt production because there simply is not enough storage to support more crop yields.
Mike Corse filling a bag that will produce Grey Oyster mushrooms
             Mike recounts that his interest to grow mushrooms was sparked when he found himself assisting a local grower inoculate logs. This curiosity towards mushroom cultivation, Mike claims, resonated with him more than anything else ever has and still motivates him today.
            Mushroom farming was not an instant lifestyle change but rather a gradual progression into the profession. It was a process of taking baby steps to see where it would go, filled with numerous mistakes on the way.
            It may seem ironic to be worried about cleanliness when dealing with fungi, but when you look inside Deep Root’s mushroom lab on the second floor of Mike’s house, you will see masks, gloves, and sanitation equipment. 
              Just a sneeze could contaminate an entire bag of mushrooms. Mike explains the delicacy of the process, “they’re not as forgiving as a seed, but more fascinating in my book”, and it is this fascination that spreads the Deep Root name across St. Lawrence County.
You may have eaten some of Deep Root’s mushrooms at Jake’s On The Water. Distributing to Jake’s was a push to become more dedicated to his mushrooms and prompted Mike to improve his farming. Today, Mike spends most of his time with his mushrooms. He quit his job at Nature’s Storehouse to devote his time towards learning and growing these fungi. On the property you can find at least eight different mushroom varieties; Oyster, King Oyster, Shiitake, Wine-caps, Blewit, Almond Portobello, Reishi, and Pink Oyster.
Grey Oyster Mushrooom
            “I don’t know why” is the immediate answer Mike responds with when asked what keeps him involved in mushrooms, but as he continues describing his work it is rapidly apparent that there are many. “There is always something new around the corner”, he explains when describing his consistent allure towards understanding the evolution and knowledge needed to successfully execute mushroom growth.
He also alludes to an interest that derives from the various uses of the mushroom. Many varieties are highly medicinal and produce numerous health benefits, they serve as a great source of protein, some can have deadly consequences if identified incorrectly. In fact, mushrooms have a closer biochemical and genetic relationship to humans than they do to plants. Yet people are often leery when it comes to embracing the mushroom, there is something about this food source that make so many people uneasy, ”like snakes”, Mike explains. 
This captivation is paired with the convenience he found with growing mushrooms. Mushroom farming doesn’t require weeding and allows a person to work in the shade. It also does not rely on the quality of soil, as much vegetable farming would, which Mike explains is something they lack on their property. Similarly, he can grow mushrooms inside his house. This allows production to continue throughout the winter in the convenient environment that is his kitchen table. At first, the mushroom was a smart and strategic choice to cultivate, but has quickly developed into a passion that continues to receive more and more recognition.
Shiitake Mushroom
             One of the most rewarding aspects, Mike has taken away from mushroom farming, is the ability to fill a niche of a diverse and unique food source to people to people of the St. Lawrence County. If you get the chance to visit the Canton Farmers Market on Tuesdays, between 9-2pm or Potsdam's Farmers Market on Saturday between 9-2pm, you may get the chance to meet the mushroom man himself. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Fun at the farmers market this week

Image result for strawberry s'mores

Farmers markets this week - Friday in Canton and Saturday in Potsdam - will have some extra fun features.

Cornell Cooperative Extension will be doing food demonstration of a healthier version of a Strawberry S'Mores snack. Yum!

There will also be a few children's activities such as a scavenger hunt for the kids to do throughout the market. 

Hope to see you there

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Farmers market programs at risk of being de-funded

Important update from our friends at the Farmers Market Coalition!

Two critical programs that support farmers and farmers markets are under threat. The recently released presidential budget proposes the complete elimination of both the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP).

Your voice is needed to protect these vital programs. Farmers markets don’t have Super PACs. We have something more powerful—a community of over 8,600 markets and millions of loyal shoppers in small towns and big cities in all 50 states. When we stand shoulder-to-shoulder and speak with one voice, we’re a force to be reckoned with. The time has come to get active.

If we act together it is still possible to save these programs, because Congress—not the President—controls the government's budget. Congress is currently debating the future of both FMPP and WIC FMNP.

Take five minutes to call or email your Congressperson and let them know how important these programs are to your market and markets across the country.

Click these links to read FMC's analysis of cuts to WIC FMNP and FMPP, and take a look at the following briefs for more information on the overall impact of the programs:

FMPP Talking Points 

WIC FMNP Talking Points

Find out who represents you here, and call or email today!
Things to Keep in Mind:
  • You’re the expert. Your Congressperson and their staff want to learn from you about these programs and how they work for your market.
  • Listening to your concerns is their job. Every member of Congress cares about the needs of the people, businesses, and communities in their district. They want to hear from you because it helps them do that job better.
  • Congressional offices hear from a lot of paid lobbyists in D.C. The voice of someone in their district representing a community institution like a farmers market carries more weight.
What You Might Expect When You Call:

Office: “Hello, Representative _______’s office.”

You: “Hello, my name is _______, with the _______ Farmers Market in [CITY and/or COUNTY]  [this is important, when they know you’re a constituent, they’ll roll out the red carpet]. May I please speak with the person who handles agriculture or nutrition issues for the Congressman?”

Office: “Of course, may I ask that this is in reference to?”

You: “The Farmers Market Promotion Program and the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program.”

Office: “Of course, I’ll transfer you right over….”

Agriculture Staffer: “Hello, Jane Farmer”

You: “Hello Jane! My name is _______, with the _______ Farmers Market in [CITY and/or COUNTY] . As you may know, the President’s budget proposes the complete elimination of both the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program and the Farmers Market Promotion Program. We feel strongly that these are two worthy programs. Both are small, efficiently run, and are working exactly as they were designed to. [Share some information about how either of these programs have benefited your community or market] Have you had a chance to discuss either of these programs with Congressman________?”

Agriculture Staffer: [Yes/no. Unless their boss in on the Agriculture Committee they may not have discussed either program]

You: Thank you. We just wanted to let the Congressman know that these programs are supporting great work in [CITY and/or COUNTY] and we’re counting on her/him!

If the conversation goes well, invite your member of Congress or to the market and let them see these programs working firsthand!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Summer food for kids

With 51% of St. Lawrence County's children receiving a free or reduced-price lunch at school, you have to wonder how those kids are eating healthy meals in the summer.  We know that our local food pantries see an influx of families in the summer as their grocery budgets are being stretched.

This morning, Channel 7 had a story about the Summer Food Service Program in Jefferson County, where they have 34 sites providing meals and activities for children in need during the summer.

St. Lawrence County has only a handful of these programs across a much larger geography.  Makes one wonder what we could do differently here to make sure our children have healthy diets, doesn't it?

Monday, June 19, 2017

New effort focused on rural hunger

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) is partnering with Smithfield Foods to launch a program titled Rally Against Rural Hunger, which will be focused on increasing participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Summer Nutrition Programs, and other federal nutrition programs in the nation’s rural areas. 

“It’s our nation’s rural areas, which paradoxically grow most of the nation’s food, that face deeper struggles with hunger than metropolitan areas,” write Jim Weill, president of FRAC, and Dennis Pittman, senior director of Hunger Relief for Smithfield Foods, in this op-ed. North Carolina ranks 13th in the nation for food hardship and has the nation’s second-highest rural population. 

Source:  Smithfield Foods joins with anti-hunger group to feed rural NC – The News & Observer, June 14, 2017

Friday, June 16, 2017

New grant will help low-income people access local food

A new grant of $20,000 from the Allen Foundation arrived just at the right time for GardenShare.  These funds will be used over the next two years to subsidize low-income and working families to either purchase shares in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms, or to help those families purchase food at farmers markets.  In addition, the grant will support the distribution of farmers markets vouchers to children who receive backpacks of food from school.

We had 14 families on the waiting list for our CSA subsidy program for 2017.  While we have already served 30 other households with funds from other grants and individual donors, we had run out of funds to cover all who applied.  Happily, this grant means that we now have provided all 14 families on the waiting list with CSA assistance.

In addition, we had some funds to help families whose children receive backpacks of food from school during the summer, thanks to grants from the United Methodist Women and Stewart’s Shops.  But it was not enough to reach the three schools that we hoped to.  With this grant added to the mix, we distributed cards that can be redeemed at the farmers markets to students in the Canton Golden Bear Pack program, the Potsdam Snack Pack program, and the Massena Back the Pack program.  All three communities have farmers markets where families can use the cards to help purchase nutritious food while school is out for the summer.

GardenShare also has a new program in 2017 that will be funded by this grant.  In order to help lower-income and working families who do not receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps) benefits, GardenShare is implementing a subsidy for purchases at the farmers markets.  Families with annual incomes of approximately $50,000 or less can double their purchasing power at the farmers markets by buying cards that have a $10 value for just $5.   The cards are purchased from GardenShare and can be redeemed at the farmers markets in Canton, Gouverneur, Massena, and Potsdam.  Full details on eligibility and an application form are available at  or by calling GardenShare at 315-261-8054.

The grant from the Allen Foundation is for two years and will support these same programs next growing season, though it does not cover the full cost of the programs.  GardenShare will seek other grants and donations to ensure the continuation this important work to help lower-income and working households obtain healthy food and to support local farmers.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Hunger 101 with the GardenShare team

Participants work on their budgets
Last evening, 20 people gathered for a Hunger 101 presentation, including GardenShare Board members, volunteers, and our staff.  Some of us had never taken part in a Hunger 101 simulation before and some were back for a second time and tried out a different role this time.

In looking through the participant comments from this session, it was striking to see the level of emotion reflected from this group of people who already know something about the issues around hunger.  Here's just a sample of the comments:

Applying for SNAP

  • I felt like I had a lot of the same emotions and feelings that someone in that situation would have - hope, frustration, embarrassment, failure, etc. 
  • The very uneasy feeling I got when interacting with the social services personnel - this is a powerful program to demonstrate that!
  • I didn't like feeling helpless!

Read more about Hunger 101 here and contact us if you would like to schedule a Hunger 101 program for your group.

A line forms at the food pantry