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Locally Yours: Supporting farmers helps food security

By: Carol Arnold
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What does food security mean to you? Most assume the ships, refrigerated train cars and interstate trucks will keep coming, all bearing the plentiful, inexpensive food we are used to. But what if there is a lengthy drought in the Midwest that destroys the corn crop? Why should you think twice about corn production in the Midwest?
Corn prices are soaring and prices of everything from eggs to pork to beef are predicted to skyrocket as a result of the current drought. I don’t think a major disruption is a likely immediate event, but I do know that it is now at least a real possibility longer-term.
Six years ago, I didn’t know much about specialty crop production on small farms. I was interested in good food and knew farmers markets had good food. In the years I have worked for the market association, not only has my appreciation for local food deepened, but I have also learned the importance of agriculture in our community. Knowing where to find the tastiest peach is one thing, but realizing that local people working hard to produce local food is a key to our food security is another.
Our farmers produce a great deal of high-quality food per acre in production. Due to the variety of crops that are grown in Placer County, and the skill with which our farmers farm, we are more secure in a local food supply than most of the rest of our country. The tricky part is this – we have to keep the farmers farming and the local ranchers ranching to continue to benefit from a local food supply. If we don’t eat it, they won’t grow it.
How do we keep our local food production healthy and thriving? The answer is simple. You, the consumers, make the commitment to support your local farms. Buy the bulk of your food from them. Our farmers need to make enough money to keep farming. They grow healthy, life-sustaining food right here in Placer County. Ask yourself, “What is that worth?” You make it a priority to bring good food into your life, and you make our community a little bit more food secure every time you do it.
In sharp contrast to the serious subject of this week’s column, today’s recipe is for a decadent soft pudding. Panna cotta is Italian for “cooked cream.” Previously, I shied away from making panna cotta because I wasn’t familiar with using gelatin, but it is very simple; I whipped up the pudding in about five minutes. The addition of the peaches from Pine Hill Orchard and thyme from Basil Creek Farms is heavenly. A nice summery dessert for these hot August days.
Find other recipes and the current market schedule at www.foothillfarmersmarket.com. See you at the market!
Carol Arnold is general manager of the Foothill Farmers Market Association. Reach her at foothillfarmersmarket@gmail.com.

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Panna cotta with herbed peaches

Recipe by Carol Arnold

Ingredients

Panna cotta

1¼ teaspoons unflavored gelatin (from a ¼-ounce envelope)

2 tablespoons water

1¼ cups heavy cream

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup plain low-fat yogurt

¼ cup honey

¼ teaspoon almond extract

Peaches

1½ tablespoons thyme leaves

1 tablespoon sugar

Three peaches, peeled, pitted and thinly sliced (I used freestone Fay Alberta peaches)

Directions

Panna cotta

Sprinkle gelatin over water in a small heavy saucepan and let stand one minute to soften. Stir in cream and salt, then heat gently over medium-low heat, stirring, until gelatin has dissolved. Set aside. Whisk together yogurt, honey and almond extract in a medium bowl, then whisk in cream mixture. Pour mixture into four small bowls and chill, covered, until set, at least eight hours.

Peaches

Mince thyme with the sugar, then toss with the peaches. Let macerate at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. While peaches macerate, let the panna cotta stand at room temperature.

To serve

Top bowls of panna cotta with peaches and their juice.