Campus Farmer’s Market Brings Fresh and Local Vittles to MU Students!

Photos by Abigail Rolbiecki

Students browse through baked goods at Grandma Barb's stand during the Campus Farmer's Market on Lowry Mall.

On Thursday, Sep. 22, Lowry Mall sprouted a cornucopia of local food ranging from heirloom tomatoes to hand-made semolina pasta.  MU’s Wellness Resource Center and Sustainability Office had teamed up once again to sponsor the second Campus Farmer’s Market of the season. Strolling through the three food stands and five informational booths, I easily spent the entirety of my lunch break basking in the glory that is a farmer’s market on a beautiful fall afternoon.

Something I love about the farmer’s markets on campus is the large amount of information a student can find on healthy living. Registration for the market is open to both food vendors and information providers, which garners a useful balance of education and action at the event.

For example, if students don’t know what to make with their newly purchased array of fresh veggies, the Wellness Resource Center’s booth offers a number of recipes. I’m personally excited about the Grilled Heirloom Tomato & Pesto Pizza and Vegetarian Tacos with Goat Cheese recipes I picked up. There were alsoguides to eating local, nutrition tips for busy students, and the “Top 10 Ways to Enjoy Bell Peppers,” which I might just frame and put up on my kitchen wall.

A representative from Prairie View Farm and Bakery sells forearm-sized zucchini - and other seasonal veggies - like a boss.

Other campus organizations at the market included the Sustainability Office, the Craft Studio and the RSVP Center. The Bike Resource Center set up a tent for bike tune-ups and safety checks.

Once I made the rounds through the informational booths, it was time to unleash the local foodie in me. Fortunately, fall is one of my favorite harvest seasons and there was a large supply of sweet potatoes, red bell peppers and baked goods to satiate my cravings. Unfortunately, there were NO EGGS ANYWHERE. My breakfast of cold cereal and tears Friday morning was severely lacking.

Some ripe 'maters offered up by Prarie View Farm and Bakery.

A new addition to this month’s market was the Pasta Italia homemade pasta stand. . This stand sells fresh, 100% Italian semolina pastas, olives and Italian seasonings. If you’re looking to try something new at the market, this stand is it. I have yet to try any of the pastas, but I bought magical seasoning made up of ground parmesan, garlic and basil that turns all of my cooking into mouth-watering Italian goodness.

As usual, the Missouri Legacy Beef tent attracted a large number of hungry students. If you’re just looking for a quick bite of local fare, this is the best choice. They were selling cheeseburgers and BBQ sandwiches for $4 and a rib eye sandwich for $6, with the addition of chips and a drink for the full meal price of $8. In the words of one of the Legacy Beef representatives manning the grill on Friday “It’s all fast and it’s all good!”

And what would a farmer’s market in Columbia be without Grandma Barb? Her pies and cookies were best sellers among sweet-toothed students, as were her jams and apple butter.

Grandma Barb's sweet rolls. Don't you just want to eat the picture?

I would encourage MU students to take a few minutes out of their day for the next campus farmer’s market on Oct. 27th. This event is a great opportunity to learn about eating healthy, local food. It’s also a great springboard for other farmer’s markets in the area, as the Wellness Resource Center all offers maps and information about other local farmers markets such as the Columbia Farmers Market and the Boone County Farmer’s Market.


Rebirth: A Man Talks About His Second Chance at Life

Aron Ralston, photo courtesy of his Facebook page

Since 2003 most of us have inevitably heard the story of “that guy who got his arm stuck in a rock and had to cut it off”. Some of us have even seen director Danny Boyle’s 2010 film 127 Hours, where James Franco plays “that guy”. And still fewer have read the book Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston (he’s “that guy” if you didn’t manage to pick up his name when you heard the story), who the movie is based on. I remember when I saw the film at Memorial Union during one of those free movie showings that MSA has on Wednesday nights. The room was packed and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why so many people had come to watch some guy spend four minutes getting his hand stuck between a rock and a canyon wall, half an hour trying to get it out, and then an hour cutting it off.  I was, however, thoroughly amazed by how well the movie progressed through what I had initially perceived as a less nuanced story than it really was.

This Wednesday, I was lucky enough to be present when Ralston spoke to a packed Jesse Auditorium. As with the movie, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I was leaning toward the idea of an energetic motivational speaker who was a bit full of himself. Some may disagree with me, but I left that night with my expectations affirmed. That is NOT to say that Ralston is a bad guy or that you can’t take some substantial meaning from his story. It just seemed as though he had told this story so many times that it was no longer a recounting of it, but a well rehearsed performance. A performance complete with dramatic pauses for effect and him staring at his outstretched hand pinned by an imaginary rock on the stage most of the night. After his speech an elderly woman even asked him how he became such a great actor… awkward? The audience’s whispering seemed to evidence that it was. I think seeing Marlee Matlin speak next week will provide a very interesting comparison. I’m sure no one would bat an eyelash at her having the slightest bit of an ego since she’s worked her ass off her whole life for the achievements that have made her famous, while Ralston’s slight egotism just seems to stem from being famous for making a poor choice that led to having to make a life or death choice and then talking about it.

Ralston does, however, have an important message in his speech. He basically told the story of his accident in the Canyon Country of Utah, which was motivational in that the moral of the story wasn’t merely that you should tell people where you’re going but that you should appreciate the important people in your life. Ralston was modest to an extent, introducing himself as “the guy who cut his arm off” and apologizing to the audience that he wasn’t as attractive as James Franco. He was very clear at the beginning of his speech saying “I’ve lost nothing! I’ve only gained many things!” He said that we have a responsibility to use the power we have to make choices. He had made the poorest choice of all when he failed to tell anyone where he was going, but because he made the choice to cut off his hand and experience a few hours of pain, it empowered him to live a new life full of opportunities to make better choices, which was well worth it.

The moment his hand got pinned, he said he felt a burning pain and panicked. He beat the rock with his other fist, kicked it, cussed at it (he said his words would have made Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen blush). Then he realized that he needed to STOP (Stop Think Observe Plan). He emptied the contents of his backpack in front of him and thought about what his options were. He was able to come up with four; chipping away at the rock, using his climbing gear to make a pulley system to lift the rock, committing suicide, and cutting his hand off. He set to work chipping away at the rock with a pocket knife but it wasn’t working, the pulley system didn’t work either. So he looked to *suicide, which he says would have been a rational decision as he was going to die if he couldn’t get out anyway. Not to mention suicide would have been less painful than a slow death of dehydration, hypothermia, and infection from his wound. After he prayed on it (he told the audience that he wasn’t trying to push any religion on them, but that this is what helped him, personally) he decided suicide was not the best choice.

Ralston got out his video camera and set to work saying thank you and goodbye to his friends and family in case he died. He said it was “not the will to live, but the will to love” that gave him the courage to begin cutting off his hand. He said that had he died in the canyon there was at least one thing he had done right in his life; he had recently quit his job as an engineer at Intel to follow his dream of being a professional outdoorsman. Something he could not have done it without the unwavering support of his friends and family. He cut through his arm, broke the two bones in it, cut the last piece of skin and looked at his watch, noting the date and time. It was his new birthday, he said, he had been given a whole new life. He then said, jokingly, to the audience “for us guys who will never know what it would be like to give birth, I think this would be on par.” He then stumbled out of the canyon and was met by a family on a hike, then a helicopter that got him to a hospital.

Now Ralston dedicates his life to spending time with his friends and family and following his dreams, as well as traveling the world, speaking to people about how they should do the same. He really did have a great message. I just wish he had talked more about some of his achievements and other experiences, especially when most of us had seen the movie or read the book. Interesting points could have included running the Leadville 100 (one of the world’s toughest ultra marathons) or how difficult it was to solo climb the 53 mountain peaks in Colorado that are over 14,000 feet. And in my mind, those are the types of things that you can have an ego about. I do, however, suggest you grab his book or watch the movie if you ever have a hankering for an interesting true story.

*Please note that suicide in almost every single other situation should not be an option considered and that the University has a variety of resources (including the Counseling Center 573-882-6601) available to you if you are contemplating suicide for any reason at all.

How to Use a Rice Cooker – Level One

If you’ve read last week’s piece about the marvelous Rice Cooker, and it’s done it’s job, then you’re now ready and excited to start preparing fabulous meals in it – everything from soups and stir-fries to the promised fondue.

We’ll get there. But before you can become an extreme rice cooker chef, you have to become familiar with the basics. In this case, logically enough, “the basics” = rice.

In How to Use a Rice Cooker – Level One, we’ll cover how to cook different kinds of rice and even other grains like quinoa, as well as how to use the rice cooker as a steamer and cook veggies and more at the same time! We’ll also cover some important points in the care and keeping of your new rice cooker.

Rice cookers were designed with rice first and foremost in mind. Not only do they cook rice easily and quickly, they also cook better rice than any other method – just ask the millions of Asians who have forgotten how to live without them!

Most rice cookers work in the following way: they slowly heat up the water, boil and steam the rice over a period of about 20 minutes, and then, detecting that the majority of the water has evaporated since the temperature is rising above the boiling point, switch themselves into Keep Warm mode. Some very expensive rice cookers use a method called “Fuzzy Logic” which magically senses all sorts of things about the rice’s readiness to eat, but for the cheap models, this simple temperature switch works wonders.

Goodbye burnt rice and scrubbing out pans – even if you forget about your rice cooker for days at a time, they won’t burn your rice and they wont start a fire. This is why they’re allowed in dorm rooms. If you have a really nice cooker, it will keep the rice safe to eat for up to DAYS at a time. In my cooker, I find that the rice gets sort of mushy after three or four hours, and I wouldn’t eat anything that had been in it longer than overnight. But still, that’s not bad!

Since the rice cooker does all of this work for you, all you really need to do is measure the rice and the water, dump them all in the pot together, and switch the cooker to ‘on’. When the cooker switches itself to ‘keep warm’, wait about 5 minutes, then open the cooker and enjoy the rice!

————————–  Level One FAQ ————————–

How Much Rice and How Much Water?

The old formula says that one cup of dry rice + two cups of water = three cups of cooked rice. In reality, rice cookers are usually more efficient with water than the old open-pan method, so the ratio to keep in mind is more like one cup of rice to one-and-one-quarter cups of water. But rice cookers vary, types of rice vary, and people’s texture preferences vary, so experiment and you’ll find what works best for you. If you rinse your rice first – recommended if you have any doubts about the cleanliness of your rice, as well as if cooking short grained, starchy rices like Japanese or Korean rice – some water will remain after draining, and you can adjust the added water accordingly.

What about Brown Rice?

Cooking brown rice can be a little bit trickier. If your cooker has a brown rice setting, use it. Otherwise, just add more water (start with 2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice), and give yourself a few batches to experiment. Most rice cookers are designed for use with white rice, so while a lot of people have great success making brown rice in them, it can take a little longer to figure out the best way to do so in your cooker.

What about Other Grains?

I have read about using rice cookers to make Amaranth, Quinoa, Millet, and more! The guidelines are similar to those I have recommended for brown rice – start with 2 cups of water to 1 cup of grain, be patient, and experiment until you get it right.

What about Pasta?

If you have easy access to a stovetop, I don’t recommend a rice cooker to make perfect pasta. It’s tricky to get good, al-dente noodles in the lower, slower heat that a rice cooker provides. However, I’ve had excellent luck with noodle side-dishes like the broccoli and cheese noodle mixes that come out of the bags. I’ve used the same instructions that are on the package for use on the stove – and they’ve turned out great! Same goes for Ramen noodles. If a rice cooker is all you have, by all means use it for spaghetti or any other sort of pasta. The result will be edible if not gourmet.

Is Plain Rice the Only Option?

No! Just as with stove-top rice, feel free to get creative. Substitute a flavourful broth for the water, or add in chopped vegetables, mushrooms, or whatever else before you hit the switch or while the rice is cooking.

What about Steaming?

One of my favourite things about rice cookers is how good they are for steaming food. While your rice is cooking, why not put some veggies, or even some thin pieces of fish or meat, over it to be cooked to perfection with no extra time, energy, or space used? Many rice cookers come with a steamer basket for this very purpose, but if yours doesn’t, never fear. You can put quick-to-steam items on top of the rice when its halfway through cooking, or you can get a set of bamboo steamers (try to get a set the same size as your cooker). These steamers can be stacked up to three high on top of the rice cooker – so you can have, for example, meat on the bottom level, carrots on the second, and broccoli on the third, all cooking away together! Besides, bamboo steamers are cheap, lovely, and look really cool when you serve food in them as well.

What precautions should I take?

Rice cookers are impressively safe devices to use. Their temperature switches turn them off before they get hotter than boiling water, and they have anti-fire devices as well. They’re hard to knock over as well. The only real danger I see when making rice is that you should be wary of the hot steam that comes out when you open the lid. Also, use the ‘keep warm’ feature responsibly, and don’t blame your cooker if you get sick eating 4-day-old rice out of it.

And how can I keep my rice cooker in good condition?

If you have a non-stick rice cooker, don’t use metal objects in it to stir or scoop your rice. Removable parts of the cooker can be taken out and washed in a sink or a dishwasher. Also, don’t forget to occasionally wash the whole cooker by unplugging it and wiping it thoroughly with a damp towel and maybe a little bit of soap. Over time, the hot steam and the occasional water bubbling out of the lid will leave a starchy residue on the handles and sides of the cooker, which feel nasty and can be susceptible to mold and bacterial growth if you let it go indefinitely. Rice cookers require almost no maintenence – mine is five years old and still working fine!

Dining Services strives to offset environmental impact

Within the Bradford Learning and Extension five acres of land have been designated for growing vegetables using composted food waste. The vegetables will be cared for largely by student volunteers and then transported to be used in dining halls.

Campus Dining Services (CDS) estimates that a total of 250 tons of food waste is produced within the dining halls each year. That figure breaks down to about 4.5 ounces of food waste per student per meal everyday.

CDS has sought proactive steps to restrict the amount of food that is leftover and ultimately wasted at the end of the day, said Campus Dining Services Marketing Manager Michael Wuest.

For example, many of the raw fruits and vegetables featured on the salad bar one day may be repurposed for use in a soup the next.

However, some foods are subject to specific guidelines and cannot be repurposed for additional meals, or may only be reheated one time. For this reason, most meals are made to order, with chefs preparing only 10 to 20 portions at one time.

CDS has transitioned to this procedure in the last few years in order to cut back on the amount of food that is prepared, and the amount of leftovers and food waste produced.

“It’s the right thing to do. We strive in everything that CDS does to preserve and conserve the natural resources that we have in order to limit the impact we have on the environment,” said Wuest.

At each of the 21 dining locations on campus, there is an overall focus on encouraging students to be conscientious about the amount of food they put on their plates each trip back to the buffet line.

“As a student eating in the dining halls, I like to get smaller portions of various foods in multiple dishes. That way I can sample a lot of different things like salad or cereal without overeating, or potentially wasting a large portion of my meal,” freshman Lee Banov said.

CDS firmly believes in providing students with a vast array of meal options, while also maintaining a focus on limiting food waste. Students are provided with sundry opportunities to construct the meal of their choice, but are encouraged to only take as much food as they will eat.

The composting system pictured here should be fully operational in October after the walls and roof are constructed. Each of the structure's four bays will hold a week's worth of food waste to be composted during a month-long process.

Beginning in October, much of the food waste will travel a few short miles east of Columbia to the Bradford Research and Extension Center to be composted. Superintendent of the Bradford Center, Tim Reinbott has excitedly begun work on a project termed “Composting in a Zero Carbon Footprint Production System,” now in the final stages of construction at the Bradford Center.

Reinbott will collaborate with University of Missouri students to create and run a closed-loop composting system.

Food waste from the campus will be composted at the center through a process called aerated static pile in which food scraps are mixed with other ingredients including horse bedding, manure and saw dust, heated, and then aerated. The month-long process will intake a total of 250 tons of food waste each year and produce about 170 tons of nutrient-rich compost.

Compost will be used in soil to grow vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and sweet corn, which will then be sent back to the dining halls to be consumed by students.

The university is among a select few in the nation to experiment with composting food waste produced on campus, and the only school to do so through an entirely closed-loop.

In the future, Reinbott hopes to utilize leftover vegetable oil from the dining halls to manufacture biodiesel to power transport trucks to and from the Bradford Center, as well as tractors and other machinery used on the farm.

“We’ll be the first in the nation to have a complete system like this. We can be an example for other schools, including Columbia public schools, and universities who serve more meals per day than MU does. We’re trying to reduce our carbon footprint in whatever we do, and this is a great way to produce vegetables while reducing our environmental impact,” Reinbott said.

Reinbott encourages student participation in the project, from experimenting with composting techniques on the farm, to marketing the environmentally conscious image on campus.

Limiting the impact CDS has on the environment has increasingly moved into the limelight. New programs are implemented each year in order to subvert these effects by limiting the amount of food produced and sustainably manage waste at the end of the day.

It’s a hoot! Everything you need to know about Harvest Hootenanny 2011

It’s a HOOTENANNY!! What’s a Hootenanny? It’s a hoot, in every sense of the word.

Come to the Urban Farm, located at 1209 Smith Street, to celebrate the fall harvest with food, fun and games. The second annual Harvest Hootenanny Fundraiser will be Saturday, October 1, from 4-7 p.m.

Our talented local urban farmers at CCUA are celebrating a successful growing season and want you to be there! Food and drink are free, so come out and come let some skilled grill masters make you Legacy Beef hamburgers, Patchwork Farms Bratwurst, Urban BBQ Chicken, along with grilled Urban Veggies.

Visit the silent auction for local art and sweet prize packages and a live auction will begin at 6pm. While you have your mouth full of delicious local grub, listen to live music! Volunteers will be giving tours and information will be available about the CCUA’s programs. If you haven’t been to any of CCUA’s events, this is the opportunity to come meet your urban farmers! The suggested donation is $5 – $20. For more information about the Harvest Hootenanny, visit ColumbiaUrbanAg.org or call 573-514-4174.

Also, after the Hootenanny, you can go see the film Farmegeddon at the Citizen Jane Film Festival. Find more information here.

CCUA still need volunteers to help set up and run the event. To sign up for a shift, contact Billy Polansky BillyP@ColumbiaUrbanAg.org or 540-226-3806.

5 reasons we love Johnny Appleseed

Today is Johnny Appleseed’s 227th birthday. Sustain Mizzou is throwing him a party — complete with surprise apple treats — on Wednesday at 7 in the Strickland room of Memorial Union. Alas, if only Footprint could give you a big slice of apple pie. Instead, try marinating on these sweet facts:

  1. Before Teddy Roosevelt, before Henry David Thoreau, John Chapman became America’s first great environmental icon.
  2. He was a vegetarian, loved animals and respected Native Americans.
  3. He inspired this song by The Clash’s Joe Strummer:
  4. HE PLANTED APPLE TREES EVERYWHERE! YES! APPLES ARE DELICIOUS!
  5. We can drink delicious drinks inspired by him.

PS – This website has more enlightening facts, including that “a sculpture of Appleseed in front of an Ohio high school was renamed ‘Early Settler,’ after the board of education decided Appleseed was too eccentric a guy to honor and, we presume, somehow influence teenagers.”  Right on, Johnny A.!

Your New Favorite Kitchen Appliance

There exists a device that can cook delicious oatmeal or pasta or quinoa, steam carrots or dumplings to perfection, whip up a stew or a stir-fry or scrambled eggs, keep chocolate fondue hot and delicious, and even pop a batch of old-fashioned popcorn.

This device is cheap, often costing under $20. It’s lightweight and portable, easy to clean, low on energy use, approved for use in most dorm rooms, and requires only about a square foot of counter or floor space and a standard electric outlet to be used anytime, anywhere. It’s no recent invention, and I can almost guarantee you’ve heard of it.

If you’ve ever seen a television advertisement for a set of “magic knives” or a fit-in-your-lunchbox blender, you’ll probably agree that the versatility of most kitchen items is exaggerated and overrated. That’s why it astonishes me that this device is normally sold as a one-use contraption – the humble Rice Cooker.

———————————-

If you had no idea what rice cookers were capable of, you’re hardly alone. I myself made the discovery out of a spirit of desperation – I was a freshman at the University of Missouri, sick of dorm food and microwave meals alike and craving a good stew. I’d received a rice cooker from my parents when I left home, mostly because it was one of the few items on the list of dorm approved appliances, and now I turned towards it suspiciously.

My first Rice Cooker - 5 years old now and working fine

How did it work, exactly? Was there any magical property about it that made it rice-specific? What was a rice cooker, really, other than a sturdy little hot pot? What harm would it do to try to heat up a little stew in it?

None, as I found out. The stew turned out hot and delicious, bubbling away in the corner of my dorm room, and I was hooked. I haven’t stopped experimenting since, and the rice cooker has rarely failed me.

During the next few weeks, I’ll be posting how-to’s to help you make all sorts of delicious recipes in your rice cooker – all the way from ordinary rice to exotic fondues and honey-popcorn. I’ll end the series with a Footprint Magazine study of the energy efficiency of what I hope will have become your new favorite kitchen appliance.

But the first step, naturally, is…

Picking a Rice Cooker

Keep in mind that just about any rice cooker will serve your needs just fine. Prices for rice cookers range from $10 for a small, no-frills device up to $500 for top-of-the-line Japanese appliances – and all of them will make delicious food. That said, here are four main considerations to have in mind when shopping for your first rice cooker:

My second rice cooker - bigger and fancier but less often used... usually only for parties or when freezing leftovers.

1.) Size

2.) Material

3.) Features

4.) Accessories

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1.) Size – This is pretty straightforward. How much food do you see yourself preparing in your cooker? Stated volumes for rice cookers can be somewhat confusing because they are measured in number of cups of rice – and because 3 cups of dry rice is equivalent to 6-9 cups of cooked rice, you’ll need to keep reading to make sure they’re talking about the former. Generally, the two most common sizes are 3-cup and 10-cup cookers. A 3-cup (dry rice) cooker is likely all you need as a college student, unless you plan to cook party-sized portions of anything in it.

2.) Material – Within your budget, get the sturdiest feeling rice cooker you can find. Most rice cookers have a non-stick inner pot, and I recommend this type. I also like having a clear lid so I can see what the cooker is up to without opening it up and letting the heat out.

3.) Features – The simplest rice cookers have a single switch with two options – Cook and Warm. “Cook” will take water to a boil, and most rice cookers will maintain a boil until they sense that the rice is cooked and the water has been absorbed, at which point they switch to the much lower “Warm” setting. Fancier (and more expensive) cookers have all sorts of buttons for brown rice or sushi rice, oatmeal or Chinese porridge or even a ‘sauté’ feature that lets you temporarily heat the rice cooker above the boiling point of water. There are even some very high end rice cookers that have special options for making bread, or which can be used as deep-fryers – these rice cookers are beyond the scope of this blog series. With some creativity, all of the recipes I will mention can be cooked with the cheapest, simplest sort of rice cooker.

4.) Accessories – Most rice cookers come with a little rice-measuring cup and a rice scooper, which is a sort of spoon/spatula. Another very useful item that is sometimes included is a steamer tray, which you can attach to the top of the cooker to hold vegetables or whatever else you want to steam along with the rice. If your rice cooker doesn’t have a steamer tray, however, there are plenty of ways around it. Two un-included items that you may find it useful to buy are a wooden spoon (better for stirring, especially hot oil, than the included scooper), and a ladle (for scooping out liquids like soups).

Most importantly, don’t let all the different options slow you down. After several years of cooking with my first rice cooker – a very cheap model which I chose because it was on sale at Walgreens – I upgraded and now own a much larger and fancier second model. However, as often as not I still use my older cooker. I don’t usually need to cook enough food to fill the bigger one, and there’s something very relaxing about having only one button.

Happy shopping and come back next week for How to Use a Rice Cooker – Level One!

Sycamore restaurant provides locally-obtained food

Good lighting? Check. Pleasant atmosphere? You bet. Locally grown food? Without a doubt.

Sycamore is a restaurant located in downtown Columbia on the corner of 8th and Broadway (next to Hot Box Cookies). The restaurant offers locally-obtained food, without sacrificing any of the taste.

Sycamore strives to ‘provide fresh, market-driven foods at affordable prices.’ While a starving college student could dispute the affordable part (all entrées cost more than $20), Sycamore provides a healthy meal coupled with an atmosphere that can give students a bit of a ‘high-dining’ feeling.

Because of the ever-changing food market, Sycamore frequently changes their menu to incorporate seasonal produce.

The menu is bordered with a list of the various suppliers and farms that Sycamore purchases their ingredients from. These places include: Missouri Legacy Beef, Pierpont farms, Chert Hollow Farms, Goatsbeard Farm, Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, Uprise Bakery, and Sparky’s, among many others.

Missouri Legacy Beef boasts free-range, and grass-fed cattle, and the Pierpont farms are located a mere 15 minutes south of downtown Columbia. Sparky’s is a popular ice creamery also located downtown.

Goatsbeard Farm also seems to be a strong point on the menu, with a handful of dishes containing their cheeses, and the cheese plate featuring the Goatsbeard Farm products is served with crispy buttermilk crackers and a fig-walnut pesto that compliments the cheeses well.

Sycamore serves a variety of seafood ranging from scallops to trout. The salmon was served over two crispy potato lefses and a sweet applesauce that provided an interesting pallet of flavors and a well-balanced meal.

For the vegetarians, Sycamore currently offers house-made gnocchi, fried yellow tomatoes, an array of salads and the ever-reliable Parmesan Fry basket.

With a menu of only one page, Sycamore lacks the variety most restaurants have. While this may cause a pickier eater to struggle while selecting a meal, it is also a testament to the local nature of their ingredients.

Cooper’s hosts annual EcoArtFest

University of Missouri senior and artist Hayley Olson showcases a piece of her pottery. Olson described her art as inspired largely by nature and painter Vincent Van Gogh. This particular pot was influenced primarily by Van Gogh’s painting “Starry Night.” Olson studies Civil Engineering at MU and has her artwork displayed in various galleries around Columbia.

Drive less than 20 miles* south of Columbia and the paved road turns to gravel. Keep winding through the curves and you will come upon Cooper’s Landing, an oasis on the Missouri River bank.

Cooper’s boasts many events throughout the year, live music on the weekends, a full-service marina and yearlong private campgrounds. The riverfront property

now owned by Mike Cooper was once a largely undiscovered spot, populated mostly by hippies in the 1960s and 70s.  Now in its later years, Cooper maintains the quaint hospitality that has kept people flocking to its banks each weekend – a “swear jar” sits atop the counter in the General Store, 50 cents a word.

This past weekend, Cooper’s hosted the sixth annual EcoArtFest on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The festival is an event that serves as the main fundraiser for the Missouri River Cultural Conservancy, or MoRivCC as it is more affectionately known on the river.

“EcoArtFest has two major functions or aims: to highlight other artists besides performers, as well as the sustainable, local businesses that contribute to Mid-Missouri’s culture and economic future. As our major annual fundraiser, we have the opportunity to infuse our budget with enough funds to obtain equipment and necessary accessories, such as our editing studio, camera, camera bag and tripod for our current camera, as well as an additional camera and accessories in the future,” said Missouri River Cultural Conservancy Board of Directors member Liz Mitchell.

MoRivCC is an environmentally focused group diligently working to preserve the unique culture and history of the Missouri River. The organization has been in existence since 2004 with the intent of preserving the rich culture found along the river through audio and video recordings of music, poetry and dance. The group has expanded recently to acquire new video equipment that will be used to chronicle the culture of the river at various events throughout the year.

Now in its zenith, EcoArtFest has grown to boast between 20 and 30 booths each year, featuring art of various forms, all made locally, as well as live music and food provided by Boone County Bar-B-Q. This year two-dozen artists registered for booths, though a few were dissuaded from attending by sporadic rain throughout the day.

Musician Keith Fletcher performs blues guitar while singing on stage at Saturday’s EcoArtFest. Fletcher was one among eight bands to perform on Saturday afternoon. Festival attendees listened to live music while eating bar-b-q provided by Boone County.

But for festival attendees who stuck out the showers, there were booths of porcelain pottery, sundry jewelry makers, photography exhibits, a kids’ crafts table and appearances by a few local “green” businesses including a woman named Lisa Murphy who makes lye soap from goats’ milk, among others.

A common theme prominent at the festival is also the source of the event’s name. Each of the artists manning booths took pride in the eco-friendly, sustainable processes through which their art was made.

One festival regular, Michael Harper uses copper that was given to him by his friend after she tore down her home to remodel.  Harper described the large bags of copper wiring that he uses to make his necklaces, broaches and bracelets.

“I view my art as an expression of self. All of the materials that I use are recycled, which motivates me to make something beautiful out of something that would otherwise be discarded. I make art for art’s sake,” Harper said.

Included in his booth’s display was a collection of cuff bracelets made from copper pipes, as well as various pieces of jewelry made from wiring. This was Harper’s fourth year to attend the festival as an artist. His jewelry ranges in price from $5 to $30.

Another artist, Gale Johnson, creates art from driftwood and broken glass collected in the Missouri River, as well as copper leftover from electrical jobs. Johnson is a regular volunteer with the Missouri River Relief, and believes in keeping the river clean of harmful materials that could injure kids playing in the water. She also acquires some of her glass from restaurants in Columbia that throw it out rather than recycle.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Johnson traveled to New Orleans to help with the cleanup effort. Upon her return to Columbia, she created an art collection made from broken glass and pottery accumulated on the Gulf coast beaches called “Katrinkets.”

“[These] pieces represent life, a new context different yet quietly beautiful,” Johnson said.

Johnson has lived and worked in the Columbia area for the past 30 years, and sells her art at various festivals in the area.

Next year’s EcoArtFest is scheduled for Sept. 15 and 16. In the meantime, people interested in contributing to the MoRivCC can make donations and find additional information on the organization’s website, http://www.morivcc.org.

Editor’s note: The original post reported a 20-mile drive, but the distance to Cooper’s Landing from Columbia is closer to 13.

Urban Agriculture Task Force Hearing

Update: The meeting tonight is canceled. Due to scheduling difficulties, the Secretary of the Senate is not allowing Senators to take leave to make the tour and hearing this evening in Columbia. As such they have been advised to cancel and reschedule the Columbia hearing for a later date. Footprint will update you on any further developments. 9/13 1:57 p.m.

From Adam Saunders, from the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture

Quick facts: Tuesday, September 13 at 5:30 p.m. in Chambers Auditorium of the MU Student Center, community leaders will meet to discuss Missouri’s urban agriculture policy.

Greenhouse, harvest day
Photo by Li Tang. From last year's Harvest Hootenanny, at the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture

Last year the state legislators passed a bill to create an Urban Agriculture Task Force.  The task force is made up of state senators, representatives, state department heads, urban farmers, local food entrepreneurs, and community organizers.  The group is going to write a policy paper with recommendations for Missouri policy.  This all will be completed before the next legislative session in 2012.

On September 13th the task force will hold its third hearing in Columbia, Missouri.  There will be a handful (14-16) of presenters that will each get 5 minutes to share their experiences and make suggestions to include in the report. They will present on what they are working on, how it connects to urban agriculture (all parts; growing, processing, selling, final prep, education, planning, etc.), and what policy concerns/suggestion they have to take urban agriculture further.

The event takes place in Chambers Auditorium of the MU Student Center.