The Libertine Offers CSA Shares With Josh Galliano's Touch

The Libertine. | Jennifer Silverberg

It's finally farmers' market season, and we can't wait to eat all that fresh, local produce every weekend. This year, the Libertine (7927 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-862-2999) is making it even easier to support local farmers. It's offering a CSA (community supported agriculture) program called Growing Season. The best part? You'll end up with Libertine-made goodies in your share, too.

See also: Maude's Market and CSA Calls It Quits

"The idea really stemmed from all of us having a really great connection with our local farmers and watning to extend that back out in the community," general manager Victoria Mitchell tells us.

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Want Local Fresh Produce? There's an App for That

The Seasonal and Simple app. | MU Extension

Mizzou faculty and students have developed a smartphone app to help Missourians find local, in-season fruits and vegetables. The app, called Seasonal and Simple, is based off the print version already put out by MU Extension. A digital version will obviously help when you're actually out looking for that fresh produce.

See also:
-Metro Partners with Local Farmers Market to Deliver Produce
-'Tis the Season for Rhubarb Popsicles and Tomatoes at Schlafly Farmers' Market
-What's Ripe Now at Tower Grove Farmers' Market

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Learn How To Make Homemade Baby Food at Onesto

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If you've ever eaten baby food, first of all, we sincerely hope you've had a baby, and second, you know it usually doesn't taste very good.

Chef Brian Miller of Onesto Pizza & Trattoria (5401 Finkman Street; 314-802-8883) wants to change that perception by teaching people how to make their own baby food. Spring brings bushels of fresh veggies to out local farmers' markets, and Onesto wants to take advantage of that fresh produce to show people that baby food doesn't have to be tasteless goop.

Four of Onesto's staff members are currently pregnant, and the general manager, Sally Sciaroni just had a baby in December, so the timing seems perfect for a baby food class. Gut Check caught up with Sciaroni to get all the details.

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Schlafly Farmers' Market Opens for the Season Today

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Locavores, rejoice! The Schlafly Farmers' Market's summer market opens today at Schlafly Bottleworks (7260 Southwest Avenue, Maplewood; 314-241-2337) from 4 to 7 p.m.

This market is one of the few Wednesday markets in the area, and it focuses exclusively on locally grown and made products. Gut Check got in touch with Brian DeSmet, who organizes the market to find out what's new this year.

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Metro Partners with Local Farmers Market to Deliver Produce

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Stephen Fairbanks
Farm to Family Naturally's Sappington Market will soon provide a mobile farmers market at four local transit centers.
Starting the week of March 18, four different "food deserts" in the St. Louis metro area are going to be a little less desert-like.

The term "food desert" is used by fresh food advocates across the nation to describe communities with little or no access to farm-fresh produce, dairy, meat and poultry products.

The Farm to Family Mobile Market, operated out of Sappington Farmers' Market (8400 Watson Road, 314-843-7848) in Webster Groves, has partnered with Metro St. Louis to provide a mobile farmer's market at four different transit stations in under-served communities.

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Where to Celebrate National Farmers' Market Week

Holly Fann
Nicola Macpherson and her son Henry at the Maplewood Farmers' Market.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that more than 1,000 new farmers' markets have popped up across the country since last year, making a total of 7,175 markets operating in the U.S. currently. This news came just days before National Farmers' Market week, which began August 7. The week-long celebration of markets providing locally grown produce and the farmers and food vendors that make them possible serves as a reminder of just how many markets we have access to in St. Louis county alone.

We talked to some local market managers and found out what they have planned for the national week-long holiday in their honor. Find the schedule of local National Farmers' Market Week events after the jump.

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"The Good, the Big and the Ugly" Tomato Contest Invites You to Strut Your Tomato Stuff

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You say "tomato," we say, "heirloom tomatoes."
Is there a vegetable more beloved by gardeners than the tomato? Incredibly versatile, preservable, and downright perfect when picked from the vine at peak ripeness, tomatoes rightly find their way into even the smallest gardens. In honor of this garden favorite, Slow Food St. Louis and Farm to Family Naturally are sponsoring a tomato-growing contest. Dubbed "The Good, the Big, and the Ugly," the competition gives local back-yard farmers a chance to strut their tomato stuff in a variety of categories at an event scheduled for Saturday, July 31, at Sappington Farmers' Market.

"St. Louis needs a tomato contest to get more people involved in growing their own food. Tomatoes can be the first step in teaching people where their food comes from," says Justin Leszcz of Yellow Tree Farm, who suggested to Slow Foods the notion of a tomato contest. "It's easy to grow a tomato -- anyone can do it, and that's what we want to get people to see."

"The Good, the Big, and the Ugly" will feature tastings of heirloom tomato varieties grown by local farmers and gardeners, as well as cooking and preserving demonstrations, and educational activities for children. Growers may submit their tomatoes in best-tasting, best-looking, heaviest, ugliest, and Brix measurement categories.

Not a gardener? There'll be a bloody mary-making contest for professional and amateur mixologists.

"This type of contest is important to Slow Food, because ultimately we are interested in connecting people with their food," says Slow Food co-leader Kelly Childs. "This includes how their food was cultivated, what kind of seed it comes from, whether chemicals were used and where it originated geographically.

"If we can actually inspire people to grow some of their own food, then we are really accomplishing our mission," Childs continues. "We're also accomplishing our mission even if people just come out to taste something new or learn about seed saving or preserving their tomatoes for winter use."

Further details, as well as entry information, can be found on Slow Food St Louis' website as they become available.

Farmers' Market Share: Community-Sponsored Agriculture Might Be Your Kind of Crop Circle

Unless you're a gardener, you might not be aware that many people who grow stuff have already started seedlings or, at the very least, put in their seed orders for this year's backyard crop.

If you never even got around to yanking last fall's desiccated tomato plants from the frozen tundra, raise your hand.

Regardless of your level of devotion, you might be interested in a method of acquiring fruits and vegetables that doesn't involve muddy knees or thieving birds, squirrels and rabbits.

Now is the time to secure your CSA share for the spring.

Field of beans: A green CSA vista, courtesy of La Vista in Godfrey, Illinois.
CSAs -- the abbreviation stands for community-sponsored agriculture -- appear to be on the rebound in the St. Louis area, and for people in search of good, fresh food, that's encouraging news. Investing in a CSA essentially involves extending a short-term loan directly to a farmer. When the crops come in, shareholders recoup their investment in edible form.

And the harvest is plentiful.

A wide range of vegetables is relatively standard across the region thanks to the magic of climate patterns. Early season always brings mind-boggling amounts of lettuce and greens, summer yields lots of cucumbers, summer squash and zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, beans and peppers, and the fall bounty includes potatoes, squashes and greens again. You'll have to learn what to do with turnips, and it helps to be open to less-common crops -- celeriac, sunchokes, kohlrabi. Fruits are not standard, but a lot of places grow watermelon, raspberries and strawberries.

After the jump: a rundown on some area CSAs.

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Farmers' Market Share Visits a Mercado in Peru

I spent the first half of January -- the crappy half, as you all know -- south of the equator, in Peru. About half of our stay was in the smallish city of Cusco, which sits about 3,000 meters above sea level. A significant portion of the city still uses streets first constructed by the Incas in the 1400s, and artisans travel from surrounding towns to sell their wares on the streets.

Alissa Nelson
There are a few supermarkets in the city, but there is a bustling energy around the central market, or mercado central. Since there isn't enough of an infrastructure for large-scale shipments from larger coastal cities like Lima, much of the food for sale in the city is grown locally, transported out of the surrounding mountains by donkey and then transferred to cars and trucks.

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Farmers' Market Share: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

So hopefully the omnivores in the audience haven't given up on me yet. I know I burst onto the Gut Check scene in 2009 promising to explore the full spectrum of local foods, yet I've barely glanced at foods with faces.

To the patient among you, rejoice!

Alissa Nelson
The reason for the absence of meat in this column is twofold: First, it's basically seasonless. Most of the local farmers have their wares frozen before hitting the market, so I have yet to notice a difference in what they're selling from month to month. Second, I was a vegetarian for a decade (nearly to the month), so it's been tough for me to expand my repertoire in my mere four years back on the dark side. Besides, vegetables are really just so damn good.

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