Brooke’s Post: A Closer Look at Farm Subsidies

The nature of our agricultural system has been defined by government provision of agricultural subsidies.  The U.S. government pays roughly $25 billion a year to farms, and this money is raised through taxes.  I have always heard that subsidies benefit large farms and disadvantage small-scale, local producers, and have therefore been a critic of existing farm subsidies.  Nevertheless, I didn’t know the specifics of these subsidies and so, I wanted to do some research to better understand how subsidies are allocated, and the resulting benefits and harms to farms, the environment and society.

Agricultural subsidies first emerged as part of the New Deal, in the 1930s.  The Great Depression slashed farmer income, thereby threatening the American food supply.  The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 was put in place to ensure that farms continue to produce and provide Americans with food.  This program specified rules for production and created price protection, import limits and crop insurance.  This seems to have been a very well-intentioned program, that was critical to the well-being of all of American society at the time of its invention.  However, as time has passed, these programs have produced a number of societal and environmental harms.  The programs have been altered some since the 1930s, but not as much as they should be to make the U.S. food industry fair, competitive and sustainable.

At present, there are eight categories of farm subsidies:

1.     Insurance: government pays a portion of insurance premiums (about 60%) for farmers while also giving money to the insurance companies.

2.     Disaster Aid: farmers are paid following natural disasters to compensate them for crop losses.

3.     Agricultural Risk Coverage: government guarantees that farms make a benchmark amount of revenue per acre of farmland, and compensates them when they do not.

4.     Price Loss Coverage: similar to ARC, this program guarantees that farmers get a certain price for the crops that they are growing.

5.     Marketing Loans: farmers are paid when market prices drop. 

6.     Conservation Programs: farmers are paid to keep some of their land out of production.

7.     Marketing and Export Promotion: government pays to advertise U.S. foods and products abroad. 

8.     Research and Other Support: government funds research and development for agriculture.

Thinking that farm subsidies only benefit large commercial farms, I assumed that these were the only farms that had access to subsidies, but this is not actually the case.  The way in which subsidies fail small farms is a bit more complex.  10% of farms in the U.S. gross between 100,000 and $250,000, and are categorized as small/mid-sized farms.  As of 2003, 82% of these farms were subsidized.  Only farms with a gross income less than $1,000 or greater than $900,000 are ineligible for subsidies due to size.  The amount of money that a farm receives is proportional to acreage, so large farms are subsidized more generously.  The top 10% of farms, receive about two thirds of all subsidies.  The issue is not that small farms lack access to subsidies but rather, that the largest farms receive an enormous and unnecessary sum of money through subsidies; the government is using taxpayer money to safeguard businesses that are not actually at risk of failure.  This system gives the wealthiest food producers even more power, and makes it harder for smaller farms to compete.

On top of this, subsidy programs encourage farmers to implement methods that are harmful to the environment.  Roughly two dozen crops are protected by subsidies, corn, soybean, wheat, cotton, and rice being the favored crops.  Farmers are incentivized to choose from this limited collection of crops, which leads to monoculture and hinders innovation.  It also means that farmers might choose to grow a crop for which their soil is not suitable, and are more likely to apply fertilizers because of it.  Insurance subsidies guarantee that farmers get paid for all the crops they grow, whether or not there is a demand for it.  This encourages overproduction and waste.  These are just a few of the ways that agricultural subsidies may lead to environmental harm.

Surprisingly (to me), President Trump has recently proposed a $4.8 billion cut in farm subsidies.   These savings would come from revising the crop insurance program: putting a $40,000 cap on funds allocated to individual farms for insurance premiums, and eliminating a policy that compensates crop losses at the highest harvest price rather than the expected price.  Experts point out that these cuts are very small relative to the income of large farms and will have very little effect on their success and influence.  However, this might be a step in the right direction and it will be interesting to keep an eye on.

Regardless of government policies, we as consumers still have the power to decide where we put our dollar.  If you have the means, you should support local food producers that choose not to practice monoculture or use harmful fertilizers and pesticides.  Seacoast Eat Local also offers a program to make local foods more affordable for recipients of food stamps.  SEL’s market match program allows snap recipients to get twice the bang for their buck on the local foods at our winter farmers’ markets.








Morgan’s Post: Two Seasonal Side Dishes!

As the holiday season has fallen upon us, family and friend gatherings are becoming more and more frequent. Whether you’re holding a party at your house or going over to a friend’s or family’s and need to bring a side dish these are two super simple and tasty recipes. Also, both side dishes are gluten, dairy, and soy-free.



Sweet Potato Casserole

Serves: 6

  • 5 medium sweet potatoes
  • ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons butter (I used dairy-free Earth Balance the soy free version)
  • 1 Tablespoon of cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups glazed/candied walnuts


  1. Peel 5 medium sized sweet potatoes.
  2. Chop the sweet potatoes into cubes.
  3. Place in a pot, add water, and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer until fork tender, approximately 10 minutes.
  5. Set the oven to 350 F.
  6. Drain the sweet potatoes.
  7. Let the sweet potatoes cool for 5 minutes.
  8. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes until smooth.
  9. Add and mix in the almond milk, brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, and salt and pepper.
  10. Spread the mixture into a casserole dish.
  11. Either using a food processor or a plastic bag, mash up the glazed walnuts.
  12. Spread the glazed walnuts in a thin layer over the sweet potato.
  13. Bake for 25 minutes.
  14. Let cool for 5 minutes.
  15. Enjoy!



Kale and Cherry (or cranberry!) Salad with Lemon Thyme Balsamic Dressing

Serves: 4

Okay, I know, cherries are not in season, but cranberries are and this salad would work great with cranberries, however I am allergic. So, I created a recipe that could be kept as is or could be modified by changing the cherries to cranberries.


Kale and Cherry Salad

  • 1 bunch of kale (I used red kale)
  • 2 cups frozen cherries (cranberries would work just as well in this recipe)
  • ¼ cup pine nuts

Lemon Thyme Balsamic Dressing

  • ½ of one shallot minced
  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • The juice and zest of one lemon.
  • White balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil


  1. Measure out 2 cups of frozen cherries and let thaw out.
  2. Destem the kale by placing your hand around the stem and moving it in a upward motion tearing off the leaf.
  3. Roll the kale into a cigar shape and chiffonade (cut into strips).
  4. Place the kale in a strainer, wash, and pat dry. You may also use a lettuce spinner for this step if you have one.
  5. Mince ½ of one shallot and a clove of garlic.
  6. Destem the thyme.
  7. Place the shallot, garlic, and thyme into a bowl.
  8. Zest one lemon into the bowl and then cut in half and squeeze out the juice from both halves.
  9. Add the white balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
  10. Add salt and pepper for taste.
  11.  Place the kale into a salad bowl.
  12. Chop the thawed cherries into halves and add to the kale.
  13. Add the pine nuts.
  14. Pour in ¾ of the dressing mixture (you can add more or less, depending on how dressed you like your salad).
  15. Enjoy!

Brooke’s Post: Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Lentils and Creamy Cashew Drizzle

This is another recipe from “Kitchen Matters,” by Pamela Salzman.  This dish is super creamy and filling.  Brussels sprouts are a great source of vitamin C, lentils are full of protein and fiber, and the cashew drizzle adds healthy fats, and lots flavor!  For the most part, this recipe is quick and easy to prepare.  In my experience though, it has taken a bit more than an hour for the lentils to fully absorb the broth.  In the future, I would remove the cover after about 40 minutes and continue cooking uncovered to speed up absorption.  I have also found that the sauce recipe makes much more than needed–but it’s

a delicious sauce that can be used on other things (I ended up drizzling it on some butternut squash the next night).  Don’t forget that the cashews must be soaked for 4-6 hours ahead of time.  Enjoy!




  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium or small onion
  • 1 garlic glove
  • 1 cup dried lentils, rinsed
  • 6 tbsp. dry white whine
  • 2 ½ cups vegetable stock
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ground black pepper
  • ¾ lb. Brussels sprouts

Dijon-cashew sauce:

  • 6 tbsp. water
  • ¼ cup raw cashews soaked for 4-6 hours
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic glove
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • ¼ tsp salt


  1. Dice onion and mince garlic.
  2. Add 1 tbsp olive oil, onion and garlic to a medium-size saucepan and sauté over medium heat until onions become translucent.
  3. Add lentils and wine to saucepan and simmer until wine is absorbed.
  4. Add vegetable stock and turn heat to high.  When it starts to boil, reduce heat to simmer.
  5. Cover and cook on medium-low heat for 35-50 minutes (or until broth is absorbed).

While lentils are cooking:

  1. Prepare sauce: Combine water, cashews, mustard, garlic, vinegar, and salt in a blender and blend until completely smooth.
  2. Prepare Brussels sprouts by trimming, halving and cutting into thin slices.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Sauté Brussels sprouts with ½ tsp salt for 3-4 minutes.  Add pepper to taste.
  4. Mix Brussels sprouts into cooked lentils.
  5. Dish out and drizzle with sauce.

Morgan’s Post: Spicy Chickpea Sandwich

This recipe makes 3 chickpea patties and is a great alternative to a spicy chicken sandwich. These are my go-to choice when I need to make a quick and easy dinner. You can use these as an alternative to chicken for many meals and can switch up the spices to your own taste.



  • 1 ½ cup chickpeas
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Almond milk
  • 1 Tablespoon Tahini
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
  • ¼ cup bread crumbs
  • ¼ tablespoon salt
  • ¼ tablespoon pepper
  • ¼ tablespoon paprika
  • ¼ tablespoon chili powder
  • ¼ tablespoon garlic powder


  • 2 slices of bread
  • 1 slice vegan cheese (I used Field Roast Chao slices in creamy original)
  • Hot sauce
  • Vegan mayonnaise or your choice of dressing
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato


  1. Set the oven to 400 F.
  2. Drain chickpeas and pour into a large bowl.
  3. Add the olive oil and using a potato masher, mash the chickpeas until they are a paste-like consistency.
  4. Add the almond milk, tahini, hot sauce, bread crumbs, and nutritional yeast.
  5. Mash or mix until the ingredients are well incorporated.
  6. Add the salt, pepper, paprika, chili powder, and garlic powder.
  7. Mix until incorporated.
  8. Form into patties.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes.
  10. Let cool for 5 minutes.
  11. Toast 2 pieces of a bread of your choosing.
  12. Spread Veganaise onto the toasted bread.
  13. Place a patty on the sandwich and drizzle hot sauce over the top.
  14. Add two slices of vegan cheese, lettuce, and tomato.
  15. Enjoy!

Brooke’s Post: Farming with Fish!

Today I visited Victory Aquaponics in Londonderry, NH, and I was kindly shown around by owner Ross and his very friendly dog Leroy.  Before today, I had a basic understanding of how aquaponics works, but I had never seen such a system in real life.  In an aquaponics system, fish (in this case goldfish and tilapia) are fed and produce waste in tanks.  This waste contains organic forms of nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous, forms that are not yet usable by plants.  The waste gets syphoned out of the fish tanks and into other tanks where the waste is broken down by bacteria and turned into plant-available forms of nutrients.  When the water reaches the plants, all of the solid waste has been filtered out but the nutrients remain. The plants then extract the nutrients, and the water is ready to be cycled back down to the fish!  If the water reaching the plants is deficient in any nutrients, the solution is simply to feed the fish more.  Ross is currently growing a range of herbs and greens, as well as cucumbers and peppers—all of which looked super healthy!  If he wants to continue growing the last two through the winter he will need to heat the greenhouse.  He already heats the water to 70 degrees to keep the tilapia happy and this helps to provide some heat to the greenhouse.

One of the benefits of an aquaponics system is that it uses water very efficiently.  In soil-based systems the water evaporates more readily or fails to reach the targeted plants.  Ross pointed out that another benefit of aquaponics is that it makes farming possible in locations where soil quality is very poor.

I was especially interested in learning more about aquaponics because I had just heard about an existing debate over whether or not aquaponic and hydroponic systems should be eligible for organic certification (up until this point, they HAD been eligible).  Basically, the basis of the argument against eligibility was that “organic” is defined by the use of practices that nourish the soil, and since there is no soil in aqua/hydroponics, it cannot possibly qualify.  Ross argued that even in a soil-based system, plants are extracting nutrients from the water.  In my view, whether or not a farm is organic depends on the nature of the fertilizers that are introduced to the system, as well as the stability of the system. This past fall, the National Organic Standards Board voted against the proposal to keep aqua/hydroponic farms from being included in organic agriculture.  So, farms like Ross’ are still up for organic consideration!

Morgan’s Post: Creamy Tiger Eye Bean Dip

This past Saturday at the Seacoast Eat Local Winter Farmers’ Market at Wentworth Greenhouses, I did a food demonstration on this recipe. The beans are dried beans from The Root Seller, the chips are the pita chips from Karimah’s kitchen, and I also made samples with an olive bread from Sunnyfield Brick Oven bakery (all vendors can be found at the market). This bean dip is very versatile and the beans and spices can be switched around to meet your preferences. It is a great basic bean dip for any gatherings you may have this holiday season.

Note: Local beans are often fresher and do not need to be soaked for as long as store bought dry beans. While you can soak them overnight, it is not necessary. Typically, soaking for a couple hours (like starting in the morning and using them in the afternoon) is sufficient. Also, local bean sellers may have varieties that you have never seen before (like the tiger eye bean). Ask the vendor what bean they recommend for what purpose (for example, tiger eyes make a great dip as they are a softer bean).


  • 1lb bag of dried Tiger eye beans
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • ¼ cup water
  • 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • The juice of half of a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon dried dill
  • Pita chips or vegetables of your choosing


  1. Soak the beans in a bowl of cold water covered in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  3. Pour in the beans.
  4. Bring the pot back to a boil, then reduce to medium heat and cover.
  5. Cook for 30 minutes or until fork tender.
  6. Drain the beans.
  7. Using a food processor, in batches blend the beans, almond milk, water, olive oil, and lemon juice.
  8. Mix batches together and add the spices.
  9. Refrigerate until cold and ready to eat.
  10. Serve with your choice of pita chips or vegetables.
  11. Enjoy! The bean dip will remain good in the refrigerator covered for three days.

Nutrition Fact: Tiger eye beans are a great source of protein, 41 grams per cup to be exact!

Morgan’s Post: Black Bean Vegetable Loaf

As the holidays come closer, gatherings with family and friends are becoming more and more common. Often times, you may be asked to bring a dish to a party, and this black bean and vegetable loaf is an easy recipe that will have them coming back for seconds. This is a great alternative to your average meatloaf and you can modify and change the flavors very easily just by switching which herbs or seasonings you use. Also, because this is so filling you will probably have leftovers! A couple ideas that I have used in the past include “meatloaf” sandwiches or you could even mash the loaf up with tomato sauce and add to pasta for a heartier cold-weather meal.





  • 1 ¼ cup black beans
  • 1 cup of shitake mushrooms
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 small orange pepper
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • Oil of your choosing
  • 1 cup of panko bread crumbs
  • ½ cup cooked brown rice
  • ¼ cup BBQ sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons of ketchup
  • ½ teaspoon of each: paprika, sage, thyme, cumin, chili powder, and pepper


  1. Set the oven to 400 °F. 
  2. Put a skillet or pan on medium heat on the stove top.
  3. Place oil in the skillet and heat.
  4. Chop onion, garlic, celery, orange pepper, and mushrooms (don’t have to be perfect cuts they will be going into the food processor.
  5. Add the onions and garlic to the skillet and heat till translucent.
  6. Add the celery and orange pepper and heat for 5 minutes.
  7. Add the mushrooms and heat till tender.
  8. Make an empty circle in the middle of the skillet or pan and add all the dry spices (paprika, sage, thyme, cumin, chili powder, and pepper).
  9. Heat for 30 seconds and then mix in with the other ingredients.
  10. Take the skillet off the heat and let cool.
  11. In a food processor add the black beans and vegetable and herb mix.
  12. Process until smooth.
  13. Add bread crumbs, rice, BBQ sauce, and ketchup.
  14. Process until well incorporate or the texture resembles ground meat.
  15. Oil or butter the pan you are using for your loaf.
  16. Add the mixture to the loaf pan.
  17. Cook for 25 minutes covered and then 25 minutes uncovered or until firm



Brooke’s Post: It Starts with the Soil!

It’s never too early (or too late!) to consider soil health in your garden! Here’s the basics of soil fertility and how to naturally improve it

If you are starting your own garden plot, an important first step will be evaluating the chemistry of your soil.  By testing the acidity (PH) and the nutrient content of your soil, you can determine how well the soil will support crops and what you might need to add to increase soil fertility.  You will want to purchase a soil testing kit from your local garden store.  After taking several soil samples, you will have a good sense of the makeup of your soil.  Next, you should consider what plants you wish to grow, and research what kind of soil environment these plants grow best in. Tip: UNH Cooperative Extension also operates a fee-based soil testing service

Soil pH:

PH is measured on a scale from 3.5 to 9.0, where 3.5 is the most acidic and 9.0 is the most alkaline (also known as “sweet”).  A pH of 7.0 is considered neutral.  Acidity has both positive and negative effects on plant growth.  Soil acidity determines the availability of nutrients in soil, as well as the ability of plants to take up these nutrients. Acid in soil helps to break down nutrients into plant available forms and enhances the breakdown of organic matter by microbes.  However, too much acidity will hinder uptake of macronutrients by plants.  On the other hand, alkaline soils hinder the ability of plants to absorb micronutrients.  For these reasons, most plants grow best in neutral or slightly acidic soils, with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0.  However, every plant has different needs!  For example, blueberries, peppers, and asparagus thrive in ranges from 4.5-5.0, 5.5-7.0, and 6.0-8.0, respectively.

Natural ways to control pH in soil:

To reduce acidity (increase pH) of soil, you can add lime in the form of ground limestone or wood ash.  To reduce alkalinity (decrease pH), you can add mined/elemental sulfur or coffee grounds.

Soil Nutrient Levels:

You should test your soil to determine the existing nutrient levels. Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are the macronutrients most important to plant growth and health.  Additionally, micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium, sulfur, iron are needed in small amounts to enable various plant functions.

Organic fertilizers:

Applying compost to the soil can make a huge difference in soil fertility.  Organic matter in compost introduces a variety of nutrients to the soil and improves water retention.  Compost should be tilled into soil two or three weeks before planting.  If you don’t already have one, start a compost pile at your home!  Plants such as peas and beans are nitrogen fixers.  This means that they are able to convert inorganic forms of nitrogen into plant-available ones.  Planting nitrogen fixers on your plot can improve nitrogen content in the soil for the following year.  Animal manure and coffee grounds will also add nitrogen to the soil. Kelp meal is a good option for increasing potassium, and phosphorous can be added with fish bone meal, chicken and pig manure, or rock phosphate.  Be careful not to over fertilize, as too much of a nutrient can also be damaging to plants.



Morgan’s Post: Buffalo Cauliflower Tacos

These buffalo cauliflower bites are an amazing dupe for buffalo chicken bites and can be adapted to many different recipes or just eaten as an appetizer on their own. In the past I have also made them with teriyaki sauce or barbeque sauce instead of buffalo and they were just as good. Whether you are looking for a unique treat to bring to holiday parties or just a dinner idea for the evening you have to give this a try! If you are looking for a healthier alternative, these can also be baked rather than fried.



 Cauliflower bites

  • 1 large Cauliflower (or 1 bag frozen cauliflower)
  • Panko Bread crumbs
  • Flour
  • Almond milk
  • Oil to fry (I used canola oil)

Buffalo sauce

  • 1 Tablespoon melted butter (I used the vegan butter Earth Balance)
  • 3 Tablespoons of a hot sauce of your choice
  • 1 Tablespoon Veganaise (egg-free mayonnaise)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic


  • Tortillas
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 onion
  • Lettuce
  • Nutritional yeast or cheese substitute
  • (Dairy free) ranch dressing


Cauliflower bites

  1. Place a frying pan on the stove top half full of an oil of your choosing.
  2. Cut the cauliflower into florets (small chicken wing or bite size) or take out of the freezer bag.
  3. If using fresh cauliflower wash off and place on a plate.
  4. Pour the almond milk and flour into separate bowls.
  5. Pour the bread crumbs onto a plate.
  6. Dip the cauliflower into the flour and then into the almond milk.
  7. Take the cauliflower out of the almond milk and roll it around in the plate with the bread crumbs to get them completely covered.
  8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 for the remaining cauliflower.
  9. Heat the oil, to test if ready a great tip is to use the end of a wooden spoon. If bubbles appear around the spoon, the oil is ready.
  10. Fry the cauliflower in batches, flip once one side is golden brown.
  11. Place the fried cauliflower on a plate with paper towels or dish towel to absorb oil.
  12. Let sit for 5 minutes to cool slightly.
  13. Toss in the buffalo sauce.

Buffalo sauce

  1. Melt one tablespoon of butter and pour in a bowl.
  2. Pour the 3 tablespoons of hot sauce, 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of Veganaise into the bowl and mix until well incorporated.
  3. Add the spices and mix well.


  1. Lay out 2 tortillas.
  2. Place your desired amount of lettuce, onion and tomato on the tortilla.
  3. Top with buffalo cauliflower bites.
  4. Sprinkle nutritional yeast or cheese.
  5. Drizzle dressing over the top.
  6. Enjoy!

Brooke’s Post: Carrot Orzotto

This is one of my absolute favorite recipes!  It tastes like mac ‘n’ cheese, but is just a little less salty and a little more sweet. 

This recipe is also incredibly easy and fast–the only part that takes any labor is slicing up the carrots.  I highly recommend you give this one a try if you are in the mood for something creamy and comforting, but also healthy!



Carrot Orzotto

Makes 4 cups (serves 4)

  •  2 cups carrot juice
  • 1 ¾ cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1-2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups orzo pasta (dry)
  • 1 cup shredded carrots (you can grate them or cut them into matchsticks)
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ tbsp. lemon juice
  • feta cheese (optional)
  • black pepper to taste


  1. Combine carrot juice and broth in a medium saucepan and heat over medium-low, keeping covered.
  2. Meanwhile, melt butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add orzo to the skillet and stir slowly until orzo is golden.
  4. Stir carrots into orzo.
  5. Add 1 cup of broth mixture to the skillet and stir until absorbed.  Continue adding broth mixture, 1 cup at a time until all has been absorbed and orzo is tender.
  6. Remove skillet from heat and add ½ cup of water.  Stir for 1 minute.
  7. Stir in salt and lemon juice.
  8. Top with pepper to taste and feta cheese, if you desire.