Archive for December, 2012


December 11, 2012
This article from the Log Cabin Democrat 12/11/12 gives some encouraging news on local food at local restaurants!
Panel to discuss adding local food to menus

The Faulkner County  Cooperative Extension Service will host a panel discussion in January with the goal of connecting local farmers to restaurants and food vendors. The aim of the connection, termed F.R.E.S.H. Foods, Farmers and Restaurants Eating Sustainable Healthy Foods, is to streamline the process of integrating locally raised, processed or grown food into restaurant menus.

“This is a huge movement right now,” said Kami Marsh, cooperative extension agent. “People are wanting that fresh produce when they go to a restaurant. It’s also a good marketing tool. When you’re eating potatoes at a restaurant and there’s a sign up front that says they came from Mr. Smith today, people make that connection. People want to know where their food comes from, and this creates the relationship between farmer, food and customer.”

Marsh said incorporated foods could include fruit, vegetables, meat, cheeses and value added products.  A value added product, she explained, could be blackberry jam processed locally by Maria Bradbury using blackberries grown at Phyllis Strack’s farm on Lower Ridge Road.

A number of restaurants in Conway have used two options already in place to incorporate local goods into menus. Conway Locally Grown, an online market, and the Conway Farmer’s Market, in season May through November, have been resources for restaurants.

Kim Williams, executive director of the Con-way Downtown Partnership, said Oak Street Bistro, Mike’s Place, Michelangelo’s, JJ’s Grill, Cross Creek Sandwich Shop, and ZaZa’s have been local customers.

Cross Creek Sandwich Shop owner Chris Jennings said she uses the farmer’s market in season for her recipes.  “I get whatever I can. I get any fruit, tomatoes, zucchini. It’s wonderful to use fresh and local when you can, and I advertise it when we do so people know it’s from the farmer’s market,” Jennings said. To people who love tomatoes there’s nothing like a home grown tomato. If there’s a home grown tomato on your sandwich, it’s going to taste really good. It’s just delicious.”   Jennings said her customers are excited to see fresh, local produce on the menu.  “You do pay more for it than you do from the store or from food reps, but you know you’re getting good quality,” she said.

John McNamara, general manager of Mike’s Place, said the restaurant gets local products from Conway Locally Grown and the Conway Farmer’s Market.  Free-range chickens and locally grown lettuce have been integrated into specials, he said.  “The customer base isn’t quite yet understanding of the extra cost. Local lettuce costs twice as much, and less than I hope for picked that option because it’s an extra dollar,” he said.

“We’d love to do more but there’s an availability issue. They can’t always supply us with what we’d use.”  The larger scale effort will take some planning, Marsh said.  “For example, if we pair a farmer with a restaurant, we’d need to know what the restaurant wants and the quantity. The farmer may have to change the way he grows to meet the demand, but it should be doable. It will just take planning, and that’s why we want to get these people together to figure this out,” she said.  Benefits are for the customer, the farmer and the restaurant, Marsh said.  Customers eat fresh, restaurants capitalize on the items, and farmers move more of their products.  “It’s another avenue for our farmers to sell. We don’t want farmers throwing produce away. Restaurants are another outlet, and we also want farmers to take their fresh produce to food banks to have it distributed,” she said.

Members of the panel, slated for Jan. 22 at 1 p.m. at the Faulkner County Extension Service office, 110 S. Amity Rd., Suite 200 in Conway, are those from other communities around Arkansas who have already implemented a program like F.R.E.S.H. Foods.

Marsh said the cost effectiveness of incorporating fresh, local goods will be discussed by the panel.

The meeting is not limited to farmers and restaurant representatives, and all are invited to attend.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at   or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to  . Send us your news at  )

Winterize your power tools

December 1, 2012

This is an article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette from 12/1/12 – I thought it might be a good idea to save it for future reference!!

Mower, blower winterizing tips


You can avoid the silent treatment from your power tools in the spring by providing some tender loving care before storing them in the fall.

Gasoline-powered garden gear isn’t guaranteed to start when it’s left idle for extended periods of time, say 30 days or more. A thorough cleaning is essential.
    “The first thing you want to do is take a blower and clean everything off — the leaves and debris that have built up over the growing season,” said Mike Ballou, a product manager with John Deere. “This is the time for maintenance.”
    Don’t delay taking equipment to a dealer if you don’t have the time or inclination to do the work yourself, Ballou said. Not only will that extend its working life but it also will save you time and money.
    “What a lot of dealers do is have service specials in the wintertime to attract customers,” he said. “Otherwise, there’s a two-week backup in the spring because everyone tends to put things off.”
    Some steps you can take now to ensure your tools are ready when the weather warms up again:
  •     Change the oil and spark plugs in gasoline-powered equipment before storing it away.
  •     Dump leftover fuel into your vehicles. The shelf life for gasoline generally is 30 to 60 days, Ballou said. “Run your equipment until all the old fuel is gone, and then add fresh along with some fuel stabilizer. Let that run five minutes or so, giving it enough time to cycle through the carburetor. That prevents sludge from forming and gumming up the fuel system.”
  •     Disconnect the batteries. “Every two months, put them on a charger and charge them back to full,” Ballou said. “At that point, you’ve done what you need to ensure they’ll start again in the spring.”
Here are some additional tips to ease seasonal garden chores:

  •     Buy an extra set of lawnmower blades and another chain for your chain saw. “That way you’ll always have one on hand while the dull blades are being balanced and sharpened,” Ballou said.
  •     Clean or replace air filters to aid engine combustion.
  •     Store your equipment and fuel in a clean, dry place, said Randy Scully, national service manager for Stihl Inc., a manufacturer of chain saws and other handheld equipment. “That helps prevent rust and corrosion.”
  •     Lubricate and tighten moving parts. That includes wheel bearings and throttle cables. Tillers, mowers, string-cutters and chain saws take terrible beatings and tend to loosen up over time. “Anything that’s not quite right or broken, get it repaired,” Scully said. “Clean away oil that’s dripped onto handles for safety.”
    Get to know your instruction manual, Scully said. “It has complete listings of things in there about what should be checked and how often.”
    John Deere, Stihl and many other manufacturers have begun emphasizing easier-to-maintain designs for do-it-yourself equipment operators.
    “For example, no tools are needed for changing the oil in our newer garden tractors,” Ballou said. “We’re trying to make things simple to extend their working life.”
For more about winterizing power tools and garden gear, see the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service fact sheet at