UPDATED: Does Greenling Really Help Local Farmers?

Categories: Agriculture

Photo by Phaedra Cook
If your fruits and vegetables come in one of these big green bins, are you really helping local farmers?

A few weeks ago, I posted an article on how much I love the Greenling service, a convenient way to get fresh fruits, vegetables, local goods and pre-prepped meal kits delivered right to your door.

Immediately after publication, more than one local farmer contacted me to say that, in their opinions, Greenling doesn't help them. In fact, they said it hurts local farmers. They did not want to go on-record with their comments, but suggested I look closer at where the produce is actually coming from.

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The Not-So-Secret Garden: Six Houston Restaurants That Grow Their Own Grub

Photo courtesy Coltivare
While eating on Coltivare's back patio, you might catch a chef picking produce from the garden.
In this week's cafe review, I take a look at Coltivare, the new restaurant from Revival Market's Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber. The small but alarmingly busy spot has been getting a lot of buzz not just about the unique Italian-inspired menu, but also about the ample backyard garden that supplies much of the restaurant's produce.

Back before the restaurant opened, I was treated to a media preview dinner at Coltivare. After trying a few dishes, I was taken into the backyard to see the garden. It was already dark, but in the light from nearby street lamps, I could see tiny buds poking out of rich soil.

Coltivare's public relations manager Geralyn Graham took me around the various raised beds, pointing out what each newly sprouting sliver of green would become. It was January and still quite chilly, but I could already picture how lush the garden would become under Houston's warm spring sun.

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10 Years After its Inception, Rodeo Uncorked! Brings in More People Than Ever

Photo courtesy Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo
Think the rodeo is all about livestock? Think again.
When you think of the rodeo, what do you picture?

Cowboys? Longhorns? Children lassoing mutton? Giant turkey legs?

How 'bout wine? Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile? Sparkling Rosé from New Zealand? What about Marchesi Antinori Tenuta Guado al Tasso "Tenuta Belvedere" Bolgheri Superiore from Tuscany?

If the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo doesn't make you think about wine, maybe it should. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Rodeo Uncorked! Wine Show, and this year, it was bigger and better than ever.

"It appears that adding a wine show to our event couldn't have been timed any better," says Joel Cowley, president and CEO of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. "A 2013 Gallup poll indicates that consumers are nearly equally divided between beer and wine as their beverage of choice, and the number of Texas wineries has grown from 46 in 2001 to over 270 today."

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Poor Pecan Crop and Consumption in China May Mean an Increase in Prices This Year

Photo from the USDA
Want pecans for your pie this Thanksgiving? Don't wait to buy them!
No matter how you say it -- pee-khan, pi-khan, pee-can or any other variation -- the price of pecans is going up.

The increase may not be seen on grocery store shelves just yet, but a number of contributing factors mean that your pecan pies will likely be a little more expensive this holiday season. But here in Texas, we need our pecan pie. In addition to the pecan tree being our state tree and the pecan being our state nut, earlier this year the Texas House of Representatives named pecan pie our state pie. So this is a big deal.

According to Forbes, the peak price for pecans in December 2012 was a little more than $2 per pound. Pecans are an alternate-bearing crop, meaning they have a good crop one year followed by a poor crop another year. Last year was an on year, with a huge bumper crop being harvested.

This year, growers are facing a low yield due to the pecan trees' yearly cycle as well as issues stemming from last year's drought, a late-spring freeze and increased demand for pecans in China. These factors have caused estimates of prices to be in the $9 to $11 per pound range for shelled pecans beginning in late November.

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Verlasso® Salmon Becomes First Farmed Salmon to Get "Good Alternative" Rating from Seafood Watch

Photo from Verlasso®
It's often difficult to find reasonably priced wild salmon at restaurants or local grocery stores in America. Farming salmon is a big industry, and when salmon raised in pens tastes comparable and costs far less than wild salmon, why bother seeking out the good stuff?

Verlasso®, a salmon farming company based in Patagonia, Chile, thinks that the current model of salmon farming is not sustainable, and it seeks to revamp the industry and create a better product in the process. For its efforts, Verlasso was recently named a good alternative to wild salmon by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch® program, which seeks to raise consumer awareness about sustainable seafood.

I spoke with the director of Verlasso®, Scott Nichols, about the company, the importance of sustainable salmon farming practices and what's next for the company. Then I did a taste test.

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The Transforming Power of Houston-Grown Citrus

Photo by Clayton Bell, of The Bell House blog, thebellhouse.weebly.com
The Ujukitsu lemon
The first thing I noticed upon returning to Houston after 14 years away? Flipping citrus is everywhere.

In December, when I arrived, a laden grapefruit tree was around every corner, satsumas fell and gathered beneath their bushes, bright lemons winked from boughs, and kumquats -- those pellets of pure Vitamin C -- were just getting started.

Growing up here in the 1970s, I recall only the occasional banana tree, the kumquats, and loquats on their sharp-leafed dusky trees. They were all a mystery -- and the loquats were relegated to the birds.

Now I'm officially an Overeager Citrus Person.

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