Looking for Ways to Manage Your Land? There’s an App for That – Round 2

farming apps

Check out these farming apps to help you farm your land. (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Earlier this year, we took a look at how the “app” culture is helping Arizona farmers manage their land by introducing some of the best apps for farmers.  It turns out, however, that technology now plays such an important role in how farmers work their land that there wasn’t enough room to introduce all the amazing apps farmers are using to make their jobs easier.  So, here are some of the other smart phone and tablet apps Arizona farmers can and are using to grow local products and safeguard your food supply.

AgraScout 

AgraScout helps keep the producers and the buyers connected and communicating.  It provides tools for identifying pests, mapping fields, and creating detailed reports that farmers can use to get the most out of every available resource.  Available on Android, iPad, iPhone.

Grain Calculator 

Make keeping track of your grain easier than ever with this helpful and handy app.  It can quickly calculate the number of tonnes or bushels of grain housed in a round bin.  All you need is some simple dimensions to get a clear picture of how much grain you have on hand.  Adjustable settings allow users to customize for things like grain moisture and peak height.  Available on Android.

PeRK (Pesticide Recordkeeping) 

PeRK makes it easy for farmers to track vital statistics and usage information about pesticide usage.  The simple to use app can make any state-mandated recordkeeping data simple for the farmer to capture right in the field.  Available on Android, iPad, iPhone.

FarmLogic Dry Grain Calculator 

This incredibly beneficial app helps farmers make sound decisions regarding their grain crop.  It can handle information for 9 different types of grain and it provides the farmer with the information he needs in real-time to determine what percentage of the grain should be dried, how much should be combined, and other important revenue-dependent decisions.  Available on Android, iPad, iPhone

CHS Grain Trading 

This useful app puts the power of the internet in the farmer’s hands when it comes to managing crop sales.  Functionality makes it possible to monitor, accept, and manage offers and sales electronically from a smart phone.   Available on Android, iPad, iPhone

Manure Pit Calculator 

This app makes it possible for farmers to calculate the amount of space in a manure pit regardless of its shape, size, or current capacity.  With some basic measurements it tells the farmer how much overall room there is in the pit, how much is currently in the pit, and how much space remains.   Available on iPad, iPhone.

Field Tracker Pro 

Farmers can use this app to determine the amount of seed, spray, and fertilizer they need and then makes it easy to access and use that information from anywhere….even in the field.  It fuels better decision making by providing information about prior year planting and results.  With this information readily accessible from their smart phone, farmers are equipped to make better decisions based on hard data.   Available on Android, BlackBerry, iPad, iPhone, Windows.

 

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Making Sure Everyone Has Access to Locally Grown Food

locally grown food

Learn how low income families are able to fill their plates with locally grown food (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

In the war against obesity, those in the lower income brackets have been losing ground.  Stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place, many low income Americans struggle to eat a healthy diet because they lack access to healthy options and resources to procure them.  But thanks to a growing partnership between the USDA and farmers across the country, the tide in that battle may be turning.

The rocks for these low-income Americans are something called food deserts which are urban and even suburban areas where it is difficult to buy fresh, local food that is affordable.  The hard place has traditionally been their inability to afford higher quality food options like fresh produce and lean meat.   While many low-income families receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP benefits, these healthier food options, when available were often still out of reach economically.  This means that those amongst us who were in the most need of healthy, locally grown food products generally had the least ability to access them.

Understanding the challenges many Americans face in terms of access was the first step in solving this problem.  The new partnerships being championed by the USDA are the second.  In an effort to make sure all Americans, especially those receiving SNAP benefits, can purchase the food they need to be healthy, a program of incentives was devised and is being lead by the USDA.  This program uses incentives to improve low-income access to healthy produce, dairy, and lean, locally raised meats and to encourage those households to use their benefits to purchase healthier food.

Here is what they have done.  First, to improve access, the USDA worked with private organizations like medical centers, churches, community groups, philanthropies, and charities to help open the doors of the more than 8,000 farmer’s markets across the country to SNAP recipients.  Second, that partnership worked to create local incentive programs that would encourage SNAP families to use their benefits at those farmer’s markets.

The program is based in part on research linking improved access to the products available from farmer’s market booths and farm stands with healthier diets.  By encouraging the farmer’s markets and farm stands to accept SNAP vouchers while also encouraging SNAP recipients to shop at the markets and stands by offering incentives, the program aims to provide better access to nutrition for low-income families.

A recently released report from the USDA demonstrates the success of the program overall while also highlighting some problem areas.  With almost half of all farmers’ markets and direct to consumer farms accepting SNAP benefits, great strides have been made toward ensuring equality of access.  However, the involvement and support, especially financially, the program has received from the private sector partners has been, and will continue to be critical to the success of the program.   Without their support, many of these programs would not exist and many other would not have the funding needed to provide the SNAP incentives.

Fortunately, earlier this year a bill was signed into law that provides additional federal funding for this program which will help ensure continued access to fresh, healthy, locally grown food products for Americans across the socio-economic spectrum.

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The Mediterranean Diet: Does it Work?

mediterranean diet pyramid

Here are some facts about the Mediterranean Diet so you can decide if it may work for you (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

There are many different diets that seem to be all the rage – going gluten-free, eating paleo-friendly, following the Mediterranean meal plan – it can be hard to know what is what and what you should eat.  This is why we try to delve into the details of some of these dietary programs to help you separate the myth from the fact and to determine if there is any truth to the health benefits these programs hype.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The foundation of the Mediterranean Diet is choosing to eat the same foods eaten by those native to the Mediterranean region.  The benefits promised by following this plan are better health and a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease.  The Mediterranean Diet is based on the results of research conducted after World War II that seemed to indicate that the lifestyle of those in this region was the healthiest in terms of cardiovascular disease rates and longevity.

Now, if you are like many Americans, your first thought when reading that is likely surprise.  We generally conjure up images of pasta from Italy or moussaka from Greece when we think of Mediterranean food.  So the idea that eating this way would be healthier for you might cause immediate red flags because these are not generally the kinds of dishes you would associate with a “healthy” diet.  However, although those dishes are eaten in Mediterranean cultures, their daily diet is somewhat different.  In truth, the people of this region eat a diet that consists primarily of fruit, vegetables, seafood, hearty whole grains, nuts, beans, and olive oil which sounds a lot more in line with what is currently considered healthy.

What Do You Eat?

One of the differences between the Mediterranean Diet and some of the other popular food plans that are all the rage right now is that it incorporates factors beyond food.  The research on which the diet is based found that the diet of this region was important in producing lower rates of cardiovascular disease and longer life spans but it wasn’t the only factor.  Living an active lifestyle that included daily exercise was also an important factor as was sharing meals with other people and having an attitude of appreciation for the food being eaten.

All that being said, what you eat is the most important factor.  To follow the Mediterranean Diet, start by focusing on fresh, unprocessed foods that fall into the categories listed above.   Here are some of the other important tenets of the Mediterranean Diet plan:

  • Eat a lot of vegetables
  • Rather than having meat as the focus of your meal with vegetables and grains in support roles bump the meat down to a side dish and shine the spotlight on the veggies.
  • Never skip breakfast
  • Eat fish two times a week
  • Get your fats from sources that provide good, heart healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, seeds, and vegetables like avocados
  • Limit your intake of dairy

Does it Work?

Unlike many other eating programs, the Mediterranean Diet does have its foundation in scientific research which lends some credence to its claims.  The key is to adopt the entirety of the lifestyle advocated by the program and not just to make a few swaps in what you are eating.

 

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30 Things to Do with Tomatillos

tomatillo

Here are 30 delicious recipe ideas for how to use tomatillos (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Found in many Mexican dishes, tomatillos are also the main ingredient in most of the green sauces associated with Mexican and Central American cuisine.  Although they feature heavily in green sauce recipes, these small members of the nightshade family grow in a variety of colors including green, yellow, and purple.   Tomatillos grow inside a papery husk that turns brown and may even split when the fruit inside is ripe and ready to be picked.

Tomatillos, which were popular with the ancient Aztecs and Mayans, are native to Mexico.  They may also be called husk tomatoes, jamberries, husk cherries, Mexican tomatoes, and Mexican husk tomatoes.  They are relatives of the larger red tomato and can be confused with un-ripened tomatoes that are still green.  The purple and reddish versions of the tomatillo generally have a sweeter flavor and may be used to create things like jam.  In addition to being made into sauces, jams, and jellies, tomatillos can also be eaten whole or in part and can be fried, steamed, and boiled.

Despite its many uses and flavorful taste, the tomatillo has never really achieved world-wide notoriety.  It was grown successfully in several parts of the United States but never caught on enough to make it a profitable agricultural commodity.  Today is shows up in only a few regions around the world.  In addition to Mexico and the countries of Central America, it is also popular in some parts of India, South Africa, and in Queensland, Australia.

The tomatillo is one of April’s Vegetables of the Month.  Here are some delicious ways you can use this tasty veggie in your April meal planning to use something new and different to fill your family’s plate.

  1. Chicken Enchiladas with Roasted Tomatillo Chile Salsa
  2. Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Grilled Tomatillo Salsa
  3. Grilled Pork Chops with Tomatillo Corn Avocado Salsa
  4. Salsa Verde Green Tomatillo Salsa Recipe
  5. Herbed Chicken Breast with Tomatillo Salsa Queso Fresco
  6. Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia with Tomatillo Salsa
  7. Cumin Spiced Pork with Avocado Tomatillo Salsa
  8. Braised Chicken with Tomatillos and Jalapeños
  9. Tequila Pork Tomatillo Guacamole
  10. Tomatillo Soup
  11. Chipotle Lime Roast Chicken with Tomatillo Sauce
  12. Roasted Tomatillo and Garlic Salsa
  13. Avocado and Tomatillo Dip with Cumin Pita Chips
  14. Tomatillo Shrimp Fajitas
  15. Basa Fillets in Tomatillo Sauce
  16. Tomatillo Chicken
  17. Posole Chicken, Tomatillo, and Hominy Soup
  18. Corn and Tomatillo Salsa
  19. Shredded Chicken and Tomatillo Tacos with Queso Fresco
  20. Tomatillo Chicken Breasts
  21. Fried Green Tomatillos
  22. Spiced Tilapia with Roasted Red Pepper Tomatillo Sauce
  23. Quinoa Salad with Vegetables and Tomatillo Vinaigrette
  24. Seared Chicken with Tomatillo Avocado Salsa
  25. Tomatillo Glazed Baby Back Ribs
  26. Pork Carnitas with Cilantro Tomatillo Sauce
  27. Chicken Mushroom Empanadas
  28. Steak Quesadillas with Roasted Tomatillo and Apple Salsa
  29. Ancho Chile Fettucini with Cilantro Tomatillo Cream Sauce
  30. Black Bean and Sweet Potato Tamale
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5 Ways to Curb Stress Eating

Stress Eating

Do you eat when you’re stressed? Follow these tips to help avert that habit. (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Stress is something everyone experiences.  Some of us have more of it than others and we all know that when we have too much stress for too long it can be bad for our health.  While reducing stress is always the best solution, it isn’t always possible which is why learning to manage whatever level of stress you are under is what really matters.

April is National Stress Awareness Month and since stress eating is a real problem for many people, we thought this provided a great opportunity to talk about how stress and food can combine in unhealthy ways.  Unfortunately, stress is one of the most common causes of emotional eating, overeating, and unexpected weight gain.  There are several reasons for this.  Research has shown that eating the kinds of foods we crave when we are stressed, those that are high in carbohydrates, sugars, and fats, causes a chemical reaction in the body that produces more serotonin, the chemical that makes you feel good.  Additionally, when we have high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, our body can interpret that as a sign that we are living through a famine.  This can trigger a variety of biological processes that make us crave foods that we shouldn’t eat, eat more than we need, and store more of what we eat as fat.

So, how can you fight back and avoid succumbing to stress eating?  Here are 5 ways to better manage your stress that you can do instead of stress eating that will decrease your stress without increasing your waistline.

1.     Relieve the Pressure

When our stress level is high we can sometimes feel the pressure building within us making it seem like we are a volcano getting ready to explode.  Alleviate that pressure by doing things that help disperse some of the pent up energy stress can cause like playing loud music, screaming (in private, of course), or doing something active.

2.     Vent

Just like a pressure cooker on a stove, sometimes you just need to let some of your stress out and venting to a friend or loved one can be a great way to do this.

3.     Take a Break

Sometimes stress can leave us stuck, unable to do anything else until the situation that is causing the stress is resolved.  Unfortunately, this is not always the best way to deal with a stressful situation.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is to remove yourself from the situation for as little as a few minutes.  Sometimes just a change of scenery can have an immediate stress relieving effect.

4.     Stretch

Stress has a significant impact on your body and can cause tension to build up in your muscles leaving you feeling tight and achy.  Taking even 5 minutes to stretch out your major muscle groups can have a lasting impact on your stress level.

5.     Get Some Sleep

Unfortunately, one of the things we often need the most when our stress level is high is the thing we are least likely to allow ourselves to get – enough sleep.  Sleep is a powerful weapon against stress and it can also help keep you from gaining weight.  For this reason, if there is one thing you do this month to try and keep a handle on your stress, it should be committing to getting a good night sleep.

 

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