Gardening in Small Spaces

As we finally seem to be rounding the corner on spring, looking back, I can truly say that it was a long winter! I know this for sure because on one of our first Minnesota spring mornings, I was awoken to the sound of birds and I literally couldn’t recognize what the sound was! That got me thinking about my vegetable garden. 

At Curtis Food Recruiters, we are all about the food!  On this note, one of my passions over the last few years has been planning and growing my own vegetable garden. Even though I don’t have a lot of space for vegetable gardening, I really do enjoy it. Backyard gardening is a food trend that has been growing in popularity across the nation, especially since COVID-19.

Many of us do not have expansive fields in which to plant and grow our own food, however, we do have the means to create some very productive crops using the space that we do have. Whatever you choose to call it: urban gardening, square foot gardening, container gardening, backyard gardening, the concept is all the same; we are trying to do the most with the space that we have.

The following are some of my favorite small space gardening tips:

Use square foot gardening. The concept of square foot gardening was created in the 1970s by a retired engineer named Mel Bartholomew. He noticed that instead of the traditional way of planting with rows, small gardens would be more efficient if planted in squares. This was because the rows were intended to make space for the equipment in the fields, but were not as efficient as a densely planted garden. Square foot gardening involves laying down 1foot square guides and then planting the various crops within each 1-foot section. This can be done using wood strips or even string or in my case “eye-balling” it. With rows eliminated, this type of dense planting also helps reduce weeds, another bonus for the home gardener.  Raised gardens also work well.  In two 4 x 8 gardens, you could have as many as 64 different types of vegetables.

Think about recycling your crops throughout the summer. Some plants grow quickly from seed and can be replanted throughout the summer. This is one form of succession planting. Vegetables like lettuce, radishes, and green beans work well for this. You can replant these crops about every 2-3 weeks, as the plants stop producing.  Another great way to re-use garden space is to cut plants like Swiss chard and lettuce about an inch above the ground when harvesting them. This will allow them to re-grow at least one or two more times. By following these tips, you can recycle your garden space all summer long.

Consider dwarf or miniature varieties of plants. These plants can produce as much as the traditional larger-sized varieties but in a much more compact area. More and more types of these plants are being introduced as backyard gardening is becoming more popular. They will often be labeled with words like dwarf, miniature, or compact. Also, be sure to look for varieties that indicate that they are highly productive.

Consider growing herbs and vegetables among the other plants in your landscape. Herbs and vegetables don’t always need their own private garden space; they can be simply incorporated into your landscape. This also means that the space in your front yard can be just as easily used as the space in your backyard; making more room for planting vegetables and herbs.

Plant what you enjoy.  Herbs are very distinct in flavor and smell and can trigger a range of feelings, emotions, and memories. Lavender is a great example of this.  One of my favorite things to plant among my perennials is Pineapple Sage. Even though I never choose to cook with it, Pineapple Sage is one of my favorite herbs.  Full-grown at about 2 feet, it is a beautiful lime green plant that smells absolutely wonderful! Every time I walk by it, I grab a small handful of leaves and am immediately taken to the tropics!

Create miniature gardens in your containers. Even planters on a patio or deck can be great containers for a small garden. You can create small themed gardens within the containers. For a spaghetti garden, all you need is a tomato plant, like San Marzano or Roma, and some herbs like oregano and basil. Be sure that the space does get at least 6 hours of sun for the best results. Consider other types of miniature gardens as well, such as a salad garden with various types and colors of lettuce, grape tomatoes, chives, and radishes. Be creative!

Use all of your space wisely, including vertical space. Planting vining vegetables on a trellis or pole is a great way to get several more feet of vertical space from your garden without using a large footprint. A simple thing I like to do is put 4 or 5 bamboo stakes in the center of my raised garden in a small circle or square and then tie them together at the top with twine. Last summer, I planted pole beans around the stakes. At the height of summer, they were not only a beautiful focal point in my garden but also produced an abundance of great-tasting beans through the later part of the summer. In the landscape, a rung ladder propped next to the sunny side of the house would make a great support for peas or miniature pumpkins; or a trellis would work equally well.

Have fun and be creative with the different types of containers you can use in your space. I have seen some pretty creative uses of containers around the web these days. This includes multi-level containers on the deck, as well as pallets being propped up vertically with plants in pots tacked to the sides. One of my favorites is the re-purposing of an over the door shoe bag. It was made out of a really pretty burlap-type fabric and had herbs tucked in the places where the shoes are supposed to go. Adorable! I have also seen multiple layers of gutters hung together with twine and used for planting. I currently have a window box that I am not using for flowers this year but filled with herbs, it may be a great centerpiece for my outdoor dining table.

For additional information on the topic, one website that offers some great suggestions and how-to’s, including tutorials, on creating small space edible gardens is Sunset at http://www.sunset.com/garden/fruits-veggies/small-space-vegetable-gardens-00400000044403/. Mel Bartholomew also offers some great tips to getting starting with the Square Foot Gardening method on his blog at http://www.melbartholomew.com/

Now get planting! I would love to hear about your results!

Marianne Lenz

How You Can Give Back this Holiday Season

At Curtis Food Recruiters, volunteering in our community has always been a fundamental core value for us. After such a long and challenging year, our team felt especially moved this holiday season to raise awareness throughout our networks on the importance of giving back. 

It didn’t take us long to single out a cause that we felt was especially vital after the events of this year: food banks. 

The charitable food system is a critical service for people in need in nearly every community across the United States. As financial hardships have increased dramatically due to the effects of the pandemic, hunger is becoming an even more prevalent concern than during the financial crisis of 2008. 

The term “food insecurity” describes when a person lacks consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. Today, more than 80% of food banks are serving more people than they were a year ago, and the number of people who are food insecure in the US could rise to more than 50 million by the end of the year, including 17 million children.

Feeding America, one of the nation’s largest anti-hunger organizations, distributed 4.2 billion meals from March through October. The organization has seen a 60 percent average increase in food bank users during the pandemic: about 4 in 10 are first-timers.” 

More than just sharing statistics, though, we wanted to give readers a more involved look at the impact of food banks on their communities, so we reached out to one of our local favorites in our home state of Minnesota: CROSS Services. 

For years, we’ve held CROSS near and dear to our hearts for their incredible service to communities across Minnesota by providing food assistance programs, financial assistance programs, kids programs, and much more. 

We wanted to offer our readers the chance to get to know CROSS a little bit better and, more importantly, the people they work so hard to help.

 

Thankfully, Elizabeth Brown, CEO of CROSS Services was generous enough to sit down with us and answer a few questions:

 

Could you educate readers about the current hunger issues in the community? 

There are several food sites popping up here and there for “short-term” gap-filling, but this is not the work that CROSS does with families. Not having enough food or not being able to pay your rent/mortgage, not being able to put gas in your car to get to work…These are just the result of so many other areas of need.  

Many people have lost jobs they have held for years; their entire industry is damaged in some cases and they might not have a job to go back to. As an example, one family came in with this situation:  

Not only had they lost their job and needed food and housing help, they feared there was no option to go back into that industry. Our Family Resource Manager provided the food, the housing support, and then connected them to a free job counseling service. The father stopped in last week to thank the CROSS staff person and let him know that he was starting a new job in a new industry this week. It’s never just about hunger – hunger is the sign that much more help is needed. This is where CROSS steps in to be that connector.

Could you clear up any confusion about the types of people who receive help through your organization? 

Many people needing services during this time are new to asking for help. CROSS is seeing many families never before needing these services.  

60% of those coming to CROSS are working at least one job (many working more than one job); even during a “normal” time in our world, it is very difficult to stay ahead of rent/mortgage, transportation costs, health insurance, and raising children.  

Many people making even $17 per hour, which is a good wage, have no funds left each month after just paying for housing, transportation, and child care so they can work. This is where CROSS comes in to help families through with more than just food and housing. We provide the connection to the community and to other resources, here at CROSS and across our region.

 What’s the best way for people to donate?

There are a lot of great options to give. It could be through a cash donation, or volunteering your time; no amount is too small. Look at your charity’s website for preferred options for donating. In addition to traditional methods, many are using technology such as Venmo, Square or Paypal to make giving as easy as possible. In Minnesota, you could also go to GiveMN.org which allows you to find and support various charities all from one website; look for similar organizations in your state for online giving.

Is there anything else you think is important to know for people looking to give back this holiday season?

The holiday season is traditionally stressful…I heard one mom say that it is just MORE of everything.  You have to do everything you have always done to survive, and during the holidays, it’s just MORE…Leaving people tired, frustrated, poorer, and more anxious…In this time of “just MORE” we need to also have MORE patience, MORE faith, and MORE care for others.

CROSS will continue to do our work as faithfully and compassionately as we always have. We are grateful and dependent on the community for allowing us to do this work for families in our community.

——

 

For more information on how a donation to CROSS can help Minnesota families in need, take a look at their website here. To find other food shelves in your area in Minnesota, use this helpful tool

 

The impact of organizations like CROSS depends largely on donations and volunteers from their communities. To find a local food bank near you, follow this link. 

Gratitude, Giving & Growth

During these chaotic times, it is more important than ever to make sure we are walking through the world with a grateful heart. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t feel disappointed or grieve the loss of our old routines or cancelled events, quite the contrary is true. By developing an appreciation for even the most difficult days, we appreciate the joyous ones that much more.   

We have found great insight in Annie Meehan’s webinar “The Joy of Missing Out” which focuses on three core principles: Gratitude, Giving & Growth.   

  1. Gratitude – what are you grateful for today? Did you have the privilege of waking up to a loved one or job that you’re passionate about? Did you admire a beautiful sunset or enjoy dinner with your family? This helps you shift your mindset to notice even the little things that are worth celebrating every day.  
  1. Giving – what did you give away today? A compliment? Advice? A kind note? This takes gratitude a step further into true generosity – from self-focused to selfless. Make it a point to do even just small acts of kindness every day. This will not only deepen your relationships, but it will create a more meaningful life. 
  1. Growth – what did you learn or how did you grow today? Did you attend a seminar? Did you watch a TED talk? Did you invite a new neighbor for a virtual coffee date? This takes generosity to the next step – Having a full life is not just about who you are today, it’s also about developing who you want to become. Expanding your universe intellectually, socially, or professionally brings gratitude full circle, allowing you to recognize appreciation for your circumstances that you may not have otherwise.   

We hope you all are surviving this chaos with as much gratitude, generosity & growth as possible!  

If you want to learn more visit https://www.anniemeehan.com

Creating a Safe Haven for Bees and Monarchs, Alexis Hoopman

bee on sunflowerAs I sit outside (on a gorgeous non-snowy day in MN) admiring my garden this summer I am reminded of all of the different articles I have read regarding  bee colony collapse disorder and the significantly dwindling numbers of monarch butterflies. Both play an important role in gardening and our agricultural system as a whole. Wondering what I could do to help with these situations, I did a little research and thought I would share some of the tips and simple steps that I discovered that we can all do to support these invaluable contributors to our gardens and farms.

Bees

Worker bees have been abandoning their queens, and their hives, in record numbers only to die and leave their hives empty. This is a big concern due to the fact that bee pollination adds $15 billion in increased crop value to our country’s agriculture each year. According to the USDA, “About one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination.” There are numerous theories that contribute this bee tragedy to everything from pesticides to global changes or even parasites, but an exact cause has yet to be determined. The good news is that we can help the bees.  Planting pollinator friendly plants is a great way to support the bee population. Marigolds, daisies and native plants will keep bees coming back to your yard and pollinating away. In addition, be very discriminating in the pesticides that you choose. The Honeybee Conservancy has a great step by step guide for creating a bee friendly habitat in your own yard. http://thehoneybeeconservancy.org/act-today-2/plant-a-bee-garden/.

Monarch Butterflies

Monarch butterfly populations have also been on the decline in recent years, most likely due to logging in Mexico (where Monarchs like to winter), climate changes and GMO corn which hosts a bacterium that is toxic to butterflies. In addition, many of the herbicides utilized in modern farming kills off the milkweed plants in the fields, which Monarchs prefer to all other plants

 

When you’re in the process of putting together your bee garden, add a bunch of native milkweed plants and you will have a very happy Monarch population to observe as well. Butterflies lay their eggs on milkweeds and their caterpillars utilize the pods as their sole form of nutrition during  this stage of development.  The food and shelter that milkweed plants provide are critical to sustaining the Monarch species. It also happens that honey bees enjoy milkweeds as well, so this is a win-win for both insects

I encourage you to do your own research as you begin to strategize your yard for the summer. There are countless resources available on line, and of course, your local greenhouse or nursery will be happy to help point you in the right direction. It always feels good to help, and this type of help can impact more than just the beauty of your garden, but also the food on your plate .

 

 

3 fears that trap midlife women in unhappy work -By Kathy Caprino

Virtually every week, I hear from scores of midlife professionals around the globe who long for something more, different or better in their jobs and careers, but can’t seem to get out of the gate to take action or decide the best directions to pursue.

At the heart of these questions is one key element: fear. But fear about career change disguises itself in myriad confusing ways that we don’t recognize as fear. The research I’ve conducted over the past 13 years reveals three top fears that keep midlife professionals locked in unhappy careers and in quiet (and not so quiet) desperation, sometimes for a lifetime.

Here they are:

https://www.newonline.org/news-insights/blog/mid-career/3-fears-trap-midlife-women-unhappy-work

How grocers can retain quality employees -Torrey Kim

Torrey Kim 

January 24, 2018

One of the best ways that grocers can keep customers coming back is to give them an excellent shopping experience, and that often starts with a high-quality grocery staff. But finding top-notch talent can be a challenge for retailers. Grocers can counter those challenges by looking for a few telltale traits up front, which can help solidify the odds of finding and keeping excellent staff.

Seek high-level customer service

Although some grocers consider scheduling flexibility the top trait they seek when recruiting retail staff, it’s actually not the best way to find talent that will last, says Mike Hamaker, director of grocery recruiting with iRiS Recruiting Solutions. Instead, he advises, look for applicants with excellent customer service skills.

“This stands the test of time,” Hamaker said. “Grocery stores are currently in a state of change. Customer service is one aspect of each grocery store that must remain present and strong. Without strong customer service, the experience in the store will diminish and so will the customers.”

In other words, Hamaker stresses, grocers should look at interviewees as a shopper would — not as the store manager would. “Flexibility is nice, but not really a trait that makes a grocer who they are. When we go shop a store, we don’t go there for flexibility of the associates, we go there because of price, convenience, service or selection,” he said. “The one thing that remains after everything else is how we are treated and felt about our service, that is what brings customers back time and time again.”

Look for willingness, drive

In addition to seeking interviewees with strong customer service skills, you should also look for applicants who have a strong work ethic, says Julie Curtis of Curtis Food Recruiters, which places executive-level leaders within grocery retail, wholesale and food manufacturing.

“Candidates that have a proven track record of a good work ethic will move your business forward much more than someone that can work the late shift,” Curtis says. “People that have a willingness and drive to learn your business will be the best hires. The retailer must them give them opportunities to take on cross-functional roles and more responsibility. Most people want an opportunity to grow their career, so give them a road map.”

Once hired, hold employees accountable

After a store hires staff members, management should both nurture them and hold them accountable, Hamaker says. “Store-level associates are the first line of defense against the competition. The reality for many retailers/grocers who don’t differentiate themselves will be extinction. There isn’t room for average retailers with the level of competition continuing to increase.”
__________________________________________________

If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s email list for more stories about the food and beverage industry. We offer 20 newsletters covering the industry from restaurants to food manufacturing. And be sure to follow us on Twitter for the latest industry news.

Tags: 

grocery staffretail staffhiring grocery staffMike HamakerCurtis Food Recruiters

#Coffee

Who wouldn’t want to walk into this lobby everyday?! Last week some of our team had a fun day visiting the new facility of a favorite client!

The Curtis Food Recruiters Philosophy

Our search firm’s unique philosophy has two key benefits not seen in most large search firms.

First, we accept only a limited number of engagements from outstanding companies. This allows each client to receive the personalized attention of one of our partners on every assignment.

Large search firms continuously struggle with issues centered on which recruiter owns each candidate and client. This leads to the second key benefit you will receive with Curtis Food Recruiters; we have no internal reserve on candidates. Candidate and client information can be accessed by each recruiter for every search.

By limiting our searches and keeping the candidate base open, we ensure maximum attention to our clients and full market access for faster placement.

To learn more about our company, and to get started today, we invite you to fill out our contact form.

Creating a Community through Food

1 canned

Harvest time is one of the best times of year, especially at the farmers market.  This is also a time when my neighbors and I get together to celebrate one of my favorite traditions; Annual Neighborhood Tomato Canning Day.  I loved the idea of canning tomatoes, but found the whole process to be a little overwhelming and a little bit scary.  A few of my neighbors were old pros at it, so I trusted doing it with them.  So, on a Saturday in September, we went down to the Farmer’s Market as a group to purchase our tomatoes, and then canned them at one of my neighbor’s homes.  And with that one day, an annual tradition was born.  As with many traditions, we have developed a typical way of going about things for our annual event.

When we get to the market, there is usually a chill in the air, so our first stop is always a cup of coffee.  Once we have coffee in hand, we start making the rounds to the various vendors; searching for our tomatoes.  They have to be Roma or San Marzano, they must be the right size and not too green.  We never purchase from the first vendor we see, because we need to check out all of our options first.  Once we make our tomato purchase, we take some time to enjoy the market and all the colors and smells it has to offer; brightly colored peppers, dark purple eggplants, an abundance of apples,  pumpkins and squash in multiple shades and hues.  Taking it all in, visiting the market is truly one of my favorite parts of Annual Neighborhood Tomato Canning Day.

After we get back to my neighbor’s house, we get to the business at hand.  The guys gather in the garage where they monitor several jars of tomatoes bathing in the tubs of boiling water.  They are usually joined by random neighbors that have stopped by to help supervise and watch the football game.  We always have a great lunch, a few of our favorite beverages, fun stories and lots of laughs.  Before we know it, the tomatoes are all out of the water bath, the kitchen is clean and one more Annual Neighborhood Tomato Canning Day has come to an end.  Yes, it has been pointed out to me, it would be a lot cheaper and easier to go to the grocery store and purchase canned tomatoes.  But, for me that doesn’t compare to the sense of community that has been developed and strengthened over the years through this special celebration of food.

For information on canning tomatoes, Ball offers step-by-step instructions at http://www.freshpreserving.com/recipes/diced-tomatoes-in-water.  You can usually find all of the canning supplies you will need at your local grocery or hardware store.  There are also some helpful tools for handling the lids and jars and removing air bubbles that can be found in this section as well.

Also, Food Republic has some great recipes for cooking with canned tomatoes at http://www.foodrepublic.com/2013/03/08/36-ways-use-canned-tomatoes-tonight#!slide=1.

 

Marianne Lenz