Artist Spotlight: Beth Rankin and Can-Do Real Food

Beth Rankin grew up in the paved part of the Garden State so she is amused she has ended up working with farmers. After getting involved with the farm-to-table movement in West Virginia by helping establish a year-round indoor local food market, Beth started connecting with various organizations that work with Willamette Valley farmers. It was while working on an organic farm a few summers ago that the fact of food waste became painfully apparent. At all farms, a lot of edible food is put into compost piles or fed to animals because of their imperfections, but they have the same nutritional content as the ones that are shaped right. Beth says, “I really respect the work that our farmers do, so my way, beside buying as much local food as possible for our own table, is to help by preserving that surplus produce and offering shelf-safe food to people to enjoy year round.”

loaded pasta sauce

No photo description available.Can-Do Real Food started out with canning fruits into jams and vegetables into sauces. We make an amazing Loaded Pasta Sauce that not only tastes fresh, like it was just harvested, but is full of other produce (those funny shaped carrots are shredded and so are the watermelon-sized zucchinis.) All add nutritional value and the fussy eaters will never know.

Jams and jellies tend to unusual recipes; Beth feels you can buy simple jams anywhere, but offers special recipes like the “naughty” line, each jar with a tablespoon of some locally made liquor or have personality from some other ingredient. Image may contain: food

Recently, Can-Do Real Food has branched into more dehydrated products, aiming for very easy to prepare meal mixes and supplements that people who  camp and backpack will appreciate.  These foods are designed to be ready to eat with just some water and minimal cooking and will be perfect in any household for a quick meal or when the power goes out and you can use your grill to boil up some water. Image may contain: food

Is this art?   No. But it is creative, no question about it. And reducing waste, including food waste, is a major component of a sustainable world.Market offerings

Beth Rankin is one of the organizers of this festival and You can find her and Can-Do Real Food at Table #27 where you can taste the food before buying.

Artist Spotlight: Julie Wilson and The Department of Work

Not all creative efforts become art. Not all reclaimed items are for visual enjoyment. Some, like the cast iron cookware Julie Wilson is offering, are for use….and a LOT of cooking creativity and enjoyment.

Cast iron has long been a treasured cookware, typically used over time in more rustic environments like cattle drive chuck wagons and at grandma’s house out in the country. But modern cooks everywhere are rediscovering the benefits of cooking in cast iron. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to care for the cast iron and it can rust and become unusable for cooking.AE3C37E8-7EF1-4A17-89A3-5EC3B3BB0DB9 - Department of Work

That’s where Julie Wilson and The Department of Work steps in, complete with elbow grease. She refurnishes the cookware she finds at yard sales and thrift stores by scrubbing off the rust and reseasoning the pans so they are ready to go, good as new. E4EECC16-8BA5-4FF0-8AD4-38869AF5D873 - Department of Work

This is another kind of zero waste; one that restores old items to make them usable again.  Julie says, “We rescue unloved cast iron cookware. We clean it and reseason it so it can get back to work. 100% sustainable, healthy, and affordable.” And better than that, Julie adds, “Cooking is a creative act of love which makes the kitchen the heart of the home. When food is prepared in cookware, especially cast iron with a history, magic is at work.”2BC71B40-2FB9-4AFB-ACBF-4670C809E03B - Department of Work

“I grew up recycling before there was even a name for it; it’s just what you did. I learned from my mother and grandparents. I learned to sew by watching my mother which lead to a career as a professional costume technician: From a two dimensional sketch I made three dimensional items of clothing for performers to wear. I specialized in the non-garment items, the fun stuff like armor, jewelry, hats and shoes. So I used my hands and was often given materials of unknown origins to make the desired object. This life took me to Ashland for 12 seasons, 7 years in Seattle at the various performance venues, and almost 3 years in Las Vegas working for Cirque du Soleil.
I returned to my beloved Oregon and in so doing, knew I was retiring from costuming. There are only so many jobs and I was ready for a “big shift”. The shift came when, after vending vintage decor at flea markets, my beloved and I went camping and he realized he needed the activity of slow cooking to keep him busy – I was good with sitting in the sun with a good book. His research into the use and (consequent restoration) of cast iron cookware created an overstock of items that we needed for that next camping trip. So it got sold at the next flea market, and the next one, and the next one…….. His cast iron became the main attraction and I realized that I had just walked through a major door of opportunity. 59DC334B-7285-4113-81D6-091E5FD4BBC1 - Department of Work
I am now fully committed to rescuing unloved cast iron. I love that I am offering an affordable, healthy, and sustainable product. I love bringing these pieces back to life and find such joy when a customer finds just the right piece, whether it is adding to their collection or is their very first piece. I have created a vocation where I continue to use my hands, interact with folks who are passionate about cooking, and am always learning about these amazing products from so many different peoples and cultures.  I am living the life of a crafts person and hear from customers, “Thank you for doing this!”, when they see the huge variety of rescued cookware. It’s a good life!”


Julie Wilson and The Department of Work is located at Table #26.


Reduce: Changing our Reliance on Plastic

The first step in reducing trash headed for the landfill is to actually stop acquiring things that need to be thrown away. A lot of people are proud of their recycling habit, but believe it or not, recycling is always a third or fourth choice.

First, REDUCE the amount of single use items. Most are plastic.

How did we get into this habit? Plastic is a polymer and polymers has been around for a long time.  (Check out this review of the history of plastic.)  Basically, before the early 1900s, polymers in use were all derived from organic material mostly from different plants. But in 1907 the first synthetic plastic, Bakelite, was developed using fossil fuels, phenol, an acid derived from coal tar. New use of oil resulted in the development of  polystyrene in 1929, polyester in 1930, polyvinylchloride (PVC) and polythene in 1933, as well as nylon in 1935.Image result for bakelite

Use of plastics exploded during World War II and after the war, manufacturers turned to the domestic market.  I was born in 1954 and I remember my parents using aluminum foil and waxed paper for wrapping food. As plastic wrap became available, it was pricey, so my frugal parents held out for a while, but Mom was happy when she found plastic dishes and cups for our camping trips and perhaps that was the transition item that made her more comfortable using that new material.

Today we are surrounded with plastics and it is hard to think of alternatives but we are at that point in our awareness of how bad plastics are for the environment and for our  health that we MUST start to transition away….REDUCE our use.

Evidence is mounting that the chemical building blocks that make plastics so versatile are the same components that might harm people and the environment. And its production and disposal contribute to an array of environmental problems, too. For example:

  • Chemicals added to plastics are absorbed by human bodies. Some of these compounds have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.
  • Plastic debris, laced with chemicals and often ingested by marine animals, can injure or poison wildlife.
  • Floating plastic waste, which can survive for thousands of years in water, serves as mini transportation devices for invasive species, disrupting habitats.
  • Around 4 percent of world oil production is used as a feedstock to make plastics, and a similar amount is consumed as energy in the process.
  • Plastic buried deep in landfills can leach harmful chemicals that spread into groundwater.Image result for plastic health issues

The City Of McMinnville is continuing to implement the Bag It Better campaign. Single use plastic bags used to carry home items from stores often are not reused by the consumer, but thrown away.  Large stores implemented the ban September 1st and coming up this March 1st, the small convenience stores will also ask you to bring your bag into the shop or pay a small fee for a paper sack.  Since most plastic bags either end up in the landfill where they will never decompose, or they get lifted by the wind before they can be covered and fly away, often landing in streams and rivers and eventually to the ocean,  Zero Waste McMinnville has worked with the City and the stores to provide information to consumers to make this transition.

Other plastic items that are used only once and then discarded should also be eliminated from our use.

  • Plastic straws were a wonderful improvement over the paper straws I knew as a child, but now we know plastic straws are also a problem.  Paper straws are making a comeback and some people also carry their own reusable stainless-steel or glass straws.
  • Alternative food wrapping is now available. Cotton fabric with beeswax and silicone circles that mold to containers help, or switch to reusable containers made from glass. Lots of people use mason jars.  Here’s instructions to make your own food wrap.  
  • If you have been a bottled water drinker, switch to a reusable stainless steel container and install a filter on your faucet to help screen out the chlorine and other chemicals used to treat the water. This will improve the taste.
  • Carry an insulated mug with you and ask the barista to fill it instead of handing you your fancy latte in a plasticized cup with a plastic lid.
  • Babies need water too but a healthier bottle would be made from glass covered by a silicone sleeve to protect it from breakage.Image result for glass baby bottle with silicone sleeve
  • Rather than use paper or plastic plates for eating, switch to porcelain (yes, they must be washed to be reused) or bamboo which is biodegradable and compostable.
  • If you’re going out to eat and you know you always get a doggie bag, bring your own container instead of using the clamshell offered to you.
  • Image result for bamboo forks disposableStop using plastic forks, knives, and spoons when you picnic. If you don’t want to bother carrying your flatware from home, there are utensils made with compostable materials like bamboo.
  • Improve your diet by eliminating sodas and other beverages that come in plastic containers. If you enjoy a carbonated beverage often, get one of the soda machines. Not only will you decrease the amount of plastic, but you can add interesting fruit flavors to make an Italian soda at home.
  • Image result for plastic berry containersReturn the little containers that hold berries and your egg cartons to the farmer at the market. Or, if you shop only at supermarkets, bring a container from home with the tare weight (empty container weight) written on it so the cashier can deduct that from the overall package weight.
  • Give up chewing gum. It’s also plastic.
  • Stop eating frozen foods. This will be hard but as you improve your cooking from scratch, you will be eliminating more plastic from your life that can be found in the packaging.
  • Buy from the bulk bins as much as possible. The unit cost is usually considerably lower than a similar packaged items found on the store shelves. By using mesh bags, you will also eliminate the plastic bag in the bulk section. For wet items like honey, syrup or peanut butter, bring a container (again, mark the tare weight) or wash the plastic container the store provides when you are finished with the food and put the clean container and lid into your bags that you carry for shopping.Image result for mesh food bags

So many more hints and tips are available online. If you want, please share any ideas you have developed either by commenting to this blog or writing a comment on Facebook.

Another blog will offer tips how to reduce plastic use in other areas besides food.




Composting 101: Take One

One cup. Instead of 13 gallons.

At the time the concept of recycling was not common. So, I did not change my ways then. But over time, I started to be more aware of my contribution to the care and loving of Planet Earth and slowly started sorting.

Before moving to McMinnville the city where I lived in West Virginia offered a recycling curbside pickup for a fee. There were several issues, though. One was the container was pretty small. The other was that the service was intermittent and finally ended. There were some collection containers in the city, but we got out of the habit again.

We had, however, started composting. We had a small garden in our back yard and saw how quickly our kitchen produce waste could become green manure for our future food plot.  We continued composting when we moved to McMinnville, building a larger collection area in our backyard.

Our plastic container on the kitchen counter has recently been replaced by a designed compost bin. It has a filter and is easy to clean. With the lid kept in place there is no odor nor any enticement for fruit flies to gather.

So, when I am fixing dinner and cutting up the veggies for the salad or for cooking, the ends I don’t use get tossed into the compost bucket. I also put egg shells in it when I bake and the coffee grounds when I make a fresh pot. When the bucket gets filled, a short walk to the compost pile in the back yard is all it takes.

However, not everyone wants a pile of decaying vegetable matter in their yard, especially if they don’t garden and recognize the benefit of the feeding the nutrients back into the soil. Good News!!!  In the movement to becoming an outstanding example of a Zero Waste city, McMinnville will start having curbside pickup for yard waste and uncooked vegetable matter.yard-waste

You must sign up for the service, which is included in your trash and recycling service fee. Go to the Recology Website ( to reserve your bins.

Glass pick up is also available so sign up for that as well, especially if you drink as much wine as we do.  We’ll talk more about glass later.


Reduce. Most of us may first think of weight loss when you hear that word, but in the world of Zero Waste it means something much easier to achieve, at least for me. To reduce means to lessen the amount of items you use that end up needing to be sent to the landfill or incinerator.


My daughter lives in California so, like many of her neighbors, she made great efforts to reduce her water usage during the past few years of extreme drought. Because of efforts like hers, the state’s residents reduced their water usage much more than the expected goal with the mandated restrictions.

One example of conserving water that went well beyond the simple effort to turn off the tap while brushing her teeth was to place several buckets in the tub while the water was warming up for a shower. That cool water was then used to irrigate their garden, producing an abundance of tomatoes and other items without requiring any additional water. Now THAT was a win win!!

Conserving resources is one way to reduce. Others are just small tricks and trade-offs that can really add up.

For example, in the summer I get carrots from local farms at the farmers’ market, but in the off season I am dependent on my local grocery store.  For years I purchased carrots in one or two-pounds bags.  A recent trip to Roth’s provided an interesting and pleasant surprise! img_2014img_2015 So it really makes sense…and cents… buy the loose carrots. Don’t bother putting them into a plastic bag provided in the produce section. You can carry them home in your shopping bag without that extra plastic that can not be recycled and would end up in the landfill.



img_2018When we moved to Oregon I was surprised and very pleased with all the choices I had in the bulk section. One of our weaknesses is the freshly ground peanut butter. It is perfectly acceptable to carry in a previously used and washed container and lid to refill. I use and reuse the same plastic container and lid often.  When we eat the last of the peanut butter, I wash them and place them in one of my shopping totes to bring back into the store. If you prefer to use glass you will need to tare the extra weight, so check with your supermarket on how they prefer you mark the container.

I think McMinnville’s  largest bulk grocery section is in WinCo, but all the supermarkets here have them.  They provide nuts, grains, pastas, candy, sugars, flours, dried fruit, coffee and so much more. Some stores have bulk available for liquids like syrups and honeys. Others have cleaning items. And in other parts of the country there are some local items. I still miss the oranges to make fresh squeezed orange juice I enjoyed one winter years ago when I was in Miami on assignment for three months. Bulk purchasing permits you to obtain the amount you need at prices typically considerably lower than what may be found packaged in excess cardboard and plastic on one of the inside aisles of the supermarket. And that cardboard and plastic needs to be disposed of afterwards….why bother with it at all?img_2019

Once you’ve shopped you need to carry all those yummies from the store to your car and then into your home. The effort to eliminate the use of plastic shopping bags is huge since there is only potential reuse for those, not recycling at this time.  It is better to reduce by opting for reusable cloth bags.

When we moved here we had not started using cloth totes to grocery shop so it had to become a new habit. There were just too many times we forgot to get the bags back to the car until we figured out a simple solution.  As I unpack I push all the totes inside one and then hang that one from the doorknob to grab the next time we head out to the car. Then the only time we really need to remind ourselves to grab them is when we pull into the supermarket parking space.  If anyone has any tricks, please share!img_2021

Here are a few more ideas for reducing how much trash you produce:

img_2025Stop using dryer sheets. I grew up with a mother who did not use any kind of softener, so was happy when dryer softener sheets became available. But about two years ago I stopped using them. Instead I buy liquid softener and use a plastic container (the one I use now had mozzarella in it originally), for dryer top storage. Inside the container is half a kitchen sponge. It soaks up the softener. I squeeze the sponge to reduce how much liquid it holds and then put it in the dryer with each load. The clothes come out with the same softness as the dryer sheets and without all that excess trash.

Never buy bottled water. If you don’t have access to a good well or spring, it is much better to get a reliable water filter and drink from the tap.  Then you can carry a reusable water bottle. This could be as simple as using a mason jar.

img_2024Take a reusable travel mug to the coffee shop or make your coffee at home. Use a French press or coffee maker and avoid those single-serving packages used in Keurig-like machines.  If you prefer those single serving coffees, there are reusable coffee filters that fit in your coffee maker, too!  And of course, standard drip machines have reusable filters.

Take your own reusable containers to takeout restaurants. If you hand over the containers when you order and ask nicely, most restaurants will oblige you. I know that the Saturday breakfast served each week at McMinnville’s Cooperative Ministries provides sit down as well as take-out servings. The expense of the take-out containers is a big factor in the breakfast budget and there has been discussion about asking people to bring their own containers.

Return egg and berry cartons to the vendors at the farmers’ market for reuse. Or use the berry containers when you take advantage of the many pick-your-own opportunities nearby.img_4812

better-than-store-boughtDitch the processed, packaged food altogether. Make your own soup, yogurt, salad dressing, ice-cream and other foods that come in cardboard, aluminum, and plastic packages. Batch cook on weekends with friends to make it easier. You’ll save a ton of money, and eat much, much healthier this way too. Lots of cookbooks on the market including this one can help you see how easy it is!