NOFA-NY Field Notes

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2015: The Year to Label GMO Food in NY!

Time to Label GMOs in New York State!

By Elizabeth Henderson

2015 will be the year to label GMO foods in NYS! Area organic farmers, NOFA and our allies in the NY Label GMOs coalition are determined to pass legislation in the coming session, and you can help.

This is why we care so strongly:  First of all, food made from GMO ingredients is not labeled:  you do not have a choice about whether you want to participate in this massive experiment in novel kinds of food proteins some of which seem to cause allergies. 70 - 80% of the conventionally grown processed foods sold in grocery stores today have at least some GMO ingredient. GMO varieties are not tested independently for safety. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy not to require testing before approval for commercial sale was set against the advice of its own scientists.  There are memos dating to 1991 in which FDA scientists warn of potential health risks.  The FDA official who made the decision not to test each new genetically engineered variety was a former employee of Monsanto. The safety testing is done by the companies that sell the seeds.

[caption id="attachment_452" align="alignright" width="300"]Stacey Grabski-Early Morning-Daily Life Let's know the practices used on the fields where our food is grown!


Then there is the issue of contamination. The vast majority of GMO varieties are “Round-Up Ready,” that means, treated with the herbicide glyphosate plus supposedly inert additives that are added to make it more effective.  In 2010, there were 365 million acres in 29 countries planted with GMOs, with Round-Up Ready corn and soybeans making up the largest area.  During the first few years of these crops back in the 90’s, farmers were able to grow them with less herbicide than used previously.  Then the predictable came to pass - the weeds became more and more resistant so farmers poured on more herbicide until by now, there is Round-up in the waters of most states, in the air, in the soil and in the bloodstreams of new born infants.  While independent studies of the safety of GMO foods are scarce, there have been many studies of Round-Up that show it attacks the beneficial organisms in the human digestive system, causing serious health problems – increased birth defects, neurological developmental problems in children, kidney failures, respiratory problems and allergies. Studies also show that Round-Up is a powerful soil biocide, resulting in the increase of microbial plant pathogens, some of which form mycotoxins that can be very poisonous to humans and livestock.

One of the selling points of Round-Up is that it breaks down quickly and that is why you can purchase it off the shelf in garden and hardware stores.  That is accurate.  But what Monsanto does not mention is that Round-Up breaks down into AMPA, which lasts for a couple of decades and is more toxic than glyphosate.  To make things worse, to kill off the weeds that have become resistant to Round-Up, manufacturers are pushing new varieties that farmers can douse with both Round-Up and other herbicides like 2, 4 D, – and USDA is allowing this.

If you want to avoid eating GMOs, eating organically grown foods is the surest way. The National Organic Program that sets the standards for organic production in the US excludes the deliberate use of any GMO seed or materials.  Of course, this does not prevent contamination of organic crops, especially as the huge acreage in GMO crops continues to expand.  The responsibility and cost falls on certified organic farmers to show that they have taken measures to avoid contamination.

You are also safe eating vegetables and fruits from NY farms. Local vegetable and fruit farmers do not have to worry about GMO contamination from drift yet.  So far, the only GMO vegetables on the market are summer squash and a couple varieties of supersweet corn.  This is not to say that all summer squash and sweet corn you encounter uses GMO technology, so do ask your farmer (politely) about their varieties.  But be forewarned, any non-organic processed foods that contain corn or soybeans or any of their many derivatives are likely to be GMO.

Corporate money drowned out attempts at GMO labeling in California, Colorado and most recently in Oregon where the labeling law lost by only 800 votes. In Vermont, the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association is already suing the state to prevent the implementation of the labeling law that passed last year and is not to go into effect until 2016.

On the national scene there are two competing measures.  Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) is making a name for himself with H.R. 4432, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014 dubbed the “DARK Act – Deny Americans the Right to Know” by the Organic Consumers Association. If adopted, it would preempt states from passing GMO labeling laws, nullify the GMO labeling laws already passed by Maine, Vermont and Connecticut, and make FDA’s current voluntary labeling system the law of the land. By contrast, the Boxer-deFazio bill, the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act, would require the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

While a mandatory federal labeling law is the goal, pushing for state laws is the way to build up enough public pressure to pass it. Public opinion polls regularly show that more than 90% of Americans support GMO labeling. The corporations that bring us GMO foods have had two decades to label them voluntarily.  Had they done so with pride early on, the public might be less suspicious.

Assemblywoman Rosenthal and Senator Lavalle will be resubmitting the same labeling bill as in 2014 that will require that all genetically engineered food offered for retail sale in New York be labeled as such.  The bills will get new numbers when the legislative session begins in January. We all have the right to know what is in our food and the right to make informed choices about what we choose to eat. So let’s make this happen!  Please urge your state assembly reps and senators to sign on as sponsors! Plan to join the Label GMO Lobby Day, January 26, 2015 in Albany.  For the latest information on the campaign, go to www.GMOFreeNY.net!
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Grain coming into Focus: Long-standing New York traditional foods get their spotlight at last!

The OREI Value-Added Grains Project is a multi-year collaboration between NOFA-NY, Cornell University, Greenmarket, GrowNYC, OGRIN and others to grow the potential of primarily ancient and heritage cereal grains in New York and the Northeast.  Robert Perry, NOFA-NY's Grain and Field Crop Coordinator, and June Russell, Manager of Farm Inspections
& Strategic Development for Greenmarket/GrowNYC, share their thoughts about grains and the upcoming Grain Expo happening during the NOFA-NY Winter Conference.

Robert says,

"Who ever heard of spelt, einkorn, emmer, or farro until recent years? This, to many, was like another new food group being grown.  However, I grew up enjoying whole grain flours living near the New Hope water-powered flour mill. Leland Weed had resurrected the old mill and overshot water wheel and spent a lifetime providing bagged whole grain flours that my mother would bake into homemade bread and rolls every week. The mill was open for tours and photo opportunities and was famous for their Buckwheat pancake mixes. My Dad had a dairy farm and did custom harvesting of small grains with his various combines. Eventually we had three combines that my brothers and I operated as well. Riding on the old AC all crop bagging combine, sliding down the chute, and playing in the oat bin was all part of growing up. The coop was close by and everyone worked as a community to support the Grange and the GLF cooperative along with various milk coops. So when legendary music of the late 60's came along (“Traffic” and Steve Winwood’s “John Barleycorn Must Die”; Jethro Tull with “Same Old Man Workin at the Mill”)l I was already hooked on grains. Over the years various flour mills and bakeries have indulged in stone mills, whole grain bakeries, and legends have lived on, made with a labor of love, by farmers, millers, and bakers. After a silent yet persistent journey by this passionate community the grain movement has once again come into the local regional spotlight.Spelt berries

So when the idea of a Grain Expo came about for the NOFA-NY Winter Conference, coupled with selection of grain farmers
Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens as our Farmers of the Year, it was my privilege to combine this into a celebration of the legends, the present, and the future of the incredible Northeast Value-Added Grains community."

Same old man workin' at the mill
Mill turns around of its own free will
Hand in the hopper and the other in a sack
Ladies step forward and the gents fall back.

June responds and reflects,

"I am afraid my first encounter with a mill or anything having to do with the production of grain was much less pastoral then Robert’s and most surely involved a rickety building with a lovely river view that either had been renovated into a Ye Olde Tavern of some sort or sold Christmas ornaments and fudge to tourists. Mills were relics of the past and flour was probably made by Keebler elves, as I saw it. Even as someone who had worked as a professional cook for 15 years, I had no idea how grain grew or flour was produced.

Early on in the quest to find flour for Greenmarket bakers, I saw Jack Lazor give a workshop on growing grain in Vermont at a NOFA-VT conference. Jack told the story of being a back-to-the-lander in the 1970s and how he grew wheat to make his own bread, but when he went to sell his crop he found that even the local Vermont co-op was buying grains and flour from the Midwest for half the price and he was laughed out the door. He said it was only now, decades later, that he was finally seeing interest in the market for his grain and he quipped, “I think we’re making progress”. (Editor's note: Jack and his wife Anne will be presenting twice, and participating in a panel at the Grains Expo at the Conference)

This was circa 2007--a full thirty years or more after Jack and many of our elders were planting those first seeds. And it was true the market was finally catching up to the wisdom of farmers like Jack.  By 2008 the local foods movement kicked into full gear along with an explosion of artisanal food businesses guided by passionate and innovative entrepreneurs who embraced working with local ingredients with gusto.  We met essential allies and co-creators who were and are making incredible products for us to eat and drink from bread to beer, pasta to gin all using local grains …and supporting our farmers. By 2010, when Greenmarket implemented its 15% rule, the market was primed, the customer was ready and a few dozen farmers were willing to take the risk and begin the steep learning curve of growing, handling and marketing local grains.
Roggenvollkornbrot1The momentum is real, from Pennsylvania to the Finger Lakes, The Hudson Valley to Maine, mills have been built, or put back into production; malt houses and distilleries have come on line; and support for re-regionalizing our food system is coming from all directions including the state of New York, which has given us the farm brewery and farm distillery legislation that is helping to drive grain production and much needed research and development of infrastructure.

It has been an incredible time to be a part of this work; rewarding and profound in ways I never could have anticipated. Back in the early 90’s while working for Greenpeace, a good friend and mentor said to me, “there should be a still in every county”. I think he was getting at a message about sustainability on a fundamental level, about feeding the soil, the animals and our selves in ways that align with our values, bringing full circle the agriculture, the market and the food culture in a way that just might have a shot at sustaining us in the long run.

Now as another malting facility opens, another bakery incorporates local flour into production and another small batch distillery using local grains wins an award for excellence, I know what that mentor meant. And although I am pretty sure he would love the taste of the bourbons that our craft distillers are producing, he would be especially proud of what this community has accomplished, and the hope for the future that it signifies.

You can join in the fun and education on Friday January 23rd. 2015.  In the morning, there's a Value-Added grain intensive with Klaas and Mary-Howell, followed by lunch with various grain-focused vendors, and a grain forum with legendary farmers, millers, bakers, brewers, distillers, researchers and you. Beyond the expo, there will be a total of 7 workshops for grain and field crop farmers, a homesteaders' session on earthen oven cooking projects (Saturday afternoon), Klaas and Mary-Howell's keynote address on Saturday afternoon, and an abundance of tasty treats made with New York's grains.

Pre-registration ends on Friday, January 16th (walk-in registration starts at 7:00pm on Thursday, January 22nd).  Registration for Friday of the conference allows you entrance to the grain expo, plus all workshops and activities.  See www.nofanyconference.org for all the information!

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The "Depths" of Planning Farmers' Soil Education

Fruit and Vegetable Coordinator, Maryellen Sheehan, tells us how she approached the planning of soil-themed workshops for this year's conference.  For more information and to register for the conference, which will be held January 23rd-25th in Saratoga Springs, NY, head to www.nofanyconference.org.

Tillage radish in soil

Farmers, especially organic farmers, recognize soil's fundamental importance to agriculture, and go to great lengths to preserve soil health.  However, in my time with NOFA-NY, and when talking with growers, I know it's also true that we recognize how challenging it can be to manage soils for both solid production (which keeps our doors open as farm businesses) and for increased fertility.  We know that increased fertility gives back to the future farmers using our land, makes our plants healthier, and arguably does all other sorts of good things like trap carbon, enhance nutrient levels in food, and more.  On my farm in Central New York, we’ve struggled with this delicate balancing act of farm commercial viability and building better soils on our operation these past two years. Near-constant rain left soil saturated for weeks (and months) at a time, repeatedly forcing the decision: do we prepare beds in too wet of ground, potentially damaging future soil structure, or do we risk missing major plantings and falling short for those CSA customers who have entrusted us with their money? For all farms, challenging decisions like these are what we strive to inoculate our operations against by building the well-functioning soil and farm systems that remove the necessity of facing these difficult questions.

It’s been really exciting for me to have the opportunity to plan this series of soil workshops for intermediate and advanced fruit and vegetable growers, since there are so many great presenters joining us. It’s also been more than a little daunting since we organic farmers can get quite passionate in our approaches to soil building and managing for better fertility! From farmer input and suggestions, two main themes arose that I strove to include in this soil series.

The first emergent concept was that of ample farmer-to-farmer discussion time to learn how expert growers are working on soil fertility.  You all wanted to hear how growers in similar situations or different regions are addressing some of the same questions facing your operations.


We actually kick off the day *before* the conference this year with a pre-conference on-farm field day on Thursday, January 22nd! Paul and Sandy Arnold graciously offered to host farmers at their Pleasant Valley Farm and set the context of thinking about soil and fertility management in the wider picture of whole farm systems and operations. The Arnolds grow winter greens using organic methods in unheated high tunnels, harvesting for weekly local markets. This field day will start with an indoor discussion and lunch (bring your own or pre-order a home cooked meal) while the greenhouses warm up. We will then tour all aspects of the farm’s production areas, including the greens in their three 34x144’ automated high tunnels, while learning how the Arnolds manage seeding dates, variety selection, winter protection, soil nutrition and amendments, and harvest techniques.  (If you're planning to attend this field day, registration is separate from conference registration, and you must register in advance due to space constraints of being in the greenhouses!)

100_0847Two Saturday and Sunday sessions continue this theme of looking deeply at one farm for a soil and fertility management case study. Jean-Paul Courtens and Jody Bolluyt will join us to describe how they manage their soil health on Roxbury Farm’s 90 acres of vegetable production with an emphasis of addressing soil health management for vegetable farmers in the context of a diversified farm, emphasizing crop rotation, the use of green manures, and nutrient cycling and budgeting. (There also will be some ties-ins to how biodynamics influences parts of their management strategy!). Paul and Sandy Arnold will be back to wrap up the series on Sunday by examining how they grow profitable crops in high tunnels through good soil management. They will focus on the details of the soil management techniques that are used at Pleasant Valley Farm to grow high value crops throughout the winter in their French Intensive system of greens production, including soil tests, amendments, tillage, bed prep and biologicals.

The capstone workshop for our farmer to farmer sessions occurs as a half day intensive Friday for vegetable growers. We are lucky to have Vern Grubinger, UVM vegetable and berry specialist and Northeast SARE coordinator, joining us to present and facilitate a discussion on soil health practices for vegetable growers. Vern will start us out by discussing and showing some of the many techniques northeastern growers are using to measure and manage soil nutrients, maintain or build soil organic matter, reduce tillage, address compaction, and integrate cover crops and rotations. Then, we’ll transition to the farmer-to-farmer component of the day where as a group we will identify the key questions facing the growers in the room, and then address those questions with a facilitated discussion where participants can share what they have learned or have been trying on their farms. There will also be time to connect with other growers and continue conversations in the social hours and evenings, including a facilitated discussion group Saturday evening on organic no-till farming!

The second theme was the potential applications of biodynamic and permaculture practices in organic farming systems.


IMG_5533For fruit growers, we are thrilled to have Hugh Williams of the Hudson Valley’s Threshold Farm joining us for a Friday intensive on “Ecological Soil Management Strategies for Perennial Crops.” Hugh has farmed biodynamically since 1972, and for the past 21 years with his family at Threshold Farm, growing biodynamic and organic commercial vegetables, small grains, cattle, and orchards on their 45 acres, while maintaining 90% of the ground in permanent cover. This session will focus on some of the biodynamic and permaculture farming practices that can cross genres to help guide effective strategies to improve understory management for fruit, perennial, and annual crop farmers. At Threshold Farm, Hugh and his family were able to utilize the grasses of their farm’s worn-down pastures as an engine to drive fertility across the farm, while making a living off the farm from day one. This workshop will cover above and below ground soil and biological interactions, long term perennial crop management, keyline plowing, integrating perennial and annual cropping, and a range of other biodynamic and permaculture practices.IMG_5613

While these workshops are aimed at intermediate to advanced growers, everyone is welcome. Some great resources to study up in advance of the conference include the SARE books (available at www.sare.org) Building Soils for Better Crops, Crop Rotation on Organic Farms, and Managing Cover Crops Profitably, as well as Organic Soil Fertility and Weed Management (available at Chelsea Green).


grazing cows

Finally, in addition to these great soil workshops specifically focused for intermediate and advanced fruit and vegetable growers, there are also *more* great soil workshops aimed at dairy farmers (we have a half day Friday intensive for on “Building Soils with Recycled Nutrients”) and beginner farmers (a half day Friday intensive on Evaluating Soils and Land to Plan a Successful Farm.) There are also two sessions for grain and field crop farmers that may also appeal to other growers, including one on “Sustainable Soil Management for Field Crops” and another with our keynote speaker Wes Jackson and his Land Institute colleague Tim Crews on “Soil Organic Matter: Understanding the Holy Grail of Organic Agriculture!” We (and your soils) hope that you can join us!
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A Shared Vision of Sustainable Agriculture in New York

Cecilia Bowerman, NOFA-NY's Membership Coordinator, shares her thoughts about why giving to NOFA-NY is meaningful, powerful, and appropriate to the season.

At this point in the day you’re probably aware that it’s Giving Tuesday, a national day dedicated to philanthropy. This new addition seems positioned to balance the previous days dedicated to consumption: feasting with our families to celebrate all that we are thankful for, and the frenzied holiday shopping the following Friday and Monday.

This blog is a collection of NOFA-NY stories, from those who care about the success of organic and sustainable agriculture in every corner of New York State. I was invited to consider what it is I appreciate about today; why Giving Tuesday (and its social-media trending twin, #givingtuesday) matters. Mainly, for me, it’s that today is a concentrated effort (an effective one it seems) to raise our national consciousness to reflect on the causes we care about. And not just to think of them, but to take action and show our support. I recently returned to New York State, my home state, after an 8 year hiatus. I wanted to come back to live near my family, and I wanted to work for NOFA-NY because I care about where our food comes from. I want to help ensure that more food is produced without the use of harmful chemicals, that there are easy ways to engage with and support local farmers, and that consumers can continue to vote with their purchases.

chickebago

It takes each and every one of us to do this work. You might consider a gift to NOFA-NY this holiday season for any number of reasons. Perhaps it was a valuable learning experience you had at one of our conferences, or out on the farm at a field day this past year. Perhaps it is because you recognize creating policies that support a sustainable food and farm system rely on the strength of our collective voice. Perhaps it is that you simply want to enjoy good, healthy food grown by a nearby farmer.  The point is you are not alone. Today is your day to give a gift to an organization you care about. Whether it’s NOFA-NY, or some other cause you consider worthy, let’s come together this Giving Tuesday to contribute to the greater good. We are glad to be considered a worthy cause by so many of you. And we couldn’t do this work without you. Thank you.

DSC01150

You can learn more about carrying forward our vision to support a healthy future for us all, or join those who have already made a gift to NOFA-NY this holiday season.

CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION


NOFA-NY is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. Contributions are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law. A copy of the NOFA-NY latest annual report may be obtained, upon request, from the New York State Attorney General’s Charities Bureau, 120 Broadway, 3rd Floor, New York New York 10271.
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The Story of Our Conference Food

This is a re-telling of the story of how our conference food program came to be. It is dedicated, in gratitude, to our wonderful conference food donors.  Read on for the tale of the NOFA-NY conference meals, as told by Bethany Wallis (Education Director, Conference Food Coordinator).  If you're inspired to help us meet our menu wishlist, please be in touch!

Amazing food is the underlying pillar of NOFA-NY’s Annual Winter Conference. True, it's not the first thing that might come to mind when you hear "farming conference," but maybe it should be.  Yes, each year a new theme is chosen for our beloved winter conference and our staff works tirelessly to put together education around that theme that informs and represents our organic farming community.  This ever-changing and constantly-evolving conference is a venue for new research to be shared, farming techniques to emerge, friendships to begin, collaborations to blossom, and families to grow.  The constant is evident: this conference exists because everyone in attendance seeks to support the growth, distribution, and enjoyment of delicious, wholesome food grown in a way that supports the environment and the people who toil to bring it to the masses.

[caption id="attachment_408" align="aligncenter" width="676"] While many conferences offer delicious food, the NOFA-NY conference food stands apart because the ingredients provided for all of the meals, breaks, and social gatherings is sourced organically and locally, almost all donated by our farmers and business supporters.


I first came to NOFA-NY as a volunteer to assist in procuring the food for the winter conference many years ago when the conference was still held in Syracuse and boasted an attendance of over 300 farmers.  It was the best way to be introduced to the greater organic community of New York State.  Then and now, the generosity with which people are willing to donate is unbelievable.  Farmers in our midst wholeheartedly want to share the products they know are the healthiest available--making their actions speak for their ideals.  They care deeply that the food they grow and produce can be enjoyed while participating in an event that helps to strengthen the organic community.

child at buffet John-Paul Sliva 007

I am excited to once again be organizing the food donations for this great conference.  Each year, over 1200 attendees walk through the door, ready for 80+ amazing workshops, engaging keynote speakers, and plenty of social activities.  They're hungry, too.  This year we will feed over 7200 meals, provide snacks for more than 900 people on Friday and Sunday and 1300 on Saturday, make sure that the 500 folks who attend our receptions also have munchables while they network.dining hall

That is no small feat with a farmer’s appetite!  The kitchen and service staff at the City Center often stand in the dining room, amazed at the way the crowd (respectfully, patiently) descends upon the trays of roasted vegetables and salad just as much as the heartier foods--we know about balanced and abundant plates!  Curious as to how many potatoes it takes to feed this hungry bunch? 500 pounds! Milk?  Only 125 gallons.  Then there are eggs (600 dozen, so get crackin’) and over $3000 worth of locally baked bread.  Everything is donated from the salt and pepper on the table to the transportation of the donated products from across the state.  The list goes on.

city center kitchen scene 2

buffet line with green veg

It is an intense experience to find all the needed items based on the menu and to confirm all the donations.  For example, if in late November we have 5 of 6 main ingredients to make a roasted pork dish, but we're missing the meat, we have to decide whether to change the menu and use the 5 procurable ingredients in a different way, or to keep looking for organic, local pork.  We are so fortunate that the Saratoga Hilton and Chef Vik are so willing to work with us to make all of these meals possible without compromising our community's values.  From September forward there is almost daily communication to nail down all the bits and pieces.

City Center Kitchen CrewOnce we arrive on site, everything is different than the norm of hotel food management.  The food is not pre-prepared for the kitchen staff, and sometimes comes in very close to meal time.  How quickly can one staff peel butternut squash before it needs to go in the oven?  The kitchen and service staff is involved in listing all the donors and ingredients in the dishes on the buffet line; I'm behind the scenes with key volunteers checking off and labeling deliveries, ensuring that snacks and products are left in their packages so folks associate farms and brands with the delicious food they're eating and reminding kitchen staff to please NOT peel the carrots and to let the artisan cheeses come to the right temperature before serving (do not serve our Board President's famous cheese at refrigerator temperature!).  We are for certain an interesting group!

I would personally like to thank each person in this amazing circle of food for a feast.  Thank you to the farmers, to the transporters, to the preparers, to the servers, and to the educators who keep us coming back every year to learn more, fueled by such delicious food!  I manage the intensity of this job because I am so rewarded to see how we unite in the love of food, in our support of each other, and in our commitment to work today for a better tomorrow for our ever-growing community.

[caption id="attachment_405" align="aligncenter" width="676"]DSC_0054 NOFA-NY Winter Conference Breakfasts are a hearty, healthy affair. Roasted potatoes, organic fruit including citrus from Thorpes Organic Farm citrus grove in Florida, meat, yogurt, granola, and milk!
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A Collection of Farmers' Passions and Projects

This time of year, I have the privilege to read about so many farmers' hopes and dreams, and their thirst for education.  I read these testimonials as part of the NOFA-NY Winter Conference scholarship application decision-making process.  We read each application fully, multiple times with multiple criteria in mind.  We hear from people exploring the idea of farming to seasoned farmers who know how much farmer-to-farmer education means to their farm's success.  In light of the approaching scholarship award deadline (Midnight on 12/1/14), I'd like to share a few quotes that remind me of the passion and projects that farmers share willingly, in hopes of receiving one of our scholarships.

When asked what you hoped to get out of attending the conference, you answers were along these lines:

"I have one season of farming under my belt. Most of what I have learned has been by trial and error. I hope to gain as much knowledge as I can from those with far more experience so I can make this upcoming season a success. I also hope to meet other farmers in my same situation to see what steps they have taken to get to where they are and the steps they plan to take to get them to where they want to be. Being a novice, my book is full of blank pages. I would like to start filling up those pages with useful information. There is so much I want to learn but do not know where to start. I thought this would be a good place!" -2013 applicant

"Being able to exchange ideas about different growing practices with other organic farmers. Specifically looking for a better cover crop rotation for my farm. Want to learn more about the expanded marketing venues available to us for local retail and wholesale sales. Want to learn more about saving our own seed. Want to learn more about how our farm can help new farmers become established." -2014 applicant

It's so interesting to find out what people identify as their short- and long-term goals in the moment they apply for a scholarship--these goals are in flux each year, so this really shows the mindset of a farmer.  These goals range from lifestyle aspirations to technical specifications:

"I would like to expand the farm to six acres and acquire another good market. Eventually I would like to install a commercial kitchen where my sister in law can make prepared meals for value added production. I am planning at least two more acres of fruit trees and small fruit to round out the farm stand. I am very curious about primocane raspberries in combination with movable high tunnels. Eventually, I would like to have a mixed marketing strategy with some direct sales and some wholesale accounts. I see no reason to have a vow of poverty with this life based on the farmers I have been exposed to." -2013 applicant

"In the short term, I will continue to work on farms with vegetable CSAs, continue to gain machinery skills, attend workshops, CRAFTs, conferences, classes, etc. to learn and to meet other farmers. I am also looking for land to lease and potentially buy. On my future land, I will run a vegetable and herb farm that utilizes sustainable and organic agricultural practices while managing the space that is not cultivated for wildlife conservation." -2014 applicant

"I want to raise Certified Organic pastured poultry including ducks, and Certified Organic berry crops. I want to work towards the absolute minimal use of fossil fuel inputs. On-farm composting of poultry manure, bedding and ecologically sound composting of poultry carcasses. I want to bring to the customer a healthy, earth-friendly, superior tasting product at a fair price. I want to maintain the natural aesthetic of my property, while moving towards farming as my full-time passion." -2013 applicant

"[Our farm] is a small family operated fruit and vegetable farm. We sell our products at farmers markets and to farmers market vendors. This year we are leasing land across the road and expanding to offer a CSA harvest share. We are currently Certified Naturally Grown but hope to complete the organic certification process this year or next. We are still only field farming but hope to have infrastructure, such as a high tunnel or greenhouse, in a few years that will facilitate our desire to be year round farmers in upstate New York. We love farming and we love the farming life-growing healthy food for us and for others." -2014 applicantLuke and Cara inspecting window

And while some things show up in almost every application (and are probably on every farmer's mind), I love seeing the interesting combinations when we ask farmers what three topics they are most interested in learning about at the conference.  For the 2014 conference, that elicited these responses:

  • "farm business planning, soil science, compost"

  • "Food Safety, Cover Crops, Sustainable Financial Planning for the Farm"

  • "Small-scale farming, how to address food insecurity, and value-added production"

  • "grains, pigs, and business sense"


No, copying these answers won't guarantee you a scholarship.  But I hope that reading these inspires any potential applicant and ALL our community to evaluate where they are, and where they're going, and how farmer-to-farmer education can play a role in that.  Each attendee at our conference adds to its value, whether an eager learner, a presenter, a trade show participant, or someone involved behind the scenes with NOFA-NY.  You each contribute to the greatness of New York (and Northeast) organic agriculture when you open your ears and minds to information during workshops, when you fill pages of notebook paper with ideas and contact information, and when you bring your energy to the larger group for a few days each year.

YayForFarming_ErinBullock

No matter if you apply for a scholarship, I hope you participate in this year's conference.  Here are a few things to remember:

Apply for a winter conference scholarship by 11:59pm EST on December 1st

You may contribute to our NOFA-NY scholarship funds when you register yourself for the conference!
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Fall For Brussels Sprouts

[caption id="attachment_372" align="alignleft" width="300"]Dave the Dog with this year's harvest Dave the Dog with this year's harvest


According to some, there is only one good way to serve Brussels sprouts – on someone else’s plate.  Dave the Dog disagrees, and will faithfully guard and gratefully eat any you send his way.  I just recently began to understand his perspective.

As a child growing up, Brussels sprouts were in the “no thank you” category in my house – the one dish my mother would allow us to politely decline.   While the overly processed, canned, and severely boiled Brussels sprouts of my youth were hard to stomach, the truth is that Brussels sprouts are a nutritious and versatile vegetable, abundant in both Vitamin C and Vitamin K and containing many antioxidants.

Aside from being good for you, I have discovered that fresh Brussels sprouts are delicious!  Brussels sprouts can be prepared using many different methods and they do not require many ingredients or skillful cooking to bring out their flavor.  If you are still in doubt, here are my two favorite ways to prepare and eat Brussels sprouts.

This first method is an almost sure-fire way to convert even the most reluctant Brussels sprouts eater to a raving fan:  Brussels sprouts braised in cream.  Here is a simple recipe for this amazing dish.  All I can say is that whoever first decided to try simmering Brussels sprouts in cream was a culinary genius.  For very little effort, you end up with a dish that melts in your mouth - and it even smells good when it is cooking!  Some of my favorite on-line reviewer comments of this recipe include “bewitching”, “self righteously easy”, and “makes the toughest man purr like a kitten”.

The second method is the most versatile – roasted Brussels sprouts.  This gloriously simply approach involves just tossing your cleaned and trimmed Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasting them in a 400 degree oven for 35-40 minutes, until the outside is caramelized with some burnt-looking edges.  (Editor's Note: It's best to try to get your sprouts to be the same size so they will cook evenly--halving or quartering the larger ones to be about the same size as the smallest ones should do the trick.  Depending on the size of your sprouts, or if you've halved/quartered the bigger ones, you may find they are done in only 20 minutes.)  Roasting Brussels sprouts brings out their sweet, nutty goodness and creates a wonderful “tooth” with a tender inside and slightly crispy outside.  There are scores of variations to meet your mood and your taste – try roasting with balsamic vinegar and honey, with garlic and pancetta, with bacon and mustard, and with other root vegetables.  Pretty much your imagination is the only limitation with roasted Brussels sprouts.  Some of my favorite on-line comments about roasted Brussels sprouts include “effortless,” “fell in love,” and “tiny nuggets of joy.”

So next time you see those great stalks of Brussels sprouts at your farmers market or in your CSA box, go with confidence and happiness that you are soon to enjoy this delicious fall treat!  Dave the Dog guarantees it!

More to try:

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Lemon and Pecorino, Food52 (use any  NY aged hard sheep's milk cheese to locavore-ize it)

Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts with Honey and Sriracha, Food52 (use NY honey and a local hot sauce)

Oregano Brussels Sprouts, 101 Cookbooks (great photos of prepping the vegetable, if you're not accustomed to it)
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Vote for Food Policy

Tomorrow--November 4th--is election day! This run-down of research tools for policital action comes to us thanks to Education Department Intern, Brittany Mendez:

Researching politics online may seem like a shot in the dark, so we wanted to do some of the work for you. Below are some links that will cut the research process down for you, so you can focus on finding out which representatives value the same things you do. Food policy does trickle down to affect us all on the local level, so let’s use this Election Day as an opportunity to influence it for the better.

greens in sunlight

YOUR CURRENT REPRESENTATIVES:
GovTrack will help you identify who is currently representing your district in the House of Representatives. This is based on your Congressional District, which you can find by inserting your address in the search bar. Follow the links of each of your Representatives’ names. These will provide you with their contact information, websites, and the bills they have supported in the past, as well as their recent legislative activity.

To find out how your current representative has voted on food and agricultural issues, use the Food Policy tool that allows you to enter your zip code and see how current representatives have voted on legislation (represented as a positive or negative vote for food policies, based on that organization's values).

WHO IS RUNNING TO REPRESENT YOU:
Vote Smart is a great way to find out who is currently in the running to represent you, as well as where they stand on some general topics.

OTHER RELEVANT FOOD POLICY LINKS:
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition can keep you informed on what is currently going on in food and farming policy on the federal level.

Environmental Advocates of New York will provide you with a summary of bills that were recently introduced in Legislative Committees or the State Senate and Assembly and how they will impact the environment.

REGISTRATION:
For future reference, if you are not yet registered to vote, this link will bring you to a page where you can find out where to register, based on what county in New York State you live in. The office that corresponds to your county will also be able to tell you where you need to go on election days in the future.
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Enjoying the Harvest from Canandaigua to Mattituck

[caption id="attachment_361" align="alignleft" width="225"]Jazzy photo bombs harvest dinner Jazzy photo-bombs my harvest dinner


One thing I learned this fall is that no one appreciates a good dinner party like a Corgi.   The other thing I learned is that if you invite folks to come to a dinner featuring fresh organic and sustainably grown food from local farmers, they will come!  They will come even if you tell them it is a fundraiser and they will need to make a donation to your cause!

In honor of National Organic Harvest Month, many of us on the staff and Board of NOFA-NY held harvest dinners at our homes across the state as a benefit for NOFA-NY.    I co-hosted my dinner with Sharon Nagle of Firefly Farm at my home in Canandaigua on a beautiful September evening.

My initial plan for a small dinner for 8 grew and ripened like my giant Brandywine tomatoes to a dinner for nearly 30 people.   Fortunately, Mother Nature smiled upon us and provided a late September Saturday where the temperature was 78, the breeze was light and the sky was perfectly blue.  We were able to set up a big tent outside along with folding tables and chairs.  Jazzy the Corgi designated it worthy of photo bombing.

[caption id="attachment_358" align="alignright" width="225"]This Way to Food! This Way to Food!


A meal that took a few hours to eat was months in the making.  The food at the table came from more than 12 different farms from Canandaigua to Mattituck.  The fruits, vegetables, honey, and eggs, poultry meats and wine took months (and in some cases, years) of dedicated farmers’ time and skills to plant, nurture, harvest, age and ferment.  It was my thankful task to simply gather the bounty.  I was also very grateful for Sharon Nagle’s help as a farmer and co-party planner, for the culinary skills of local chef, Evan Schapp of Roots Café, who created an array of side dishes, and for my husband Chris, who manned the smoker that infused extra flavore into locally-raised turkey and Chris's famous ribs.

Dinner started with an array of fresh vegetables and roasted acorn squash hummus from Sharon Nagle’s Fire Fly Farm located in nearby Canandaigua and delectable raw milk cheeses from NOFA-NY board president, Maryrose Livingston and her Northland Sheep Dairy in Marathon.  Both created a buzz with guests, who quickly searched their smart phones to learn that these were foods not typically (if ever) found at grocery stores.

For our main course, Chef Evan Schapp created an array of sides with Sharon’s vegetables, including a velvety potato-leek soup in the French style, a medley of roasted potatoes with foraged white pine needles, and a fermented slaw of baby bok choy.  Alongside was the most amazing corn bread, made with roasted white corn flour from the Iroquois White Corn Project in Farmington and raw honey and certified organic eggs from Browder’s Birds certified organic farm in Mattituck.

[caption id="attachment_360" align="alignright" width="225"]Iroquois White Corn Iroquois White Corn


During the meal we discovered that there is nothing like Hampton tomatoes – and what a treat all the tomatoes were from Board member Phil Barbato’s Biophilia Organic Farm in Jamesport.  We ate beans from the famous Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett,  fresh rosemary from Marion Gardens in East Marion, wheat berries from Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett canned heirloom tomatoes from Sang Lee Farms in Peconic.

[caption id="attachment_357" align="alignleft" width="225"]YUM! YUM!


Browder’s Birds honey also found its way into a signature Finger Lakes Fall dessert – grape pies made with locally raised concord grapes from Naples, NY.  We also had wild apple galettes served with fresh organic cream, along with chocolates and ice cream from Rochester's Hedonist Artisan Ice Cream and Chocolates.

As I explained all about NOFA-NY to my guests, the fragrance, textures, and tastes from so many different farms and regions of our beautiful State wafted around us.  New York State is wooded, grassy, flowery, hilly, flat, rocky, smooth, salty, loamy, sandy, and if there is such a word, “clayey”.   Each of these soils and micro-climates transferred a unique flavor to the food raised upon it.  Some of my guests had never experienced this range of fresh, local organic and sustainably-grown food.   Most had no idea the diversity and flavor available from their neighborhood farmers.

[caption id="attachment_359" align="alignleft" width="225"]Biodynamically grown grapes from Shinn Estate Vineyards Biodynamically grown grapes from Shinn Estate Vineyards


 

The sun set a red cloak over the Bristol Hills, the crescent moon rose up and the stars leapt out.  Somewhere on a distant hill, a small town held a fireworks display.  The food was amazing, fresh, and all local.  The company was wonderful, and we made a number of new friends and some generous donations for NOFA-NY.  Thank you all!

If you, too, would like to donate to NOFA-NY during our Harvest Appeal, please head to our online donations form, or if you have questions, contact Cecilia Bowerman at (585) 271-1979 ext. 512.
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Fungi and Bacteria and Viruses, Oh My!

Maryellen Sheehan, NOFA-NY’s Fruit and Vegetable Coordinator and co-owner of Hartwood Farm in Fenner, NY, shares with us some of her experiences growing organically in 2014, plus invites the organic producer community to learn together on October 21st.

After moving to NY from a high-elevation frost pocket in NH (average 95 days frost-free), I belatedly realized the sole advantage of a super short growing season—frost kills your plants before disease has time to off them!  Switching to farm in the lower Hudson Valley’s vaguely tropical 160 frost-free day season was both amazing (so many new crops to grow!) and educational (twice the warm weather hosts exponentially more insects and disease to kill plants!).

While my inner scientist remains fascinated by finding and identifying all the new plagues offing our plants at Hartwood Farm in Fenner, NY (new this year: Swede midge, bacterial spot, and the undetermined soil funk that melted 3 plantings of lettuce), the market farmer part of me does not enjoy these new discoveries.  The NOFA-NY technical assistance part of me dreads hearing about the challenges faced by some of our members this season, but that part of me is able to take action by planning educational events for growers who, like me, face all sorts of unexpected challenges each year.  At the end of each season, and throughout the winter, we have the opportunity to reflect on the diseases that impacted our community and learn what practices and controls are proving most effective.IMG_5721

We have dedicated researchers and educators committed to helping organic and IPM growers identify their problems and find effective control options.  On Tuesday, October 21st, Cornell’s Chris Smart, Abby Seaman, Meg McGrath, and Sarah Pethybridge will join up to teach organic management for bacterial and fungal pathogens, soil borne disease, and late blight.  It will be a full and informative day with plenty of time to ask questions—we hope to see you there!  There is no other way to get this small-group access to these great (and busy) researchers; at $25 for the full day, including lunch, it’s worth the day off the farm.  Register HERE or read the full workshop description HERE!

Why think about diseases now?  Since organic control options are based on prevention, now is really the best time to plan for potential problems!  In the heat of the summer, most of us won’t have the time to research and shop around frantically for last minute insect and disease controls.  In the mid-winter, a lot of the daily challenges have faded (and some of us even attempt to go on vacation, leaving less time to learn and plan).  During the late winter and spring, growers are busy enough going to conferences and conventions, seeding, planting, and doing a thousand other things, so it can be difficult to think about preventative sprays and staying on top of a disease control program.  It’s easier when you pre-program that into your schedule by planning for it before any of next season’s action.  Variety selection, field layout, and soil amendments all affect your crops as well, and you certainly need to account for all of that before you open those gorgeous seed catalogs in the winter.  Our instructors at both October events are planning to give great information about these strategies, from organically-approved sprays to soil-building for robust plants at our October events.

004For a little teaser about organic disease management concepts, UVM’s Vern Grubinger has a short article that really hits on the key points here: http://www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry/factsheets/diseasemanagement.html.  There are often multiple pest, disease and climate-related concerns that confuse and confound farmers.  While a great resource to help learn disease identification is the Vegetable MD website: http://vegetablemdonline.ppath.cornell.edu/, I’d still recommend you come to our workshops with any photos, data, or questions about what you experienced this past season.  With many farmers and plant pathologists in one room, we’re bound to learn what’s trending in terms of organic production problems.

Hopefully these resources help you as you get started thinking about next year’s potential crop health challenges, and we hope to see you in Geneva on October 21st!

On October 30th, we’ll tackle many of the same issues, but hone in on some marketing and variety research as well, all related to the diverse and appealing Brassica plant family.
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Fall's Royal Crop: Growing, Selecting and Eating Storage Squash

Erik Fellenz weighs red kuri squashWith names that tend toward the fairy-tale (Cinderella, Moonshine, Black Forest, Hubbard, Carnival) to the exotic (Rouge Vif D'Etampes, Musque de Provence, Kakai, Red Kuri) to the downright confusing (Long Island Cheese Pumpkin, NutterButter, Pink Banana), the thick-skinned storage varieties of the Cucurbitaceae plant family (which also includes summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, decorative gourds, chayote, and luffa gourds) represent a diverse and flavorful food source for us in the Northeast.  Many of us are accustomed to paying rock-bottom prices for pumpkins and gourds destined only for carving and decoration, and buying canned pumpkin off a grocery store shelf (organic canned pumpkin is available in this day and age, a nice alternative for the non-DIYers among us).  A conventionally-grown or imported pumpkin creates quite a toll on the environment, and builds a perception that all thick-skinned squashes, whether for centerpieces, Jack-o-Lantern carving, or eating, should be a cheap food.  Squash may not be as precious as baby salad greens at the start of the spring, or those heavy 3-lb heirloom tomatoes at summer's peak, but growing flavorful, ripe squash at a small scale, without conventional pesticides and fertilizers, and in our unpredictable climate zone, causes farmers to either take a loss to bring us these colorful fall favorites at our expected price point, or ask a large price for something we've come to expect to be cheap.

While squash indeed grows in our region, and is prized for its nutritious flesh that keeps within a protective shell throughout the winter, our Northeast summers are not ideal for this plant to bear and set fruit.

Challenges and Strategies for Growing Winter Squash:


More days in the field means more potential for pest infestations, disease-producing conditions, weeds taking over, and mammals to munch leaves.

Other crops (including those high-priced greens and tomatoes) can't be grown in a squash field for the whole spring-summer-fall season, an example of an opportunity cost.

Plenty of heat and sun (temperatures in the 80's during the day and 60's at night) are needed for squash to grow well.  With 2014 providing an excellent example, it's clear that our climate doesn’t provide that consistently.  Growers have some management options here, including black plastic, Biotella biodegradable mulch, or dark landscape fabric (all of these help with weed suppression, too), a well-sited field with southern exposure, and starting the plants in a greenhouse or cold frame to have them maturing for more of the hot days of the year.

Squash are susceptible to moisture-borne diseases, namely powdery and downy mildew.  Variety selection and air circulation are key for crops, but no grower is immune to poor weather.  While some growers will provide cucumbers a drier environment in a high tunnel, this is not practical for the area of space and amount of time (again, it's an opportunity cost, this time with expensive infrastructure) the pumpkins and winter squash require.  Disease-tracking reports are available to help growers be aware of the movement of disease via tropical storms.  Yearly crop rotation and proper disposal of infected plants help the chemical-free grower avoid future issues with these diseases.  Organic producers must always be on the preventative side, planning management tactics into their production plans, rather than wait for disease and pest problems that can be killed via non-organic methods.  If you're interested in being such a savvy producer (of more than winter squash), attend the October 21st workshop in Geneva, NY, which will feature a number of experts in organic disease management!

Squashes need lots of soil fertility, so a grower needs to build soil for years prior to a planting of winter squash, and any crop that follows squash should be one that returns nutrients to the soil (like leguminous cover crops), or at least does not require a lot of soil fertility.  This long-term planning, and heavy use of resources outside of the actual growing year for the squash crop, makes the cost of production even higher than most farmers calculate.Joshua Levine (13)

Squash plants are spaced out significantly in the field to allow the roots to soak up nutrition, and the vines spread out to absorb the 3-4 months of sunshine that go into ripening each hefty, colorful, knobbly, lovable fruit.  Weeds can populate the between-vine and between-plant space and cause serious competition.  Cultivation and tillage when the plants are young might be one option for controlling weeds, but hand labor or deciding to not weed are the late-season options for weed control.  Growers use mulch to reduce the areas of the field where weeds can catch sunlight and flourish, and there has been some research into no-till methods of growing squash.  Conventional squash fields can be sprayed with certain herbicides to kill grassy weeds, and organic farmers can't take that option.

Ripe squash fruits are heavy and require lots of labor and proper conditions to move from the field to storage, and from storage to sale.  Fair labor and living wages for farmers and their crew mean that squash harvest is pricey!  Squash must also be "cured" for 7-10 days at 80 to 85 degrees, meaning a grower must hope for late-summer/early fall heat waves or use up high tunnel and greenhouse space for curing.  A good storage facility for long-term storage has temperatures around 50 degrees and 60% relative humidity.  Beyond that, there should be good protection from rodents and the stock should be checked regularly for signs of storage decay, which can spread.

Further resources:



Enjoying and Eating Winter Squash:


pumpkins groupNow that you know the ways that your local farmer is working to bring you these great foods, you're probably in the market for a few good techniques to prepare these squashes.  Some are better for certain applications, and your best bet is to ask a farmer about how watery/dry the flesh is, and how sweet/savory the flavor.

To roast small squash (Delicata, Acorn and Carnival varieties), you can split them stem-to-end, scoop out the flesh, and rub them with just a little fat, salt and seasoning (see below for ideas).  For larger varieties, peel and cut the squash into chunks or slices and massage with the oil and seasoning combination, then bake until tender.  Bake halves on a tray (line with parchment or foil, or just embrace the scrubbing you may need to do later) cut-side down in a 400 degree oven until you can pierce the skin with a fork and find soft flesh underneath.  Make a whole batch of roasted squash, and see all the ways that it can feed you.  Intact but cooked-through and chilled squash pieces even work well in salad, and any amount of cooked flesh can be dumped into simmering broth, then pureed into soup.

The drier fleshed squashes can be sliced very thinly and added to skillet sautees and even stir-fries (make sure they get good browning in a hot pan with oil, and that they cook through).

All squash will steam up nicely, cubed, sliced or chunked.  Keep an eye on it to keep it from disintegrating (use it for soups and better-than-potato mashes if you end up with too-soft pieces).  Pile some cooked beans and salsa atop, dress simply with olive oil, or add to a pasta dish.

A pressure cooker (assuming it's the right size) makes quick work of halves and quarters of squash.  Just 10 minutes atop a steam insert is really all it takes.  Add some strong herbs into the steaming water for a lovely infusion of flavor.

Try these flavor combinations with squash:

  • olive oil, black pepper, garlic paste, and rosemary

  • sesame oil, maple syrup, and miso paste or soy sauce

  • butter, crushed fresh or dry sage, thyme and honey

  • olive or sunflower oil, crushed hot pepper or chile powder, cocoa powder (not cocoa mix), smoked paprika

  • coconut oil and curry powder or garam masala blends of spices

  • "Pumpkin Spice" mixes tend to include cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves; they go well with butter

  • finish any of your squash dishes with chopped and toasted nuts or (appropriately) pumpkin seeds or something creamy


Make your own pumpkin puree (via Local Kitchen, the key is straining out lots juice from the cooked flesh, then it will act much like the canned type, but with local flavor!)

Variety guide (Co+Op)

See the ode to winter squash (and all Cucurbitaceae) in Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy.

Tips for cutting the tough and dense raw fruits abound on YouTube: Soften the skin in hot water (Down to Earth Organic & Natural), navigating the butternut shape (Chef Tips), Use the microwave (CHOW)

More fun recipes: Pumpkin Spanikopita (Local Kitchen), Butternut Squash and Kale Beef Stew (Girl Meets Paleo), Red Kuri Creme Fraiche Pie (Co+Op), Roasted Winter Squash Salad (101 Cookbooks)
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Lots of Locavores in the Kitchen

By Tess Gee, Locavore Challenge Intern

Every group of friends has that one thing they all bond over. Maybe it’s a TV show, playing a certain sport, or a favorite band. With my friends, it’s food. Whenever we get together, at one point someone usually asks when the food is either arriving or going to be made. All of us love to cook, and some of us cook for a living, so our meals are never casual and the old saying “too many cooks in the kitchen” takes true form.

Cooking is therapeutic for me; it is similar to watching a seedling grow from start to finish to produce a flower or hearty vegetable. I love the entire process, from buying fresh ingredients to the end result on the kitchen table. And finding a great group of people that have the same ideals feels even better. Making brunch together is one of the best meals I make with my friends. It usually begins with a late, frantic rush to the market on a Saturday or Sunday morning. After we regroup, we all take stock of what we have and start brainstorming our menu. Eggs are always in someone’s bag, along with tons of veggies to add to the beaten eggs for an on-the-fly frittata or crustless quiche. [Editor's suggestion: try this Soft Boiled Egg Breakfast Salad for a new brunch favorite].

eggs

We end up with more fruit than we know what to do with, so a massive fruit salad is ever-present. And someone usually ends up buying some yummy cookies or sweet bread to top it all off. Foraging at the market with a group is beneficial to both sides involved. We get a fresh meal that we can feel good about eating, and our local farming community keeps thriving. It’s a win-win.

Laura Knight (13)Cooking with friends is the highlight of my week. Everyone swaps ideas and techniques, there is laughter, shouting, and side debates about how to cut a mango or the best way to caramelize an onion. Creating a meal from scratch with and for people you care about is one of the most comforting things you can do, and a great way to keep connected to each other. Knowing that we are also involving our community by using fresh ingredients from local farms makes it that much better.

A few more autumn recipes that would feed a crowd:
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Seed Saving Can Save Us All

Last Thursday (9/25/14), our friends at Turtle Tree Seed led a field day of their seed-production farm and seed company based at Camphill Village-Copake.  About 30 individuals contribute to the management of the gardens, the harvesting and processing of mature plants to extract seed, the cleaning and sorting of seed, and the marketing and packaging of the final product.  Many of these individuals are residents of Camphill Village who have developmental disabilities, who have meaningful and fulfilling work thanks to the connection between Biodynamic Agriculture and the Camphill Village philosophy. The growers explained that to grow biodynamic seed, one simply grows the plants biodynamically (and organic seed comes from certified organic farms and plants).  Because of the length of time in the field (seed crops are generally harvested well beyond eating ripeness), any plant grown for seed will face much more disease and pest pressure; this is why organic and biodynamic seed production is so important for environmental health, and why all growers should consider supporting only organic and biodynamic seeds; conventionally-produced seeds have a heavy impact on the environment before they are even planted by a farmer or gardener because pests, disease, weeds and soil fertility can all be managed through chemical methods.  No matter the production philosophy or certification, one needs to isolate plant varieties in time and space if they are a crop that is likely to cross-pollinate (and therefore change the genetics of the seed produced).  Additionally, plants that are grown for seed also need much more room because they will grow much larger.

[caption id="attachment_320" align="aligncenter" width="660"]This is zucchini at a seed-mature stage.  Not exactly eating quality squash any more.  One would scoop out the inner flesh and clean the seeds using water and a scrubbing motion before drying and storing the seeds. This is zucchini at a seed-mature stage. Not exactly eating quality squash any more. One would scoop out the inner flesh and clean the seeds using water and a scrubbing motion before drying and storing the seeds.


The group learned three different seed extraction methods: dry harvest, wet harvest, and fermentation/wet harvest.  Each technique involves taking the plant with fully mature seeds and separating the seeds from the rest of the plant, and cleaning out any immature seeds, making use of seed weight and seed size to help in the separation.  For dry-harvested seeds (where the plant has flowered and created a pod that dries out), one uses significant pressure to crush and break down the pod and plant parts, then winnows with air to separate off lighter-weight plant parts and debris, and finally passes the seed through a set of screens to filter out larger particles and long bits of stem.

[caption id="attachment_319" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Using a fan to winnow lettuce seeds. Using a fan to winnow lettuce seeds. The heavier seeds land in the bin nearer to the fan, and the debris lands in the second.


For wet-harvested seeds (where the plant’s fleshy parts contain the mature seed), one has to open the fruit and remove the flesh and seeds.  In the case of cucumbers and tomatoes, the seeds are left to ferment for several days to break down a protective membrane around the seeds.  The seed saver uses a water winnowing technique for wet-harvested seeds.  Seeds and flesh are placed in a jar or bowl, and water runs on top.  Then water is poured off, and with it goes the non-useable part of the mixture, which floats to the top, and the heavy, mature seeds stay at the bottom.  After water winnowing, the seeds are spread on paper to dry.

[caption id="attachment_315" align="aligncenter" width="660" class=" "]Purple tomatillos after blending. This mixture will be filtered and water-winnowed. Purple tomatillos after blending. This mixture will be filtered and water-winnowed.


[caption id="attachment_316" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Watermelon seeds are extracted by eating and spitting!  This variety is called Cream of Saskatchewan.  Watermelon seeds are extracted by eating and spitting! This variety is called Cream of Saskatchewan.


We learned how variety selection works in root crops, which take two seasons to set seed.  At Turtle Tree, the growers harvest mature (eating-stage) onions, carrots, etc. and sort them based on the varieties’ written descriptions.  The 25% that most exemplify healthy, true-to-type specimens will be grown for seed that becomes the future seed stock on the farm.  This helps ensure a purity in the variety for the long-term.  The middle 50% of the crop will be replanted in the second season, and its seed will become what is harvested for sale through the Turtle Tree Seed Company.  This is still a high-quality and true-to-type seed!  The bottom 25% of the crop (they do not exemplify the variety characteristics as well as the top 75%) is used as food in the community dining hall.  To account for differences in growing conditions, plants are harvested in very small batches and compared within their batch (then added to the graded piles).  That way, the grower can control for the fact that poor soil in that few feet of the garden bed impacted the shape and size of the carrots, for example.

carrot grading buckets poor good select carrot grading 2

While not every one of us will become seed farmers, it's important to support the work of the companies who are preserving the range of plants and subtly-different varieties.  It takes more land and plenty of extra vigilance on the part of the grower, especially if the plants are being grown organically!  Here are a few other seed companies we know and love (and who have taught us about seed farming in the past):

seed grower to do list

Further Resources:
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Discovering Joy, Community, and a Healthier Self through Local Food

Sondra Gjersoe is one of the friendly voices you may hear when you dial our general office line.  She's the Administrative Assistant for NOFA-NY, and when she's not answering general inquiries, she coordinates Sponsorship and Advertising opportunities, the Locavore Challenge, the Farmers Pledge program, the Neighborhood Farm Share program and so much more!  Here's her tale of becoming a Locavore.

About a decade ago, I had a bit of a revelation. I had reached an all-time low, the end of a long term relationship, dissatisfaction in my job, a loss of self-identity and self-worth. I would go to work, come home, shut myself off from the world and sit in front of the computer fiddling around until I was so tired I'd pass out. My sedentary lifestyle took its toll on me physically; I reached my heaviest weight ever, and began to have heart palpitations at work when I was moving quickly. This was different from the Sondra I knew I could be.  I come from a long line of mariners (ask me how to pronounce "Gjersoe" the proper way).  My Scandinavian heritage and childhood upbringing instilled in me a great love for the sea, a frolicsome friend full of joy, laughter and mirth… I go there when I’m happy and my spirit longs to be wild and free.  At that dark time in my life, just like other periods of struggle or quiet reflection, I was longing to feel grounded, longing to be reminded of the roots I had forged in my community and longing to share in the creation of new growth.  I knew I had to be willing--nay, eager--to put forth the effort to make positive changes to improve my health, and the pathway seemed to involve connecting to the earth and growing anew.

I eased into it, did some research on nutrition and started changing my diet, incorporating fresh organic foods rich in vitamins and nutrients that boosted my mental health. I began to visit local farmer’s markets and discovered a rich tapestry of life, a community coming together.

[caption id="attachment_309" align="aligncenter" width="300" class=" "]So much inspiration can come from a box of vibrantly colored "lunchbox" peppers. So much inspiration can come from a box of vibrantly colored "lunchbox" peppers.


I would often strike up conversations with the farmers, learning more about their lives, their passion for farming. There was a sense of coming together and sharing and I found myself filled with inspiration. I started doing things that brought me joy again; cooking new dishes, sewing, yoga, and I bought myself a bike and started cycling.

SondraCycling

The weight flew off, my muscles strengthened, and the feel-good endorphins kicked in.  I was living again, laughing, appreciating the abundance around me. I realized that though the source of the change started within me, I fueled that power to change with healthy, delicious food rooted in a community both vibrant and welcoming.

Stir FrySharing recipes and ideas was important at the start of my locavore journey.  My wok became my best friend as I began to eat more healthy, so I thought I'd link you to a garlic chicken stir-fry recipe.  That said, I don't worry too much over recipes--technique is more important than what can look like lengthy ingredient lists.  [Editor's note: if you want more recipes and technique guidance, Serious Eats will walk you through all the ways to maximize flavor while you choose which local and organic produce and meats to use as the star players].  I prefer to play "mad scientist" with what's available and seeing what I come up with.  It's part of the fun of taking ownership over my healthy lifestyle.
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When Buttercups are Bad: Co-Pasturing Field Day at Wild Geese Farm

Nancy Apolito, our Finance & HR Manager, sends in this report about her recent adventure in Western New York, staffing a field day in Rushford, NY at Wild Geese Farm.  The field day's theme was "Maintaining Pasture Systems to Meet Your Farm Goals."

Lynn and Shawn Bliven pasture feed a herd of cattle, 5 horses, and 25 sheep in addition to housing a dozen chickens.  Lynn Bliven led the field day with a walk through four of the pastures to demonstrate the results of co-pasturing livestock.  Aaron Santangelo from Cornell Cooperative Extension--Allegany & Cattaraugus County provided valuable information regarding pasture plants that are harmful to livestock and the way that these plants propagate.  Farmers who know about the full lifecycle of these invasive can strategically manage their herds on pasture to avoid problems and sometimes alleviate the weed pressure using the animals' inherent capabilities.

[caption id="attachment_293" align="alignleft" width="225"]Bull Thistle Canadian Thistle


[caption id="attachment_294" align="alignleft" width="225"] Bull Thistle


Canadian Thistle and Bull Thistle grow and spread differently.  Bull Thistle needs two years to produce seed--it's less aggressive when its life cycle is disturbed yearly by turning the soil, but it's a problem in pastures since they are not tilled.  Canadian Thistle has underground growth that makes it problematic even in tilled fields.  I found out that even common plants, like buttercup, can be very dangerous to a herd.  Grazing behavior (as in, what to eat) should be taught to animals--they won't know what is poisonous by instinct.  Older animals in the herd or flock can set the right example, and farmers should be careful to watch what the young animals are eating.  Lynn shared that she lost 15 sheep due to their grazing on a plant in the nightshade family.  Even wild rose can cause problems for the smaller animals.

The highlight of the afternoon for me was seeing the sheep and the cattle pasturing in separate areas. Lynn spoke of the differences in the pastures after the different herds have been grazing.  I was amazed at the difference (I don't live on a farm, remember!) between the vegetation in the pastures, which was impacted by the physical size and shape of the different species.  One great way to deter invasive plant species is to allow cattle in to trample the plants down.  The sheep on pasture clip the field down farther than the cows want to and this maximizes the value of each pasture.



The pastures at Wild Geese farm have taken 17 years to reach this point.  Co-pasturing takes organization and each species requires different enclosures and management; Lynn also discussed some common problems with grass fed herds, weaning calves, and establishing healthy environments for many types of animals on a farm.  However, going this route has helped make the pastures more productive and the farm more profitable.

Lynn shared aerial maps and grids that help the farm plan out pasture schedules.  They've also used this tool to carry out a slight re-grading of the landscape and some drainage improvement projects.  This allows for animals to have access to high-quality pasture areas and a water source at all times.  Healthier animals will make for higher-quality meat and better returns for the farm!  My day was rounded out by two Red-Tailed Hawk and one Osprey sighting over the gorgeous landscape.

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Farmer Voices: Peace & Carrots Farm's Past, Present and Future

By Tess Gee, Locavore Challenge Intern

At Peace and Carrots Farm in Chester, NY, partners Laura Nywening and Jason Uhler exemplify hard work and sustainability in farming. With a growing CSA of 60 members and a burgeoning calendar of farm events, Peace and Carrots is laying a path of successful development for their future.

Laura Nywening wasn’t always planning to be a farmer, but is glad she decided to veer in this direction after graduating from Westfield State University in Massachusetts with a B.A. in History Education. She got a job working for the National Park Service in Virginia post-college, and quickly realized that she wanted to include nature and the outdoors as part of her life’s work. Luckily, Laura comes from three generations of farmers before her, and the transition to farming seemed natural. She grew up on the same land she works now, and her family runs a dairy farm close by. Her partner Jason grew up in the area where his family always had a large kitchen garden. After working a few retail jobs, he realized he would rather be working outside and giving back to the land. He began working at Keith’s Farm in Westtown, NY where he met Laura and eventually partnered up with her to start Peace and Carrots.

So far, Laura and Jason work on the farm together with the help of one part-time employee. A typical harvest day begins at 7 a.m. as they pick crops and start prepping to deliver their produce to Groundwork Hudson Valley out of Yonkers, which bought 30 of their CSA shares this year. There is usually a lot of weeding to be done, as they use hoes instead of machinery. They also pride themselves on preserving their soil as much as possible by not over-tilling the land.

Peace and Carrots Farm currently has a growing variety of crops available to their CSA members and the public. They do not grow sweet corn due to the overwhelming amount of GMO corn fields in the area surrounding the farm. The farm yields leafy greens such as kale and chard, garlic, cabbage, tomatoes, squash and much more throughout the spring, summer and fall. Peace and Carrots CSA members are mostly made up of families or thirty-something’s, and Laura says interacting with members is her favorite aspect of the job. She can put names to faces and has a great level of appreciation for each member. While the CSA shares seem to be the most rewarding part of the job, it does require focus, organization and close attention to detail.

Peaceand Carrots“The easiest part of my job is getting to interact with customers. We have the greatest members, and everybody is so happy with what we have to offer. The hardest part is a combination of planning out the shares for each week and implementing that plan. It is so much out of your control sometimes,” said Laura.

So what is in store for the future of Peace and Carrots? Growth. They are currently raising chickens, but are looking into getting more livestock for the farm in years to come. Laura would also like to boost attendance at farm events. So far she has organized potlucks, a beekeeping workshop, a canning class, and even a photography workshop over the summer. Peace and Carrots is holding their own Harvest Festival on October 18th which will include games, hot cider, live music and hay rides. Laura hopes to gain more ideas for different events to hold at the farm for the near future.

Laura and Jason display physical and mental dedication, stay informed about growing practices and sustainability, and commit to showing a deep respect for the land they work on. They understand that organic farming is important because the land provides us with everything. At Peace and Carrots Farm, the golden rule applies to people as well as the earth.

“I love the land. If I want the land to continue to provide for me I have to treat it well,” says Laura.

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How a Reformed Tomato Hater Preserves Tomato Bliss

[caption id="attachment_272" align="alignleft" width="225"]BIG Brandywine!  BIG Brandywine!


When I was young I hated tomatoes.  You know the kind I am talking about.  They were packed three to a plastic tray and wrapped in cellophane.  They were pale red on the outside and almost transparent on the inside, and they were hard.  So hard if you threw one at your brother it wouldn’t break open.  It would hurt.

I remember vividly the first time I tasted a real tomato, picked fresh and sun-warmed directly off the sprawling vine that my neighbor was tending among her flowers.  It was a revelation!  A hefty classic beefsteak that, when sliced, was larger than the bread I used to make my sandwich.  It was bright red throughout, juicy and sweet and slightly acidic.  I was hooked.

From cherries to beefsteaks and from red to yellow, purple, orange, and even black, the tastes and varieties of tomatoes available at our local farm stands, farmers markets, and CSAs are astounding and delicious!  As I look at my own garden this year, I am grateful for the farmers and seed savers who have brought back my favorite heirloom varieties that seemed long gone when I was a child.  Who knew tomatoes would become one of my favorite foods?

But here is the problem.  If you are a tomato lover like me, you may have also planted many more tomatoes than you could ever eat.  Even during a harsh growing year like this one and with the late blight finally hitting my plantings, I still have more tomatoes ripening than I can reasonably consume before they go bad.  I can’t stand the thought of wasting a single tomato.  However, the thought of standing over a hot stove, canning or putting up a sauce is well, uninspiring to me!

So here is my solution – slow roasting and freezing

Take any variety and amount of tomatoes you have on hand.  Slice them in halves or quarters if need be, cherries can stay whole.   Put them in a pan, drizzle with good olive oil, add some minced garlic to taste, along with a good grind of sea salt and fresh pepper.    I wait and add herbs later.  Pop the pan in a 300 degree oven for about 2-3 hours, until you see the tomatoes caramelize.  Remove them and when they come to room temperature, pack into the container of your choice and freeze!

Some cold and blustery Friday night in February, when you are settling in for the weekend and in no mood to go out, take this out of the freezer.  It is delicious served with hot fresh pasta, or you can chop it up more finely and use it as a topping on any kind of toasted bread – it makes a great bruschetta or pizza depending on the herbs and other toppings you choose.   Now you can enjoy your fresh local tomatoes all year!

[caption id="attachment_268" align="alignright" width="225"]Roasted Tomatoes with EVOO and Garlic Roasted Tomatoes with EVOO and Garlic
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Wednesday Worksheet #3: Analyzing your Locavore-ability

A throwback to last year's Locavore Challenge Worksheets
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How My Locavore Breakfast Measures Changes in the Local Food System

I eat oatmeal almost every day, with fruit and yogurt.  Eating my breakfast on the second day of Locavore month, I had a moment of realization.  This was locally grown food, and it was not the struggle to source my oatmeal that it was on September 2nd, 2013 (and 2012 or 2011).    In years past, September meant an alternative porridge made from New York cornmeal or buckwheat groats; or cold pre-cooked wheat berries, barley or Freekeh bathed in yogurt and fruit (very cooling during a September heat wave).  Great as those breakfasts could be, I did always miss oats in September; it seemed a weird thing to give up in the spirit of going as local-foods as possible, because I knew oats were and are indeed grown in New York (I was always on the hunt for rolled NY oats in bulk, grabbing them when I could).  It's not as though I was pining for the mangoes and bananas I ate when I lived in the tropics...So, what's changed that's made my breakfast more easy to source locally?  It's not really about a shift in the amount of oats planted in New York (maybe a little shift, but not that much).  Rather, I can pinpoint two important factors, which affect every locavore in some way.

[caption id="attachment_260" align="aligncenter" width="676"]Nectarines thanks to K & S Bischoping Farm in Williamson, NY; Oats grown at Gianforte Farm in Cazenovia, NY; Yogurt cultured in my apartment in Rochester, NY, from cows raised and grazed in East Meredith, NY and bottled by First Light Creamery Nectarines thanks to K & S Bischoping Farm in Williamson, NY; Oats grown at Gianforte Farm in Cazenovia, NY; Yogurt cultured in my apartment in Rochester, NY, from cows raised and grazed in East Meredith, NY and bottled by First Light Creamery

Factor 1.  Value-Added Production.  This is a broad group of processes and actions that turn today's harvest into tomorrow's shelved products.  It could be as simple as labeling and packaging a ready-to-go food, or as complex as a certified commercial scale processing of fruits into jams or milk into aged cheese.  Value-added production allows for farmers to offer more than a raw, fresh product; from the locavore's perspective, value-added processing done by small-scale producers and artisans allows for eaters to have locally grown versions of the foods and products they regularly eat: from syrup to pancake mix, jam to bread, a lot of foods fall into the value-added product category.  These processes allow for products to be sold in a greater range of venues, from farm stands to grocery stores.  Because of value-added processing (specifically, farmers being able to roll the oats, and a local bakery packaging them for sale) I'm able to reliably find bags of organic, New York-grown oats in at least one supermarket in Rochester, NY as well as at several farmers' markets.  My brain is happy because I'm able to reconcile my love of oats with my desire to support local organic farms; my mouth and belly definitely notice a difference in the sweet, fresh flavor of the oats.  This is not a food I just eat during locavore month (which would be something hard to source reliably or economically throughout the year).  This breakfast absolutely has a superior flavor and is now just as convenient for me to source as any alternative.

RFIT_ABCS of preserving2Behind the increased visibility and availability of many foods made with local ingredients, there is a bigger story.  Farmers choose to add value to a raw product, anticipating being able to sell it differently (at a different price, scale, venue or time of year).  Consumers pay a different price for that same amount of good produced at the farm, hence the term value-added, but it's not necessarily easy for a small-scale producer or food artisan to make investments in the technology and marketing effort to get that product made (or simply packaged according to the end sellers' requirements) and sold.  Last week, the USDA released its list of Value-Added Producer Grants for 2014.  I had not paid much attention to this grant in the past, but this year it really hit me because many of the farms I work with (and that NOFA-NY works with) were on the list of recipients.  The USDA funded investments for Ashlee Kleinhammer (North Country Creamery) to quickly label her yogurt containers (a major labor-saver); for hops processing for McCollum orchards (again, ensuring quality and labor efficiency) and to support marketing and processing support for many growers who want to produce and sell hard cider from their New York fruit.  This grant will boost producers across the US so they can sell more than a raw product, and put that product into markets that normally could not or would not accept a raw product.  Even without a grant, producers seek ways to add value to their raw products, giving those farmers sales opportunities beyond the growing/producing season, sometimes beyond the farmstand, and sometimes beyond a one-on-one relationship with a customer (which happens to be Factor 2 below).  They are able to use beautiful, descriptive labels to tell the story of their farm from shelves of an independent cheese shop or natural food store and reach customers who are quick to gravitate to a highly flavorful, thoughtfully crafted food or ingredient to include in their meals.

Factor 2. Direct Marketing.  Direct marketing and distribution opportunities bring farmers and their customers in direct contact, without many of the traditional buyers, brokers and sellers involved in large-scale movement of food from farm to tables.  Examples of direct marketing are Community-Supported Agriculture, farm stands (wherein the products sold at the stand are the farmer's own), and farmers' markets.  The direct marketing option often (not always) allows for the local eater to get to know farmers, to tell them what they're looking for, to hear what's going on at the farm, and put a face and a story behind the food on the table at home.  Extremely important to both producer and consumer, direct marketing ensures that the most possible money is going to the farmers because the food hasn't been bought and re-sold by a number of middlemen.

garlic_DavidTuran_AtTheMarketThis direct from farm to consumer marketing works for farmers at a certain scale, but isn't the only way that farmers choose to make their living (in other words, don't read this as a directive to never buy local products sold outside of direct marketing channels).  While value-added can open up opportunities for farmers to reach consumers indirectly, direct marketing benefits farmers and consumers to similar heights; case in point: the fruit and yogurt on my oatmeal.  In my own fortunate situation of living in Finger Lakes/Western New York, there is never a week I'm without local fruit.  True, about half the year it's apples and whatever fruits I froze or dried from the summer (I admit to eating out-of-location bananas and mangoes during the winter).  I am buying those apples from farmers during the winter, thanks to recently-established winter producers' markets; I could go on for hours debating my favorite summer fruits, so ripe and tender because having traveled only a short distance from farm to the market, and I'm pretty sure the farmers near me used to think I was feeding a family of four on the amount I would purchase (nope, just me).  The milk that I turn into yogurt is available at farmers' markets, too, though I have pre-paid the farmers who own the pasteurization and bottling facility (again, value-added products) for a weekly half gallon of cream-top grassfed milk along the lines of a vegetable Community Supported Agriculture share.  In short, I invest up front and hope for all to go as planned, but understand that product loss might happen and I'm not getting a refund in exchange for the fact that the farmer continues to farm.  I'm putting my grocery money directly to the farmers in these instances, receiving satisfaction and major flavor rewards.  This is not a challenge for me in the sense that I have to make myself do this.  It happens year-round, thanks to the people who recruit producers to sell directly to consumers.  Have you thanked your farmers' market manager lately?  Put that on your to-do list (I just did).

Direct buying is an alternative grocery shopping option.  For example, I could buy yogurt under the label of Ithaca Milk Company, Maple Hill Creamery, Evans Farmhouse Creamery (also recipients of a Value-Added Producer Grant), or several other creameries that stock the shelves at stores in Rochester.  I'm fortunate that these brands were created, turning hormone-free, often grassfed milk into yogurt which I can reliably find and providing dairy farmers a way to transform their raw product for slightly longer shelf life and higher value.  Yet, I love to get my half gallon of creamy Jersey Cow milk from First Light Farm & Creamery (I'm one of the customers who "asked for it for years" thanks to regularly seeing the farmers at weekly markets) and devote part of it to yogurt and part of it to some other delicious cause (lately, that has been sherbet and ice cream).  Since I'm not allowed to keep a cow in Rochester, I'm glad that direct marketing (and in a pinch, local grocery stores partnering with farms) provides multiple chances for me to secure a half gallon of top-quality organic milk.

Farmers' markets have rapidly increased in number, and many have increased in size/diversity of products, over the past few years.  Grants and incentives now make it possible for farmers to accept EBT (SNAP, WIC and other benefits programs) in New York, meaning that those beneficiaries can get to know farmers and flavorful foods.  CSA is an increasingly popular way for farmers to distribute their produce, with a rise in participation of local organizations and partnerships that help bridge the price for lower-income consumers.  Farmers receive their asking price, and customers enjoy quality, seasonal foods.

Yes, this whole blog entry started in a revelation that came to me over sleepy bowl of post-long-weekend breakfast porridge.  A lot has changed since my first official locavore challenge (though I'd been a local eater for years prior, my first challenge caused me to examine what more I could be doing as a locavore).  Locavores, what's changed for you since you first discovered local eating?  Was it yesterday, last week, or last year?  Let's all take our moments this month stop and enjoy the positive trends in our local food culture, and get out there and keep supporting the diverse and growing options for local food enjoyment!

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Being a Locavore, because I Can't NOT be a Locavore

Our Locavore Challenge starts tomorrow, September 1st!  We invited our Locavore Challenge intern, Tess, to write a post about what that word, "locavore," meant to her.  Here's her great response.

When I was asked what being a “locavore” meant to me, the first thing that came to mind was spending summer vacations at home with my mom and little sister. My mom was prepping us to be locavores without us even being aware with her close attention to (or what we thought was an obsession, at the time) what foods were in season during the summer months and beyond. Strawberries, cantaloupe and black cherries were always a part of our breakfast and mid-morning snack breaks between playing in our infamous dirt pile. Corn on the cob was a staple of our nightly dinners around the picnic table in our backyard. Eating asparagus past June was a no-no (which was fine with me, as I hadn’t developed a taste for it yet). To this day, my mom almost never buys produce out of season due to her old adage of it “just not tasting right”.fresh rasberries

Now that I am older and a little bit wiser when it comes to shopping for produce, I totally understand why my mom was so adamant about only buying produce in season. There is something about picking a strawberry fresh off the vine in the beginning of the summer that just doesn’t compare to buying them from the grocery store in the off season, after it has probably traveled thousands of miles from its original patch. Besides the great taste, the other big motivation for me to embrace my inner locavore is knowing that I am supporting local farmers and my community in more ways than one. I grew up in the country, and the thought of giving a boost to my local economy and reducing pollution in any way I can is comforting. It just makes more sense to me – we live in a world where big corporations seem to cast a looming shadow over local farms and small communities, so each time I buy something fresh from a farmer in my hometown; it really does make me feel better about myself and my community. How could it not? I realize that at this point in my life, I can’t really imagine shopping or cooking any other way when it comes to my produce.

[caption id="attachment_248" align="aligncenter" width="660"]Can you guess what month this photo was taken?  Hint: everything was harvested at the same time, in Rochester, NY. Can you guess what month this photo was taken? Hint: everything was harvested at the same time, in Rochester, NY.


That’s why I’m excited to see how many other people get motivated to go locavore during NOFA-NY’s Locavore Challenge in September. I’m glad I got to grow up with a locavore of my own. Thanks mom!
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