Saturday, November 15, 2014

New Chef in Town -- Here for the Soil

Sanford d'Amato, owner of Good Stock, Hatfield MA  


“As a chef, I am very excited about the food here...” said Sandy from his teaching kitchen in Hatfield.

Last month WGBY ran a documentary that featured local farmers. In “A
Long Row in Fertile Ground,” several hold forth on the topic of out
topsoil. A farmer from Hadley claims that Valley soil, loamy soil to
be specific, is the best in the world. Another says his fields have
topsoil that is 15’ deep. Geography is the reason for the quality of
the soil. Our Valley is in the middle of what was once Lake Hitchcock,
a result of melting glaciers from the ice age. Over time, the water
receded and left a combination of silt and clay that is very, very
good for growing food.

If you’ve ever put a shovel in the dirt in your backyard, you know
that 15’ of top soil is truly a phenomenon. In the documentary an
outsider appears on the scene. He has been hired to till a potato
field. The outsider tells the farmer he has never seen such soil and
tells her that his tiller cut through it like it was chocolate cake.

Recently, a very accomplished chef and his wife moved here from the
mid-west and put roots down in Hatfield. Sandy and Angie D’Amato
purchased a bungalow and added a wood fired pizza oven with the
requisite chimney and expanded from there. Now their home and cooking
school called the “Good Stock Farm,” features a gracious interior where
classes of up to eight people can gaze out onto the source of the
Valley terrior. It is a gracious learning environment that lends
itself to tasting and deep contemplation of food and wine.

After planting peach trees four years ago just after purchasing the
property they produced over 90 lbs of peaches on two of the trees. Sandy
D’Amato stands next to a large wooden table in the kitchen of the Good
Stock and holds a glinting glass jar of peach jam exclaiming,
“Suncrest!” The tree in question can be seen from the window.

Sandy is a James Beard award-winning chef. He and his wife Angie have
traveled the world teaching and tasting. During harvest season they biked in
Tuscany where they celebrated with Schiacciata (fococcia and local grapes) 
and every spring they travelled to vineyards in northern California to sample 
wines for the two restaurants and bakery they owned in Milwaukee.

Both say they have never had corn like the corn they buy up the road
at the Golonka stand. And that the asparagus is just as epic…..  They
are not strangers to fresh produce, nor are they strangers to the food
scene in the Valley.

“As a chef, I am very excited about the food here,” said Sandy from
his wood and glass kitchen on Main St. in Hatfield. “The asparagus is
different than that of the mid west and as for the peaches, they are
exemplary. The farm starts here and they pick it on the same day.”
They also have a garden in the clearing that runs from their place to
the west side of the Connecticut. They day I visited, the second week
of November, the kale looked very healthy, just like the towering
stalks up and down River Road.

Sandy goes to the pantry in his place to retrieve pickled garlic
scapes, Scandinavian style (cardamom) and raspberries and cherries in
vodka. The peaches and garlic scapes are his, the raspberries from 
Harry, a neighbor, and the cherries are from Clarkdale Farm in Deerfield.

“This entire corridor up and down the river from Clarkdale on down is
brilliant,” said Sandy. “But it isn’t just that, it is also the
excitement of what’s coming next!” he exclaims. “Once you think you
can’t put another spear of asparagus in your mouth, the strawberries
are here.”

Last month Sandy held forth on Cider Glazed Apples with Spicy Cider
Soup and Nutmeg Cream at the Cider Days Festival last month. Upcoming
classes at Good Stock are equally exotic with hands-on dinners
entitled “Scandinavian Christmas,” “Rome” and “Butcher and Pig Meet
Chef” as well as a weekend in February called “2-Day Cassoulet and
Southern France.”

Sandy and Angie met in 1980 at John Byron Restaurant in Milwaukee. He
was the chef and she was a cocktail waitress. Both were from grocer
families. They married and started a restaurant called Sanford, also
in Milwaukee, in 1989 with an SBA loan for a 50-seat fine dining
establishment after bring turned down by 12 banks. A female loan
officer shared their vision. At the restaurant, Angie was in charge of
the wine list and wrote wine notes for the serving staff. They
expanded the operation to a bistro and a bakery. At their busiest they
had 100 employees. It was on a cruise to China and Russia during the
D’Amato’s 25th wedding anniversary that the couple had enough time
away from the stress of running three restaurants for perspective.

It was then that they decided to take it down a notch or two. Now
they’re in the Valley, putting up their fruit, making friends,
teaching the finer points of cooking and living their motto: “Life on
a slow simmer,” but what a simmer it is.

For more information on Good Stock, visit www.goodstockfarm.com.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Kate's Kitchen + Permaculture Feast + foodWorks = OPEN STUDIO

EVENT: Open Studio in Holyoke
WHERE: 386 Dwight Street, Holyoke, MA
WHEN Sunday, November 23, 4 pm to 6 pm 
VISIT: Permaculture FEAST 
                                                            
Permaculture FEAST is a weekend a permaculture design certificate course held in Holyoke, MA.  
Students from the course have created landscape and social enterprise design for Kate's Kitchen and foodWorks. View their visions for the next 10, 25, 50 and 100 years. 

There will be 4 alternative design schematics and 18 detailed patch designs illustrating how to build on the existing conditions and assets of Kate’s Kitchen and foodWorks, while creating a thriving community hub that meets the needs of its members, while enhancing the overall health and well being of the ecosystem.

Kate’s Kitchen is a community kitchen that was begun in 1980. Since that day, one noon-time meal daily has been served to anyone in need with a “no-questions asked” policy.The Kitchen is opened 365 days a year and provides approximately 150 meals per day. Since its inception, Kate’s Kitchen has provided its neighbors over one million meals.

foodWorks is a culinary training program of Kate's Kitchen that offers unemployed and under employed individuals job training in the culinary field. 


The site also hosts La Finquita, the first community garden started by Nuestras Raices.

Featuring food and music and cutting edge visionaries and designers like yourself!
 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

INTERVIEW: Marion Nestle, author of "What to Eat" and "Eat, Drink, Vote"


.  
Marion Nestle 

  Last weekend, a small fury of excitement ensued up in the Northeast Kingdom. At Sterling College, author, NYU professor and food activist Marion Nestle held forth on GMO's, the rise of fast food, the Farm Bill and home economics. Visit Marion's blog Food Politics for more information. 



Q. You speak of federal regulation. And you speak of the need for people to learn to cook. Do you think that cooking education can be regulated into the public school system or at least should it be?

A. I learned to cook in 8th grade home economics.  Nobody at the time expected kids to learn cooking anywhere else.  We learned basic skills and produced surprisingly good cookies, meals, and salads, as I recall.   Home economics seems too old fashioned to resuscitate but I know lots of people who think courses in basic life skills—cooking, clothing repairs, household repairs, checkbook balancing--would be much appreciated. 

Q. The statistic that a salad at McDonald's is $5 and for the same money, an individual can get five burgers is an argument for getting young people to learn how to grow their own food. Do you think it would be possible to require all public schools to dedicate at least three parking spaces for a garden for nutritional and educational purposes?

A. All seems extreme, but certainly most.  I’ve been in schools in some of the poorest neighborhoods in New York City that managed to construct gardens.  If the principal thinks it’s needed, somehow gardens happen.

Q. Do you envision reform to the Farm Bill that would make small scale organic farming a reality in our lifetime? 

A. It depends on your life expectancy.  Even in my lifetime, I think improvements in the farm bill will happen, but incrementally until they reach some magical tipping point.

Q. Are GMO's the enemy? I hear from college age students that there are good GMO's out there. Do you agree? 

A. The GMO arguments are so polarized that it’s impossible to say anything good about them without being attacked as sellout.  The industry has brought the polarization on itself by refusing to label its GMO products.  If GMO foods had been labeled from the beginning, it might be possible to discuss pros and cons more thoughtfully.  The industry promised to feed the world and solve third world agricultural problems.  It hasn’t done that and I’m not sure it’s tried—there’s no profit in such problems.  With that said, I can see some value in the Hawaiian papaya bioengineered to resist ringspot virus.  But I’m hard pressed to think of much else that’s useful to the public.  It’s hard to tell because there’s no way to know what’s GMO and what’s not.

Q. Really enjoyed the thoroughness of your presentation with respect to trends in food marketing and sales. Can local food and sustainable eating be marketed as effectively by the government as, for example, the Keep America Beautiful campaign of 1971?



A. It could.  But there needs to be real money behind the campaign.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

In Celebration of National Kale Day!


National Kale Day October 1, 2014

RECIPE: Crispy Nest of Kale with Fried Egg 
Serving: 1
1 bunch curly or dino kale
1 egg 
olive oil
salt and pepper

Remove leaves from the stem with scissors, a knife or have kids do it with their little hands. Roll up each leaf and ‘chiffionade’ the kale (slicing cross-wise) to produce long strips.
Coat the bottom of a cast iron with oil and heat until smoking. Cook in batches by dropping a handful of kale strips into the pan. Add salt and pepper. Keep kale moving over the heat until crisp and fluffy--about 5 minutes.
Remove with tongs and drain on paper bag. Place small bird’s nest of kale strips on each plate and gently top with a fried egg.  



KALE: Super Food and Internal Scrubby

Kale
This winter kale comes from Brookfield Farm in Amherst where they keep storage vegetables in the basement for customers. Both purple and green varieties of kale can be picked in a field out in the middle of the snow.
Kale is tough and you can be too. Let’s say your going through a phase where you find yourself in the fleshpots every night eating canapés and cupcakes. To break the cycle, eat some raw kale. Don’t even bother to juice it, just chew the leaves and wait for your strength to return. 
Grab a bunch of this super food (recently rescued from the ranks of garnish) whenever you can find it and make it part of your locavore larder. Kale is rich in nutrients, cheap to buy, thrives in cold temperature and acts as an ‘internal scrubby.’ 





Saturday, September 27, 2014

Breakfast in California

Breakfast in W. Marin  

from left to right: sunflower seeds, Point Reyes Farmers' Market,  (time to harvest and peel 10 minutes), single bosc pear, Point Reyes Farmers' Market (time to slice 2 minutes), two ripe genao figs, Point Reyes Farmers' Market (time to slice 1 minute with sharp knife) sheep's milk yogurt, Petaluma, CA

Oysters....


In Inverness, CA....
there is a place that serves, among other things, local oysters from Tomales Bay, just across the street. At Salt Water, you can get several kinds that are raw and on the half shell. The ones from Scotty's Cove and the Hog Island oysters lead with brine but not the breathless kind. Scotty's Cove oysters finish like butter and the Hog Island oysters are sweet like butterscotch. Neither are brackish, both are meaty. $3 per slurp.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014



Edible publications here in the Valley and on the Vineyard provide a unique perspective on food:

"I find myself grabbing at weeds as I walk up to friends’ houses, pulling weeds from storefront flower boxes, even silently identifying weeds as I ride my bike along the paths—not because I like to, really, but because I must...." 


by Mary Sage Napolitan

read more

Thursday, August 14, 2014

TOMATO-TIME


Red Fire Farm's 5-K and Tomato Festival This Saturday August 23 in Granby MA.

On the MUSIC STAGE 11:00 AM - Indian Classical Music with Sitar by Mike Jarjoura and Tabla by Max Armen
12:00 PM - Larry Dulong and Band
1:45 PM - The Ephemeral String Band
3:30 PM - Tim Eriksen and Trio du Pumpkinland.

WORKSHOP: Tomato Canning Demo with Sarah Voilland at 3 p.m. 

Heirlooms in the Tasting Tent.....
Brandywine, Cherokee Purple and Paul Robeson as well as more exotic offerings, such as German Queen, Homer Fike's Yellow Oxheart, Vintage Wine and Fuzzy Bomb. There will also be a collection of cherry tomatoes to sample, such as Golden Sweet and Red Pearl, along with the more unusual Hssiao His Hung Shih, Egg Yolk, Lemon Drop and Pink Bumble Bee to name a few and they're not all red. Featured in the tasting tent from noon to 5 p.m.

  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Recipe: Butter

Any major chef will tell you, fat is where the flavor is...... 

Use butter as much as possible. Make it or buy if from Cabot (not so far away in Vermont and somewhat affordable if you buy it in block form, on sale.)




Butter Recipe


1 quart raw cream

1 t. salt 

To make butter from scratch purchase a

quart of raw cream 
from a good, clean dairy.

The next step is to agitate the cream. This can

be done shaking the cream in a mason jar
 or using a food

processor. (The jar method takes about 15


minutes. The blender or food processor


version takes 6 minutes.) When the fats have


coagulated, rinse with ice-cold water in a


bowl to separate the fat from remaining


liquids. Stir with wooden paddle and add


a half teaspoon of sea salt. Keep in a small dish in the


refrigerator covered with parchment paper.  


Slather on everything.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Sunday Asparagus Festival - Casey Douglass at Bat

The Asparagus Festival on Sunday June 1 in Hadley. If you think you've had enough asparagus already, think again. Casey Douglass is cooking and his take on Hadley Grass is Asian. 

Who is Casey Douglass?  It’s 10:45 a.m. on Thursday morning and Casey Douglass has a problem. He's down two men. In five hours, two restaurants will fill up with people. One of them will have no chef.

“Welcome to my world,” he says.

A wiry guy and subject to brainstorms, Casey is originally from the eastern part of the state and has been on the restaurant scene in the Valley every since he got off the bus. He now runs two places simultaneously in Easthampton. On the topic of 'his world,' he continues, “I live over there,” he says tossing his bald head in the direction of his home, a block away, “...and I am building this place, still, and I’m at Apollo down the street.  There is also a wife, children, chickens, a rental property, the whole chef package.

We sit in his latest creation, Galaxy. Over the winter Casey and a team transformed the former watch repair shop into a sleek box where patrons can choose their food and their environment.

Inside Galaxy, even in broad daylight, it feels quite far from Easthampton and even farther from Kansas. There are three rooms with three states of mind. Feeling fraternal? Try the paneled bar with a Mondrian style bar and clubby wood paneling. Feeling rather Mad Men-ish? There is also the Minimalist Mod room on white leather banquettes and galactic lighting fixtures. Feeling here’s also a back room for private parties. That’s where the wine dinners will be. Out front Casey is building a deck for an outdoor cafe. But he won’t stop at the deck. Next there will be a beer garden in the back and down the road, five years tops, he says, a roof garden. “That’s where we can really take off.”  

Casey can be seen on any given evening either at Galaxy or Apollo or racing between the two with a carton of half and half, a saw or some other item essential to keeping the operation going before the end of service.

As we speak, he begins to riff on a plan to celebrate the fourth. Every year Easthampton hosts fireworks in the park. This year Casey will put on a spread. For free. “We’ll do a pig roast," he says. "And chicken, other meat, all out in the parking lot..." He pauses to wonder if he an get his hands on a smoker big enough and then says, "This will work, I know where I can get one."

Casey’s pedigree restaurant background in the Valley includes Green St. Café, Squires Smoke and Game Club and Del Raye. It was at Squires with the screened porch perched over the Mill River where Casey learned about smoking meat. Later at DelRaye, with its famous paintings on the wall and impossibly expensive food on the plate, Casey learned to orchestrate the room. Del Raye had an open kitchen. As head chef, Casey had a full view on the restaurant. “I could look out and see that table seven, 2 cod, is a 60-year-old couple who will be there for 2 hours. I can pace the delivery for that table and all the others.”  


As for tonight’s emergency, Casey will probably cook himself. And on June 28 while you’re collecting the chairs and blankets and getting the kids in the car to check out the fireworks, he’ll will be racing from Apollo to Galaxy to get the smoker going. Will he pull it off? Prepare for take off.  Everyone's invited. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

RECIPE: Asparagus Soup


RECIPE: Asparagus Soup

Asparagus Soup
Serves 4

1      Bunch asparagus 
2      Tablespoons butter 
2   Tablespoons flour
1   Pinch white pepper
1   Teaspoon salt
5   Scrapes nutmeg (or 1/4 teaspoon)
4   Tablespoons Whole Milk Yogurt (Sidehill) or sour cream.

Wash and trim stalks an inch off the ends. Remove tips and set aside. Bring five cups of water to boil. Blanch the tips in the water for three minutes, remove and set aside. Blanch the spears for between 6 and 7 minutes. In a sauce pan, dissolve flour in butter over medium heat using a wooden spoon to make a roux. Stir carefully to avoid lumps. When the asparagus spears are finished cooking, remove with slotted spoon. Puree spears in food processor with 1 cup of the cooking water. Process for about 2 minutes until fully pureed. Pour the asparagus puree into the sauce pan and mix with butter and flour roux. Add two more cups of the asparagus water and bring to a simmer. Add salt, white pepper and nutmeg. Correct seasoning as needed. Pour into bowls and garnish with a generous dollop of yogurt with a single asparagus spear in the middle of each.  

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Writing the Land at Seeds of Solidarity



From the people at Seeds of Solidarity:

An inspiring workshop on nature & environmental writing taught by author and artist Mira Bartok, National Book Circle Critics Award Winner for her New York Times bestselling memoir, The Memory Palace

We are honored to have our friend Mira offer this one-day retreat on our farm, that will include nature walks, guided writing exercises, & shared reading of work in a supportive environment. This special event is a wonderful opportunity to deeply explore the resonances between sense of place, memory, and your own relationship to the earth. No experience needed. Mira’s generous support of Seeds of Solidarity enables us to offer this workshop at a very special price of $100, and a farm-fresh lunch is included! Space is limited to 20; preregistration is essential and we expect the day to fill. Contact deb@seedsofsolidarity.org or978-544-9023 to register.

Writing the Land   Saturday Oct 11, 10am to 3PM  
Seeds of Solidarity Farm and Education Center, Orange MA


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Riverhead

on the seventh day, asparagus came, followed by corn. And then a strawberry. The Adventures of Rhubarbi were about to begin....

Friday, April 18, 2014

RECIPE: Boneless Leg of Lamb with Chimichurri Sauce Compliments of Kristin N.

Grilled Lamb from Leyden Glen 

Back on the block....Boneless Leg of Lamb .... get it at Amherst Farmers' Market Opening April 19  (Tomorrow!)
Boneless leg of lamb - 1 1/2 to 3 pounds
For Chimmichurri Sauce
4 cloves of fresh garlic peeled
1 cup parsley leaves (removed from stalks)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes (or more if you like things spicy)
1/2 cup olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
To cook lamb:
Prepare grill. Cut the strings that are tying the leg together. Rub salt and pepper on both sides of the boneless leg.
The boneless leg of lamb shown grilled for 10 minutes on one side over a rather high heat, 6 minutes on the other. The best thing to do is to test with a meat thermometer unless you have a natural feel for cooking meat. Our lamb was 130 degrees when it came off the grill. Let it stand for 10 minutes. Slice thinly and plate.
Chimichurri Sauce:
In a food processor, process garlic. Add parsley and oregano and process until chopped fine. This is not a pesto so don't liquefy the herbs. Transfer to a bowl. Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Stir and set aside. Is best if flavors meld in the fridge. Serve as a sauce for the grilled lamb.
The Chimmichurri Sauce will keep for at least a day. Leftovers are good on any kind of vegetable or potato salad. It is a flavorful sauce with a fresh zingy taste.
Copyright 2014 Kristin Nicholas

Monday, April 14, 2014

Could the mother of us all take on GMO's?


Gamma Sigma Delta stands for, "the binding together of earth, the mother of all, and the practice of agriculture, and the arts relating thereto for the welfare of mankind…" 

Future fish and large animal farmers Derek Silva and Lila Grallert of UMass were inducted into agricultural honor society last week. In the interviews below they share their thoughts on GMOs, permaculture, the future of farming and what they had for breakfast. 



Future Farmers Weigh In: Derek Silva

Derek Silva 

VL: Where are you from Derek Silva?
DS: A portuguese community in Lowell, Massachusetts

VL: What year are you?
DS: I’m finishing up my third year and I’ll be graduating in one semester.

VL: What is your major and area of interest?
DS: Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences with a concentration in Sustainable Food and Farming.  My interest is in aquaculture, which is an often forgotten aspect of agriculture that that has only been growing bigger and bigger in recent years.  I also have an interest of one day working in the tropics in developing countries.

VL: What got you interested in agriculture?
DS: Farming is a big part of my family’s past and I spent a lot of time on farms as a child.  The idea of growing my own food and raising my own animals just stuck with me.

VL: What are your thoughts studying agriculture in western mass?
DS: I think western mass is a great place to study agriculture because it’s such a big part of the daily life here and the atmosphere is very supportive of it.

VL: What are your thoughts on GMOs?
DS: From my experience, when people hear GMO they have very strong feelings either for or against.  There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground where people can calmly and rationally discuss GMOs.  With that being said, the thought of eating foods that have been genetically modified seems wrong to me and I haven’t read any studies that conclusively show GMOs to be the solution we need.  However, I try to stay open-minded and maybe some day, after significant study, we’ll see that GMOs aren’t all that bad.

VL: How can a farmer make a difference in today’s world of big agriculture?
DS: I think a farmer is making a difference as soon as they decide to be a farmer.  Even just a backyard farmer can have a huge impact on family, neighbors and their community.  I think the perfect phrase to describe farming in this country is out of sight, out of mind.  It’s been forgotten and by becoming a farmer, you’re bringing it back to people’s attention.

VL: What does having a chapter of the National Agriculture Honor Society mean to you and to the school?
It’s very rewarding.  The people at UMass who study agriculture already know that Stockbridge, its professors and its students are all great people.  To me having a chapter of the National Agriculture Honor Society is a recognition that we’re doing something right and it serves as encouragement to keep working.

VL: What do you recommend to students who are interested in going into agriculture?
DS: Do it.  I think the best way to learn in agriculture is to just get out there and not be afraid to mess up.  Plant some vegetables, visit farms, talk to farmers, do whatever you can.  If you show people that you’re really interested I think you’ll find there are a lot of people out there who will support you.

VL: What did you have for breakfast?
A bowl of oatmeal with strawberries and a cup of fair trade coffee.


Future Farmers Weigh In: Lila Grallert

VL: Where are you from Lila Grallert?
LG: Ayer, Mass.

VL: What is your area of interest?
LG: I am a double major in sustainable food/farming and pre-veterinary medicine. My focus is sustainable animal production. 

VL: What got you interested in agriculture? 
LG: The idea that food production brings people together with each other, with the earth, and with other types of life really intrigues me. I think this is what really draws me into the idea of raising animals for food. Animals need healthy land to feed them, and we need healthy animals to feed us. 

VL: What are your thoughts studying agriculture in western mass?
LG: Living in the pioneer valley has been extremely conducive to studying agriculture. I have had the opportunity to work and take classes on farms, gaining valuable hands-on experience. Learning about raising sheep in classes is nothing compared to staying overnight at the farm to help the sheep deliver babies if needed. In addition, most of my classes have included lab sections that involved visiting nearby farms and talking with producers which is a great opportunity for learning. Finally, the story of the UMass and the valley is deeply rooted in the story of agriculture in the US and understanding the history of the area and its people allows us to begin to understand the history of agriculture in the country.

VL: What are your thoughts on GMOs?
LG: The scientific data supporting the idea that GMOs are having a negative impact on our health is disputed. However, a downfall to GMOs that I don't think can be argued with is the implications that they have on farmers and the way in which industrial agriculture companies help create an oppressive system for farmers to survive in. The idea that life (GMOS... seeds) can be patented can be dangerous for farmers wanting to stay independent from seed companies and save their own seeds. In addition, GMO seeds as an export commodity pose a great risk to farmers invested in them as one failed harvest can result in a failed farm (because they rely on buying in seeds each year, often these seeds are not adapted to the areas where they are being grown, and the farmer becomes dependent on a company for supplying seeds). 

VL: How can a farmer make a difference in today’s world of big agriculture? 
LG: Creativity. I think that the future of agriculture relies on innovative solutions that integrate modern technology with holistic ways of thinking about the stewardship of life. In addition, being connected with their communities and understanding the needs of the people that live there is vital to the survival of small farms and the encouragement of strong communities rooted in healthy food and vibrant local economies.

VL: What does having a chapter of the National Agriculture Honor Society mean to you and to the school? 
LG: Gamma Sigma Delta is "The binding together of earth, the mother of all, and the practice of agriculture, and the arts of relating thereto for the welfare of  mankind." This motto is the reason I was drawn to agriculture, and the reason I wish to continue within the world of agriculture. Food production is something that can unite people, and remind them about their roots in the earth and their connection with the life around them. Joining this society reminds me that I part of a community of people who will devote their lives to this idea and to being part of feeding the world in a sustainable and just way. UMass Amherst has a community of people who wish to do this, and the honors society allows them to remain part of that community even after they graduate.

VL: What do you recommend to students who are interested in going into agriculture? 
LG: Talk to farmers, learn from their mistakes and successes. Constantly seek opportunities to make your own mistakes and find your own successes. Seek the truth by asking tough questions and trusting in your experiences. 

VL: What did you have for breakfast? 
LG:  Pork sausage raised my a fellow SFF major!... (shout-out to Skalbite Family Farm!) and an apple.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Between Now and Asparagus

locavore dead zone

Little left in the larder ... 

This is the last week of our root cellar in the form of a winter share at Brookfield. That means we're down to 4 carrots, a couple of turnips and 2 garlic cloves. No onions left. Between now and asparagus we have approximately 6 weeks. This time of year is known as the Locavore Dead Zone.

Next to the calendar in our kitchen is a cardboard wheel of the seasonal food. In the Mar/Apr portion of the wheel are sweet little drawings of what food nature provides at this time of year. There are eggs, there is a chicken, cured meats, maple syrup, preserves, mushrooms, dairy, squash, and kale, plus, for some reason, brussels sprouts.

Wildlife hunkers down or invades backyard bird feeders during the dead zone. What do humans do? If it weren't for a pretty blond who grows spinach all winter long, hydroponic bok choy and salad mix from Swartz Farm in N. Amherst and a handful of other stalwart farmers, it would be like the year of 2009 for this Locavore. 2009 was not pretty. I existed on potatoes, cornbread (made from cornmeal from Hadley, Ashfield yogurt, eggs from Wendell), butter and kale I picked out of the snow at a farm on River Road in Whately. 

That was then. Now kale can be purchased legally. Extended season growing efforts means that all of the local food indicated on the cardboard wheel of seasonal food can be purchased under one snow covered roof.  Winter Farmers Markets in three towns now sell hoop house greens and jars of tomato sauce from Red Fire Farm in Granby, the spinach lady's offerings, meats, cheese, mushrooms and more. Fruit and root vegetables are available all winter long due to improved storage facilities at Bashista in Southampton and Winter Moon in Hadley. The Locavore Dead Zone between March and Asparagus is officially over. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

where am I?




Sunday 7:19 a.m.  

Light in room comes from a window framing a mountain with snow
and the early morning fingers of color in the sky blue and red

From your vantage a coverlet, white, eyelet and under that an ivory fleece blanket
Upon further inspection
A painting of a bridge, oil, blue and grey with brown
and...
a claw foot tub 
in the bathroom under a window....

Through the window in the bathroom, up the road and covered in snow
Is that Mary Lyon's Winter School for Young Ladies?

A spinning wheel next to the dresser and a chair with a needlepoint footstool...
On the dresser, a copy of Yankee Magazine
You reach for it it up to read about the fate of lobster men but is that ....
the smell of bacon?

You dress quickly. Freezing.
Downstairs a fire in the living room, no longer embers like last night...

You cross a hooked rug to the dining room where sun glints on the 
china and the cutlery and on the orange juice in blue goblets
You sit to a warm muffin and you are handed a mug of strong coffee  
that warms you, recently brewed, recently ground, where is this place?

You peek in the kitchen
Is that the lady?
who let you in last night
she was wearing a white woolen nightgown?
and her hair, down?

Is this Emily Dickinson's house?

You look out the dining room window and there is your car
in front of your car another car
with New Hampshire plates
owned by people sitting next to you

They ask and
you say you are at a conference at Rowe Center on Rt. 2
.... got in late last night

This is where you landed
lucky you. It comes to you later in the form of some recipes 
a talisman, two of them, of the experience.

You were at the "birdhouse" in Buckland
an Inn from long ago but still here.

The daughter of the woman who let you in
fed you eggs benedict
and offered two recipes for rhubarb dishes 
a plant that grows in their side yard. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Outsider artist with Assemblage in Springfield. Florist Gretchen Stibolt with natural and unnatural materials at a retrospective of her work. This Saturday at the Bing Arts Center at the "X" in Springfield. You might have to knock on the windows or turn on the lights but it is worth it.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Framing Spring Planting at Holyoke Farm-2-School Program

Future Farmers Design Spring Gardens....


photo: Mary A. Nelen

..... in Holyoke Public Schools  

Two weeks ago future farmers, ages 8 through 13, used cardboard to model the raised beds that will make up school gardens in the spring at Morgan Elementary and Peck Middle School in Holyoke.  

Pizza Gardens, Flower and Cabbage Gardens and a Popcorn Gardens are in the works and organized by School Sprouts of Holyoke. 

Last week students sawed and sanded their way to a wooden frame that will be used in the courtyard garden when the weather is warm enough. Next, seeds will be decided on and selected. 



Thursday, November 21, 2013

Talkin' Turkey


Locavore: Talking Turkey
For Thanksgiving, an Advocate Exclusive
Thursday, November 27, 2008
By Mary Nelen

Local turkeys sold out this year up in
Wendell. At over $3 a pound, it's hard to
believe that fowl such as this would be in
such high demand. But there's a reason to
pay top dollar and there's a reason you're
eating Butterball. Tom, a turkey from
Wendell, agreed to talk turkey about life on the farm in Franklin County.

ValleyLocavore: So are you a male or female?
Turkey: You talking to me?
VL: Yeah, I'm looking at you, aren't I?
T: I'm a tom, a male turkey, also known as a gobbler. They named an
entire country after me. Ever been to Istanbul?
VL: I'm doing the interviewing here. So tell me about the farm.
T: Where's my doughnut?
VL: How did you learn to talk?
T: How did you? I'm up in Wendell right now at a turkey farm where they
sell chickens, pies, turkey pot pies and eggs, plus some other local stuff
like cider donuts.
VL: What's a typical day like for a free range turkey?
T: Get up early, do some reading. I like Michael Pollan. Go out and range
a bit with the other birds, eat some feed, drink some spring water, go
online.
VL: You seem to have a lot of time on your hands. Are you free ranging?
T: We're in and out of the "free-roam" coop. I can't complain.
VL: Pretty crowded?
T: Not bad. I get out, but nobody sees me.
VL: What do they feed you?
T: We get water from a spring in Wendell, grain and some corn from
Williams Farm in Deerfield. No growth enhancers or hormones.
VL: So you guys go for over $3 a pound, whereas a supermarket turkey is
under a dollar a pound and sometimes turkeys are given out free at work.
T: Where do you work?
VL: Back in the day, factory workers were given a turkey every
Thanksgiving and every Christmas.
T: Yeah, and they sold mashed potatoes at the automat.
VL: Nice attitude.
T: I'm just glad I didn't make the cut this year.
VL: How come you didn't make the cut?
T: I hid under an old Ford out back where I can pick up wifi from the
neighbors' house.
VL: Nice. Don't they count the birds before slaughtering them?
T: It's called "dressing." No time for that... around the holidays it's pretty
busy and they run this place very well. You might want to read some
Michael Pollan if you want to learn more about turkeys and how food is
produced in general.
VL: I've heard of him. Didn't he write about being an omnivore? A skinny
guy, looks kind of like a tur—..skinny guy?
T: Michael Pollan teaches journalism at Berkeley in California. He
wrote The Omnivore's Dilemma in 2006 and then this year he wrote In
Defense of Food. The first book explains what it is we're eating by
looking at four ways to eat: industrial food— McDonald's, for example—
organic food, alternative food, and foraged food. The other book is a
straight-talk approach to figuring out what to eat. He says that we should
eat food, not too much, mostly plants, and don't touch anything your
grandmother's never heard of, like "whole grain white bread" or
"tofurkey."
VL: Why do eaters need a manifesto? I like to forage as much as the next
person, but "manifesto" is a fighting word.
T: Pollan calls it a manifesto because we have to take food, literally,
into our hands and out of the hands of agribusiness, factory farming, the
"man," whatever you want to call it. That crap will either poison you or
make you fat or both.
VL: Tough talk.
T: I'm a turkey, a tom. If you want to hear a bedtime story, talk to a
Butterball.
VL: Right. If you had to use one word to say why local turkey is better
than Butterball, what word would that be?
T: Blood.
VL: Blood?
T: Yes, blood.
VL: In terms of slaughter?
T: "Dressing!" And, no, that has nothing to do with it. When turkeys or
any animals get a lot of exercise, the blood is closer to the bone, which
makes the dark meat. And that is where the flavor is. With the snowy
white breast, there's not so much taste, not to mention it's squishy. But
the dark meat... that's where we keep it real.
VL: Are you pumped about the new administration?
T: Michael Pollan for food czar. In another paper of record, Pollan told
the incoming U.S president, "..... like so many other leaders through
history, you will find yourself confronting the fact—so easy to overlook
these past few years—that the health of a nation's food system is a
critical issue of national security. Food is about to demand your
attention."
VL: Go green.
T: Go blood.
VL: Who do you like on Sunday?
T: That's easy. Dallas and Tennessee.
VL: You think Tennessee will remain unbeaten?
T: If Detroit beats the Titans, I'll write your next column.

© 2012 The Valley Advocate