Monthly Archives: September 2011


THE WEEKEND OF SEPTEMBER 24  and 25th was packed with events that celebrated local food/farming; its history, its fusion with gourmet menus, and the young farmer movement itself which is sweeping New York State.

ON THE AFTERNOON OF SEPTEMBER 24, Diane Galusha auther of the book When Cauliflower was King talked about the history of growing just one vegetable, cauliflower, from about 1905 to 1950 in the Catskills at Morgan Outdoors in Livingston Manor, NY.  One of the most fascinating aspects of the meeting was that one of growers who shared his experiences as a young boy in planting, growing and marketing cauliflower to markets in New York City and the nearby hotels and boarding houses attended the meeting. Afterwards, a cauliflower tasting and discussion on growing commenced across the street at Main Street Farm store.

photo credit Lisa Lyons Morgan Outdoors

On Saturday evening I attended a most elegantly served Locavore dinner at the Early Bird Cookery in Callicoon Center. The 7 course menu consisted of food prepared from locally sourced ingredients by Early Bird Cookery headed by chef Amy Miller. Particularly outstanding was the Pear Spitzer (complimentary cocktail) made from local pears. AND the beef carpaccio appetizer (grassfed beef from Snowdance Farm, Livingston Manor), borst soup (beets and other veggies from Willow Wisp Organic Farm, Abramsville, Pa.) For the entree, I selected the rabbit stew which was sourced from Stone and Thistle Organic Farm in Delaware County. It was delicious. But probably the most outstanding surprise was the dessert. Described as a “grape pie” this delicious confection was served in a ramkin topped with a walnut, maple topping. The Concord grapes were supplied from Trapani Farms in Ulster County.

Sharing this delicious food with friends and neighbors added to the enjoyment of the meal, which was served to us by the Early Bird staff. At the end of the meal both the farmers and staff were introduced for a standing ovation by the diners. Early Bird Cookery specializes in Locavore Suppers year round. I can’t wait for the next one in October!

Agrarian Acts held at the NACL theatre in Highland Lake was the culmination of my Locavore challenge  day on September 25th.  Starting with a locavore potluck, the day was a celebration of family fun hosted by NACL theatre. There were displays and literature from several farmer/food organizations  like the Greenhorns, Pure Catskills, Slow Food UpDiRiver, Catskill Mountainkeeper and yours truly from NOFA-NY. Music, theatre, puppetry, a screening of the film  The Greenhorns, plus face-painting (using homemade natural paint) for the kids, a seed-saving workshop for the growers and a lettuce eating contest filled the day with fun for everyone from the hundred or more little locavores  to older-localvores who attended.

The sun shone brightly on a day when rain had been promised! We are all looking forward to more of these celebrations all year!



Filed under Local Farm Food Event, Locavore Challenge Event, Sustainable Farming

NYS Ag Commissioner Announces Allocation of first $5 Million to Soil and Water Conservation Districts

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Darrel J. Aubertine  has  enlisted the assistance of Soil and Water Conservation Districts to begin assessing damage in agricultural disaster areas and to begin identifying projects to restore farms and farmland.  Initiating the Governor’s $15 million Agricultural and Community Recovery Fund (ACRF), the first allocation of $5 million, the conservation component, will provide funding for farmers to restore farmland damaged by Hurricane Irene and prevent further damage in the future.

The Soil and Water Districts will determine land eligibility based on site inspections of damage. For land to be eligible, the Hurricane must have created
a new conservation problem that, if left untreated, would: degrade the State’s natural resources; impact public drinking water supplies, present ongoing
pollution risks to surface and groundwater; pose threats to production facilities, impair farm safety; affect the land’s productive capacity; or present challenges to farm production that are too costly to implement without state assistance.

Farmers in eligible counties should contact their local Soil and Water District. A list of  NYS Soil and Water Conservation District county offices can be found under Regional links on the right.


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Filed under Sustainable Farming


I was struck by reading this article in Forbes Magazine by Todd Essig entitled Surviving Hurricane’s Irene Agricultural Disaster  just how important the connection between climate change and food supply is as an ongoing Locavore Challenge.  This is an excerpt from Essig’s  finally tuned article that relates to our Region.

Among those for whom Irene’s pain will continue are consumers with any sort
of relationship to local foods—from the committed locavore to farmers’ market
shoppers to those who nibble an occasional autumn apple. But the pain can be
lessened, and the benefits of local food preserved, by reconnecting the
food-weather link and developing more realistic expectations…………

Feeling an intimate bond between food and weather, a bond farmers live with
every day, is unfamiliar these days. Nationwide distributors buffer us from any
direct contact with the table-side consequences of weather, other than a few
pennies more or less on commodity prices. They do this by mixing food from
multiple regions into a single geographically diversified inventory thereby
managing risk from catastrophic weather in any one region. Unfortunately, they
also minimize reward, eliminating much of the taste, health benefits, and
advantages to the local communities in which the food was raised. In fact, much
of what we buy from these nationwide inventories should be called a “calorie
delivery system” rather than food.”

To read the entire article go to

It is worth taking the time to do so.

Keep in mind Essig is a psychologist who writes for Psychology Today AND Forbes.

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Filed under Sustainable Farming

Flooding and Fracking A Dangerous Combination TAKE ACTION


Catskill Mountainkeeper alert!
Go to their website to take action.

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Filed under Gas Drilling Hydro-Fracking


Four Winds Farm. 158 Marabac Rd. Gardiner, NY 12525

September 12, 2011

This field day event demonstrated what can be accomplished
through thoughtful, long term planning with the goal of energy efficiency
independent of fossil fuels.

The centerpiece of Jay and Polly Armour’s 24 acre
diversified NOFA-NY Certified LLC organic farm is an earth cooled, straw-bale
barn which serves a variety of functions. The
Armours  explained that when they
were planning the barn, which started more than 10 years ago,  they formulated plans with the goal that it
would be the hub of the farm’s energy source, processing facility and cold
storage fueled by alternative energy.

The focus of today’s event was the 14 kw grid connected PV (photovoltaic)
electric system which is mounted on the south side of the barn roof which
generates enough electricity to take care of almost 100% of the farm’s energy
needs including their residence. A passive solar greenhouse wraps around the southside
foundation directly below the roof where the Amour’s crew start heirloom
seedlings for planting and for sale in early spring. It is a few feet below
ground which insures a frost free floor.

The east side of the partial straw-bale construction barn is
buried underground which creates a natural root cellar storage space. This room
is cooled and ventilated by a solar powered cool air system. Here the farmers
are able to store freshly harvested vegetables for immediate market sales and
CSA distribution, as well as processing root vegetables for long term storage.
The “root cellar” can be directly accessed by their vegetable oil powered diesel
van that is used to transport the crops to local markets.

Carlos Newcomb, project manager for Hudson Valley Clean
Energy, (the company which
installed the PV system) explained the combination NYSERDA grant/financing
arrangement that the
Armours found most suitable to perfect their plans for the multi-purpose

One last addition to the “barn” will include a commercial
kitchen to process added-value items to their farm’s products.

 Four Winds Farm uses
a permanent bed system which requires very little tractor time and minimal soil
disturbance. The farmers use Permaculture methods of layering mulch materials
with on farm produced compost, reducing maintenance, disease while increasing
soil fertility.

The Farm Energy Field Days are sponsored by the
Cornell Small Farms Energy Work team and funded by Northeast SARE (Sustainable
Ag Research and Education). To learn more about NE SARE visit


Filed under Beginning Farmer, EDUCATION, Environment, Field Day Event, PERMACULUTURE, Sustainable Farming, Transition Towns

When Times Get Tough….The Tough Get Farming-Small Farms Continue to Increase

In spite of the continual negative media coverage on the “job” market, the largest growing sector of the economy seems to remain ignored. Food and farming continue to grow, both figuratively and literally.

According to USDA Census reports:  The sector with the largest growth in percentage and absolute terms was farms with less than 50 acres.

Moreover, more small farms in America means more locally produced food, which means less petroleum burned transporting food across the country or around the world. A Cornell University study notes that a “simple but radical reduction in transport distance” would save great amounts of energy; for example, “transporting strawberries from California to New York by air requires 100 kcal of oil per kcal of strawberry imported.”

Jobs are HERE, not only in actual “hands-on” farming, but in farm and food related businesses. It will be a long time before people stop eating.

Visit our  Regional links especially  and stay tuned as to what is going on in our Region in this important sector of the local economy.


Filed under Sustainable Farming

Ways to Save a Wet Garden–Hudson Valley Seed Library

September 7, 2011

Ways to Save a Wet Garden

Alright–who invited Irene to the garden party? She’s a lousy gardener–always
overwatering everything!–and so is her cousin Lee.

Have these tropical visitors got you down? We understand. They’ve wrought

Here’s a little perspective. The average August rainfall for the Hudson
Valley is around 3.5-4 inches. In the past 10 days the region has seen 11-15
inches. Since August 1st, the region has seen 18-22 inches of rain. That’s
almost half our YEARLY average, all in about 35 days! Most of the region has
already exceeded its average annual rainfall for the year with four months or
potential precipitation left to go.

Before and AfterBefore and After

Due to this extreme rainfall, and the winds that came with Irene, our farm,
and many other farms and gardens, went from being almost at their peak in terms
of beauty and production–to a sodden, floppy, ripped up mess. Our corn patch was
flattened, the sunflower stalks snapped, the pepper plants fell over, the
pollination tunnels blew off, the soil turned to jello, the pole beans were
knocked over, the soybeans started to break apart at the joints,  and all sorts
of seed and pods that should have been enjoying the dry breezes of late summer
were soaked. This latest bout of rain (5 inches in the past three days!) has put
the nail in the coffin of many of our tomato plants and produced another round
of “water balloon” peppers. It’s been depressing to see much of the hard work of
the season turned to soggy rags.

But plants are resilient, and I think gardeners are, too. We pulled up the
corn stalks and hung them to dry in the hoophouse, righted-up the leaning
peppers, harvested everything we could, and generally did what we could to help
surviving plants catch their breath and keep on growing. It will be interesting
to see which varieties are most skilled at surviving saturation and we are
confident we still have enough local seed to keep the Seed Library thriving.

Here are some tips for how to safely wade through your plot and rescue some
of your soggy bounty.

1. Harvest. If the plants are dead or dying, harvest. Tomatoes will
ripen-up indoors on a windowsill or counter. Green peppers are edible and almost
red ones will ripen more after they are picked. Carrots can be pulled up and
kept in the fridge. Winter squash can be harvested and brought in to cure. (One
exception: The USDA recommends NOT eating any plants that were flooded by a
waterway such as a stream or river due to potential contaminants in the

2. Tread lightly. Wet soil is easily compacted, so stick to well worn paths
and be extra careful to avoid walking in planting beds.

3. Stake. If your plants are still alive but have fallen over, carefully
stake and tie them up so they can recover. It’s often best to wait for the soil
to dry out just a bit before doing this, as saturated plant tissue turns the
plants brittle.

4. Breathe. This is gardening. Every year presents new challenges. Save what
you can and compost the rest. Keep on sowing–perhaps we’ll have a long, warm fall or a mild

Visit our website for photos and more tips on fall growing.

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