local banquet fall 2016 | issue thirty-eight
Figs • Wild Apples • Hügelkultur
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C ON T E N T S f
6 Publishers’ Note 8 Garden Pathways Hügelkultur: A Rotting Resource
10 Set the Table with… Figs 12 Flock Dance: A new performance piece
15 Vermont Apples: Lost and Found 16 Regenerative Agriculture 18 Crafty Cultivation 20 Seeds for Change Small Acts Permaculture
27 Slow and Steady: Vermont’s “Snail of Approval”
29 Farmers’ Kitchen Magnificent Mushrooms
31 Calendar 34 Last Morsel
Publisher Schreiber & Lucas, LLC
For the past several years now, we’ve composted our garden and kitchen scraps. With increased success, we’ve watched apple cores and tomato vines metamorphose into a rich, dark, crumbly hummus. As participants in this process, we’ve observed with amazement that our soils comprise a varied and complex world unto themselves. And the cycle of life is on full display as we transform this year’s waste into the foundation for next year’s growth. This process of breaking down and building up is also evident in the epic formation of our topsoil—the 2 to 8 inches of the Earth’s crust on which we walk, play, and work. Taking more than 100 years, and by some accounts 500 years, to form a mere inch, this living structure nurtures and supports all life. It is home to microorganisms, small insects and vertebrates, bacteria, carbon, and water—all vital ingredients to sustain life. We often hear about human beings having a negative impact on the environment, but humanity can have a positive impact, too. In this issue we explore three positive ways that our actions can build, enhance, and preserve our soil, the foundation of all life. In our last publishers’ note, we touched on a practice known as regenerative agriculture; in Vermont the legislature has been exploring the idea of a certification process for farms where this kind of agriculture is practiced. On page 16, writer and farmer Katie Spring digs deeper into what is meant by regenerative agriculture and its many benefits. On page 8, we offer an article on Hügelkultur, a centuries-old gardening practice that takes its cue from the decomposition that occurs naturally in forests. The article chronicles author Angie Knost’s experiences and insights using this system in her own backyard. By ceding our control to nature’s perfect system, we can turn poor soil and unproductive lands into beneficial and valuable ones. Tropical Storm Irene, in 2011, provided a wake-up call and an opportunity for a group of folks in southern Vermont; see page 20. Small Acts Permaculture (a group that we are members of ) joined with federal and state entities and the local conservation commission to plant a riparian buffer on three parcels of flooded land in Saxtons River. By minimizing erosion and keeping soil in its place, these efforts will pay off by providing a verdant and durable habitat for wildlife while also protecting downstream land from unwanted sediment buildup. Longtime and respected Vermont farmer Jack Lazor, writing about his love for the soil in the summer NOFA-Vermont newsletter, shares these thoughts, which we fully support: “The greatest lesson that I have learned in all this time is that the Earth comes first. Be generous in your dealings with Mother Earth. Be a giver instead of a taker. You will be paid back in interest many times over if you love the land and do right by it.” Meg Lucas Barbi Schreiber
Editor Caroline Abels Art Director Meg Lucas Ad Director Barbi Schreiber Proofreader Marisa Crumb Contributors Nancy J. Hayden Jimmy Horton Angie Knost Bonnie North Alix O’Meara Laura Sorkin Katie Spring Katie Sullivan Printed with soy ink on FSC certified 50% recycled chlorine–free paper Subscriptions, $22 Subscribe online or send checks to: Vermont’s Local Banquet PO Box 69 Saxtons River, VT 05154 localbanquet.com 802-869-1236 we welcome letters to the editor email@example.com vermont’s LOCAL Banquet Mission Statement The purpose of our publication is to promote and support our local communities. By focusing on fresh, local, wholesome foods grown and made in Vermont, we preserve our environment, grow our economy, and enhance our nutrition. Vermont’s Local Banquet (ISSN 1946–0295) is published quarterly. Subscriptions are $22 annually and are mailed in the spring, summer, fall, and winter. Please make checks payable to Vermont’s Local Banquet. Thank you. Copyright (c) 2016. All rights reserved. No part of this periodical may be reproduced without written consent. Opinions expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of the publishers or editors.
On the cover: Ossabaw Island hogs at Applecheek Farm, Hyde Park; photo by Caroline Abels. Contents page: Winter squash; photo by Meg Lucas. M E M B E R
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garden pathways Hügelkultur: A Rotting Resource
Hügelkultur is a centuries-old sustainable method of building raised garden beds in a way that mimics the natural succession of the forest floor. Hügelkultur (the word is German for “mound culture”) utilizes existing biological resources and natural processes to turn often-unused biomass waste into efficient, small-scale intensive systems. An ideal solution for areas with poor quality soil, Hügelkultur beds can support seasonal vegetable gardens, perennial plants, fruit trees, shrubs, or brambles and can be built on flat ground or below grade in trenched beds. The foundation of a Hügelkultur bed is always wood, while the top layers can be comprised of grass clippings, raked leaves, various manures, mowed vegetation, compost, or topsoil—organic materials readily available and typically free or low cost. The gradual decay of the woody base creates rich humus, encourages the growth of beneficial mycorrhizal fungi, and promotes microbial activity, leading to increased resistance to pests and diseases, and better nutrient absorption. The decomposing organic matter creates heat and the rotted wood becomes sponge-like and maintains a consistent soil moisture level. The concentration of nutrients encourages deep, strong plant root growth and leads to increased productivity and greater yields over time with little or no additional input. Once established, Hügelkultur beds should not require tilling, fertilization, or irrigation. Sounds like magic, right? For those patient enough to wait for it and willing to invest the labor up front, the benefits are well worth it. Site preparation should begin in the fall, and planting should happen the following spring. You will need an ample supply of wood
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photos by Meg Lucas and Barbi Schreiber
by Angie Knost
or woody debris. I had access to wood chips from a tree trimming service but you could use branches, rotted logs, scraps from your woodpile, or any wood really, with the exception of painted or pressure-treated lumber. I would also recommend not using cedar, black walnut, and locust as they are known to be allelopathic and contain natural plant toxins. Site your Hügelkultur beds in full sun for best results, and don’t hesitate to make your beds wide and high (I formed beds 2 feet wide and nearly 18 inches high). I had an area brush-hogged and used the mowed vegetation for the critical nitrogen layers on top of the wood chips; I also added copious amounts of chicken and horse manure. It is not absolutely essential to cover your Hügelkultur beds with topsoil as long as the wood base is covered with compostable materials (or overturned sod in the case of trenched beds.) And that’s it. Then you wait. The slow composting of the woody material will cause the beds to collapse somewhat, and the wood will consume nitrogen as it composts, but the beds will be fine to plant in come spring. The long-term slow release of nutrients and the increased fungal population of the soil in your Hügelkultur beds will build soil fertility and provide optimal growing conditions for many years to come. Angie Knost raises chickens, keeps bees, and grows strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and lots of garlic. Formerly a landscape designer, she now calls Heritage Farm in Walden her home. 1.
7 3. 4. 5.
Create your Hügelkultur bed in the fall and the composting process provides you with perfectly prepared soil to plant in come spring. Here, my beds are seen prepared for strawberries. Wood is the foundation for a Hügelkultur bed. I used wood chips but you can use logs, branches, or any woody debris. Cover the wood layer with compostable materials (manures, grass clippings, mowed vegetation, raked leaves, rotted sawdust, compost, or topsoil). Fragaria x ananassa “Earliglow,” a reliable June-bearing strawberry with excellent flavor. Strawberries, ready to transplant. Brush-hogging the area created a considerable amount of biomass, perfect for layering into a Hügelkultur bed. Fragaria x ananassa “Allstar,” a highly productive midseason variety. Buds, blooms, and fruit. Strawberries will thrive in the woodsy, rich soil of a Hügelkultur bed. Strawberry plants set 18 to 24 inches apart; runners will fill the space between plants.
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Set the Table with…
by Alix O’Meara Figs may not seem like a Vermont kind of crop—the fruits are more associated with warmer climates. However, one local Vermonter has dug into his Italian roots and has been successfully growing figs for five years. Steve Colangeli, a high school science teacher, grows seven varieties of figs on his small farm in Charlotte. He estimates that in 2015 he produced 3,000 to 4,000 figs. I recently spoke with Steve about figs and his five-acre Paradiso Farm.
Can you give us a quick tutorial on how you grow figs in Vermont? I grow most of mine in containers, as large as 25 gallons, in the greenhouse. They’re a deciduous tree so they need a cold dormant period to produce figs. In the wintertime you want to put them in the dark, somewhere between 35 and 45 degrees. So once the fall comes,
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I move them from the greenhouse into a garage that’s attached to the house. If I need to supplement with a little heat in there I can, but it usually stays pretty warm. When the spring comes, I’ll pull them out. And then in late August through October they’re producing figs, depending on the variety. I read that figs can produce two types of crops. Can you explain the difference? Do they both taste the same? The first crop is the breba crop and that comes out on the old wood. A lot of times you’ll start to see those little figs before the leaves even start coming out. You don’t get as many of these as with the main crop of figs. Most people will say they’re not as good as the main crop but you can eat them. And then you’ll get the main crop, which is on the new growth. They will come due in late August, September. It’s amazing. I have trees that are only a few years old that can push out 50 to 100 figs a tree. I have one tree that doesn’t look that big but it put out more than 200 figs last year. How do you know when a fig is ripe? Most of them will start off green. Then they’ll get bigger and bigger and sit there for a long time not really doing
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anything. All of a sudden, almost overnight, they’ll start to change and puff up and get larger. A couple of days later they will start to droop and when they’re really ripe the skin will start to tear a little bit. On the bottom of the fig— they call it the eye—you’ll see a little nectar dripping out of it. Then you’re in the prime to pick it. At that point they only have two or three days before they go bad. Figs don’t ripen after you pick them. The figs you get from California that you might buy in a supermarket are actually picked early so they have a longer shelf life but they’re not ever really that ripe. How do you store figs if you aren’t going to eat them immediately? They fit perfectly in egg cartons. That’s how I deliver them to restaurants. I usually keep them in the refrigerator and you may get a couple more days out of them. Tell us about your relationships with chefs and restaurants. Last year I started making some connections with restaurants. I made a call over to Shelburne Farms Inn because I wanted to hit a couple of high-end restaurants that were doing a lot with local food. David Hugo was just
photo by Alix O’Meara
Why did you decide to grow figs in Vermont? I was looking for something that other people weren’t doing. I didn’t really want to compete with large growers. My grandparents grew figs in New Rochelle, New York, and then I took a class at the NOFA Vermont winter conference on growing figs in cold climates. The room was packed and flooded out into the hallway. In fact, security had to kick people out because it was a fire hazard. As I was sitting there, it struck me how many people were interested in this. They were so passionate about it and had all these personal stories and questions related to figs. So it resonated with me that it might be kind of a neat thing to do. I bought a of couple trees from out of state and started propagating them and it spiraled out of control after that.
amazing and really open to working with me. I didn’t have to call him in advance; I’d just pop in and bring him a dozen or I’d bring him four dozen and he would immediately put them on as a special. Then Marc Provencher from Taverna Khione [in Shelburne] called me and I started working with him. Most of the time the chefs tried not to cook them because they wanted to keep the original fresh flavor. I also worked a little bit with Gusto Gelato [in Shelburne]. We’re also going to try and work with Lake Champlain Chocolates this year. Last year they dehydrated some of my figs and dipped them in chocolate and I think they are going to sell those out of their store on Pine Street. And then, people are buying them just out of my greenhouse. I have people who know I’m there and kind of hunt me out. You’ve also recently partnered with Red Wagon Plants. Yes, this year we’re bringing some trees over to them and doing a seminar, kind of a “Fig Growing 101 in Vermont.” There are stores and garden centers up here where you can buy fig trees, but they’re all coming from out of state. Figs seem to hybridize and acclimate to where they are, so there is a value to buying a tree that’s grown in Vermont. I feel that my trees [also for sale, in addition to the fruits] are going to survive a lot better than ones that are coming from Georgia. What’s next for Paradiso Farm? I just put up a larger greenhouse, and I’m starting to plant some in the ground and work on some techniques to keep them alive in the greenhouse over the winter without heating it. And I’ve been roasting coffee on the farm and just launched our new coffee business. Similar to figs, there’s a huge difference between coffee roasted within a week versus what you get at the supermarket. We’re also going to do a cold brew coffee on nitro gas, so it comes out on a tap. It’s potent. So starting this year I’ll be selling fig trees and the coffee at the Richmond Farmers’ Market on Friday nights. At the end of August and into October I’ll also be selling fresh figs.
How are farms like Paradiso influencing the agricultural landscape of Vermont? I think there are a lot of opportunities to be creative. There are things out there that we don’t realize we can grow up here. If you can take advantage of it, you can have a really good market. I try and get my high school students to look at areas of agriculture that maybe they haven’t thought of—areas that are new and upcoming and actually pretty lucrative as far as diversified production. You can get started for not a lot of money or acreage. The reality is, land is expensive and most people aren’t going to be able to go out and buy big plots of land. You can do quite a bit on an acre. Alix O’Meara moved to Vermont 14 years ago, and since then her interest in local food and culture has flourished. She lives in Weybridge with her husband and daughter. Thanks to chef Marc Provencher of Taverna Khione, a Greek restaurant in Shelburne, for providing these fig recipes.
Keik me Sika: Fig Cake butter, for greasing 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon—come holiday season this amount can be more as the cake can take on more cinnamon and be a fruity/nutty winter dessert or breakfast by the fireplace treat 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour 3 teaspoons baking powder 3 eggs, separated ¾ cup sugar 4 tablespoons milk 1 cup chopped walnuts 1 cup chopped almonds 1 cup golden raisins 1 cup chopped fresh figs Preheat oven to 300 °F. Line a standard loaf pan with parchment paper and also grease the paper. Beat the egg whites and add the sugar until stiff peaks form. Add egg yolks one at a time until glossy. Fold in the flour, cinnamon, and baking powder and finish with the milk. Once combined, add the nuts and fruit, taking care not to deflate the batter. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and cook at 300 degrees for an hour or until a toothpick comes out clean and the top of the cake is lightly brown and firm. Let cool on a rack and transfer to a cutting board to slice.
Sika me Manouri: Figs with Manouri Cheese 2-oz. slice of manouri cheese (made from the whey of feta; the best substitution would be halloumi, but if that is not available, you can use warmed feta in the oven, room temperature burrata, or fresh mozzarella) 2 to 4 fresh figs sliced in half Gai’a Assyrtiko vinegar (this is a Greek balsamic vinegar made from Assyrtiko grapes—not easy to find but you can substitute 12-year-old traditional balsamic vinegar) salt and pepper Preheat grill. Season cheese with salt and pepper. Grill cheese for two minutes on each side. Careful not to let it get too hot and melt away. Place figs around the cheese and drizzle with vinegar. Serve warm. Other ideas: A sprinkle of mint works well as a garnish and to add another flavor component. Arugula brings a nice peppery note to it, as well. A grilled piece of bread underneath the cheese and figs makes for a nice openfaced sandwich/bruschetta. Grilling the figs is also an option. If the figs are too ripe or the grill is not hot enough, the figs could stick and ruin the fruit. Be sure to oil the figs and make sure the grill is hot! A quick minute on each side will add a nice char and some smoky notes to the fruit.
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Flock Đance: A new performance piece incorporates Vermont sheep and herding dogs Yesenia Major—who runs Vermont Shepherd sheep dairy with her husband, David—is a dancer at heart. With Spanish, Dominican, and El Salvadorian roots, she grew up in communities where “we were born dancing.” Today, as her life centers around milking sheep and making cheese and raising children, she says everything she does is a dance. “Every day I feel like I’m dancing with the sheep,” she says. “Milking is a dance. Cheesemaking is a dance.” So when asked by Vermont Performance Lab whether a dance-theatre performance could be staged on her farm, using her sheep, she enthusiastically said yes. Doggie Hamlet, an interdisciplinary piece, will be performed on Friday, September 16 and Saturday, September 17 at the Vermont Shepherd farm in Westminster West, using 25 or so of the farm’s ewes. “I love dance and I love people and I love animals, so this project really resonated with my being and the essence of who I am,” Yesenia says. Back in June, Yesenia took a morning away from her busy shepherding schedule to show parts of her land to two people who would be instrumental in developing the sheep performance: Sara Coffey, director of Vermont Performance Lab, and Ann Carlson, a Los Angeles-based dance-theatre artist and choreographer. The trio looked at possible performance sites on the farm and discussed such things as where they would ask audience members to park, how they would provide water to the animals, how sound might carry outside—and perhaps most important, which group of sheep would be used. Ann Carlson is the creator of Doggie Hamlet, which has been developed during a series of residencies over the past two years. The piece weaves together four human dancers, a flock of sheep, a dog handler, and a working herding dog, and tells a story inspired by the 2008 novel The Story of Edgar Sawtelle (which borrows from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book). The story comes alive through the calls of the dog handler, the movement of the sheep flock, the actions of the dancers, and the sounds of string musicians, all enclosed by a fence. Ann says Doggie Hamlet can be adapted to different performance sites—and to different sheep. She intends to tour the show across the United States after the Vermont performances, taking it to different farms and working with different flocks. The dog handler who will appear in the Vermont performances, Diane Cox from western New York, will travel with the show, as will her herding dogs. Yesenia’s sheep— necessary for making Vermont Shepherd’s award-winning cheeses—won’t go “on tour,” but on that June day when they
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top photo by Yasmina Chavez; bottom photo by Meg Lucas
by Caroline Abels
Above: a scene from Doggie Hamlet; below: Ann Carlson and Yesenia Major with a flock of sheep.
Sara Coffey and Ann Carlson discuss logistics at Major Farm. in particular, she values how shepherding is such an ancient practice, and she sees herding dogs as a bridge between humans and sheep. That said, given the unpredictability of how the sheep and the herding dog might move together in a staged show, Vermont Performance Lab is—quite understandably—asking those who come to the September performances to keep their dogs at home. For tickets and information on Doggie Hamlet, please visit vermontperformancelab.org/events. Caroline Abels is the editor of Vermont’s Local Banquet.
top photo by meg lucas; bottom photo by Yasmina Chavez
were discussing their plans for the show, Ann left open the possibility. “Think about that—we could have your sheep come to Central Park,” Ann said to Yesenia, who replied, “That would be amazing!” Back when Ann was looking for an arts organization that could stage Doggie Hamlet, she immediately thought of Vermont Performance Lab, which is based in Guilford and provides a laboratory for the creation of new performance work and community engagement. “I called Sara, because I thought she’d be the first person who wouldn’t say, ‘Forget about it,’” Ann recalls. The two had never worked together, but Ann knew of VPL’s reputation for experimental performance and its thinking outside the box. “There is no box,” Ann says. For her part, Sara Coffey was intrigued by the project because “it’s a perfect way for our laboratory to showcase what people are doing here [in southern Vermont]. The show is also populist—everybody likes dogs and sheep, and some of the things we do are so experimental that each season I like to have a range of work and involve the community. So this felt perfect for us.” Doggie Hamlet is not the first instance of a Vermont farm hosting an arts performance. Farm to Ballet featured classical ballet this summer (and last on a handful) of Vermont farms. And in New York City, an opera staged at the Park Avenue Armory this spring featured a flock of 100 sheep. Ann has created performance pieces with live animals before—horses, goats, rabbits, chickens. She appreciates the exquisite attention that animals pay to the world. With sheep
A scene from a previous residency performance of Doggie Hamlet. Fa l l
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Nicko Rubin with a 100-plus-year-old Bethel apple tree. 14 local banquet
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Vermont Apples: Lost and Found
photo courtesy of East Hill Tree Farm
by Nancy J. Hayden
Roaming the hills and back roads in Vermont at this time of year, you find plenty of apple trees. Most are wild trees, also called seedling trees, spread by wildlife or from dropped apples. Their genetics are a wild card mix of apple DNA. Like people, each seedling tree is unique. Also in Vermont, next to the remains of old homesteads and stone walls, or tucked within regrown forests, you might find what’s left of a 19th- or early-20th-century orchard full of heirloom varieties that were carefully selected and cultivated but whose names have long been forgotten. For apple enthusiasts of all kinds, these wild and “lost” heirloom trees are like presents waiting to be opened. Not all of them will be what you hoped for, but occasionally, one will be. Colin Davis and Dave Dolginow, co-founders of Shacksbury Cider in Shoreham, are two of Vermont’s biggest apple enthusiasts. In 2013, they launched the “Lost Apple Project” to find old trees that could help revive the great American cider orchard. They sampled apples from over a thousand trees around Vermont—both wild and heirloom— and selected dozens to ferment into hard cider. Of those batches, five apple varieties had the hard cider qualities they liked, such as dryness, acidity, and the right amount of tannins and aromatics. Their 2013 hard cider “The 1840,” made from these “lost” apples, was a Good Food Award winner. Colin and crew cut new growth twigs called scion wood from the five trees they liked and grafted those onto rootstock to create hundreds of new apple trees that were recently planted at Sunrise Orchards in Cornwall. Grafting scion wood onto rootstock or onto existing trees ensures that the new trees or new branches will have the same flavor as the tree from which the scion was collected. The rootstock of the tree instills characteristics such as cold hardiness and height into the new tree. Some of the scion wood collected by Shacksbury Cider was also grafted onto existing trees at Windfall Orchard (also in Cornwall). Brad Koehler, owner of Windfall, is also a wild and heirloom apple enthusiast, with 80 different apple varieties in his orchard. He makes ice cider, as well as a Farmhouse Hard Cider in the English hard cider tradition, dry and lightly effervescent. Like Shacksbury Cider, Windfall uses wild yeast for fermentation. Renewed interest in making hard cider at home has also prompted a whole new crop of apple enthusiasts. Hard cider apple varieties are having a resurgence in nurseries for the “grow-it-yourself crowd.” Orchardists are planting blocks of heirloom trees to meet the needs of this growing market, and hard cider workshops and talks are filled to capacity.
Not all of today’s apple enthusiasts are looking for the next best cider apple, though. Many people want to restore some of the forgotten varieties and their history to our modern-day palettes. Apple trees took thousands of years and thousands of miles to travel from the apple-forested hills of Kazakhstan, where they are believed to have originated, to the mapleforested hills of Vermont. Like the European honeybee and dandelions, they were brought to the new world by the European colonists and to Vermont in the 18th century. Nearly every farm and homestead had apple trees, and often a whole apple orchard. Some of these were seedling trees, but many were grafted trees of known varieties. There were apples for fresh eating, for cooking, for drying, for storage, and to fill the cider barrels in the cellar. Apples—and hard apple cider—were key components of the 19th-century Vermonter’s diet. Our Vermont predecessors relished the different flavors, the storage capability, and the uses for each variety. In November 2015, a group of 50 or so apple enthusiasts congregated at the home of Dan Breslaw in Corinth and took in a talk by John Bunker, founder of Fedco Seeds in Maine, about the importance of finding “lost” heirloom apples. The group dubbed themselves the “Vermont Apple Detectives” and created a listserve so they could stay in touch about varieties they might discover in the future. Although the group is just getting started, members hope to organize tastings, scion wood exchanges, and grafting workshops in the future. Still other enthusiasts are looking for “lost” heirlooms and wild apple trees not just because of their flavor and history, but because of their cold hardiness and disease resistance. Orchardist and nursery owner Nicko Rubin, of East Hill Tree Farm in Plainfield, grows, grafts, and sells a number of different apple tree varieties old and new, including those for cider and fresh eating. He focuses on tree varieties that do well in Vermont and are disease resistant. He’s discovered a seedling tree that is great for fresh eating and stores well but produces apples that are relatively small as apples go. Because he discovered this wild tree, he gets to name it. He calls it “Juice Box.” Vermont’s most famous apple is perhaps an elusive one called the “Bethel,” which originated in the town of Bethel sometime in the 1800s. Buzz Ferver, landscape designer and nursery owner from Perfect Circle Farm & Nursery in Barre (and another apple enthusiast), recently shared with me the Fairmount Nursery and Fruit Farm Catalog from 1888 (E.E. Andrews, Proprietor). In the catalog, Andrews talks about the Continued on page 25
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Regenerative Agriculture Taking Root in Vermont by Katie Spring In 2012, new farmers Jesse McDougall and his wife, Cally, decided not to spray the kinds of chemical pesticides and fertilizers that had long been applied to their hayfields in Shaftsbury. Their 50-acre farm, which had been in Cally’s family since 1936, was previously managed by her Aunt Edie for nearly 40 years, using a management style that mirrored many Vermont farms growing corn and hay: a mix of chemicals, tillage, and re-planting. Expecting their meadow ecosystem to rebound after the chemicals were stopped, Jesse and Cally were quite unprepared for what actually happened next: rather than becoming green pasture full of wildlife, their fields dried up and the grass turned brown—in the middle of a Vermont summer. “It got to the point in 2013 that you could walk from one end of a 10-acre field to another without stepping on grass,” Jesse says of their first full season on the farm. “What used to be lush, green, beautiful fields were now turning to desert, and it was terrifying.” As novice farmers, they weren’t sure what to do next, but even as they faced the loss of their hay crop, they stuck with their commitment to farm without chemicals. “We called all the farmers we knew and asked, ‘How do we manage 50 acres of hayfield without chemicals?’” Jesse recalls. “No one knew… Then we went down our own path of research and came across Allan Savory’s TED talk.” The talk summarizes ecologist Allan Savory’s research into the desertification of African grasslands. He concludes that grazing animals play an integral part in restoring soils, and therefore in restoring grassland ecosystems. During the talk, Jesse and Cally realized that everything happening in Africa—such as the dying back of grasses and the appearance of moss and green slime coating the ground—was happening on their farm. Even their spreading of manure on the fallow fields failed when, devoid of any way to mix into the layers of soil, the manure burned off in the sun. After watching the TED talk and at Cally’s suggestion, the couple decided to put animals back on their land, even though they still weren’t sure they could get good hay from land that animals grazed. They went ahead and turned the cornfields into a poultry pasture, beginning with 50 chickens in coops that were moved twice a day. Within one month, a green strip of lush grass ran down the field. Eventually, Jesse and Cally sold their chickens for meat, and suddenly they were economically and ecologically onto something. “We dumped the expense of chemicals and tillage and replaced it with a fertilizing revenue stream,” Jesse says.
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The next year, 2014, Jesse and Cally’s Studio Hill Farm produced 300 chickens, 40 turkeys, and 50 sheep. The combination of poultry and sheep, rotationally grazing, allowed the regeneration of 20 acres of hayfields. Before the experiment—just after the chemicals stopped—hay production had been down 80 percent on the fields without animals. But in fields where animals grazed, Jesse and Cally saw five full growths of tall, lush grass, and those fields came roaring back in the spring. In just one season, the hay bale count was back up to where it had been when Aunt Edie was in charge, but the grass they cut was greener, leafier, and more nutritious than ever before. Studio Hill is not alone in its pursuit of regenerative agriculture. Regenerative International, which launched in 2014 in the aftermath of the Paris Climate Summit, is a nonprofit dedicated to increasing regenerative practices throughout the world; Studio Hill is a member farm of the organization. Regeneration Vermont, a newly formed state chapter of the international organization, has a goal of shifting Vermont agricultural practices to a regenerative model. According to Regeneration International, “The key to regenerative agriculture is that it not only ‘does no harm’ to the land but actually improves it, using technologies that regenerate and revitalize the soil and the environment. Regenerative agriculture leads to healthy soil, capable of producing high-quality, nutrient dense food while simultaneously improving, rather than degrading land, and ultimately leading to productive farms and healthy communities and economies.” A key foundation and goal of regenerative agriculture is its ability to decrease carbon levels in the atmosphere by sequestering carbon in the soil, thereby turning the agricultural industry into a solution for climate change. Regenerative practices also improve water quality and increase a land’s ability to withstand both flood and drought. This happens through the building of soil and organic matter, and on farms like Studio Hill, soil is built as livestock graze, drop manure, and subsequently work that manure into the soil. Chickens and turkeys work the top layer as they scratch, while sheep incorporate matter into deeper layers with their weight and hooves. If this makes you imagine a prairie ecosystem, filled with grouse and bison, that’s because it’s modeled after it. Regenerative practices can happen on vegetable farms, too; such farms often keep livestock on the side, and runoff and erosion can easily happen. And vegetable farmers can utilize regenerative practices such as covering bare soil, using
photos courtesy of Studio Hill Farm
cover crops, reducing tillage, and including crop rotations, even if they don’t have animals on their farm. Jesse’s experience eventually led him to pitch the idea of a “Regenerative Agriculture Certification” to his Vermont state senator, Brian Campion, who in turn worked with Jesse to write and introduce a bill to the Senate Agriculture Committee during the 2015–2016 legislative session. “My initial impetus to write the bill came while sitting in a hayfield, making hay, thinking about how much work it is to do this regenerative agriculture,” Jesse recalls. While his conventional farming counterparts keep animals in a pen or an open barn, Jesse spends many hours rotating animals on pasture, which demands more time, takes more human hours, and can therefore be a more expensive way to farm (speaking strictly in monetary terms). Jesse hoped a new certification could help get the idea of regenerative ag into the mindsets of consumers, who might then be willing to pay a premium for regenerative products, much in the way certified organic products can garner higher prices for farmers. Jesse thought that with this monetary pathway, farmers might be more willing to implement regenerative practices. It is possible, of course, for livestock farmers to become certified organic and attain those higher prices, but Jesse wanted more than that. He wanted to spark a conversation about how food can either improve or degrade the environment, and to give consumers a new way to support family farms and fight against climate change. While most people in the organic movement would contend that certified organic farming is also regenerative, Jesse doesn’t necessarily agree, pointing out that “industrial organic” seeks to emulate the streamlined, pared-down efficiencies of factories over complex natural systems. ”Certifiable organic does not always mean regenerative,” he argues. Maddie Monty, policy advisor at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT), believes otherwise. Just as soil is the foundation of regenerative agriculture, she says, “soil health and maintaining or improving soil fertility over time is one of the key foundations of organic. There are a lot of practices already required under organic production methods that do some of that work of building soil health, which in turn improves and protects water quality and also can store carbon. Common practices like cover cropping, crop rotation, and buffer zones are already incorporated into organic standards. More innovative practices like no-till can lend themselves to raising the bar on the standards that organic has already set.” During the Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on Jesse’s proposed bill, Maddie testified on behalf of NOFA-VT, arguing that creating another certification is not the way to go right now. In a phone interview, she said that, “While NOFA and VOF [Vermont Organic Farmers, the certification wing of NOFA-VT] are very supportive of farmers using regenerative practices, and innovating and managing their land in ways that can store carbon and build soil, we don’t believe the right approach is to build another certification program. The process of creating a certification takes a very long time, and it would take a long time to develop a market demand for that certification, whereas organic as been around long enough—and frankly,
Studio Hill Farm consumers to some extent are still not aware of everything that is involved in organic. Regenerative agriculture is not as well recognized and well established in the minds of consumers, so my concern would be farmers paying in to be certified in a program that wouldn’t pay them back with that market premium.” While it’s possible to create a certification program outside of the legislative process, Jesse went to the state in part because he ran into strict labeling rules from the slaughterhouse he uses, which is overseen by the state, and inspectors did not understand what regenerative agriculture meant. A bill would clearly define the term and allow him to market his products as regenerative on the packaging. More important, though, Jesse says: “I went to the state because I think it is in the interest of all Vermonters to support farms that enhance and strengthen our shared natural resources.” The bill, which received testimony from both farmers and nonprofit agriculture groups, did not pass out of committee, largely because it was introduced during the second year of the legislative biennium with no co-sponsor, and it is rare for a bill to make it into law in one year, especially one without a wide range of support from legislators. The bill called for the VAAFM to act as the certifying agency, although agency staff testified that they do not have the time or resources to do this, nor should they be tasked with both regulating and certifying farms. Questions also arose regarding how to prove if a farm is building soil and sequestering carbon; it was decided that more research was needed on how to definitively declare a farm regenerative. But Jesse was surprised that the bill got as far as it did. Jesse and Senator Campion are now working on a new draft of the bill, to introduce during the next legislative session. Although they were still working out the details as of this writing, the new bill will try to incentivize farmers to switch to regenerative ag. As Studio Hill Farm was making its transition to regenerative agriculture, the state of Vermont was acknowledging a crisis in its waterways. In 2015, Act 64—known as the Clean Water Bill— Continued on page 23
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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Rob Rock demonstrating the
prone weeder; full view of the prone weeder; Rob on top of his pedal-powered flame weeder; close-up of the digiseeder.
Crafty Cultivation by Laura Sorkin
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The old adage says, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” but the small farmer’s credo would be a lot more specific: “A sore back will get you scheming for a better way.” Farmers who run CSA and market operations spend a lot of time on their hands and knees, tending to crops that differ from bed to bed. For example, while carrots may require delicate hand weeding and 18 inches between rows, summer squash will hog the whole bed with one center row and only need broad sweeps of cultivating along the sides. Tomatoes, leeks, lettuces—they all require different cultivation methods. When you consider the diversity of the average market vegetable farm, a tractor attachment that addresses all of these crops is hard to find. And the big tractor companies—that sell machinery to commodity farms, where uniformity allows easy tractor access—have not shown much interest in devising machines that improve efficiency on small-scale farms. As a result, small farms that raise diverse crops rely a great deal on human labor to plant, weed, and harvest. It is only fitting, then, that a small-scale Vermont farmer, with mechanical aptitude, has
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photos by laura Sorkin
A Burlington farmer invents machines that ease the burdens of farm labor
stepped in to fill the need. Rob Rock of Burlington is currently starting up a line of human-friendly, earth-friendly machines designed specifically for the small grower. If all goes well for his new company, UpstreamAg, there may be some back relief coming to local farmers soon. Rob, 36, has been farming at the Intervale in Burlington for 13 years. Although not from an agricultural background, he started volunteering with a gleaning project while a student at University of Vermont in the late 1990s. He found himself pulled to agriculture so strongly that he took a year off from college to work on a farm full time and never went back. To broaden his ag experience, he spent a year at an organic peach farm near Los Angeles and lived in Oregon and New York City for a spell. But Vermont called him back and he settled in Burlington specifically to work at the Intervale. There, he worked at Arethusa Farm and Maggie’s Tomato Patch before starting his own Pitchfork Farm with a business partner and friend, Eric Seitz. Today he cultivates 14 acres and sells more
The redesigned salad spinner
than 80 varieties of vegetables to restaurants and stores as well as through his own CSA. Rob says he has appreciated the innovation of farmers since his first days in agriculture. “Right from the get-go I saw there was a feeling of just, ‘Let’s make it up,’” he says. For example, when a ground pump at Maggie’s Tomato Patch was nearly stolen one night, Rob recalled owner Spencer Blackwell finding scrap metal to weld an iron cage over the pump the next day. He was amazed at the on-the-spot ingenuity and immediately set about to acquire the skills needed to have that versatility. He took a welding course at Essex High School Adult Division and was hired right away to do odd jobs. In the winter, he worked in set design for shows in the Burlington area, which gave him skills in mechanics and engineering. In 2006, while working at Arethusa, Rob began tinkering with farm implements in an attempt to improve the efficiency of the work. His first contraption was a pedal-powered mini cultivator that he built using funds from a SARE grant. The
cultivator had basket weeder attachments that uprooted weeds between the rows, but rather than being attached to a tractor, was incorporated into a cycling system that the farmer pedaled to move down the bed. “It worked okay,” Rob recalls. “The biggest problem in design is the human factor. You have to make sure it is comfortable. The first model really hurt the lower back, and at the time I didn’t have the skills to fix it, so I went back to the drawing board.” Actually, he went to the computer. He taught himself (CAD) Computer-Aided Design/Drafting and presently considers it his most useful tool. “Now I would never start without first drawing on the computer. It solves problems without first burying money in materials.” He became a member at Burlington Generator, a designer’s incubator on Main Street in Burlington that has 3D printers and workspaces available to rent. His previous implements had been built using old parts of other equipment. Rob now wanted to build something entirely new, and the project he aimed for next was an electric powered prone weeder. It allows the worker to lie face down in a comfortable position while having both hands free to weed twice as fast, which solves two problems: it’s easier on the body, and it’s more efficient. (Pedal power would have made it an even more attractive concept, but Rob found that the human energy required to run the contraption did not fit his mandate of making the job easier on the body.) Bringing it all together was not so simple, though. “I have a farm, so we slap stuff together all the time,” Rob says. “But to take something out of thin air and have it work was a lot bigger than I thought. You have to be incredibly tenacious to hang with something to get it right. If I hadn’t farmed and had that stubborn personality, I don’t think I could have made it work.” He labored on the prone weeder in his free time, on and off, for four years, tweaking it until it worked to his satisfaction. The resulting machine would make any farmer who has spent hours bending, crouching, and leaning sigh with envy. There is space for two people who lie face down along cushioned bars. An open space for the head allows a worker to see the crops below and keeps both hands free to weed or transplant. The frame is on wheels that can straddle the average 4-ft. bed, and between the two workers the entire bed is within reach. The cushioned supports are infinitely adjustable to fit nearly any sized body. Powered by a rechargeable battery, the machine is moved using a lever that one pushes with the foot as needed. When powered, it uses about the same energy as a low-watt lightbulb. Rob is clearly pleased with the final result and his farm employees are even more delighted, arguing daily over who gets to use it. He is just about ready to start marketing it, although he has not yet decided on a price. Economies of scale dictate that he would need a minimum order of at least five units to invest in materials at a low price. When asked whether he would borrow money or find investors, Rob revealed a reluctance to take any financial risks when it comes Continued on page 23
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seeds for change
Devin Smith demonstrates the tree planting technique; volunteers selecting bare root seedlings for planting.
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by Bonnie North
The Saxtons River in southern Vermont is barely 23 miles long. It rises to the east of Glebe Mountain in Windham and meanders through Grafton and its namesake, the village of Saxtons River, on its way to join the Connecticut River. It’s what many folks would think of as merely a good-size creek—a delightful watercourse that sparkles and spills over three locally beloved waterfalls. But on August 28, 2011, when Tropical Storm Irene hit parts of Vermont with almost 10 inches of rain, the waters of the Saxtons River rose up in an uncontrollable torrent of historic proportions. The river tore through the village, destroying homes, ruining fields, tossing aside fences, wrecking bridges, and scouring and undercutting the banks of the river. According to the National Weather Service, the Saxtons River reached a record flood stage of 19.7 feet. Local measurements claimed it was even higher, reaching 21 feet in some spots. At one particularly devastated area along Route 121, you can still see the driveways that once led to three homes. These homes were washed away during Irene, and the land was deemed unsuitable to rebuild on. In an effort to restore that particular part of the village, the home sites and their development rights were purchased through an arrangement between the Town of Rockingham (which includes Saxtons River Village), the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). An agreement was made that the land become publicly accessible and that the riparian buffers there be preserved or improved. This past May, more than five-and-a-half years after Irene, a community-wide effort to meet the terms of the restoration agreement was finally coordinated, in part by a newly formed group called Small Acts Permaculture. Seeking to build bridges between permaculturists like himself and the scientific and policy-making communities, one of the founders of Small Acts Permaculture, Devin Smith, attended a meeting of the Rockingham Conservation Commission. At that meeting, possible grant funding for “watershed resilience projects” was discussed, and Devin soon became a member of the Conservation Commission. Working with the Saxtons River Watershed Collaborative and a number of other interested partners, including the Windham Regional Commission and the Windham County Natural Resources Conservation District, the commission pulled together funding for the riverside effort. Small Acts worked hard to spark community awareness about the project and rounded up enthusiastic support for cooperatively rebuilding a healthy riparian buffer along the river to combat further erosion and destruction. Although permaculture is most commonly used on farms and homesteads, its principles are applicable to everything we do in life. The ethical basis of permaculture is to develop designs and implement systems that will remain healthy and sustainable for many generations to come. Much of this sustainability is achieved by imitating what we see occurring in nature. Establishing healthy riparian buffers is an integral part of any permaculture approach, which always places special emphasis on the importance of “edges.” The edge effect is an ecological concept that recognizes there is greater diversity of life in the region where the edges of two adjacent ecosystems overlap, such as land/water. At this edge you can find species from both ecosystems, as well as unique species that aren’t found in either but are specially adapted to the conditions of the transition zone. As edges, healthy riparian forests are extremely fecund habitats with an astonishing amount of diversity that provides food and shelter to mammals, birds, amphibians, and fish. In our region, many of our farms, houses, and roadways have always been situated alongside our waterways, meaning that many of our originally healthy riparian forests have been displaced or seriously disturbed.
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photos by meg lucas
Small Acts Bring Permaculture Out of the Backyard and into the Community
photo of Craig Metzler by peter bergstrom
Planting day, May 6 this year, was perfect—sunny and seasonally pleasant. Eager citizens and students from local high schools got down and dirty on the reclaimed Saxtons River properties, settling more than 400 young seedlings into the soil and lugging bag after bag of good mulch to give the trees nutrients and protection while getting established. The Trees for Stream Program contributed to the purchase of the trees and additional support came from the High Meadows Fund and HB Energy Solutions, as well as ECO AmeriCorps, which sent a crew of volunteers to lend a strong hand on planting day. By mid-summer, Devin Smith estimated that 80 to 90 percent of the trees planted were established and growing—a very good survival rate. The permaculture practice of heavy mulching surely helped the young seedlings survive a long dry spell at the beginning of the season. Interestingly, Conservation Commission member Peter Bergstrom notes that the rapid growth of knotweed—perhaps the most thoroughly despised invasive in our region—seemed to have offered much-needed shade for them as well. Maybe nature knows something we need to understand? What we often call “invasive species” are in some cases simply opportunistic pioneers that spontaneously appear to naturally and slowly rebuild soils when a damaged ecosystem strives to recover. Devin Smith maintains that, “The often untold story is that in New England 80 percent of the land was cleared. We are not looking at the forest that was originally here. Ecology happens, no matter what—thank goodness it does! We need to learn to work with what is, as we try to become better stewards.” Small Acts Permaculture’s plan for the Saxtons River project is to improve the health and resilience of the site while addressing a constellation of ecological issues. SAP is focused on bringing in even more edible native floodplain species, such as hackberry, blueberry, elderberries, and chokecherry. The group hopes to eventually enlist landowners adjacent to the site to participate in an effort to create connectivity and wildlife corridors along the river. A second planting being planned for next spring will expand the riparian area to at least 35 feet from the banks. Long-term goals are to make the site a place where there is immediate community engagement with the important issues of conservation and ecological restoration in our region—always with a focus on the three Basic Ethics of Permaculture: care of the earth, care of the people, and share of the wealth. Small Acts Permaculture meetings are open to all. They generally take place on the third Sunday of each month, downstairs in the Saxtons River Community Building (located at Christ’s Church) at 501 Main Street. You can also follow the progress of the Saxtons River riparian site at their Facebook page: Small Acts Permaculture. Bonnie North received her Permaculture Designer’s Certificate in 1996, studying with West Coast teachers Jude Hobbs, Rick Valley, and Tom Ward. She received a Permaculture Teacher’s Certificate from teacher Dave Jacke in 2010. She now lives in southern Vermont.
Craig Metzler pumping water from the river for irrigation; mulch cloth being applied around the base of the young plants to increase water retention.
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CRAFTY CULTIVATION Continued from page 19
to his inventions. Like many farmers, he has had tough years. Tropical Storm Irene set him back in 2011 when he lost a good portion of his crops to flooding, and in 2013 he suffered another flood in early July that nearly wiped him out; because of the devastation, his income that year was $5,000. “I was totally broke and it really shook me up,” he says. It’s understandable why he would want to make sure he has a solid, low-risk financial plan for launching his implements. (He has so far received a grant from the Vermont Farm Fund.) The prone weeder is only one of Rob’s inventions. He’s created an app for printing out labels that identify the details of produce delivered to stores and restaurants. He is even more animated about this product, because it alleviates a small but constant headache for farmers who have to deal with more paperwork than one might guess. Another invention, called the Digiseeder, integrates a smart phone that uses Bluetooth to communicate with a seeder attachment on a tractor. All of the year’s previous seeding information, with notes for each crop, is kept in the Cloud, which the phone calls up when needed. The phone can then be inserted into a seeding device that spreads the seeds perfectly.
He has also devised an improved lettuce spinner for mesclun greens that is easier to clean and operate than the standard, which is typically a washing machine set on the spin cycle. Rob says that despite his tough years in farming, he will always want to do it but he is also compelled to grow UpstreamAg as a hedge against agricultural uncertainty. Ideally he would like to do both. “Good farm design has to be integrated and connected to a farm,” he insists. “How could you do either in isolation? Technology is with us now and massive farms are benefiting. It would be a shame if small farms didn’t have access to that new technology.” But technology will never replace the deep satisfaction that comes from growing food. Despite Rob’s predilection for tech, his heart remains with farming. I asked if it would be possible for the success of UpstreamAg to consume all of his time. He replied, “I suppose it could turn into something that might take over.” Then he smiled. “But the impulse to plant crops would win.”
REGENERATIVE Continued from page 17
Lake Champlain, of course they’re going to be preoccupied with manure, because the biggest problems with runoff are from the biggest farms, and those are the ones that are managed [with large-scale manure storage].” Shortly after the regenerative agriculture bill was tabled, VAAFM announced a new Environmental Stewardship Program in response to Act 64. It is aimed at improving water quality through the use of regenerative practices. Although the focus of the RAPs is on water and how to reduce water pollution, farmers and advocates who support regenerative agriculture continually come back to soil as the answer. Soil is the base of all agriculture, and soil loss is a big culprit when it comes to water pollution. Regenerative practices such as grazing, cover cropping, and no-till help to build soil and improve water quality by decreasing erosion and increasing the soil’s ability to both absorb excess water in times of flood and hold onto water in times of drought. Whether a regenerative certification happens in Vermont, and whether the topic ever becomes part of the consumer conversation through a future regenerative agriculture bill or through a deeper understanding of organic farming, regenerative practices are taking root for the better. And as the soil benefits, so too will all of us.
was signed into law. Written to address the increasingly polluted state of Vermont’s surface water, the law recognizes agriculture’s role as a polluter of Lake Champlain and its tributaries, and instructs the Vermont Agency of Agriculture to rewrite the current Accepted Agricultural Practices, transition them into Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs), and expand the number of farms that are required to comply with certification requirements by creating a “small farm certification” (there is currently a medium and large farm certification requirement). Because the updates to the RAPs represent substantial changes to agricultural policy in Vermont, there was a push for inclusion of—and an incentive toward—regenerative practices, as well as an acknowledgement of the risks associated with non-regenerative management styles. Although the RAPs include increasing buffer zones between fields and waterways, and increasing the use of cover crops, they focus heavily on the management of manure and how to limit runoff rather than how to shift management styles away from the animal confinement model currently used on the majority of dairy farms. This is Jesse’s main issue with the RAPs. “It villainizes manure; in the writing and presentation of the RAPs, they spend the majority of the restrictions on manure. Where you can store, when you can spread, when and where you can graze animals. It gives the false impression that manure is a problem. Manure is not the problem—it’s the answer... Put animals back on the ground, and out of the barn. Focus on fields, increase organic matter and water retention, and decrease runoff.” Andrew Bahrenburg, organizer for Rural Vermont, agrees, but understands why the RAPs focus so heavily on manure: “Because the RAPs are addressing agriculture’s contribution to
Laura Sorkin lives in Cambridge with her husband and two children. She has run her own organic farm since 2001 and helps with her husband’s maple operation, Runamok Maple.
Katie Spring is co-owner of Good Heart Farmstead in Worcester, a CSA farm with a mission to make local food more accessible. She finds time to write in between pulling weeds and sowing seeds. Follow the farm on Instagram: @goodheartfarmstead. Disclosure: The author is also a board member of Rural Vermont.
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Grafting Shacksbury scion wood at Windfall Orchard; Shacksbury team scouting roadside apples in Ripton
photos by Michael Tallman Photography
APPLES Continued from page 15
Bethel as a choice winter variety, excellent in flavor. For his part, Nicko has a 100-plus-year-old Bethel tree on his farm from which he propagates and sells new trees. He likes the Bethel for its “firm and sweet fruits, which are good well into winter.” It’s not easy to find the next great apple. Colin Davis from Shacksbury Cider likens it to winning the lottery. In the old days, those lottery wins were shared with friends and neighbors. It’s not surprising then, that when a Franklin man found an exciting apple tree growing in his field and had it patented through one of the big national nurseries, he raised the eyebrows of some Vermont apple enthusiasts. Patenting counters the tradition of sharing the apple lottery with others, who can then freely propagate it, and it also promotes the idea that life is patentable. The tree, called the Franklin Cider, will soon be on sale through Stark Brothers. So the next time you come across apple trees growing along a fence row or on the side of the road, go ahead and take a bite. (An apple is ripe when the seeds inside are brown.) Don’t get discouraged if it’s a “spitter.” If it’s dry and acidic, it might make a great hard cider. If it holds onto the tree well into December and seems to get sweeter over time, it could be a great storage apple. Then let your friends and other apple enthusiasts know. You can also register “lost” trees on Shacksbury Cider’s website and be part of their Lost Apple Project. Share your discovery. You never know when you might find the next great apple. Nancy J. Hayden and her husband own and operate The Farm Between, an organic fruit farm and fruit nursery in Jeffersonville. They, too, are apple enthusiasts.
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Celebrating the landscape and lore of the American East and West. On view August 6th - October 13th
Open daily from 11-4!
until Oct. 13th
Celebrate the arts! Featuring 120 Vermont artists in a historic grist mill by beautiful Caspian Lake
Learn more: http://vcgn.org/communitycompost
Resources for Communities & Schools VTGardenNetwork Technical Assistance & Consulting Food & Garden Education 802.861.4769•email@example.com
W. David Powell, “Varieties of Vision” digital print
14 Breezy Ave, Greensboro VT (802)533-2045
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Slow and Steady: Vermont’s “Snail of Approval” The Williamsville Eatery’s website features a list of local farms and food purveyors that’s even longer than its menus. The impressive list shows where the Eatery buys its local food—but the length of the list is just one reason why the two-year-old restaurant has earned a “Snail of Approval” certification. “Snail of Approval” is a program of Slow Food Vermont. It’s a certification awarded to restaurants, bars, food and beverage producers, stores, and markets that have been deemed “outstanding among peers” and that contribute to “the quality, authenticity, and sustainability of Vermont’s food supply.” So while local sourcing is important for the certification, so is seasonality, taste, low environmental impact, fair business and labor practices, support of humane farming, and community engagement. The criteria is very much in keeping with that of Slow Food USA and Slow Food International, parent organizations to Slow Food Vermont. With chapters around the world, Slow Food is an international movement that seeks to highlight and protect high-quality regional foods that are in danger of disappearing in today’s fast food world (hence the phrase “slow food”). Snails of Approval are awarded by Slow Food chapters in many American states. In Vermont, eight restaurants and/or food
Celebrate our 75th Anniversary at this year’s Lantern Supper! Friday September 9, 2016 6 p.m. Putney Central School
producers have earned a Snail so far—Kismet, Juniper Bar and Restaurant, Hen of the Wood-Waterbury, Misery Loves Company, Eden Ice Cider, Mary’s at the Inn at Baldwin Creek, Bee Sting Bakery, and the Williamsville Eatery. Certification is valid for two years, and a site visit is conducted by Slow Food Vermont board members. In the case of the Williamsville Eatery, their application for a Snail (which they provided to Local Banquet) reveals a restaurant that mirrors much of what’s happening in Vermont’s local food scene. Chef-owners Glenn Richardson and Dylan Richardson (father and son) forage for mushrooms, ramps, and fiddleheads; they compost and keep raised garden beds on site; they use eggs from their own chickens; they cook from scratch; they cook with ingredients appropriate to the season; and one day they hope to extend the season by drying, pickling, and freezing many local foods. Their “eclectic and rustic fare” is centered around pizza whose crust is made from organic wheat grown and milled by Nitty Gritty Grain in Charlotte. At their Thursday-through-Sunday dinners, served inside Williamsville’s former general store, they also serve cheeses from Maplebrook Farm in Bennington, prepare meats from Black River Meats, use organic black beans from Vermont Bean Crafters…and the list goes on. Lauri Richardson (Glenn’s wife, Dylan’s mom) says the Snail of Approval application process was rigorous but she appreciates how Slow Food Vermont considers the “whole consciousness” of the restaurant. “The process was stimulating and valuable for articulating and reviewing where we are thus far in our endeavor, and the goal setting was inspiring,” Lauri says. To learn more about other Snail recipients, or for details about the Snail of Approval application process, visit slowfoodvermont.org. —Caroline Abels
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Lunch and Dinner Menu - Homemade Desserts - Kid’s Menu Vermont Microbrews - Rick’s Famous Pizza
Live Music on Saturdays www.rickstavernvt.com Route 30, Newfane, VT 802–365–4310 Closed Tuesday
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Magnificent Mushrooms by Jimmy Horton Champlain Valley Mushrooms Many of us are brought up to fear mushrooms. Often to the point of never thinking of them as the wonderful, delicious, and nutritious food they are. Many people I talk to are surprised to find out that they can eat more than just the common button mushrooms that are found in almost all grocery stores. But who can blame them? Those mushrooms are often the only choice! But the fact is, there are hundreds of choice edible mushrooms out there. Here at Champlain Valley Mushrooms we love fungus! My partner, Heather Ewing, and I started cultivating mushrooms about four years ago and have been growing our knowledge and our farm ever since. Currently we’re producing oyster, shiitake, lion’s mane, and wine cap mushrooms. Each one of these mushrooms is unique and requires its own method of cultivation. It’s amazing what can be used to grow oyster mushrooms. Coffee grounds, wood pellets (sawdust), straw, and even toilet paper are just a few mediums that offer enough nutrition for the wonderful oyster mushrooms to thrive. We grow our oyster mushrooms on pasteurized wheat straw mixed with mushroom spawn (seed) that is packed into plastic sleeves. Holes are then poked in the bags where the mushrooms will grow. From start to finish, the mushrooms will grow in a month’s time into big, beautiful mushroom bouquets. Shiitakes, on the other hand, have a much pickier diet, preferring freshly cut hardwood logs. To start, we cut down dormant trees in the winter before the sap starts running. When the weather warms up a bit, we begin inoculating the logs. This includes drilling holes, filling them with spawn, and sealing the holes with wax. We then wait an entire year for the logs to be ready to produce shiitake mushrooms. Although this is our preferred method of cultivation, shiitakes will also grow
on hardwood sawdust. Personally, I believe the shiitakes grown from a hardwood log are superior to a sawdust-grown shiitake in flavor and beauty. Learning about mushrooms and fungus has been a great experience. They are everywhere we are, in one form or another. With each breath, we inhale spores so small they can only be seen under a microscope. Under the earth’s surface we walk on mycelium (mushroom roots), which grow in all directions undetected. It is easy to forget how intricate and interconnected our planet truly is. Living day to day, I feel fortunate to have a job that always keeps me thinking, learning, and experiencing life close to the roots (or to the mycelium...) of our humble planet. And honestly, I just really enjoy eating the mushrooms of my labor! Champlain Valley Mushrooms is located in Orwell. You can find our mushrooms on Saturdays at the Rutland Farmers’ Market, Sundays at the Dorset Farmers’ Market, and at Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op. Check us out on Facebook– facebook.com/cvmushrooms.
photos courtesy of Champlain Valley Mushrooms
Mushroom and Duck Egg Quiche 9–inch pie crust 6 duck eggs (or 8 chicken eggs) 1 cup milk 2 cups cheddar cheese, grated 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tablespoon butter 1 onion, chopped 3 cloves garlic, minced ½ pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced ½ pound oyster mushrooms, sliced ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (optional) ½ teaspoon dried thyme ½ teaspoon dried rosemary 1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon pepper Preheat oven to 375 °F. In a large skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, 5 minutes or so. Add the butter, mushrooms, salt, pepper, and herbs and cook until tender, approximately 10 minutes. Add garlic and remove from heat. In a large mixing bowl beat the eggs and milk. Mix in the grated cheese and mushroom mixture. Roll out the pie crust and put it in a pie pan. Pour the egg and mushroom mixture into the shell. Bake the quiche for 1 hour, until the top is lightly browned and the custard is set.
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104 VARIETIES OF APPLES Your Locally Grown, Community Owned Grocery Store Since 1976! Open 7 Days 8am–7pm 9 Washington Street 388-7276 middlebury.coop
A Wood-Fired Artisan Bakery In Alstead, NH Available in Stores & Farmers’ Markets Throughout the Region
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Champlain Orchards & Cidery, Shoreham VT (802) 897-2777
Food, Farm, Lodging & Agritourism Marketing Marketing Plans Branding Print Packaging Websites Social Media 802-485-7274
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Putney Farmers’ Market Sundays 11 am - 2 pm May 29 - October 9 Carol Brown Way, across from the Putney Food Co-op PutneyFarmersMarket.org
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Winter Farmers Market Sundays Nov 20 & 27, Dec 4, 11 & 18 11 am - 2 pm at Green Mountain Orchard
Mon - Sat 7–9, Sun 9–9 2 Main St, Brattleboro BrattleboroFoodCoop.coop
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Fresh Taste Local Flavors
(130 West Hill Rd, Putney)
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C A L E N D A R Friday, September 9
Baking with Local Grains, 4:30–6:30pm Join NOFA-VT and Slow Food Vermont for an educational baking session with King Arthur Flour. Learn how to use local grains for baking using their outdoor wood-fired oven. You’ll have a chance to work with local dough and create amazing baked goods in the wood-fired oven. King Arthur Flour Bakery, School and Store, 135 US-5, Norwich. kingarthurflour.com 802-827-6836
Saturday, September 10
The Many Meanings of Maple, 2pm Champlain College professor Michael Lange will discuss sugaring ethnographically, based on more than five years of research among sugarmakers all over the state, to learn from them what sugaring really means to Vermont. Rather than discussing the practical aspects of sugaring, his talk focuses on how and why maple has become so important to Vermont’s identity, and how and why it helps us shape who we are as Vermonters. Green Mountain Perkins Academy and Historical Association, 1 Academy Circle, South Woodstock. greenmountainperkinsacademy.org 802-457-3251
Sunday, September 11
3rd Annual “Bee Here Now,” 10am–2pm Learn more about the role of bees in our food production and what threatens bee populations. Our “Shelburne Poet Laureate” Rick Basset will be reading a selection of poems. Vermont Beekeepers Association will be educating. Check out the observation hive and join our family-friendly activities. For more info, please check out our website for the schedule and speakers. Shelburne Orchards, 216 Orchard Road, Shelburne. ShelburneOrchards.com 802-985-2753
Thursday, September 15
Celebrate Your Farmer Social: Meadowdale Farm, 5:30–7:30pm Join the Farmer Veteran Coalition and NOFA-VT for farm-fresh pizza and a celebration of Meadowdale Farm and the veteran farmers. Meadowdale Farm is a diversified, small family farm. Come enjoy the feast cooked in NOFA-VT’s wood-fired oven, engage and meet your community, and learn more about the farm. Meadowdale Farm, 16 Spring Hill Road, Putney. facebook.com/Meadowdale-Farm-10150125546975144/
Sunday, September 25
15th Annual Pie Fest, 11am–2:30pm Folks can enter a predigested apple pie for prizes or stick around to eat the entries. To register a pie, please visit our website home page for the sign up sheet. Once again there will be live music. For more info, see our website. Shelburne Orchards, 216 Orchard Road, Shelburne. ShelburneOrchards.com 802-985-2753
Tuesday, September 27
Wolf Peaches, Poisoned Peas, and Madame Pompadour’s Underwear: The Surprising History of Common Garden Vegetables, 6:30pm Common garden vegetables have long and fascinating histories. Science and history writer Rebecca Rupp will discuss the stories behind many of our favorites, among them the much-maligned tomato and potato, the (mostly) popular pumpkin, and Vermont’s dynamic duo of kale and Gilfeather turnip. Find out why a lot of us don’t like beets, how a 17th-century pirate named the bell pepper, how carrots won the Trojan War, and how George Washington was nearly assassinated with a plate of poisoned peas. Orwell Free Library, 473 Main Street, Orwell. orwellfreelibrary.org 802-948-2041
Saturday, October 1
Putting the Garden to Bed, 9am–12pm Assist with preparing the kitchen and ornamental garden beds for winter and the next growing season. Master Gardeners can earn outreach hours. Please dress appropriately. Bring pruning shears, weeding tool, and a kneeling mat. No registration required. Call for more information. In collaboration with the Friends of the Morrill Homestead. Justin Morrill Homestead, 214 Justin Morrill Hwy, Strafford. morrillhomestead.org 802-765-4288
Saturday, October 1
Plymouth Notch Antique Apple Fest, 10am–4pm Visit our new heirloom orchard with its unusual and rare antique apple varieties. Activities for the entire family: apple recipe competition, cider pressing,
wagon rides, historic farm and craft demonstrations, barbecue and harvest treats, cheesemaking, and guided tours of the Plymouth Cheese Factory. President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site, 3780 Route 100A, Plymouth. historicsites.vermont.gov 802-672-3773
Sunday, October 2
A Sense of Place: Vermont’s Farm Legacy, 2pm In Vermont the cultural legacy of farming has strongly influenced the identity of Vermonters, and it is these distinctive traditions, which have persisted even with the decline in farm numbers, that help make the state unique. This lecture by Gregory Sharrow explores the fabric of farm culture in the past and probes its relationship to the world of Vermont today. Randolph Historical Society, 15 Summer Street, Randolph. randolphvthistoricalsociety.wordpress.com 802-728-9308
Sunday, October 9
14th Annual Pumpkin Festival at Cedar Circle Farm & Education Center, 10am–3pm Fall family fun on the farm! Ongoing horse-drawn wagon rides, pumpkin picking, live music, cider pressing, kids’ crafts and entertainment, a “Good Food” concession, benefit raffle, and more! Rain or shine. Parking $10 per car, activities free, no pets. Pavillion Road off Rt. 5, East Thetford. cedarcirclefarm.org/events/festivals 802-785-4737
Sunday, October 9
Heirloom Apple Day at Scott Farm Orchard 10am, 12 & 2pm Celebrate heirloom apples—fresh, baked, and squeezed! Free tastings of some of our 120 varieties and apple lore by orchardist Zeke Goodband in the Apple Barn at 10, 12, or 2. Heirloom apples and cider for sale. Hard cider tasting and wood-fired pizzas also available. 707 Kipling Road, Dummerston. scottfarmvermont.com/heirloom-apples/apple-tasting-day 802-254-6868
Thursday, October 13 and Friday, October 14
Senior Citizens Days, 9am–6pm If you are old enough, you pay only $10 a bushel for pick-you-own apples! Shelburne Orchards, 216 Orchard Road, Shelburne. ShelburneOrchards.com 802-985-2753
Saturday, October 15 and Sunday, October 16
Truckload and Hard Cider Weekend, 9am–6pm Come fill your pick-up truck for $75 with apples from the ground! Come fill your carboy with our special blend of apples for making hard cider! Saturday visit with Citizen Cider and our own hard cider guru, ask questions, or buy equipment. For more info, see our website. Shelburne Orchards, 216 Orchard Road, Shelburne. ShelburneOrchards.com 802-985-2753
Sunday, October 16
4th Annual Vermont Fermentation Festival, 9am–6pm Workshop topics demonstrate the breadth of fermented foods, including fermented vegetables, cultured cheeses, komboucha, kefir, yogurt, fruit juices, and more. Other workshops will address the reasons and nutritional benefits of eating fermented foods. Green Mountain College, Brennan Circle, Poultney. facebook.com/Vermont-Fermentation-Festival-621038331255103/
Saturday, October 22 (rain or shine) 14th Annual Gilfeather Turnip Festival, 10am–3 pm Celebrate Vermont’s new State Vegetable, the Gilfeather Turnip. Crafts, farmers’ market, turnip gifts, Café serving turnip recipes, live music, Turnip Contest. Details on the website. Free admission and parking. Main Street, Wardsboro. friendsofwardsborolibrary.org 802-896-3416
Wednesday, November 2 to Friday, November 4
Grow the Movement! VT Farm to School Conference The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and Vermont FEED in partnership with the VT Farm to School Network is pleased to announce a state-wide conference designed to bring together members and leaders of the farm to school community for two days of education, networking, and inspiration. Join the movement and help bring food, farm and nutrition education, and local purchasing to all Vermont schools. Lake Morey Resort, 1 Clubhouse Road, Fairlee. vermontfarmtoschoolconference.org 802-985-0318
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At Rockingham, Vermont
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Work with our business advisors and production planners to bring a great product to market. Center for an Agricultural Economy & Vermont Food Venture Center 140 Junction Road, Hardwick 802-472-5362 www.hardwickagriculture.org
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Rural Needs From A To Z
Adams Park, Rt. 7A, Manchester Center 30+ vendors with a variety of local produce, meat, cheese, crafts, and more. Live music. Free activities for kids all summer.
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Dummerston, Vermont 802 254 6868
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I began farming in 2008, moving from books to hands-on experience raising crops, sheep, dairy goats, and poultry. My experience gave me real skills, like how to humanely kill and cleanly eviscerate a chicken, and how to pull when a ewe needed assistance giving birth. I never supposed, however, that raising farm animals would help me cope with the loss of a human family member, but earlier this year it did. Before you think I’m about to equate animals and humans in death, hear me out; it’s more complex than that. My father-in-law had been ill for a while. The doctors called us to his bedside to await his passing. They had medicated him for comfort, and he was vaguely unconscious. The status of his life at this stage consisted of simply breathing. Listening to it focused my awareness on the simple underpinnings of our complex lives. With no language or eye contact to connect us, could we communicate in some way to tell him we were there for him? My sheep and I don’t speak English to each other, but we communicate with touch and body language. The sheep read and respond to my mood. Some can interpret my hand gestures. It occurred to me to squeeze my father-in-law’s hand, and I received a squeeze in return. A palliative care nurse came to talk to us about the physical and emotional processes of dying. She began by asking about our emotional states and our experiences with death. Her tentative language reminded me that unlike many Americans today, I have seen many deaths firsthand, by my own hand as a farmer and by nature’s. So had my partner and his family; he and his brother raised chickens during their youth and lived among dairy farmers in Addison County. None of us displayed the uncertainty or anxiety the nurse seemed to be preparing us for. I thought of the first dying goat I ever saw. She was only a year old, trying to birth her first kids. They were completely stuck, and after a few hours of our work trying to save her, her eyes glazed over and her bleats weakened. She no longer resisted our handling, but just lay still. The vet finally came and administered the euthanasia drug. Together, we listened to her final gasping breaths. Her body shuddered and twitched, and then was still and peaceful. I did not feel peaceful. I felt helpless and sad. I knew that
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the goat had suffered terrible pain while we intervened. That night I realized that prolonging the inevitable death of this goat, or any animal that has a remote chance of survival, has few rewards. If there were a 10-percent chance that our efforts might have saved her, there was a 90-percent chance that we made her suffer terribly, and in vain. Her only way of telling us that she was ready to go was her subtle change in body language. I wish we had listened more closely to her. We reassured the nurse in the hospital that we weren’t clinging to thoughts of treatment or hope of my father-in-law regaining consciousness. She told us that some families reduce their loved one’s pain medications to stimulate consciousness toward the end. We found the idea shocking. None of us desired to prolong my father-in-law’s suffering and we certainly wouldn’t increase his pain for selfish reasons. The nurse seemed relieved as she explained what to look for in his breathing and movements as the end drew nearer. Our cultural denial of death plainly causes great distress to the dying and their loved ones at a time when calm and grace are most in need. It was grace and calm that allowed me to take my favorite ram to the slaughterhouse when his work at my farm was done. I managed not to alarm or worry him. He even got to see some ewes in the holding pens and was content. Perhaps, then, the greatest and most generous gift that farming has given me, my partner, and his family is this: Because we had seen deaths take place, we were prepared intellectually and emotionally for the process. Our acceptance of death enabled us to make the best use of the time we had left with my partner’s father. We each were able to say our final words to him without strain or regret. We were free of the stress that denial, self-pity, or anxiety would have caused. It is my hope that my father-in-law felt that sense of peace up until his last breath, which we watched him take. When I walked up to the nurses’ station to tell them that the patient in room 81 had passed, the nurse said, “I’m sorry.” And I replied, “It was a release.” Katie Sullivan currently raises sheep for fun and profit in Williston. Learn more about her enterprise at sheepandpicklefarm.com.
goat illustration by Gabriel Tempesta
by Katie Sullivan
Fine Dining Inside/Outside True Farm-to-Table Lodging Cooking Classes Fridays Live Music 1342 VT Route 106, Perkinsville, VT 05151
20 miles down Route 106 from Woodstock, 20 minutes from Okemo Call for reservations/menu posted online 802-263-9217 weathersfieldinn.com
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? ~ Philip K. Dick The Book Nook — proudly feeding the mind since 2006.
136 Main Street, Ludlow VT 05149 • 802–228–3238 email@example.com • thebooknookvt.com
farmers es market fridays, 4 -7pm
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making it easy to grow fruit and nuts in the north
Cedar Circle Farm EAST THETFORD, VT FARMSTAND & CSA
EDUCATION CENTER PICK-YOUR-OWN
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Pumpkin Festival – Sunday, October 9 CEDARCIRCLEFARM.ORG
june 3 to september 16 At Hetty Green Park, behind TD Bank, in Bellows Falls www.bffarmersmarket.com
Quality Local Lumber • Pine boards 4” to 20” wide • Traditional wide pine flooring • Framing lumber • Custom lumber and timbers up to 24 ft. long All products are from trees • Hardwood lumber harvested with care for the • Log-length firewood future of the forest
802-875-4102 Chester, Vermont
Complete details and prices on our website
Join us for our 2016 Market Season! 4 p.m.-7p.m. every Friday afternoon, May 27th-October 7th FEATURING
FRESH, LOCALLY GROWN & RAISED PRODUCE, CHEESE, & MEAT ARTISANAL SPECIALTY FOODS, HANDMADE CRAFTS, NICE PEOPLE 53 Main Street, Ludlow, VT | www.ludlowfarmersmarket.org | (802) 230-7706
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Pick for Your Neighbor underwritten by:
You can pick and purchase extra apples at participating orchards to donate to the Vermont Foodbank. Adams Apple Orchard, Williston Allenholm Farm, South Hero Burtt’s Apple Orchard, Cabot Champlain Orchards, Shoreham Chapin Orchard, Essex Junction Douglas Orchard, Shoreham Green Mountain Orchards, Putney Hackett’s Orchard, South Hero Hall’s Orchard, Isle La Motte
Vermont Foodbank www.vtfoodbank.org
a Hunger Action Month Event
Happy Valley Orchard, Middlebury Liberty Orchards, Mad Tom Orchard, East Dorset Mendon Mountain Orchards, Mendon Scott Farm, Dummerston Shelburne Orchards, Shelburne Wellwood Orchards, VT Technical College Orchard, Randolph
Published on Sep 7, 2016
Published on Sep 7, 2016
A quarterly magazine devoted to covering local food, sustainable farming, and the many people building the Vermont food system.