summer 2017 | issue forty-one
Butternuts • Big Bertha • Black Garlic
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C ON T E N T S u
4 Editor’s Note
16 Q & A with Lt. Governor David Zuckerman
6 Make It a Wild Summer
18 How To Be a Knife Ninja
8 Set the Table with…Butternuts
25 Farmers’ Kitchen
A native food source is threatened by disease.
Cooking Up Some Black Magic
10 Big Bertha
12 All Souls Tortilleria
30 Last Morsel
Spurs the search for a short-season white heirloom corn
14 Vermont Preserves Unusual Breeds
When Worlds Collide
Publisher Schreiber & Lucas, LLC
Editor Bonnie North
Greetings! With this issue, I am stepping into the position of editor here at Local Banquet. Before I “retired” and moved from Maryland to Vermont I published a monthly called Baltimore Eats. When I discovered that Local Banquet covered the same issues and revolved around the same themes I’d embraced in Baltimore Eats I was thrilled. Of course, I immediately starting conjuring ideas for stories about the inspiring things I saw happening all around me here in Vermont. My “retirement” didn’t last very long! Since 2014, I’ve been writing occasional pieces for Local Banquet, and working with Carrie Abels was always a genuine delight. Every writer appreciates a great editor and filling her shoes feels like a somewhat daunting task—but here we go… As our writers’ stories came in this month it struck me that some of the happiest news insists, as it’s often said, that “Everything Old is New Again.” In “Rare Breeds” we learn of the trials, challenges, and rewards of preserving the irreplaceable genetics of nearly lost breeds of livestock. At All Souls Tortilleria there’s an inspiring dedication to using locally grown, organic, heirloom corn and stone-grinding the nixtamal into masa, fresh everyday. Wildcrafting, or foraging for wild medicinal herbs, was a commonplace practice for hundreds of years here, and, as we see in “Make It A Wild Summer”, herbalists like Jasmine Kosele are keeping that tradition alive and well. In “Set The Table with…” the endangered butternut tree gets its place in the spotlight as an important food source that has been long overlooked. Renewing, reviving, or even sometimes completely re-discovering old ways that have proven important for generations is crucial to rebuilding a thriving local food system, and it’s a pleasure to share these stories. Of course, there’s “new” news here as well. The “Farmers’ Kitchen” turns us on to High Meadows Farm’s latest offering to the local marketplace: organic black garlic. We’re introduced to “Big Bertha,” Vermont’s first high-capacity, mixed waste bio-digester. An insider’s conversation with our new lieutenant governor, David Zuckerman, who is not only a successful politician but also the first farmer to serve as lieutenant governor in more than 50 years, gives us an insight into where things may be headed for our farming communities as we move forward under a new administration. Lots to think on, lots to enjoy. Summer of 2017… —Bonnie North
On the cover: Anise hyssop at Sowing Peace Farm, Westminster West; photo by Tatiana Schreiber. Contents page: Cutting hay, Windsor County 1937; photo by Arthur Rothstein, Farm Security Administration (Library of Congress).
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Art Director Meg Lucas Ad Director Barbi Schreiber Proofreader Marisa Crumb Contributors Elena Gustavson Gary Johnson Jasmine Kosele Jesse Natha Suzanne Podhaizer Howard Prussak Dorothy Read Tatiana Schreiber 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.
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garden pathways Make It a Wild Summer by Jasmine Kosele
For wildcrafters and other wild food junkies summer is time for the “main course,” when a treasure chest of rich, green, jeweled wild plants adorn the landscape. Wildcrafting is simply the “art” of collecting wild plants for food or medicine, and many common “weeds” are not only delicious and nutritious, but also offer a plethora of internal and external medicines. Creating your own holistic pharmacy is empowering, healthy, easy on your pocketbook, and a delightful way to get out and fully experience the glory of the season. Still, safety cannot be overemphasized. You need to get to know your wild plant friends intimately. Clearly identifying your plants is the cornerstone to both safety and satisfaction. First, invest in authoritative guidebooks. The better ones will be very specific with details, and it’s recommended to cross-reference with at least three reputable books. It’s also smart to carry a magnifying glass when you begin crafting. Look carefully…. How are the leaves shaped? Are they spiked, toothed, serrated, smooth, prickly, or fuzzy? Look at the stalk, the stem, and the base of the plant. Do the leaves grow alone or clustered on the stalk? Examine the details of the flower. Observe the colors, shapes, smells, textures, and growth heights. Notice how these factors change depending on the plant’s growth cycle. Pay attention and look closely at the plant’s environment as well. Is the area a wetland, dry plain, field, roadside, or seaside? Look around; are you in a field that may be sprayed with chemicals? Is the area clear of animal waste, which can harbor pathogens? Are you on private land? If so, inquire with nearby residents and get permission before foraging there. Take into account that some weedy plants actually grow the best in neglected and abused environments. Mullein, and St. John’s
Chickweed harvest, fresh greens. 6
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Wort are big healers that like the beating sun alongside the highway, railroad tracks, or in abandoned lots. These are not always terrible places to harvest, but ideally look for healthier landscapes. Wildcrafting and foraging are exciting but don’t let your excitement overpower your good judgment. Trust your guidebooks, intuition, and common sense. Most important, NEVER use taste as an identifying marker. Some plants are poisonous or deadly! Also understand that not all parts of an otherwise edible plant may be safe to eat. If you are unfamiliar with or uncertain about a plant, connect with a reputable local herbalist who knows the area, or contact the USDA extension service for more information. Two common “weeds” that most of us recognize are dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and chickweed (Stellaria media). Both are abundant from the spring through late fall, can be eaten all season long, and are vastly superior in nutrition to the domestic greens we usually consume. Dandelion is a safe, strong, thorough and deep healer. The whole plant can be eaten. The fresh leaves can be cherished in a great addition to summer salads, simply dressed with a light splash of cider vinegar, olive oil, and a little crushed garlic, or sautéed solo. Dandelion leaf has a strong affinity for the kidneys. It is a natural diuretic and rich in potassium, which can become imbalanced by conventional diuretics. A cooling herb, dandelion can help ease the symptoms of chronic inflammations, kidney complaints, digestive issues, and liver problems. Chickweed also has much to offer as both a healthy food and a strong medicine. Best eaten raw, chickweed is rich in iron, magnesium, vitamin A, and many other goodies. Medicinally, chickweed has long been known to help hot and stubborn conditions like bladder and kidney weaknesses, stomach acidity, lung inflammations, and allergic reactions. Often incorporated into a salve for external use, chickweed helps with chronic skin ailments, while soothing skin infections and wounds. There are many simple ways to preserve your plant medicines. Drying fresh leaves for tea infusions and making your own herbal tinctures, medicinal oils, and salves are great ways to ensure you will always have a full home medicine chest. When making any of these preparations always keep notes and record your weights and measurements for future reference or to adjust in future batches. You’ll be happier for it! The oldest method of preserving wildcrafted herbs is drying, but drying can be tricky. Think ahead and plan to do your collecting on a dry day, preferably sunny or slightly overcast, and always after the dew has evaporated. Don’t wash a green leafy plant before drying; just shake off any residual dirt or dust. Tie up by the stems into smallish bundles and hang them in an airy place, out of the direct sunlight, until they are completely dry. When the plant is bone dry and the leaves can easily be
Photos by Jasmine Kosele
crushed between your fingertips, crumble the leaves and stalks into a dry, tightly capped jar. Flowers and seeds can be dried by spreading flat on a screen and dried in a location away from the sun with a light to moderate airflow around them. Store your dried herbs in a dark, cool place and you will enjoy the summer’s bounty in healthy herbal teas all winter long. Tincturing is a process that gradually extracts the medicinal properties from the plant by the use of a “menstrum,” which is simply a liquid or solvent that will dissolve a solid or hold its properties in suspension. For this you need only a jar with a watertight lid, your plant material, and either 100 proof vodka or apple cider vinegar as your menstrum. Fill the jar completely with either fresh or dried plant material. Pour the vodka or vinegar over the plant material, completely covering it, and seal the jar tightly. Give it a gentle shake every day and be sure to keep the jar filled with the menstrum liquid along the way, as the plant will slowly uptake the liquid. After 6 weeks, strain and decant for use as needed. Dosing will depend on your research and comfort level. I always recommend slowly introducing yourself to a new medicinal plant. Making medicinal oils from fresh or dried plants is also easy and these can be a lifesaver for common issues such as muscle aches and skin complaints. The most popular plants for healing oils are calendula, comfrey, plantain, St. John’s Wort, and chickweed. Once you have collected your plant material, have a clean Mason jar and a bottle of extra virgin olive oil at the ready. Fill the jar with the plant material, pack tightly, and pour in the oil, making certain that the plant material is completely submerged. Run a knife or chopstick along the side of the jar to release any air bubbles that may be trapped. It’s important to tend to your oil daily to ensure that mold won’t form. You want to keep your plant material always submerged in oil. Using your knife or chopstick again, poke around in the jar to release any built-up gases and then add more oil if necessary. After 6 weeks, you can strain and discard the plant material and then you have your medicinal oil. Once you have a finished medicinal oil, you can use some for making a healing or soothing salve. Although these proportions can vary depending of whether you prefer a firmer or softer salve, a basic recipe is 1 ounce of oil to 1 tablespoon of melted beeswax. (There are plant waxes available for vegans or sensitive people.) Gently blend the oil and the beeswax together and pour into salve container. As it cools it will firm up. For wildcrafters, the desire to gather your clippers, basket, and gloves to go out and harvest is compelling—but always remember to honor the Wildcrafter’s Rule: Harvest no more than 1/3 of the total plants in any productive area. You don’t want to exhaust the source, and keep in mind that there are probably other foragers out and about too. So, as summer comes into its height, explore outdoors, be safe and be respectful, and enjoy your herbal journey merging with Mother Nature and her lovely, healing gifts.
Recommended Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America–Third Edition —Steven Foster & James A. Duke. This book includes over 750 identifying color photographs. Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use —Rosemary Gladstar. Gladstar also offers online courses and instructional videos at: sagemountain. com Indian Herbalogy of North America: The Definitive Guide to Native Medicinal Plants and Their Uses —Alma R. Hutchens
Jasmine Kosele is a southern Vermont herbalist who previously lived on Cape Cod and grew up by the sea. She studied with well-known herbalist Rosemary Gladstar. Jasmine’s website is GardeniaGardensBotanicals.com.
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Set the Table with…
Butternuts A native food source is threatened by disease.
The first appearance of their sticky, lemon-shape green husks marked the end of summer when I was growing up, so the annual harvest of butternuts was oh so bittersweet. Mom would send us out with paper bags, and we’d gather in abundance, at least whatever the squirrels did not find first. We knew there would be tasty rewards for our efforts. The only real work of the ritual was releasing these tough nuts from their shells. Mom devised a clever way to open them with my father’s bench vise, but I’ve also heard stories of people driving their cars over the stubborn nuts! I wondered how the squirrels did this so easily as witnessed by the perfect half shells we’d find all year on the forest floor. The nuts are rich and buttery as their name suggests, and we enjoyed them raw and roasted, and in my mother’s traditional holiday nut bread. While they were a lovely part of my childhood memories, I must confess that I forgot about them for a long time. When I moved to my current home, I set about the task of creating a new garden, one that proved to have a trouble spot; I could get nothing to grow vigorously in one corner despite soil tests and ample amendments.
Then, as the summer wore on, I discovered a lovely crop of those familiar sticky pods on the ground, and I looked up! I remembered that many nut trees contain a natural herbicide, so that mystery was solved. In fact, one should not put butternut or walnut leaves and debris in the compost heap for that reason. Butternuts are one of the most delicious wild foods in the forest, but sadly they are seriously endangered from yet another imported disease, a fungus that causes a canker, slowly robbing the tree of vitality. These important trees are becoming rare. The butternut tree is classified as “a species of concern” worthy of conservation in our country. In Canada, the tree is listed as an endangered species. There is hope, but right now, not a lot of people are working on the restoration project. For Dale R. Bergdahl, a former tree pathologist at the University of Vermont, saving the butternuts was an integral part of his working life for 30 years. Now, in his retirement, the passion to save the butternut continues. “When I was at UVM we kept a long-term research project going with the U.S Forest Service, back to 1983,” he
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said. “In following those trees that long, what we found was some 75 percent mortality and very little regeneration. We have not found any that are immune, but some are tolerant”. First, they lose their crown and it’s a downward spiral from there. The disease slowly kills the trees over 7 to 10 years. Some survive a little longer. Specialists select disease-tolerant trees and graft them onto black walnut rootstock in special orchards designed to produce seeds. The black walnut tree is not susceptible to the canker, but it is close enough genetically that grafts will take. But it is a slow process. Tender, new shoots are harvested in the winter and sent to Missouri where they are grafted and returned. “In 15 to 20 years down the road, we should have some good seed,” Bergdahl said. “But only about 10% will take. It’s a long-term proposition.” It will take decades of work, but the biggest challenge is that the money has dried up, so the Vermont project is not out actively looking for new trees. “Hopefully, we’ll find funding in the next three years,” he said. “At that time, we should return to those trees in the region to see how they are doing.”
Photo Dorothy Read
by Dorothy Read
Photo courtesy of Dale Bergdahl
At their prime, butternut trees thrived from Québec throughout the entire northeast quarter of this country. The trees provided a substantial source of protein and nutrition, wood, dye, and medicine for Native Americans and early colonists as well. The native population planted butternut trees where they routinely gathered food, enhancing their supplies. The early colonists followed this example, cultivating the trees for their own uses. These nuts are well traveled; there is even evidence that when the Vikings visited the new world, they carried the nuts back to Greenland where their shells have been located at historic sites. According to Bergdahl, one can still find old farmsteads with clumps of butternuts growing: “The trees were planted primarily for the nutrition of the nut, but they also used the wood for building as it is fairly light but sturdy, and the bark and nuts make a durable fabric dye. It makes sense it was a staple. The nut is very rich in terms of nutrient oils and was used raw, cooked, and in flours. It was also used for baby food!” You’ll find the trees along rivers and streams, at the edge of a forest or field, or even growing among stone walls where squirrels have hidden nuts. And Bergdahl solved the riddle of how these tiny creatures open the nuts—they wait until they start to germinate on their own which naturally splits the nut apart! While the restoration is in a holding pattern, there is a second threat to the trees. Nurseries are marketing hybrids that look and behave much like the original; so close, you must test the DNA to actually identify them. “We ought not to be planting butternut seedlings from these remote areas contributing to ‘genetic pollution’ of the species” Bergdahl said, adding that it is better to restore the trees that have adapted to our climate over thousands of years. “If you have a tree, don’t cut it,” he insists, “and let the extension service know its location. The biggest thing about the butternut right now is trying to conserve the material we have.” And savoring what we have left at this point. With a little luck, you might see the nuts at farmers’ markets or farm stands. Treasure them if you do, they are a rare find. If you don’t have a tree in your own backyard, ask around. You might have a friend or neighbor with one who could be enticed to trade nuts for your labor and a loaf of bread. I’ve included my mother’s recipe, a family favorite! You can substitute walnuts, especially the native black walnut varieties, to keep your feast as local as possible. Mom always spiced this bread with cinnamon, but I’ve added a little ginger to give it my own twist. You can make this gluten free, so don’t be afraid to experiment and create your own memories. Dorothy Read is a freelance writer who lives in Bellows Falls. She has worked for local newspapers, magazines, and radio, and operates a small inn that specializes in traditional recipes served up with stunning local ingredients. She is currently working on a cookbook of vintage recipes with a modern twist.
An immature cluster of butternuts.
Sylvia’s Spiced Butternut Bread This recipe makes one large loaf, but for a special occasion, it doubles nicely. If you can’t find butternuts, substitute black walnuts or any favorite nut. You can also use a mixture of different nuts. I usually use white, whole-wheat flour, but all-purpose is fine too. I also have made this with a gluten-free baking mix and it came out quite well. If you don’t have buttermilk, sour regular milk with a teaspoon of vinegar. This acid is needed for the baking soda to work. 1½ cups butternuts, coarsely chopped 2 cups all-purpose or white, whole-wheat flour ¾ teaspoon baking soda ½ cup light brown sugar ½ cup white sugar large pinch of salt ½ teaspoon cinnamon ½ teaspoon ground ginger ¼ teaspoon nutmeg 1 cup buttermilk 2 eggs, beaten 2 tablespoon walnut or canola oil Preheat oven to 350 °F and grease and flour a loaf pan. In a dry skillet, over medium-high heat, toast the nuts, shaking the pan continually, and keeping an eye on it. When you start to smell the fragrance of the nuts, and they start to brown, remove from heat immediately and place in a small bowl so they don’t continue cooking. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, sugars, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cooled nuts. Mix well and set aside. In a two-cup liquid measuring cup, combine the milk, eggs, and oil. Add the liquid all at once to the dry and mix gently. Do not over mix. Place in the prepared pan and level out, then bake for 55 to 65 minutes, testing at the early end. Let cool on a wire rack before cutting; it will be difficult to control yourself, but you won’t want to ruin the texture of the bread by slicing it while hot. Store in the refrigerator.
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VTC generates research results along with electricity, heat, and fertilizer. Anaerobic digesters (ADs) have been sprouting up on Vermont landfills and farms over the past 10–15 years, with a few even older. In an AD, microbes that can function without oxygen break down organic materials such as animal manure and food wastes, producing “biogas” in the process. Biogas is made up primarily of methane and carbon dioxide. The process also generates heat and creates the “digestate,” which can be separated into a liquid material for use as a fertilizer and dry material that can replace sawdust for animal bedding. In a well-functioning digester, the nutrients from manure are retained in the digestate and can continue to nourish crops. The methane can be used to produce electricity. The one dubbed “Big Bertha” at Vermont Technical College (VTC) is certainly big—it’s made up of two huge green metal silos (one for an initial aerobic process, the second for the anaerobic digestion), additional buildings that house the feedstock (the organic materials that go in), the separating machine, and the giant engine that generates the electricity. There’s also a storage tank for the solid digestate and a large pond that holds up to three million gallons of liquid digestate intended for use as fertilizer. After more than five years and 4.5 million dollars getting to this point, VTC operators are still working out the kinks of a very complex facility. The last component, using the waste heat to warm four campus buildings, needs even more funding to be completed. Project Manager Mary O’Leary, a civil engineer and VTC faculty member, says everyone involved is constantly learning.
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“We’re learning to develop the best recipe to keep all the ‘methanogens’ [microbes that produce methane] happy and functioning,” she says, pointing out that Big Bertha is a “two-stage complete mix digester,” the only one in the state so far, which means it can take in both agricultural waste and food waste (like what’s left over from beer processing), and the exact amounts of each component need to be carefully adjusted. Because Big Bertha (whose official name is the Vermont Tech Community Anaerobic Digester or VTCAD) is completely integrated into VTC’s educational mission, all of this learning is reflected in data that is available to the public, primarily via a website: vtc.edu/meet-vtc/anaerobic-digester. There one can read an interim report from 2015 that details all stages of the project’s development and the trials and tribulations along the way, such as odor problems, clogged pipes, the dissolution of one of the principle construction companies involved, and the challenges of permitting a facility that had no prior precedent in Vermont. In addition to sharing its research, VTC is also committed to training its students in anaerobic digester technology. There’s an apprenticeship program and several courses that are part of the college’s bachelor’s degree in renewable energy and agriculture.
On the Farm VTC Field Foreman Charlie Dana has been farming for most of his 70 years. He was a bit wary of using the AD digestate as bedding in the farm’s free stall barn because it’s derived partly from
photos by tatiana schreiber
by Tatiana Schreiber
manure. “I didn’t think we ought to bed our cows on manure,” he said. “I was afraid of environmental mastitis, but it hasn’t happened.” In fact, they’ve seen a decrease in mastitis, perhaps because, since the bedding is free, it can be laid in at more depth than the more expensive sawdust or sand, and as soon as it gets soiled, it is raked out and new bedding is added. The soiled material goes back to the digester and eventually gets broken down enough to become liquid. The bedding material is soft and moist, smells pleasant, and looks like a grayish, crumbly dirt. “As soon as we put it in there the cows went in and lay down,” says Dana. “They’re very comfortable on it.”
“Our goal is to collect food waste from the food system and put that back in the soil to grow more food.” —Lisa Ransom The liquid digestate is spread on the farm’s fields and that of a neighboring farm. Here too, Dana has been pleased with the results. “It soaks into the ground immediately,” he says. “After we spread it we can walk over the field in 15 minutes without getting manure on our feet…it’s getting to plant roots more quickly, and I think we’re losing less nutrients to evaporation.” There’s less odor than with liquid manure, and the ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus is higher, so more can be used without risk of phosphorus run-off. Yields have increased, although the exact amount hasn’t yet been calculated. Dana says last year hay was cut 30 days after each round of fertilizing. “Our silos were full, our barns were full, and it makes our bottom line look better,” Dana says. “It makes the people over on the campus like us better too.” Showing financial viability, is, of course, one of the goals of the VTCAD. The initial funding was secured from the U.S. Department of Energy and a bond from Vermont State Colleges. Additional funding through the Clean Energy Development Fund (made available as part of the closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant) helps with collection and management of food wastes for Big Bertha. These funding sources and others through the USDA and EPA are likely to be limited under the new administration in Washington, so if community-scale digesters like this one are to be replicated, they must demonstrate that they can generate income in the long run. Project Manager O’Leary notes that the VTCAD runs 24/7 and produces 370 kWhs per hour. VTC has a 20-year contract with Green Mountain Power guaranteeing a rate of 12–14 cents per kWhs, so the plant can earn $25,000 to $30,000 a month in electricity revenue. There’s the cost savings on animal bedding and eventually, when the heating system is functioning, money will be saved there also. It’s unlikely, however, that a large AD like Big Bertha could be replicated on smaller farms. Smaller co-digesting ADs can be built, and many are operating in Europe, but so far the appropriate technology is not readily available in the U.S. according to O’Leary.
Collecting Feedstock Some of the benefits of a community-scale AD go beyond financial, however. Vermont has a goal of achieving 90 percent renewable energy by 2050. In addition, Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law (Act 148) will ban food scraps from landfills as of July 1, 2020. As of this July, food scrap generators of 18 tons per year or more must divert material to a certified facility within 20 miles. Big Bertha is playing a role in achieving that goal by taking food processing waste from a brewery and from Ben & Jerry’s ice cream production. Glycerol from biodiesel production is also part of the mix. Grow Compost of Moretown is handling the food waste collection and the process of “pulping” it for Bertha’s use. The biggest problem, according to Grow Compost’s Lisa Ransom, is plastic. “A lot of biodegradable service ware that is being ‘green-marketed’ is full of plasticizers,” she says. “Our goal is to collect food waste from the food system and put that back in the soil to grow more food. We work hard to help people understand that plastics, and even food stickers, are a hazard to our food system.”
ADs vs. Composting and other questions... To those whose focus is soil health, it may seem incongruous to haul food waste and animal waste to a facility like Big Bertha rather than compost it for direct use on farms. Compost, as compared to liquid digestate, can increase soil organic matter, which is critical to improving water retention and decreasing erosion and nutrient run-off. On the other hand, nutrients, especially nitrogen, can be lost in the composting process, and Grow Compost’s Ransom points out that “There is way more material than we are able to compost.” The goal, Ransom says, is first and foremost to reduce food waste, next to get food waste to animals (such as chicken feed), next to compost it, and only after that to take it to digesters. “It’s going to require every single partner, including ADs in every corner of the state…We need farms, composters, food shelves, and digesters throughout the state, so we’re not hauling stuff across miles and miles.” In the meantime, Ransom is hopeful: “We see Vermont going in the right direction, toward a more sustainable future, and we’re excited to be part of this work…we have a roadmap and we have to figure it out as we go.” Big Bertha was the first digester to be permitted in Vermont as a solid waste facility that collects food waste, and it has led to new permitting systems and reporting requirements. Many questions still must be worked out regarding whether facilities like this will be able to collect “tipping fees” from food waste haulers, what rates power companies will be willing to pay for electricity from co-digesting facilities in the future, and which regulations are needed if facilities want to sell digestate as a fertilizer. But one thing is clear: Big Bertha is slowly but surely generating answers to these questions and more, and that may be as important a product as any other. Tatiana Schreiber teaches and writes about food, health, agriculture, and the environment and operates a tiny farmstead, Sowing Peace Farm, selling heirloom and unusual seedlings in Westminster West. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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All Souls Tortilleria
Spurs the Search for a Short-season White Heirloom Corn by Jesse Natha On one wall of All Souls Tortilleria, a whiteboard is filled with the week’s open orders. Fresh-that-day masa; tortillas for Burlington’s El Cortijo and City Market; Mad Taco in Waitsfield and Montpelier; and bulk masa for Gracie’s Tamales of Waitsfield are among the list of regular accounts. But those orders represent just one branch of All Souls’ mission, with much of the other work taking place outside of their one-room factory, in the fields of Vermont farmers. This sprawling work falls far outside the confines of one tidy whiteboard, incorporating crucial help from City Market, UVM’s extension program, a team of Vermont farmers, and chefs, retailers, and consumers willing to share feedback on the end product. The Tortilleria was founded by Arizona-to-Vermont transplants Sam Fuller and Hubert d’Autremont, along with Joe Bossen of Vermont Bean Crafters. One important goal was sourcing heirloom corn varieties to make the fantastic tortillas they first debuted in their own kitchens, to the rave reviews of their friends. Now, thanks to a Local Farm and Producer Investment Program loan from City Market, their dinner-party tortilla operation has become a full-fledged business. Situated at Warren’s Kingsbury Market Garden and sharing a building with Bossen’s bean enterprise, All Souls Tortilleria is in operation four days a week creating two varieties of sublimely fresh tortillas. Looking like a page from a Dr. Seuss picture book, a series of stainless steel machines snakes through the one-room shop, transforming a churning mass of wet masa into a steady string of six-inch tortillas. The City Market loan paid for these custom machines, which were hand-built by Guillermo Campbell in Santa Fe Springs, California. Campbell crafted every component of the production equipment, from the hand-carved basalt grinding stones that smoosh the soaked corn into masa, to the brass roller dies that spit out perfect disc-shape tortillas, from the extruded fresh dough and the three-tiered, lime-brushed comal that replicates the griddling action of traditional tortilla ovens. When every detail is correct, the tortillas emerge puffed up like an Indian poori before they flatten into the familiar disc shape, ready for a dollop of carnitas. “Tortillas are like baguettes,” Fuller says, “they’re meant to be eaten fresh the day they’re made.” While that may be true, All Souls isn’t in a place to sling them fresh right from the shop. Instead they are all cooled and bagged for distribution. Simultaneously with building a market for top-notch tortillas that are locally made of regionally grown corn, All Souls is spurring development of palatable, agronomically feasible heirloom corn varieties that can thrive in Vermont’s climate. In turn, putting these improved varieties to work filling tortilla orders will grow demand for a new agricultural product, while filling a long standing, tortilla-shape hole in local food availability. Vermont has a long tradition of growing corn for human consumption, going all the way back to the Abenaki, who
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relied on strains of flint corn as a staple grain. The native Abenaki flint corn is beautifully colorful and flavorful, but its tough starch layer makes it unsuitable for tortilla-making. The Vermont market for edible grains has been lying fallow since the 19th century. In 2016, 90,000 acres in Vermont were planted to corn, yielding 1.7 million tons of production; 94 percent of this was used for silage, leaving only a tiny fraction for palatable grain. Only a small portion of that is well suited to making tortillas. To meet their 2016 demand, All Souls bought about 30,000 pounds of heirloom corn, only 20 percent of which they could source from Vermont farmers, with the balance coming from a grower in the Finger Lakes region of New York. The variety All Souls currently uses, an heirloom dent corn called Wapsie Valley, has a similarly flinty texture but a softer starch, which makes for a delicious, aggressively corn-y tortilla with a golden, sunsetty color—but it has a toothiness that isn’t as polite on the palate as modern taco-eaters expect. In response to feedback from its restaurant accounts, All Souls sourced an organic white corn from Illinois’ Rovey Seed. This corn was developed specifically for tortillas, and its softer starch results in a more delicately textured, cream-color product that meets the restaurants’ gastronomic needs. And herein
Fresh tortillas made with Wapsie Valley heirloom corn.
Guillermo Campbell hand-carving the grinding stones for All Souls Tortilleria. To aid in the development of the market, the founders of All Souls prioritize the economic feasibility of the entire system, aiming for an end product that Fuller calls “appropriately priced.” He explains, “We pay a premium for our corn, but we’d like to pay even more.” As the market for All Souls’ tortillas and masa grows. Retail shoppers at City Market pay $4.39 for a dozen of the Wapsie Valley heirloom corn tortillas. That buys them the foundation of a scrumptious dinner—and a vibrant, growing local food system. Jesse Natha lives in Vergennes. She has written for Local Banquet and The Boston Globe. Her collection of essays Farming and Feasting with the Robinsons was recently rereleased by Ferrisburgh’s Rokeby Museum. Her other interests include Italian, gardening, and helping creative people craft profitable businesses.
photos by tim fuller
lies the challenge; these white corn varieties that tortilla consumers expect require a long growing season to mature. With our short window of warm weather, that is not the kind of growing season a corn plant in Vermont is going to get. Developing a short-season white corn will require “looking at corn differently than we look at it currently in Vermont,” says Heather Darby. Darby runs UVM Extension’s Northwest Crops & Soils Program, which actively works to “rebuild a grain industry in Vermont” by removing some of the risk inherent in developing new crops through support and crop development. Their goal for the corn project is to identify a white corn variety that can be successfully grown in our short-season climate, one that offers sufficiently high yields, disease resistance, that can “stand up well”—that is, that remains upright until harvest—and that has sufficient root depth to resist pulling out when combined. Along with this, the variety should come with a good story, be it an heirloom variety or a strain of historical significance. “My job is to find that corn,” says Darby. To do that, she is planning the first year of official trials. This begins with scouring seed resources for contenders, choosing 20 to 30 varieties to test, then based on those results, narrowing the field to a few promising varieties. These will be planted out at test farms across Vermont, from the warmer fields of the Champlain Valley to the chillier hill country, to determine their viability in a real-world application. At the same time, Darby will test the development of a new variety that crosses heirloom corn from the region, taking advantage of its hardiness for this climate, with the long-season white corns that have more desirable palatability traits. Between these two approaches, Darby and the team at the Northwest Crops & Soils Program hope to develop the corn variety “that will help farmers develop new markets and will meet their customers’ goals.”
Sam Fuller, Joe Bossen, and Hubert d’Autremont stand with an antique corn shelling machine. S u m m e r
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Vermont Preserves Unusual Breeds by Katie Sullivan
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photos by katie sullivan
As the major breeds of animals in agriculture become ever more populous, farmers are increasingly aware of the genetic peril we face when we rely on just a few highly specialized breeds of a handful of species. Among sheep raisers, even as the Merino, the Rambouillet and the highly specialized crossbreeds dominate the large-scale production market, minor pure breeds continue to occupy key niches in the Vermont sheep market. What makes Vermont a good place for breeds of sheep that aren’t commercially viable elsewhere, and what special care and stewardship do they require? Historically, Vermont is the first home of the Merino sheep, the world’s finest-wooled sheep. Vermont Merinos enjoyed a heyday in the 1820s, but major market changes in the 1840s sent their numbers plummeting and saw many hill farms abandoned as ruined farmers headed west. The West became the center of range-based Rambouillets, while the Midwest is home to large production flocks of commercial crossbreeds. Since the 1950s, however, American sheep numbers have steadily declined as cattle production grows and competition from low-priced New Zealand and Australian lamb remains fierce. Against these grim odds, Vermont has taken up a new mantle in our nation’s sheep flock: a bastion of uncommon and rare breeds. The culture and climate of Vermont are well suited to the maintenance and promotion of uncommon breeds of sheep. According to the USDA, the Northeast and West consume the preponderance of the nation’s lamb, making Vermont a significant lamb-consuming market. Current trends promoting farm-to-table eating and the direct purchase of meat from farmers makes boutique farming viable in this area. Fresh, pastured Vermont lamb features perfectly in the Vermont tourist experience. Our cold winters kill parasites that plague sheep in other regions. Uncommon and particularly hardy breeds, such as Icelandic, Shetland, and Jacob sheep, thrive on rough hill pasture that can’t support a dairy cow. Also integral to Vermont’s success with rare and uncommon breeds is the fiber culture in Vermont. Vermont is home to a dozen yarn stores, and many farms make significant incomes selling fleece, yarn, and finished wool and fiber goods. Our local crafting community, from weaving schools and spinneries to neighborhood knitting groups all serve to support a valuable fiber infrastructure. Vermont has a mill with felt-making capabilities, and several that will spin raw wool into finished yarn. Before we suppose that Vermont is a shepherd’s paradise, however, there are several challenges faced by sheep raisers that challenge the viability of keeping specialized sheep. Planning a farming enterprise on a spreadsheet to estimate costs and figures is hard enough. For shepherds with unusually small sheep or sheep with different nutritional needs, the guidelines in general books about sheep just won’t do. Several shepherds raising Icelandic sheep in Vermont note that the breed has a higher copper requirement than most breeds of sheep and won’t thrive unless given copper at a rate that would be hazardous to copper-sensitive breeds such as the Suffolk. General sheep informational books are usually focused on lamb production and may not address the best ways to market wool or the finer points of wool maintenance for
double-coated breeds such as the Shetland and the Icelandic. Stewarding a breed is more than just keeping them healthy on the farm and promoting their wool, pelts, and meat. For many shepherds, finding high-quality rams for their uncommon breeds is a major concern. Tammy White of Wing and a Prayer Farm focuses on raising several rare and uncommon breeds. Her focus is Shetland sheep, listed as “recovering” by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC). According to the ALBC, the United States provides an important repository of critical Shetland color genetics. More than 20 colors and marking patterns exist in the U.S., while Shetlands in their British Isles have become predominantly white like most other breeds. White also raises rare Cotswold, Wensleydale, and uncommon Cormo sheep. For each breed, she is careful to source a healthy ram with sound conformation and good production records. In restricted gene pools, accidentally or carelessly propagating faults like poor teeth, weak feet, or eye problems could doom the viability of the breed. White has recently decided to stop breeding two of her Cormo ewes whose offspring had eye issues, even though Cormo wool and breeding stock are both extremely valuable. Giving up potential profits for the health of the breed is a dilemma many rare-breed shepherds face. If raising a rare breed sounds challenging, establishing one in Vermont for the first time takes even more effort. In the rumpled hills of Washington, Vermont, Kim Goodling sold her prized Romney flock in 2014 to start a new adventure: Gotland sheep from the Swedish island of Gotland. Two years of research, extensive communication with the breed society, and a trip to Sweden were part of Kim’s initial effort to learn about the Gotland and its particular dietary needs. She crossed the country to Oregon to purchase her foundation flock, noting that the cost of the trip effectively doubled the starting price of the ewes. Gotlands also need enhanced copper, so Goodling needed to find a vet to help formulate an appropriate ration for her new sheep. She also had to acclimate to more active, curious behavior from the Gotlands compared to the docile Romneys. Like many sheep breeds that are rare in the United States, the Gotland arrived via artificial insemination. It is illegal to import most live sheep into the U.S., so semen from the desired breed is used to artificially breed ewes of an approved foundation breed. Their daughters are then artificially breed again to purebred rams of the new breed. Through time, effort, and expense, sheep with 97 percent Gotland blood were finally born in the mid 2000s, definitively establishing the Gotland in the United States. Goodling recognizes the importance of this project and has committed to maintaining purebred Gotlands. Losing valuable genetics to non-breeding or cross-breeding farms when the U.S. population of the pure breed is less than 500 would be disaster for the long-term viability of Gotlands in the U.S. Every individual counts! I, too, have experienced the ups and the downs of raising rare breeds. My first foray into sheepraising involved the Cormo, which originated in Tasmania on one ranch and is not widespread in the U.S. I did not correctly match the needs of the breed with the conditions on my farm and my ecoContinued on page 21 S u m m e r
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Q & A with Lt. Governor David Zuckerman by Suzanne Podhaizer
David Zuckerman is the 81st lieutenant governor of Vermont, and is the first member of the Vermont Progressive Party to hold a statewide office. He is also a farmer. Zuckerman and his spouse, Rachel Nevitt, operate the 150-acre Full Moon Farm in Hinesburgh. We got in touch to ask him a few questions about farming, politics, and how consumers can help improve the food system. Local Banquet: Tell me a little bit about your farm, and the choices that you make for your own crops and animals. David Zuckerman: [Full Moon Farm] is a diversified organic vegetable, pork, and chicken farm. It’s one of five certified organic pork farms in the state—we have 20 to 40 hogs for slaughter, and between 70 and 90 piglets for sale each year. We have 20 acres of certified organic vegetables, and just under 1,000 certified organic chickens. Seventy-five percent of our product is sold directly to consumers. LB: Why do you choose to be certified organic? DZ: We feel certification is important because a lot of folks believe they are growing with sound practices, but they’re not actually organic practices…it’s not just what you do in the field; it’s also inputs. For instance, you have to make attempts to buy as much organic seed as possible. Sometimes, people think pastured meat is “organic,” but unless it’s 100-percent grass-fed, [animals are] typically getting supplemental feed. Even GMO-free grain is grown with lots of herbicides, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers. LB: How has your life as a farmer influenced you as a politician? Or vice versa. DZ: I would say that the farming has affected me in the political arena more than the opposite. Farming requires persistence, diligence, and patience. Those are helpful attributes in the political arena, because it’s rare that things happen quickly, or overnight. And, it’s appropriate that things don’t happen quickly, or overnight! Farmers work in the present while planning ahead. And, in farming, you have to be prepared for sudden adverse conditions: shifts in weather, animal illness, changing conditions, and that happens metaphorically in politics as well. Also, I would argue that farming grounds you in reality and in what’s important, which gives some perspective when you get too wrapped up in political speak, with wordsmithing and
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details that sometimes go beyond practicality. LB: In your role as lieutenant governor, what are the agricultural initiatives you’re hoping to help move forward? DZ: Well, I’m trying to gather a group to really work on the future of dairy in our state, both how to keep it thriving as part of our agricultural economy and move toward a more sustainable environmental impact. To bring those two lines together is not easy, but I think for the future of that industry in Vermont, we need to find a way to do that. Historically, I’ve been very involved with policy to support diversified agriculture. I’m pleased with the growth and enthusiasm in that sector, especially with a lot of younger people [getting into agriculture], which isn’t happening in many parts of the country. LB: Why diversified ag? DZ: The old adage “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is a farming metaphor, but it’s also an appropriate agriculture policy metaphor: It’s so that we’re not left vulnerable to market or environmental forces. I would add that Vermont is the most commodity dependent state in the country. No state has more than any single commodity at more than 50 percent of their agricultural output. In Vermont, more than 70 percent [of that output] is dairy. LB: What about maple? DZ: Historically, dairy farmers were the ones who did much of the sugaring, so maple is actually part of the dairy number. That’s probably something that should change over time. LB: Water quality is a huge issue. How can we support dairy farms, while also taking care of the lakes and other waterways? DZ: With respect to water quality, conventional versus organic is not the only criterion to being good stewards. There are organic operations that are still working on improving their animal and waterway interactions. There are conventional farms that have significant buffers to protect waterways. I think it’s important to talk to the farmers you’re buying from, if you have that access, and ask them questions. Try to support those who are trying to reduce impact. Continued on page 23
photo by suzanne podhaizer
Lt. Governor David Zuckerman, the first farmer to serve as lieutenant governor in more than 50 years, with his parsnips in front of the Vermont Statehouse. S u m m e r
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seeds for change
How To Be a Knife Ninja by Elena Gustavson
“How many here are knife ninjas?” After a pause, two or three hands creep up in the small crowd of flannel- and Carhart-clad students. This group from Green Mountain College is a bit shy, but definitely interested. “Great! How about you?” I smile encouragingly to the young woman with the knitted hat and big smile who raised her hand first. “Come on up here and show us how to straighten a blade on this steel.” She laughs and shakes her head, but walks to the front of her fellow students and takes the knife and honing steel, a ribbed, elongated rod used to realign the edges of a knife blade, from my hands. Under the watchful gazes of the other students seated in metal folding chairs in the assembly room of a local church, she glides the cutting edge of the chef’s knife across the steel a few times and laughs again. “I know I’m doing this wrong!” before moving to hand it back to me. I tell her to keep it, and picking up another knife and honing steel on the table, I demonstrate for her how I hold the edge of my knife at an angle to the steel. Together we straighten our blades for the audience, working out the technique while we chat about our favorite celebrity chefs (“Anthony Bourdain and Jaime Oliver”) and our favorite breakfast foods (eggs with avocado for me, pancakes and maple syrup for her). We finish and with eight more knives lined up in front of us, I look back to the crowd and say, “Who’s next?” To my delight, several hands shoot up. This is “Everyday Chef,” a food and cooking education program that we run out of church kitchens, the local public television station, and community recreation centers all around Rutland and its surrounding areas. We’ve shown up in the lunchrooms of Rutland City’s road crew and fire station; taught bi-monthly classes in recovery homes for opiate addicts; grilled vegetables in the cafeteria at Omya and GE Aviation; and blended up smoothies for the third shift at Rutland Regional Medical Center. We’ve taught knife skills and basic cooking classes to kids as young as 10 years old and did a four-part series of easy, healthy dorm cooking for college students. Give us a couple of six foot tables, running water, and a power cord, and we can conduct a hands-on workshop for as many as 15 people just about anywhere. With a part-time coordinator and funding from the Bowse Health Trust, Everyday Chef’s mission is to empower and engage eaters by building confidence in the kitchen, while promoting nutritious, seasonal, local food. We create a custom workshop curriculum coordinating enthusiastic and knowledgeable educators, as well as design and conduct our workshops, demonstrations, and events. We develop recipes, design how-to cards, and
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even produce a televised “Local Farmer Everyday Chef” cooking series at our local community television station. Demand for our classes and workshops now far outweighs our capacity to conduct them. But we didn’t start out this way. Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (affectionately known as RAFFL) is a Rutland based nonprofit whose mission is to build connections that grow a strong agricultural economy and a healthy community. We recognize that if we want to rebuild a healthy food system, we must think systemically— of the whole, not just the parts. Everyday Chef was a program that was started partly to address what seemed to be a gap in understanding of the local foods RAFFL was promoting to our greater communities. The first years of Everyday Chef saw us offering taste tests of kohlrabi, heirloom tomatoes, radishes, and fresh greens at various events throughout the area. Those taste tests eventually evolved into cooking demonstrations, recipe cards, written articles for the paper and RAFFL blog, local television spots, photographs and “how-to” blog posts, and various other means of outreach through the many different channels we had available to us. But the question still remained. Were we really affecting change? Eaters are genuinely challenged. Not just with a general lack of awareness around seasonality of local ingredients within a global marketplace, but with knowing how to cook. And not just cooking with whole foods, but with cooking, period. We have people in our communities who do not have access to basic kitchen tools let alone basic cooking skills, where fresh produce, local or not, is seen as a luxury, not a necessity. In addition, Rutland is the third largest city in Vermont, second only to Burlington and South Burlington. Without the economic advantages enjoyed by Chittenden County, our opportunities and challenges here are often different. So, Everyday Chef evolved. We started asking people what they wanted and then figured out how we could offer it. We went to where people were already going—work, schools, church, community centers, and then we created the portable kitchens. We worked with Vermont Farm to Plate’s consumer profiles and created workshop topics that targeted specific participants (men, people with diagnosed conditions and families with children, to name just a few). We created incentives and sent people home with ingredients. We encourage peer-to-peer learning. We taught knife skills. Without a doubt, we ran into challenges and some things worked better than others, but ultimately, we came up with a winning formula that isn’t really a formula insomuch as it is an appeal to human nature. We meet people where they
ing the wilted kale and vegetable salad we had made, sipping on cider, and nibbling on cheddar. I listened to them talk about classes and what they were doing that weekend while they filled out our survey, wrote down feedback about their interest in vegan and raw food cooking, and answered questions about recipe development and how to fry tofu without it sticking to the pan (press it and use hot oil!). Soon, we said our good-byes and I went about cleaning and packing up the ingredients and tools, taking my time and thinking about what went well, and what needed to be changed for the next time. I penciled a few changes to the master copy of the recipe cards I handed out earlier. The car loaded with cutting boards, knives, pots, and tools, I wiped down the counters and tables, swept the floor, and flipped off the lights on my way out the door. Elena Gustavson is the executive director of the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link, where she once ran the Everyday Chef program before handing over the reins. Elena has worked for the last 12 years directing programs, outreach, business management, and communications for a variety of nonprofits, businesses and farms throughout Vermont, with a two-year pause to run a small eatery in northern Vermont. She lives with her three kids, a sweet dog, and an ancient cat in a tiny house in central Vermont.
PHOTO Courtesy of RAFFL
already are, work alongside them and with them, moving forward with the hope that our investment will bring people closer to embracing and supporting our local farms because they feel empowered and are invested in their own health and well-being. We are now in our third year of this deepened approach toward food education at RAFFL and the metrics have been encouraging. Each workshop we conduct must demonstrate the following three things: (1) seasonal ingredients that can be accessed locally; (2) focus on health and wellness; and (3) a goal to increase confidence of the participant. For the most part, we hit those objectives with ease and are now thinking about how to refine our systems and replicate this success to expand the number of people we can reach. People are hungry for this type of learning and interaction. It isnâ€™t a hard sell, but it means regional community organizations like ourselves that are primarily working toward rebuilding our food systems and the health of our communities need to be active listeners and allow ourselves to be led by the very people we aim to serve. In a world of measurable outcomes and replication of success, that can prove to be a challenging, but rewarding journey. At the end of my workshop with the Green Mountain College students, the purpose of which was to demonstrate how to conduct a hands-on cooking workshop, we sat together eat-
Elena Gustavson of RAFFL, Bethany Yon of Rutland Nutrition Coalition and a Chronic Disease Specialist, Nicole LeBlond, nutrition intern for VT Dept of Health in the studio of PEGTV, spring 2016. S u m m e r
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RARE BREEDS Continued from page 15
nomic needs. My purebred Cormos absorbed our summer rains in their thick fleeces. While my cross-bred sheep in my rotational-grazing system shook the rain out and didn’t mind a bit, the Cormos seemed to wish for a quieter, more sheltered existence. Cormos have long been popular in fiber circles due to their luxuriously soft wool, but I soon learned that very few of Vermont’s Cormo owners were breeding their sheep. The rams I did find, fell short in various ways. One didn’t have very soft wool at all, another had excellent wool, but he and his daughters were always on the lean side. The climate on the farm where they came from was much milder and the feed richer, so mine never did as well. I seldom got twins from my Cormos, and that was the kicker. While I was raising them for fiber, meat was still key to the economic viability of the flock. My sheep weren’t producing twins because years of being raised for fiber had prompted shepherds not to select for twinning, as well. I couldn’t motivate myself to get my next ram from Arizona or California, and I knew it was time to get a breed of sheep better suited to my farm, for my sake and for theirs. In 2016, I bought a foundation flock of Bluefaced Leicesters, and already I can see that the breed association, my fellow breeders, and the sheep themselves are better aligned with my goals. This breed is primarily for meat but maintains high-quality fiber. The breeders association is active and helpful. Bluefaced Leicesters are a little tender for our climate, but I have plans in place to help them thrive. They typically have twins and triplets, and this spring my starting flock gave me four sets of twins and one set of triplets. Raising rare breeds can be a rewarding experience for many shepherds. Rare breeds offer marketable, unique wool and meat products. Some are especially suited to thrive in the climate of Vermont, making many breeds economical here despite being marginal elsewhere. Shepherds choosing rare breeds must contend with the expense and mileage of sourcing rams, the hefty responsibility of keeping the genetics in the breed active, diverse, and viable, and the financial disadvantages of potentially sourcing genes from across entire oceans. Still, experienced shepherds—dedicated to doing something a little different—will continue to raise these sheep well into the future.
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photos by katie sullivan
Katie Sullivan raises Bluefaced Leicester and Cormo-cross sheep in Williston with her partner, Matt. She loves the whole process of turning grass into sheep and sheep into meat and wool.
Bluefaced Leicesters S u m m e r
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ZUCKERMAN Continued from page 16
LB: As a consumer, what kinds of things should I be listening for when I ask those questions? DZ: Animals used to have access to small streams for water. Isolating them from streams is critical. It matters when and where manure is spread, and how close to rivers and streams, and under what weather conditions. What fertilizers are used? What kind of soil testing is done to reduce over fertilization? Unfortunately, many of the water-quality challenges we face come from 50 years of practices…it will take a long time to reduce the abundance of certain chemicals in our soils. LB: Anything new on the horizon with respect to on-farm slaughter or raw milk? DZ: With raw milk, over the last 15 years or so, I’ve worked and the legislature has worked to afford farmers a greater opportunity to sell their milk to interested consumers without pasteurization, and we’ve seen quite an extension in that market. We have also expanded the on-farm slaughter laws with respect to poultry as well as beef, hogs, sheep, and goats to allow more direct marketing from small farms to their neighbors. This year there’s a bill to greatly expand the number of [poultry] that a farm is allowed to slaughter [without inspection]. LB: Is there movement from Trump’s administration that may harm our farmers or our food system? Are there particular freedoms that farmers have that you’re worried we might lose? DZ: With respect to regulations, I don’t see there being a negative direction with respect to more onerous regulations. But I also don’t see a lot of progress, nor promotion of research into more sustainable practices. LB: What is your position on migrant workers? DZ: Well, for one, I think they’re a critical piece of our agricultural society, in part because the pay is not great, the hours are difficult, farming is hard, and fewer people are willing to do it. At the same time, if we want to improve the working conditions and treatment of farm workers, migrant or not, we need to figure out a way to have an economy that affords people to pay the full price of food, and that’s a larger shift that needs to happen. LB: Tick-borne illnesses are impacting more farmers, and I know they’ve impacted your family. Is there anything that can be done on the legislative level to help protect agricultural workers or to support those who have these illnesses? DZ: Vermont now has the highest per capita rate of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases in the country, and it’s a particularly devastating illness for farmers whose work so greatly demands both physical and mental acuity. But it certainly impacts people well beyond ag.
The Vermont Statehouse It’s a devastating illness if not treated properly, and the medical society and the larger establishment of the University [of Vermont] Medical Center are still very reticent to adjust the standards for care. We did pass a law a couple of years ago to allow more flexibility for those doctors who are interested, so they do not get reprimanded or sanctioned by the medical society. However, there’s still a stigma against doctors who are willing to aggressively treat chronic Lyme. LB: Any other messages to Vermont consumers about how they can help improve the state of our food system? DZ: It’s daily, individual choices. I’m an opportunivore, and I understand that we don’t always have the choices we want, or the ability to make the choices we want due to financial circumstances. Therefore, it’s important not to attempt to be perfect—and to therefore always fail, which can be demoralizing—but to make those choices when we can. And, [we could examine] other choices we make in our day-to-day lives that make it harder to make those choices about food. Do we need that fourth pair of new shoes or a phone upgrade? Or, could we use the same phone for another year? I would also say that the more raw ingredients purchased, the farther one’s dollar will go, and the more time one can spend with family or friends preparing food. Cooking together used to be a big part of human culture and community, but we’re all running around so fast, and working so hard, that we’ve lost that. Suzanne Podhaizer is a cooking coach, food writer, chef, and dancer living in Burlington. She owns Farm-to-Table Consulting, a business that aims to help farmers sell more food by teaching people what to do with it once they bring it home.
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H ARLOW F
M S T A and Café Loco
Bringing you the best local products including breads, cheeses, our own pork & grass fed beef, our own chickens & eggs, and certified organic produce. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily We also have a wide selection of bedding plants, vegetable starts, and herbs. Work with our business advisors and production planners to bring a great product to market. PO Box 260, Route 5, Westminster, VT (802) 722-3515 (1/2 Mile North of Exit 5 / Interstate 91 )
Center for an Agricultural Economy & Vermont Food Venture Center 140 Junction Road, Hardwick 802-472-5362 www.hardwickagriculture.org
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.
Thursdays 3-6 PM Debit, Credit, EBT, Farm to Family Accepted
Celebrates how Vermonters enjoy local food
EvEry Sunday 10am - 2pm Great Foods, Plants, Crafts, and Music! A Warm Community Gathering
H.n. WilliamS STorE rouTE 30, dorSET, vT Shop for Groceries, Great Gifts, Special Occasion Meals, Join us for a Tasty Breakfast or Lunch, Listen to a Local Live Band WWW.DORSETFARMERSMARKET.COM
EBT, dEBiT, and CrEdiT CardS aCCEpTEd 24 local banquet
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Cooking Up Some Black Magic
photos courtesy of high meadow farm
Howard Prussack High Meadows Farm, Putney
I started working in organic farming in 1971, and in 1971 I planted my first garlic crop! Since those early days, the size of the crop has grown and now we plant about 20,000 bulbs a year. That’s about three-quarters of an acre of garlic. I noticed a reference to “black garlic” in one of the professional Garlic Growers groups on Facebook last summer and was curious. I wrote to the grower for more information and also did a little research on my own. It’s called black garlic because it becomes matte black; looks almost like charcoal. The color change is caused by the combination of sugars and amino acids through a process known as the Maillard reaction, which produces a brown-black polymer called melanoidan. Gradually the melanoidan turns the cloves a deep brown and black. This is much different than just a roasted garlic; without the proper equipment, it’s very hard to duplicate. We purchased a professional fermentation cooker. Made in China, they’re programmed to cook the garlic at a high humidity for 288 hours at around 144 0F, raising and lowering the temperature at various intervals to allow the process to occur. The gradual breakdown of the sugars produces a radically different tasting and textured garlic. It has a deep umami flavor, very mellow, slightly sweet, with a hint of chocolate and molasses. It’s soft and buttery when fresh, almost jelly-like. You can add it to soups, use it in stir frys, and spread it on grilled meats. My favorite way, and the one I use to introduce it to people who have never tasted it, is probably the simplest: a fresh, chewy baguette and a ripe slice of brie with a little schmear of garlic on the bread. I also like to just snack on a clove or two. And oh—no garlic breath! Really doesn’t taste like garlic at all.
When you eat black garlic, if your eyes don’t light up and you don’t start breathing heavily, better call a doctor because death is near. It’s that good. I think we are the only source for organic black garlic in the region. We’ll start producing once the 2017 crop is harvested; it will be available at: the Putney Food Co-op, the Monadnock Food Co-op in Keene, the Brattleboro Food Co-op, River Valley in North Hampton, MA, the Berkshire Food Co-op, and Guido’s Marketplace in Great Barrington and Pittsfield, MA. It’s been served at some of the better restaurants in the area too, like the Gleanery in Putney and Burdick’s in Walpole, NH. You can also stop by, say “hi,” and pick it up from us at the Brattleboro Farmers Market on Route 9 in West Brattleboro, every Saturday from 9am–2pm. Or come by our farm stand at 742 Westminster West Road. Restaurants and chefs can contact us directly via email: HMFvermont@gmail.com. Our website is highmeadowsfarm.com, and you can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/vermontorganic.
A true Vermont triple play! Red Hen baguette, Blythedale Farm Brie, and High Meadows Farm black garlic.
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R. B. Erskine, Inc. Grain & Supplies Chester Depot, VT 875-2333
Monday - Friday 7:30 - 5:00 Saturday 7:30 - 3:00
the gleanery Restaurant
at the Tavern Building 133 Main Street Putney Vermont www.thegleanery.com 802-387-3052
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
Walden Heights Nursery & Orchard Fall Fruit CSA signup is now open!
Starting in mid-August
Apples Pears Berries Grapes & Apple cider
VISIT US THIS SUMMER AT OUR CRAFT DISTILLERY OPEN NOON-5PM DAILY FREE TASTINGS & TOURS! BARRHILL.COM 46 LOG YARD DRIVE HARDWICK, VT INFO@CALEDONIASPIRITS.COM • 802.472.8000
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“It is not down on any map; true places never are.” ~ Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale The Book Nook — proudly feeding the mind since 2006.
136 Main Street, Ludlow VT 05149 • 802–228–3238 email@example.com • thebooknookvt.com
C A L E N D A R
Burlington Farmers’ Market City Hall Park, Burlington
May through October
Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) 6:30–9pm CRAFT gatherings are held monthly from May—October on participating farms in Rutland and Bennington counties. Each FREE gathering includes a farm tour, workshop, and potluck dinner. Participants learn about a diversity of farm topics and farm systems, have the opportunity to network with other apprentices, interns, and farm workers in the region, and meet other CRAFT farmers. In addition, all participants receive a resource manual with in-depth information on each topic and Vermont’s network of new farmer services. rutlandfarmandfood.org/craft 802-417-1528
music under the summer solstice sky. Pig roast with cocktails, appetizers, and sides catered by Roots the Restaurant. $40 per person. Brown Boar Farm, 543 Lamb Hill Road, Wells. rutlandfarmandfood.org 802-417-1528
Saturday, June 24 and Sunday, June 25
Farm to Medicine Cabinet Plant Walk 10–11:30am This weed walk will introduce you to medicinal plants commonly found on different parts of Vermont’s working lands, deepen your appreciation of the local food movement, and introduce you to nature-based, local medicine as part of a resilient food system. $15/person. Registration is required. Shelburne Farms, 1611 Harbor Road, Shelburne. shelburnefarms.org 802-985-8686
Organic Beekeeping for Beginners 9am–5pm This two-day intensive workshop provides an introduction for folks interested in small-scale and part-time (backyard) beekeeping. The workshop will present a balanced view of natural and organic beekeeping topics and practices including location and equipment requirements; basic honeybee biology; swarming as an expression of the bees’ vitality; overwintering; presence and mindfulness in the bee yard; nontoxic pest and disease control; an appreciation for the role that pollinators and beekeepers play within the Earth’s ecosystem; and more. The program will be punctuated with an open-hive demonstration with the opportunity for hands-on experience by students, weather permitting. $110 (includes lunch). Wild Roots Farm, 195 Harvey Road, Bristol. firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, June 16
Sunday, August 6
Wolf Peaches, Poisoned Peas, and Madame Pompadour’s Underwear: The Surprising History of Common Garden Vegetables 7pm 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. Hartland Public Library, 153 Route 5, Hartland. hartlandlibraryvt.org 802-436-2473
The Art of Growing Food 2–5pm A kitchen garden is much more than a place to grow food; it is a place to observe, relax, and invite beauty and nature, and it all starts with good design. Award-winning food and garden writer Ellen Ecker Ogden will show you how to transform a vegetable garden into a unique European-style kitchen garden; an ornamental edible garden with an eye toward beauty, easy care, and pleasure. Learn the tools to create an edible garden that is both productive and beautiful, turning ordinary into extraordinary. Sponsored by the Friends of the Morrill Homestead. $20. Justin Morrill Homestead, 214 Justin Morrill Hwy, Strafford. morrillhomestead.org 802-765-4288
Thursday, June 22
Monday, August 14 through Sunday, August 20
Wednesday, June 14
A Sense of Place: Vermont’s Farm Legacy 7pm The character of a place is shaped by its cultural heritage and folklife, the informal traditions of family and community that guide the ways in which a person plans a meal, treats a neighbor, or understands civic responsibility. 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. St. Albans Historical Society and Museum, 9 Church Street, Saint Albans. www.stamuseum.com 802-527-7933
Saturday, June 24
RAFFL’s 8th Annual Twilight In The Meadow 5–10pm Twilight in the Meadow is an annual celebration of our region’s community of farmers, producers, the working lands, and the people who support them. As RAFFL’s signature fundraiser, Twilight in the Meadow is held each year on a local, working farm with delicious food, lively auctions, and toe-tapping
Vermont Open Farm Week: August 14–20 During Vermont Open Farm Week, you can meet the farmers, plants, and animals that bring your favorite high-quality Vermont products to your plate. What’s the greatest part about Open Farm Week? Every farm is unique! Milk a cow and harvest a carrot at one farm, sit on a tractor and take in the smell of freshly cut hay at another. Find up-to-date lists of participating farms and search by location or product at DigInVT.com, your portal to Vermont’s agriculture and culinary experiences. Multiple locations. diginvt.com/blog/vermont-open-farm-week/
Saturday, August 19 and Sunday, August 20
Orchard Strolls with Zeke Goodband 10am Join orchardist Zeke Goodband to learn about the history of our heirloom fruits. We’ll discuss orchard ecology, how grafting was used to create the orchard, scout for pests, and discuss how we manage them. Orchard-related items will be available for purchase in the farm market. Scott Farm, 707 Kipling Road, Dummerston. scottfarmvermont.com 802-254-6868
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Williamsville Eatery Serving Dinner Thursday — Sunday 9 Taps of Top-Notch Craft Beer & Cider Wood-Fired Pizza every Thursday & Sunday Night
Your Locally Grown, Community Owned Grocery Store Since 1976! Open 7 Days 8am–7pm 9 Washington Street 388-7276 middlebury.coop
802 365 9600 WilliamsvilleEatery.com In the village of Williamsville, Vermont
Slow Food Vermont ‘Snail of Approval’ awardee
East Hill Tree Farm Nursery for Fruit Trees Nuts and Berry Plants
Your Local Solar Installer will answer your call, meet your budget, AND build your project.
Plants Planting Design
802.869.2588 • 802.490.0640 Consultation • Design • Installation • Service
Air Source Heat Pump Installation
Energy Efficient COOLING and HEATING saxtonsriversolar.com email@example.com
www.easthilltreefarm.com (802) 454-7874 3499 E. Hill Rd Plainfield, VT
We do not sell your SRECS Prioritizing Life Cycle Environmental Costs, EU and USA Components Serving VT, NH, MA.
From your local farmer...
...to your local Co-op!
Open daily: ! 11-4 May / June
Miller’s Thumb Gallery! Celebrate the arts!
! Join us for our opening show! In the Kingdom of the Animals An exhibit in reverence of the animal world On view May 13th - July 9th !
Featuring 120 Vermont artists in a historic grist mill by beautiful Caspian Lake
Mon - Sat 7–9, Sun 9–9 2 Main St, Brattleboro BrattleboroFoodCoop.coop
14 Breezy Ave, Greensboro VT (802)533-2045
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10-6 ! July /August
“Sleeping Fox” hand felted rug by Amanda Weisenfeld
Temple Chiropractic Supporting the health care needs of the community for the past 35 years Specialist in the treatment of non-surgical back & neck pain
41st Anniversary Picnic! Sat. June 24, NOON to 2pm Bouncy House, Veggies, BBQ, Ice Cream and Birthday Cake!
DR. VERNON R. TEMPLE Chiropractic Physician DR. DAVID PARELLA Chiropractic Physician 102 Saxtons River Road Bellows Falls, VT 05101 802–463–9522 We accept all Vermont insurance plans including BCBS, CIGNA, MVP and workers injury insurance
Fun and FREE for the Whole Family! firstname.lastname@example.org
UVFC ~ 193 North Main St, WRJ, VT ~ (802) 295-5804
FARMERS MARKET Join us at the Farmers’ Market on the West River in Londonderry. 45 Vermont Vendors offering fresh produce, meats, cheeses, herbs, flowers, maple syrup, baked goods, breads, specialty foods, and unique artworks. Saturdays 9am - 1pm, Rain or Shine Memorial Day through Columbus Day May 27th thru October 7th Jct. Rtes 11/100 Londonderry, VT
westriverfarmersmarket.com EBT, Debit, and Farm to Family Coupons Accepted
Fridays, June 2nd – September 29th 4 – 7pm, Rain or Shine On the Hetty Green, 2 Church Street,
Behind the TD Bank
THE DIFFERENCE IN WELLWOOD’S IS
2nd Annual “FLAVOR”
Vibrant Fresh Local Foods Farm fresh produce, Eggs, Bread and more Delicious Eats Toe-tapping Live Music Fun Children’s Activities gffarmersmarket.com
accepting EBT and Debit cards
June 24 ,2017 10am–3pm “61 years of doing business”
Pick Your Own Strawberries! Call for Conditions & Time
529 Wellwood Orchard Road, Springfield, Vermont 05156
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When Worlds Collide How does a liberal arts education affect life on the farm?
I butchered three sheep today. What does this mean to me as a man educated in liberal arts at Middlebury? I had a .32-caliber pistol. I straddled the shoulders of the first sheep, kept its head steady by holding the ears, and then shot it through the skull. What was I thinking? Strangely, I remembered sitting in Howard Munford’s winter term class on Robert Frost. I remembered feeling sorry for Frost that he couldn’t split a pile of cordwood without waxing metaphysical or cosmic. I wondered how he carried that burden every day. As I rolled the sheep over, I flashed to the iconic picture from the Associated Press of the South Vietnamese colonel, his arm leveled across the frame of the photo, as he executed a Vietcong suspect. He, too, had a small pistol in his hand. I actually thought of Joseph Campbell’s premises that the basic question of being human is not, “Who am I?” but rather, “Why does something have to die, in order that something else might live?” Middlebury has a part in the last two of these reflections. The first takes me back to the national trauma of the Vietnam War and the three-day student strike at the College during the Cambodian bombings. And then to the December night that all the 19-year-olds gathered in Proctor to watch the first draft lottery on television. The second reflection places me in the folklore class of Horace Beck, and then in his office as he reviewed my senior thesis, which was based on interviews with people who had grown up on isolated farms way back in the hills surrounding Ripton and Bread Loaf. As I open the belly of the sheep with my knife, I imagine a Vermont hill farmer predicting the coming winter based on the size of the spleen. Or a Greek shepherd bringing a lamb to the
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oracle at Delphi, seeking a vision of the world beyond as the organs sputter and smoke on the altar. I cut around the genitals, and the scene from Light in August when the posse castrates the body of Joe Christmas, is suddenly visceral and tactile. Then I imagine myself bent over another slaughtered carcass in the stockyards of The Jungle. My hands are covered in blood. I wash out the empty cavity with a hose (I am reminded of The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell). I wonder if the hillside where I live once saw flocks of sheep in the decades of the late 1800s, when sheep were the principal animal roaming the pastures of the Northeast Kingdom (Vermont history with Professor Jacobs). Has a liberal arts education prepared me for such complex acts of life…and death? My liberal arts education suspends me between the abstract world and the real world—not unlike the Greek shepherd. As an educated man, do I carry out this act at a deeper level? Maybe. Do I say a prayer over the sheep, as did the Hebrew Abraham, or as lshi, the Yahi Indian? No. As I begin to peel back the fleece, the white muscle sheath crackles, I am inclined to think that I, like Macbeth, like all of us, “am, in blood stepped in so far…that returning were as tedious as go o’er” (Professor Cubeta’s Shakespeare class). The act of sacrifice is an essential act of living. And yet, does my education connect me to this common human experience, or does it reveal the detachment I have achieved as an educated man? Gary Johnson, Middlebury class of 1973, lives in Irasburg, Vermont. This essay originally appeared in the Spring 2009 issue of Middlebury Magazine. Reprinted with permission.
Illustration by Alexandru Petre
by Gary Johnson
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A full-service auction company, Sharon Boccelli & Company is a trusted name in the antiques trade, with over 30 years experience buying, selling and appraising antiques and collectibles. Whether you need a complete estate liquidation, appraisals for probate or insurance, or to sell individual pieces, your needs will be handled professionally and promptly by our experienced staff. Call us for a free site visit. Visit our website for upcoming auctions.
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Growers of Tasty Organic Vegetables and Fruits Available at our Farmstand–Tomatoes, Strawberries, Beans, Peas, Lettuce, Arugula, Spinach, Carrots, Raspberries, Broccoli, Beets and other local artisanal foods!
Plus a wide selection of annuals, perenials, and organic vegetable starts for your garden.
Our farm stand is open daily May-Oct. Rt. 7A Shaftsbury Also at the Londonderry Farmer’s Market
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Connecting artists and rural communities through performance
Phyllis Rosser Sculpture and Painting June 7 - August 31, 2017
Reception for the Artist Wednesday, June 7, 5 - 7 pm
June 2 + 3
Radicals in Miniature
June 15 + 16
Andrew’s Inn Dance Party VPL Open Lab Weekend
July 15 + 16
information + tickets at vermontperformancelab.org or 802-257-3361
Rudyard Kipling slept here.
Flat Iron Exchange 51 The Square · Bellow Falls · Vermont Hours: Mon. - Sat. 6am - 8pm; & Sun. 8am - 6pm phyllisrosser.com image: “Soul Cages” acrylic on wood, 35 x 65 x 12 © 2017
5t h A n n ua l J u l y 8, 2017
You can, too!
MEMORABLE VACATIONS IN EXTRAORDINARY HISTORIC PROPERTIES FIVE HISTORIC HOMES TO CHOOSE FROM INCLUDING RUDYARD KIPLING’S NAULAKHA
YOU GET THE WHOLE HOUSE!
July 8, 2017
10 a m – 5 p m S a tu r d a y:
Vendor Tastings • Giveaways Cooking Demonstrations Dinner by Chef Cal Hingston & Celebrity Chef Sara Moulton Lodging Packages • & Much More! $ 10 Ad u l ts • K i d s U n d e r 12 FR EE
Landmarktrustusa.org Dummerston, VT | 802 254 6868
Published on May 16, 2017
A quarterly magazine devoted to covering local food, sustainable farming, and the many people building the Vermont food system.