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Posts Tagged ‘organic’

Missing the excitement of the summer Olympics? As these Vermont farmers show, any determined and organized group can have their own “Olympics” and have a lot of fun.

Jessica Rinaldi writes at the Boston Globe, “With the world’s attention focused on the Olympic Games in Brazil, a decidedly different type of competition was held in a small corner of New England, as farmers took to the field for the second annual Farmer Olympics in Vershire, Vt.

“After taking part in warm-up events that included a hay bale toss, the crowd gathered for an opening ceremony where a quartet performed the Olympic theme song on kazoo. When the competition began, 60 farmers sprinted up a hill, empty bins and shovels in hand, for the manure relay. The event was sponsored by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont. In the end it was a team from Cedar Circle Farm in East Stepford who took the gold. Their team’s name? Soil’d.

Click here for a terrific collection of photos from the second annual Farmer Olympics.

Photo: Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont
Competing in the Farmer Olympics, Vershire, Vermont.

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Photo: Leigh Vincola, ecoRI News
David Kuma, left, is learning to farm under the tutelage of Ben Torpey.

In this story from Leigh Vincola, an ecoRI News contributor, several good things are happening simultaneously.

“David Kuma set out to grow more of his own food as he learned about industrial agriculture and all of its poisons. His father, a biologist, always had a garden growing up, so an innate knowledge of plants followed his curiosity.

“Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., raised partially in rural Illinois and then in Attleboro, Mass., Kuma understands urban, rural and suburban lifestyles and how plants can fit into each.

“Today, Kuma is one of three participants in the Southside Community Land Trust’s (SCLT) farm apprentice program …  Acknowledging that it has been historically difficult for minority populations to enter into commercial growing, the program’s mission is to provide organic farming experience and education to those who are interested.

“Kuma is partnered with Ben Torpey at Scratch Farm, a small-scale, chemical-free operation at Urban Edge Farm. Urban Edge is a state-owned, 50-acre piece of land managed by SCLT, where seven separate farms grow and share resources. The farm was established to give new farmers access to land and a community to learn from. As part of his paid apprenticeship, Kuma spends a full day on the farm two days a week and is learning a lot quickly. …

“From transplanting and cover crops to solarizing and low-till cultivation, Kuma is learning what it takes to run a small-scale farm naturally. His eyes have been opened to the importance of soil health.

“ ‘There’s a lot more to it than putting seeds in the ground,’ he said.

“For Torpey, having an apprentice is rewarding.

“ ‘Dave comes with a intuitive sense of plant biology and his curiosity reminds me that what we’re doing is fun,’ Torpey said. ‘It encourages me to experiment with new things.’ ” More here.

Don’t they both look happy? Nature can do that to you.

Photo: Scratch Farm

 

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Looking through a pile of magazines recently, I found a 2011 newspaper article I had cut out about Hardwick, Vermont. It’s about reinventing the local culture around food and food-related businesses.

Dirk Van Susteren wrote at the Boston Globe, “If there were a ‘Locavore Capital of America’ one would expect it to be in sunny California or perhaps somewhere in the heartland … But, surprisingly, in rocky northern New England, just 45 miles from the Canadian border, is a place that could contend for that honor: Hardwick, a former quarrying town that until recently knew more pain than promise.

“In recent years Hardwick, population 3,200, located along a tumbling stretch of the Lamoille River, has seen a half-dozen innovative agricultural enterprises crop up, many with mission statements including such words as ‘community-based,’ ‘sustainable,’ and ‘organic.’

“The town, always a bit scruffy, and with a high jobless rate, might be on a green trajectory. And people are taking notice.

“Among the new operations here or in nearby towns: Jasper Hill Farm, which makes artisanal cheeses and provides aging, distribution, and marketing services to local cheesemakers; High Mowing Seed Co., an organic seed business, whose owner likes traveling around the country to tell the Hardwick farm and food story; Highfields Center for Composting, a soil-making business that collects its raw materials from restaurants, farms, and schools; Pete’s Greens, a CSA (community-support ed agriculture) farm that grows organic vegetables in gardens and greenhouses; and, finally, Vermont Soy, a tofu and soymilk producer.

“The area also has dozens of small-scale producers, from orchardists to maple sugarmakers. Their products sell at farm stands, at the summer farmers’ market, and at Buffalo Mountain Food Co-op and Cafe, a landmark in its 36th year. …

“Monty Fischer, the executive director of the Center for an Agricultural Economy, the nonprofit organization that helped spur these farm efforts, has kept count. ‘People from 40 states and 40 countries have come to ask about our agricultural cluster,’ he reports, from his downtown office.”

Read about the 2011 federal grant for the Vermont Food Venture Center, an incubator facility, the organic North Hardwick Dairy, where sunflowers are grown as a value-added crop, mead maker Caledonia Spirits, and more here.

And if anyone has been up there recently, I sure would love to know if the food culture is still going strong.

Photo: Wikipedia
North Main St., Hardwick, Vermont

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The radio show Living on Earth is a font of useful and interesting environmental knowledge.

In a recent show, host Steve Curwood spoke with “agronomist Frank Forcella about how he modified the common sand blaster to simultaneously fertilize and weed food crops.”

Curwood introduces the topic thus, “If you’ve ever weeded a garden, you know it’s a backbreaking job, and if you have row upon row of crops, it’s, well, it’s easier to use herbicides. But then the crop is not organic. Enter a team of soil scientists for the U.S. Department of Agriculture who harnessed a common tool of the building trades to blast away those unwanted weeds without chemicals. Joining me to explain this breakthrough is Frank Forcella. He’s an agronomist with the USDA’s North Central Soil Conservation Research Laboratory.”

Forcella then tells Curwood how he got the idea. “One of my hobbies here in Minnesota is growing apricots, and 2007 happened to be a wonderful year for apricot production in Minnesota.

“We ended up with about a five gallon bucket worth of apricot pits, and I was wondering what can we do with apricot pits. One of the things you can do with them is to grind them up and use then as a grit in sandblasters, and I was talking about that with one of the fellows who works with me, Dean Peterson, on our way out to our field plots. Both of us work on weeds, and we had more or less simultaneously had the idea, ‘I wonder if you could use sandblasters to kill weeds.’ Initially we thought that had to be the dumbest idea in the world, but it was one of those ideas we just couldn’t get out of our heads.”

Read how a dumb idea led to a great invention here.

Photo: Frank Forcella
The four-row grit applicator in action, driven by Charles Hennen.

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Here’s an update on the Wooly Pig farmers I blogged about in 2012. (See that here.) At that time, they were raising chickens in Connecticut. They have since joined forces with other young farmers and are now part of the Letterbox Farm Collective in Hudson, New York. If you have Facebook, that’s the best place to see their photos and learn what they are up to. (Click here.)

From the Letterbox Farm About page: “We are a group of people growing meals and medicine on shared land in the Hudson Valley. We take our time and listen.”

If you don’t have Facebook, you might enjoy the pictures at a Turnquist Photography post called “Young Farmers of the Hudson Valley.”

The photographer writes, “We were recently contacted by Chronogram Magazine, a tremendous monthly publication circulated in and around the Hudson Valley based out of Kingston, NY. They asked that we photograph some young farmers local to the Hudson area for an article being written for their September issue. … It was a true honor to be considered for this assignment, especially after meeting these amazing people who UNDERSTAND what it means to eat responsibly.

“My first stop was just outside of the Hudson city limits to Letterbox Farm Collective.” (Turnquist photos here.)

Letterbox farmer Nichki’s Aunt Sandra sent me a photo of a spring farmers market that the collective attended in Rhinebeck. I’m told they can hardly keep up with the demand from restaurants for duck eggs, rabbits, and quail.

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The Globe has a good story today on Whole Foods, which hired an urban farming company to grow an anticipated 10,000 pounds of food per year on the roof of its Lynnfield, Massachusetts, store.

Erin Ailworth writes, “The soon-to-open Whole Foods Market in Lynnfield will offer its customers something the company says no other major grocery chain has offered before: ‘rooftop produce,’ picked from a field atop the store. …

“Whole Foods and its contractors say the commercial roof garden is an experiment that, if it succeeds, could encourage other grocers to do the same, boosting efforts to expand rooftop gardening. Such gardens not only insulate buildings, lowering heating and cooling costs, but also decrease storm-water runoff, which can overwhelm sewer systems and carry pollutants into waterways.

“And they yield fruits and vegetables that do not need to be trucked or flown, cutting transportation costs and emissions, including of greenhouse gases. The rooftop produce — a tiny fraction of Whole Foods’ inventory — will be sold in the Lynnfield store or used in its prepared foods.

“A green roof, however, is not cheap. It can cost up to 60 percent more than a traditional roof, according to the Sustainable Cities Institute, a program of the National League of Cities. …

“Whole Foods began thinking about the project three or four years ago, [Robert Donnelly of Whole Foods] said, and at first planned to build a basic green roof — essentially, a lawn atop the store. Then the company came across Green City Growers and Recover Green Roofs, two Somerville companies that partnered on a 4,000-square-foot garden above the Ledge Kitchen & Drinks restaurant in Dorchester. (That garden provides about 75 percent of the veggies and herbs served at the Ledge.)

“Whole Foods’ plans quickly became more ambitious as company officials realized the 45,000-square-foot roof (nearly an acre) provided plenty of space for farming.” More. There’s also a fun video at the Globe site showing the construction of the roof farm.

Suzanne’s Mom’s Blog had another roof garden post here; a post about Glide Memorial’s roof garden here; and a related entry about the Guardian Environment Network, here.

Photo: David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
Workers dumped soil into containers on the Lynnfield Whole Foods roof, which was reinforced to bear the extra weight.

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This post’s for my daughter-in-law, who not only loves to cook but is also pretty savvy about healthful eating. I should know. I had a yummy something with orzo and mushrooms for Tofu Tuesday at my son’s house last night.

Today’s story from the NY Times is on the expanded distribution goals of a company with inventive food options currently popular with celebrities.

And, as Stephanie Strom writes, the offerings are not just for vegans.

“Organic Avenue, the tiny purveyor of high-end juices, fresh salads and specialty foods like cashew scallion cream cheese and Thai collard wraps, has hired a new chief executive with the goal of turning its new owner’s dreams of a national chain into reality.

“Martin Bates … will take charge of Organic Avenue in June. …

“ ‘I drink green juices and have done for the last year or so, but living the life of a vegan is not for me. I think there are lots of other people like me out there.’ …

“We want to grow this business around helping people who want food that’s better for them,” [investor Jonathan] Grayer said. ‘That doesn’t mean they have to be vegan. They certainly don’t have to favor raw. They don’t even have to be organic; they just have to want to be healthier.’ ”

Bates, who turned around the Pret a Manger chain, said that he is up for the challenge.

“Perhaps tellingly, he said his favorite Organic Avenue product was Dragon’s Breath, a juice that incorporates ginger, lemon and cayenne pepper. ‘Caution,’ the company’s Web site warns. ‘This shot is not for the faint at heart!’ ” More.

We are into dragons around here. I’ll have to see if I am brave enough to drink Dragon’s Breath.

Photo: Michael Falco for The New York Times
Organic Avenue, which caters to a celebrity-studded clientele, hopes to appeal to a range of healthy eaters

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