The North Country is fortunate to have an abundance of maple as our local sweetener, but there are other syrups as well: try birch and black walnut.
One sure sign of spring is the bustling work of our maple producers: repairing lines, checking the taps, tuning up equipment, and, at last, boiling sap. Every year we look forward to this local food treasure: maple syrup and all of its products such as maple sugar, and maple cream.
New York is the world’s third largest producer of maple syrup and the maple industry in Northern New York is expanding. » Continue Reading.
When the doldrums set in, winter farmers’ markets can brighten your day with fresh local food and other products. Many stores have “local” sections. As I visited a larger one in our neighboring Vermont recently, with a bustling melee of shoppers, vendors, veggies, maple, hard cider, and other foods and crafts, it occurred to me that I’m long overdue in encouraging readers to visit the winter markets throughout Northern New York. For example, I’ll bet you didn’t know that we not only have one, but now two indoor winter farmers’ markets in Plattsburgh and Upper Jay. » Continue Reading.
Every 5 years the United States reviews and signs into law a new Farm Bill. We were due for a new bill starting in 2012, but it took until this past February for Congress to sort through what didn’t work in the past, add new things for the future, and generally agree enough on everything to have the President sign the bill into law.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a column about the intricacies of government legislation, but the Farm Bill is something we all should pay attention to because it largely governs our food systems. I’ve always thought that it should be called the “Farm and Food Bill” – then maybe we would take more of an interest. » Continue Reading.
It’s been a few months now since President Obama signed into law the Agricultural Act of 2014. You probably remember hearing about it under another name: the (long overdue) Farm Bill. There was much hoopla in the press when, after a delay of over a year, it finally became a law. OK, I can sense your eyes glazing over or darting to the next article. But wait! Just bear with me.
The Farm Bill (as we shall refer to it from here on out) is chock full of some good news for the local food movement and, whether or not you realize it, many parts of this legislation will affect you. I’m going to break this article up into two parts to address all the positives that will be supported by this Farm Bill, so let’s begin part 1! » Continue Reading.
Many North Country schools are exploring the various scenarios of incorporating locally grown food into their menus.
Can you remember what your favorite school cafeteria meal was? Maybe you didn’t have a favorite meal. Maybe you dreaded finding out what was going to turn up on the steam table each day. It’s a common story, complaining about institution food, and the barbs are often undeservedly thrown at the cafeteria staff.
Fact is it is only in recent history that schools have started to realize the importance of not only good nutrition for kids, but food that is fresh, local, tasty, and visually appealing. Seems like a no-brainer, right? That sort of food is what we all want and deserve to eat. Our farmers are looking for local sales outlets, too. So why isn’t this just happening everywhere? The challenges are numerous, but not completely prohibitive. » Continue Reading.
This is a revival of a column I wrote a few years ago about community gardens. I couldn’t resist digging it out of the mothballs because, like other local food and gardening efforts it’s gaining momentum with wide interest.
When I last encouraged folks to look into community gardens there were just a handful in the North Country. Last summer, when Adirondack Harvest published its annual local food guide, we listed 21 community and school gardens, just in Essex County!
My introduction to community gardens took place 25 years ago when my husband and I, devout gardeners and homesteaders, abruptly moved from the rural green of Vermont to Minneapolis and St. Paul (yes, we started out in one city and a year later moved to the other one).
While we adored the Twin Cities, there were no backyard gardens for us. And so there entered a new concept in my life: community gardens. We discovered that plots of land had been cordoned off in, among other places, parks and vacant lots. Each area was divided into many 20’ by 20’ plots with water access. For a small fee, we were able to secure a space, tilled for us at the beginning of the season. » Continue Reading.
It’s still feels like deep winter, spring is a ways off and the soil in the gardens is pretty well frozen solid. Are you dreaming of fresh, local food in abundance? What is to be found in the North Country on the backside of the farming calendar? Locavores can rise to this challenge once again with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Food from the Farm event.
This is the fourth year we’ve turned to our list of regional farmers and processors, hired a chef dedicated to cooking with local ingredients and organized a display area to educate and excite the community. It’s been such a huge hit, we vowed to make this an annual event – yet there is always room for improvement. » Continue Reading.
We’re big supporters of our sons’ school, and I enjoy helping out and participating in most school events, probably more than my kids would actually like. But there’s one thing that has never been particularly appealing to me (and other parents, judging from the courtside conversations) and that’s class fundraisers in the form of products for sale.
Sure, some of them are fine and I do enjoy my Christmas wreath. But many of the other items seem cheaply made and sometimes totally useless. I’ve been known to skip the tchotchkes entirely and just send in money. » Continue Reading.
Shared community freezer space may prove to be a boon to farmers selling meat in bulk quantities and consumers seeking an economical way to purchase and store local meat.
The local food movement is still going strong here in the North Country. During the winter months we tend to be focused less on the fresh fruits and vegetables and more on the products we can access out of season: honey, maple, dairy, eggs, storage crops, value-added items like jams and mustards, and especially locally-raised meats.
We have many Northern New York farmers raising beef, poultry, pork, bison, lamb, goat, and rabbit, but buying meat from your farmer down the road can seem like a puzzling prospect. The cuts may not look exactly as you’re used to, the price may seem too high, and depending on the method by which they were raised (e.g. grass-fed vs. grain-fed), the cooking styles may need to be adjusted. This is a great example of why it’s to your advantage to get to know your farmer. The farmers I know are chock-full of information about how their animals are raised, the various cuts of meat and great recipes to help you turn that brisket into a melt-in-your-mouth meal.
Late November is the time of year I generally like to write about two things: winter storage crops and eating locally for the holidays. This year is no exception because I love the root vegetables we’re able to grow and store here in the North Country. Hopefully you were able to visit the farmers’ markets and stock up before the markets closed. It’s not too late – some markets are open through the holiday season or even through the winter.
Autumn is, of course, the traditional time to celebrate the harvest. This is evidenced by the numerous harvest festivals throughout the North Country during September and October. As a farmer I always appreciate this time of year. Sure, I love the foliage and crisp air as much as (if not more than) the visiting busloads of leaf-peepers. But what I truly relish is the prospect of not growing anything for a few months. I need rest, as does the soil, and winter is the perfect time to recharge.
As Adirondack Harvest coordinator, my autumn work involves lining up farm tours, promoting member events and participating in area festivals. This year brought something new to the region: Farm Aid. I had heard about Farm Aid for years – most of us know about the famous Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp-founded musical tour whose mission is to “keep family farmers on their land.” It seemed a natural fit for Adirondack Harvest to participate this year since the whole gala was coming to Saratoga. » Continue Reading.
For nearly two decades my family has grown much of its own food. If we can’t produce it ourselves, sometimes we purchase through a cooperative buying club and place an order online each month. A semi-truck deftly maneuvers the backroads and delivers the items to our club site where a handful of co-op members unload, sort, and weigh groceries and organic produce. We buy in bulk and save money. It’s like a slick combination of Sam’s Club and a natural foods co-op.
But one aspect has been conspicuously absent: most items, especially the produce, are not locally sourced. Enter the next generation of online cooperative buying clubs: Wholeshare. » Continue Reading.
“Think you’ve got what it takes to be a true locavore?” That’s the question posed by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York’s (NOFA-NY) annual Locavore Challenge. For the past 4 years, NOFA-NY has sponsored this event in recognition of National Organic Harvest Month, and it’s gaining ground. If you are a seasoned locavore, or just starting your foray into local eating, the Locavore Challenge has something for you.
What is a locavore, exactly? At its simplest, the word defines someone who eats locally grown food whenever possible. How you define “locally grown” is largely a personal decision. When considering where you’d like to purchase your food you must ask yourself what distance you are willing encompass and still feel comfortable calling it “local.” 50 miles? 100 miles? If you draw a 100-mile radius around your home in, say, Chazy, you are going to include a sizeable chunk of New York, but also decent pieces of Vermont and Canada, possibly violating your own rules to stay within New York or even the United States! » Continue Reading.
Eggs vary in price and nutrition, but are a delicious locally grown food across Northern New York. I’m fairly passionate about eggs. On our small family farm, we raise our own. Our hens feed on plenty of grass, seeds, and other herbaceous material around the farm, plus insects and kitchen scraps. We supplement with some commercial feed. The coop is enclosed in a spacious fenced-in yard that’s half grassy, half forested, but our clever birds regularly escape and truly free-range around the farm.
We are addicted to our fresh eggs, rich with flavor and yolks so deeply orange the hue is startling to the uninitiated. I am a firm believer in the benefits of consuming eggs from true free-range laying hens. Take note: commercial claims of “free-range” do not guarantee access to the natural smorgasbord listed above (although the hens likely have more space and your conscience can relax about the “humane” treatment). » Continue Reading.
Each year, millions of dollars are wasted in uncashed food assistance program checks representing dollars that could be benefiting low-income consumers, local farmers and the physical and economic health of our communities. These lost opportunities make it very important to effectively communicate information about these programs to consumers and farmers.
Four government programs offer payment options beyond the usual cash, check or credit card to eligible low-income consumers at farmers’ markets. Those options are: » Continue Reading.