Rita Poirier Chaisson was born in 1914 on Canada’s Gaspe Penninsula. In 1924, her father Paul Poirier, a lumberjack, moved the family to the North Country where logging jobs were more abundant. Her mother agreed to leave Canada with reluctance. The Poirier family spoke French, no English, and she was convinced that New Yorkers “just talk Indian over there.”
The family kept a farm near Tupper Lake, with as many as 85 cows. Rita planted potatoes and turnips, and helped with the haying. She and her siblings attended a local school, where she was two years older than most of her classmates. Although she picked up English quickly, her French accent made integration difficult. She left school at the age of 14, and worked as a live-in maid, cooking and cleaning for local families for three dollars a week. She used her earnings to purchase clothes by mail order for her sisters, mother, and herself. » Continue Reading.
A bill that would have limited the sale of phosphorus-based fertilizers linked to algae blooms has been gutted by lobbyists’ pressures on legislators.
Among other things, the new version of the bill would prohibit municipalities from enacting stronger regulations without the authorization of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
“This was a compromise; the industry did not want local governments passing more restrictive laws once a statewide law was enacted,” said a source within the DEC. “The agriculture community is freaking out about the bill as it stands now,” the source added. Dan Macentee, a spokesman for Betty Little, Lake George’s representative in the State Senate, confirmed that additional amendments were being drafted to address the concerns of the New York State Farm Bureau. Those amendments are likely to weaken the bill even further, a Senate source said. “The bill’s sponsor, Senator Antoine Thompson, is amenable to amending even his own bills,” said the Senate source. A spokesman for the New York Farm Bureau did not return calls seeking comment before press time.
The current version of the bill restricts the use of fertilizers containing phosphorus within twenty feet of a water body, rather than prohibiting the sale of fertilizers with phosphorus throughout the state, as last year’s version of the bill did.
Prohibiting the use of fertilizers with phosphorus is a crucial step in protecting Lake George’s water quality, said Peter Bauer, executive director of the Fund for Lake George. “Legislation to control phosphorus pollution from household cleaning products and lawn fertilizers is critical to help manage and reduce water pollution. Lake George is enormously important to the local economy. Lake George’s high property values, robust tourism season, sport fishing and boating industries, all require clean water,” said Bauer. If the current version of the bill is enacted, New York State’s regulation of phosphorus would be far weaker than a town-wide ban proposed by Lake George Supervisor Frank McCoy, said Bauer.
The Town of Lake George will consider the proposal as early as June 14, when it is scheduled to conduct a public hearing on the proposed ban. If the ordinance is adopted, Lake George will not only be the first town within the watershed to limit phosphorus, but the first community within the Adirondack Park to take that step.
Lake George Town officials officials have posted a survey on the Town’s website to solicit comments about the proposal. The survey will be found on the left side of the site under the heading “Give us your opinion,” along with a conceptual description of the proposal. Opinions submitted through the website will be presented at the public hearing, said McCoy.
Illustration courtesy Lawn to Lake, a program of the Lake Champlain Basin Program.
In 1926 artist Rockwell Kent married Frances Lee, his second wife. An infamous womanizer, Kent made little effort to hide his affairs, even bringing some of his paramours home for dinner with his new bride. In less than a year, the Kent’s marriage was in serious trouble. To save the relationship, Rockwell and Frances agreed to leave New York City and move to a place with fewer temptations.
Frances found a perfect spot in the heart of the Adirondacks–an old farm near Ausable Forks with views of Whiteface. Kent remembered his first view of the property: “The nearer we got to the house the worse it looked; and when we finally came so close as to lose sight of its general proportional unsightliness we became only the more aware of its particular shoddiness.” Nevertheless, the couple purchased the property for $5,000. It was about 200 acres, the heart of the farm “being level meadowland, and the rest pine woods and pasture of a sort…Lock, stock, and barrel we had purchased our farm: the land, the buildings, the team, the cows and heifers, the wagons, implements, and tools.” Within three weeks of purchasing the property, plans for a new house and barn were complete, and within five weeks contractors had poured the concrete foundations. By snowfall, the buildings were under roof. Kent named the farm “Asgaard,” meaning the “farm of the gods” in Nordic myth. He painted the name in four-foot-high letters on the barn.
The property came complete with a tenant farmer on site. Kent purchased a local milk route, and hired the man to manage the dairy operation. The business of farming did not prove very profitable: “You’d think—I mean that people who have never owned a farm would think—that when a farmer, paying his own taxes and all his costs of operation, can earn enough to live, he’d earn at least as much when someone else pays his taxes and his costs for him, not to mention a salary. But it’s funny about farming…It just doesn’t work out that way.” Kent persisted, finding satisfaction in making his land productive, if not entirely profitable.
During World War II, Kent aided the war effort by doubling Asgaard’s milk production, increasing the size of his herd of Jersey cows, enlarging the barn, and installing a bottling plant so he could sell directly to local customers.
In 1948, Kent’s business ran afoul of local political sentiment when he organized a chapter of the leftist American Labor Party. After distributing political leaflets in Ausable Forks, his customers began canceling orders, one of them saying, “We don’t want Russian milk.” The local Catholic priest visited his workers, telling them to quit and asking them if they were Communists. After losing two employees and the major portion of his customers, Kent gave his entire business to two of his remaining employees and asked them to move it off the property as quickly as possible. When he and Frances received death threats, and a warning that “Someday they’ll be up to burn him out,” friend Billy Burgess watched the property armed with two guns.
The national press picked up the story of the controversy, and although Kent estimated that the incident cost him $15,000, the resulting publicity for the American Labor Party was well worth it. Kent himself decided to run for Congress on the American Party ticket, but to no one’s surprise, was not elected.
In 1969, lightening struck the house at Asgaard, and burned it to the ground. Rockwell and Frances rebuilt a smaller home on the site, where Kent, aged 87, died two years later. He is buried at Asgaard, under a slab of Vermont marble inscribed “This Is My Own.”
Come see Rockwell Kent’s milk bottle (2008.21), and more, in “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions” at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Open for the season on May 28, 2010.
In 2010 the Adirondack Museum will celebrate the food, traditions, and recipes of Adirondack residents, visitors, sportsmen, and tourists with a new exhibition called “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions.” One of the hundreds of objects featured in the exhibit is a list of supplies for a camping trip made by two New Jersey fishermen. William Pollack Meigs, Jr. and his cousin Edwin Oscar Perrin took yearly fishing trips in the Adirondacks from 1914 until 1947. Endion, on Long Lake, served as base camp. Over the years, they were accompanied by an assortment of friends and family, and left amusing handwritten accounts and photographs of their adventures. In 2009, Jonathan Murray donated his uncles’ photo album and documents to the Adirondack Museum.
Getting in and out of the woods for an extended fishing trip required careful planning. Meigs and Perrin prepared detailed lists of supplies. Food was a particular preoccupation—what to take and how much were carefully documented for each trip on the “Grub List,” which included Borden’s Milk Powder, Knorr’s Oxtail Soup, bread, chipped beef, bacon, cheese, dried apricots, onions, beans, sugar, tea, rice, prunes, oatmeal, salt, flour, dried potatoes, and—always–curry powder, whiskey, and chocolate.
The men strategically stored food and other supplies in caches along planned routes. Items in their 1946 “Calkins Cache” were “1 can beans, 1 bottle syrup…1 pt Red Eye, 1 lb Sugar—glass jar—screw top, 1 can Hygrade Sausage, 1 batch oatmeal—Tobacco tin—paraffin seal…3 lb salt—In heavy waxed cardboard…and 2 old unidentified cans paraffin sealed.”
At the end of their 1942 trip, taken with friends Ole Olsen and Albert Graff, Ed Perrin tallied up the costs for each member of the party: “You will note that the total amount paid for food was $9.17. That was the only expense we had in camp. That amounts to $2.29 per man per week, or 32 cents per day. We all agreed that we had enough grub for two weeks (or to have gotten along with half as much food), which brings the cost down to 16 cents per day per man….Actually, such a vacation is a lot less expensive than staying at home so, if business gets any worse, we will have to take a lot of trips like this just to save money.”
The men exercised some culinary imagination on that trip with ingredients on hand, making a meal of “Lobster Puree a la Calkins”:
1 can (15 ½ ) old fashioned K beans
1 fried onion
1 cup “Klim” (1/2 cup water, 4 tablespoons Borden’s Milk Powder)
2 good slices cheese, diced
1 ½ oz (about 1 jigger) Bourbon, added last
Pour on cupful [of] fried croutons
There is no record of how well this peculiar recipe tasted.
Laura Rice is Chief Curator at the Adirondack Museum. For more recipes, and Meigs and Perrin’s list, visit “Let’s Eat! Adirondack Food Traditions” at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. Open for the season on May 28, 2010.
Photo: “Looking crestfallen after hard day of slash thrashing and rock garden crotch splitting”: William Meigs, Edwin Perrin, Ole Olsen, Albert Graff, 1942.
It’s often overlooked as a part of our Adirondack economy and history, but believe it or not farming has been a part of Adirondack culture since the 18th century. At one time, farming was what most Adirondackers did either for subsistence, as part of a commercial operation, or as an employee of a local farm or auxiliary industry. While in general across America the small family farm have been in decline, according to the 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture farms that sell directly to the consumer in the six Northern New York counties grew from 506 to 619, while all other agriculture sectors declined 6.6%. » Continue Reading.
Goat’s milk cheeses from Asgaard Dairy of Au Sable Forks collected second place awards in National and New York State competitions earlier this month. Such achievements in the first full year of production took owners Rhonda Butler and David Brunner and cheesemaker Kirsten Sandler by surprise.
At the National Cheese Society annual meeting in Austin, Texas, August 7, the dairy took silver for its goat’s milk feta. “It’s kind of like the Academy Awards of cheese,” said Butler. Last week at the New York State Fair in Syracuse, the placing entry was a fresh chevre with cilantro, hot pepper and garlic—all from the Asgaard garden.
Butler and Brunner, with help from daughter Johanna operate the dairy from the iconic Adirondack farm once owned by artist and political activist Rockwell Kent. They retail their cheeses and a new line of goat’s milk soap direct from the farm, at farm markets in Elizabethtown, Keene and Lake Placid, and at natural food markets in Keene, Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. Lake Placid Lodge also features Asgaard’s “Whiteface” chevre on its menu.
Looking forward, this year the family plans to add ten more milking goats to their herd of twenty. The sudden success arrives at a bittersweet moment: the family lost one of their original two goats—Kelly (pictured above with Johanna)—this spring.
My friend Edna shared with me her secret for growing tomatoes: Epsom salts and dry milk. The mixture is blended together and applied by the teaspoonful to newly transplanted tomato plants, and can be sprinkled on the soil at the base of the plants later in the season.
Hm, thought I. Maybe I should give this a try.
So last year I got out my carton of Epsom salts and my packets of dry milk and commenced planting about 100 tomato plants. I didn’t have the actual recipe on hand, so I merely dumped Epsom salt and dry milk in each hole before I laid down the plant (I plant my tomatoes on their sides, so roots will form along the buried stem and the upward-growing bit is stronger). Despite my willy-nilly method, the plants did fine and I put up about four gallons of sauce by the end of the summer and gave many fresh tomatoes away to friends.
This year I mixed it up correctly…sort of. And this year my tomatoes are mostly brown and looking rather dead. Some have fruits, although most (all but one) are green and all are very small. The one that is reddening is also rotting.
Now, I don’t blame this on the homemade fertilizer (or my haphazard methods). Nope, the culprit, as far as I’m concerned, is this summer’s weather (and possibly the Late Blight I’ve been hearing about). Cool, damp weather does not make for healthy tomato plants (and I’m really glad I didn’t even attempt peppers this year).
So, the big question is: are the Epsom salts and dry milk actually doing anything beneficial for the plants, or is this recipe an old wives’ tale? I was determined to find out.
As it happens, Epsom salts (so called for the town in England where they were first collected) are actually beneficial to certain soils. A simple salt made up of magnesium and sulfur, Epsom salt is a swell addition if your soil is lacking these nutrients. Soil that is acidic is often depleted in magnesium, so a treatment of Epsom salts can be beneficial. If your soil is really depleted in magnesium, however, you are probably better off giving it a treatment of dolomitic lime. This compound will not only deliver the magnesium, but it will also help balance out the soil’s pH, which should make your plants happier all around (unless they are acid-loving plants like azaleas and blueberries).
The dry milk has been a bit more difficult to trace for relevance in the garden. One presumes this is to add calcium to the soil (at least that’s what Edna’s book claimed). And it seems that tomatoes really do like to have a good bit of calcium, and having plenty of calcium on hand helps prevent blossom end rot. Blossom end rot occurs when the plant’s demand for calcium exceeds the amount of calcium available in the soil. This could be caused by too much, or too little, water (excess rain or drought), not enough calcium in the soil to being with, or even an over-application of nitrogen fertilizers, which cause rapid vegetative growth and an increase in calcium demand. Putting a little dry milk in the planting hole may help, but it isn’t a long-term solution.
In the end, the answer is soil testing. If your soil has a good pH level (around 6.5), and if it is provided with proper drainage and watering, then regular amendments of good compost (and composted manures) may be all you really need. But that soil test is the key.
I’ve been reluctant to get an official soil test done for my veg garden. I bought a home-testing kit when I started my garden and have used it a couple times, but I’m not so sure the results I got were accurate (this year’s tests said I had no potassium, no nitrogen, and no phosphorous at all in my soil). Considering some of the beds still have a sour smell to them, which is usually an indication of acidic soils, I may just bite the bullet and send in my soil samples for real tests.
When you get your soil test results back, you should also get amendment recommendations – suggestions on what you can add to make your soil better and your plants happier. By treating your soil as a whole, you are more likely to have success with your garden than you are with spot treatments of dry milk and Epsom salts.
That said, adding a little dry milk, or a sprinkling of Epsom salt, probably won’t hurt your garden. And if it makes you feel better by doing it, then go for it. Just remember: while a little may be beneficial, more isn’t necessarily better; all things in moderation.
In gardening parlance, manure is pure gold. It has all the necessary ingredients for successful plant growth: nitrogen (helps plants produce the proteins necessary to build green stems, sturdy roots, and lots of leaves), phosphorus (facilitates energy movement within the plants), and potassium (regulates photosynthesis, helps move nutrients within the plants, and helps make plant proteins). In addition to the big three (NPK), manure also contains humus, a mixture of plant and animal remains that form a bulky and fibrous material that is not only nutritious for your garden, but also makes the soil a better growing medium by fluffing up heavy clays, providing food for the critters that live in the soil, and retaining moisture during times of water shortage. And yet, while some farms can’t give the stuff away, others of us have the devil’s own time trying to acquire it.
For example, I live in a very small rural town here in the mountains. If I walk down the street a few hundred feet from my house, there’s a family with a bunch of horses. I called one day to see if I could relieve them of some of their no doubt copious piles of manure. Sure…that’ll be $300 a load. Oh, and the “load” is mostly “topsoil” with a little manure throw in. I decided to look for other options.
There’s the bison farm about half an hour away, with all the free bison doo that you can cart away. Likewise, there’s the goat farm down towards Thurman – nannyberries galore, yours for the taking. Sounds great! But how do you cart away a load of manure when all you have is a Prius? Another acquaintance of mine, who raises sheep and chickens, has offered me a load of dung…sometime. I think I’ll follow up on this lead while I’m on vacation next month, maybe offering an exchange of labor for this largesse.
As I made the rounds trying to find a good source of poo for my nutrient-starved garden, I was struck by the variety of manures available within a short distance of my home: horse, bison, sheep, chicken, alpaca, goat. About the only types we don’t have nearby is cow and pig. I started to wonder, then, just how much of a difference there is between each type. I’d heard that goat droppings are a “cool” manure that can be put on the garden right away without danger of “burning” the plants, unlike horse or cow manure, which is “hot” and must age for at least six months before use. So I decided to do a little homework to see which type was best. Here are my findings.
Pig and poultry poop are very high in nitrogen. Too much nitrogen can burn your plants. If you use pig or poultry poop, you need to let it age for several months before use. Bird droppings are often quite prized by gardeners (as are bat droppings, which are also very high in nitrogen). One of the greatest inventions for utilization of poultry poop is the mobile chicken coop. This nifty device makes garden creation a snap: you set up your chickens in a location where you want a future garden. The birds spend the summer scratching up the dirt, fertilizing it, eating the bugs in it and basically turning it into a pre-fab garden plot. Next spring you relocate the birds and turn their old run into ready-to-use garden beds.
Horses and cattle (and bison) spend a lot of time grazing, and what goes in must come out. As a result their dung is very high in the fiber department, which means you will have lots of good humus if you use horse or cow manure. On the other hand, you are also likely to get a lot of weed seeds. Horse and cow manure both need to age before you can use them. The general rule is to let it rest and decompose at least six months before use. During this time you can decrease the weed seed problem if you cover your manure pile with plastic and let it really cook for those six months. My pumpkins liked the horse manure I planted them in last year, but the books say that horse and cow manure are both rather low in those essential nutrients N, P and K. You can do better, but if this is all you have available, it’ll work just fine.
Goats and sheep are prolific poopers and their dung comes in tidy little pellets (so does alpaca poop). Because of this, it breaks down quickly and easily, which means you can make use of it sooner than you can horse and cow manure. In general they have more K than horse and cow manure, but N and P are about the same. Unless… I read that if your goat droppings come from goats that are kept indoors (like milking goats often are), then you will likely get additional nitrogen in your manure load because you’ll get the goats’ urine mixed in with the hay and droppings that are mucked out of the stalls. Can you put goat or sheep dung directly in your garden without aging? Yes and no. You really should age/compost any manure first, but because the droppings of goats and sheep are small, they break down more quickly. You can put them directly in your garden, but be sure to keep them off roots and away from stems.
After doing my research, I’ve concluded that any manure I acquire will be a welcome addition to my gardens. And if some of it doesn’t have, say, quite enough K, then I can supplement with something else, like greensand. The bottom line is that you cannot keep taking nutrients out of your garden without somehow replacing them. Manures are probably the easiest source of nutrients around. So roll up your sleeves and make friends with your local farmer. Swapping some labor in exchange for a load of poo seems like a pretty fair deal to me.
The farmer-led Northern New York Agricultural Development Program has added resources for meat and dairy goat producers to its website at www.nnyagdev.org. The website includes fact sheets prompted by the Empire State Meat Goat Producers’ Association (ESMGPA) and prepared by Cornell University’s Animal Science Department on feeding, breeding, pasture management, health care and the Kidding with Confidence mentoring handbook sponsored by Cornell Cooperative Extension and ESMGPA on the site. A January 31st meeting set for 1-3 pm to provide resources and information for those raising or interested in raising meat, dairy and pet goats will be held at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County Learning Farm in Canton and telecast to the Extension offices in Watertown and Westport. The meeting will cover general goat management and care and marketing. The meetings are free, however, pre-registration is requested – call Cornell Cooperative Extension at 315-379-9192 x234 for St. Lawrence County, at 315-788-8450 for Jefferson County, and 518-962-4810 for Essex County (pre-registration required).
According to meeting organizer and Livestock Educator Betsy Hodge with Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County, there is an interest in meat goats in the North Country and a need to provide resources that relate to farms in New York. The Cornell fact sheets now available on the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program website apply to goat farming in the Northeast and are especially good for people interested in starting a goat enterprise to read before purchasing goats.
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County Executive Director Anita Deming has noted that a diverse mix of people are raising goats in the North Country. “We have one producer selling meat goats as breeding stock and a new dairy goat farm that has recently begun selling goat cheese”, she said “Information on good animal husbandry and on business planning for those who would like to operate a farm business with goats is always useful.”
According to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County Dairy & Livestock Educator Ron Kuck, Jefferson County has farmers raising goats for meat, for milk and for value-added product sales, such as goat’s milk soap. They are always interested in the latest information that will help them enhance their production and marketing practices.
Meat goat producer Karen Stumpf of Thousand Islands Goat Farm in Cape Vincent, NY, is Region 2 Director for the Empire State Meat Goat Producers Association. Stumpf thinks goat farming has great potential to add to the agriculturally-based economy of Northern New York. She says they are beginning to establish new herds and develop the networking that will support marketing, processing and sales opportunities for all producers.
Dr. Tatiana Luisa Stanton, a goat specialist with Cornell University’s Animal Science Department is currently developing the kidding season mentoring program for 2009. The program pairs experienced, knowledgeable goat farmers with new producers as they experience their first kidding season.
The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program provided funding for the on-farm evaluations. Those interested in the mentoring program may contact Dr. Stanton at Cornell University at 607-254-6024, [email protected], or call your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office.
The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program provides on-farm research, education and outreach to the diverse agricultural sectors in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. Learn more at www.nnyagdev.org.
More and more consumers are looking for local foods. Community leaders are increasingly supportive of developing farmers markets and other venues for regional farmers to sell their products locally. A new website developed by the North Country Regional Foods Initiative – www.nnyregionallocalfoods.org – provides information on how to find regional foods and resources to help communities support and expand local food marketplaces.
The new website includes links to online tools designed to connect producers and consumers, research-based publications about North Country local foods, a calendar of local food events, and links to ongoing local foods work in the North Country. Publications on the new website range from how to find money to strengthen local food systems and guides to increase the consumption of local farm products to cookbooks, advice on how to serve local foods at events, and economic analysis of farmers’ markets and other community-based food systems.
The site also includes the North Country Regional Foods Initiative’s series of research briefs, fact sheets and recommendations intended for other farmers, food business owners/operators, consumers, policymakers and community & economic developers working to enhance and sustain agriculture in Northern New York.
The report includes social and economic impact data generated by local/regional foods operations and the Northern New York-based organizations that support them and a summary of the spring 2008 conference on the role of Adirondack North Country foods in community and economic development.
The initiative was developed through a partnership of the Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations of Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties and the Economic Development Administration University Center at CaRDI and designed to document how local food businesses and activities benefit the northern New York region and identify strategies for enhancing those benefits.
According to CaRDI’s Ag Economic Development Specialist, Duncan Hilchey, consumer surveys, in particular the Empire State Poll conducted by the Cornell University Survey Research Institute in 2007, show that 78.5% of the New York State residents age 18 and older buy local foods and 37.4% of that group said they go out of their way to buy local food.
Partnerships between producers, consumers, community and economic developers and local officials can serve as a model for bringing community members together to support other regional development efforts. Those interested in learning about and supporting local food activities in the North Country may now join a regional electronic network.
To activate entry into the [email protected] listserv, send an email to [email protected] with “Add me to the NNY Local/Regional Foods List” in the Subject line. More information on local and regional food initiatives is available from members of the Northern New York Regional Agriculture Program Direct Marketing/Local Foods team and the Community and Rural Development Institute (CaRDI):
Franklin County: Bernadette Logozar, (518) 483-7403, bel7[AT]cornell.edu
Clinton County: Anne Barlow-Lennox, (518) 561-7450, alb326[AT]cornell.edu
Adirondack Harvest – a community organization focused on expanding markets for local farm products so consumers have more choices of fresh farm products and on assisting farmers to increase sustainable production to meet the expanding markets; www.adirondackharvest.com
Adirondack North Country Association – a 14-county association committed to economic improvement. Since incorporation in 1954, ANCA has worked to create a greater sense of regional identity and pride through advocacy and promotion; www.adirondack.org/
Community and Rural Development Institute (CARDI) – Since 1990, the Institute at Cornell University has responded to current and emerging needs in community and rural development; works with Cornell faculty and staff, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and other state and regional institutions; http://devsoc.cals.cornell.edu/outreach/cardi/
Cornell Farm to School Program – provides resource development, educational programs, and evaluation to support efforts to increase the amount of locally produced food served in NY’s schools, colleges, universities & other institutions; http://farmtoschool.cce.cornell.edu/
Farmers’ Market Federation of New York – a grassroots membership organization of farmers’ market managers, market sponsors, farmers and market supporters, offering services to increase the number and capacity of farmers’ markets in NY, develop the scope of professionalism in farmers’ market management and improve the ability of markets to serve their farmers, their consumers and their host communities; www.nyfarmersmarket.com/
FoodRoutes – a project of FoodRoutes Network, a national nonprofit organization that provides communications tools, technical support, networking and information resources to organizations nationwide that are working to rebuild local, community-based food systems; www.foodroutes.org
GardenShare – a non-profit organization working to end hunger in northern NY; focuses on local foods; harvest sharing; farm-to-school; food security; home gardening; and public policy; publishes free quarterly newsletter and St. Lawrence County Local Food Guide; and operates the EBT terminal for Food Stamp Program participants at the Canton Farmers Market; www.gardenshare.org
MarketMaker – interactive mapping system locates businesses and markets of agricultural products in NY, providing an important link between producers and consumers; http://nymarketmaker.cornell.edu/
Pride of NY Member Search – The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Pride of NY Program promotes and supports the sale of agricultural products grown and food products processed within New York State; http://www.prideofny.com/
USDA Community Food Systems – A Nutrition Assistance Program through USDA, contains general resources and information from farm to table and links to specific topics such as eating in a community food system; food entrepreneurship; and, community food systems research; http://fnicsearch.nal.usda.gov/fnicsearch.
There was an interesting story in Sunday’s Press Republican about Gordon Oil in AuSable Forks. The company was founded by Clifford Gordon in 1921 and is now in it’s third generation. Part of the story was a tiny detail at the end that says a lot about our current economic environment:
“Starting out as Standard Oil of New York — or SOCONY, as the sign on top of the display [at Gordon’s main office] states — in the 1920s it became Mobiloil and then, in 1931, Socony-Vacuum.
Following 1955, every decade or so the parent company underwent business transformations, which included Socony Mobil Oil Co., Mobil Oil Corp., Mobil Corp. and, in 1999, ExxonMobil…
Lewis [Gordon, who operated the business with his brother Waxy for 50 years) recalled the big tanks they used to have, which were cut down for steel during World War II.
“There used to be storage in Plattsburgh,” he said. “Big barges would come through Whitehall and unload up there, and we would go get it.
“Now it all has to be trucked in. All the big companies had their tanks there in Plattsburgh. It’s kind of too bad.”
When the company switched to electrically operated pumps years ago it gave it’s older pumps to a local farmer who used them for many years. That’s the kind of localism we’ve lost and it’s to our detriment.
Localism – involvement in local politics, local economies, an understanding of local culture and the environment, underlies much of the Green movement. It’s not just politics and the environment, it’s about supportive communities of neighbors working together to protect each other from the sometimes ravenous capitalist economy (seen most recently in energy and food costs). It’s what was happening when Gordon Oil gave over those pumps to that farmer. It’s what was destroyed when those tanks were taken down and not replaced.
Localism is also the future we face. I was recently talking with a local hardware store owner, part of the True Value chain. He sells lumber, paint, the usual goods (plus his simply built furniture). He was telling me that he needed a special piece of lumber that he didn’t stock. He took his truck to pick it up at the Home Depot in Queensbury; they were out of stock, so he went to the Lowe’s and found what he was looking for. The piece of lumber cost him an additional $30 in gas for the truck, plus about two hours of time away from his shop. That piece of lumber could have been boughten for a fraction of the price not a quarter-mile away – albeit at a competing lumber store.
The story of the fuel oil storage facilities and the local hardware store owner are revealing for local businesses. They once stocked nearly everything a household needed. As corporations took over our world, local supplies (seen on store shelfs and those Plattsburgh tanks) have had to pared down their stocks as consumers have opted to drive long miles to shop at big box stores (or shippers have turned to trucking and on-demand wharehousing).
That is something that we’re going to see come to an end, although it make take a while for our neighbors to break their old habits. Even if the price of oil goes down before the election (as we argued it would), the damage has been done, and Adirondackers have started turning local out of necessity. That necessity is something local greens have been vociferously saying was bound to happen since the late 1980s, even as they argued for serious political efforts toward locally sustained communities.
The trend toward localism has already begun in a number of segments of Adirondack society – especially among small farmers and local wood products producers – but now we are going to see a much more general trend. Already Chestertown, North Creek, Schroon Lake, and surrounding areas have taxis – that’s right, cabs, right here in the North Country above Warrensburg. Not just a single car either, several companies that range widely through the mountains. You don’t need a taxi unless you are going someplace local.
James Kunstler (recently interviewed locally here) has been the most public area voice for localism. His books are a must-read for people interested in what future local economies could look like:
One thing Kunstler makes clear, is that it’s not just about energy – food is as important, and there are several ways to get informed about going local.
NCPR recently celebrated 10 years of the Warrensburg Riverfront Farmers’ Market, and new markets have been established around the region in recent years. Local Harvest does a good job online showing where you can find local farmers and farmers markets in our region, but eating local means more than local farmer’s markets. It means connecting with a local CSA (Community Supporter Agriculture) farm, it means growing your own food (alone and in cooperation with your neighbors), and it means shopping locally for locally produced goods.
Speaking of growing your own, Cornell Cooperative Extension has a program for beginning framers that has recently expanded on the web. According to NCPR who recently reported the news, the new site:
…guides new farmers, and farmers changing crops or marketing strategy, step by step through starting a farm business: from setting goals and writing a business plan, to evaluating land, to taxes and permits. There’s a frequently asked questions section, worksheets to download, and an ongoing forum. The website is the latest offering from the New York Beginning Farmers Resource Center. The center is based at Cornell, but its roots are in the North Country.
We need to get to know our local farmers. The Wild Center is holding two more “Farmer Market Days 2008” on September 11th, and October 2nd “in celebration and promotion of the wonderful local food producers in the Adirondack Region.” Naturally we can’t live on the mostly fancy foods the Wild Center’s program seems to focus on, but their effort is a good start to introducing local farm operations to the Adirodnack community at large.
Adirondack Harvest is a buy local food group that was started 7 years ago. They recently received a $50,000 grant to expand their program, which they describe on their site:
Since its inception in 2001, Adirondack Harvest has grown to encompass Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, and Warren counties in northeastern New York. These counties contain major sections of the Adirondack Park and the Champlain Valley. Our focus has been on expanding markets for local farm products so that consumers have more choice of fresh farm products and on assisting farmers to increase sustainable production to meet the expanding markets.
A more direct path to lessening food costs and supporting local farms comes from Adirondack Pork, aka Yellow House Farm and a member of Adirondack Harvest, where you can buy a whole or half locally raised pig (or go in on one with another family). A whole pig serves a family of four for about 6-9 months, depending on your eating habits. They raise a pig for you until it weighs about 200-225 pounds. Your pork is prepared for you by a local butcher – you tell them any special cuts, wrapping, etc., you want. Your meat comes to you wrapped, labeled and frozen. It takes a lot less freezer space then you would imagine, and its cheaper.
The bottom line is the economy is changing and the sooner we accept that it true and end our reliance on the big box stores filled with products from half a world away and their corporate partners. They have a stranglehold on our local economy and it’s time we fought back.
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