Posts Tagged ‘Fruit’

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Taking A Closer Look: Blueberry Stem Gall

One of the plants that make the Adirondacks special is the blueberry, which likes to grow in, or alongside, a variety of wetlands. I recall one of the highlights of summer camp was when the nature counselor made her blueberry fritters. Campers and counselors alike would flock to her nature room as the rumor of fritters spread like wildfire. Her “Live off the Land” camping trips were never complete without blueberry fritters for breakfast.

But blueberries aren’t just special to people; lots of wildlife benefit from the fingertip-sized fruits, not least among them birds and bears. Not all blueberry fanciers are after the fruits, though. The blueberry stem gall wasp (Hemadas nubilipennis) is more interested in the stems of the plant. Highbush, lowbush, the variety probably doesn’t matter, not when reproduction is on the line. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

New Adirondack Cookbook for Fall & Winter

There’s a new cookbook tailored for the season, Northern Comfort: Fall & Winter Recipes from Adirondack Life. Edited by food writer Annette Nielsen, it includes more than 100 traditional and contemporary dishes gleaned from the magazine’s 40-year history. It focuses on regional flavors, including wild game, maple, apples, hearty vegetables and hearth breads. Paperback, 142 pages, $15.95.

Click here to hear an interview with editor Annette Nielsen by Todd Moe, of North Country Public Radio.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Food, Agriculture And The North Country Economy

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.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

North Country-Grown Wines Win Awards

This week Richard Lamoy will help begin the harvest of 25 varieties of cold-hardy grapes at an experimental farm in Willsboro. “The grapes are running about two weeks late this year,” says Lamoy, who lives in Morrisonville and cultivates a three-acre vineyard of his own. With a cold winter, wet spring and summer, windy pollination and now a cold rainy harvest, he says, “pretty much anything that can go wrong this season has gone wrong. Still we’re hoping to get some good wines out of it.”

Wine grapes are new to the Champlain Valley so LaMoy was eager to find out how locally grown wines compare to more established vintages. This year he entered eight wines he made in a contest sponsored by WineMaker magazine. He came home with six medals, including a gold for French hybrid white grapes (LaCrescent). “Obviously they did pretty well,” he says. “I’m encouraged by that. The whites are doing especially well in this region.”

LaMoy is one eight grape and wine producers participating in a Northern New York Agricultural Development Program-funded cold-hardy grape research trial based at the Cornell University Agricultural Research Station at the E.V. Baker Farm in Willsboro. The project was established in 2005.

The WineMaker contest is reputed to be the largest amateur winemaker event in the world and had 4,474 entries in 2009, judged in Manchester, Vermont.
 
Lamoy earned three silver medals for varietal wines (St. Pepin, Adalmiina, Petite Amie) made with locally grown French hybrid white grapes, and one bronze medal for a wine made with Champlain Valley French hybrid red grapes (Leon Millot). He earned another gold for a non-local grape.
  
Lamoy plans to apply for a winery license so he can sell wines next year. For now he’s gaining experience working in the vineyard at the Willsboro Research Farm and conducting Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education-funded trials in his own vineyard, Hid-In Pines.

The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program awards grants for practical on-farm research, outreach and technical assistance and is supported by funds from the New York State Legislature through the backing of the North Country’s state senators and assembly members.
 
The program receives support (funds, time, land, expertise, etc.) from Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station, NYS Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, six Northern New York Cornell Cooperative Extension Associations, W. H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute, U.S. Department of Agriculture, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, cooperating farms, agribusinesses across the region, and others.

To learn more about the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program, go online to www.nnyagdev.org, contact Program Co-chairs Jon Greenwood: 315-386-3231 or Joe Giroux: 518-563-7523, or call your local Cornell Cooperative Extension office.

Photograph of grapes from the Willsboro Research Farm


Sunday, September 27, 2009

When is it Apple-picking Time?

For the first time, I have apples that are perfect! Admittedly, I only have a few (okay, four), but that’s more than I’ve had in the past. I’ve been on the fence, however, about picking them. Last year I finally picked my Northern Spies out of desperation—we were expecting snow. I made tarts and took them to our Book Club meeting, but they really weren’t ripe. Unlike most people I know, I do not like green fruit (green as in “unripe”, not green as in color, although the two can be synonymous).

This year there was enough rain that the apples grew well. The sunny days of late August and September made the fruit grow. No scab appeared, and only a few were attacked by insects. But each day the fruits remain on the tree is one more day for something to happen. When should I pick the apples?

It all depends on what type of apples you have. Some varieties ripen early in the season (some, I’ve read, as early as July), while others linger until almost Thanksgiving. Up here in the North Country, that can be a problem; by Thanksgiving the tree could be buried in snow!

Your best bet is to find a local orchard and find out what apples are being picked and when. Sure, you could go on-line and find picking dates, but unless the orchard you select is in the same climate as you, you cannot count on the accuracy of those dates.

But suppose you don’t have any local orchards. There are certainly plenty of orchards along the Champlain Valley, but that’s the banana belt compared to the central Adirondacks. No one in his right mind has an orchard in our neck of the woods. Sure, there are lots of “wild” apple trees, but you can’t necessarily go by them. These were likely planted by early settlers as a source of fruit for making apple jack, a fermented tangy cider (not the sweet cider that you get with your donuts when you go pumpkin picking). They didn’t care what the apples tasted like or what condition they were in. No, you can’t go by these wild apples. The bears may like them, and the deer, but most of them are not for the likes of you and me.

So you stand there staring at the fruit on your tree. Do you go by color? If it’s red, is it ripe? Well, suppose your tree doesn’t bear red apples – what if they are yellow, or green? Can you trust color?

The answer is yes, sort of. First, you need to know what color your apples are supposed to be. Unless they are green apples, you can use color as a guideline. You want to look at the color of the skin near the base of the stem. If this area is green, the apple isn’t ripe yet. Once it turns red, or yellowish, then it is probably safe to pick.

You can also go by firmness. If your apple is hard as a rock, it isn’t ripe. If, however, it has a little bit of give to it when you give it a gentle squeeze, go ahead and pick.

You can test readiness by the ease of of the apple’s release from the tree. When you pick an apple, it should pluck easily, almost falling into your hand. If you have to tug and wrench it off, it’s not ripe.

Now, suppose a heavy killer frost is coming, and your apples are still on the tree. What do you do? You have to make a decision. Are they ripe enough that if you pick them and place them in a cool, dark place they will continue to ripen? If so, pick away. If not, then you might want to cover your tree, just like you would your pumpkins and squash.

Up here in the mountains growing perfect apples can be frustrating. Some years you might succeed, and other years your crop may be a complete failure. The best thing you can do it relax; after all, there isn’t much you can do about the weather. Get to know your trees, learn what varieties you have, and check the picking dates at the nearest orchard(s). From there you can only use common sense. With a little luck, you will have apples to enjoy throughout the cold and grey days of winter – a little taste of fall.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fooling Wasps in the Garden

“What is that green papery thing you have hanging next to the back door?” my mother asked. “It’s a paper wasp nest,” said I. An artificial wasp nest made of paper, as opposed to a nest made by paper wasps.

“What’s it for?”

“To keep away wasps.”

“Does it work?”

Ah…that’s the question. Several gardening catalogues sell these Chinese paper lantern type wasp nests as wasp deterrents, and others sell ones made of fabric. The theory is that you hang them in areas where you don’t want wasps. Supposedly, paper wasps are very territorial and will not build a nest in an area where one already exists. So, you hang up these artificial nests and voila! no wasps.

But does it work?

Well, I routinely had wasps build nests next to one of my sheds. And while I’ve come to terms with bees, I’m not so trusting of wasps. Some, like the bald faced hornet, are very aggressive and don’t need much (if any) provocation to attack. As soon as I would see the beginnings of a paper wasp nest, I would knock it down. Luckily, this worked, but I knew that the battle would only repeat every year unless I took some other measure.

Enter the fake nest.

I purchased a two-pack of paper nests a couple years ago. They lie flat and squashed in the package. All you have to do is stretch them out and lock the wire frame in place. Instant wasp nest. Then you hang it in a strategic location. I placed one next to the back door, easily within viewing distance of the corner by the shed. The other I hung inside the porch (a double assurance against wasps coming into the house – or at least this was the plan).

For two years I have followed this routine, and for two years I’ve had no wasps nests built near my shed (or anywhere along that side of the house). Could it be this really works, or is it merely coincidence?

According to www.wasps.net, fake nests are good for up to 5000 ft. away. The folks over at http://iberianature.com/britainnature/tag/fake-wasps-nest/ also agree: fake nests are an environmentally friendly way to control wasps around your house and gardens.

So there you go! A chemical-free, pet- and child-friendly, totally non-toxic way to control undesireables. If only every pest could be so easily fooled!


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Late Blight: What Not to Do

A Wilmington woman who suspected her tomato was afflicted with “late blight,” a fungal disease killing area nightshade crops, put the plant in her car and drove it to the Hhott House garden center in Saranac Lake late last week to get an expert opinion.

The opinion was, yes, the plant did indeed have late blight, and now it had traveled through Lake Placid, home to Cornell University’s Uihlein Potato Research Station, which provides seed stock for much of the state. It had also come within six miles of Tucker Farms, a commercial potato grower in Gabriels, and, less important, within a block of my potato and tomato plants, the latter which are finally fruiting.

The plant was bagged and discarded in the trash, as it should have been to begin with. Late blight is spread by spores that can travel several miles on the wind. Here is a reminder from the Clinton Essex Cooperative Extension on what you should do if you suspect your tomatoes or potatoes have late blight.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Adirondack Gardening: Is All Poo Created Equal?

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.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Importance of Weeding

To me weeding ranks right up there with housework: it’s one of those chores that just never go away. As soon as you clear out a patch of weeds, it seems to grow right back, like a gecko’s tail. After a while you begin to wonder if it really is all that important to do. Afterall, many books and garden gurus espouse the benefits of “green manure” and “living mulches” – what makes those different from your average weeds?

I have yet to resolve this question with any real satisfaction.

Green manure, perhaps, is easier to rule out. This is the name given to plants/crops sewn that will later be tilled into the garden bed. These plants are usually those that provide nutrients to the soil and are usually planted in off years when you don’t put any food crops in the bed. Green manure plants include things like fava beans and buckwheat. They are also great for attracting pollinators.

Living mulches, on the other hand, are plants you stick in the ground in and among your food plants, like clover. In theory they stay low, shading the soil from the harsh rays of the sun and the sharp patter of raindrops. Additionally, they are supposed to smother out “weeds.” I tried some of the clover last year…it did very well, grew quite tall, and took over a section of the garden. Hm…seems like it became just another weed.

So where do you draw the line between weeds and living mulches? Maybe it all comes down to the species of plant. Clovers, afterall, do help provide nutrients to the soil. “Weeds,” on the other hand, steal the nutrients and water from your crops, reducing your yield, sometimes monumentally. Does the clover not do this, too? Enquiring minds want to know.

Until I can find a satisfactory answer to these burning questions, I guess I will just have to resolve myself to pulling the weeds. And, if you are like me and keep putting it off, let me give you some hard-learned advice: don’t. Get out there and pull those weeds as soon as you see the buggers sticking up between your plants. If you don’t keep on top of them, they will take over and before you know it, those lovely gardens that you sweated and strained over, digging by hand, planting with loving care, will once more become part of your lawn and you’ll stand there looking at your strangled flowers wondering what happened. Yep. And then you’ll find yourself back at square one, having to redig those beds, only this time you have to be careful not to damage the surviving flowers and shrubs as you thrust your spade into the soil to uproot the weeds and grasses. Uh-huh…the hard-won truth is that you must keep up with the weeding every week.

They say converting your yard to gardens will save you time. Maybe they just meant you cut back on the time you mow (which is a good thing in my book; mowing is too much like vacuuming). And the time you save not mowing can now be put to good use elsewhere, like weeding.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Adk Gardens: To Till or Not to Till

Spring arrives and the garden beckons. The urge to plant seeds and pick flowers is strong. But first, the chores must be done, and the big garden chore that looms over all is preparing the soil for planting.

We open the shed and stare at the tiller (or we go to the garden store and stare at the tillers). Lugging the machine out into the yard we check for fuel, check for oil, push the lever to choke and yank on the chord. If we are lucky, it fires up with only a pull or two. If not, well, we stand back, glare at the machine, pull the chord some more, kick the infernal machine, push some levers back and forth, pull the chord, flood the engine, and lug the thing back into the shed.

There must be a better way.

That was me last weekend. I had one bed that I really wanted to till up, but for the first time in three years I couldn’t get the tiller started. Not being mechanically inclined, I returned the tiller to the shed and grabbed my broadfork instead.

I discovered the broadfork three years ago, about the time I was really getting into my veg gardens. All the flower beds around my house I had dug by hand, and doing the same with the veg gardens was daunting, so I bought a tiller. After running/bouncing it over the lawn a few times, I still had to dig by hand to remove all the rocks and weeds and clumps of grass. What had been the advantage of getting this $300 machine that now stood idle in the shed?

I read through some of my gardening books and came across the broadfork in a book about Biointensive gardening. This method espouses double digging, in which the gardener starts at one end of a garden, digs down with a shovel one shovel length, puts that soil in a container, and digs down another level to just loosen the soil. This can be done with the broadfork – a tool that breaks up and loosens the soil without disrupting the soil’s structure (more on this in a moment). This tool looks exactly like its name: a fork that is rather wide. It has 6-8 tines attached to a horizontal bar, with handles emerging upright from the ends of the bar. One thrusts the tines into the ground, steps on the bar, and then grabs the handles, levering the tines through the soil. It’s a primitive thing, but it works great! You then back up and start the next row of digging. The first layer’s soil goes into the trough you just dug, on top of the broadforked soil. The second layer is now forked. This continues until you reach the end of your bed. After you broadfork the last layer, the soil you removed from the first row is placed on top – the loop is closed, the system complete.

Over the years, my garden reading has come across many justifications for not tilling the soil. I first learned of no-till agriculture in a conservation class I took many years ago in college. We were reading about the Dust Bowl and how the advent of no-till farming helped cut down on soil erosion. In today’s gardening world, however, the idea of no tilling has more to do with “being green” – not polluting the air with gasoline fumes, cutting down on our carbon footprints. But it’s more than that – it’s also about preserving the vitality of the very soil itself.

As soil develops, layers are built; this is the soil’s structure. But the structure is more than mineral and organic layers; it is also the layers of living things: the worms, the beetles, the fungi, the bacteria. All these things work in concert to create a healthy environment in which plants can grow. When we run through this carefully balanced system with our rototillers, we mix everything up, disrupting the health and balance. Can your plants still grow in it? Of course, but the soil’s vitality has been reduced. By using the double digging method we preserve the soil’s structure. We are essentially fluffing up the soil without turning it on its head.

So I took my broadfork to this final garden and applied it. I was anticipating a struggle with hard-packed soil, but to my pleasant surprise the soil loosened up with hardly any effort at all. Maybe this is because last year the bed was built without any tilling: I layered tons of newspapers on the lawn and covered them with compost and manure. I was expecting the soil this year to be hard – that preparing the bed would have me digging down through the hard lawn under the papers (hence my initial attempt at using the tiller). As it turned out, the layers had successfully (for once) smothered the lawn underneath and all was cool, moist and soft – the easiest veg bed I have ever prepared.

Maybe the tiller will go in my next yard sale.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Companion Plantings for the Vegetable Garden

Picture a vegetable garden full of bright flowers and variable foliage. Instead of a giant garden with straight rows of vegetables, you have many smaller beds, each a jumble of vegetables, herbs and flowers. A waste of space? Not at all! It turns out that vegetable gardens that exult in variety are inclined to be the most productive. Companion planting, folks – that’s the name of the game.

A classic book in the lexicon of gardeners is Carrots Love Tomatoes. Since this book came out, however, many others have joined the bookshelf, and one of my favorites is Great Garden Companions by Sally Jean Cunningham. This book has almost become my garden bible because it is not only chocked full of great gardening advice, but it is immensely readable!

The key to a successful garden really is variety. You want to avoid the monoculture. When you plant expanses of just one type of plant (be it trees, flowers, or vegetables), you increase the odds that some disease or insect pest will find it and destroy it. If, on the other hand, you mix things up, garden survival rates soar!

But you don’t just want to chuck plants/seeds haphazardly into your garden; you need to follow a plan, you need to mix and match appropriately. For example, carrots and onions/chives are great companions. Carrots can be susceptible to carrot rust flies and onions/chives deter them. Onions are great for companions for many plants, actually, because of their pest-repellent qualities. Carrots also like caraway/coriander, calendulas and chamomile.

Beans and potatoes – these are a classic combo because the beans will help deter Colorado potato beetles. Here’s my two cents worth on this: bush beans yes, pole beans no. Make sure you use the right beans! Beets and onions are another good pair – alternate these root vegetables in your garden plots (I’ll discuss garden plots vs garden rows in another post). Your cabbage family plants (like broccoli) do well with aster family plants (like zinnias, dill and marigolds). Growing corn? Then you might want to try the traditional corn-beans-squash trio that many of our native people used (and still use). Plant your greens among your garlic, or under your cucumbers, or under broccoli and cauliflower, where the leaves will shade the tender greens from the harsh summer sun. Tomatoes do well with basil and peppers – all your pizza ingredients in one bed!

Nasturtiums, cosmos, calendulas and marigolds all feature prominantly in my veg garden – they provide wonderful spots of color, but also attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. Buckwheat is another great attractant for pollinators, and it’s also a great green manure when turned into the soil.

So break away from the boring vegetable garden. Turn it instead into a riot of color and textures. Mix and match your herbs and flowers and vegetables, and then see if your produce doesn’t do better for the effort.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Saving Fruit Trees from the Frost

The forecast says the low temperature tonight in Saranac Lake will be 22 degrees. The apple tree we share with a neighbor decided to bloom yesterday. What to do?

Since the tree has thrived at an elevation of about 2,000 feet for longer than anyone living in this neighborhood can remember, it must be a pretty cold-hardy variety. But a deep freeze at blossom time really threatens to thin the crop. So we called Bob Rulf, who owns Rulf’s Orchards, in Peru. He said it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to light charcoal in a couple of grills beneath the tree (this is a pretty big tree) and keep the smoke rising. Between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. is the coldest part of the night, Rulf said.

The temperature is only supposed to get down to about 29 degrees in Peru, the more-temperate apple basket of the Adirondacks. Cornell Cooperative Extension advises that when an apple blossom is tight and in the pink it can stand 30 degrees F for an hour; when it’s wide-open white it can stand 28 degrees for an hour, which seems counterintuitive, Rulf said.

His orchard is not equipped with wind machines or any large-scale equipment for dealing with frosts, so he’ll take his chances with the apples. However Rulf does plan to tow a furnace around the strawberry patch tonight with helpers riding along to blow hot air on that crop.

Photograph: Our apple tree in bloom


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New Regional Foods Site Now Online

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

Essex County: Laurie Davis, (518) 962-4810, lsd22[AT]cornell.edu

Hamilton County: Nancy Welch, (518) 548-6191, naw5[AT]cornell.edu

Jefferson County: Rosalind Cook, (315) 788-8450, rlc53[AT]cornell.edu

Lewis County: Dolores DeSalvo, (315) 376-5270, dbd6[AT]cornell.edu

St. Lawrence County: Katherine Lang, (315) 379-9192, kaa20[AT]cornell.edu

Additional Info: The website at www.nnyagdev.org/ncrf-home.htm include links to:

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.


Monday, August 11, 2008

OPINION: Going Local in The Adirondacks

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:

The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape (1994)

Home from Nowhere: Remaking Our Everyday World for the 21st Century (1998)

The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century (2006)

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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