Visit to Taylor Brothers Farm 6/28/16

If you follow Valley Food and Farm on Instagram, then you may know that this summer we have been taking time to travel around the NH side of the Upper Valley photographing and profiling farms east of the Connecticut. These road trips are made possible through the New Hampshire Specialty Crop Block Grant Program which we were awarded this spring to create more support and awareness of NH specialty crop farms through promotional events and materials. Specialty Crops include varieties of fruits, vegetables, flowers, nursery trees and shrubs, honey, herbs, and of course, maple. The SCBG Grant itself is designed to provide NH organizations with the funds to conduct projects which benefit NH specialty crop farms under the areas of food safety, pest and disease prevention, research and development, industry promotion and marketing, and technology and innovation. Many of the farms we are traveling too are located in our online Valley Food and Farm Guide

Our goal is to increase support of Upper Valley farms to build healthy communities, markets, and environments for all who live here. This will be done through providing more marketing opportunities, materials, and other such opportunities for NH farms. Taking pictures of these farms is part of that overarching goal. So be sure to keep your eyes out for more pics of NH farms in our website, blog, newsletters, printed materials, Facebook, and Instagram! If you are a NH farm and would like us to come take pictures of your fields or stand please let us know at 802-291-9100 or email kylie@vitalcommunities.org!

One of the first farms I was able to visit was the Taylor Brothers Farm in Meriden, NH. The Taylor Brothers Farm is a four generation family farm started in 1970 by Steve and Gretchen Taylor with sons Jim, Bill, and Rob who now operate the farm. They began by raising cows, sheep, and vegetables. Then in the early 1980’s the farm switched over completely too dairy which today produces 3,000 pounds of milk each day from a herd of 120 Milking Shorthorn and Holstein cows. Up until 2009, all of the milk produced was sent to Cabot and while they still do send some off to be made into Cabot butter, the Taylor Brothers have begun making their own cheese in a creamery located right on the farm. I had the wonderful pleasure to talk with Gary who runs the creamery and makes each of the three varieties Taylor Brothers Farm Offers: Evelyn’s Jack, Cloverfield Colby, and Mill Hollow. These cheeses are aged anywhere between 2 weeks to 3 months and are available at the farm store in Meriden, at the online store, and at various food stores throughout the region.

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In addition to cheese, The Taylor Brothers produce maple syrup. This year alone, the Taylor Brothers maintained 6,000 taps and produced 2,400 gallons of syrup! Jim, Bill, and Rob have been sugaring commercially since 1992 though they have been boiling for fun since childhood. Now-a-days, the brothers rely on reverse osmosis to remove most of the water first before boiling it in an evaporator. In addition to syrup, the Taylor Brothers offer maple cream, sugar, and candies for sale.

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The newest addition to the farm has been the incorporation of Garfield’s Smokehouse which is managed by Bill Taylor and his wife Liz (Garfield). Garfield’s Smokehouse is located right across from the creamery and sugar house and offers a variety of NH hardwood and cob smoked meats and cheeses made in their USDA inspected facility right on the premises.

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One of the biggest highlights of this visit was talking with an Upper Valley farmer who is proud to call NH home and to work so closely alongside his brothers throughout all of the decision making as the farm and family have evolved and grown over the past 35 years. Through creating solutions to overcome economic shifts, building facilities to incorporate value-added products, and merging family businesses, it will be fun to see what the Taylor Brothers have to offer the Upper Valley as their family and farm continue to grow and develop over the years. Be sure to check out their farm stand located about 10 mins south of West Lebanon right below KUA in the beautiful hills of Meriden, NH.

Visit to Robie Farm 7/13/16

A few Wednesdays ago I had the opportunity to get out of the office and onto the road as part of our work with the New Hampshire Specialty Crop Block Grant Program which allows us to bring more support and attention to our Upper Valley NH farms. Over the past several weeks, I have been out of the office 4 times to take pictures of various farms in NH and today my path of travel was north on Rte 10 from Lyme to Piermont. Though I stopped at many farms, it is always hard to find the farmers around the house when it is a beautiful sunny day. Many weren’t home or working out back in pastures and fields where visitors could not find them. At my last stop, I was able to run into farmer Mark Robie at Robie Farm in Piermont, NH coming out of the farm store just as I was walking in. He was happy to talk for a few minutes about his family’s farm.

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Robie Farm is a small family dairy farm spanning back 6 generations since 1870 on 150 acres of forests and fields along the Conecticut River raising a herd of over 50 mixed Holstien, Jersey, and Normande cattle. These cows graze throughout the pastures during the summer months and then on the hay the family work all summer long to put up. The commitment the Robie’s have to this piece of land is clear. By maintaining fertile pastures through grazing, selling products locally, and passing down knowledge and skill from generation to generation, Robie Farm is well aware of their responsibility to their Connecticut River Valley ecosystem, close-knit family, and UV community.

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One of the ways Robie Farm expresses this is by selling raw milk in their farm store and in food stores around the region. Due to the cleanliness of their animals, facilities, and modernization of equipment and technology for extracting and storing the milk, the Robies do not feel the need to alter the natural state of their milk through pasteurization. They are happy to provide a raw, health-giving, and trustworthy product. In addition to milk, the Robies make 5 different kinds of cheeses which are all aged for a minimum of 60 days due to federal regulations around products containing raw milk. In addition to this value-added product, the Robies have experimented with ice cream, yogurt, and whey-fed pigs in order to make the most of this rich resource their cows and land provide.

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As mentioned earlier, Robie Farm supplies some of their raw milk to food stores around the Upper Valley and have partnered with many regional farmers to supply beef and pork to many restaurants and food stores throughout the region including the Upper Valley Food Coop, Stella’s, Simon Pierce, Crossroad Farm, and the Colatina Exit to name a few. It was interesting to hear Mark’s perspective of farm to restaurant transactions. It is an intricate web of relationships between farmer, chef, and customer fueled by reputation, consistency, and quality control. Many meat and veggie producers who sell to restaurants face similar challenges balancing and managing all these relationships and factors. Luckily, Robie Farm has a strong community following and strong family participation to help them manage it all but it is also up to us as consumers to continue our support of family farms, restaurants, and food stores who all work to make the Upper Valley a better place to live, work, and play by supplying and sourcing locally grown food.

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CRAFT at Cedar Circle Farm

Upper Valley CRAFT farmers and farm-workers met at Cedar Circle Farm last night to discuss regenerative agriculture and tour the farm with owners Will Allen and Kate Duesterberg. We met at the staff lunch tables where a new kid’s garden has been established as part of the summer camp that is taking place on the farm this summer at part of the education initiatives of Cedar Circle.

In addition to summer camps and workshops, Cedar Circle farmers are taking the lead in the region for experimenting with cutting edge regenerative agriculture initiatives such as no-till and intensive cover-cropping to work towards solving the climate change crisis through soil carbon sequestration and provide a farm model focused on social, ecological, and economic resiliency share with farmers and farm workers in the region. In addition to providing organic produce to consumers within the region, Cedar Circle has a strong dedication to increasing awareness and education around issues related to agricultural impacts (both positive and negative) on the environment.

Since the farm began in 2000, Will and Kate have been working with a non-profit organization in MA to support these initiatives to raise awareness. It is lucky we have such a resource here in the Upper Valley to combine the environmental movement with local food production. Most of all, it seems to me, that Cedar Circle Farm is most interested in taking the lead with experimenting with different regenerative practices designed to build ecosystem health which are new to production-based models of organic farms such as Cedar Circle and many others in the Upper Valley region. This is all made possible with the partnership with the MA non-profit, work with the Rodale Institute, and the support with grants from Dr. Mercola and UVM which have allowed them the time and money to invest in new land and equipment to begin exploring how to implement no-till into Upper Valley production systems.

So far, they have been working on crimp rolling a test field of rye and fixing up a drill seeder and transplanter which will hopefully get used within the next week! I look forward to learning more about Cedar Circle’s experiences with no-till farming and the lessons they can share with others in the region who may be interested in incorporating into their own agroecosystems.

Planning for the Future in Newbury

Planning for the Future in Newbury

We ended the school year with various classes “adopting” raised “laboratory” beds, perennial, and permaculture gardens around the school.  Within these we have a team of students that planted a garden committed to serving our salad bar and lunch programs, another few classes creating food for storage for cooking/baking projects,  a class that planted a butterfly garden- with an off-site milkweed patch to promote monarch habitat, and yet another team of classes planted a “stone soup” garden.  We received funding for a staff member to tend the gardens over the summer months- always a hiccup in the process of gardening at school.  Over time, our school has become increasingly committed to using farm to school curricula to support student learning and engagement.  We also purchased a beautiful new greenhouse kit and will put together a group of staff and community members to erect it so it can begin to be used once school is back in session.

Finally, we’re really excited that we’re sending a team consisting of administrator, parent, chef, and teachers to the three-day Farm to School Institute at Shelburne Farms!  After completing two farm to school grants, our team is poised to create a plan that will allow our program to continue to grow and become sustainable.  We feel very fortunate!

  • Kim Goody, Farm to School Coordinator

Growing Gardens in Canaan

Growing Gardens in Canaan

In the winter of 2015-2016 it was brought to my attention that Canaan Elementary School would support the creation of a food garden. I was allowed to work with second and fourth graders to create this garden so that they could learn (first hand) how to plan a garden, use organic methods, and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor. Another goal was to educate them on making healthy food choices.

The students began planting seeds indoors in early March under grow lights. They tended the seedlings throughout the spring, planned how to build the raised beds, set cardboard down on the walkways, mulched the walkways, built the raised beds, filled them with compost and soil, transplanted seedlings, and sowed seeds directly. They learned that straw mulch retains soil moisture and mulched the beds as well. They have been weeding, watering, observing, and even harvesting some salad greens. Students made sketches about how to direct rain water from our outdoor classroom roof (which is next to the garden) into a water collection barrel. The rain collection system is currently under construction.

Our school will host a summer recreation program and the staff has agreed to have the students tend the garden throughout the summer. Each day the cafeteria will prepare two meals and include what the children harvest.

Students have been very enthusiastic about this project and have enjoyed accomplishing a lot of work in a short time.

  • Kevin Gianini, STEM Teacher

Tunbridge Students Try Taste Tests

Tunbridge Students Try Taste Tests

Tunbridge Central School students spent time in May and June exploring foods through snack-time taste tests, thanks to a mini-grant from Vital Communities. Three different classrooms prepared recipes to share with the rest of the school, with hopes that popular recipes will be included in next fall’s hot lunch menu. Two of the recipes included featured Harvest of the Month ingredients – carrots and herbs.

Mrs. Hook’s first and second grade students prepared an apple-carrot salad with raisins, Greek yogurt dressing and cinnamon. In three stations, students peeled and diced apples, chopped carrots and celery, and measured and mixed the dressing. Finally, they shared their creation with TCS students during morning snack. More than 60% of students “liked” the salad, less than 20% “disliked” it, and nearly 20% didn’t participate in the taste test (including students who were absent or who didn’t try the salad).

The next taste test was by far the most popular!  Outside on a hot spring day, most students LOVED the strawberry-rhubarb popsicles made for them by the “Physical Geeks” – a TCS middle school teacher advisory (TA). Using fresh local rhubarb, stewed with sugar, and mixed with diced strawberries, strawberry yogurt, orange juice and applesauce, the “PG’s” created a culinary delight that many students were still talking about on the last day of school. More than 80% of TCS students enjoyed the popsicles!

Finally, just a few days before the end of school, the TCS fourth grade prepared a cucumber-mint salad for trying at both TCS and at Trek to Taste in Woodstock. While not as popular as the first two recipes with TCS students (approximately half of students who tried it liked it), it was enjoyed by most who tried it at Trek to Taste, with comments such as, “the spices all blend together well – delish!”

  • Jennifer Thygesen, Farm to School Coordinator

 

CRAFT at Sweetland Farm

Last Wednesday presented another lovely summer evening for Upper Valley farmers and farm workers to gather at Sweetland Farm for the third CRAFT meeting of the 2016 season. We had wonderful attendance of folks from 7 different farms in the Upper Valley! Everyone brought delicious dishes to share for the post-tour potluck, featuring a taste of  crops coming in around the Upper Valley in late June. These included cucumbers, summer squash, strawberries, and more. But before we could dig in, we had 87 acres of diversified pasture and cropland to tour with Sweetland Farmer Norah Lake.

The tour started down at the large converted dairy barn on the side of Rte 132 in Norwich, VT. Though Sweetland has only been in operation since 2012, it has thoughtful and seasoned land owners, both in the principles and practices of the farm.  Sweetland Farm is a true success story of Vermont Land Trust’s Farmland Access Program, doing their best to care for the land and the community for which they belong. it is clear to me how beneficial the program is for would-be farmers of Vermont searching for affordable agricultural land who share the program’s values of  ecological, economic, and social sustainability.

It was wonderful to hear Norah tell of the past, present, and future plans for the farm. From hay fields converted to crop lands using the power of pastured pork, to ponds as water reserves for irrigation, timber-framed staff housing units, and a brand new greenhouse, there are many new and exciting developments for those who work at Sweetland Farm and for those who subscribe to the CSA. With orchards, pastures, cropland, sheds, and ponds dotting the hillside, there was something to interest everyone during the tour. We had wonderful discussions about the pros and cons of receiving a USDA grant, the best sprinkler head systems, how mail-order pigs work, best ways to integrate crops and livestock into the agro-ecosystem, how to grow a prize-winning county fair pumpkin, and what to do with it once the fair is over. If anyone is wondering, the best options seemed to be entering in a punkin chunkin contest or a pumpkin regatta.

Overall, this 2016 CRAFT season is shaping up to be a great way to spend the evening getting to know farmers and farm workers of the Upper Valley. From my point of view, it has been a rewarding opportunity to learn about the vast potentials and possibilities for farming in the region. I know it isn’t easy to find time in the height of the growing season, but I am always grateful for the variety of perspectives and ideas contributed during these gatherings. Life has definitely gotten better upon learning about pumpkin races across Lake Champlain.

CRAFT at Sunrise Farm

It is hard to believe how critical record keeping and financial organization are in the day-to-day routines of owning and operating a farm. Thanks to Chuck Wooster and Jennica Stetler of Sunrise Farm for opening our eyes to the business side of farm management at our most recent CRAFT gathering at their farm in White River Junction, VT. Check out the wonderful resource The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook written by Richard Wiswall for more information. Hope to see everyone on Wednessday 6/22 at Sweetland Farm in Norwich, VT, to discuss topics related to land access.

CRAFT at Root 5 Farm

Thankfully, the weather held off for the CRAFT kickoff gathering of the 2016 season at Root 5 Farm in Fairlee, VT. Upper Valley CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) is an educational and social gathering of 30 farmers and farm workers from 12 different farms in the Upper Valley region. Together, we meet twice a month at one another’s farms to encounter various agriculture systems of the region and discuss an assortment of topics ranging from draft-power to managing farm finances. Thanks to everyone who came out despite the darkening skies and a huge thanks to Root 5 Farm for starting off the CRAFT season right.

The topic of the tour this week was post-harvest washing and storage from farmers Ben Dana and Danielle Allen who, along with their crew members, walked us through seas of remay cloth, tomato starts, and asparagus beds on their 28-acre organic vegetable farm. At the start of 2016, Root 5 Farm was awarded a grant from the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Initiative to build a commercial kitchen, pack house, and storage facility for their value-added products and storage crops. Root 5 was one of 12 other recipients of the grant designed to build the economy of Vermont through support of businesses reliant upon the working landscape of Vermont. Root 5 Farm is in the early stages of implementing the grant. They have already poured concrete floors and footers in the current packing area of the barn and in the new expansion. For more information on the Vermont Working Lands Enterprise Initiative, and other recipients throughout the state visit:  http://workinglands.vermont.gov/.

Caramelized Onion Dip

Root 5 onions

Caramelized Onion Dip

courtesy of Food and Wine

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 pound cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 25 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of water and cook, stirring, until the water has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Let the onions cool slightly, about 15 minutes.
  2. Transfer the onions to a cutting board and coarsely chop. In a large bowl, mix the sour cream with the cream cheese, parsley, onion powder and Worcestershire sauce until smooth. Stir in the onions and season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature with chips, crackers, or veggies.

The onion dip can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

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