Archive | Spring 2014

Contents Spring 2014

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On the Cover  Peter Roscini Coleman of Vermont Salumi Photo by Brent Harrewyn

On the Cover
Peter Roscini Coleman of Vermont Salumi
Photo by Brent Harrewyn

GRIST FOR THE MILL

MOUNTAIN PEAK
Clear Brook Farm
Vermont Salumi

WHAT’S IN SEASON
Refreshing Spring Sauces

NEW FARMER’S ALMANAC
Fresh Milk

PAM KNIGHTS
Fostering Connections

SPRING: A TIME FOR JUICING!
Tomgirl Juice Co.

EDIBLE VOICES
Tom Bivins

EDIBLE HISTORY
40 Years of NOFA Vermont

ON THIS PAGE 

Gabrielle Kammerer enjoying Tomgirl juice.
Photo by Brent Harrewyn

EDIBLE DIRT
Compost Happens at Someday Farm

THE TOWN SAVED BY FOOD
College Joins Hardwick’s Blossoming as an Ag Hub

MY PATH TO ORGANIC FARMING

LAST BITE
What’s Your Local?

 

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Edible Voices

EGM Questionnaire with Tom Bivins

by Maria Buteux Reade

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Photo by Brent Harrewyn

The phrase “executive chef” crops up throughout Tom Bivins’s resume, accompanied by names of some of Vermont’s iconic inns and institutions: The Inn at Shelburne Farms, The Old Tavern in Grafton, Pitcher Inn in Warren, Crop Bistro and Brewery in Stowe and the New England Culinary Institute (NECI) in Montpelier.

Fortunately for Vermont, this Baton Rouge, Louisiana, native moved north in 1988 to attend NECI and decided to stay despite the cold climate. Tom discovered that the way to embrace the lengthy winters in the Green Mountains was to get out and play in them.

An early advocate of “slow food,” Bivins was a natural for the roles he would assume over the next 30 years. Bivins believes that farm-to-table is not a movement but the only sensible approach when cooking and living in a state bestowed with such agricultural richness. He served as board chair of the Vermont Fresh Network from 2004 to 2010 and was named executive director of the Vermont Cheese Council in January 2014.
What drew him to restaurants and the food world were the intriguing people he met: “No one is just a waiter or a chef: They all have a back story.”

Here’s a glimpse into Tom Bivins’s own back story.

Edible Green Mountains: What’s your favorite cuisine?

TB: New American. It encompasses the best components of all cuisines, techniques and ingredients, with a New World sensibility and New World ingredients. Otherwise—Italian.

EGM: What foods do you love to eat when you are cooking for yourself, or your family?

TB: I’m from Louisiana, so the foods I love the most reflect my upbringing— straightforward and flavorful: gumbo, red beans & rice, almost any sort of shellfish prepared in myriad ways. I would sound like Bubba Gump if I described the ways in which Louisianians prepare shellfish.

EGM: Name a few of your go-to food places in Vermont.

TB: Misery Loves Company and Bluebird Tavern in Burlington, That’s Life Soup in Montpelier, Shelburne Farms, the Pitcher Inn.

EGM: Most challenging dish you’ve ever prepared?

TB: Cassoulet is a deceptively simple dish that takes a lot of work to get right. But it’s worth the effort when done properly.

EGM: Name a few of your mentors or sources of inspiration.

TB: Michel LeBorgne, Kevin O’Donnell, Danny Meyers, David Miles, Robert Barral—these guys have been instrumental in my professional growth.

EGM: What cooking tools would you travel with?

TB: For chefs, cooking tools are like shoes for some women—how do you decide? Boning knife (stilettos), paring knife (adorable flats) and chef knife (comfortable work shoes). And a fish spatula (your favorite all-around shoe).

EGM: Name a few people (living or deceased) whom you would love to dine with or cook for.

TB: I’d like to cook for my ancestors; I would love to see who they were and hear their stories. I actually think that you could choose anyone for this question and have a great time. Food and conversation go hand in hand.

EGM: What’s your “dirty secret” cooking ingredient?

TB: It’s a secret, silly!

EGM: What three ingredients can’t you live without?

TB: Salt, pancetta, cultured butter.

EGM: Describe a cooking disaster you’ve had. How did it turn out?

TB: I once had a kitchen fire and had to pull a dry chemical system to put it out. I think I would let the place burn down next time. It would be less of a mess.

EGM: What drew you to the culinary scene in the first place?

TB: The people who work in the restaurant business are always interesting. And the work is satisfying.

EGM: What are some of your favorite dishes to prepare?

TB: Seafood gumbo, crème caramel, pasta carbonara.

EGM: Words of wisdom you would impart to an aspiring chef?

TB: Challenge your abilities every day, don’t whine, and go home at the end of your workday. Oh, and turn off your phone.

EGM: Culinary school—worth it or not, and why?

TB: Worth it. Cooking is a craft. Most skill acquisition is simply repetition. If no one shares the whys and hows with you or points you in the right direction, it’s difficult to be a great practitioner of your craft. But I’ve met some very successful cooks and chefs who did not go to culinary school. However, those people worked even harder to learn their craft.

EGM: What’s your late night snack?

TB: Any leftover.

EGM: Best meal you’ve ever had (not your own cooking)? Worst?

TB: Best meal: a seafood stew in a little restaurant on the Amalfi Coast [of Italy] with my husband.
Worst meal: probably some family holiday meal. Those are really hit or miss.

EGM: Best meal you’ve ever prepared? Worst?

TB: Probably the best was a Slow Food dinner for NECI students.
Worst: I won’t admit to a worst meal. What chef would?

EGM: How do you eat when you’re on a road trip? What kind of road food grabs your attention?

TB: Local foods and local specialties generally grab my attention. Road food should evoke a sense of place.

EGM: What are some tracks on your ideal cooking playlist? Busy Friday night, early weekend morning?

TB: I don’t like music or chatter or noise when I am cooking. I find it distracting.

EGM: Go-to resources for information or inspiration?

TB: I don’t really trust the Web for info. I tend to check the classics for information and technique: Julia Child’s early stuff, almost anything by Joel Robuchon, anything by Molly Stevens. For inspiration, I like to look at pictures in cookbooks, check out ingredient combinations and, occasionally, try a recipe.

EGM: Favorite Vermont ingredients?

TB: Any Vermont cheese, Vermont maple syrup, wild foods of Vermont.

EGM: Where do you see the Vermont food and drink culture heading in the next five–10 years?

TB: I think Vermont food and drink culture will continue to set an example for the rest of the U.S. We will continue to make more great cheeses, beers, spirits, more diversified and sustainable food products. Vermont will reflect a European sensibility around food—where it comes from will matter, how it is made and what it is made from will matter and who makes it will matter. Quality will set Vermont food apart.

EGM: Favorite kitchen lit?

TB: Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell.

EGM: What’s on your feet when you cook?

TB: Rockports.

EGM: What’s your beverage of choice while you are cooking? While winding down?

TB: Water or coffee.

EGM: If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?

TB: I think I would like to work in the film business.

EGM: Describe a typical (or ideal) day off.

TB: Sleep late, meander through the day with little purpose or thought.

EGM: A surprising passion you have?

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Pam Knights

Fostering Connections

Interview by Ellen Ecker Ogden

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Photo by Paul Reynolds

It was September 1998 when I took a seat at the table with Pam Knights. We were in a garden, along with 40 other guests, while Lyndon Virkler, a chef instructor at New England Culinary Institute, harvested vegetables and presented a cooking class.

The sun was setting, and there was a golden glow filtering between the ferny asparagus and succulent fall raspberries. We seemed relaxed, but the planning leading up to this moment had been monumental.

This was my first taste of working with Pam, founder of Pam Knights Communications, a full-service branding and marketing company based in Northfield, Vermont. Despite her quiet demeanor, she has the focus and determination of an athlete and a dedication to her work that is detail-oriented and indefatigable. Plus, she has a soft spot for farmers.

“Farmers are very hardworking and committed. Without them, we wouldn’t be eating as well as we do,” she says. “So it is in my best interest to help them succeed!”

While most of her success has been behind the scenes, she is a visionary, having co-founded the Vermont Fresh Network (VFN) while serving as director of public relations and special events at New England Culinary Institute. She is also a frequent workshop leader at conferences where she provides the guidance that small businesses need for developing marketing plans and tools.
She sees endless possibilities for building strong connections between farmers and consumers and especially enjoys working with local inns and restaurants to grow those connections.

This interview offers a peek into her life, her work and what keeps her so passionate about Vermont food.

Edible Green Mountains: What influenced you most when you were getting started in your career?

Pam Knights: I graduated from UVM, as a pioneer in the environmental studies program. While there, I started the first women’s alpine ski team (with co-captain Susie MacNeil) and the first women’s XC ski team. I was also among the first to bring my horse to the equine program. From these experiences I learned that if you want to do something and it isn’t already in place, then why not create it yourself!

EGM: How did you get started?

PK: When my son Jean-Luc Matecat was 3, my first husband, a French chef, and I both started working at New England Culinary Institute (NECI). I was there for 13 years as director of PR and special events, and developed the nonprofessional continuing education for adults and children, culinary weekend and guest chef programs. From there, I went on to the Vermont Land Trust, where I managed communications and events. This gave me the opportunity to work with the stewards of Vermont’s working landscape and helped me to understand the importance of land conservation and the work of farmers and foresters around the state, before branching out on my own.

EGM: Who are your customers and what are some of your favorite projects?

PK: I’m passionate about family farms, as well as country inns, restaurants and agritourism. By choice I work mostly within the culinary and hospitality industries, but also with artisans and other small businesses.

My first client was King Arthur Flour, developing their cooking school. I’ve worked with Cedar Circle Farm & Education Center for more than a decade to develop harvest festivals and handle PR and advertising. I also enjoy working with longtime client Green Mountain Hooked Rugs, being a hooker myself! And there are, of course, many others too numerous to mention.

EGM: How would you describe your work?

PK: I’m a branding and marketing strategist, consultant and project manager. My strength is in helping businesses put the pieces together in a cohesive way and to define their niche within their industry. Together we develop a strategic marketing plan both short and long term, develop their brand and their print, digital and social marketing tools—with the goal of empowering them to successfully grow their businesses. I also work as a consultant for farm viability and small business development programs throughout New England.

EGM: Where do you see VT food initiatives heading in the next decade?

PK: Towards education, to encourage more Vermonters to buy locally. With more farmers vying for the same food dollar it’s increasingly important to stand out. It’s not enough anymore to be a farmer member of the VFN or for a chef to use locally grown foods. We all need to work to attract more families to the local table and build more community partnerships that support buying locally—while paying farmers and chefs a decent wage.

EGM: What words of advice do you have for new food start-ups?

PK: Start with a good business and strategic marketing plan. Determine what makes you unique, what you do well and people need, and communicate it in a creative, engaging way that makes customers feel good about buying your products and services.

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New Farmer’s Almanac

Fresh Milk

By Katie Powers

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Photo by Maria Buteux Reade

I grew up drinking 1%, and strictly on my breakfast cereal. Then there was the time when one brother got whooping cough and the rest of us had to drink a viscous, orange-flavored medicine with a tall glass of milk. My taste buds were wounded for years.
My partner, Jacob, grew up with milk on the dinner table every night. His family of five would go through gallons each week. Now, he drinks the fresh milk we get from our neighbors with a childlike zeal.

I have recovered from my earlier trauma, yet I drink milk with slightly less fervor. “You mean she’s a sipper!” said the neighbor, with equal amounts disgust and hurt, when Jacob let this slip. But I am reading and am fast becoming a believer in raw milk.

We’re expecting a calf in March. Ophelia is our Jersey heifer, and she is sweet as our old brown dog. She came to us as a calf, along with her cousin, Ishmael, whom we’ve since processed for beef. They were knock-kneed and curious. We fed them from bottles, their eyes huge and round as they tugged on fat rubber nipples.

I hadn’t planned on dairy. We’re trying a little bit of everything else—vegetables, flowers, eggs, pork, poultry, beef—and our buckets are full, so to speak. But I’ve fallen for Ophelia. She is nearly 3 now, and I’ve watched her all these months. I’ve studied her as she grazes. I’ve watched her resting in the shade beneath the birch trees, chewing her cud, staring back at me. In winter, she’ll stand resolute, snowflakes collecting on her golden coat. I’ve seen her eyes close, her jaws slow, as she feels a January sunrise. She lets me stand close to her, scratch along her neck, under her chin, the skyward angle of her hips. She arches her back, leans in. She is so clean. I dip my nose to her coat and breathe in; she smells like a warm meadow.

She was bred in June, and we’ve had our eyes on her udder all winter—it’s fast becoming plump, weighty. We’re building a space in the barn for milking, and shopping for stainless steel buckets. I’m getting ready to sacrifice the kitchen to the business of milk.

This spring will be chaotic: There will be seedlings, chicks, piglets, and the new chore of milking. Yet for Ophelia to give birth here in our barn, to bring her milk into our kitchen, makes sense. It is a different act, of course, than the eating of our meat, but one that I know will be equally meaningful. It is a comfort: an ancient rite of springtime, a reminder of the rhythm of things. And I suspect that my taste buds will rejoice.

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Grist for the Mill

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Photo by Brent Harrewyn

As I am writing this Grist for the Mill, I’m thinking ahead to later this week, when I’ll be heading up to Sterling College to perhaps get within a few feet of culinary icon Alice Waters. Alice was the pioneer of the culinary philosophy that cooking should be based on the freshest seasonal ingredients that are locally and sustainably produced long before it became a mainstream practice.

My copy of her cookbook The Art of Simple Food has stained pages and a well-worn loose binding. I remember hearing a feature on Alice about the advice that she would give to her younger self today, how she would tell herself to trust her instincts.

As I was organizing the pictures and the stories within this issue I realized that most of the people we connected with trusted their instincts and followed their passion. This passion has allowed them to grow, be creative, feel productive and flourish in many different ways, all starting with food. This, in turn, has influenced and educated many who share this common interest—but on many different levels. Contributor Ellen Ogden visited with Pam Knights and explored the path she has taken following her passion. Tom Bivins also answered a list of questions for our Maria Buteux Reade’s Edible Voices, which shares a little insight to his vision and thoughts on the culinary richness of Vermont and what is on his feet when he’s cooking.

Sticking with the season, we have included what has been going on inside the greenhouses of Clear Brook Farm in Sunderland. When we received the photos for this piece in the middle of winter, they just made us all feel warm and delighted in the pending renewal that spring brings. There are also recipes for spring sauces to that will “awaken the senses and ease the transition from winter to spring.”

Contributor Nicole L’Huillier Fenton explores 40 years of NOFA Vermont history and reminds us that we are a community. They are behind the scenes working hard to pass on the passion.

I can’t help but think of the power in taking time to break bread—sourcing, growing and creating the ingredients is itself an opportunity to connect. Originally, the term breaking bread was literal, meaning that a loaf of bread would be broken to share and eat: a casual meal among associates—the notion of friendliness and informality. Take time this spring to share a meal with someone who inspires you. Renew that passion that is inside you and follow your instincts.

 

Warm regards,

Mary

 

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SPRING: A TIME FOR JUICING!

Tomgirl Juice Co.

By Corey Burdick • Photography by Brent Harrewyn

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Gabrielle Kammerer is just 32 years old, but already her culinary curiosity has sent her from Chicago to Virginia, from studies at the French Pastry School to work as a creator of fancy cakes and chocolates.

During the years she meticulously crafted pastries, Kammerer found excitement in the “joyful side of food, the reward side,” yet always brought whole fruits and vegetables for her lunch, never a sandwich. One day, she had an epiphany: She didn’t really like sugar.

“The energy you get from fruits and vegetables is what’s vital,” Kammerer said. It’s with this mindset that she embarked on a photography project featuring fresh produce. Her diary entry sketches, which began in tandem with the photography, featured a food truck and the thousand other “what ifs” associated with a culinary business plan. Numerous concepts tumbled out of her imagination into her notebooks.

“It was a wild buildup of ideas and drawings,” Kammerer said. “There was no money for research and development, so I built a business plan with a pencil and paper and a vision for the future along with a menu of services. I became addicted to the idea.”

One of her first experiments took place in her own kitchen. She concocted a glass of aloe vera water.

“I suddenly created this drink that was sparkling and effervescent. Full of mint and cilantro and fresh-pressed organic lime juice.” It was delicious, but Kammerer found herself at a crossroads: Would her business become a sparkling water or juice company?

After visiting farmers’ markets and finding inspiration in the vivid colors of ripe tomatoes, the answer to that question as well as the name of said venture became blazingly apparent. She delighted in the brilliant hues of the lush, seed-filled fruit. With this revelation, came the conclusion that the juicy tomato would be the “Tom” to Gabrielle, the “girl.”

Kammerer came to Burlington on a whim. A good friend had regaled her with stories of Burlington’s bounty of apple orchards and berry-picking operations and it seemed like the ideal spot to execute her plan.

After her arrival, she began working a number of different jobs, including produce stocking at City Market, where she was introduced to local purveyors and learned how to clean produce in large quantities. Then, one evening, she was invited by a friend to sell her juices at an art opening in the South End of Burlington.

Given her high-volume production kitchen background, she quickly set to work making five gallons of each juice. The juices were placed in tall jars to inspire the creative impulse in people who approached her. Mixing and matching was encouraged so that each drink became that customer’s unique blend, or “Tomgirl.”

“Every menu item is a Tomgirl; everything can be personal because it’s a creative company, it’s all about you, your health, learning, education and finding your source of energy,” Kammerer said.

While Kammerer met with success at the event, she did have quite a bit of juice leftover, so she decided to load up an old Pepsi cooler and head to the Church Street Marketplace. She traversed the cobblestone block, asking people if they’d like to buy a homemade organic juice for $5. Afterward, she took the cooler by a yoga studio when a class was being released and, again, asked if people wanted to purchase a juice. This initial effort of simply hitting the streets to engage in self-marketing set the wheels of Tomgirl in motion.

Within a three-day span, Kammerer found and purchased a turquoise 1971 pickup truck, a juice cart and secured a spot to sell her juices on summer nights after 6pm behind the April Cornell building on Battery Street.

Now, Kammerer offers a number of services and products: fresh juice delivery (gifts, surprises, personal health); guided and custom-built seasonal juice cleanses of many different varieties, each specific to the person; fresh juice catering; and outdoor events.

“I started the company alone and remain the primary owner-operator,” Kammerer said. “I do, however, have a creative director, best friend, designer and business partner: Jonathan Mikulak. He’s amazing. Other interns and barters have also been in the mix.”

The majority of her orders come from people seeking a three- to seven-day juice cleanse. The primary component of the regimen is a beverage consisting cayenne, lemon and maple syrup.

“It’s an effortless way to flood the system with nutrients,” Kammerer said. Individuals call or email with their orders and set an appointment for pickup or delivery. Kammerer works to customize the juices to diet specifications. She also takes the time to dialog with customers to make sure they are mentally and emotionally prepared to take on a cleanse.

Environmental consciousness permeates her business from her sole use of organic produce to the transformation of juice skins into teas. Many ingredients are bought one at a time and others are bought in bulk from local purveyors, such as Black River Produce, Diggers Mirth, Arethusa and Half Pint Farms.

Since Kammerer officially launched Tomgirl Juice Co. in Burlington in June 2012 and became a vendor at Summervale that July, her popularity has grown. She can often be seen delivering juices in a milk crate secured to the back of her bike (which she did even through the ice storms of December and January), donning her signature long floral dresses and cap.

Soon, aside from sampling Tomgirl juices at Summervale and in CSAs, lunch goers at the Innovation Center in Burlington will be able to sip a delicious juice when Kammerer begins sharing space with Bluebird Coffee Stop’s Lakeside Avenue location.

Kammerer’s advice for anyone thinking of starting their own business?

“Get really specific about what you want and have fun with it. Play imagination.”

It took two full years for Kammerer to really visualize her business and develop a timeline, but due to her unwavering determination, Tomgirl has taken off.

“I had to trust myself. When I was 29 and moved to Burlington with a one-way ticket and a vision of starting this business, I wasn’t sure how it was going to happen, but knew it had to.”

Kammerer, naturally effusive, added, “I believe in dreams!”

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What’s in Season

Refreshing Spring Sauces
by Lisa Masé • Photography by Brent Harrewyn

egg sauceGrowing up in Italy, I knew spring as primavera, or “first truth,” because spring brings renewal and new growth for all living things. In Vermont, this season comes slowly, with gentle thaws and maple sap. As I make my way over muddy ruts and puddles to dig parsnips and leeks or marvel at crocus blooms, I remember to awaken my body from its slow winter pace by choosing foods that support the liver.

This essential internal organ stores blood and promotes balanced digestion. After a winter of rich, nourishing foods, the liver benefits from gentle spring cleansing. In order to do so, choose more green foods, try sour foods like the ones in these recipes, eat a lighter dinner and cook with more water and unsaturated vegetable oil and use fewer saturated animal fats.

Add these sauces to any simple dish, from pot beans and rice to potato soup. Their bright flavor will awaken the senses and help ease the transition from winter to spring.

Hard-Boiled Egg Sauce
I grew up making this sauce, which is typical of the cuisine of the Dolomite mountain region. Along with wild asparagus, this delicious topping is a sure sign of spring in my family.

8 eggs
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon each powdered cumin and coriander
½ bunch fresh parsley, roughly de-stemmed

Place eggs in a stockpot. Cover with water, bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, drain hot water and rinse with cold water until they are cool enough to handle. Peel eggs and place in a blender. Add all the other ingredients and blend at highest speed for 2 minutes. Add water to make sauce creamier.

Eat with leftover rice and pesto, over steamed asparagus or broccoli, or as garnish for simple soups. Keeps refrigerated for 4 days.

Healing properties:
Eggs—Each one contains 6 grams of protein, 9 essential amino acids, and only 1.5 grams of saturated fat; rich in lutein, which helps prevent macular degeneration and cataracts; improve human lipid profile, thereby balancing cholesterol; contain naturally occurring vitamin D.
Parsley—chemo-protective food, which can help neutralize carcinogens; increases the blood’s antioxidant capacity; rich in vitamins C and A; cleanses palate and breath.

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Artichoke Spread
These elegant yet prickly vegetables are not local to Vermont until the summer, but many preserve them in water or oil to enjoy as a spring dish. Artichokes help the liver metabolize fat.

2 large artichokes
¼ cup olive oil
½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ tablespoon dried thyme leaf

Steam artichokes for 20 minutes, or until leaves start to open. Remove from heat, rinse to cool, peel leaves off the stem and score them with the tip of a paring knife. Open each leaf and scoop the meat out into a blender or food processor. Once you have removed all the meat from both the leaves and the stems, add the rest of the ingredients to the blender or food processor. Blend at highest speed for 2 minutes. Taste for salt.
Serve with grilled lamb or tempeh, roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes, and as a sauce for whole-grain pasta. This spread makes a delicious sandwich when combined with hummus and goat cheese. Keeps refrigerated for 5 days.

Healing properties:
Lemon—awakens the pungent flavor in the body, detoxifies the lymphatic system and provides vitamin C.
Olive oil—anti-inflammatory; rich in vitamin E and monounsaturated fats, which enhance colon health. Choose the best olive oil possible, preferably one whose label lists an acidity of less than 0.5%.
Thyme—contains thymol, an anti-microbial volatile oil that can help prevent colds; rich in flavonoids whose antioxidant activity keeps blood pH in balance.

Creamy Green Sauce
Spring greenhouses are bursting with arrow-shaped spinach leaves. This delicious sauce maximizes their potential.

2 large yellow onions, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
2 pounds spinach

Gently warm the oil in a skillet that has a tight-fitting lid. When oil is hot, add onions, stir briefly with spatula, turn burner down to medium-low and cover. Add a splash of water, salt and black pepper.Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water if onions are sticking to the bottom of the skillet.

Meanwhile, cover the bottom of a medium stockpot with water and add a pinch of sea salt. Bring to a boil.
Rinse spinach, add to the stockpot, cover and reduce heat to low. Braise greens for 5 minutes. Depending on availability and preference, you can substitute kale, collards or Swiss chard. If so, braise for 10 minutes.
Drain any remaining water from greens, add to onions and stir well to incorporate. Turn off the heat and purée, either with an immersion blender or in a blender.

Enjoy mixed with cooked rice and kasha, as a delicious sauce for salmon or white beans, and mixed with yogurt as a tortilla filling. Keeps refrigerated for 4 days.

Healing properties:
Dark, leafy greens—These iron-rich, fiber-filled foods stimulate the bitter flavor on the palate, which encourages bile production, thereby strengthening digestion and aiding liver rejuvenation.
Onions—anti-microbial; anti-bacterial; contain oligosaccharides, which stimulate growth of healthy bifidobacteria in both the small and large intestines and help maintain balanced intestinal flora.

sauces_pateWalnut Leek Pâté
Look for local Vermont walnuts, which taste less
bitter than the traditional English variety.

1 large leek, washed well and chopped into rounds
5 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
White wine or lemon juice
½ cup walnut halves and pieces

Gently heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a skillet and add leek. Reduce heat to medium low. Add salt, black pepper; cover and simmer for 5 minutes. If you have leftover white wine, add a couple splashes. If not, just add a splash of lemon juice. Simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat.

As the leeks are cooking, place the walnuts in another skillet. Toast on medium heat, tossing often with a spatula, for about 3 minutes or until walnuts are lightly browned.

Once leeks and walnuts are cooked, place them in a food processor and add 3 tablespoons olive oil. Blend at highest speed for 2 minutes. Taste for salt.

Try it with biscuits, on sourdough bread, and as a dip for carrot and celery sticks. This pâté makes a lovely appetizer when served with nut and seed crackers. Keeps refrigerated for 5 days.

Healing properties:
Leeks—strengthen lungs; anti-microbial; anti-bacterial; offer rich source of fructo-oligosaccharides, which stimulate growth of healthy bifidobacteria and suppress the growth of harmful bacteria in the colon.
Walnuts—rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids; gently laxative; contain ellagic acid, which supports the immune system.

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Mountain Peak

Vermont Salumi
A Delizioso Taste of Italy
By Tracey Medeiros • Photograpy by Brent Harrewyn

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Peter Roscini Colman’s experiences in life, and passion for food, were the inspiration for his business, Vermont Salumi.

Born in Assisi, in the Umbria region of Italy, Peter moved to Vermont when he was 3½ years old. Growing up on an organic vegetable farm, Peter split his time between working on his family’s Cate Farm in Plainfield and taking annual trips to Italy to visit other family members.

He always loved eating prosciutto while in Italy, but felt that it was an expensive product. It was during a visit to Italy that Peter decided to learn how to cure his own meat. He expressed this desire to family and friends, who recommended that he apply for apprenticeships with the Old World butchers in Italy. Peter soon found himself in a butcher shop in Italy learning how to slaughter pigs and cure the meat.

Upon his return to Vermont, Peter determined that the state offered an excellent business opportunity for dry-curing meats. Planning to use the advanced curing techniques that he had learned in Italy, Peter renovated the space in his family’s barn to start Vermont Salumi. His company currently offers four types of sausages, which are made from local pork that is raised on pasture without hormones or antibiotics. These sausages are made by hand, in small batches, without the use of nitrates or preservatives.

Peter currently offers fresh sausage, but hopes to eventually start selling prosciutto. 

“It will be awhile before I sell prosciutto, but I will do so someday. Speaking from a business standpoint, prosciutto is really resource-intense because it not only takes a year to cure, but you also need a lot of space in which to hang the meat. Starting a business on a tight budget means that I am not able to begin with a product that takes a year to cure. I would have to buy the hams and ramp up for production to make prosciutto. The process would entail curing approximately five hams a week, meaning that all of my money and space would be tied up,” explains Peter.

The hardworking business owner considers sausage an ideal product. He has now been making sausage for seven years.
“I buy the pork and the trim on a Wednesday, make it into sausage by Thursday and sell it on Saturday, getting my money back with some profit. From a business standpoint, sausage is a great product to make,” says Peter.

He buys his pork from Vermont Family Farms in Enosburg. The pigs are all pasture raised and are not given antibiotics or hormones, which is extremely important to Peter. His wine is purchased from Lincoln Peak Vineyard in New Haven, Vermont, and the garlic from Bella Farm in Monkton, Vermont.

vtsalumi_bharrewyn_4Vermont Salumi’s first four varieties of sausage stem from stories and experiences in Peter’s life and are representative of certain times and places.

“Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea. Of course experimenting with different ingredients has also been helpful,” he says.

The Daily Grind is the company’s biggest seller. Peter uses garlic, bold red wine, salt and pepper in its preparation. His mentors in Italy schooled him in this recipe, which is built on a centuries-old foundation of Umbrian tradition and is the essence of his apprenticeship.

“For me, it is the quintessential sausage! I try to make a high-quality sausage on all levels. From a flavor and taste standpoint, my products are distinctive because their ingredients are all locally sourced and meticulously chosen,” explains Peter.

“I want to stimulate Vermont’s economy by making sure that my business promotes and generates livelihoods for other Vermonters. It is very important to me that my company does not deplete the environment of its much-needed nutrients and resources. I try to support other small businesses here in the state of Vermont. By doing so, I will not only be making a product that is sustainable, but also one that helps to fuel the state’s small businesses through the promotion of local agriculture.

“I think it is really important that Vermonters keep coming up with new ways to make sure that agriculture is viable here in our state. As long as we continue adding depth with new business ventures, we can keep Vermont thriving financially, which will assure that our communities remain healthy,” Peter emphasizes.

Nestled in one room in the Colman family’s barn is a culinary treasure that not only produces a product, which is sustainable and mouthwatering and also promotes local food producers while continually advocating for a healthy environment. As Peter’s Italian relatives would say, “Delizioso!

VermontSalumi.com

 

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Clearbrook Farm

Local Food and Its Trip to Your Table
By Frederica Templeton • Photography by Greg Nesbit

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It’s the first day of summer and the farm stand at Clear Brook Farm on  Route 7A in Shaftsbury is humming with activity. The strawberries just in from the fields are attracting serious attention, as are the sugar snap peas and the plump hothouse-grown tomatoes.

After a winter of substandard, sad-looking supermarket vegetables, the sight of so many colorful, healthy choices makes me giddy.

When I visited the farm in early April, all of this bounty was just a promise. In the diffused early-morning sunlight, with the temperature finally around 50°, I spoke to owner Andrew Knafel about what it takes to get food from the farm to the table for small organic farms like his.

We were standing outside one of the 10 heated greenhouses surrounded by weathered farm buildings and plastic-wrapped bales of potting soil. Pansies offered the only bit of color and there was lots of banging going on. “Tractor being repaired,“ Andrew explained. The greenhouses had been fired up in mid March and there were already long straight rows of tender green plants making their debut.

This is the start of the whole operation to which Andrew and his team dedicate their waking hours for most of the year. It’s a living but it’s also a statement. Right from the beginning, every vegetable start he grows for the fields and retail plant sales is certified organic. In the greenhouses they use only an organic fungicide to suppress damping-off disease, and large fans are continuously whirring to keep the air moving and the plants dry. The greenhouses are now  heated with propane, but Andrew is hoping to get grant money to experiment with other heat sources such as corn and wood pellets.

Andrew and a few staff members spent the winter months ordering organic seeds and vegetable and flower starts. He calculates that he spends upwards of $15,000 annually on seed alone. In early April the hardier vegetable plants are moved to cold frames before being planted out in the fields in May. The masses of less-hardy seedlings remain in the greenhouses until it’s warm enough to plant them outside. The date is never set in stone, but over the course of two decades  Andrew has gotten good at feeling when the time is right.

Once in the fields, the small plants are subject to the whims of the weather though they continue to get careful attention and protection where possible.

“There are always challenges,” said Andrew. “And you have to be flexible.” To help control for drought he installed an irrigation system in selected fields a few years ago. But too much rain and excessive heat can wreak havoc, as it did in 2013—“a very tough year,” he said.

It’s been 20 years since Andrew and his family decided this was the life they wanted. The business decision now looks like a wise choice, but the early years were slow-going and the local food movement still way in the future. To learn all he could about organic farming, he apprenticed himself to Karen and Jack Manix of Walker Farm in Dummerston who, by 1994, had over 30 years of experience growing food without chemicals.

“This was not a hard choice,” he said. “I didn’t want to be exposed to chemicals in my food and I didn’t think anyone else should be either.”

All summer long Andrew and his crew will be fertilizing, weeding and harvesting, sometimes with tractors and, when needed, by hand. He and his longtime assistant Matt Patterson built the first greenhouse themselves.

“This farm depends on a really good crew,” he explained: Every year he assembles his team of dedicated local farm workers. In addition to Matt, Andrew currently has four full-time crew leaders and during the season he will have around 25–30 full- and part-time employees, including eight to run the farm stand. Beginning in late April, they start selling their vegetable, flower and herb starts. In mid May they are open 9am–6pm, seven days a week.

Clear Brook is strictly a retail operation, with weekly appearances at the Manchester and Londonderry farmers’ markets adding to the farm stand revenue. They also have winter and summer  community-supported agriculture (CSA) harvest subscription programs, offering a way for customers to support the farm up front and enjoy fresh produce throughout the season. Clear Brook introduced an innovation to its summer CSA last year, allowing customers to use their credits to purchase whatever they choose, at the farm stand and the farmers’ markets. Also available at the farm stand are local cheeses, dairy products, organic meats and locally made breads and pastries.

Clear Brook Farm has grown from the initial 20 acres to more than 50 acres today. Much of the land under cultivation surrounds the greenhouses and the rest is nearby. Several years ago, Andrew was fortunate to be able to purchase 30 acres of the Galusha family’s property just south of the farm on Route 7A from the Vermont Land Trust, which owned the development rights. Clear Brook plants 25–30 acres with certified organic vegetables and fruits, as well as a large variety of bedding plants. The extra acreage allows for crop rotation, and roughly a third of the total acreage is under cover crops every year.

As every home gardener can appreciate, controlling weeds and insect infestations requires vigilance and consistent activity. Because he is an organic farmer, Andrew relies on biological pesticides for all his crops, which he applies as needed throughout the growing season. While they have enormous benefit, they break down more quickly than chemical pesticides and wash off easily so repeated applications are necessary. This is the price paid by organic farmers but they are willing to pay it because they consider the cost of more toxic chemicals to humans, plants and wildlife not acceptable.

Every year, said Andrew, the success of the harvest and the farm is “80% luck and 20%  knowledge.” The knowledge part comes not only from his own accumulating experience but from fellow farmers in Vermont and elsewhere who freely share their information about every aspect of running a sustainable food resource. He praises the work of Vern Grubinger, a UVM extension agent who has been unfailingly generous with his advice and support.

And every year is different. As he expands with new greenhouses and experiments with growing more crops under plastic, Andrew’s goal now is to find ways to provide a more predictable growing environment, as well as methods to increase fuel and labor efficiency. For the future he is focusing on “sustainable employment and new fertilizing programs.” Increasing the diversity offered and extending the growing season are also on his agenda.

Strawberries take 13 months to mature in Vermont and at Clear Brook they plant a little over an acre. The berries sell out quickly and then their season is over. They will be replaced with successive waves of what’s being harvested every week, as well as with fruits and vegetables from nearby organic farms like Scott Farm Apple Orchard in Dummerston and Green Mountain Orchards in Putney.

Arranged on long tables, in baskets and cool … Read More

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Edible Dirt

Compost Happens at Someday Farm

Story and Photography By Maria Buteux Reade

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It’s early March and I’m working in the greenhouse, surrounded by thousands of tender plants. The rich dark soil and lime-green seedlings contrast starkly with the white snow piled up against the plastic walls. A fire crackles in the woodstove, helping to warm this enormous space. Outside the temperature is 18°; in here, a tropical 75. Who needs the Caribbean?

After a winter of wearing mittens during the twice-daily round of chores, my hands are back in soil, the antithesis of snow. Already my fingernails are lined with the familiar brown. We have been seeding these beds since mid-February, marking the official start of the 2014 growing season here at Someday Farm in East Dorset.

Well, that’s not actually true. The season began last summer as I tended my long windrows of compost, adding new material each week and turning them with the tractor bucket. In early November, I brought several dump truck loads of finished compost into the greenhouse, where it sat patiently through the winter months. It froze, it thawed, and now that compost has kick-started the new season. Spinach, kale, chard and mesclun greens thrive in the back half of the 124-foot-long greenhouse, protected from the cruel vagaries of a New England spring. Baby carrots and beets are underway in another greenhouse.

Someday Farm functions as a closed loop system, which means we produce and recycle the vast majority of our farm inputs and residuals. We do order seeds every January, but we do not buy soil or amendments. All of our plants grow in the compost I make.

So how did an English teacher/administrator wind up as a farmer/composter? Last June, I stepped away from a 27-year career at a boarding school and moved north to my home in southern Vermont. I became a working partner at Scout Proft’s Someday Farm. Scout and I share the same energy and values. I now manage the compost operation in addition to helping with, well, everything else. I had volunteered for several years at farms around Vermont, doing whatever the farmers needed: seeding, transplanting, bed preparation, harvesting, you name it. The practical experience lured me out of my office and into the fields.

Then in 2008, I learned to drive a tractor. And that changed my life. Soon I was moving earth with either a plow or my tractor bucket. One farmer tasked me with turning an enormous mountain of compost. I spent a day shifting that material, which gave me opportunity to reflect on its nature. Here’s a bit of what I have learned since that fateful October day.

So what is compost?

I’ve always been struck that compost has the same origin as the French word compote, which means mixture. Envisioning fruit compote, I blend various ingredients into my 100-foot piles. Compost is a mixture of decomposed organic matter, broken down by the trio of microbes, oxygen and time. The end product returns fertility to the garden and improves the soil’s tilth, or its structure and ability to both hold and shed moisture. Compost also suppresses plant diseases and pests, eliminates the dependence on chemical fertilizers, pesticides or fungicides, and reduces storm water runoff and erosion. Healthy soil should be able to absorb water.

Like compost, soil should be rich and brown, with a crumbly moist texture and a pleasant earthy smell. Alive soil looks appealing; dead soil is dry, lifeless, dusty, pale, with a texture that is either compacted or unable to hold together. Dead soil looks depleted but can be revived over time with compost.

At Someday Farm, we always feed the soil. Every time we plant in the gardens, fields or greenhouses, we add compost to replenish the nutrients that the previous crop consumed.

Why should I compost?

Some 30% to 40% of the food we buy ends up in the landfill. A typical household wastes about 475 pounds of food each year. That same food could be composted, recycled or fed to animals. Composting helps reduce the pressure on landfills and reclaims nutrients that would otherwise be wasted. When my husband, Ned, and I started composting 25 years ago, we reduced our household waste significantly. We could go the entire summer and fill maybe two plastic garbage bags. Now, with improved recycling initiatives, our trash has decreased even more.

Vermont has enacted Act 148, a universal recycling law that mandates the diversion of organic wastes and recyclable materials from ending up in landfills. By 2020, all food scraps, leaf and yard debris, and recyclables from households and institutions alike must be diverted to a certified facility that will compost or process them. This initiative takes bold steps to educate our citizens and protect our natural resources.
Compost is nature’s way of recycling. From the earth, back to the earth. Or as one of my students marveled, “So these salad greens I’m putting in the compost pile will become soil?” Yup. Salad to soil to salad.

Is compost stinky or messy?

Only if you mismanage the materials. There’s a world of difference between compost, which should ultimately have a pleasant aroma and a crumbly texture, and toxic sludge, which is sloppy, gloppy and smelly. Finished compost beckons whereas toxic sludge repels. Sludge generally results from too many wet kitchen scraps and not enough absorbent material such as dried leaves or dried grass clippings, sawdust or shredded newspaper. The good news is that you can remedy wet smelly material by balancing it out with some of the dry elements just listed.

What are the most important factors?

Achieving the proper balance of materials for efficient breakdown, managing moisture, paying attention to temperature and aerating the pile through structure and turning. Active decomposition occurs in those small porous spaces where material, moisture and oxygen meet. That activity generates heat, which kills potential pathogens and weed seeds. Treat compost like a living product and make sure it breathes.
Finished compost should have the moisture of a damp—not wet—sponge. Do the squeeze test: Grab a handful of compost and squeeze your hand around it. If it holds its shape and leaves a trace of dampness on your palm, you have the right moisture content. If it clumps up and liquid trickles through your fingers, it’s too wet. If it doesn’t hold together, too dry.

You know your pile is hot enough when you open a small hole and recoil when your hand reaches the core. That’s when you learn what 130° to 150° feels like, the temperature that begins to kill pathogens and weed seeds.

Turning depends on the type of pile and how you manage it. I usually advise using your senses. Does the pile look overly dry or wet? What did the squeeze test reveal? Is there an unpleasant odor of ammonia? Reach for the pitchfork or pointed garden spade and work the ingredients. Some people like to turn their pile on a schedule. Others prefer to let nature take its slower course. Find an approach that best fits your style: obsessive, observant or laissez faire.

The blending stimulates further breakdown, allowing air and moisture to work their magic on the ingredients. When … Read More

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