Archive | Summer Harvest 2014

Contents Summer Harvest 2014

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Tasty dish at Revolution Kitchen. Photo by Brent Harrewyn

 

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On the Cover:

New Village Farm

Photo by Brent Harrewyn

Grist for the Mill

Mountain Peak
Knoll Farm and the Center for Whole Communities

Kitchen Essentials
Choosing a Cutting Board

Edible Read
Coolhaus

Sweetheart Café
Revolution Kitchen’s “Good for You” Food

What’s in Season New Farmer’s Almanac
The Good Fortune

Edible Voices
Jane Lindholm

Outstanding in the Field
Bringing Farm to Table Back to the Farm

Homestead 802
Growing Oats in Vermont

Edible Education
It Takes a New Village

What’s for Lunch
Dishing Up a Revolution in the School Cafeteria

Foraging
Mushroom Hunting with Cranberry Bob

Last Bite
What’s Your Local?

Our Contributors

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SWEETHEART CAFé

Revolution Kitchen’s  “Good for You” Food

By Emily McKenna | Photography by Brent Harrewyn

revolution_bharrewyn_300dpi-19Revolution Kitchen, on Burlington’s Center Street between Daily Planet and Phoenix Books, is one of the few restaurant’s in Burlington featuring an all-vegetarian menu. Yes – one of the few restaurant’s in the Queen City to serve a meat free (and often a raw, dairy- and gluten-free) menu.

Debra Maisel and her husband and business partner, Peter Maisel, have been vegetarians for over 25 years, and this is the couple’s third vegetarian restaurant together.

“We opened our first restaurant, Baba Roots, in Portland, Oregon, in the early ’90s, before a vegetarian scene really existed anywhere,” says Debra. “At the time, vegetarian restaurants were hard to find—even in New York City—so we decided to open a vegetarian restaurant that was also macrobiotic. We were young, so it was all a fun learning experience.”

Deb and Peter opened their second restaurant together—another vegetarian spot, Luna 61—in the Hudson Valley and ran it for 18 years before deciding last year to pick up and move their home base and careers to Vermont.

“We were living in a tiny rural town a couple of hours north of New York City,” says Deb. “It was tough to make such a big change at our age (they are both in their 50s), but it was time. And we just went for it.”

Not only were Deb and Peter ready to trade in their pastoral surroundings for a more active, urban environment like Burlington, they wanted to be closer to their children, both of whom attended the University of Vermont. They had spent a lot of time in town over the previous 10 years, and their daughter, Chelsea, a nurse, still lives in town with her husband.revolution_bharrewyn_300dpi-1“One day, I want to teach my grandkids to bake,” says Deb.

When I went to meet Deb and Peter and to see the space, Deb welcomed me with a slice of her famous chocolate-banana cream pie (which I devoured on the spot) and a bowl of water for my dog. She and Peter were warm and welcoming and seemed so comfortable in the restaurant and with one another. Peter, who has bright blue eyes and forearms covered in tattoos, finished food prep while fielding my questions. Deb, donning a sundress and Converse sneakers, proudly showed me around.

When I asked them how they have managed to work together and be married for most of their adult lives, Deb said that they do not bring the stress of work home.

“When I have to put up my hand and stop a conversation,” she says, “I do. And we move on.” She adds: “Plus, everything became a whole lot easier when we both realized who is boss.” Hint: It’s Deb! She was joking with me, but it is clear that whatever the specifics of their arrangement, it works.

“It’s gotten easier for us over the years,” says Deb.

The restaurant is simply decorated, comfortable and airy (with a slightly industrial-ish feel thanks to a big garage door that opens onto the street) and includes a blackboard near the bar up front showcasing a handful of their purveyors. They source from Arcana Farm and Half Pint Farm, Vermont Creamery, Vermont Soy and Lunaroma for the bathroom soap.

revolution_bharrewyn_300dpi-24It was an hour before dinner service when I arrived, and the owners were impressively calm and articulate. The more time I spent with them, the clearer it became that they are seasoned restaurateurs. And these days, it’s really about serving their customers good food—good for you food, to be specific. This is the restaurant’s tagline, and it reflects the pair’s decades-long commitment to serving and preparing food that is local, fresh, meat-free and organic, when possible.

“Peter and I first decided to become vegetarians for mostly ethical reasons,” says Deb. “We loved animals, thus we did not want to eat them. Over the years—and as we’ve become more informed—we’ve put more of a focus on the environment. We realized that we cannot sustain a healthy earth with large-scale meat consumption and production.”

There’s also a personal health element. “Being vegetarians is cleaner and more conducive to living a longer, healthier life.” They are careful to keep their politics to themselves and they are not on-a-mission vegetarians looking to convert their customers.

Thankfully, being lifelong vegetarians does not mean a life without nachos. Deb loves Peter’s nachos. “They are vegan and divine,” she says. “We don’t make them with chips, but with wontons filled with house-made guacamole and covered in black beans, salsa and a cashew queso.”

These, along with anything Thai (Peter’s specialty), are the most popular items on the menu. Deb recommends the Prik King stir-fry—a delectable sauté of Japanese eggplant, cauliflower, red peppers, carrots and tofu in a spicy curry ginger sauce.

revolution_bharrewyn_300dpi-28Deb was particularly excited about their take on ceviche—made with marinated mushrooms instead of the typical fish (the recipe follows). They work with a local forager, Motown Mushrooms, to source the most pristine fresh mushrooms. The current version includes oysters and shiitakes with crunchy carrots and red peppers in a bright dressing served with root chips. It is inventive, fresh and simple food that lives up to the restaurant’s “good for you” motto. I promise, you won’t miss the meat.

To find out more about Revolution Kitchen visit them online at RevolutionKitchen.com

 

CEVICHE REVOLUTION STYLE

Debra serves this inventive take on ceviche with Petit Jo, a Grenache from the tiny southern French producer La Roche Buissiere. The bright red is made with indigenous yeast and no artificial additives and has great acidity that pairs beautifully with the earthy mushrooms and dressing.

revolution_bharrewyn_300dpi-15Marinade:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon gluten-free tamari
1 teaspoon sambal oelek (garlic-chile paste)
½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
4 pickled jalapeños
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Ceviche:
6 ounces combined oyster and shiitake mushrooms
4 teaspoons cilantro leaves, minced, plus more to garnish
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
½ seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
8 grape tomatoes, halved
5 tablespoons of the ceviche marinade

Prepare the marinade by whisking the ingredients together in a small bowl.Gently pull the oyster mushrooms into bite-size pieces. Slice the shiitake tops and discard the stems. In a medium bowl, combine the mushrooms with the cilantro, red onion, cucumber and tomatoes. Combine with 5 tablespoons of the marinade and gently toss until everything is well coated. Marinate in the fridge for 4–6 hours. Sprinkle with additional cilantro and top with root chips; serve.

 

VANILLA MAPLE CAKE

This simple cake would be delightful served with whatever berries are in season and a glass of crisp, bubbly Cava. Deb uses grade B syrup from Butternut Mountain Farm. You can substitute butter for the Earth Balance.

revolution_bharrewyn_300dpi-14Cake:
3½ cups organic white spelt flour
1½ cups raw sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup cold water
½ cup Vermont maple syrup, grade B preferred
1 cup canola oil

Frosting:
1 (16-ounce) box confectioner’s sugar, or coconut sugar
2 sticks (8 ounces) Earth Balance, softened
2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut milk, or as needed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
Glazed Pecans:
2 cups pecan halves… Read More

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Grist for the Mill

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Photo by Brent Harrewyn

The longest days of the year are upon us but they just don’t seem long enough. A typical Saturday for me is: Get up early, hopefully start off with a bike ride or a hike, check off a few items on the “to-do” list, head to the farmers’ market, work in the garden, weed the flower beds, preserve or prepare what I picked up at the market, it’s really hot so let’s take a break and head to the river to cool off, prepare a dinner made up of the freshest ingredients, linger on the back patio listening to the crickets and it’s, what, 10:30pm?

Or is it that the summer somehow gives us permission to play, so we just can’t help trying to squeeze in everything we can?

That “school’s out” feeling is an opportunity to explore our world. Linda Belt-Burnier (page 38) tells us that at New Village Farm’s summer school, children learn about true life on a small-scale farm and express themselves through real work in field and barn. This approach reminds me of what Alice Waters said on her recent visit to Vermont: We need to start educating kids about their food when they are young, so it will take root and grow into their everyday lives.

The USDA guidelines challenge food service professionals to provide healthy meals in our cafeterias. But how about taking it another step further: providing a lunch made from scratch and incorporating locally raised and grown ingredients. Frederica Templeton visits the cafeteria at Flood Brook Elementary School in Londonderry (page 42) and reports that they have been making changes to their menu with the goal to develop more local farm to cafeteria opportunities.

Outstanding in the Field’s “restaurant without walls” is a culinary adventure in the middle of a Vermont summer. Sarah Zobel and Natalie Stultz share last year’s experience with us.

And I’d like to introduce a new feature: the “Sweetheart Café.” We are exploring couples who are a team bringing local to our lives. Emily McKenna visits Burlington’s only vegetarian restaurant and tells us it is worth checking out.

Whatever you love about these long sultry days of summer, enjoy some school’s-out attitude. Soak it up.

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Edible Read

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Coolhaus Spread – hiRes PDF Coolhaus-Spread---hiRes-PDF-1

 

What do you get when you combine two savvy food-loving ladies, a passion for architecture and an old mail truck? COOLHAUS Ice Cream Book: Custom-built Sandwiches with Crazy-Good Combos of Cookies, Ice Creams, Gelatos and Sorbets.

FRANK GEHRY:

Snickerdoodle Cookies + Strawberries & Cream Gelato

Excerpted from COOLHAUS © 2014 by Natasha Case and Freya Estreller.
Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  All rights reserved.

Gelato Base
Makes about: 1½ quarts
Active time: 10–15 minutes

Use the freshest eggs available for best results. If possible, refrigerate the base for a full 24 hours— the longer it’s chilled, the better it is. We like to refrigerate our bases in plastic or stainless-steel pitchers with airtight lids for easy pouring into the ice cream maker after chilling.

4 cups whole milk
1½ cups granulated sugar
8 large egg yolks

In a 4-quart saucepan, combine milk and half of sugar. Set over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a boil, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk yolks and remaining sugar until smooth, heavy, and pale yellow, about 30 seconds.
When cream mixture just comes to a boil, whisk, remove from heat and, in a slow stream, pour half of cream mixture over yolk-sugar mixture, whisking constantly until blended. Return pan to stovetop over low heat. Whisking constantly, stream yolk-cream mixture back into pan.

With a wooden spoon, continue stirring until mixture registers 165°–180° on an instant-read thermometer, about 2 minutes. Do not heat above 180°, or eggs in base will scramble. Mixture should be slightly thickened and coat back of spoon, with steam rising, but not boiling. (If you blow on the back of the spoon and the mixture ripples, you’ve got the right consistency.)
Pour into a clean, airtight container and refrigerate for 12–24 hours before using.

Use base within 3–5 days.

Strawberries & Cream Gelato

Makes about: 1½ quarts
Active time: 20–25 minutes

You have a bowl of the freshest, ripest, juiciest strawberries. Sprinkle just a bit of sugar on top, and drown the berries in rich cream. Taste. Die and go to heaven. That’s what this gelato is like.

12–14 strawberries
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
Gelato Base (see recipe above)

In a blender or food processor, purée strawberries, sugar and lemon juice. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into Gelato Base. Mix well.
Process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Scrape into an airtight storage container. Freeze for a minimum of 2 hours before serving.

Coolhaus Sandwich Creation:

Frank Behry: Snickerdoodle Cookies + Strawberries & Cream Gelato Gelato (see “Building the Perfect Sandwich,” page 25 of Coolhaus)
Snickerdoodle Cookies

Makes: 20–24 cookies
Active time: 20–25 minutes

We love the word snickerdoodle— it’s so much more fun to say than “sugar cookie.” Cinnamon makes this perky. The butter and sugar come through here, with a dash of salt to wake up the simple pleasure.

2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1½ cups plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2½ cups sifted all-purpose flour (sift before measuring)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon baking soda

Mix wets: Place butter in a saucepan and set over low heat until just half is melted. Cool for 5 minutes. Pour cooled butter into a large bowl. Add 1½ cups sugar and whisk to combine. Whisk in eggs, 1 at a time, then whisk in vanilla. Whisk until mixture has consistency of wet sand. Set aside.

Mix dries: In a small bowl, whisk cinnamon and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda. Add dries, one third at a time, to wets, mixing with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to combine. Wrap bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325°, with racks in lower and upper thirds. Line 2 half-sheet baking pans with parchment paper.

Form dough into balls about the size of whole walnuts and roll them in reserved cinnamon-sugar mixture. Set cookie balls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake for 12–14 minutes, or until edges are light brown and centers are still wet; don’t overbake. Immediately transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Let cool for 1 hour before serving.

 

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Last Bite

WHAT’S YOUR ‘LOCAL’?

bharrewyn_taftsville_300dpi-1Our local generally is the state of Vermont—our passion is the farmers and small producers within a 20-mile radius of the store. Because of our location along Route 4 in Woodstock, we attract both locals and tourists. A typical day for us includes introducing the wonders of Vermont artisan cheeses, crackers, wines and of course maple to people from Spain, Wisconsin and New York. The sugarbush that supplies our syrup is five miles up the road, and the family who manages it lives a few houses away from the store. I was recently explaining to a visitor about the different grades of syrup when Reid (our sugar maker) walked in for an ice cream bar. I introduced him and he took over the conversation.

Our philosophy is “The closer, the better.” While we don’t regularly produce or create food here at the store, we do try to source products from as close as possible, and if we can’t find what we need, we sometimes just grow it ourselves. When we couldn’t find farm-fresh eggs to sell, we got chickens and sold the eggs from the free-range birds in our yard. It was also a great attraction for kids vacationing in the area who had never seen live chickens. They especially loved Soup, our all-white bird who was small and would climb into your lap. In the summer we incorporate produce from our garden and from the overflow of neighbors’ gardens.

Our local is also our community. The Taftsville Store has been the hub of the community since it was founded nearly 200 years ago. Our family (Vickie runs the store, Courtney is a teacher, and our two teenage daughters Olivia and Bella assist, along with Millie the store schnauzer and Fiona our 10-month-old Lab mix rescue) lives above the store and any or all can be found working in the store or the yard, especially on weekends. Our store houses the post office and we offer a bulletin board where townspeople hang public notices and information about community events. Our goal is to create an atmosphere of community and a gathering spot for locals and tourists alike.

We serve as local historians, custodians of random packages and lost dogs, consultants on why your GPS and/or phone isn’t working. We lend fishing poles, snowshoes, towels and rafts, wine glasses, sweaters for an outdoor wedding on a chilly evening, and blenders for folks who have forgotten that most important vacation item.

Our local is making people feel like Vermont is a home away from home, through our food, our hospitality and our atmosphere.

Vickie Brooks
The Taftsville Country Store
Taftsville.com

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Foraging

Mushroom Hunting with Cranberry Bob

By Laura Sorkin  | Photography by Carol Sullivan

mushroom_carolsullivan-1The summer of 2013 was fantastic for wild mushroom hunters. Abundant rain in June resulted in huge flushes of what mushroom lovers call “choice edibles” from the forest floors of Vermont. Several friends showed up at my door with baskets of chanterelles to share along with stories of their finds in local woods.

I grow mushrooms on our farm (shiitakes and oysters) but have always been wary of wild foraging in the woods. My few attempts to find them have been fruitless and frustrating and there is always the nagging thought, ‘What if I pick the wrong one?’ I wanted to go with an experienced forager and so I called the most reliable one I know: Bob Lesnikoski. Though my thoughts were focused on the goal of a big pile of mushrooms to cook up with butter and garlic, I had no idea that foraging was itself a sensory feast.

Lesnikoski is something of a local celebrity. Known to all as “Cranberry Bob,” he is the owner of the Vermont Cranberry Company in Fletcher. Being one of the few large-scale cranberry growers in the state, he has been subject of locavore enthusiasm and media attention for the past decade. Dismissing his notoriety, he demurs, “There’s not much other food news in November” (peak season for cranberry sales). Handsome and looking a decade younger than his 52 years, he has lived in Vermont since moving here from Connecticut in 1979 to attend University of Vermont.

Though managing his cranberry company occupies him year round, like many people in agriculture Lesnikoski wears other hats throughout the year. He has served on the board of the Vermont Fresh Network and is one of the founding members of Pork Club, which, if it needs explaining, celebrates all things pig. He spent many years working as a winemaker and vineyard manager at the Boyden Valley Winery. In the past few years he started Seasonal Seafood, a company that brings seafood to Vermont directly from the docks of New Hampshire and also works part-time as a crew member on one of those boats in the summer. Recently he has been spending time as an engineer for the Liahona, a fishing boat in Cordova, Alaska.

mushroom_carolsullivan-3His CV accurately reflects a man whose life is centered around wild and cultivated food and who rarely, if ever, sits still.
His favorite off-farm pursuit, however, is to steal time in the summer to forage wild mushrooms, which he sells to restaurants and at the Burlington Farmers’ Market. He is self-taught, having developed a keen interest in mycology during his years at UVM as a forestry student. He learned about wild edibles in a forest pathology course but it is clear that classroom learning only offers a sliver of knowledge; the real learning takes place in a sparsely traversed woods a few days after a good rain. In mid-August 2013 I asked him if I and my friend, photographer Carol Sullivan, could tag along. He graciously allowed us to join him and gave us a 101 introduction to wild mushroom hunting.

Though mushrooms thrive in moist conditions, it is best to pick them on a non-rainy day so they are not harvested in a soggy state. We set out on a cool morning several days after a rain, heading into a forest, alongside a wide creek. (Foragers are notoriously secretive about their hunting grounds and I am not at liberty to reveal our exact location.) The forests of northern Vermont produce many edible mushrooms: chanterelle, morel, lobster, white porcini and black trumpet. Except for morels, which are a spring mushroom, we were on the hunt for all of these, which were destined for the Saturday farmers’ market in Burlington where he sells them for between $16 and $35 per pound.

The first thing to adjust to when looking for mushrooms is to not only look at the ground but be aware of the environment as a whole. Ecological variables will steer you toward the treasure so to forage is to be hyperaware of your surroundings. Black trumpets (Craterellus cornucopia), for example, prefer higher elevations in an oak or beech grove. Chanterelles (Cantharellus cibarius), on the other hand, grow well near a stream under conifers.

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In general, mushrooms don’t compete well with ferns but require a more open understory. I found myself trying to look up at tree varieties, down at plant diversity and 30 feet ahead all at once, without tripping over tree roots. I was also becoming very aware of moisture: Was the ground wet underfoot or were there dry leaves crinkling as we went? We walked for a bit without seeing anything, and I was beginning to wonder if the great fungi explosion of 2013 was over. Lesnikoski explained, “The first one is a mind game to see and then you just see them.”

We were soon rewarded when we turned a corner of the stream and found our first small cluster of chanterelles about a foot from the water’s edge. Lesnikoski said that the unwritten rule of foragers is to take only a third of any grouping of mushrooms. It is important to leave some behind to drop their spores for future fruit. He also doesn’t go to any one particular spot more than twice a summer so as not to over-pick the area. It became clear, though, that he was heading toward specific nooks or tree stumps on the forest floor and I could only guess that he has a mental map of past discoveries. He said the week before, in a different forest, he reached into a dead tree, under a ledge on a hunch and found nearly a pound of chanterelles. A hidden spot like that, replete with treasure, is what foragers dream of and has no doubt etched a big red mark on that mental map.

Lesnikoski was correct that after seeing the first group of chanterelles, we saw them everywhere. We found most of them along the stream, occasionally hopping onto islands in the middle where they also thrived. Quite a few were too decayed or nibbled by slugs, which just made the good-quality ones all the more precious. The timing of wild mushroom harvesting—getting to them before bugs or age—was obviously an important factor, but since there was no way to control for this, it just added to the excitement of the chase. We found a strange-looking one called Old Man of the Woods (Strobilomyces floccopus) which was edible but not particularly tasty. Also growing near the chanterelles were some hedgehogs (Hericium spp.), another culinary favorite, which he carefully cut with his knife and added to his paper-lined basket.

One of the mushrooms we found was the Russula emetica also known as the Vomiting Russula. This lovely little red-capped fungus brought up the topic of the dangers of wild-foraging. Lesnikoski says he has never misidentified or gotten sick from a wild mushroom. That said, those who would traipse out into the woods in search of treasure, beware that you can get very sick or even die if you are uninformed about … Read More

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What’s for Lunch?

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Dishing Up a Revolution in the School Cafeteria

By Frederica Templeton | Photography by Brent Harrewyn

It’s 11:10 in the morning when the first through third graders burst into the cafeteria, chattering as they grab their trays and follow the familiar pattern: First through the line for a hot entrée, then to the salad bar that’s just their height to select from an array of freshly cut-up fruits and vegetables, pick up some milk and settle down for a 25-minute break in their day.

No one has told these 60 or so elementary school children that they are participating in a global food revolution but they are. One lunch period at a time.

The kitchen at Flood Brook Elementary School in Londonderry, Vermont, is slightly wider than a school bus. There are prep tables, convection ovens, mixers, refrigerators, sinks, dishwashers and a grand old Garland eight-burner gas stove complete with griddle. For 180 days a year this is Kelly Foster’s sphere of influence over the food that students, faculty and staff will eat. It’s her goal to give them the freshest, most nutritious and delicious menus she can produce on a chronically tight budget.

The balancing act happens every day in school cafeterias across the country, thanks to reams of regulations, numerous logistical issues and the pressure of keeping student interest, in addition to the usual food preparation decisions found in every professional kitchen.

After completing three and half years of culinary and nutrition training in New York City, Kelly had the cooking chops and kitchen management skills to work in any number of places. However, she chose to return to her home in Vermont in 2009 ready to take on the challenge of putting her beliefs about the importance of nutrition and fresh food to the test. Her laboratory is the cafeteria of this small school where 280 students and a dozen teachers and staff members count on her to satisfy their hunger as well as their nutritional needs.

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Kelly Foster helps students make good lunch choices at Flood Brook Elementary.

Following the guidelines for child nutrition from the USDA, she must make certain that every day’s menu includes whole grains, protein (or protein equivalent), fruits and vegetables, and milk. There’s a hot entrée every day, a generous salad bar and peanut butter and cheeses to provide an alternative meal option. Her goal is to gradually introduce new menu options and try to offer more variety for the K–8 palate.

“When I started there was a good program in place but the menus weren’t very involved,” she said as I stood in the kitchen during pre-lunch prep with Foster and her hard-working staff of one, Heather Borhek. The demand for qualified professionals to oversee school lunch programs is growing nationwide as the spotlight moves to food in institutions. Grounded in her training in nutrition and recent research, she began by getting rid of margarine, the cans of cheddar cheese sauce and mashed potatoes, and pre-cooked items like chicken nuggets. She started cooking as much as she could from scratch.

“There is a certain amount of risk we take on when cooking from scratch since food safety is critical,” she explained. “Managing a larger inventory of raw ingredients and calculating serving sizes and recipe yields also adds pressure to this approach.”
Brunch for Lunch was a very popular menu staple when she arrived. She worked with it, replacing pre-cooked frozen egg patties with fresh eggs, heat-and-serve frozen pancakes with gallons of homemade batter, and artificial syrup with Sugarbob’s real maple syrup from the nearby town of Landgrove.

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“If you start with raw materials then you are cranking up the labor element, but the quality and nutrition of the food definitely increases. Usually this way is also more cost-effective.”

What can we be doing better is the question she continues to ask four years into her school food challenge. Locally sourced food from sustainable sources was certainly high on her list from the start. Kelly soon found Steve and Esta Morris of Ephraim Farm in Springfield, Vermont, who were willing to work with her to provide grass-fed beef.

“Steve was excited to work with us and supply healthier beef for the kids’ lunches so he gave us a competitive price,” she said. Locally sourced beef proved to be affordable but choosing organic produce is much more challenging.

She doesn’t expect all local producers to cut her a deal, and this is where the tension comes in between the desire to have more nutritious food and the financial reality of a budget.

“This is our great challenge and also part of the joy,” she said. “I do like working with budgets as much as I like cooking for the kids. In a school you can’t raise the prices of the menu items on any given day so the purchasing and planning have to be done very carefully.”
Ordering food becomes a daily predicament. “I’m not always certain which direction to go in: trimming food expenses or spending a little more on the local economy and getting higher-quality, organic foods.

“If we opt to make the more cost-conscious choice, we add labor to increase the quality and value of the food item. For example, we offer mostly conventional produce but the fruit and veggies are cut up fresh daily for the salad bar, or to make hot entrée items. Beans are not organic or local, but I’ll try to buy them dried and not canned to maximize their nutritional value. Most of our cheese comes from the government commodity program, but it’s still real cheese and it’s used as a building block for freshly cooked entrées such as quesadillas, tacos and macaroni and cheese. Chicken and pork are not sourced locally, but we purchase them raw and ‘unadulterated.’”
A mandatory component of her day is record keeping, which must be meticulous. After every lunch she and her staff must do a count of how much food they went through—every single item.

“We have to balance the time taking notes and being in compliance with our time spent preparing and serving meals,” she said.
Kelly is always looking for ways to increase the quality of the food within the constraints that come with the job. She sees real progress in changes made to federal guidelines in the USDA commodity food catalog offering schools across the country healthier products. Every school is given a certain allotment of federal dollars depending on the number of students. With recent changes in place she can now purchase in advance and substitute items rather than be forced to reject some items.

“We have more control now over how we allocate the money for food purchases.” This means more possibilities for local purchases but she still has to weigh the advantages and choose produce that is more likely to last a while, such as organic carrots.
In the future, she is especially looking forward to working more with the nearby Windham Farm and Food Network, a collaboration of local farms that supplies fresh food to over 30 institutional buyers in the Windham County area.

“There are many school cooks in Vermont creating healthy and delicious meals for kids. We have … Read More

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Edible Education

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It Takes a (New) Village

By Linda Belt-Burnier | Photography by Brent Harrewyn

bharrewyn_newvillage_300dpi-8It’s a deep August afternoon and the summer camp at New Village Farm is in motion. Children, chickens and goats ramble freely between the rough-and-tumble collection of wood-planked sheds and the bare bones of an enormous uncompleted barn. The 112-acre farm, camp and educational center is home to an ebb and flow of cows, pigs, goats and chickens. The spread lies within view of its more pedigreed neighbor, Shelburne Farms, and a few upscale homes in the village of Shelburne.

But what this farm lacks in state-of-the-art infrastructure, it makes up for in heart, largely thanks to the efforts of owner and founder Michaela Ryan. She and her small, dedicated staff have transformed this piece of land with its poor soil and patches of swamp into a place where children of all ages are encouraged to express themselves while performing the day-to-day range of farm chores.
After leasing the land for three years, Ryan finally bought the property in 2011. She notes that it is still a work in progress. Touring the farm she points out the clay oven where, during the camp’s “culinary week,” the kids make their own wood-fired pizza as well as the mozzarella cheese to top it.

The farm’s summer day camps draw children ages 5 and up. In addition to learning about farm life, the counselors instruct children in traditional crafts such as tanning and basket-making. There are also wilderness skills camps for 10- to 13-year-olds and a farm machinery skills program for older teens in July.

bharrewyn_newvillage_300dpi-64The rest of the year, students from the nearby Waldorf School help out: Every Wednesday, regardless of the weather, a group of students water and feed the animals, replace their bedding and harvest eggs.

Parents of campers have told Ryan that their children are eager to do chores at home now as well—and they wonder why. In our tech-heavy society, Ryan says she sees a need, a craving for real work.

“Kids today are not lazy,” she says. “They’re hungry to contribute.” And she notes that “minds are more open to coaching when working.”

Part of that education lies in dealing with life-and-death issues, which go hand in hand with farm life. Ryan, who grew up on a farm in Quebec, recounts a childhood that, while positive in many ways, kept her closed off from some of the farm’s more “real” aspects.
“Most of the loss I experienced as a child was around animals,” she recalls. “My dad would send the animals to slaughter when no one was around and hope we didn’t notice.” She remembers skipping into the barn to see her favorite ewe only to learn that it had been taken to slaughter while she was at school. Later, as an adult, she turned away from eating meat at all for a while. Although schooled to become an engineer, she also trained as a grief recovery specialist, which, she says, helped her deal with that emotionally challenging part of farm life.

For a woman who, in her words, “turned away from the farm” when she left home years ago, Ryan has returned to it in full force. By showing children the value of hard work that also feeds their stomachs, she sees their self-esteem grow. They are eager to help with planting and harvesting the herbs, lettuces and root vegetables.

“They would dig to China if I let them,” she says with an easy laugh. Because of her own childhood experiences, she doesn’t sugarcoat the animals’ purpose. While she talks to the children about how she loves the animals, she also explains how she’s honored that they nourish her as well. If you’re going to eat meat, she suggests, “Why not have it be this amazing creature that you respected?”
Apparently, the children agree. When a beloved boar Hugo Mungus was ready to be shipped to slaughter, she says they sent him flowers and wrote a beautiful goodbye letter. And instead of being traumatized by the experience, some of the kids asked her to let them know when Hugo would be in the freezer so that they could ask their moms to buy some of the meat and take it home.
“They can handle it,” says Ryan. “They really can.”

Ryan is in the process of filing for nonprofit status, which will help in her efforts to grow the farm and its programs. In addition to summer camp counselors, her year-round staff includes Ross Doree, who supports Ryan in designing the farm’s educational programs, and a part-time farm hand and carpenter. Her own children, ages 11, 15 and 18, participate when they can. Her husband, a local attorney, pitches in on the weekend chores and does the bookkeeping. Ryan is also working with the Bionutrient Food Association to improve the quality of the farm’s soil so they can expand the vegetable gardens. The barn, a victim of a past heavy snowfall, is being entirely rebuilt mostly from wood and timbers salvaged from other historic Vermont barns. Ryan noted that a bake sale hosted by the Waldorf School’s third grade class recently netted $1,200 for the barn project. At the time of this writing, the project had raised nearly $5,000 of their $24,000 goal.

The farm stand is open throughout the year and offers raw milk and eggs, vegetables, including “pick your own” in season, and meats including grass-fed beef, pork sausage, bacon and chicken. Customers can buy “a la carte” at the stand or sign up for the CSA. There’s also the option of purchasing a $100 card that buys $105 worth of products.

Ryan has seen enrollment at the summer camps increase steadily over the years. Her focus on mindfulness, compassion and resilience resonates with some part of what all of us technology- and industrial food–weary persons are looking for. And, according to a mom who has worked on the farm and whose boys have also attended the camps, the children always come first.
Ryan “has amazing faith in their abilities and engages them in a way that allows their voice to matter. I think that she would attempt any well-thought-out idea that a kid gave her.”

Thanks to the hands-on training with the land and animals, in Ryan’s words, “The farm teaches us well.”

For more information about New Village Farm and its programs, visit NewVillageFarm.org

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Outstanding in the Field

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Bringing Farm-to-Table Back to the Farm

By Sarah Zobel | Photography by Natalie Stultz

inthefield_nataliestultz-1On the heels of the successful farm-to-table movement, Outstanding in the Field’s “restaurant without walls” brings the table to the farm. With a seemingly infinite dining table that it sets up in vineyards, farms, orchards, ranches and other outdoor venues around the country, Outstanding in the Field pairs with local chefs at each location to offer multi-course dinners that take locavore to a new level.
Vermont has been a five-time stop on Outstanding in the Field’s annual tour, a route that takes its California-based crew of 10 to the Northwest and through the Midwest to New England, before heading down the Atlantic Coast and back to California via the country’s southern tier.

Last August, Shelburne Orchards was the site of an OITF dinner for some 150 area residents and visitors from as far away as Texas and the West Coast. Some went because they were vacationing locally; others are tour groupies who attend multiple dinners each year; and still others went expressly to sample food prepared by Eric Warnstedt, chef and owner of Hen of the Wood in Waterbury and Burlington and that evening’s designated culinary artisan.

Diners purchase advance tickets for the events, which usually sell out—according to Director Leah Scafe, sometimes within minutes—and menus are set based on what’s local and in season, in a reflection of the organization’s mission to “reconnect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it.” The first dinner was organized in 1999 by chef and land artist Jim Denevan near his home in Santa Cruz, California. After a few years of hosting dinners locally, in 2003, Denevan—who by then had an established team helping him with logistics—staged OITF dinners in upstate New York and Southern California. The concept took off, and sometime in midsummer 2013 the 500th dinner was held, with the 67,000th guest sitting down to dine.

inthefield_nataliestultz-3The events themselves are reminiscent of a casual summer wedding reception, with many guests sporting straw hats, Madras shorts, or sundresses. There’s a cocktail hour—at Shelburne Orchards, guests enjoyed Prohibition Pig Ale and a Blue Gin Flip made with Caledonia Spirits’ Barr Hill gin that was concocted and served by Hen of the Wood co-owner Will McNeil. They nibbled on bluefish crostini, clam fritters with sweet corn and honey, and a multicolor beet tartare that had been dusted with hazelnuts and was served on gleaming silver spoons. Scafe welcomed the diners, gave them a little history of OITF and saluted Vermont, of which she said, “I’m always so amazed by the farming community and the culture that exists around these farms.” She pointed out that guests would be walking right past the makeshift kitchen on their way to the table, and told them to feel free to stop and ask questions, or to “hop up during the meal and go talk to the chefs.”

Shelburne Orchards owner Nick Cowles was visibly pleased to have been invited to host, and led guests on a tour of the orchard and distillery on their way to the 150-foot dining table, which had been set with white tablecloths, silverware and wine glasses earlier in the day.

“It was like elves were out there,” said the orchard’s special events coordinator, Megan Humphrey. “Everything was orchestrated in such a way that we didn’t even know the setup was happening.” Outstanding in the Field guests are invited to BYOP—that’s P for plate—which creates a colorful table that’s never the same twice. For those who forget, a random selection of plates is provided for borrowing.

inthefield_nataliestultz-4By the time guests reached the table, Warnstedt and his team were ready with the first course: crispy pig’s head with wholegrain mustard aioli, red cipollini and arugula, with glasses of Essex-based Citizen Cider to wash it down. Dishes at OITF dinners are served family style to encourage conversation, with nine servings per platter, and the second course—heirloom tomatoes with Sage Farm feta, red wine vinegar, crispy ham and torn bread—continued the pork theme.

Warnstedt said the menu selection was done fairly last minute because he had to determine what was available locally and in large enough cuts to feed 150. With Vermont Heritage Farm in Chelsea able to provide porchetta, Warnstedt chose that as the main course, and served it with Nicola potatoes, house kraut with smoked guanciale (cured meat from pork jowls) and stewed apples. Hen of the Wood’s own Proprietary White and Pinot Noir were poured as accompaniment.

Dessert was an apple upside-down cake (made with Shelburne Orchards’ own) topped with maple vanilla whipped cream and served with Eden Ice Cider.

inthefield_nataliestultz-9“It was really amazing,” said Burlingtonian Sarah Dietschi of the meal, as she struggled to choose a favorite component (the sauerkraut, maybe, or the salad, or the pork).

“There’s a lot of organization involved but we try to keep it simple yet also make it special,” said Warnstedt, who has been the man in the kitchen for the last four OITF Vermont dinners. “High-quality ingredients that need little manipulation is what makes those dinners special yet a bit easier—you want to create dishes that aren’t too involved.”

Guests go for the food, but for some it’s also a chance to get to know the region. Elaine Shannon of Brookline, Massachusetts, went with two friends because they’d heard about Warnstedt but hadn’t been able to get a reservation at Hen of the Wood during the time they were in northern Vermont. Beth Doughty, of Charlotte, North Carolina, and her friend Katie Hall, of Concord, North Carolina, heard about OITF and decided to make one the centerpiece of a “girls’ trip.” They’d elected to stay in Burlington and, in addition to attending the dinner, spent three days exploring the area.

“We’ll seek them out now,” said Doughty of other OITF dinners, adding that their first “absolutely met and exceeded our every expectation.”

Scafe said Denevan and crew faced some challenges early on as the concept was evolving, but that the current national passion for local, organic food has continued to drive numbers up, with both new and returning guests showing up.

“We have many regulars that we recognize at the table,” says Scafe, and indeed, people were heard reintroducing themselves to dining companions they’d met at other OITF events. For Carlo and Jennifer Gabrielli of Manhattan, this was their fifth dinner—they’d been to another in the Burlington area, along with one in New York City and two on Long Island.

Even for returnees there’s a guaranteed element of novelty, because the chef, the menu and the locale change each time. With 90-plus dinners to schedule each year, there’s a lot of detail work; Scafe says the team sits down over the winter with a calendar and a map and plots the coming season. While some chefs—like Warnstedt—are regulars, about 30% each year are first-timers; they’re chosen based on research and recommendations by other chefs, guests and farmers. And like Warnstedt, they’re no slouches: 80 of the 300 who have taken part are James Beard Award nominees or winners.

Outstanding in the Field has taken its “peripatetic farm dinner” … Read More

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Homestead 802

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State of the Oat

Grain Suits Our Area Well, But Learning Curve Is Steep

By Jack Lazor

Of all the cereal grains, none grows better in northern New England than oats. In my ramblings around Vermont and southern Québec in the 1970s I met many older farmers who told me stories about growing oats.

“See that pine woods down there beside your lower pasture,” my neighbor Sam Pion told me. “I remember reaping and stooking a fine crop of oats there when I was a kid. It must have been about 1936.”

Another old gentleman, Hall Buzzell of Derby, recounted tales of traveling the Orleans County countryside doing custom work with his two International Harvester Model 64 pull-type combines in the ’50s and ’60s.

If you grew any grain, it was oats. Farm-raised oats were stored in makeshift wooden bins in the corners of a hayloft. If the crop was harvested and put away on the moist side, the oats could begin to heat and spoil. The common remedy to this problem was to jam as many dry wooden fence posts into the pile of grain as possible. The wood would suck the moisture out of the oats and then be extracted.

Oats as a grain crop began to fall out of favor in the late 1960s. Several wet summers in a row made it impossible to harvest a decent crop. People gave up and started cutting their green oats for hay in July instead of waiting until late August to combine them for grain.

I harvested my first crop of grain in 1977. We began with barley and wheat. We cut and shocked the grain with a grain binder, field-dried the stooks and threshed it with a big galvanized French Canadian threshing machine. I was pleased with our beginners’ luck.

In 1978, I tried about six acres of oats. The variety was Gary and I bought the seed from my mentor, Clarence Huff, a 75-year-old English farmer from Moes River, Québec. I was simply amazed at how the oats thrived. They grew to near chest high and when ripe turned the most beautiful golden color I had ever seen. Very quickly I discovered that oats are as much a straw crop as they are a grain crop. They do double duty providing both feed and the most wonderful bedding for one’s animals.

When we took the grain binder out to reap the oats, I couldn’t believe it was the same machine I had used the year before. It worked smoothly and flawlessly, leaving nary a spear of unbound straw anywhere in the field. Barley and wheat are much shorter in stature and bear one seed head per stalk. Oats, on the other hand, are bushy with a hairdo. Each plant has multiple branches and bears its fruit on hanging panicles. These little “grain trees” give a ripe field of golden oats an Impressionistic, almost fuzzy look. All those extra branches made the job of the grain binder that much easier.

I had another one of those “aha!” moments. Not only do oats grow well here, but they had a special relationship with the old-fashioned harvesting machinery. At threshing time, I was once more surprised at how much grain and straw we got from a mere six acres—piles and piles of it.

So oats became part of my grain repertoire along with wheat and barley. Oats always did the best of any of the cereals. They could tolerate wetter soil and excessive rainfall and still yield well. This wasn’t true for wheat and barley. After a few more seasons of crop growing, I learned from some Québecois farmers how to mix oats with wheat and peas for super-quality livestock feed. They called it cereals mélanges or mixed grain. I very quickly found out that although it was more difficult to grow, barley was the cow grain of choice. All those hulls on the oats make it a much more fibrous grist and less palatable to dairy cows. Straight oats might be OK for horses, but that was about it.

As I began to educate myself at the school of hard knocks, I soon learned that there are heavy oats and there are light oats. The groat inside all that hull can either be big and meaty or small and shriveled or somewhere in between. Grain density is figured by the number of pounds it takes to make a bushel. Light oats weigh below 32 pounds per bushel while their heavyweight cousins can fall anywhere between 38 and 42 pounds. We weren’t weighing our bushels back then, but I knew we were growing light oats. After a while, it became obvious that grain quality was directly related to high mineral content in the soil.

I have continued to grow oats over the past three decades even though they have become a relatively minor crop for me. Lots of people still plant hay crops using oats as a nurse crop undersown with clover, timothy and alfalfa. I have seed cleaning equipment and have done quite well selling plump heavy oat seed to other organic farmers. Oats are shorter now and stand up better than in the early days when we planted the Gary variety.

About five years ago, I got the hankering to do something more with my oats. Here was this wonderful grain so well adapted to our climate. The inner oat groat is higher in fat than any other cereal and runs as high as 16% in protein. No wonder that oats are the grain of choice for breakfast cereals, whether it be Cheerios or good old-fashioned oatmeal.

Darn that loose-fitting hull. If I could only figure out a way to dehull my oats, the demand for them would be unlimited. So I set about to learn as much as I could about the process.

The first person I called was Andy Leinoff from Cabot Plains, who started Eric and Andy’s Rolled Oats in the 1990s. Andy’s advice to me was, “Don’t bother. It’s not worth it.” He then proceeded to give me his antique 1885 Wolfe roller mill. I gladly added it to my collection of old machines with the intention of using it someday. Then I brought some of my oats up to Michel Gaudreau in Compton, Québec, for hulling and flaking. Crossing the border in two different directions with my grain was a bureaucratic nightmare and I swore I would never do that again. The other thing that surprised me was how little oatmeal I got back from the mountains of oats I had taken to his mill. I found out later that he recleaned my grain, extracting at least 25% as light oats, which he kept and sold to other farmers for livestock feed. I also lost all the hulls, which could have been used for low-test feed grain or bedding. I thought I was pretty cool with my own rolled oats, but on paper it was anything but profitable.

My quest to process my own oats on my own farm continued. Andy told me about an outfit named Codema near Minneapolis that specialized in oat processing machinery. Codema made their own huller, which cost close … Read More

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