|From the Executive Director
Bread and Revolution
“… the essential message is this: food and everything surrounding it is a crucial matter of personal and public health, of national and global security. At stake is not only the health of humans but that of the earth.” Mark Bittman in The NY Times, Groundhog Day, 2011
These are exciting times in the local and organic food and farming world as more and more people understand this message. CT NOFA and its members are a big part of this developing trend.
Here’s just a sampling of what’s going on:
• In Connecticut, we have a Governor who really embraces agriculture.
CT NOFA is part of the Working Lands Alliance that will use this positive energy to push the “Keep CT’s Farms in Farming.” This initiative includes funding for farmland protection and programs to increase the consumption of Connecticut grown products. The goal is to increase the amount of CT Grown food that Nutmeggers eat from one percent to five percent.
• CT NOFA’s New Farmer Program is drawing lots of interest.
• We need more farmers. Thirty aspiring and beginning farmers attended our Getting Started in Organic Farming conference in January, 2011. They learned about finding and leasing land, about crop planning, marketing, organic certification and programs and resources for beginning farmers. There was lots of networking over a delicious potluck lunch.
• It looks like our New Farmer Summit at Auer Farm in Bloomfield will be filled with 50 new farmers for a roundtable and a social. There are still a few spaces left for the summit, but attendance at the Farmer Social and Mixer, from 6:30-8pm at the same location, isn’t limited. There is a $5 donation for the mixer including Farm-to-Hearth Pizza and City Steam Beer! Shannon Raider has collaborated with UConn and the Farm Bureau Young Farmer Program in bringing this event together as part of our regional NOFA Beginning Farmers and Ranchers grant.
• Check out the Beginning Farmer track of workshops at our March 5, 2011 Winter Conference.
• We are collaborating with Land for Good and with UConn on two specific projects to improve access to farmland in Connecticut.
• The second year class of the Beginning Women Farmers Whole Farm Planning course is enjoying the learning and networking at this 10-session training. Let us know if you want to be informed of next year’s class, which begins in late fall. Thanks to Sherry Simpson for coordinating the course this year.
• When the Community Farm of Simsbury held a meeting at town hall about its certified organic, Incubator Farmer Program, over 20 people showed up to find out about opportunity to use good farmland with infrastructure and educational support. CT NOFA is working with the Farm on the educational part of the program through an Ag Viability grant from the CT Department of Agriculture.
HELP WANTED: New Jobs in the New Agriculture
We know there are a lot of jobs to do if we are going to feed ourselves locally and organically. Here’s a sampling of the reality in Connecticut this month. See the Classifieds and Community Board on at CTNOFA.org for more.
• White Gate Farm seeks Head Farmer.
They write, “We are expanding our operation to include a new commercial kitchen where we will make value-added products and offer cooking classes.”
• Urban Oaks Farm in New Britain in hiring a farm educator.
(Linda Glick from Urban Oaks wanted to connect with other farm educators in Connecticut and inspired the Farm Based Educator Gathering at our Winter Conference on March 5 in Manchester. We’re co-hosting that with the Farm Based Education Association and Urban Oaks. I hope to see you at the Conference. The workshop lineup is spectacular! Urban Oaks weekly Friday and Saturday markets are a great place to connect with Winter Food from many Connecticut farms.
• Wild Carrot Farm at Bristol’s Farm in Canton is working to create a non-profit entity to expand and staff its educational work.
The three farms above are Certified Organic.
The next three farms sign the CT NOFA Farmer’s Pledge.
• Common Ground High School in New Haven is in the process of hiring a farmer.
CT NOFA is sponsoring a series of organic gardening workshops there, taught by Board Member Bettylou Sandy.
• Massaro Farm in Woodbridge is looking for an Outreach and Partnership coordinator to handle their free food distribution and educational work.
• The Yale Sustainable Food Project is looking for a director.
• CT NOFA is hiring too. We need a part time office assistant. Details here.
Other Exciting Happenings
• There’s a lot going on in Bridgeport.
•We’re working as advisors with several people and organizations doing exciting work in Connecticut’s largest city. At the Main Public Library, just outside the Children’s Room, community groups are creating an educational garden inspired by the White House Garden. Long time member and certified organic herb grower, Sal Gilbertie is helping this effort, as are folks from Westport’s Green Village Initiative. Our own Americorp Public Ally, Robert Mercede is working on a community garden there with his colleagues.
• The Bridgeport Land Trust is very actively pursuing garden and farming opportunities in the city. CT NOFA will do one of our April 2nd Organic Gardening workshops at a garden in Bridgeport.
• The Discovery Museum has instituted a cooking and baking program for eight to 13 year olds.
• This month CT NOFA is co-sponsoring showings of the movie Dirt in Berlin and New Haven with a great mix of partner organizations.
The breadth and depth of organizations that care about soil and local food is thrilling. Dirt’s a great film about a topic that is very important for our survival and is near to our members’ hearts. It features the voices of women from Africa, India and urban America as well as soil scientists and farmers.
• Mary Hill, an organic gardener/farmer at the Voluntown Peace Trust expressed interest in CT NOFA’s help in starting a youth agriculture program that, in her words, “isn't so competitive [as 4H] and focused more on the value of teaching sustainable agriculture to children.” Sounds like a very worthy project.
• Jones Family Farm in Shelton, long time members, have seen very strong interest in their farm to table cooking program.
• A long-needed full service, multi-species USDA slaughterhouse has opened in New Milford with the strong support of farmers in the region, including Dina Brewster of The Hickories.
•The CT Poultry Association has funding to work on a mobile (or docked) poultry processing unit for Eastern CT.
• The Connecticut Groundskeepers Association invited me to give a talk about organic vegetable gardening at its annual conference and I also talked on “Organic Food: What it is and Why it is Important” at the Farm-to-Chef program’s Annual Meeting. Our president James Roby was interviewed at the meeting for WNPR and I was interviewed for the Advocate newspapers.
Not so good news
Of course the news can’t all be good.
• The continued snows remind us of the climate chaos which we’ll likely have to deal with for the rest of our lives. I was very sorry to see pictures of collapsed greenhouses on two CT NOFA member farms. Just getting to our greenhouse to clear it was a major struggle a week ago. If this weather were normal, snowshoes would be standard farm equipment.
• Some theories connect the heavier snows to the greater moisture holding capacity of a warmer atmosphere or to the fact the more of the Arctic Ocean was ice free last summer and absorbed more solar energy. That extra heat may now push the very cold air south. Although we can’t know any one event is related specifically to climate change, these snows, the extremes of last two summers here, the heat in Russia, the drought in China and the floods in Pakistan and Australia fit the patterns predicted by climate change theory. They all have an impact on global food supply.
• The Administration’s decision to deregulate genetically modified Roundup Ready Alfalfa was a big blow to organic growers and organic integrity. Send a letter to the president and and see this background information.
• This is a reminder that the major corporations still call the shots in the industrial food system. This system is so bad for people, animals and the environment that it can only be maintained by non-democratic means. Over 200,000 people commented on the GMO alfalfa, most of them against it, but Monsanto’s commercial interest took the day. To see who is really important in the global food system, look at this list food corporations whose executives stood with President Obama recently in Davos: Archer Daniels Midland, BASF, Bunge Limited, Cargill, Coca-Cola, DuPont, General Mills, Kraft Foods, Metro AG, Monsanto Company, Nestlé, PepsiCo, SABMiller, Syngenta, Unilever, Wal-Mart, and Yara International.
Revolutionary Thinking: A strong voice for a different approach to food and agriculture.
With his new opinion column in the Times and his wonderful no-knead bread recipe, Mark Bittman brought us joy in two ways this very snowy week.
It would be hard to put the importance of food and agriculture any better than Mark does in the closing sentence (at the top) to his inaugural column. Read it all at here.
Just his suggestion that we stop subsidizing the ingredients for and marketing of junk food and instead encourage the growers and marketers of healthy food is very revolutionary.
You may know Mark as the author of the Minimalist column in the Times, or of his cookbook (titled with his typical modesty) How to Cook Everything. The videos that accompanied the column are wonderfully amusing and educational. Some of his recipes are among our regular favorites. See his 25 favorites. We really like the Mexican Chocolate Tofu Pudding and the No Knead bread. Although it didn’t make this list, his Fried Rice, made with leeks, fresh eggs and wonderful flavorings is also one of our favorites. The How to Cook Everything iPhone app is also very handy.
We’ve known Mark since the last century when he lived in Connecticut and bought chicken and pork from our farm. We remember him oohing and ahhing over parts of the pig that we’d had no use for. It’s been exciting to watch his public career take off through NPR to the NY Times, to hear of his interest in limiting meat in his personal diet, in a vegan diet, and speaking up for sustainable issues around food.
Another idea in his new column is to encourage and subsidize home cooking. Mark’s been encouraging cooking for years with the exciting recipes in his columns and cookbooks.
Which brings us to the no-knead bread recipe. We’d tried the recipe last year, using our standard whole spelt flour and hadn’t been too impressed. Flat and hard was a good description of that bread. But the other snowy day, Suzanne decided to try the recipe with organic white flour. What a wonderful result.
The bread is so easy. It may take a total of 10 minutes of actual work. In the evening you mix up flour, salt and yeast, stir in some water and let it sit in a covered bowl overnight.
In the morning, heat the oven, and a Dutch oven inside it, to 515 degrees. The dough is then patted into a round on a floured board, folded in from each side. After coating with something-Mark recommends wheat bran or flour, we used ground flax seeds-the breads are dropped into the Dutch oven, baked covered for half an hour and then 15 minutes more with the top off. The bread is beautiful, crusty and delicious. (See photo) The bread on the left is made with one third whole spelt flour. We’ll try increasing the proportion of whole spelt. But is any case we’ll keep baking this bread.
Please contact me with your ideas, suggestions and questions. I look forward to seeing you and one of our events in the next few months.