Making Herbal Salves and Balms

By Eilif Ronning, PFP MEdia Intern.
All photos by Eilif Ronning!

The second Herbal Home Remedies Workshop with Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s resident herbalist Beatrix Clarke focused on creating healing salves and lip balms using garden herbs. The benefits of herbs are remarkable and the salves made from them are great for any number of ailments.

The two different salves made during the workshop were based on comfrey and calendula. Comfrey is good for your underlying tissue and well as your skin. However, it is should not be used on cuts or infections as it will cause the skin to repair in a tight knit, which could trap infections under the skin. Calendula, on the other hand, is good for cuts as well as sunburns and inflammation. It can also be used to help treat warts, and is generally beneficial for the skin.

The first step to both processes is to make an oil infused with the herbs.

Above: Pre-prepared jars of comfrey and calendula infused oils

Above: Pre-prepared jars of comfrey and calendula infused oils

Above: Beatrix Clarke explaining the beneficial properties of calendula salve

Above: Beatrix Clarke explaining the beneficial properties of calendula salve

The calendula flower is an easy plant to grow in most gardens. Its bright yellow flowers are easily recognizable and apart from being just plain pretty, the flower has many healing properties. The sticky resin found at the base of the flower is what is responsible for these properties. To make this salve, the first step is to prepare calendula infused oil. Beatrix explained to the workshop participants the simple steps to this process. First, dry the calendula flowers either in a dehydrator or in an oven with the pilot light on. It is important to fully dry the flowers to ensure that they don’t mold when steeping in the oil. Second, fill a glass jar three quarters of the way with dried flowers and combine them with extra virgin olive oil, leaving some room at the top for the flowers to expand as they absorb some of the oil. Third, leave this to sit for 4-6 weeks. Finally, once the oil has been infused, strain the flowers out of the oil using a cheesecloth – and there you have it, your homemade calendula infused oil!

Above: filtering the calendula flowers out of the infused oil in preparation for the salve-making

Above: filtering the calendula flowers out of the infused oil in preparation for the salve-making

Above: Workshop participants avidly listening to Beatrix’s salve making instructions

Above: Workshop participants avidly listening to Beatrix’s salve making instructions

Comfrey is also a fairly common herb that possesses healing properties, however, the process for creating this oil is quite different. Firstly, the comfrey plant should be used fresh to ensure the mucilaginous plant juice in the main arteries of the leaves infuses into the oil. To make the oil, fill crockpot 3/4 full with comfrey plant material and top with olive oil to cover by one inch. Over the next seven days, heat the leaves and oil on low heat for two hours each day. After heating for the two hours, allow the mixture to cool down again, wiping the moisture from the lid after each time. When the seven-day process is completed, strain the leaves out of the oil using a cheesecloth until you get your final product!

Above: cheese cloth being cut to filter the infused oils

Above: cheese cloth being cut to filter the infused oils

Once the oils are made, the rest of the process is very straight-forward. There are three components to the salve: infused oil (calendula or comfrey), beeswax, and essential oils. In a mini crockpot or something similar, melt the bee’s wax – simultaneously warm the infused oil, in the workshop Beatrix did this “bain-marie” style.

Above: Beatrix’s salve-making set up.

Above: Beatrix’s salve-making set up.

Once melted and warm, combine 2 oz of beeswax per 8 oz of oil – it is important that the oil is warm enough to ensure the bee’s wax does not re-solidify immediately.

Above: melted bee’s wax being combined with the infused calendula oil

Above: melted bee’s wax being combined with the infused calendula oil

Once combined, carefully pour the mixture into your container. Add 20 drops of an essential oil of your choice per 1oz of salve and gently stir using a toothpick or something similar to ensure the essential oil gets mixed in. Then label your salve and allow it to set.

Above: Comfrey salve being poured into a container

Above: Comfrey salve being poured into a container

The same should be done for a lip balm, however the ratio is 5 oz of calendula oil to 2 oz beeswax. Also, since the tubes are quite small it is easier to add the essential oil to the mixture prior to pouring. Add 56 drops of the essential oil of your choice to the mixture before pipetting it into a lip balm tube.

Above: workshop participants filling their lip balm tubes with the calendula infused oil, beeswax and peppermint essential oil mixture

Above: workshop participants filling their lip balm tubes with the calendula infused oil, beeswax and peppermint essential oil mixture

Above: Beatrix topping off some of the lip balms

Above: Beatrix topping off some of the lip balms

Above: close-up of pipetting the lip balm into their containers

Above: close-up of pipetting the lip balm into their containers

And there you have it - your very own homemade salve! Though these are just two types of salves, there are countless herbs that have incredible properties that can be beneficial for any number of ailments.

Beatrix is amazingly well-versed in herbs! If you want to learn more, and get a glimpse into the magic of herbs, stay tuned for our 2018 herbal workshop series!

Above: a workshop participants notes on herbs and the salve making process

Above: a workshop participants notes on herbs and the salve making process

Harvest of the Month: Nosh on Squash!

Nosh on Squash!
December’s Harvest of the Month is Winter Squash.
By Elyse Canty, Education Intern

Winter squash are an annual vegetable that signals the end of our summer/spring crops: the tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, and okra, and welcomes the beginning of our lovely fall greens and winter roots. You can distinguish winter squash from summer squash because winter squash is harvested and eaten in the mature fruit stage meaning the seeds have aged and the skin has hardened into a tough rind which makes it the perfect winter crop. Luckily, for us the winter squash family comes in many different colors, shapes and sizes from a vivid yellow, watermelon-shaped spaghetti squash to a bright orange, round pumpkin that Charlie Brown would approve of.

Pumpkins, acorn or butternut squash have become symbols for the changing seasons. You know fall hasn’t officially started yet until you’ve had your first pumpkin spice latte. However, there’s much more to pumpkins and winter squashes than fall-themed lattes. Winter squash are great sources of beta-carotene which will help your immune system stay healthy and fortified to fight off any colds that may be headed your way this flu season. Pro tip: beta-carotenes are found in red-orange colored food. Pick a squash with dark coloring. The darker the orange flesh, the more nutritious the squash is.

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Fun fact: squash got its name from the Native American word askutasquash, (try saying that three times fast) which means “a green thing eaten raw.” Now, I wouldn’t recommend eating your winter squash raw. However, winter squash very is delicious when it’s roasted. Roasted squash is very tender and roasting brings out it’s natural sugars so it’s very sweet.

At Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP) we grow several different varieties of winter squash including butternut, delicata, acorn, spaghetti squash. The farm crew’s favorite squash is delicate because it is easy to cut into rings and roast; it is delicious and you don’t even have to peel it because the skin becomes tender when you roast it.

One of our favorite ways to prepare winter squash is roasted butternut squash with children is by making it into hummus. Our butternut squash hummus is an easy recipe and fun to make with kids. In fact, it’s a fan favorite in many of our elementary school cooking workshops. This recipe doesn’t have exact measurements it all depends on how much you want to make and how you like your hummus. We like to tell our students that every time we make our butternut squash hummus, it’s special because it will be a little different each time.

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Beforehand, roast the butternut squash until tender. Once cooled scoop the squash into a big bowl. The base of the hummus is roasted butternut squash, chickpeas and a dash of olive oil. The more chickpeas you add the thicker the hummus will be. You can add spices and seasonings for flavor such as paprika, tahini, garlic powder and lemon juice. Now, you can throw everything into the food processor or you can blend it the old-fashioned way which we prefer with a potato masher. You can pass the bowl around and give everyone a turn with the masher. Once the ingredients are blended together, the hummus pairs well with carrots or tortilla chips.

Even though winter is coming, we’ve got you covered! Sign up for a winter CSA share for PFP-grown butternut squash (and other tasty produce!) throughout the cold season.

CSA Members Nourish Their Neighbors!

At the last two CSA distributions of the season, Poughkeepsie Farm Project shareholders participated in the educational food drive initiative “Nourish your Neighbor” (NYN). The program was created by Eat Smart New York, and aims to help provide children who do not have enough food on the weekends with some food assistance in the form of healthy foods from all the food groups!

The previous week, CSA shareholders interested in taking part, picked up lime green NYN shopping bags and a list of suggested groceries to donate. A week later the bags were returned full of nutritious snacks, which were sorted and counted by our awesome volunteers. The donated food will be divided up into appropriate quantities of each food group, and placed into backpacks to be sent home with Poughkeepsie students.

If you are interested in holding your own drive for the NYN program, contact the Eat Smart New York Hudson Valley team at 845-344-1234 or visit their website: http://cceorangecounty.org/food/nourish-your-neighbor

Below are quotes from some of our friends about why they chose to participate in the food drive, as well as some photos of our volunteers:
All photos by Eilif Ronning, PFP Media Intern.

 
 

Harvest of the Month: Kale

By Elyse Canty, Education Intern

Alyssa and Rodnisha glean kale for Feeding the Hudson Valley.

Alyssa and Rodnisha glean kale for Feeding the Hudson Valley.

Kale is a leafy green from the Brassica family that has been cultivated since ancient Greek and Roman times. Kale is known for being a hardy crop that is easy to grow and can withstand low temperatures. It’s the perfect vegetable for a beginner gardener to grow especially in cold New York winters. In fact, kale is sometimes nicknamed the “hungry gap” because some varieties can grow in the winter when most crops can’t be harvested.

You may be wondering what makes kale different from lettuce or collard greens. Well, kale is actually the sweeter cousin of collards and can take on many different flavors ranging from slightly sweet to somewhat bitter depending on when it is harvested. During the cooler months of spring and early summer, kale is milder. When the weather starts to get warmer kale develops a bitter taste. Pro tip: if you like sweet kale, wait to harvest your kale until after the first fall frost; that’s when it’s the most delicious.

At Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP) we grow kale year-round. There are three different types of kale that call PFP home: Winterbor, Lacinato and Scarlet. Winterbor is very robust kale which has finely curled, thick, blue-green leaves. Lacinato, also known as dinosaur kale, has long leaves that people say resemble rough and bumpy dinosaur skin. Last but not least, Scarlet kale has beautiful, purple-red, curly leaves that will add beautiful color to any garden or salad.

We love growing kale because it’s easy to grow and easy to eat but what we love most about kale is sharing it. PFP harvests about 4,000 pounds of kale each year and we donate over 400 pounds to emergency food providers in the Poughkeepsie community.

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Kale is packed with many essential vitamins and nutrients such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Omega fatty acids. Fun fact: one cup of cooked kale contains 10 percent of daily fiber needs. This leafy green can be helpful for those managing diabetes as well!

However, despite all of Kale’s amazing qualities it can be difficult to get young children (and sometimes adults) to eat kale. At PFP we offer farm tours geared towards children where we feature kale and allow the kids to taste small samples. Gaining exposure to new foods like kale helps it become less “weird and gross” and more “yummy and tasty.”

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Also, we recommend preparing kale with your little one so they have time to become more familiar with kale and they will be more likely to eat something they helped make. An easy and tasty way to prepare kale with children is a kale salad. Apples or berries make a nice addition to a kale salad because they help sweeten the bitterness of the kale. You can use raw kale which will make a really crunchy salad or you could lightly sauté the kale which may help sweeten it. We like to massage the raw kale with some olive oil and salt to tenderize it. Then we add our toppings and some apple cider or balsamic vinegar. Whichever salad dressing you normally use at home: ranch, Italian, Cesar, etc. would also work.

Happy Kale Munching! 

Students on a field trip to PFP explain how they made the kale blueberry salad they are enjoying.

Stalk to Husk to Kernel: Corn Husk Dolls and Rainbow Popcorn

by Elif Ronning

Photo by Eilif Ronning, Media Intern

Photo by Eilif Ronning, Media Intern

On Wednesday, October 25th families joined us at the Adriance Memorial Library in Poughkeepsie for an afternoon of storytelling, traditional craft making and cooking!

Photo by Elif Ronning, Media Intern Children and adults listen attentively as Vickie Raabin tells the story of the corn husk doll.

Photo by Elif Ronning, Media Intern
Children and adults listen attentively as Vickie Raabin tells the story of the corn husk doll.

Children and their families joined us in the Library’s Cavallero Children’s Program Room to hear local elder Vickie Raabin tell some native American stories. The children were captivated by Vickie’s retelling of Corn Husk Doll, a tale that explains why corn husk dolls have no face. The story warns against vanity, and stresses the importance of doing your duty for your community.

Photo by Elif Ronning, Media Intern Vickie Raabin holds up a finished corn husk dolls as an example.

Photo by Elif Ronning, Media Intern
Vickie Raabin holds up a finished corn husk dolls as an example.

Following the stories, Vickie explained how important it is for her community, and all of us, to use every part of the crop to ensure nothing goes to waste. For example, with corn, the corn silk is harvested, the kernels are eaten, the cobs dried and burned, and the husks are used to make corn husk dolls! With the help of Vickie, parents, and guardians, the children had the chance to make their own corn husk dolls. The dolls are made of slightly damp corn husks tied into segments using string to make a head, waist, and arms. The dolls all turned out beautifully, and everyone got to practice their knot-tying skills.

Photo by Eilif Ronning, Media Intern Kids get to work tying the first part of their corn husk dolls.

Photo by Eilif Ronning, Media Intern
Kids get to work tying the first part of their corn husk dolls.

Photo by Eilif Ronning, Media Intern Vickie Raabin provides some extra assistance in the doll-making process.

Photo by Eilif Ronning, Media Intern
Vickie Raabin provides some extra assistance in the doll-making process.

After making our dolls, we moved to the teen study room to learn from Poughkeepsie Farm Project education director Jamie Levato and Chef Katie Key about popping corn. We brought with us from the farm some dried out popping corn stalks so we could see for ourselves exactly where popcorn comes from. Popcorn is a different variety of corn, and grows for the whole season until the kernels become dried out and ready to harvest.

Photo by Eilif Ronning, Media Intern Children inspect the rainbow popcorn kernels they are about to eat.

Photo by Eilif Ronning, Media Intern
Children inspect the rainbow popcorn kernels they are about to eat.

Chef Katie then began to whip up a batch of rainbow popcorn! A bowl of the un-popped kernels was passed around, and while the children admired the variety of colours, Chef Katie explained that popcorn pops because the moisture trapped inside the corn kernel needs to get out once it turns into water vapour.

Photo by Eilif Ronning, Media Intern Chef Katie Key passes out handfuls of her delicious popcorn.

Photo by Eilif Ronning, Media Intern
Chef Katie Key passes out handfuls of her delicious popcorn.

After two batches of popcorn, one regular, and one with Chef Katie’s special mix of butter, rosemary, and thyme, everyone headed home with full bellies, a corn husk doll and a handful of popcorn kernels from the farm to plant in their own gardens come springtime.

Photo by Elif Ronning, Media Intern A finished corn husk doll sits on the window sill surrounded by harvested husks, corn silk and string.

Photo by Elif Ronning, Media Intern
A finished corn husk doll sits on the window sill surrounded by harvested husks, corn silk and string.

Grower's Row: Farewell, and Looking Forward

Grower's Row: Farewell, and Looking Forward
by Patrick Lang

We've made it to the month of November and the end of the regular CSA season, the ultimate time of transition at PFP. The decline of pick-your-own crops signals the end of the outdoor growing season and a move to storage vegetables and fresh greens from the high tunnels, all for a second winter CSA! The waning day length also tends to mark staff transitions, including my own at the end of the month.

Crop Report!
This warm fall brought with it a swift shift away from and abundance of cherry tomatoes and raspberries and toward the bare, frost-bitten stems that remain. We experienced one frost in mid-October that seems to have set this change in motion.

This fall marks the last season for pick-your-own okra at PFP (for now, at least), which has been a contentious topic lately! If any members want to know more, I encourage anyone to ask the farmers, and I also encourage folks to trust the farmers' insight! One begins to feel a bit beaten down after putting their heart into this work and then receiving an inordinate number of complaints, all about a single crop. Beautiful okra seedlings are always available during the PFP plant sale in May; we encourage okra lovers to bring some home to grow in garden beds or in containers!

By now, all fall cover crop has been sown and has had a chance to grow. At PFP, two common cover crop combinations are used in the fall: rye and vetch, one combination, is wilted by cold and covered with snow, but then sprouts in the spring for a thick cover that provides nitrogen (vetch is a legume), and it serves as a source of organic matter once it is mowed and tilled in. Another combination, oats and peas, grows vigorously until the winter cold kills it, and it does not sprout again in the spring. For this reason, it is used now where early-season crops will be planted in 2018! Aside from the benefits I mentioned above, cover crops are crucial winter erosion reducers; their root system and above-ground growth keep soil in place and reduce the speed of water runoff.

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A Fall Transition
After learning that okra would no longer be grown at PFP, I promptly notified everyone that I'd be resigning as a PFP farmer.

That's most definitely a joke. However, since coming to PFP (with no growing experience) as an intern in 2013 and then working the 2014, 2016, and 2017 seasons, I've begun to get excited about a new project, and my partner, Nicholas, and I will finally embark on it this fall. In the last couple of days of November, we will make a big move, and will start to develop a small farm on a 9-acre piece of hilly and diverse land outside the city of Menomonie, in western Wisconsin. Folks who know me are likely aware that the Twin Cities area is a sort of a second home, and Nicholas grew up less than 2 hours' drive from our new farm.

As part of this project, we aim to sell at farmers' markets and to start developing a CSA, producing vegetables and fruit using heavy mulch and working toward a stable, no-till system at a scale that is people-friendly. While we work to expand production to fruits like apples and pears (and nuts, starting with hazels), we will begin creating workshop and living space in one of our barns, to eventually host artist residents and farm interns. We are aiming to foster diverse, farm- and art-focused community, and to work with folks in Menomonie (including UW students in town) and nearby farmer friends to explore how food production and art intersect. Nicholas and I will also work hard to create an open and safe environment for people who, like myself in the past, associate rural areas and rural farmers with prejudice and hostiliy: queer people, people of color, and even 'progressive' young people in general.

I am extremely excited to begin this work, and I am grateful indeed to all of the mentors and co-workers with whom I've connected at PFP. I first arrived at Poughkeepsie Farm Project in May 2013 with essentially no growing experience, and 11 months of training later I identified crops and weeds, could manage pests, operated tractors, used power tools, identified and responded to plant diseases, and repaired irrigation lines (among other things), and my skill at handling high-stress situations improved significantly. Being able to stay at PFP for additional seasons allowed me to get to know our members much better and to improve farming, management, and interpersonal skills. Because of PFP's location, it is possible to join the farm crew without owning a car, which helps to make employment accessible: it played a big role in making my transition from urban life to the farm internship possible.

During the last full week of October while working at PFP, I was excited to receive live text and photo updates from Wisconsin, where Nicholas and Liz (one of PFP's 2017 summer interns) were first breaking ground to plant garlic for next season. PFP's garlic for 2018 is finally planted now (next to the blueberries this year), and fall cleanup and root crop harvests are still underway. I am very happy that after I leave, the PFP farm crew will still be bursting with good energy. I look forward to winter updates, especially since the crew will be putting to good use the skills/patterns/problems that were learned and/or observed last year. I wish everyone a terrific rest of fall into winter. Thanks and farewell!

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Reducing Hunger, Reducing Waste

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Poughkeepsie Farm Project was the first-ever donor to use the FeedHV food recovery and gleaning app. In delivering our mission of food justice, we are proud to be early adopters of this innovative technology.

FeedHV is the collaborative result of community dialogues with farmers, volunteers, nonprofit agencies and key stakeholders looking to reduce food insecurity in our seven-county region* and mitigate the impacts of food waste. Since inception, Poughkeepsie Farm Project has participated in this vital conversation to find solutions that link our region’s bounty with those who need it most.

FeedHV, the web-based and mobile application powered by ChowMatch, links food donors (including farms, restaurants, catering services, grocery stores, hospitals, universities and more) to nonprofit organizations with food assistance programs through the efforts of a network of volunteers who transport, glean and process donated food.

Photo Credit: Rich Schiafo, Hudson Valley Regional Council

Photo Credit: Rich Schiafo, Hudson Valley Regional Council

As pilot donors, Poughkeepsie Farm Project distributed thirty pounds of kale to the Dutchess Outreach Lunchbox to feed hungry neighbors in Poughkeepsie. We were impressed by the simplicity of the app, and look forward to moving more of our harvest into the community this way!

Photo Credit: Rich Schiafo, Hudson Valley Regional Council

Photo Credit: Rich Schiafo, Hudson Valley Regional Council

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Do you want to reduce hunger and food waste in the Hudson Valley? Are you interested in joining our work to create food justice? Sign-up as a volunteer and you can set your schedule, set your geographic parameters and make an impact. As a volunteer, you can pick-up and deliver food between donors and nonprofits; glean from a farmer’s field; or help process fresh produce to be used later. Simply create your profile and complete a short food safety quiz and opportunities in your area will come to you – select those you want, and skip those you don’t.

Learn more about the app and the partnership between Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley and the Hudson Valley Regional Council which brought this project to our region here.

Ready to volunteer? Sign-up today!

Photo Credit: Rich Schiafo, Hudson Valley Regional Council

Photo Credit: Rich Schiafo, Hudson Valley Regional Council

*Dutchess, Ulster, Sullivan, Columbia, Greene, Putnam, and Orange

Gleaning to Feed the Hudson Valley

Photo credit: Eilif Ronning, PFP Media Intern

Photo credit: Eilif Ronning, PFP Media Intern

On September 19 at Poughkeepsie Farm Project, the organizing committee of Feeding the Hudson Valley held a workshop on gleaning in advance of several gleaning sessions scheduled to procure food for the annual Feeding the Hudson Valley event on October 7 on the Walkway Over the Hudson.

Stiles Najac from Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County presented on the history of gleaning and its modern revival. Stiles helped participants of the workshop understand how vital gleaning can be for the improvement of food security, both in a broad context as well as here in the Hudson Valley.

Photo credit: Eilif Ronning, PFP Media Intern PFP interns and workshop participants hard at work gleaning fresh leafy greens

Photo credit: Eilif Ronning, PFP Media Intern
PFP interns and workshop participants hard at work gleaning fresh leafy greens

As stated in Stiles’ presentation, “gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or from fields where it is not profitable to harvest.” Essentially, gleaning is the gathering of food that would otherwise go to waste. A widespread practice from ancient times and through the Middle Ages, gleaning eventually became a lost custom as property owners rejected gleaners. Today, gleaning is regaining popularity as both as solution to food waste as well as a vital source of nutrient rich food for emergency feeding programs (EFPs).

Photo credit: Eilif Ronning, PFP Media Intern Sarah Salem from Dutchess Outreach inspects gleaned collard greens to ensure high quality food is being donated.

Photo credit: Eilif Ronning, PFP Media Intern
Sarah Salem from Dutchess Outreach inspects gleaned collard greens to ensure high quality food is being donated.

Nationally, one in every seven people are food insecure. Locally, one in four City of Poughkeepsie households is food insecure. Simultaneously, 62 million tons of food are wasted in the US every year, including 10 million tons of food left unharvested on farms (statistics from “ReFED”). Gleaning provides a solution to both problems – a solution anyone can participate in.

Photo credit: Eilif Ronning, PFP Media Intern A volunteer holds a freshly picked bunch of kale.

Photo credit: Eilif Ronning, PFP Media Intern
A volunteer holds a freshly picked bunch of kale.

Volunteer gleaning generally operates in two ways. Either farmers call for gleaning on a one-time basis, where food products are gleaned in a short period of time, or there is a call for a weekly or biweekly commitment.

Photo credit: Eilif Ronning, PFP Media Intern Volunteers glean kale.

Photo credit: Eilif Ronning, PFP Media Intern
Volunteers glean kale.

Photo credit: Eilif Ronning, PFP Media Intern Workshop participants glean bright orange, yellow and pink Swiss chard.

Photo credit: Eilif Ronning, PFP Media Intern
Workshop participants glean bright orange, yellow and pink Swiss chard.

Photo credit: Eilif Ronning, PFP Media Intern A volunteer gleaning Swiss chard, makes sure to leave enough left for a second growth before the end of the growing season.

Photo credit: Eilif Ronning, PFP Media Intern
A volunteer gleaning Swiss chard, makes sure to leave enough left for a second growth before the end of the growing season.

Photo credit: Eilif Ronning, PFP Media Intern Student volunteers from the Culinary Institute of America chop away at Swiss chard.

Photo credit: Eilif Ronning, PFP Media Intern
Student volunteers from the Culinary Institute of America chop away at Swiss chard.

The participants of the workshop successfully gleaned several boxes of greens as the sun set over Poughkeepsie Farm Project before loading up Stiles’ “Gleanmobile” with the boxes of food ready to be donated.

Photo credit: Eilif Ronning, PFP Media Intern Stiles stands on her “Gleanmobile” with fresh gleaned greens ready for delivery

Photo credit: Eilif Ronning, PFP Media Intern
Stiles stands on her “Gleanmobile” with fresh gleaned greens ready for delivery

If you are interested in being a part of gleaning right here in the Hudson Valley, sign up with Feeding the Hudson Valley and use their app, powered by ChowMatch, to help deliver food to organizations in your area!

Staff Highlight: Lauren Kaplan!

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Lauren “LK” Kaplan is our Wholesale Coordinator for the farm. Here's her interview with Lee Anne!

LAA: Where are you from?
LK: North Fork of Long Island, Southold.

LAA: Did you have any connection to food and farming in your youth?
LK: My Babci (maternal grandmother) was a polish immigrant, and was really into “homesteading” and always had her own garden, cooked a lot and preserved a lot (strawberry jam, pickles, etc.) and never wasted food. She was one of the main adults in mine and my brother’s lives who kept us focused on cooking, gardening, preserving and the feeling that we should never be wasting food.

LAA: What do you like about the position of Wholesale Coordinator in particular?
LK: I like that we’re able to supply food to Poughkeepsie City School District (PCSD), that’s grown within a few miles of where they live, and I love working with Chef Dave at PCSD. He’s also brought students to the farm. And he’s doing great stuff w/ the summer meals program providing fresh local produce. It’s great to have someone like that in the public school system!

LAA: How did you get into farming?
LK: I was working in book publishing in NYC, when I read Omnivore’s Dilemma, which really opened my eyes to a lot of aspects of the food system that I had been complicit in over the years without knowing and got really fired up, always felt really strongly that I want to achieve and do better.

Somewhere in that journey I came across the concept of sustainable agriculture, which seemed like a way to make amends, how we treat our animals, the soil, the earth, and to do it in a way that is valuable to more people. Eating is relevant to everyone’s lives.

LAA:Where have you farmed?
LK: I started off actually as program coordinator – Battery Urban farm in NYC - and from there wanted to get more hands on. I went to UC Santa Cruz, did a six month apprenticeship in ecological horticulture at the center for agro-ecology and sustainable food systems. Then I was an intern at Mountain Bounty Farms, a 700 member CSA in Nevada City, CA. Then, I missed the rain and the east coast seasons, and came back to the Hudson Valley and worked at Fishkill Farms last year.

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LAA: What’s your favorite part of working at PFP?
LK: Definitely the people. PFP really has a supportive team of people who trust each other, believe the best of each other, care for each other, and really communicate well. That has made some of the most challenging aspect much more manageable because you know you have such support and communication.

LAA: What’s a “not so favorite” part of working at PFP?
LK: I don’t like harvesting leeks or Bok Choi. Bok Choi, always looks so nice and perfect in the ground, then the stems and the ribs break, the leaves get creased and it gets even more damaged, and it’s so sad. Leeks fling dirt in your face, smell funny and are hard on your back. (Editor's note: I agree, harvesting bok choi and leeks is the pits! -JC)

LAA: What’s something most of us wouldn’t know about you?
LK: I used to be a competitive ballroom dancer.  And I was actually training in the city to be a ballroom and salsa teacher, and then decided to just to do it for fun. Next year we should have a Salsa y Salsa event with a Salsa dance lesson and a Salsa tasting potluck.

LAA: Anything else you think we should know?
LK: Broccoli leaves are the next big thing, tell all your friends, they are amazing! They are more tender than kale and collards so they just look wilty on the shelf. You don’t have to cook them as long etc. But seriously, there are all these parts of plants that we don’t eat, and I feel like our CSA members don’t know enough. 

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Grower's Row: September

September has been a big month, full of transitions. The days are getting noticeably shorter, the days (with the exception of the heat wave last week) are starting to get cooler. Staying on top of summer weeds has given way to getting cover crops into the ground, and already we’re planning the harvest of many of our storage crops including sweet potatoes, parsnips, rutabaga, purple daikon and watermelon radishes.

But first, let’s take a moment to highlight some of the noteworthy events and crops this past month.

NOFA attendees reflect on tomato trellising methods

NOFA attendees reflect on tomato trellising methods

The month of September kicked off with a surprise harvest of sweet corn for our CSA members, followed by the opportunity to host a NOFA Field Day on High Tunnel Nutrition and Soil Health, and to work with volunteer groups from the Vassar men’s baseball team and from Heroic Food, an organization that prepares military veterans for careers in sustainable farming.

At the end of the month, we provided 150 pounds (!) of mixed purple, red and gold potatoes to Vassar as part of their Eat Local Challenge (a meal prepared entirely out of local ingredients.) We are excited about our new relationship with Bon Appetit, Vassar’s new dining service provider, whom we have been working with intermittently since the summer. We are hopeful that by the end of the year our produce will become regularly available to the many Vassar students who work and volunteer with us.

Finally, as part of our ongoing efforts to donate our produce to the mid-Hudson community, we hosted gleaning trainings and welcomed gleaners to provide food for Feeding the Hudson Valley, a meal made entirely from gleaned and donated food.

Meanwhile, out in the fields...

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Veg Report

As was mentioned in last month’s newsletter, peppers have had a rough go of it this season, getting hit first with freakishly large hail and then by disease. But with this late resurgence of hot weather, the peppers are having a comeback: a burst of bright leafy canopy has given way to many small green fruits! If the warm weather holds, we might luck out with one last harvest before fall finally steps in.

We were sad to lose quite a bit of the first fall broccoli due to black rot, and are doubtful that changes in the weather would be enough for later successions to fare much better. A close relative of broccoli, however, has been doing really well. Kohlrabi is like a sweeter, crunchier cousin of the broccoli stem, and is delicious sliced raw, shredded into a salad, or roasted (alongside cubes of celeriac, carrots and potatoes) under a chicken. Expect to see some positively gargantuan kohlrabi in the upcoming weeks!

(Side note: If you’re lucky enough to find your broccoli or kohlrabi with its leaves, eat those too! Packed full of nutrients, these leafy greens are tender and delicious. Similar to kale or collards in flavor, it is their tenderness that makes them wilt faster than their more stiff-leaved counterparts, which is perhaps the only reason we don’t see broccoli greens more commonly sold in markets and stores. Use them in place of collards in this savory collard cornmeal cobbler recipe!)

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After producing approximately 15,000 lbs of tomatoes since June, and requiring nearly 500 human hours of care in the form of pruning, trellising and harvesting, we are finally ready to say goodbye to our tomato tunnel jungle. Plants were harvested for green fruits, unclipped, cut, and removed from the tunnel to make room for our winter greens.

(Why so soon, you may ask? It’s true that the tomatoes would have produced for another few weeks. But this window of time is crucial to get our winter greens established. The baby kale and chard plants that have been waiting patiently in the greenhouse are ready to put down roots, and it’s essential that we let them get established before mid-November. At less than 10 daylight hours per day, most plants will not actively grow, but rather will simply maintain their size. This makes continued winter harvest dependent on the plants sizing up while the days are still long.)

Field crew surveys the sweet potato crop

Field crew surveys the sweet potato crop

Coming up, our sweet potatoes are looking fantastic this season, as are our rutabaga, winter radishes and turnips. (Try beet greens or scarlet turnip greens instead of chard in this savory pancake recipe!) The spinach has been looking great, despite this most recent influx of warm weather, and our fall carrots are sizing up nicely. There’s much to look forward to in the late fall and the winter share.

We hope to see some familiar faces at the Soup-a-Bowl on October 15! Until then, enjoy your shares and the changing bounty of the seasons.