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.

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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!

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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!

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*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.

An Herbal Class With Beatrix

By Sarah Moley

It was that first cool day of fall weather, cloudy, and we watched for the rain. Beatrix Clarke, our resident herbalist, had me peeling the onion we were going to have everyone chop up for their fire ciders. She peeled the garlic. We waited until everybody arrived, and then we all introduced ourselves and, as Beatrix asked of us, told something we knew about herbalism. While the answers were varied, they all had to do with alternative options for healing. The power of herbs. This is something I’ve found a lot of people feel. We are still captivated in this modern world by the plant’s ability to heal and protect. Beatrix talked about how, in medieval times, they would salt pack meat with herbs—herbs because everyone would get sick off of the meat otherwise—herbs were the best way to kill the germs.

Today, this tradition coupled with the ability of herbs to make certain foods more easily digestible—rosemary for lamb, sage for poultry, both digestive herbs in this sense—makes herbs a staple in most kitchens. A practice that, with centuries of proof behind it, we no longer question the why; why certain herbs go best with certain foods, how much culinary herbal knowledge we actually do possess, without needing an explanation. However, with modern medicine evolving farther and farther outside of the farm and garden, even in an herbal group, we are shy to stake our own claims about how herbs have healed us or helped us to prevent the need for healing in the first place, helped us stomach life’s problems—outside of the kitchen. But today, we are in a tincture kitchen, underneath an outdoor tent, steps away from the herb garden.

Next, we go on an herbal walk. Only ten herbs. That’s best for the memory, Beatrix says. First, Beatrix stops right inside the gate, “Careful of the nettles!” I warn. Of course, this is exactly what Beatrix wants to show everyone. The power of nettles. “Really good for you, you can use them like spinach.” I add as we walk, “Make sure to sauté or steam them first!” repeating something Beatrix had told me before when I was skeptical of eating nettles myself. A simple solution used to temper their sting.

Then we picked Ricolla Mint for our digestive tinctures. “Five leaves, or more—if you want more.” As Beatrix would tell everyone later, “Tincturing is an art, not just a science.” However, it is an art that requires the scientific categorization of herbs as a base; you have to know what you’re working with before you test age-old recipes. There’s a reason some combinations are tried and true; this form of medicine has been around for a long time. A weak sage tea is good for the stomach, a strong sage tea makes a good gargle for sore throats—but could wreak havoc on your stomach functions for that day. Herbs are like anything else, good in their proper amount. However, it would be difficult to land yourself in big trouble due to herb use, except, in extreme cases, as Beatrix mentioned next with the comfrey. “Comfrey is a wonderful herb, but has recently been blacklisted thanks to some woman who drank a gallon of comfrey extract and ended up in the hospital.” Think about it; imagine drinking a gallon of any kind of extract—like vanilla extract, for instance. The sheer amount she consumed is unbelievable. Beatrix continues, “So we have to make sure to plant it. An act of defiance now.” To this everyone chuckled, but took note.

We kept walking, even as a couple raindrops broke on us. “Parsley tea for UTIs; the problem with cranberry juice is all of that sugar. The cranberry makes you slippery so the bacteria slips out, but sugar. Grows bacteria. Parsley is better. No sugar.” We get to the herb wheel. She points out a marshmallow plant, the calendula we use for our PFP salves, and lastly, we pass around some Tulsi, or holy basil, to smell. It smells heavenly; wonderfully heady; like the panacea (or cure-all) it is.

Then, we head back into the tent to start working on our tinctures, mint leaves in hand. We all split up into assigned groups at three different stations. Beatrix explains the process for each one before we begin. When talking about the digestive tincture, Beatrix tells us, “Now, for a while at first, you’re going to want to give it a shake, everyday. And talk to it. Tell it good things, ‘you’re a good tincture, you’re going to make my tummy feel better’” Everybody chuckles, “you know, stuff like that. And, I’m serious because—they did a study, studied frozen water crystals—the crystals when you wrote something like ‘love’ on the outside, they froze into these, transformed, beautiful structures.” I remembered listening to a tape of this talk in the car on the way to school everyday in fifth grade. My mother, also an herbalist, loved the science behind the effect of positive words on water cells. We humans carry a lot of water with us. There is something undeniably good about ingesting herbs to heal, relax, or digest. We feel good about it. I think there’s something to that.

Beatrix sends me to boil water for the glycerin tincture. In this workshop she is teaching us how to make three different kinds of tinctures: a digestive tincture with an alcohol base, a relaxing tincture with a glycerin base (good for kids), and a fire cider with an apple cider vinegar base. She explained at one point that “fire cider” is the name for an age-old tonic that has, just recently, been copyrighted by one company. “Us herbalists have to fight back,” she says, “They’re saying we can no longer use this term. Just think of that!”

When I return the tent smells rich with seeds that have been bruised in a mortar and pestle, roots that have been chopped or grated, leaves that have been cut fine. I start with the glycerin tincture. Pouring the hot water over the chamomile and fennel on a cool day is instantly relaxing. We switched stations, giving everyone time to compose one of each kind.

When we were done, we talked for a bit, people asked questions about specific health concerns, garden concerns, “I have too much comfrey,” someone said, to which I replied, “You can turn comfrey into a compost tea if you’ve used all you want to use for other things; you can chop it up, let it stew in water until it gets smelly, and then put it right back into your garden.” Others asked about lyme disease, a woman’s child had been diagnosed this summer; Beatrix replied, “Artemisia annua is a good one for spirochetes; make a tea. In addition to everything else you’re doing…” After more questions like these, we parted ways. Since the workshop, we’ve had eager new volunteers in our Meditation Garden, hungry for Beatrix’s herbal knowledge. And she has more than enough to spare. “We talk about all kinds of things during our workdays; anyone can come,” I say, “And not just herbs!” Beatrix and I laugh. As we made our way out of tent, everyone looked happy, heading home, toting their new tinctures, I imagined them thinking, ‘you are good tinctures; you’re going to make me feel better.’ 


***It's not too late to register for any or all of the remaining herbal home remedy classes with Beatrix! To learn more and register for a class, go here.***

Grower’s Row: As Summer Ends

By Patrick Lang

There is no better place to be than the farm for tracking the changing of the seasons. It seems that, in the blink of an eye, tender zucchini and sweet cantaloupe are replaced by potatoes and dark green kale, and we enjoy our first glimpse of winter squash being harvested and stowed away for the fall and early winter. Since farm labor is entirely impacted by the seasons, we also have been saying goodbye to amazing PFP farm interns, as well as a special longer-term crew member who is moving on to other exciting projects.

Veg Report
Crops are generally in very good condition after abundant summer rainfall: blueberries and green beans offered particularly large and tasty harvests this summer. Fall brassica crops (broccoli, kale, cabbages, radishes, rutabaga) are looking splendid following the surprisingly cool nights we’ve enjoyed throughout the summer. As always, however, there are winners and there are losers. Cherry tomatoes and peppers growing in the field this summer have not experienced the ideal amount of hot and dry weather that allows them to stay healthy and produce excellent fruit. If you notice haggard-looking cherry tomato plants in the pick-your-own section, know that cool and wet weather has precipitated the spread of fungal diseases. Peppers have been hit hard this season, first by hail when they were very young, and then by multiple heavy rains, all of which has made them more susceptible to bacterial diseases. While we are still able to harvest peppers, fruit ripened rather late this season, and we do not expect the plants to last long into September (despite this, of course, the crew continues to smile brightly while happily harvesting what they can!).

Internships and Training at PFP
We are sad to say goodbye to cherished summer interns, Fiona and Liz. It has been a joy to train and work with these engaged and energetic humans, and also to learn from them. We also say a temporary good bye to Merle, who fortunately plans on returning next season. We will miss you!

German, who is a full-season apprentice this year, has recently begun training in mechanical cultivation, which he will be taking over fully next year. This task, which involves weeding beds with tractor implements, requires much focus and careful coordination, since a slip of the steering wheel can translate to 10 kale or broccoli plants being uprooted in an instant. PFP has four cultivation implements that are used regularly, and they help us accomplish the same goal – a weed-free vegetable/fruit bed – in a variety of ways. Some bury weeds, some uproot them completely, and some cultivate the furrows. After brief training last fall, I managed cultivation this season; I am happy to have the opportunity to transfer that knowledge to another individual learning to farm here at PFP.

September on the Farm
I hope that I’ve helped to explain why patience is needed this season in the pepper and cherry tomato area. Remember how wonderful many other crops have been, due to the same cool, wet weather! The winter squash, potato, onion, and garlic harvests are now complete, and the farmers are excited to chill out a little more and sweat a little less. We are also excited to begin harvesting fall greens and roots! Parsnips, rutabaga, and celeriac continue to size up, and the first tender arugula and spinach leaves have our mouths watering. Enjoy the bounty!

Guest Post from Cornell Garden Based Learning!

Greetings from Fiona Doherty, Educator Enrichment Specialist with Cornell Garden-Based Learning! We are a partner of the Poughkeepsie Farm Project and helped facilitate a portion of PFP’s 2016 Summer Institute. I am a guest blogger and would like to highlight some of the resources our program offers.

We are based in Ithaca, NY on the Cornell University campus and we serve all of New York State. Our mission is to provide educators with inspiring, research-based gardening resources and professional development to support engaging, empowering and relevant learning experiences for children, youth, adults and communities.

That’s me- Ithaca is gorges!

That’s me- Ithaca is gorges!

We offer a bounty of free web-based resources including curriculum, guides for planning and organizing garden programs, an evaluation toolkit, and much more! One of my favorite curriculum pieces is Dig Art! Cultivating Creativity in the Garden. It integrates gardening with the arts through plant-based fabric dyeing, gourd crafts, seed mosaics and other engaging activities. Youth Grow is another favorite- a leadership program that prepares teens to become actively involved in their local food systems.

Last winter we partnered with the American Horticultural Society to adapt and update Sowing the Seeds of Success, a web-based resource designed to walk you through the organizational aspects of a gardening program. This is a great place to start if you are looking to organize a youth or community garden program OR if you are looking for ways to strengthen an existing program. Topics include Partnerships, Planning Your Design, Effective Community Engagement and Sustaining the Garden. Are you looking for benefits and research behind garden-based learning? We have that too!

A primary focus of my job is collaborating with regional Cornell Cooperative Extension offices to facilitate educator enrichment workshops. These are professional development workshops for CCE Educators, MGV or school teachers who engage youth in the garden setting. Topics range from effective youth engagement, positive youth development, program organization or they can focus on more hands-on skills such as seed starting or composting. Interested in partnering with your local CCE to host a workshop? Contact me at Fcd9[at]cornell[dot]edu. I look forward to hearing from you!

Educators at the St. Lawrence Learning Farm Workshop

Educators at the St. Lawrence Learning Farm Workshop