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!


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.


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. 


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...

growers row sweet corn.JPG

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!)

growers row tomato tunnel.JPG
growers row winter greens 2.JPG

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

Meet Back Paddock Farm!

by Dan Salisbury, Ed Intern

The majestic Hudson Valley sprawls roughly 7000 miles throughout New York; drive through any of the towns or cities from Albany to Yorktown and you’re bound to cross paths with one of the many bountiful farms, orchards, or vineyards sprawled throughout the state. Here in the Hudson Valley, we’ve been quite fortunate to receive access to incredible produce and meats. While this is partly due to increased consumer interest (you!) in sourcing locally and having a greater connection with local farmers, a large reason why we have such quality product is due to the hard work and pride that these farmers put into their craft. For smaller farmers, the work and labor can often be extremely difficult and the days quite long, but the finished result is often extraordinary.

Enter Pat Knapp and Allison Toepp of Back Paddock Farm. Now located in Ghent, NY, they have been raising cows since April of last year – more specifically, a herd of 100% grass-fed Red Devons. These cows have a storied history; the first Devons to come to America date all the way back to the 17th century. These purebred and docile bovines have thick skin, are efficient eaters, and their coat color can range from a deep ruby color to light red. In short, they are excellent cattle; a quality animal - raised responsibly and with care – ultimately creates a better product from the farm to your fork.

 A short while ago, I had the chance to speak with Pat, who graciously explained a little about their operation.

PFP - How did you get started with the farm? Can you tell me a little about the Hudson Valley Farm Business Incubator?
Pat - I was working with Allie at Sprout Creek Farm in Poughkeepsie. We worked well together, and realized we wanted to start a business. We drew up a plan and applied [to the Hudson Valley Business Incubator] and were accepted. They provided us with just the space; we shared some land, equipment, and resources with a couple of other farms.

We were able to get our feet wet. It allowed us to get people to know what we were doing in a way where this reputable organization was backing us and supporting us. We did some fundraising with some close friends and family who wanted to invest in our future, we bought a herd, and then we just started doing it!

You have grass-fed Red Devons at your farm along with log-grown mushrooms – and you want to mimic nature’s perennial process. Can you explain how you aim to do this?
We implement a management-intensive rotational grazing system. Cattle, and livestock in general, get a bad rap and a lot of blame for a lot of environmental problems, perhaps rightfully so. More often than not, it’s not the animals intrinsically that are responsible for environmental destruction, but more the management. [Famed conservationist] Allen Savory has really promoted this style of regenerative agriculture where cattle can serve this extremely unique purpose of creating a positive impact that we would [otherwise] not be able to do without cattle or another large mobile herbivore. We rotationally graze to benefit the land in the same way bison and wild herbivores would, and we’re always focused on not just creating a diverse ecosystem (and a robust one), but we’re really focused on building soil organic matter; this is the only way that we can be taking carbon out of the air and put it back into the soil. It’s our own little form of environmental activism.

As we develop our land base, one thing that we want to be doing is responsibly tending to the forested areas of the farm. Again, we want to create a real carbon sink in the forest, where we’re not letting the plants and trees fall and decay – we want to be intensively managing our woodlot so that they can be a productive part of the farm ecosystem as well. Eventually, we’d like to be thinning out some of these forests and creating a silvo-pasture – essentially a man-made savannah where the entire area will be in shade. [BPF] will be thinning out trees and putting down grass seed; by turning that into a twice-productive perennial system, the animals will be able to graze underneath, keeping the forage plants vegetative. The hardwood trees that we’re tending to will be harvested for shitake mushrooms production, and then we hope to turn some of the hayfields into fruit and nut production.

What are some of the challenges that you face?
Most cattle out there really can’t finish well on [a 100% grass diet]. The industry has kind of moved toward a system based on corn and grain (and fuel), and we’ve got a long road backwards, almost, to be able to get animals back to a point where we can consistently create tender, high-quality meats on grass alone. We’re part of a breed improvement program, [with mentors and colleagues Mike Scannell and Joan Harris of Harrier Field farm , among others] where we’re really trying to build up the breed forward with an eye towards a quality end product. As we’re working with butchers and chefs, they can give us a higher level of feedback, which is important.

We measure our cattle; there’s a system of linear measurement and ratios that cattlemen before us found tends to correlate to quality and tenderness, as well as creating a more efficient animal that can produce more pounds of high quality meat per acre of grass. [When BPF first began] I was coming with the idea to [raise the herd] from a strict Allen Savory perspective. Mike Scannell challenged that by saying it wasn’t enough, and that it was only half of it. The other half of [raising the cattle] is the breed improvement side of things, where if you’re not improving cattle, you’re degrading – in the same way that if you’re not improving soil quality and the health of an ecosystem it can degrade as well. We’re trying to make the most of this land, and [we] have to try and maximize the amount of quality meat that we’re able to produce per acre. Part of that is improving your fields, but part of that is improving your cattle. The combination of [the ideas and methods of] Allen Savory plus my friend Mike Scannell really just kind of took us places.

We’re trying to do things in the most straight-forward way we know how. It’s a very kind of raw and pure way to do what we’re doing; we aren’t working with huge machines and government-subsidized] grains. It’s unique in the way that we’re looking to nature rather than mechanization for inspiration in efficiency. [BPF meat] is not just something that’s easy to eat, but is something that people can morally get behind to promote their ideal of animal welfare and create a positive environmental impact through their eating choices. We really make an effort to do things that cater to all kinds of ideals.

***PFP features Back Paddock Farms’ wonderful retail cuts at every CSA pickup offered at the farm. You don’t need to be a member of the CSA in order to buy, and there’s a wide variety of cuts to choose from!

Grower's Row: Contemplating Summer and Shares

Editor's Note: This post was originally scheduled for late June publication, and I apologize for the delay!

by Elizabeth Doyle

What a difference a day makes. This aphorism sums up my swift-moving first month as an intern at the Poughkeepsie Farm Project. These warm June nights and regular, welcome rains are inciting the plants to fill out markedly more each day at a rate that continues to astound.

The winter squash (and most other cucurbits, a family that includes melons, cukes, and zucchini) that we planted in early June had to be covered with Reemay, the white fabric that you see stretched over hoops in many of the fields, to protect the young plants from a booming population of cucumber beetles. Any day now, the flower buds developing on the plants will bloom, requiring us to uncover the beds to welcome in pollinators.

Accordingly, how quickly the offerings in the distribution tent have expanded (as I'm sure you all have noticed)! The first week featured an array of greens and a few petite Hakurei turnips and radishes. Now with the ushering in of zucchini and cucumbers (two crops that demand harvesting three days a week in this time of rapid growth), as well as cabbages, it seems the tent can hardly contain the bounty. Another thing worth mentioning here is my amazement and gratitude at the abundance of eager help in the fields from members, without whom the harvesting days would be a true challenge. With all these extra hands, the amount we are able to clear out of the fields before noon is truly remarkable. These hours are also a fantastic opportunity to connect with community members in conversation. As a newcomer to the Hudson Valley, I am pleased to get acquainted with this crew of farm-invested New Yorkers and hear all about places to see and hike in the area.

Speaking of members, one thing that I love about this method of CSA distribution (I come from a land where boxes are the norm, which does not require members to go directly to the farm nor allow the ability to choose which vegetables go home with you) is the opportunity for conversation and the exchange of ideas. I've often overheard members eagerly sharing recipes for things like beet greens, kohlrabi, and escarole in the tent. If you are at all like me, it is easy to get into cooking ruts and run out of creative steam when eating the same foods for many weeks, hence the boon of this face-to-face exchange, stimulating our interest and allowing us to branch out in the ways we can enjoy preparing these delicious yields.

You may have noticed the abundance of radishes in many varieties in the tent. A well-kept secret about this crunchy little root is that it is positively divine in cooked form! My favorite way to eat these gems is braised in chicken or vegetable stock, a pat of butter, chopped shallots, and a little honey, with fresh parsley for good measure tossed on at the end. This recipe can be found in Jack Bishop's book Vegetables Every Day, a invaluable resource I discovered in my own CSA rut many years ago, but you can find this and another delectable radish idea for free here:

As a wise permaculturist friend of mine famously says, "Point of view is a limit, community a remedy." (Bruce Bacon, Garden Farme) These are fine words to live by, and to serve as a reminder that it never hurts to reach out and inquire around us. If you see something unfamiliar in the tent and have questions about how to eat it, please feel welcomed to ask the farm staff or pose your curiosity to your fellow members!

5 Steps to Grow Your Own Herb Garden

By Sarah Moley, Gardens Coordinator

An herb garden can greatly improve one’s quality of life, providing everything from seasoning and flavor for food to salves, balms, teas, and herbal remedies.
Here are a couple of quick tips from our meditation herb garden to get you started:

1.   Begin growing herbs from seed in your home in early spring
Many herbs can be bought, ready to go in the ground. However, starting from seed can be more cost-effective and fun. Whenever sowing herbs from seed, whether indoors or out, make sure to really soak the seeds after planting until you see sprouts beginning to peek out from the dirt.

The best thing for herbs is to have them outdoors, if at all possible. Whether it’s planting them in pots on your porch or doorstep (good for herbs like mint that love to spread, but also for any herb), or sowing them into your garden; herbs enjoy full sun. That being said, you can also plant herbs at any point in the year, from seed or from starts purchased from a garden department (or plant sale), inside your house. This can be a fun way to have culinary herbs right at your fingertips when you’re cooking. In order to make this work you’ll have to ensure that they live in a window that gets a good amount of sun, or you can purchase a grow light.

If you plan to grow an herb garden outdoors you’ll want to either start your plants from seed indoors in early spring (when it’s still too cold for many herb seedlings to establish themselves outside) or buy starts when you’re ready to plant.

If you choose to start from seed indoors it is important that before transplanting herbs into your garden that you harden them off in their pots/trays, keeping an eye on them and the weather, gradually exposing them to direct sun, cold, and more infrequent watering so that they can acclimatize to being outdoors before going in the ground.

If you plan to grow your herbs in pots, make sure that you choose vessels that allow for proper drainage. You can further aid your plants with drainage by first filling the bottom of your pots with a layer of collected rocks before adding soil.

There are many perennial herbs that, once planted, will return the next year. Common perennial herbs include: mint, thyme, sage, lemon balm, oregano, chives…etc.

Some herbs are hardy enough to be sown directly into the garden. These herbs include: dill, cilantro, and chervil. These can also be difficult to transplant, making direct sewing a good idea. Additionally, these herbs may need to be reseeded every 3-4 weeks during the summer to ensure a fresh supply.

It is important to do some research about how best to start your herbs once you’ve decided which herbs you want and where and how you want to grow them. Each herb has it’s own planting window that can vary based on which zone you live in.

2.   Plant in an area that has good drainage and full sun
Herbs benefit from good drainage, which can be achieved by planting in raised beds, and even mixing in organic matter, such as compost, if you have heavier clay-soil. However, as Beatrix Clarke, the resident herbalist in our Meditation Garden says, “Herbs are actually very easy because they don’t need a whole lot of fertilization. They like barren; barren ground.”

Be sure to do your watering (as with any plant) in the mornings or evenings so the sun doesn’t fry the leaves. Keep an eye on the weather, as overwatering can make for less potency in some herbs.

3.   Trim and dead-head your herbs to ensure continued growth

Most herbs are happiest, once they’ve established themselves, being pruned regularly. This shouldn’t be too hard, as you’ll want to pick sprigs for cooking and teas anyways! However, it is important to clip leaves and pinch sprigs off at leaf intersections, taking, at most, one-third of the plant’s total foliage so that it is able to regenerate.

Additionally, herbs such as sage, Thai basil, holy basil (tulsi), chives…etc. will start to channel their energies into producing flowers if they are left to do so, so trimming the flowers ensures that the plant’s energy remains imbued in the leaves. (Also chive flowers are great for salads!)

4.   Harvest herbs and store
Culinary herbs can be frozen and then used year-round to add fresh flavor to any meal. You can freeze whole sprigs in a freezer bag, or simply freeze chopped herbs in water in an ice cube tray and keep in a sealed container in your freezer until you wish to use them. Then you can add them straight to the pan or pot to cook.

You can also dry herbs and brew delicious medicinal teas. As Beatrix notes, “many common culinary herbs such as sage, parsley, thyme, [and] peppermint, which are great herbs for a beginning herb garden, can also be used to combat common health issues.” She goes on to explain that teas made from thyme can be used to help treat coughs; peppermint is good for digestion; and sage for sore throats.

To dry simply lay them out on a paper bag, or place in a dehydrator (times will vary depending on the plant).


5.   Use
Each herb has many different uses. Here are a couple of fun ways to use them:

  • Chive butter (good on baked potatoes, steaks, and bread!)
  • Lemongrass can be used in a Thai coconut soup or in a broth to poach salmon.
  • Mint is delicious in fresh veggie salads; try cucumber, tomato, red onion—have fun experimenting with the flavors.
  • Savory, thyme, and garlic make for a good white bean soup.
  • Thai basil chicken is a great dish, or for a slightly new take on a classic, try Thai basil pesto.
  • Lavender, chamomile, mint, lemon balm, nettle, Echinacea, and many many more herbs can all be made into delicious health enhancing teas by simply drying the herbs on a paper bag or in a dehydrator, then brewing them in a tea basket.

Beatrix will tell you that “Many plants we consider weeds have herbal properties that can be used for healing,” so feel free to research and experiment with all kinds of herbs after you have established your traditional favorites.

Not only that, she says that in the spring, she eats her weeds; “I make salads with lamb’s quarter; I eat a lot of nettles”—and I double-checked with her—she says you must sauté or steam the nettles first to kill their sting (anything you would normally do to cook spinach). I look forward to giving it a try (after using gloves to harvest and prepare, of course).

The best thing to do is to pick herbs that speak to you. Whether you lean more towards culinary herbs to spruce up your kitchen creations, or medicinal herbs as a safe and healthy way to boost your immune system, find the herbs that enrich your life. To your herb garden from ours, wishing you happiness and health.

References: Accessed on July 13th accessed on July 13th
Interview with Beatrix Clarke, July 19, 2017

Thanks a BUNCH!!!!

As the academic year comes to a close we must say goodbye to our student interns in the education department. It seems impossible to express our gratitude for them in adequate terms. This team of unbelievably passionate, fun-loving people devoted so much time, sweat, and love to our work in Poughkeepsie. Between classes, exams, papers, extracurricular clubs, and maintaining an active social life, they still managed to come to the farm each day energized and excited to dive right in (rain, shine, or snow!).

Anthony, Sophie, Carly, Isabel, Olivia, Rodnisha, Zoe, Alyssa, Sevine, Cymphoni, Dan, John, Sathia, Maria, Liza, Fiona, Allie, Samantha, Tina, thank you so much for your invaluable contributions!

We are thrilled by the educational opportunity that this program provides for interns, the sense of community it fosters, and of course, the powerful impact it has in our city. Interested in growing with us as garden based educators this summer?  We are seeking volunteers who are able to commit to one or more 4 hour sessions a week from July - August. These “Super Volunteers” will join our Education staff by assisting with field trips, cooking and growing workshops, and other special education-based events. Reach out to our Education Manager to learn more and let’s get dirty!