Turkey Tracks: Hope’s Edge: First Pick-up of Season

Turkey Tracks:  June 25, 2012

Hope’s Edge:  First Pick-up of Season

Last Friday was our first pick-up of the season at our Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) farm, Hope’s Edge–where we have been members for at least 7 years.

The first day of visiting the farm is always such a pleasure.  We get to say hello to old friends and get and give lots of  hugs.  We get to savor what is one of my favorite places on this earth.

Here’s a picture from the road–of the growing herd of milk cows and sheep being moved into a new pasture area.  Hope’s Edge is down a road running along the right side of this field of buttercups.  You can see that the cows have grazed the right side of this field and are now being moved onto the buttercups.  Their milk will be absolutely delicious after this treat–and the butter will be a deep yellow color.

This year we are also doing a cheese CSA from Appleton Creamery, and we pick up at Hope’s Edge.  Our first week’s cheeses are beyond delicious!  So, with Cheryl Wixson’s Kitchens CSA (products she cooks using organic foods, like great tomato sauces, jams, pickles, sauces), we are up to THREE CSAs now.

Turkey Tracks: Visiting Essex Farm, Essex, NY

Turkey Tracks:  June 13, 2012

This is part 3 of a longer story.  Scroll down for the beginning…

Visiting Essex Farm

When we arrived, we first saw a small flock of sheep in a fenced pasture alongside the farm road.

We knew that all of this farm equipment would be made for draft horses to pull.

There was a sheep mother nursing her baby just separated from this small flock–and Kristin told us later in our tour that Mark had just given her this flock for her birthday.  Someone had gifted him with them, and he knew that Kristin had been wanting some sheep for some time.  She’s now looking into animal guard dogs that are bred to live with and protect the animals in their care–as the sheep will be permanently pastured some way from the house.  Essex Farm is 500 acres, which is a lot of land.

We parked and started down the driveway toward the farm buildings, and a small woman with very blue eyes and a big hat stepped from a group of people and said,  “Hi, I’m Kristin.”

And, there she was–though she looked quite different from the picture on the cover of her book, THE DIRTY LIFE.  Now there are no traces of the city.  Her hair is long and braided, her fair skin glows with health, she’s lean and fit and muscular, and she radiates a very special kind of energy and interest that welcomes her guests to the farm.

There is a hint of some tension, and we soon learned that Mark had pulled a back muscle and was flat on his back at the farmhouse and in great pain and had care of the children.  Somehow, people appear to take care of the children, to collect the eggs from the hen trailer to the north of the farmhouse, to let the horses out of the barn, to prepare a chili for the potluck lunch and for a fundraiser for the local Waldorf school later that evening–and so forth.  It’s a Saturday morning–and the farm crew works, except in high-activity times, from Monday to Friday.  (The CSA weekly food pickup is on Friday.)  Kristin excuses herself from time to time, but makes us feel as if nothing on this earth is stressful or will get in the way of our visit.  And those of us who had read her book knew that this kind of juggling is something she and Mark are well used to doing.

Kristin begins the tour by answering questions about the farm and how it works in the farm’s trailer–where work meetings and common meals take place.  Half of this trailer is a field kitchen–the other half is filled with long tables.  The walls are covered with lists, individual workers’ clip boards, maps of the farm, and so forth.  We begin to realize that the administrative side of a diversified farm that feeds 220 people everything they need all year long is quite complicated.  (This farm’s goal is to replace the grocery store with healthy, clean, nutrient-dense food.)

I love this picture of Kristin.


Outside the trailer is a huge refrigerated truck body and a long open building where CSA members pick up their food–it’s lined with freezer chests.  We begin, though, by walking north, toward the farmhouse and the barns.

Here’s the farmhouse–and the window Kristin writes about in the book is still broken.  The barns and other out buildings are beyond.

The fields near the farmhouse are the “home” fields and are reserved for herbs and flowers.  Here’s a group of guests with Kristin in the chamomile flower row, helping to pull the flowers.  Tara is in the blue plaid shirt on the left, in the front.

Kristin told us that chamomile tea is made with the chamomile flowers.  She dries them and adds dried mint, lavender, and lemon balm–to make their tea–an idea that really appeals to me.  I’ll be looking for some chamomile plants for this year and seed for the next.   Here are the flowers:

We stop at a hoop house dedicated to raising meat chickens.  The layers are in a tractor in a pasture beyond the barns and are moved daily.  Each small pen within the hoop house houses chickens of different ages (one week, two weeks, etc.).  When they are old enough to be ok with cool nights–which means they have grown enough feathers–they, too, are moved into tractors that allow them to free range on grass.  I think, as with Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm in Virginia, these chickens “follow” the cows as they rotate through pastures around the farm.

Here’s Tara holding a week old chick, whom she immediately wanted to take home!

These chickens are Cornish crosses, and those of you who read my blog know that I’m not a fan of them.  I tried to interest Kristin in Freedom Rangers, but they had tried them and thought they took too long to develop and didn’t get as big as the Cornish crosses.  They DO take longer, but that means, too, that their bones are really developed, can support their bodies, and have all the minerals they should have for really healthy bone broths.  Before Cornish crosses, it would take 5 months or so to grow a chicken to roasting weight.  Cornish crosses develop in SIX WEEKS!  As for size, the FRs Rose raised were huge–often 6 or 7 pounds in 12 weeks.  Rose does not have the space Kristin and Mark do, so the size/time taken may be a factor of supplemental feeding???

The farm is now powered by a bank of solar panels, which Kristin thought she would hate to see.  But, she thinks they fit in surprisingly well.  I think they got a grant to help install these panels… which, if true, is exactly the sort of help we need to be giving small, diversified farmers who are healing and using our farm lands.

The draft horses were just being let out of the barns as we drew near.  These gentle giants are magnificent creatures.  I think there are four teams here, but Kristin said on really busy days there are 5 or 6 teams in the fields as some of the workers also have teams of their own.  The white pony belongs to the girls.

I didn’t know these draft horses came in a “paint” color.  This one was really friendly.  His partner is also a “paint.”

Gentle giants:

Kristin and Mark are in the process of “tiling” some of their fields as they are too wet.  Tiling is a drainage method that puts a big pipe in a deep trench that drains the water from the field.  Kristin feels that their area is getting wetter and wetter–which is something we are seeing in Maine as well.

They planted this rye crop in the tiled field, and it’s doing beautifully.  They will harvest the grain and will bale the rye straw and use it for insulation in the home they want to build–a green building method that people are beginning to use more and more.  See, for instance, the current issue of YES! magazine, which is available online.  Straw comes from grain plants and hay is made from grass.  (Kristin’s new book will be about building this home and will have more farm stories.)  Here’s the rye field with the barns/outbuildings in the background.

The field that has the best dirt for growing produce is called  “Small Joy,” and we are walking toward it.

Here are Kristin and Tara in front of Small Joy.  You can see how long it is and how much has to be planted to feed 220 people year round.  That’s garlic behind them.  Garlic is planted in the fall, and the scapes, or flower pods, are just coming up now.  Most garlic won’t winter over beyond about now, so it’s lovely to get the scapes in June.  We cut them up and stir-fry them, put them in soups, put them into mayonnaise, and so forth.  They have a light, lovely garlic taste.

We cross Small Joy and circle back to the house–by way of the sheep.  After a fun potluck lunch–where Kristin adds in a fabulous chili with dried beans and sausage–all made on the farm–and bread with deep yellow spring raw butter–and sour cream–and lovely raw milk–I take these pictures of the shed where CSA members pick up their food.  It takes a lot of  Mason jars to put up food for the winter.

And here’s the working end of the meat chicken processing–open air, as it should be.  The cones are where the chickens are suspended to drain out blood into the funnel below them.  The table makes cleaning the chickens easy.  there are also vats for hot water, a really good plucker, and a vat for cooling off the cleaned chickens.  Everything can be washed off when the work is done.

We left Kristin and Essex Farm reluctantly.  But everyone was tired and it was time to go.  We didn’t see the highland cattle, or the pigs, or the sugar bush (maple syrup), or the borrowed dairy bull, or the dairy cows.  And I didn’t take so many pictures I should have.  I am particularly regretting not taking a shot of the buckets full of eggs from the layers–brought down from the upper pastures by a sweet young woman who stopped by to say “hi” and got drafted into helping out.

I could have stayed on that farm forever!  It’s so full of life and love and energy and good things happening.  It makes me think there is hope for healthy, nourishing, nutrient-dense food in America

Interesting Information: CSA Time

Interesting Information:  March 8, 2012

CSA Time

 Two of my nieces are well into finding and eating local foods.

Here’s a recent message from niece Lauren Howser Black about buying into a local CSA, or Community Shared Agriculture:

We are pretty sure we’re going to join our friend’s CSA this summer. They are Mennonite and farm a pretty big piece of land. We met them through our local farmer’s market where they sell wonderful, organic produce. It runs from June-October and we can get a box each week. I really like the idea of trying to eat what’s currently in season, as I have never done that before. They grow everything from greens, varieties of herbs, peas, beans, squash, tomatoes, melons, raspberries, root vegetables, etc. I also love the idea of supporting local farmer’s. When I pick up our basket this summer from them at the farmer’s market, I can also purchase local eggs, cheese, and meats. Our goal is to find ways to cook and enjoy whatever we get in our weekly basket, even if we’ve never had it before. We’re excited to try this out. 

Lauren’s sister Nancy Howser Gardner is also doing some sort of CSA.  She put a picture of a gorgeous basket of food on Facebook the other day.

Our CSA is Hope’s Edge, which starts up here in Maine in mid-June.  We’ve belonged for about 7 years now, and I can’t imagine summer without going out to the farm each week and collecting our beautiful, healthy, organic, fresh food.  Hope’s Edge has never failed us, no matter the weather conditions.  Farmer Tom is a member of our greater family!

A Community Shared Agriculture program asks you to give them a set amount of money yearly.  We give Farmer Tom a little of our half-share costs in the fall, so he can buy seeds, supplies, and so forth.  We give him the rest in the early spring.  And we get a bounteous amount of food in return.  The only risk is if the weather or some other growing condition affects some of the crops, you don’t get that piece of the harvest for that year.  It’s always worked out for us.

This year we’re also doing a local cheese CSA, which will be picked up at Hope’s Edge on our pick-up day–Appleton Creamery.

And, we’re continuing with Cheryl Wixson’s CSA, which contains ready-to-use organic products that are so fun to have in the kitchen.  You can see blog entries on Wixson’s kitchen elsewhere here.

My wish for you today is that you find and support a local CSA or a local farmer’s market this year. 

Turkey Tracks: Love Lies Bleeding: Hope’s Edge Flowers

Turkey Tracks:  September 2, 2011

Love Lies Bleeding:  Hope’s Edge Flowers

Today is Friday, and on Friday’s I got out to Hope’s Edge, our CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) farm,  to pick up our food.  I take a Mason jar and a pair of scissors along with me and cut a bouquet of flowers from the three long rows of flowers Farmer Tom plants for us each year.  I can fill the jar with water so the flowers don’t wilt hopelessly on the way home.

How pretty is this view?  Not even Hurricane Irene diminished this view.

Each week the selection of flowers changes as different varieties come into their own.

Here’s a bouquet from a few weeks ago.  Outrageous, huh?

That amazing dark pink draping “flower” is called Love Lies Bleeding.

Here’s last week’s bouquet:

And, here’s a picture John took on a recent visit that I really like:

Hope’s Edge folks are hard-working folks who raise the most amazing food for us to eat!  We are so blessed!

I wish for you a CSA program like Hope’s Edge.

Mainely Tipping Points 27: Sprouting Awareness, Growing Change

Mainely Tipping Points 27


 Up on Howe Hill, the paths around our house are banked by shoulder high snow.  Nevertheless, spring is coming.  Daylight is growing longer day by day and will bring an end to the quiet stillness of winter.  Sprouts will soon appear and will grow into a new covering for the earth and into new food for us to eat.  Babies will be born who will replace their parents eventually.  These seasonal cycles nourish the earth and its creatures endlessly. 

Sometimes, ideas that organize society, or paradigms, recede, like green life in winter. Now, the unsustainable market economy paradigm is breaking apart even as its proponents try to intensify their grip on it.  This paradigm is extractive, and we are running out of what can be extracted.  There are limits to what the earth can provide, and we have reached them.  There are only so many mountaintops that can be removed and dumped into valleys, only so many nutrients in the soil to be used before nature-dictated replenishment must occur, only so much oil and water to be pumped.

This exploitive paradigm is harming the earth and its creatures.  For instance, Greenpeace is circulating a petition claiming that this year one American will die every minute from cancer created by the known toxic chemicals allowed in so many of the products and foods we use or eat every day  (https://secure3.convio.net/gpeace/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=787&s_src=taf&JServSessionIdr004=i4hx4u4rh1.app331a).  The President’s Cancer Panel released in April 2010 said 41 percent of people would be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes, that children are especially at risk, and that our degraded environment is a key factor (http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/annualReports/index.htm).  Wiki answers says 50 percent of us will get cancer in our lifetime (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_people_get_cancer_in_their_lifetime).  And, Sandra Steingraber, in LIVING DOWNSTREAM, published in 1997, or 14 years ago, explained that the incidence of cancer in the United States rose 49.3 percent between 1950 and 1991 and that cancer was the leading cause of death for Americans aged thirty-five to sixty-four (40).  Cancer striking between 40 and 50 percent of the population can only be called an epidemic. 

But, what new paradigm could emerge?  We could take part in the sprouting of something wonderfully sustainable, if we, first, sprout awareness of this moment, and, then, act positively out of that awareness.  We could, as a community, become part of growing an Associative Economy paradigm based on 21st Century agrarian values that build and sustain healthy land, healthy community, a healthy economy, and healthy people.  Cooperation, not competition, is a hallmark of this new paradigm. 

Steven McFadden’s THE CALL OF THE LAND:  An Agrarian Primer for the 21st Century is a “sourcebook exploring positive pathways for food security, economic stability, environmental repair, and cultural renewal.”  McFadden lists and describes many of the individuals, organizations, and communities who are implementing models of how to live sustainably.  It’s comforting to realize that there are so many people “out there” who are working hard to make this new paradigm fully emerge.      

People are becoming Locavores, who buy food grown close to their homes; are turning their grass into vegetable gardens; are forming neighborhood cooperatives to share garden produce; are saving seeds; and are forming organizations to create change.  Communities across America are working to build regionally based, self-reliant food economies that include urban gardens, both public and private; Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) programs, including those which “share” products from multiple producers; food cooperatives, some of which are organized by farmers; school gardens and wholesome school lunch programs; land trusts that put willing young people on farms; and community commercial kitchens.  Counties across the country are creating self-reliant food systems within their borders; many of these are all organic.  In Maine, our regional coops and our small stores carrying local, often organic foods are, already, important hubs for this new paradigm as they are generating a local associative economy where farmers and consumers can meet daily on a common terrain.

McFadden, like Will Allen in THE WAR ON BUGS, addresses the justification myth created within the post World War II liaison of academia and agricultural and chemical corporations in order to foster industrial farming methods.  Termed the “green revolution,” this myth promised that it could feed the world and argued that small organic farms could not.  McFadden writes:  “But that argument has been proven wrong.  Nearly half the world’s food already comes from low-input farms of about one hectare (2.5 acres).  That scale can be worked efficiently and wisely, then progressively networked with modern technology.  Acre for acre, small, organic farms use less energy, create less pollution, offer more satisfying work, and produce more clean food from the land” (72).  McFadden notes that Iowa State University has established the nation’s first tenured organic agriculture faculty position and that some of the land grant schools are establishing sustainable agriculture programs (88).   

Paradigm change can begin with the choices we each make about what we eat.  Each choice we make is a vote.  We can vote for members of our own community, for access to clean food filled with nutrients, and for building community resilience that will support us in the, likely, difficult future we face.  Or, we can vote so that our dollars leave our community and enrich a few, already deep pockets.  We can vote for industrial food that is lacking nutrients, is grown with toxic chemicals, and that is tired and old from the polluting practice of being shipped across the country or across the world.  We are voting, then, for a splintered community where individuals have not built fully realized relationships with each other. 

Shannon Hayes, in RADICAL HOMEMAKERS, charts the historical progression that moved households from being centers of production standing alongside other such centers to being isolated units of consumption.  She discusses her family’s decision to not only question received cultural knowledge about how “to be” in the extractive economy, but to make changes that freed her family and gave it a more fully lived life—one with values strongly rooted in the health of the land.  She writes:  “What is our economy for?  Isn’t it supposed to serve everyone?  Are our families truly served by an economy where employees are overworked, where families do not have time to eat meals together, an economy that relentlessly gnaws at our dwindling ecological resources?  In David Korten’s words, a true, living economy `should be about making a living for everyone, rather than making a killing for a few lucky winners’“ (37).  (David Korten published AGENDA FOR A NEW ECONOMY in 2010 which is in my “to read” pile.) 

Shannon addresses the myth of local, organic food being unaffordable for any but the rich:  “…a farmers’ market meal made of roasted local pasture-raised chicken, baked potatoes and steamed broccoli cost less than four meals at Burger King, even when two of the meals came off the kiddie menu.  The Burger King meal had negligible nutritional value and was damaging to our health and planet.  The farmers’ market menu cost less, healed the earth, helped the local economy, was a source of bountiful nutrients for a family of four, and would leave ample leftovers for both a chicken salad and a rich chicken stock, which could then be the base for a wonderful soup.” (12).

McFadden, too, addresses this myth by quoting the legendary Vandana Shiva, physicist, environmental activist, and author:  “`The most important issue is to break the myth that safe, ecological, local, is a luxury only the rich can afford.  The planet cannot afford the additional burden of more carbon dioxide, more nitrogen oxide, more toxins in our food.  Our farmers cannot afford the economic burden of these useless toxic chemicals.  And our bodies cannot afford the bombardment of these chemicals anymore.’” (74)

Shannon makes a strong plea for restoring our lost democracy:  “When women and men choose to center their lives on their homes, creating strong family units and living in a way that honors our natural resources and local communities, they are doing more than dismantling the extractive economy and taking power away from the corporate plutocrats.  They are laying the foundation to re-democratize our society and heal our planet.  They are rebuilding the life-serving economy” (58). 

If you want to help build a sustainable, life-giving paradigm rooted in your local area, start with food.  First, insist on and buy local, organic food.  Consider joining a local CSA; shop at a local farmers’ market and at local stores carrying local food.  Second, begin asking for what you don’t find.  For me, it’s more local winter greens, please.  And, more winter farmers’ markets.  Third, buy foods in their seasons and learn to cook and to preserve some of them for the coming winter.  (Few things are as delicious in winter as tomato sauce spiked with garlic and basil, all taken from the garden on a hot August afternoon and cooked down in a bit of olive oil and frozen.)  Finally, every day, sit down and, together, eat the tasty, nourishing, clean food you have prepared.

Turkey Tracks: Hope’s Edge, Our Community Shared Agriculture Farm

Turkey Tracks:  August 14, 2010  

Hope’s Edge:   Our CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) Farm  

We’ve belonged to Hope’s Edge, our CSA farm, for at least five years now.  Our pick-up this year is on Friday, and I look forward all week to driving out to the farm.  It’s a beautiful, serene space.   

What’s cool about Hope’s Edge is that Farmer Tom does not own it.  The owner and her daughter live in the farmhouse, and they have allowed Tom to build a CSA and his own house on it.  There are horses, some rescue ponies, a milk cow and a new calf, and chickens.  Sometimes there are some sheep as well.     

Hills circle the fields, barns, farmhouse, the CSA sheds, and Farmer Tom’s house.   A pond nestles down the hill from the barn, providing a cooling off place for hot CSA workers.  This is a view of the barn and stables from the CSA shed.  Look at how blue the sky can be in Maine.  The old farmhouse is on the far side of the barn.  In the foreground are some garden beds and the first of a line of apple trees.  


Here’s the CSA shed where we pick up our food.  Inside are refrigerators, some cooking equipment, tables, and LOTS of food.  Behind the shed are more garden beds, a huge oak with a tire swing, and a frog pond that drove our grandchildren quite crazy.  To the right there is another small barn and the entry road.  Across that road are planted crops, including a strawberry bed that gets bigger each year.   


Here’s a bigger picture of the mural.     


We picked up over 12 pounds of food this past Friday.  I could not resist putting it in my garden/mushroom basket and taking a picture:  


Cukes, zukes, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, two kinds of beans (regular and Romano flat), lettuce, herbs, potatoes, an eggplant, a cabbage, carrots, and garlic.  I could have cut a flower arrangement as well, but we were tired after a morning in Augusta, and we have lots of flowers in our own garden.  

It doesn’t get better than this kind of food, does it?  It nourishes our bodies and our spirits.  

Ratatouille, I think.  But with some of the mint I brought from Maine.  And, some basil from our herb garden.