“Community Orcharding” Network Helps Guide Consumers to Organic & Local Apples

Honest Weight Food Co-op sells Northland Organic Gala apples (packed by Ricker Orchards in Turner, Maine)

Holistic Orchard Network’s directory of orchards led this apple lover to purchase a bushel of organic Empires from Hemlock Grove Farm in West Danby (Tompkins County, NY)

Hemlock Grove Farm’s primary organic apple orchard is unmarked and a few miles from the farmhouse & in the 2nd week of October, trees laden with fruit

Later in the season, GreenStar food co-op in Ithaca is likely to have Hemlock Grove Farm’s organic apples available for its customers

The Ithaca food co-op currently had available for customers, local apples from Black Diamond Farm including the heritage variety Zabergau Reinette and the uncommon pink fleshed Pink Pearls

GreenStar’s painted pie-charts on an outside wall is a mini lesson on the economics of the modern industrial food system (click on photo to enlarge)

Local cheeses purchased at the Honest Weight, Tarentaise from Spring Brook Farm (Reading, Vermont); Berlberg Organic from Berle Farm (Hoosick, NY); Karst Alpine Cheddar, Cave Aged   at Jasper Hill Farm (Greensboro, VT), and Dharma Lea Dutch crafted by Grafton Village Cheese (Grafton, VT) for Maple Hill to complement the tasting of Hemlock Grove’s Organic Empires and two Adams Pearmain (an added bonus thanks to the farm’s Jennifer) and the Black Diamond Farm’s Zabergau Reinette and Pink Pearl apples

For five years in a row, from 2011 to 2015, apples were Number One on the dirty dozen list of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables to avoid compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). But in 2016, strawberries displaced apples as the Number One conventionally grown fruit and vegetable to avoid. And in 2017 and again this year in 2018, apples drifted lower to Number 4 on EWG’s dirty dozen list.

Nonetheless, either number one, two, or four on the dirty dozen list, when apple season comes around, the search for organic apples (and hopefully local) begins anew for this apple lover. In recent years, I relied on my hometown Honest Weight Food Co-op as a source for Northland organic apples packed by Ricker Hill Orchard located in Turner, Maine. Not so local to my home in upstate NY, but not as far away as the other organic apples available at the Albany, NY co-op from the Pacific Northwest.

But this fall, I relied on the Grow Organic Apples Holistic Orchard Network’s Orchard List, which provided leads on five apple orchards in upstate New York as a source for this season’s apples to stock two shelves of the kitchen fridge. [Michael Phillips of Groveton, New Hampshire (the author of The Holistic Orchard, Growing Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way) serves as the Network Coordinator.]

Two of the upstate New York orchards were in Ulster County (Westwind Orchard in Accord and High Falls Farm in High Falls) and one in Dutchess County (Breezy Hill Orchard in Staatsburg, south of Rhinebeck), and one (not organic but utilizing low-spray techniques and micronutrient fertilization practices) in Saratoga County (Saratoga Apple in Schuylerville).

But the apple orchard which meant the longest drive from home, Hemlock Grove Farm, south of Ithaca in West Danby (Tompkins County) sparked a special interest because on its website, it spotlighted its Apple CSA. As a long term shareholder in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm in the Hudson Valley, and a promoter of CSA farms in North America and Great Britain on this website, supporting an apple orchard, which was utilizing a CSA model to distribute a large part of its organic apple harvest, was an appealing proposition. So I decided to purchase a bushel of Hemlock Grove Farm’s apples this fall season.

With a home in Albany, 170 miles from Hemlock Grove Farm, a CSA Apple share was certainly not a possibility. Weekly pick-ups of the apple share are available on Fridays and Saturdays at the farm and seven other locations in Ithaca and nearby areas in Tompkins County. But how appealing it would be to receive 5 pounds (1/2 peck) of Hemlock Grove Farm’s fresh organic apples every week (that would be 30 pounds of apples over 6 weeks) until Thanksgiving for a very reasonable $64.00. The orchard also offers 2 half gallons of fresh sweet cider at an additional cost of $15.

In lieu of a CSA apple share, I arranged by email to purchase a select grade bushel (weighing 38 pounds) of apples for pick up at the farm for $75 or $1.93 per pound. Select grade, meaning perfect, supermarket quality fruit were described as great for eating out of hand and as lasting the longest in storage. The farm also offered utility grade apples with minor blemishes but still great eating quality for $55 per bushel, $1.45 per pound. Unpacking my bushel of apples on returning home, I counted 140 apples. A delicious organic upstate New York apple for 50 cents or so seemed a very fair bargain.

Hemlock Grove Farm’s website also notes that ordering bushels from the farm or arranging for an CSA apple share weren’t the only way to buy its apples. During apple season, the farm’s apples are also available by the pound at Ithaca’s GreenStar Co-op. But at the time of my visit to the farm, the co-op did not yet have any of the farm’s apples available. As the apple season proceeds, they will very likely become available at GreenStar too.

Before starting the drive back home, stopping at Ithaca’s GreenStar Co-op, one of the longest operating food co-ops in upstate New York and open to the public like my hometown Honest Weight Food Co-op, was in order. With a bushel of Empire variety organic apples from Hemlock Grove farm in the cooler in my car, I hesitated for a moment but decided to purchase a half dozen apples of the “heritage” varieties available at Green Star from Black Diamond Farm, which practices IFP (integrated fruit production) according to its website in Trumansburg (Tompkins County). But for my apple or two or three a day for the next couple of months, Hemlock Grove Farm’s organic apples will be enjoyed with much satisfaction.

(Frank W. Barrie, 10/18/18)

Five Children’s Books Honored As Best On Gardening, Nature and the Environment in 2018

Five Children’s Books Receive 2018 Growing Good Kids Children’s Book Awards

Created by the American Horticultural Society (AHS) and the Junior Master Gardener Program (JMG program), the Growing Good Kids- Excellence in Children’s Literature Awards honor the best new children’s books about gardening, nature and the environment. These national awards for children’s literature began in 2005 when the AHS and the JMG program recognized 40 books for children as Growing Good Kids Classics.

The list of 40 books includes some well known classics including Christina Bjork’s Linnea in Monet’s Garden, Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Frances Hodgson’s The Secret Garden.

In succeeding years, children’s books have been recognized annually by the AHS and the JMG program as Growing Good Kids Book Award Winners, with a varying number of books so honored each year. In 2014, for example, only one book received the award, while in 2017 a record number of six books were honored.

Viewing the list of winners over the years, some titles stood out as especially relevant to our concern to know where your food comes from including Carol Malnor and Trina Hunner’s Molly’s Organic Farm, Pat Brisson’s Before We Eat- From Farm to Table, and Rick Swann’s Our School Garden.

The JMG program, an international youth gardening program of the university cooperative Extension network, was created and is managed by Texas A & M AgriLife Extension. The program is mostly utilized in schools around the country and is taught by teachers as a part of their classroom instruction, but there are also Junior Master Gardener groups that learn in informal settings like after school programs, 4-H, scouts and summer camps. The JMG program offers a host of curriculum options available on-line.

The best children’s books about gardening and nature for 2018 were announced at the National Children & Youth Garden Symposium held this year at Cornell University in Ithaca in upstate New York. Five books were recognized as inspiring and engaging works of children literature focused on themes related to gardening, nature and the environment.

This year’s winners are: (1) What Will Grow? by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Susie Ghahremani, (2) Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market by Michelle Schaub, illustrated by Amy Huntington, (3) Bloom by Deborah Deisen illustrated by Mary Lundquist, (4) Karl, Get Out of the Garden! by Anita Sanchez, illustrated by Catherine Stock; and (5) Blue Corn Soup, by Caroline Stutson, illustrated by Teri Weidner.

(Frank W. Barrie, 10/11/18)

Food Tank’s Summit in NYC Questions Why 1/3rd Of The Global Harvest Never Reaches Peoples’ Stomachs

Food Tank Summit in NYC Focusing On Food Loss And Food Waste led off with a Chat featuring Chef Dan Barber

Writer and teacher Marion Nestle whose new book Unsavory Truth had an attentive audience at the Food Tank Summit

With 21% of NYC’s waste stream consisting of food, praise for Grow NYC which collects food scraps for composting at many of its Greenmarkets around NYC including the Tuesday market in Manhattan’s Washington Heights

Easy to find a Greenmarket in NYC using Grow NYC’s directory which lists nine on Tuesdays around the metropolis including the Fort Washington Greenmarket in northern Manhattan

To avoid food waste, Marion Nestle says eat real food and know where it comes from: finding an appealing farm stand at a farmers market, like Nolasco Farm at the Fort Washington Greenmarket, is a great option if you can’t grow food yourself or participate in a CSA farm

Morris-Jumel Mansion, the oldest house in Manhattan, was an easy walk from the Fort Washington Greenmarket and its late 18th century basement kitchen was an eye-opener: click to enlarge and see the beehive oven on the right side of the hearth

There wasn’t an empty seat in the 500-seat Tishman Auditorium at the New York University Law School’s Vanderbilt Hall for Food Tank’s Second Annual New York City Summit, Focusing On Food Loss And Food Waste. This Food Tank summit in the urban metropolis was the second day long gathering of diverse speakers in interactive panels to address the immense problem of food loss and waste, after the first summit on the issue in NYC sold-out immediately, with a long waiting list of people wanting to attend.

Food Tank Summits have become a phenomenon in the good food movement attracting large audiences, including an impressive number of young people concerned about the future of our planet’s food and health. Food Tank, which calls itself the Think Tank For Food, expertly and at no cost to viewers, also live-streams all of its summits.

Next up is a San Diego Summit, Growing the Food Movement, on November 14, 2018 which the organization notes will “sell out quickly” as did the two summits in NYC on food loss and waste. Earlier this year in February, Food Tank’s Cultivating the Next Generation of Young Food Leaders in Washington, DC was also a sold-out summit.

Hearing Marion Nestle speak at the Food Tank summit in New York City this week was an added bonus making attendance at the summit especially worthwhile. She is the recently retired Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University and the author of nine books, including Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning), Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, What to Eat and the soon to be published later this month, Unsavory Truth, How Food Companies Skew The Science Of What We Eat. She startled this listener at this Summit on food waste when she stated pointedly at the start of her conversation with Food Tank founder, Danielle Nierenberg, that overproduction is designed to be wasteful. Why? Trying to sell more food is the name of the game for industrial food producers.

In Prof. Nestle’s analysis, slick and manipulative marketing campaigns to get consumers to buy cheap food goes hand in hand with the modus operandi of the industrial food system: to seek profits while externalizing costs to societies incurred as the result of the negative environmental, health, and financial impacts of industrial food production including notably the obesity epidemic. It was encouraging to hear Nestle’s remedy for food waste, which echoes the values we advocate on this website: buy your food from local farmers and follow Michael Pollan’s simple rule to Eat Food, Mostly Plants, Not Too Much.

Other noteworthy speakers and panelists at the New York City summit included Dan Barber, arguably the second most famous farm-to-table chef in the U.S. (after Alice Waters), and the founder of Blue Hill, a restaurant in Greenwich Village, and of Blue Hill at Stone Barns within the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture (Stone Barns) in Pocantico Hills (Westchester County, NY). Helping to create the philosophical and practical framework for the farm and educational center just 30 miles north of New York City, Barber sources food for his two restaurants from the extensive and diverse farming operations at Stone Barns (as well as other local farms).

At the Food Tank Summit in NYC this week, Barber focused on the seed company, Row 7, which he as a chef created along with plant breeder Michael Mazourka and seedsman Matthew Goldfarb. Undergirding the relevancy of this focus at a summit focused on food loss and waste is assumably the fact that flavorful and nutritious food is not so readily “wasted” by consumers.

The website for Row 7 notes the ambition of Barber’s seed company is to create big changes in how we eat and in turn how we grow with the goal of producing tastier food, healthier soil, more diverse and nutritious diets for as many people as possible. Row 7 currently offers seven varieties of seeds: a little pumpkin, a flavorful habanero pepper minus the burn, a beet with vegetal sweetness without earthiness, a creamy, nutty and buttery potato, a palm-size squash with concentrated sweetness, flavor and beta-carotene, a cucumber with bold and complex flavors; and a honey nut squash designed to bring the best flavorful qualities to the processing industry.

Activist Haile Thomas, who at 12 years old, created the Plant-Powered, Kids Nutrition and Culinary Education Program HAPPPY (Healthy Active Positive Purposeful Youth) was also interviewed by Danielle Nierenberg at the summit. Thomas has successfully spread the values of the good food movement to over 15,000 kids by bringing free/affordable plant-based nutrition and culinary eduction to under served/at-risk communities. Now only 17, she has an uncanny ability to connect with people and held the attention of the large audience with her energy and vision.

With nearly 24 speakers and panelists, the summit was remarkable for the territory covered in one day. Even if you are unable to attend an event, take advantage of the free live streaming of future Food Tank summits by signing up on its website to receive news and updates from the organization on future summits.

(Frank W. Barrie, 10/5/18)

60 Artists Raise Funds to Protect Family Farms in the Northern Reaches of the Hudson River Valley

Mark Tougias’ oil painting, Night Walk, a nocturnal snowscape of a wintry scene on River Road in West Arlington, Vermont, caught this visitor’s eye at the exhibit two years ago, and is treasured all seasons

Robert Moylan’s Fields Along Meeting House Road in Cambridge (Washington County), a small gouache on paper, from last year’s exhibit was added to this ASA supporter’s small “collection” of snowscapes (a purchase to treasure while also supporting the cause of farm land preservation)

For 28 years the Agricultural Stewardship Association (ASA) has worked to accomplish its praiseworthy mission: to protect the farms, rich soils and agricultural landscape in Washington and Rensselaer counties in upstate New York’s northern Hudson River Valley. In that time the organization has managed to conserve 125 farms and 20,042 acres. And for the last 16 years, a significant source of funding for this mission has come from the Landscapes for Landsake Art Sale and Exhibition, a celebration of the land by the community of local artists. Over the years, more than $700,000 in artwork has been sold at ASA’s Landscapes Art Show, with the artists generously donating 50% of the proceeds, to farmland conservation.

The show opens with a wine and cheese reception on Saturday, October 6th from 12 to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 per person. The gallery is also open from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday and Monday, free of charge.

This year’s exhibition features the work of 60 artists, with 14 participating for the first time. Many of the artists will be on hand to discuss their work throughout the weekend. The sale takes place in the historic barn at Maple Ridge, 172 State Route 372 in the hamlet of Coila, just west of the Village of Cambridge (Washington County, NY), an hour’s scenic drive from Albany. Participating artists generously donate 50% of their proceeds to support ASA’s farmland conservation work.

Teri Ptacek, ASA’s executive director, explains This event celebrates the connection between the art and the landscapes we are working to protect. It’s what makes Landscapes for Landsake so special. The success of this event has had a tremendous impact on ASA’s ability to protect local farms.

Curated by the artists John and Gigi Begin, of Cambridge (Washington County, NY), for the past three years, the couple have generously donated their time, talent and experience to Landscapes for Landsake resulting in the most successful years in the event’s history. There really is no other venue in the region that has all of these incredibly talented local artists in one place at one time, Gigi says.

This year’s artists include: Cyndy Barbone/Susan Hoffer Collaboration, Deborah Bayly, Susan Beadle, Gigi Begin, John Begin, Linde Caughey, Marilyn Cavallari, Matt Chinian, Eden Compton, Susan Coon, Joan Duff Bohrer, Sally Eckhoff, Yucel Erdogan, Ann Fitzgibbons, Jerry Freedner, Janine Gibson, Beth Hill, Conard Holton, Margaret Horn, Mary Iselin, Carolyn Justice, Laura Cromie Kemmerling, Lynne Kerr, Tom Kerr, Carolyn Kibbe, Clarence King, Rose Klebes, Karen Koziol, Carol Law Conklin, Nina Lockwood, Elizabeth Maloney, Leah McCloskey, AnneLise McNeice, Virginia McNeice, Catherine Minnery, Robert Moylan, Harry Orlyk, Leslie Parke, Terry Peca, Leslie Peck, Christopher Pierce, James Rodewald, Elise Sheehan, Laura Shore, Lorianne Simon, Robert Skinner, Seline Skoug, Ferrilyn Sourdiffe, Anne Sutherland (who painted the event’s featured piece, In the Stillness), Marguerite Takvorian Holmes, Terry Teitelbaum, Janine Thomas, Mark Tougias, George Van Hook, Frank Vurraro, Takeyce Walter, Susan Bayard Whiting, and Regina Wickham.

This visitor to the shows over the years has especially admired the snowscapes by artists Mark Tougias and Robert Moylan, both again participating in this fall’s exhibit. (They take on special meaning in our era of global warming.) It’s also pleasing to note the participation in ASA’s Landscapes for Landsake of Laura Shore, an artist whose Farm Share Studio we have promoted with a small ad on our website’s pages.

Click on the link to the ASA’s website at www.agstewardship.org or its Facebook page for further details.

(Frank W. Barrie, 9/26/18)

Vermont’s Sterling College Again Ranked #1 for Food in Sierra’s Cool Schools 2018 Rankings

Participation in Sierra’s 12th annual Cool Schools ranking was open to all four-year undergraduate colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and for the first time, two-year community colleges were eligible to participate. Sierra received 269 complete responses from qualified colleges- a record response rate.

Sierra ranks schools on sustainability to serve as a guide for prospective and current students and alumni, as well as school administrators, so as to compare colleges’ commitments to environmentalism and to spur healthy competition among schools, raise environmental standards on campus, and publicly reward the institutions that work hard to protect the planet. Sierra is the official magazine of the Sierra Club, the United States’ oldest, largest and most influential grassroots environmental group.

As in past years, Sierra collaborated with the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) to gather the raw data for the rankings. The raw data is submitted by participants via AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS).

For the 2018 rankings, Sierra processed the STARS data through a custom-built formula that ranked the schools according to its own weighting criteria across 18 categories ranging from curriculum to water as well as the category that we spotlight, food and dining.

The top ten colleges for food and dining include institutions, large and small, in rural and urban areas, and in Canada as well as the United States, were once again led by Vermont’s Sterling College:

Rank School  Score
1 Sterling College (Craftsbury Common, VT) 4.11
2 Univ of Connecticut (Storrs, CT) 3.20
3 American College of Greece (Athens, Greece) 2.93
4 Antioch College (Yellow Springs, OH) 2.91
5 Univ of Winnipeg (Winnipeg, Manitoba) 2.65
6 Denison Univ (Granville, OH) 2.60
7 Northland College (Ashland, Wisc) 2.57
8 College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor, ME) 2.50
9 Columbia Univ (NYC, NY) 2.43
10 Colgate Univ (Hamilton, NY) 2.40

Sterling College has been ranked number 1 for food and dining for the past three years.

To determine its top ten cool schools for 2018, Sierra made adjustments to the STARS scoring in order to give much more weight in the areas of (i) energy, (ii) air and climate, and (iii) transportation because the Sierra Club believes that progress in these sectors is essential for addressing the climate crisis. It also gave more weight to public engagement efforts, out of the belief that colleges and universities have a responsibility to encourage students to be civic actors in their communities. And in the area of academics, it gave relatively greater weight to curriculum over research.

Sierra’s ten greenest schools for 2018 include the University of Connecticut, which also ranked in the top ten for food and dining:

Rank School Score
1-tie Green Mountain College, (Poultney, VT)
University of California, Irvine
86.95
2 Univ of New Hampshire (Durham, NH) 84.30
3 Univ of Connecticut (Storrs, CT) 81.76
4 Colorado State Univ (Fort Collins, CO) 81.22
5 Arizona State Univ (Tempe, AZ) 81.04
6 Dickinson College (Carlisle, PA) 80.67
7 Univ of Massachusetts Amherst 79.07
8 Seattle Univ (Seattle, WA) 78.41
9 California State Univ, Chico 78.00
10 Middlebury College (Middlebury, VT) 76.99

Colleges and universities that choose to participate in the annual Sierra rankings deserve praise for demonstrating to their students that they care about environmental sustainability and seek to meet Sierra’s high standards. If your school does not participate, contact the institution’s sustainability coordinator or public relations office and ask them to participate. Click here to see if your school is among the 269 participants in the 2018 cool school rankings.

(Frank W. Barrie, 9/20/18)

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