2016 Farm Aid Concert in Northern Virginia’s Jiffy Lube Live Amphitheater in Bristow

Farm Aid 2016 concert in northern Virginia, an hour’s drive west of Washington, DC

Thirty-one years after the first Farm Aid concert in 1985, this inspirational day of music and praise for the American family farm will be taking place on Saturday, September 17, 2016 at the Jiffy Lube Live amphitheater in Bristow (formerly known as Nissan Pavilion at Stone Ridge), near Manassas, in northern Virginia. The amphitheater can seat 25,0000, with 15,000 on the lawn and 10,000 in reserve seats.

Forty miles west of Washington, DC, this year’s concert has an awesome lineup including Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds, Alabama Shakes, Sturgill Simpson, Nathaniel Ratliff & the Night Sweats, Jamey Johnson, Margo Price, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Insects vs. Robots, and Ian Mellencamp.

Since 1985, Farm Aid has raised more than $50 million to help family farmers thrive all over the country as well as energizing the good food movement with an annual concert, a day of music and support for family farms. In addition, at this year’s concert, from noon to 5:30PM, the Homegrown Village will be offering “a space for concertgoers to mingle with farmers, engage in hands-on food and farm activities and learn about the ways family farmers are enriching our soil, protecting our water and growing our economy.”

The Skills Tent at the Homegrown Village will include workshops and demonstrations including (i) wild-gathered cocktails and medicine: digestive bitters making 101 presented by McNeill Mann from Earth Village Education; (ii) tree-free paper: hemp paper making 101 presented by Elishewa Shalom from Artisan Hemp; (iii) selecting the best: seed saving 101 presented by Paul Blundell from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange; (iv) encouraging good bacteria: fermentation 101 presented by Rachel Armistead from The Sweet Farm; and (v) Farm Aid 2016 seed swap presented by farmer Amy Talarico.

Tickets range in price from $49.50 to $189.50 and to encourage and help more families to enjoy Farm Aid 2016, a 4-pack of lawn tickets for $149 may still be available.

The Wikipedia article on Farm Aid lists all of the concert venues and performers in Farm Aid’s illustrious history.

(Frank W. Barrie, 8/24/16)

The POTUS Signs “Dark Act” Blocking Vermont’s GMO Labeling Law

Vermont’s GMO labeling law curtailed by Feds

A federal law preventing individual states, namely Vermont, from requiring labeling of genetically engineered (GMO) foods has been signed by President Obama. Unlike the Vermont state law, now curtailed, this federal law does not require “words” on packages of GMO food noting that the food has been “produced with genetic engineering.”

We the People, Your Voice in the White House responded to a petition signed by over 106,000 people asking President Obama to veto what has been called the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act by opponents of the now federal law. In its email in response to this petition, We the People noted that President Obama and his Administration “take it seriously” the interest Americans have expressed “in understanding how their food is produced- including whether it was produced using bioengineering . . . .” Nonetheless, frustrating the petitioners, Vermont’s reasonable requirement that packages of GMO food should include a label with “words” that the food has been “produced with genetic engineering” has been countermanded.

Instead, companies have been provided with so-called “flexibility” to avoid using “words” on food labels and can choose to use merely “A digital QR (Quick Response) code that customers can scan with their smartphone if they want to learn about bioengineered ingredients.” Smaller companies can offer “a phone number of URL on the package that consumers can access for more info.”

This federal law, named the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Law, also directs the Agricultural Marketing Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop “a national mandatory system for disclosing the presence of bioengineered material.” A working group has been established by the USDA “to develop a timeline for rule making and to ensure an open and transparent process for effectively establishing this new program.”

We previously reported on the effectiveness of the Vermont labeling law, which had become effective on July 1, 2016. Some large food companies like Kellogg’s, Campbell Soup, and General Mills had even decided to use labels that complied with the Vermont law, as noted by gmoinside.org, on all of their products which contain GMO ingredients nationwide albeit unenthusiastically.

The Organic Consumers Association has noted that by preempting the Vermont labeling law, this federal law is “an attack on states’ rights and another gift to Monsanto and Big Food.” In response,  OCA will be rolling out “a number of targeted campaigns that will expose some of the worst food companies on the planet, and call on them to start producing healthy food, using farming practices that heal the Earth, not poison it.”

(Frank W. Barrie, 8/19/16)


Sold-Out Forever Farmland Supper Prepared By Chefs’ Consortium Celebrates Local Farmland Conservation

325 people at farm supper celebrating preservation of family farms in upstate New York’s Washington and Rensselaer counties

325 people at ASA’s Farmland Supper celebrating preservation of family farms in upstate New York’s Washington and Rensselaer counties

Sizzling split chickens from St. Croix Farm, a Rensselaer County farm whose 688 acres have been permanently protected

Sizzling split chickens from St. Croix Farm, a Rensselaer County farm whose 688 acres have been permanently protected

The Beekman Boys, Josh Kilmer-Purcell & Brent Ridge on hand to sign their Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook

The Beekman Boys, Josh Kilmer-Purcell & Brent Ridge, on hand to sign their Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook

The sweeping vistas of the Hand Melon Farm, a 425-acre estate in upstate New York’s Washington County, are broad enough to showcase row after row of growing crops, some of them in open fields, the more vulnerable under protective netting. On Thursday, August 4, the view was complemented by rows of split chickens sizzling on a long, low grill, itself part of a row of prep stations at which an array of area chefs were working to put together a glorious meal.

A banquet. A feast for all the senses, and one that featured foodstuffs raised in the neighborhood. About 325 people attended the event and another hundred applied too late to secure tickets. It was the Agricultural Stewardship Association’s Forever Farmland Supper, an annual gathering that’s taken place since 2003.

“It’s grown every year,” says ASA executive director Teri Ptacek, “and we keep outgrowing our venues. This is our third year at the Hand Melon Farm, though, and it’s been a perfect fit.” Besides being generously accommodating to the tents, trucks, and tables, the farm embodies the ASA’s mission: to preserve farmland in Washington and Rensselaer counties, ensuring that valuable properties won’t be lost to development. To date, ASA has assisted land owners with the praiseworthy conservation of 16,917 acres on 108 properties.

“We were started by a group of farmers in 1984,” says Ptacek. “They saw what was happening in Clifton Park and in farm towns up along I-87 and realized they needed to do something to save the land.” According to American Farmland Trust, New York State has lost half a million acres of farmland to suburban sprawl since the 1980s, the equivalent of 4,500 farms.

Which means that the Farmland Supper is as much a consciousness-raising event as it is a fundraiser. Just-picked kale started out the supper’s buffet line, harvested from The Berry Patch, in Rensselaer County’s Stephentown; the potatoes in the Indonesian gado gado came from Moses Vegetable Farm in nearby Eagle Bridge. Other produce was provided by Pleasant Valley Farm in Argyle and from the Hand Melon Farm itself.

The meal was planned and prepared by members of the Chefs Consortium, a Hudson Valley-based group with a parallel mission: promoting local farmers and their food. “We have a lot of camaraderie,” says Consortium Acting Director Noah Sheetz, who demonstrated it throughout the evening as he worked with the crew from prep through service and cleanup. Thus we saw Michael Lapi, a chef-instructor at SUNY Cobleskill, working alongside Hudson-based chef Josh Coletto to oversee those grilling chickens when he wasn’t checking on the whole pig roasting on a monster of a smoker.

And he was helped by Yono Purnomo, executive chef at the eponymous Albany restaurant, who also was preparing coconut milk-sweetened beef rendang. The beef came from Buskirk, raised on Tiashoke Farm, while the chickens were from St. Croix Farm in Valley Falls, farmed since the 1780s and operated by four generations of the Moore family since 1932. The Valley Falls family farm represents the largest agricultural conservation program in the history of Rensselaer County, with 688 acres of land permanently protected.

But the star of the show, at least where meat was concerned, was the pork. Chef Lapi spent the night dozing in a U-Haul in order to tend it, and Yono slipped me a sample just as it was coming off the grill, when barbecue is at its best, awakening the primal side of my palate. The pig came from nearby Birch Hollow Farm in Greenwich.

Dimitrios Menagias, meanwhile, stood surrounded by vegetables that he deftly turned into a series of side-dishes. He was taking time away from his position as executive chef at Albany’s City Beer Hall to prepare a cucumber-tomato salad rich with fresh basil, a combo of grilled yellow squash and zucchini, and smoked eggplant caponata, among other offerings that looked as good as they tasted..

“The Farmland Supper started off with just a small group of farmers,” Ptacek told me, “and then we decided to invite the general public.” A shrewd idea, given not only the number of people who attended but also the easygoing social spirit that prevailed. Groups wandered across the broad picnic expanse, visiting the various tents in order to sample local wine and beer, check out farm-related literature, pluck samples from an appetizer buffet – and meet the Beekman Boys, who were on hand to sign their Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook.

Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge have used their celebrity status to promote local farmers, beginning with their “Mortgage Lifter” heirloom tomato products found in many national markets, 25 percent of the profits of which go to smaller farms. And the potential for such aid is everywhere. “The things that start here,” Ridge told the dinner guests, “at your table, under this tent, can have a ripple effect throughout the industry.”

Beekman 1802 Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta was one of the appetizer-table items, along with cheeses chosen by Eric Paul, owner of Albany’s The Cheese Traveler. Featured selections included Grace and Caerphilly hard cheeses from Argyle Cheese Farmer and the soft Shushan Snow and Brebis Blanche from Shushan’s 3-Corner Field Farm, one of the few farms in the country that milk sheep for use in the production of cheeses and yogurt.

As with all good meals, the event was a marriage between superior ingredients and culinary skill, with the bonus of a very appreciative audience. As happens at many a large wedding, we were sent to the supper buffet by table, but, even with so much fine-looking food to sample, the line moved quickly (I note this because I am a terribly impatient old cuss and dreaded the procession).

The proceedings ended with an auction that brought in about $9,000 for the ASA, but for me the big finish was dessert. Featured were fabulously toothsome carrot cupcakes by Yono’s pastry chef Joan Dembinski alongside blueberries from Gardenworks Farm in Salem. But they were served with slices of Hand Melon, the one-of-a-kind cantaloupe-like fruit with a honey-sweet flavor, first planted a century ago on this property and an enduring source of revenue and fame ever since. This is what we’re trying to protect, and how satisfying to realize that the payoff for such protection can be so delicious.

(B. A. Nilsson, 8/10/16)


Easy To Make 2 Ingredient Banana Blueberry “Ice-cream”

Blueberry Ray’s no-spray berries for sale at Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, NY

Blueberry Ray’s no-spray berries for sale at Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, NY

Organic and fair traded bananas from Ecuador and Peru for sale at the Honest Weight

Organic and fair traded bananas from Ecuador and Peru for sale at the Honest Weight

Frozen banana pieces, blueberries and unfancy Black and Decker blender ready to use

Frozen banana pieces, blueberries and unfancy Black and Decker blender ready to use

Dishes of banana blueberry ice-cream topped with pecans

Dishes of banana blueberry ice-cream topped with pecans

This hot weather treat is remarkably simple to prepare and packs a tasty, refreshing lift as a healthy, no sugar added, dairy-free dessert. Turning frozen bananas into a kind of ice-cream has become a bit of a summertime phenomenon, with the NY Times last month sharing its “outrageously easy,” one ingredient banana ice-cream recipe. With local, no-spray and/or organic blueberries currently available, I decided to add to the recipe’s simplicity and serve up a two ingredient, banana blueberry “ice-cream” to appreciative dining guests on a sticky summer evening.

In addition to my weekly CSA share from a local farm, visits to local farmers markets, and of late tomatoes from my backyard garden, the Honest Weight Food Co-op in my hometown of Albany, NY is a reliable source of organic fruits and vegetables. And the appearance of Ray’s of Amsterdam (Montgomery County, NY) no-spray blueberries were a welcome sight in lieu of nationally branded Driscoll organic blueberries (the largest berry distributor in the world), also on sale at the food co-op. Although Ray’s no-spray berries cost $1.00 more per pint container than Driscoll’s, keeping the dollars local outweighed the cheaper cost of organic blueberries that were transported from afar. Plus, of late, there has been a boycott of Driscoll berries as reported by Democracy Now.

After enjoying Ray’s no-spray local blueberries in my first preparation of this recipe, later in the month, the co-op was offering hand picked, “certified organic blueberries” from another local source, Grindstone Farm in upstate NY’s Pulaski (Oswego County). Although a pint of these blueberries was $2.00 more than Ray’s no-spray blueberries, purchasing from a local farm, which meets the challenges of “certified organic” standards prompted my decision to use these upstate NY blueberries in my second preparation of the recipe.

Further, if the selection was based on “taste”, Grindstone Farm’s blueberries were truly something very special, juicy and sweet with a slightly tangy accent. The plastic container in which Grindstone Farm’s blueberries are sold assures they remain firm and uncrushed; however, Ray’s no-spray blueberries green cardboard pint containers, which can be recycled at the co-op are preferable.

In preparing this post, I also discovered another local source for organic blueberries: Blueberry Hill Solar Organic U-Pick Blueberries in Galway (Saratoga County, NY). No need to purchase Driscoll’s organic blueberries! Since fruits and vegetables have “terroir”, a taste-test of blueberries might be in the offing (like a carrot tasting which was surprisingly fun) comparing Ray’s no-spray, Grindstone Farm’s and Blueberry Hill Solar Organic’s blueberries.

Bananas of course cannot be grown in upstate New York in the year 2016. The Honest Weight Food Co-op only sells organic bananas at a fair price of 99 cents per pound. Although bananas have never appeared on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of conventionally grown foods to avoid, and their skins are peeled before eating the fruit, consideration must be given to the use of chemical sprays and treatments to grow conventional bananas, which has the potential of putting at risk the health of farmworkers who tend and harvest bananas, and the chemical sprays must have some affect on the environment where the bananas are grown. Furthermore, the organic bananas sold by the Honest Weight Food Co-op are fair-traded, often sourced by Equal Exchange, which is promoting Beyond the Seal, a web documentary highlighting the small farmers that are striving to change the way U.S. consumers view and eat bananas.

As a final note, I love pecans and topped the 2 ingredient banana blueberry ice-cream with a handful of pecans purchased from the Honest Weight Food Co-op’s praiseworthy bulk foods department, with its hundreds of bulk food items, including delicious organic raw pecans from The Green Valley Pecan Company in Sahuarita, Arizona. (The Bulk Is Green Council is helping to spread the message about the many environmental and economic benefits of bulk foods.)

Banana Blueberry Two Ingredient Ice-Cream 

One ripe, small to medium size banana per person
1/8th to 1/4th cup of blueberries per person

Peel the bananas, cut them in two inch pieces and place them in a freezer bag in the freezer for at least 6 hours. Remove and blend in a blender.

My inexpensive blender required me to pulse the bananas and to use a wooden spoon to push the bananas down from time to time. After the bananas are fairly well blended, add the blueberries and continue to blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

(Frank W. Barrie, 7/29/16)

Mouth-watering Pizza From a Wood-Fired Oven the Size of a VW

Lovely’s Fifty Fifty in historic Mississippi Avenue neighborhood of North Portland, Oregon

Lovely’s Fifty Fifty in historic Mississippi Avenue neighborhood of North Portland, Oregon

Appetizing oven-roasted asparagus with lovage salsa verde and egg

Appetizing oven-roasted asparagus with lovage salsa verde and egg

Flavorful pizza of morel mushrooms with ramps, pecorino tartufo and gremolata

Flavorful pizza of morel mushrooms with ramps, pecorino tartufo and gremolata

Classic salami pizza with Mama Lil’s sweet hot peppers, oil cured black olives & Italian oregano

Classic salami pizza with Mama Lil’s sweet hot peppers, oil cured black olives & Italian oregano

Before serving piping hot pies from their 800 degree oven, Lovely’s Fifty Fifty in Portland, Oregon was Lovely’s Hula Hands for seven years.  Owners Sarah and Jane Minnick decided to shutter Hula Hands and redirect the space into a pizza and ice cream parlor, but not for lack of success.

It was their desire to bring the kitchen side of the business back into the fold of their family that prompted a makeover. Instead of relying on a talented chef employed to direct the kitchen, the Minnicks wanted to have more of a hand in the production of the food they served.

Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty has become a creative farm-to-table pizza and ice cream parlor with a praiseworthy and continuing commitment to quality ingredients from local farms. Still featuring a rotating, seasonal menu, diners now find pizzas, salads, delectable appetizers, and house-made ice cream and beverages.

With its gorgeous high-ceilinged interior and jovial service that made it feel more like we were dining at a friend’s dinner party than on a sunny, hip Portland strip, Lovely’s Fifty-Fifty is a very special listing in this website’s directory of Farm to Table Pizza. Portland, Oregon can certainly be proud of its pizza offerings; A couple of months ago, we also reviewed pizza night at Ken’s Artisan Bakery.

Even with only seven 12” pies to select from, the choice was a tough one.  Apart from the classic rendition (fresh mozzarella with organic basil from Groundwork Portland’s Emerson Street Garden Groundwork), the list stumped us with mouth-watering offerings.  Would we try fava beans with asparagus, roasted spring onions, basil-dill yogurt and farm egg?  Perhaps roasted yellow potatoes with fenugreek greens, La Quercia pancetta and tallegio cheese, or the inviting housemade fennel sausage with braising greens, rosemary and provolone piccante?

To give ourselves a little time to decide, we requested the oven-roasted asparagus with lovage salsa verde and egg appetizer.   Debating over the menu while sipping a glass of dolcetto from Viola Wines Cellars, a small urban winery in Portland (which crafts Italian-inspired wines using natural winemaking techniques from grapes grown in the Columbia Gorge, Horse Heaven Hills and on the Oregon side of the Walla Walla Valley), my companion and I nibbled the olive-oil brushed asparagus that had just come fresh from the wood-fired oven.

We finally decided to try one classic pie and one particularly creative one. The Chop Butchery salami with Mama Lil’s sweet hot peppers, oil cured black olives and Italian oregano was just as one would expect a salami pie to be—salty and divine—with the peppers and olives adding a personal “Lovely’s” touch.

Our choice on the creative side was inspired by the knowledge of the previous years’ forest fires, which generated a natural environment for the local morels to flourish.  We saw them in the local markets and figured we couldn’t pass them up given the uncertainty of their growing season from year to year and our budding interest in edible fungi.  Boy, were we rewarded!

Where the salami pie was a warm and comforting reminder of all that is wonderful about pizza, the morel mushroom with ramps, pecorino tartufo and gremolata stood out with a symphony of flavor and texture the likes of which I had not experienced before except in only the most unlikely combinations (clam and bacon pizza at Area Four in Somerville, Massachusetts, or shrimp scampi pizza in Boston’s North End).  The spongy, woody morels reminded us of a more complex, piquant crimini.  Pairing it with ramps was a brilliant move given they could very well have grown in the same verdant area, and combining wild edibles with their own neighbors is most often a fool-proof recipe for deliciousness.

To ease our stomachs through the cheesy feast we imbibed the house-made kombuchas: fenugreek-maple and rhubarb cardamom.  Incredibly inventive, these brews went heavier on the spice and lighter on the sweet maple or tart rhubarb than expected.  I’d especially recommend asking for them in a cocktail.

We were unable to manage fitting anything else in our satiated bellies, otherwise the strawberry buttermilk ice cream would have been my perfect dessert.  Other options like fig leaf vanilla bean, mint stracciatella, and chamomile barley toffee offer enough variety for ice cream novices and connoisseurs alike.

Adding yet another star quality farm-to-table pizza parlor to our directory, Lovely’s Fifty Fifty is a must-try for anyone passionate about delicious pies.  From the sourdough crust to the seasonal rotation of original toppings, Lovely’s has the creativity and local-farm consciousness that is raising the bar for restaurants and wood-fired ovens all across America.  Bon appétit!

[Lovely’s Fifty Fifty, 4039 N Mississippi Avenue (between N Mason & N Shaver Streets), 503.281.4060, Dinner (Pizzas & salads, oven roasted vegetables, soups w/ bread, homemade ice cream): Tues-Sun 5:00PM-10:00PM]

(Lucas Knapp 7/13/16)

Email *
small farmers ad
News, Reviews & Recipes