As usual, I’m having trouble keeping ahead of the bounty of vegetables coming from the farm. So I’ve been doing a little research on how to store and preserve food. See what I’ve discovered in the Recipe article.
From the Farmer
Sometimes I feel like a writer on Seinfeld. Every month I have to write a newsletter article, but nothing much comes to mind. So, like them, I write about nothing. It’s not that there’s nothing to write about. I just don’t know what it is. Living at the farm, working at the farm, raising my family at the farm—it’s both backdrop and the very fabric of my life, which means that I often feel like there’s not that much to write about because it’s all so immediate to me that I don’t see what others might.
So I write about whatever comes to mind, which in this case starts with raising my family at the farm. Earlier this year I was picking my son up from high school after working all day. He’s at that age where he’s learning to drive, so when I pulled up I got out and moved to the passenger seat. He got in the driver’s seat, adjusted the seat and mirrors, then looked over and said, “You smell like tomatoes.” That in and of itself wouldn’t be that interesting a story. But then he went on, “Not tomatoes, but tomato plants.”
It wasn’t that he’d spied my green-black hands and known that I’d been pruning tomatoes all day. He actually knows what tomatoes, that is, tomato plants, smell like. Which I thought was pretty awesome. Here’s one of the many benefits of raising your family on a farm: In a world where many kids think that “baby carrots” are orange, bullet-shaped things that come in a plastic bag, it put a smile on my face that someone would know the difference between the smell of tomatoes and the smell of tomato plants.
The mention of “baby carrots,” of course, offers me the opportunity to do a little roasting. Not roasting vegetables, but people. A person. Alison. Last month was a bit of a tear jerker, writing about how wonderful she is and how much I (we) will miss her. Which is all true. But I can’t let her go without at least a small needling. And that’s where baby carrots come in.
Miss Alison, “Crazy Farm Lady” as they call her at the YMCA, farm educator extraordinaire, is famous (to me at least) for teaching kids about what real baby carrots are, all the while bringing orange, bullet-shaped things that come in a plastic bag in her lunch every (or almost every) day. Sorry, Alison, couldn’t let you head off into the world of middle-school teaching without outing you first. Baby carrots, indeed!
And mention of Alison, of course, leads me to think about the past and how much things have grown and changed at the farm. Lest my tranquil, confident air fool you, I find farming stressful. What will we put in the share this week? Will we have enough for the market? Will we meet budget? Are our customers happy? This last one is particularly stressful. Don’t let my surly, grumpy air fool you; I’m someone who likes to please people. I want to make people happy. Especially with the farm. I used to hate going to the farmers’ market because I couldn’t stand watching people look at our produce, then walk away. What’s wrong with it? Why didn’t they buy it? I enjoy growing food, but dealing with customers intimidates me, perhaps because I mistakenly think they are judging me?
In any case, I recently had an experience that once again brought these old fears to the surface. A customer seemed to possibly be unhappy, perhaps expecting more, and we weren’t living up to it. But then (and here we get back to Alison and remembering the past—not that this story has anything to do with Alison, it’s just that she’s been around a long time and so makes me think of things long ago—guess the roasting wasn’t quite done, eh?) I remembered what the farm was like eight, nine, even ten years ago. What the shares were like. What the produce at the market was like. What the farm was like. And I smiled and forgot about the person who seemed dissatisfied because I remembered our many, many customers who were here then, and are still here now. No one can please everyone, but, clearly, we’ve pleased at least some because they’re still here, still visiting and shopping. Still taking classes, coming to our festivals, and supporting us. They’ve stuck with us, and I know that things are better now than they were 10 years ago.
I guess, as it turns out, I haven’t been writing about nothing, at least not this time. It seemed that way when I started, but then it turned out I was writing about something great: things that put a smile on my face. Family, friend(s), and community.
Leaving with soil caked on the face, leaves in the hair, and with an ever-increasing list of bugs and critters that have been identified, kids in our summer programs have been able to immerse themselves this past month in the wonders of the natural world and the bounty and beauty of the farm. For me there is nothing more heartwarming than seeing kids having the opportunity to be kids—exploring, investigating, and getting dirty!
And it is such memories that I will carry with me, and for which I will be forever grateful as I bid farewell to the farm and embark on a new chapter. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone, past and present, who has been part of my farm journey. I have learnt so very much from each and every one of you. Stay curious, keep exploring, and I will see you around town!
Warm wishes to you and your families,
Upcoming Youth Programs
Summer programs continue to the end of August with plenty of opportunities for kids preschool through 8th grade to join us. Check it out at Kids at the Farm: Summer 2017.
Fall programming, including Fall Farm Sprouts and our popular Farm Tuesday program for elementary-age kids, all return in September.
Cultivating Community: Adult Programs for Summer 2017
The Glorious Tomato – August 9
Newton Watercolor Society – August 20
The Art of the Pickle – August 20
Farming in the Past: An Afternoon with Peter Volante – September 30
For more information and to register please click here.
New Director of Education
We are delighted to welcome Danielle White, our new director of education! We have had our eye on Danielle since last summer, when she worked for us as a Farm Sprouts instructor and gained many fans among our students and families. She has remained committed to NCF, participating on our Education Committee and volunteering at events. She is both an educator and a program manager and loves to get her hands dirty, having spent her childhood on a family farm. Danielle comes to us from Discovering Justice, where she has taught children about our justice system, managed an education program for schoolchildren in grades 1–12, and expanded that organization’s reach into Western Massachusetts. Danielle is excited to “get back to her roots” and combine her education and managerial skills with her passion for down-in-the-dirt farm-based education. So please introduce yourself to Danielle when you stop by the farm, or come to the Fall Festival on September 24 where she’ll be at the education table. Welcome, Danielle!
Newton Community Farm is pleased to offer a weekly fruit share in conjunction with Autumn Hills Orchard in Groton, MA. Each weekly share consists of a bag of about five pounds of wonderful fresh apple varieties, though the share may occasionally include pears or grapes. The program costs $80 per share for eight deliveries August 23 through October 12. Sharers can pick up the fruit in the barn at NCF on Wednesdays or Thursdays from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The completed form and check must be received at Newton Community Farm by 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 16. To learn more about the program and to sign up, click on fruit share.
Dinner on the Farm
Thank you to everyone who made our annual Dinner on the Farm a huge success! It was a picture-perfect evening with beautiful weather, a spectacular meal provided by Chad and Sharon Burns of Farmstead Table, a crew of amazing volunteers, and all of our delighted guests. We celebrated our outgoing director of education, Alison Scorer, and her transformation of our education program over her six years with the farm. The sold-out event raised approximately $7,000 for education and will support the expansion of our offerings for both children and adults. Thanks to everyone for such a special evening.
Help with Fall Festival
As July turns to August and summer is still at its height, at the farm we are already thinking of fall. And that means NCF’s Fall Festival! It’s a fun, annual community event for kids and families held at the farm with activities from pumpkin decorating to sing-alongs. This year’s Fall Festival will take place on Sunday, September 24.
Interested in volunteering? Here are two ways you can help! We need help posting (and later removing) signs advertising the Fall Festival around Newton in the days just following Labor Day weekend (September 5 through 10). ATTENTION CSA SHARERS! Still need to fulfill some of your work requirement? This job is so critical in getting the word out that we will credit you with four CSA work hours for every 10 signs you post and then pick up after the Fall Festival! This is approximately double the time it will actually take you. Please sign up to help with signs.
Interested in helping set up for and/or work at the lively Fall Festival? (And yes, CSA sharers, these hours, too, count toward your work requirement.) Please sign up here.
Any questions? Please contact Emily at Admin@newtoncommunityfarm.org. As ever, thanks for all of your help in making NCF the community it is. We couldn’t do it without you.
Newton Farm Commission
People enjoying the farm or buying its produce rarely connect with the Newton Farm Commission. Yet this Commission of Newton residents has been essential to the farm’s success since it started operations.
The commission is responsible for making sure the farm’s operations continue to be the best for the city and follow the essential principles and guidelines established by city officials when it purchased the land in 2005. Its volunteer members are appointed because of their expertise in farming, historic preservation, business operations, financial management, land conservation, parks and recreation, and sustainable environmental practices. In 2006 the commission selected Newton Community Farm, Inc., the organization that employs Greg and other farm staff, to actually run day-to-day operations.
The commission meets in the evenings about once a month at City Hall to stay informed about farm activities and provide guidance on issues that arise. Once a year, the Farm Commission reviews a detailed Business Plan. The plan, prepared by the Newton Community Farm, Inc. Board of Directors and staff, consolidates into one document everything the farm expects to do in the coming year, and it is adjusted as necessary until the commission approves it.
Speaking as a past board member and president, I enjoyed interacting with the Farm Commission. Its members are passionate about the farm and determined to see it fulfill the high hopes expressed by the city when the land was purchased. This is not an easy job, since at times the expectations conflict with each other and need to be balanced to achieve the best outcome. All of the people who learn at the farm, buy its produce, or just enjoy a peaceful moment when they drive by owe a big vote of thanks to the Newton Farm Commission.
Peter J. Barrer
Volunteer Spotlight: Claire Rowat
If you attended the recent Dinner on the Farm, you will have noticed Claire Rowat, both in her exuberant and hard-working presence during dinner and in all the elements she added to this year’s event. Although Claire only began volunteering at NCF this spring, she was DoF’s Head of Design and Lighting, among other tasks. Claire says, “Incorporating what we had from the farm, I used in-season garlic scapes curled in glass mason jars with tea lights, worked with the children’s program to have planted basil in colored pots as centerpieces, and coordinated with our donor Didrik’s to have colorful, sustainable tablecloths. This year, with the generous donation of Christmas tree lights, we were able to add a glow to the event that was both appealing and practical.” NCF Board President Stephanie Cogen says of working together with Claire, “She added beauty, grace, and lighting to our event and was a major contributor to its success.”
Claire is currently studying for a Naturopathic degree to become a holistic doctor and says she is “fascinated with the plant and vegetable world and believes true healing can come from what is grown with care from Earth.” It was this commitment to the natural world that led her, a new Newton resident, to volunteer at the farm.
At Dinner on the Farm another crew of people you may have noticed working hard serving and clearing this year were Claire’s friends and roommates Amanda Best, Jake Boynton, Colin Foley, Noel Mendez, Meghan Ryan, and Josh Weinberg. Claire wants to thank them for pitching in with such enthusiasm and says, “You all understand the importance of fostering a sustainable community whether it is from yoga, gardening, or music.” Thanks to all our DoF volunteers, and thanks to Claire for endowing this year’s DoF with her spirit.
Are you interested in volunteering at Newton Community Farm? Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
I suspect that everyone with a CSA share often has two common issues: What is the best way to store CSA veggies? And if they can’t be used immediately, how can they be preserved? So here are some suggestions.
Basil – To store: cut ends, put in tall cup of water on counter, put plastic bag loosely over basil.
To preserve: wash, let dry (I spin out extra water in a salad spinner and let dry on a clean kitchen cloth), then remove leaves, put them in a Ziplock bag, and freeze.
Greens – To store: Wrap leaves in dry paper towel or kitchen handcloth, put in plastic bag and seal, store in refrigerator.
To preserve: Blanch 1½–3 minutes in boiling water, then put immediately into ice water for same amount of time. Drain, pack tightly into bags, press out air, and freeze.
Cucumbers and summer squash are filling up my refrigerator’s vegetable bin, so I tried a new recipe with great results. The recipe works with a variety of vegetables, not just those listed.
Quick Pickled Veggies
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup water
3 Tb. Sugar
1 Tb. Kosher salt
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
Put brine ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a boil.
Quick Pickled Carrots: Make brine. Cut 1 pound carrots into spears that will fit into a 1-quart mason jar with a lid (or several smaller jars with good lids). Pack spears tightly into the jar with a 1-inch piece of fresh sliced ginger and 1 teaspoon mustard seeds. Add hot brine, make sure carrots are covered. Screw on the lid, let cool, refrigerate up to 1 month.
Quick Pickled Cukes and Summer Squash: Make brine. Slice 2 unpeeled cucumbers or summer squash into ¼-inch rounds. Pack them into mason jar(s) with 4 large sprigs of fresh dill and 3 cloves sliced garlic. Add hot brine to cover. Screw on top, let cool, refrigerate for up to a month.
The farm stand is now open Tuesday through Friday from 1:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Please check our Web site and/or Facebook page for updates.
The farm sells its produce at the Newton Saturday farmers’ market. It is located on Elm Street in West Newton and runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the summer and fall.
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