This is the last issue for this season, and it’s time to thank the people who help me produce the farm newsletter by performing essential tasks with skill, grace, and dedication. The newsletter would not appear without the technical savvy of Jenn Martin, our technical editor, who inserts the text and the copy into the newsletter format and makes it look good. The farm photographer, for many years, has been Margaret Mallory, and most of the lush photos you see are hers. Additional photos are the work of Ken Mallory. A tremendous thank you to all of you!
From the Farmer
Aerial photo taken by Ken Mallory with a recreational Phantom 3 drone that was flying between one hundred and two hundred feet high. The drone is registered with the city of Newton and the Federal Aviation Administration.
Confession: there’s a hidden preppy lurking inside your farmer. As a teenager growing up in Colorado I regularly wore argyle socks and pastel shirts. I had some of those Ocean Pacific corduroy shorts. And I was very concerned with my hair. It amuses me to see so many of these predilections recurring in my son. I can’t imagine he’s getting it from seeing what I wear now. Must be genetic.
I first came to New England 30 years ago thinking I was making a pilgrimage to the heart of preppy-dom. I dreamed of ivy-covered walls and tweed-clad professors. Never having even thought about visiting an out-of-state college before deciding to attend it, I enrolled at BU. I imagined something like, well, Wellesley College. Imagine my surprise. I showed up in my prized Lacoste sweatshirt and found myself being assigned, not to a dormitory in a pastoral setting, but to a hotel room in Howard Johnson’s in Kenmore Square.
Perhaps one of these days I’ll try to bring these two parts of myself—farmer and preppy—into harmony and show up at one of our CRAFT meetings (the Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) in a tweed coat and vest. Or maybe they already are in harmony. I tell people that the collar on my shirt is often turned up to keep the sun off my neck, but is that the real reason?
I am frequently asked how climate change will affect farming in New England. And indeed, I’ve often heard farmers comment off-handedly that climate change will help them grow early and later in the season. But will climate change really make the growing season longer in New England?
This is a tricky question. It does sometimes seem like rising average temperatures will extend the growing season. But climate change isn’t just about rising average temperatures. Perhaps more significantly, climate change is about the destabilization of weather patterns and an increasing severity of weather events. Both of these could have significant impacts on the ability of farmers to grow food. Destabilization means that even if temperatures are generally rising, the likelihood of early and/or late frosts may go up. More extreme weather events mean that even if our average annual precipitation remains about the same, it will likely come in more infrequent but intense bursts leading to flooding and erosion.
And then there’s the fact that climate change doesn’t actually change our latitude. It may appear to: as average temperatures rise, whole biomes are slowly moving northward. But climate changes don’t change the length of the day, which plays a significant role in limiting growing seasons. Our winters may be getting warmer, but most plants will still slow and even stop growing as the hours of daylight shorten to fewer than 10 a day. Winter-growing pioneer Eliot Coleman identifies this—day length—as the primary limiting factor to plant growth, not temperature.
Perhaps the desire to see climate change as extending the growing season is a bit of hopefulness in the face of what otherwise is a pretty depressing situation. Certainly, farmers trying to make a living will take whatever advantage they can get. But it’s definitely a roll of the dice. Planning on being able to plant and harvest earlier and later, in a world with less predictability, will be challenging. Farmers will take this challenge—what else can we do? And we’ll try to figure out ways to mitigate the risks, like building more high tunnels. But while climate change may allow farms in New England to grow later, it certainly won’t make the growing easier.
The chilly mornings, leaves bursting with color, and crisp apples (my favorite!) can only mean one thing: fall is officially upon us! Join us at the farm as we celebrate the harvest and prepare for the colder weather.
Fall Youth Programs
The kids at the farm have been busy exploring the beautiful sights and sounds of the season! So far we’ve crunched through the leaves on a scavenger hunt for seeds, dug through the Learning Garden, and tasted radishes planted by our summer camp. There is still time to join the fun! Registration is open for all programs for preschool through 5th grade.
Farm Sprouts: Fall fun on Tuesday and Saturday mornings for kids ages 2.5–5 with a caregiver.
Farm Tuesdays: For kids in grades 3–5, a Tuesday afternoon filled with farm activities. 1:30-3:00 p.m.
Halloween on the Farm: Spooky fun on October 27 for kids in preschool–grade 3. Don’t forget your costumes! 3:30-5:00 p.m.
Cultivating Community/Adult Programs
*New Date* Farming in the Past: The Volante Farm at Oak Hill has been rescheduled to October 14. Join us as we sit down with Peter Volante to discuss the history of the farm, originally located in Newton, and enjoy some refreshments.
Did you know?
October 24 is Food Day! Check out our display at the Newton Free Library during the month of October to find out how you can change America’s diet, support local farms, and protect the environment.
Director of Education
A Fall Celebration
Our annual Fall Festival was a great day—gorgeous weather, delicious food, farm activities, lively dancing music, and the most beautiful pumpkin decorating activity around! Hundreds of families joined us for a fun-filled day and enjoyed their local community farm, taking advantage of this Newton resource available to all. This event could not happen without our wonderful team, which included Jon Orren and Bobby Dandliker, who created and served delicious tacos, pitas, mufalettas, and pickles; Becky Leiter, who led our gorgeous pumpkin decorating activity; Anna Zeren, who created a fantastic scavenger hunt; and our hardworking staff of Emily, Greg, and Danielle. We also had an incredible cadre of community volunteers who worked hard to make every station fun, exciting, and organized. This year we welcomed high school students from Newton North, Newton South, and Beaver Country Day! And a huge thank you to our local business partner, TripAdvisor, for sponsoring the event. This was a truly a community event, and we can’t wait to see everyone next year.
Emily did fabulous work helping to organize the festival!
Leadership Positions at NCF
Are you looking for a way to help at NCF? Do you have skills that you would enjoy using to benefit a local nonprofit? As we enter the late fall, things quiet down a bit at NCF, and we think about planning for next year. For 2018, we are looking for interested farm supporters who would like to volunteer in the following areas:
Event Planning – Conceive, plan, and supervise execution of NCF’s public events, improve upon current events, and potentially add new events to our calendar that further the mission of NCF.
Fundraising – Serve on a fundraising committee of experienced fundraisers to review current practices, research new opportunities, and advise on future strategies.
Communications – Help create and implement publicity plans for farm events and general farm awareness. Elements include press, community relations, and social media. Consult on farm Web site, and strategic overview.
Buildings – Help us strategize on maintaining the integrity of our buildings, look for opportunities to make improvements, and serve as point of contact for building and renovation projects.
Interested? Please contact our Volunteers Chair Lisa Schumann at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are in need of a file cabinet in excellent condition with a working lock and key for letter-sized documents. If you have one you’d like to donate, please let Emily know at email@example.com.
Apple Orchard Has Outstanding Crop
The farm’s apple crop was the best in its 10-year history. Our six dwarf Honeycrisp trees outdid themselves, producing an average of 150 apples per tree. Even our minor varieties such as Crimson Crisp, Roxbury Russet, Galarina, and Grimes Golden were abundant producers. This year’s production is in stark contrast to last year, when bad weather during the blossom period killed the fruit buds. Our other major varieties, Liberty, Crimson Topaz, and Goldrush, also produced record numbers of apples. The help of volunteers with pruning and harvesting was essential to this year’s success. The other special aspect of this harvest year is the health of the apples, about 80% perfect, free of defects. The trees had few fungal infections because of the dry weather and strict adherence to the spray schedule according to the U Mass advice, as well as the fact that most of the varieties were selected for their innate disease resistance. Next year we hope to get Danielle White and her education program more involved in the orchard’s activities.
Once again, you NCF volunteers have been amazing during our 2017 growing season. Some of you have been volunteering for years, some of you started volunteering this year and dove right in. Some of you planted, weeded, and harvested. Some of you are on our education committee and were there for Alison Scorer, our former director of education, and are there now for Danielle White, as she steps into that role. Some of you put up signs or helped with mailings. Some of you hosted a supper club or gardening event at your home. Some of you photographed or worked on our newsletter or on our Web site and other social media. Some of you did a multitude of varied tasks for us. And many of you helped to make our events this year the successes that they were.
On Sunday, September 24, we had our annual Fall Festival, which should have been called the Summer Festival as temperatures reached sweltering August heights. Despite the heat, all our wonderful volunteers were out setting up for the event or donating baked goods or greeting visitors or helping the hundreds of children decorate pumpkins or cutting spider webs or selling drinks, baked treats, and apples or preparing the delicious, inventive sandwiches created by Jon Orren, NCF Board member, and his team of Newton South Culinary Arts students. We thank every one of you! We couldn’t have done it without you.
High school students Ming Tam (left) and her brother An-Li Tam help to prepare for pumpkin decorating.
Jon Orren and Bobby Dandiker prepare food for the festival.
For us, the 2017 season is not yet over, and there are tasks to be done. If you are interested in finding out about ways to volunteer as the season gets colder, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks so much to you all!
As part of a series of recipes from Historic Newton, this month we have a squash pie for you to try. Clara Silverstein, Historic Newton’s community engagement manager and food blogger at heritagerecipebox.com, tested and adapted the original recipe. She used acorn squash, but any firm orange squash, such as butternut or delicata, should also work. Use your favorite recipe for the pie crust.
English settlers in 17th-century Massachusetts brought with them a taste for pumpkin pie, which they sometimes spelled “pumpion pye.” According to Plimoth Plantation, the earliest written recipes for the pie are dated after the first Thanksgiving and treat the pumpkin more like apples, cutting the flesh into slices that were sometimes fried before placing in a crust.
Taking advantage of the other vegetables native to New England, people soon made pies out of other kinds of winter squash. This recipe for squash pie from Home Cookery, A Collection of Tried Recipes from Many Households by the Ladies of the Newton Universalist Church in Newtonville (Third Edition, Newton Journal Press, 1899) is one example. Like many cookbooks from that time, it gives no mixing or baking directions because it assumes most cooks know what to do. A copy of the book can be found in the Historic Newton Archives. The pie chapter starts with this couplet: “A good dinner is hardly replete/Till a nice piece of pie you then have to eat.”
19th-Century Squash Pie adapted by Historic Newton
Makes enough for one (9-inch) pie
1 (9-inch) pie crust from your favorite recipe
1 cup baked acorn squash (see directions below)
2 cups milk
½ tsp. salt
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
To bake the squash: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Split one (approximately 2 pound) acorn squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and save them for another use. Rub each squash half all over with a little canola oil and place it skin side down on a baking sheet. Bake for approximately 1 hour, until the flesh is soft.
Remove from the oven and let rest until cool enough to handle. Scoop out the flesh, put it in a sieve, and push with the back of a wooden spoon to remove excess liquid. Measure out 1 cup of flesh. Save leftover squash for another use.
To make the filling: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, lightly beat the egg with a fork. Stir in the milk. Add the squash, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir until well mixed. (If you want a smoother texture, mix all ingredients in a blender or food processor.) Pour into the prepared crust. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, until the custard is set and lightly brown on top.
Our farm stand hours will remain the same (Tuesday through Friday from 1:30–6:00 and Saturday from 9:30–1:00) through October 28. After that we will switch to Tuesday and Saturday only, with our final farm-stand day on Tuesday, November 21. 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. The final Farmers’ Market of the season will be on Saturday, October 14.
updates on class listings, events, NCF news, and more!