This month we get our first peek at recipes from the past with a vegetable side dish in the Recipes section. Historic Newton’s Clara Silverstein is a cookbook author who shares with us her research into historic recipes.
From the Farmer
I had an “ah ha” moment the other day while taking our dog out for his evening walk. Living on a farm is very much like having kids. As the farmer/parent you’re aware that things change—they grow, change their style, whatever—but you’re so close to it all that while you’re aware of it, you just don’t see it like other people do.
I had this revelation following a CSA distribution. I was walking around the farm and realized that, at least in a certain fundamental way, it always looks the same to me but that’s probably not true for the thousands of people who come to the farm more or less often each year. I realized that some years the farm probably looks shabbier; some years gaunt and parched; and some years (hopefully) verdant and lush. The placement of crops like popcorn or tomatoes, which create walls of green, can greatly change the way the farm appears. Unless you happen to be here all the time, in which case it all just seems, well, invisible because of its immediacy.
A great deal of change has happened over the years, altering drastically the way the farm looks. We’ve lost two iconic old apple trees and one of the huge pear trees that framed the farmhouse. Our barn, which had a turquoise blue door and white vinyl siding 10 years ago, has now been returned to its original red cedar shingle glory. The field, which years ago had been actively farmed and then went through a long period of decline as the owners aged, has once again swelled with produce. I remember these things when I think about them, but despite how dramatic many of these changes are, it’s easy to be blind to them. Perhaps that’s part of it being “home.” The comfort and familiarity of home lend themselves to a certain myopia.
One of the many big changes that happened recently was our dog Casey’s death and the arrival this past spring of Boyd. Casey was a fixture on the farm and an amazing farm dog. In her younger days she patrolled the farm constantly, hunting squirrels, voles, chipmunks, mice, rabbits, you name it. She wasn’t particularly social—she wanted to meet any dogs who came to the farm, but then after checking them out really preferred if they left her alone. And kids, well, let’s just say that Casey’s idea of a good kid was one who was well and far away from her.
So now we get lots of people asking if Boyd is a good farm dog. He can’t patrol the farm the way Casey used to. He doesn’t have the same innate understanding of the farm’s boundary that she did, and definitely hasn’t put it together that those big, loud things with wheels zipping by all the time will cause serious damage if he gets too close. And he’s not really a hunter. Casey was a sheepdog crossed with Corgi. It was the Corgi in her that liked to hunt. Boyd’s a Border Collie cross with Great Pyrenees. He goes crazy barking at birds, especially the hawk who has designs on our chickens, and he loves to herd. I’ve been teaching him to round up the chickens at the end of each day who’ve flown the coop, and you can tell this is the highlight of his day. Not so much for the chickens.
So is he a good farm dog? Like everything at the farm, he’s different and unique from what came before. He LOVES kids. Sometimes more than they want to be loved. But when I came out of the barn a couple of weeks ago and saw 10 kids in one of our summer camps surrounding him and he was on his back, legs in the air, almost grinning, I knew he’d found a good home at the farm.
From our new director of education, Danielle White:
As my final day as the Farm Sprouts instructor neared last summer, I lamented to a friend that I would no longer get to begin the day with my two favorite things: kids and the outdoors. However, a year later, I have found myself once again watching kids leave the farm at the end of the day covered in dirt, paint, and smiles from ear to ear. During the last few weeks of August I listened to our Farmers in Training engage with staff from the Centre Street Food Pantry as they learned about food insecurity, and the Farm Sprouts as they squealed with delight at the sight of a beautiful butterfly. Now, the summer has ended, and this time I am lucky enough to stay.
I hope you’ll join me this fall as we continue the fun, learning, and exploration with programs for both kids and adults. If I don’t see you at one of the events below, feel free to stop by the farm or send an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to say hello! I can’t wait to see old faces and meet new ones in the coming months.
Fall Youth Programs
Fall Farm Sprouts for preschool-age children and Farm Tuesdays for elementary-age children on early release Tuesdays both begin this month! You can check them out here.
Cultivating Community: Adult Programs
Join us on September 30 as we sit down with Peter Volante and discuss the history of the Volante Farm in Needham. For more information and to register, click here.
Director of Education
Sunday, September 24, 11–3
Join us on the farm for a day of family fun. Celebrate the fall season with music, food, activities, and games! We’ll have live music from the High Strung Strummers and a kids’ sing-along with Julia Priest of Music Together. Come for pumpkin decorating, face painting, a farm scavenger hunt, lawn games, great photo ops, and more. If you get hungry, we’ll have baked treats, farm-grown apples, grilled corn, and other farm-made sandwiches. And come meet Danielle White, our new director of education. Check out our News/Events page for more info.
Volunteers Needed for Fall Festival
Fall Festival is a big day on the farm. More community members visit us than on any other day of the year! We could use your help to make sure everything runs smoothly. We need volunteers to help us set up, run stations, orient guests, and get everything put away at the end of the day. This is a great volunteer opportunity for teens and groups, too! If you love to bake, please consider contributing to our Fall Festival bake sale. CSA sharers can record one work hour per dozen items donated. To see our needs and to sign up, visit our signup page for the event or for the bake sale. Contact Emily with questions: email@example.com.
Farming in Alaska: Update on Megan and Joshua
Many of you may remember Megan Talley and Joshua Faller who served as interim farmers at Newton Community Farm in 2012 when Greg was on sabbatical. They adeptly managed NCF and its programs during that time, including during the rebuilding of the farm stand, and they established warm relationships with many people in the NCF community while they were here.
Megan and Joshua moved on from NCF after Greg returned and eventually assumed roles 4,500 miles away in Palmer, Alaska, at the Alaska Pacific University’s Spring Creek Farm! Megan is the farm manager and Joshua is the production manager and farm educator for this very productive six-acre farm with three active greenhouses.
There are many similarities between our two farms. Both organizations model successful small-scale farming and season-extension practices in colder-weather climates. Both farms offer CSA produce programs, sell produce at local farmers’ markets, and offer education about sustainable agriculture and training opportunities for apprentice farmers. Both farms also regularly donate produce to food-insecure households within the local community. In fact, Megan and Joshua cofounded the Alaska Tilth Program several years ago with the UAF Cooperative Extension and then developed it into a robust program that now results in annual donations of thousands of pounds of produce to approximately 700 people.
As noted on the Alaska Pacific University’s Web site, the work of Spring Creek Farm is important to the next generation of farmers and to the future of the Alaskan economy. As Megan explains, “The team here at Spring Creek Farm is working to make the food system of Alaska more resilient and immune to outside pressure.” Joshua adds, “Across the U.S., small-scale, sustainable farms are seen as aging businesses. Spring Creek Farm is helping to change this perception by teaching the next generation of farmers that small-scale, local, organic agriculture is not only healthier for the environment and consumers but is economically viable and healthy for the local economy.”
For more information about the Spring Creek Farm, check out the article Growing Alaska as published on June 30, 2017.
Volunteer Spotlight: Dede Vittori
“The farm,” Dede Vittori says, “feeds a lot of people’s souls. It’s a counterbalance to work and our stressful, hectic lives.” Growing vegetables is a counterbalance Dede has enjoyed since tending her own garden as a high schooler in New Jersey and later nurturing a community garden plot in the Victory Gardens in Boston’s Fenway. After moving to Newton and following the city’s process in purchasing the former Angino farm with Community Preservation Act funding, Dede was encouraged by a friend to split a CSA share the first year Newton Community Farm grew vegetables. She saw it as an opportunity to eat healthy, local food and get those cherry tomatoes and spinach leaves picked fresh that she especially loves.
The farm soon benefitted from Dede’s deeper involvement. Founding NCF Board member Becka Smillie and former Board President Peter Barrer brought Dede on to the NCF Board, where she served for six years. For the first three years, Dede headed communications for NCF, building on the foundations the early Board members had created and expanding NCF’s newsletter, Web site, and social media presence. She was NCF’s clerk for the following three years, during which she established sustainable systems for the organization, supported Farm Operations’ communications, wrote meticulous minutes, and provided thoughtful insights on many aspects of the farm. NCF is grateful that Dede, even after her two terms on the Board, remains involved; now she is helping us “keep the community in our community farm” by working on ways to increase the breadth of community involvement at the farm, whether through volunteering or communications or our programming. She wants community members to see the thriving city-owned, NCF-run farm and think, “I’m a part of that.”
“Food,” Dede says, “is the intersection between health and environment, land use and community.” When Dede thinks about reasons, she volunteers, whether at the farm or at other organizations. She is guided by two principles: “Think long-term, act now,” and “Think globally, act locally.” Doing “place-based volunteering” at the farm, she says, lets her follow those principles and help make the necessary incremental changes that contribute to the environment and well-being of our community and our planet.
Are you interested in volunteering at Newton Community Farm? Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Our friends and community partners at Historic Newton are collecting and researching historic recipes that they are finding in their archives. Historic Newton’s community engagement manager, Clara Silverstein, a long-time supporter of Newton Community Farm, has a passion for food and historic recipes and has authored cookbooks including A White House Garden Cookbook and The Boston Chef’s Table. In addition to her work at Historic Newton, Clara currently writes a blog on historic recipes at heritagerecipebox.com. We at Newton Community Farm are thrilled to feature one of the many recipes Clara has found in her research for Historic Newton for the first time in our newsletter. Look for more of Historic Newton’s recipe contributions in future newsletters!
The Pillar House restaurant was a Newton Lower Falls landmark and fine dining destination for many years until it closed in 2001. This colorful side dish recipe comes from The Pillar House Cookbook by David Paul Larousse and Alan R. Gibson (1988).
Pillar House Vegetable Sauté
¼ cup olive oil
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 yellow squash
1 small eggplant, peeled
Juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cut the peppers and squash into large julienne strips (¼ in. by 2 in.). Cut the eggplant into very large julienne pieces (½ in. by 2½ in.). Rinse the eggplant sticks in a pint of water mixed with lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown.
Heat the oil in a sauté pan. Add the pepper strips and garlic and sauté 2 minutes. Add the squash and sauté another minute. Add the eggplant, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Sauté another 3 to 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked to your preference. Adjust the seasonings as needed.
The farm stand is 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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