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Hillsdale Farmers' Market is Volunteer Powered!

Sarah West

Love coming to the market? Wondering how to get more involved? Volunteering at Hillsdale Farmers Market is a great way for shoppers of all ages to enrich their neighborhood community while spending time outside, learning more about our vendors and their products, meeting new people, and having a great time.

Our volunteers enrich the market with their talents, passions, and dedication to community. Some of the services our volunteers provide:

  • Setting up market infrastructure each market day morning
  • Selling market tokens and answering questions at the Information Booth
  • Planning and organizing market events
  • Staffing event booths (such as our Opening Day Plant Giveaway, Customer Appreciation Day chocolate covered strawberries, Tomato Mania market tomato sampling, Feed Me Fresh cooking demonstrations, and the Hillsdale Urban Fair)
  • Serving on the HFM Board of Directors.

We are in need of a few new volunteers this summer to help with market set-up (from 8-10am; ability to do some heavy lifting is useful but certainly not required), information booth (10am-12pm or 12-2pm) and special events, including the upcoming second annual Hillsdale Urban Fair on October 11, 2015. Find out more about volunteering at Hillsdale Farmers’ Market here: http://www.hillsdalefarmersmarket.com/volunteering/, or contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Sarah West at hillsdalemarketvolunteers@gmail.com for more information.

Please let us know if you have an idea for the market and would like to be a part of seeing your idea to fruition! We know there is a lot of untapped talent out there in Hillsdale and we look forward to hearing from you.

Vendor Profile: Obon

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they create and sell. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West

Since moving to Portland in March of 2014, Fumiko Hozumi and Jason Duffany have made quick work of finding a unique voice in Portland’s crowded food industry. The couple met in San Fransisco, where Fumiko rolled sushi at a Castro District restaurant by night while completing a vet tech certification program by day, and Jason transitioned from computer engineering to cooking when he was hired to serve as the kitchen manager and chef for the deli of a small organic grocery store in Sausalito. Tiring of the Bay Area’s rising cost of living and increasing urban density, Jason and Fumiko began looking elsewhere for a place to settle down and try their hand at food entrepreneurship. After a brief scouting trip in early 2014 to Portland’s southeast neighborhoods, they were charmed by the city’s decentralized restaurant scene.

“Our brief stay led us to discover that downtown didn't fully represent this city,” Jason explained. “By late March we had moved into a small mother-in-law unit on the east face of Mt Tabor. Shortly afterward we founded Obon and signed a lease for a commercial kitchen.”

Menu Item #1: Kenchinjiru – A hearty stew with a ginger-flavored miso broth, seasonal root vegetables, mushrooms, and non-gmo tofu. This warming soup was a signature winter dish in Fumiko’s childhood home

Right from the start, they noticed a lack of vegan Japanese food in Portland and designed their business model to serve that niche market. Taking cues from traditional Japanese Buddhist cuisine, Obon’s plant-based menu aims for authentic and healthful food that satisfies the adventurous tastes of eaters in a vibrant food city. At the recommendation of a friend, the couple purchased some basic equipment and applied to farmers markets. Billing Obon as a mobile food business and catering company with brick-and-mortar aspirations, they used the markets as an opportunity to practice ramping up their production capacity and introducing their unique products to a customer base already enthusiastic about fresh vegetables.

A Japanese native, Fumiko’s repertoire forms the foundation of Obon’s menu. Her recipes draw on a collection of flavors and techniques gleaned from childhood memories and dishes she and Jason discovered on visits to Japan. Tweaked and influenced by the seasonal availability of ingredients and Jason’s zest for exploring unconventional flavor combinations, Obon’s food is a playful blend of old and new.

Menu Item #2: Giant Tater Tots – Organic russet potatoes are mashed with seasonal vegetables and coated in Tabor Bread panko, fried in palm oil, and served with house-made carrot ketchup.

They gave Obon the tagline, “Feel good Japanese comfort food,” a phrase Jason describes as summing up what he and Fumiko appreciate about the plant-based Japanese cuisine their menu emulates.

“For us, Japanese comfort food has always been easier to digest [than its Western counterparts] & never leaves us feeling heavy or sick no matter how much we stuff our faces—which we often do.”

Menu Item #3: Karokke – This traditional fritter made of sweet potato or winter squash, organic raisins, and Japanese curry blend is a snack Fumiko fondly recalls purchasing as a child on her way home from school. Coated in Tabor Bread panko and fried in palm oil, Obon serves their karokke drizzled with tangy house-made Tamarind sauce.

 

Instead of relying on animal fats and dairy to flavor and enrich their dishes, Jason and Fumiko employ technique and the highest-quality ingredients they can source. Making connections with other farmers market vendors has been an unexpected but integral part of this process. Standing with them at their People’s Co-op Farmers Market stall on an early April Wednesday, Fumiko pointed across to the Tabor Bread booth and explained that they make all of the panko (breadcrumbs) for their tater tots and karokke from Tabor Bread loaves, a southeast Portland bakery known for its use of locally grown wheat and fermented wild yeast leavens.

“It was a game changer,” Jason added. “The flavor of those two items just got so much better.”

Another trick up their sleeve is tofu misozuke, a product they first tried at a restaurant in Onomichi, a small seaside town in Hiroshima Prefecture.

“We had it served on cucumber slices with micro-greens at an izakaya bar where we were sipping local sake. Due to its creaminess, we assumed it was a cheese product, but were corrected by one of the cooks working the front of the restaurant: It was fermented tofu, aged in miso for at least two weeks.”

Menu Item #4: Sprouted Brown Rice Onigiri – For this gluten-free treat, sprouted brown rice is blended with Japanese-style pickled organic vegetables, and filled with Obon’s signature tofu misozuke before being shaped and nestled into an organic nori wrapper. Onigiri are a classic Japanese lunch box staple, and a vehicle for each cook to showcase her own unique style.

Tofu misozuke is surprisingly creamy and smooth, with a mild, nutty flavor lent from the miso it ferments in and a brie-like richness that fills your mouth as fully as triple-cream cheese. After returning from their trip, Fumiko and Jason were determined to create their own.

"We found out about Rau Om, a company started by a couple in the Bay Area who had become just as intrigued as we had after their first taste of misozuke. When they stopped producing it commercially they posted their recipe online. We've combined some of their techniques with what we found in The Book of Miso, plus what we learned initially in Onomichi,” Jason told me, adding: “We eat it almost daily as a condiment for just about anything. At farmers markets, we serve it smoked inside our sprouted brown rice onigiri.”

Obon produces small batches of misozuke packaged for retail that are available for purchase at People’s Food Co-op and Food Front’s NW Thurman Street location. As its popularity grows, they hope to expand the product line with flavored misozuke spreads.

With their sharp curiosity and dedication to authentic Japanese preparations, Obon has already developed five recipes that stretch well beyond the sushi- and ramen-dominated boxes we’ve come to expect of Japanese food in the US. More than just vegan or health food, faithful to but not restricted by tradition, Obon’s first success has been to create Obon food, a menu as undeniably their own as it is uniquely alluring.

You’ll be able to sample Obon’s meticulously crafted delicacies every Sunday at the Hillsdale Farmers Market. Stay up to date with new menu items, products, and events (including a summer 2015 farm dinner hosted by HFM’s Naked Acres Farm) by visiting www.obonpdx.com and their Facebook page (link).

This article contains several corrections to the original piece published in the email version of the Grapevine sent on April 9, 2015.

Vendor Profile: Kookoolan Farm

Sarah West

Farmers’ markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they create and sell. We’re giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

By Sarah West

Hillsdale vendor since 2007, Kookoolan Farms has quickly built a name as the place to go for pasture-raised chickens and eggs in the Portland area. That same year, the farm was the first in Oregon to open a fully licensed on-site poultry slaughtering facility, allowing more vertical integration in an industry with notoriously low profit margins. Kookoolan has since expanded their product line to include pastured pork and lamb, grassfed beef, a vegetable CSA, and a year-round farm store. Oh, and for bonus points, they set up a kombucha and mead brewery, most recently opening their Mead Superstore and Tasting Room.

Just taking in all that is Kookoolan Farms requires a few deep breaths. The dynamic duo behind Kookoolan Farms, Chrissie and Koorosh Zaerpoor, met while working as program managers at Intel (Koorosh still works there). The couple married and began dreaming a world outside of Intel where they could work together on a project that integrated their engineering skills with more personal interests: Chrissie was an avid gardener and cook with a passion for home mead making, Koorosh still harbored dreams of becoming a farmer he’d hatched as a child in Iran helping out with his parents’ poultry flock.

While Chrissie’s first entrepreneurial aspiration was to open a meadery, the couple also saw a need for local, pasture-raised chicken and eggs in the area, and set to work building a farm to fill that niche. The road was not without pitfalls or unexpected turns, but, within two years of founding the farm, the persistent couple was able to accomplish something out of reach to most small-scale chicken farmers since the rise of industrial agriculture: the ability to legally process their own flock on their own farm for sale to farmers market customers, restaurants, and grocery stores alike.

This may seem like an obvious direction for a poultry farm to grow, but the reality of achieving it was far more difficult than the Zaerpoors initially realized. Though regulations have changed somewhat since Kookoolan’s 2005 startup (especially for farmers with fewer than a thousand birds), the USDA has strict codes that make it prohibitively expensive for small producers to operate their own slaughter facility. Kookoolan persevered and became the first farm of their size in Oregon to accomplish this feat. As their processing ability increased, they realized that the five-acre plot they purchased in 2005 would not be sufficient to produce the flock sizes required to build a sustainable business.

The Zaerpoors began to see their Carlton-Yamhill neighbors as potential partners, carefully selecting farms in their area willing to adhere to the same meticulous standards as they did in raising their chickens. With careful planning, Kookoolan Farms became a cooperative of ethical meat and poultry farmers, greatly expanding their product line, and distributing the labor to a network of specialists. Chrissie remains the hub of operations, coordinating the farm’s wholesale distribution, farmers market sales, and, of course, quality control. The cooperative model finally freed up some of the Zaerpoor’s time, allowing them to expand their vegetable garden into a summer CSA program and giving Chrissie time to get back into mead.

The original Kookoolan Farm site still houses a portion of the farm’s pastured chickens, their poultry processing facility, a serve-yourself farm store, the vegetable rows, a small plot of pinot noir grapes, and the new Mead Superstore.Visitors are welcome on weekends (or during the week, by appointment) to browse their selection of over 150 different meads and taste Kookoolan’s own farm-made Elegance Mead, kombucha, and Vin de Noix. What about those pinot noir grapes? Well, they may just show up in the Kookoolan lineup soon in the form of a pinot-mead blend known as pyment.

Though Kookoolan has been selling their chickens through New Seasons for a couple years, they recently decided to pull out of the arrangement. In the context of a grocery store meat counter (even a grocery store with a reputation for higher-income shoppers), local, pasture-raised chickens separated from their farmer’s story, sitting next to temptingly cheaper alternatives, are a tough sell. New Seasons requested birds under four pounds, but Kookoolan can’t make a profit raising such small chickens. They’ve decided to stick with direct-market sales here at Hillsdale and (on alternate Sundays) the Hillsboro/Orenco market. That’s a testament to the power of farmers market shoppers, who make a significant contribution to the viability of even the most outwardly successful small farm businesses.

Find out more at: www.kookoolanfarms.com

Note: A fire broke out on Kookoolan Farms on the evening of March 18th. Two outbuildings were lost in the fire. Read about the fire here (link).

The Fat of The Land - Gilding The Chicken

Sarah West


Photo courtesy of Kookoolan Farms

I have grown used to berries that cost almost $4 a pint, eggs that teeter between $6 and $7 a dozen, ground beef or lamb that rings in around $5 a serving. I exclusively seek out (sometimes) pricy farmers market vegetables, not because of their expense or any illusion of status it implies, but because I so deeply crave their exquisite freshness I’m reluctant to settle for the same item from even the best grocery store. I’m not rolling in expendable income (I work for a farmers market!), but I choose to weave these sometimes-extra costs into my monthly budget, giving up other luxuries (cable TV, a car from the 21st century, good wine), for the ability to transform the abstract numbers of my bank account into the tangible wealth of authentic food.

For all my acceptance of higher food prices (which one could—and should—argue are closer to the real cost of food), I still gasp at the price of a pasture-raised chicken. Knowing that the chicken was happy and free, fed good food and allowed to nibble on forage and insects while roaming under the nourishing sun, that it was compassionately slaughtered and minimally processed to arrive in the cooler at my feet with as much flavor and nutrition as possible, just doesn’t completely remove the sting of its $30 price tag. I want to buy it, but the penny-pinching core of me rejects it, wonders why it costs so much and how it could possibly be worth it.

Life is about tradeoffs. Even within the terms we set for ourselves, we reach a limit to what we’ll accept: maybe pasture-raised chicken is mine, though I suspect it’s not that simple. Chicken holds tightly in our minds to its status as the everyman’s protein: healthy, abundant, and cheap. It has not, in recent history, held distinction in mainstream American culture, as does a prime cut of beef or a filet of salmon. Rather, low-priced chicken has begun to feel like something of a birthright to most meat-eating Americans, myself, apparently, included.

Almost all of the chicken purchased in the US is the product of factory farms, warehouses packed with upwards of 20,000 birds, too crowded to do much of anything in their short, filth-ridden lives than eat antibiotic-laced food that keeps them well enough to survive to a decent slaughter weight. In a factory farm scenario, it takes about two pounds of feed to produce a pound of chicken meat. Contrast that with the four pounds of feed (and extended growth period) for one pound of pasture-raised chicken meat, or the seven pounds of feed required for a pound of beef.

The motivation behind the last century’s unprecedented rise in mass chicken production is not difficult to see. Through factory farming innovations, chicken became a protein we could efficiently produce, that found the sweet spot every industry aspires to: good return on investment and a market demand that grew with production capability. As factory farms got better at churning out huge numbers of chickens, consumers were happy to buy them (and, because of their lean muscle, health experts were eager to advocate for them), driving the price of chicken staggeringly low (in the early 2000’s, the average price per pound was around a dollar, now it’s usually double that, still $3-$7 less per pound than its pasture-raised counterpart).

Cheap chicken production comes with hidden costs: environmental costs in the form of heavy pollution near factory farm sites, ethical costs when we must mistreat an animal in order to increase the economic return of raising it, social costs from the loss of family farm diversity and contracted workers tangled in a modern-day form of indentured servitude. And the chicken this system produces is dangerous. Consumer Reports recently conducted a survey that found raw chicken from all major brands had moderate to high levels of food pathogen contamination, including many strains known to be resistant to antibiotics. Even when properly handled and cooked, public health experts estimate that such chicken, still inside its packaging, can potentially transfer enough trace bacteria to make you sick (read more here).

Yet, fear and distrust of one product doesn’t necessarily create desire for another, as with my aversion to $30 chickens. I don’t buy the $8 chickens, either. Perception of value creates desire for a product, and that is a hurdle many well-meaning consumers still need to cross. For starters, we must forget almost everything we thought we knew about chicken—that it’s cheap and abundant and that we deserve it to be so, that its meat is soft and flavorless, that it comes in boneless, skinless segments from which we can no longer identify it as an animal.

We need to rediscover chicken as a whole-animal food, one with depth. Covered and slow-cooked, the firmer muscles of a pasture-raised chicken baste in their own nutritious fat, resulting in tender, flavorful meat and golden-crisp skin (if uncovered for the last ten minutes of its cooking time). The cartilage-rich carcass (especially the feet, if you’re not ready to eat them outright just yet) creates one of the most sultry broths known to the stock pot, rich in minerals and nutrients. All of the chicken’s major organs, save the liver (the bulk of which usually arrive in a neat, if mysterious, packet inside a good quality chicken cavity), enrich the broth or, if cooked as their own simple stock and added to the pan sauce, make delicious gravy.

What chicken needs is ceremony, the sort that changes how it appears to us at the market and on our plates. It comes out of a skilled cook’s oven gilded and steaming aromas as thick and rich as a velvet robe, right there before our eyes, but we have stopped recognizing its royalty. Maybe that $30 price tag is just the sort of stake we need in the game. Maybe less for more is also—when it comes to flavor, food and environmental safety, human and animal welfare—just plain more.

Sarah West is a gardener, eater and admirer of the agricultural arts. She gladly spends her Sundays as assistant manager of the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market, basking in the richness of its producers’ bounty and its community’s energy. Find archives and more at http://thefatofthelandblog.wordpress.com.

Hardy Vegetables – Plant Them Now!

Sarah West

by Anne Berblinger, Gales Meadow Farm

A few of the starts you'll find this Sunday

Many vegetables, the “hardy” varieties, do well in early spring. They can even stand a frost. This year, they should do better than usual, since the soil has already warmed up some and it looks like our extra warm weather will continue.

Gales Meadow Farm will have many hardy vegetable varieties at the market this weekend: kale, lettuce, collards, broccoli, peas, onions, beets, and more. And of course, we have many varieties of most of these and some pots of mixed varieties. Any of them can be planted right now or as soon as your garden is ready.

These veggies need good soil and a spot that gets sun for at least 6-8 hours a day. Most of them will do well in pots on a sunny deck or parking strip. so you can have fresh homegrown vegetables even if you don’t have a sunny garden. For hardy spring veggies, a light dressing of complete organic fertilizer mixed into the top 2-3 inches of the bed should be good for the whole season. If the soil is clay or sandy, a generous dose of compost applied before planting and mixed into the soil will help.

It's good to do your transplanting in the evening or on a cloudy day. Water the pots before you remove the vegetables, and as soon as you have finished planting, water the newly transplanted vegetables well to settle them into the ground and establish good contact between the soil and the roots.

Our pots of veggie starts have more plants than garden store six-packs. The pots may look crowded, but the plants don’t mind. You need to be gentle as you separate them, but they are not terribly delicate. Gently take the whole block of potting soil out of the pot. Plant each one as you peel it from the soil; don’t let the roots have a chance to get dry.

Make sure your garden or pot does not dry out. (We usually don’t have to worry about this in the spring, but this year is different.)

You can start picking lettuce, collards, chard, and kale leaves and beet greens in a few weeks; the peas will be ready before long; the onions can be harvested young or left to mature in August.

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter February 22 2015

Sarah West


If you have a pesky stepson roiling your domestic plans, send him off on a fatal errand. Such as it was with Theseus when his father was convinced to send him off to the fields of fennel where he was to kill the Cretan Bull. On the way to Marathon, the youth stopped by the hut of a devotee of Hecate, the goddess of potions and herbs for sustenance. She simply fed him a big bowl of Sonchus, or sow thistle greens. On this fare alone, he captured the bull that Hercules had thoughtlessly left to terrorize the countryside, and led it back to Athens. Subduing the massive bull required sagacity and serenity, not strength, and that is what the sow thistle provided. In kinder times before crates, it was fed to nursing sows to keep their milk flowing and disposition calm so they wouldn't roll over on the nursing piglets. Tomorrow, we will have a good quantity of this exceptional late winter pot herb, related to lettuce and chicory. It is time-consuming to harvest and clean, which is why few people gather it. We found a good patch in the Chesters that lent itself to the task, so if you all need a moment of sagacity and serenity, we have the green for you.

Tomorrow, when the bell rings at 10:00 AM, we will have a robust selection of late winter greens. Sorrel, chervil, cress, horned mustard, rocket, rape, sow thistle, kale, chard, late Treviso type chicory and Catalogna chicory. The last two weeks have pushed their growth along nicely.

We will also have spuds, sweet potatoes, preserves, frikeh, soft red wheat, beans, popcorn, cornmeal, cayennes and the last of the pumpkin seeds.

This is our last market until the 12th of July, when we return laden with fruit. If you need preserves before then, they are carried by the following stores:
City Market, 735 NW 21st Ave.
Food Front, both Hillsdale & NW Thurman
Foster & Dobbs, 2518 NE 15th Ave
Our Table, 13390 SW Morgan Road, Sherwood
Pastaworks, 3735 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Vino, 138 SE 28th Ave.

Hope to see you all tomorrow,

Carol & Anthony
Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter February 8 2015 Market

Sarah West

We still have good supplies of preserves, beans, popcorn, cornmeal, cayennes and pumpkin seeds. The onions, sweet potatoes, spuds and horseradish fill out the bulbs and roots section. We will be slicing Sibley and Musqueé squashes. The sublime Late Treviso chicories will grace the table this week.

Before the Olympian deities took over and bureaucratized the Office of Muses, there were just three muses residing on Mount Helicon: Aoide (expression), Mneme (memory) and Melete (occasion). Linda Colwell is our Melete. Whether it is a ramble or some other occasion, Linda steps in and everything flows smoothly. When Lane Sellman of the Culinary Breeding Network asked us on a hopeful afternoon in April if we could host a lunch and tour at Ayers Creek for Organicology in early February, it seemed like an reasonable idea. With our lovely Melete watching over us, what could go wrong? Nothing, as it turns out, even in week marked by torrents of rain, the sun shone and we all had a good time.

Working with Mark Doxtader and Jason Barwikowski of Tastebud, and Sarah Minnick of Lovely's 50/50, Linda showcased the fruits, vegetables and grains of the farm. While we led a tour in the fields, Linda gave a talk about the various ingredients in the lunch. One participant confided to us that he loved Linda's talk so much that he was tempted to sit through it a second time. Here is the quartet's menu:

Amish Butter popcorn with Aci Sivri cayenne
Black Radish soup
Green Posole made with Amish Butter hominy, pumpkin seeds, and sorrel

Late treviso panzanella style salad with roasted Sibley squash and kakai seeds
Roy's Calais Flint polenta with braised Borlotti beans with leeks and chicory
Oven roasted sweet potatoes
Focaccia with late summer dried green grapes

Sprouted barley toast with roasted winter squash and honey and Ayers Creek jam

Winter field greens as available: rocket, chervil, kale

Adzuki bean ice cream between Kakai pumpkin seed cookies
Chester blackberry ice cream between Amish Butter and Almond cookies

The Tastebud oven has welcomed guests to the Ayers Creek since the first ramble. This Christmas, we received greetings from a former Hillsdale regular, now residing in Portugal, recalling that day. Sami's teenage daughter was convinced rather reluctantly to fritter away a Sunday afternoon at that ramble. The walk went well for her but the high point of the day was walking into the shade of the oaks and seeing her favorite feature of the Hillsdale Market, the Tastebud oven. It always heralds a good event when Mark's truck maneuvers into position.

We hope you all have a moment to stop by the Hillsdale Market tomorrow and enjoy what Tastebud and Ayers Creek haul there.

Carol & Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter January 25 2015 Market

Sarah West

The ringing cowbell announcing the opening of the Hillsdale Farmers Market at 10:00 AM tomorrow also heralds another installment of last summer's sunshine carefully stored by nature in the first instance, and by us in the second.

Loganberries and raspberries harvested following the summer solstice still glow in the jars of preserves, and on your toast next week. Likewise the frikeh was harvested and roasted on the longest days. The currants and gages finalized their flavor in the midsummer sun, when people still take the season's heat for granted, waving it aside. The corn, cayennes, squash, beans and pumpkin seeds entered their maturity as the yellow of school buses reminds us to linger a bit longer before the warmth is truly precious. When we bring in the fiori d'inverno, the flowers of winter, this week, the roots that create those beautiful chicories fattened up around the autumnal equinox. Likewise the sweet potatoes and spuds, and the leaves that form the onions. The quinces and grapes captured their summer moment a bit tardy, ripening in the last rays of sun after the equinox.

The diversity of organs that store the sun's energy is also striking. There are seeds, fruits, leaves and stems all in the mix, all accomplishing the same storage function. With time, they are continuing to mature and their flavors are changing. This week, we encourage you all to try a slice of the hard-skinned Sibley squash and the purple sweet potatoes, both of which reach their prime in terms of sweetness and flavor in late January. For those on quest for ever more anthocyanins in their diet, the purple sweet potatoes have intense concentrations of these desirable pigments.

Finally, a nod to that great perennial root, the horseradish, which accumulates several years of summer light before it is ready for harvest.

With that, we hope to see you all anon,

Carol & Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter January 11 2015 Market

Sarah West

When the bell opens the Hillsdale Farmers' Market this Sunday morning at 10:00, it will herald a kinder market. The board has decreed that henceforth, or at least through April when the climate softens, the market shall close at 1:00 PM sharp.

We hope the market will establish 1:00 PM as a permanent closing time, a sentiment that is gathering steam among the dusty-footed vendors, the piepoudres. After 12 years (245 market days to date), both summer and winter, on the pavement at Hillsdale, we know that 70% of our sales consistently take place in the first two hours of the market, and the last hour accounts for less than 5% of our sales. If the day is rainy, cold or hot, the market is dead as a smelt by noon. No wonder, produce quality is best in the first two to three hours, especially in the summer heat, as most of you know. A 1:00 PM closing time year-round is sensible.

The board should consider other changes over the next year. When market moved across the highway to its current location, it grew substantially and went from a summer fling to a year-round relationship. The ease of access to arterial streets and good parking have been critical assets in attracting farmers and customers. Unfortunately, the addition of bike lanes on Vermont Avenue had a negative influence on traffic at the market by eliminating a long stretch of parking spaces. Rather than grousing about the clumsy transportation planning by the city, as easy as that is to do, it is much more productive to rethink how the market uses the site.

Currently, the market stalls occupy more than 70 parking spaces. It is possible to free up these parking spots by creating a space for the vendors on the flat area to the west of the lot – between the lot and the slope leading down to the soccer fields. This would make shopping at the market much easier. There are minor challenges reconfiguring the area, but none insurmountable. The parking lot is unlovely and in need of repair, so it is a good time address improved utilization of the site. Hillsdale is one of the few markets in the region, if any, that is so well poised for improvement.

As the market has developed into a year-round enterprise and is no longer an experiment, safer shelter is warranted as well. A simple 45' by 180' freestanding structure covered in rip-stop polyethylene costs $30,000, with some bells and whistles available for an additional pittance. (Here is a link to an example: Structure ) Simply put, the neighborhood can have a safe and comfortable covered market for roughly the same price as a plain vanilla family car.

Farmers use these durable and utilitarian structures for a wide variety of uses, including as shelters for farmers' markets, so we recognize them as our preferred habitat. Not particularly posh or elegant, true, but they are engineered to survive heavy snow loads and wind. The sunshine passes through while providing shade and shelter for the fruits and vegetables below. As you will note from the link, these structures are manufactured in 14 days, the cover is warrantied for 20 years, and the frame for 50 years. They are assembled in a matter of days as well. From a farmer's perspective it is a very good value. Aside from leveling and preparing the site, there is no foundation or excavation required, a massive cost savings relative to any other cover option. When the market isn't using the shelter, it can be available for school functions or neighborhood events. In other words, it will be a general community asset rather than a dedicated market space.

Hillsdale has an experienced cadre of farmers, some of whom, like us, have been part of the market since it started in 2002. Having adequate parking and a sturdy covering for the market will make it a preferred destination for both farmers and customers for years to come. With some vision and cooperation on the part of the Hillsdale Farmers' Market board and the neighborhood, the rag tag assembly of tents set up on Sundays can evolve into a defining neighborhood fixture. We hope you all encourage Eamon and the board to think creatively about the future of the market. You voice, encouragement and participation is important.

Here is what we are bringing Sunday:
We still have good supplies of preserves, beans, popcorn, cornmeal, cayennes and pumpkin seeds. The onions, sweet potatoes, spuds, horseradish and black radish fill out the bulbs and roots section. We will be slicing Sibley and Musqueé squashes. This week we will have more chicories. At the moment they are the speckled Lusia types. We have had trouble with the quality of the seed, so there is a lot variation in the field, and we are only able to harvest about 10% of what we planted, which is way below the 90% harvested in the past. We are not happy with the state of seed, to put it mildly. In February, we will have longer meditation about the genetics of chicories, and what we are doing to address the problem.
As with Bette Davis and the lyrics of Sondheim, the bitterness in chicories is always a matter of interpretation and taste, some revel in it, others recoil. Varieties and individual plants vary as well. The bitter compounds are in the white latex of the sap and are water soluble, so the problem is easily addressed. Tearing the leaves lengthwise and immediately soaking them in iced water draws out the latex and eliminates almost all of the bitterness. Soaking for 20 minutes or so is generally enough. If you are planning to braise the chicories, quarter them lengthwise and immediately soak in ice water. As with latex paint, if the plant's latex starts to set up and dry, it is no longer water soluble, so have soaking water ready before you tear or cut the heads is important. The ice is critical to the process because the cold shrinks the vascular tissue, forcing the latex out of the leaf. Luke warm or cool water is useless for the task, so don't skimp on the ice.
For a salad, a lemon-based dressing adds a bit sweetness. Cutting vinegar with a bit of orange juice also works. An anchovy fillet squeezed through a garlic press and mixed into the dressing is another fine addition. As a forage crop for livestock, chicories have higher protein content than even legumes such as alfalfa, as well as a hefty dose of minerals. As a result, in recent years seed companies have been offering a greater range of forage chicories, apparently with better seed quality than we see in the varieties grown for human consumption. Regardless, you can't go wrong eating these fine winter greens, right Elsie.

We will see you all Sunday,
The Boutards of Gaston

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter December 21 2014 Market

Sarah West

The Sunday after the brumal awakening is traditionally Calendar Sunday at Ayers Creek. The 2015 edition is quiet, no color and few words. Out of character? Not really. It happens occasionally, often in July and August when the season runs past us. We will bring roughly half tomorrow and the balance for the first market of 2015, so don't fret if you can't make it tomorrow.

That said, if the forecast holds, it promises to be a dark and soggy four hours, so we will be very happy for any company during the vigil. We will have the usual complement of winter squash, sweet potatoes, knob celery, black radish, horseradish, onions and spuds. We will bring preserves and gift boxes along with the grains, legumes, cayennes and pumpkin seeds. Yesterday, we harvested some of the first chicory heads, along with a bucket of good looking rocket.

We produce our own seed for many of the vegetables, legumes and grains we grow, reselecting each year for better traits and quality. This summer, Brian Campbell and Crystine Goldberg of Uprising Seeds asked if they could include some of our varieties in their 2015 seed catalogue. We agreed and the next thing you know, they need to check our corn seed for genetic contamination. It was with a heavy heart that we posted seed to them knowing that those beautiful kernels would be completely destroyed and then probed for any violation of their purity. The reason we grow food is knowing the pleasure it gives the people who eat it, not to have it suspiciously handled by an uncaring and unloving lab technician. We have recovered, but it took a psychic toll. For what it is worth, the purity Amish Butter and Roy's Calais Flint are unchallenged, free of any corrupting genes. We knew this intuitively from working with the corn so intimately, but the cold, clinical diagnosis provides additional validation of our effort. Ultimately, though, it is not the negative - non-GMO - that we are striving for, it is the lovely, rich flavor those two varieties of corn bring to the table. We are glad that we are of a mind with Brian and Crystine on this substantive point.

Probably the only sunshine we will see tomorrow is the glow from the freshly opened squash. We are often asked for suggestions on how to prepare winter squash. Here is a good variation on the old Turkish treat the sorbet that will keep the glow alive: www.goodstuffnw.com/2014/12/move-over-ice-cream-squash-sorbet.html

Our best for holidays if we don't see you tomorrow,


Carol & Anthony
Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter December 7 2014 Market

Sarah West

Back as a couple, we will return to that quaint hamlet of Hillsdale this Sunday, ready to meet some of your many late autumn needs when the market bell rings at 10:00 AM.

We will have our gift boxes of preserves. This year, the mix is raspberry, loganberry, green gage and Veepie grape, along with a biographical sketch of each fruit.

If the prospect of crating and mailing preserves is daunting, you can pass the job off to the expert hands of Gwen Vilches at Give Portland Gifts or Rebecca and Fred Gerandasy at Cooking up a Story. Links are:

giveportlandgifts.com
cookingupastory.com/store

We will have popcorn, corn & lime for preparing hominy, cornmeal, cayennes, dry beans, frikeh and hulless barley. We will also bring spuds, sweet potatoes, squash, onions, fennel, knob celery, black radish, horseradish and perhaps some other morsels.

_________________________________________

Myrtha Foradori studied in southwestern Germany for two years. During that time she signed up for a weekly produce box that provided, among other vegetables, black radishes. Made aware of our insecurity with respect to cooking black radishes, she mentioned how much she enjoyed a simple soup prepared using the root. Myrtha kindly sent along the recipe.

Potato - Black Radish soup

4-5 medium sized potatoes, chopped in cubes
half of a big black radish, thinly sliced
1 big yellow onion, chopped
some garlic, minced
olive oil
about a glass of white wine
enough vegetable or chicken broth to cover while simmering
optional: sour cream

Heat the olive oil, sauté onions and garlic. Add the potatoes and stir on medium heat. Add white wine and after it evaporated cover the potatoes with a fair amount of broth. Cover with a lid and let cook on medium heat. When the potatoes are almost done, add the black radish and cook for a short time until tender. Purée and season with salt and pepper. Serve with some sour cream.

The farm chef, Linda Colwell, prepared the soup today substituting butter and leeks, reflecting her northern European orientation. We sprinkled grated horseradish over the top. It is a very fine soup and, with specks of black skin from the radish, very attractive as well. Recommended. (printable recipe here (link).)

Tasting our grapes hanging in storage, Myrtha recounted how her mother loved to go into the family's attic where they hung their grapes for winter use and enjoy the intensely flavored, half shriveled fruit. We will have some at market this week, thanks to our patient brother-in-law who took the time to hang the clusters when visiting us in October.

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Escape from Vineland

The late Lon Rombaugh was amiably acquisitive when it came to fruit, especially grapes. Parsing his 2006 catalogue, we noticed he highlighted a new entry called 'Veepie', a quirky name that captured our eye. Veepie was not in his book on grape growing and he had not suggested it when he advised us on our vineyard selections. The entry noted that it is a "tart grape especially for pies." All this and a quirky name, too. We purchased 15 cuttings and rooted them. At the lower end of the vineyard, they grew with little attention for a few years.

Table grapes have an elven quality; we savor them at the moment, tarrying in the vineyard on a late afternoon enjoying the range of flavors that breeders have teased forth. Wine grapes are tasty with subtle differences, but their character develops after living underground in a dwarfish fashion, deprived of the sun for a long spate. Missing in the modern mix of commercially available varieties is the hafling, or hobbit, of grapes, a culinary fruit domestic in character, whose flavor opens up with the heat and knife of the kitchen. At one time, these grapes were an essential part of the kitchen garden. For example, John Evelyn notes that a special grape was used for verjus. Recipes from the Middle East, Persia and the Caucasus specify sour grapes as a matter of course. Yes, unripe table or wine grapes are sour, but they lack the flavor gained in the ripening process. Veepie is one of the few grapes, at least on this side of the Atlantic, that is a true culinary grape, tartly ripe and conveniently seedless.

There is a parallel here with apples. Cox's Orange Pippin or Spitzenburg are great dessert apples overwhelmed in a pie, whereas no one could ever relish the bitter, tannic cider apples such as Kingston Black or Yarlington Mill outside of the barrel. On the other hand, Rhode Island Greening, Northern Spy and Reinette Gris are excellent culinary apples for pies, tarts and sauces, yet on the tart side for enjoying out of the hand. Notably, people do not select an unripe apple for a pie, and thus it should be with grapes.

Veepie is officially 52131, a numbered seedling originating from a cross pollination made in 1952 by Oliver A. Bradt at the Vineland Experiment Station in Ontario, Canada. The mother plant was Seibel 8357, also known as Colobel. It is a teiturier, a type of grape with intense pigmentation used in small quantities to strengthen the color of wine. Albert Seibel was a French grape breeder who developed a large number high quality hybrids between American and the European wine grapes, seeking resistance to a pest called Phylloxera that had devastated the vineyards of Europe. The pollen-bearing parent was Bronx Seedless, a highly regarded but temperamental table grape prone to splitting, that is still cultivated in California. Bronx is also a hybrid with a seed parent of American lineage and Thompson seedless, a raisin grape dating back to the Ottoman Empire, also known as Sultanina.

The resulting grape has the intense pigmentation from its teiturier ancestor combined with the seedless trait and propensity for splitting, albeit much attenuated, from its pollen parent. It produces unfilled seeds which confer an additional pleasant component to its texture. As you look at the preserves, you will notice the little brown seedlets. The berry's tartness is it defining characteristic. Sugars and other soluble solids are measured using a refractometer, yielding a number given in degrees Brix (°Brix). When we harvested the grape for preserves this year, it measured 11° fully ripe. The Canadice grapes harvested at the same time for fresh eating were at 26°. As a reference, a lemon is around 8°. In its flavor, the European ancestry is evident. Bradt, as well as Seibel, selected against the "foxiness" that marked grapes with pure American lineage.

Vineland formally released numerous varieties resulting from Bradt's work. Public breeding programs used to have their own naming protocols, a custom that has faded recently. In the case of Vineland, their releases usually started with a V, such as Veeport, Vivant, Vanessa, and Vincent, with Festivee as a consistent variation on the theme. Selection 52131 survived the culling process, yet was never officially released. The vine somehow hung around long enough to catch the attention of the station's biochemist, Tibor Fukei Tibor Fuleki. He saw the grape's culinary potential for pies and preserves.

The late D. C. Paschke, a grape and chrysanthemum farmer from North East, Pennsylvania, was an insatiable collector of grapes and mum varieties. He tracked the breeding programs at Geneva (Cornell) and Vineland, and acquired a large collection of varieties. The farm was also known far and wide for his wife's grape pies, and it is likely Fukeli tipped him off to the exceptional qualities of 52131, over a slice of pie we hope, and it slipped into the vineyard at North East. With two champions in its court, the grape informally acquired the name Veepie, consistent with the naming style of the station. Rombaugh and Paschke knew each other from their shared interest in grapes, and at some point 52131 ended up in Oregon as Veepie. Instead of being released, Veepie managed to slip away from Vineland in the nick of time disguised as a release, escaping the flaming pyre reserved for seedlings deemed unworthy for release. Apparently no living trace of it remains at the station today. The numbered seedling that escapes is unusual, but SIUS 68-6-17 accomplished the same feat. That unnamed blackberry evaded the bulldozers that leveled the fields of Carbondale in 1973 by hitching a ride and hiding out in the Zych family's backyard until 1985. That is the year when it was finally released as our most beloved "Chester Thornless."

With its two primary champions dead, this hafling grape, perched between a number and a name, has attached itself to our farm. Like Fukeli, Paschke and Rombaugh, we think it is a singular grape that belongs in any well-rounded vineyard. Personally, we wish there were a greater diversity of culinary grapes, but 52131 is a good start. It certainly deserves a formal release someday.

Dr. K. Helen Fisher, Bradt's successor at Vineland, helped us sort out this story. We appreciate her willingness to provide the history of the grape, allowing us to acknowledge Bradt's role in developing it, and Fukeli as its advocate at the station. Thank you Helen. That said, any errors or flights of fancy in the above account are ours alone. We hope you all enjoy the Veepie Grape preserves.

Until Sunday,
Carol and Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

The original post misspelled Tibor Fuleki's last name. That error has been corrected. 

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter November 23 2014 Market

Sarah West

All of the beans and grains sold at the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market are grown by us on the farm. We do not repackage other farms’ production, or buy bulk beans for resale, and we are certified organic.

A theme running through Ayers Creek’s grains, legumes and vegetables is adaptation to our latitude, the 45th parallel. We look to maritime influenced regions such as the Bordeaux and Dordogne, Galicia in Spain, the Po River Valley, parts of the Danube Valley, and Hokkaido, Japan. We are not bound by such an analysis, but it is a useful vetting mechanism.

Our primary selection criterion is a bean that can be savored on its own, just a bit of salt and olive oil. Over the last 12 years, we have grown a wide diversity of dry beans; the beans below we deem worth growing. Cute stories and pretty color patterns don't carry much water with restaurants or habitual bean eaters; the flavor and texture are everything once it gets to the plate. 

We prefer soaking the beans overnight before cooking. The bean is a dormant, living plant. When you soak it, the plant opens up its toolkit of enzymes and starts to break apart the large protein and carbohydrate molecules that store its nutrients and energy. In our experience, soaking lends the bean a discernible sweetness and a smoother texture than just hamming things apart with heat. We treat soaking as an elegant step in the process rather than an inconvenience. However, with a good bean, it is best to cook it however you want. If the ritual of soaking irritates or crimps your style, relax and follow some other method and hammer away. Regardless, you are not affecting the nutritional value if you soak the beans, and toss out the soaking water.

The next day we drain them, add fresh water, bring to a boil and then simmer until tender. Time varies by variety and age of the bean. You can also add herbs, carrots, onions and celery to season the beans. If the dish calls for meat, we generally cook the beans in water first so they retain their own flavor. Avoid cooking beans in an acid liquid such as tomato sauce because they will not cook properly, remaining tough and grainy. It is fine to add salt whenever you want. We follow the late Judy Rodgers suggestion to salt the cooking water to taste. Refrigerate the beans in their cooking liquid.

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Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter November 16 2014 Market

Sarah West

I will have van loaded for tomorrow's Hillsdale Farmers' Market, set up with winter shoes in case of ice.  The market opens with the bell at 10:00 AM.

Monday, we processed most of the plum preserves, leaving just the green gage after Thanksgiving. The jar were still too hot to handle when Carol left for  Branchport, NY, perched at the tip of the middle finger lake, offering a few weeks of postpartum companionship for our daughter. 

The cold weather has forestalled plans to harvest greens, they are fine but are too delicate to handle. It is a waste of time to even try. Nonetheless, I will have fennel, spuds, sweet potatoes, knob celery, onions and black radish. A couple of other odds and ends as well.

I will also have on hand a splendid assortment of legumes and grains. Cayennes and pumpkin seeds as well. As noted earlier, there is a good selection of preserves ready.

Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

The Fat of The Land - Celeries

Sarah West

As a word, celery is delightful: smooth, translucent, bright, like the ample water its juicy bite unleashes. In today’s kitchens, celery is best known for its fibrous, overgrown stems, sliced into stock or slathered with peanut butter to mellow their robust flavor. In celery’s culinary history, those juicy, blanched stalks are an anomaly. Nearly every other part of the plant was used as medicine and (less commonly) food for thousands of years before the proverbial ants took a seat on the log and we shelved all but an inkling of celery.

The eternal background singer, few recipes feature celery outright, choosing its sturdy, harmonizing nature over the full aromatic experience. Celery, of course, is bitter and much of its breeding since the 1600’s, when European cooks began to recognize its culinary value, has been dedicated to taming that quality. Though in the United States we have sequestered our celery usage to almost exclusively the stalks, French cuisine in particular embraced a whole plant approach early on, using leaves, stalk, and root, a tradition that helped drive the development of different cultivars highlighting the best each of these plant segments have to offer.

Celery’s wild range circled the Mediterranean Sea. Called selinon by the ancient Greeks, it was of great medicinal and cultural importance, described often in literature as an esteemed wild plant. Winners of the Nemean Games (a sporting event held the years before and after the ancient Olympic Games) were presented with a wreath of wild celery. Garlands of selinon were commonly used to decorate the departed and wild celery had a symbolic connection to death; leaves and flowers of the plant were found in the tomb of Tutankhamen, suggesting the tradition was adopted from across the Sea.

This wild celery is known today as ‘smallage,’ a corruption of the Old French word for celery: ache (pronounced “ash”). Small ache became smallage, a word that now refers both to wild celery and a group of selected varieties also known as ‘cutting celery.’ Even cultivated smallage is only a sidestep from its wild origins; small plants (1-2 ft high) with narrow, often hollow stalks too fibrous to eat raw, and leaves that range from astringent to strongly aromatic. Not commonly eaten raw, smallage leaves are added to soups (a practice in both European and Asian cuisines), where the broth is used to mellow their bite with slow cooking or give a backbone to the refreshing zest of leaves added raw just before serving.

Perhaps no part of celery’s taxonomy is so revered as its root. Called knob celery, turnip-rooted celery, or, as we know it here, celeriac, the root is celery’s most accessible segment, which is ironic, because if the thought of a celery-flavored root vegetable doesn’t turn a shopper away, its bulbous, knotted appearance almost certainly will. While celeriac is a celery-flavored root, centuries of selection have unearthed a satiny, slightly nutty, mild-mannered, delightfully versatile celery-flavored root.

A French classic, celerie remoulade dresses fine slivers of raw celeriac in mustardy mayonnaise. Steamed and mashed, celeriac makes a creamy puree similar to mashed potatoes, or, when thinned with broth, a rich, elegant soup. Edible raw or cooked, celeriac is an alluring fall salad ingredient—one of the best preparations I’ve had was celeriac slightly steamed and dressed with hazelnut oil on a bed of butter lettuces. Leeks, shallots, and garlic make fine companions, as do herbs like thyme, sage, and smallage, creamy sauces, or nutty oils. Consider a salad of celeries: sliced celeriac, shaved stalks, and aromatic leaves. October is celeriac’s month, when they are pulled fresh from their long tenure in the soil (celeriacs at market now were planted in early spring). Though they will keep a few months in good storage conditions, they are their most refreshing now as our palates shift from sweet summer fruits to earthy autumn roots.

All parts of the celery plant have distinctive mineral coolness and an assertive aroma we tend to label medicinal. To me, their blend of flavors matches this season’s transitional nature: bright sun with a façade of warmth, turning cool in the shadows and cold after sunset. Celery starts with a punch then fades to an afterthought, but it’s the punch that gives the afterthought its flavor.

Sarah West is a gardener, eater and admirer of the agricultural arts. She gladly spends her Sundays as assistant manager of the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market, basking in the richness of its producers’ bounty and its community’s energy. Find archives and more at http://thefatofthelandblog.wordpress.com.

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter September 28 2014 Market

Sarah West

Verification I:

On the 18th of April our organic certifier visited the Ayers Creek for our annual inspection. Arriving at 9:30, he inspected our farm and our records without pause, finishing his closing interview at 2:15. Even though we have been through the process 15 times since 1999, it remains an intense experience. The application, submitted in March, articulated our organic farm management plan. After it was reviewed, an inspection was scheduled. The week before inspection, we make sure all of the records, seed packages, certifications and invoices are pulled together. All of the buildings, machines and fields must be open to inspection. The inspection fee is paid on the clock, so we try to make it as efficient as possible. No chit chat or lost keys, and niceties kept to the barest minimum. It is a serious matter because a cavalier decision or mistaken use of a substance will mean loss of certification of the crop or even the land for three years. By the time 2:15 rolled around, we were hungry and tired with a sense of evisceration. To our daughter who goes through the process at their Italy Hill Farm, we can say confidently that it never gets easier or smoother. We never talked to you about Santa either, did we?

Passing the review, inspection and audit allows us to carry the term "certified organic" on our labels and signs. Our second very important review and inspection comes when you all visit the farm on the ramble. We take it as seriously, and fret over details the week before. We are cognizant of the fact that if you are not satisfied with the way we farm, we could lose you as a customer. However, this inspection is much more comfortable because we can digress from the topic at hand and digest Linda Colwell's excellent food. This year's ramble will take place on the 12th of October, from 3:00 to 6:00 pm. Bring friends and family, along with sturdy shoes and a bee sting kit if you are allergic.  

As a reminder, in our irrational New England Blue Law rectitude, we have kept the ramble strictly noncommercial. We won't be selling anything. Please don't try to lead us astray, just enjoy the stay.

__________________________

This Sunday marks our last market at Hillsdale until the 16th of November. By design, our fresh produce kind of peters out by the end of September and we need to spend the next month planting grains and garlics, subsoiling the berry fields and orchard as time permits, moving the irrigation pumps up from the floodplain, and pulling in the corn, sweet potatoes and squash. When the bell rings at 10:00 AM, here is what we will have.

More legumes: Borlotto Gaston, zolfino, purgatorio, Dutch bullet, tarbesque, chickpeas and favas.

Grains: frikeh, hulless barley, popcorn and cornmeal.

Some greens, tomatillos and onions again. With rain, tomatoes are iffy, but we will do our best.

A nice haul of table grapes, and maybe some prunes.

Preserves. Finishing up the 2013 run. (When we return on November 16th, we will have close to a full complement, with some gift boxes as well.)

 

 

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Verification II:

This year, we will take a little over a ton of fruit, mix it with some sugar and fresh lemon, cook it up and put it into thousands of jars. Both Federal and Oregon laws mandate that we put a label on each individual jar. The law dictates what we put on the label and, as certified organic producers, we meet an additional set of label requirements under the National Organic Program. Labeling of processed food is neither optional nor voluntary. As really dinky players in the processing market, our labels cost more than the food giants, about 20 cents each, or around 3% of the jar's retail price. And it doesn't matter what we print on the label, the price per label mandated by law is the same. A simple fact.

This November, we will be voting for Measure 92 which adds the requirement that processors who use genetically modified ingredients must include that information on the already mandatory label. Same old label, just a bit more information. If it passes, processors like us will have a year to use up our old labels and print new ones that comply with the law. If, like us, they don't use genetically modified ingredients, nothing changes and we can use the old labels. Either way, adding a bit of text will not change the price of the label, nor the price of the food. 

The state's shrinking tabloid of record managed to get into a lather over Measure 92. Shamelessly cribbing from the industry's talking points, and without a shred of critical thinking, the editorial board repeats the notion that this is a mandatory label. No, it is an additional bit of information on an already mandatory label. They also repeat the industry's claim that it will confuse consumers and increase food prices. Obviously, if an ingredient is from a genetically modified crop and the label says so, it is hard to see how the consumer is confused. The hysteria in the larger food industry has nothing to do with consumer confusion; it is the fact that they fear consumers will use that label information to select products made with non-genetically modified ingredients, and that it will force down the price of products labelled as genetically modified. Certainly, as we noted above, adding that language to the label will not add to its cost in and of itself.

Proponents of genetic engineering hold out the promise of crops that will grow nutritious food with little or no water, or fertilizer, offering up a seductive cornucopia of environmental and nutritional benefits. If that were reality, the food companies would be tripping over themselves with extravagant green claims on their labels, touting their genetic prowess in solving the world's problems. The promises have failed to materialize, as the most recent effort shows. Last week, the USDA approved the use of crops that are genetically engineered to survive the application of one of the first commercially available herbicides, 2,4-D, released in the 1940s. Why? Because farmers have sloshed so much glyphosate (Round-Up) across the nation's farmland that weeds have become resistant to the herbicide, so they are bringing back an old herbicide in hopes of stemming the tide. This is dirty old chemistry, and that is why the companies are horrified at the thought of a label underscoring this sad reality. They will slosh a cocktail of the chemicals over the farmland and then come back asking for approval of another herbicide resistance factor.

So you are narrowing your eyes and getting ready to dismiss us as working in our self-interest as organic farmers. Quite to the contrary, the status quo benefits us directly because we have the USDA seal of approval for our GMO-free status. When you see the NOP sticker or "Certified Organic" on a label, that means our seeds are not genetically modified, and that claim is backed-up with inspections and audits through the chain of custody. On the face of it, our support of Measure 92 runs against our self-interest. However if people want to know if their food is grown from genetically modified plants and animals, why not tell them so? 

We will see you all Sunday, or for the Ramble on the 12th.

Carol & Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

Fat Of The Land - Fall

Sarah West

   

If summer is the extrovert and winter the introvert, fall and spring are the seasons when all bets are off, when every corner of our lives seems charged with purpose and possibility. Though we know fall is the beginning of the end in terms of tender garden plants and abundant vegetable harvests, it is so laden with bounty we may be forgiven for missing the first signs.

Before we called it autumn, this segment of late summer was known in English simply as ‘harvest.’ In an era without big box stores or large-scale farming, harvest was the portion of the year when that was all one did. For weeks on end, t’was the season to gather from the garden, the orchard, the fields and forests. Birds and squirrels in my garden follow the same age-old tradition of compulsive collecting, fattening themselves and their larders for the harsher days ahead. Their busy, sometimes irritating work enlivens the autumn garden with a sense of urgency.

And while the general trend in fall is a movement inward, to the outside observer, the world flares with color and exuberance. High and low pressure systems oscillate, bringing rain and wind one day, sun and crispness the next. Summer’s dust and haze are washed into wonderful focus. Deciduous leaves turn shades of yellow, red, orange, or brown, painting the ground with pools of color and filling the air with their chattering percussion.

Likely a shortening of phrases like “the fall of leaves,” and “the fall of the year,” fall is an old name for the season, one that came into common usage in the 1600’s as “harvest” phased out and “autumn” (of French origin) phased in. The terms fall and autumn followed colonists to the New World and remain interchangeable names for this season. Back in England, autumn took furtive hold, and ‘fall’ fell the way of ‘harvest.’

I’ve always liked to say fall—verb as season, like spring—as if through the trimming of our language we embraced the equinoxes’ transformative nature. Fall is a decline into winter, spring the rebound from it. Plants and leaves fall to the ground, the year falls to its close. And the gardener, too, wants to fall from the relentlessness of a garden in its prime.

And yet, when it comes time to cut back the summer plants, I always hesitate. Inevitably, there are tomatoes left unripe, basil with a few more leaves, pole beans still sputtering out pods. In my small garden, if I want to have winter vegetables, I must make a choice; to wait until the summer crops’ natural end means winter plants would start too late. So, in the span of an hour my summer garden falls into the compost, leaving bare soil and the certainty of seasons changed.

Though it appears that autumn brings death to the lushness of summer, its nature is more contractive than destructive. Leaves fall from the trees not because of sickness or frailty, but to preserve nutrients. When day length shortens to a certain number of hours, the woody stems of deciduous trees and shrubs begin to seal themselves at the point of attachment, cutting off nutrients to the leaves so they may keep a store of energy for spring growth.

Though the leaves are still attached, they no longer have access to the materials necessary to produce chlorophyll. As the leaf uses up its supply, its green begins to fade away. Orange and yellow carotenoids, present throughout the summer underneath chlorophyll’s pigmentation, suddenly become visible. Purple and red anthocyanins synthesize in the leaf’s changing chemistry, creating spectacular, glowing hues. Eventually, the leaves drop around the base of the tree and break down throughout winter, returning their minerals and nutrients to the soil and, over time, back to the tree itself.

Our lives go in as well. Like a tree, we gather what we can and leave the rest to winter’s decomposition. In spring, we look forward to abundance, imagining our bare gardens laden with food. Once the garden’s branches have been laden for a while, we imagine them gone, the work done, the squash roasting and a good book on the lap.

Sarah West is a gardener, eater and admirer of the agricultural arts. She gladly spends her Sundays as assistant manager of the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market, basking in the richness of its producers’ bounty and its community’s energy. Find archives and more at http://thefatofthelandblog.wordpress.com.


Where Good Food Comes From: Vegetable Variety Trials

Sarah West

By Sarah West

This fall and winter, we will explore where good food comes from: the net of institutions, organizations, and activism that helps keep our local food community robust.

As farmers’ market shoppers, we’ve come to know many of our foods by name. Gone are the days when a tomato was just a tomato; now we want Brandywine, Purple Calabash, Oregon Star. Anonymous berries just won’t do anymore and we wait in line for Chesters, Triple Crowns, or Hoods. We make the effort to remember these names because we remember the flavors that come with them.

A marketplace of flavor—of vegetables with names—is infinitely more exciting than one that focuses on appearance or price point alone. Diversity brings depth and possibility, along with the thrill of new discovery. Home cooks and chefs alike are attracted to novelty, the next charismatic flavor to inform and enliven their craft. Small farmers and seed breeders help to provide and create that diversity. Behind every choice you make at a farmer’s booth, there are a hundred other choices that have already been made not only regarding how to best cultivate and harvest a high quality vegetable, but how to choose which of a myriad possible varieties to grow and how to select for traits that will attract both farmers and eaters.

Our local OSU agricultural research station, NWREC (North Wilammette Research and Extension Center), has recently restarted an old tradition of public vegetable variety trials. Unlike the secretive work of seed breeders developing new (often patentable) varieties, a public trial consists of varieties already released (or near release) and its purpose is to compare attributes of similar plants. I recently attended an open field day at NWREC with a group of area growers to have a look at the crops and taste the differences. The one-acre site is planted in a patchwork of varieties and doubles as a learning garden for the center’s educational programs (including the excellent Growing Farms course that helps landowners evaluate and develop their small ag ambitions).

This year’s trials focused primarily on the Asian specialty market, with Thai basil, leaf celery, cilantro, yu choi, and gailan. We also got to taste a selection of soon-to-be released beets from breeders at the University of Wisconsin, and still-in-development mild habaneros, a project of OSU breeder Jim Myers.

While the majority of the varieties we tasted and discussed are not the newest releases, most farmers don’t have the time to grow out test plots to compare which leaf celery or cilantro performs best in our local climate. When a public institution (or non-profit organization like the Organic Seed Alliance) invests the time and acreage into trials such as this, it provides local farmers with valuable information that allows them to more efficiently grow and bring to market the best in quality and flavor. Such meetings provide the secondary benefit of gathering farmers to share their experiences and resources about specific crops.

   

Vegetable trials like NWREC’s are open-ended, designed to create a pool of information rather than definitive conclusions. The outcome of such a trial is the experience of seeing varieties side-by-side, tasting them one after the other to pinpoint why one stands out among the crowd. If you have ever tried comparing a pool of samples with a group of friends or coworkers, you know that there is rarely a consensus. A public vegetable trial such as this allows farmers and chefs access to the resources they need to make their own decisions.

   

Doing the slow work of finding out what grows (and sells) best is part of a farmer’s job, and our country has a long tradition of assisting them with development and field testing. Though almost all publicly funded breeding work assists commodity agriculture (and associated big businesses), a small fraction of that work is returning to its roots as a vehicle to enhance local food systems. In a scenario where money and market share are usually the guiding principles, a test plot of Thai basil starts to seem like a good omen for the future.

Farmers markets are a collection of businesses, a temporal grocery store where each shelf comes with a smiling face and a wealth of knowledge about the products they produce and sell. Weíre giving our vendors the spotlight to share more about their role in the Hillsdale market community.

 

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter September 21 2014 Market

Sarah West


The hillside wineries were aglow Monday evening as we made our way back from Elmira. They were scrambling to bring in and de-stem their grapes. We were bitten by the frenzy as well. Our freezers were full with no room for the autumn fruits such as prune, damson and grape, so we had to shift some fruit to Sweet Creek's big freezer. Unsure as to how much rain we would see, we harvested a large amount Wednesday, and Thursday we filling the freezers with plums and grapes. It took six of us about six hours to pit and de-stem the fruit. This year, the fruit is coming on very fast, and there is no room for a leisurely process. The Veepie grapes and Damsons were at their very best and we are looking forward to tasting the preserves. We have only a few cases of preserves left, so it good to fill the freezers for our kitchen time in late October.

Likewise, with the dry beans, almost half have been harvested and cleaned. We will have Borlotti Gaston and Purgatorios at market this week, along with chickpeas. Next week, we will have zolfinos and Dutch bullets. Although they mature and dry in the field, we always leave them on screen for a few days until they click brightly when we run our fingers through the tray. At that point, we feel secure bagging them.

We will bring favas, popcorn, cornmeal, frikeh and hulless barley. We also have a luxuriant patch of dill. Tomatoes and tomatillos.

We are also picking prunes for the market, including Pozegaca which is a famous Balkan prune used for slatko and slivovitz. The flavor is sharp and clean. The last of the mirabelles are coming in as well. Edward Bunyard's description of Coe's Golden Drop in The Anatomy of Dessert (1929) is unmatched: "At its best, it is a dull yellow green with strong frecklings of crimson, and at its ripest it is drunk rather than eaten; the skin is rather tough but between this and the stone floats an ineffable nectar." We will have just a few, another small bonus granted to us with an early harvest.

Friday, we pulled the onions and they are curing in the sun for winter storage. Soon the corn will be dry as well.

The partnership of Jackie Cain and the late Roy Kral remains an inspiration to us. They approached their craft with confidence and creativity, and on their own terms. Their music was of a kind, built on character rather than formula. Cain died Monday. If you get a chance, take a moment reach out into a cloud and listen to her. Maybe Sondheim's "The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues," summing up what one of us was suffering last week.

The Boutards - both of them
Ayers Creek Farm
Gaston, Oregon

 

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter September 14 2014

Sarah West

The bean harvest is now in full gear, and it will be the year of bean. Chicories and other winter greens are growing at a good pace. We will take a few hours off to stand about at Hillsdale Farmers Market. Hope you all come and keep us company.

No beans until next week, they still need cleaning and another few days to dry completely, but we will have good food otherwise.

Here is what we will have:
Tomatoes: Astianas for sauce and Striped German for slicers. With this warm weather, we will again have a good supply of the Astianas. Our fashionable new lugs arrived which will make it easier to haul your tomatoes from the market. Oh yes, Striped Germans will be on this week's menu.
Tomatillos - purple
Grains: Frikeh, barley and Amish Butter popcorn.
Fenugreek
Plums: German and Croatian prunes, mirabelle and golden gages.
Grapes: a mixture of celibate and fecund sorts. We will have Price, A Grape with No Name, Interlaken. The latter make very good raisins.
Preserves and, as usual, some other odds and ends.

Michael Abelman and his son Aaron stopped by Ayers Creek for a few days in late July 2004 as part of his Fields of Plenty project. Rereading the profile a decade later, it is striking how much things have changed, though fundamentally we are the same farm. The profile celebrated the summer here, but we already had one winter market season under our belt. That spring we learned that the combination of spring break, Easter and Passover can kill a market. Lowest gross we have ever had; when vendors leave their cash box unattended there is not much to say for the day. Also learned that we should grow horseradish. Somehow, black radish does not have the same allure as a bitter herb for the seder, much as we tried laud its many virtues. Our first planting of Roy's Calais flint corn was in the ground, and we were planning our orchard and vineyard.

After leaving Gaston, Michael visited Jennifer Greene's Windborne Farm in Scott Valley. There he fell in love with her old Allis Chalmers All Crop. It is a small combine pulled by a farm tractor. A combine gets its name because it combines the formerly separate tasks of cutting, threshing, and winnowing seed crops, including legumes and grains.

A couple months later he located a pair for sale in Canby, one apparently almost running and a decrepit example for parts. We went to see them with him, and it was clear the rose's bloom was withering as he paced around the two dusty, rusty hunks of machinery with their frayed belts, broken reel bats and rotting tires. We shared his reservations, even as he clung to the memory of Jennifer's machine and all it could do. The challenge of transporting the machines to Foxglove Farm on Salt Spring Island and repairing them dislodged the yearning.

Apparently, the pathos of the bedraggled machines and their potential gnawed at us. Not sure what exactly happened to dislodge us from our rational frame of mind, but we purchased them. The machine is boxy with most of its drives on the outside. Like Han Solo's Millennium Falcon, it is meant to be repaired on the fly with materials at hand. Not sleek or elegant, just enough of it to carry out the task well. Perhaps the idea opening up the list of crops we grow had some influence.

Other farmers with big machines speak admiringly of the All Crop, with its mixture of flexibility, simplicity and economy. Encouraging the endeavor, not emulating it, mind you. They take their old combines to the Banks demolition derby, not the shop. They are quite comfortable in their modern air-conditioned cabs with stereo and computer controls. In less than an hour, they can harvest more grain than the All Crop can in a day. However, their machines take a full day to clean between crops, and the All Crop is clean and greased in less than an hour.

Drawn to the machine, we forgot the first rule of purchasing equipment; turn over the engine to make sure it is operable. Apparently, someone tried to start the engine by using a lot of starter fluid (ether) which cleaned all the oil off the cylinder walls and the engine corroded solid. Neither Marvel Mystery Oil nor grease pumped into the cylinder would dislodge the corroded pistons. Perhaps we would have purchased it anyway, but it threw a disappointing money wrench into the works. The All Crop took a backseat to other projects until our daughter married Jonathan Hunt. In March 2008, he visited and helped strip down the machine. Later he found us an old driveshaft to replace the engine. Relentlessly, he peeled away the excuses for delaying and pushed us to get it running.

Restoring farm equipment as a show piece is very different from a functional restoration. We want the machine to operate for thousands of more hours reliably, so pulleys, shafts and bearings need cleaning and, if necessary, replaced. Rubber and wood parts likewise. Tom Yasnowski specializes in locating or replicating obsolete Allis Chalmers parts, supplying us with the belts and rubber parts that had disintegrated over the decades. The cylinder and concave chamber where the threshing of the seeds takes place needed a complete overhaul. Yasnowski supplied replacement rubber-faced bars for the cylinder and Dave Naumann at Ernst Hardware in St. Paul helped us locate a shop where the cylinder was balanced. It spins at high speed and balanced with modern equipment it runs as smooth as silk. Being an old piece of machinery, we deemed it acceptable to keep the bullet holes that appear when machines are unattended for a while in rural America.

We replaced upwards of 100 corroded bolts holding together the 10-foot long straw rack, and saturated the dry wood with linseed oil. The adjustable cleaning shoe is where the seed is separated from the chaff, the winnowing task. It had corroded in place making adjustments impossible, requiring several days of careful cleaning and lubrication, and a layer of linseed oil on the wooden parts.

A couple of weeks ago, Jon took his place on the bagger's platform where the seeds drop into sacks. We put in a couple of hours figuring out the fine points of combining chickpeas. As we tried to communicate over the roar of the tractor, the rattling of grain conveying chains, and the thrashing cylinder, I might have well have been communicating with a wookiee. It was great to see the patina of a working machine return, that fragrant, short-lived gloss from the resins of the plants. Some of you may have picked up on the fragrance in the barley, and it will be present in the chickpeas as well. There was a Queen Ann's Lace growing in the field, giving the grain a hint of wild carrot aroma. Thanks, Jon.

Carol

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter September 7 2014

Sarah West


Looks like fair weather for Sunday's Hillsdale farmers' Market. The bell rings at 10:00 AM.

Here is what we will have:

Tomatoes: Astianas for sauce and Striped German for slicers. With this warm weather, we will have a good supply of the Astianas.

Tomatillos - purple

Grains: Frikeh, barley and Amish Butter popcorn. If you want to make hominy from the Amish Butter for a pozole verde, we will have pickling lime available.

Fenugreek: this fragrant green (methi) is used for aloo methi and Persian green stews.

Plums: mirabelle and golden gages.

Grapes: a mixture of celibate and fecund sorts. We will have Price, A Grape with No Name, Interlaken and Jupiter. An incredible range of flavors.

Preserves, and probably some other odds and ends.
___________________________________________________________

"Ecce Edwardus Ursus scalis nunc tump-tump-tump occipite gradus pulsante post Christophorum Robinum descendens."

And so begins the story of Winnie-the-Pooh in the tongue of Virgil and Ovid, as translated by Alexander Lenard (E.P. Dutton 1960). As hard as it is to imagine anything but a living, vital language telling the tale of a stuffed bear, the faithful were challenged when Vatican II recommended delivering the Mass in the vernacular instead of Latin just five years after publication of Winnie Ille Pu. With Latin on the verge of dying, solace was found in the fact that new plant species were still described in Latin. That final bastion of life for the ancient language is now under siege, with some taxonomists proposing the use of English for botanical descriptions.

The language of the Mass must deal with love and hate, suffering and bliss, betrayal and redemption. Consequently its Latin is heavily salted with words derived from Greek, a language that handles those subjects well. Latin is the language of laws and strategy. In that respect, it is a fine language for the sciences. Botanical Latin is descriptive and of the present tense. Little need to worry about verbs anyway as the specimen is dry and taped to a herbarium sheet. Nonetheless, the naming of organisms can get a bit litigious. In a form of scientific primogeniture, the person who first publishes an account correctly describing and naming a plant prevails, no matter how wonderful, familiar, pertinent or worthy subsequent names are. So there is a breed of scientists who make it life's work to shake up the existing order.

Such is the case of the tomatillo. The great French scientist, Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamark published a description of the plant, naming it Physalis pennsylvanica. His Portuguese contemporary, Félix de Avelar Brotero gave it the name Physalis ixocarpa at approximately the same time. Both names have been used over time, but Brotero was a nose too late in the opinion of the modern publications department. So this lovely fruit, essential to Central American cooking and largely ignored in the Northeastern United States, is named after a state where it has no substantive connection. With such a fancy name, your would think the Chevalier would have been a bit more creative. An essential part of Mexican cooking is stuck with the name of the cheesesteak's home.

Brotero's epithet, ixocarpa, on the other hand, is an intriguing fusion of Greek and Latin. Most cookbook authors and gardeners dully repeat that it means "sticky fruit" without further inquiry. In Latin, carpa means fruit, that's true. The ixo is a bit more of a puzzle. In neither Latin nor Greek, does it correspond to the word "sticky." In fact, the letter x is not a Roman letter per se; it is a number. In our alphabet, it can represent one of two Greek letters, xi or chi. Brotero's x works both ways.

Using the Greek character xi, it is the prefix to a complex of words referring to birdlime. This sticky substance was rendered from the bark of holly or the berries of mistletoe, and smeared on the branch of trees where birds roosted. They were then captured by the likes of Mozart's bird catcher, Papageno, and sold for food or ornament. The name comes obliquely to sticky, but arrives well.

If we treat it as the character chi instead, the word is a prefix to a complex of words referring to fish, notably dried fish skin, or a basket for carrying fish or trapping fish. The husk is certainly reminiscent of dried fish skin, and when the soft tissue of the husk and fruit rot away, leaving just the vascular tissue, it forms a basket containing the seeds that look just like so many fish in a carrying basket or fish tap. The wind blows these little baskets around the farm and, as they roll about, the seeds drop out bit by bit.

The husk develops from the base of the sepals. When the flower is pollinated, the yellow petals fall off and a special growth tissue, or meristem, at the base of the sepals starts to grow. It keeps pace with the developing fruit inside until just before ripening. The ripe fruit tears through the husk, at which point it is ripe. Zenón refers to it as taking its shirt off, and that is when they are best harvested. If they fall to the ground, they are deemed ripe as well. As he puts it, the fruit is essentially sharp-flavored, but it should have a distinct sweetness along side the acidity.

Having tried the Brand X tomatillos and being fundamentally New Englanders, we were leery of the fruit initially. With staff's expert guidance, we now feel comfortable with tomatillos. For sauces, we use tomatillos both raw and cooked. They are a basic ingredient in a pozole verde, and we roast them with other vegetables. Staff have a strong preference for the purple types which are more flavorful. That's helped assuage our leeriness as well. They also taught us to keep the fruits in a dry place, where they will last in good shape until March. In fact, purple fruits that last until March are the two primary selection criteria for seed production.

Both born in 1744, Lamarck and Brotero contributed a great deal to science. Lamarck is worth a special note because he was one of the earliest scientists to question the immutability of species, and suggest that organisms could change over time, a process later called evolution. His proposed mechanism was mocked and ultimately dismissed in favor of Darwin's theory of natural selection. As we understand the evolutionary process better, Lamarck's ideas have gained greater respect. Nonetheless he will still have the albatross of naming a great Mexican fruit after the America's cheesesteak capitol hanging around his neck.

We will see you all Sunday,

Carol and Anthony Boutard