April 09

Recession Hits Farms Hard—Local Needs Help

What now?

Farming is all about investment. In the past, when it seemed we could, we coasted. With farm costs roughly balanced against income; with my off-farm job providing a financial cushion, and with the strong support of community, we’ve been able to subsidize the farm’s work, my teaching and educational work here at the farm, and infrastructure maintenance. As I synopsized in my 09 “Bacon Bucks” kick off, the last months of ’08, and early ’09 have shifted that balance. The casual “What now?”, “Where do we go from here?” take a grave tone.

Food System Fails to Give Us Good Food

These times present a lot of fodder for speculation. I’m clear. As a farmer, as an agrarian, as a member of my community; as a caregiver, mentor, nurturer, I must bank on the future. Food and responsibility to the next generation are not optional. It is not cheaper, smarter, more economical, ecological, or more nutritious for us to rely on food from Maryland, South Carolina, Florida, California, Mexico, Chile, China! And that’s why we’ll plant this year. Especially this year! And we’ll plant as much as we possibly can so that apprentices, interns and students can learn and experience the skills, knowledge and realities of a life connected to the land; they can learn and experience the primal satisfaction, creativity and joy of good, clean and fair work. We’ll plant as much as we can because the availability of clean food in today’s world is at risk. (You’re familiar with the industrial food system’s recalls of the past couple of years: beef, spinach, peanut butter, etc.—what next? That system has failed us miserably and continues to do so at an ever increasing rate.) We’ll plant now so that May through October and beyond we’ll have fresh nutritious, succulent greens, squashes, beans, corn, tomatoes, and other fruits and veggies for you and us. We’re planting even more this year because the cost of food may rise sharply and supply fall as 50% fewer acres are planted by agribusinesses as a result of the financial mess, global warming, and sparse resources. (Resources like water—California has declared a drought state and the feds have significantly reduced ’09 allocations to California agriculture, producer of 25% of US food.) We’ll plant this year because it’s the right thing to do. And we’ll continue to teach as much as we can about a trustworthy, clean, healthy food system.

A Local Food System Is Ours

Yes, we’re scaling up everything, to the limits of our ability, to do our part to support the growth of a local food system. You should too. If you’re a customer of ours, please join our Community Supported Agriculture program, become a member of our farm. If you’re not near here, find a CSA and join it, and encourage your neighbors and friends to do the same! (Type in your zip code at localharvest.org) I’m hearing the same story from lots of small farmers: we’re on the edge and we’re having a difficult time getting through. If our local farms fail, we’ll all suffer. BUY LOCAL! Plan for a secure, healthy food supply that supports our community.

Berkshares and Moon In The Pond “Bacon Bucks”

Moon In The Pond “Bacon Bucks” purchased using Berkshares (berkshares.org) together increase your support of our community and initially save you 5%. On top of that we will give you an additional 5% off when you purchase Bacon Bucks at Tiller ($500), Planter ($1000) and Grower levels ($1500) with Berkshares for a total discount of a 10% discount. Also as a member of Moon In The Pond Farm you receive a membership gift on joining, (click here to continue reading).

From MITP’s Farm School Apprentices

Nutrient Dense Foods at Moon In The Pond (NDF@MITP)

In Wild Fermentation, fermented-food enthusiast Sandor Ellix Katz tells us that microscopic creatures including bacteria and fungi “digest food into nutrients our bodies can absorb, protect us from potentially dangerous organisms, and teach our immune systems how to function.”   His statement could easily refer to the role that microorganisms play in healthy soil and healthy crops.  When the soil is healthy, the crops are healthy.  When crops are healthy, they are more nutritious and they taste better.  Here on the farm, I am drawing on my background in ecology and biology to help us devise smart and sustainable ways to increase the health of our soils and the nutrient-density of our produce. (JB)

Baking Bread

Speaking of Wild Fermentation, we’ve been baking a lot of sourdough bread in our kitchen.  The whole wheat bread flour we use is produced from hard red spring wheat grown at Lightning Tree Farm and milled at Wild Hive Bakery, both near Millbrook, NY.  If you’ve considered baking bread but haven’t gotten around to it, start baking.  It’s much simpler than you might expect.  After a couple of tries I felt like a pro.  And I love the amazing smell of baking bread filling the kitchen; the absolutely delicious fresh hefty organic loaves and only about two bucks each—cheaper than anything you can buy.  Plus there’s nothing like our own Moon In The Pond liverwurst and sauerkraut, on home-baked sourdough bread! (JB)

New Hampshire Historic Breed Chickens

You may have noticed we didn’t have chicken or duck eggs in fall and winter.  Thankfully, daylight and eggs are back in good supply, but for next year we have are minds geared toward improving our ability to produce eggs. So, next winter we will be raising a new flock that was historically bred to be more prolific winter egg layers: New Hampshire Reds.  In keeping with our mission, N.H. Reds are a rare breed with a long history in New England that’s in need of conservation.  The Reds fit sustainable farming’s chicken requirements: 1.) dual purpose—eggs and meat, 2.) ability to forage well on pasture and 3.) ability to reproduce naturally.  In the meantime our aging Speckled Sussex flock will provide eggs for this season and hatching eggs for our incubator.  Come mid-summer we’ll have truly local broiler chickens: from our laying flock, to our incubator, to our fields, and to your table! (MH)

Narragansett Turkeys Return to MITP

Because of the great demand (last year we got dozens of calls), we are resuming turkey rearing. Narragansett, a beautiful historic breed, has its origins in nearby RI and is exceedingly rare and in need of conservation. As with all our livestock, they’ll be raised on pasture so the meat will be extraordinarily delicious. 50 poults (baby birds) have arrived and will be an exciting addition to the sheep and dairy cows in our green summer fields. We are delighted to be part of their recovery to sustainable production.

We are asking folks that are interested in a 2009 holiday turkey to help us bear some of the start-up costs by securing theirs now with a $50 deposit. (The day old poults alone cost us about $10 each!) To order now click here: NARRAGANSETT TURKEY ORDER. (Pick-up at the farm Tues., 11/24) (AW)

Terra Madre

Last October I was again an honored US delegate at Slow Food’s producer conference, Terra Madre.  I not only represented my work as a producer, but also as an educator. I was asked to speak to the U.S. delegation: 800 producers, chefs and youth delegates. I was excited to be able to acknowledge mentors and new young farmers. You can read the transcript of my talk here or watch the video .

Terra Madre was again an absolutely amazing opportunity to network with slow food producers and enthusiasts from all over the world and, as always, fantastically energizing and inspiring.

After Sam’s entrance to the Slow Food national stage in San Francisco, he was asked to represent the energy of his generation of the worldwide SF Youth Movement by speaking at the opening ceremonies of Terra Madre. In Sam’s extraordinary address to the international assembly of more than 8,000 people from 150 countries, he told his story again to a cheering crowd. Sam has become a Slow Food celebrity and continues to challenge us all (as he did in January on the SF, USA blog).

After the conference in Turin, I travelled to Tuscany to Tenuta di Paganico, where I established strong connections with an organic farm that specializes in Italian heritage breed livestock, holds a lot of the same values as I do, and with which we will have a student exchange program.

In Our Community

Bre Goes to Wolfe Spring Farm

We are delighted that another family is enjoying the excitement of milk from their own cow.  Our Normandie cow, Bre, moved last fall to the farm of our friends the Wolfes at Wolfe Spring Farm on Hewins St. in Sheffield.


Kashmiri Goat Stew. From my favorite Indian chef, Madhur Jaffrey. This dish is published for lamb but works beautifully with MITP capretto stew meat. The recipe is simple, yet exquisitely exotic—whenever I’ve made this people go nuts for it!

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