Kingdom Farm and Food Days August 22, 23, and 24

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Log Cabin Farm alpacas in East Albany will offer tours.

Log Cabin Farm alpacas in East Albany will offer tours.

Kingdom Farm and Food Days are coming up August 22, 23, and 24 with chances to tour farms, take workshops, taste local foods at area restaurants, visit an apple orchard, ride on a hay wagon, and much more. The public is invited to celebrate with a farm-to-table dinner and bonfire at the end of the weekend.

Three days of festivities about local food will be put on by the Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick, High Mowing Organic Seeds in Wolcott, Pete’s Greens in Craftsbury, Sterling College in Craftsbury, New England Culinary Institute (NECI) in Montpelier, Northeast Kingdom Travel and Tourism Association in East Burke, Eden Ice Cider in Charleston and Newport, Caledonia Spirits in Hardwick, and Green Mountain Farm to School in Newport.

All the events are free and open to the public. Anyone can participate in any one activity or all of them.

Kingdom Farm and Food Days kicks off Friday, August 22, with tours of llama and alpaca farms, including the Agape Hill Farm in Hardwick and the Log Cabin Alpaca Farm in East Albany. The Hardwick Farmers Market at Atkins Field on Granite Street in Hardwick is open on Friday afternoon from 3 to 6 p.m.

Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. the Craftsbury Farmers Market is open for business on Craftsbury Common. Children’s gardening activities with Green Mountain Farm to School are on the agenda at Craftsbury Academy School Gardens that morning and, starting at 11 a.m., Pete’s Greens will offer tours and hay rides. Saturday afternoon, from 3:30 to 5:30, Sterling College will offer tours and workshops. Pizza making in an outdoor oven is on the agenda. Saturday evening, discounts will be offered at area restaurants for participants in the Kingdom Farm and Food Days events.

Sunday morning kicks off at 10 a.m. with a visit to the Eden Ice Cider orchard in Charleston, where people can tour a biodynamic organic apple orchard. From 1 to 4 p.m., High Mowing Organic Seeds will host field days and workshops. NECI will put on a dinner at High Mowing Seeds starting a 4:30 p.m., and everyone is invited to a bonfire afterward.

For more information, please see the Kingdom Farm and Food Days website kingdomfarmandfood.org. — from the Center for an Agricultural Economy.

For more things to do, see our Events page.

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Brown’s life made on the water, in the woods

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The cover photo for On Northern Waters is of Lana Hill and David Birdsall on the Winisk River in Ontario in 1985.  David Brown took most of the photos in the book, but a few were taken of him by his companions.

The cover photo for On Northern Waters is of Lana Hill and David Birdsall on the Winisk River in Ontario in 1985. David Brown took most of the photos in the book, but a few were taken of him by his companions.

copyright the Chronicle June 11, 2014

by Bethany M. Dunbar

For those who love the wilderness, northern Quebec and Labrador are close enough to be enticing. On Northern Waters, by Dave Brown of Craftsbury, will take you there vicariously if the complications of backwoods canoe travel seem daunting. Watch out — it might spark the desire to experience these far northern places into an overwhelming craving. Mr. Brown hopes so.

The large format (11 by 13 inches) hardcover book is a collection of photos of 40 years of such trips, with an essay for each chapter. Mr. Brown created the book himself in the same way he creates wooden bowls, his home, and his furniture. He figured out how it was done, and then he did it, with quality as a goal instead of quantity. Continue reading

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Sterling College hosts Governor’s Institute on Farms, Food and Your Future

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High school student Toby Marx-Dunn of Jericho attempts to plow a straight furrow under the guidance of Sterling College draft horse manager Rick Thomas (at left), while Sterling students Lee Droste (at right) and Dave Martorana (immediately to the right of Mr. Marx-Dunn) help with the animals.  Sterling hosted the first Governor’s Institute on Farms, Food, and Your Future.  Photos by Bethany M. Dunbar

High school student Toby Marx-Dunn of Jericho attempts to plow a straight furrow under the guidance of Sterling College draft horse manager Rick Thomas (at left), while Sterling students Lee Droste (at right) and Dave Martorana (immediately to the right of Mr. Marx-Dunn) help with the animals. Sterling hosted the first Governor’s Institute on Farms, Food, and Your Future. Photos by Bethany M. Dunbar

by Bethany M. Dunbar

CRAFTSBURY COMMON — Toby Marx-Dunn, a high school student from Jericho, was listening to National Public Radio one day, and it got him thinking about the food he eats.  He decided he wanted to know more and get better, healthier food.  This impulse led him to sign up for a brand new summer Governor’s Institutes of Vermont — one called Farms, Food and Your Future.

Last week the impulse left him standing behind the back ends of a pair of large, patient workhorses in a farm field at Sterling College.

Sterling was one of the hosts of this year’s institute, the first one to focus on these subjects.  Mr. Marx-Dunn seems to be not alone in his impulse, judging by admissions numbers at Sterling.  Last year the college — which teaches sustainable agriculture and food-related topics — had about 90 students.  This fall the doors will open to a full class of 110.  Tim Patterson, director of admissions and financial aid, said the dorms are full.

The Governor’s institutes are residencies for high school students with accelerated learning on college campuses in specific subject areas.  This year’s institutes included ones on the arts, engineering, information technology, mathematics, and Asian cultures.

On Wednesday, July 31, Toby Marx-Dunn picked up the handles of a plow behind two big horses named Daisy and Rexi.  His new job was to try to make the thing go straight.

“It doesn’t go straight by itself,” he reported shortly after plowing his very first two furrows.  Asked if it was fun, he said vehemently, “No.”

Not fun, Mr. Marx-Dunn explained, because it’s much harder than it looks.

Even so, Mr. Marx-Dunn and a dozen other high schoolers did get the basics on how fields are plowed, and why good soil is important, and how Sterling plans to enrich the soil on the particular field they were plowing that day.  Draft horse manager Rick Thomas explained that plows can only dig so deep, and the soil was hard below the furrow.  In order to loosen it up and add some organic matter to the hardpan, they would plant daikon radishes as a cover crop.  These radishes grow fast and have deep roots.

High school students at the Governor’s Institute on Farms, Food and Your Future walk through the turkey pen to see the pasture at Sterling College in Craftsbury.

High school students at the Governor’s Institute on Farms, Food and Your Future walk through the turkey pen to see the pasture at Sterling College in Craftsbury.

Also that day, the students met a flock of young turkeys destined for a flock of Thanksgiving tables, and they learned about the difficulty of growing turkeys to the right weight, why pasture is good for them and why they are good for pasture, and a little about heritage breeds.

Sterling raises 1,000 birds a year on its farm.  The young turkey poults the students saw that day had already grown 12 pounds in a month and a half, so the farm manager explained they would have to be processed and frozen well before Thanksgiving, so they would not be too big to fit into a regular oven.

In between these outdoor adventures, the students heard about how the cafeteria works at Sterling College.

The college grows 20 percent of its own food, and 44 percent of the food in the cafeteria is grown on local farms.  Faculty, staff, and students all eat together and each helps with the work of putting that food onto the tables.

Anne Obelnicki, director of food systems, explained to the group that last year the college grew 760 pounds of rutabagas and because of the skill of cooks at Sterling, no one got sick of rutabaga.  She said they used it in all sorts of unusual ways, even mashed as an ingredient in cake.

“I think that deliciousness is part of sustainability,” she said.  If the food doesn’t taste good, people won’t keep eating it.

She said another part of sustainability is making the food affordable.

“The food at Sterling doesn’t cost any more than at any other college,” she said.  She said people are always saying local food is more expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.  Sterling has great cooks, she said, who can make a delicious meal out of rice and beans, for example.

Ms. Obelnicki passed out free samples of salami made at Sterling, which she explained is made with raw meat and bacteria so it will ferment.

At Sterling, she said, “We don’t just eat to eat.  We eat because we’re trying to live our education here.”

Ms. Obelnicki said students at some colleges have started a “real food” challenge.  They go into their college cafeterias and start asking questions about how much of the food is local, organic, and fair trade.  If a series of questions can be answered in the affirmative, she said, the food can be called real.  The students who came up with the idea set a goal, she said, “Let’s get real food into our college — 20 percent by 2020.”

Under these guidelines, Sterling’s cafeteria has about 70 percent real food, one of the highest percentages in the country.

Jonathan Kaplan, lead faculty for the Governor’s Institute on Farms, Food, and Your Future, teaches biology and history at Lyndon State College.  He is a former state advisor for the Future Farmers of America (FFA).  Lyndon State is also a participant in the real food challenge.

After hearing Ms. Obelnicki’s discussion of Sterling’s food system, he told the students they might want to take that real food challenge back home with them.

“There’s nothing stopping you from going back to your high school and making this happen,” he said.

Christian Feuerstein, director of communications for Sterling, noted the college now offers minors in draft horse management, climate justice, and sustainable food systems.

contact Bethany M. Dunbar at bethany@bartonchronicle.com

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