Food Solutions New England

Food Solutions New England has prepared a vision for New England agriculture that would have us producing 50% of our food by 2060, with self-sufficiency in dairy production and near self sufficiency in vegetables . . and no one going hungry:

Discussion of “Food Most Feasible for New England to Produce” interesting (p.19+)

“No one can predict the future but it is worth knowing that, if pressed, New England could probably produce two-thirds of its own food.”

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As Local As It Gets!

According to the National Gardening Association, when the crocuses are in flower, its time to plant the seeds of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, onion sets and seeds, peas, potatoes, radish, rutabaga, shallots, spinach, and turnip. Finally! Our home grown food is as LOCAL as it gets.

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Herbs-from-the-Garden Crackers

Today’s Valley News had Carol Egbert’s recipe for homemade crackers with a suggestion to try different herbs. I had dried sage, rosemary and thyme from the garden as well as dried hot peppers . . . why not give it a go?

Carol Egbert’s Saltine Crackers

2 cups all-purpose flour (Note: I used 1 cup Beidler Family Farm whole wheat flour and 1 cup King Arthur All-Purpose)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (Note: the crackers were too salty for my taste – I’d use 1/4 tsp next time)

1⁄3 cup vegetable oil (I used olive oil- it would be fun to try Cedar Circle sunflower oil when it is next available)

2⁄3 cup warm water

1 local egg white, beaten

additional kosher salt to finish crackers

Carol Wrote:”I use a whisk to blend together the flour, baking powder and kosher salt in a mixing bowl. I stir the vegetable oil and water into the flour mixture to make soft but not sticky dough.

I put one quarter of the dough onto a cookie sheet that has been lightly oiled and use a small rolling pin to roll the dough into a large square, paint on a thin glaze of beaten egg white with a pastry brush, sprinkle the dough with a small amount of kosher salt and finally, prick the dough with a fork to keep the crackers from rising. The crackers are ready to be baked for 10 minutes in an oven that has been preheated to 400 degrees. Cool and re-oil the baking sheet between batches.”

My favorites were the rosemary and the sage. I’d go easy on the salt next time. It would be fun to make these crackers and serve them with gazpacho next summer . . or with homemade tomato soup today!

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Hartland Seed Library

On a freezing, snow-covered Saturday morning in early January, the Hartland Community Connections breakfast brought Hartland residents together to talk about seeds and the proposed Hartland Seed Library

The goal of the Seed Library, initiated by Hartland Library’s Director, Amy Wisehart, is to support and encourage seed saving efforts in the Hartland community. Vegetable seeds will be available to “check out” for the growing season. The first year will focus on open-pollinated lettuce, beans, peas, and tomatoes, all of which are relatively easy for beginning seed savers. Participants will save seed from some of the crops they grow to return to the library at the end of the season. The Library will offer educational support, including pamphlets, books and workshops, to help beginning seed savers.

There is a growing movement to re-localize and reclaim stewardship of seed production. Seed diversity is being lost as large seed companies have come to increasingly dominate and monopolize the seed market. The practice of seed saving encourages greater self-sufficiency and community resilience, and enables us to adapt to a changing climate and to localize our seeds for best results in our region. Hartland seed-saver Sylvia Davatz says it is empowering and addictive!

Response from breakfast attendees was enthusiastic with lots of questions and suggestions. Many asked for a workshop on building healthy soils. Both Brian Stoffolino (Oak Wood Farm, N. Hartland) and Jaxson Morgan, Hartland Community Connections Director) suggested a harvest potluck for sharing experiences, threshing seeds, and further building this community of seed savers. Sylvia welcomed those who are interested to attend a meeting of the Upper Valley Seed Savers on January 9, 2014 at 5:00 pm. at the Upper Valley Food Co-op in White River, VT. She also recommended “Seed to Seed” as a great resource for those interested in saving seeds.

What a wonderful way to build community, increase local resilience . . . and re-use all those outdated library card catalogs!

For info on established seed libraries see: (Concord, MA) (a Colorado Library) Richmond, CA Pima, Arizona

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Whole Wheat Butternut Squash Pancakes – Spicy and Delicious!

This morning was frosty with new-fallen snow . . . a perfect morning for the comfort of these delicious pancakes. . . which are my new all-time favorite pancakes!

Whole Wheat Butternut Squash Pancakes

serves 2-3

1/2 cup + 2 T Local whole wheat flour (I used Beidler Farm flour from the Leb Co-op)

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 cup local milk

1 local egg

1 T melted local butter

1/3 cup roasted and mashed local butternut squash (or pumpkin)
In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. In another bowl, combine the egg, melted butter, milk and squash. Mix well. Add wet to dry and fold together, being careful not to over-mix the batter.

Let the batter rest five minutes.

Cook on a medium hot skillet and flip when the pancake has bubbles all over. Serve with warm local maple syrup and butter. What a great northern New England winter breakfast treat!

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PYO Blueberries!

Super Acres Blueberries Economies of scale make it hard for small farms to compete with large-scale farming. One way small farms can compete is by offering Pick-Your-Own opportunities whereby the customer provides the labor. Yesterday, a friend and I picked our own at Super Acres Blueberries in Lyme, NH. It was a beautiful day and the berries were bountiful. Young mothers with their children, grandparents and grandchildren, visitors from afar, folks with their dogs, all were picking and munching amongst more than a thousand unsprayed high-bush blueberries. The Super family encourages folks to bring picnics, and they provide lots of Adirondack chairs for resting and enjoying the scene. Instructions are simple: 1. Pick, 2. Weigh. 3. Pay. (The money goes in a slot so one needs to bring the right change or pay by check.) Buckets for picking are provided as are pint boxes for carrying blueberries home. $2.50/pound and delicious!

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Tour of Sylvia Davatz’ Garden, Hartland, VT

Sylvia's Garden

One of Sylvia’s Gardens

Today there was a wonderful tour of Sylvia Davatz’ organic garden in Hartland VT, organized by Chris Jacobson of the Upper Valley Food Co-op. Sylvia is a seed saver experimenting with different grains and vegetables with an eye to the tastiest, hardiest, season-extending varieties that can be grown in Upper Valley home gardens. She is also moving toward a permaculture – plants such as asparagus, berries, kiwi, pawpaws, perennial rye, that will come back year after year.

She grows over 200 varieties of plants: different beans, peas, greens, peanuts, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, rice, wheat, barley, rye, spelt, amaranth, beets, corn (both flint and popcorn), cabbages, carrots, herbs, etc., some for eating, and much is for the seeds. Sylvia sells her seeds through her Solstice Seed catalog and has begun offering a course on seed-saving.

Sylvia explaining self-pollination vs cross-pollination

Sylvia explaining self-pollination vs cross-pollination

Because peas self-pollinate, Sylvia can plant different varieties near each other. With plants that cross-pollinate, varieties must be kept far from each other, or must be planted such that they flower at different times. Sometimes, to keep seeds pure, only one variety can be planted in any given year.

* A tip from Sylvia for gardeners with deer problems: She has found Liquid Fence to be a safe and effective deer deterrent. (It is made from rotten eggs, garlic, kelp, lime juice, etc. For a full list of ingredients see

The tour included an excellent lunch prepared by Chris Jacobson; it was delicious, healthy, and beautiful to behold! (I love that one of the participants took home the used, biodegradable, palm-leaf plates to use as stepping stones in her garden!)

Delicious lunch: Spring rolls with peanut sauce, red cabbage-sesame seed salad, and juicy ripe cantaloupe

Delicious lunch: Spring rolls with peanut sauce, red cabbage-sesame seed salad, and juicy ripe cantaloupe





Perennial Rye

Perennial Rye



Wheat drying in the solar-powered greenhouse

Wheat drying in the solar-powered greenhouse





Unlike New Zealand kiwis, Sylvia’s have no fuzz, are small, and very sweet – just pop them in your mouth. Getting the kiwis to fruit was a challenge since her male kiwi did not flower and, with kiwis, it takes two to tango. Luckily, Tina Barney, another Hartland permaculturist, had a flowering male kiwi and brought a few branches with flowers to prop by Sylvia’s female – success!

Sylvia does all kinds of experimenting – here is a very effective, recyclable broom she made from broom corn, hemp, and a stick.

A tour of Sylvia’s garden makes me grateful that we have this curious, motivated, and persevering gardener in our midst who is willing to do the hard work of finding the tastiest, most reliable, and most productive varieties of foods that can be grown in our Upper Valley area, helping to move us along the road to greater food-self-reliance. Many thanks to Sylvia for welcoming us into her garden and to Chris Jacobson for organizing this tour . . . and making our delicious lunch!

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