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Wonderful Winterfares

Northampton Winterfare

In the February/March issue of Organic Gardening magazine, Gordon Hayward who gardens in Vermont, talks about our ‘food shed.’ I know about watersheds, that protect the quality of our water, and was amused when I heard people talk about their ‘view sheds’ the landscape view they enjoyed from their house, but I had never heard the term ‘food shed.”

However, aware as I am of the 100 mile diet, I should have realized the term put me on familiar ground. Hayward quotes Cornell University’s definition of food shed as “a geographic area that supplies a population with food.”

With all the recent talk about national security, especially airport security, there is not so much talk about ‘food security.’ Fortunately, because of our food shed, we in this region are enjoying substantial food security; we could feed ourselves very well indeed, even if there were some catastrophic event that kept the refrigerator trucks from California making it all the way to western Massachusetts.

This blessing of this security was brought home to me last year when I attended the Second Annual Winterfare  Farmer’s Market at Greenfield High School. It is one thing to have a garden and even know that the farmstands are full of wonderful fresh produce in the summer and fall, but I was amazed at how much fresh produce is available locally during deep mid-winter. Granted, many of the farmers were selling frozen meat, potatoes, squash and all manner or root crops like beets and carrots which can be harvested in fall and stored properly for use during the winter, but some farmers had beautiful lettuces and other greens that are such a luxury during the winter.

I could hardly carry away my share of the bounty which included not only vegetables like tender greens from Red Fire Farm, but Clarkdale apples and cider, Hillman Farm cheese, El Jardin bread,  Warm Colors Apiary raspberry honey, and Real Pickles. Our food shed is varied and delicious.

Seeing so many people giving of their time and energy to put on this terrific event made me determined to do my share this year. Whether you attend the Northampton Winterfare today from 10 AM to 2 PM at Smith Vocational School or the Greenfield Winterfare on Saturday, February 6 at Greenfield High School I will be on hand to demonstrate the growing of sprouts.

Sprouts are the most local of food crops. Mine grow on the counter next to the kitchen sink.  To increase my experience with sprouting  I sprouted wheat for the first time. When I visited Cliff Hatch, and his daughter Sorrel, at Upinngil during the summer I bought a couple of bags of wheat berries. They have been waiting patiently for me to learn to make wheatberry salad, and this workshop prompted me to try sprouting them. I even bought  a hemp and flax Sproutbag at Green Fields Market to expand my horizons further.

The information sheet that came with the Sproutbag said that it was better than a Mason jar for sprouting wheat and other grains as well as beans. And here I thought I was just doing my best for the consumer economy.

I will bring my sprouted wheat bread to Winterfare, along with salad sprouts in Mason jars in two different stages for those who may not be familiar with the process and not realize how easy it is.

The magical thing about sprouts is that in the process of sprouting the nutritional value of the seed shoots up, increasing the amount and number of vitamins A, B complex, C and E. The amount of protein and fiber also increase. What is not mysterious is that none of this nutritional value is lost because it develops on the kitchen counter and is eaten in that same kitchen. There is no nutritional loss as when vegetables are shipped from far away, and of course, no gas or oil are used for transportation.

My presentation is only one of several presentations being offered today. There will be information about canning, how to store root and other crops for winter use, how to make your own nut milk and how to make cheese.

Those who have a surfeit of jam or any kind of good produce can bring them along to the barter session.

CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) is a sponsor of Winterfare. Logon to their website, www.buylocalfood.org or www.winterfare.org  for full details. I hope to see you there – or in Greenfield.

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I heard from Daniel Botkin after my article about Laughing Dog Farm last week. I said that his goat bedding and manure could be used fresh on the garden and didn’t need to be composted like my chicken manure. Goat manure is not hot like chicken manure but he wanted to make this clarification:: “The goat manure, although it is more readily usable for organic gardening (because 1.) it is pelletized 2) it is pre-mixed with hay and 3) it breaks down much faster than most, more dense, anaerobic “slop” manures), it is still not safe around ripening food crops and never goes near any edible or soon to be edible plant parts when fresh. I do apply it fresh around trees, shrubs and as sheet mulch on fallow, non-edible landscapes.”

Thank you, Daniel.

Between the Rows   January9, 2009

3 comments to Wonderful Winterfares

  • Lisa at Greenbow

    Mmmm I love sprouts but I have never made them myself.

  • JP

    Living in Vermont, we actually struggle to have great winter markets like yours in Northhampton, although it’s a hot topic. I think population density is a real factor. For a farm to invest in freezer space that can carry their harvest into the cold season means that they need a guarantee of sales, usually to stores and restaurants as well as directly to consumers. So, only the bigger cities have great variety, the rest of us struggle to put on a strong market. Sprouts it is, then…

  • I have thought about growing sprouts on the counter but just have not done so yet. This post is inspiring me to give them a try.

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