Thursday, May 7, 2020

Vermont Carrot

Agrarian Trust Launches the Agrarian Commons A National Model for Community-Centered Farm Ownership

Today Agrarian Trust announces the launch of a transformative new model for community-centered farm and ranch ownership and tenure, the Agrarian Commons, in 10 states across the country (CA, ME, MN, MT, NH, TN, VT, VA, WA, WV).

After several years of development and collaborative input, the Agrarian Commons launches in 10 states across the country with 12 founding farms that total 2,400 acres of diversified agriculture serving foodsheds and communities. Diversified agriculture is proven to regenerate soils, sequester carbon, and support healthy ecosystems.

The model decommodifies land through locally governed Agrarian Commons, newly formed legal entities that support farmland access for dispossessed farmers and farmers of color, rebuild human relationships to the land, and return natural capital to land.

Founding boards of the 10 Agrarian Commons are 58 percent women, 63 percent farmers, and 85 percent local to the regions the Agrarian Commons serves. The Agrarian Commons addresses two primary barriers for beginning and exiting farmers: the high cost of land and high debt burden of modern agriculture.

Human disconnection from land, the climate crisis, and the catastrophic loss of habitat and species directly impact food security and the health of farms, humans, community, and the earth. The consolidation of industrial agriculture imperils our farms and food systems: Every day, 37 mid-sized farms close across the country.

At the foundation of land injustice is the dispossession and theft of land from Indigenous peoples, Black farmers, and other communities of color. More than 60 percent of farmworkers are people of color, yet people of color own less than 2 percent of all farmland in the United States. Underlying all of this is the reality that we are in the midst of 400 million acres of U.S. farmland changing hands as a generation of farmers and ranchers retire. The time for transformation in how land is owned, accessed, valued, and used is now.

The West Virginia Agrarian Commons is building a community to value and sustain interconnected agricultural enterprises, creating equitable ownership, and an agrarian economy that restores the health of the land and its communities after centuries of exploitation.

The Southeast Minnesota Agrarian Commons is focused on small scale farm enterprises that provide new opportunities to rural Latinx immigrants and communities, and build economic resilience and community well-being.

Somali Bantu communities resettling the exploited and neglected mill cities of Lewiston-Auburn, Maine are founding the Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons to hold community farms focused on local food production. 
The May 1st, 2020 founding of the Agrarian Commons is a step toward transforming our relationship to land. Agrarian Trust is working to raise $10 million over the next two years for Agrarian Commons to acquire farms, fund land transaction costs and organizational capacity, and invest in farm viability and ecological health.

Visit: Subscribe for updates: | Follow: @agrariantrust | #agrariancommons
Lake Champlain, VT

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Masked Heroes of the Berkshires

Masked heroes of the Berkshires

By  Sunday, Apr 26, 2020 Life In the Berkshires

Josh Pacheco, ER Physician, Fairview Hospital, Great Barrington. Photo Mary Nelen

At hospitals across the country... N95 masks are in short supply. Peter Tsai, a material scientist and engineer who developed the N95 mask with virus-blocking technology, is emerging from retirement to help figure out how to disinfect the single-use masks for reuse.
For non-medical individuals, hospital masks are impossible to find or order. Since Governor Baker ordered the wearing of a mask whenever people venture out of the home, a flurry of mask making has taken place in the Berkshires. 
Last week Susan Wissler, executive director of The Mount, announced that five yards of the toile fabric used in Edith Wharton’s bedroom will be produced by the French textile manufacturer and donated for use in masks, as part of an initiative spearheaded by Kate Louzon, Berkshire County Coronavirus Community Assistance coordinator. All over the Berkshires, individuals are making masks on sewing machines, sharing patterns made available by news sources, or putting them together with the most humble of materials, such as a bandanna folded in two or some basic fabric held together by two rubber bands.
No matter what form they take, masks must be worn, and a cross section of area mask wearers who face the public on a daily basis reveal the sources of their masks for this photo essay.
What can be said to these masked heroes, braving molecules with good cheer and full hearts, often for minimum wage and, on rare occasions, hazard pay?  Because of them, there is a respirator and a professional who knows how to use it, a clear signal on the Internet, a dark roast coffee at a window in the middle of a snow storm, a bottle of what is required, a slice of hot pizza, fresh baked sourdough bread, sensitive ministrations for quarantined souls unsure of this new reality, and finally, a chief of police waiting to take your call.
If you run into any of these folks, say thanks.

Marc Portieri, Police Chief, West Stockbridge, mask provided by South Berkshire Emergency Planning Committee.
Photo Mary A. Nelen

Amanda Bates, Front-of-House, The Lantern Bar and Grill, Pittsfield, mask made by Jenna Lanphear. Photo: Mary A. Nelen

Ben Conesew, Cheese Monger, Rubiner’s, Great Barrington, mask custom-made by Frank Muytjes of Kenmore Hall in Richmond. Photo: Mary A. Nelen

Aryonah Buffoni, Waitress, Betty’s Pizza Shack, Lenox, mask provided by employer. Photo: Mary A. Nelen

Elmer Lainez, Line Clearing, National Grid, mask issued by ARS Corporation. Photo: Mary A. Nelen

Fred, Cashier, Nejaime’s Liquor Store, Stockbridge, mask made by wife Shirley. Photo by Mary A. Nelen

Rosalynn Frederick, Quality and Training Manager Stanton Home, Great Barrington, mask provided by employer. Photo courtesy of Stanton Home.

Monica Havill, Drive-Thru Window Server, Dunkin’ Donuts, Lee, mask provided by employer. Photo by Mary A. Nelen

Dr. Michael Kaplan, Community Health Programs, Lee Family Practice, mask provided by medical suppliers and federal and state emergency preparedness teams. Photo courtesy of Community Health Programs.

Thomas Lampiasi, Baker, Berkshire Mountain Bakery, Housatonic, mask provided by employer. Photo by Mary A. Nelen

Matthew Rubiner, Owner, Rubiner’s, Great Barrington, mask made from fabric donated by Sandra Boyton, made by a friend. Photo: Mary A. Nelen

Josh Pacheco, Emergency Room Physician, Fairview Hospital, mask issued by employer. Photo by Mary A. Nelen

Alifia Panina, Volunteer, Stanton Home, Great Barrington, mask provided by employer. Photo courtesy of Stanton Home

WeiWei Shi, Manager, Shiro Kitchen and Asian Market, Great Barrington,mask purchased at CVS.
Photo: May A. Nelen

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Trip to the Interior, Route 47 North

Trip to the Interior

Route 47 North

The farmer texted us, "Meet me in Montague..." 

My nephew and I stood there in a parking lot not far from the highway. Kyle said let's go. 

We drove north along Route 47 chasing an order of arugula, mixed greens, carrots and shallotOnce past the honey pot, where the river gives the soil a good embrace, the houses gave way to fields.

O​nce ensconced in our meeting place, we waited next to a barn with a loading dock and a generous row​ of something under white crop cover material. The day was glorious, blue sky, birds communicating, with us, perhaps, in spite of ourselves and, instructed us to look again at the white crop cover material where we discovered a lone strawberry plant. 

Photo by Mary A. Nelen

“Hello there!”

We looked up to see Sarah Voi​land​, ​a tall, wiry​, wood sprite of a​ woman ​in ​muck boots and jeans​. ​ 

“That’s Everbearing!” she said ​of the strawberry plant which she explained will bear fruit all summer long. 

Like one who might be on speaking terms with Mother Nature, she radiated confidence. ​She invited us to tour more life, this time in the hoop house.

In unseasonal warmth, we trudged through the field, ​she shared current ​farm ​logistics ​in light recent restrictions on social interaction. 

“We are juggling,” she said explaining this week’s shift from selling at three separate farmers markets to going to the same locations with a truck to fill pre-orders made by email. 

We joined Sarah on her commute from home to the hoop house as about 100 steps across hard soil, row after row.

“I wake before dawn and jog when I have to clear my mind,” she said with a shrug as we trod the earth.."

Inside which was like walking onto a football field sized garden of light and tiny plants. 

Photo by Mary A. Nelen

It’s not tender things time,” Sarah said of the thousands seeds sprouting before us. Beginning with the most voluminous of the seedlings were the onions of which there were thousands. Also growing before our eyes were early tomatoes, English cucumbers, ​S​wiss ​C​hard and edible pansies.

By “tender things time” Sarah meant that it was too soon to start seeds outdoors.    

Photo by Mary A. Nelen

Some seedlings were bound for the great outdoors where they would finish their gestation and others, such as the tomatoes, would finish growing in a greenhouse in Granby where they would be ready for sale by June and hopefully at the Red Fire Farm Tomato Festival, but that, like everything else on the planet, is uncertain but the plants were proof of something good to come.

The three of us fell quiet in the sunlight. A yellow and black barn cat entered the greenhouse and wound around my legs.  Sarah introduced her as “Pecan” or “Boss Mamma.”

The cat hung around while Sarah explained this week’s food distribution challenge for the farm.

 “This time of year we are at three farmers’ markets on a Saturday but they’re all closed,” said Sarah.  

“We alerted customers, took orders and went to the locations sell off the truck.”

Typically Red Fire brings about $10,000 from Northampton, Springfield and Somerville. A fourth market in Wayland moved outdoors but the time frame was reduced to three hours.

 “The call for people to order in bulk on Wednesday for a Saturday pick-up brought in $4,000 from all four markets,” said Sarah who has two children.

With respect to people working in restaurants and those temporarily out of work, she looked down at the ground and shook her head.

“I jus don’t know how they’re gonna survive this,” she said.

Red Fire Farm announced they will be doing home deliveries starting next week, in an email from Sarah reminding us that we “own our interiors” and pictured wearing a T-Shirt with the legend,

“Hard Times Ain’t Gonna Rule My Mind No More,” a song by Gillian Welch to remind customers and friends that we own the interior.

Not sure if she means the interior meaning the land or the interior of our bodies but either way, it’s a comfort knowing food from Red Fire and other farms will continue to grow in these loamy soils.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Beer from French Migrants and More in Kinderhook NY

photo by Agnes Whitacre 

Once in a while, when reviewing a place, its good to visit more than once and with multiple guest to get the story. In the case of Saisonnaire, a place that gets its name for seasonal workers in France and the beer they inspired, it was the forth time that nailed the story 

Continue here....

Thursday, July 18, 2019

White Heat Hits Connecticut

PHOTO BY: Penny Katz

Entering Community Table from a pretty porch, we passed through a welcoming bar. In an entrance of botanical wallpaper, natural light and soothing shades of almost-there color, a yellow cast of a large moose head emitted a glow from within like something from the Damien Hirst nightlight collection, if such a thing existed.
click here for full review of Community Table, Washington CT.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Art Review

Basquiat x Warhol et al......

Jack Shainman, photo: Mary A. Nelen

Jack Shainman was ebullient. The art he rounded up from private collectors for this summer’s exhibit at The School in Kinderhook, New York was seeing the light of day. Outside in the sunshine, wine was cooling under tents set up on the rolling lawn.

“After so many years, we’re looking at this work with fresh eyes,” said Shainman, raising his arms aloft.

The journey from the Lower East Side in Manhattan, where Basquiat and Warhol’s work was created, to Kinderhook is a good 150 miles and the artists’ collaboration took place 50 years ago. The artwork exhibited under the high ceilings and natural light of The School was revelatory.

In the gallery’s upstairs hallway, Shainman stood in front of a 10-foot black and white mural of da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” featuring the original participants as well as logos for Heinz 57 and Camel Cigarettes.

“This was created by Andy to hang in the plaza in Milan where the original painting is,” said Shainman of the artwork, titled “The Last Supper (Camel/57).”

“Here,” he added, “you can see the work, the light, notice Warhol’s skill at drawing the human figure.”

Basquiat and Warhol collaborated between 1984 and 1985 in a working relationship described by Shainman.

“Warhol would begin a work and Basquiat would finish it,” he said, adding that they were very competitive.

A good example of their process can be seen in the following before and after example.

“Untitled (Two Dogs), 1984” is Warhol's acrylic and silkscreen work of ink on canvas featuring stylized versions of dogs, one red and one blue, each relieving themselves.

© 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat /ADAGP, Paris / ARS, New York 2019

“Dog, 1984” features the original dogs, in Warhol’s stylized hand, with an overlay of campy, Basquiat images in oil stick and paint.

© 2019 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat /ADAGP, Paris / ARS, New York 2019

The show is unusual and full of energy, with collaborative works by the pair and important works by each artist individually, including a prized Warhol portrait of Jacqueline Onassis, Campbell’s Tomato Soup boxes made of wood (never before exhibited) and several very large-format works by Basquiat.

Photo: Mary A. Nelen

There are more than 125 pieces in the exhibition as well as three films by Warhol: “Archie and George,” “Edie and Kipp” and “Lou Reed” (each 3 minutes long). Also on display is the PBS American Masters documentary “Basquiat: Rage to Riches,” which iss a behind-the-scenes look at the art world, where dealers and artists describe an '80s art scene of drugs, racism, cash and the rise of the genius that was Jean-Michel Basquiat. Go for the art, stay for the documentary.

Basquiat x Warhol
The School | Jack Shainman Gallery
25 Broad St. Kinderhook, NY

June 1 – Sept. 7, 2019

While the verdant is on the outside at The School, other area galleries and museums are celebrating the natural world inside their walls this summer: 

“Thomas Cole’s Refrain” is a series of paintings by Thomas Cole that chart the course of the  Catskills retreating topography. Luminescent impressionism in the form of bathing nudes by Pierre-AugusteRenoir are up at the Clark. In a wooded glen, 35 drawings that launched Brice Marden’s Cold Mountain paintings, based on poetry by a 9th-century Chinese monk, are on display at 'T' Space. And Peter Dellert’s assemblage and collage titled imMaterial reActions at aMuse Gallery in Chatham combine natural ephemera such as hydrangea blossoms with industrial salvage such as catalytic converters to give chaos its beautiful due.

Seated Bather (detail), c. 1883–84. Photo: President and Fellows of Harvard College

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Renoir: The Body, The Senses
The Clark Art Institute
225 South St.
Williamstown MA
June 8 - September 22, 2019

© Peter Aaron/OTTO

Thomas Cole
Thomas Cole’s Refrain: The Paintings of Catskill Creek
Thomas Cole’s National Historic Site
218 Spring St.
Catskill, NY
May 3 – November 3, 2091

Cold Mountain Study (24): Photography by Bill Jacobson, 2019

Cold Mountain Study in TSpace: Photography by Susan Wides, 2019

Brice Marden 
Cold Mountain Studies
T Space Rhinebeck
137 Round Lake Road 
June 9 – August 11, 2019

Moon Over Mars: Photography by Motoko Inoue
Peter Dellert
imMaterial reActions
aMuse Gallery
7 railroad avenue
Chatham NY 12037
May 31 - June 28, 2019

10 Questions, 1 Guilty Pleasure: Ruth Reichl with answers and a recipe for Blue Cheese to Drape on Spring Greens

Ruth Reichl at Ben Gable Savories, Chatham NY. Photo: Mary A. Nelen

Lunch with Ruth
Mary A. Nelen

Ruth Reichl’s most recent memoir, Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir, reached the top ten on the New York Times Bestseller List the week it came out. At that time, she was on a six-week book tour. 
“It was grueling,” said Reichl over lunch in the sun at Ben Gable Savories in Chatham last week. The author of five memoirs, numerous cookbooks, a novel (and a contract for two more books with Random House), she knows what it takes to sell a book. But even her stamina was strained under traveling conditions that contrasted greatly with her first-class status as editor of Gourmet Magazine.
In her decade in the velvet folds of Condé Nast, no expense was spared. In the beginning. Reichl had an office the size of a city block, a car and driver, a clothing allowance and a budget for hiring the best writers and photographers. But there was a learning curve; she'd never been in corporate management or edited anything but her own work. And, on her watch, magazine publishing began to lose advertising accounts to the internet. Reichl hung in there, enduring publisher after publisher, each with his or her own advertiser relationships. She was out of town on a video shoot when she was summoned back to New York, where she and her staff were convened by Si Newhouse, chairman of Condé Nast Publications. To find out what he said, pick up a copy of the book, which offers a wild ride on the roller coaster that is high stakes print publishing in its final days, with the bonus of culinary excess portrayed in loving detail.  
Last week, upon her return from the book tour, Reichl joined neighbors at the Chatham Bookstore where she read from her tale of almost a decade at the helm of Gourmet. A week later, she joined Rural Intelligence for lunch just a few miles from her home overlooking the Taconic Mountain Range. It's where Ruth wrote Save Me the Plums, and My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life.
Reichl and family has been in the region for 25 years. When her son was young, the family came up to a cabin from NYC on weekends. Later, when the Condé Nast money came in, she had a house built.
“You get view lust when you’re here in the country,” she said, flashing a grin.  
A Q&A follows from the lunch, along with a recipe inspired by Reichl's trip to the farmers market early last Saturday morning. 
1. Are you a country or city mouse?
I love it here but I’m New York City through and through. I get more exercise in New York because I walk everywhere. My idea of a vacation is to wander a city, not to go hiking.
2. What food do you have to have when you get to NYC?
Papaya King hot dog. There’s one right in my neighborhood.
3. What’s it like to be famous?
I love it. Most people don’t recognize me and the ones who do are very nice. The other day in Guido’s a woman recognized me and asked me to give her some advice on preparing a cabbage she was holding.
4. Do you think kale is overrated?
I love kale. We get into these crazy phases. Kale was big for a while now it’s cauliflower. Kale got big when they introduced lacinato kale to the market with easy-to-remove ribs.
5. Who would you have play you in the movie version of your life?
Anne Hathaway. [She bought the rights to Garlic and Sapphires, Reichl's 2005 memoir about reviewing restaurants for The New York Times.]
6. What do you do when you are reviewing a restaurant and have nothing good to say?
Just say it, what ever it is, especially if it is a big established place. You want to tell them, “Come on, you guys can do better than that!”
7. What do you think of online cooking instruction where they show a single fry pan with prepped items being thrown in and the dish coming together in an instant?
Brilliant. I don’t like it when Julia Child takes you by the hand.
8. What is your guilty pleasure?
Onion rings.
9. Have you ever been to the Columbia County Fair?
Yes, we went every year with our son Nick when he was young. He stood right next to the blacksmith booth.
10. Should kids learn to cook early the way you did?
Absolutely. Most people don’t cook because they’re intimidated. But if you’re a kid you don’t know that you can make a mistake. People think everything you do is so adorable so it doesn’t occur to you to fail. Then kids think, “This is what I can do for applause!’

Ruth Reichl's Blue Cheese Dressing

One good thing about this cool spring is that it’s been kind to lettuces. Now is the time to get them; the ones in the market this week have been especially lovely. I like to gather a mix of red and green lettuces, some arugula and frisee, toss in a few sliced radishes and perhaps some spring onions (the tiny little scallions have also been very lovely). Then I make this simple dressing, which is substantial enough to turn the salad into a very satisfying meal. (Should you be a fan of iceberg lettuce, this dressing is also very good splashed across a crisp wedge.)
Directions: Smash a bit of garlic into the bottom of a bowl, sprinkle in some good salt and a few grindings of pepper. Add a handful of blue cheese — about a quarter cup — and smash that about until it’s become a paste and absorbed all the garlic and salt. Pour in a few tablespoons of good olive oil and some of the fantastic (and slightly sweet) apple cider vinegar from Carr’s Cider House.
I’ve never found another vinegar that works as well with this dressing, although you can certainly use any apple cider, rice wine, or white wine vinegar. The one thing you can’t use is red wine vinegar; it fights with the blue cheese.
Keep tasting and adding oil and vinegar until you’ve got a dressing that pleases you.