Thursday, September 27, 2018

Rain in Hadley: Farmers find buckets of financial relief

photo: Rhubarbi St. Germaine
September 27, 2018

In Hadley, rainfall was 75% higher than average in July and August. 

CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) announced today that their revolving Emergency Farm Fund has been reopened to aid Pioneer Valley farms that have been affected by extreme weather events during the 2018 growing season, including the excessive rainfall in July and August.

"Many growers have seen reduced yields and crop losses this year due to the unusually wet and rainy summer, which can put them into a difficult cash situation," says Philip Korman, CISA's Executive Director. "We hope these loans will offer farmers options for bridging financial gaps, investing in infrastructure that builds resilience, or preparing for the next growing season."

The CISA Emergency Farm Fund is offering no-interest loans up to $10,000, and the application period will be open until October 31, 2018. Application information can be found at

This disaster-recovery fund has filled a longstanding financing gap for local farms. "The CISA Emergency Farm Fund is an important supplement to the public safety net provided by state and federal government programs," says Korman. "The Fund's small, no-interest, quick turnaround loans are able to provide assistance right away to help tide the farms over. "

The CISA Emergency Farm Fund was launched in 2011 in partnership with Whole Foods Market and Equity Trust in response to the damage suffered by farms in western Massachusetts due to Hurricane Irene. CISA has reopened the fund three times since its creation, and distributed a total of $221,000 in loans to 24 farms. 

The Fund is managed by CISA with the assistance of Equity Trust. The Loan Review Committee includes people with a variety of agricultural backgrounds, including farmers, CISA staff and board members, and representatives from Whole Foods Market, Equity Trust, and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

2019 Farmer Grant Applications for Funded Projects Due November 27, 2018

Photo: Rhubarbi St. Germaine

Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program is now accepting applications for 2019 Farmer Grants.

Proposals are due online by Tuesday, November 27, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. E.T. Funded projects will be announced in late February 2019, and projects may begin in the spring. Application materials, including detailed instructions and supporting documents, are posted on the Northeast SARE website at Questions about the grant program should be directed to

Northeast SARE, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, offers competitive grants and sustainable agriculture education. Its Farmer Grants are intended for farm business owners and managers who would like to research new sustainable production practices, marketing strategies, or other projects aimed at improving farm profitability, environmental stewardship, and farmer/community quality of life. Reviewers look for innovation, potential for improved sustainability, and results that will be useful to other farmers. 

Farmer Grant projects must be conducted in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia or Washington, D.C. Awards are capped at $15,000 and projects may address the wide range of issues that affect farming in the Northeast. To search topics that SARE has previously funded, please access the national database of projects at

Applicants must work with a technical advisor—typically a Cooperative Extension educator, Natural Resources Conservation Service staff, nonprofit organization employee, private crop consultant, veterinarian or other service provider—who provides support and advice to the farmer applicant.
To answer questions that applicants and technical advisors may have about the program, Northeast SARE will host a Farmer Grant webinar on Oct. 10 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Carol Delaney, grant program coordinator, will provide information on program eligibility, how to apply, types of projects SARE funds, allowable expenses and more. The webinar is free. 

To register, visit To request a disability-related accommodation to participate, contact Debra Heleba at (802) 651-8335, ext. 552, by Oct. 3.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Kitchen Garden Chilifest Seeks Competitiors!

Registration for the Hot Sauce Competition on Sunday, September 16 is now open! Up to 20 hot sauces will compete! 

This year, Kitchen Garden Farm of Sunderland MA will stage its two-day heat and taste explosion at Mike's Maze. Expect live music, local beer and spicy food at a New England's most experiential cornfield. This year's motif for Mike's Maze at 23 South Main St. farm in Sunderland is Blackbeard the Pirate. Enjoy this 3-d, site specific, land art work depicting marine lore in corn. The food will be brilliant. More info here. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

"Cabbage!" the Wedge Salad

Beach Road Bar in Vineyard Haven / Boat House on Chappy

“Cabbage!” the Wedge Salad is headlining at a little boite on the bay here. At Beach Road in Vineyard Haven a sweet little island cabbage is turning the standard wedge salad on its head.

Sliced and seared on the grill to a crispy finish, the cabbage wedge replaces old watery iceberg lettuce and then gets Asian with it. Dashi, a buttery miso sauce of bonito and dried kelp stands in for blue cheese dressing and this cabbage head from a good family farm is finished with pickled mushrooms.   

Try making Cabbage!” the Wedge Salad at home. Pick up a  local head of cabbage in a patch near you. If you miss the bacon bits and blue cheese dressing, the crispy wedge of cabbage can take it. 

Cabbage can be grown in spring, summer and fall. Winter farm shares offer it wrapped in news paper until February for cold storage distribution. Cabbage is planted in fall is wintered over for spring eating. 

For those who plan to grow their own cabbage this fall, Rodale's Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening warns against too much fertilizer. 

"When over-wintering cabbage, if growth is too lush, it may not survive frost." 

My warning has to do with slicing the cabbage. Keep the wedges in "Cabbage! the Wedge Salad," together for searing and serving with a bit of core by cutting the head of cabbage in half from top to core. Then divide into two or three wedges depending on the size of the cabbage.  

Friday, July 27, 2018

Amuse Gallery Art Show Hours


Mary Nelen Season Snaps featured at Amuse Gallery, 9 Railroad Ave. Chatham NY

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

You say Pesto, the French say Pistou

Photo by Mary A. Nelen

It was a cry for help.

Desperation was on the menu that day. My friend had a confession. 

Too much basil; basil in salads, basil pesto, basil pesto cubes in ice
trays and after a month of green, stuff fell apart. Her menus, like
the cuticles of her nails, were stained bright green. If you're
witnessing an unseemly dependence on basil, its time to break the
stranglehold of single herb syndrome and look to Provence.

True Proven├žal folks will stir pistou—which is similar to pesto, but
lighter with a variety of herbs and made without nuts—into the soup until it’s completely dispersed.

I like to add a dollop to the middle and gently let it spread so I can
still taste the pistou, which makes a nice contrast to the vegetables
and broth. Plus it’s traditional to pound a small tomato into the pistou.

The Soupe au Pistou, vegetable soup from Provence, is made when herbs hurry to flower and small tomatoes say "put me in coach...."

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Bone Broth Question and Answer

Bone Broth with Chicken Feet (photo by Mary Nelen)

Those masterful images because complete

Grew in pure mind but out of what began?
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder's gone
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

W. B. Yeats, “The Circus Animals’ Desertion” from 

Interview with Tamara Sheen, a wellness cook living in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

What is Bone Broth?

Broth made from the bones of any animal. Vegetables such as onion, celery, carrot as well as pepper and bay leaf are added for flavor.  It’s the base of soup or any dish if you’re a home or restaurant cook. Broth can be used to make soup or to braise.

Why is it so popular?

Health benefits. Every culture has some form of broth. Back in the day when nose to tale dining was the norm, you had to do something with the bones. Besides, every grandmother knew the healing power of broth

Which bones, all of them?

Knuckle bones have cartilage which is where the collagen lives. Collagen makes the nutrients more accessible to your body. Marrow bones also. When you boil the bones and the collagen is extracted, the body gets natural amino acids. Stock can be made from any animal bones: chicken, lamb, beef, goat, venison, buffalo and fish.

Where do you get bones?

Go visit a farmer whose animals are grazing on grass or check out a butcher and ask for bones with knuckles and marrow. Chicken feet are good because they provide a lot of collagen and gelatin.

How do you make bone broth?

Put bones in a stock pot of water. Add vinegar or wine to help pull out the nutrients. If you are making beef broth, roast the beef bones for at least 20 minutes before putting in the stock pot.

How long to cook?

Stock should cook for at least three hours in order to take full advantage of all the nutrients. My grandmother boiled the Christmas Turkey carcass all night long. I simmer with the lid on. Some schools of thought say 12 hours minimum.