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HOMEGROWN Life: A Farmer Gives Thanks

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

 

HOMEGROWN LifeWhen I realized an entire month had slipped by since I last sent any news from Bittersweet, I was shocked. Where did the time go? Now, with Thanksgiving upon us, I’m wondering where this entire year went.

Before I get into what sounds like more of a New Year’s blog than a Thanksgiving one, I want to say thanks to HOMEGROWN. Thanks for keeping us connected in so many ways with great ideas, great stories, support, and the love of all things farm-related. Without places like HOMEGROWN to keep us connected through the year, farming life would be an isolated and empty place.

HOMEGROWN Life: Giving Thanks

We follow in HOMEGROWN’s footsteps, in keeping with its mission to connect those who love the earth and all it offers. That connection truly does fill our lives with meaning and purpose. I’m giving thanks for many things this week, but especially for the opportunity I’ve had to share some of my farming life through HOMEGROWN. So, thanks, HOMEGROWN. I wish you all a ginormous turkey, the stuffingist stuffing, the most delicious pumpkin pie, and more, during this Thanksgiving week and always.

My thanks this week also goes to my animal family.

As temperatures get colder and winds lash up over the cove, sometimes getting out of a warm bed is a challenge. I make my cup of tea, spotting the outside flock from the kitchen window. The girls are slowly stirring. One by one, they head over to enjoy the bits of hay from last night’s bale. It makes me smile. Fifteen minutes, just 15 more minutes. I crawl back under the still-warm covers and sip.

Then my day gets started.

Opening the dairy barn door, I laugh out loud. Seven sleepy faces look up through the stall slats, each one munching away as their bellies work to keep them warm. Suddenly, I’m warm, too, without the benefit of bed covers or tea. I don’t feel cold fingers or notice the wind howling through the barn rafters. It’s like coming home, like hearing a piece of music so beautiful it makes you cry. You can’t describe it. It can’t be put into words. It melts your heart.

For this, I am thankful. Every day.

HOMEGROWN-life-ireland-4Dyan Redick calls herself “an accidental farmer with a purpose.” Bittersweet Heritage Farm, located on the St. George peninsula of Maine, is a certified Maine State Dairy offering cheeses made with milk from a registered Saanen goat herd, a seasonal farm stand full of wool from a Romney cross flock, goat milk soap, lavender woolens, and whatever else strikes Dyan’s fancy. Her farm is also an extension of her belief that we should all gain a better understanding of our food sources, our connection to where we live, and to the animals with whom we share the earth.

MORE HOMEGROWN WAYS TO GIVE THANKS
The Best Thanksgiving Playlist Ever
United States of Thanksgiving, HOMEGROWN-Style
The 19 Days of Thanksgiving
HOMEGROWN Life: My Great-Grandmother’s Dressing Recipe
HOMEGROWN Life: How to Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey
HOMEGROWN Life: It’s Fall. Time to Eat!
HOMEGROWN Life: An Early Thanksgiving

PHOTO: DYAN REDICK

United States of Thanksgiving, HOMEGROWN-Style (with Thanks to the New York Times)

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

 

With Thanksgiving, our national holiday, just around the corner, what could be more American than engaging in some friendly competition? Before we could think better of it, we decided to pit HOMEGROWN.org against that estimable giant, The New York Times, and match the paper’s supremely awesome United States of Thanksgiving recipe for recipe, horchata for mofongo.

Sure, this contest is a little lopsided. (Hi, worldwide newspaper of record! What, you’ve never heard of HOMEGROWN.org? We’re an online community celebrating the culture of agriculture!) That’s the beauty of both the American dream and our country’s rich and flaky food heritage. So what if every recipe doesn’t line up perfectly, state by state? Each dish does come from the real kitchen of a HOMEGROWN member—and that’s pretty sweet. Or savory. Or better yet, both.

If you ever read this, NYT, thanks for being a good sport. And happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

ALASKA: Like The New York Times’ Russian salmon pie? Try Rösti with smoked salmon & horseradish cream!

oyster-tartALABAMA: NYT touts oyster dressing. Shucks, we’ll take Rachel’s oyster-mushroom tart (that’s it, pictured at right).

ARIZONA: You could make cranberry sauce with chiles. Or you could take those chiles and turn ’em into magnificent mole.

ARKANSAS: Heritage turkey? Try our resident homesteader’s failsafe turkey technique.

CALIFORNIA: Sourdough stuffing? Why just bake it when the Bay Area’s very own Rachel can show you how to feed your own starter?

COLORADO: Pecan pie bites? Or healthy, homemade granola? How about both?

quincejamCONNECTICUT: There’s quince with cipollini, quince, and bacon. And then there’s Rachel’s from-scratch quince jam (at right).

DELAWARE: Turkey with truffled zucchini stuffing? We’ll pass. Gotta save room for Ohsweetie’s zucchini gingerbread!

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Masala pumpkin tart, meet Christa’s pumpkin donuts. Everybody wins.

FLORIDA: Mojo turkey? If you really want to heat things up, try Tory’s turkey on the grill!

pecanpieGEORGIA: Pecan pie from where? We’ll have to take your word for it. But Jennifer from Texas—where folks love the nut so much, they made it the state tree—has her own pecan pie recipe (at right).

HAWAII: Mochi rice stuffing, meet Cynthia’s rice cooked in bone broth.

IDAHO: Hasselback potatoes? Sounds like—well, a hassle. Try these ridiculously easy grilled spuds, heavy on the lemon.

ILLINOIS: Pumpkin potage? We’ll raise you a bowl of Cornelia’s butternut squash and apple soup.

INDIANA: OK, Times. You win this round. We couldn’t touch persimmon pudding. But we can make it even better with homemade vanilla extract.

IOWA: Thanksgiving cookies sound like a contender. But Amanda’s grandma’s cinnamon-cranberry biscotti is the holiday breakfast of champions.

KANSAS: Candied sweet potatoes, get a load of Rachel’s coconut sweet potato soup.

mushroompastyKENTUCKY: We’ve never heard of pocket dressing. Then again, we didn’t know how much we loved mushroom pasties until we tried them (at right).

LOUISIANA: Shrimp-stuffed mirlitons? That’s a squash, right? Try honey-chile glazed shrimp and long beans. They’re like green beans. But longer.

MAINE: Lobster mac and cheese, meet Kirsten’s pumpkin mac. BAM!

MARYLAND: We can’t argue with sauerkraut and apples. But we still have room in our hearts and stomachs for winter slaw.

MASSACHUSETTS: Clam and chourico stuffing? How about Lisa’s clam and chorizo paella?!

cabbageMICHIGAN: You can hold at German potato salad. Or you can double down on Deutschland with sautéed red cabbage, apples, onions, and Bratwurst (at right).

MINNESOTA: What’s more autumnal than grape salad? Mud Pies’ home-canned fruit!

MISSISSIPPI: Ale-braised collard greens with ham? Why guild the lily? Keep it easy and veggie-friendly with these sautéed collards.

MISSOURI: Mmmmm, butter cake. More mmmmmm, evaporated-milk scones with burnt butter glaze.

MONTANA: Big Sky Countrymen and Women don’t let anything go to waste. Instead of venison steaks, try canning your own venison. (See Torry’s comment for details.)

lambNEBRASKA: Standing rib roast: Yes, please. But Penny’s lemon-rosemary roast lamb? We’ll take seconds (at right).

NEVADA: Turkey French dip? Sounds fancy. Maybe that’s how they do it in Vegas, but frugal folks know a sandwich doesn’t get any better than a grilled cheese with bacon grease.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: A roast bird is classic—if, ahem, a little boring. Flavor up that fowl with Penny’s lemon sage turkey.

NEW JERSEY: We’re curious about crepes manicotti. But we’re crazy for Cornelia’s buckwheat crepes with—wait for it—sweet potato filling.

posoleNEW MEXICO: Red chile turkey? Delish. We can use the leftovers to make turkey posole (at right).

NEW YORK: What’s richer than double apple pie? Jackie’s homemade apple cider caramels.

NORTH CAROLINA: Sweet potato cornbread? Or Jay’s sweet potato enchiladas? Why choose just one?

sourdoughryeNORTH DAKOTA: We’re new to lefse, AKA Scandinavian flatbread. We’ll have to ask Penny, HOMEGROWN’s resident Fin and maker of a mean sourdough rye (at right).

OHIO: What’s more seasonal—not to mention Midwestern—than English pea salad? Split pea soup with ham hocks.

OKLAHOMA: Who doesn’t love a good green bean casserole? But when you want to modernize it, try this green bean and red potato salad.

OREGON: Pinot noir cranberry sauce sounds good. Or take things down a notch on the hipster scale with Jay’s cran-apple chutney.

PENNSYLVANIA: We can’t knock glazed bacon. Heck, we’d love it on a sandwich with Kirsten’s green tomato bacon jam.

PUERTO RICO: Because why not chase down that mofongo stuffing with some homemade horchata?

RHODE ISLAND: What’s fluffier than Indian pudding? Turnip puff!

sweetpotatopieSOUTH CAROLINA: Salty pluff mud pie sounds mighty tasty. But so does Anne’s chocolate sweet potato pie (at right).

SOUTH DAKOTA: We’ll save the pear kuchen for dessert, after we’ve had our fill of acorn squash and pear soup.

TENNESSEE: There are roasted Brussels sprouts. And then there is Brussels sprouts and chorizo pizza!

tamalesTEXAS: Why stop at turkey tamales when you can throw down a festive tamalada (at right)?

UTAH: You might like caramel pudding. But have you tried Kirsten’s pumpkin, cranberry, and maple kugel?

VERMONT: We’ll take a dollop of Cheddar mashed potatoes. Just as soon as we finish this slice of Cheddar beer zucchini bread.

VIRGINIA: Corn pudding is good. But a Southerner worth her salt knows everything is better with pork. Try Kirsten’s roasted squash with corn and sausage casserole 

WASHINGTON: Glazed mushrooms with bok choy sounds heavenly. But Rachel’s great-grandma is our very own guardian angel, thanks to her onion celery dressing with shiitake.

FennelApricotStuffingWEST VIRGINIA: If you can’t find pawpaws for pudding, get your fruit fix with Penny’s apricot fennel stuffing (at right). Secret ingredient: hard cider!

WISCONSIN: Wild rice with mushrooms or Cindy’s mushroom celery stuffing? Yes, please.

WYOMING: Gotta love the timeliness of three sisters stew. But add some corn to Cindy’s butternut squash and white bean chili, and you’ll have a sibling trio that sings.

MORE HOMEGROWN WAYS TO GIVE THANKS

HOMEGROWN Life: In Defense of Good Food; or, Farmer Bryce Responds to the 2014 Midterm Elections

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

 

HOMEGROWN-life-bryce-logo-150x150“Who are the folks that work at the White House? Why, they’re a bunch of college professors and community organizers who think they’re smarter than all the rest of us.”

Those are the words of yesterday’s 2014 midterm elections big winner, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is poised to become the Senate majority leader in January 2015. He, and Republicans the land over, ran their campaigns against President Obama. And they won.

HOMEGROWN readers might prefer DIY instructionals about gardening and canning, but that’s not what’s on my mind today. Maybe that’s because I live in a conservative farming community in West Missouri. Maybe that’s because I had to endure a bunch of loony political ads on TV while I was rooting on the KC Royals during their exciting, if unfulfilled, drive for a World Series title. Maybe it’s because of that McConnell quote I heard on NPR Monday evening, blasting the liberal elite professors and community-based organizations trying to stand up to the rich and powerful.

HOMEGROWN-city-blossoms3

 

I can’t seem to get Senator McConnell’s venom for people like me—a college-educated liberal who spent years working as a community organizer for family farmers and against the corporate takeover of agriculture—out of my mind. He put into words a very popular sentiment, and those of us working for local food and family farm agriculture need to wrestle with it.

On the face of it, you have to admit it’s pretty easy to make fun of us local food folks. We spend hours thinking about such important topics as how to best preserve the nutritional value of kale in our meals or which is the best breed of chicken to use for a pot of soup stock. (Eighteen-month-old Barred Rock laying hens do great!) I slapped my forehead when, a few years back, President Obama mused on the troubling increase in food prices by asking, “Have you seen the price of arugula at Whole Foods lately?”

No, Mr. President. I have not seen the price of arugula at Whole Foods. I grow my own.

HOMEGROWN-amy

 

So, yes, we’re easy to poke fun at. We take ourselves too seriously. And that’s a big reason why we’re seen as elitist snobs instead of real people with good ideas about how to improve the economy and environment by having more farmers growing real food in a sustainable manner.

Think about what Senator McConnell is saying: Elections and politics are about a war of cultural symbols. During the Farm Bill mess the past few years, critical nutrition and local food and conservation programs were on the ropes. Some good programs were cut severely; others were eliminated. That’s what we’re facing with a McConnell-led Senate. Who cares about the latte liberals and their food stamp machines at farmers markets? We’ve got corporate taxes to cut.

This is all important because the Good Food Movement needs to figure out how to resonate with a broader population if we are to make the change we seek. It’s important to understand the reality of the people working on these issues. We’re incredibly diverse. Yes, you’ve got your Brooklyn fermented-beverage hipsters, but there are also plenty of off-the-grid conservatives who identify the grandest issue of all as the right to drink raw milk. Go to a “small farm conference” and you’ll see all kinds of weirdos doing interesting things.

HOMEGROWN-jessica-reeder

 

I ramble. I know.

Mostly, I’m concerned and frustrated, just like the majority of Americans. I’m sick of a supposedly growing economy that enriches a few at the top while most of us barely scrape by. Heck, my wife had to go back to teaching so we could have health insurance, since it was so hard to make a living off the farm. (In addition to farming, I also work as a writer of grants and such to make extra money). Living without health insurance seemed fine until my son broke his arm while we were building our homestead house, and we wracked up giant hospital bills we couldn’t afford.

My greatest frustration is watching as good people with good ideas who work hard face increasing challenges. Local farm and food enterprises deserve serious support from society, both from “the market” and from public support. It’s a job-creation machine ripe for the picking.

HOMEGROWN-ashlee-shelton2

 

I’ve gotta get back to the compost pile before my head explodes. I’ll try to be more happy and hopeful next time.

 

HOMEGROWN-bryce-oates-150x150Bryce Oates is a farmer, a father, a writer, and a conservationist in western Missouri. He lives and works on his family’s multi-generational farm, tending cattle, sheep, goats, and organic vegetables. His goals in life are simple: wake up before the sun, catch a couple of fish, turn the compost pile, dig potatoes, and sit by the fire in the evening, watching the fireflies mimic the stars.

ALL PHOTOS BY HOMEGROWN.ORG MEMBERS: (GIRL WITH RADISH) CITY BLOSSOMS; (CHICKEN COOP) AMY; (HIGH TUNNEL) JESSICA REEDER; (SWEET POTATOES) ASHLEE SHELTON