The August, er Season Rundown

I am completely embarrassed at the tardiness of this post.  As you can tell, I intended to write this in August, and then there it went, then September, and now here we are on Halloween day, the traditional line in the sand that marks the end of the active Half Pint Farm season.  Finally I am able to sit down again and reflect, this time with a play by play of the major months of farm season 2010.  Just for the record, I still blame Facebook and the all-too-easy status update system.  I know, I blamed FB last fall, too.  At any rate, here I am; back to do some quality writing, reflecting, and waxing poetic.  So there.

There have been so many amazing days on the farm this season – our Vermont Fresh Network brunch in July, the Food Club pick-ups, the heat wave, the early morning beat-the-heat harvests, the Kitchen Table Bistro tomato dinner, visits from both of our families, the banner tomato harvest this year (!), the October flood, and finally, our trip to Torino, Italy to participate in Slow Food Terra Madre.  To look back on it now makes me realize what a fantastic season it truly was, and how enriching our customers, chefs, and Food Club members make each season unique, fun, inspiring and meaningful.  Thanks!

Initial reflections lead me to remember what an amazing tomato year it was!  The varieties, the colors, shapes and flavors were all stellar, and really represent what good crop research in the winter can lead to!  We had so much fun introducing folks to new varieties, and inspiring people to try each and every single one of them!  Thank you tomatoes, how I love you!  Oh man, I actually just drooled a little thinking about the garden peach tomatoes that I snacked on all season.  YUM!

What a weird pepper year!  We had so many neat and promising varieties, but due to a cool spring followed quickly by 90 degree temperatures that confused the plants, and made them drop all their beautiful blossoms, we had so many fewer peppers this year than in years past!  They came into prominence just as the days got shorter and there was barely any time to ripen what finally did fruit.  Of particular importance to me is the gordita chile pepper that I was able to save seed from a dried chile or two my Aunt Kathy had the foresight to ship me over a year ago.  Being from Colorado, green chiles are the cornerstone of our chile verde stew that our family has made weekly for as long as I can remember.  We had been getting the gorditas from a farm in Colorado by the bushel for generations to roast and freeze for the year’s supply of pork green chile yumminess.  The farm stopped growing gorditas, and my Aunt Kathy promptly sent me the last gordita seeds perhaps in the state of Colorado that had been drying in their kitchen on a ristra.  Luckily, the seeds were viable, and I grew out 45 amazingly productive plants that gave us deliciously spicy chiles that are now roasted and nestled in my freezer for the winter!  Save, of course, for a few hundred seeds for next season!  The gordita success this year reminds me how a single variety can astound amidst weather constraints, and other less exciting varieties.  I didn’t expect them to do well all the way up here in Vermont, and I certainly didn’t expect them to do well with the weird cold weather followed by heat followed by cold weather.  What a great chile. Viva gorditas!

Because of our amazing relationships with our chefs, caterers and Food Club members, we were able to create some neat gardens at our farm this year.  We had a section devoted to Steve Atkins at The Kitchen Table Bistro (aka KTB), where we grew out some okra, sweet potatoes and romano beans just for his needs.  We also grew out tons of pimentos de padrones and trinidad perfume peppers for Aaron Josinsky at Bluebird Tavern as well as baby eggplants for his signature dishes.  In addition, we had a culinary herb garden and flower patch that were pick-your-own for our Food Club members, which was something that they made great use of and seemed to enjoy.  Having our chefs make requests of us like the sweet potatoes and okra really challenges us as growers here in VT, making farming so much more fun than it already is!  We love trying to grow new crops and when they are successful and we can supply them to our chefs, it makes us and them so happy!  All I can say is, that heat wave was REALLY good to those okra and sweet potatoes – thank goodness!

We also had a really neat garden that showcased the Slow Food Ark of Taste crops that grow well here in VT.  The Slow Food Ark of Taste is a catalog of over 200 delicious foods in danger of extinction.  By promoting and eating Ark products, we are helping to ensure that they remain in production and on our plates!  We are always proud to offer these great varieties from our farm every spring in the form of seedlings for everyone to try and grow themselves, but also for us to sell at market and offer to our Food Club and our chefs.  The more exposure these great crops get, the greater the biodiversity on our farm and on dinner tables around the country.  We love growing these crops, and are proud of how well they did this year.  Keep an eye out for Ark of Taste seedlings in spring if you’d like to enrich your garden with a piece of our American food history!

We had a seasonal flood on October 1st this year – pretty unexpected, but there you go.  It’s always so humbling to see your farm under 2 feet of water and to see folks canoeing by…  However, I have a new zen-like take on our semi-regular flooding at the Intervale: we need the flooding to enrich our incredible soil – it is as amazing as it is BECAUSE of the thousands of years of flooding.  If farming at the Intervale was good enough for Ethan Allen, it’s good enough for me – and I gotta say, I honestly cannot picture farming anywhere else.  All the acceptance aside, let’s keep flooding to a minimum, okay Mother Nature?  Listening?

As I mentioned earlier, we just returned from Slow Food Terra Madre, those amazing 4 days in Torino, Italy, that is always such an incredible shot in the arm.  We just love interacting with the incredible sea of humanity that is Terra Madre, 7500 farmers, producers, chefs, students, activists and educators from 160 countries.  It is at once humbling, inspiring, validating and exhausting!  There is so much to see and do, and of course there is so much prosciutto to sample, and not to mention the chocolate – oh my.  The chocolate.  Did you know Nutella originated in Torino?  There are still small artisanal producers churning out incredible hazelnut chocolate spreads today, and they are spectacularly toasty and not too sweet.  Tried my best to sample as many as possible so as to take a decent sample, and draw a fair conclusion that, in fact, it is awesome.  I am also happy to report that Vermont had an incredible delegation this year, and we were able to meet each other there and share this incredible experience while identifying a few directions that we would like to see Slow Food Vermont go in.

Recuperating from travel and identifying the final push for Half Pint Farm – Haygrove plastic removal and garlic planting, really makes it feel like late fall.  Hey, I think I even see flurries swirling around outside my window!  More to come sooner than later!  Happy fall!

One Response

  1. Kathy Sandoval says:

    Hey Mara,

    Great chronology of the last few weeks of the harvest season. Reading your words made me feel like I was back at the farm and beautiful Vermont. It’s great to put a name with a face on the restaurant folks you mentioned and an appreciation of the periodic flooding of the Intervale.

    I was amazed at the peppers you produce on the farm. You are probably right that the weather may not be the best for the chilis but it’s important food to keep alive. At least I have some goriditas seeds this year thanks to you. This will allow us to expand our production at the house.

    Keep up the good work with a great farm and slow food movement. We are all very proud of you.
    All my best Kathy

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