Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Upstate meets Downstate

Surfing the web during my lunch break, I came across this super-neat article: "For a healthier Bronx, a Farm of Their Own."  It discusses a CSA that's been newly created in our region as a sort of public service.  A professor in the city noticed that the people of the poverty-stricken South Bronx also suffer from the kinds of diseases you get from eating unhealthy food, like heart disease and high cholesterol.  But it's hard to get healthy fresh food affordably in this area (apparently).  So his brilliant idea was to buy a farm upstate in-- here's the best part-- Schoharie County, and ship the food downstate.  I was mostly really excited about this because I was IN Schoharie County when I read this!! (I rarely know any of the places mentioned in the NY Times on a personal level).  Anyway, I think this is a really cool idea, besides that it's happening right in my backyard (OK, I don't LIVE in Schoharie, I just work there, but still--- REPRESENT).

A CSA is when the farmer sells shares of his farm to holders, who pay him/her upfront at the beginning of the season on the promise that they'll get shipments of food throughout the season.  Farmers that are part of a CSA pretty much only give their crop to the share-holders (although I think surplus can go to the Farmer's Market... this is why I can no longer buy my favorite lettuce in Troy- it now goes to the shareholders).  Usually, you're stuck with whatever the farmer is selling, but the farmer in the article is specifically growing crops that will feed a family, like veggies and potatoes.

Anyway, I really like how Upstate and Downstate are working together here, to produce such a positive result.  Politically, there tends to be a lot of tension between these two parts of New York, so this is a step in the right direction!  Schoharie County can definitely use the business, and New York can eat it's delicious fresh food.  I say it's a win-win.  

Monday, June 21, 2010


It's strawberry season!! It's actually been strawberry season for a while now; this is the end, sadly.  And I haven't even gone picking yet..

However, I got myself some local strawberries at the Honest Weight Co-Op today, and they're delicious.  There's something about fresh strawberries (like the real ones, not the supermarket ones).  They're tiny and weird-shaped, and bursting with sweetness. My goal is still to pick some berries before the season ends, around July 4th.  If you're interested in getting out there yourself (or if not this time around, then for one of the other fruit seasons), check out this website discovered by my friend, Andrea: Albany Kid.  It's pretty neat.  This should lead you right to the Pick-Your-Own-Fruit article and website, but be sure to explore the rest of the site: it has lots of information about fun, kid-friendly things to do around our area.  And get out there and pick some fruit while the pickin's good!

P.S. Right now in the co-op.. local strawberries, cherries, rhubarb, squash, and portobellos (from PA).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Country Mouse in the Big City

This is a blog about upstate NY, since that is where I live and spend most of my time.  However, I made the train ride down to the city this weekend to see some of my favorites, and we did so many fun green things that I'm excited to share!

It started right upon my arrival.  Marisa had bought banana bread and fresh strawberries at the farmer's market to serve as our lunch before the afternoon's festivities (the leftovers would be our pre-brunch breakfast the following day).  The snacks were incredibly delicious, even more so due to Marisa's lovely presentation.

strawberries and banana bread a la Marisa

Monday, June 7, 2010


This is a sequel to my last post about eggs, and a shout-out to Heather, my co-worker, friend, and favorite hippie farmer.  Besides being just generally and genuinely awesome, Heather is extra cool because she moved from a crowded Brooklyn apartment out into the middle of nowhere and basically started a farm with her husband.  They've become quite self-sufficient already.  I've been looking forward to checking out her abode, and so I was super excited on Friday when Heather invited us to her house after school for some well-deserved drinks.  I'm completely in love with her home.  It's a straight-up storybook, stolen from the pages of the Secret Garden.  Her house is one of those old farmhouses with the solid wood floors and capacious rooms.  Her yard is surrounded by a whimsical assortment of wildflowers and herbs spilling out of raised beds.

AND... I got to meet her chickens-- whose eggs I eat.  Awesome!

                                                                   This is their coop.

Their eggs are golden, huge, and delicious because they get to live outside and eat grass and bugs instead of grain, which makes them happy.

I wondered what it was going to be like to eat an egg after I had met the chicken.  I found out that it makes the eggs even more enticing.  

Look at the freakin' size of that thing!!!

You can't get much fresher than that.  I don't have a picture of a cracked egg, but my experience is that the yolks are a brighter yellow, and the whites less firm, than a store bought egg (and my opinion is that Heather's are more delicious, texture included).  I hear that they bake really well, too.  Unfortunately for YOU (unless you are lucky enough to either know Heather or hang out at my house enough for me to cook you breakfast ), Heather does not sell her eggs at the market... yet.  But keep your eyes peeled, and hopefully someday soon you'll find a variety of products available from Cottonhill Farms.  Heather and her husband not only have chickens, but an herb and veggie garden, a beginning apiary, and a goat (hmmm chevre anyone?)

"Although I cannot lay an egg, I am a very good judge of omelets." George Bernard Shaw

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Chicken or The Egg

Today at lunch, my dear friend Nancy brought to my attention a New York Times article in which farm eggs had been taste-tested against grocery eggs, concluding that there was no difference. Heated, she vented that the reduced carbon footprint alone should be enough reason to buy farm eggs! Damnit! (You can read her vehement commentary below the article itself, #16).

I read the article when I came home. It was innocent enough. The writer of the Washington Post, which ran the original article, really seemed only to be concerned with taste differences here; it didn't dive into any deeper issues. However, the backlash was extraordinary, and lovely. People passionately argued for the fresh eggs, not only defending their superb flavor, but also the support of local economy, the organic benefits, and of course, the reduced carbon footprint (thanks, Nancy).

This made me think about why we do this, fellow greenies. It isn't just because fresh ingredients are (usually) more delicious, although this is definitely a perk. In fact, that isn't really what got me started in this at all. Mostly, I do it for my health. I began to get scared of the stories I was hearing about the food that we eat from the grocery store. For example, the dancer who was paralyzed from contaminated hamburger meat from one of the biggest beef producers in the nation. Or the connection scientists are starting to make between the chemicals in our daily lives, such as foods, cleaning products, beauty products, and autism rates. All of the chemicals and processing that we are exposed to are bound to have an effect on us. And that's just the beginning.

It does help our local economies. I teach in one of the most impoverished counties in New York State, whose livelihood is mostly founded on agriculture. Hearing the stories of my hard-working students about life on a farm has given me a closer look at, and a new respect for, the work that goes into making my food, and I don't feel as bad paying a little extra for my eggs or cheese, or the fresh spinach from the farm stand.

Read Michael Pollan's The Omnivores Dilemma, and you'll never want to eat a hamburger again, once you find out what our beef cows are fed (and sadly, what really goes into a Chicken McNugget, previously my favorite fast food treat). Animals are treated in deplorable, disgusting ways, hidden from our view. Nothing is really what it seems: even our bags of "organic baby spinach" aren't what we imagine (I'm a little afraid now whenever I buy greens at the grocery store that I'm going to get something grossly contaminated).

As I become more educated (and slightly more financially secure), I've made the decision to increase my "green" choices throughout my lifestyle, not only by the food I eat (which I realize so far has taken over this blog...sorry, I love food...) but also the cat litter I buy, and the products I smear on my face (more on these later). It's more expensive and less convenient, which I sometimes have a hard time dealing with-- I'm still a work in progress-- and this is what this blog is about: how to do it little by little. Most of us can't go all Kingsolver and buy a farm to feed our families, but in small ways, we can improve our health and that of our Earth.

And don't forget that carbon footprint! According to Kingsolver, if every U.S. citizen ate one meal a week composed of local and organic ingredients, our country's oil production would be reduced by over 1.1 million barrels per week. (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, page 5) Every little bit counts!