alliums ameraucana Anthony Bourdain aphids Appleseed Permaculture aquaponics arthritis artichokes Asian Vegetables aussie basil baby chicks baby turnips bearss lime bee keeping beet greens beneficial insects benner tree farm Biochar Bitter Melon blight blooming hill farm boothby blonde cucumber brix broccoli brussels sprouts cabbage cabbage hill farm camp hill farm cancer caraflex celeriac chicken coop chickens children chinese tamale chives cilantro cilantro root coconut cold frames collard greens Compost coriander corn crop rotation cruciferous crucifers cucumber Dan Barber dan kittredge Dave Llewellyn detox dirty dozen dragon fruit Dutch white clover dwarf citrus eggplant Elderberries factory farms farm to table farmer's market farmers markets Fava beans ffarm to table fish oil flea beetle flowers food allergies food combining food miles founding farmers four wind growers Fred Kirschenmann french bulldog G6pd deficiency garlic garlic festival garlic scapes geese Glynwood grass-fed beef Great Outdoors Listening Tour green tomatoes greenhouse growing indoors Hanalei Hemlock Hill Farm heritage turkey heritage USA hudson valley farms hurricane Irene hyssop iced tea infections influenza Insect control isothiocyanates joan gussow jolie lampkin joong kaffir lime kale Kauai kohlrabi korean licorice mint Ladybugs late blight leeks lettuces local food locust tree maine avenue fish market menhaden meyer lemon mycelia mycorrhizal natural fertilizers nectary nightshades No Reservations Nurse cropping nutrient density okra organic Baby food organic christmas tree Organic Pest Control Parsley Paul tappenden peas Permaculture pesticides pesto petite watermelon plant sap pH plymouth barred rock pole beans potatoes preserving food purple basil qunice Radish Greens rainbeau ridge farm raised beds rampicante raw food real food campaign red hook Rockland Farm Alliance ronnybrook farm row covers salt-preserved duck eggs sambucus nigra seed saving seedlings Sheet mulching small space soil analysis soil blocks soil conductivity sorrel Squash Vine Borer star fruit sugar snap peas sustainability sustainable fishing Swiss Chard tabbouleh TEDx Manhattan terracing three sisters tomato sauce tomatoes trellis trovita orange turkana farms Tuttle Farm urban zen volt white clover winter harvest Winter Squash Young Farmers Conference
Indispensable Books and Resources
  • Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set)
    Edible Forest Gardens (2 volume set)
    by Dave Jacke, Eric Toensmeier
  • The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses
    The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses
    by Eliot Coleman
  • The Biological Farmer: A Complete Guide to the Sustainable & Profitable Biological System of Farming
    The Biological Farmer: A Complete Guide to the Sustainable & Profitable Biological System of Farming
    by Gary F. Zimmer
  • The Garden Primer: Second Edition
    The Garden Primer: Second Edition
    by Barbara Damrosch
  • 1500 Live LadyBugs - A GOOD BUG! - Lady Bug
    1500 Live LadyBugs - A GOOD BUG! - Lady Bug
    Organic Insect Control
  • Acres U.S.A.
    Acres U.S.A.
    Acres U.S.A.

    The best farming and growing magazine money can buy!

  • Seed Starter Soil Block Maker Makes 4 Medium Blocks
    Seed Starter Soil Block Maker Makes 4 Medium Blocks

    2" Soil Blocker

  • Mini Soil Blocker
    Mini Soil Blocker
  • New York City Farmer & Feast: Harvesting Local Bounty
    New York City Farmer & Feast: Harvesting Local Bounty
    by Emily Brooks
  • What Doctors Eat: Tips, Recipes, and the Ultimate Eating Plan for Lasting Weight Loss and Perfect Health
    What Doctors Eat: Tips, Recipes, and the Ultimate Eating Plan for Lasting Weight Loss and Perfect Health
    by Tasneem Bhatia, Editors of Prevention







Short journal entries detailing the nuts and bolts of our ventures in growing food at our micro-farm

Entries in Glynwood (3)


Come Eavesdrop on my Conversations at TEDx Manhattan: Changing the Way We Eat

Photo by Jason HoustonI was truly fortunate to be handpicked from 800 applications to be part of the 200 member viewing audience at the TEDx talks in Manhattan last week focusing on sustainable food and farming.  The talks reached many members across the country through viewing parties where one could watch all the talks and also, in the spirit of TED, connect with one other about the sustainable food movement.  If that wasn’t possible, then anyone could watch the entire conference streaming live.

For those unfamiliar with the TED talks, TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design, is all about “ideas worth spreading” where leaders in their field give 18 minute talks that focus on their particular area of work.  All talks are archived and can be seen in their entirety at the TED website.  This particular TED talk was independently organized by one of the most important organizations for sustainable agriculture in the Northeast, Glynwood, which I wrote about in a previous journal entry.  The day was broken into three areas exploring the local food movement, its challenges and its future directions.

Session one asked: “What Happened?” 

How did we come to this pivotal point in time where we have become so dissociated with real food that soon we will reach a point where feeding ourselves will no longer be possible without the complete breakdown of our ecology and our health.  Actually, that’s happening right now.  Some of the reasons given were:

1. Explosive populations (Carolyn Steel)
2. The demise of the family dinner (Laurie David)
3. The burdens on the small family farm (Cheryl Rogowski)
4. The [ever-present] factory farm in our landscapes poisoning our soil (Karen Hudson). 

5. Farm subsidies: Ken Cook* of the EWG laid out the shocking finances of farm subsidies and urged us all to press for real change in the Farm Bill and

6. Manipulation: Scott Kahan, MD* showed us why we’ve become wired to salivate for foods laden with fat, sugar and starch rather than mother nature’s simple foods.

7.And finally Kathy Lawrence showed us the state of the school lunch and how that needs to change.


All of these talks can be fully viewed HERE until February 26th 2011.  My favorite lectures are marked with an *

Session 2 asked, “Where are we?”

Looking at the accomplishments already made by the sustainable food movement,  the intent was to show hope.  It opened with a pre-recorded TED talk from Dan Barber, Chef of Blue Hill Restaurant on “How I Fell in Love with a Fish.”  If you had time for just one talk to view, this would definitely be the one.  In the spirit of Dan Barber and his highly enjoyable storytelling skills, it will make you laugh and then super-charge you with inspiration. 

1. We heard from Brain Halweil, who talked about inventive ways all types of farmers are coming up with to address different challenges in access,  such as food deserts, places where there is little to no ability to find fresh, non-processed food. 
2. Other topics ranged from expanding local food systems through partnerships (Lucus Knowles),
3. How urban food deserts like Harlem and Bedford-Styuvesant in the Bronx are finding new ways to bring fresh produce to their communities (Barbara Askins and Melony Samuels),
4. The greening of restaurants (Elizabeth Meltz)
5. Growing food in creative and bizarre ways but using it as a vehicle for education (Ian Cheney*) and
6. Why the food movement isn’t just about eating it’s about civic engagement (Josh Viertel)

Watch his very funny film.
To watch session 2 click HERE until February 26, 2011.

Session 3 asked “Where are we going”

1. Discussing the direction of the food movement in its role in diseases like cancer through research (William Li),
2. How to rebuild the infrastructure of our food delivery system to support truly local food (Michael Conrad),

3. How urbanites are doing “R&D-IY” - that’s research and develop it yourself - to find unique ways of addressing the challenges of feeding people in cities.  One concept was windowfarming (Britta Riley),
4. How to creatively finance food ideas(Elizabeth U),
5. Coming up with a sustainability index (Frederick Kaufman),
6. Creating a PeaceCorp model for food called FoodCorps (Curet Ellis) and finally,
7. Ideas in taking money directed at farm subsidies and redirecting them in ways to break the cycle of poverty (Michel Nischan*).

Michel Nischan's energetic talk closed the day
To watch session 3 click HERE until February 26, 2011


But what wasn’t recorded was the “magic of the TED talks” that happened for those, like myself, that were lucky to be in the audience.  This magic happens in between the talks where you meet strangers so diverse in their backgrounds yet so like-minded, you can get sucked into the deepest of conversations in seconds and avoid the superficial small talk.  Throughout my life in medicine, I’ve been to many dozens of conferences but never have had made these monumental connections with so many other people so easily and instantaneously.  The magic formula? Diverse backgrounds and people with the same agenda and passion: promoting a sustainable food and farming movement.  I’ll let you eavesdrop in some magical connections I made...

Ken Kleinpeter
, director of Farm and Facilities at Glynwood. I got into the topic of the health benefits of grassfed beef with Ken and learned some eye-opening facts.  I asked him if he knew the answer to this question: how many months/weeks does an animal need to graze on grass for it to be labeled grassfed.  Half it’s life?  One month? 2 weeks?  I found out there is NO standard for that labeling which just goes to show, once again: get to know your farmer and ask questions. 

Then I met the vivacious Marisa Weiss, MD a practicing breast cancer oncologist of 20 years in Philadelphia and also the founder and president of, the most-trafficked medically-reviewed online resource for breast health and breast cancer information.  We spoke about integrative medicine in breast cancer. Coincidentally,  I had actually co-authored a piece for her website on the topic more than five years ago.  Small world.   For those that don’t know this is what I do besides farm - integrative medicine with a speciality in cancer.   It’s always, nice to meet an open-minded oncologist - a true rarity.  Her new project to be launched is called “Think Pink, Live Green.”  It’s objective is to answer this question: what is it about the breast that makes it so vulnerable to cancer?  Yup, it’s all the pesticides, indirect hormones and xenoestrogens we consume in our food.  We met 2 days later to see if we could collaborate in the future.

There was actually very little time to talk but I was hankering for these moments to connect with others and I could have seen myself doing this for days and days.  I then sat down next to the editor of one of my favorite local magazines - Eric Steinman of Edible Hudson Valley.  Edible Communities is a publisher of different locally focused magazines in the country connecting consumers with family farmers, chefs, and food artisans in their own community from Manhattan to San Francisco to Vancouver.  Eric tells me his magazine is so popular that they can’t keep up with the demand and when the magazine comes out, it disappears within 2 weeks.  This is how hungry people are for local resources.  A good sign!

For lunch, the TED organizers asked us to find 4 people we hadn't met yet to sit down together for lunch provided by one of my favorite Manhattan restaurants, The Green Table.  And what a great time I had. 

I met Joy Pierson owner of Candle Cafe in Manhattan, one of the oldest vegan restaurants in NYC and also one of my favorite whenever I’m on the upper East side.  Not only does she own the restaurant, but she’s a nutritional counselor since 1985.  We exchanged stories about the state of medicine and nutrition and she recalls that when her grandfather, a physician in the 1920’s passed away, she found countless pages in his apartment about nutritional deficiencies and how they can be cured by the use of food.  We had a lot in common. 

Then there was Jared Koch, a nutritional lifecoach in the NYC area who also authored Clean Plates Manhattan 2011 , a compact book which is a guide to the healthiest and most sustainable restaurants in Manhattan.  It’s chocked filled with tips on how to order to make the healthiest and sustainable choices possible. 

And to show the diversity of the table, there was Naveen Sinha, a third year graduate student of Applied Physics from Harvard.  Last year, he was the head teaching fellow for the Harvard science and cooking class.  His latest project is to investigate the microscopic structure of chocolate, particularly what happens during the tempering process (i.e. the steps used by chocolate-makers to make smooth, cleanly-breaking chocolate) and his eventual goal is to find new ways to teach people about science using everyday examples from agriculture, cooking, nutrition, and other topics.  Wow!  There is hope for those Harvard stiffs! Thinking about a class at Harvard on the science of chocolate reminded me of Walter Bishop in his lab at Harvard on my recent TV addiction, Fringe.

And then there was Michel Nischan, chef, restauranteur and sustainable food pioneer.  Among one of the many projects he’s been working on, we connected about his program of “Doctors as Pharmers” and he was excited to learn that I embodied that, literally, being both MD and farmer.  His fruit and veggie Rx program in development is about connecting physicians, farmers and those with limited access to produce.  The idea is that doctors write a Rx for a certain serving of vegetables that patients can take to the greenmarket and get real food instead of pharmaceuticals.  Everyone wins - the patient’s health, the doctor, by reducing healthcare costs, and the farmer who gets paid. The idea is to use money, to the tune of 800 billion, that taxpayers already shell out annually for the treatment of preventable disease.  That part needs some fine tuning and I hope Michel and I can continue this conversation again in the future.  Since I am affiliated with Beth Israel Medical Center and there are clinics that serve low income populations just blocks away from the celebrated Union Square Greenmarket, hopefully we’ll have much to collaborate on in the future.

At the next and final break I met Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez, pastry chef extraordinaire and former owner of Lassi, a tiny Northern Indian take out restaurant in the west village where the food was incredibly clean tasting - like homemade Indian food leaving you feeling both satiated and light.  She opened up Print Restaurant with her husband Charles Rodriguez.  Her restaurant uses seasonally sourced ingredients from local farms.  I met the restaurants full-time in house forager Johanna Kolodny who told me about the mushroom foraging clubs in Manhattan. Can I tell you I was in heaven?  My mission is to eat there in the next few weeks.

Michael Larson, Co-founder of Farmhearts which is an organization to promote family farms and raise awareness of locally produced foods told me about his work to prevent fraking in the upstate NY communities.   He asked me if I knew what fraking was.  Immediately, I thought of my TV addiction to Battle Star Galactica a few years ago, and said yeah, that's a euphemism for f**king from one of my favorite sci-fi TV series.  If you’re thinking I watch a lot of TV at this point, I DON’T!  Well, I learned it’s the hydraulic fracturing of natural gas deposits from underground shale which is all over NYS.  It involves blasting water, sand and chemicals to extract the natural gas below which means toxicity to the neighboring areas.  Wow.  I just put Gasland , the documentary on this topic and moved it to the top of my Netflix queue.  And finally, I chatted with one of the speakers Scott Kahan, MD who gave one of the best talks of the day.  I guess it’s very easy for me to connect with other MDs, but since he was into the area of preventable medicine we both agreed that the biggest obstacles in behavioral modification is helping to change someone’s diet since we’ve been manipulated since birth to crave fat and sugar.

All I can say, is that I am grateful that the powers that be included me in this this absolutely inspiring day.  I am ready to change the world.  I hope everyone reading this or who has viewed the talks feels that way as well.  The biggest message here is to get involved in some way .  Don’t wait for the government to do this.  Vote with your dollars, help set up a food garden at your school, peel back that piece of lawn in your backyard or front yard and plant a seedling.  


Preserving Farmland: America's Top Priority

The Glynwood CenterLast week, the New York Times ran a short editorial entitled "Death of a Farm," on the closing of America’s oldest continually operating farm in New Hampshire - Tuttle’s Red Barn farm.  John Tuttle first started the 240 acre farm in 1632 when he arrived to the New World from England.  Since then, it’s been passed down 11 generations.  To drive home the point of how long ago that was, in 1632, Gallileo was still publishing and was forced, by the Pope, to recant the idea that the earth orbits the sun the following year.  On Tuttle’s Red Barn Farm website, the current Tuttle family cites that the decision to close was borne from an exhaustion of resources including their bodies, minds, hearts, imagination, equipment, machinery, and finances.  Dwindling sales from customers that used to use shopping carts are now spending thrifty using only their hands for what they can afford to carry out.  Implicit in their explanation is the fact that it’s just cheaper to buy your food from the A&P than from a family run farm.  This sad story brought tears to my eyes that quickly dried when I toured the Glynwood Center in Cold Spring, NY this week.

Providing me with more Kleenex (or Seventh Generation facial tissue), though this time for tears of joy, the Hudson Valley is now an area that Obama has recognized as one of the 25 places in the country being considered by the government as a top prioroity area for land protection and the revitalization of rural communities.  US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, as part of the Great Outdoors Listening Tour, was there to learn from people directly involved in finding grassroots solutions to conserving our lands and waters and reconnecting Americans to the outdoors.  The Rockland Farm Alliance, for which Hook Mountain Growers is now an active member of the Board of Directors for the Cropsey Farm, was represented at the meeting on August 6th, 2010.


The mission of the center is simple: to help communities in the Northeast save farming.  This non-profit center’s values are summed up here:

    “Glynwood believes that the rural working landscape is one of civilization’s highest achievements—that a countryside featuring healthy pastures, productive crops, fruitful orchards, well-managed woodlots, and sturdy barns is aesthetically beautiful and emblematic of thriving communities...Glynwood maintains that farming done in harmony with the natural environment can be both economically viable and environmentally sustainable...Glynwood regards food produced, distributed, and consumed locally as beneficial to human health and community, and to the natural environment.”


Glynwood’s unassuming entrance led us on a road to the main farm.  One must drive slowly and mindfully, traversing a bucolic narrow dirt road within the woods that follows a gentle brook.  Immediately you feel a transformation into a miraculous woodland reminiscent of Thoreaus’s Walden Pond.  We passed by one of the many cottages on the property with one being used as the backdrop to a Christmas photo shoot for the clothing company Aeropostale.  It ‘s August and holiday wreaths and mistletoe were strewn at every doorway.  Not so unusual if Christmas is in...Santa Barbara.  Ironically and sadly, it makes financially more sense to rent out your farm for a photo shoot because it sure brings in more money than selling vegetables.  Past the hoopla we met the venerable Dave Llewellyn, the head farmer at the center for a special insiders tour.  We first met Dave at a lecture he gave at the Young Farmer’s Conference at Stone Barns in December 2009.  His lecture sparked our interest in Nutrient Density farming and changed the way we view the soil and food quality.

Dave grows vegetables in two separate areas: one is 3/4 of an acre and the other is 1/2 acre.  Of course, this doesn’t tell you much about the rest of the farm.  It’s 225 rolling pastoral acres are home to the grazing fields for cows, sheep, goats, chickens and horses.  One horse, named Maggie is even being used as a draught horse!  Beautiful young smiling lady farmers in electric tractors whiz by mowing down paths, man (or woman) the CSA distribution center, and make sure irrigation is working.  Ahh, I think I’ve found paradise.  I find out that their grass-fed cattle and poultry are sold to their CSA members and I wish I lived in the area to take part of this bounty. 

As Dave brings us to the growing areas, he mentions that the Glynwood center is in the process of leasing 15 acres in nearby Garrison, NY, for more growing.  We were a little shocked that they couldn’t find that acreage in their 225 acre center, but Dave pointed out that most of the land is rolling land perfect for grazing (and probably grape growing) but not for vegetables.  We found out that Dave has only been doing this for 10 years, prior to that, he was a law clerk.  He then  founded and managed a now defunct CSA in Mahwah, New Jersey with his wife before coming to Glynwood.  His plans for the 15 acres is groundbreaking.  It’s not just 15 acres for growing, but it’s going to be a model for how one can economically start-up and run a farming operation in the Northeast.  A very important mission since, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 40% of our current farmers are now over 55 years old and the new generation of farmers need to be innovative especially faced with energy, climate and water challenges.  Kudos for Dave and the Glynwood Center for promoting sustainable agriculture in this area on a whole new level.

The recent addition to the center: "A Barn with a Mission"

This recent barn addition will house their first boot stomping Barn-Dance gala on Saturday September 11, 2010 which includes a 3 course dinner with the bounty of the Hudson Valley and, of course, dancing.  This is the chance to “revel in supporting Glynwood’s mission to saving farming.”  So if you were moved by the closing of the Tuttle’s Red Barn Farm in NH, don’t wallow in despair, there are still so many things you can do to promote the movement like spend your dollars at the farmers market or at your local family farm or just even coming to the Gala and better yet, if you can, donate to the cause.  And if you're a local Rockland resident, donating to the Rockland Farm Alliance will help two new community farms come to fruition.


The Future of Food and Farming: 2009 Young Farmer's Conference at Stone Barns

“The farmer is the only person in our economy who buys everything retail, sells everything wholesale and pays the freight both ways” - JFK

The Old Rockefeller Dairy Barn is now Stone Barns Ag Center
For the second time, we attended the "Young Farmer’s Conference: Reviving the Culture of Agriculture" (YFC) held at Stone Barns Agricultural Center this year in Pocantico Hills, New York.  This 2 day course was geared towards providing both the young and new farmer with tools and ideas to help ensure their success, to provide a place where these new farmers can network and exchange ideas, to learn the nuts and bolts of sustainable farming, and to discuss the obstacles, especially financial obstacles, of starting and maintaining your own farm.  The New York Times reported earlier this year, on a wave of liberal arts students choosing their summer internships, not at Goldman Sachs, but at farms in search of work (usually unpaid or nominal wages) and also fostering the student's belief in the need for social change.  This seemed to be reflected in the sea of 250 fresh young faces at the sold-out YFC this year.

With only 400,000 farmers in this country providing about 95% of the food we eat, the future of farming is dependant on a new generation of farmers that not only can farm, but are innovative and creative enough to face the new set of challenges that farming faces:  energy, climate and water changes.  We are facing the end of cheap energy, we'll need farming systems that will be resilient with climate change, and we’ll need to learn to grow food with 1/2 the amount of water we now use.
High Tunnels at Stone Barns

We started the first day with a beautiful breakfast provided by our favorite restaurant in the world, Blue Hill, in the context of a modern elegant setting with farmhouse nuances.

Meals in the grand dining room



Charlie's first lecture was an extremely practical one for those farmers who want to grow through the winter season. It was given by the head farmer at Stone Barns, Jack Algiere. It was extremely informative and fun to watch Jack get a bed ready for the next planting. As is usual with farmers, and not in many other business models, their are no "trade secrets" Everyone is always available to help their neighbor or competing farm learn the latest technique or any modality that will increase yield. It is so refreshing to be around people like that. One can only imagine what the day would feel like in other businesses if everyone approached work and their "competition" in this manner.

Jack Algiere demonstrating greenhouse seeding

I veered off to a lecture given by Benneth Phelps and Ethan Roland on Permaculture, which is a sustainable way of farming, gardening and landscaping where it provides design tools for those that grow biodynamically, organically or even conventionally.  Everything is about increasing efficiency; tools and plants have multi-purposes, for example.  Things are planted with the goal of the "least effort for the largest effect."  I like that.  The most common example is the Sunchoke, also known as the Jerusalem Artichoke.  You plant this once and it not only yields a delicious root vegetable to be consumed, but it also grows tall providing ground cover that may act as a barrier to wind or provide shade, and also provides beautiful chocolate-scented flowers.  The beauty here for me is that I’ll never have to replant this; it’s perennial!  So I just got a food source, shade, wind protection and cut flowers in one plant!  We planted these out last October.

The next lecture we went to was “Vegetables with Taste: Growing and Marketing Vegetables with a Culinary Focus” given by Tom Wilcox and Caroline Pam from The Kitchen Garden Farm in Massachusetts.  They are a lovely couple with a food background (Caroline was a food critic and they both have been schooled in cooking) who now farm full time. It was very sobering to hear their financial data and how hard they work just to maintain a salary that is competitive to that they pay their workers. They gave some great insight into the personal relationships growers have with their clients and how important it is for business and also how rewarding it makes their day.

The next lecture we went to was given by Connor Stedman from Gaia University on Treecrops and Agroforestry.  This was a subset and extension of the Permaculture lecture and we came away with ideas for nut and fruit trees and bushes.  Next steps for HMG are currants, gooseberries, hardy kiwi and Paw Paw (a taste of the tropics in the Northeast!), American Persimmons, and hazelnut trees.

Photo from the Glynwood Center
On Friday we were inundated with extremely practical information.  The first was on soil nutrition given by Dave Llewellyn at the Glynwood Center in Cold Spring, New York.  The Glynwood Center is an amazing non-profit center that promotes environmentally sustainable agriculture and the preservation of farmland in the Northeast.  Dave spoke about nutrient density in vegetables citing a shocking example of the state of the present day quality of our food.  In order to get the equivalent nutrients of 1 apple grown in the 1930’s, we’d have to eat 6 of our present day apples!  Vegetables and fruits can be measured by a simple tool called the refractometer which tells you the “brix” content of the plant.  RefractometerWe think of brix typically in the wine, orange juice and maple syrup industries.  It's a measurement of sugar content but it also translates to a higher nutritional quantity of the plant.    For me, this was an "aha" moment.  I've been looking at various studies either supporting or refuting the idea that organic food is more nutritious.  Recently, a review came out stating that organic foods are no more nutritious than those conventionally grown. The reason why we may be seeing these discrepancies is that organic doesn't necessarily mean higher nutritional quality as defined by brix measurements!  Sure, I firmly believe that we should eat food that is free of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides and still believe that organic certified foods are important; those health effects may not be measured in terms of nutrition but unmeasurable by the potential effects years or decades later.  But, this is the reason why organic certification is not the be all and end all of what it means to be the perfect food.  It's ultimately much more important to know specifically where your food comes from rather than looking for a label at a supermarket.


This was reinforced when we had our lunch time Q and A with Dan Barber, chef of Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Blue Hill NYC, and winner of the 2009 James Beard award for Outstanding Chef.  (See Inside Dan Barber's Kitchen)  This guy was such a charismatic, witty, and energetic speaker that I had a fleeting thought that his head might explode while talking.  He told us about a great story of some Mokum carrots he served as one of the entrees at the Blue Hill tasting menu. A cantankerouDan Barber, Food Gods customer called him up to complain about how embarrassed she was for her guests who were at the table because they were served some measly carrots at a meal that cost $90-125 per person excluding beverages.  Mind you, the carrots were pulled fresh from the farm, marinated for 4 hours in a carrot stock and 5 other things I couldn’t imagine doing to some carrots to produce an intense carrot experience.  The customer didn't feel she was getting what she paid for because carrots, in her mind, are a cheap produce item.  In any case, we got around to the sobering stats of running a restaurant, the reality of buying locally, organically and realizing that the cost of food, even at Blue Hill, can even drive the buyers there to sometimes seek the lowest price.  Mr. Barber had once tested the brix content of an organic carrot the restaurant received from California and that reading was a big fat ZERO!.  Normally a good reading would be 8 or higher.  A great example of how organic doesn’t mean everything.

Padraic MacLeish. Photo from www.mnn.comOur last lecture of the day was on Small Scale Beekeeping by Padraic MacLeish, beekeeper at Stone Barns.  We learned the biology of bees and the logistics of keeping bees on a small scale in New York including obtaining hive materials, equipment, approaching bees, and getting sweet honey.  BTW, if you want bees for next year, start now!  You need to start the process of buying and getting their hives set up now so that you will be ready by spring.  The Pfeiffer Center in Chestnut Ridge, New York will be giving a biodynamically-oriented intro course February 2010. 





Closing remarks were given by Fred Kirschenmann, a leader of the organic/sustainable food movement, Distinguished Fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, and manager of a 3500 acre organic farm in North Dakota and president of the board at Stone Barns.  This extremely uplifting speech was important especially to those young and aspiring farmers who understand the reality of running their own farm - low pay, long hours and inclement weather.  He envisions that agriculture will change over to smaller operations with more knowledgeable farmers who can manage and intensively restore the biological health of the soil.   More importantly, the new young farmers will fundamentally redesign a system where everything is bred for high yield (maximum production and short term return) to a resilient system that is about nutritional quality, not just yield.  He gave us 6 suggestions for the young farmers in the room.

          1. To recognize that challenges are always opportunities.

          2. To accumulate a new capital other than money.  A human capital can provide us with       imagination, creatively and innovation.  This will be critical to solving the problems.  He referred to an essay by ecologist Richard Heinberg called “The 50 Million Farmers” who predicts that by the year 2040, there will be 50 million people growing food in their own gardens or in community gardens.  This is the type of human capital that we need.

          3. Creation of a caring economy: referred to a book by Riane Eisler: "The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics" whereby we create a system simply to help each other thrive and survive rather than the competitive one man/woman to him/herself kind of ethic that has predominated our economy.  He gave the example of the company Shepherd’s Grain  where grain farmers from Washington, Oregon and Idaho developed a relationship with local millers and bakers and together determined the price based on growing conditions and production costs.  It’s not based on the usual lower marketplace price of grain.  This business model is working.  Sales have exploded and this is a model we should look at.

          4. Reduction of transaction costs.  Travelling 250 miles to a Bronx farmer's market in a pick up truck won’t be sustainable when oil eventually approaches $300/barrel.  Places like Basis Foods in New York are committed to helping small and mid-sized farmers find a place for their products in restaurants and markets all while reducing transportation costs .  For the consumer, all their food will be entirely traceable.

           5. Create and pay attention to new sustainable models.  One example is Will Allen who grows tilapia and perch in addition to veggies in his 3 acre urban farm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  This is a closed cycle that feeds 10,000 people on 3 acres!

           6. Engage governmental agencies.  Yeah, we're really disappointed in some of Obama's appointments but there is hope in the new young blood in the USDA forming the resistance and trying to develop new policies.

This conference was such an inspiration for us that we plan to make big changes at our micro-farm.  Bees next year, serious scientific inquiry into the real nutritional quality of the food we produce, more efficient techniques will be in place, permaculture design applied to the remaining parts of the property that have not been tapped into and maybe trying out some Aquaponics.  That’s right - growing our own fish source!  We’ll be sure to be at the conference next year and in the meantime, I hope everyone who reads this will continue to vote with their dollars in making the right food choices to both support their own health and their local farmers.