Friday, May 31, 2013

Today I Saw Red - Rhubarb Red

I had heard the rumors that soon, as the weather warmed and the rain diminished that myself and the other interns at Pond Hill Farm would be picking 1,000 pounds of rhubarb. Now, I am going to be perfectly honest...I don't think that before today I could have told you what a rhubarb plant looked like, let alone how one could eat it or what it tasted like. It is quite possible that I once tasted it as a kid, most likely in rhubarb pie or strawberry rhubarb jam. Obviously I hadn't thought much of it because when it was confirmed that this rumor was true, all I could think was where is the rhubarb, what does it look like, and do we really need to pick 1,000 pounds of it?

Pond Hill Farm has in total 157 acres with 90 acres under food production. This size allows Jimmy, the owner of Pond Hill to produce enough of certain crops to sell wholesale and not just to individual customers. This was the case with the 1,000 lb rhubarb order requested by Cherry Capital Foods, a food retailer that works with farmers, growers, and producers only from the state of Michigan. What I didn't know about rhubarb was that it is a vegetable perennial and as we were picking, Jimmy explained that he had planted the rhubarb 10 years ago and it had been coming up annually ever since. When he realized that very little effort was needed to maintain the crop, he decided to plant more eventually granting him the ability satisfy the demand of 1,000lb orders.

Rhubarb is in season in Connecticut so if you happen to come across it at a local farmers market or maybe even in your backyard, think of me and the 1,000 pounds and try it for yourself in these favorite rhubarb recipes:

  • 2 pounds rhubarb, sliced crosswise 3/4 inch thick
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, combine rhubarb, sugar, and 1/4 cup flour; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine remaining 1/2 cup flour and the butter. Pulse until the butter pieces are pea-size. Add brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon. Pulse to combine. Sprinkle over rhubarb.
  3. Bake until rhubarb is tender and topping is golden, 35 to 45 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream, if desired.

This quick, zesty chutney complements almost any meat or poultry.

2 cups diced rhubarb 
3/4 cup diced red apple 
1/2 cup dried cranberries, or cherries
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup honey 
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, plus more to taste

  1. Combine rhubarb, apple, cranberries (or cherries), onion, water, honey, ginger, vinegar and crushed red pepper to taste in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until rhubarb is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes more. Serve warm or cold.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Greetings from Pond Hill Farm!

As promised, I am here to update you on my adventures at Pond Hill Farm. It has been about three weeks since I have arrived but it has felt like longer. Every day presents countless opportunities to learn something new and appreciate a day of hard work. Before I began my journey to Harbor Springs, MI I was living downstate in the small town of Brooklyn, MI. It was there that I wrote my last post and if you recall, as I wrote I was watching snow flurries fall to the ground. I remember feeling exasperated, ready for spring and slightly worried about what the weather would be like when I arrived four hours north of Brooklyn in Harbor Springs. I remember wondering how I would cope with the trials and tribulations of farming (like the weather...the snow, the rain, the sun, the heat) and promising that I would share with you what I have learned from them.

Here is my first:
Sun is Good (in moderation), Rain is Great (in moderation), Frost is Bad (always).

It is kind of ironic that as I now write my second post, it is down pouring. It would probably be safe to say that three weeks ago I would have been cursing the rain for limiting my ability to go for a bike ride or to the beach. Now I have a newly found appreciation for the rain and the ever-changing weather of Northern Michigan. Rain means the plants that I put in the ground yesterday will be thriving tomorrow. Rain means that we don't have to spend countless hours watering all the plants in the greenhouses and hoop houses and soaking up all of our precious ground water resources. A forecast of overnight frost sends everyone into a frenzied panic, frantic to put all of the warm weather seedlings back inside. Sun is always good in moderation, too much can fry the plants (and me for that matter).

Greenhouse on a rainy day. 
I know that to many, like an experienced farmer or avid gardener these inclinations may seem obvious. Yet to someone like myself who three weeks ago would have been cursing the rain, my experience so far has allowed me to gain a new perspective and appreciate how those who grow their own food whether it be to sell or for their own consumption are dependent on a factor that they have absolutely no control over. It almost sounds well, just a little crazy. Yet without these great flucuations in the weather we wouldn't be able to farm. No sun, no rain, and no changing of the seasons can greatly limit or even put an end to growth. 

The winery and farm store in the fog. 
I am looking forward to updating more about my experience at Pond Hill and about more thrilling (yet equally important) topics than just the weather. The farm has many difference facets; the greenhouses, the cafe, the vineyards, the winery, the farm store, farm education programs, the list goes. Each one has its own story and along with a lesson to be learned.

Until next time....


P.S. Happy spring!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

CT NOFA is Hiring!

You get to go to fun events! And spend time outdoors!
CT NOFA is in search of two new employees! We're looking for a Program and Event Manager and a Marketing, Design and Fundraising Manager.

CT NOFA staff take food very seriously.
These are both full time positions. The Marketing, Design, and Fundraising Manager will help expand the organization's fundraising capabilities using effective marketing, graphic design, and direct networking with potential and existing donors.  View the job description here! The Program and Event Manager plans and promotes events in accordance with grant requirements, and then records and reports these grant activities.  View the job description here! Interested in applying? Send your cover letter and resume to Deb Legge at before June 10!

It's going to be in the 40s over Memorial Day Weekend,
at this rate you can use these jackets all summer!
If you like what we do, you might be interested in becoming involved! Melissa and I will be leaving in mid-summer - which also means this blog will need some new writers! Even if you aren't interested in working with CT NOFA, let us know if you'd like to blog.  You can write about anything that relates to sustainable food! We were thinking it might be fun to have a garden blogger, a food blogger, a shopping blogger, etc.  You can write about the experience of going to the farmers market, or interesting things you've observed in your garden, or the delicious local squash ravioli you made, or the disastrous kale smoothie you couldn't convince anyone to drink.  

If you've thought about becoming involved with CT NOFA before - now is the time! We also are still in our Spring Appeal - which means any donation of $100 or more enters you in a raffle to win one of these beautiful jackets donated by Patagonia Westport! You can donate to the Spring Appeal here!  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

You Can Win a New Jacket by Supporting Our Mission!

Our Spring Appeal is in full swing, and there are prizes you can win! Donate $100 or more to be entered into a raffle to win one of these AWESOME JACKETS from Patagonia! Take on those chilly spring nights in style!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Local Seedling Sales around the State

Didn't get a chance to start your seeds this year? That's ok! You can still have organic, locally seeded veggies - from the experts!

A number of farms around the state are having seedling sales this weekend.  If you're a farmer and would like some help promoting your seedling sale, please post it on CT NOFA's Facebook.

Here are the ones we know about, one in New Haven, one in New Britain and one in Waterford:

Common Ground High School's Seedling Sale
May 18, 10:00am - 3:00pm
385 Springside Avenue, New Haven

Urban Oaks Organic Farm
May 17 (12:00pm - 6:00pm)
May 18 (9:00am - 2:00pm)
225 Oak Street, New Britain, CT

Hunts Brook Farm Farm Tour and Seedling Sale
Saturday & Sunday May 18&19 (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.)
108 Hunts Brook Road
Quaker Hill, CT 06375

Also, if you're looking for some fun with the whole family, visit Flanders Nature Center in Woodbury, CT for Flanders Family Farm Fun Day on May 18 between 10:00 and 3:00!  CT NOFA will be there with NEW Farm and Food Guides!

We hope you can enjoy this weekend for some gardening, and visiting some of our states working and educational farms to get to know farmers and your food better!


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Food Traceability: Another Reason to Buy Local

Foodborne illness can happen in any environment, whether on a small farm, in your kitchen, or in a huge industrial food supply chain. In industrial ag, however, complications arise because it's often hard to locate the source of a foodborne pathogen.  Food Safety News recently featured an articleabout farm-to-fork traceability - how well recorded the processes are that foods go through during the time between harvest and consumption. Their report shows that cumbersome long distance supply chains like the one that provides the majority of America's food, are fraught with recording system incompatibilities and a lack of consistency, making it difficult to trace a pathogen outbreak back to its source in a timely fashion. The article weaves this tale:
Picture a pile of tomatoes in the produce section. Farms supply tomatoes to a distributor, who gives them a product code before passing them onto a retailer who may give them a different identifying code. Go find a can of diced tomatoes in another aisle and the number of changed hands and identification codes may have doubled. Find a jar of salsa — the ingredients, codes and suppliers compound exponentially.
Now, throw a Salmonella outbreak into the mix. Hundreds of people around the country report illnesses and face interviews with investigators asking them to recall several weeks of meal histories.
At first, interviews seem to point to tomatoes as the most likely source — maybe a lot of the victims ate salsa — and so investigators begin tracing back through the tomato supply chain in search of the contamination. Eventually, however, the investigation into tomatoes dries up, and it only later becomes apparent that the outbreak was instead likely caused by contaminated jalapeƱo peppers.
That’s what happened across 43 states in the spring of 2008, and while investigators were tracing back through tomato supply chains, the jalapeƱos were granted more time to sicken additional consumers.
The industrial food system has a lot of inefficiencies, and a lot of middlemen.  In such an overly complex system, problems tend to arise and are difficult to solve. As a person eating those products, it's hard to trace where each ingredient is coming from and what processes it went through, so consumers are heavily reliant on the industrial food system's faulty food traceability mechanism.  This reliance is inefficient and dangerous, but there are alternatives!

If you want to know what's in your food, there are a few easy things you can do:
  • Buy minimally processed foods that only have a few ingredients, and make sure those ingredients are things that you recognize and can pronounce!
  • Buy whole foods like fruits and vegetables that have only one ingredient
  • Buy organic. These foods are exposed to far less chemicals and don't contain any genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
  • BUY LOCAL! If you know the farmer and the farm where your food came from, you'll not only know what's in it, but also what processes (if any) the food went through between the time it was harvested and the time it goes into your mouth.
It's easier now more than ever to buy local!  Check out our brand new Farm and Food Guide to find a sustainable farmer, business, or farmers market near you.  You can also visit the CT Farm Map online for an interactive farm location experience!

Have a great afternoon,

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Get Ready for Spring Crops!

Although you can grow or buy a bounty of foods year-round in Connecticut, now is the time that the season for a wide array of spring and summer crops really starts to pick up.  This week as you're contemplating your grocery list, check out the above Connecticut Grown calendar (also available online here) to see what's growing in the area right now. 

Then, check out our brand new Farm and Food Guide that just came out for a listing of organic and sustainable farms near you!  The Guide provides not only a list of farms and farmers markets with maps that show where each farm is located, but also contains information about which Connecticut Grown farm products are available from each farm.  Starting right now, you can use the Guide and the CT Grown map together to get more of your produce from local sources.

And don't forget, CT farmers offer all of the produce listed in the map, plus more!  Check out the Guide to learn about additional types of produce as well as baked goods, dairy items, meat and seafood, and so much more! Buying local is an easy and delicious way to keep your food dollars where they count - in the local economy supporting Connecticut's own farmers!

Have a great afternoon!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Interns Wanted!

Summer Intern Hours: 25 to 40 hours a week - weekly hours are flexible based on intern availability,
event scheduling and requirements for college credit.  The position is mostly structured for a current student or recently graduate, but all are welcome to apply.

Compensation: Unpaid

Position Details: CT NOFA’s intern position is provides an opportunity to become involved with multiple programs at the organization and gain broad experience with non-profit work. The intern’s work will primarily be in our office in Oxford, Connecticut helping to promote events, completing and compiling research, helping at workshops and carrying out administrative duties.  Interns are welcome to work remotely for some time based on their availability and location (we encourage interns to come in once a week or more).

• Complete research about state and regional resources for gardeners and farmers and education opportunities for gardeners and landscapers
• Update CT NOFA and NOFA Organic Land Care websites
• Contribute to CT NOFA and NOFA OLC’s social media: Facebook, Twitter and a Blog
• Help event coordinators with workshops and summer events (set up, registration, clean up, etc.)

• Strong organizational skills and attention to detail
• Intern must have access to a car, outreach requires travel to different locations, mostly within Connecticut (CT NOFA will reimburse for mileage expenses)
• Familiarity with local farming or the Connecticut sustainable food movement is helpful, but not required.

About CT NOFA CT NOFA is the Connecticut Chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. CT NOFA is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the practices of ecologically sound farming and gardening, and to the development of local sustainable agriculture. Our efforts give consumers increased access to safe and healthy food. CT NOFA is a growing community of farmers, gardeners, land care professionals, businesses and consumers that encourages a healthy relationship to the natural world.

How to Apply:
Please send a coverletter and resume to Kristiane Huber at  We'll get in touch with you right away to discuss if you'll enjoy and benefit from working with us this summer!