News and blog
It was a chilly but sun-filled morning at The FARM at our annual MLK Day of Service. We met at 9 am and broke up into groups for morning livestock chores. My group got to feed the chickens—which happen to be my favorite—who are now nestled into a space in the back of the Back 40. There are two groups of free-roaming layers—the Buff Orpingtons and the Rhode Island Reds. The Buff Orpingtons seem to have found a hideout under the old trailer. It’s like their own secret clubhouse. I wondered if maybe there was a secret password because none of the Rhode Island Reds seemed to be hanging out with them. Our latest flock of birds, the Black Australorps, are still pullets growing up in the nice warmth and safety of the barn. It’s nice to have the animals so close to the barn this time of year. It makes for easier visiting! We then dropped by the piglets and lugged feed out to their feeder bins. They were more curious about us than about their food. Healthy and hardy, they nosed about “talking” with each other seemingly unaware of the big snowstorm coming later that day. All the volunteers got a chance to groom our working steers, Zeus and Apollo, before taking a quick snack break to enjoy some hot tea and scones.
Then it was out to the Back 40 for our clean up project. Our volunteers sorted, hauled, carried, and dragged all sorts of old wood, tires, whose its and what nots into a dump trailer piloted by Zeus and Apollo. Then Johnny Hoy brought his dump truck over and we filled that up too! All of our past treasures were hauled off to the dump and our volunteers enjoyed some more snacks and soup while warming up inside. Rebecca, our Garden Manager, led a busy crew in the Friendship Garden pulling up old sunflower and tomato stalks and a little parsley and celery was even gleaned. How fun to find food still growing in the cold, dark days of January!
What an amazing day of work at The FARM! Thanks to Barbara, Laurie, Kim, Maggie, Sally, Dylan, Helayne, Sammy, Sande, Margaret, Lily, Jeannie, Leo, Johnny, Gus and Otto for all of your help. TFI welcomes volunteers this time of year especially for livestock chores and greenhouse work. Livestock chores happen daily every morning and afternoon. Seeding and planting in the greenhouse will continue through the spring. Volunteering is a great way to stay active and involved during the winter months. Call today or visit our volunteer page on our website. We hope to see you soon down on The FARM. Until then—stay warm.
Well, I don't normally like to toot my own horn, but I've just gotta say it--those heritage breed turkeys were phenomenal. They tasted so turkey-ish that I just couldn't stop eating. And then the next day when I made the soup? Forget about it--half of the leftover turkey went right into my mouth and never made it to the soup pot.
Steve Raichlen seemed impressed as well. Our Executive Director hand delivered a couple birds to the BBQ king himself all the way down to Miami. Talk about a carry on! Read all about it here. http://www.barbecuebible.com/
I'm interested in hearing your favorite turkey stories. How did you prepare it? Brining or not? Glaze? Roasted, deep fried or grilled?
And just in case you missed our birds this year don't worry--we'll have them again for next Thanksgiving. If you can wait that long!
Here is an informative blurb about Heritage turkeys from the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. We thought it might help inspire you to order your Farm Institute raised and processed heritage breed turkey! And help you understand just whats so special about them. In order to sign up for a turkey email email@example.com or call 508-627-7007.
A common question we get at ALBC is “If these animals are endangered, why should I eat them?” Simply put, eating these birds, as well as other endangered livestock and poultry encourages farmers to breed and sell more of them, which ensures the breeds remain an important part of agriculture and their populations do not decline. As long as farmers keep breeding stock around, they will be able to continue to produce more products for consumers, while simultaneously contributing to conservation.
If you are looking to buy a heritage turkey for your holiday meal, consider some of these tips:
- Buy local. Purchase your heritage turkey from a local farmer or farmers’ market. If you order a bird from afar, sticker shock may ensue. Shipping fresh or frozen meats can by upwards of $80-$100.
- Be prepared to pay a bit more. Heritage turkeys are like a fine wine, slow to mature. Commercial turkeys reach market weight in 18 weeks, compared to 24 to 30 weeks for heritage breeds. This slow growth rate means it costs farmers more money to raise these birds. Be ready to pay a premium price of $5.50 to $12 per pound, depending on your location.
- Breast lovers beware; you’ll need to adjust your expectations. Heritage turkeys typically have longer breasts that are less broad than commercial turkeys. (Commercial birds are bred to have abnormally large breasts.) If you’re a thigh guy, you’ll be in luck. Heritage turkeys have longer, meatier legs – meaning more dark meat.When cooking heritage turkeys, low and slow are the words to know. Because of their different biological make-up, heritage turkeys need to be cooked at lower temperatures for longer periods of time. Do not overcook!
- Savor the flavor. Heritage turkeys are rich, moist, and more flavorful than the birds you’ll find in your local supermarket. Don’t over-season them when cooking. You’ll want to be sure you can enjoy the intrinsic flavors of these unique breeds.
- Act fast! Because of the rise in interest in heritage turkeys, many farmers begin taking orders in March. By early November, heritage turkeys will be a hot commodity. If you want one on your Thanksgiving table, make arrangements now! Visit www.rarebreedsearch.com or www.localharvest.com to find a farmer near you.
Wow! The summer is going by so fast! August has been filled with lots of fun here at the FARM.
During the day kids have been running the farm: taking care of animals, mucking, putting up animal fencing, painting, harvesting vegetables and flowers, going to the agriculture fair, and so much more! Our teachers have been doing a great job keeping up with all of the kids, but at the end of the day they are exhausted!
But the fun hasn’t stopped there! We have had a number adult programs running though August as well! We have spun wool into yarn, composted, eaten weeds, dehydrated food and it’s been great! A highlight was defiantly the dehydrating workshop where we made dried tomatoes, bananas and beef jerky! Sheila has been here making pickles and jam for workshops. Those who attended got to taste, make and bring home these AMAZING goods. A huge THANK YOU to Sheila who offered her skills to us. Anyone who hasn’t tried her pickles is missing out big time
While we only have a few weeks left of summer, please don’t forget to sign up for the last program. We will have 1 more week of camp August 27th to the 31st and our LAST workshop will be soap making held on the 28th 6pm to 9pm.
Come by for some great sunsets as well!
In my summer of teaching at The FARM Institute, Iron Chef in the Garden was a precious afternoon activity in which the kids used teamwork and creativity to highlight the fruits of the farm. The activity focused the kids on the land: what food do I have available to me that's growing right now? Anything fresh and available suddenly became a precious asset. Instead of making a shopping list, the kids made harvest lists: we want cucumbers, so we'll go out and pick them. Oh, and let's drop by and see if the hens just laid any eggs.
Schools or summer camps with gardens can use an Iron Chef activity to get kids focused on what's seasonal and local, and make the farm-to-fork connection more tangible than ever.
(I was told by a more TV savvy colleague that this is actually more akin to the show 'Chopped'. Unfortunately I liked the name 'Iron Chef' too much to revise the activity name.)
After the preliminary drum roll, kids were split into five groups of about six children. Age groups were mixed, giving the space for older kids to take on leadership roles.
Iron Chef in the Garden was presented:
"You are all talented chefs working in teams to make the most creative and scrumptious dish possible in two hours. You will be presented with a list of available ingredients, and also a culinary challenge for including certain things in your dish."
The Culinary Challenges
In our Iron Chef in the Garden activity, the five groups were each given a separate culinary challenge. A representative from each team came forth to pull out of a hat one of these cooking stipulations: "Your dish must include..."
1) Eggs cooked two different ways
2) Three herbs from the garden
3) Four vegetables from the garden
4) Three wild edibles
Iron Chef Creative Brainstorming
Next we gave the kids and their teacher a list of the ingredients available to them. At The FARM Institute we have a vegetable garden and several hen houses where the kids could collect fresh eggs for their dishes! In addition they were encouraged to use any wild edibles they may have learned about.
Before even setting foot in the kitchen, it was encouraged that each team pow-wow and brainstorm recipes. Reading through the list of ingredients helped spark some creative ideas! "How about chocolate squash-flower pancakes??"
The Resulting Dishes!
Time's up everyone! Make sure your dishes are cleaned, put away, and bring your Iron Chef entry to the display table.
It was amazing to see what the kids concocted!
- For the eggs cooked two ways group: A tortilla egg sandwich, garnished with fresh summer squash and tomato sauce made from tomatoes and onions in the garden. The eggs were collected from the hen house just hours before going in the frying pan and the pot to be scrambled and hard boiled. The hard boiled egg was peeled and placed in the center of the tortilla sandwich where the kids had cut an artistic "egg-holding hole."
- Flowers group: this became a useful time to teach the kids what flowers in the vegetable garden and fields are edible. The answer: squash and zucchini flowers, chicory, nasturtiums, and purple clover. In the end the group decided to focus on squash flowers. They then learned to only harvest the male flowers, which do not turn into a squash fruit while the female ones do. You can tell which flowers are male because they are only supported by a stem, whereas the female flowers (on the same squash plant) always are attached to a growing squash.
- The wild edibles group found wild garlic, purslane (a common weed), and a stray batch of kale growing wildly. This they turned into a colorful frittata and side salad.
- The three herbs group utilized the peanut butter in the pantry and made a stellar thai peanut wrap with sage, basil, and parsley from the garden.
- Finally, the four vegetables group made a great pasta veggie salad, complete with cucumbers, tomatoes, kale, and squash from the garden!
Teachers stood by while the kids presented their dishes and explained how they met their challenge. Much ooohing and ahhing accompanied.
The Judging: Everyone Wins!
This is where the teachers really had fun hamming it up! Our Director, Sidney, was the head judge. Unlike me, it sounded as though Sidney had watched Iron Chef, as he pulled out culinary terms like "plating," "delectability," and "zingy-ness."
In the end each plate got an award:
The Breakfast I Want to Eat Every Day
Most Delicious Sauce
Most Ingredients Used
Most Likely to be on a French Menu
Eat and Enjoy your Iron Chef in the Garden Dishes
With awards done, there was only one thing left to do: hand out forks to the kids and let them circulate, trying a sample of each! Perhaps this was the most rewarding part of the day, seeing kids eagerly line up for a taste of their friends' dishes and gobble down zucchini and cucumber.
July is almost over! We can hardly believe it here at the FARM. While it is sad that camp is half way over, there is good news! Adult programs will be starting next week and will be running though August!
Classes will be held here at the FARM and have something for everybody! Our classes will vary from fiber, gardening and cooking as well. We will be making yarn, compost, soap, cheese, and jam! Check out our flyer here. Please call to register for these programs.
Don't forget to sign your kids up for camp! Which can be done online or over the phone.
We also have other events going on in August which will be:
- Movie night Tuesday August 2nd-- A Cat in Paris will be playing $10/Family $5/person. Bring a blanket or chair and be ready for a great night!
- Flatbread benefit night August 14th-- eat at Flatbread pizza and a portion of the processed will be donated to the FARM. There will be a raffle and tee shirts for sale!
We look forward to seeing you at the FARM!
Its that time again! Visitors are coming to the farm every day and we want to make sure you all have a great experience while you are here.
Here are some things to know before you come:
-We are not set up like a petting zoo- you may have to walk a bit to see all of the critters! We do currently have calves, lambs, pigs and some chicks close by for you to see.
-If you would like to have a guided tour and get up close and personal with the animals and plants, please call ahead to schedule one. Regular daily tours will begin Monday June 25th at 10am. Tours are $5 per person or $10 per family.
-Please stop at the kiosk located next to the farm stand when you arrive for some helpful information about what to do when you're here and what fences are electric (!)
-Our farm stand isn't open yet, but meat, eggs and merch. are all available from our farm office building. Come on in!
Dont forget to sign up for camp!
Hope to see you all soon!
Temperatures are supposedly in the 70s today! With some cool winds it should be a comfortable temp for our new babies and expecting mothers (and the farm staff too!).
Mariah had her litter of 11 piglets on Friday the 6th. Farmer Sara stayed with her throughout the night making sure mom and babes were happy and healthy. Carey had 14 piglets Monday the 9th under the watchful eyes of the Homegrown Preschool group. Those lucky kiddos also got to watch Giovanna's piglets be born! Carey was much more thoughtful and positioned herself so the kids could see the whole show. We are watching the piglets carefully as those are lots of mouths to feed and it's important everyone gets enough to eat. The weather has been so nice that we have been able to keep the doors to their stalls open for the moms to venture out into the sun for a little break. Come by and see them!
We have already welcomed our first two calves of the year! Thelma,our Belted Galloway cow, had a heifer calf a week ago and Cookie, one of our American British White Parks, had a little bull calf on Saturday. Both are doing well and happily frolicking. We still have at least 5 cows to calve this spring and of course more that will calve this summer and fall.
The first batch of meat birds is out on pasture! Our first processing is scheduled for mid May. We will only be processing around 100 barred silver meat birds a month so definitely let us know if you want one! As always, processing is always open to the public.
The sheep have been grazing around the gardens to get ready for the deer fence to go up. Having sheep eat the grass makes way more sense to us than using a lawn mower.
Don't forget about SHEEPAPALOOZA!! Here are the details!
Sorry for the long delay everyone, I was busy coping with the fact that our old blog is no longer with us. Good bye old news, but now for some new news.
I am pretty sure we are done lambing for awhile, with the exception of one of our Cheviot ewes Nancy, who insists on being stubborn in every aspect of her life. She is a first timer, so its easy to see that her udder is beginning to develop, but all we can do is sit around and wait to see if anything comes of it. We didn't do as well as we had hoped with lambing this year, but buying a new flock can be a gamble. I am hopeful that once they are settled in and we get to know them (and they get to know us) we can have a better future together. Maybe. For now the ewe lambs that have yet to lamb are out during the day enjoying the grass while the ewes and their lambs, ranging in age from 3.5 months old to 5 weeks old, are frolicking around behind the silo soaking up the sun. We are hoping the weather stays warm and the grass will keep growing then everyone can be out grazing in no time.
Our first cow due date is Friday. We split our herd between fall and spring calving for a number of reasons. I'd be happy to go into details about it if you are interested. We are expecting 9 cows to calve between now and the beginning of May. Three of the cows are first time calf heifers, so we will be watching them closely to make sure there are no problems. Their udders are beginning to develop well which means babies on the way. The others are all cows that have had calves before but 4 of them have not had calves since we have owned them, because we dont know what to expect from them we will be watching them closely too. Then there are Thelma and Louise, our resident belties who gave us beautiful bull calves last year who we hope will surprise us with the same once again. The steers and heifers born last spring summer and fall are growing well and enjoying playing tag and basking in the sun. I must say thank goodness for good hay!
The first two batches of meat birds have arrived! One is headed out to our newly converted chicken tractor mobile. Its sort of a chicken tractor and eggmobile hybrid. You'll have to see it to believe it. Basically its just an old horse trailer that will eventually be a eggmobile for laying hens but is now being used to house our free ranging kosher king meat birds. First batch is expected to be ready for your table mid May. Memorial day barbecue chicken?
Speaking of layers, ours are laying quite well! Some days we are getting 10 dozen a day from our 1.5 and 2.5 year old hens which are now being joined by our 6 month old pullets. The three hen houses are still in the cow pasture, giving the hens plenty of seeds, bugs, plants, and whatever else they want to enjoy. The days of not having eggs at the farm are long gone. Come get some of the islands best eggs! (no seriously, they were voted best in an island wide blind taste test...)
Pigs pigs pigs pigs! Very soon we will be up to our ears in pigs. Giovanna, our resident pure bred large black sow has just welcomed the first litter of piglets this year. She and her partner Wilfred, our large black boar had 8 piglets all of which are doing quite well. Mariah and Carey, our Berkshire sows are due any day now and we are hoping they provide us with oodles of healthy piglets like they did last summer. Mariahs daughter Gertie has also been having slumber parties with Wilfred and we think she will welcome her first litter around the end of June. Looking for piglets? We will most likely have some for sale...
Come by and see all the critters! Never a dull moment on the farm.
Priscilla the duck.
The Farm Institute Receives Support from NESARE for Pilot Parcels Project
Contact: Jon Previant 508-627-7007 or 305-582-0399 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Farm Institute was notified last week that it has received funding from the USDA’s Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education to support Island farmers who want to experiment with innovative crops or processes. The Pilot Parcels Project will help Martha’s Vineyard farmers explore new ideas in an area of extremely limited access to land and high production costs.
With only 900 acres of the Island’s 47,000 acres in food production, the demand for locally grown products is strong and expanding. However, there are great challenges to farmers trying to advance Island goals for food self-sufficiency and little room for exploration.
Pilot Parcel Project will invite farmers from all backgrounds and experience to apply to use one-acre plots at The Farm Institute for either innovative crop production or innovative practices. The project would provide a low-risk environment for answering participant’s enterprise questions, such as: Is it feasible to grow our own hops for beer? Could I raise my own grain for locally grown chickens? The Farm Institute will ask its own questions about whether successful projects can be expanded through ongoing partnerships.
An application form is available online for interested farmers. Selection criteria will include the potential of gathering new ideas to share with the farm community, the feasibility of the plan, and the goal of having a mix of farm experience and crops in the project. The Pilot Parcels Project will provide chosen participants with help with soil preparation, educational events and consultations to support the projects, as well as a small budget for seed, equipment rentals or other supplies.
Applications due: March 21, 2012
Participants chosen by: March 28, 2012
Plot assignments: March 30, 2012
The Pilot Parcels project is part of NESARE’s Sustainable Community grants program. Funding for the work reported here was provided by the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program