The Weather-dudes tell us that today is the first day of Meteorological winter. They might well be right, the pond froze over for the first time and the soil is beginning to freeze meaning the last of the roots need to come out of the ground and be stored away in buckets of damp sand for later use or sale.
Two days ago we pulled up all the remaining carrots, 3 50' x 4' beds. Pulled what was left of the Lutz's Greenleaf beet, pulled many rutabagas, radishes, harvested the last of the zucchini, green peppers and cherry tomatoes. The hoop houses and row covers were not enough protection for those tender crops so we took what we could find and will move the houses off of them today or tomorrow and put one over the kale and leeks, another over lettuce and the third over spring mix and arugula. Eventually one of the 100' houses will be moved over 2 beds of strawberries so we can get them producing by mid April.
Winter is not so quiet on the farm
Marilou Suszko wants to get the public interested in homegrown produce and the farmers who grow it.
In her first book, ''Farms and Foods of Ohio: From Garden Gate to Dinner Plate,'' Suszko, a culinary instructor at Laurel Run in Amherst and a free-lance food writer, said there is a growing trend among consumers to support the local farmer in their community.
"What this book is showing is that there is a return to supporting the farmer in your community who feeds us. As (noted chef) Emeril Lagasse said, '(Today's) farmers are really hot.' People love to hear stories about farmers. They've become very popular,'' said Suszko, a Vermilion resident.
''It focuses on produce you can get close to home. When you look at the book, it's representative of all of Ohio. Not every single thing grown in Ohio is in this book. We're one of the leading agricultural states in the nation,'' said Suszko.
''It gets you thinking about locally grown food, who your farmer is and what they're doing for you,'' said Suszko.
Suszko calls Richard Aufdenkampe of Amherst, ''my local farmer of choice.''
Aufdenkampe's family-owned farm on North Ridge Road uses 32 acres to grow an abundance of vegetables, including winter squash, pumpkins, corn, cabbage, white cauliflower, beets, turnips and hearty beefsteak tomatoes.
The farm was begun by his father and his uncle in 1946. ''My motto is everything at my roadside stand I raise myself. The major advantage is freshness and getting it ripe,'' said Aufdenkampe.
The difference between a supermarket tomato and one grown on a local farm is like day and night, said Aufdenkampe.
''About 80 percent of grocery tomatoes are picked green and shipped to a warehouse where they are 'gassed' to hasten the ripening process,'' said Aufdenkampe.
''That's why, when you go to the supermarket, most tomatoes don't have much flavor to them. Typically, farm markets, where you're buying locally, don't pick the tomatoes off the vine until they're red,'' said Aufdenkampe.
The question, said Aufdenkampe, that consumers should ask of those operating farmer's markets and roadside stands, is ''Where's it coming from?''
In her book, Suszko estimated there are about 77,000 farms in Ohio.
''Some of the smaller farms are growing specialty items, like heirloom tomatoes. These are the farmers that bring specialty items to our table. These are the farmers that feed us,'' said Suszko.
Specialty items like heirloom tomatoes require diligence and care on the part of the farmer growing them.
''They're fragile and harder to grow,'' said Suszko. ''They take dedication on the part of the farmer wanting to grow them.
''There's lots of care involved. The old world varieties are not as disease and pest-resistant and require more attention,'' said Suszko.
''I'm primarily a food writer; an independent contractor,'' said Suszko.
''In the book, there are stories of more than 40 family farms and chefs throughout the state who support locally grown food and feature them in their menus. There are 123 recipes as well,'' said Suszko.
She said many of today's farms function as a full time farm but often, the farmer has a second job to make ends meet.
''There's no such thing as a part-time farm. You can garden part time, but you can't farm part time,'' said Suszko.
One satisfying moment for Suszko occurred when she was at Aufdenkampe's farm and overheard people talking about her book.
''I stood there for a minute or two. Three people pulled in to the driveway. All of whom were there because they had read my book and were thinking about buying locally,'' said Suszko.
The book is available at Brummer's in Vermilion, at Barnes and Noble and at www.amazon.com.