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Friday, November 30, 2007

Meteorological Winter

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Buy Some Books

Okay, you may noticed a slew of new books from Amazon sitting in the sidebar to the left. These are books that I personally own and are favorites here at Boulder Belt Eco-Farm. Here's the deal. I write this blog because I love writing. But I want this blog to generate some income and Google and Amazon ads are posted here for that purpose. Click on an ad, and I get a tiny % for allowing these ads to clutter up this blog. With Google I do not have any say as to what will be posted. For the most, part the Google ads have been unoffensive (there are a few that appear from time to time that do piss me off. Milk is Milk is one such ad. It's Alex Avery's site touting the wonders of rBGH and GMO's and telling us that organics will kill us all. Oh, and anything associated with Monsanto).

With the Amazon ads in order for me to get any $$ you do have to buy a book (and it has to be from the selections posted here on this very blog). Since it is the Holiday season and you likely have to buy some presents anyhoo why not support small farm in doing so

So I am asking you to take a look at the Amazon selections here. If you see something that interests you (and if you are a beginning locavore or market farmer all these titles ought to pique your interest)click on that link and buy the product and I get a % and the blog generates money for our sustainable farm and that means income during our slow season (winter) so we can pay bills, buy seed and equipment for the upcoming growing season.

Okay about the publications listed.

Food and Farms of Ohio; I have to admit I have not read but Boulder Belt Farm is profiled in this book. The reason I do not own this is because I usually get a copy of any book I am in (and there have been several) and for some reason I was not sent a free copy of this book. At any rate this is a cookbook that celebrates local food and farms of Ohio.

Root Cellaring; This is a must have book if you intend to be a locavore/eat locally year round. Beautifully and simply written it explains how you grow and put up food for the winter so you can eat local year round. And this is not just for us rural folks, they have lots of tips for apartment dwellers as well.

The New Organic Grower; I think this is Eliot Coleman's best book. It covers about everything you need to know to set up a market garden of really large and complex home garden. I think this book would be overwhelming for a gardening newbie. Coleman covers site selection, laying out a garden, crop rotation, equipment needs, seed starting, season extension, etc.. this book is what got us through the jump from teensy market garden to growing on an acre (now we are at around 3 acres).

Seed to Seed; This is the best book on basic seed saving. Anyone interested in heirloom crops and seed saving should have a copy of this book. it is basic and well laid out and is the seed saving book we use most often here at Boulder Belt Eco-Farm.

The New Farmers Market: This is simply the best book ever published on farmers markets. If you are a in the process of developing a new farmers market you must have this book. If you are a market grower you must have this book, it is loaded with tons of information as to how to better market what you grow. I have used this book a lot, both for my own farm's sales and also to help create the Oxford farmers markets Uptown (which is very very successful, in part because of this book)

Breed Your own Vegetable Varieties; When you have gotten beyond basic seed saving and want to try your hand at breeding it is time to move from Ashworth's Seed to Seed and buy a copy of this book. Deppe is a professional seed breeder (she has a Ph.d and everthang) and a very good writer. this book is a series of stories about seed saving and breeding along with all the technical information you need to know about isolation, plant selection, etc..

Acres Magazine:The Voice for Eco-Agriculture; I have been an Acres subscriber for well over 10 years (and because these are too good to ever throw away-like Nat'l Geographics-I have a 4' stack of the back issues). I love this publication as it keeps me up to date on farm issues, industrial organics, NAIS, etc.. It has a lot of information on soil building, grazing, permaculture, biodynamics, small farming, alternative medicine for man and beast. If you are at all into alternative living check out this magazine.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hoop House redux

Robin over at Seasons Eating Farm has a post about her hoop house/green house and notes that hoop house/season extension/green house posts tend to drive traffic to farm blogs that post about them and have pictures. no pictures on this post but if you look at the links below (in order) you will not only see pictures of our hoop houses but also how to put one together for under $750US. We have put up 3 hoop houses this season. 2 are 15' x 100' and one is 15' x 50'.

Beer and the Grid

The beer we made on thanksgiving is fermenting nicely. But the project was not without it's problems. First of all Eugene could not find the airlocks or rubber corks that are needed after the beer is made. He did eventually find an airlock but the rubber corks are still AWOL. He suspects he lent them to our friend Jules (as the wine corker is also missing). But we do not know for sure as she is out of town (or at least not replying to our phone message).

Eugene did use the oxygen set up Wyatt loaned him. This is supposed to make the beer much clearer and likely other good things. I can't tell at this point if the beer will end up cloudy or clear. I do know it has been fermenting well since I raised the ambient temp in the house from 58F to 63F. I got up Friday morning and noticed there was zero fermentation going on in the carboy (the 5 gallon glass jar that one ferments beer and wine in, if doing small batches) so I went to the thermostat and raised it 5 degrees and within an half hour there was a thing line of foam appearing on top of the beer. Within two hours the beer was definitely waking up and by noon it was happily chugging away.

When we lived at the Crubaugh Road farm we heated with wood and always put the carboy of new beer by the wood stove as that was the only place in the house above 50F/55F in winter. now we have central heat and this means the house does not have the hot/cold spots (mostly cold) that we grew used to and actually took advantage of (cold areas make great areas for cold cellaring. Uniform heat makes cold storage quite hard to do without shutting off a room or two). This means if the beer needs the heat a bit higher to ferment, than everything in the house gets to be a bit warmer. I find this wasteful but unavoidable, short of blasting a hole somewhere in the roof for a flue for a wood stove in the house. Than having to deal with the dirt and bad air that comes with having a small wood stove in the house. That said, I do miss heating with wood in a lot of ways. I gotta say when the grid goes down due to storms, when you heat with wood you stay warm. When you heat with an electricity dependent furnace you get cold quickly when the power grid is not running. No fans, no forced air, no heat. It will be nice when we have the wherewithal to get the farm more energy independent. Having a wood furnace, a wind tower, batteries and several solar panels will be a good start. In time we will amass such.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Foodie Blog Surfing

Nice to find kind words about one's blog on another blog. I found such here

BND So Far

I am about mid way through Buy nothing day. So far I did not get up at 3am in order to make it to one of the various box retailers for the "Door Buster" savings. I have not been within 25 miles of a mall nor have I purchased anything on-line or at a local retailer.

What I have done is make strawberry pancakes, coffee, played games, read several interesting blogs, posted on a few forums, cleaned popcorn, washed the dishes, washed a load of laundry, made and ate lunch. I just might make some nut brittle this afternoon (I actually have everything one would need for such a project except white cotton gloves) and perhaps hamburger (from pastured, local cattle).

Oh yes, and I have watched both local and national news and their accounts (encouragement) of Black Friday activities. All I can say is anyone participating in Black Friday is participating in a insane event. Even the descriptions of Black Friday-Shopping Frenzy, stressful, full contact shopping, etc..-are not the descriptive terms of a sane activity. Okay, these people are getting good deals on stuff but do they really need this stuff? Most likely not and it will soon enough either be landfilled or end up in storage or maybe yard sale fodder.

Pity, especially when we are at a point in history when we really cannot afford such craven and unnecessary consumerism. It is healthy for no one.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Brew

It's thanksgiving and we at Boulder Belt are not eating a turkey dinner (mainly because I did not hop to it and order a pastured turkey from the Filbruns a month ago and when I asked 2 weeks ago if they had any left they said no, they were sold out) this year. nor are we going to anyone's home to feast upon their turkey and trimmings.

No, we are staying in and the plan is to brew beer all afternoon. We shall consume the first of this beer on New Years Day. So truly a holiday brew.

Our friend Wyatt says he is coming over with home made bread and a wort chiller. Eugene made a green tomato chutney yesterday so I am thinking making a vegetarian curry for dinner. We have a lot of greens left over from last Saturday's Winter market that need using as well as peppers, onions, snow peas and leeks. I could also throw together a salad (we have a lot of salad greens too).

This is the first Thanksgiving I have not celebrated in my life. Usually I am cooking at least one meal. Some years when I was working in food service by Thanksgiving day I had cooked over 10 different Turkey day feasts. This year nothing and I gotta say it is nice not to be responsible for dinner for many.

My sister quit celebrating years ago (20 years?) when her infant daughter suddenly died of meningitis the day before Thanksgiving (nothing thankful about that!). Go forward about 16 years and the Owsleys are in Detroit dealing with our mother dying of a stroke. She died 2 days after Thanksgiving that year. The T-day dinner that year was leg of lamb, a big salad and lots of wine and beer. Not very joyous but we made the best of it. At least we were all together (except Mom who was dying in a hospital) for the first time in decades for a Thanksgiving.

So today will be about watching Parades on the TeeVee, drinking home brews and craft beers while making beer and curry.

Tomorrow will be all about Buy Nothing Day

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Word is Locavore

Each year the New Oxford American Dictionary chooses a word of the
year. This year, the word is Locavore.

Ain't it great that there is not only a term for the likes of us local foodies but it is the word of the year for 2007!

After eating local and working hard on recreating local food sheds for the past 15 year it is nice to be so appreciated with not only our own word, but the best of all the words this year.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pastured Turkey Tips

Okay so you have decide this is gonna be your first locavore Thanksgiving. You have ordered your locally raised pastured heritage turkey. You will go to the farmers market this weekend to buy the trimmings such as butternut squash celery, parsnips, rutabagas, carrots, rosemary, sage, garlic, onions, taters, apples, leeks, peppers, salad greens, kale, etc.. You will spend much of next week cutting and chopping your local bounty in preparation for your feast.

Congratulations. You are getting closer and closer to having one of the best meals you have ever cooked. it is almost impossible to mess up a meal made from exquisite ingredients but it can be done so a few tips about using whole foods.

Storage- Things like squashes, garlic, onions do not need to go in your fridge (this will give you more room for things that do need cold storage). they do need a cool spot to rest but that can be on the floor of your kitchen or out in the garage. Greens, fruits, herbs do need to go into the fridge.
Give yourself time. Start a few days early. I have been watching Martha Stewart this week and she sez she has been working on Thanksgiving for the past 2 weeks. I think that is going too far but than I am not Ms Stewart and I am not cooking at all this year (which really bums me out. I love doing Thanksgiving). Still, starting this weekend would be a good thing.

The Turkey. If you did not get a fresh turkey, start thawing the frozen bird at least 3 days in advance of cooking. It takes a 20 pound bird over 56 to thaw in a fridge. It would be totally irresponsible of me to suggest taking that clean locally raised and butchered bird and thawing it out in warm water in a cooler the day before you need to cook it. But that is what I would do. I would never ever do this with a factory farmed bird. Do not attempt to cook a frozen or partially frozen bird at 450F. This was been done in my family back in the 1960's. The results, while inedible, were hilarious. One day I will write about the Black and Serve™ rolls and the blackened and raw turkey dinner.

Okay, you got the bird thawed and it is sitting on the kitchen table. Now What? I suggest putting it in a roasting pan. All the grocery stores have aluminum pans to roast a big bird, though I find these to be quite dangerous. They are floppy affairs and can drop hot grease on your legs/feet. OUCH!. But in a pinch they are better than nothing. A proper roasting pan is best. If you do not own one go get one. Now, not next Thursday.

once you have the proper equipment and you have ascertained the bird will fit in your oven (I have been known to buy birdzillas that only fit in my oven with some creative finagling. One year we got a 42 pounder (it was local, organic, pastured and cheap-1/2 off. I could not resist) you are ready to cook the thing. I have found brining the turkey is a great way to go. Simply fill a cooler (that you have sanitized) with 5+ gallons of water (enough to mostly cover the bird). A cup of sugar and a 1/2 cup Kosher or sea salt (if you you table salt cut to 1/4 cup). Place the raw and thawed turkey into the brine and let sit refrigerated for 5 to 8 hours. If it is below 45F outside use the great outdoors as your fridge. Otherwise, add some ice to the brine to keep things cold. I can guarantee you that you will not have fridge space for this unless you have some commercial fridges at your house. Once the bird is brined, remove from the solution, pat dry and let the turkey sit for about 2 hours before roasting. Brining will guarantee a moist tasty bird

If you do not want to brine than one thing you can do is simply rub the bird inside and out with a mix of kosher salt, rubbed sage, chopped rosemary and garlic powder than roast./

I preheat the oven to 450F and place the covered prepared bird in the hot oven. After 30 minutes I turn the oven down to 350F and let it cook. For cooking I time I use the general 15 minutes a pound rule (20 minutes for a stuffed bird). Around 2 hours into cooking I will remove the cover and start basting

Now here is the biggest tip I can give you, o' eater of pastured turkey. Pastured turkeys have been allowed to roam around and that means they are full of nutritious collagen, this is a good thing. But collagen tends to make meats tough if not cooked to a high enough temp. I find pastured poultry needs to be cooked to at least 180 (190 to 200 is even better) in order to cook that collagen down to tenderness. I use a cooking thermometer to check but you can also use a wing or drumstick. If the wing/drum stick falls off or nearly falls off when wiggled your pastured bird is ready to be taken out of the over, placed on the serving platter (remove the stuffing if you stuffed the bird) and allowed to rest for 20 minutes or so before it is carved.

Bon apitite

Sunday, November 11, 2007

New Email Address

The other day the phone rang. It was my ISP, CoreComm. They called to tell me I was getting a new email address. So after 6 or 7 minutes my email address, was no more. Though you can still use it to get to me for another 3 months or so.

I will miss the old email addy, we had some good times together. Long walks on the beach, sunsets, educating the masses about food and agriculture, etc..

I won't miss all the spam that has attached itself to that email. Amazing how much spam builds up over 10+ years. My spam catchers (I have 2) glean over 100 a day from my inbox and I still have to manually rid myself of another 25 or so daily.

I don't like having to change my email addy on all the lists, groups and forums to which I belong, its a long list. Several of the email lists, for some reason, are not well set up to change an email addy so one has to unsubscribe and hope that one can resubscribe to these lists. I believe on at least two I have dueling accounts. That, or I have no accounts at all, I am not sure which yet. Ah, well I knew eventually this would happen to me but frankly I figured I would keep the addy until I switched to a DSL provider. It is strange to lose something you have used for the past 11 or so years.

The new email address is boulderbeltATvoyagerDOTnet (change the AT to @ and DOT to . and you will have my new address)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ah Garlic!

Planted the garlic this past Thursday. Put in around 1600 cloves of the stinking rose in 5 beds. like the past 7 years or so we planted three kinds: Persian Star, Chesnok Red (Shvilisi) and German White.

Planting all that garlic takes us a whole day. We start by carefully cracking open corms and separating the cloves from special garlic we kept back from the rest of the garlic that we are selling. Not all cloves are worthy for planting and those are set aside for making into garlic powder. Some have been ruined by onion maggots and have to be composted. I marked three paper bags with the names of the garlic to go inside, one for Chesnok Red, one for German White, one for Persian Star. I start with one type of garlic and finish that type before going on to the next type. this way we do not mix the varieties and keep them pure. After a couple of hours of opening up hundreds of corms the garlic is ready to be planted.

Planting consists of getting the beds ready by tilling, than putting compost, sul-po-mag and green sand on the beds and raking those items into the soil as well as flattening out the bed. Now the beds are ready for garlic placement. This year we did three lines of garlic per bed. In the past we did 4 to 5 lines per bed but noticed the garlic was getting smaller and smaller. So this year we decided since we have the room we could give the garlic plenty of room to grow big and strong.

Now I don't know what happened to us Thursday afternoon but basically the garlic planting broke down and did not get back on track until around 4pm, just 2.5 hours before dark. So at 4 pm I wandered up to the market garden and saw that Eugene had placed garlic in 2 beds and 2 more beds were all ready to go and the 5th bed was just getting its amendments put on and still had to be raked flat. So I grabbed a bag of Chesnok Red and proceeded to place cloves of garlic every 5 inches or so down the length of the 50' bed. After 15 minutes or so I had 3 neat rows going about 3/4 of the way down the bed. That done I grabbed the bag of German White and placed them in the bed to the east of the Chesnok and easily got a full bed with extra garlic still in the bag. While I was working on the German White, Eugene finished up raking and started placing the Persian Star in the bed he was working on. Than we both took the extra garlic cloves and found places for them such as the 1/4 bed that the Chesnok Red did not fill and that I filled up with Persian Star.

Once we were done placing garlic we went back over the beds and moved cloves around until we were satisfied with their positions. once that was done we were ready to put the cloves in the ground (always with the root end facing down). And it was a good thing were ready to plant because we were losing light fast. I can plant a bed with 330 garlic cloves in just under 15 minutes, Eugene is a bit faster. We had 5 beds to plant (we could not leave the cloves on top of the soil overnight as it was going to be frosty and they likely would not make it through 12+ hours of such exposure) and about 25 minutes before it was completely dark. So we got to work and quickly got them all in the ground before we lost 100% of the light. I gotta say the last 10 or so cloves were nearly invisible but we got them in.

Than it was beer :30 and we called it a day.

The next day, I cleaned the dried basil that was sitting in the dehydrator and filled the trays with garlic cloves and soon the house was filled with the aroma of drying garlic which is pretty damned pungent, I'll tell you what.

The garlic planting signals both the end of the current planting season and the beginning of the 2008 season as it is the first crop we plant for next year and, other than a few cover crops, will be the last thing we plant in 2007.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Organic Pastures

This morning I got an email from Mark McAfee in response to the Ron Paul supports Raw Milk sales item I posted earlier this week here on this very blog and also sent out to various ag and foodie list servs I belong to. He just wanted me to know he will be supporting Ron Paul. I still don't know if Mr Paul will get my vote but at this point he looking better than anyone else, other than Dennis Kucinich.

Check out this website Organic Pastures. organic pastures is a raw milk dairy in California owned and operated by Mark McAfee, one of the biggest raw Milk advocates in the country. He has been run through flaming hoops for the past several years by the CDA and USDA because he provides a safe and nutritious product to his customers. California has tried to shut him down several times and did succeed for a couple of weeks this past spring. But Mark came back fighting. Remarkable, really.

AnyHoo you can read all about this man and his fight to keep raw dairy products legal on the Organic Pastures web site

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The 2007 Season Was a Good One

Our regular marketing season is over for 2007 and it was a good one. Despite drought, high heat, insect hoards and other environmental ills we had a great season. The garden produced well for us (thanx to drip irrigation and a lot of skill, especially on Eugene's part) and we broke our one day sales record at least 5 times this season. We did not break our yearly sales records due to slow sales in July and early August but we are working on that.

I give a big round of applause to Larry the OFMU manager. He did a really nice job of managing the Saturday market. I had my doubts about him early on when our sales were lagging, lots of changes were made to the Saturday market that involved craft people setting up and selling and it seemed that the attendance was down. I was against this letting a lot of crafter/artisans set up at market idea due to horror stories from other market farmers about how the artisans took over the farmers market and pushed the farmers out completely. But, after watching how the market grew because of craft vendors I am not as against this idea any longer. Still, I must take a wait and see attitude as the artisans could usurp the market from us farmers 5 or 10 years down the line. For now, the artists nicely fill space and attract customers to the market (though food is definitely the main reason for going to the farmers market).

The Tuesday market was not quite as good as past years as far as sales go but it was far better as far as farmer attendance. Not once did we have a week where we were the only people setting up. We always had at least 2 stands and usually 4 to 6 set up. There were a couple of weeks when no one came to market due to weather, but what can you do? I believe that next year the Tuesday market will do better than in the past. One thing I noticed this fall was that a lot of Miami Students are suddenly interested in local and organic food and were thrilled to find a farmers market that was open when they were awake (early Saturday mornings are not good for most undergrads and quite a few grad students).

The Tuesday market was a lot more fun than Saturday because it is smaller and far less busy. On Saturdays we would get to market set up for 15 to 20 minutes (a quick set up as we have around a ton of food to get out on the tables) and than do nothing but sell, sell, sell until after 11:30. No socializing with the other farmers, no buying from other farmers, just selling. And this is a good thing. But Tuesdays were a lot more laid back. we would show up around 4pm, haul our tables, shelter, produce, signs, etc., from the van to the grass and take about 20 minutes to set up (often making a couple of sales while setting up). We would get done with setting up and if there were no customers around (common) we would socialize with Debra and whomever else was there (Don, The Ellises, Dan the Tee Shirt man, J Harris). Around 5pm Eugene would be sent for malts at UDF as the three of us would get malts every Tuesday. I usually got a peanut butter malt made with chocolate milk. Debra would get a chocolate malt and Eugene got whatever was on sale. Some weeks we would be pretty busy during the market other weeks would would talk of all sorts of things from politics to opera to birding. And of course there was the 3rd of July market when we got removed from the park for the day so the City's Parks and Recreation Dept could have their 4th of July kids carnival on July 3rd without letting us Farmers know about the change (it's not like we didn't have a permit for that park for every Tuesday evening may through October). Yeah I am still pissed off about that glitch. but overall I am really pleased with both markets.

Now, if we can get the farm store off the ground we will be golden. The farm store, I am afraid, is not thriving the way the other markets are. I believe a lot of this has to do with lack of publicity. The people who need to know about us do not. The local population (PC/Eaton) simply does not care much about local and organic foods. Most seem to be very content to shop at the local Wal-Mart and eat awful processed food. I suppose in another 10 to 15 years the locals will realize that local and organic is the only safe way to eat. But for now, they do not. So I have to get the word out to people in the Dayton and Cincinnati areas that we exist and are well worth the effort to find. I don't know if paid ads are the way to go or to just depend on the local Harvest/New farm/Boulder Belt Website listings. I have recently found a great list serv called Cincinnati Locavores that is full of people seeking local foods. they only problem is few on the list seem willing to drive out to the farms to get food off season. They all want the food no more than 5 to 10 minutes away, just like Wal-Mart or Kroger's

As long as the FDA and USDA keep on providing all of us with scary suspect food I can see only growth for local food and that should mean better and better sales in 2008.

Ron Paul Supports Raw Milk

I am not a big Paul supporter but i find him more and more interesting daily. I don't care if you are a Paul supporter or not this bill is a good reason to contact your reps and senators in DC and ask them to support this.

Text of the bill:

His introductory speech


Mr. PAUL. Madam Speaker, I rise to introduce legislation that allows the transportation and sale in interstate commerce of unpasteurized milk and milk products, as long as the milk both originates from and is shipped to States that allow the sale of unpasteurized milk and milk products. This legislation removes an unconstitutional restraint on farmers who wish to sell unpasteurized milk and milk products, and people who wish to consume unpasteurized milk and milk products.

My office has heard from numerous people who would like to purchase unpasteurized milk. Many of these people have done their own research and come to the conclusion that unpasteurized milk is healthier than pasteurized milk. These Americans have the right to consume these products without having the Federal Government second-guess their judgment about what products best promote health. If there are legitimate concerns about the safety of unpasteurized milk, those concerns should be addressed at the State and local level.

I urge my colleagues to join me in promoting consumers' rights, the original intent of the Constitution, and federalism by cosponsoring my legislation to allow the interstate sale of unpasteurized milk and milk products.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Boulder Belt in a Book

I post this becuse Boulder Belt Eco-Farm is one of the local farms profiled in the book. This would make someone a nice holiday gift

Local Author Highlights Family Farms

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

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Shrink Wrapped Boats Head South

Eugene and I were getting some beer (the Brooklyn Beer Party assortment) at the liquor store in Eaton and I noticed the shrink wrapped boats have migrated down to SW Ohio. There were four sitting out behind the liquor store. Yesterday we got gasoline at Swifty and I noticed they were gone.

Crazy to be shrink wrapping such items (or any items really) when we are at or beyond peak oil.