Maple Sugarin’

 

“In contemplating the present opening prospects in human affairs, I am led to expect that a material part of the general happiness which heaven seems to have prepared for mankind will be derived from the manufacture and general use of Maple Sugar.”

Letter to Thomas Jefferson from Benjamin Rush, August 19, 1791

 Thanks to the discovery of maple sugar by Native Americans, the sweetness and flavor of maple sugar won over European settlers as early as the 1600s.

 “In this month (February, 1756) we began to make sugar … In the sugar tree they (Native Americans) cut a notch, sloping down, and at the end of the notch stuck in a tomahawk; in the place where they stuck (it) they drove a long chip. In order to carry the water out from the tree, and under this they set their vessels to receive it.”

James Smith, An Account of Remarkable Occurences

during Captivity with the Indians. 1755-1759

 It was an important part of on-farm sugar production in 18th century New England. It played a symbolic and economic role in the Civil War, as it was made by farmers in the north as opposed to cane sugar made by slaves in the south.

“The cane sugar is the result of the forced labor of the most wretched slaves, toiling under the cruel lash of a cutting whip. While the maple sugar is made by those who are happy and free.”

William Drown, Compendium of Agriculture, 1824

 Sugaring season, especially when the first batch of sugar was made, became a time when young men and women could meet each other at the sugar house. There would be sugar tasting, socializing, music and dancing.

 “It is pleasant to visit these sugar orchards, drink sap, lap maple molasses and make love. Let the Vermont ladies beware, for in such places they may fall in love … the delicious saccharine qualities of maple molasses, presented to the swelling lips of a beautiful lass by the hand of a smiling swain, has a wonderfully softening effect upon the head.”

Gleason’s Pictorial, 1852

 Eventually, maple sugar was replaced by cane and beet sugar. Maple sugar and syrup morphed into boutique items.

In 2013, 3.2 million gallons of maple syrup were produced – 124,000 of those gallons (about 4%) in New Hampshire. As it takes over 40 gallons of maple sap boiled down to create 1 gallon of syrup, it means moving and boiling 20,000 tons of sap a year, just in New Hampshire. In contrast, the US produced 8.9 million tons of cane and beet sugar in 2013.

In celebration of sugaring time, on Saturday March 22nd, we will be hosting the 15th Annual Horse-Drawn Sap Gathering Contest. The public is invited to watch teams of draft horses compete to gather sap on a timed race course. The sugar house will be open for tours. Children can try the two man saw, lifting the old-fashioned kettle off the fire pit, and see how a small-scale evaporator works. Food and maple sundaes will also be available.  Admission is $5/person, with children ages 6 and under free.

For school children, the farm offers maple sugaring programs during the sap season, generally in March. See our website for details at: www.stonewallfarm.org/Programs/School

To learn more about our programs call us at 603.357.7278 or visit our website at: www.stonewallfarm.org.

15th Annual Horse-Drawn Sap Gathering Contest, March 22nd 2014!

Horse-Drawn Sap Gathering at Stonewall Farm

Photo Courtesy of Jeffrey Newcomer

Wild Roots Nature School at Stonewall Farm Now Open!

Are you looking for a nature-based program which allows your child to follow the seasons and benefit the most through hands-on experiential education and farm activities during the school year?

The Wild Roots Nature School at Stonewall Farm is now open, welcoming children ages 3-5 and with its child care license now in hand. The schedule will be Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 8:30 am-12:30 pm during the school year.
For more information, feel free to e-mail educator Liza Lowe at llowe@stonewallfarm.org; or call Stonewall Farm at 603-357-7278; or check out the Wild Roots Nature School Guide. You can also access key paperwork for Wild Roots Nature School via our Parent Handbook, Registration Form, Health Assessment Form, and Enrollment Contract links. We look forward to working with you soon!
Wild Roots Nature School

Wild Roots Nature School

Calling All Future Farmers to Stonewall Farm School!

Whether it be out of passion for making a fresh professional move, out of love for the land to manage soils and waters in an environmentally conscious way, or out of commitment to bridging our “foodscapes” with surrounding communities, many rewards come out of farming.

Of course, you also face the inevitable +12-hour work days, constant manure and soil on your clothes, and the long-term process of realizing the fruits of your labors. Yet, as recent U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics have revealed, with the median age of the American farmer being 57 years old, we need young farmers and we need them soon!

This is where we at Stonewall Farm can step in to lead the education of future farmers. We own over 120 acres of land and over 30 Holstein and Brown Swiss cattle in a certified organic dairy. We manage three acres of produce which drives a year-round CSA, as well as a maple stand which produces Grade A and B maple syrup. We have been an active farm landscape for over 250 years in our corner of southwestern New Hampshire. If anyone is in a position to launch a school centered around holistic and practical education on community-based agriculture, then Stonewall Farm School proves to be in the best position possible.

The Stonewall Farm School will be a year-long program in our organic dairy or garden, giving interested folks the practical farming skills and business background to explore a career in farming. We emphasize hard work, critical thinking, and  appropriate technology for small farms. Students will operate our micro-pasteurizer, hydroponic fodder system, Cool-bot refrigeration, and maple sugaring equipment on our year-round farm.

Stonewall Farm School’s year-long program starts in the fall. Tuition includes housing, a food stipend, and the potential to be a paid intern in the summer season. We are accepting registrations on a rolling basis through November 15th.

If you’ve ever given serious thought to a farming lifestyle, or just want to learn skills to make a difference in how your community, family, and friends eat, consider signing up for the Stonewall Farm School. You’ll get dirty, but you’ll also get fulfilled.

For more information on Stonewall Farm School, you can e-mail Joshua Cline at jcline@stonewallfarm.org or call him at 603-357-7278 ext. 107.

Stonewall Farmscape Stonewall Farmscape

2013-2014 Tapline Guide for Stonewall Farm School Programs Has Arrived!

Stonewall Farm strives to be a valuable resource to area schools while also meeting their educational mission of connecting people to the land and the role of local agriculture in their lives.  Our Tapline Guide offers just the school program options your class and your children deserve. The program listing contains information on the New Hampshire State Standards that each program covers.  We are always willing to discuss how we can adapt or adjust our programs to meet the needs of local teachers.  If you have any questions, or desire a custom program based on a topic you don’t see available, please call our program director Hannah Fleischmann at (603)-357-7278.

This year, we will be featuring “Farm Animals,” “Wetland Wildlife,” “Farm to Table,” “Ice Harvesting, “Maple Sugarin’,” and more programs.

To access our Tapline Guide with information on the programs we offer for the 2013-2014 school year, please click here.

We look forward to seeing you and your class here at Stonewall Farm soon!


You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream That Supports Farm Education!

“If you feel stressed, give yourself a break. Eat some ice cream and other sweets…Why? Because ‘stressed’  spelled backwards is ‘desserts.'”

-Anonymous

When asked on our Facebook page two weeks ago about favorite things about the summer people liked most,we had more than a few replies return answering, “Ice Cream!”

 Granted, we have only been making ice cream for the last year, and perhaps people felt like shouting out favorite memories of their past summers. Yet, for some serious reflection and to pay sincere homage to something that truly makes “summer” summer, we should talk about the delicacy that is ice cream. It also might help to put in context the sheer demand of ice cream in our imagination and on our taste buds.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, over 1.53 billion gallons of ice cream were produced nationally in 2011 and in turn generating over $10 billion in sales the year before, according to analytics group, MarketLine. Interestingly, the three most in-demand flavors of ice cream in 2012 were vanilla, mint chocolate chip,  and cookies and cream, according to the International Dairy Foods Association. Historically, there are multiple takes on how what we now know as ice cream came to be. While ancient Greek and Roman texts suggest a blending of snow and ice flavored with honey and myriad fruit juices favored by royal elite families, what we now know as a cold, cream-based dessert (i.e. ice cream) likely originated in Italy and England simultaneously by the 16th century. Contemporary texts mention a “cream ice” served at the table of King Charles I of England in the 17th century, as well as a Sicilian Italian recipe made at a Parisian cafe that involved blending butter, milk, eggs, and cream. It wouldn’t be until 1744 when we have historical proof of ice cream served in what is now the United States in Maryland. Even first President George Washington made time and money for spending over $200 in ice cream purchases (i.e. Thousands of dollars modern equivalent) during the summer of 1790 and owning “two pewter ice cream pots” for special occasions. Until the 19th century, ice cream like many other sweets were downright luxuries, due to the sheer price per volume of cane sugar and intense energy costs to keep ice cream cool. However, when insulated ice houses were devised and spread in construction, ice cream morphed from royal richness to popular eats with the additional innovations of mechanical refrigeration, homogenizing, and related technologies throughout the 1800’s and into the early 20th century. Only then could the still-strong impression of ice cream sodas and soda fountains proliferate on many American Main Streets by the 1920’s-1930’s. Even as early as 1946 after World War II finished and many service members returned Stateside, the level of ice cream consumption surged 20 quarts per person on average(!)

So, you still might be wondering, “How does Stonewall Farm craft their ice cream?” Well, as any well-researched ice cream manual or textbook, including the one we use here most frequently Robert T. Marshall’s and crew’s Ice Cream (6th Edition), there is a mind-boggling balance of chemistry, physics, and tech savvy which shapes the whole “make to scale” process. To be cost-effective we utilize ice cream mix from Massachusetts-based HP Hood. Their mix contains cream, milk, emulsifiers (ingredients which disperse milkfat in ice cream,) stabilizers (ingredients which prevent the texture of getting too crystalline, chunky, or icy), and sugar. The mixes we receive come homogenized and pasteurized. Homogenizing ensures that milkfat is pulsed and shaken with enough force to reduce the particle sizes of milkfat in the cream. Meanwhile, pasteurizing ensures that harmful bacteria strains and other contagions are treated out of the cream and milk we use.

Also, for those who are more nutritionally minded, our HP Hood mix we use contains 14 percent fat. Federal minimum standards for ice cream production lie at 10 percent fat, which often is employed for “light” and “soft-serve” ice cream. On the other end of the spectrum, super premium ice cream (such as Walpole Creamery) contains 16 percent fat. Never that ice cream was intended to be the most nutritious dairy product, but it arguably ranks as the tastiest and here at Stonewall, we like to think ice cream plays a crucial role in the summer dairy trifecta of aged cheddar cheese, ice cream, and yogurt.

Speaking of the role of ice cream, Stonewall Farm is hosting its Annual Bike for Bovines Bike Race & Ice Cream Day this Sunday July 14th, from 9 am-3 pm! Whether you choose to take part in the two race courses or cheer and watch on, we can guarantee a generous supply of ice cream flavors with our chocolate, maple, vanilla, and newly-renamed version of our vanilla chocolate chip flavors. The new name for the former vanilla chocolate chip will be announced on Sunday as well, so you don’t want to miss which name we picked from the many creative names submitted at our past June Ice Cream Social!

Also, just for the sake of curiosity and trivia, we thought you might like to know that we as Americans consume on average 48 pints of ice cream per person per year, the most of any country!

Much thanks to the International Dairy Foods Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the New Hampshire Agricultural Market Bulletin, New Hampshire (NH) Agriculture in the Classroom, and especially our Farm Staff here at Stonewall for revealing the art and science behind ice cream goodness.

We look forward to seeing your summer ice cream photos on Facebook and hopefully see you at the Farm on Sunday for our Bike for Bovines Race & Ice Cream Day!

Image

Stonewall Farm Ice Cream Profiles, Photo Courtesy of Matthew Young

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): Local Meets Seasonal

“Knowing where our food comes from helps us eat from as close to home as possible; choose exceptional freshness and flavor; support our local community/economy; increase revenues for farmers so that they, and future generations, continue producing food; and be more connected to seasonality, place, and varieties of foods that are grown in our region.”

–Temra Costa, author of “Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat”

Happy First Day of Summer!

Here at Stonewall Farm, we have a unique supply and demand situation this season. While we like many smaller-scale farms lose small amounts of our vegetables and other produce to myriad causes (e.g. animal eating, overly dry soils, overly wet soils), we have a relative abundance of beets, chard, dill, garlic chives, and later on in the season, sweet corn, tomatoes, and more fresh goodness. Even with two undaunted families of groundhogs and deer populations on the property, we count ourselves grateful to produce over 50 kinds of vegetables each year(!)

Consequently, we also have more than enough produce to sell throughout Keene and nearby towns, but then comes the question of, “Who will want loads of Bright Lights chard for meal after meal of salads and stir fries?”

This week, working alongside our Garden Manager, Austin, we launched a campaign to reach out to houses of worship and other larger community institutions to highlight just how much fresh farm offerings we still have. You might be asking yourself, “So, beyond that  10′ x 15′ Farm Store,” how do you sell hundreds upon hundreds of pounds of produce each season?!” This is where a somewhat curious sounding acronym enters the picture. This acronym and what it stands for, though, performs outreach for our Farm emphasizing how we teach people about food, one season at a time. In particular, just how being local and seasonal continues to define economically supportive and nutritious food, especially in an age of multinational food corporations trying to work beyond the natural bounds of locality and seasonality.

This acronym is CSA: Community-Supported Agriculture.

CSA’s, as locally rooted as they have become in New Hampshire, New England, and the rest of the United States, actually have international origins. According to most food history scholars, what we now know as CSA’s started in Japan in the mid-1960’s by an altogether different name: Teikei. Translated from Japanese, “Teikei” can mean “cooperation” or “link-up.” Cooperation and linking up took shape in 1960’s Japan when a group of Japanese women in southern Japan came together to purchase fresher milk beyond the conventionally made and imported dairies then arriving to the island nation. “Teikei” eventually became immersed in a cultural mainstream so that by 1971, the Japan Organic Agriculture Association offered a means for:

 “producer(s) and consumer(s) to have talks and contact to deepen their mutual understanding: both of them provide labor and capital to support their own delivery system.”

Individual subscribers pay to a farm one amount per season for a guarantee of a weekly/biweekly box or “share” of foodstuffs from the farm throughout a given season. No intermediaries, no retailers; just the farmer (producer) and the subscriber (consumer). Such an alternative distribution and economic model eventually spread to Europe and by the 1980’s, the United States. As of 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Systems division estimates there are upwards of 6,500 registered CSA’s nationally. “Teikei” became renamed for English-speaking consumers and producers as “Community-Supported Agriculture.” Still, the implicit connection to “cooperation” remains, even after thousands of miles of travel and almost fifty years of history. There have also evolved four types of CSA’s:

  •     Farmer-managed: A farmer creates and maintains a CSA, recruits subscribers, and controls operations;
  •     Shareholder/subscriber-managed: Local residents create a CSA, hire a farmer to grow desired crops, and collectively manage the CSA;
  •     Farmer cooperative: Multiple farmers come together to create and manage a CSA, and;
  •     Farmer-shareholder cooperative: Farmers and local residents create and collectively manage a CSA.

Stonewall Farm’s CSA  goes back to the founding of our non-profit organization in 1994, starting as a farmer-managed CSA operation. Yet, throughout our almost 20-year history to date, we collect and review shareholder feedback on preferences for crops to plant in upcoming growing seasons. After an especially steady strawberry harvest earlier in June, our Garden Team of Austin Mandryk and Mali Jay are looking forward to seeing how warm-season crops take shape through September and in some cases, even October.

To paraphrase what Temra Costa wrote in her groundbeaking yet refreshing book on female farmers, Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat, there are not only so many benefits to knowing where our food comes from, but also many outlets in getting to know our food. CSA’s might not replace supermarkets or other traditional means of producing, distributing, and selling foodstuffs, but they provide yet another means alongside farmers’ markets, growing clubs, and farm education to teach us about food. Only when we become knowledgeable about our relationship(s) with food can we then become less opinionated and more informed on prioritizing food’s nourishment in our daily individual and community lives. We can find that balance between protecting environmental integrity and economic equity of our “farmscapes,” so that we can keep local and regional farms healthy with enough bottom line in soil, water, and monetary resources.

So, a question I pose to you now is, “Why not support your local CSA?” If you are interested to support our local CSA, feel free to check in with our Garden Manager Austin Mandryk at amandryk@stonewallfarm.org. You can also click the link to our CSA registration form, read up on our “Farm Notes” collection, and more at our CSA page.

Much thanks to the Japan Organic Agriculture Association, Steven McFadden and his blog series, “The Call of the Land,” Temra Costa and her book, Farmer Jane, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Office of Community Development, and especially to our Stonewall Farm CSA & Garden Team, Austin & Mali, and all of our current and future CSA subscribers. You all help make Stonewall Farm, Stonewall Strong.

Stonewall Farm CSA In Action

Stonewall Farm CSA In Action

Springing Into Summer With Strawberries

“Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.”

— Dr. William Butler on strawberries (17th-Century English writer)

When I read through our e-mails from our regular and newer Farm followers over the last couple of weeks, I noticed two trends. Firstly, Stonewall Farm followers have a DEEP passion for our dairy products, whether it be for the 100 percent vanilla extract that goes into our vanilla yogurt, or how continuously luscious our maple ice cream tastes, or how smooth our aged cheddar cheese feels. Secondly, and what I’ll be exploring today in this post, is that Stonewall Farm followers have at least as DEEP, if not even deeper cravings, for our strawberries(!) On Facebook alone, we have noticed on page dozens and dozens of “Likes” with almost as much commentary about the best strawberries for jamming or just eating by the mouthful on the trip back from Farm Store to home. It feels like as the last remaining pints and quarts of our strawberries are picked here at the farm that we should pay a reflective tribute to quite a storied fruit.

Garden strawberries (Fragaria ananassa) as we know and taste them nowadays are actually the result of breeding in 1750’s-era France between two earlier strawberry varieties from North and South America. Fragaria virginiana strawberries from eastern North America were hybridized with Fragaria chiloensis strawberries from Chile. Their resultant fruit of such juiciness and size inevitably returned the wild woodland strawberry,  Fragaria vesca, back to smaller but to freer reign after almost a century of cultivation efforts. Yet, this is another fascinating aspect to strawberries: just how global in scope this fruit happens to be. Found across the Northern and Southern, Eastern and Western hemispheres of the planet, strawberries in their Fragaria glory represent a botanical connection to world history literally whenever and wherever we are.

There are three types of strawberry growth varieties, often characterized by their growth patterns during specific times of the year. In cooler, northern climates such as here at Stonewall, June bearing/spring bearing and day neutral growth varieties are the most common. June bearing/spring bearing strawberries are plants and their runners which produce their fruits during a 2-3 week period in the spring, most often in June. They are also the most diverse looking, often with flowers, fruits, and runners. With day neutral strawberries, they can produce fruits throughout the growing season (spring-early fall), but with much less runners than June bearing/spring bearing types. Thus, while followers like you visited by the Farm Store the last 2-3 weeks, you would have picked up pints and quarts of June bearing/spring bearing strawberries, and probably of the Earliglow and related varieties which handle exposure to colder temperatures.

Now, in terms of plantings, strawberries take on care needs all their own, regardless of growth variety. While they can generally be planted as early as March or April with open soils, they have very low tolerance for wet soils and grow best if soil is at least “moderately dry.” From there, as with some other farm crops but especially possessing its own unique attention to detail, strawberries have their own climate and depth criteria. According to a University of Illinois Extension growing guide,

“Try to plant strawberries on a cloudy day or during the late afternoon. Set the strawberry plant in the soil so that the soil is just covering the tops of the roots. Do not cover the crown. After four or five weeks, the plants will produce runners and new daughter plants.”

Then, there comes the question of how to plant strawberries in terms of space. Three “systems” of arrangement have proven the most successful and include matted row, spaced row, and hill systems. Matted row systems find their appeal not only among the June bearing/spring bearing strawberries, but also at Stonewall. Plants here need to be from 18-30 inches apart in rows at least three to four feet apart. It looks generally something like this historically, with a photo courtesy of the University of Illinois Extension:

With spaced row and hill systems, the grower exercises more sleight of hand. In spaced rows,  mother plants and daughter plants (original runner offshoots from mother plant) are spaced 18 and four inches apart respectively, with all other runners pulled out during the growing season.  Hill systems work best with day neutral strawberries, in which only the mother plants stay intact so that further fruit growth in clusters of two to four plants each, spaced out every foot. Such extensive plant detail and management tends to lead to higher fruit yields,  fewer disease infections, and larger fruit sizes.

As long as they are grown in well-drained soils loaded with organic matter (e.g. compost, plant wastes, animal manure) and picking up no less than 4-6 hours of sunlight exposure per day, strawberries will have minimal threats to their growth. It doesn’t hurt if strawberries receive at least one inch of precipitation/water per week either. Mulching from initial planting in the spring all the way through past the end of frost seasons (i.e. after Memorial Day in New Hampshire) can protect younger growth from volatile temperatures. Nevertheless, as another quirk of strawberry cultivation would suggest, strawberries don’t make for the best “neighbors” on the farm or in a home garden. If strawberry starters are planted alongside eggplants, peppers, potatoes, or tomatoes, strawberries could fall ill to verticilium wilt, a disease which many plants but not strawberries are immune to.

Yet, when all of these considerations are given and especially in a timely manner for June bearing/spring bearing varieties such as Earliglow (among others), strawberry magic happens. Weeks of quietude on most Northeast farms and gardens due to slow, steady growth inside greenhouses and slowly warming growth in outdoor soils becomes jolted awake when people hear news that “STRAWBERRIES ARE READY!” The steadiness of the rest of the growing season, let alone of weeks’ worth of warmer temperature crops achieving maturity, remind us how exciting not only strawberries, but seasonality can be. 

Yes, it can be a break from cold winter months to have strawberry shortcake on angel food cake using thawed, once-frozen strawberries in January. However, if you have eaten enough strawberries, there can be no contest between that strawberry shortcake  in January versus the same shortcake in June when the fresh juices of several weeks’ worth of strawberry cultivation hit your tongue.

Furthermore, there are the beautifully loaded nutritional benefits of eating those fresh strawberries. In one cup of strawberries alone, one can obtain over 141 percent of their daily Vitamin C needs, 11 percent of their dietary fiber needs, 5 percent of their Vitamin B-6 needs, and even 2 percent of their daily calcium and protein needs(!)

When you pick up any of the remaining pints of Stonewall Farm strawberries this weekend through next week, you can rest assured that seasonal strawberries grown the Stonewall way make up for in cultural and natural history, in community connection, and especially in taste for however slightly more they may cost in dollars and cents compared to the frozen packages in a supermarket. Time to spring in with strawberries as your ode to summer goodness!

Much thanks for the information and research into this week’s post with resources from the University of California-Los Angeles Botanical Garden, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the University of Illinois Extension, and Stonewall Garden Coordinator Austin Mandryk. It just makes learning about strawberries all the sweeter!

Strawberries, Stonewall Farm Style

Strawberries, Stonewall Farm Style

Photo Courtesy of Matthew Young