Open House for the Wild Roots Nature School!

Do you want a creative, experiential school alternative for your toddler in the Keene area this school year?

Wild Roots Nature School will be opening its doors as one such venue right here at Stonewall Farm on Wednesday September 4th!

To introduce the Wild Roots Nature School to the greater community, Wild Roots educator and founder Liza Lowe will be hosting an “Open House & Information Session” for interested parents  and community members on Wednesday August 28th here at Stonewall Farm from 5:00-7:00 pm.

For more information on this event, feel free to browse the Wild Roots Open House & Information Session flyer and we look forward to helping educate your children here at Stonewall Farm!

 

Wild Roots Nature School

Wild Roots Nature School

Bike for Bovines Race & Expanding Community Partnerships at the Farm

This past Sunday (July 14th), we at Stonewall Farm hosted what feels like an ever-growing annual tradition with the Bike for Bovines Race & Ice Cream Day. With over 100 racers participating and dozens more of spectators, supporters, and other curious community members, we’re realizing how much stronger we are with diversifying our offerings. Not only in food with our ice cream and yogurt being made at times on a weekly basis, but also in people coming to us for original recreational experiences.

Where else can you bike miles across rolling cobbles and marshlands, and then grab a farm-made serving (or two) of maple ice cream?!

However, another lesson we continue to learn and to put into daily practice would be the crucial role of community partnerships. Largely thanks to collaborating with Root 66 Race Series were we able to make the Bike for Bovines Race as much of a mutualistic, excitingly driven event. Then, there is the New England Mountain Bike Association which helped chart and craft our 2013 Trail Map and Brochure which encompasses all of our landmarks and trails, but also informs visitors on the dynamism of our farm as a wedding venue, as a sustainable source for local, heirloom vegetables, and much more. Furthermore, we could not carry out the work performed on our Volunteer Days at the Farm or the local vendors which highlight our foodstuffs and in turn attract more visitors(!) They include but are certainly not limited to Liberty Mutual, Keene State College-Upward Bound, Monadnock Food Co-op, Walpole Mountain View Winery, and many more.

If you have experienced the taste of our ice cream or yogurt after a long summer day; or if your child cannot stop telling stories about their summer camp week here at Stonewall; or if you attended a wedding ceremony and/or reception on our grounds during a crisp fall evening; or if you have snowshoed or even taken a sleigh ride across our wintry landscapes; or sampled late spring strawberries from our CSA, then you know the value of Stonewall Farm to Keene and to local food in general.

As a nonprofit, we are constantly seeking financial support to maintain (if not grow) on our active teaching farm model and experiences we offer. Some of the most meaningful support we can receive comes from our annual memberships, wherein you can become a “Steward” at different membership rates and know that you’re helping make Stonewall Farm, Stonewall Strong. While there are more than a few incentives and related discounts for our foodstuffs, our maple syrup, and more, we are grateful just to know that you care enough about Stonewall and enter into your own partnership with us. For more information, you can visit our Support Stonewall Farm page.

Help us to keep on course and thank you!

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Photo Courtesy of Our Events Intern, Katie Copeland, July 14th, 2013

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!

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Stonewall Farm Ice Cream Profiles, Photo Courtesy of Matthew Young

2013 Stonewall Farm Trail Map

While we overhaul our current website at Stonewall Farm in favor of something more (daresay) modern and user-friendly, we wanted to give you a glimpse of a new feature on that website: our 2013 Stonewall Farm Trail Map.

Drafted earlier in May 2013, this chronicles mile after mile of our current trail system for hikers, bikers, horse riders, cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and other trail users. We also include our physical contours of landscape, key farm landmarks, ecosystem types, and trail etiquette on our first page. On our second page, you can access a whole listing of community summer events here at Stonewall, from the Ice Cream Social this Saturday (June 29th) through to our August 17th Barnyard BBQ. There is also information on how to become a Stonewall Farm Member or Steward, our CSA and Farm Store offerings, and more!

Feel free to click the map link below to begin your Stonewall journey!

2013 Stonewall Farm Trail Map

Much thanks to the Brattleboro (VT)-Keene (NH) Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA) for mapping and laying the final touches of this trail map!

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


Yogurt: How & Why It Works

“How could this not have any fat? It’s too good!”

-George Costanza (actor Jason Alexander), Seinfeld 

          Well, George Costanza almost got it right about yogurt. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Standards, traditional and Greek yogurt have 0 grams of trans fats in a 6 ounce-serving. However, when one factors in other types of fats, beneficial and not so beneficial to human nutrition, there is 0.7 gram total fat to traditional and Greek yogurt.

              As I work now on an active farm, I’ve come to realize that there is so much more to yogurt and our food than grams of fat, calories per serving, or any other metric of nutrition.  Food becomes food sometimes beautifully, sometimes grossly as the end product of a process of transformation. Quarts of plain and vanilla yogurt at our Farm Store now started out as pasture grass, most likely a blend of timothy (Phelum pratense), perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne), and tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) among other species. From those green, lush leaves and stems, our herd of +40 Holstein and Jersey dairy cattle (Bos primigenius) eat steadily. When I mean steadily, I mean upwards to a range of 130 pounds (59 kilograms) of grass per day!

Once ingested, those grasses and their parts break down through steady grinding wiith flat teeth in a process called rumination, which shapes stiffer grass fibers into softer grass mushAs the mush remains softer thanks to enzymes in the cows’ saliva, the mush begins a digestive trip through the four-chambered cow stomach. Yes, you heard right. A cow does not have four stomachs, but does have four highly specialized components that change the grass mush into what we recognize as milk.

In the first chamber, the rumen, stomach juices and hundreds of species of internal bacteria further break down the cud into a softer texture. From there in the second chamber, the reticulum, more digestive juices and bacteria break down the mush into finer material called cud. This cud moves temporarily up to the mouth for further chewing (about 1 minute), before moving quickly down into the third chamber, the omasum. In the omasum, any remaining water from the grass moves into the bloodstream and urinary system of the cow. Eventually, by the fourth, final chamber, the abomasum, complete digestion takes place. Remaining nutrients for the cow move onward to the small intestine, From here, some nutrients become transported to a cow’s mammary glands and undergo internal reactions to yield milk which can be gathered from a cow’s teats.

Note, for even some digested cud to even yield milk, a cow must have given birth to a calf, as all female mammals can only produce milk after their young are born. Thus, all cows are females and why farmers call their prized cattle “girls” or “ladies.”

Now, once milk is pumped from cows’ teats, it circulates in Stonewall’s Dairy Barn, undergoing what would be expensive pasteurization but thanks to generous farm donors, we can process our milk into raw material for cheese, ice cream, and yogurt! While our cheese is made off-site at Grafton Village Cheese Company in Vermont and our ice cream is supplemented by milk from other New Hampshire farms but made on-site, our yogurt comes from milk and processing entirely here on-site.

Now comes the yogurt. After the milk becomes pasteurized, 3-4 of our hard-working staff come together to mix the milk with 100% vanilla extract, organic cane sugar, and dried milk powder to make our yogurt in a cooling vessel. For the plain yogurt, only dried milk powder is added for texture. From there, we pipe it through plastic tubing into 6-ounce and 1-quart containers with the support of a generally helpful but sometimes stubborn, steel lazy susan to rotate up to 12 containers at a time. With a sealant that gets up to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, we can then seal and cap off the containers.

So, when you and hundreds of our Farm lovers and supporters drop by the Farm Store here this weekend or see our yogurt in shelves at the Monadnock Food Co-Op in Keene, you now know of the relationships that made that Stonewall Farm Yogurt possible.

Here’s a nutritional snapshot of what happens when yogurt made with solid relationships in mind between the pasture grasses, the cows, and the farmers and staff here. On average, a single serving of traditional plain yogurt will meet 18 percent of daily calcium needs; 21 percent of Vitamin B12 needs; and 34 percent of daily protein needs, all with a 6 oz. serving(!)

 As long as you can sit back, reflect, and even thank the pasture grasses, the cows, the farmers, and the relationships that made such yogurt goodness possible, that would be more than likely thanks enough for all of us. Plus, unlike George Costanza, you’d be right on knowing what truly is in that yogurt.

Much thanks to the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, Oregon State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Dairy Australia websites for helping enlighten me on yogurt relationships and making sense of one of the oldest, tastiest processed foods known to humankind (Homo sapiens). Feel free to write back on our Facebook page at “Stonewall Farm” with other questions, recipes, or thoughts on yogurt that come to mind for you.

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First Week on the Farm

“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.”

-Wendell Berry, A Place on Earth

      Hello Everybody!

                To all those who know me, might not know me, or are starting to know me, my name is Matthew Young, but you can call me “Matt” or “Mateo” as well. Since this past Tuesday, I have been grateful to have started as Communication Manager here at Stonewall Farm. While I may be new to the farm, I’ve been in Keene since August 2011, just graduating from graduate school at Antioch University two weekends ago. Since then, and especially during this first week of mine at the farm, I have been learning and re-learning just what it means to put lessons from school into meaningful practice professionally, let alone on as extensive in operations of a farm such as Stonewall.

                On my first day on Tuesday alone, I did no less than to help Josh Cline (our Executive Director) design a summer ad for the local Peterborough Players’ theater playbill for their summer season; to haul and deliver compost with Josh to the Monadnock Waldorf School in Keene; and to package and seal vanilla yogurt crafted on-site with Alan Bettler (our Visitor Services Director) and Sarah Antel (our Education Director). It’s proven somewhat mellower since then, but the drive and stamina of work here reminds me of no dull moments ahead and of the sheer opportunity to give back to land that gives us food, recreation, and much more.

                Over the coming weeks and seasons, I will do my best to capture the ecological events, the  cycles of farm life, the relationships between people and this place, and hopefully the relationships between food, people, and the land. Such ideas include “sustainability” and comparable terms, but ideas which also challenge us to become more aware of how much in common we do have.

                 When we realize how grass-fed diets for dairy cattle enhance the nutritional offerings in cheeses, milk, and yogurt we consume, we can then realize why we need to conserve and protect our soil and water resources to maintain grassy, healthy pastures. When we realize how purchasing farm-grown basil, strawberries, and tomatoes at Stonewall returns local money, which in turn builds healthier and stronger farms which create stronger local and regional economies, we can then realize why we need to target our purchasing with place and price in mind.

                  These lessons and others through frequent posts alongside photos, videos, and audio will hopefully grow an online community of people more capable, passionate, and ready to support an all too real and unique place such as Stonewall Farm. Furthermore, as events such as the June 29th Ice Cream Social, the July 14th Bike for Bovine Race & National Ice Cream Day, and the August 17th Barnyard BBQ come together, a vibrant community will continue taking shape. As farmer and writer Wendell Berry once wrote:

                  “Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.”

                    My hope as part of the farm crew will be to help you and as  many people as are interested to discover for yourself the world of Stonewall Farm and its niche in Keene and Cheshire County, but also how the farm connects back to the rest of New Hampshire, the United States, and even the rest of the planet.

                    I hope you join us to see what awaits at Stonewall Farm, summer, fall, winter, and spring!

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Photo courtesy of Matthew Young

Meet Heather Gringeri, Events Coordinator

Heather Portrait

Education Background

I acquired my Bachelor’s Degree at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH. While attending the University I studied Recreation Management and Policy, Departmental Option: Program Administration. While there, I also obtained a minor in Justice Studies and Business Administration.

How I Decided This was the Career for Me

Deciding on a major at UNH was actually a daunting task for me.  It took numerous visits with my advisor, my entire freshman year really, to decide what I would study. Looking back I had always been a planner. In High School I was involved in many recreational activities some of which allowed me to plan social events, class events, fundraisers, etc.  Elaborating on some of my experiences during my advising appointments pushed me more and more so in the direction of RMP basically a fancy name for (event management).

Work Experience

My biggest accomplishment in my high school years really set my on the journey to becoming an Event Coordinator. In High School I had an excellent opportunity to join the prom committee which used my floor plan for our Italian Garden Themed $13,000.00 wedding; complete with a gym full of turf cobblestone pathways, and a working stone water fountain.

Throughout college my major was fortunate enough to give me tons of hands on experience. Some of my experience started to take off my sophomore year of college where I had the opportunity to work with Durham Parks and Recreation to take over planning Spookfest which was an event the organization had experienced a lack of time to plan. I also worked with the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company my sophomore year to plan the 2010 UNH Homecoming Cruise which was a kick off to the homecoming weekend. The summer after my junior year I was also fortunate enough to find an internship. For fourteen weeks I worked fulltime at Visit Canada ltd. in Portsmouth, NH where I helped create/price trip itineraries, prepare client documents, book trips with clients, as well as with vendors.  During my senior year I was rehired with the company and fulfilled the role of Operations Coordinator assisting all departments. School also allowed for a few other great opportunities including event coordinating for Todd’s Trott 5k race/walk, volunteering with Newmarket Heritage Festival, and also with Dover Apple Harvest Day, etc.

As graduation neared, by job search not only began, but intensified! To begin my search I had started researching for positions near my hometown. Really I was just looking for anything that could give me more experience in Event Coordination. Naturally, being a planner, not knowing what was going to happen with my future after graduation was extremely overwhelming.  I had originally interviewed for an event staff position with the Farm, unsure of where my future was going to really take me, I was not going to close the door on that opportunity, but was simply going to keep the door open for whatever was going to happen. A week later it seemed the door suddenly led to the perfect opportunity with the Event Coordinator position opening at the farm. I was beyond ecstatic! Two days after graduation I began working at the Stonewall Farm in Keene, NH. Taking on the role has been a welcome and exciting challenge. It really is neat to continue doing what I love, something that I am familiar with, working for a business I had actually been unfamiliar. I have learned a lot about the nonprofit business world, as well as how important Stonewall Farm is to the surrounding community. It is reassuring to know that my event coordinating  can help make a difference here as all rentals help support our mission!

Small Farming Technology: CoolBot

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Farming on a small-scale often invites innovation. With a herd hovering around 30 heifers and a 3 acre growing area, Stonewall Farm most definitely constitutes a small venture. Yet, we take pride in this classification and believe that our intimate size puts us in a position to be an effective resource for people  just starting out, or to those who are interested in investing in a small model business. Today, I am going to talk about one of the simplest technologies around for small scale cold storage. Any farmer, of produce or dairy, will tell you that a primary challenge for their business is cold storage. Veggies quickly wilt in the heat of the summer sun and we all know that dairy products don’t stand a chance without some substantially cool temperatures. Yet too often, cold storage systems are prohibitively expensive for new business owners. Not only are they pricey to purchase (a typical walk-in storage unit costs upwards of $5000) but they also require a considerable electrical input to keep them operating.

Enter CoolBot technology. A CoolBot allows for a  cool a storage unit to run off a traditional air conditioner unit. Normally, air conditioners are unable to go below 60 degrees before freezing up. However, CoolBot technology employs a micro-controller that, as the CoolBot website explains, “interfaces with your air conditioner – controlling and co-ordinating its output so that you can access nearly all your cooling power, even as you keep temperatures in your walk-in cooler in the 30’s without re-wiring and without any freeze-ups.”

Here is a photograph of the CoolBot micro-controller:

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As hooked up to our air conditioner:

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CoolBots retail for around $315.00. This price does not include the price of an air conditioner, or of the actual storage unit, but even with these added items, CoolBots are substantially cheaper than the average cost of a  typical walk-in. We have been utilizing CoolBot technology since last June and store our cheese, yogurt, and seasonal produce in our outdoor storage unit.

Below are the plans for our insulated storage unit which was built by Panel Pros, based out of Keene. Our unit, measuring 6x8x6 cost $1500.00 to build (not including a door) and required an additional $1,500 for the door, dairy grade storage interior (which must be constructed with a material that can be easily washed out), air conditioner, and CoolBot micro-controller. Our cold storage unit cost us a total of $3000 while a typical walk-in cooler of the same dimensions can run from $8000 to $10,000. And an added benefit of the CoolBot is that they are easily replaced, unlike a broken walk-in.

STONEWALL_COOLER_SIP Plans

Overall we have only good things to say about our cold storage unit. If you are interested in learning more about CoolBot technology, visit the CoolBot website, or stop by the farm and have a look at ours.

-Sarah

To watch a YouTube video from Ron Khosla on CoolBot installation, check out this video we found online:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTR6yfep8dM&feature=youtu.be