Dig Deeper

New England’s Unusual Crops

By Renee Ciulla


African eggplant grown at Fresh Start Farms in Dunbarton, NH is especially popular among the Somali-Bantu, Bhutanese, Burundi, and Congolese communities.

Despite the rather short growing season in the Northeast corner of the US, farms in the six New England states are beginning to offer impressively unusual produce. Inspired by the area’s immigrant and refugee farming, and even University research, farmers are bringing creative determination to their farms.

Sweet perennial pepper, West Indian pumpkin, African eggplant and pigeon peas make the top of the list for most interesting and popular crops at Nuestras Raices. Influenced by the rich Puerto Rican community in Holyoke, MA, Nuestras Raices (meaning “Our Roots”) represents the strong agricultural ties and history of the culture through their grassroots non-profit organization. Here, they understand that agriculture and community are tightly linked. Jonathon Surrency, Volunteer Coordinator and Resource Manager at Nuestras Raíces, shared that the sweet perennial pepper (aji dulce) is an important crop – the main ingredient in a sofrito (an all-purpose sauce) is used to season many Puerto Rican dishes. The pepper is made in big batches of seasoning and stored in a freezer for everyday cuisine use. Interestingly, this variety of sweet pepper was never grown in the US until it was introduced by the Puerto Rican people. Despite its Caribbean origins, the pepper grows well in New England if seeds are started in a greenhouse, and they sell even better. The first year that farmers grew starter plants, five thousand seedlings sold in a matter of days – a remarkable phenomenon and proof of a receptive market for ethnic crops!

Today, Nuestras Raices boasts a network of ten community gardens with over 100 member families, an environmental program that addresses issues affecting the Holoke community, a Youth Program for inner-city youth that discusses food and environmental topics, and a 30-acre inner-city farm that focuses on food systems, economic development and agriculture.

Fresh Start Farms, located in Dunbarton, NH, is a collective of refugee and immigrant farmers representing the Somali-Bantu, Bhutanese, Burundi, and Congolese communities. Over 20 farmer entrepreneurs are participating in the New American Sustainable Agriculture Project, while producing a variety of atypical vegetables important to their respective communities in NH. Vegetables include African eggplant, mustard greens, amaranth greens, daikon radish, bitter melon, "hot corn," and ginger. In particular, the African eggplant has proven extremely popular among the immigrant communities and is sold at farm stands throughout Manchester, NH for $4-$5 per pound. “It is a favorite among the Congolese, Burundi, and Somali Bantu communities,” said to Charlene Higgins, the Farmer Training Coordinator. “…and despite the name, the Bhutanese love it too!”

Mustard greens are also highly sought after by the Bhutanese community, who frequently use it in curries or with pickled daikon radish. They are sold throughout Manchester, for $3 per bunch, primarily to Bhutanese families who cook many bunches at a time for each meal. Fresh Start Farms often faces challenges, however, including sourcing African eggplant seed, finding greenhouses to start seeds in, battling flea beetles on their mustard greens, bolting radishes, and fencing out wild animals. Seeds are sourced from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Evergreen Seeds and High Mowing Seeds.

In the same spirit as Fresh Start Farms, the Association of Africans Living in Vermont (AALV) is where many Bhutanese and African immigrants practice their agrarian traditions through the production of culturally significant crops. Cross cultural agrarian learning and sharing is an essential component of the program. AALV also helps Northeast farmers and gardeners adapt important crops of world cultures into the local food system to be grown successfully for market, food, and medicine.

Alisha Laramee, AALV Program Manager, highlighted important African and Asian crops that have significant potential to be integrated into the Northeastern US food system. The first of these is rice, seeds of which farmers source from Fedco or Kitazawa Seed Company. The Bhutanese rice growers in VT emphasize that the key to a successful Northeast rice crop is “…a healthy early start for seedlings in the greenhouse and continuously flooded paddies during the first month after transplanting. Flooding is critical for weed suppression and preventing wide fluctuations in soil temperature. Rice should be harvested once grains are fully developed and most have turned from green to a brown/yellowish color upon maturing.”

“We use rice from birth to death. We celebrate everything with rice. We use rice for everything. We use rice in daily life and for the big festivals that are only once a year,” said Rita Neopaney, a former Bhutanese refugee who is now a US Citizen. “We eat rice at least twice a day. We make a lot of things with rice: breakfast, snacks, food for sick people, dinner.”

Rice must be dried to below 14% moisture content for long term storage, otherwise it will discolor or mold. Low-cost moisture meters can be sourced from hardware stores. Processing the rice is an involved process that requires the growers to remove the grain from the chaff and de-hulling. Some Northeast growers are willing to rent their de-hulling equipment; otherwise the grain can be pounded in a large mortar and pestle.

Another unusual crop grown by immigrants through AALV is diakon radishes. For the past fifteen years, agronomists have been researching daikon radish as a cover crop because of its ability to penetrate and aerate compacted soil. As a cover crop it’s usually not harvested for food, however across Asia daikon radishes are prominent vegetables in cuisine. Both its roots and leaves can be consumed in many ways: raw, cooked, dried, fermented or pickled. African eggplant is another very popular crop. Cultivation techniques are similar to purple eggplants; plants benefit from being started about 8 weeks before planting in the field. African eggplant thrives in warm soil and is a heavy nitrogen feeder. Farmers harvest while still the vegetable is green, claiming it aids digestion.

Amaranth is yet another vegetable that is surprising to learn it grows in New England. It tends to be more well-known as a gluten-free grain, high in lysine and protein properties. Yet the greens are also nutritional powerhouses, and can be grown just about anywhere under any conditions. Other crops grown in VT by this group of growers include bitter melon, roselle greens (a base for curry in Myanmar and dried flowers used for teas), African corn (grows more vigorously and taller than sweet corn) and mustard greens.

At Last Resort Farm in Monkton,VT, Eugenie Doyle has been perfecting the art of growing ginger. While the 280-acre farm in beautiful Addison County produces an abundance of organic vegetables, berries, and hay, Doyle sources yellow seed ginger (rhizomes) from Puna Organics in Hawaii.

The farm grows baby ginger instead of mature ginger, which would take a year to mature, even in the tropics, since soil must exceed 55° in a hoop house (planted mid-late April). Doyle pre-sprouts the rhizomes indoors (in a soilless medium) until they put out pink/white shoots. Planting is in raised beds with rhizomes placed 2-4 inches deep, drip tape placed on top and rows 2.5 feet apart.

Throughout the season, the ginger plants are continually hilled with soil which gives more room for the rhizomes to spread (both horizontally and vertically). Fertilization is done according to a soil test and fertilizers are side dressed throughout the season. Fortunately, insects or pests have evaded the hoop house, and only weeds like chickweed can be found. Harvesting involves simply pulling up the plant stem or loosening the ginger with a pitchfork. The ginger is then sprayed with water and the roots are cut off.

In 2014, ginger yields at Last Resort Farm were around 9.5# for 1# of planted rhizomes. The ginger is sold by the pound or by the bunch for $12/# wholesale and $20/# retail. The unusual crop is sold through the CSA, a farmers market, or two large co-ops in Burlington, VT, where consumers can discover its versatility. Ginger’s shelf life is less than dried rhizome, but can store well in a freezer all winter long. Ginger leaves can even be dried and made into a wonderful tea. According to Doyle, “The biggest challenge is related to consumer education because local, baby ginger looks different than the common dried rhizomes.” Yet after four years, growing ginger has become one of his favorite crops to grow and has dedicated a large hoop house to it.

Over at Laughing Child Farm in Paulet, VT, owner Timothy Hughes-Muse is experimenting with sweet potatoes. Their main varieties grown are Beauregard, Covington, and Carolina Ruby. They’ve also grown Evangeline, but that variety is no longer available. The sweet potato slips are shipped from several suppliers in North Carolina and planted in early May. They grow the sweet potatoes on raised beds covered with black plastic mulch with two lines of drip irrigation. The plants require heavy amounts of potassium and during the growth wheel tracks and holes must be kept weed free to ensure good yields.

Regarding pests of sweet potatoes at Laughing Child Farm, the worst have been wire worms and cucumber beetle maggots. Most growers in the area have problems with meadow voles and deer. Timothy uses deer exclusion fencing, but does have loss due to the meadow voles; “Most small growers are going to see significant damage is small patches of sweet potatoes.” During harvest, they use a bed lifter to loosen the potatoes, pick them by hand and then field grade them. The sweets need to be cured at 90º F and 85% RH for 7-10 days and then kept at 55º F and 85% RH until they are washed and packed. Timothy sells the crop to retail stores, distributors, and the food service industry mostly within VT, and some in New York. According to Timothy, “Yields vary widely among growers because some do not need to grade as heavily as we do. Most of our sweet potatoes are destined for a supermarket shelf so they need to be beautiful. We cull anything misshapen, too small, too large, and too dinged up which means we get about 1.5 lbs of #1 roots per bed ft.” With their experience at Laughing Child Farm, timing is the hardest thing. “The window is very tight for producing a high-yielding crop,” explained Timothy, “Growers need to lay plastic a full month ahead of slip planting, at a time they are busy with everything else. Then planting is tighter still, mainly due to the lack of local sources of sweet potato slips. Some suppliers are not shipping slip until June 22.  Lastly, the sweet potatoes have to be out of the ground and in the barn by the end of September which is a tight window.”

Throughout New England there are remarkable and unknown crops growing within the foodscape. Further examples include peanuts and turmeric grown in New Hampshire and Connecticut – or even organically grown Ruby Red Popcorn at Hurricane Flats Farm in South Royalton, VT. This red variety of popcorn pops white and has a wonderfully nutty flavor. One can also find rice at Akaogi Farm in Putney VT, and an abundance of sweet potatoes from Maine to Rhode Island. The next time New Englander’s plan to the farmers market, they may want to consider surprising novelties that are hidden amongst the carrots, kale, and tomatoes.


Association of Africans Living in Vermont: www.aalv-vt.org

Fresh Start Farms: www.freshstartfarmsnh.org/

Laughing Child Farm: www.laughingchildfarm.com

Last Resort Farm: www.lastresortfarm.com

Puna Organics Ginger: www.hawaiianorganicginger.com

Hurricane Flats: www.hurricaneflats.com

Nuestras-Raices: www.nuestras-raices.org

Evergreen Seeds: http://www.evergreenseeds.com/asveglis.html

Kitazawa Seed Company: www.kitazawaseed.com

CSAs and Aggregators: Threshing Things Out

By Steven McFadden

ASC2Community is not a warm and cuddly marketing concept attached to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). It is, rather, a defining element. Yet in the past few years, some middleman food businesses have appropriated the term “CSA” to describe what they are doing, without involving community. This practice is leading to confusion and concern.

Initiated in America in 1986, CSAs are constellations of local farms, food and people who are united in an agrarian relationship for the health of people and planet, and their growing popularity has caught the attention of entrepreneurs.  Many food delivery businesses have been started that claim to be alternative, more efficient CSA models but which simply reintroduce the middleman into the local economy, standing between the farm and the people.

In the context of this trend, the term CSA is in danger of following the word “natural” down a mushy pathway to the realm of meaninglessness.

Food hubs and grocery delivery services focused on local food are providing an innovative and important service, obviously much in demand. With sophisticated web portals and tantalizing discounts, they will likely find increased market share in the years ahead.

Historically, processors and distributors held the power and dictated the terms to farmers. Aggregation businesses create markets for small-scale farmers, but primarily benefit middlemen, while once again relegating the risk of production to farmers and asking little or no commitment from consumers. However, sharing the risk of farming and building community are keys to CSA.

Points of Distinction

In a world with widely corrupted natural resources and increasingly extreme weather patterns, local farms and food appear destined to continue coming to the forefront. Across America, communities large and small are embracing local agriculture and establishing pathways and programs to boost regional food production.

What interested people in CSA at the start nearly 30 years ago was a fundamental recognition that our relationship with nature and the ways that we use the land will determine the future of the earth. Thus, ultimately the problems of agriculture and the environment belong not just to farmers, but to all people. In the end, no one can escape responsibility for the well-being of the earth. CSA was intended to provide a direct pathway for every person and every household to participate actively through a web of relationships with each other, farmers and farms.

Many CSAs continue to build upon the essentials of the original vision and to innovate from that base of relationship, but much of this is lost at businesses that advertise themselves as CSAs. Low price and convenience are powerful motivators.

When I spoke with Marcia Ostrom, associate professor at Washington State University and a member of their Small Farms Team, she said, “A typical CSA provides produce from a single grower. This does not allow for the variety and selection many people desire, especially when produce options become limited during winter months.“

She observed that small, individual farms cannot produce the necessary volume required for these new markets, while commodity farms are not designed to produce the necessary quality. Farms of the middle, on the other hand, have both the capacity and flexibility to collaborate with each other and with other supply chain partners to respond to these expanding markets. As a result, food aggregators and food hubs have emerged. Sixty years ago, there was infrastructure to support family-scale farming; with the dominance of industrial food chains, that withered. Food hubs are part of rebuilding that infrastructure. The USDA is actively promoting the concept and says there are now more than 220 food hubs spread out across more than 40 states.

Food hubs coordinate all parts of a community-based food system, with an emphasis on efficiency. They aggregate food from local farms and market to schools, restaurants, and retailers. They also coordinate supply-chain logistics and network with distributors, processors and buyers.

As USDA secretary Tom Vilsack said in a May 2013 speech, “Skyrocketing consumer demand for local and regional food is an economic opportunity for America's farmers and ranchers. Food hubs facilitate access to these markets by offering critical aggregation, marketing, distribution and other services to farmers and ranchers.“

Many observers regard food hubs as the center of the new rural economy.

One such hub, a Kansas City food business called The Hen House Markets Growers’ Alliance CSA, came to my attention this year when it emerged as the focus of intense online discussion among a number of CSA farmers in Nebraska.

Hen House buys from many local farms and then distributes to people who have paid up front. They ask no commitment whatsoever of the “community” of consumers. The corporate involvement provides distribution, advertising and other overhead services that a lone CSA would find overwhelming. Hen House thus stretches the traditional understanding of a CSA and morphs it into an efficient business model.

Enterprises such as Hen House – and there are many of them emerging across the USA and Canada -- raise questions: what is a real CSA?  Can any food delivery service rightfully claim to be a CSA? Are enterprises that for the main part define “community” in terms of a market being accurate or confusing when they use the term CSA?

Emily Akins of the Kansas City Food Circle, a nonprofit organization promoting a sustainable food system in the region, commented, “We love Hen House. It’s good because it provides a market for a lot of small-scale farmers, but we wish they would not use the term CSA to describe what they do. Consumers can end up thinking that CSA is just a way to get farm fresh food at the grocery store, while a traditional CSA is a relationship between a person and a farm.”


The popularity of the CSA concept has also spawned “box scheme” businesses that may have no farm base at all, but use the local farm cachet to lure customers to their box delivery schemes. Farmer Allan Balliett calls these “fake CSAs.”

According to Balliett, “a fake CSA exploits a consumer’s assumption about the value of a CSA.” He says they are misleading customers and diverting money away from local farms and from traditional CSAs. Feeling the impact of box schemes on his Fresh and Local CSA in Shepherdstown, WV, Balliettstarted a Facebook page to educate the masses about real CSAs. “If you don’t know your farmer you’re not really in a CSA,” he said.Box schemes, or subscriptions for weekly baskets of produce, ask little or no commitment whatsoever to the relationship. They are simply a new way of exchanging money for food. They establish no relationship between the consumer and the farm – no community.

For over 20 years, the Fair Share CSA Coalition in Wisconsin has been a pioneer in developing CSA. According to Executive Director Chris Brockel, CSA is much more than just a weekly delivery of food. “As CSA becomes a household name,” he said, “we’re seeing more and more versions of ‘CSA style’ businesses. CSA is about more than just getting vegetables –  it’s also about making a direct connection between consumers and farms, and making sure that connection is nurtured. Aggregation takes all of that out. The potential for connection is lost. Is that truly a CSA?”

Defining Terms

The USDA long ago published a general definition of CSA, but it is rarely noted. However, as of January 1, 2014, California’s Department of Food and Agriculture has established an official, legal definition of CSA (see below). The definition, which has a profoundly bureaucratic ring to it, bans use of the CSA term by anyone buying from wholesalers or not requiring advance payment.

The Community Alliance with Family Farms (CAFF) has formed a California CSA Network to link the over 250 CSAs in that state. CAFF organizer Rachel Petit said the use of the term CSA by aggregators definitely has been a problem in her state. She said the new legislation makes a clear distinction, but that it’s too soon to know what kind of difference it will make.

CSA got started not with a definition, but with a vision — a vision that was developed by a far-flung community of people. Many women and men contributed to building upon that idea. However, it was understood from the beginning that every farm and every community had its own particular needs and capacities, and that as a result, there would be wide variation in how the evolving concepts of CSA would be applied.

As CSA author Elizabeth Henderson has observed, “Reducing CSA to a mere food subscription scheme castrates the CSA model, taking away its power to create lasting relationships between the people who grow and eat food.”

The food industry has just scratched the surface of “locally grown” as a business concept, but seems intent on digging deeper. As the business aspect of local food grows in size and strength, will the community dimension of CSA continue to wither? That question will be answered not just by farmers, but also by the individual human beings who constitute the community.


California CSA Network

California Legislation defining CSA

Findings of the 2013 Food Hub Survey

Hen House Market Growers’ Alliance CSA

Kansas City Food Circle

“If you don’t know your farmer, you are not in a CSA” Facebook


The USDA defines CSA as “a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production.”

California’s legal definition of CSA restricts use of the term.  If there is a middleman, you cannot call it a CSA under Article 6. Community-Supported Agriculture 47060. For purposes of this article, the following definitions apply:

(a) “Community-supported agriculture program” or “CSA program” means a program under which a registered California direct marketing producer, or a group of registered California direct marketing producers, grow food for a group of California consumer shareholders or subscribers who pledge or contract to buy a portion of the future crop, animal production, or both, of a registered California direct marketing producer or a group of registered California direct marketing producers.”

What the Organic Industry is Really Like

By Peggy Miars, OMRI Executive Director/CEO

A number of people have told me that they believe strongly in organic ideologies, but not in certified organic food. I can certainly understand that perspective, but I get frustrated when I hear questions like, “Aren’t the organic standards being watered down by corporate interests?” In twenty years of working in the organic industry, I can say that has not been my experience.  Most of the people working on organic standards are truly committed to organic principles, and I commend them for the difficult decisions they face. Who would take on such a challenging role if they didn’t believe strongly in the founding principles of organic agriculture?

What I have witnessed is a consistent and not always friendly conflict between the ideals of availability and integrity. So many standards decisions come down to a choice between making more organic food available to more people, something that could be seen as benefitting larger companies, and restricting organic food to an ideal that is perhaps difficult to achieve on a larger scale. These two concepts are sometimes at odds, but they are certainly not mutually exclusive. Regardless, the compromises made have led to sour (organic) grapes on a number of occasions.

The organic standards for food produced on a commercial scale are hard to relate to, and certainly involve materials and processes that would not come into play if we were making the same food in our own home kitchens where traceability and supply chain dynamics are not involved.  From reading the organic standards themselves, it’s nearly impossible to discern what is and isn’t allowed in organic food. I have attended multi-day trainings focused entirely on understanding the standards! They are certainly not clear or accessible to most consumers.

The situation is made even more difficult when it comes to understanding the National List – the USDA list of substances allowed and prohibited in the production of organic food. Most of these substances are not ingredients, but rather tools such as fertilizers, health care aids and processing sanitizers that organic farmers and processors are allowed to use to make organic food. For example, synthetic zinc sulfate is considered an effective footbath for maintaining hoof health in cows. Zinc sulfate isn’t in our food, but it’s a synthetic tool that the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recently recommended to be added to the National List, for footbaths only.

The National List is often the center of confrontations in the organic industry. Any additions to or removals from the list have to be carefully weighed, and each substance is re-evaluated every five years to determine whether there are suitable alternatives. In fact, the semi-annual NOSB meetings provide the venue for three or four day marathon debates, where oral and written comments are presented to the board concerning materials on the agenda. Commenters include certifiers, farmers, processors, companies that make fertilizers and other inputs, nonprofit groups and individual citizens. It is during these meetings that the NOSB votes to recommend changes to the National List. (See our post on the National Organic Standards Board for more information.)

OMRI always sends representatives to the NOSB meetings, not only to understand the votes but also to offer comments on specific materials. We never advocate for or against allowing particular materials. However, since we review the majority of products used in organic production, we rely on clear guidelines for what is and isn’t allowed. Most of our comments relate to whether proposed changes would be enforceable or how those changes might impact the marketplace.

What I have seen as a meeting attendee over the past eight years is that those who participate in the organic industry are careful about these decisions, and about organic food. I do not see the volunteer board making decisions so that corporations will make more money. The NOSB members weigh each decision carefully, and they have to make some really hard choices that I would not want to make. I’ve witnessed board members personally struggle with difficult decisions that are not black and white.

I have seen some really interesting debates at these meetings, and for the most part the debates are congenial and not personal. It is clear that opinions differ. However, there have been times when personal attacks and finger-pointing have taken place. All of the people at the meetings are passionate about the organic standards, so it’s not surprising that some people would have an intense response to a proposed change. However, I would hate for anyone to think that this is the norm, or typical of the NOSB debate process. We have all disagreed personally with an NOSB decision at one time or another, and it’s important that we voice our opinions. But opinions don’t make a person “bad” or “good” – they are just opinions.

If it were up to you, where would your interests lie? Before you answer, think about what the world would look like if large companies could never achieve organic status, because they just don’t have the tools to produce large amounts of food through one operation. Without the incentive of the organic label, would they use more toxic pesticides and hormones? Looking at it another way, are smaller farms at risk of being pushed out of the organic market because large companies are allowed to compete? Difficult questions indeed!

Peggy New

Peggy Miars has been OMRI’s Executive Director/CEO since 2010. She came to OMRI from California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), where she served for six years as the Executive Director/CEO. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Western Michigan University and completed post-graduate courses in nonprofit management at Regis University in Colorado Springs. Peggy has worked in the organic industry for more than 18 years, previously in marketing and management positions with Earthbound Farm, Whole Foods Market, Granary Market, various nonprofit organizations, and her own marketing consulting business. She completed IOIA inspector training for crops in 2007 and has had further IOIA training in both the NOP and Canadian Organic Standards.

Farm Photo Friday: June 26, 2015

Every Friday we share some snaps from our 333-acres in Kutztown, PA. Our photographers? The staff members who keep this farm chugging along. Enjoy a sneak peek at what’s going on here at Rodale Institute! 


If you weren't able to make it to our organic BBQ, Grills Gone Wild, don't worry. Farm Photo Friday will give you a quick recap: the event created so much buzz, even the honeybees showed up! In this photo, Michael Schmaeling, Facilities Team Member, gives a bee demonstration in our Honeybee Conservancy.


 "But mom, he always gets the top bunk!" Visit the piglets at our Hog Facility ribbon cutting ceremony. Keep your eye out for more information!


Every week, teenagers from the area come to Rodale Institute to work on the farm. Our beanstalks aren't quite as high as Jack's, but the bean-harvesters seemed to enjoy them anyway.


When Dan Kemper, Strategic Support Team Member, first grafted these tomato plants in April, they were as puny as a pencil. Now, they're a few feet high, and are producing plump, bright red fruits. Nice job, Dan!


Volunteer Mike Horvath was caught laughing while planting flowers in the garden. When we told him there was no fun allowed while working, he replied, "But I'm not working - I'm volunteering!" You got us, Mike.


Everybody's hands have been smelling like basil this week. While some of the staff harvested dozens of barrels full, others spent time in the kitchen, preparing glass jars of farm-fresh pesto!


Executive Director, 'Coach' Mark Smallwood, shows off his pesto-making skills. His secret ingredient? Sunflower seeds! Toss them into a food processor with basil, olive oil, parmesan cheese, and garlic for a light summer pasta sauce or bread topping.


Speaking of Coach, the staff celebrated his birthday with a Rodale Institute themed cake. (And there's still leftovers in the fridge - but don't tell anyone!)

photo 1

Coach, is that you again? We caught him in action while talking to a group from MOM's Organic Market.


With the new sign installed, the Boiron Medicinal Garden is all made-up for it's debut tonight at the ribbon cutting ceremony!

Don't forget...Show your organic love! 

Farm Photo Friday: June 19, 2015

Every Friday we share some snaps from our 333-acres in Kutztown, PA. Our photographers? The staff members who keep this farm chugging along. Enjoy a sneak peek at what’s going on here at Rodale Institute! 


It's almost here! Megan Kintzer, Director of Development and Communications, is proudly carrying our Grills Gone Wild sponsor banner. We're so excited to get our organic BBQ on. This Sunday, join us for finger-lickin' food, wagon tours, live music, and more! Check out the Father's Day event on our website for more info.
See you on the farm!


They grow up so fast! This small Kestrel is no longer the ball of fluff we saw last week. Today it was tagged for identification by folks at Hawk Mountain. Kate Harms, Research Technician, was beaming for hours after she was able to hold this beautiful bird.


Returned back into its cozy box, the baby Kestrel was home just in time for super.


Chamomile and Calendula are blooming for the Boiron Medicinal Garden grand opening! Rodale Institute has partnered with Boiron USA to create a medicinal garden with charming brick pathways and popular plants used for homeopathic remedies. Join us at the ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, June 26 by RSVPing here!


Why did the chicken cross the road?


Because it's moving to a new home! (Soon – Lord Baltimore likes to plan ahead). Staff and interns are joining forces to finish the large chicken coop. As the pigs rotate around to fresh pastures, the coop will trail behind. The chickens will scratch the manure, removing pig parasites from the ground!


Your Funny Farm Friday Photo this week is brought to you by ASC Intern Larry Byers. He spotted Petunia praying for pink muck boots!


It was raining while Dave Reynolds, Veteran Farming in Training, was planting in his garden. Good for the plants – bad for this photographer's camera!


We love Rodale Institute's newest member, the garden "peace frog!" We think he's telling us to sleep in that extra hour tomorrow morning. Happy Friday!

Don't forget...Show your organic love! 

Research Director needed!

060614-947Rodale Institute is looking for a Research Director for the Vegetable Systems Trial (VST) to join our team!


Job description and qualifications are listed below. Interested applicants should submit a cover letter and resume to linda.carlson@rodaleinstitute.org

Job Title: Research Director, Vegetable Systems Trial (VST)

SUMMARY: The Research Director for VST will manage all phases of the project from design coordination through daily operations, data collection and analysis to outreach and scientific publications.


* Managing the long-term Vegetable Systems Trial (VST) and working with the Strategic Solutions Team (SST) to produce peer-reviewed publications.

* Coordinate day to day operations including but not limited to: field operations - tillage, planting, crop maintenance, harvesting, crop data collection, soil sampling, insect monitoring etc. Laboratory operations – sample preparation, sample analysis, and working knowledge of general laboratory protocols.

* Work with the SST and Communications team to create outreach and education publications, including but not limited to bulletins, fact sheets, and newspaper and web articles.

* Be able to develop curriculum for instructing beginning and existing farmers in organic agriculture for vegetable production.

* Work with Rodale Institute team members to complete research activities, including field and lab work. This includes but is not limited to the VST.

* Assist in developing an outreach and education, peer-to-peer, extension network for farmers and ranchers.

* Develop collaborative and productive relationships with internal and external partners.

* Work with advisory board to design project and program features to ensure applicability to real world grower conditions.

* Oversee the timely execution of grant funded projects, including budget management, timeline management, and instructions for field and lab technicians related to VST.

* Analyze and interpret scientific data.

* Conduct workshops and presentations at the Rodale Institute and worldwide.

* Work with Grants Manager to submit grant proposals for additional funding for research, education, and outreach activities.


* Minimum of four years in field and/or laboratory research experience and familiarity with vegetable crop production in the northeast and/or mid-Atlantic region.

* Attention to detail and ability to develop and maintain high quality records and other documentation.

* Skills in working, collaborating, and communicating in a team environment with individuals of diverse backgrounds.

* Ability to prioritize multiple activities.

* Excellent organization skills with demonstrated written and oral skills for communicating technical information to growers and extension personnel.

* Strong background in statistical analysis of field trail results.

* Evidence of publications in peer-reviewed journals.


* Master’s or Doctorate degree in Plant and/or Soil Science with specialization in Horticultural Crop Science, Entomology, Plant Pathology or Plant Physiology.


Some travel is required.

Farm Photo Friday: June 12, 2015

Every Friday we share some snaps from our 333-acres in Kutztown, PA. Our photographers? The staff members who keep this farm chugging along. Enjoy a sneak peek at what’s going on here at Rodale Institute! 

The heat doesn't keep Sabrina Myoda, Garden Intern, from mulching the homestead garden with hay all afternoon!


Stephanie Zimmerman, Strategic Solutions Team Member, is teaching a group of staff members how to do the daily animal chores. They'll tour the farm and get down and dirty with the animals! Here, the group learns to care for pigs in our brand-new Hog Facility.


Stephanie leads the group to the goats. The first step to learning the animal chores is to actually...step! Over fences, that is. Looks like someone's already mastered that one!


You'd think that in the summer months, our goats need more water than usual. But Stephanie explains that they actually drink less than in the winter months, since much of their water needs are met from the plants they chow down. The high grasses and clover you see now will be mowed by the goats in no time!


Could there be too much fluff in one picture? Huddled inside a nest box are seven-day-old American Kestrel chicks! Kate Harms, Research Technician, explains that these small falcons are declining in number. We're happy to have them at Rodale Institute!


Justin Barclay, Veteran Farming Program Coordinator, is visiting his Nigerian Dwarf goat friend, Zorro. It all started when Justin complimented Zorro's impressive goatee.

If you think our pigs are big eaters, watch these Nigerian Dwarf Goats. They'll go to great heights for a snack!


Speaking of snack, our Garden Store now sells mouthwatering, fresh baked bread from Saxman Breads! Pictured here are some of the staff's favorites: Farm Grain and Everything Focaccia. Not pictured: Sourdough, Honey Wheat, Rosemary Focaccia, and this photographer sneaking a slice! You can also find these breads at the Organic Allentown Farmers Markets.


Lizzie Wilson, Livestock Intern, is spending quality time with the pigs. In return, they are cleaning off the bottom of her shoe!

Learn the secret to why our pigs are so happy at our Organic Pastured Swine Field Day on June 24!


I bet your dad would love to take a ride on this cool wagon, enjoy Rodale Institute farm scenery, and chow down on finger-lickin' organic barbeque. Bring him to our Grills Gone Wild event on Father's Day, June 21! Visit our events page for more information on the family-focused BBQ!


Lord Baltimore is heading out early for the weekend. Something about beating the beach-goers traffic on the way to the shore!

Don't forget...Show your organic love! 

Farm Photo Friday: June 5, 2015

Every Friday we share some snaps from our 333-acres in Kutztown, PA. Our photographers? The staff members who keep this farm chugging along. Enjoy a sneak peek at what’s going on here at Rodale Institute! 


Everyone on staff is pitching in to plant in the Boiron Medicinal Garden – just in time for the weekend wedding. Not only are the plants and flowers beautiful to our guests, but they can actually be used as herbal remedies!


Here, Maggie Saska, Plant Specialist, is placing Calendula, a plant known for healing cuts, infections, and even the digestive tract, into the soil.


Remember the tiny piglets that were born just two months ago? You would never be able to tell by their size, but they’re still the same piglets that snuggle together for an afternoon nap!

We didn’t have to wait too long for another litter, though. Welcome to the farm, guys!


"I'm ready for my close up!" This little one is already a camera hog.


David Douds, USDA Research Microbiologist, has been at Rodale Institute evaluating the role of cover crops and mycorrhizal fungi inoculation in vegetable systems. Mycorrhizal fungi (say that five times fast!) are naturally-occurring soil fungi that enhance the uptake of soil nutrients. In other words, fungi might not sound exciting, but in the soil, it does some spectacular stuff!
Speaking of fungi, we're teaching a Backyard Mushroom Production class in June. Register now!


In the distance, Michael Schmaeling, Facilities Team Member, is spending time with our honeybees. It's nice to see them buzzing and back to work after a long, silent winter (the bees, that is!).


Back at the workshop,  Mark Fabian and Michael Schmaeling, Facilities Team Members, are constructing a brand new honeybee box. Looks like one happy hive is going to have new hardwood flooring!


Don't worry – Dan Kemper, Strategic Support Team Member, is not going to be attacked by what he's holding. It's actually one of many asparagus crowns that Dan is planting into a long, deep trench.

Don't forget...Show your organic love! 

How can we feed a nation without big agriculture?

By Renee Ciulla


Red Tomato Founder Michael Rozyne and John Lyman, of Lyman Orchards. Photo by Chris Cartter

“Some food hubs are building infrastructure to store food year-round which creates an actual response to the question: ‘How can we feed a nation without big agriculture?’” noted Kate Petcosky, New Entry Sustainable Farming Project’s Food Access Coordinator in Lowell, MA. “At this point, we are aggregating from 30 different refugee or immigrant beginning farmers, and moving about $16 0,000 worth of produce. Our farmers can’t be at farmers markets every day, so we are taking over the direct consumer relationships.”

According to the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, “a regional food hub is a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail and institutional demand.” In many parts of the country, there are wide gaps in local distribution and processing infrastructure, making it difficult for regional growers, such as those farming with New Entry, to access markets. Food hubs fill a market niche that the current food distribution system is not adequately addressing, failing to connect small-scale producers to wholesale market channels. Additionally, food hubs can build the capacity of local producers and engage buyers and consumers to rethink their purchasing options. In this way, hubs are becoming the building blocks for viable local and regional food systems. According to the National Good Food Network, “While many regional food hubs are local food distributors, they are much more than this. Food hubs are examples of innovative, value chain-based business models that strive to achieve triple bottom line (economic, social, and environmental) impacts within their communities. They do this by offering a suite of services to producers, buyers, and the wider community.”

In 2013 a National Food Hub Survey was conducted by the Wallace Center at Winrock International and MSU Center for Regional Food Studies. The survey resulted in several notable findings from the 107 food hubs that were interviewed. Conclusions indicated that food hubs across the country are increasing to broaden the distribution infrastructure for local food. From the survey, “62% of food hubs began operations within the last five years, 31% of food hubs had $1,000,000 or more in annual revenue and the majority of food hubs were supporting their businesses with little or no grant assistance.” The participating food hubs were asked to identify their greatest operational challenges which included, “managing growth, balancing supply and demand, access to capital, finding appropriate technology to manage operations, negotiating prices with producers and/or customers and finding reliable seasonal and/or part time staff.” Additionally, 96% of food hubs indicated that demand for their hubs’ products and services was growing.

“...31% of food hubs had $1,000,000 or more in annual revenue and the majority of food hubs were supporting their businesses with little or no grant assistance."

It is unsurprising that the progressive green state of Vermont boasts several food hubs. One shining example is the Intervale Food Hub located in Burlington, VT.  They are an online local foods market offering year-round delivery operated by a team of five employees. Intervale “collaborates with ecological farmers and food processors in the region to provide the community with an array of the highest quality foods.” Owned by the Intervale Center, the hub is committed to cultivating a local economy that sustains healthy food, farms, land and people. Over 30 farmers in Vermont work with the hub and are attracted by the stable, year-round market and fair prices (slightly higher than standard wholesale). Intervale also provides ongoing technical assistance and support, which enables farmers to grow and process more food, diversify production, develop specialty products and push the limits of Vermont’s growing season. From 2008-2010 the hub purchased $400,000 from farmers with an 80% annual growth in sales. Annual farm sales range from $1,000 to $30,000 per farm and there are many multi-farm collaborations (which improves farmer camaraderie and efficiencies in marketing and distribution).

The close relationship between the producers and the hub is made apparent to members through the hub’s goal of providing 100% transparency and traceability. Members are offered a variety of options such as “The Vermont Vegetable” which is a showcase of fresh vegetables, herbs, and fruit. This costs $55-$60 per week and is delivered weekly. For meat eaters, there’s “The Omnivore Package” which includes “The Vermont Vegetable” plus a combination of local meat, dairy, and specialty products. Also available are salmon, seafood, cheese, eggs, meat and bread.

Heirloom tomatoes

Colorful heirloom tomatoes ready for shipment.

Another food hub, Windham Farm and Food located in Brattleboro, VT, is an aggregation and delivery service providing access to local food. Richard Berkfield, Executive Director, explained that everything is done online. Farmers post what they have on the website, customer orders are due by Monday and deliveries occur soon after. This food hub began in 2009 and already by 2014 their annual sales were $213,000. Their largest sector is retail followed by public schools. Interestingly, senior living centers have also been a large market, accounting for 30%. “Collaborative efforts between buyers and sellers,” Berkfield believes, “are at the foundation for how [the hub] has worked so well. A lot of people came to the table to make this happen.”  This collaboration is key even for cold storage, which for example, has been done in high schools. One challenge they have to consider is that half of the Vermont schools have less than 100 students. This means that they could easily spend $100 of hub money to get $100 of produce delivered. Efficiency always has to be kept in mind. Berkfield feels that “total transparency is also a must.” Windham Farm and Food posts the cost for the farmers, the cost of distribution ($1.50/mile) and employee pay rate ($18/hr). Most of the farmers are “seasoned and well-established” so they are able to make up for the wholesale pricing through their retail markets. The hub sales only amount to 5% of the farmers’ total sales. Berkfield has found that it is a challenge for small farmers to be a part of the hub because of the required $1 million insurance liability.

Located farther north in the state of Vermonth, Green Mountain Farm Direct, is a regional food distribution system that provides Vermont farm products to schools and other institutions. Program Director Catherine Cusack, shared that they began in 2009. The order sizes have been growing and around 50% of the food goes to schools. “Since the school season and growing season don’t perfectly line up,” explained Cusack, “schools mostly order dairy, meat, flour, storage crops, frozen corn and frozen squash.” The rest of the products at Green Mountain are delivered to senior homes, grocery stores, prisons and hospitals. Cusack has found that Meet & Greet dinners have been a successful way to introduce the farmers to the consumers. An annual local food tradeshow offers a chance for relationship building. Green Mountain is currently looking for a USDA Local Food grant to help with marketing efforts – one area they want to strengthen. At this point they don’t have their own trucking but instead partner with delivery truck operations in their area. They hope that in time this food hub distribution system will assist farmers in northern VT to “scale-up” their operations.

A unique example of a food hub started by farmers on the seacoast of New Hampshire is Three River Farmers Alliance. This collaboration among three farms (Heron Pond Farm, Meadow's Mirth Farm and Stout Oak Farm) provides an online marketplace of locally grown and produced food. Their goal is for the farms to work together to meet the growing demand for local, sustainable food in the area. In past years, these three farmers had been selling to the same wholesale institutions, all driving separate vehicles to complete deliveries. Instead, they decided to unite forces and combine their wholesale produce onto one website. By Friday morning of each week, they list available items for sale where customers can then place orders using a Three River mobile app or from the website until midnight on Monday. The orders are reviewed and sent to the farmers on Tuesday so the items can be harvested, prepared and delivered by Wednesday and Thursday. Chefs on the seacoast who receive emails, texts and calls weekly from these farmers have been enjoying the ease of this system of ordering.

In the neighboring state of Massachusetts is Red Tomato, established in 1997 and located in Plainville, MA. They are “an ambitious non-profit that works its heart out to deliver fresh, great tasting produce while cultivating a more sustainable, ethical food system.” Through many years of experience, Red Tomato has developed innovative systems that rely on existing wholesale distribution in their area to deliver local food to grocery stores, produce distributors, restaurants, schools and colleges across the Northeast. They are proud to include over 48 local farmers who provide an impressive array of food items. Full descriptions of each farm with videos and pictures can be found on the Red Tomato website, educating consumers about production practices, farm histories and more.

When Red Tomato first began, they owned and operated their own warehouse and trucks. Staff would drive to farms to pick up the product, store it and put it back on a delivery truck. After several years of “trying to do it all,” they realized this system was actually limiting their growth. In 2005, the decision was made to divest the warehouse and trucks, instead relying on farmers with storage capacity to aggregate products, and have farmers, distributors or logistics companies to move the product to its final destination. Susan Futrell, Director of Marketing, shared that at Red Tomato their biggest accomplishment and biggest challenge is the same: “…bringing all of the elements that matter to us – top quality, incredibly fresh produce, fair prices to the farmer, transparency at every level, local/regional supply, environmental stewardship, farm ID & stories that reach all the way to the shopper, and efficient orders for the customer – and delivering all of that via a wholesale supply chain at a competitive, fair price. The dominant supply chains are not set up to make any of this easy for mid-size, local farms. It takes a huge amount of collaboration, coordination, creativity and just plain hard work to make it happen. We're proud that, more often than not, we do right by the farmers we work with, and make their fabulous produce available to consumers in the local grocery store.”

To get a sense of how local produce goes to market, visit Red Tomato's website for a short video:


Out in Ann Arbor, Michigan situated 45 minutes west of Detroit, consumers and producers are also trying to find ways to efficiently move food. The Wastenaw Food Hub’s mission is to “provide facilities and market channels to increase the economic viability of diversified farms, develop small businesses, and provide community benefits that will strengthen our food system and local economy.” By developing a food hub facility and network, they hope to create a thriving community of “triple bottom line” farm and food businesses to achieve a sustainable regional food system. The Washtenaw Food Hub is a limited liability corporation formed in 2011 by successful organic growers and professionals in food service, project management and real estate. They are ambitiously restoring a historic 16-acre farm with the mission to serve public and institutional demand for local food as well as strengthen farm and food businesses. This hub plans to be a single point of contact for local food purchasing, processing, aggregation, storage and distribution. Their shared-use Value-added Processing and Commercial Kitchen Facility for qualified businesses bring the hub closer to reaching their overall sustainability goals.

The scale of food hubs can range from a few farmers joining forces casually online, to an all-encompassing source of local food marketing, processing, aggregation and distribution. The Puget Sound Food Hub in Mount Vernon, WA, aims large and casts a huge food system net. Located on the intriguing coast of north-west Washington, speckled with islands and west of the majestic Cascade Range, their goal is to increase access to locally grown food as well as improving market access and economic sustainability for northwest Washington farms. Currently, farmers can proudly state that their products are entering restaurants, hospitals, preschools, grocery stores, commissaries, home-delivered meal programs, childcare centers and universities. At the beginning, the Puget Sound Food Hub was initiated as a weekly wholesale market in a parking lot of the Skagit Valley Food Co-op. There was no online ordering or streamlined payment system, no cold storage and no aggregated delivery. Today, the Puget Sound Food Hub is a network of farms and partners operating cooperatively in the Puget Sound region to market and distribute locally produced food.

Farmers are ensured that their product is never mixed or combined with another farmer’s product. A box of product is packed at the farm and stays in that box with traceable identification labeling back to the farm that produced it. In their words, “It’s not a warehouse store selling nameless, faceless ‘local.’” The hub ensures food safety and manages risk by requiring all hub aggregation sites and distribution partners to create and comply with GAP and HACCP plans, and requiring everyone along the supply chain to carry appropriate licenses and product liability insurance coverage. An eligibility checklist is required for all farmers interested in applying. Examples include obtaining a business license, paying $50 for an annual membership, following marketing guidelines, having at least one year of direct marketing experience and providing proof of coverage for a $1M or $2M policy. After these steps are completed, farmers receive login credentials to the Puget Sound Food Hub website.

Another inspiring organization, The North Valley Food Hub, is located in Chico, CA, approximately 1.5 hours north of Sacramento. The North Valley mission is to provide “critical services to both growers and wholesale buyers that include creating a one-stop shopping platform for buyers and a marketplace for growers to post and promote their products.” The hub also serves as a centralized facilitator for creating and expanding local food markets in California’s North Valley.

It was through many deliberate and intelligent steps that the decision was made to form the North Valley Food Hub in the summer of 2014. It started in 2009 when the Local Food Systems program was established at the Northern California Regional Land Trust. The first step was to begin the Buy Fresh Buy Local, North Valley campaign. In 2011, the program systematically measured the North Valley region’s capacity to feed itself with locally produced food by comparing crop production patterns with consumption patterns. Remarkably, the estimates showed that 70% of consumption needs could be met with local production in the region. A survey given to 200 growers and 25 wholesale buyers confirmed that, “20% of growers were not producing at capacity from a lack of consistent markets, 79% of growers said they would grow more if there was a market and 55% said they would use a food hub if one was available in the region.” Furthermore, buyers stated that the difficulty of managing the logistics of buying from multiple growers kept them from sourcing more food locally. The research made it very clear that the local food system for the North Valley region would not flourish without infrastructure like a food hub, an online purchasing system, cold-storage and eventually coordination of transportation logistics.

Interested farmers can begin by creating a profile on the website. Once verified by the North Valley Food Hub Market Manager they can begin listing their products and quantities. This can help farmers overcome the challenges and logistics related to managing multiple relationships, sorting out food safety requirements and marketing. As for interested buyers, they also create an account, agree to the terms of the service and need to be verified by the Market Manager. The buyers can purchase from multiple growers through one order and can also aggregate like-products from different growers in order to meet larger volume demand. North Valley Food Hub is an excellent example of how thoughtful research can result in a meaningful and necessary addition to a region’s food system sustainability.

In 2011, FarmAid estimated that there were over 100 food hubs in the USA and numbers were on the rise. By 2013, the National Food Hub Survey was sent to 222 food hubs revealing the growth in just two years. While this article only highlighted a handful of hubs and their impact on the food system, there are hundreds of unmentioned individuals working to answer the question posed by New Entry’s Petcosky, “How can we feed a nation without big agriculture?”



New Entry Food Hub: http://nesfp.org/world-peas-food-hub

Intervale Food Hub: http://intervalefoodhub.com/

Windham Farm and Food: www.foodconnects.org/windham-farm-and-food.html

Green Mountain Farm Direct: www.greenmountainfarmdirect.org/

Three River Farmer Alliance https://www.threeriverfa.com/

Red Tomato: http://www.redtomato.org/about/

North Valley Food Hub: http://northvalleyfoodhub.com/farmers/

Wastenaw Food Hub: http://washtenawfoodhub.com/contact-us/#

Puget Sounds Food Hub:  http://www.pugetsoundfoodhub.com/farmers/

A Guide for Scaling up Food Hubs by New Entry: http://nesfp.org/resources/guide-scaling-food-hubs




Transform Fava Beans to a Delicious Dish


Eric Skokan is a chef, author, and owner of Black Cat and Bramble & Harerestaurants in Boulder, Colorado. Photo courtesy of Kristin Boyer Photography.

By Eric Skokan

Fava beans are hard to beat for flavor, versatility and soil health. They remain somewhat unfamiliar to most Americans, and they come bearing baggage — rumor has it, fava beans are “difficult” in the kitchen.

But as a longtime chef, I urge you to resist the rumor-mongerers. Preparing fava beans for eating requires a little bit more work than a bouquet of red oak leaf lettuce. But the work is not onerous. And the payoff is exceptional.

For starters, fava beans are legumes, and fix nitrogen in the soil. This saves money and time — no need to broadcast nitrogen amendments to soil that has been fortified with favas. So the payoff begins long before the first farmers’ market sale, with rejuvenated soil.

It continues in early spring, before the pods are harvested. At Black Cat Farm in Boulder, Colorado, where we farm 130 acres to supply our two restaurants and our farmers’ market stand with vegetables, meats, herbs, and more, we plant a bed of favas to supply us with greens as well as beans. The greens taste like favas, and they sauté like spinach. Early in the season, when your market and restaurant customers start coming down with spinach fatigue, you surprise them with fava greens.

And then you astonish them – with fava flowers. The edible flowers are captivating, gorgeous, multi-hued blossoms that carry fava flavor with great delicacy and nuance.

Finally, the pods, the long, curved sleeves packed with plump beans. We harvest a lot of young favas, and urge customers to slick them with olive oil and salt and toss them on the grill until blisters begin appearing on the skin. The next step is a breeze: commence eating. No need to open the sleeves and scrape out the beans, no demand for the removal of the jackets that encase the beans. The juvenile pods, hot from the grill, are a treasure.

Mature fava beans do require a little bit of work, but it is not a big deal. For example, fava beans make a superb hummus, and my approach does not require the removal of the jackets from the beans. You simply open the sleeve, remove the beans with their jackets, boil them until tender, toss them in a food processor with garlic, sesame oil, lime juice and salt. The dish is a wonder.

Plenty of dishes for mature fava beans will demand slipping-off the jackets from the beans, and this is the “difficult” part that the rumor-mongerers love to crow about. The work can be mildly time consuming, but I don’t find that it is any more toil than cleaning, peeling and dicing carrots for a dish. With the beans, once the jackets have been doffed, it is time to move on to the next bean. There is no back-and-forth with a vegetable peeler, no meticulous cutting.

Fava beans remain fairly exotic in most part of America, which is a gift. We find that an awful lot of our farmers’ market customers are food-savvy, and always on the hunt for new vegetables and varieties. And for those who sell to restaurants, too, are likely to find eager buyers. Good chefs live for local, seasonal treasures like fava beans and will find ways to quickly incorporate them into their menus.

A cover crop that we eat and sell? A plant that gives us early greens and flowers, young fruit that petitions for one style of dish, then mature fruit that wants a variety of different preparations? A one-of-a-kind flavor?

Even if fava beans were indeed “difficult,” I would grow them. But really, they are a cinch.

Eric Skokan is the chef and owner of Black Cat and Bramble & Hare restaurants in Boulder, Colorado. In addition, he grows (organically!) and raises nearly all his own vegetables and meat for the restaurants and a farmers market stand. Last year he published his first cookbook: Fork, Farm, Food which was an IACP finalist for best cookbook of the year. More information can be found at http://farmforkfood.com