Monday, December 1, 2008
To improve the audience experience over the 2007 season, the directors of the Farmers’ Market built four large, portable, shaded benches for audience seating. The benches improved the experience of the music and the market. Visitors sipped coffee and munched on apples as they enjoyed the music with their families. Naturally, some rainy weather caused the rescheduling of several performances, but visitors have come to understand the consequences of inclement weather on the outdoor music program.
Music Performers at the Music at the Market program included:
The Gravikord Duo
St Catherine’s Performing Arts Guild Ensemble
The Mission Band
Dub Sound Distortion
The Paganotti Family
West Milford Players
The publicity efforts by Eat Local to promote the music involved regular newspaper advertisements, frequent mention in weekly email newsblasts, and coverage in the monthly newsletter.
As a result of our new benches this year, market visitors had a much more positive experience of the music. Many audience members stayed for the complete performance, while others enjoyed a single set before moving off on their business. The motion of the audience kept the energy of the performance high. As a result of the music program, Saturday mornings have become a hub of community activity. The farmers’ market is a place where an average of 650 community members gather to share food, friends, and to listen to a high quality musical performance. The benches have made it possible for seniors to enjoy the music comfortably.
Perhaps the most supportive audience members are the market vendors themselves. They enjoy the lively, professional music, and communicate quickly if a performer is not up to their expectations of quality or style. In one case, a performer was edgier than previous performances, drawing some disparaging remarks from the vendors. However, our music coordinator defended her choice explaining that the musicianship of the performers was extremely high and that variety is a healthy way to stretch the tastes of a community. Indeed, this edgy performer was contacted by audience members for two additional performances as a result of his performance at the market.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
I've been arriving at some answers lately, and I'd like to share them with you. According to Wendell Berry, "Eating is an Agricultural Act." This idea seems obvious when you sit down with farmers to share a meal as we do at this Harvest Celebration Dinner. However, eating is more than that. It is an act of community as well.
In this world we've outsourced so many parts of our lives, including energy, consumer goods, jobs, transportation. We send our needs out to the world and they are met by people from the farthest reaches of the planet. Perhaps our food is the most outsourced of all. Indeed, hundreds of hands touch our food before it reaches our table.
Our food begins in foreign fields. It travels through the battlefields of oil nations, through the board rooms of geo-politics, and the currency counting houses, until it arrives in the deep freezers of big box stores before dropping into our grocery carts.
Yet at this farmers' market, we reclaim our food system that have been broken by outsourcing. We have built a Community that takes back our outsourced food. Our food begins with the farmer who has one hand on the soil the other at the market. We as customers have one hand at the market and the other on our table. Our food producers hold one hand to the farmer and the other to our market. We find their food and reach from their space at the market to our own table. We have made an incredibly short chain in our food network.
The network of this community extends in many directions, including to our photographer Matthew Novak of Farming the Legacy, who records our community and shows us what we are.
Through this food network we have built connections to growers of our food. We learn where our food comes from, we gather at a market to buy it, and we share the experience of gathering our food. We bring our children to the market to work, to learn, and to play. In this way we teach and understand our values of food and where it comes from.
Tonight with this Harvest Celebration Dinner we experience this visible, knowable chain from the earth to our table. We honor the few hands that take food of the earth to the tables of our families. And we celebrate the community that we've built. It is a pleasure to have you share this meal and this community.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
On Tuesday September 23, the members of the Robert Erskine PTO and the board of the Ringwood Farmers' Market teamed up to sponsor a Taste Test Tuesday. Eat Local School Garden Coordinator Kathryn Grant headed up the team with the help of Jeannine Sheerin and Joli Sepcia. They had a table, baskets of apples, and a photo display of the apple orchard where the apples were picked.
On the playground during recess, they offered students a taste of four types of apples. Each student considered the flavors and chose their favorite. Can you picture the first graders chewing carefully each little slice, evaluating the differences, and trying to decide which apple really was the best one?
The overall winner of the taste test was the Honey Crisp apple, which beat out Cortland, MacIntosh, and Gala. Kathryn was sure to mention that these were available at the farmers' market--of course it'd be hard to find Honey Crisp apples anyplace else!
When we thought up the event, we wanted it to plant the seeds of understanding about biodiversity and food security. Although they may not have learned the word biodiversity, they clearly gathered the differences between the apple varieties. They were surprised at the different flavors and chose their favorite carefully. The team plans a repeat visit in Early October—this time with pear varieties. We're also hoping to do the same event at Cooper Elementary School. Stay tuned!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Third graders in Mrs. Odgers’ class planted a fall crop in the butterfly garden. The children learned how to prevent erosion on slopes and how to enrich the soil with a “green manure” crop, winter rye. In the spring, the rye will be cut, and the roots will be permitted to rot into the soil, adding vital organic matter to the sunny butterfly garden. The children discovered new caterpillars munching on parsley. They released milkweed seeds into the wind, and they observed other garden residents, such as spiders, birds, and ants.
Monday, August 25, 2008
The bowls project is a fundraiser for the school gardens that we have built and are planning to build in the fall. The original idea was to serve soup out of the bowls, but we fine-tuned the idea so that it'll work better, I think. We had this great brainstorming session at the board meeting last week about how to share this project with our supporters. The other members suggested filling the bowls with something to take home and prepare, such as a dried bean soup mix, or a cob of popcorn, or a bag of granola, or an apple with oatmeal and brown sugar. Then tie it up with some cellophane and a ribbon, it'll look like a special treat present. It'll be a nice way to support the school garden.
SPEAKING of the school gardens, I'm meeting with some moms from Hewitt tomorrow night to flesh out a proposal for adding a garden to the Hewitt school. Very exciting. I've been reading on this subject a lot and here are the ideas for garden activities.
* A mini-field trip introduction to the garden and a follow up journal entry about the trip. 15 minutes. (Garden Volunteers can act as “tour guide.”)
* Storytime in the garden related to growing themes. (Suggested book list is available upon request) (15 minutes)
* Seed Study activity where students sort seeds of different types of plants, identify differences, plant seeds in the garden, then experience different plants as they grow. Suggested plants: beans, pumpkins, sunflowers (30 minutes of classtime, several weeks of growing time)
* Planting fall crop of cool weather plants, such as spinach, lettuce, or beans. Students plant seeds, watch plants grow for several weeks, and then eat the produce. (15 minutes to plant seeds. Seeds should be planted in early to mid-September for crops to mature before winter.)
* Measuring and gathering data. Students are asked to gather data from the garden, such as the length of the garden beds, the height of each type of plant, the distance between planted seeds, the depth of seeds to be planted.
* Explore the life cycle of wheat by asking students to observe wheat berries (seeds) learn the parts of wheat, discuss how wheat is processed into bread and then plant winter wheat crop in the garden. Students watch growth of wheat and harvest wheat in the spring.
* Plant a crop of garlic in the fall, demonstrating that each clove winters over and grows into a full head of garlic in the spring. (15 minutes to discuss and plant in the garden. Students harvest garlic and take it home.)
* Teach diversity and biological evolution through pomology using the newly planted disease-resistant apple trees in the front of the school. Students discuss life cycle of apples, record the growth of the trees, taste several varieties of apples, and draw conclusions about the importance of biological diversity. In the spring, students choose and plant another variety of apple tree to increase the orchard.
* Explore erosion in the garden and plant a winter crop of rye, an excellent “green manure” planted in fall for soil retention and enrichment. Discuss the advantages of planting winter crops to the soil, to the nutrients in the soil, and to the air. (15 minutes of class discussion, 15 minutes of planting time. Spring follow up and harvest.)
* Introduce a poetry or art in the garden project in which students use the experience in the garden as the inspiration for a creative work.
I'm still working on ideas for the forth and fifth grade, but I'm sure I'll come up with some more after I meet tomorrow night. The idea is to engage kids about growing food, to show them that it is not a complicated process, and to prove that the food they eat is the product of a person's labor.
Friday, August 22, 2008
The lesson started and ended on time, the
instructor was well prepared, the hand out was excellent and covered
her main points. Katy (the canning chef) was warm and engaging as well as expert in
handling all the material and fielding questions as she went along. It
all seemed effortless.
It was a great day (not hot for all that boiling water!) and the
chairs worked well in the room of 10-12 people. The photographer
arrived and was in and out in no time, so there was limited
distraction. Although the space is not glamorous, it worked well and
we all felt welcomed at Weis. It was a very successful premiere of
what I hope are many more happy classes.
As I left, I turned to a neighbor/friend and mentioned how fast the 90
minute lesson went. She said, " I would do that again any day." This
from a woman whose mother gave her a birthday gift of classes at
Adventures in Cooking (Route 23). When I mentioned the possibility of
future classes, she was very excited.