Monthly Archives: August 2008

The Mighty Eggplant

I love how the same food cooked in different ways can transport us to different parts around the world. The simple, beautiful eggplant can be featured in Italian caponata, French ratatouille, Mediterranean baba ganoush, or in this Indian dish I want to share with you.
My friend, Chika, gave me this recipe. Her mother is the master of cooking foods full of flavor, and producing them fast. Her mother laughed when we asked for measurements, so these are approximations based on our trials.
1 large eggplant, peeled
1 small onion, chopped
2 green chilies, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper
Garnish:
Yogurt
Fresh, chopped cilantro
Peel the eggplant and microwave for 2-3 minutes. Then smash (or blend in a blender/food processor) and set aside. In a warm pan, add oil, cumin (lots), finely minced or grated onion, garlic, green chilies, ginger, salt, and pepper. On low-med heat, once this mixture turns pink, add the eggplant. Simmer for 5-7 minutes or until all the flavors seem to be well incorporated. Taste and season accordingly. Turn off the fire, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of yogurt and finely chopped cilantro. More Cilantro and olive oil on top for garnish if you wish.

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Can Sustainable Farming Provide Sustainable Incomes?

New Entry Intern, Rachel Baras has contributed another item for discussion as she wonders what it would take for the small farmer to become economically sustainable:
Most of us reading this blog would have to agree that small-scale farmers deserve sufficient incomes to allow for comfortable livelihoods. The farmers in the New Entry program are among the hardest working people around, producing quality products for their customers. As part of the greater local farm movement, these farmers represent the American dream more than many native-born citizens – a dream of hard work and thoughtful living to benefit our neighbors.
And yet, although local farming has so many positives, the industry often does not garner sufficient incomes for its farmers. Few New Entry farmers have been able to farm as their sole source of income. And this situation is not isolated; earlier in the month, the New York Times published an article profiling farmers who have the dedication and desire to devote all their time to farming, but have trouble doing so without supplementary sources of income.
Like the farmers of the article, many New Entry farmers are participating in niche farming. Some cater to the large Asian population in the area by growing such crops as water spinach, Asian cucumber, and bitter melon. Others focus toward African populations, cultivating African maize and sweet potato greens. Still, as the article notes, niche farming most often does not provide a solution to the insufficient income issue.
So, we’re left with a question: at what point would small farming as a sole source of income be a viable option for the greater farming community?

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Try This Refreshing Summer Vegetable

If you didn’t already know, the Lowell Farmer’s Market features four New Entry Farmers. I like to hang out and learn about the different ethnic produce grown, harvested, and sold by them. Not only do they get customers who are looking specifically for these ethnic crops, but also others who are not afraid to approach them and ask what a particular vegetable is and how it might be used. In exchange, the farmers have always been so patient to share that information with them.
Last Friday, while poking around, I noticed Mr. Kim selling a lot of these “Asian Cucumbers.” He has me pick it up and smell it to show me what a good one would feel like. As with most desirable fruits and vegetables, it’s heavy for its size and firm to the touch. It’s mild, sweet scent reminds me of the Korean summer melons I grew up enjoying with my family. Before I can say anything about the melon scent, he immediately adds, “It’s not sweet. It’s more like a cucumber. It’s best as a smoothie.” “As a smoothie?” I’m obviously confused. “Yeah, just chop it up, blend it with some sugar and milk. Or slice it and put some sugar on top.” So next time you see this sweet smelling cucumber, give it a try. Maybe it’ll become a new taste of summer.

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I Don’t Want Summer to End

My summer is over. Labor day is right around the corner, meaning that all across the country parents of school-aged children are stocking up on school supplies, college students are gearing up for the new academic year, and I have orientation next week. I realized on Tuesday that it would be my last day helping pack the shares and I wanted a way to remember that afternoon. I had forgotten my camera again, but the camera phone did a decent job as a substitute:

If you want to taste summer, try these recipes:
Çoban Salatası
(My friend, Memet, gave me this Turkish salad recipe and warns to make more than you think you can possibly eat.)
Chop:
Cubanelle peppers
Cucumbers
Tomatoes
Flat leaf parsley
Scallions (optional)
Add to taste:
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Salt
Toss together to combine. Eat! Of course, flavors will have a chance to meld if you wait a couple hours, but who can wait that long?
I’m a huge fan of one pot dishes, fresh vegetables, and whole grains. Here’s one to make when you’re starving and need something nourishing and very quick.
Quinoa Pilaf
In a medium-sized pot over medium heat,
Saute in olive oil:
1/2 small onion, small dice
After a couple minutes add:
1 cubanelle, small dice
1 small summer squash, small dice
1-2 small garlic cloves
3 scallions, chopped, white and green/white parts reserved for end
Season with salt, pepper, and herbs. I used a Mediterranean blend to supplement the fish I was going to have it with.
Toss in 1 cup rinsed quinoa, let it get toasty. Add about 1.5 cups water. Can even sub 1/4 cup of water for white wine. Bring to a boil, and then bring down to a simmer for 15 min. Let it rest for a few minutes. Fluff with fork. Top with quartered cherry tomatoes, the green part of the scallions, some slivered almonds.
The possibilities with this are endless. Use whatever is in your fridge. Here’s an idea, instead of sauteeing the vegetables in the beginning, grill them, then chop and add to already cooked quinoa. Serve with some fish, or top it with a fried egg.

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Article in the Boston Globe

Hello friends,
There was a great article in the Boston Globe yesterday discussing how immigrant farmers have been able to take their training from the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project to grow crops from their native countries and find a market niche:

Growing a new generation of farmers
Aug 21, 2008

“DRACUT – Sinikiwe “Nikki” Makarutsa worked on her parents’ small-scale farm in Zimbabwe, and prefers to feed her children food grown organically. She also prefers the food she grew up with, particularly favoring maize to American sweet corn.”

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Some thoughts on the 2008 Food, Conservation, and Energy Act

I’m pleased to share with you a guest post from another intern here at New Entry. A senior at Brookline High School, Rachel Baras heads the hunger committee for SAJE — Student Action for Justice and Education. And as an advocate for social justice, Rachel strongly encourages you to purchase fair trade chocolate when given a choice.
2008 Food, Conservation, and Energy Act
Some of you may be aware that this past year, our country’s Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 underwent adjustment to become the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. Among other changes, the bill provides increased support for agricultural research, ethanol production, and food stamps. The bill also continues our government’s controversial subsidy system, as a result of which the small, local farmers continue to have to compete at an uneven playing field with the country’s major agricultural corporations. As you can see, there are benefits and drawbacks to the bill, and even these benefits and drawbacks are not clearly positive or negative. For instance, agricultural research may sound good (and often is good), yet sometimes the resulting innovations prove to be highly detrimental to our earth. The production of ethanol, which is hailed as the alternative fuel of the future, is yet another incentive for the continuation of soil-depleting monoculture.
One element of the 2008 Act that we here at New Entry are glad about is the increased support for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers. One element of the 2002 Act, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, is gaining $78 in funding over the course of 4 years. An additional $5 million will be used from 2008 through 2012 to train beginning farmers in business, finance, land tenure options, and marketing, among other topics. Further, the New Farmer Individual Development Accounts Pilot Program allows the Farm Service Agency to coordinate with nonprofits in matching funds to beginning farmers’ savings accounts. Another major breakthrough is the $75 million (over the course of 4 years) that will be used to provide training, outreach, grants, and overall assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. They, in turn, can become owners and operators of farms and ranches.
These major amendments to the 2002 Act are further reminder that we’re on the right track. Sure, it seems like the large corporations are gaining more and more power, and it’s true that a lot of them really are. But there are always those (like you!) who push for more sustainable and equitable farming practices. It is so exciting to live at this time – great changes are occurring right before our eyes. What are your main hopes for the future of agriculture?

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I Heard It On the Radio

Here’s a story of sustainable food right in your backyard, along with a radio program about organic food.
We here at New Entry know Mrs. Caroline Zuk as the landlord to three of our Cambodian farmers at Saja Farm. Today I had the opportunity to talk to her briefly about the history of the farm and her passion and enthusiasm for sustainable agriculture. While Saja is a third generation farm, it is in its first year of production for the public. They grow their own produce (more traditional American crops) and buy Asian varieties wholesale from Mr. Sorn, Mr. Nil, and Mr. Emchak (graduates of the New Entry program).
Saja began as a dairy farm in 1915, with vegetables grown solely to supplement the family and not for profit. Back then everybody in the community had a source for their produce since most had their own vegetable gardens, so giving away your summer squash or tomatoes was very hard to do. Thus, it never occurred to them to turn their vegetable gardens into a business operation until recently. Whenever they kept trying to share their summer bounty with friends, they were told they should sell their sustainably-raised vegetables to the public. After much prodding, they decided to make the leap. They’ve had a remarkable response, and now they are trying as hard as they can to keep up with the demand-selling at two farmers’ markets, wholesale, and to restaurants. They are thrilled that their produce is going straight into the hands and mouths of the consumer.
Mrs. Zuk learned from a young age the importance of sustainable agriculture, and keeping the soil as healthy as possible. She recalls her grandmother always having a broom nearby to chase away those who attempted to get them to try some new quick fix for the soil. Even her aunt maintained the integrity of organic farming before it was trendy to do so. Mrs. Zuk emphasizes the importance of sustainablity in their family and their understanding that everything comes full cycle. Three generations of organic farming has maintained a rich and healthy soil, and the family is proud to offer produce that is good for the earth and the people.
If you have questions about organic farming, or love to talk and hear about it, Mrs. Zuk started a 13 week radio program on the local station (WCAP 980). It is on each Monday from 4:30 to 5:00 pm and you can listen live on the WCAP website. Last Monday, she talked all about tomatoes, how to handle them at home and recipe ideas. Next week, she plans to talk about Farmers’ Market etiquette–for the farmer and for the consumer. She will share what goes on behind the scenes before the market and the preparation involved. In the future, she hopes to be able to take questions on air.
If you have more questions, she is more than happy to answer them or talk to you more about organic farming. Beware, her energy and passion is contagious!
For more information:
www.sajafarm.com
978-454-SAJA
403 Parker Rd (Farmstand)
Dracut, MA 01826

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Mark Your Calendars!

Save the date! Sunday, September 28th will be New Entry’s Annual Harvest Festival at Richardson’s Dairy Farm. We’ll have everything needed for fun–live music, good food, great company–Don’t miss out!

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Report from New Entry’s Annual Farm Tour

August 7, 2008, Richardson Farm – Dracut, MA. New Entry Sustainable Farming Project had their annual farm tour from 5-8pm yesterday evening. Despite the rain and dreary weather, about 45 people came decked out in rain gear to learn more about New Entry, our farmers, and their food.
This is the first year the farm tour was opened to the public, as it was mainly for CSA members in the past. Visitors from the University of Vermont, Boston University, Dracut Agricultural Commission, neighboring towns, prospective students for the farmer training course, as well as CSA members shared the damp evening with the New Entry staff and even got to taste some of the fresh produce.

McKenzie, the Technical Assistance Coordinator, started the tour. In the top right picture, she’s holding up sweet potato greens. Most were fascinated by the fact that the African farmers grow these for the greens specifically, and not at all for the tubers. Nikki, one of the farmers of New Entry, says that she completely sells out of her sweet potato greens even before she plants them!

McKenzie leads the group to Nikki’s plot. Here’s a sample of maize Nikki grows. It reaches height beyond 8 ft!

Guests walk through Noueth’s and Oen’s plots, learning about Cambodian crops and the water spinach that is such a staple to their diets.

UTEC (United Teen Equality Center) introduces themselves and gives an introduction to the food they made with the produce from some of our New Entry Farmers. The teens who work for this organization are usually at-risk youth, and can choose to get involved in different capacities. Here, they are involved in the culinary program for teens. Last night they featured gazpacho, tabbouli, long beans, and other apps.

Afterwards, the tour group hopped in a van to go to Smith Farm, two miles away where some more of our farmers have planted their crops:

Here is Addison. An immigrant from Haiti, Addison shares with the group his biggest challenge in farming, having the time to farm while working a full time job. Most days, he works sun-up to sun-down to keep up with the growing season. Fortunately, his two high school daughters love to help and get involved.

The evening was only supposed to last until 7pm, but ended after dark. What started out as a simple tour on locally-grown foods turned out to be a cultural-educational event right here in Dracut, MA. Guests walked through, sampled, and learned about African, Cambodian, and Puerto Rican crops–an enriching experience to say the least!
We had a wonderful time, hopefully you can join us next year!

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Latest Scoop on New Entry

Speaking of local farming in the news, New Entry had a page in the Lowell Sun last Sunday! The article identified New Entry’s mission in bridging the gap that currently lies in creating a successful local food system here in Massachusetts. While there is much interest from consumers for local food, there aren’t enough people to produce it. New Entry seeks to help people interested in farming take the next step to learning about farming in this region, acquiring land, and selling their produce:
Back to the farm – By Kathleen Pierce, kpierce@lowellsun.com
DRACUT — Bent over in the hot morning sun, Seona Ngugor walks neat rows of kale behind Richardson’s Dairy. In workman’s boots and a flowing purple frock, the Cameroon native pulls stunning green leaves from the earth and dumps them in a wheelbarrow. View Full Story
Here is the sidebar article:
Renowned chef cooks straight from Dracut farm field – By Dennis Shaughnessey, dshaughnessey@lowellsun.com
DRACUT — Down the long dirt road toward the rear of the White Gate Farm on Marsh Hill Road, the scent of fresh vegetables cooking on hot coals wafts through the air. Green onion, garlic chive, lemongrass and fuzzy melon are among the items being cooked. View Full Story
You can also read about Chef Jody’s afternoon at White Gate Farm on her blog. Needless to say, my mouth was watering by the end. I also appreciated her fresh perspective on the Project and awe for Mr. Kim and Recchat, two of the farmers who had completed the training program with New Entry Sustainable Farming Project.

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