Friday, January 28, 2011

Cure the winter blues

Who says nothing is happening during the winter? The February calendar is filling up with farm and food events that will put an end to your cabin fever!

Thursday, February 3, 1 to 4:30 pm
Tusten Town Hall, Bridge Street, Narrowsburg
The February meeting of the Roundtable will focus on agriculture with speakers from numerous organizations and agencies in the Delaware Valley region. Contact or Laurie Stuart at (845) 252-6626.

Saturday, February 12, 1 to 4 pm
SUNY Delhi, Delhi
Organized by Farm Catskills, this meeting will convene farmers, cafeteria/dining program directors, school board members, parents and community members to discuss the expansion of farm to school connections.

Saturday, February 12, 10 am to 3 pm
Adults and children alike are encouraged to come learn to knit or crochet or refresh their rusty knitting or crocheting skills. Registration required by February 5th. Cost $35.00 per person. Contact (607) 746-3849

Tuesday, February 15, 7 pm
Okun Theatre, Farrell Student Center, SUNY Delhi
The Food for Thought committee presents a panel discussion on local food as a business; how & why people get involved; the challenges & rewards; why it's important; & the future. Free event! Contact Mary Pysnik at (607) 746-4783.

Thursday, February 17
Teleconference locations at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Orange and Ulster Counties
A one day event exploring successful wholesaling techniques for small and mid-sized farms, including a "Meet-the-Buyers" session. A farmer-friendly overview of current food safety issues included as well as information on the certification process presented by Cornell's GAP expert, Betsy Binh. Contact Michael Morris at (917) 838-2309 to register.

Saturday, February 19, 10 am - 2:30 pm
Woodstock Elementary School
Cost: $25, including lunch
Presented by the Woodstock Land Conservancy and the Woodstock Farm Festival. Mr. Salatin will discuss why food, farms and eating local matter with a panel of local farmers.Register online or contact or (845) 679-5345.

Sunday, February 20, 11 am to 3 pm
Hodgson Farm and Garden Center
Organized by the Hudson Valley Food Network, this skill share will include talks on raising chickens, mushroom propagation, organic gardening, sausage making and fermented sodas. Contact Meghan Murphy at

Don't forget that Winter Farmers' Markets are still happening! Check our webcalendar for upcoming dates.

Diggin' the Sullivan County Farm Network

Sonja Hedlund of Apple Pond Farm shares the story behind the recently formed Sullivan County Farm Network with us today. This diverse group of farmers is working to organize the agricultural community in the county through events and advocacy. To learn more about the Network, follow them on Facebook or join in the discussion at the next Delaware Valley Roundtable. The February 3rd meeting of the Roundtable which will focus on agriculture is taking place at the Tusten Town Hall in Narrowsburg from 1 to 4:30 pm.

Farm Network members meet to learn about microcreameries.

A small group of energetic, dedicated farm women got together last spring to promote farming in Sullivan County. They formed the Sullivan County Farm Network. The mission of the Network is to increase farming activities in Sullivan County and strengthen communication between those who grow food and those who eat it.

Projects we have worked on alone and with others include include: FARMSTOCK 2011 agri-tourism program, winter farmers' market in Callicoon, meat producers list, a workshop on setting up a micro dairy, WJFF Radio's new 'Farm and Country' show, database of farmers in the county, 'You are what you eat' workshop, and new farm to school programs in three local schools.

Of equal importance is work to present an agricultural perspective at public meetings on economic development. Attending meetings of IDA/the Industrial Development Authority has resulted in more attention to agricultural issues and to follow through on long awaited projects like the red meat slaughter plant in Liberty. Similar interactions have happened at the newly formed Economic Development Corporation. At the County level, speaking at open meetings of the legislature, the Network has advocated for hiring an ag economic development specialist.

The Network's meetings are now attracting a wide variety of farmers, citizens, not - for profit agencies and those with public sector jobs related to agriculture, tourism and economic development. These may well be the only place in Sullivan where people sit at the same table to address issues related to food and farming.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Views from the field: Michelle Premura

Pure Catskills members receive support for business development through our Education Scholarship Program. Michelle Premura of The Turquoise Barn in Bloomville attended the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) Conference in Saratoga Spring last weekend and shares her thoughts with us here.

Michelle with fellow farmer Terry Hannum of Abundance Farms.

This is a review of the NOFA conference I attended in Saratoga Springs January 21-23; a truly inspiring educational event. This will have been the 3rd time I’ve attended over a period of 5 years. Each year there is always something new to learn. What makes this conference such a great educational experience is that the learning takes place not only during the workshops, but throughout the entire weekend. There are group meals, lectures, book signings and trade shows throughout the hotel all weekend.

The theme this year was “Diggin Diversity”. Quite appropriate I thought. There were people from a variety of backgrounds with various levels of experience participating in and facilitating the conference. What’s interesting is that, despite age, race, experience, socio-economic background, everyone has a similar interest in sustainability, preserving the art of agriculture, and a mutual respect for individuals and the earth. The workshops & events also cover a wide area of interests and are, for the most part, on the cutting edge of what is happening not only in New York State but on a global level.

I attended classes on food preservation with a specific interest in fermentation. This is one of the main methods I use to preserve vegetables from the garden. Besides being a practical & simple way of preserving, there are also numerous health benefits associated with fermentation. My intention is at some point to produce on a small scale, jars of preserved veggie blends from the garden using this method. So this class was on the top of my list to attend.

I also attended a workshop on internships, apprenticeships, & hiring staff. Since we do have a number of volunteers each year on our farm, this gave me a clearer understanding of the difference between volunteers, internships & apprenticeships.

Some of the other courses I attended were managing compost, no till gardening, & business taxes. There were also keynote speakers presenting inspiring & motivating talks not just about farming/gardening but about the impact and important role that food plays on many levels in our society. Of specific interest was Malik Yakini’s presentation on urban farming in Detroit. Malik’s enthusiasm, perseverance as he articulated the importance of community working together toward a common goal, was inspiring.

Another prime benefit of attending the conference is networking. I was able to make connections with a number of people that I will be discussing the possibility of future work together at Turquoise Barn. And even more exciting is the possible opportunity of being able to attend next year as a presenter giving food demos.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Beginning Farmer Fellowship Available

We are excited to announce a new position opening here at Pure Catskills. It is the result of a collaboration with Farmhearts. This organization is working to preserve the environmental integrity and economic sustainability of agricultural regions by supporting family farms. The position will take the form of a fellowship opportunity for a beginning farmer working in the Catskills region.

The fellow will work with the Farm to Market Program and focus on beginning farmer programming. The Farm to Market Program administers the Pure Catskills buy local campaign, organizes events on value added production, and facilitates business connections between farm and food businesses. Over 200 businesses from Delaware, Greene, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster counties participate in the Pure Catskills campaign. The fellow will focus on supporting the launch of Catskills Farmlink and a Catskills CRAFT group in collaboration with numerous partners across the region.

Eligible candidates include apprentice farmers, proprietors of recently established agricultural businesses and emerging professionals in the local food marketplace. Individuals may apply by providing a personal statement and a resume. The statement should be limited to one page and address agricultural experience, communications skills, familiarity with the agricultural community in the Catskills region and the individual’s future goals related to agriculture. Applications will be accepted until February 15, 2011. The anticipated start date for the fellow is late February.

A position description and fellowship information are available at the Scholarships & Grants section of All applications and inquiries should be directed to Challey Comer, Farm to Market Manager at No phone calls please.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Views from the field: Sarah Budde

Pure Catskills members receive support for business development through our Education Scholarship Program. Sarah Budde from Majestic Farm in Mountaindale recently attended a conference with her husband Brett as part of the program. She shares a report on their trip here!

Sarah in the fields at Majestic Farm.

The Young Farmers Conference was a two day conference held at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Tarrytown NY. The conference ranged in subject matter from integrated pasture management and technical aspects of farming to government policy to work songs. It included over fifty workshops. In addition to the workshops the conference offered keynote talks from farm heavyweights such as Bill Niman and Dan Barber. Attendees of the conference ranged from college students enthusiastic about permaculture and biodynamic farming to seasoned farmers looking to connect with contemporary practice. Mostly it was a young, progressive crowd of excited young farmers with a couple more or couple less years experience than us.

A pair of hogs from the Majestic herd.

Together Brett and I covered about fourteen courses in all. These courses were informative and inspiring. After each course we would get together and giddily discuss what new facts we had found out, what type of information the presenters were giving and what new practices we may translate to our own farm. Particularly of interest at the conference was Stone Barns own practice of raising pigs in forestland. We spent time during the social hours seeking out various young farmers who were doing similar things as well as meat producers and packagers, USDA officials and restaurateurs. The conference further encouraged our own aspirations to put in a 20-C kitchen, add hoop houses and diversify our current operation. We received literature on organizations we intend on joining and future workshops and conferences we hope to enjoy.