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Farming is not for the faint of heart

Leaders from around the world gathered this week in Scotland to discuss how dire our environmental crisis is. For the farmers at Black Creek Farm, the crisis is up close and personal. As you may have noticed, the farm never expanded to two tents this year, largely because of weather-related issues. Now, with frost nipping at their fields, they've decided this will be their final market of the season as they do not have enough produce to sell beyond that.

I asked owner/farmer John-Erik Schellenberg, who grew up right around the corner in Pleasantville, to share with his loyal shoppers some of the struggles the farm encountered this season. Here's what he had to say: "The 2021 growing season was a roller coaster for farmers. The spring began with a strong drought that helped us during our planting season. Our farm is all low land that holds water extremely well, so lack of precipitation is almost never a problem for us. By July, a series of soaking rains began a period of 7 weeks during which time we could not access our fields by tractor.

Most farms do not have such extremely slow drainage, but the water table in our fields is determined by a single drain which we do not have control over. It is on land owned by a land conservancy which does not allow us to lower the drain. This means that a 3-4 inch rain can keep us out of our fields for a week or two, which is devastating for organic farmers who can only sit by and watch the weeds grow, miss planting dates, and harvest by hand in the mud.

The rains kept coming with hurricanes Henri and Ida, the latter of which saw our fields officially flooded, as in temporarily becoming a navigable waterway. We joked about harvesting our squash by canoe. Unfortunately all of that water rotted well over half of our crops, we never brought our winter squash to market. We had an entire acre planted. Such is the vulnerability of farming on low land. We hope that next year will bring more even precipitation, but are doing what we can to prepare for a future that is projected to have more rain in the northeast than ever."

Frankly, it amazes me that farmers continue to choose farming in the face of such climatic uncertainty. As if farming weren't hard enough. But John-Erik is already planning ahead for next summer, dreaming up ways to bring his fantastic corn kernels and popcorn to market.

Our farmers are truly heroic in so many ways. Thank you for supporting their efforts week after week and feasting on the fruits of their labor.

Again, I will let another farmer do the talking: Marybeth, of Stars of the Meadow, who sold the last of her fall blooms at the market last week: "Those of us who do markets know that our rotating cast of regulars make the bulk of our sales and we are so grateful to them! A special mention here to Jim, who arrives like clockwork at 8:30 every Saturday for his bouquet and who will let me know if he'll be away the following week. Your regularity is admirable! And thanks so much to everyone who made a commitment to buy my flowers weekly, bi-weekly, once a month or once a season. It makes all the difference! And to anyone who shops at a farmers market ever: please know that you are part of helping us be able to do what we do. Whether you spend a few dollars once in a while or shop every week, you are a part of this reciprocal dance with us." We will see Marybeth in 6 short months, buckets of tulips in tow!

Fortunately, we have lots of farmers who are fall-flush right now, like Caradonna Farms, Orchard Hill Organics, and Fort Hill Farms. This week we also have homespun scones from New Castle Scone, baked by New Castle resident Grace Baccay and old-fashioned toffee from La Petite Occasion.

Pizza Vitale is also here should you want to grab a market pie before or after your shop. If the state of our environment drives you to drink sure to pick up a bottle of top-notch Hillrock Estate Bourbon.

And, if you find yourself drinking a little too much of said bourbon, pick up some of Hive Juice's NIGHT OWL juice. Made with apple, lemon, ginger and activated coconut charcoal, it is designed to hydrate, aid digestion and detoxify. ("You're welcome," says Jovian Cortez, who created the drink.)

Gray skies and nearly leafless trees makes me crave a hearty stew. Head straight to Premier Pastures for your stew meat and bacon for this beef and bacon stew recipe.

Or for something a little bit more involved, try Ina Garten's seafood stew recipe which is always a crowd pleaser. The recipe calls for a fennel bulb, but pick up a couple more so that you can steam them for a delicious side dish. Or, cut in flat slices and tuck them under a fish fillet before baking to add a nice note of anise. Or eat it raw dipped into MOMO Dressing's edamame hummus.

See you at the market!

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