Meet the Crew: Taylor Firestein!

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Meet the Crew: Taylor Firestein!

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We have a small team of 7 crew members (including Christa and Mark) working at Jericho Settlers Farm year-round, one of which is me, Taylor Firestein, CSA Coordinator since the winter of 2017. I joined the crew back in early spring of the same year as a first-time farmer, and now I’m hooked!

You’ll find me holding down the fort during CSA pick ups, delivering CSA shares and veggies and eggs around town from time to time, and doing many different day-to-day chores around the farm. I also manage our marketing and design work, but despite the hours of screen-time I clock in on a given week, I’ve learned many different hands-on farming skills that have become my favorite parts of working at JSF.

Hailing from central Maryland, I moved to Vermont in 2015 after graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. I spent the summer after graduation in central Maine managing the kitchen gardens for a family camp, which is what made me fall in love with New England (that and multiple trips to beautiful Vermont during my college years).

While at MICA, I earned my BFA in Fiber Arts and Photography. I spent a lot of time interning and assisting photographers and artists in Washington DC and Baltimore throughout my college years. But most of my time during college was spent in front of hundred year old floor looms, just weavin’ away!

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These days when not farming at Jericho Settlers, I can be found biking around good ol’ Vermont, still weaving in front of a very large (and very difficult to lift) 100 year old loom, cooking (so much cooking!), snowboarding in the winter, checking out comedy and music in the greater Burlington area, traveling around New England, hiking, knitting, attempting to learn rock-climbing, and many other Vermont-y things. I also work behind the scenes on Nightshade Kitchen, a monthly community event that brings together food and music in the form of festival and intimate performance (that often features many JSF veggies!).

My artistic abilities are put to use often here at the farm. Seen a poster around town? I designed that! Catch a post on Instagram or Facebook? I likely drafted that one up. As far as farm favorites go, I definitely plays faves. Favorite thing to harvest? Cherry tomatoes. Favorite farm chore? Trellising tomatoes and transplanting pretty much anything that has a strong root system. Favorite part of being the CSA Coordinator? Swapping recipe tricks and tips with members during pick ups and seeing their excitement about the food we grow. Favorite winter farm chore? Covering and uncovering remay in houses when there’s two people involved (when it’s done right it’s like a dance!) and washing carrots. Favorite summer crop(s)? Lebanese cucumbers, fennel, sun gold tomatoes, and kakao tomatoes. The ultimate farm lunch? Cracker, smear of mayo, piece of cheese, a slice of tomato and a leaf of basil.

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We Switched to Recycled + Recyclable!

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We Switched to Recycled + Recyclable!

Our produce containers have a whole new look, and we think you’re going to love it!

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Many customers have voiced the desire to see less plastic and more reusable materials when shopping for produce, and we feel the same. Our commitment to growing good food in a sustainable way extends all the way to the grocery store shelves, and your dinner tables thereafter. As such, we have transitioned all salad greens (mesclun, lettuce mix, kale, spinach…) to recycled and recyclable plastic containers, with updates for other vegetables coming later this season. You’ll notice the containers have a new look, a bright green sticker, and are much easier to open and close.

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You’ll also notice these containers are made of 100% recycled #1 PET or PETE plastic. As plastics go, there is a lot to love about PET. To start, the container holding your mesclun has already been recycled from a previous product, like a plastic water bottle. With a lid that is easier to open and close, you can reuse the container at home or work several times. And when it is time to part ways, know there is a very strong market for recycling PET products again into something else - think clothing, carpeting, furniture, and fibers. Chittenden Solid Waste District accepts and resells all clean #1 PET plastics.

While we wish we could do away with plastic altogether - and that may be the case in the future - in the meantime, our goal is to provide you with the freshest produce of the highest quality, in the most responsible packaging available. Plastic containers ensure greens don’t wilt or bruise. We know the resources it requires to create nutritious, delicious, certified organic vegetables, and we are committed to making sure you realize that value every time you cook and eat JSF produce.

We aim to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle in all that we do:

  • We wash and reuse all case containers in which we transport produce and eggs to stores and restaurants

  • If we don’t need to bag it, we don’t - zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes all go to restaurants in reusable totes. No plastic wrap, no bags.

  • You can find recycled and reusable bags at our Farmstands for shopping. We also accept clean paper pulp egg cartons for reuse, so please feel free to bring yours to our farmstands.

  • CSA bags are cleaned and reused throughout the season. You are welcome to return yours at CSA pick up each week and we will put it to good use.

  • As a team, the vast majority of our data tracking, planning, and sales orders are kept electronically. We minimize our use of paper through a well-loved iPad and many many Google Sheets!  

  • No food wasted: We sell what we harvest, we donate what is left in the field. Anything not suitable for human consumption is happily accepted by our hens and pigs. And after all that, anything that remains becomes high quality compost for use in the next growing season.

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To learn more about our packaging supplier, visit www.producepackaging.com

All major grocery stores will accept plastic film and bags for recycling - to learn more, visit CSWD here or enter your zip code for a nearby store with a “Take Back” station.  


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Perfect Pork Chops

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Perfect Pork Chops

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In the past we've written about brining pork chops, which is a great way to prepare chops for the grill or frying pan.  Here's a few more ideas on how to enjoy JSF pasture-raised pork chops in concert with sweet fall root veggies and apples. 

Pork Chops in a Pan

Ingredients:

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  • black pepper and herbs of your choice (sage is my favorite to pair with pork)
  • garlic chopped fine
  • onions chopped coarse
  • root vegetables of your choice, chopped in chunks  (we like carrots and parsnips)
  • tart apple (like McIntosh or Cortland), chopped 

Heat a cast iron skillet or similar type pan over medium heat.  Rub the chops with pepper, herbs and garlic. Once pan is hot, place chops in pan and brown on each side for a few minutes. Add chopped onions to saute in the pork fat.  Once onions are about half done turn heat to medium/low and add a very small amount of water, broth, or cider to the pan, the quickly throw in the chopped root veggies and apple and cover.  Allow to cook covered on medium/low heat about 5 minutes.  Stir once and flip the chops over and recover to cook another 3 to 5 minutes, until veggies are just barely soft and chops are cooked through. 

Braised Pork Chops

Pork blade chops and rib chops are best suited for this braising recipe.  Brown the chops as in the recipe above, then put them in a roasting pan with chopped onions, roots veggies, and apples. Add cider or broth to pan until liquid is about half way up the chops.  Cover pan with foil and put it in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.  Chops are done when the meat falls off the bone.   This recipe works for a pork roast as well, just allow for a longer cooking time. Serve with mashed potatoes or roasted fingerling potatoes. Yum!

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Supporting Our Community

Farming is hard work and often I'm asked by friends and customers why I do it.  Well, part of the answer is because of you.  One of the driving motivations for me to farm is to provide something of use and value for my community, every day, year round.  Healthy food raised in a sustainable manner that respects the land and the animals that we raise is a direct way to do this. I grew up here in Jericho Center where our main farm is located. When we started dabbling in farming over 15 years ago our first customers and supporters were the great network of friends I have from having lived here all my life.  They supported us and helped us get going, and as the farm has thrived we have been able to give back.  

The Vermont Foodbank truck on one of its weekly trips to the farm.

The Vermont Foodbank truck on one of its weekly trips to the farm.

The primary ways we support our community are through donations of food, partnerships in fund raising, and education opportunities. 

Every week the Vermont Foodbank truck rolls into our driveway and we load it up with any excess veggies we produced that week.  We donate over 10,000 lbs of food each year to the Foodbank and our local food shelf. We also host the Intervale Center's Gleaning Program, which provides free fresh produce to families in need and social service organizations in the Burlington area.  Every Friday during the growing season a group of volunteers gleans produce from our fields that we would not otherwise harvest.  

Christa shows aspiring farmers from Saxon Hill School how the tractor works.

Christa shows aspiring farmers from Saxon Hill School how the tractor works.

 

We support many schools and Farm to School programs in our area through food donations, fund raising partnerships and learning at the farm.  From pre-schoolers to college students and beyond, we host numerous school groups each year for learning opportunities, class projects, and research projects. We have hosted leek moth research with St. Michael's faculty, IPM aphid control studies with UVM Entomology lab, harvest bundle fund raising with Essex Farm to School and MMU girls soccer team, class learning with the UVM Agroecology class, tours with UID and Saxon Hill School students, and planting and harvest days at the farm and taste-testing in the cafeteria with Richmond Farm to School.

 

 

 

Thank you for supporting our farm which enables us to give back to our community in these important ways. We love growing for you and learning with you how to grow Good Food Year Round!   

- Christa

 

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Stocking up for the Lean Days Ahead

Mark's father ran a subsistence farm in eastern Washington, where Mark grew up learning the ins-and-outs of providing one's own food.  Stocking up for winter was a big part of what summer was about, and we carry on that tradition here at Jericho Settlers Farm.  In addition to growing winter salad greens in our hoophouses all winter, another key part of the great winter food diversity we offer at JSF is our root vegetables, which we store from October through May to keep us all eating Good Food Year Round.

From carrots to cabbage to turnips and radish, we store tons of roots all winter!

From carrots to cabbage to turnips and radish, we store tons of roots all winter!

Carrot harvest at JSF with mechanical root harvester.

Carrot harvest at JSF with mechanical root harvester.

We have four large coolers at the farm, one in the "old barn" and three in our more recent investment, the "new barn". These coolers are set to different temperatures and humidity conditions to accommodate different vegetables' needs. Certain root vegetables, like carrots and beets, store best in very cold and very humid conditions. Others, like potatoes and cabbage, like the temperature a little warmer, but still cool and humid. Then the onions and garlic like cold but dry conditions.  And lastly the winter squash and sweet potatoes like to stay warm and relatively dry all winter.

Our Fre-Heater system.

Our Fre-Heater system.

As with all things on the farm, we aim to be energy efficient with our storage infrastructure. This past summer we installed a Fre-Heater system that captures excess heat from the cooler compressors and pumps it into the "warm room" where the squash, pie pumpkins and sweet potatoes stay snug all winter.  By late winter, when the squash and sweet potatoes are all eaten, we then divert this "captured heat" to our greenhouse when we start it up for seedling production for the next season.

Heirloom pie pumpkins in storage at JSF

Heirloom pie pumpkins in storage at JSF

When stored in the proper conditions we can eat a carrot or potato in March that was grown the previous August and harvested in October and it will still be super delicious and nutritious.  Get in on this Good Food Year Round with our Winter CSA!  You too can eat local and delicious all winter long.

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Cool Nights and French Onion Soup

Cool nights are on their way, nudging us with a bit of urgency to get in the fall harvest.  When we get home with the sun already set and the temperature dropping we almost instinctively think of making SOUP! This week use the rich yellow onions in your share to make a classic French Onion Soup.  With a side of toast broiled with melted cheddar (or classically, gruyere) you can let the entire piece soak up the soup's brothy flavor. 

We harvested one of our best onion crops ever at JSF this fall and we're busy curing and cleaning them for a long winter's worth of cooking!

We harvested one of our best onion crops ever at JSF this fall and we're busy curing and cleaning them for a long winter's worth of cooking!

Recipe:

4 oz of butter (feel free to reduce this)
3 to 4 Yellow Onions
1 Head of Garlic
2 (or more) Sprigs of Thyme, Oregano, Tarragon, Bay Leaves, or Rosemary
1 tsp Flour (optional)
1 Pint Beef Broth
1 Pint Water
1 cup Red Wine
Salt and Pepper
1 Loaf of Bread
4 Slices of Cheese (Works great with Sweet Rowen cheddar)

Melt the butter in a the bottom of a large pot and add the chopped onions and garlic and a dash of salt. Add your herbs in a neat bundle, as you will be removing them later. Cook on low, covered, for 30 minutes until the onions are transluscent but not burnt. Remove the herbs. Add a teaspoon of flour and stir well, so there are no clumps.

Add your broth, water, wine, and allow to cook for 20 minutes.

This is a great chance to cover slices of bread with cheese, and toast them in a toaster oven or broil them in your oven.

When everything is ready, put the bread at the bottom of the bowl, and ladle the soup on top. Enjoy!

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Why We Raise Animals on Pasture at JSF

From the beginning, as our farm business grew and we ventured into raising more animals for meat and egg production, we committed to raising the animals on pasture.  With careful pasture rotation we can meet the nutritional needs of the animals, utilize different pastures to their best potential, and provide the animals with the opportunity to live in their social groups. We set up their paddocks to provide natural shelter, shade and fresh water as well as ample forage.  The pigs help renovate woodlots, some recently cleared to transition to pasture. The sheep graze the prime forage lands during lambing and lactation, and when young stock are growing rapidly.  At other times, when the ewes nutritional demand is lower, they can utilize marginal pastures that are less productive, which they help bring back into better production through their grazing. 

 

Sheep are ruminants, which means they can digest grass and other vegetation effectively to meet all their nutritional needs without needing any grain.  We time the breeding and lambing of our flock so that ewes lamb in May when pasture forage is plentiful and rich, which allows us to produce healthy, 100% grassfed lamb in Vermont without needing to supplement with grain (which is commonly needed for a ewe lambing in March).

Because pigs and chickens are not ruminants they cannot get all their dietary needs from pasture alone, so we supplement with Non-GMO grain. Our pigs and chickens are also great recyclers, munching on the veggie "seconds" that don't make the cut for human consumption. In vegetable production there can be a lot of "waste" product: we aim to sell what we can, donate what we can't sell that is still suitable for human use, and recycle the rest with the help of the pigs and chickens. Of course, the compost pile is also in action at JSF for anything that gets beyond even what a pig likes.  Our goal is to recycle the energy of the farm as much as possible, keeping the nutrients in the soil, animals, and plants.  

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The animals on our farm play critical roles in the whole farm cycle, from nutrient management to land renovation, crop rotation, and energy efficiency.  In essence we are capturing the conversion of solar energy into pasture forage and then into meat.  We aim to produce healthy meat in a manner that respects the needs and lives of the animals, that benefits your health and the health of the land that we farm.  Plus they bring enjoyment and wonder to our day.

Enjoy the benefits of our sustainably raised animals with a Meat CSA share or stock your freezer with a whole or half pig or lamb.

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Preparing for Winter Growing at Jericho Settlers Farm

Summer's not giving up yet, but nonetheless the crew at Jericho Settlers Farm is getting ready for winter. Preparations for our Winter CSA and our winter greens production are well underway. We've been hard at work clearing tomato plants out of our hoophouses so they can grow fresh greens all winter long.

From April through August our two largest hoophouses are full of tomato, cucumber, zucchini, and basil plants. In early September, while our other ten hoophouses are still pumping out tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, we clean out these two large houses to get a jump on establishing transplants for winter greens production.  So clearing out tomato plants means......lots of green tomatoes!  You'll often find them featured in our late summer CSA shares. A BLT sandwich with fried green tomatoes is a staff favorite.

Pulling tomato plants gets a little messy. Liz found plenty of dirt and a little friend in the process.

Pulling tomato plants gets a little messy. Liz found plenty of dirt and a little friend in the process.

Once the tomato plants are out of the hoophouses we weed, fertilize, reset our planting beds, lay new driplines for irrigation and get ready to plant winter greens!  

These young lettuce and kale transplants are ready to go in the ground.  The days are getting shorter, so even if the weather is still hot in September and October we cannot delay planting the winter greens or the plants just don't get big enough before the short days of December set in.  Think of it as "banking" greens now to harvest later.

By mid-December the hoophouses are growing lush greens like this!  Starting in late December or early January we very minimally heat (30F at night) these two large hoophouses with a biomass furnace that burns wood pellet or dry corn to heat hot water that is pumped underground beneath the planted beds. The little ground heat and a remay blanket at night is all these cold-hardy greens need to be happy through cold January nights. 

And what joy to see the likes of this on your plate in January!  Get in on this Good Food Year Round by joining our Winter CSA!  Click here to sign up online or contact us at csa@jerichosettlersfarm.com with questions.

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How to Brine a Pork Chop

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How to Brine a Pork Chop

Try it once and you'll be hooked for life.

A basic brine solution is 1/4 cup of salt for every quart of water. You can play with more or less salt, and a variety of other additions. Here is one of my favorites, and every herb is available in the U-Pick garden!

2 pork chops
1 quart of water
1/4 cup of Kosher Salt
1 TBSP Maple Syrup
2 Sprigs Sage
2 Sprigs Thyme
2 Sprigs Tarragon

Boil water, stir in the salt and maple until they are dissolved. Allow the solution to cool. (It can still be warm, but you should be able to handle its container without burning yourself. The idea is not to cook the pork chops. One thing you can do is add an extra teaspoon of salt and a few ice cubes.)

Lay the pork chops in a single layer on a pot or deep pan. Cover the chops with the brine. Add the herbs, cover, and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes. Many recipes say that 2 hours is a good amount of time to brine, but I've done it overnight, and they've also come out great.

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