Last weekend, I was in Massachusetts for the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s annual conference.
What did I see? Well, first we made a stop at Ellen’s parents’ farm. The conference springs forth pretty much entirely from an office just above the basement greenhouse where the seedlings come to life each year. Outside the control room, family photos, country wall paper, and the smell of the wood stove that cooks the food and heats the water…
Then a little working the fields and gazing at the grapes, peaches, flowers, basil, beets and beet greens, squash, tomatoes, and other good stuff.
Then off to the conference.
Keynoter #1, Dr. Arden Andersen, with a smart, data-driven message and an affinity for cartoons. The nutrient density (Brix value) of fruits and vegetables has plummeted in the past 60 or 70 years, and he’s all about getting it back up. What he talked about most, though, was the overwhelming evidence that health is related to nutrition. Diabetes? Breast cancer? Alcoholism? Not genetic, my friends. Kids don’t like veggies? It’s not because they’re picky. It’s all about what we eat, and what’s available to eat. Kids’ little tastebuds know that foods grown for maximum yield in malnourished soils taste nasty and aren’t good for you. Children go for nutrient-dense fruits over wan, nutrient-lacking fruits any day, Andersen says.
This dude (at right) was passionate about lactofermentation. Built a business on it — Real Pickles. Others were passionate, too. This is about a tenth of the audience that marched in at 8am to learn the secret to perfect sauerkraut.
At another workshop, we learned about useful garden annoyances like pigweed (which dedicated YaD readers already knew was delish). Parsley, pigweed, lambs’ quarters, and orange juice make a nice blended shake.
Another workshop focused on native fruits for the Northeast farmer or gardener. Pawpaws, blueberries, raspberries, blackcaps, beach plums, and other delights live happily in that region because its home turf. I hatched a plan to outfit our garden with a few perennial fruits. We garden in the Mid-Atlantic, but let’s just say it’s the same thing.
You may be wondering what we ate. Well, it was all organic, all the time. One meal entirely from the immediate region, right down to sea salt from Maine. All served in UMass’s cafeteria. It was tasty, but kind of made my mind go “Wha?”
Perhaps my favorite part was the fair, featuring homemade crafts and homegrown veggies as well as the Watermelon Pit Spit, the Corn Nibble Fandangle, and the Butter Dance. This kid put the former cream to good use after he and his pals shook, rattled, and rolled it in little jars to the tune of The Hokey Pokey.
Aftermath of the Pit Spit…
Then Keynoter #2, Mark McAfee, who was passionate about keepin’ it raw. Lactose intolerance? Lack of good gut flora? Not after drinking grass-fed unpasteurized dairy products. And raw milk should be a right, he’s saying, not an illegal substance in 49 states. Raw milk is life-giving, gathering more beneficial bacteria and world-saving powers every minute. Even when it goes “bad.” In fact, that’s the healthiest time to drink it! Can help strengthen the immune system, too, I think. Probably not a coincidence that this guy shares a name with antivirus software. Click on the logo for more:
That’s it for now, folks. Up next: Kentucky bourbon and Cincinnati chili.