Plovgh is a cooperative of farmers, growers, and ranchers that sell directly to their customers.
As temperatures dropped across the US, we wondered, how does this extreme cold affect the farmers? What we learned is that the cold is a challenge, but also has some unexpected benefits for the soil.
Here’s a look at how these subzero temperatures affect three different farms.
Fitkin Farms - Northeast Iowa
Farmer: Jim Fitkin
What he produces: Corn (for popping!)
Low temperature this week: -45 wind chill
Is the cold good or bad for your farm: Good
What he says about the cold:
Soil compaction is a huge issue in the Midwest. Heavy machinery needed to produce crops is the culprit. Cold winters freeze the soil, forcing it to expand, helping to eliminate soil compaction, and allowing it to be productive the following year. Although freezing of the soil to the depth of several feet is essential to maintain a productive field, 25 degrees below zero with wind chills of 60 below is too much. If livestock are out of the wind, with plenty to eat they are fine. One of the bigger challenges is maintaining a supply of fresh water.
McVay Farms - Mora, Minnesota
Farmer: The McVay Family
What they produce: Beef cattle
Low temperature this week: -40 wind chill
Is the cold good or bad for your farm: Bad
What they say about the cold:
The extreme cold is hard on the workers and especially hard on the cattle. We have to add more corn to their feed rations to make sure they keep weight on, and whoever has to open gates for the feed wagon has very cold fingers. One of my favorite sights, though, is a herd of a couple hundred cattle huddling near a tree line that breaks the wind, and then marching single file to get their food and water for the morning. The benefit of the cold, though, is that the cows are put out on the fields, where their manure provides a reliable source of fertilizer.
Acorn Hill Farm - Walker Valley, New York
Farmer: Joyce Henion
What she produces: Goat cheese
Low temperature this week: -18 wind chill
Is the cold good or bad for your farm: Bad
What she says about the cold:
The recent extreme cold makes it difficult to keep the goats supplied with fresh water and it is downright uncomfortable to do chores and milk the goats. In addition, even a moment or two delay in getting to a newborn kid can result in frostbite for the new baby.
And the best advice we got from the farmers about staying warm out there? Wear wool, not cotton, and never go out without a hat!
Why join Plovgh?
Last week the Plovgh team reconvened in Downtown Las Vegas. Aside from time spent brainstorming and strategizing, we had a chance to check out all of the projects and businesses that are beginning to grow and reshape the culture in the neighborhood. There is a unique energy there and the innovative community of folks who are taking part in the transformation are cultivating a more vibrant and sustainable vision for a part of the city that has long been neglected.
We found ourselves on a rainy Friday morning at the Downtown Third farmers market, drawn by the promise of a solid cup of coffee as well as to meet some of the regional producers responsible for growing food for the downtown community.
Growers from Nevada, California, and Arizona made up the handful of stands and the diversity of products, at a market in the desert no less, was remarkable. Pyramids of root vegetables, alongside colorful cauliflower and young asparagus filled the room. The varieties of citrus – limequats, kishu tangerines, blood oranges - were a refreshing addition compared to the bins upon bins of apples we’ve grown accustomed to at the east coast markets all winter. The highlight of our visit that day was chatting with Rosalind and Randy of Bloomin’ Desert Herb Farm about raising culinary and medicinal herbs. We learned about their farm-grown, freshly dried herbal teas and collection of seasonings, including one made with Mexican Hatch Chiles – XHot with Habanero pepper is where it’s at.
It was a great visit and one that only made us more excited to start exploring the Southwest and meeting producers there that we can start connecting with the Vegas community.
An enormous thank you to all the volunteers who came out to help cook and distribute meals to Coney Island and the Rockaways! We couldn’t have done it without you. Also, thank you to everyone who has signed up so far to lend a hand - your enthusiasm and support has been amazing. Below you will find a list of resources for food-related relief efforts.
If you would like to receive updates about volunteer opportunities please sign up here.
If you are a farmer with excess produce that you would like to donate or sell, please get in touch.
Occupy Sandy Recovery NYC is a community relief effort organized by Occupiers to help residents in the hardest hit areas of NYC recover from Hurricane Sandy.
Volunteers are still needed in the kitchen:
Food Prep, 8:30am - 4pm, all days
Cleaning Help, 4pm - 6/7pm, all days
Lead Chefs, 8am - 6pm or 11am - 6pm, all days
Currently, they need people to come in early in the morning to assist their lead chefs with preparing food. Most of the meals need to be ready for delivery starting at noon, so it’s crucial to get all hands on deck in the early hours. Prepping continues through the early afternoon, followed by a massive clean-up effort at around 4pm.
They are also in need of volunteers to lead the kitchen or assist with leading the kitchen on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays. If you have chef experience and have cooked for large groups of people, or have lead a kitchen before and can take on a Sun-Tues shift, email them at SandyBayRidge@interoccupy.net. If those days don’t work, you are still encouraged to come and assist one of the other chefs during the week.
Drivers, 10:30am - 2:30pm
Delivery drivers are needed to distribute food to different relief hubs. Most of these places are in the Rockaways, but they also sometimes service Coney Island, Staten Island and Sheepshead Bay. Deliveries can be as large as up to 400 meals (think two or three giant coolers and other odds and ends), so having vans or trucks are ideal, but they do have smaller deliveries, so people with regular sized cars can still help.
Logistics and Communications, 9am - 6pm
The logistics/communications crew helps to organize everything and are the voice of the kitchen. They talk to all of the hubs each day regarding meal needs, coordinate the daily delivery schedule, answer voice-mails, phone calls and e-mails, communicate the kitchen needs through social media, organize drivers, monitor the Amazon registry, and a whole lot more. They mainly use Google for all of their spreadsheets and computer work and they have two spare computers in the office, but those interested are welcome to bring their own laptop.
If you have any questions you can get in touch at OccupySandy@interoccupy.net. Walk-in volunteers are always accepted, but if you would like to lead the kitchen, please e-mail them first! The kitchen is located at 461 99th Street in Brooklyn; it’s the last stop on the R train, only about ten minutes South of the old Jacobi site.
Additional volunteer efforts:
It’s hard to comprehend how things could feel so normal in some parts of the city while just miles away our neighbors are hungry, cold, and generally not okay. We are relieved to say that upstate farms that bore the brunt of Irene last year fared well in Sandy from a damage perspective. However, the cruelty of the storm is such that many of those farms rely on downstate markets to sell their produce. Farmers markets and restaurants are reopening, but there is still a bunch of food on farms that a bunch of people in this city could use.
So, when one of our friends from the Brooklyn restaurant scene decided to get hot meals to hungry people, we told her we’d mobilize. Let us know if you can help.
If you are a farmer with excess produce, please get in touch.
If you are in New York City and want to volunteer your time, your vehicle, or your cooking skills, please let us know here.
If you or anyone you know needs food, please let us know here.
Microgreens - 1/4, 1/2, and 1 lb bags: $8.00-$26.00
what to do with this?
Organic sunflower, radish, broccoli, arugula, and watercress greens
Late Bloomer Farm - Campbell Hall, NY
Greenhouse and field vegetables from Orange County
10 oz bags of frozen vegetables: $5.00
2011 harvest from Taliaferro Farm, Evolutionary Organics, Amba Farms, Gill’s Farm, Hepworth Farm, Veritas Farms and Bradley Farm, all practicing certified organic or Certified Naturally Grown
Butternut squash puree
Steak and ground beef: $9.00-$24.00
Pasture raised at Sugar Hill Farm
Pork, bacon, and sausage: $9.00-$11.00 what to do with this?
Pasture raised at Sir William Berkshire Farm
Whole chicken (approximately 3 lbs): $15.00
Raised free-range at North Wind Farm
Maple syrup and honey: $6.00-20.00
Yellow popping corn: $3.00/2 lb bag
Fitkin Farm - Cedar Falls, IA
Family farm growing sweet and popping corn
Place your order for pickup at:
Long Island City YMCA
Friday, January 27
1pm - 3pm
Friday, January 27
2:30pm - 4:30pm
Veronica People’s Club
Saturday, January 28
11am - 1pm
365 Bridge Street
Downtown Brooklyn (map)
Saturday, January 28
11am - 1pm
Earlier this year, Plovgh got started with a few weeks of farm pickups at Veronica People’s Club in Greenpoint. Those initial weeks were a humble beginning to a much bigger project and served to test the Plovgh concept with farmers, our neighbors in 11222, and the lovely proprietors of VPC. We then spent all summer and fall talking with more farms and communities in more places, and commencing to build Plovgh. Starting on Saturday, and every other week thereafter, VPC will once again be a Plovgh Pickup Point. Come on out, Greenpoint. We can’t wait to see you again.
Max’s slogan: Civilization was built on agriculture, not on a trading floor!
When Mallory and I were out on the East End of Long Island last month, we met an array of smart, young farmers, some of whom are beginning to make their presence known on Plovgh, and were introduced to the Peconic Land Trust, which plays a critical role in making farmland available to new farmers in Suffolk County. So it was auspicious to meet Max Godfrey, who works at Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island, New York, at the Farmers’ March in Zuccotti Park on Sunday. We asked him a few questions about his involvement in agriculture and what Occupy Wall Street and his own occupation have in common.
Plovgh: Could you describe a formative experience in your life that shaped your view of farms and food?
Max: Working at Sylvester Manor Educational Farm this past growing season has changed the way I think about farms and food. I’ve come to see the work of growing food as some of the most important work to be done in our country today. Working on a farm alongside other young farmers, all of whom were fairly new to agriculture themselves, has made me realize the importance of preserving traditional agricultural practices. Our generation needs to keep traditions of small-scale agriculture alive by learning all we can from older generations of small farmers while there are still teachers around to learn from. A season of exposure to small-scale farming has made me want to spend the rest of my life farming on a scale at which I can protect and enrich the land on which I work.
Plovgh: How do you see farming and agriculture fitting into the Occupation?
Max: I think that agriculture is an integral part of the Occupation because just as the entire country is struggling against the concentration of money and power into too few hands, farmers are fighting against the concentration of land and money into the hands of the few – specifically, agribusiness and land developers. The small farmer’s movement and the Occupy movement are working towards the same goal: the restoration of true democracy in America. And democracy will not be reached as long as most Americans are denied access to good, nutritious food, or are unaware of the chemicals and toxins that are in their food, or are denied access to the land necessary to grow food for themselves and their communities. Only when communities are empowered to grow their own food will our country have democracy.
Plovgh: What practices or approaches within Occupy Wall Street do you think could or should be applied to agriculture, farming, and food?
Max: American agriculture could learn from the egalitarian culture of Occupy Wall Street. In the Occupy movement everyone is given a voice and people are listened to because they have truth to tell. Nobody is given a louder voice than another, nor does the collective have to fall in line with the agenda of one person. In American agriculture, the agribusiness leaders – the ones who don’t actually produce any real food – are given the control over the platform. Currently, the government is allowing only the voice of agribusiness to be heard. The small farmers are not given a chance to speak for themselves to disprove the myths that only through further consolidation and mechanization of farmland will the country be able to feed itself. If small farmers were allowed to speak for themselves, they would be able to prove industry wrong and show Americans that communities can grow their own food. We would be able to prove that communities can not only feed themselves, but also that they can feed themselves more efficiently and sustainably than industry could ever do.