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.