Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Growers Meeting

This past meeting of the growers club went incredibly well. There were a total of 11 members present.
Discussions included the new food safety legislation (Food Safety Modernization Act S.510). This is something that concerns all farmers, large and small alike. However, if passed it will have enormous consequences for all the progress that has been made in the local food systems.

The growers club will proudly hosting a group seed order through Fedco, a cooperative seed company. This order will take place at a pot luck dinner that is being arranged at a local venue. This order will mark an important milestone in the growth of the organization and will help us to engage more growers from the Community Garden Market.

Mark Hollen also gave a presentation on the effectiveness of the low-tunnels. He admits that we got them installed later than what is recommended, but despite that they have been performing wonders with his rows. He suggested that we should mark Labor Day as the last day to plant. We are excited for next year when we can use the low tunnels at the beginning and end of the season, and really see the results come through!

The next meeting does not have a date set, but we are working on organizing it.

We here at WesMonTy want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Healthy Families Cooking Demonstration

Butternut squash cooking in a pot
The Philippi Healthy Families Initiative hosts cooking demonstrations in Philippi that are targeted towards families. They recently hosted one on the 14th, and WesMonTy was able to attend.

These great workshops are funded though the DHHR Healthy Lifestyles office which received a grant through the CDC. Philippi is allowed the funding because it is a Mainstreet Community. Davis Memorial Hospital also supports this project through funding of equipment and providing expertise of their clinical nutritionist a RD/CDE.

They market the program through the local elementary school by handing out a flyer to each student. The child accompanied by one parent must register ahead of time in order to participate. This week there were 24 registered, with 30 being the limit.

Even this late in the season, the class was accomplished with some produce by a local grower. Several things were provided by Mark Hollen. He provided the root vegetables for the homework, the butternut squash for the Squash Mash and the corn meal for the pancakes. The cornmeal is something special, it was hand-ground and produced from a variety of corn that is organically grown abenaki calais. This is a strain that was raised by the abanaki indians in New England by the time the pilgrims arrived.

All the produce waste is also collected and composted. This is a good lesson in the energy cycle and the resuse of these products.

The cooking work is accomplished through the mobile kitchen units: gas stoves, utensils and all the kitchen supplies needed for food prep. They arranged six stations, with 4 or 5 families and one assistant per station.
Kitchen Utensils
Gas Stoves

Using the menu for the week, they prepare the food using the mobile kitchen. In between food prep, the children sit down to watch a video on nutrition.
Making the pancakes and the pear topping
Watching the nutrition video
When the food is all prepared, they clear the table, set it and eat as a family.
Setting the table for a family dinner!
At the very end they get 'homework', which is a bag of food to take home and prepare by the instructions. In this case it was a bag of root vegetables with a recipe for Roasted Root Vegetables. Each family also gets an incentive gift. The gifts are given with practicality in mind. For instance, this class they received a pancake pan, and previously they have received measuring cups and pumpkin muffin tins.

During the class, the instructors teach about food safety, food preparation, and for the children how to measure, prepare and cook the foods.
Measuring out the ingredients for the ranch dip
The children had a great time getting to work with the food and learning about the food preparation. Using toothpicks and chopped veggies, the children also made 'Veggie Robots', a fun little way to prepare and eat the vegetables.
A completed Veggie Robot
Some delicious Ranch Dressing

This weeks menu was:
1. Squash Mash
2. Ranch Dip
3. Warm Ginger Pear Topping
4. Cornmeal Wheat Pancakes
5. Veggie Robot

Monday, November 8, 2010

Barton Bench Article

The Barton Bench Ecosystem Restoration Project was featured on the front page of the Charleston Gazette! Check it out here:

Friday, November 5, 2010

Deep Tillage Video

Here is the video of the site visit to Barton Bench on November 4th, 2010. The video shows deep tilling in progress, with a before shot in the beginning and some still shots at the end. We hope you enjoy! It took place near Cheat Bridge, West Virginia.

Deep Tillage at Barton Bench

WesMonTy in partnership with the US Forest Service, and others has begun Phase II work on a restoration project of a former surface mine near Cheat Bridge, WV.

Barton Bench located on Cheat Mountain in Randolph County is named for it's three separate strip mine 'benches' separated by steep slope. This area was mined for coal in the 1970's and 1980's. It is now part of the Monongahela National Forest.

Deep tillage (also called deep ripping) is a practice whereby a large steel shank is dragged through the ground.
This can serve several purposes such as bringing buried nutrients to the surface, and breaking up compacted soils. In this case, the soils of the former mine site are extremely compacted and are inhibiting plant growth. By breaking up the compacted soil, and encouraging native plant growth the opportunity, a native ecosystem will begin to take hold in the area and restore the ecosystem to it's previous state. Due to the dominance of invasive grass species in the area, native plants have been unable to reassert themselves and the ecosystem development has therefore remained stagnant over the last 30 years. By giving a toehold to native species, it is expected that this will give them a trajectory with which to begin the redevelopment of the area into a native habitat.
The information on deep tillage from NRCS can be found here:

The Barton Bench Restoration Project has the potential to convert a long-standing brownfield into a high profile demonstration site that can be used to showcase the natural resources of West Virginia. The project goals are threefold:
  1. Restore watershed conditions and the native red spruce-northern hardwood ecosystem within the project area;
  2. Use the results of this project to move forward with large-scale native species restoration across the previously mined areas of the Mower Tract, and;
  3. Maintain this landscape as a greenspace that supports a diversity of wildlife, improves water quality, serves as a model for other restoration sites, and provides a space for residents to meet, recreate and exercise.

On Thursday when the site was visited, the weather was cold and rainy in the lower elevations. However, when reaching the elevation of Cheat Mountain (4,000 feet), we encountered snow.
Fortunately, this did not stop work, and everyone was able to see some deep tilling in action!
This is some soil that was upturned by the machine:

We will be posting a video of the deep tilling very soon. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Effectiveness of Low Tunnels

Low tunnels have already shown their effectiveness this season. Mark Hollen, a participating producer has set-up over 100 feet of low tunnel over his garden plots and is using them to assist with carrots, turnips and beet production. Mark lives in a frost pocket, and experiences heavy frosts early. He has already had several hard frosts on his farm this season.

Last week he placed plastic covering on top of his pepper plants to keep them from feeling the effects of the frost that was expected that night. The low tunnel covering completely saved those plants that were placed under the covering.

As you can see in the picture, only half of the plants were covered. The uncovered plants were killed off, and the covered ones were saved. This is a great example of the effectiveness of low tunnels. Even just a simple plastic covering (bottom left of picture) was able to save his pepper plants.