Rethinking our food supply
Local food systems have been decimated by the forces of industrial agribusiness, leaving us in a region of natural abundance where we buy much of our food from thousands of miles away. Did you know that the US food system consumes at least 10 Calories of fossil fuel energy for every 1 Calorie of food delivered to our plates? We can do better than this.
We are exploring ways to make it easier for local farmers and producers to get their food products into the hands of local residents and closing the loop on a food system that’s healthier, less energy intensive, and which helps retain wealth in the community.
Countywide Seed Swap
Sharing the surplus
Our first annual seed swap took place at all 11 county libraries from April to June 2015. Gardeners brought in their partially used seed packets and browsed a card catalogue drawer for seeds that others had donated. A seed swap is a great way to try new varieties without spending a fortune, and it puts seeds into production that would otherwise expire on a shelf.
By holding it in multiple villages, we eliminate the need for traveling long distances, and by making the event ongoing, gardeners can stop by at their leisure. Visit your local library in springtime to see what seeds are on offer.
Enticing the next generation
Summer 2015. On the grounds of the Pakatakan Farmers’ Market, we designed a project to encourage gardening with children. Our Pizza Garden was shaped like a giant pizza and was planted with all the ingredients for a tasty tomato sauce. Kids took turns watering the garden and sampling the cherry tomatoes as they ripened.
We teamed up with the Catskill Mountains Artisans Guild, whose members led garden-themed craft workshops, such as painting the individual rocks that made up the pizza crust. Click here for instructions to make your own backyard Pizza Garden.
Planting the future
In fall of 2014, we established Delaware County’s first public orchard. The 8 apple trees are situated next to the Fleischmanns Community Garden. There are 4 red and 4 yellow varieties, with a mix of eating and baking apples.
The community group Fleischmanns First helped with the planting and will provide ongoing care for the trees.
A place to prepare and share local produce and knowledge
The MARK Project—with assistance from the O’Connor Foundation and Transition Catskills—has developed a certified commercial kitchen space for use by local growers to better increase their sales and marketability during off peak season.
The kitchen can be scheduled for use and rented at a small cost to encourage the development of good for resale and distribution. Located at the barns in Roxbury, the kitchen is designed to bridge the gap between local providers and the retail market by providing a certified kitchen space to develop products generated from our wealth of agricultural resources.
From freezing corn to commercially prepared kim chi, to pies, jams, jellies and sauces, the community kitchen provides a space to generate products that will greatly contribute to the economic base of the region. The kitchen can also host a variety of cooking and preservation classes and become a place for people to meet and exchange knowledge.
Local growers should consider this valuable resource when developing their crop for next season. If you are a local grower and would like to receive updates on the Kitchen, please contact us.
Local Food Hub
Food produced by locals for locals
Farms in the area presently sell their goods in a number of ways:
• A number of farms market their produce in New York City.
• The Pakatakan Farmer’s market provides a weekend venue for some producers.
• There are a number of smaller farmer’s markets and farm stands across the area.
• Many farms sell food directly from their doorstep.
Despite all this it can be difficult for residents to obtain quality local farm goods at an affordable price and at convenient locations and times.
We are thinking about ways to develop infrastructure and business models to help make it easier for local farmers and producers to distribute their products locally.
For example, by combining a physical shop with regular opening hours with a group collection service, we could potentially create enough scale to provide a steady income to producers, and a healthier and more resource efficient diet to consumers.