Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Farm Camp

I'm up in New Hampshire for the month of August now, and as usual in a state of semi-paralysis when it comes to food.

It's partly due to being in my mother's kitchen -- my mom is lovely and a great cook but something still happens and I just don't feel so motivated. Any Freudians out there? -- and also due to New Hampshire's short growing season and sluggish nature when it comes to embracing the foodie local yokel thing.

For example, I have to drive 25 minutes to get organic milk. I am not a total freak, so I just drive 2 minutes to the local Cupboard and buy regular milk for my coffee. There's no Applegate Farms turkey for my son's sandwiches, so I just get the Sara Lee at the Hannaford. And there are only 2 farms within 25 miles when I do a search on eatwellguide.org, so... I bring a cooler full of frozen meat and chicken and fish from Brooklyn.

I love New Hampshire, so I'm happy to weather these food challenges, but I do find it ironic that being in NH for the month of August means I eat more crappy food than I would if I were in NYC.

And anyway it is changing -- dramatically, even since last year. Bigger farmers markets, more produce, tons of publications about the local foods. Watch out, Vermont. New Hampshire is on the move.

One of the leaders of the change is d'acres, an "educational homestead" in Dorchester, NH. It is a super-groovy place with hippie interns who live in tree houses, and a dreamy farmhouse kitchen with a bunch of musical instruments and beautiful carvings and a composting toilets. They raise pigs and chickens and vegetables, and hold workshops and circle dances and do a lot of educational outreach. But they don't do a lot for kids, as I learned when I was searching for a farm camp for my kids. So I contacted the farm and offered to help them start a farm camp for kids. They took me up on the offer, and so here we are, taking part in the first ever Kids Week at d'acres. Two days into it. Here are some of the highlights:

Feeding the Pigs. We meet at the recycle station in the morning, where we help unpackage a truly alarming amount of food that the local grocery store throws away every week. Perfect bananas, whole watermelons, celery that looks better than anything in my fridge. It is appalling, and that's not even getting into the amount of packaging we amass. Anyway, we gather it up and help take it to the pigs, who gallop to meet us. The kids have been climbing right into the pen and helping unhusk the corn and break open the watermelon. These are the piglets, just a few months old and very funny and sweet.

This hen got loose, so all the kids took a turn holding her. She got very quiet and let them all take their turns. This is the first time either of my kids got to hold a chicken.
On our way up to the pasture to see the oxen, we picked apples off the ground, where they'd fallen from a 100-year old tree. They were a small yellow apple that I've never seen before. To quote one of the kids, "this is the best apple I've ever had in my life." It really was -- tart and sweet and crisp. No one on the farm knows what kind of apple it is.

We picked millions of blackberries!

This kid kept hugging the pigs.

The hen house! The kids gathered over a dozen eggs, and we made thumbprint cookies with blackberry jam.

What a great time. The kids are having so much fun being farm kids, without the chores.
ps don't ask me what d'acres stands for. Nobody knows.

1 comment:

Jenn said...

Hi Larissa. I am a volunteer with the Eat Well Guide, and wanted to first empathize with you re: short growing seasons. I spent most of my summers in VT and, like NH, eating seasonally was not as easy as the rest of the year in Manhattan. I am happy to see that you mentioned the Eat Well Guide in your blog! Thought you’d be interested to know that Eat Well has teamed up with the Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, to issue a Local, Organic Thanksgiving Challenge.We’re inviting people to take a spin on the Eat Well Guide to find local food and prepare at least one local (preferably organic) dish for Thanksgiving, and share recipes at the CU site. Read more about it at the Green Fork. [http://blog.eatwellguide.org/2008/11/take-the-local-organic-thanksgiving-challenge/]. Thanks for your post and hope that this information suits you this thanksgiving. Best, Jenn