“The real pleasure is not just the delicious food one gets to eat, but the abundance of new relationships that are formed, the growing knowledge of where I live — the people and the geography of where I live,” -Bill McKibben (Addison County Independent, 2007)
Our transition town group recently hosted Bill McKibben to talk about his experience eating only local foods from within 100 miles for roughly a year. Though he embarked on this journey nearly two decades ago, it is perhaps even more relevant today.
A nice turnout for the meeting with 18 folks joining us online and 25 people in person at our Community Center. This meeting can be watched online, thanks to Angelike Contis and the team at Mt. Mansfield Community TV; use this link:
I’ll include a few tidbits here:
At the time of McKibben’s 100-mile experiment, the localvore movement was gaining hold, and CSAs and farmer’s markets were increasing in Vermont and beyond. While the commitment to eating local foods took time and effort, McKibben said it had its rewards, including getting to know more farmers in the Champlain Valley.
He said, “we never ran out of interesting things to eat” including fish (from hydroponic systems), root crops, cheese, maple syrup and honey, among other things. As the main cook in his family, McKibben allowed himself the ‘Marco Polo rule’ using salt and spices from afar.
He said the hardest part was obtaining grain for bread. Luckily, Ben Gleason of Cornwall, was just bringing back grain growing in Vermont during that time. Gleason was also supplying Otter Creek Beer, enabling some added pleasure to the yearlong experiment.
McKibben touched upon alternative energy and climate change in the talk, saying the latter is a growing danger to our food supply. He sees time running short, saying “the most important thing an individual can do is become less an individual; join together with others in movements large enough to make changes...”
McKibben shared a question he once asked farmer/politician Dave Zuckerman around how long he thought it would it take for Vermont to become food self-sufficient. Zuckerman responded by saying six months (if we really needed to!)
Following the talk, those of us present including one young farmer, seasoned homesteaders, gardeners and activated citizens alike, conversed about the many aspects of trying to localize our food. Going home, I stepped out into the full moon night, dreaming of the possibilities....
Dave here reporting on the October presentation:
Reed Sims, from Jericho, a retired soil scientist and member of the Composting Association of Vermont, presented a discussion covering the joy, the science, the soil and garden benefits, and the integration of composting into the family routine. There was hands-on participation, recipe guidelines, and mature compost results to touch and smell. Reed discussed compost's role in preparing gardens for overwintering, and what to do if your compost appears to have failed.
Reed was joined by 14 people who all had composting experience, but were ready to learn more.
He told us that anything organic in nature can be added to a compost pile. And by maintaining the pile by turning it to ensure there is plenty of oxygen for the microbes will enhance the piles ability for making the usable compost earlier. It is important to have both "greens and browns" in your composting mixture. Greens can be composed of grass clippings, fruit peels, coffee grounds and other nitrogen rich structures, and browns can be straw and hay or other woody or paper materials. Do not add meat products to the pile if you have problems with animals and cannot get the pile temperature hot. News paper is great to add to the compost, shredding it into strips is recommended as the microbes like to adhere to the edges of the paper. breaking the paper down faster.
You can compost in the winter months keeping in mind that it will freeze, so leave lots of room for your pile to grow during the colder months.
If your compost pile starts to smell. it is an indications that it is getting to anaerobic. So with a little effort turning the compost, air will be re introduced to the composting system and the microbes will be able to do a better job with less smell.
Indoor composting can take place with the help of the red wiggler worm and worm composter. The worm composter is a multi-level bin that allows the worms to migrate between the levels consuming your composted waste and leaving behind worm castings and compost suitable for using with your plants. The worms also leave behind a liquid called "Worm Tea" that can be used as fertilizer for your plants.
It was great to have Reed with us sharing composting techniques with us. Thank you Reed for pulling this presentation together!
Dave here: As the summer of 2023 winds down, the Kids Garden Contest participants shared the results from their gardens in which they planted, tended and harvested. As with any garden project the kids had varying results, but we saw some great produce come from their gardens.
Transition Town Jericho thanks the Town of Jericho Select Board members for sponsoring the Kids Garden Contest again in 2023. This financial gift allowed TTJ to purchase the supplies that were needed for the kids to get their gardens started.
The kids answered some survey questions to let us know how it went:
List the plants you chose to grow in your garden:
-Cucumber tomato pumpkin peppers string beans corn other squash
-Yellow scallop summer squash
-Cherry tomatoes, beets, radishes, snap peas, and cucumber
-Basil, tomatoes, arugula, calendula, onions, beans, sunflowers
-carrots, pumpkins, sunflowers, pole beans, oregano, garlic, tomatoes, jalapenos, spinach, boston lettuce, strawberries
-Zucchini, potato, basil and string beans
Compare the taste of your vegetables with those you would buy at a grocery store
-My cucumbers were juicy compared to groceries
-The scallop summer squash was so yummy roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper!
-The strawberries were sweeter than at a grocery store
-The carrots were sweet and delicious!
-Basil and arugula where better than the store, we didn't have as much luck with the other plants
-Homegrown is always best, but this season brought challenges and we had a very sorry garden this year.
-My potatoes were the family favorite at a recent family pot luck dinner!
Did you have unexpected visitors to your garden?
-I saw worms, ground bugs, flying bugs, underground bugs
-Due to the compost, bugs loved the garden. We saw lots of worms and bugs in the soil when we had to dig it up!
-Yes, something ate most of our cucumbers! We saw lots of bugs too.
-There weren't too many visitors to the garden other than snails.
-Lots of baby bunnies (so cute- but so destructive)
-We did see bugs, worms, and grubs, but did not have any problems with our harvest
When you plant your garden next year, what things would you change and why would you change them?
-We would make the spaces bigger so our squash has more room
-We hope to plant a new garden this year and plan to make it bigger. We learned a lot from the process of making this garden and look forward to growing lots of flowers and vegetables!
-I would put my tomatoes in a green house so it's hotter
-We will cover the plants right away so the animals don’t eat them. We will also label the plants as soon as seeds go in the ground
-Different tomato plants and add zinnias
-We will rotate our garden beds and move the raised beds away from the chicken run. We had the raised beds fenced off- but our chickens still liked to get involved.
-I will plant the potatoes farther apart so they increase in size.
Any other comment or story you would like to share with us about your garden experience
-Our experience being first timers was good. We were actually able to grow things
-Thank you for the education you provided when dropping off the garden supplies. We learned a lot and had fun even though our garden experience this year didn't turn out as expected.
-This was a good starting experience. We learned a lot and are excited to try again next year. Thank you!
-Juniper noticed the tomato plants didn't start off. They looked dead but came back to life. Dad didn't think they were going to make it but Juniper believed they would. It took all summer but they came back.
-Hoping for a drier and less flooded summer next year!
-We THANK YOU for your generosity in gifting us this garden.
Laura and Dave reporting:
In early October, Bolton farmer Tucker Andrews and a dozen volunteers with TTJ’s Extra Row program made possible the following winter squash deliveries to local food shelves:
80 - Feeding Chittenden, Burlington
100- Williston Food Shelf
150 - Essex Jct United Church of Christ Heavenly Food Pantry
150 - Jericho-Underhill-Essex Ecumenical food shelf
120 - Janet S Munt Family Room, Burlington
80- Dot's Place, Essex
In all, 680 squash at 1,200 lbs. were delivered. Things were a bit different this year. Because of the flooding, Tucker’s output was unusually low and he needed the extra row of squash for his own customers. He generously offered us a field to glean; we got great results and were able to assist many people in filling their food baskets. Was good to know the Extra Row program could provide some insurance for a farmer as well as feed people in need; this was a win-win situation for everyone!
Besides us steering members, our volunteers included: Jeff York, Berta Frank, Bob Savaglio,
Bill McMains, Amy Ludwin, Steve Ludwin, Sharon Damkot, Valerie Wilkins and Dean Wilkins.
Thanks to all!
Summer Wrap-Up...Fall is Here!
Laura reporting: Though quiet lately in blogland, there have been plenty of goings on within Transition Town Jericho...read on!
This summer we held our second annual Kids Garden Contest and volunteers led by Dave Clift set up about ten gardens for kids and their families. We’re awaiting survey results on how the growing season went for these kiddos; look for survey results and delightful pictures in an upcoming blog report!
Food Hub Task Force
This is a town-ordained offshoot of TTJ, and after a first meeting in late spring, we’ve been meeting monthly, talking about all things food/growing/farming related in Jericho. In August, we tabled at a Jericho Farmer’s Market, taking a survey to find out Jericho residents’ thoughts on buying and consuming local food. This survey is ongoing; check out the Food Hub Initiative page on this website to fill one out!
Our task force personnel has since evolved from the original group, but continues to attract enthusiastic supporters and organizers. Our first project is underway; getting a community dinner going that will in some form or fashion feature our local farmers and their amazing produce; we’ll keep you posted!
Now in its third year, this program provides volunteers to help farmers who grow food for donation. In late August, we organized a crew to pick yellow beans at the Barber Farm fields of Charlie Siegchrist. He delivered the six or so bushels to the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps which distributes csa shares to families in need all over Vermont.
And early this morning about a dozen folks showed up to glean winter squash at the Bolton fields of Tucker Andrews. The many pounds of squash gathered will be distributed to food pantries in Jericho, Williston, Burlington and Essex.
Edible Landscape’s Ann Gnagey and Tom Baribault are hosting a Tree Celebration at the Jericho Town Library on this last day of September, which includes children’s art and poetry around trees as well as education on how to maintain tree health on our town green and beyond. Watch for an upcoming blog report on this great event!
TTJ remains true to its mission of educating our community on issues related to resiliency. Reed Sims will host our *October talk: Composting at Home - the Good, the Bad and the Beautiful. As Reed puts it “This will cover the joy, the science, the soil and garden benefits, and integrating composting into the family routine. There will be hands-on participation, recipe guidelines, and mature compost results to touch and smell. We’ll discuss compost’s role in preparing gardens for overwintering, and what to do if your compost appears to have failed. Bring all of your questions and share lessons learned by experience”
*Check out the October Events Calendar for the where and when of TTJ and other community events!
On June 26, Chris Sims gave an insightful presentation at the JCC on common weeds that are edible and/or useful as medicines. The crowd of eighteen or so included a handful of children who eagerly took part in the plant ID quiz that kicked off the meeting. Plants were passed around so participants could get a visceral experience of each.
Chris remembers as a young girl picking wild blueberries for pancakes and said she’s been hooked ever since! She brought some helpful books including her favorite from the 1980s, Edible Wild Plants of North America, A Field Guide. She started with some common sense precautions such as avoiding roadsides or areas where domestic animals roam and making sure the weeds haven’t been treated with pesticides.
Chris focused on ten edibles that “grow and thrive in Jericho’s lawns and gardens”.
Here are just a few highlights from her talk:
Clover, both white and red are distinguished by triangle patterns (chevrons) on the leaves that actually help guide insects to the flower. The flowers are mildly sweet and the leaves should be eaten in moderation (and cooked) since they contain phytoestrogens.
Curly dock, originally from Eurasia, is very prolific in Vermont. The young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked and oxalic acid gives it a lemony flavor. Once the seeds mature in late summer, they can be stripped from the stalk and ground into flour for breads, pancakes, etc.
Dandelion: all parts of the familiar ‘lions tooth’ are edible with the flowers being the most nutritious; the pollen is considered a ‘superfood’. Young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, though get bitter once the flowers buds start to form. Roots harvested in the spring, also before budding, can be roasted, ground and combined with other ingredients for a tasty beveridge.
Johnny jump-ups: also known as wild pansies, these pretty purple flowers are edible in small quantities as they contain saponins which are toxic in large quantities. These flowers make a decorative garnish in a salad and are used as dye as well.
Lambs quarters: A favorite of Chris’s, she says they’re a great substitute for spinach, especially with the vicissitudes of growing the latter! She said the leaves are best when cooked and brought along a yummy quiche made from lamb’s quarters and eggs for people to sample. When the plant is mature, she said you can collect the seeds to boil them and use in soups or for baking.
Pigweed, in the amaranth family is another great substitute for spinach and Chris said the young leaves are tasty fresh, cooked or dried.
Plantain as an edible is best when the leaves are young. They can be crushed or chewed to make a poultice for sunburn, skin ailments and insect bites.
Purslane, identified by its rubbery thick leaves is highly nutritious and can be added to salads for both its flavor and crunchiness.
Wild violet is identified by its heart shaped leaves. Blossoms can be used to make jelly or to beautify a salad.
Yellow wood sorrel is a favorite among children as it’s easy and fun to identify. Flowers and leaves are edible in small quantities as the plant is high in oxalic acid. Often used to make a lemony iced tea.
Once again in 2023 TTJ, the Jericho Town Library and the Town of Jericho Select Board sponsored the Kids Garden Contest. After a successful garden season in 2022, we were excited to offer the program again. The purpose of the contest it to:
Not pictured is Evelyn and Amelia. Amelia wants to grow, strawberries for smoothies and Evelyn, Carrots for snacking and peppers, strawberries, basil, parsley, and cucumbers
Dave, Chris, Laura and Anne enjoyed delivering the gardens which included a 4'x6' frame, 1/2 yard of garden soil, 7 wooden stakes, garden cover and a watering can!
Congratulations to our garden recipients and we look forward to meeting up with them again in late summer to see how their gardens grew.
If anyone can give a motivational talk on composting, it’s Natasha Duarte of the Composting Association of Vermont (CAV). On April 24, she gave a presentation on composting to transition town folks at the Jericho Town Library.
Natasha is on a one person crusade to transform composting “from a solid waste management issue to something we can all utilize,” as she puts it. A nonprofit, CAV manifests the idea that composting in communities will improve soil health, water quality and resilience to climate change.
Act 148 which passed the Vermont legislature unanimously in 2012, established a timeline of diverting various materials from our landfills, culminating with food scraps which were banned in July 2020. This statewide law is the only one of its kind in the US. Previous to Act 148, food scraps made up about one quarter of the waste stream going into Vermont landfills. Vermonters currently have four options for dealing with food waste:
-Haul the food scraps (a growing field, there are about 45 haulers in Jericho alone)
-Bring to a drop off site
-Compost at home
-Compost in a community group
Home & Community Composting
Of the last two composting options, Natasha says, “the real place of power is to manage it (compost) yourself and/or within your community, and reap the benefits!” She explained that there are less contaminants, a lower carbon footprint (less trucking) and the end product is compost for personal and community usage. With community collaboration, there is a larger volume of food scraps thus making it easier to produce good compost. And while there may be challenges organizationally, you are “building social mycelia,” as Natasha puts it.
Examples of communal composting in Vermont are various community gardens throughout the state, the VNA family room and Champlain Valley co-housing. UVM Extension now offers a Master Composter program and graduates from there can be helpful in organizing community composting efforts. CAV itself offers a free Community Composting self-guided training.
Natasha described compost as a “controlled aerobic (air-loving) biological process”. She provided a simple recipe for making compost: one part greens (food scraps, grass, manure) to three parts browns (wood, leaves, paper, straw). Turning it periodically is optional though generating enough heat is vital, 131 degrees being the ideal. Without too much effort, compost should be ready in 12-18 months. Natasha recommended having two bins to ensure a ready supply, saying the end product should smell like dirt and have the consistency of a damp sponge.
One of the biggest challenges in composting is the vermin challenge (yours truly once encountered a rat when turning her pile!) Natasha recommends following any of these options: covering food scraps with brown materials or soil; wood shavings or a little bit of lime to control odors; one-eighth inch wire mesh under and around the sides of the bin; in general, staying on top of the browns (carbon) in your pile.
Vermont Organics Recycling Summit
CAV hosts a free five-day event from May 1-5 that covers everything from compost co-ops to jumping worms to a compost-to-kitchen tour of Philo Ridge Farm. To find out more about the summit and all things CAV, go to:
Laura M reporting:
Our TTJ team is pleased to announce the following resolution was passed on March 7 at Town Meeting:
“We the citizens of Jericho propose the formation of Jericho as a vital Food Hub for the citizens of its Town and environs. A Food Task Force will be established by the SelectBoard, with the goal of increasing food self-sufficiency via the production, manufacture and distribution of local food.”
A dozen or so local folks have offered to serve on the newly formed Food Task Force and we’ll be reporting on our progress here so...stay tuned!
On March 27, Laura Oliver of the Jericho Seed Library presented: Starting Seeds with Ease. An ample crowd of about 25 people of all ages showed up at the Community Center for this informative talk and discussion.
Check out the Seed Starting talk Laura Oliver gave last year for some seed starting basics:
Some additional information she offered at this year’s talk:
Laura still recommends soil blockers as her first choice in starting seeds. She outlined several advantages, adding that there is a soil blocker at the Jericho Seed Library that can be checked out. She did a demonstration of filling the blocks; the soil needs to be wetter than with other methods (water oozing out when you squeeze it)
She said the second best method is a winstrip tray; made of hard plastic, it comes in different sizes, allows air circulation around seedlings and is indestructible!
For a high quality potting mix for starting seeds, Laura recommended Vermont Compost Company’s Fort Vee mix.
She said you can make your own starter mix by combining the following: ten parts peat, ten parts compost and seven parts perlite.
Laura said these mats are one of the best investments for seed starting. These are placed under the trays and simulate warmer temperatures. As soon as the seeds sprout, the seedlings can be placed under lights, thereby freeing the mats for starting additional seeds.
Guy’s Farm and Yard is Laura’s first choice for purchasing garden supplies. There are four stores- the nearest one to Jericho is in Williston.
Seedlings v. Direct Sowing
After conducting a few home trials, Laura determined that direct planting is best for delicate seedlings such as cucumber, squash and pumpkins. She says they tend to be less stressed than transplanted seedlings; good advice from a pro!
Stratification is treating seeds to simulate overwintering conditions. Laura described a method of stratifying overwintered herbs by filling (used) milk jugs with soil and the herbs, then placing them in the snow January and February to prepare them for planting in the earth come spring.
Scarification is breaking down (large) seeds to stimulate germination. Laura said examples are nicking the seed or soaking it in water.
Seed and Plant Swap
Laura announced an upcoming Seed and Plant Swap (Saturday May 27 from 9:30am to 3:30pm at the Community Center) as a great way to swap your extra seedlings and seeds for others you’re in need of. Mark those calendars!
Kids Garden Contest
This is the second year TTJ is hosting the Kids Garden Contest. Ten raised garden beds, along with materials and supplies will be awarded and delivered to ten families by Mother’s Day. To earn a garden, children ages 6-13 need to fill out a creative questionnaire which gets them thinking about what they would grow and why. Forms are available at the Jericho Town Library, or can be requested via TTJericho.VT@gmail.com Deadline is April 29.
Jon Ramsay, executive director of the Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE) in Hardwick gave a presentation at the JCC on February 20 in Part 2 of “A Food Hub in Jericho...What If”.
Jon’s talk was animated, and his enthusiasm well deserved as CAE is a multi-faceted food hub that’s made quite an impact on food resiliency in Hardwick and across the state. Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the nonprofit, which currently employs 31 people.
Jon began by acknowledging the confusion around what a food hub actually is, due to the wide range of food hubs out there. CAE for example, runs several food hub enterprises: 1-Farm Connex, a truck delivery service, that Jericho Settlers and numerous other large and small farms in Vermont utilize; 2- Just Cut, which processes produce and delivers it to schools, hospitals and institutions around the state; 3-The Food Venture Center, which includes a commercial kitchen, communal dry and wet storage (half of the FVC is rented to their anchor tenant, Jasper Hill Cheese).
CAE oversees several community programs in Hardwick which include:
-Grow Your Own, hosting monthly skill-sharing workshops; as Jon says, “bringing the community together around food...people can share the awesome skills they have”. CAE owns 15 acres in which they oversee a community orchard, farmers market, community gardens and hoop houses, as well as a pavilion for hosting community events.
-Produce to Pantries targets small produce growers in Hardwick, creating a supply chain with minimal overhead while supplying food to people in need.
-CAE also runs a place-based education program, whose coordinator has set up a program at the local high school called ‘Recipe for Human Connection’. Here, students are encouraged to lead a variety of activities; gleaning at a local farm and making a community meal, or helping out at the elementary school’s community garden for example. Building leadership skills while supporting local food resiliency- a win-win!
Comments from the 15 or so of us in the audience were indicators of specific concerns and needs in our locale. Laurel Shelmandine formerly of “It’s Arthur’s Fault”, said that supporting a food business in a home kitchen simply isn’t financially feasible; Ben Danowitz said he would love to start a small farm in Jericho and expressed frustration over zoning laws that preclude his living on the farm, thus making it affordable; Chris Simms commented that there are so many food hub models provided by CAE; we need to find which model(s) address the specific needs of our community.
Catch the entire February 20th presentation here: https://archive.org/details/jericho-food-hub-02202023
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