Weekly newsletters

Start Cooking With Lard!

Dear Lard Friends,

I am writing to you today to let you know that our 2017 fat back and leaf lard have all been made into our beautifully white, odorless lard. As has been the case for many years, the price for a quart is still $20/quart.

This is how we produce our lard. When the pigs come back from slaughter we have large frozen slabs of fat back and also bags of leaf lard. The fat back is found on the animal’s back and has the fat still connected to the skin. The leaf lard is the fat that is found around the organs and is wrapped in the fascia that reminds me of cellophane. The leaf lard is easy enough to cut into squares. The fat back is a little more difficult. We strip it into 3” wide strips and then peel off the skin with a very sharp knife. Then we chunk it into 1 inch square chunks.

Next we fill a five gallon pot full of the chunks and fat and put a lid on it and set it on the wood cookstove to slowly cook. Lard has to be carefully tended as it will easily burn and then become dicolored and have a smoky taste. We find just the right spot on the stove to bring it to a mild simmer, and stir it regularly with a long metal spoon. After several hours the cracklings all rise to the top of the pan and the liquid gold stays below. We strain off the cracklings (which we freeze for the cats and dogs for winter fare) and cool the lard until it is room temperature and safe to put into clear plastic quarts. We store it in the freezer until you are ready to buy it.

 

But let’s go back another step to the pigs. We buy our piglets from our friends at Misty Brook Farm who used to live next door but were able to buy a farm in Albion, ME. These very healthy Tamworth hogs are completely certified organic and plump and beautiful. Once they arrive here they move into their mobile home on the edge of the woods. Their pasture consists of a little field frontage and a lot of woods behind where they can run and root to their hearts’ content. For supplemental feeding we give them Nature’s Best hog grain soaked in certified organic whey from Robinson Farm in Hardwick.

If you would like to read more about why lard should be your number 1 choice for fats, here is a great article discussing 10 reasons why you should eat lard – https://empoweredsustenance.com/lard-is-healthy/

You can buy lard at any time from the farm or order it online and pay with paypal – scroll down on this page of the website – https://mhof.net/organic-meat/                           Julie

 

January 31, 2018

Dear 2017 MHOF shareholders,

I write to you today to encourage you to join our CSA this year. The summer CSA will run from the week of June 4 through the week of October 29 for 22 weeks. The price is $650 for full shares (9-10 lbs. per week on average) and $425 for medium shares (around 6 lbs. on average). Pick up days are M, W, F in Barre, M in Worcester, and Wednesday and Friday in Holden.

The fall share runs the four weeks of November on Mondays only. You can pick up in Barre, Worcester or Holden. The price is $120 for this share.

You can order on line with Paypal at https://mhof.net/csa-order-form/. If you would like to pay with check on a payment plan, you can use the form that I have attached.

I know that there are a lot of CSA’s out there. I would submit that you would choose ours for any of a number of reasons which I will enumerate here below. But first you might wonder why it is so important to join right now when June is 5 months away. The beauty of the CSA is that it is a partnership between the farmer and the customer. Your dollars help us pay our upfront bills for fertility, insurance, seed, potting soil, supplies, machinery repairs and tool purchase, and the big one – staff salaries – which is ongoing. In turn we prioritize your share in all of our planning, divide what is available carefully between you, and put your food first. We do have other accounts for the overflow that occurs, but they always play second fiddle to the CSA. In exchange you put your money up front when we need it, and essentially trust that we will come through for you – which we have done successfully for the past 25 years.

Quality and nutritional value of the produce

I can say unequivocally that the nutritional quality, taste and longevity of our produce is of the highest quality we can muster. We attend assiduously to soil fertility in the following ways.

  • We carefully rotate our animals – cows, chickens and turkeys – through the vegetable fields in the off season for their benefit of the forage and the vegetable’s and fruit’s benefit of fertilizing manure – one of the oldest and most reliable fertility enhancements known to humankind.
  • We take soil tests each fall and amend with organically approved fertilizers, rock powders and dusts, humic substances and micro-nutrients (where the power packed nutrition really lies).
  • We weekly provide a nutrient drench that stimulates the soil biology to more effectively do its symbiotic work with plant roots to increase their capacity to grow to their full potential.
  • We weekly provide a foliar feeding to all of our vegetables and fruits. These foliar feedings of liquid fertility and our own home brewed microbial inoculants enhance the photosynthetic capacity of the plant through its leaves by as much as 20% more than if it wasn’t applied.
  • We interplant cover crop cocktails of many species in and among our food crops to enhance the microbial relationships in the soil that drive the fertility and photosynthesis.
  • Or we use heavy mulches which attract the earthworms in droves who spend their lives passing soil through their bodies and leaving it better than when they found it due to the microbial partners that live in their guts who will break down the soil to leave it more accessible to the plant roots to uptake.

Variety and the inclusion of fruit

We grow about as many things as one can grow at 1000 feet at this latitude. Not only will you get a large variety of vegetables, but as they are in season and available we share our strawberries, black raspberries, red raspberries, peaches, plums (occasionally), pears and apples with you.

Bounty of health-giving greens and herbs

Lettuces, brassicas (kale, collard, broccoli, cabbage, Asian greens), dandelions, and herbs like parsley, basil, oregano, and others are amongst the most nutritious of growing plants for us humans. Our specialty at MHOF is these greens that will put your digestive tract back in motion for your overall health improvement.

 

Our carbon sequestering practices

Four years ago we realized we had to give up our rototiller if we were to really be working with nature and natural systems. Nature does not rototill, nor leave the ground uncovered. With tillage carbon escapes to the atmosphere and causes climate change and the worms and microbial underground workers get their homes destroyed and their livelihood ruined. With poorly functioning microbes, and earthworms, the plants cannot find their way to the fertility of the soil as it is these microbes that connect the plant roots to the minerals. We are now totally rototiller free and were able to achieve 85% soil coverage for the winter with mulches and cover crops (Our goal for 2018 is 100% coverage by season’s end.) Every year the food quality and soil quality rises over all. We are still on the learning curve after 30 years of tilling, but growing by leaps and bounds each year and with each climate change curve ball that is thrown us (and all farmers) each year.

Our organic certification

We have been certified organic since 1987. It is a given that we don’t use poisons. And we seek biodiversity and we want to have as light a footprint as possible. We also take from biodynamics, permaculture, biological and natural farming disciplines.

Our mission to use farming as a means to support recovery

For 11 years we have been employing recovering addicts and for 5 years we have been working with institutionalized youth on our farm. They provide a large portion of our farm labor. And they blossom on the farm.

Our partnership with the DTA to provide shares to SNAP recipients

Last year the Department of Transitional Assistance called us to be part of a pilot project to take SNAP customers as CSA members. Folks can use their SNAP benefits to pre-pay each month for their CSA share. And in conjunction with the Healthy Incentives Program they can get extra benefits to purchase more fruits and vegetables. Attached is the agreement that folks need to sign and return to participate with us.

Our longevity in the trade

Yes, we have been farming here since 1982 and in business as a CSA since 1992. We have made many of the mistakes (there are always new ones to learn from!) and also come up with better ways of doing things. You benefit by our accumulated wisdom in that you can be assured that your CSA farm is stable and will provide what we say we can provide. Take a look here for more detail on what you get – https://mhof.net/2017-csa-share-options/. Even so, each year is radically different, and that is part of the fun.

Our dedicated farm staff

It sometimes brings tears to my eyes how dedicated our farm staff is to the goal of raising the best food possible. Clare, Brent, Josh, and all the folks who have come before them have the highest standards for excellence each day as they work on the myriad aspects of the farm. Jack and I are indeed blessed by our farming community. This year we hope to add Gabe to the mix and train up another future organic farmer.

Please rejoin us today!

Thanks, Julie and Jack

January News

January 22, 2018

Dear MHOF Friends,

As we finish the first month of winter, those of us who prefer to be outside in the soil and the sun, barefoot and enjoying the warm breezes breathe a little easier knowing that spring can’t be that far away! I always of course try to make the most of winter, enjoying the fact that I am not generally overworked, and I have time for contemplation and study, but let’s face it – nothing beats weeding a row of tiny carrots in the early evening in July.

Jack and I are filling up our calendars with some fun talks this winter. We did one on fruit at the NOFA/Mass winter conference and look forward to speaking in Wendell on February 9, NOFA-RI on March 4, CT NOFA on March 10, a talk at the Athol library  in April, and keynoting for the CT RC and D Soil Health workshop on April 26. At these workshops we often learn more than we teach, and the learning community of farmers who are ever trying to improve our craft, our soil, the environment and our bottom line is quite stimulating.

2018 MHOF CSA is ready to take your order.

It is all there at https://mhof.net/. The prices are the same, the weeks are the same – starting the first week in June and ending in the end of November with the end of the fall share, and you can pick up in the same places – Barre, Worcester and Holden. If you sign up now and put some money down it helps us with this time of year where the bills seem incessant (insurance bill of $1197 and liquid fertility bill of $1248 this week, for instance) and the income is sparse. We have some of the best food around with generous quantities too. One shareholder was heard to say that he goes on the Many Hands diet each summer! And once you join I will proselytize unceasingly about the benefits of good diet for health!

We are in our second year of partnering with the Healthy Incentives Program through SNAP. SNAP customers can get the CSA taken right out of their benefits each month, and also get money put back in for other vegetable purchases. This year as last,  you don’t have to pick up here, but can also pick up in Worcester or Holden. Check the website or give us a call at 978-355-2853.

The Meat pages are up too – https://mhof.net/organic-meat/

 Order chicken, turkey, beef and pork for 2018 now while supplies last and we will remind you at the appropriate time when pick up is. As always you can count on our meat to be clean, as grass-fed as possible and super nutritious.

Available now at the farm

  • Pork from 2017 supplies – breakfast sausage, ground pork, roasts and ribs – all at $9.50/lb. Quarts of pork stock at $7.50/quart
  • Chicken – we have a handful of frozen chickens left – 5-7 lbs. $6.50/lb. And chicken stock in good supply from our old layers – with chicken in it. All of our stocks are frozen – $7.50/quart
  • Lard – $20/quart at the farm or order it online here – https://mhof.net/organic-meat/
  • Garlic powder – $5/oz.
  • Soap – peppermint and lavender – $6/ 5 oz. bar
  • Comfrey Salve – $8/2 oz.
  • Eggs – $7/dozen

Bulk order

If you are a gardener or farmer, now is the time to order all sorts of things like soil amendments, supplies, seed potatoes and onions, etc. The order deadline is January 31 and the first delivery and pick up is March 13-17 with tubers coming in April. Here is the link – https://www.nofamass.org/bulk-order-program

Carbon sequestering Garden

NOFA/Mass has a new wonderful publication written by Allison Houghton, one of our staff members. You can access the Carbon Sequestering Garden here – https://www.nofamass.org/sites/default/files/The-Carbon-Sequestering-Garden.pdf

Johnson Su bioactivator

We will be building one of these fancy named, but very rudimentary compost systems this year – as soon as Jack can get his hands on some concrete mesh. You can read about this here. We hosted David and Hui –Chun here this past November. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DxUGk161Ly8

We have been enjoying our winter schedule. We made a couple hundred quarts of chicken stock (no one will ever be sick here), are cleaning out lots of closets and cabinets on the most sub-zero days, are doing battle with our cows who like to flip their water dish (it does get boring out there for a cow), are well into our 100 fruit trees that need pruning, we have squandered all of our wood chips on many of those trees as mulch, and Brent is filling wood sheds in his spare time from trees in the wood lot. Clare cleaned up the website and is moving on to ordering seeds and filling out certification forms. And we did spend a fair amount of time picking up lots of wonderful freebies from Heifer Farm that closed down just recently.                                                               Julie

2018 MHOF CSA Shares Now Available

2018 MHOF CSA Shares Now Available

January 8, 2018

No time like the present to sign up to become a member of the Many Hands Organic Farm CSA. This is our 27th season and we know how to do it! Each year you get more for your money as our quality continues to improve and quantity is very generous too. Our prices have stayed the same for multiple years. You can’t beat the taste and nutrition of our super nutrient dense produce. You will receive vegetables, fruit and herbs with eggs as an add-on.

2018-CSA-order-form (pdf)

Here are a handful of testimonials from our CSA shareholders–

“Absolutely beautiful!  Getting this CSA share has been one of our best decisions along with getting the fresh eggs.  Thanks for all that you do. Rich”

“I should say weekly applause.  This season to date has been spectacular!  I know it’s a holiday w/e, but I am so full of food appreciation and happiness that I’m bursting!  In fact, some mushrooms and green pepper in the saute pan now.  Eggs going in later.  Tomatoes at the very end.   . . .. What’s an email without a comment about the lovely fresh eggs?  The girls are doing a great job as always. Hope you have a Labor Day w/e that’s just what you want it to be.  Know that we CSA subscribers appreciate all the labor and love that goes into the MHOF offerings.  Nancy”

“It has been a smooth transition, but I consider life on your farm to be far more real than sitting at this desk! You and your crew are some of the hardest working, most genuine people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. I miss you all! Unpacking my bag on Wednesday was like Christmas morning. It made me a little sad that I didn’t get to help pick or pack any of the food, but I got over it when I found the cabbage! It was so pretty! I’m turning it into sauerkraut. Cory”

“Thank you for the weekly bounty! I’m so glad you reached out and brought us back into your fold. I have really enjoyed learning new ways to use these gifts. I was surprised how much I enjoyed sautéed Lamb’s Quarters (with garlic scape) and the berries were amazing!!  Every day kale and chard are enjoyed in our morning smoothies. And now I have my husband eating so many more veggies. Last weekend he finally admitted he liked squash. But I think it’s because it was your squash, so sweet and perfect, that I steamed with parsley for a change. Amazing summer side! Keep up what I know is hard and frustrating work. But you’re doing great!  Thank you. Caroline”

Fall Share, Week 4

November 27, 2017

Many Hands Organic Farm Fall CSA
November 27 – Final Day

Hi folks,
Here we are at the end of the CSA, the real end, for 2017. I hope you all have good sources for food for the next 6 months, and I also hope you choose to eat with us again next year. I talked to one of our shareholders at turkey time who said she had successfully frozen a lot of the greens that we provided this summer. Our freezers are full too, and although it doesn’t taste as good as fresh, it is a viable alternative for life in Massachusetts.

We were sad to hear that Heifer Project in Rutland is closing. They have been close neighbors and collaborators of ours for many years. We were graced with 175 bales of mulch hay that they offered us. Brent and I went over and picked it up on 4 loads on Friday. I figure there is enough hay there to mulch the entirety of the west field next year – a good start on next year’s fertility.

We are off to the Soil and Nutrition conference on Tuesday – Thursday this week – an opportunity to learn from some of the best, and network on organic and regenerative farming practices. I look forward to some classroom time – https://snc.bionutrient.org/.

Today after we get your shares packed – picked throughout the week and week end with just some more carrots to dig- we will pull the rest of the drip tape and put away the row covers (most of which blew off and weren’t able to protect from the low teens we had 2 weeks ago), and get that much closer to closing up shop in the veg fields for the year. We have plans to make a number of different fungal composts this winter and spring with hay, leaves, cow manure, etc. and will hopefully get all of wood chips onto our perennials – trees, berries, grapes and bushes before the snow hits us too hard.

Thanks again, for eating with us. And if you need any chicken, pork, a Christmas turkey, lard, soap, salve, frozen peaches, eggs, etc. we still have plenty for sale. See below.

Julie

Today’s food
o Lettuce
o Tatsoi
o Carrots
o Kale
o Onions
o Leeks
o Garlic
o Potatoes
o parsnips

Other sale items available at the farm:

o Old layers for chicken soup at $5/lb (they are 2-3 lb birds)
o Meat chickens in the freezer – $6.50/lb
o Pork cuts of all sorts – except the smoked ham, bacon and hot dogs which will be here soon
o Turkey – we have 4 frozen for Christmas – $5.50/lb.
o Lard – $20/quart
o Frozen peaches – $12 for a 2 lb. bag
o Comfrey salve – $8/jar
o Garlic powder – $5/ounce
o Peppermint and lavender soap – $6/bar
o Eggs – $7.00/dozen