Smokey House Center
Community Farm Potluck Celebration
Join Us! as we celebrate a successful pilot season for our Community Farm project here at Smokey House Center. This is a casual gathering and an opportunity to share and learn more about ongoing community work at Smokey House Center. We'll finish trimming the last of our onion harvest at 4:00, then eat on the early side starting at 4:30. PLEASE BRING A DISH TO SHARE. Bring an instrument if you wish and/or stick around to play unplugged music with friends starting at 5:30 or so. We'd love to share the success of this season with you. All are welcome.
Smokey House's new Community Farm project was developed to engage visiting groups as well as the local community; students in Danby welcomed the opportunity this season and dug in. Last May, every student in the local Currier Memorial School (CMS) visited us to plant potatoes, start pumpkin and squash seeds, and enjoy our trails. It started out as an exploration of our shared history with founders Stephen and Audrey Currier and soon students were hooked on growing.
In the fall, every student at CMS came back (some of them twice) to dig the potatoes they planted, this time with their younger peers from the early childhood education center. They also harvested pumpkins and beets and more. In exchange for their good work and enthusiasm, we sent many of them home with the produce they helped to plant and harvest. Born out of Principal Carolyn Parillo's years-long interest in a school-based farmers market, the Currier Supported Agriculture got shares of Smokey House-grown veggies to about 40 Danby families throughout the fall, representing nearly two-thirds of the school's student population.
Based on the popular Community Supported Agriculture model, our "CSA" provided a weekly distribution throughout September and October of root and storage crops grown at Smokey House Center: potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage, beets, squash, and pumpkins. Families signed up with the school to receive shares, which were sent home with registered students every Friday. Rather than pay an upfront, flat rate to fund production (typical of the CSA model), we traded on goodwill and group work. Students and local families were asked to pitch in on field trips and on public work days to help us grow good food. Food was also distributed to the VT Food Bank, the Health Care Share program, and various other food security and public service agencies. In total, over 6,500 pounds of food was grown and distributed in this first season.
Our CSA shares were made available regardless of any demonstrated need. The truth is, we know there is great need in this community, where approximately 80% of CMS's students qualify for free and reduced-price school meals. While we hope that our efforts help to leverage other resources for healthy eating and food security in this community, our primary objective on the Community Farm is to create a vibrant gathering place, where people can work together to strengthen this community.
The Tutorial Center at Smokey House has launched a yearlong watershed study with Manchester Elementary Middle School (MEMS) students. Built on their experience leading Field Studies in our tremendous outdoor classroom, The Tutorial Center's skilled staff has developed a program targeted at middle school science standards that allows student scientists to monitor changes in the landscape throughout the year. After a three-day orientation period in the early fall, MEMS students will visit Smokey House monthly to observe changes to aquatic ecosystems and other natural communities. TTC at Smokey House operates an alternative high school program, a summer youth farm crew, and a variety of field studies experiences tailored to meet schools' needs. Contact Juanita Burch-Clay about opportunities for your students.
Smokey House Center and Dorset Peak Jerseys recently committed to a thirty-year agricultural lease, ensuring hundreds of acres of farmland will remain in production for many years to come. Since 2010, Caleb Smith has operated Dorset Peak Jerseys in Danby on Smokey House Center lands. This new, long-term lease recognizes Smith's careful stewardship of the land and creates new opportunities for Dorset Peak Jerseys to modernize farm facilities.
In 2008, Smokey House partnered with the Castanea Foundation to create a new life for the so-called "Harrington Farm" that Smith and his family now call home. Castanea's support led to the conservation of additional agricultural land and significant facilities upgrades at the farm. In an effort to attract an exceptional farmer, Castanea and Smokey House developed an innovative "Equity Fund" to provide some measure of retirement security to the would-be farmer in the absence of farm ownership.
"We're really fortunate to have such a talented farmer leasing this land," said Smokey House Center executive director Jesse Pyles. Smith is well regarded for the quality of the milk produced on his farm and was an early adopter of no-till crop practices in the region, improving soil fertility and reducing erosion.
Smokey House Center maintains 5,000 acres of forest and farmland in Danby, VT, over 90 percent of which has been forever conserved. In addition to Dorset Peak Jerseys, Smokey House leases farmland and facilities to Yoder Farm - a diverse vegetable, apple, and berry farm - and to a number of other local producers. Farmers jointly operate a farm stand at Smokey House where their products are available for direct sale to customers. For over forty years, Smokey House Center has used its working landscape as the context for youth training and education.
We're pleased to welcome Ginny Cooke to our team as Smokey House Center's new Farm Educator. Ginny comes to us from Laraway Youth and Family Services in Johnson, VT, where she managed student and volunteer engagement in farm and garden work. At Smokey House, Ginny will grow our Community Farm program, bringing local youth, education groups, and volunteers together to grow food for hunger relief and other community food programs. Welcome, Ginny!
Join Connor Magnuson at Smokey House Center for a skills share and workshop on fermented foods.
We will review various fermentation methods including and most predominately:
- lacto-ferment and the process of making a brine for vegetable fermentation (ie. kraut, pickles)
- alcohol/vinegar fermentation, and the cultivation of wild yeasts
- basics of fermented hot sauce, curing a ferment
- kombucha, and the making effervescent drinks
We've got Cabbage, Kale, Beets, Onions, Jalapenos from the garden to work with and will have quart jars to pack, but feel free to bring your own veggies and crock or jar, and we'll get to work getting fermenty.
$3 Suggested Donation
All experience levels encouraged.
The Smokey House Center Community Farm is growing food for the food bank and other community food programs. Join us anytime between 9 and noon on Fridays this July and August for onion-weeding, potato-hilling, carrot-thinning fun in the field.
Find us in the gardens at 426 Danby Mountain Road.
Some tools will be provided, bring work gloves if you want them.