Smokey House Center on the Radio

Farm educator Ginny Cooke and executive director Jesse Pyles joined Katherine Stamper on her new radio show "Present Time" on 99.3 fm WBTV-LP Burlington last week. You can hear the full audio from the 50-minute program here.

In the studio at WBTV-LP, Burlington. Photo: Katherine Stamper

In the studio at WBTV-LP, Burlington. Photo: Katherine Stamper

Katherine has a knack for storytelling and for getting to the root of others' stories. Her questions and interest helped us paint a full picture of the work happening here at Smokey House: our history, our landscape, our involvement with the local farm and food system, and our take on education in the working landscape. Thanks, Katherine, for giving us the opportunity.

Bennington College Students Complete Winter Field Work Term at Smokey House

Every Bennington College student is required to complete 210 hours of job or internship placement for their annual Field Work Term, gaining valuable work experience throughout their undergraduate years. This winter we welcomed two Field Work Term students to support our winter farm work and help us upgrade program space and garden records.  Marion and Cleo, we are so grateful for your interest, motivation, productivity, and great attitudes. It was a pleasure to spend some time with you in Danby. 

Cleo

Cleo

Marion

Marion

Community Farm Celebration Nov. 19

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.

426 Danby Mountain Road, Danby, VT  05739   4:00pm: Gather and Onion Trimming   4:30pm: Potluck Dinner and Community Farm Report    5:30-7:00pm (+): Pick and Sing (bring an instrument!)

426 Danby Mountain Road, Danby, VT  05739

4:00pm: Gather and Onion Trimming
4:30pm: Potluck Dinner and Community Farm Report
5:30-7:00pm (+): Pick and Sing (bring an instrument!)

CSA: Currier Supported Agriculture

Photo: Robert Layman

Photo: Robert Layman

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.

First shares. Ready for delivery.

First shares. Ready for delivery.

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.

Currier Memorial Students with harvested -- and decorated -- pumpkins.

Currier Memorial Students with harvested -- and decorated -- pumpkins.

TTC Welcomes Manchester Elementary Middle School

MEMS bus arrives for fall orientation.

MEMS bus arrives for fall orientation.

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.

Long-term Lease Ensures Stewardship of Smokey House Lands

Caleb Smith (l) of Dorset Peak Jerseys and Smokey House Center Board President Curtis Rand.

Caleb Smith (l) of Dorset Peak Jerseys and Smokey House Center Board President Curtis Rand.

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.