2 November 2017 07:12PM
It seems inescapable after living on a farm for almost twenty years that my observations as I travel in foreign places are very farm-oriented. This certainly has been true during my annual trips to Turkey (which I know extremely well having lived there for three years fifty five years ago and traveled there regularly ever since). This year with the doors closed to Turkey (no visas presently issued to Americans during the diplomatic standoff between our government and Turkey’s), we have opted to visit Sicily.
These past couple of weeks, in this, my first visit to Sicily, I have, like a very energetic vacuum cleaner, taken in as much as I could ascertain about things agricultural in western Sicily. My first surprise was the complete disappearance of peasant life here and the degree to which, as in the rest of the developed world, rural areas are depopulating as so many Sicilians have either emigrated or moved to the city. Approximately half the population emigrated, principally to the United States, just before and after the turn of the 20th century, driven to do so by the extreme poverty of the island and the massive earthquake of 1907 when Sicily’s second city, Messina, was totally decimated, with approximately 100,000 casualties.
Like Columbia county and its abandoned, collapsing barns, the Sicilian rural scene is dotted by the shells of abandoned farmsteads. The scenes I expected to see of farm folk in the fields working, of wheat laden ox carts, horse drawn carts and donkeys, of villages with farmers’ markets bursting with produce, are no longer to be found. Indeed in two weeks of driving in which we criss-crossed the breadth of Sicily twice I literally saw only one farmer, he driving his tractor on the road. Mark claims he additionally saw an African woman resting from field labor, fanning herself. There was evidence of farm work being done, plowed fields and pastures grazed to the nubs, but little evidence of actual farm life.
In part this seems to be the result of something we are familiar with here – agribusiness. In the coastal areas we have passed through whole zones of greenhouse vegetable production, covering areas so large that that the sun glinting off the plastic greenhouses and hoop houses creates a kind of mirage of lakes and ponds.
As to the interior, which is very high in altitude and quite mountainous, the arable land is given over to wheat and the rocky, steep land to grazing. There is a kind of continuity since historically Sicily served as a major bread basket for Rome. It would appear that wheat continues to be produced in huge quantities but, as in our grain producing regions of the Middle West, mostly by big agribusiness rather than small farms.
The degree to which Sicilian food is being produced by agribusiness was confirmed by our several trips to the “iper” and “supermercatos” (hypermarket and supermarket) where the food on display suggested a real decline in quality and flavor. It is particularly sad to see a region with such a marvelous food culture treading the same dismal path we are. One possible bright sign is that a number of restaurants we have been to list dishes that are consistent with the Slow Food movement. Slow Food, founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy in 1986 as an alternative to fast food, strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming of plants, seed and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem. So there is hope.
The brightest and most interesting agricultural entity I saw on this trip, also a hopeful sign, was the Giardino della Kolymbethra (the Garden of Kolymbethra), now under the auspices of the Fonda Ambiente Italia (FAI), a trust devoted to preserving Italy’s culture, art and landscape, inspired by the National Trust for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The garden (a term which does not really accurately capture what this entity is) is near Agrigento on the south coast of Sicily in amongst the ruined temples of the ancient Greek city of Akragas, dating back to 500 B.C., which at its peak had a population of 200,000. In 480 BC, with the triumph of Akragas over an invading Carthaginian army at the battle of Imera, the tyrant of the city, Therone, used the spoils of war, including the enslaved Carthaginian prisoners of war, to build a new hydraulic system to meet the water needs of the city. This new system, described by the architect Feace, included the creation of a final catch basin which required the enslaved Carthaginians to dig a massive gorge along the edge of the city. This massive gorge encompassed over 12 acres and was 30 feet deep, and served as a reservoir, fish farm, and a defensive moat. Thanks to a system of canals and conduits that filled this reservoir, the Greeks of Akragas transformed this corner of Sicily into a lush garden teeming with Mediterranean flora, birds and fish. By the first century A.D., the reservoir had ceased to hold water and was partially filled in and began to be used for agricultural purposes.
Between 828 and 1087 A.D., the region was occupied by the Arabs, who used the “giardino” (literally “garden”, taken from the Sicilian “jardinu”) for raising fruits and vegetables. By the Middle Ages, the “giardino” became Catholic church property, and was called the ”Badia Bassa,” During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it enjoyed a period of great splendor, becoming a must-see destination for grandees on their grand tour. During this period is was farmed and maintained by peasant farmers in a highly organized commune, but with the disappearance of the peasantry in the latter years of the twentieth century the garden fell into ruin. To rescue it the FAI took over its administration and presently is returning the Giardino della Kolymbethra to its former glory.
Citrus trees make up almost a third of the present vegetation, including oranges, lemons, mandarins, clementines, citrons, grapefruit, limes, bergamots, and bigarades, etc. Many of the varieties found here are not normally cultivated and no longer exist outside the Giardino. Also growing here are olive trees, almonds, pistachios, quinces, pomegranates, persimmons, bananas, figs, plums, pears and prickly pears.
In the non-cultivated areas on the sides of the gorge are bushes typical of the Mediterranean maquis, including oleaster, myrtle, terebinth pistache, dwarf palm, euphorbia, etc. Along a small stream running the length of the garden (a surviving part of the ancient irrigation system) are canes, willows, tamarisks and poplars. In the open sunny areas are artichoke patches and tomatoes and members of the brassica family, and under the semi-shade of the citrus trees grow squash and beans.
Thus, the Giardino della Kolymbethra once again serves as a place of productivity and beauty and as a valuable arboretum preserving a whole range of endangered plant species, and provides its many visitors with a place of pleasure and repose. Something, some might say, like what we have attempted to do in our rather modest way with Turkana Farms.
WHAT’S NEW THIS WEEK:
WE CONTINUE TO BE AWAY UNTIL THIS MONDAY, BUT WE HEAR THAT TOMATOES ARE STILL COMING IN, WHICH MEANS OTHER THINGS MUST BE PRODUCING AS WELL. IF YOU’RE ORDERING FOR SATURDAY, BEST TO EMAIL FRIDAY AND TELL US THE BEST WAY TO CONFIRM BACK TO YOU FOR EGGS, BEANS , LETTUCES, DAIKON RADISHES, TOMATILLOS, BEETS, EGGPLANT, PURPLE BELL AND JALAPENO PEPPERS, CARROTS, RED TURNIPS, SOME WHITE TURNIPS, TATSOI, SORREL, PARSLEY, CILANTRO, MINT AND DILL.
KEEP IN MIND WE’RE TAKING LAMB ORDERS FOR PROCESSING ON FIRST DATE WE CAN GET IN, WE ARE WAITING FOR SLOTS, AND OF COURSE STILL TAKING TURKEY ORDERS FOR OUR HERITAGE BREED TURKEYS RAISED FREE RANGE ON ORGANIC GRAIN AND SLAUGHTERED FRESH THE WEEK OF THANKSGIVING. SEE ORDER FORM AT END OF THIS BULLETIN
FOR OTHER OFFERINGS THIS WEEK PLEASE SCROLL BELOW
THIS WEEK’S OFFERINGS
FROM THE GARDEN:
BEETS (Chiogga (pink/white striped), $3/LB PLENTIFUL
BROCCOLI, limited quantities, but if anyone wants half a pound or so, $3/lb
LEEKS, UNFORTUNATELY, FOR OBVIOUS REASONS, NO LONGER OFFERED
HARICOT VERTS, ROMANO, YELLOW WAX, SCARLET RUNNER POLE BEANS, ALL PLENTIFUL, $3/BL)
EGGPLANT, $2/LB, PLENTIFUL
SPANISH BLACK RADISH, $3/LB
DAIKON RADISHES, $2/LB
CHERRY BELL RED RADISHES, 6 FOR $1
PURPLE BELL AND GREEN BELL PEPPERS, $2/LB
JALAPENO PEPPERS, $3/LB
POBLANO PEPPERS, $3/LB, IN A LULL
TATSOI JOINS THE LETTUCE CROP OF BUTTERCRUNCH AND FORELLENSCHLUSS, AT THEIR PEAK OF FLAVOR AND TENDERNESS, $3/BAG
CHEESE PUMPKIN, $1/LB SALES SUSPENDED TO RESERVE FOR THANKSGIVING PIES.
VINE RIPENED TOMATOES, WINDING DOWN, BRANDYWINE, AMISH PASTE AND ROSE DE BEIRNE $3.LB
CHERRY TOMATOES, $2/PINT
RED TOPPED TURNIPS $1/ LB, POSSIBLY SOME SMALLER WHITE TURNIPS AT $2/LB
TROMBONCINO SQUASH, $1/LB.
GREEN CABBAGE (CONICAL WAKEFIELDS AND DE VERTUS SAVOY), PLENTIFUL, AND SOME RED CABBAGES $2/LB
NO LONGER QUITE BABY CARROTS (BUNCH OF 8 FOR $2)
SWISS CHARD, $2/BAG, LEAVES NOW LARGER
DILL, PARSLEY, MINT, CHERVIL, OREGANO, CILANTRO, CUTTING CELERY, SAGE: $.75 A BUNCH.
HORSERADISH ROOT: $4/LB (A LITTLE GOES A LONG WAY)
FROM LAST FALL’S GARDEN HARVEST:
FROZEN SQUASH (SHREDDED, TROMBONCINO), GREAT FOR FRITTERS, $2/LB.
EGGS: Demand seems way up these days, but we do our best to fill all orders. $5/doz
GUINEA FOWL, Fresh last week, now frozen $7/lb (half the price of the Union Sq. Farmers Market). These are excellent 3 lb. or so birds.
LAMB: Lamb by the cut has been mostly sold but we still have some Leg of lamb and chops at $14 a pound and a bit of ground lamb at $7/lb.
BEEF AND PORK: from our freezer stash
PORK BY THE CUT:
Smoked bacon, $10/lb
Pork chops, $12/lb, we have lots, they are a convenient size for a quick meal, and quite tasty.
Spare ribs and country ribs $7/lb
Smoked hocks, $6/lb.
Leaf Lard, now sold out or fully reserved for buyers
Sirloin steaks, $14/lb.
Porterhouse or Tbone: $16/lb
Short Ribs $6/lb
Stir fry, $5/lb,
Chuck or eye round roast, $5/lb
Top or bottom round roast, $8/lb,
Sirloin tip roast, $12/lb
Beef tongue, $2/lb
organ meats: kidney, heart etc. $1/lb
GOOSE: Processed last December. We have a 8 lb bird from this year here, and from last year a 9 lb bird, a couple of 8 lb. birds, and about 10 in the 6 to 7 lb. range. $10/LB. Prior years’ geese $6/lb. Goose is a great start for cassoulet.We have pigs feet to add for the consistency, too. We use all three ingredients with the beans in our cassoulet.
ROASTING CHICKENS WENT TO MARKET ABOUT FiveWEEKS AGO AND NOW ARE FROZEN. These Freedom Rangers were bred by the French to be slow growing, good foragers, and to have complex flavor. They range from 3 to 7 lbs, most in the 5 lb. range, and are very moist and flavorful. $6/lb. Fresh the weekend of September 15, frozen thereafter. Also found another trove of 2014′s roasting chickens in the big freezer, smaller (4 to 5 lbs each), and 2015′s humongous birds (7 and 8 lbs) all at $4/lb.
TURKEYS: The remaining small heritage turkeys in the freezer, between 7 and 9 lbs, perfect for that small special dinner party. On special to clear freezer space $8/lb
DUCKS: Last year we did Pekin ducks. The males are not so different in size from the females, and these are nice meaty birds, most between 5 and 7 lbs. Also $7/lb.
FOR THE GARDEN, ANOTHER PRIME COMPOST TIME If you are beginning to put your garden to bed, fall is an excellent time for top dressing the garden for next spring’s fertility. $6 for a 40 lb (approx.) bag from our now towering compost mountain. This compost is a mix of cow, sheep, turkey and chicken manure, hay, leaves, weeds and some decomposing feed grain, a pot pouri of nutrition for your garden beds. Order in quantity (30 bags or more, roughly a small truckload full) for $5/bag. We will deliver bulk orders in Germantown.
Email us your order at email@example.com, and let us know when you’d like to pick up your order. It will be put out for you on the side screened porch of the farmhouse (110 Lasher Ave., Germantown) in a bag. You can leave cash or a check in the now famous pineapple on the porch table. Regular pickup times are Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., other days by arrangement. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call at 518-537-3815 or email.
TURKEY RESERVATION FORM 2017:
TURKANA FARMS, LLC
110 Lasher Ave
Germantown, NY 12526
Please check here if you would like to receive email offerings in season:______________
HERITAGE BREED TURKEYS: We are again raising Bourbon Reds, Naragansetts, Holland Whites, and Spanish Blacks, which range from 7 to 18 lbs. Fed on organic feed, pastured all day, protected on perching bars all night. Slaughtered the Sunday or Monday before Thanksgiving, delivered fresh, not frozen, in Lower Manhattan, at points along the Taconic Parkway, or at the farm. $11 lb plus $5 off premises pick up fee. Note: These sell out early.
Number desired: ___________ Approx. weight ________
Pick up place: ___at the farm; ___Lower Manhattan___a point along the Taconic Parkway
Please send a deposit of $40 per bird to hold your reservation to Turkana Farms, 110 Lasher Ave., Germantown, NY, 12526. Make check out to Turkana Farms, LLC.(Yes this luddite farm still uses checks). The balance due will be paid at the time of the pick up.