Worms Are Your Friends

It is traditionally thought that worms are only appealing to fishermen, kids who like to play in the dirt, and (maybe) other worms.

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But worms are also a vegetable gardener’s best friend. Below is an except from a recent post at VegetableGardener.com, all about the virtues of our slimy legless garden companions:

Worm castings do amazing things for the soil (and plants) and are the top of the line as far as soil amendments go. They have five times the nitrogen potency of good topsoil; seven times the amount of potash; and one and a half times the calcium.

Traditional composting and vermicomposting both break down organic materials and provide a perfect plant product for the garden. But worms bring a little something extra to the table — significantly more beneficial micro-organisms, enzymes, humus, and plant stimulants than regular compost.

Castings offer these nutrients in a slow-release form and they’re available for a longer period of time. “Available” meaning that the casting nutrients are easily absorbed by plants because they’re water-soluble. Worm castings offer superior soil-binding, and water-retaining, abilities. As well as excellent aeration, porosity, and structural properties. All of these things greatly improve the texture of your soil, as well.

Of course, worms are present in traditional compost piles and help with the breakdown of organic matter — so you’re getting castings there, too. But actual worm farming (vermicomposting) is done in a container suited that’s specifically for this purpose. Raising worms in their own closed system intensifies the end product, so you have a super-charged soil amendment in bulk.

Worm farming is the perfect solution for people who live in apartments or condominiums who would love to have a compost pile but don’t have the room. It’s a portable composting system that’s doable for anyone in any living situation. You keep the worms in a box-sized container or bin, which makes a large yard or garden area unnecessary. In fact, you can even keep a worm farm indoors.

If you’re interested in becoming a worm-wrangler, check out these posts for more information:
Let Worms Compost Your Kitchen Scraps and How to Start a Worm Farm

Outstanding In His Field

“I can’t talk long, I’ve got about 4000 sweet potato plants I’ve got to put in this week. Every minute I’m not doing that, I’m behind.”

So says Doug Decandia, who is trying to stay on schedule in his mission to grow food for the Food Bank for Westchester, which fights hunger and food insecurity in our county by maintaining a storehouse of food it distributes to over 200 local relief programs.

Doug helped form the Food Bank’s Food Growing Program, and he is personally cultivating about 3 acres of land on five separate plots in Westchester. The produce from those 3 acres will go right to the Food Bank’s storehouses.

Doug Candia

Doug has been featured in magazines, newspapers, and online journals, and they have been able to spotlight how broad the impact of Doug’s work really is. Here’s an excerpt from Chris Hunt’s 2012 profile on the website Ecocentric:

“The job involves farming, of course, but it also entails serving as a teacher and mentor because in addition to producing vegetables, the initiative is designed as a vocational program to train at-risk youths to grow food. Doug works the land alongside children who face a range of emotional and behavioral challenges, some of whom are currently incarcerated in the county’s juvenile correctional facility. Together, they grow fresh, healthful food for those who need it the most.”

2013 marks the third year of Doug’s ambitious project, and he has no intention of stopping. In fact, his ambitions for farming Westchester go far beyond the Food Bank, He’d like to see the whole county farming, for private and public resources.

As he told KatonahGreen’s Heather Flournoy when she profiled Doug last year: “”You know, there’s no reason we can’t produce a lot more of our food right around here. Those big lawns could all be turned into productive farms.”

Don’t be surprised if this local food hero shows up at your door someday, offering to farm your lawn. Bravo, Doug!

Mimi Edelman: Farmer

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Photo credit: Tanya Savayan

If you’ve enjoyed African blue basil or stinging nettles in your dishes in past seasons at farm-to-table inspired restaurants such as Bedford Post or Restaurant North, there’s a good chance they started out in the fields of I & Me Farms in Bedford. Which means they got to your plate through the loving work of Mimi Edelman.

Mimi farms four acres off of Wood Road (on land secured through the Westchester Land Trust’s land match program), specializing in heirloom vegetables and unusual herbs, along with a more traditional mix of lettuces and vegetables.

Fingers are crossed that all those items will be back this year, but nothing is guaranteed. I & Me farm took a direct hit from Sandy last year, and the damage was extensive, not just to the crops and the soil that supports them, but to the infrastructure of the place. Fences, posts, wires… almost all of it was rendered useless by the impact of the storm.

The farm is rebuilt now — with help from grants, other farmers, and lots of good folks in the community — and planting in the fields is underway. Of course, rebuilding isn’t a new experience for Edelman; she took a big hit from Irene, too. But, as she told the Journal News last spring:

“Whatever challenges there might be, they’re kind of offset by what you get in return. There are not many jobs you can go to where the job actually revitalizes you.”

In addition to full-time farming, Edelman is one of the leaders of Slow Food Metro North, the local chapter of Slow Food USA, which is itself part of the global movement Slow Food International, based in Italy. Through Slow Food, she is responsible for creating fun and educational food-based events in Westchester, Fairfield, and beyond: restaurant dinners, farm tours, networking events for farmers and chefs, and the awarding of Slow Food’s cherished “Snail of Approval” awards for those who make our food system better.

Want to learn more about I & Me or Slow Food? Send the farmer an email!

June 22: Lawn and Order

Join Bedford 2020 and John Jay Homestead to learn about simple, cost-free steps we can take in our yards that will have a BIG impact on protecting our community’s drinking water:

  • Chemical free lawn care
  • The importance of trees in protecting the quality and health of our water
  • Practices for well water vs. Town water
  • And, more!

This FREE event is Saturday, June 22, 2013 ~ 11am to noon ~ John Jay Homestead, Main Barn

This is also opening day for the Homestead Farm Market! Make a morning of it. Come for the talk and pick up fabulous locally grown food before or after!

Lawn & Order: June 22nd 

 

Single Stream is Happening!

The following article was written by Peter Kuniholm, the Chair of Bedford 2020’s Waste & Recycling Task Force. It appeared online at the Bedford Patch website, and in print in the Bedford Record-Review.

“Events over the past few weeks have left many Bedford residents wondering “what is happening with recycling?” Well, SINGLE STREAM IS HAPPENING!”singlestream

“During the past several months, after reviewing 2012 data from our haulers showing quite low recycling rates, the Town has been considering options to improve our waste and recycling program, including best methods to achieve the most cost effective and efficient ways to increase recycling, reduce costs and assure consistent quality of excellent service town-wide. And at the April 17 public information meeting Supervisor Roberts stated that the Town and private haulers had agreed on a set of “Objectives” to improve the program, increase recycling and work together toward these goals.

“Having examined the existing waste and recycling program for over a year, the Bedford 2020 Waste and Recycling Task Force concluded that several areas of the existing hauler programs could be improved including findings that: recycling rates were low, costs were higher than neighboring towns, collection routes were not efficient and new single stream collection for recyclables would be easier and could result in significant improvements. Moreover, the adoption of Pay-As-You-Throw options could result in lower costs for residents with less waste, and that opportunities for revenue sharing from recyclables sales may be available.

“After considerable study and examination of successful neighboring town programs the Task Force recommended a series of improvements that would enable us to increase recycling and provide lower costs for those residents who recycle more and have less waste. The Town recognized that a new program would need significant public education and involvement, as it further explored the best options. Information was distributed, public input sought and planned information meetings were scheduled to address issues and get feedback on tentative plans.

“After initiating this process, and hearing from residents with their thoughts and ideas, the Town reached out to our two major residential haulers for discussion of Town objectives and their willingness and ability to work with us toward these goals. These discussions were able to clearly identify the Town’s objectives and address the haulers ability to “partner” with us to improve the program. Subsequently, the haulers submitted written commitments to work with the Town toward achieving our objectives including: making the change to single stream recycling; offering Pay-As-You-Throw options to customers; providing more suitable collections trucks; revising routes for more efficiency; offering recyclables revenue sharing and insuring proper recyclables processing and accounting data so we can track the program toward our goal of 40% recycling by 2020. This is also a goal that the haulers agreed is readily achievable.

“Subsequently, after receiving agreement from the haulers to work with us for the benefit of the Town and residents, the Town announced this agreement at the public meeting on April 17. We wish to thank everyone who has expressed interest in this important program and who participated in the process of commenting and helping us reach what we hope will be a win-win result for everyone. It’s a great start.

“We anticipate that coordinating efforts for education and outreach to residents will be ongoing and we look forward to working closely with our private haulers and all residents. The Town and Task Force believe that the proposed program changes will be a significant benefit to our Town and all residents. Residents, the haulers and Town officials have all been instrumental in bringing our program to a new level.

“LETS MAKE IT HAPPEN! Don’t hesitate to call us or your hauler if you have questions.”

A Rind is a Terrible Thing To Waste

On average, Americans produce 4.5 lbs of trash every day. At least two thirds of that is organic waste, including food scraps, such as 
potato peels and apple cores.compost12363

Add to this, organic yard waste — leaves, weeds, grass clippings — and we have thousands of pounds of organic waste being trucked to landfills and waste disposal facilities every day.

In a landfill, organic waste decomposes anaerobically (without oxygen) emitting a high volume of methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas and a primary contributor to climate change.

A far preferable way to dispose of organic waste is on-site composting, which can be done on even the smallest of properties. Hundreds of Bedford homeowners compost at home and Bedford 2020 wants to help others learn how.

Head over to Veg Out! to read all about it and get composting today.

Farm to Table. Now, What About Farm to Institution?

On Tuesday, May 14, 2013, Green Schools Coalition of Westchester, Bedford 2020 Coalition and Northern Westchester Hospital hosted the Northern Westchester Farm to Institution Forum.Hospital Local Food Event

The Northern Westchester Local Food Project is an outgrowth of the Bedford 2020 Coalition – a local grassroots organization formed to implement Bedford’s Climate Action Plan through activities such as local food procurement. The Coalition’s food and agriculture task force was assembled to promote local foods and local farms.

The Northern Westchester Local Food Project has been facilitated by Sustainable Food Systems, LLC and is successfully achieving its mission to: Build an economically viable, high-quality, locally-sourced food system for institutional buyers. This system is designed to be reliable, resilient, responsive, and replicable.At the Forum, food service providers and a local food distributor will share case studies on overcoming challenges and how they have successfully brought local food to institutions.

The people who came to this first-of-its-kind forum left asking, “Can I afford NOT to buy local?”

A recently released American Farmland Trust report confirms the Northern Westchester Local Food Project is cutting-edge, and has been focusing on the right issues to ensure the project becomes an early success story. The report is called Scaling Up: Strategies for Expanding Sales of Local Food to Public and Private Institutions in New York.

Follow this space for more developments during Summer 2013!

July 13th: Farm to Museum

Join us July 13th at the Katonah Museum of Art for a special “Farm -to-Museum” event!Goat Cheese

Buy locally-grown produce, fresh-cut flowers, farm-fresh eggs and goat cheese, and delicious baked goods at this special party.  Learn about the protection of our community’s precious natural resources and meet some of our area’s best purveyors.

Bedford 2020 will be there, along with folks from Stone Barns, and the afternoon will feature lively French music from Les Tappan Zigues.  Magnifique!