• Editor's Note Spring 2008

    Editor's Note Spring 2008

    The word ‘chores’ is spoken often in New England’s farming community, but people who work outside the agricultural sector don’t use it much. Last time many of us heard the word was when our mother told us to go do our chores–or no allowance! Nowadays, we ‘run errands’ and ‘go to work,’ reflecting our estrangement from manual labor. We certainly have as much to do as farmers, especially if we’re parents or are working two jobs to make ends meet; all of us are busy in our own way. It’s just that farmers rarely get a day off.

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  • One Greenhouse, Many Winter Greens

    One Greenhouse, Many Winter Greens

    In the depths of winter, a visit to Carol Stedman’s new greenhouse in Hartland provides a breath of spring. A sea of tiny greens waves hello. Claim a seat on the cement blocks that ring the 2-ft. high garden beds, bend over, and take a whiff of soil and fresh growing things. This is what I did on a recent January day. With snow blanketing the out-of-doors, the air temperature inside was only slightly higher than outside, not really warm. But the soil… a thermometer stuck deep in the dirt read a balmy 60 degrees. What was going on?

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  • Eat it on the Radio

    Eat it on the Radio

    In his book Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, Vermont author and environmentalist Bill McKibben focuses on the importance of strong communities for the health and well-being of the planet and its people. He suggests that we can strengthen our home regions by producing more of our own food, generating more of our own energy, and even creating more of our own culture and entertainment. To achieve these goals, McKibben advises, we need to build or rebuild local institutions that draw people together, and one such institution that he cites in his book is a low-power radio station in the Mad River Valley: WMRW-LP Warren, 95.1 FM.

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  • Collapse of the Colonies

    Collapse of the Colonies

    The word “localvore” may have been Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year for 2007, but a close runner-up was “colony collapse disorder,” an unexplained phenomenon in which bees disappear mysteriously from their hives. The two words are more related than one might think, though. Given the risk this disorder poses to the foods we eat in Vermont, it’s important to ask: how serious is colony collapse disorder in our state?

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  • Sweet Honey in the Raw

    Sweet Honey in the Raw

    Todd Hardie is shy and quiet, but when asked about his favorite subject–bees–he is eloquent and full of great information. Todd has been keeping bees since he was a young boy. His knowledge about bees, honey, and apitherapy–the age-old tradition of therapy from the beehive–seems boundless. And his passion and commitment to sharing that knowledge with others comes through in his business, Honey Gardens Apiaries.

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  • Set the Table with Asian Greens

    Set the Table with Asian Greens

    With names such as shungiku, komatsuna and takana, Asian greens may seem somewhat intimidating to even an experienced home chef. In recent years, Americans have become familiar with unusual greens such as bok choy and mizuna, but if you’re the adventurous type, a vast array of even more interesting Asian greens awaits. And while these varieties are not available at the corner store, local farmers who grow them can provide the freshest quality, and may also supply helpful tips for using them.

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  • Zack Woods Herb Farm

    Zack Woods Herb Farm

    The growing demand for locally-sourced products in Vermont is leading residents to look beyond vegetables and meat to another important item for consumption: herbs. As a result, herb farms such as Zack Woods Herb Farm in Hyde Park, founded in 1999 by Jeff Carpenter and his wife, Melanie Slick Carpenter, are enjoying amazing success as Vermonters seek out local herbs not just for inclusion in homemade meals but for medicinal use as well. At Zack Woods, 35 medicinal herbs are grown for a host of ailments, and the Carpenters are working hard to keep up with demand.

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  • Three Square—Spring 2008

    Three Square—Spring 2008

    Growing up in Vermont, I ate chokecherries, dandelions, venison, and tempura day lilies. When I returned recently, to live here full-time, I began to notice how often the conversation in Vermont turns to food. What’s for dinner? For the next few issues of Local Banquet, I’ll visit a variety of people at home, peer into their iceboxes, and find out what they’re eating and why. And because these can often be personal subjects, I’ve omitted last names.

    Susan is chopping an enormous white radish. “You’re in the store and you think, why the hell would anyone buy this?”

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  • A Missing Link in the Local Food Chain

    A Missing Link in the Local Food Chain

    In good weather, the drive between southwestern New Hampshire and the Capital District of New York state can be breathtakingly beautiful: there’s the view from Hogback Mountain, the wind farm in Searsburg, the Bennington obelisk. But at 4 a.m. during a December snow storm, while pulling a trailer loaded with lambs over a foggy two-lane road, the drive is tedious at best and can be downright hairy.

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  • Cooking the Sting Out

    Cooking the Sting Out

    If you take care, and wear the proper gear, you can harvest an abundant and fascinating wild edible. Folks who have been stung by this rascal know what I’m talking about, while those who haven’t had the pleasure of eating it will undoubtedly come to appreciate this nutritious and tasty plant.

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  • Writing Down the Farm

    Writing Down the Farm

    The logic is straightforward and simple. It goes like this: Farming is the one business that everyone needs, because everyone eats. Add to it the fact that children grow up—often faster than adults can imagine. And when Vermont children become adults, they may want to become part of the local food system, either as a farmer or an eater.

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  • Farmers' Kitchen—Try a Little Tenderness

    Farmers' Kitchen—Try a Little Tenderness

    There are some meals that spell COMFORT to all who eat them. Leave your teeth behind. Savor the smell and the melting texture. Give yourself over to a sensuous repast.

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  • Last Morsel—The Taste

    Last Morsel—The Taste

    I roasted a loin roast from one of the pigs I’d raised—dinner plans had been canceled because of the ice storm.

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Eat it on the Radio

Photo of Robin by John Barkhausen

Written By

Robin McDermott

Written on

March 01 , 2008

In his book Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, Vermont author and environmentalist Bill McKibben focuses on the importance of strong communities for the health and well-being of the planet and its people. He suggests that we can strengthen our home regions by producing more of our own food, generating more of our own energy, and even creating more of our own culture and entertainment. To achieve these goals, McKibben advises, we need to build or rebuild local institutions that draw people together, and one such institution that he cites in his book is a low-power radio station in the Mad River Valley: WMRW-LP Warren, 95.1 FM.

For the past three years, I have hosted a show on WMRW that is all about food. The show is called The Dinner Hour and it airs live on Tuesdays from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., replays on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., and is re-broadcast on WOOL-LP Bellows Falls, 100.0 FM, on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

The Dinner Hour is the essence of what McKibben is talking about when he writes of a “local institution that draws people together.” Most weeks I have a guest on my show, and this allows me to introduce listeners to neighbors they might not otherwise meet: farmers, chefs, food producers, food lovers. Some of my guests have included Randy George, the owner of Red Hen Baking Company, Elizabeth Shepard, the former managing editor of Epicurious.com, Liz and Dan Holtz, founders of Liz Lovely Vegan Cookies, and Jon Steinman, who hosts his own radio show in Nelson, British Columbia, called Deconstructing Dinner. Some of the topics covered on my show have included backyard sugaring, how to make great soups with restaurant owner Michael Flanagan, the procrastinator’s guide to eating locally in winter, and understanding the organic standards with NOFA’s Nicole Dehne. Though the signal for WMRW reaches only slightly beyond the Mad River Valley, topics discussed on the show can be of interest to all Vermonters. (Past programs can be downloaded from our web site, www.dinnerhour.org.)

Compared to a national radio show that is impersonal and fast-paced, The Dinner Hour might seem homely and amateurish. Guests sometimes show up a little late because they had to clean up after the lunch crowd or finish feeding their animals. But it’s that lack of slickness that makes The Dinner Hour and other community radio shows authentic and human. It is refreshing in today’s world of Clear Channel Communications and satellite radio to know that there is a real person on the other end of the radio signal. And because I control the whole hour of my show, listeners are not subjected to advertisements or sound bites; guests are typically on for the full hour, and that gives us lots of time to have in-depth and meaningful conversations.

The real beauty of community radio stations is that they can operate on a shoestring budget. In the Mad River Valley, our annual operating budget is $7,000 a year, which we raise through donations. Our low overhead means that we are not beholden to corporate sponsors or advertisers like Archer Daniels Midland or Cargill, two huge global corporations that control much of our industrial food supply. As long as I am not violating FCC regulations, my guests and I can talk about whatever we wish, and this enables us to have frank and timely discussions about our concerns with the worldwide industrial food system and the importance of strengthening Vermont agriculture.

There are a handful of low-power community radio stations throughout Vermont, and most of them invite anyone from the community who wants to have a show to fill out an application. To become a radio programmer, no prior experience is necessary and the station will provide the training. A few Vermont stations already have food shows (for example, WVEW in Brattleboro has Local Sprouts and WGDR at Goddard College has Food for Thought), but wouldn’t it be great if every community radio station had its own local food show?

I especially like hosting The Dinner Hour in the summer, when people can listen to it on Saturday mornings on their way to area farmers’ markets. People always stop me at the Waitsfield market to comment on that week’s guest or to ask me about a recipe I discussed that uses a certain vegetable currently in season. Clearly the show serves many community needs, and this is exactly what Bill McKibben means when he advocates for “rebuilding institutions that bring people together.” Here in the Mad River Valley, WMRW-LP and The Dinner Hour are doing just that.

Photo of Robin by John Barkhausen

About the Author

Robin McDermott

Robin McDermott

Robin McDermott is cofounder of the Mad River Valley Localvore Project and, with her husband, Ray, works out of their home-based office in Waitsfield developing web-based training to support manufacturing quality and productivity.

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A quarterly magazine devoted to covering local food, sustainable farming, and the many people building the Vermont food system.

Vermont's Local Banquet Magazine illuminates the connections between local food and Vermont communities. Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape is changing as the localvore movement shapes what is grown and raised here.

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