• Publishers' Note Fall 2011

    Publishers' Note Fall 2011

    Recently we saw The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a documentary by Werner Herzog. The film takes the viewer on a visual journey exploring the 30,000-year-old paintings inside the cave of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc, in southern France. Powerful images of long-extinct animals, crafted by torchlight, transported us back in time. In the film, Herzog explores the very nature and origins of humanness and our urge to communicate; it’s astonishing to realize that at our core there is a need to convey meaningful information. And 30,000 years later, we’re still hard at work connecting with each other, trying to share what is meaningful.

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  • Crop Mobsters

    Crop Mobsters

    Barley is furry. It is, in the eyes of Nick Cowles, “…golden and beautiful and furry…and it might tickle.”

    Nick was preparing a group of Green Mountain Crop Mob volunteers to enter his fields at Shelburne Orchards this past July. He was responding to a question about appropriate clothes for that morning’s work. The furry warning, and a gesture to the bathroom (recently cleaned in our honor), were all we needed before setting off through the orchards toward the five acres of barley we’d signed on to weed that morning.

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  • Thinking Outside the Bordeaux

    Thinking Outside the Bordeaux

    Folks have been fermenting things for as long as there have been reasons to get drunk. Okay, crop preservation was probably more of a reason for fermentation, but I’m sure that inebriation was an added perk for many early consumers. Before refrigeration was an option, people needed to either dry, ferment, or culture foods to carry them through the lean months. When Vermont was more rural, each farm needed to produce food for their own winter larders, so fermented fruit, honey, and maple drinks were common.

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  • Learning at the Market

    Learning at the Market

    Shop, Learn, Connect— that’s our market’s slogan, and this summer we emphasized the second word “learn” with 15 teaching demonstrations held during market hours. Intended to match the spirit of the market (local, seasonal, and affordable), the demonstrations helped customers learn how to preserve foods to enjoy year-round, how to prepare a variety of dishes from local produce, and how to stretch their food dollar. We partnered with Montpelier-area chefs, our market vendors, and food educators to lead these almost-weekly demonstrations.

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  • Humane Heft

    Humane Heft

    Chalk up another “first” for Vermont.

    The state was the first to outlaw slavery, the first to legalize civil unions, and the first to pass a single-payer health care law, among other singular achievements. It may not be as significant, but the fact that Vermont recently became the first state to require local slaughterhouses to file a written humane handling plan falls in line with the state’s tradition of leading the way on moral issues.

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  • Classroom, Cafeteria, Community

    Classroom, Cafeteria, Community

    From the First Lady to the USDA and Governor Peter Shumlin to celebrity chef Jaime Oliver, there is a growing national interest in improving the health and nutrition of our schoolchildren. Vermont will be among the last states to appear on Oliver’s Food Revolution, a television program meant to save America’s health by helping kids and adults change the way they eat, but perhaps that’s because our state has been leading the way by developing Farm to School (FTS) programming for more than a decade.

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  • Having Both Lives

    Having Both Lives

    Why anybody would want to be either a farmer or a poet when there were spools turning in factories was beyond the grasp of the old man. That his grandson should desire to be both was almost enough to bring on a stroke.”

    According to the grandson’s biographer, “Determined in his course, Robert laid the whole matter before his grandfather. He would have a farm, live on it, produce his food with his own labor, and write poetry.”

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  • Hooping it Up

    Hooping it Up

    For much of the summer, the sun rises too early for even early birds to see it. But you probably noticed the nights arriving earlier when August rolled around. Perhaps you walked outside at dusk and felt the absence of the swallows. By the time this article hits the stands in September, you’ve probably had your first light frost(s). Maybe even a killing frost, although with climate change it’s all less predictable now.

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  • Set the Table with Sweet Potatoes

    Set the Table with Sweet Potatoes

    In prehistoric cave sites in Peru, scientists have found remains of sweet potatoes dating back to the dawn of agriculture 10,000 years ago. It is one of the oldest vegetables grown by humans. Yet even with that amount of history in every velvety, sensuous mouthful, the sweet potato is also a plant of the future, and may be a very important plant indeed for Vermont’s future. We are witnessing the arrival and adaptation of a new staple food crop to the Northeast—a rare and exciting event.

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  • Packing Local Lunches 101

    Packing Local Lunches 101

    Packing your child’s lunch every day can be a challenge. Below are some tips for cutting down on costs, time, and the energy you put into your child’s brown bag lunch—and adding some locally grown goods!

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  • Farmers' Kitchen—Tomatillo Tamworths

    Farmers' Kitchen—Tomatillo Tamworths

    Yankee and Doodle squealed in the crate in the back of the Subaru. We were as shocked by the piglets’ lung capacity as we were by the fact that we, two former vegetarians, were about to start raising and selling meat! Once we got them home, they settled in quickly in the barn, scratching against the hand-hewn beams and eventually burying their noses in sweet-smelling hay.

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  • A Tasty Tour

    A Tasty Tour

    Year One: A Good Cause. Managing our farm, my wife and I try to respect a Sunday off, cultivating diversity in our lives as we do in our fields. So in September 2008, a neighbor and I chose to ride the first annual "Tour de Farms," an Addison County bike-to-farms ride of various lengths, organized by Rural Vermont, the Addison County Relocalization Network (ACORN), and the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition. Having chosen the 30-mile loop, the rolling hills of Addison County on that clear morning were stunning.

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  • Vermont Wine & Spirits Guide

    Vermont Wine & Spirits Guide

    Vermont is home to a thriving spirits industry. Our in-state distillers are producing a wide variety of products from vodka and maple liqueurs to gin and rye whiskey. Many of them are winning national acclaim and international awards for their fine quality and appealing flavor. A number of the distilleries have their own tasting rooms where the products they make can be sampled and purchased. You may also find local distillers at farmers’ markets, special events, or festivals around the state.

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Learning at the Market

Lisa Mase of Harmonized Cookery
Lisa Mase of Harmonized Cookery

Written By

Carolyn Grodinsky

Written on

September 01 , 2011

Shop, Learn, Connect— that’s our market’s slogan, and this summer we emphasized the second word “learn” with 15 teaching demonstrations held during market hours. Intended to match the spirit of the market (local, seasonal, and affordable), the demonstrations helped customers learn how to preserve foods to enjoy year-round, how to prepare a variety of dishes from local produce, and how to stretch their food dollar. We partnered with Montpelier-area chefs, our market vendors, and food educators to lead these almost-weekly demonstrations.

New England Culinary Institute (NECI) Executive Chef Tom Bivins led six of the demonstrations, giving NECI students a taste of how to teach outside the classroom, and giving market customers some delicious samples to try. At the zucchini bonanza demo, Tom proved that it’s possible to make a creamy vegan sauce without cream. (Just what was his secret cream stand-in? Cashews.) His tall chef’s toque (hat) drew kids to the demo tent, and some of them came back many times to taste the different foods that were prepared.

Dave Moyer a chef at the Vermont Foodbank, bought a market chicken to cook for one meal and then used the leftovers to make a second meal of chicken gumbo. He spoke about all the ways shoppers can save money on groceries, including buying in bulk, planning menus in advance, and making a shopping list. At one demo, he showed that meat doesn’t have to be the center of a meal but that rice can be used as the meal base. He cooked a cherry tomato risotto that cheaply fed a large group using what was fresh at the market that week. The crowds were scarce at first, Moyer says, but once he began chopping and stirring, people got interested. “I guess to get somebody’s attention, you gotta start cooking.”

Jane Tucker of Highland Gardens showed how to can dill pickles and bread and butter pickles. Lisa Mase of Harmonized Cookery showed how to make chutneys and relishes. We scheduled our ice cream demo on our Youth Market Day, when kids get a chance to vend their own food products and crafts. Mark Simakaski of Artesano mead did the demo, and because adults love ice cream, too, he sold ice cream at the market that included a basil ice cream—a big hit.

Demonstrations gave customers a chance to try unusual new dishes they probably haven’t ever cooked at home, such as blackberry ketchup and coconut-mint chutney. At a demonstration highlighting pea dishes, Tom Bivins encountered a customer who adamantly refused to eat any foods that were green—not too easy to find at a farmers’ market. He managed to persuade her to try the pea risotto and she even liked it. (Tom thinks she liked the risotto because only the peas were green, not the whole dish.)

The teaching demonstrations also offered shoppers opportunities to ask questions and to learn new cooking techniques. Peggy Thompson, who led most of the canning demos, notes that most people came to learn about general canning techniques. During her strawberry jam demo, one man asked her why his jams never set, even though he had carefully measured the correct amounts of sugar, fruit, and pectin. Thompson showed him the jam-making process from start—pulling the caps off the strawberries—to finish—sealing the jam in a water bath. After watching her, the man was able to figure out what he did wrong. Peggy wished him luck and sent him home with new instructions, free pectin samples, and discount coupons for buying canning supplies.

Ball Fresh Canning and Preserving awarded 50 grants to farmers’ markets across the county to teach canning. The Capital City Farmers’ Market was the only market in Vermont to get one. At each demo, market staff handed out free recipe booklets, coupons, and samples to encourage people to preserve their fresh produce. At the end of each canning demo, staff drew names from the market’s newsletter signup to give away canned items, canning supplies, and recipe books. (If you want to try canning just about any vegetable from a farmers’ market, Ball Fresh Canning and Preserving has an excellent website with recipes to help you get started: freshpreserving.com.)

Learning doesn’t end just because the weather turns cold. Demonstrations will continue at our winter market, which is held inside from December through April. Last year, the winter market offered demonstrations on meats, maple syrup, and fermented foods. This year we’d like to focus on specific cooking techniques. We hope to schedule demonstrations on how to carve your holiday turkey and use every part of the bird, as well as how to use all parts of a meat animal (think: organ meats). Demos don’t have to involve lots of time or money. Hunger Mountain Coop in Montpelier paid the food costs for the Vermont Foodbank demos, as they fit the store’s mission.

We’re always looking for useful demo topics, so please send any suggestions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. All of our demo recipes can be found on our website, montpelierfarmersmarket.com. Encourage your local farmers’ market to host demos of their own!

Photo by Caroline Abels

About the Author

Carolyn Grodinsky

Carolyn Grodinsky

Carolyn Grodinsky is the manager of the Capital City Farmers’ Market and an enthusiastic shopper there. Using the knowledge she’s gained from the canning workshops, she canned all sorts of vegetables this past summer.

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