And We Have Garlic!

“One rule in life”, he murmured to himself. “If you can smell garlic, everything is all right.” Author: J.G. Ballard

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The Fresh Garlic is Under the Gooey Cheese

Yum, Yum – Fresh Garlic Pizza. In fact, this garlic in the pizza pie is so fresh that it began its day in organic soil. 

Here’s our pizza making tips. First make your own dough is the only way to go. If you don’t make the dough, then all is for naught.  Second, invest in a quality heavy-pizza baking pan that heats quickly and cooks evenly. Add a pizza stone for cutting the pizza. For the red sauce (pizza rossa) which is what we like; make it with just tomato puree and nothing else.  For toppings, use the seasonal ingredients that are available LOCALLY (fresh garlic, garlic scapes or Shiitake mushrooms are some of our favorites). Lastly, bake the pizza with just the dough, tomato sauce and the topping for about 10 minutes, then add mozzarella cheese on top, and continue to cook until the cheese melts and becomes bubbly ooey gooey with an extra crisp crust.

Now, back to the garlic. Freshly harvested garlic has a water-chestnut texture (lots of moisture) and is something special. When you can get fresh garlic and it’s becomes that special ingredient that you can add as a pizza topping. This week, we began our garlic harvest. This is Ohman Red, grown by Carl Ohman in East Smethport for many years, and originally from Milan, Italy.

We’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story. We’ll be bringing garlic to the Frosty Hollow Herb Festival  and the Potter County Farmers Market soon. Until then, we’ll end by saying “arrivederci”.


Harvested Garlic (Select Bulbs for Replant Stock)



Garlic Harvest Bulbs for Market




Garlic Harvest in Drying Rack


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Organic Inspector Training

inspector reportThe Spring 2016 issue of The Inspectors’ Report has an article of local interest on page 16.  It tells of the high level of  training that is needed to obtain an working organic inspector status with USDA accredited certification agents. With first-hand knowledge of the narrative, the article is reprinted here for our blog readers.

The IOIA Inspector’s Report  Volume 25 – Number 2 – Spring 2016



Pursing the Right Course by Alvie Fourness

Last month, I attended the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA) Organic Crop Inspection training held at Deer Creek Lodge and Conference Center in Mt. Sterling, Ohio. IOIA gave a training session by trainers Margaret Scoles and Jonda Crosby that was true to the IOIA mission to promote consistency and integrity in the organic certification process. There were 25 participants who attended from several states around the country including California, Oregon, Colorado, Wisconsin, and Kentucky to name a few, and one participant was from Canada. And, there was me coming from north-central Pennsylvania.

It was a demanding five day event with an abundance of class work, homework assignments and exercises. The highlight of the training came on Thursday with a mock inspection (a real-world scenario) of a 500 acre farm in organic production of wheat, corn and soybeans. Our class group was led by organic inspector, Doug Raubenolt at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA). It was a spot on learning experience, as Doug provided us with much valuable guidance and mentoring. The farm inspection consisted of over three hours of information gathering and questioning the farmer about his practices and the farm’s organic system plan. After the farm inspection, it was back to the Deer Creek Lodge to debrief the inspection so as to get started writing the individually-written inspection reports that were due by 8 am the next morning. Much thought when into it; looking back through my notes where I jotted down my observations at the farm. And, much time was considered necessary for me to sort through the pages of written data gathered for the report. And then, there were the CFR Part 205 requirements to address and relate to the farm maps, fields, buffers and farm practices contained in the farmer’s organic system plan. My endeavor was to report the necessary information making the report complete, fair and accurate. I mostly finished the report by 2 am that night. Making it a point to awaking early enough in the morning to make some last-minute corrects and changes, somehow I met the submittal time.  And the kicker was that the final exam started at 9 am on Friday morning. It took me the full three hours to finish the exam. In a seemly short flash of time, the course came to conclusion. And then, I was on my way driving back home to Pennsylvania after finishing one very tough course.

The course was not an easy one. The next steps to complete the training will be a few shadow inspections with an organic inspector mentor, where I go with an inspector on an inspection; and watch and learn. Then, finally an inspection or two where I actually conduct the inspector while being observed by the inspector mentor. That will then, if all goes well, complete the necessary training to become an organic inspector. Of course, then there are additional courses available for the taking that cover other organic categories such as process handling and livestock operations. Maybe these IOIA courses will become future purses of mine if I find this sort of work gainful. Let’s leave it as it’s too early to know for sure.

One might wonder; why one would want to be an organic inspector. It’s a fair question because it’s not an easy job. One important reason is that there is a need. The Organic Matters magazine published by the Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO) gave the follow data in the Fall 2015 edition, for a regional perspective to this need:

“Pennsylvania remains a powerhouse of organic production, maintaining its number three ranking with $3.13 million in organic “farmgate” sales, an increase of 47 percent. New York comes in at number seven with $1.64 million. In number of organic farms, New York ranks 3rd, with 917, and Pennsylvania are 5th, with 679. Additionally, the survey shows the potential for more growth with approximately 5,300 organic producers (39 percent) reporting that they intend to increase their organic production in the United States over the next five years. Another 688 farms with no current organic production are in the process of transitioning into organic agriculture production.”

An observation noted during the farm inspection for the IAOA course captures the above trends in increased organic production: Six (6) additional farms in the area were in transition to organic practices lessening the number for field buffers needed on the organic fields; thereby lessening the risk of contamination across neighboring farm boundaries. So it turned out that on my first farm inspection assignment, I got to verify a national trend that I was very pleased to see.

And also interestingly, while I was at the conference on Tuesday of that week, our farm’s updated organic certificate and Organic Product Verification (OPV) were sent to us arriving by email. The paperwork had the updated PCO logo. So, we also received a new copy of our farm’s organic certificate along with this year’s update. This timely correspondence gave me the added assurance coming when it did, that I was on the right path, and pursing the right objectives at the right time.

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What’s Cooking at Wooleylot

We have things going on. We have a great looking fall-planted garlic crop inter-planted with winter squash. Plus, a recently planted potato field. In the Potter County soil, we are growing certified organic crops with a solar charge from the warming seasonal sun.

  • Arc of Hardneck Garlics (four kinds of local heirlooms)
  • North Georgia Candy Roaster (Cherokee tribes in the southern Appalachians cherished this squash for its ability to withstand winter frost)
  • Potatoes including the following fingerlings: Russian Banana, Red Thumb, Magic Molly, Rose Finn Apple and Pinto; and plus some King Harry.

And, in an experimental sprit, we have the following crop trials:

  • Glenn Hard Red Spring Wheat
  • Garnet Chile Potatoes (developed in 1853 by the Reverend Chauncy E. Goodrich)
  • White Flint Corn (thrived  in the Americas before Columbus)
  • Seneca Pumpkins (also an 1000 year seed)
  • Mohawk Potato Beans (another an 1000 year seed)
  • Several New Potato Varieties (grown from botanical potato seeds also known as True Potato Seed)
  • Several rootstock apple grafts, including many early heritage like Empire, Spitzenburg, Swaar, Tompkins King, Yellow Belle fleur,  Westfield Seek No Further, Winter Greening, Golden Grimes and Cortland. And some other favorites like Pendragon, Niedwetzkyana, Famuse, Nutmeg Pippen, Hooples Antique Gold, Hudson’s Golden Gem, Sweet Caroline, Pink Pearl and Cornish Gilliflower.

This is a partial list of things, but you get the picture.


Garlic Inter-planted With Winter Squash

Garlic Inter-planted With Winter Squash



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Synthetic Inputs Explained

Generally it can be said that certified organic produce is grown without synthetic fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides. However, there are some synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production. Here is a picture of one of our certified organic garlic beds. Can you find any synthetic inputs in the this picture?

Certified Organic Garlic

Certified Organic Garlic

Well, there are two. The first one is the sticky trap. It’s allowed as an insecticide. The Pennsylvania  Department of Agriculture is setting sticky traps for the Allium Leafminer. It has infested leeks and onions in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania; the 1st confirmed infestation of that pest in the western hemisphere. We are monitoring our field. This is really not good news to hear, and we are during our part to monitor for this new pest. The stinky traps were collected this week (no report back yet), and the PA Dept. of Ag person did mention that the leafminer has also been recently found in Dauphin, Delaware, Chester, and Lehigh counties. So, that’s more bad news. The second synthetic is  the shredded paper. It’s allowed as a herbicide or weed barrier. Newpaper or other recycled paper can be used as mulch with the annotation that it must be without glossy or colored inks. The Coudersport Elementary School 6th grade class runs a recycling program during which they shred white school paper at the rate of five to six 30-gallon bags per week. In order to keep this program going, they needed a source to take the shredded paper for free twice per month.  We use the shredded paper as mulch for garlic plants.  We all can agree there is a definite benefit from reusing paper products, which reduces costs and the need for their disposal in overcrowded landfills. In the above picture, in between the garlic beds are winter rye. This is an example of a non-synthetic or living mulch. The idea is to mow the winter rye cover later in the spring and use the clippings as mulch for the garlic. Then, we will run a furrow down the middle of the mowed winter rye strips and plant the Georgia Candy Roaster squash later in May or ealy June. The cut winter rye will also provide a layer of mulch under the squash, and act as a natural weed barrier. And, finally here is a picture of the students participating in the Coudersport Elementary School 6th grade class recycling program. This is a very worth well program, and we are very happy with the results.

Paper Shredding Program

Paper Shredding Program


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Grafting Solo

What to do on a cool, rainy day in April? Grafting apple scion wood is something that works.  This was my first time grafting after attending a couple of training sessions. It went well.

Tools used were a Barnel grafting knife, nursery grafting tape, aluminum label tree tags and Kevlar gloves. Rootstocks were 1-year bare-root G.222 from Cummins Nursery of Ithaca, New York. Skills used were an abundance of patience with attention to the details. 

The grafting resulted in 19 rootstock bench grafts, including the following varieties. These scion were from Nick Botner’s Orchard near Eugene, Oregon:

Local heritage orchard (early NY/PA/NE): Empire, Spitzenburg, Swaar, Tompkins King, Yellow Belle fleur,  Westfield Seek No Further, Winter Greening and Golden Grimes

Some other favorites: Pendragon, Niedwetzkyana, Famuse, Nutmeg Pippen, Hooples Antique Gold and Hudson’s Golden Gem and more…

The cider wood: Herefordshire Redstreak, Porters Perfection, Yarlington Mill, Giant Russian Crab and Gravesteins scion went to Jim Lord’s Orchard in Coudersport, Pennsylvania .

This video tells the story about the Nick Botner Orchard . Special thanks to Chris Homanics for the scion. We feel lucky to be given these wonderful gifts and we treasure these special varieties.

The grafts went into the root cellar for a few days to heal, and then they will be transferred outside into containers later this month.

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Antiquing Vegetable Seeds

Specialty crop farming is a fulfilling business. Sometimes it’s like antiquing.  In this case, the collector is looking for those rare heirlooms of the past before our food became mass-produced by commercial farms.  We target certain antique vegetables to grow and like to gather up additional information and knowledge about the rarity in order to give a history  and tell a story. Here are two such recent rare finds.

Garnet Chile Tubers

Garnet Chile Tubers

Garnet Chile Potatoes were developed in 1853 by the Reverend Chauncy E. Goodrich, an Anglican minister in New York State. One parent potato was the Rough Purple Chile potato, which he had obtained from contacts in Chile. At the time, potatoes in North America were suffering from blight; Goodrich’s theory was that stock had grown weak through cultivation and selection, and that re-introducing more vigorous stock from South America would help.  The Garnet Chile potato contributed over half of the genetics to Burbank’s Russet.  And it is significantly related to over 150 potato varieties now planted across North America and Europe.  In short, Chauncey E Goodrich’s work in his backyard garden produced a genetic taproot for nearly all ‘modern potatoes’ grown today [1].

We’ll  grow out these tubers using the “pull start” method. We have one pound of seed potato, and from them we should be able to pull all of the sprouts we need to plant our garden.  This procedure is to put the seed tubers in a tray and cover them with a moist soilless media. In a few days, we’ll have several sprouts rooting and elongating from the tubers. So, we’ll pull the sprouts and plant them in the garden or in a container; and return the tubers back into the soil. And after a few days, the tubers will  grow new sprouts again. And, we repeat the procedure until there is no more life in those seed tubers.  Eventually, the tubers become soft mush when no new sprouts emerge.

North Georgia Candy Roaster Seeds

North Georgia Candy Roaster Seeds

This other find  shown here are the seeds of a nice small banana-type squash from Appalachia. Also, described as a “curious heirloom with fantastic flavor”.  This rare fruit weighs about 10 pounds and is pink skinned with a distinctive greenish-blue blossom end mark. It’s a banjo playing Appalachian variety squash that you’ll be seeing at the market this summer.

These squash seeds we’ll sow into rows of crimped winter rye. The winter rye was planted last fall into the rows used for last year’s garlic crop. Crimping mechanically kills the growing winter rye to create a layer of mulch to help with weed suppression and protect the soil until the squash plants emerge later this summer. Rodale Institute researchers have developed this method for reduced-till.  It was one of the many topics presented at the organic agriculture seminar held on February 20, 2016 at the Genesee Environmental Center.

[1] Source: Cook’s Info founded in 1999, the site is now the largest food encyclopedia on the Internet.

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Rare and Sacred Seeds

1000 Year Seeds

1000 Year Seeds

We have some seeds waiting in the wings sent by Doc Cawley. And as you can see, these seeds aren’t your usual seeds.  There is an extremely rare Mohawk potato bean,  and the bean that was carried over the “Trail of Tears”  by the Cherokee and the Iroquois white flint corn that thrived  in the Americas before Columbus.  And, we also have the strawberry bean, an old red kidney bean and an old pinto bean.

Of course, these seeds are the beginnings of an authentic three sisters garden.  The remaining sister is squash. And, we have been given the Seneca pumpkin which is also an 1000 year seed. We hope to generate more of these seeds for future plantings and to share them with other rare seed gardeners. A garden design comes again from Doc Cawley. Seen below is the garden found at in the Smithsonian on the National Mall in Washington DC.

“It is 100 paces around the central circle in which they have Indian corn and field peas and actually, for winter, lots of Brussels spouts.”


And From: The Wealth of Sight by Caroline J. Crain, 2014 (part of the Crain Collection of Books)

“For the past few years, I have been somewhat involved with the Seneca of the nearby Cornplanter Reservation. I have gained a remarkable amount of respect for some of their customs and celebrations. The tradition of the Three sisters garden is presently taught in their own language at the Seneca Faithkeepers School, run by Dar and Sandy Dowdy. At this school, young Seneca are taught the ceremonies and traditions of their native ancestors. The three sisters are symbolic of everyone helping everyone else, not only celebrating community closeness, but also the interconnecting of Community itself. This is done by creating a symbolic planting each year, and retelling of the ceremonial story, and the symbolism of each of the sisters. The oldest sister is the Tuscarora, or white corn. She stands tall, and as the eldest, watches over and gives support to her younger sisters. The middle sister is the bean, of which there are several varieties. The middle sister winds around and protects the corn. The bean plants also give nutrition to the soil of the garden. In the traditional three sisters garden, the youngest sister is the squash. With her large leaves and twining tendrils, she shades the other sisters, keeps the moisture in the soil, and discourages the weeds. Seneca squashes included summer types, such as yellow and green crooknecks and zucchini, winter types such as acorn, butternut, and Hubbard. And also Seneca pumpkins, which are often smooth-skinned and light colored. This whole ritual planting is to be done in May, as a community project, by getting as many people involved as possible. Traditionally, the garden is begun by having a community soil exchange.

This requests that everyone who comes is to bring a small basket of their own soil, along with a tag with their family name for the record. Records might be kept in the local library through each planting season. This exchange reminds us that, in the end, soil is our most valuable asset, and one which must be treasured and preserved.

All of the different collected soils are placed onto a sheet, mixed, and then put onto the garden. The three sisters are planted in a number of mounds (often seven) within a circle about 20 feet across. The circular plan of the garden is said to represent the sun, the source of life itself. The mounds are made for the corn seed, which is planted first. Then the bean and squash seeds are planted in the same mounds. Often, each separate mound will have a different kind of bean. The Indians taught the Pilgrims to plant a dead fish in each mound–and I would suggest that you fertilize your garden well before you plant, if dead fish are not available. The planting is followed by an evening pot-luck dinner, with a campfire, and should include lots of home-made corn bread. Around here, we say that the corn should be knee high by the 4th of July. The second ceremony of the garden includes the first community weeding of the garden, and the mounding up of the soil around each of the plants. This is known by the Seneca as the hoeing ceremony. This can be celebrated with another potluck dinner, based around homemade corn chowder. In August comes the Green Corn Festival, featuring fresh corn on the cob, along with the pot luck dinner. The other things that are served during this time is Green Corn Soup, and Summer Garden Stew. The last garden celebration occurs after the first frosts, or just about Halloween. This is the celebration of the Harvest. This is equivalent to our Thanksgiving. At this time, the dried corn and the dry pods of the beans are collected and stored away. Acorns are harvested and also stored. The feast of the Harvest. Often, in our area, the churches and fire halls would go all out for their public harvest dinners, to promote goodwill and sharing of community, which seems to often be lacking in small towns these days.”

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