Memoir of a First Time Mushroom Grower

July 15, 2015 in Guest Bloggers, Uncategorized

Good Food Neighbors are Blogging! PASA thanks this volunteer corp of guest bloggers, who have stepped forward to share their experiences, points of view and the goings-on in their communities with the Good Food Neighborhood. We look forward to sharing their fresh perspectives in this blog.


Jen Hine

Part I: Inoculation

By Jennifer Hine

I’m not exactly sure how the obsession began, but in the past few years I have been on a mission to live more sustainably.  After completing a permaculture certificate program through the School of Living in Freeland, Maryland in 2012, I was sure I had been forever changed.  My fellow permie buddies and I, all strangers when the course began, bunked at a commune every weekend that we had class.  I met folks through this experience, some commune members and others just course takers like me, that are permanently ingrained in my memory, some in my heart.

When a desire for change strikes within you, try exploring how others go about everyday life.  It was incredibly eye opening to share close quarters with people who otherwise would’ve meant nothing more to me than a stranger passing by on the street.  I learned about passive design, what hugelkultur is and how to pronounce it, how to plant asparagus, and how to build with natural materials.  I got so much out of the experience by way of the relationships I made, but one of the initial things that attracted me to the course was that mushroom inoculation was on the syllabus.  I find fungus fascinating and oddly beautiful, and along with other things I consume, I’ve always wanted to know how to grow mushrooms myself.

Read the rest of this entry →

Good Food Neighbors are Blogging: Because there’s nothing like the bonds formed around a good meal!

November 11, 2014 in Author Series, Community Support for PASA, Guest Bloggers, Uncategorized

Good Food Neighbors are Blogging! PASA thanks this volunteer corp of guest bloggers, who have stepped forward to share their experiences, points of view and the goings-on in their communities with the Good Food Neighborhood. We look forward to sharing their fresh perspectives in this blog.


Brittany Colatrella / Pittsburgh, PA

Brittany Colatrella / Pittsburgh, PA

Because there’s nothing like the bonds formed around a good meal

A Quick Dig into GFN Blogger Brittany Colatrella’s roots

“The best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” my grandmother would often say in imparting her romantic wisdom to me. In my experience, I’ve found this to be a universal truth: there’s nothing like the bonds formed around a good meal.

I am a Pittsburgh-native who is lucky to be raised by a family that nurtured a love of food. And while I have always lived to eat, my parents–both medical practitioners–also instilled in me the principles of eating to live. Good food nourishes the mind, body and soul; so I have always been an adventurous eater with a special appreciation for homegrown and homemade.

Although my career path has not led me to growing and making food for a living (at least not yet), the health and environmental benefits of organic and local are important to me. I am a conscientious consumer who reads labels, pays attention to the supply chain, and follows current issues; and I opt for sustainable produce and independent businesses as much as I can.

Like all PASA members, I am passionate about helping people lead healthier, happier lives. As a marketing professional focused on the health and wellness industry, I blend my creative zeal with my motivation to improve quality of life. Being a PASA volunteer affords me the opportunity to apply these skills to further support the entrepreneurs and enthusiasts who make it possible for consumers like me to enjoy a lifestyle of health and sustainability.

I hope the stories that I have the honor of sharing through GFN bring you moments of cheer, enlightenment, pride, incitement, and inspiration just as the PASA community does for me. What I love most about participating in PASA is getting to know members; so I’ll leave you with a “taste” of some of my favorite foodie delights:

  • Sunday evenings with the family around the dinner table, especially when Mom makes artichoke lasagna or stuffed peppers
  • Traveling to try regional cuisine
  • Learning about family recipes passed down generations
  • Indulging in my favorite treats like cheese, ice cream, dark chocolate and anything ginger
  • And shopping at markets, of course!


Is there a farm, supplier, restaurant, business, event or anything else noteworthy happening in the Southwestern PA region that we should highlight here? What topics on growing and making nutritious food deserve attention? Please stay in touch and keep us posted on what you like reading about on GFN!


As always, many thanks to our Sustainability School partners around the state:

 Chatham University’s Master of Arts in Food Study,

 Country Barn Farm,

 Dickinson College Farm,

East End Food Co-op,

Eastern PA Permaculture Guild,

Fair Food,

Glade Run Adventures,

IMBY at Misty Hollow Farm 

Jennings Environmental Education Center,

 the Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County,

Pennypack Farm & Education Center,

 Spring Creek Homesteading,

and Quiet Creek Herb Farm.

Visit our main Sustainability Schools page for more information or follow the links above to visit each partner’s page for workshops near you!

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PASA Business Member Profile – Adam Seitz of Penns Mault / Spring Mills, PA

October 29, 2014 in Guest Bloggers, Uncategorized

Good Food Neighbors are Blogging! PASA thanks our volunteer corp of guest bloggers, who have stepped forward to share their experiences, points of view and the goings-on in their communities with the Good Food Neighborhood. We look forward to sharing their fresh perspectives in this blog.


Adam Sietz

Adam Sietz / Founder of Penns Mault Distillery in Spring Mills, PA


“If you malt it, they will come.” 

Adam Seitz of Penns Mault / Spring Mills, PA / Centre County

     By Carrie Neuhard Lyons of State College, PA / Centre County

“Pennsylvania grown, Pennsylvania malted, Pennsylvania brewed.” This is the motto at Penns Mault, a micro-malthouse established by Adam Seitz in Spring Mills, PA.  Their mission is to produce malt using barley and other specialty grains grown exclusively by PA farmers.  Malt is the primary ingredient used to make beer. Pennsylvania hosts a growing collection of breweries, but malt is currently a missing link in the production of a truly local beer.  Brewers currently use malt that is grown and processed in the Western US, Canada, or overseas.

Adam explains, “There is a perception that we can’t make malt using Pennsylvania grown grains because our climate is not as well suited for producing malting quality barley as it is out maultwest, and because PA farmers don’t currently grow malting barley varieties.”  Adam hopes to change this perception, and is currently working with five farmers in the state to grow malting barley to be harvested in 2015.  Once harvested, the grain will be tested for several factors such as germinative capacity and protein content.  Any of the barley not suitable for malting can still be used by farmers for feed.  The barley that does meet required specs will find its way into local pint glasses during the fall of 2015.

Adam’s experiences with PASA have been instrumental in shaping his business principles.  He says, “I didn’t always think much about who or where my food came from, or how far it travelled.”  After attending his first Farming for the Future conference in 2009 as a junior at Penns State, he began to think differently though. Inspired by the common energy and passion of presenters and others in attendance, as well as by some well-timed courses at Penn State, he began to focus his thinking about food and agriculture in a more sustainable way.  Adam is passionate in his commitment to sustainability, and his business model reflects this passion right down to the wood-fired kiln he’s designing to dry malt.

Penns Valley

View of Penns Valley


Penns Mault recently received a USDA Local Food Promotion Program grant in order to help close the farmer to brewer and field to beer malt-processing gap that currently exists in Pennsylvania.  Doing so will help develop the malting industry in PA for other maltsters, and will create a new premium market opportunity for PA small grain farmers.  The grant will be used in part to conduct malting barley variety trials with Penns State, and will also support a PASA field day on malting to be hosted at Penns Mault’s Spring Mills location in 2016.

Let’s lift a glass to Adam and his vision of Pennsylvania grown, Pennsylvania malted, Pennsylvania brewed.  I’ll drink to that!



As always, many thanks to our Sustainability School partners around the state:

 Chatham University’s Master of Arts in Food Study,

 Country Barn Farm,

 Dickinson College Farm,

East End Food Co-op,

Eastern PA Permaculture Guild,

Fair Food,

Glade Run Adventures,

IMBY at Misty Hollow Farm 

Jennings Environmental Education Center,

 the Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County,

Pennypack Farm & Education Center,

 Spring Creek Homesteading,

and Quiet Creek Herb Farm.

Visit our main Sustainability Schools page for more information or follow the links above to visit each partner’s page for workshops near you!

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Good Food Neighbors are Blogging: Visiting Green Meadow Farm

October 7, 2014 in Author Series, Guest Bloggers, Uncategorized

Good Food Neighbors are Blogging! Over the next few months we will be introducing some guest bloggers to our Good Food Neighborhood. These PASA members are passionate about local foods and sustainable agriculture. They will be sharing their experiences, points of view, and the goings on in their communities. We want to thank them for their contribution of time and  talent to our Good Food Neighborhood. We look forward to sharing their fresh perspectives in this blog.

If you would like to be a guest blogger in our Good Food Neighborhood please contact Jean Najjar at


Visiting Green Meadow Farm

by Lisa Goodale-Brinton of Chester County


Lisa Goodale-Brinton / Chester County

It is a welcome gratification to visit a farm that is thriving both economically and culturally. Green Meadows Farm run by father and son, Glenn and Ian Brendle, respectively, near Gap, PA., is such a model. Green Meadows is one of Pennsylvania’s original farm to table businesses, in existence since 1981. I have wanted to tour the farm for several years, hearing frequent reports from a friend who works there, and who also helps my husband sustainably dig spring ramps, many of which are in turn sourced by Green Meadows for customers in Philadelphia. In particular, I have wanted to see how they grow their fig trees as I have a small portable orchard that spends the winter in the greenhouse and the summer outside.

It is refreshing to find a large scale organic farmer who plants directly in the ground, cultivating between the rows rather than the industrial model of mass plastic smothered fields. The farm utilizes several greenhouses as well that are heated with recycled fryer oil in the winters and cooled with exhaust

The upper gardens looking east

The upper gardens looking east in the summer.

The herb field was plentiful and humming with pollinators, populated by classic herb choices and specialty choices, to please the ever expanding tastes of modern chefs. This theme of providing the unusual, alongside of the dependable choices, pervades all of the growing fields and greenhouses. We enjoyed tasting some items new to us, such as: Shungiku, whose leaves taste like carrots, Papallo, a Cilantro replacement in Guacamole, and the tantalizing leaves of Cardamon. Another cultivar that piqued my interest was Tromboncini squash, which as the name suggests, is shaped like a trombone.

Glenn Brendle

Glenn Brendle: Lifetime PASA Member and owner of Green Meadow Farm

Returning to the farmhouse after our tour, I noticed what looked to be an ancient Asian pear tree. Glenn told us the fascinating story of this tree which turns out to be what is believed to be the oldest surviving Hosenshank Pear, roughly 250 years old. Named after John Shank from the Mt. Joy area, this pear was popularly used for canning and cider, circa 1820. Apparently Mr. Shank always wore britches (or hosens) hence the name Hosenshank. Cuttings from this tree were sent to the University of Michigan where the stock has been revived. These are the kinds of stories that give me faith for a future.

I did not find a magic trick for growing my Mediterranean loving figs in Pennsylvania, in fact Green Meadows has cultivated them in the same manner I have; a few left in the ground that do better after mild winters and are slow to rebound after polar vortexes, or the more reliable survival method of ” in for the winter and out for the summer”. Either way a bumper crop of figs grown in Pennsylvania remains a serendipitous event.








Get the Scoop From Your Good Food Neighbors!

August 18, 2014 in Community Support for PASA, Guest Bloggers, Uncategorized

Good Food Neighbors are Blogging! Over the next few months we will be introducing some guest bloggers to our Good Food Neighborhood. These PASA members are passionate about local foods and sustainable agriculture. They will be sharing their experiences, points of view, and the goings on in their communities. We want to thank them for their contribution of time and  talent to our Good Food Neighborhood. We look forward to sharing their fresh perspectives in this blog.

If you would like to be a guest blogger in our Good Food Neighborhood please contact Jean Najjar at


Hello Fellow Local Foodies!!!

Arlene Thayer / York County

Arlene Thayer / York County

My name is Arlene Thayer, a resident of beautiful South Central Pennsylvania, passionate local foodie, fiber artist and blogger.  I’ve stepped up to the plate to be a regular contributor in the Good Food Neighborhood to share my local food finds, recipes and reflections on the incredible bounty of the region.Chocolate_Mousse.jpg We’re kicking off my contributions here with a little bit about myself and the types of posts that will be coming your way from me.

I’ve loved good food for as long as I can remember born into a family where the women were all very good cooks.

My mother was a rather adventurous cook.  She was an avid reader of cooking magazines and many weekends were spent in pursuit of cooking through a slew of new recipes.  I can remember vividly a series of experiments where we went in search of the perfect chocolate mousse recipe.  There are worse ways to spend one’s time, right?

Now, while my mother would try anything and everything in the kitchen, my maternal grandmother was a different story.  Evelyn Mary pretty much stuck to the basics but oh, they were so good.  And, since she was raised in Delaware, right where Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania converge, her repertoire was heavily influenced by the foods and dishes of the region including favorites like: ham salad, chicken with slippery dumplings, and stewed tomatoes.


One of the most valuable lessons I learned from my grandmother was the importance of buying and using locally raised and grown food stuffs.  For example, when corn was in season, she had a particular farm stand where she liked to buy corn.  The corn had to be from THAT farm stand.  The quality of the corn could be measured by what my grandfather put on the corn.  “OK” corn would be eaten with the additions of butter, salt, and pepper.  “Good” corn would be eaten with salt and pepper.  “Very Good” corn would get a dash of salt.  But, the “Best” corn would be eaten without anything else added.

“Best” corn is only possible when you know where THAT farm stand is.  And, so, this is what my type of posts are going to be about.  My husband and I are passionate about exploring and discovering the treasures of our region.  We feel incredibly lucky to live in the South Central Pennsylvania region which is a true treasure trove of wonderful locally produced food products.  Please feel free to share your finds with me too by commenting on the posts and sharing on the Facebook page .  If you are a producer, please email me at so I can check you out!


Sandor Katz on Fermentation, Health and Community

September 16, 2012 in Author Series, Community Resources, Uncategorized

Sandor Katz has inspired countless a person to stretch beyond any self-imposed “I can’t do that” attitude toward fermentation. Wild Fermentation and, just published, The Art of Fermentation offer us an accessible and engaging invitation to be kind to our guts, to rejuvenate our palettes, and, ultimately, to reclaim food. As Sandor notes on his website, “Fermentation makes foods more nutritious, as well as delicious. Microscopic organisms – our ancestors and allies – transform food and extend its usefulness…Fermented foods help people stay healthy.”

Sandor is not only an author and teacher on fermentation technique, but, in his The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, offers an intelligent and compelling argument for weighing the true costs of food systems that extol convenience, industry profit, and a pseudo-nutritional framework.  As you will see in this interview, Sandor challenges us to consider this small act, the act of fermentation, as an opportunity for self-knowledge, community building, and pure enjoyment!

For information on Sandor’s upcoming workshops, visit Join the Good Food Neighborhood™ next weekend at the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, where Sandor Katz is a keynoter on the topic of Fermentation, Culture and Coevolution.


Sandor, for folks who might not be as familiar with how you became so passionate about fermentation, could you provide some insight into your journey?
Okay, sure. I would say my path to fermentation started as a kid growing up in New York City. I just loved sour pickles. I can’t say why. Nobody in my family was making them. It was just a food I really liked. Then, I started to tune in to the digestive benefits of fermented vegetables, even though I wasn’t making them myself. That didn’t happen until I moved from New York to a community in rural Tennessee and got involved in keeping a garden. I was such a naive city kid that it didn’t even occur to me that all the cabbages would be ready at the same time, that all the radishes would be ready at the same time. So, basically, faced with that practical challenge -that all people who have gardens are faced with- I decided that it was time for me to learn how to make sauerkraut. I just looked in some cookbooks, figured out how to do it (it’s pretty simple), loved it, and, pretty much since that first batch, I’ve always had sauerkraut going. That led me into a broader obsession of wanting to learn to make all sorts of things fermented, but it definitely started with sauerkraut…prompted by what was coming out of my garden.

You were a guest on NPR’s Fresh Air this summer. Terry Gross asked you how people can get started and you recommended they start the same way: sauerkraut.  Are there other ‘newbie’ options that you recommend for people who are just getting started?
Well, what I think is so perfect about fermenting vegetables is that it is intrinsically safe, you don’t need any special equipment, you can just do it in a jar that you have sitting in your pantry somewhere. You don’t need a special starter culture and you get relatively quick results. So, that’s why I think it’s a great way to start. But I mean really, my primary message with fermentation is that this is not rocket science. Anybody with a kitchen can do any of this. So I would say that beyond sauerkraut, it just depends on what foods people like to eat. Making yogurt is really easy; making alcoholic beverages is really easy.

So, on the opposite of that, are there some things that you only get to ferment a couple of times a year that you really look forward to?
Sure, I think of a lot of these ferments as annual rituals: I make wine out of certain fruits and berries based on when those things are ready, and I make those things just once a year. I’ve got a lot of pears, and I’m looking forward to them ripening, and getting to squeeze them into juice and making perry (fermented pear juice). Every winter for maybe the last nineteen years, I’ve made miso. Usually the first weekend in November I go to my friend’s farm where he plants acres of daikon radishes as a cover crop and he lets me fill up a pickup truck full, I then transfer them to a 55 gallon oak barrel and make radish-kraut. This summer, I made a quick vegetable ferment of corn relish where I cut kernels of corn off the cob, salt and squeeze them, and mix them with onions and herbs. I ferment the whole thing. So, yes, I do a lot of my fermentation as a seasonal activity during the appropriate harvest time of the year.

That sounds delicious. Beyond just being tasty, fermented foods have so many health benefits. I have been reading about, and hearing various programs about, the role everything from viruses to bacteria to parasites can have on our health and how our obsession as a culture with hygiene can lead to a gut that is vacant of what we need to digest food and ward off disease.

Yeah, for all of us in the United States anyway, we live in the context of what I call the war on bacteria. We have all received this thorough indoctrination into this misguided notion that bacteria are dangerous to us. That’s not to deny that there exist bacteria that can be dangerous, but the vast majority of bacteria we can coexist with. And human beings could not possibly function in the world without the bacteria that are part of us. But all of the anti-bacteria ideology, compounded by the chemical exposure we all receive every day through antibiotics, through the water that we drink, and through cleansing products that are marketed on the basis of their antibacterial chemicals, all of this chemical exposure has the effect of killing off bacteria that we desperately need. And at the same time, research is demonstrating, more and more compellingly, how vitally important bacteria are to our functioning. The report last month from the Human Microbiome Project really laid out how much we are ultimately dependent on the genetics of the bacteria we are hosts to and to our own limited range of genetics. Without bacteria, human beings could not reproduce. Human beings could not digest food and assimilate nutrients. Bacteria are responsible for most of the immune responses that allow us to live in this world, and also for our brain chemistry. Every aspect of physiological functioning involves bacteria that are part of us. We need to abandon this misguided ideology that bacteria are our enemies and start recognizing that bacteria are our ancestors, that bacteria are integral parts of our bodies and we need to coexist with them and not try to just kill them.

You’ve traveled extensively, offering an abundance of workshops. You obviously love to connect with people and love the act of collective learning. What was your motivation behind writing, now, your third book?
The publication of Wild Fermentation got me invited to lots of different venues to teach fermentation, brought traffic to my website from people with all sorts of questions trying to troubleshoot, trying to figure out what was going wrong, or to brainstorm when things weren’t going as expected. That process has expanded my education in a huge way. So I’ve gotten to hear thousands of people’s stories about things that they’ve tried, or things that their grandparents used to do, or ferments that they used from the old country. All that troubleshooting has really forced me to research a lot of it and understand better what is going on and what makes things sometimes go awry so that I can give people some idea about how to do it better. Really my new book [The Art of Fermentation] is a book I couldn’t have written at the time when I wrote Wild Fermentation. And I felt that I had expanded my repertoire and had enough new information and new insights into giving people suggestions for troubleshooting that it was time for me to write a new book on this topic. You know the topic of fermentation is so vast and infinite that no one book can say everything there is to be said.

Sally Fallon‘s forward in Wild Fermentation refers to your book as “a road map to a better world” and that got me wondering, do you feel a certain responsibility for sharing the information you have gathered, for what you can offer the world?
The biggest thing that I have learned in my now decade of teaching fermentation workshops is that there is a huge hunger for this information. I accept my limitations, I can’t necessarily satisfy everybody’s appetites for this information but I’m really thrilled to see that there are a lot more people all around the country who are stepping up in their communities and offering workshops and sharing this information on their own. So, yes, I love to share this information, I always encourage my students to not be end-users of this information, to go head and share these foods and share the information on how they made them with people.

I’m going to just say a few phrases and you tell me what comes to mind with regard to fermentation’s role.
Okay, this is like a Rorschach!

Fermentation as a food safety strategy…
According to the USDA, there has never been a single case of food poisoning reported in the United States from fermented vegetables. And we all know that every year we hear of outbreaks with raw vegetables traced to some kind of ground contamination of vegetables. We’ve seen it with lettuce, we’ve seen it with spinach, we’ve seen it with tomatoes. All kinds of vegetables and produce. Fermentation is a safety strategy. Even if you take vegetables that have been exposed to some sort of incidental contamination, when you ferment them, when you allow the indigenous dominant population of lactic acid bacteria to develop, the fermentation overwhelms any incidental contaminants. Through fermentation, we create an environment to destroy them. So, fermentation really is a strategy for safety as much as it is anything else.

Fermentation’s role in pre-digestion…
Well, fermentation IS pre-digestion. As foods are fermenting, the microorganisms that are transforming the foods are transforming the foods precisely by digesting the compound nutrients into suitably more elemental forms. So all fermented foods have some degree of pre-digestion, especially if you look at fermented foods based upon the raw foods that are sometimes difficult for people to digest (or always difficult for people to digest, as in the case of soybeans). You can see that fermentation pre-digests food and typically makes the nutrients in them more bioavailable and makes them easier for people to digest.

Fermentation’s role in detoxification…
Well, fermentation has been used in many cases specifically in order to detoxify different kinds of foods. Sometimes some of the toxins are quite dramatic, as in cassava which is a tropical tuber which about a billion people on this earth are dependent upon for their daily calories. Cassava grown in certain soils has really high concentrations of cyanide. If people ate unprocessed roots it could literally kill them. But the way that cyanide is removed, or rather digested into benign forms, is simply by cutting the roots up into chunks and soaking in water and initiating a fermentation. Other toxins are not quite so dramatic: phytic acid -the outer layer of greens- in legumes and seeds can be digested by fermentation. Oxalic acid…there are lots of examples of various nuts and seeds from around the world that people regard as toxic unless they are fermented before they are eaten. In the Asian cultures that pioneered soy agriculture, none of them eats bowls of soybeans. They all process them primarily through fermentation, also through making tofu which is a very involved, many-step process. But soybeans are never eaten without some sort of pre-digestion.

In your book The Revolution Will Not be Microwaved, Jeff Poppen (The Barefoot Farmer) offers: “CSAs offer hope for rural America, not only in a practical financial way, but on a deeper level too”. And I’m wondering…in what ways are you hopeful for rural America?
Well, I mean really, the local food revival is great news for rural America because people living on small plots of land have the potential to produce things that are of real value to themselves and their neighbors and the people in near-by cities. I’m seeing, in my own community, that the revival of local food and local food systems is leading to some small scale specialization at a local scale and is really a positive force in giving people more options. Giving the people who grow food more options to support themselves; giving other people more options in terms of healthy food to eat.

Seems the most we can do is change our one little bit of the world.
You know, I agree. Sometimes things happen in the world that you feel like you need to respond to, but really for the most part we just have our small little realm of influence.

Sandor, thank you!
Thank YOU, Hannah.


More about Sandor Katz:

Author Sandor Ellix Katz

My name is Sandor Ellix Katz, and I am a fermentation revivalist. My interest in fermentation grew out of my overlapping interests in cooking, nutrition and gardening. It started with sauerkraut. I found an old crock buried in our barn, harvested cabbage from our garden, chopped it up, salted it, and waited. That first kraut tasted so alive and powerfully nutritious! Its sharp flavor sent my salivary glands into a frenzy and got me hooked on fermentation. I have made sauerkraut ever since, earning the nickname Sandorkraut, even as my repertoire has expanded. I have explored and experimented widely in the realm of fermentation, and my mission…is to share information and resources, in order to encourage home fermentation experimentalists and propel more live-culture foods out into our culture.

I am a native of New York City, a graduate of Brown University, and a retired policy wonk. In 1993, I moved from New York City to Cannon County, Tennessee, where I am part of a vibrant extended community of queer folks (and many other friends and allies). I have AIDS and consider fermented foods to be an important part of my healing.

Since 2003 when my book Wild Fermentation was published, I have taught hundreds of workshops demystifying fermentation and empowering people to reclaim this important transformational process in their kitchens.

Transcription service provided by Chip Mefford.

An Interview with Shannon Hayes – Radical!

August 9, 2012 in Author Series, Sustainability Schools, Uncategorized

Author Shannon Hayes writes and farms with her family on Sap Bush Hollow Farm in upstate New York. The family raises grassfed lamb, beef, pork, and poultry. She blogs for Yes! Magazine and is the author of Radical Homemakers, Grassfed Gourmet, Farmer and the Grill, and (upcoming) Long Way on a Little.

Earlier this year, Shannon delivered the PASAbilities plenary address at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s (PASA’s) Farming for the Future Conference. She wowed us with her thought-provoking message on the concept of radical homemaking. There was such an overwhelmingly positive response to her address, I thought it essential to follow up with Shannon who graciously agreed to be interviewed and offers this additional insight into her life’s work:

Shannon, my first introduction to your work was through friends Jonas and Judy Stoltzfus, farmers who pasture beef cattle in Pennsylvania (JuJo Acres). I remember how excited they were to offer your Grassfed Gourmet cookbook to their customers. With your cookbook as a reference, I learned a great deal about how to prepare grassfed meat in order to end up with something very tender and delicious. One of my favorite things about that book doesn’t actually have to do with the recipes. It’s the “View from the Farm” snippets that appear throughout. It’s unusual for a cookbook to include such treasures. What went into the thinking about including them?
I’m so pleased you thought to ask this question!  I think that now, with the local food movement in full force, such a perspective in a cookbook is not all that unusual.  But back then, it was actually controversial, because there was a clear interest in the publishing world to make sure that Americans didn’t have to draw any connections between the food on their plates and the big brown eyes of the gentle creature that provided it, or the farmer that led that animal to slaughter.  Glossy magazines could snap romantic images of veggie growers and artisan cheesemakers, but livestock folks were just too close for comfort for mainstream press.  Back then, mainstream culture preferred to think of burgers without the beef – or the chicken breasts without the bird.  But I felt that telling the stories of the farmers was essential for people to gain an understanding of what went into good food.  Flavor, nutrition, and healing our land all begins with the farm.  I didn’t feel I could get that message across without first telling the farmers’ stories, and the stories of their animals.

Do you have a favorite recipe or two from your cookbooks that you like to prepare?
My weekly menus all come from my cookbooks.  All the recipes I’ve written were done in the context of a moderately chaotic, home-centered, farm-centered lifestyle.  My family has had to make some dietary adjustments over the years to accommodate for grain/gluten free living, and I’ve had to get more savvy about being less wasteful with my food.  Thus, a lot of what I cook lately comes from “Long Way on a Little” (due out October 12 and available for pre-order) as it contains accommodations for these needs, but there are still fundamental techniques from “Grassfed Gourmet” and “Farmer and the Grill” that will never die.

In Grassfed Gourmet, you also talk about the social benefits of the grassfed meat movement. For our readers who not familiar with your cookbook, what are some of those benefits? Why should we care about these benefits?
There are so many benefits; it is hard to list them …without writing an entire book on the subject!  Grassfed meats, raised by local farmers, help to protect our landscapes and watershed, they increase the organic matter in our soils, keeping our regions more resilient in times of drought and flood.  The working conditions are better for farmers (and the livestock) because they are out in the open air (rather than in confined settings, as in factory farming).  In these hard economic times, the local grassfed meat movement becomes even more crucial.  We are creating a sustainable economy that is able to function locally outside the whims of the larger global economy.  We are able to be more responsive to people’s needs.  I know a lot of grass farmers who ask for a fair wage for their efforts, but also find ways to share their abundance with those in need – by donating meat to homeless shelters, quietly slipping extra food into the bags of customers who are facing hard times, raising animals and giving them away to good causes.  Local grass farms are fully invested in their communities, making them better environmentally and socially.

One last question on cooking: is there a “cardinal rule” for cooking grassfed meats? If so, what is it?
Don’t over-cook it.  The temperature guidelines I recommend for reliably-sourced grassfed meat are significantly different from the USDA recommended temperatures.  It makes all the difference to have meat cooked to the correct internal temperature!

In your last book, Radical Homemakers, you present a well-argued point that men traditionally played as much of a role in “homemaking” as women. Do you see many young families embracing this approach these days?
Absolutely.  In nearly all the households I visited, if a man was part of the family dynamic, he was doing as much to keep up the home as the woman was.  I don’t think it is even so much a matter of “embracing” it any longer.  I think many young families simply understand this as a given.  If there wasn’t a balance of labor in the household, the marriage wouldn’t still be going on!

Is there a story you’ve heard of homemakers since your book came out that is particularly inspiring or heartening?
That book came out 2 years ago, and I still receive more and more stories every week.  If there is a heartening tale to tell, it is in their growing numbers.  It thrills me to flip on my computer and receive messages from new people every week who are finding ways to make their lives more meaningful, joyful and ecologically sound.

Radical Homemakers also played a prominent role in your talks at the PASA Farming for the Future Conference this year. So many people, particularly male farmers, who weren’t sure what you had to deliver would resonate with them have commented on what an inspiring talk it was. What do you hope farming families take away from your message? What do you hope the non-farming community takes away?
We are facing times of incredible change.  Each of us has come to the earth at this point in time to play a part in this transition; to help the human race become a beneficent species on the planet.  That means we have to adapt to a redefined resource base, to climate change, to limited fossil fuels.  All these things are possible.  And I truly believe that life as human beings can be better than it ever was as a result.  But we will have to endure some pain and make full use of our minds, bodies and spirits to enable this adaptation.  Sometimes we can get swallowed by that pain, and our cynicism and fear can override our hope, paralyzing us from making the progress that is necessary.  We have to keep our attention on the good life that can result from going through this great turning.  That is what will give us the strength to move forward.  If there is something I hope people take away from my talks, whether they are farming or not, it is this.

Something you mentioned in a workshop you led at the Conference had to do with the radical act of hanging a clothesline. Can you talk more about that?
Ah!  For some it is more radical than others!  Out here in the country, you’re thought a fool if you toss your skivvies in the dryer.  But in many parts of this country, clotheslines are considered unsightly and hanging out laundry is against local codes.  Thoreau wrote, “Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?”  Obliging citizens to engage in the act of putting their clothes into an electric dryer requires that we harm the earth in order to adhere to the law.  In my estimation, transgression is imperative (as well as endeavoring to make change) – for the folks who face these laws directly, that’s pretty radical and scary.

David Korten, author of Agenda for a New Economy and The Great Turning, reviewed Radical Homemakers as “Brilliant, visionary, and practical. This is a mind-bending book that will forever change your view of human possibility and compel you to rethink your life…” At the end of the day, a day that probably involves any number of responsibilities on your farm that surely stretch you, yourself, in innumerable ways, what are your reflections on the impact you have had on other people’s lives?
Golly.  I guess I don’t think about the impact I’ve had on other people’s lives that much.  I tend to ask myself if I’ve lived each day in accordance with my heart and conscience.  I feel that part of my “life’s calling,” if you will, is to be a storyteller and a communicator, but in that sense, I am merely a conduit for allowing others to think through their own lives.  My raspberry patch, my lamb chops, my life with my parents, my husband and my kids are just a daily life that is uniquely mine.  No one needs to do what I do in the exact way that I do it.  I just hope that my willingness to reflect on it in my writing and my talks inspires people to think about their own daily world, and to make the changes they feel in their hearts are most important.

In 2010, you published an online article titled, “The Work Ahead.” My favorite line from that article is, “It is the physical work that puts us in tune with the rhythms of nature and sharpens our powers of observation to detect problems.” In many ways, for me, this observation speaks to exactly what is necessary to keep us from going awry as humans. Do you feel hopeful or fearful about the direction we are taking as a planet?
I have to feel hopeful.  Hope is a renewable resource, and if we don’t spend it, we will be frozen in place by despair.  And that will only guarantee failure as the human race adapts to these changing times.

 Reaching an online audience clearly has it benefits and limitations. What are your thoughts on the role your blog at plays in your ability to connect with the broader community with regard to moving forward and deepening understanding? What are the differences from connecting through other avenues?
I was extremely reluctant to become a blogger.  I didn’t feel I had something to say each week, and I felt that it was better to connect personally with folks.  But I cannot connect personally with folks on any kind of predictable basis and take care of the home/farm/family life I advocate for so strongly.  I’ve learned that if I make the time to blog, my readers fuel my writing, giving me ideas on subjects to tackle and ways that I can expand my thinking.  It also becomes a weekly connection for people, who then use the posts as a platform for engaging in dialog with people who may not have considered some of these ideas yet.  That’s pretty powerful.  At the same time, I am able to keep my attention focused on my roots here.  I guess the blog enables me to team up with readers, and gives us a tool to work together for bringing about greater change and touching more people.

That said, there is nothing that can compare with going out in public and meeting people, getting hugs, hearing their beautiful stories and seeing the light in their eyes as they go after the life they want.  It reminds me that I’m not alone in this work.  Better still, I tend to get a lot of good information from the folks I meet – suggestions on books to read, techniques to try with my kids, in my garden, or on the farm, ideas for doing this differently.  That’s all terrific stuff.  But if I do too much of that, then I am not keeping my own home fires alive.  Thus, the blog has been tremendously helpful to me in maintaining a healthy balance.

 In addition to writing and speaking publicly, farming with your family clearly plays a major role in your life. What does it mean to you to be part of a three-generation farm? What stage is being set for your daughters’ futures with sustaining this commitment?
If we didn’t have multiple generations on this farm, I wouldn’t be sitting here answering interview questions or writing books.  From the time I was very young, my parents recognized that I was a rather communicative artsy-creative type.  I married a communicative artsy-creative type.  Most folks like that don’t find their way to a farm.  But by being part of multiple generations, Bob and I were able to bring our creativity to the enterprise.  We are able to help with the chicken processing, sell the pork chops, and still do creative work like writing and publishing books, weaving baskets, and playing music.  At the same time, if Bob and I weren’t with the farm, my parents wouldn’t be selling meat at the local farmers’ market, they wouldn’t have their vacations, and they’d probably have collapsed from the exhaustion by now.

Three generations on the land gives everyone time to rest and play, and gives everyone an opportunity to take nourishment from the deeply pleasurable work that is involved.  It enables us to have our own creative and intellectual outlets without being swallowed up by a family business.

As for my girls, of course I cannot control their future choices.  But I see a wonderful future for them here.  My oldest is an artist to her core.  I see the farm as a way to support that lifestyle, and we’ve come to see how valuable it is to the land and business to have an artist involved.  She does our wool displays, works with her dad in setting up the retail space so that it is visually appealing, helps with signs, and readily takes any young children who come with customers out to play safely so that their parents can enjoy their visit.  My youngest (who is 5) is already a hard-core salesperson.  She moves so many of my candles, soaps, salves and books that I pay her a commission.  I think she’d sell the meat, too, but she is too short to reach the product display.  It thrills her to engage with people, talk to them about their needs and interests, and to help them find what they are looking for.  She’s also amazingly strong and can carry water buckets like nobody’s business.

That’s a long way of saying that they are already incredibly valuable to us.  So while I cannot control what they will choose to do in the future, I can make sure that they understand the importance of their contributions, and I can take advantage of the three generations we have on this land to take them away on fantastic adventures (we went to Europe for 7 weeks this past winter), so that they fully see and enjoy this world.  My theory on that is that if they see it and know it, and understand that the rest of the world is not denied to them, then the farm becomes the path toward greater enjoyment of their lives…not a prison.

What inspires you?
Ahhh…so much.  Where would I start?  My morning walk with my dog, picking berries, stacking firewood, a phone call from a friend, lunch on the back porch with my parents,  laying my head in my husband’s lap at the end of the day, watching my daughters teach themselves something new…I find inspiration in every little mundane thing. Except traffic.  I don’t find traffic congestion particularly inspiring.  So I try to avoid traffic congestion.

Perhaps mundane, perhaps profound, what is something that would surprise us about your day-to-day life?
If it would be a surprise, then it means I didn’t want you to know about it, right? (she smiles)

Point taken! So, what’s on the horizon for you?
I’m very excited to be bringing out “Long Way on a Little” this fall.  The book has taken me four years to write, and has been the most transformative cookbook in my career.   I’ve had to learn how to eliminate my own kitchen waste by challenging myself to figure out how to use my leftovers. I’ve had to figure out how to make prudent use of the bones and fat on the animals and how to do it all with the myriad dietary restrictions so many Americans are confronting (my family included).  I’ve fallen in love with this book!

How can people find your work and keep an eye out for what you are up to?
People can read my articles and buy books at and  They are also available through Chelsea Green Publishing and they can buy electronic copies of my works through any of the major online venues.

Thanks, Shannon, for giving us some insight into your life and your work.
Thank you so much for taking the time to explore these questions with me.


A few notes from Shannon’s website…

Shannon’s essays and articles have appeared in myriad regional and national publications, including The New York Times, The Boston Review, and Northeast Public Radio. Hayes’ quirky lifestyle, her attempts to live a life of personal accountability and sustainability, and her current research and writings about homemaking as an ecological movement have landed her and her family on the pages of the New York Times, Brain Child Magazine, Lancaster Farming, Small Farm Quarterly, Hobby Farm Home Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, National Public Radio, Grit, Yes! Magazine, Elle Magazine, the national newspapers of Germany, Turkey and Canada, Arab News and the Pakistan Observer.

Shannon’s newest book, Long Way on a Little: An Earth Lover’s Companion for Enjoying Meat, Pinching Pennies and Living Deliciously, is due out from Left to Write Press on October 12. Left to Write Press, a company that Shannon and her husband Bob started as a way to enable them to live in Schoharie County without having to sell-out to corporate media, is distributed by Chelsea Green.



Long Way on a Little: An Earth Lover’s Companion for Enjoying Meats, Pinching Pennies and Living Deliciously
Whole animal cooking for grassfed lamb, beef, pork and poultry….plus the leftovers.  Includes carbohydrate profiles, guides to grain-, legume-, and dairy-free recipes, color photography and  great information for stretching your food dollars.

Radical Homemakers
Shannon’s controversial best-seller that explores how social revolution and ecological reform begin at home.

The Farmer and the Grill
A guide to grilling, barbecuing and spit-roasting grassfed meat…and for saving the planet, one bite at a time. 

The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook
Finding, selecting, preparing and enjoying the most delicious and healthful meats for your body and the planet.


Homespun Mom Comes Unraveled
A little reality check about the glories of the good life…

The Smell of Mud Season
Featured on Northeast Public Radio

The West Fulton Turkey Supper
Featured on Northeast Public Radio

Featured on Northeast Public Radio

Featured on Northeast Public Radio

An Interview with Ben Hewitt: Author. Farmer. Instigator.

June 4, 2012 in Author Series, Community Resources, Uncategorized

Author Ben Hewitt

Author Ben Hewitt writes on everything from how local foods can revitalize working-class communities, to the relationship between humans and the bacteria they consume, to the power of questioning what we’re often told is not up for discussion. I recently had an opportunity to connect with Ben (Making Supper Safe, The Town That Food Saved and, upcoming, A Conscious Economy). My interview with him here touches on a number of thought-provoking subjects. I had heard him speak at the PASA Annual Meeting earlier this year and it was at this event the subject of Restorative Agriculture came up. I found this to be a very intriguing framework for thinking about agriculture and was so pleased when Ben agreed to speak to me on this and other topics relevant to creating sustainable communities.

The Town That Food Saved (Rodale Books)

Ben, when I’ve heard you speak about your first book, The Town That Food Saved, you often refer to your intrigue about a local foods movement that was stirring in the small town of Hardwick, Vermont. Prior to that town’s revitalization, you had been of the thinking that the “locavore” movement was for more affluent communities. As this is an assumption many of us have, can you talk more about this?

I like to say that the locavore movement suffers from “Al Gore-ism.” Which is to say, it is perceived by many as something for the Prius-driving, liberal elite. This is mostly because of cost, but also I think because of the language that is often attached to local foods, with words like “artisanal,” “terroir,” and sometimes, even “organic.” I don’t think this sort of language helps the cause at all. For instance, we make home-smoked bacon from our organic, artisanal, free-range, pastured pigs. I smoke it in a hole in the ground covered up with some rusty tin, and I call it “Ben and Penny’s White Trash Bacon.” And our working class neighbors love it and want more, more, more. If I called it “Ben and Penny’s Organic, Artisanal, Free Range Bacon,” would they like it as much? Maybe… but I sort of doubt it. 

That didn’t really answer your question, but it gets to one of the roots of the problem, which is the misperception that this food is expensive, because of course the true cost of the so-called food provided by the dominant food industry is far greater than the price tag attached to it. Still, the reality is that most folks are not inclined or simply don’t care to consider these externalized costs such as health care, environmental degradation, and subsidies. 

The tragic irony is, of course, that if there’s any posturing or presumption in the realm of food, it’s primarily in the dominant food industry and the cultural lie that we can truly nourish our population on so-called “cheap food,” while using tremendous quantities of heavily-subsidized non-renewable resources to do so. Never mind what we’re doing to the environment. 

One concept many people have been interested to hear about is your promotion of the agricultural framework: Restorative Agriculture. How does this differ from Sustainable Agriculture, if it does?

I was introduced to the concept of restorative agriculture by a friend, who talked about it in relation to forestry practices. I liked it immediately, because I think the term sustainable agriculture is flawed in a number of ways. First, the root of sustain is “maintain,” and frankly, I think we can do much, much better. Second, I think it fails to adequately address all the potential benefits that can come of small-scale, regionalized agriculture, which has the unique capacity to restore health, restore the environment, restore community vitality, and restore local economies. Among other things.

It’s a reality we subsidize industrial agriculture, do you have strategies for how can we start to decentralize our food systems?

I really believe it needs to happen at a grassroots level. That’s not to say there’s no role for State and even Federal government and agencies, only that we shouldn’t wait around for them to come to their senses. I also think that we need to insist that we be granted the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, none of which we can have in full if we can’t nourish ourselves with the food of our choosing. If it means breaking the law to codify this right, so be it. 

I know you agree, as a nation, we waste a lot of food as well. How can we change this?

Part of the problem is that we simply don’t revere food for what it is: the very nourishment that allows us to live. Think about that for a second; that’s pretty serious. I like to say that unless you’re paying for sex, it’s the most intimate form of commerce you’ll ever engage in. I mean, you’re putting it into your body. So, for starters, simply acknowledging how important it is and what a gift it is would go a long way. Second, we need to produce less food, not more. We produce so much food, and have such a glut of calories in this country, it’s no wonder we don’t value it. Here’s a sad piece of commentary on the current state of affairs in America, not solely relating to food: In 1970, we produced somewhere in the range of 3100 calories per person, per day, and about 2% of the population was on food stamps. Today, we produce nearly 3900 calories per person, per day, and about 15% of the population is on food stamps. 

In this culture, we receive many messages about measuring prosperity through GDP growth. Tell me how this form of measurement compares with the prosperity that can come with growing or locally sourcing your own food.

The problem is, if I answer this you’ll have no reason to buy my next book! It’s called A Conscious Economy: Reclaiming true wealth in an era of False Abundance. It’ll be out June 2013. But in short, the idea that we can and should somehow define our well being via money-related statistics is incredibly myopic and ultimately damaging to us individually and collectively. 

Making Supper Safe (Rodale Books)

OK, then. We’ll wait to read about it in your next book. Very exciting. Please keep us posted. In your most recent book, Making Supper Safe, you talk about food rights and food safety. Does a person have to live outside the system to be safe?

Not necessarily. But there’s no question that attempts to make the dominant food system more “safe” generally only lead to greater consolidation and stifling of regional food production. We need to understand that food safety is about more than the 3,000 or so Americans that die every year from acute food borne illness (salmonella, e coli, etc), and should include the more than 1,000,000 Americans that die every year from diet-related disease. 

Even people who care deeply about making change, can be paralyzed with confusion about where to start. In getting started, what questions can we ask ourselves in our journey toward eating more healthfully?

I’m loath to delve into specific nutritional advice, since that’s such a can of worms. However, almost no matter what your beliefs are, if you can simply manage to shun anything that comes in a box or a can, you’ll be 3/4 of the way there. Wait… that wasn’t a question. Here you go: Should I really be eating this crap that comes in boxes and cans? 

What actions can we take to create change in our own corner of the world? Or, what are a few ways we can vote for change with our dollars?

I tend to think about it in a way that’s at once a bit broader, and more simple: By my course of action – whether it’s choosing to buy one thing or another or nothing at all, or choosing to help someone or not, or choosing to spend my days in pursuit of financial recompense or in pursuit of my passions – what am I saying “yes” to? It’s a really simple litmus test, and in truth, sometimes I make the choice to say “yes” to something I’d rather not, like when I drive my car, or fly. But when I’m on the fence about something, it really helps clear my head and make a sound decision. 

How can we best build strong communities around us?

I think I might have mentioned my next book…

In all seriousness, building strong communities is something many of us are reflecting on these days. There is a great deal of discussion about this just about anywhere I go. There are also some really great minds focusing attention on creating new paradigms for understanding the importance of our connections with each other. If you haven’t read Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics, I can’t recommend it enough.

Ben's sons living the high life...

Speaking of community, you live on a 40 acre farm with your wife and sons. Do you have extended family around you? Are they involved in your farm?

My parents live about 15 miles away. They’re not really involved, although they often come over and hang out with the boys while Penny and I “git r dun” as we say here in Vermont. I do work trades with friends and we do a lot of informal exchange/gifting/bartering with farming neighbors that keeps us all involved in each others’ operations. 

Can you talk a little more about the role of bartering and trading in your life? What are the benefits of such practices, versus simply paying for services and goods?

Again, you are touching on some key areas I’ll be addressing in my book. This is intimately connected with your question about building strong communities. We need to recognize that monetizing and commodifying so many aspects of our lives is making it increasingly difficult to experience the sort of interdependence that builds strong communities. We need to need each other, and we need to allow ourselves to feel obligated to others and gracious enough to allow them to feel obligated to us. 

We do a ton of barter and simple gift exchange; indeed, most of the products that come off our farm are traded for other goods and services. But I must acknowledge that I have the luxury of having other income that allows us to do this. It’s a bit more difficult when the farm is the sole source of income. More difficult, but no less important. 

What brings you the most joy when it comes to raising your sons on a farm?

We’ve chosen to raise our boys in a way that’s increasingly uncommon in 21st century America. We homeschool, we don’t have a TV or other digital media, and they have enormous freedom to explore the surrounding fields and forests. The other day, they took off first thing in the morning, walked 1/2 mile through the woods with their fishing poles, and came home two hours later with a bucket full of brook trout and a bunch of morel mushrooms they’d found. I am so, so happy they have these opportunities. 

Of course, the ungrateful little buggers don’t even realize how lucky they are. But then, I’m not sure that’s a child’s obligation. I’m just happy to see them so engaged with nature and living in the moment. 

If there were one message you hope people take away from all your writings and talks, what would that be?

Question the status quo. Whether it’s food, or wealth, or whatever, don’t assume the way it is is the way that’s best for us. 

Thank you so much Ben for taking the time to connect and for enticing us with the subject of your next book. We look forward to hearing more about that as well!

For more information on Ben and his writings, visit

Purchase Making Supper Safe

Purchase The Town That Food Saved

Don’t forget: up later this summer, Shannon Hayes and Charles Eisenstein!