AgriCulture: Fungal Affection

Fungal Affection

Hi all, it’s Troy.

The robins are gathering, the ephemeral blooms are popping, and the geese are heading northward. Spring has finally reached our farm. For over a month, Victoria and I have been jealously watching our friends in North Carolina post pictures of sunshine and seedlings flourishing in their gardens. At last, it is our turn to dig up some dirt, bury some seeds, and say a few prayers that nothing gets eaten – after all, the furry critters that live among us have also been eagerly anticipating the warmer clime.Beside all the great practical reasons to crawl, with squinting eyes, out of our dens each year, there is also a great relief in simply realizing that the rest of the world is still there too. As our eyes adjust to the light, we can see everyone else emerging from their winter hidey-holes as well. For Victoria and me, it has been a prime time for us to connect with some of our new Hudson Valley neighbors. Just the other night, our new friend and neighbor Marissa, who works at nearby Hearty Roots Farm, invited us to dinner with some other young farmers in the area. We had pizza and drinks with a freshly harvested garden salad and a garnish of local farmer gossip. Did you know that Neversink Farm didn’t design their patented Winstrip seedling trays, but rather bought the rights from a foreign company? Scandalous! And from what I hear, the operators of Chaseholm Farm are the coolest cats in the Valley, but they’re also real dark horses — it’s not easy to get into their inner circle. It’s a pretty small world for young farmers up here.I suppose then I shouldn’t be so surprised when strangers are aware of my sudden appearance on the scene. Several times, I’ve been introduced to people who were eager to meet me, the new farmer at 
Turkana. I’m not used to this kind of celebrity status. Certainly, some of this fame comes from the vast readership of this newsletter (fun fact: In college, I never let anyone look at my papers except for the 
professors who graded them – so consider yourselves in the lucky few). However, I’m starting to notice some recognition from other farmers around as well. I stopped in at Sparrowbush Farm to say hi to one of the farmers from pizza night. I had only met him two nights earlier, but he had already spread the word about “the new Turkana guy” to his coworkers, who were ready with questions for me about what we were up to these days.This integration into a new social network reminds me, as many things do, of fungus. It may sound negative to you, because fungus has the unfortunate reputation of being associated with death and 
decay. But while it’s true that many fungi are great at breaking down dead material into tilth, they also have critical life-giving properties as well. As it turns out, the various mushrooms that we are familiar 
with – from the cute toadstools peeping out of the litter layer to the massive plates growing out of tree trunks – are all just the fruiting bodies of the fungus. Under the surface, there is an extensive mat of 
fungal tendrils called mycelia that compose the rest of the organism. These mycelia are excellent at absorbing moisture and making nutrients available for plants. Some fungi, called mycorrhizae, have 
evolved a very intimate relationship with plant roots. The mycorrhizae maximize the plant’s water and micronutrient absorption, while the plant gives the fungus sugar that it produces in its leaves. One mat of mycorrhizae might connect hundreds or thousands of plants together into a single network. Through the mat, plants can even send chemical signals to each other. Who knows what kind of gossip our garden plants are passing around!Considering it like I would a fungus, I can see that there was already an extensive mycelial network of farmers and food lovers in place when I got here. Turkana has been a part of that symbiosis all along; 
whereas, I have just been transplanted into it. But I can already sense the nutrients flowing and the signals traveling as I begin to be absorbed into the network as well.This weekend my extended family (save for a couple members who couldn’t make it) is getting together for a Passover seder for the first time in over a decade. The seder is a centuries-old ceremony involving symbolism, storytelling and amazing food. I’m not going to pretend that we’re super traditional about it, but in a way, the practice of it is also about connection to a much larger network – one that extends across space and time. Kinda like this fungus.
THIS WEEK’S OFFERINGSHORSERADISH ROOT: $5/LBFROM LAST FALL’S GARDEN HARVEST:FROZEN SQUASH (SHREDDED, TROMBONCINO), GREAT FOR FRITTERS, $2/LB.EGGS: Production is now in overdrive. We can handle all your orders. $5/dozMEATS: We keep some on hand, but it helps to order ahead in case we need to retrieve from our stash in the big commercial freezerGEESE: One remaining, about 8.5 lbs. $10/lb.TURKEYS: A few small ones left over and frozen $11/lb .GUINEA FOWL, We are sold out!ROASTING CHICKENS – Freedom Rangers, $6/lb, range of sizes, mostly in the 4 to 5 lb. rangeLAMB: Ground lamb $7/lb, shoulder roasts at $10/lb, riblets $8/lb, small and larger leg roasts $14/lb, lamb stew $7/lbPORK: Loin pork chops, $12/lb (2 to a pack, btwn 1 and 1.5 lbs), Jowl (roughly 2 to 3 lbs each), $12/lb, 
Spare ribs and country ribs $7/lb 
baby back ribs $8/lb 
fresh ham roasts (2 to 3 lbs), $12/lb 
picnic or Boston butt roasts (roughly 2 lbs) $12/lb 
smoked bacon, $12/lb 
Kielbasa $8/lbDUCKS: Two years ago we did Pekin ducks. The males are not so different in size from the females, and these are nice meaty birds, most between 5 and 7 lbs. Also $7/lb. We have to retrieve these from the big freezer, so please order a week ahead.
FARM PICKUPS:Email us your order at, and let us know when you’d like to pick up your order. It will be put out for you on the side screened porch of the farmhouse (110 Lasher Ave., Germantown) in a bag. You can leave cash or a check in the now famous pineapple on the porch table. Regular pickup times are Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., other days by arrangement. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call at 518-537-3815 or email.


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