AgriCulture: Time Sensitive


Counter Intuitive Magic Photo by Victoria Cox
Time Sensitive Hi friends, It’s Victoria Despite what last week’s reports may have lead you to believe, we’re having a typical season here at Turkana, gradually thawing and enjoying the slow, subtle hints of an imminent Spring. We’ve got crocuses popping out along the drive, trays of seedlings in the basement, and peas, beans, and radish seeds in the garden waiting to sprout. I’ve heard from my friends and family in the south that their gardens are already green and growing, and the yard behind my dad’s house in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is carpeted in violets–the classic seasonal signal that my birthday has arrived. Every year when I was little, we’d bake a cake and cover it with variegated violet flowers (they’re mild in flavor and full of vitamin C; this isn’t an ad yet but may become one in the future). In our agricultural zone, however, we’re still quite a ways off from edible flower season, and I’m writing this as a less-than-charming sleet storm rattles our windows. So I’ve turned to a more unusual and elusive crop to promulgate as April begins: wild yeasts.I’ve long thought of fermented foods as largely the realm of grey-haired, tye-dye wearing, slightly unhinged hippies of my parent’s generation, like the lady on the bottle of Bragg’s Amino Acids, or the scribe who writes copy for the bottles of Dr. Bronner’s soap. This is due, not in small part, to a few adolescent years living in a small religious community that sprang out of the 1970s Jesus Movement. They first introduced me to kombucha in the dark, suffocating galley of a tall ship they docked off the coast of south Georgia, where a teenage friend in a long apron opened a cupboard door and revealed eight gallon jars of liquid gently sloshing with the current, each holding a viscous, alien-looking film. She took the lid off the closest jar, plunged her hand in and removed one of these eldritch creatures, which filled the small room with a pungent aroma. As she peeled it apart into two segments, she held one in her outstretched hand and asked “Do you want to hold the Mother?”I have yet to fully reckon with the Lovecraftian horror of that day, and in fact have no recollection of leaving the kitchen or exiting the ship, but I must have walked and kept walking, putting as much distance as I could between those jars and all other relics of my off-the-grid childhood.But then I went to Oberlin. To my consternation, the housing and dining co-ops at my shimmering new college were littered with all the sights and smells of my long-haired granola-eating past. You can take the child out of the Utopian commune, etc. On every table were the ubiquitous bottles of sriracha, the yogurt containers re-purposed as bowls for brown rice, even the Bragg’s lady! And here I encountered again the spectre of my youth, the mysterious, seething vats of unidentifiable ferments. Due to some kind of delightful cognitive dissonance practiced in the intervening years–or perhaps some unforeseen nostalgia?– when my college roommate asked if I wanted to take a fermentation class with her, I said yes.It turns out that all it took to get me on board was to learn these secrets from a babe with a nose ring, or maybe it was the revelation that the last class would be on beer-making, but from then on I’ve kept a few jars of fermented pickles and kraut in whatever tiny apartment I’ve been living in. Now that I have access to nigh-infinite kitchen space and a world-class collection of antique crocks and jars, I’ve fully given myself over to the fermentation impulse. A few weeks after I got here I was gifted a “Mother” of my own from my friend Hannah, who calls them by their more standard name of “SCOBY”, which stands for ‘Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast”. This living colony processes black tea and sugar into funky, effervescent kombucha. The colony grows quickly and will soon double in size, and can be split it in half to make two Scobys, each capable of brewing and reproducing (Also not an ad–but let me know if you want one!).When our dear neighbor Adam brought by a surplus of root vegetables from his friend, Elijah’s CSA share, I was smitten with the urge to transform them via lacto-fermentation. Native yeasts are ubiquitous, present on the veggie’s skin and in the ambient air, and I wanted to capture these rather than use an introduced culture like the Scoby. I chopped a melange of cabbage, turnips, radish and greens and brined them with ginger, garlic, and peppers, then left them at room temperature to transform into kimchi. As an experiment, I reserved some as an unfermented chopped salad. It was fine but unremarkable, and after a few days had turned slightly off in flavor, less crisp and pungent. But the jars that I left at room temperature underwent their fermentation magic, became kimchi, and have only gotten better with time.There are plenty of writers and food activists who can extol the digestive, health, and flavor benefits of fermented foods far better than I can (Sandor Katz, in particular, is a luminous, eccentric prophet of this field: Wild Fermentation.) The thing that keeps catching me about this specific process is the way these particular flavors are tied in to sense memories, positioned in the liminal space between freshness and decay, right on the edge of gustatorial discomfort. Making kombucha sometimes feels less challenging to me than liking kombucha, and every time I succeed at both creates a new memory that cleaves from the previous one. I’m not going to try to force this process into a metaphor about adulthood, but it is deeply satisfying to enjoy the things that used to unsettle, to probe the boundaries of taste and pleasure, and to preserve what would otherwise be wasted.
THIS WEEK’S OFFERINGSFROM 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, frozen $7/lb (half the price of the Union Sq. Farmers Market). These are excellent 3 lb. or so birds.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 leg roasts $14/lb,PORK: 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 
ground pork $7/lb 
Kielbasa $8/lbBEEF 
the last of our diminishing stash 
Sirloin steaks, $14/lb. 
kidney, heart etc. $1/lbDUCKS: Last year 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.
HEAR OUR SHOWIf you’d enjoy hearing these bulletins out loud instead of reading them, we broadcast them on Robin Hood Radio, the nation’s smallest NPR station. You can find it on FM 91.9, AM 1020, WBSL-FM 91.7 “The Voice of Berkshire School” or streaming on the web at, where podcasts of past broadcasts are also available under the title AgriCulture in the “On Demand” section. FM 91.7 “The Voice of Berkshire School”can be heard from just south of Pittsfield to the CT border. You can hear the station on WHDD FM 91.9 from Ashley Falls, MA down through the Cornwalls and in NY from just south of Hillsdale down to Dover Plains. You can hear the station on AM1020 from Stockbridge, MA to Kent and from Poughkeepsie to Pawling to Kent, Goshen, Torrington, Norfolk, and Ashley. Recently added for those in the Route 22 corridor from Ancram down to Pawling is FM frequency 97.5 And of course you can listen in our own neighborhood of Southwestern Columbia and Northwestern Dutchess County, where it is being broadcast from Annandale on Hudson, 88.1 FM.
FOLLOW USThe bulletins may also now be found in written form on line as well, at the Germantown, NY, portal of us on instagram @turkanafarms or on facebook @TurkanafarmsNY


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