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Photo: Amy Halloran

Yes We Can

The nationwide resurgence in home canning has local folks stocking their pantries with the season’s bounty

By Amy Halloran

The month of September is ripe with food festivals. Maybe you celebrated the harvest with Honest Weight in Washington Park, or at Franklin Plaza with chefs at a fundraiser for Community Gardens.

Or maybe you’ve been celebrating the harvest all summer long, sliding jars in and out of hot water baths with rubber coated tongs, and finding extra nooks and crannies to stow away canned goods for the long winter ahead.

Take Tim and Brooke Hughes-Muse, for example. The Pawlet, Vt., couple began canning eight years ago, out of an environmental interest in keeping what they’d grown in the garden through the winter. They learned techniques from Brooke’s grandmother, and now put up a laundry list of foods, including vegetable soups, tomatoes and tomato sauce, green beans, dilly beans, bread-and-butter pickles, gherkins, dill spears, pickled beets, jams and spreads.

“You end up canning a whole lot more than you expected, and trade off extras for other people’s special extras,” Tim says, referring to a salsa swap—tomatillo for peach. Tim’s work at Denison Farms in Schaghticoke provides opportunities to quickly handle ripe foods and prepare them for storage.

Not everyone has access to food floods, and still, the popularity of canning food is undeniably on the rise. The Jarden Company, which owns the Ball brand of canning equipment, continues to post increasing sales through the recession. The company’s two years of double-digit growth has slowed to a modest 5 percent increase in sales of Ball jars this season. Jarden is riding the momentum of this growth by further exploring consumer interest.

Jarden’s newly launched Discovery Kit introduces canning on a very small scale with tools and instructions to guide people through making a small batch of jams, pickles or salsa. Another initiative of the company was partnering with House Party, Inc., to locate and support people interested in canning. These people hosted parties over a weekend in June where groups of 20 to 30 people got together to learn the process in private homes and church kitchens. 30,000 people participated nationwide.

Canning Across America is a similar weekend of nationwide canning begun in 2009 by cooks, gardeners and foodies. Jarden cooperated with these grassroots organizers to sponsor the effort in both years of its existence.

The company has long partnered with cooperative extension groups across the country in their efforts to teach safe methods of food preservation. The Albany County Cornell Cooperative Extension offers copies of The Blue Book, the authoritative title for home canners, to people who take canning classes.

Cornell’s resource educator, Sandra Varno, has been offering classes in canning at the Voorheesville office and other Cornell extensions. Once she taught a freezer jam class at a library.

Varno has been surveying her students over the last few years to explore this surging interest in canning. In 2008, following widespread contamination of vegetables, people were a bit more concerned about food safety than they were in 2009, when more than half of 128 respondents said they came to the canning class because they thought it would be a fun night out.

“The idea that most people have is that canning is a chore, which it can be, especially if it’s hot and you’re all by yourself,” says Varno. “But in these classes, people are really excited about the whole concept. Some people have too much food from the garden. Some are people who are older, maybe doing it ways that are no longer recommended. Before a few years ago you would never see a man in a canning class, and now every single class I’ve taught since last year has at least one man.”

In June, Jarden conducted a survey of 2015 people, half men and half women, randomly drawn from the population, and learned that 48 percent of those surveyed were canning, or were interested in canning.

These numbers suggest a different America from the one that runs on ready-made meals from freezers and drive-thrus. What’s driving this time- and labor-intensive exploration of our nearly vestigial kitchens?

“I think people are interested in canning because they want homemade flavors and doing it themselves makes it taste better,” says Amy Cotler, chef and author of The Locavore Way, a how-to-go-locavore paperback with a chapter on canning. “I’m kind of an old hippie, so I got into canning many years ago, and that whole back-to-the-earth thing was very big for my generation. I think a lot of people are returning to those values of wanting to be closer to nature, closer to healthy foods and really connecting in a whole different way.”

Cotler recently taught a class in making herbs last throughout the winter as part of Preserving the Bounty, Berkshire Grown’s second annual schedule of September classes. The local farming advocacy group organizes a series of classes in canning, dehydrating, lacto-fermentation and other food preservation methods. The classes have been, and are being taught at locations in the Berkshires—in restaurants, at markets, and on farms—by people who are passionate about local food.

Cotler’s book is published by Storey Publishing, which is in North Adams in the MASS Moca complex. The publisher has roots in Troy, at Garden Way. The now-defunct rototiller company began publishing guides to go with its products, and eventually, the books migrated to a separate company.

“Since the beginning of Storey we have published books on dehydrating foods, preserving foods, but we noticed a few years ago that a book that we had published, The Beginner’s Guide to Preserving Food at Home, was selling more strongly than when it was first published. We did a revise and an update and it blew right out of book stores and food stores, and anywhere that we had it,” says Storey publicity director Amy Greenman.

Around the same time, Storey received a proposal from a local food advocate Sherri Brooks Vinton for a book on preserving with interesting recipes using preserved foods such as brandied cherries and wasabi onions. The resulting Put ’em Up!, released in June of this year, has sold out of three printings (40,000 copies) and doesn’t show signs of stopping.

“Any kind of book that has some preserving technique really seems to be selling strongly now,” continues Greenman, musing on how this phenomenon differs from a similar back-to-the-land moment in the 1960s and 1970s. “I think we’re a little more sophisticated about it, people want to use their powerful gas stoves to do their canning. They don’t want to do it over the wood stove. I think people have more expectation of what it should taste like.”

Whenever Vinton does a talk or demonstration related to her book, Greenman says, the first question is, “Am I going to kill someone?” Botulism poisoning, which can result from improper canning techniques, is a real threat, and canning books and classes generally align themselves with USDA recommended methods to steer clear of difficulties. Additionally, novices often turn to friends and family who have experience canning so they can observe and participate in the process before attempting to can on their own.

Erin Shaw has guided many friends through the canning process, and taught a class in food preservation at Honest Weight Food Coop earlier this month. One friend who learned canning from her then made strawberry-rhubarb preserves for the company she works for, Carlucci Catering in Chatham. Shaw works for the caterer herself now, and has preserved locally grown tomatoes and marinated bell peppers for them.

“Even with an enviable garden to eat from all summer, without food preservation the Albany locavore would have a pretty sad, repetitive diet come February,” Shaw says when asked what’s fueling the urge to preserve.

Food quality and food safety motivate people, too.

Jeannine Rose, a pharmacist from Schaghticoke, wants to control how her food is produced. When her kids were little, she wasn’t interested in canning. Now that they are old enough to stay out of the way of boiling water and other potentially dangerous aspects of the canning process, she’s taken the dive. Working with her mother in law, she canned 24 quarts of tomatoes, more than she knows how to use. She’s looking forward to learning more, and expanding her canning repertoire next year.

Her interest does not come without a little fear. At a hospital where she previously worked, she witnessed two cases of botulism, one in an infant who was fed honey, and another, a woman went into a coma from home-canned goods. In both instances, the people survived, but she plans to investigate the science behind canning so she better understands the process.

“Usually I’m reassuring people that if you follow everything right, you can feel confident, you can feel safe, but then there’s also those people you have to really scare,” says Varno from Cornell Cooperative Extension. “I hate to have to do that. People who think they can use their common sense to adjust the cooking times or pressure—it’s just not something you can fool around with.”

There’s one more chance this month to learn boiling-water-bath canning from Cornell Cooperative Extension. Varno scheduled an extra class because she had to wait-list so many people. On Monday (Sept. 27), people can learn the basics of this method, and go home with a jar of dilly beans and a copy of The Blue Book. Call 765-3500 to pre-register.

 

 

Tim Lane

Photo: B.A. Nilsson

Packaging the Dream

A survey of local food companies and how they brought their recipes to market

By B.A. Nilsson

“I have three children,” says Delmar resident Car-oline Barrett. “After my youngest was born, I decided I wanted to be able to stay home and spend more time with them.” This was six years ago. She left a career as a graphic designer to begin a home-based business inspired by her love of food.

“I looked at what I like to make, and what makes people happy. My spicy maple almonds have always been popular with my friends, so I put some packages of them together and took them to the small farmers market that used to be at Indian Ladder Farms. They sold well, so next I went to Delmar Marketplace—I walked in there with my three kids and sold them my product.”

She and her husband Paul now operate Our Daily Eats as a full-time job, offering a line of nine different nut preparations along with pumpkin seeds and granola. The items are sold in stores from Florida to Maine, but it remains a two-person operation.

Maria Gandara tells a similar story. “I was having my second child and didn’t want to be in the work field any more. I wanted to try to make money doing something for myself, so I asked a friend for advice. She said, ‘You make the best pesto. Why don’t you package and sell it?’ My husband said, ‘Give it a try,’ so I made a batch, my husband made some labels, I took a dozen containers of it to various markets and it sold out. And when I called to follow up, they all said, ‘We love it—when can we get more?’”

Thus was Buddhapesto born, based near Woodstock. Seven years later, “It’s become a full-time job for me and my husband. It became full-time after the first year.”

Even a well-established chef faces similar hurdles. A. J. Jayapal has helmed the kitchen at Albany Pump Station, Jack’s Oyster House and, currently, Panza’s at the Normanside Country Club. “I’ve always made marinades,” he says. “I’ve done it at home for years, and I made it in the restaurants. But I didn’t think anyone would buy a bottled version. And I’m terrible at measuring—when I’m cooking, I just grab a handful of this and that.”

He went on to put a year’s worth of research into standardizing his recipe and ingredients, learning how to make a marketable marinade without using preservatives. Now his product line, Miss Sydney’s Secret Family Recipes, also offers a hot sauce and an authentic Indian chutney. “When I decided to try to market my marinade, it became a whole different ballgame,” he says. “Because this was going to go on market shelves, I had to go to Cornell to find out how to make it stable. And I learned, for instance, that all the spices had to have the same pH. This was all very humbling for me.”

For Tim Lane, it was a career shift born of the moment—in this case, the moment that Rock Hill Bakehouse pulled out of a farmers market in Albany. “I was there selling lettuce,” says Lane, “and saw a demand for bread. So I started baking.” He found the kitchen and ovens he needed by working off-hours in Glen Country Store, in Montgomery County. Four years later, the store’s owner decided to give up the business, and Lane took over as proprietor; now he has owned the place for nearly two years. He produces close to 300 loaves per week, the bulk of them sold at farmers markets in Delmar, Palatine, Gloversville and Amsterdam.

“And I have to sell it,” he says. “Once it’s a couple days old, I don’t dare offer it. There are no preservatives, and I don’t want my customers to buy anything that isn’t absolutely fresh. Do you need any two-days-old bread?”

Surplus product was a problem for Derek Grout at Golden Harvest Farms in Valatie. He is one of three brothers running a third-generation apple orchard, and was faced with a drastic loss of juice sales to big companies like Dole and Veryfine, who now buy frozen imported concentrate.

“I was inspired by Tuthilltown Spirits,” he says, referring to a farm distillery near New Paltz, known for its bourbon and vodka. “After seeing them, we decided in 2006 to look at the concept of a similar distillery, and we spent a lot of time researching and experimenting. In May 2008, we released our first batch of apple vodka, and sales have been growing steadily ever since.”

The distillery is called Harvest Spirits, and at the heart of their operation is a 100-gallon electric still located in a former cold storage room at the orchard. As for regulations, they had to have much of their licensing in place before even buying the hardware. “There are federal and state regulations we have to follow,” says Grout, “but New York has passed some progressive legislation recently that makes it easier for us to sell directly to consumers.”

Direct sales are important to all of these producers, because placing small-batch products with large distributors can cut deeply into profit.

“I like to know our customers,” says Barrett. “I enjoy talking to them at the farmers markets.” What started as a kind of side venture turned all the more serious when her husband was laid off from a job at IBM. “We decided that things like that happen for a reason, so we dove into it with both feet.” They have now built a small commercial kitchen for their nut-making business, and it’s paying off. Plus it gives them more time together as a family.

Jayapal also has his family involved, making the marinade and sauces in the Delmar space he uses for production. “The chutney is my mother’s recipe,” he explains, “and we named the hot sauce Earthquake Eddie’s after my wife’s grandfather, who was a spitfire in the family.”

“I’m a mother first and a businesswoman second,” says Buddhapesto’s Gandara, “and I’m still in awe that it supports us. People tell us that our pesto is a staple in their kitchens. I love feeding people and making them happy.”

As for the health regulations, she says, “We have a separate kitchen for the pesto that’s Ag and Markets-approved. I told them what I wanted to do and they told me what I needed to have. We redid the kitchen so it’s all stainless steel, got our machines and cooler approved, and put in a three-bay sink. We triple-wash the basil and parsley, so we had to get the water approved, too.”

Tim Lane was fortunate to be working in a kitchen that already had the needed approval, and now that he’s also the storekeeper, he’s often on hand to get to know the local customers and what they’d like him to prepare. His offerings range from traditional Italian and wheat loaves to multigrain, focaccia and cranberry-walnut bread. But the regulations for store-based baking differ from what the farmers markets require. “Everything at the market has to be made from scratch,” says Lane. “If you make a pie, you have to make that crust from scratch. Now, I don’t have to grow my own wheat for the bread, but I pretty much have to do everything else.”

All of these products tend to cost more than their mass-produced equivalents, but they’ve found steady customers. “It’s the cachet of a local product,” says Grout, “something you can’t find anywhere else.”

“It’s the same as asking, ‘Do I buy this free-range chicken or not?’” says Jayapal. “The payoff is in the product.”

 

 

Photo: Joe Putrock

Cupcake Wars?

The Capital Region might just be big enough for—count ’em—four mobile cupcakeries

By Josh Potter

Around one o’clock in the afternoon, Rachel Cocca- Dott updates her Facebook status to read: “What a day on the truck so far . . . heading downtown to Albany. Trying to squeeze in one more office too!!”

The comments thread quickly becomes a list of addresses and business names, as followers of Coccadotts Cake Shop attempt to woo the mobile cupcake truck their way. Exclamation points abound. Further down, Cocca-Dott finally posts her decision: 2:15 between the Capitol and the Empire State Plaza.

When the pink box truck pulls up to its destination, there’s already a line of state workers jonesing for a sugar fix. Cocca-Dott and a worker hustle to package their brightly colored confections in plastic boxes. Most customers are on a first-name basis with the cupcake maven; some will post their thanks upon returning to the office.

“I remember telling [my family] I was opening a cupcake shop,” Cocca-Dott says. “Honestly, everybody laughed at me.”

This was four years ago, when the cupcake hype was just beginning to blossom in larger metropolitan areas after Sex and the City immortalized Manhattan’s Magnolia Bakery, and Sprinkles was growing into a veritable Starbucks of bite-size desserts in Los Angeles. Martha Stewart hadn’t yet published her cupcake-specific cookbook, the competitive reality show Cupcake Wars was but a glimmer in the Food Network’s eye, and cupcake connoisseurs were just beginning to share knowledge on blogs like Cupcakes Take the Cake and All Things Cupcake.

“But Donald Trump is actually my idol,” Cocca-Dott says, “and he has this quote: ‘If you want to be successful, watch what successful people do.’ I listened to that.”

The Capitol Region was open range for the cupcake craze and, in the past year, Cocca-Dott has grown her successful Central Avenue bakery into a mobile catering service that moves upwards of 10,000 cupcakes per weekend. “It’s really taken off and I’m glad I’ve inspired so many.”

They’re impossible to miss: the region’s four mobile cupcakeries, each with a brightly painted delivery vehicle, aggressive web presence, and thousands of devoted followers. Despite the competition, each has enjoyed a lucrative inaugural year on what some are calling the “cupcake bubble,” but credit for the local craze varies depending on whom you ask.

“Bettie’s is the original,” says Nina Crisafulli from the window of Sweet Temptations. Her repurposed maintenance truck is parked at the corner of State and Pearl at the start of her morning rounds. She’s referring to Bettie’s Cakes of Saratoga Springs, a business that began mobile operations late last year from a double-decker British transit bus. Crisafulli doesn’t seem concerned about being the first or largest cupcake stand on the block, though. “There’s demand for it,” she says. “I guess we just opened at the right time. I was kind of shocked myself that this has gotten so out of control.”

Tina Haas, a former employee of Coccadotts, admits it’s “hard to keep up with the demand. There’s so much business out there.” She and her husband bought an old tool truck on Craigslist, started baking their wares at the Chocolate Gecko, and hit the road eight weeks ago as Fluffalicious. With no stationary location or official website, the business has been built almost exclusively on Facebook with “A truck, a dream, and lots and lots of cupcakes.”

Just as each proprietor got into the cupcake game through different avenues, each has a different angle on the trend. Crisafulli comes from a family of bakers and tends to view her truck as a way to attract business to her shop on Albany Shaker Road in Loudonville. The truck stocks ice cream and cookies in addition to cupcakes, and her store touts a full candy counter. Sweet Temptations has been on the road only since July, focusing on contracts with businesses, schools, and private parties, but already her Facebook page has picked up 1,100 fans, and plans are in the works for a second truck.

Despite the fact cupcake trucks are something of a growth industry, Crisafulli admits, “It’s gotten pretty harsh between some of the trucks.” She checks others’ Facebook and Twitter feeds in order to avoid their routes. “I don’t want to run into somebody else. That’s bad business.” She laughs at the idea of parking across the street from another truck. “What are you trying to prove?”

Cocca-Dott, who launched her truck 10 months ago as a way to get outside of Albany County and around the July deadline on the trans-fat ban she was having trouble altering her recipe to accommodate, says of rival trucks, “If I bump into one of them it’s ‘Hi, how are ya?,’ but I’m so caught up with the Coccadotts craze that I don’t really focus on anybody else or where they’re going. When I first heard of all these cupcakeries opening, I would look and see that they’re doing this and going here, and yeah I make those and they make them too. Honestly, I’m glad that I’ve inspired so many people, but I really had to pick my battles.”

“It’s kind of cool,” says Lorraine Murphy, proprietor of Bettie’s Cake’s. “We’ve kind of inspired a bunch of other companies.” While Coccadotts was the first local bakery to specialize in cupcakes, Bettie’s was the first to put the idea on wheels. As an artist and pinup photographer, Murphy has built her entire brand image around ’50s-era kitsch, and at the heart of it all is “Dee Dee,” her 1963 double- decker bus, formerly used for public transit in London. “I wanted a fun business,” she says, “and what’s more fun than a double-decker bus selling cupcakes?” Dee Dee has been on the road since last September, and remains Bettie’s flagship, although Murphy and her husband have opened a cupcakery café in Saratoga Springs and added a smaller truck, “Cee Cee” to their fleet for special events.

Like the others, Murphy relies on social networking for the bulk of her advertising, but rather than hauling around town from stop to stop, she generally parks Dee Dee in a single location allowing customers to use the bus’ second level as a restaurant space.

Because of her timing, branding, and creative take on the cupcake craze, Murphy has been approached by two separate food-themed reality TV shows. She had to turn down an offer from Cupcake Wars, a show that pits bakeries against one another because of a pending entry for America’s Favorite Food Truck.

For Murphy, nostalgia lies at the heart of her choice to sell cupcakes, but for the rest of the local field, the craze is some mysterious confluence of economy, technology, vogue, and old-fashioned preference for a home-baked treat.

Why cupcakes? “I wonder the same thing myself,” Haas says. For Crisafulli, it’s economics: “You get a little tiny dessert for a couple dollars.” For Cocca-Dott, it’s convenience: “I think people like the idea of having just one thing and then it’s over with. You’re not sitting down with a fork.”

Whatever it is, judging by the hysterical praise each of the four receive on their Facebook pages, there’s plenty of business to go around, and what might have been a cupcake war has become more of a cupcake takeover.

 

 

Photo: Kathryn Geurin

Giving Back to the Trees

Indian Ladder Farms’ Eco Apple certification promises good fruit and low-impact practices

By Kathryn Geurin

On a glorious cerulean afternoon, the sun dances over the pines and cliffs of the Helderberg escarpment, and Peter Ten Eyck raises a hand to indicate the Thacher Park overlook, soaring above rolling acres of apple trees, already dotted red with early fruit.

Clearly not an indoor spirit, the third-generation owner of Indian Ladder Farms had fired up his four-wheeler, bumped over rock-strewn paths and fields and settled the growling contraption in the serene shade of an apple tree, where the farmer, grandfather and pomologist kicked back to talk about his 100-some-odd-acre orchard.

An essential fall destination for many Capital Region residents, Indian Ladder Farms grows apples and other produce for its wholesale, retail and pick-your-own business. Even on this Monday afternoon, the farm store and grounds are bustling with families eager to snap into fresh-picked fruit and savor the warm crunch of cider donuts.

Local food doesn’t get any more immediate than this, and Ten Eyck nods with satisfaction at his contribution to the community and the landscape. “When we plant raspberries and blueberries and apples, everybody wins,” he says. “It’s a better world for me having done that.”

When it comes to bettering his corner of the world, Ten Eyck hasn’t stopped there. A decade ago, he worked with a number of public and private agencies to retire the development rights on the property. “If you come back here in 100 years there won’t be any houses built here. It will always be farmland,” he says, surveying his legacy.

Ten Eyck is a steward of his land in every sense, and three years ago he secured Eco Apple certification for the orchard through the Integrated Pest Management Institute of North America and sustainable wholesale network Red Tomato.

“Nobody really knows anything about it and it doesn’t mean anything to anybody,” he says. “Because, well, everybody’s eco-something nowadays, right? But it means a lot to me, and it means a lot to people who try to find out if you’re really walking the walk.”

“There are really three factors to it,” says Ten Eyck. “One, that you really have a concern. That you want to do a better job, a kinder, friendlier kind of job. Second, that you’re committed to actively seek out and employ the best scientific knowledge to make those decisions. . . . The third part, the most important part, is that you have a partner who is not in the fruit-growing business. . . . They have the final say whether something is alright to be used or not , and we subject ourselves to inspections from them, to make sure we’re really doing what we say we’re going to do.”

The standards for Eco Apple were established in consort with scientists from Cornell University and the University of Massachusetts. It is widely recognized that growing commercial tree fruit to certified-organic standards in the Northeast is next to impossible. According to Eco Apple, their program is an initiative to “push toward the least-toxic, most ecological practices.” Eco Apple growers implement regionally specific Integrated Pest Management protocols, incorporating a complex web of natural and mechanical methods and strictly limited, seasonally targeted use of conventional chemicals.

“I’m not an organic grower,” explains Ten Eyck. “My agenda is to grow apples that don’t have any pesticide residues on them.” The FDA examines tens of thousands of samples of fruits and vegetables every year for hundreds of different chemicals, and according to Ten Eyck, “there’s always half of one percent that is over the limit, or using chemicals that aren’t allowed.” But about half the samples tested are found to have no detectable residues whatesoever. “It’s not rocket science to be among the group that doesn’t have anything on them. I’d like to think it is,” he chuckles modestly, lifting his blue baseball cap to smooth his gray hair. “But it’s not rocket science. I want to guarantee that I’m among that group.”

In affirmation of that guarantee, Ten Eyck received his current Eco Apple certification in the mail earlier this week. This year marked an inspection year at the farm, and it passed the tests with flying colors.

Asked about his motivation for joining Eco Apple, Ten Eyck says it is a way for him to make his farm definably different. Like any business, he needs to secure his niche in the market. And layering chemical on top of chemical in the quest for perfect fruit, he insists, is not the answer.

“If you go back to World War II, when we invented all the chemicals that we invented, we introduced something around ten thousand chemicals to our society that were never there before. And we abused them. But you simply can’t beat Mother Nature by throwing chemicals at her. It just doesn’t work.”

In support of this assertion, Ten Eyck spins a delicately woven tale of the evolutionary chess game being waged between milkweed and the monarch butterfly. Bolstered by the calm breeze, the earthy scent of sun-steeped apple fall and the paper-light butterflies flicking against the hills, the science of his story seems as magical as any fairy tale, and his wonder at the intricacy and immediacy of it all is palpable.

He winds through further tales of chemical-resistant populations, intentionally introduced predator mites, and suffocating overwintering eggs with a light film of oil sprayed before spring bloom. A few harmless surface flaws, like the gritty gray patches left by regionally pervasive apple scab, are accepted as a trade-off for the orchard’s lighter footprint.

“We don’t spray for cosmetic reasons,” says Ten Eyck. “Perfect is not something you get out of nature. If we define the way we eat, as a population, by large and perfect being the level at which we’re going to take things, then we’re not going to have any local farmers.”

“I think the most tragic mistake that we can make: We cannot allow ourselves to end up feeding ourselves by waving money in the air and hoping that someone will come from some place around the world and give us something to eat,” he says. “That’s not a good tactic, but that’s the direction we’re heading.

“You’ve got to keep an eye on your own food. If you know the people who are doing it, there may be no way you’re going to understand the science, but it’s OK to know someone that you trust is doing a good job of it.

“If you buy an apple from some factory farm someplace,” he says, “they’ll take your dollar and they’ll go home. You buy an apple from someone who grows fruit and vegetables in your own community? Well, maybe they’ll hire your son or daughter to work in the fall on the farm, they’ll certainly help you pay your taxes. . . . They might even be foolish enough to spend 15 years on your board of education,” he huffs with a knowing chuckle.

“Having more of those pieces of the puzzle together,” says Ten Eyck, “it’s an act of empowerment. It gives you the power to make informed decisions.”

He reaches up and snaps a blushing Kendall from the tree, its surface clouded white. “Here’s a common misperception: ‘It’s laced with pesticides, positively laced!’ But the apple is all moisture,” he explains. “It doesn’t want to dry out, so it secretes wax over its surface.” The old wax sloughing off gives the apple a cloudy look. Ten Eyck buffs the firm fruit against his sweatshirt, lifts the now-glistening ruby apple to the sun and crunches crisply into its flesh.

“Mmm,” he garbles through the juicy mouthful, “ready to pick.”


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