Wednesday, January 24, 2018


There's a sprinkle of snow coming from the cloudy sky. Everywhere I look, it's either white, gray or brown.  But, in some peculiar way, I look forward to days like this in the heart of summer.
I've written before about the particular joys of preserving food - especially the food you've planted, tended and harvested with your own hands.

On those summer days, when I'm lining up the shiny glass jars full of tomatoes on the old rough shelves in the cellar, my mind jumps to a day much like today.  I see myself making a trip to the cellar to retrieve a couple of those jars. And later I will hear the ringing pop as I break the seal. I will catch the scent of tomatoes as the fruit splashes into the pan.
Today there's a pot of bolognese simmering on the stove, the complex aroma of tomatoes, onions, garlic and peppers rising with the steam.
I reach for the smaller jars of dried herbs from Thelma Metzger's old Napanee cupboard, their faded colors belying the crisp sharpness within the confines of glass. It's summer again as I carefully cut the stalks of basil, gently rinse and dry them, arranging the leaves just so on the drying racks. A bit later the delightful signature basil fragrance spills out the open windows as the leaves curled to store their goodness for a day like today.

Monday, January 15, 2018

2018 Farm Bill

I admit the Farm Bill is hardly at the top of the mind for most folks. I never gave much thought to the enormous impacts of this behemoth until I heard Wes Jackson speak at the PASA (Pennsylvania Association For Sustainable Agriculture) Conference in State College several years ago. Jackson, President Emeritus of The Land Institute in Kansas, was advocating for a longer view for the Farm Bill. His organization's point of view is detailed in this New York Times op-ed pieceThe op-ed is co-written by Wendell Berry.
"Thoughtful farmers and consumers everywhere are already making many necessary changes in the production and marketing of food. But we also need a national agricultural policy that is based upon ecological principles. We need a 50-year farm bill that addresses forthrightly the problems of soil loss and degradation, toxic pollution, fossil-fuel dependency and the destruction of rural communities. This is a political issue, certainly, but it far transcends the farm politics we are used to. It is an issue as close to every one of us as our own stomachs."
Congress tackles Farm Bills on what should be a five year cycle. In recent history, it's common for delays to trigger extensions of the current bill for periods of a year or more. The Agricultural Act of 2014, or the 2014 Farm Bill, is set to expire, for the the most part, at the end of September 2018.
If you're interested in reading more about how the Farm Bill works, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has this primer. 
The House Agriculture Committee has recently launched a website detailing components of the Farm Bill that will be debated in the coming year.
Our Congressman, Glenn Thompson, is vice chair of this committee and we all need to raise our voices to bring our concerns to his attention. The Local Food and Regional Market Supply Act being proposed by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a good starting point.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Listening At The Farm Show

On Saturday, January 6, our Congressman, Glenn Thompson hosted a listening session regarding the 2018 Farm Bill and agriculture policy on the opening day of the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg. Thompson serves as House Committee on Agriculture Vice Chairman.

According to a report in the Centre Daily Times, the price of dairy products was an overriding theme as farmers addressed the panel. But it was this comment by one of the panelists, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, that captured my attention.
"They need to get Coca-Cola in there to show them how to mark this stuff. I'm serious because part of the problem is that they're not making consumer-friendly products that look attractive. I think if we changed some of that we'd make a big difference on consumption," 
The idea of considering that it's just a "marketing" problem misses the mark. There are many reasons why the dairy industry continues to struggle and marketing is the least of them.

Daughter Kate Metzger Day (on the left drinking from a jelly jar)
and her pal Melanie Butler Connell.
These photos are from a 1980s-era
June Is Dairy Month promotion in the local newspaper.
Read more about the Pennsylvania Farm Show Listening session in this article in the Centre Daily Times.

Thompson took time on Monday to trumpet the Pennsylvania Farm Show on the floor of the House of Representatives. He acknowledged the important role that agriculture, as the state's biggest employer, plays in the lives of Pennsylvanians. I'm wondering who penned the words he delivered.

You can listen to his address here. (This is a link to C-Span and you'll need to scroll down to find his address.)

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Bleak Midwinter

Cold, cold and more cold!
That topic seems to be first in every conversation as folks find ways to cope with winter's deepest chill.

winter on Crandall Hill, circa 1950s
Wanda Gooch Metzger on her way to work in town
I remember many sub-zero winter days on the farm where I've made my home for more than 40 years. Most center around frozen water pipes. (How about Sharon Fitzgerald's recent blog post about water struggles?)

Arthur and sister Carol making the most of winter
During this second week of January in 2018, the weather predictors have promised some relief with temperatures warming above the freezing mark by mid-week.

And, it's only 72 days until spring!

For those who have an interest in such things, this website is one of many where you can find information about temperature and precipitation in Pennsylvania.