Here's another Game Changer who's completely new to me. Those of you on the west and east coasts may be more familiar with her. Most of this post was taken directly from an interview Erik Hoffner had with Severine which I read HERE, as how could I possibly say it any better than Severine herself? Reading her words is the best way to understand her passion for farming.
This week we meet activist Severine von Tscharner Fleming. Severine is the daughter of urban planners from Cambridge, Mass. She was attending college when she had a ‘‘violent allergic reaction to L.A.."
"I was organizing a lot of events, lectures, parties, magazines and other things at UC Berkley. And we were organizing a film festival and noticed that there weren’t any films about the future of agriculture that were positive, it was all about doomsday erosion, doomsday farm labor, doomsday–you name it. We felt like we were all interested in farming and had been farming and were in touch with the community of people who held very strongly to a vision that was quite positive. We thought we should make that vision more accessible through film and that we could share some of these narratives and get a sense of the kind of community momentum that existed around sustainable agriculture."
At any rate, Severine took off in a pickup truck and visited farmers on the West Coast. She then formed the Society for Agriculture and Food Ecology at the UC Berkeley. It was founded in a basement and her whole movement started with that film, which they called The Greenhorns, with the idea that this glorious and burgeoning movement ought to be documented and then share the excitement with more young people who might be inclined to enter agriculture professionally. But soon they realized that making a movie takes a long time, and that they'd better start communicating in other ways as well. So they started a wiki for relevant resources, a blog for news and video ephemera, then they got a weekly radio show and podcast on Heritage Radio Network, they began to tweet, etc.
Severine felt films on food and agriculture focused more on problems than solutions. When she set out to make this documentary about young farmers, she became one herself. So, Greenhorns soon evolved into a movement. "It's about the community of young farmers in this country. We are a nonprofit organization that works to promote, recruit, and support young farmers. Mostly what we do is produce media -- print resources, new media, and programming for young farmers."
As von Tscharner Fleming and her film crew traveled around the country to make The Greenhorns, they found and organized a national community of young farmers. Von Tscharner Fleming co-founded the National Young Farmers Coalition to promote progressive farming policy and founded the Greenhorns organization to connect people new to farming through events (37 last year) and a website that offers networking and advice.
‘‘Farming is an attractive path for people who are getting out of school and feeling like there’s kind of a toxic consumerism and not feeling too excited about working for the Man, especially seeing as he’s been spoiling our politics and a lot of our ecology,’’ she said. She started serveyourcountryfood.net, an interactive map charting farmers under 40.
One season she ran her own farm, Smithereen Farm, in the Hudson Valley of New York. They planted an orchard, raised pigs, rabbits, laying hens, a few fowl, and about three-quarters of an acre of vegetables, flowers, and herbs. They sold to three fancy restaurants, an organic grocery store, and a farmers market. They also dried 2,000 marjoram plants and sold them to Formaggio Kitchen, a fancy food store in Cambridge, Mass.
"Severine has a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners perspective on the young farmers movement. Make no mistake, this woman is dedicated and smart." Access to land is a major issue for young farmers. It's a lot easier to find land in smaller towns away from major cities. It's of course a lot easier if you have cousins or uncles who own some land, and it's also a lot easier if you are friendly, responsible, hardworking, and lucky!
"We have the advantage of youth. Brave muscles, a fierce passion, and probably pretty savvy marketing insights. We have the advantage of eager eaters, dilapidated (but standing!) barns, plus sophisticated e-networks to access seeds, nursery stock, rare livestock breeds, training opportunities, season extension technologies, etc. We also have the advantage of dozens of institutions founded by our elders like organic certification bodies, regional sustainable-ag groups and networks, and land trusts. We have a generation of wise, thoughtful, and experienced mentors willing to teach us."
The Greenhorns site is where the young farming movement can be found, and its podcast is a great way to hear how new young farmers are making their way in the world. Check out the Greenhorns HERE.
Between conference calls, von Tscharner Fleming continues to work with young farmers—on 100 acres in New York’s Hudson Valley.
Of course, there are no recipes, but I found a wonderful cookbook called Farmstead Chef which, as described by Amazon, tells a "quirky, homespun tale of how we can eat well, nourish our bodies, and restore the planet. Rediscover the benefits of homegrown food and homemade cooking, preserving the harvest, and stocking the pantry, all while building community."
There was a delightful recipe for some leek pastries in this book that sounded marvelous. And so they were. A great appetizer for company, easy enough to make, using frozen puff pastry to make things simpler. I made the leek mixture ahead and refrigerated it. (I'd bet you could freeze this too. I hope so anyway, as I have some in the freezer right now.) When I was ready to serve, I followed the puff pastry suggestions for baking. Frankly, I don't know what was up with the thumbprint idea, because it didn't work, so I just stuck them in the oven, they puffed up, and when I removed them, I broke the puff and put the leek mixture right in the break and put them back in then oven. Turned out perfectly. Next time though, I'm going to prick the center with a fork and see if that works better.
Creamy Leek Pastries
From Farmstead Chef
6 cups leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced (2 large leeks)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick) divided
1 package pastry sheets
1/2 cup half and half cream
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded
paprika for garnishing
Preheat oven to 400F
Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter and add the leeks. Saute about 15 minutes until the leeks are soft. Don't allow them to brown. Mix in the cream, thyme, sugar and salt and cook over low heat until it's thick and the leeks are coated with the cream. Remove from heat and allow to reach room temperature. Add the cheese.
Roll out a puff pastry to a square 10" by 10". With a 2" biscuit cutter, cut out circles of the dough and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Make an indentation with your thumb in the center of each circle, which will make the sides come up. (It didn't)
Melt the remaining butter and brush the the tops of the dough. Bake for 10 minutes or until they start to puff and are slightly brown. Remove from the oven, add about 2 teaspoons of the leek mixture to each round and return to the oven for about 5 more minutes or until brown and the cheese melted.
Sprinkle with paprika for serving.
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