the irresistible fleet of bicycles


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meet johny wildseed: foraging expert russ cohen has a new mission

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Russ Cohen planting Beach Plum saplings on Marblehead Island. (Photo courtesy of Russ Cohen.)

“Putting stinging nettle balls in the oven,” Russ Cohen announces to me proudly when I can’t guess what he’s doing in the moment that I call. Amid the flutter of taking interview requests and preparing for a conference later in the evening, he is putting the finishing touches on his wild-fitted version of a 1950’s-era recipe. He’ll serve it as part of his presentation. Swapping frozen nettles collected last summer in for the traditional spinach, he’s doing what he loves: “nibbling on nature”– and then sharing it with people.

In the following interview excerpts we discuss the rad new seed bank in his second refrigerator,  what native plants can do for organic farmers, the wonders of the mighty shagbark hickory, and the danger of commercializing wild plants. Anyone interested in learning more about Russ or contacting him for seeds can do so here.

GH: Can you briefly describe yourself and your work for our readers? Let’s start with the work you’ve been doing.

I have been teaching folks about how to connect to the land through their taste buds— to nibble on nature— since I was a senior in high school in 1974. So that’s over 40 years ago. I do about 40 programs a year all over New England and upstate New York, most of which are just walking around with folks in the woods and fields, looking at wild plants and mushrooms, and talking about what’s edible— you know, explain how to identify it, what it tastes like, how to prepare it, if the Native Americans ate it, what kind of vitamins it has, whether it’s a weed or invasive, native or non-native, the impact of picking, and all that stuff.

GH: And what are you transitioning into?

RC: I am going to keep doing that, but what I am doing in addition to that is that I am aspiring to be a “Johnny Appleseed” of sorts for native edible species and plant more of them in the landscape, so that there’s more for more for everyone to benefit from, for people, for wildlife, the plants and the birds, pollinators, for everyone to benefit. So I have been gathering the seeds and nuts from native species.

I actually have a new fridge in my basement that’s filled with the nuts and seeds of native species.

As it turns out, most of them need to go through “stratification” (exposure to cold) before they’ll germinate, so the fridge is a good place to store them.

GH: Well that’s awesome. What exactly are you hoping to do with these seeds?

RC: I have been distributing them to native plant propagators and people I know who want to grow more native plants. I am actually going to be contract-growing a lot of stuff. So I’ve been contacting plant nurseries, giving them a bunch of seeds, and say “OK, turn these into plants for me”, and then I’ll buy the plants back to distribute to organizations to grow out on their properties. I am giving these plants away. I am not charging anyone for anything.

GH: A good portion of our blog readership are organic farmers. Do you see native plants playing a larger role in their work?

RC: Yes, at least where opportunities exist to grow native species in or around organic farms. Native edible species benefit birds, pollinators and other wildlife as well as offer food harvesting opportunities for people. This is a better alternative than collecting these species from natural habitats, where, unfortunately, I have been distressed to see damage to wild plant populations caused by commercially-driven harvesting.

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brunch and bellow- 12/13, mass

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This is the first Brunch & Bellow since the last time we had one and we are very excited. So very excited that we wanted to invite you right on over here to celebrate said excitement with us. Come on by, you fun farm animal, you. Bring yourself some tunes. Bring some songs. Bring a dish to share. Bring some friends. Or, alternately, just bring your beautiful self.

You’re enough. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

This week’s song:

WORKIN’ ON A BUILDING
(props to anyone who can sing that tenor part)

DETAILS

BRUNCH & BELLOW
Foxtown Farm, 66 Sunderland Rd, Montague, MA
10:30 pm, Sunday, December 13th
Singin’, Pickin’, Munchin’
All are welcome.


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beginning farmers to gather in greenfield, mass

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December 12, 9:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
The Arts Block, 4 Court Square, Greenfield, MA 01301
youngfarmers.org/winter-gathering

Join the Northeast New Agrarian Network—a new coalition of farm organizations with a focus on young and beginning farmers—at the First Northeast New Farmer Winter Gathering on December 12 in Greenfield, Massachusetts. The convergence will bring together farmers based across New England and New York State to consider issues facing agricultural community today: from diversity and justice, to organizing and leveraging the collective voice of young farmers towards legislative change.

New England Farmers Union is one of seven organizations hosting this event. The others are the National Young Farmer Coalition and its Hudson Valley, NY, chapter; the Beginning Farmer Network of Massachusetts; New Connecticut Farmer Alliance; Young Farmer Network (RI); and the Harvard Food Literacy Project.

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2-day biochar workshop this weekend in massachusetts!

October 17 & 18, 2015
9:00am to 4:00pm
Location: Kittredge Farm, 24 Hillsville Road, North Brookfield, MA 01535
Cost: $150.00 for both days, with Financial Assistance available, and for more information on this, please contact Gary Neves, Course Administrator (gary@bionutrient.org)

Biochar is yet another tool in the toolbox of regenerative agriculture! In the last two decades, Biochar has and is receiving more attention of its benefits to agriculture and of its other uses. This Biochar 2-day Workshop with Gary Gilmore will have both a lecture component and a hands-on component, where attendees will learn how to make an efficient and easy to build Biochar burner, produce biochar during the 2-day Workshop, and learn of a variety of uses of biochar, from producing fuel, to run engines and heat greenhouses, to producing wood vinegar, and more! Whether you are a novice or have some experience, this Biochar 2-day Workshop is for every one! Learning to make biochar on site, for your farms, fields, and gardens, is a wonderfully inexpensive soil amendment, with much potential benefit to receive!

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