I am a recent contributor to GreenDelaware magazine, a brand new resource for all things green in the First State. You can find it for FREE at any number of Delaware coffee shops and bookstores.
Here’s my first article–about Toby, my CSA farmer.
Produce at its Best – LOCAL
At Bayberry Farm in Middletown, Toby Hagerott is sustaining Delaware, one crop at a time
The first time I met Toby Hagerott, 35, of Bayberry Farm, he was selling produce at the Newark Co-op Farmers Market and wearing a T-shirt depicting a tomato as Captain America. That’s a fitting choice for a sustainable farmer singlehandedly cultivating 7 acres of Delaware soil. When I visited Bayberry Farm, located about 22 miles south of Wilmington on Boyds Corner Road in Middletown, Hagerott greeted me warmly and did what any farmer would do: asked if I’d like to sit on the porch and drink some sweet tea.
Hagerott has been working the land at Bayberry Farm since April of 2011. With a BA in Landscape Architecture and a background in land planning, Hagerott found the perfect match for his skill set. Bayberry Farm is one piece of a larger picture that is the Village of Bayberry, a master planned community by Blenheim Homes. In keeping with the new community’s idea of a greener Delaware, Bayberry Farm’s goal is simple: to provide fresh, quality food grown in a sustainable and natural manner.
Delaware has preserved over 120,000 acres of farmland since 1991, thanks to The Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation. This number is higher percentage-wise than any other state. In light of this, sustainability is a hot topic for any Delaware farmer. Hagerott, currently finishing a master’s degree in sustainable design says, “True sustainability is maintaining what we have now and making it better for future generations.” He uses proven practices like drip irrigation, crop rotation, organic sprays, and green manures.
Sweet tea in hand, we headed out to the fields to check on the autumn crops. First, we stopped at the chicken coop which houses 100 chickens and 20 Narragansett heritage breed turkeys. Once a week, Hagerott moves the 300-ft flexible fence that contains the chickens, allowing them to forage for fresh grass and to fertilize the soil. He expects to gather hundreds of eggs a week when the hens start laying in earnest.
Surveying the farm I noticed a long, tent-like structure breaking up the expanse of land. “That’s the high tunnel,” Hagerott explains. Acting as an unheated greenhouse, the high tunnel will allow him to grow crops like tomatoes and spinach past their growing season.
Touring the farm was a treat for me, as I am a shareholder in Bayberry Farm’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I buy a share before the growing season and from June to mid-October reap the benefits of local and naturally-grown produce. It’s like buying stock in a company, with all the risks and advantages—most risks involving poor growing conditions due to the weather. This year, Hagerott sold 40.5 shares with a total of 52 shareholders reaping the benefits of those shares (some members, like my friend Greg and I, split a full share each week). Hagerott will only offer 50 shares each year. This allows him to continue farming on a smaller, more sustainable scale.
While the fall produce in Delaware is varied with farms and orchards harvesting apples, pears, broccoli, brussel sprouts and more, I saw fall crops like beets, carrots, okra, and bok choy at Bayberry Farm.
Gazing across the okra plants, Hagerott identifies the most rewarding part of farming. “Sharing,” he says. That’s why he sells at farmers markets and provides produce for restaurants like Cantwell’s Tavern in Odessa and The Stone Balloon Winehouse in Newark. He says, “I want the local community to see the connection between the vegetables and the farmer.” By supporting local farmers like Hagerott, Delawareans are on their way to creating a better, more sustainable future.
The article included a few recipes. Here’s one of my favorites, made with pureed pumpkin. If you don’t want to puree your own pumpkin, you can always use canned pumpkin. As always, I recommend using local dairy, pumpkin, and eggs!
Pumpkin Pie Pudding with Cinnamon Whipped Cream
(Adapted from Susan Russo, Cooking Light, November 2010)
For the pudding:
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons non-GMO cornstarch
1 3/4 cups 1% low-fat milk
1 large egg
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (roasting and pureeing instructions below)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
To roast a pie pumpkin:
Choose a small pumpkin (make sure it is a pie pumpkin and not a carving pumpkin), only about 3 or 4 pounds. Wash away any dirt. Cut in half with a good knife. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Place the pumpkin cut side down in a glass baking dish. Add ¼ inch of water. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes or until fork tender. Scoop out the insides and pulse in a blender or food processor until smooth. Store pumpkin in the refrigerator for up to five days.
For the pudding:
Combine 6 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons cornstarch in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Combine milk and egg, stirring well with a whisk. Gradually add milk mixture to sugar mixture, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
In a bowl stir together the pumpkin, vanilla extract, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Slowly add pumpkin mixture to milk mixture, whisking constantly. Place pan over low heat, and cook for 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly (do not boil). Divide pudding evenly among 4 dessert bowls, and cover surface of pudding with plastic wrap. Chill.
For the whipped cream:
Place cream, confectioner’s sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl. Beat with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Top each serving of pudding with 2 tablespoons whipped cream.