I first became friends with Mike Betit at the Union Square farmers’ market. I was vegetarian then, selling pickles for Rick’s Picks. Mike would set up next to me with a vast array of pork cuts, a small grill for cooking up samples and a chalkboard sign that says “I love you, Bacon.” When it’s 15 degrees in January and you’re standing alone at the market, you become friends with the guy next to you, even if you are vegetarian and he’s a pig farmer.
Mike is one of the farmers at Tamarack Hollow Farm. They have just launched a Kickstarter campaign to help them move to a new piece of land. Their current location in Burlington, VT has them on a flood plain. Over the past few years they’ve lost dozens of acres of crops and tens of thousands of dollars to unusually intense flooding, in the spring and in the fall and even in the middle of July. Tamarack Hollow is an integral part of Quinciple. This week’s box has their fantastic celeriac, next week’s box has an heirloom conical cabbage and soon after that, their green meat radishes will find their way into a box. But even more than that, my relationship with Tamarack Hollow is important to how Quinciple learns about new vegetable varieties, new farming techniques (and old ones – they have a team of oxen named Thunder and Lightning) and what’s happening food-wise in Vermont. Not to mention that Amanda and Mike are good friends by this point.
My company, Quinciple wouldn’t be what it is without farms like Tamarack Hollow, so to help them raise the funds they need, we’re offering a free Quinciple box to any existing customer who heads over to their Kickstarter page and donates $50 or more. Click on “Back This Project,” enter your donation amount and select “No reward.” Shoot us an email at email@example.com to let us know you’ve donated and we won’t charge you for your next Quinciple delivery. Part of the reason we started Quinciple was to be able to help the farms we love thrive and grow. They also have some other tasty rewards: cured sausages and picnic baskets and, our favorite, a pig roast, thrown by Mike and Amanda for you and 100 friends. At the very least head over to their Kickstarter page to see their awesome video which gives you a great peak at the farm. You can see the page here.
With Tamarack Hollow it’s easy to see the quirks and attitudes of its two farmers, Amanda Andrews and Mike Betit, in every head of cauliflower and heritage breed chicken egg. They clearly love farming. When I visited them in the midst of December, when snow blanketed their farm, it was easy to see how connected they feel to the land, the animals, the fields and even their equipment. That sounds pretty corny. But for me, I see that as the mark of a great farmer. They are so in tune with what’s happening around them that they can make all the tiny tweaks and adjustments needed for a farm to run smoothly. When you’re on a tractor cultivating a field, sometimes the cultivating implements need to be lower or higher, depending on how the crop was seeded, what is growing, even perhaps one particular row that is wonky. After you’ve been doing to long enough you make those adjustments automatically without even consciously thinking about what you need to do.
Amanda and Mike are passionate and enthusiastic about their farm, but they also approach it with a healthy dose of humor and even a touch of cynicism. As a native New Yorker, this attitude makes total sense to me. When your farm gets hit with 7 feet of water, the only reaction that makes sense is to curse like crazy and then get back to work. It’s been a huge amount of fun to watch their farm expand and tackle new projects even with all the crazy weather they’ve experienced. They grow an incredible array of vegetables: lush red radicchio, tiny purple tomatillos, spicy mustard greens and the tastiest, sweetest cabbage I’ve ever tasted. Their animals – and there are a lot of them – roam free on pasture 12 months of the year, through run and snow and lots of muds. The chickens have shelters to shield them from the worst of it, but they peck in the dirt whenever the desire strike them. Mike and Amanda built a shelter for Thunder and Lightning, the team of oxen, but they promptly tore it down themselves, preferring the open air.