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Passing of a Pioneer

During this time of year, the nature of our work and the essence of our surroundings call us to reflect on lessons, moments, and people we are thankful for. It is with both sorrow and an overflowing heart of thankfulness that we reflect on the passing of a pioneer.

There are precious few people who actually walk the walk and talk the talk. You can sometimes tell when one of them is in your presence, if your antennae are receptive to it. Alison Wiediger was a true visionary, the epitome of “eyes that see, a mind that works, and an action attitude,” which should be Webster’s definition of a pioneer. The world around wholesome food lost one of its founders and we want to share part of her story and honor her time with us.

I remember the room we were standing in at a SSAWG Conference (Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group) when Alison was beaming about the peaches from their high tunnel. I still remember my initial reaction when my jaw dropped and the air rushed out of my lungs in utter disbelief at something as extraordinary and unimaginable as that – peach trees growing in a greenhouse in KY? When I caught my breath, her confident eyes and big smile reminded me of whom I was with, Alison, of Paul and Alison Wiediger.

The same Paul & Alison had introduced countless food farmers around the region to the concept of growing food in the ground in an unheated greenhouse many years earlier. I’m sure the early prototypes they cobbled together back in the day were difficult at best to manage, but remember, these folks are pioneers. Not only did they make it work, they made it profitable, and then found the time to teach anybody who wanted to listen. They acted upon their knowledge and fearless desire to grow all kinds of things, all on behalf of their customers, who were nourished from their efforts. Every time we saw P&A throughout the years, they never ceased to amaze us with new production techniques, such as email marketing (when we were still excited about voice mail) and baby ginger, to name just a couple. Their perseverance to figure out this high tunnel thing, has evolved into greenhouse kits of all sizes, university research programs, even USDA financial support, all because of Alison.

P&A were charter members of the Kentucky Sustainable Agriculture Community, an effort of food farmers to help each other to work smarter, work together, and morally support one another. We met on some seasonably sporadic basis at each other’s farms, this was in the late ‘90’s mind you, to laugh, learn, and eat homegrown food. P&A went on to drive all over the Southeast to share their knowledge in intimate detail at every SSAWG Conference, and dozens of smaller gatherings I’m sure. Alison helped shape the character of the sustainable agriculture movement by her example of sharing knowledge and sharing benefit. The more good food we all grew, the more customers would come to support us, she taught. There was no fear in Alison’s eyes that someone would use the information shared to overpower in the marketplace. That philosophy holds true to this day in Kentucky’s sustainable agricultural community, thanks to Alison. The 350+ membership Organic Association of Kentucky (OAK) is the ultimate outgrowth of those early efforts to formalize farmers - one vision of a pioneer back in the 90’s.

P&A’s little experiment to extend the growing season with high tunnels blew us all away with possibilities of growing fresh leafy greens well into the winter, if not all year. P&A kept meticulous notes and took pictures of their crops inside the tunnels with a big clock and thermometer, showing how the greens were not damaged by the extreme cold outside, and how the crops handled thawing out at different times of the day. Their motivation to work this hard was to nourish themselves and their customers with wholesome homegrown food, unlike anything available at the store. Alison was the first one to use the phrase “now we have the opportunity to sell all year, and now we have the obligation to work all year.”

Pioneers have a passion that guides their work, and Allison’s passion showed through in a quiet unassuming kind of way. Some of P&A’s motivation came from the sense of responsibility to act when they saw how one lesson in front of them could be transferred to other situations. Pioneers like Alison act on a hunch, no matter that there is no data to confirm assumptions, no scientist to consult with to clear a vision, and no engineer to consult with to inform decision making. Passion is what had P&A out in their tunnels early in the morning, shoveling snow to be able to open the doors to see how their crops were fairing in inclement weather. The results further enticed them to dive deeper and learn even more.

What really set Alison apart from others, was the passion to capture what she was seeing to be sure others benefited. Who among us takes time to take pictures and document soil conditions and temperatures before harvesting, when the weather is wreaking havoc on your crop, customers are awaiting a delivery, and you are thinking about the bills to pay? Who among us uses their hard earned money to set up an intern to monitor things at the farm, so they can travel around the Southeastern US to share what they have learned with everyone else? Who among us recognizes the broader potential value all of this will lead to, and how far we have come already in year-round growing of organic food?

P&A turned us on to kale salad, back when I thought of kale as garnish on a salad bar. I kind of smiled and choked it down to be polite, but now we eat it weekly all year long, thanks to Alison. We only have a short time on this earth, and I have come to realize that it’s vitally important to eat like we mean it.

It might be a while, if ever, before we have peach trees in Elmwood high tunnels, but I never would have even considered such a thing had it not been for P&A. We are finishing up installing a high tunnel so we can grow more good food all year. High tunnel growing comes with a new set of benefits and challenges, but we have good advice to follow, like critical temperature charts, planting date guides, and variety selection suggestions.  We look forward to eating awesome organic fresh greens on the blustery-snowy days this winter, and hopefully you do too, thanks to Alison. —Mac Stone
Photos from Au Naturel Farm
Winter CSA- Limited Vegetable Shares Available!
We offer one share size for the winter season made up of items grown by us at Elmwood Stock Farm. All items USDA Certified Organic. Five distributions every two weeks from mid-January through mid-March. The photo above is from a late February share in 2017.

Shares will contain fresh green items we have growing in unheated high tunnels, such as kale, chard or spinach. In addition, shares will include storage items such as sweet potatoes, potatoes, fall squash, dried beans, turnips or winter radishes - all harvested at the peak of ripeness and now in storage for distribution this winter. Extreme cold conditions or lack-of-sunlight may cause us to include more in March to make up for less in January.

Beef, Chicken, Egg, and Pantry Shares
All meat is Certified Organic from our own livestock raised on our organic pastures and processed under USDA inspection.  You can choose all chicken, all beef, or a mixture of both.  Your actual share items will be farm choice based on availability.
Sign Up for Winter CSA

Winter Kale Salad with Pomegranate

For the Salad:                                                                        For the Dressing:
½ c. pecan halves                                                                  3 T. extra virgin olive oil
½ small red onion, thinly sliced                                              2 T. apple cider vinegar
10 oz. kale, stems removed and chopped into ribbons         1 T. Dijon mustard
1 small pomegranate (to yield ½ c. seeds)                            2 t. honey
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese                                                   ¼ t. kosher salt
2 T. chopped fresh parlsey (optional)                                    1/8 t. black pepper
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 5-10 minutes, tossing once or twice, until toasted and fragrant. Watch carefully and set a timer so that the nuts do not burn. Remove from the baking sheet and set aside.
Slice the pomegranate in half across its "equator" (NOT top to bottom). Working one half at a time, turn the pomegranate over an empty bowl, cut side down, and squeeze it gently all the way around to loosen the seeds. With the back of a wooden spoon, firmly wrap the back of the pomegranate, knocking the seeds into the bowl (be careful—the juice can splatter). Rotate the pomegranate then repeat, so that you tap it all the way around and knock out as many seeds as possible. Slice the pomegranate into big wedges and remove any seeds you missed with your fingers. Repeat with the second half. Measure out ½ cup of the seeds for the recipe, then save the rest for a different use.
In a small bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients. Alternatively, you can shake all of the ingredients together in a tightly sealed mason jar.
Place the kale and onion slices in a large serving bowl. Pour the dressing over the top. Toss to coat, then let the salad rest in the refrigerator for 20 minutes if time allows (the flavors will meld and the kale will become more tender). Just before serving, sprinkle with the toasted pecans, pomegranate seeds, feta, and parsley. Toss lightly and serve.
recipe and photo from Well Plated
What's in Season? Farmers Market Finds...

All-organic offerings: ginger, winter radish, turnips, fall squash, salad mix, baby kale, kale, Swiss chard, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beef, chicken, pork, turkey, farm fresh eggs, pantry goods, and much more! Give us 48 hours notice, and we'll set aside a special order for you to be sure we don't run out of your favorite items!

Lexington: Downtown at Cheapside Pavilion, 8am - 1pm
Cincinnati: Hyde Park Winter Market at Clark Montessori, 10am - 1pm
Elmwood's organic, pasture-raised pork is back in stock! You can place an order here.
Contact Elmwood Stock Farm
(859) 621-0755

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Elmwood Stock Farm · Scott County · Georgetown, KY 40324 · USA

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