By John Pierce, Community Fellow
In honor of Spotify Wrapped season, here’s a (not-so) little creative writing piece I’ve been working on.
The AMI experience can’t be contained in a playlist, but we tried anyway. For best results, throw this on shuffle while you read.
But enough about music, let’s talk about the AMI experience of 2021-22!
Over the last 18 months, you ventured into the veggieverse. You planted and harvested approximately 200 different varieties of produce in at least 21 families and four different kingdoms of life (Plantae, Fungi, Animalia, Bacteria). In no particular order:
Brassica - broccoli, mustard greens, kale, turnips, radishes, brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, tatsoi, arugula, kohlrabi
Lamiaceae - rosemary, basil, mint, shiso, lavender, sage, oregano, tulsi, lemon balm
Poaceae - sweet corn, grain corn, rye
Fabaceae - beans, beans, and more beans!
Amaranthaceae - beets, swiss chard, spinach, amaranth
Polygonaceae - rhubarb, Japanese indigo
Malvaceae - okra, thai roselle, hibiscus
Cucurbitaceae - squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, melons
Solanaceae - peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes
Convolvulaceae - sweet potatoes, morning glories
Asteraceae - lettuce, sunflowers, sunchokes, artichokes, marigolds, zinnias, calendula, spilanthes
Apiaceae - carrots, celery, dill, fennel, celeriac, parsley, cilantro, lovage
Alliaceae - onions, garlic, shallots, chives
Asparagacaea - asparagus
Vitaceae - grapes
Rosaceae - apple, cherry, peach, pear, raspberry, blackberry, cornelian cherry, strawberry
Ericaceae - blueberry, ghost pipe
Tropaeolaceae - nasturtiums
Betulaceae - hazelnut
Omphalotaceae, Pleurotaceae, & Hericiaceae - shiitake mushroom, blue oyster mushroom, & lion’s mane mushroom, respectively
This year you had layers, like an onion. But unlike an onion, you didn’t just grow more onions.
All that farming added up. In 2022, you and the Farm Fellows harvested 13,960.63 lbs of produce. And the year before that, it was 11,932.4 lbs, for a whopping total of 25,893.03 lbs of produce grown on just two acres. And that’s just what made it onto the recordkeeping sheets! As Distribution Coordinators, you and your predecessor Jamie ensured that over 5,000 lbs of that bounty made it out into the community, free of charge to those receiving.
You didn't just pick and pack, though. Farming requires infrastructure, and you helped install 240 feet of solar caterpillar tunnels, added about an acre of farming space including over 1,000 row-feet in the new field garden, and spent about 20 hours constructing a solar dehydrator.
You’ve spent about 60% of your time this year on the mountain, and 40% of your time in Monterey at the Highland Center.
Over two seasons, you and the other Farm Fellows preserved over 150 quarts of produce to keep the season’s bounty year-round. And that’s not including frozen, fermented, and dried items.
But with one veggie, it was love at first bite. Your top produce this year was: Brilliant Celeriac
Dirty and difficult, but worth the effort, this root-bound relative of celery has an amazingly subtle, earthy celery salt flavor and a texture somewhere between a beet and a potato. You loved them roasted, mashed, caramelized with leeks, and grated into soups. Artichokes were a close second - you steamed the flowers, dried and tinctured the leaves, and even pickled the stems in a brine made with vinegar, sugar, and anchovy. But you've never met a veggie you didn't like, have you?
Your top five veggie varietals of 2022 were:
Green Globe Artichoke
Pan di Zucchero Chicory
Magic Molly Purple Potatoes
Green Wave Mustard Greens
Many wonder but few know the hidden lives of vegetables. As a two-season farmer, you can now speak on this hot-button issue.
Here’s what a few of your favorite veggie varieties might say if asked the eternal question: “What vibe do I give off?”
Green Magic & Arcadia Broccoli - Smart but feels lonely sometimes, good at math.
Deep Purple Carrots - Popular, but can come off as snobby. Secretly an old soul.
Cipollini Onions - Down to earth, absolutely gorgeous but low key crazy af. Heart of gold.
Grex Beets - LOVES getting ready to go out, very silly but knows when to get real.
White Egg & Oasis Turnips - Down for anything, love em or hate em.
Winter Giant Spinach - Loyal, iconic, not going to hog the spotlight.
Carmine Splendor Okra - Stunning, unique, and stylish, always has good insights.
Lacinato kale - Down for whatever, pizza and wings or a night at the opera. Always has exactly what you need on their person at any given time.
Bodacious Sweet Corn - Fun and well meaning, but kind of a space cadet.
Tie-Dye Slicing Tomatoes - Never knows what time it is, but you love them anyway, gives great advice. Secretly loves horror movies.
Green Wave Mustard Greens - WILD, but an expert at self-care. Lowkey is a genius but not annoying about it.
Cegolaine Lettuce - SO organized, will help you get your life together.
Pan di Zucchero Chicory - Fun to talk trash with, knows the dirt on every other vegetable.
Fava Beans - Meticulous attention to detail, very witty, secretly loves trashy reality TV.
From sunrise to sunset, you kept it interesting with the fauna of Allegheny Mountain:
Your morning vibes started with - Otis, Jethro, Beehive, and Deer
You seized the day with - Rhea, Chicken & Duck, Jinx, and Luxk the giant, mischievous but friendly salamander that may or may not live at the bottom of the pond
You embraced the night with - Lightfoot, Ron, Coyote, Cows mooing at the sunset
During your time on the mountain, you were buzzed by approximately 18 fighter jets flying low over the farm. Your tax dollars at work!
You visited Green Bank Observatory 3 times. The truth is out there. Your most visited population centers outside Highland county were Lynchburg, Staunton, Harrisonburg, Franklin, and Elkins.
You enjoyed roughly 912 farm-fresh meals over the course of the past eighteen months!
You cooked for everyone roughly 45 times.
Top five farm meals you made (keeping in mind that the best thing you ate all year, and likely have ever eaten in your life, was Arden and Emily’s farm-to-table Rosh Hashanah feast):
Madeleine & John’s herbed fettuccine with goat cheese stuffed squash blossoms and bachelor’s button flower petals.
Udon bowls with snap pea & horseradish “wasabi,” kombucha braised summer squash, cucumber ginger walnut salad, fermented roasted potatoes, and tahini “peanut” sauce, made for the beekeeping workshop.
Taste of Highland sauerkraut and kimchi, beef meatballs with yogurt dill sauce and garlic scape pesto, kale salad with raspberry maple vinaigrette.
Farewell feast veggies including cumin roasted root veggies, grilled radicchio with goat cheese, pepitas and balsamic/blackberry cider vinegar reduction, mashed potatoes and celeriac with caramelized leeks and celeriac, alongside of coffee-kombucha roasted beef made by Teddy, Jessa’s hearty Italian kale and white bean soup, and Madeleine’s pumpkin pie.
A breakfast sandwich with fried deer bologna, “Dublinder” cheese, a fried duck egg with fresh ramps and zaatar, and a kimchi radish, on an english muffin.
Honorable mention to the sweet corn and chili ice cream you made for the Chili Cook-off.
You won big at the Highland County Fair, taking seven first place and one third place ribbon for your stem flowers, and second place for both your linocut art of an Amanita muscaria in the moonlight, and for a Highland Community Food Coalition educational display! But nothing compares to the demolition derby.
You drove approximately 700 miles for donations, field trips, farm visits, and other Fellowship things! That’s not including all the times you drove to Lynchburg to visit your boyfriend, and all the times Madeleine graciously drove you around like a little prince.
Even with a knee injury in prime spring foraging season, this year you spent over 50 hours foraging! That’s more foraging time than a rigorously guesstimated 99% of the US population!
Your top five favorite foraged items this year were:
Red spruce tips - Infusing them in gin or other clear liquors makes a bright yellow-green, piney “sprouzo” (SPROO-zo) that turns cloudy pale green when you add ice.
Smooth Chanterelles - Cooked with butter and salt and nothing else.
Ramps (Thanks Alex Y and other ramp harvesters!) - See number 5 on the farm meals list.
Chicken of the Woods (thanks Brennan!) - Chicken-nuggets-of-the-woods with AMI homemade ketchup.
Hawthorn berries - Also great infused, with a little autumnal apple spice flavor. Heart healthy!
Five foraged items you may have missed this year, but we think should be on your list next year are:
Cattail (especially making a cattail pollen sourdough starter)
Rue & Golden Reishi, for tincturing
Sumac - Madeleine’s was delicious and you grew, there's no other word, covetous.
Wild Ginger & Rocket
Inshallah, a Morel patch
Everyone knows you’re a beverage boy. In 2022, your top five beverages were:
Fresh Allegheny Mountain water, straight from the pump.
A tie between Big Fish Cider (any variety) and fresh pressed, murky caramel brown apple juice from the pong ball sized pasture apples (real ones know which tree), pressed laboriously in the Chambers’ apple press.