Lisa McCrory of Earthwise Farm & Forest is my first completed shoot and interview for the Home Grown in Central Vermont project and she was a terrific subject. I met her at her farm in late June to capture the portraits of her, as well as harvesting some of the garlic scapes. Then just last week I photographed the harvest of the garlic bulbs themselves. Please enjoy the pictures interlaced with the interview.
B (Ben): Your name?
L (Lisa): Lisa McCrory
B: The town you live in?
L: I live in Bethel, Vermont
B: Are you a small farmer or a gardener?
L: We have a certified organic, small-scale, diversified farm where we use animal power and a lot of hand tools with our farming practices.
B: When and what got you into farming?
L: I was into farming ever since I was a kid, not on a professional level with my parents, but I always wanted to have a garden and grow food so I think having a lifestyle with farming as a part of it and as a profession was something that I knew I was going to do from the very beginning. The reason I like to farm is I want to grow my own food and I want to feed my family with products that come from my own hands. I also choose to farm because I can offer a lifestyle that goes along with that where I can be with my children and not leave the farm to take on a nine to five job. It is a very satisfying kind of work and I get to go to the gym every day without having to pay a membership.
B: What do you enjoy most about gardening?
L: The timelessness. I love the fact that I can walk into my gardens or go and do chores with my animals and I really lose track of time and space. I just enter a zone of interaction and communication that is beyond the human word and it is often times hard to get back to the real world - unless I am on a schedule (laughter). It is a wonderful sensation and I am grateful to have this as an occupation.
B: Tell me about the food that you have picked for this project?
L: I picked garlic because it is one of my favorite crops to grow. I love garlic in my food, I love planting it in the fall and then seeing a crop come up in the spring without me having to do anything, and I love the process of harvesting the scapes - getting a little taste of garlic before the garlic is ready. It is a great medicinal, it tastes good with just about everything, and it is just overall satisfying and I seem to grow more of it every year. You can't get (the quality of) what you can grow in your own garden, it doesn't compare to the garlic you find in the store, it is just so superior. I would grow garlic just for myself, but I tend to grow larger volumes each year so I also have some I can sell.
B: How and when do you harvest it?
L: The garlic is usually harvested around the first to third or fourth week of July - that's the ideal. I usually wait until half the plants start to lose their color and that is usually an indicator that it is dying off and it is time to pull the bulbs out of the ground. But the scapes are harvested at the end of June or when we notice that the shoots are starting to come up and curl. I try to get them nice and early - I can harvest the scapes while they are tender for my cooking, but I can also make sure that the garlic is putting less energy into the scapes and more into the bulb in the ground.
B: How do you like to eat the garlic and do you have any favorite recipes?
L: I make a lot of raw milk cheese and when I do that I seem to put garlic in almost every time. One of our favorite evening meals when we are all too lazy to really cook something is popcorn with homemade butter, garlic, and nutritional yeast - that in itself is a meal and without garlic it doesn't compare. But garlic is good with just about everything, I also use garlic as a medicinal for my livestock, I like to pickle garlic, I like to add garlic to a lot of the pickled products we do make, and I make a lot of pesto. I grow a lot of garlic, but I find in my processing of food and storing stuff there is garlic in just about everything I make from the pesto, to the salsa, to the tomato sauce, to the cheese - you name it. Then just pickling the bulbs all by themselves, the cloves, is really wonderful - as well as the pickling the scapes, it is delicious.
B: Anything else I should ask?
L: When the garlic is planted the rule of the thumb is to plant to the garlic in mid-October and I like to put it into beds with lots of nutritious soil so make sure they have really good compost to go along with it. I used to mulch the garlic in the fall, but now I have found that I have waited until the ground is a little bit frozen, but before the snow falls. It keeps the mice from nesting in the hay. I am always changing my technique, but those are the basic rules of thumb - try to get it in the ground mid-October, you can go as late as early November, but if you want your bulbs to get a really good start mid-October is something to shoot for. Curing the garlic is an important part because once you pull them out of the ground you don't just use them right away, I suppose you could, but if you want garlic to last awhile it is important to let it cure. I like to find a cool dry place where I can hang the garlic and let the bulbs dry a little bit. Even though they say you can't do it, I like to braid my hard-neck variety (many say the neck is too stiff), but I've got a way of tenderizing the necks and I can make really nice braids. They are really nice ornamentals to hang in your kitchen and snip off when you need it and they can still look pretty if you've taken a couple off. So don't listen to what people say you can't do, more than likely you can figure out how to do it!
To find out more about Lisa McCrory at Earthwise Farm and Forest check out these links:
To find out more about this project, click HERE.