Around the Harvest Table

by Terese Allen, Food Editor

Regina Beidler

A desire to produce food that they'd be happy to eat themselves is one of the reasons Regina Beidler and husband Brent decided to go organic. They raise their daughter Erin and milk 40 cows on a 150-acre spread in central Vermont. The farm also boasts pigs, chickens and Erin's new pet rabbit, as well as a dog and cats.

"We purchased our farm when Erin was only a couple of months old. From the time she was a baby she traveled along with us as we did our work," says Regina, an energetic woman with such a warm manner that even brief acquaintances feel like they've known her for years. "When Erin was three she could name all the cows in the barn and could even tell you which stalls the cows were in when they were in pasture."

Regina gracefully juggles home, family and farm, but she also serves as the Northeast regional leader for Organic Valley's Farm Ambassador program and is active in community projects, including a local food pantry. She likes to cook—and she's particularly known for her baking—but she also likes to keep it simple. During the post-harvest colder months, one of the meals Regina serves is fresh apples and popcorn—something her family enjoys every Sunday night.

What does "harvest time" mean to you and your family?

Summer is a busy time on the farm as winter hay needs to be harvested and stored and garden and lawn needs attention, as well as the usual milking, chores and other responsibilities. Fall and harvest time is symbolized by a barn full of hay, vegetables canned and frozen for the winter, meat in the freezer and, as the days shorten, preparation for the colder days of winter, with wood stacked in the cellar for heating. Our favorite time of year is in September when we visit the local agricultural fair—it's a time to gather ourselves, visit with neighbors, see the exhibits and ride the rides.

Could you share a harvest tradition that's part of your life?

About 15 years ago Brent and his brother bought a small cider press. Every fall the extended family gathers to make enough cider for the entire year. A local orchard invites people to come and clean up a row of apple trees for a small fee, so we go and collect the drops and a few left on the trees. Then we gather for a day and work all afternoon—the apples are ground and then pressed, and the cider is filtered through cheesecloth and put into jugs. Then the jugs are stored in the freezer and we have cider to drink all year long.

Do you put up any foods for the colder months?

Brent is a former market gardener and excellent grower of vegetables. His schedule doesn't allow for as much gardening in recent years so my mother and I share a garden space. We can tomatoes and pickles, freeze green beans and corn and store potatoes. All the rest of the garden is for fresh eating. We just planted three pear trees, a pie cherry tree and some grapes to go along with strawberries, asparagus and rhubarb for perennial eating.

What's your style of cooking?

I like to cook from scratch—simple foods that utilize the beef, chicken, pork, eggs, milk and vegetables from our own farm. I love to bake and have a reputation for my desserts, especially my pies. We have spent time working overseas—Brent in Bangladesh and both of us in Chad, West Africa—so we love Indian food and some good African sauces.

Which cookbooks do you use most?

There are two cookbooks that are my favorites. The More with Less Cookbook was published in the 1970's as a way to look at how North Americans could eat more mindfully in terms of resources compared to the rest of the world. It is filled with good, simple recipes with little processed ingredients and delicious results. It's the only cookbook I took to Africa since we lived in a rural area with no grocery stores—just a daily open air market. The other cookbook just came out last year and is called Simply in Season. It's a companion to More with Less and looks at eating foods in season. Both of these stress that using fresh, seasonal and local ingredients rather than expensive ingredients make for delicious results.

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