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Local Hero Award

Big News! We were voted the “Local Hero” award in the Farm/Farmer category by Edible Jersey readers! Check out the article below and read about other local heroes here.

Photo by Joanna Tully

Jess Niederer once described a chickadee as fierce, persistent, social-minded and cheerful. To me, that sounds just like her. When asked how it feels to be entering her fifth year running Chickadee Creek Farm, Niederer recalls her beginnings. “It wasn’t a sure thing that starting up a vegetable farm with a super-meager budget and minimal experience was going to pan out,” she says. In 2010, Niederer leased five acres of her family farm in Pennington and started growing vegetables on two of them. That first year, she sold produce at two farmers’ markets and had a small number of CSA members. With each year that flew by, the farm grew. Now Chickadee Creek sells its certified- and transitional-organic produce at five farmers’ markets and the CSA counts 130 members.

This growth is no coincidence. Niederer works like a wild woman, driven by fervent dedication to her farm, her community, local ecology and environment, and the people that work with her. She is tenacious, taking meticulous notes on her successes and failures and then, just as the pace of the season slows in the fall, incorporating her new knowledge into the next year’s plan. This is one of the great rewards Niederer finds in running a farm business: the chance to grow upon everything she has learned.

And somehow, she finds time to give to her community through off-farm activities as well. Every Thursday during the slower months, Niederer volunteers as an EMT for the Pennington First Aid Squad, and she attends monthly Mercer County Board of Agriculture meetings. She teaches a class through the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey that helps beginning and aspiring farmers decide if it is the right career for them. And for all her apprentices, her door remains open after they move on from her farm. I know from personal experience, as I was a Chickadee Creek Farm apprentice in 2012.

When Niederer started out, she says, she was working toward financial stability, improved local ecology and human health, and the creation of a business that she could be proud of. Now, as some of these goals are beginning to be realized, she is adding a fourth goal: to get, as she says, “food to people who cannot afford it or access it but would reap great health benefits from fresh produce.”

Even with her success, she doesn’t forget her risky beginnings, saying, “I feel so lucky to have acquired what seems to be the most awesome group of farm members ever. I feel relieved that all this even worked.” —Helen Chandler

Helen Chandler, in her second year of farming at Whistling Wolf Farm, is a regular contributor to EJ.

The Big Idea: Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente is one of the most interesting writers in speculative fiction today, not in the least because when she gets worked up about something, she doesnt just yell about it she creates art about it. This explains her latest, The Refrigerator Monologues, and now Cat is here to explain it to you.

CATHERYNNE M. VALENTE:

Hello, my name is Cat Valente. You may remember me from such things as: fairy tales, girl stuff, books with too many fancy words in them, books with too many fancy feelings in them, and titles that are way too long and/or unpronounceable.

Well…I’ll be honest, I’m still doing several of those things. But now with LOTS more punching and swearing and yelling!

My latest book is called The Refrigerator Monologues and you can see its big red and blue mug right up there. It’s more or less The Vagina Monologues for superheroes’ girlfriends. If you’re familiar with the phrase “girls in refrigerators,”coined by the amazing Gail Simone in the mid 90s, that elevator pitch/title will make instant sense. If not, come with me on a journey through time, space, and feminist theory: named for the fate of one of Green Lantern’s poor girlfriends who ended her run dismembered and stuffed into an actual refrigerator, it refers to a long-term trend in superhero comics in which women (not just girlfriends and wives, female heroes, too) are variously murdered, raped, mutilated, driven crazy, had their powers, both super and otherwise, taken away, and other sundry completely horrific ways to spend a Saturday night, not because those things featured heavily in their own stories, but simply to further the male hero’s narrative, give him something to shake his fist at the villain about, eventually avenge, or grit his teeth over.

I wanted to write about these women, give them the microphone, re-center the superhero tale on the characters that are so often used up and tossed aside by it, and give them a chance to get in some primal scream therapy. It all takes place in Deadtown, an underworld where it’s always autumn, always dusk, you can only eat extinct plants and animals and read remaindered books and listen to the house band of late, great rockers and hope someone up in the world of the living decides to bring you back with a revivification ray so you can see the end of your own story. And in Deadtown, the refrigerated girls get together every night to get mad, get drunk, and get their own back.

SOUNDS LIKE A ROLLICKING ROMP THROUGH UPLIFTING AND HILARIOUS ADVENTURES, RIGHT?

Except it kind of is. The Refrigerator Monologues is quite possibly the funniest thing I’ve written, and it’s not even all gallows humor! It’s a very new voice for me—a lot less of that elegant stuff I’m known for, and a lot more raw, stripped-down, punch-to-the-gut, straight-forward truth-bombs. And f-bombs. And actual bombs. This is a story with a lot of heroes and villains and battles and blown-up cities and blown-up people, after all.

Which leads to the catch. Because of course, I don’t have, and will never be given, the rights to Gwen Stacy and Karen Page and Alexandra DeWitt and all the others, all those refrigerated girls of the long four-color history of the world. When I first had the idea for this book, borne of white-hot blinding rage at Gwen Stacy’s final words in the last Amazing Spiderman movie having “Nobody makes my decisions for me, nobody! This is my choice!” before flouncing off to get her neck promptly snapped by the entire concept of having an ounce of agency, this presented a problem. For about five minutes.

Because the truth is, I’ve been doing this kind of thing for years. I just usually do it with Snow White and Gretel and Rapunzel and Marya Morevna and Red Riding Hood. I know how to dance this dance. I know how to strip an archetype down for parts and build up something strange and new. And I am also a glutton for punishment who has put off buying a lawnmower for literally a decade because it’s too much effort but thinks nothing of uttering the phrase “Oh, I’ll just create a complete, analogous, Marvel/DC crossover-style, cohesive, referential yet original superhero universe. For a novella. It’s fine. By the way, these mai tais are amazing where is the waiter?”

Which is what I did. I’m not being coy about anything—if you know your superhero comics, you’ll be able to name my tune in six notes. If you don’t, it might just seem like a familiar little earworm you can groove to on its own merits. It’s not even about avoiding copyright. I wanted to do it this way. I wanted to fashion this universe out of the starstuff our culture has become so obsessed with over the last 15 or 20 years. These women aren’t meant to be X-Men with the VIN numbers filed off. They’re meant to be their own complicated, gnarly, beautiful, angry people with the kind of familiarity and resonance all archetypes have. I wanted to do what I’ve done with folklore and fairy tales my whole career, only this time, I never reached for Grimm. I examined each of the stories that pissed me off the most, drew out what I felt were the core, defining, archetypical elements of each character, threw the rest away, and banged up a brand new cast of thousands, with new adventures, new twists on the old tales, new costumes, new powers, new obsessions, new endings. Think of it as a chop shop for mythology—hot new body, same classic engine.

Because superhero stories have become for us what fairy tales were for the pre-industrial world. They’re morality plays we encourage children to devour by the fistful—but they’re not really for children. They’re so much darker and stranger and sexier and more political than almost anything else we’d give to a child. Comics and fairy tales are short, but put together create a long tradition with some continuity issues. They light up the brain with epic battles and romances and bright costumes and magic while communicating the truth about the universe as told by the dominant culture. They’re focused on heroes going out into the wild and struggling against the unknown for the sake of the village. It’s just that now the unknown is the fringes of science, while then it was what to do if you meet someone in the forest who doesn’t live like you do. Though maybe it’s still that too, a little. There’s not so much difference, in the end, between “happily ever after” and “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” There’s not so much difference between writing Snow White set in the old west and writing that awful refrigerator waiting at the end of too many stories like a spindle in a tower.

I’m terribly proud of The Refrigerator Monologues in an entirely uncool way—you’re not supposed to like your own books this much, I know. But I spent a long time living with my girls, and I love them all so much. I hope you love them a little, too. In some ways, I suppose you could think of this as my Pulp Fiction—violent, funny, weird, loud stories that seem unconnected at first but are totally entangled, jam packed with pop culture references, homages, pastiches, and mysterious unexplained lights. Only mine come from doomsday devices and mutant powers.

And old refrigerators left open just a little too wide in a big, dark room.

The Refrigerator Monologues: Amazon|Barnes Noble|Indiebound

Read an excerpt (scroll down). Visit the authors site. Follow her on Twitter.

By: Rebecca Reinking

I know my Canadian friend who studied in Australia sought out extra clinical placements at our university Hearing Clinic, and our Masters Degree had two Audiology based courses, so this got around this issue. I wonder if you could look at volunteering? Id contact the Canadian association and perhaps clarify what would be acceptable.Best of luck, sorry I wasnt that helpful.

By: If You Think Trump’s at War With the Deep State, Take Another Look at His Policies | Cuba on Time

[] Trumps$ 6.2 trillionin planned tax cuts are the Bush policy on steroids, and are potentiallythree times the magnitude of the 10-year cost of Bushs cuts. Because they are heavily targeted at the rich47 percent of the cuts will go to the top 1 percentthey will exacerbate income inequality, which is already at its highest level since the 1920s. The tax-relief crumbs for low-income earners will be nullified or made worse byan assault on the minimum wage. Assistance to the poor and near-poor could be further eroded by a reduction in Medicaid benefits (already in the works, courtesy of Speaker Paul Ryan and the Republican Congress). These actions will exacerbate theongoing trend toward jobs without benefits. []

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