Learning in Retirement by Nina Scott: A visit to local food warriors

  • Kim Wissemann at Warner Farm in Sunderland, which has been in her family for 10 generations. Nina Scott

Published: 4/29/2022 4:43:16 PM
Modified: 4/29/2022 4:41:49 PM

This spring my trusty sidekick Katy van Geel and I headed up “Food Matters,” another food-related seminar for Five College Learning in Retirement, the longtime program that offers peer-led seminars and workshops and is sponsored by the region’s the five colleges.

We have been blessed with an astonishing array of cooks and storytellers, including, for the first time, two men, both Brits, and both superb additions to our ranks.

We shared stories of family meals and memories attached to these. We heard of traditional Ashkenazi Jewish fare, good recipes for a severe diabetic, a Thanksgiving meal which melded north and south U.S. traditions. We also shared recipes.

Almost all of us were born and raised elsewhere, except for Kim Wissemann, who is about as local as you can get. Her family runs Warner Farm in Sunderland. Her father’s family came to America shortly after the Mayflower landed in 1620. The Warner Farm was formally established in 1718. Kim’s son David and wife Jess are the 10th generation of the family to farm this land.

My husband, Jim, and I asked to come and see the farm. Even though it was a damp and chilly Sunday, we drove out, properly attired in warm jackets and sturdy boots to meet Kim. It was well worth the effort.

Warner Farm lies at the foot of Mount Sugarloaf; its some 150 acres of land are beautiful: flat and fertile. The Wissemanns grow all kinds of crops: asparagus, strawberries, blueberries, peaches, corn, tomatoes and pumpkins and the Warner Farm is famous for its intricate corn mazes in the fall, now designed by Jess. Kim showed us photos of past designs, including Julia Child and “Alice in Sunderland.”

Mud puddles in no way dampened our interest. Farm machines we knew little about stood all over; we had no idea how they worked and what they did. Kim helped us out. We certainly gained a lot of respect for what our local farmers do and how much specialized knowledge they have.

Kim’s mother’s French-Canadian family cooked up a storm with casseroles, stews, and desserts. Sometimes her dad made homemade potato chips (at that point he raised potatoes for State Line Potato Chips).

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares are important to the cash flow of the farm, as people buy shares before the growing season begins, thus giving farmers income they need when it’s most important. Their famous corn mazes, which run from September to November, provide more income.

So does the Millstone Market across the street from the farm. I popped in, as food markets always fascinate me; I came away with a wonderful thick piece of shin beef, the base for a splendid beef-barley-vegetable soup when I got home.

Kim shared a family recipe for “Animal Face Cookies:” (makes about 2 ½ dozen)

4 T soft butter

1 c sugar

1 beaten egg

1 t vanilla

2 c flour, sifted with ½ t salt and 1 t baking soda

½ c sour milk


Cream butter and sugar; add egg and vanilla, then flour and sour milk.

Drop by small spoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Press 3 raisins onto the top to form a face. Bake at 375ᵒ for about 8 minutes.

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