Dear 2 readers,
I am officially a horrible, neglectful blogger.
This was supposed to be done 4 days after my last post. Sigh…
I make no excuses. It is what it is.
Week 2 of off-campus Farm to Table took me back to Elgin, first stop – RRR Farm.
RRR is adjacent to the expanded Green Gate Farm land, but brought a very different experience.
Not only do they grow and sell seasonal produce and have pigs and goats, but also cows, more farm dogs, and kittens. (Oh my goodness, the kittens… be impressed, friends. Though tempted, I did not bring a single furry friend home. A classmate, however, did). While there, we spent plenty of play time with the domesticated lot, helped load a stubborn pig for processing, dug holes, erected fence posts, and planted fruit trees. In 5 years, we’ll be able to return to see them bearing as a result of our labor.
Bernhardt’s Fruit and Veggie Farm was our 3rd/5th day of the week exposure. It is a well oiled machine, having been established over 30 years ago and kept in the family. Their organization is impressive, as is their on site commercial kitchen, in which they concoct a myriad of wonders to sell at farmer’s markets, including sauerkraut, kim chi and melon sorbets. Those of us who spent time with the Bernhardts were lucky enough to get the best of both worlds. We harvested, weeded and planted on the farm, and then helped prepare for market in the kitchen. It was a joy both days.
Worth mentioning – it was here I saw my first live scorpion, clear and tiny, lurking in holes I’d already dug and seeded bare-handed. I am not generally squeamish about much, but can I just say EEK!
I have since arranged to spend some of my externship on this farm as well.
I rounded out the week at Yegua Creek Pecan Orchard. The scenery was breath taking and heart breaking in turns, as they recently lost 1500 trees and have planted 200 new ones. This was the most diversified business of the bunch. They not only harvest and sell pecans, but also market pecan oil, pecan coffee, wood and wood work items (cutting boards, wall hangings, etc), and a host of pecan food stuffs. A minimal amount of limb clearing occurred, but most of my time there was concentrated in their kitchen, making champagne pecans, pecan cookies and experimental recipes. I learned to sort pecan halves, which is easier than it sounds, but done by hand for quality control. Think about that next time you price local pecans…
After we returned to campus, we hosted a Round Table luncheon, the menu for which we composed and prepared from an assortment of food generously supplied by the farmers. Over lunch, we talked about our experiences, the pros, the cons. We got feedback from those farmers who were able to attend, and gave it to the people at school who coordinate the block.
For me, it was an overwhelmingly positive experience, on which I plan to build over the years. The relationships between farmers and cooks directly impacts the quality of the food at some of your local restaurants. I encourage all of you to contribute a little forethought and research to your next food outing. Consider trying somewhere that uses locally grown ingredients. Compare their wares to the usual, convenient chains. Maybe you’ll be able to tell the difference – especially at peak season, in which we are sadly NOT currently. Maybe you won’t. Either way, the purposefulness matters, if only to know you tried. And report back! Comment! Let me know!
For now, tell me, where and what are you eating lately?