Meeting Michael Pollan

POLLA3_130425_346On April 25th, my parents, who live in Arlington, Virginia, invited Jen and I over for a home-cooked family meal inside the tiny window of time after a work day and before we were headed to the heart of Washington, D.C. to hear Michael Pollan speak about his newest book, ‘COOKED: A Natural History of Transformation.‘ Even with the wealth of farm-to-table restaurants in the city, many of their kitchens stocked with products grown and raised by close friends, we felt that the best way to honor the movement and the debut of the new book was to celebrate it quietly at home. And then chase down Michael Pollan with a Willowsford Farm gift bag and our cameras ready to shoot.

Over vegetarian lasagna, greens, and strawberry shortcake served on fresh baked biscuits, we talked about the season to come, about the 8 lbs. sweet potato my parents grew in their backyard garden last year and how we hope to beat their record at the farm this year, and what to write in the card we were slipping in the bag for “MP.”

Then something magical happened. For the first time in my “Pollanated” career, I realized we were going to be late to a Michael Pollan talk. Instead of flying out the door, however, we picked up our plates, double checked our will-call receipts and watched Jen take an extra moment to thank my parents for the meal. Sure, I still kind of rushed us out the door, but being a little bit late because we are busy farmers committed to family meals felt perfectly reasonable. It felt like Michael Pollan would completely forgive our tardiness.

As always, the talk was inspirational and articulated every thought, feeling and goal inside each one of us fighting to regain our connections with nature, the food chain, meal time, and our role as chefs in our own health and destiny.

Pollan referred to the family meal as “the nursery of democracy,” a time when we learn to take turns at the favorite parts of a roast chicken with our siblings, give guests first dibs at the homemade whipped cream for strawberry shortcake, and take back this activity and time from a world perhaps too populated with convenience and choice. He discussed the history, and interesting timing, of the ready-made, frozen meal in combination with the growth of dual-income and dual-career households and in doing so, reminded me of how many “food-like substances” have fueled so many of us along the way. Who hasn’t grabbed a bite of something from the convenience store at a gas station or hurried through a sandwich over the kitchen sink so that they could use that time for a different form of personal enrichment? Heck, even farmers order pizza once in a while.

But on the beautifully bright side, this has led many of us to a place where each meal cooked at home, shared with family and in our case, farm-ily as well, feels like a treat, like a special occasion. Although I long for weeks, months and years when it is simply part of the daily routine of life, I’m more than happy to invest extra time in Willowsford Farm and fields to ensure that our CSA members and Farm Stand shoppers have rich, diverse meals that are good for them and grown via practices that the author of “In Defense of Food” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” would be proud of. And lucky for us, as the bounty of the season is growing all around us, it’ll once again be easy to refuel with fresh peppers, tomatoes, and greens throughout the days and roast, stir fry and grill in the evenings.

Place Your Thanksgiving Turkey Orders Soon!

Can you believe Thanksgiving is less than a month away?! Neither can we. If you are going omnivore, this means it is time to get your orders in for birds. Local Harvest‘s Turkey Locator is a great way to find a free-range, heritage, natural, organic or whatever-your-fancy bird near you.

The honorary Compost2theMoon turkey, who we are calling Collin (after the famous chicken from the  “Is it Local?” Portlandia skit), is coming from our friend Farmer Tom in Reisterstown, Maryland (unless our snuggley-sides get the better of us and pardon him). Farmer Tom gives his happy birds twice the recommended space to grow and lots of water, yummy feed and and fresh air daily. Processing begins just five days before the holiday. The birds are fresh water-rinsed throughout the entire process and then packed in ice to guarantee a fresh, moist bird.

Re-Purposing Around The Farm

In preparation for the first frost that came through on Friday night (October 12-13), we were busy bees harvesting the last of the tomatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, okra and ristra peppers. But busy as we may be, we are always making the absolute most out of the materials and extras.

Here are a few great ones:

Saving Sunflower Seeds

Our sunflowers kept the bees happy all summer and as they dry up and go to seed, we are leaving some in the fields for the birds to snack on now and harvesting and cleaning the seeds out of others in order to feed the local birds through the winter.

Okra Stalks Saved For Compost Aeration

Okra stalks, like okra that has been left on the plant too long, are very woody. Sure, we could just toss them in a compost heap but there is an even better way to use them in compost: as aeration. Laying them down as a base where you intend to pile compost aids aeration, which is necessary in high temperature aerobic composting for rapid decomposition and the reduction of initial moisture content.

Thinned Beet Greens (and other mixed greens)

Just like Allison pointed out in her recent post Planted Too Many Greens?, we sometimes need to thin crops after a direct sow. But that doesn’t mean they have to go to waste. So many of them are edible and incredibly delicious.  At Willowsford Farm, we saved, trimmed down and washed all our thinned beet greens for market and they were a hit!

Garden Shed and Tables Built From Local Lumber

Willowsford Farm is growing at the center of a new community that is also growing. As the developers have had to clear trees in areas where houses are being built, they have cleaned and saved the lumber for use in community buildings. The “Farm Garden Shed,” now home to our Wednesday and Sunday Market, was built with this lumber. So were the picnic tables (inside the shed in this picture). Pretty cool, huh?