No matter how hard one might try, “you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” A lot of the food that’s available in these parts makes us think of that old sow’s ear. That’s not to say that we’re embarrassed by our food, we just know there is no substitute for starting with the best stuff, like a juicy, vine-ripened, grown-in-the-earth tomato. So, we decided to get some of that corporate pop-culture “proactivity” and we bought ourselves a truck and hired a victualer (Cool word, eh?) who runs around and buys fresh food. It tastes better. We’ve talked about this before and we’ll probably talk about it again because our Field Truck Initiative is the big news around here. This letter will also give you the scoop on some O.Henry packages, a cooking class, our “e-news” plus a winter recipe.
Cheers! Dennis Quaintance & Nancy King Quaintance
Jim Scoggin and Bart Ortiz, our Vice President of Flavor and Consistency, got to know some of our farmer neighbors better this past November when they attended the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s (CFSA) 17th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Boone. CFSA is a non-profit member organization that works with North and South Carolina farmers, gardeners and consumers to develop healthful, sustainable agriculture. The purpose of the CFSA Conference was to bring together friends and neighbors who are interested in developing a local food system in the Carolinas.
Nearly 500 people turned out to swap tips and tricks of the growing trade, and to attend some of the nearly sixty workshops that covered everything from seeds to sales, practices to politics. The keynote speaker was Elizabeth Henderson, who owns and operates Peacenote Organic Farm in Newark, New York. Ms. Henderson’s farm is “staffed” entirely by members of the surrounding community who work together to plant, grow and harvest the food that they use from the farm. Her success at developing a sustainable, community-based food system was inspirational and reaffirming. It’s thrilling to know that this kind of idealistic project can really work.
Bart and Jim were impressed with the sincere intentions of the participants, and with the level of camaraderie and trust at the event, where there were long in the tooth hippies, wet behind the ears “green” starched shirts and every make and model in between. Of course, one of the highlights of the event was a buffet that featured dish after dish of creative organic cookery that included everything from free-range curried chicken with ginger-mashed sweet potatoes, to vast bowls of salad made with fresh-picked, crisp greens of all kinds, and tofu salad with roast garlic vinaigrette.
A few other highlights included seminars such as “Permaculture Garden Design,” “More Fun Salad Production,” “Labor – How Successful Growers Deal with It,” and “Love Those Peaches.” Bart especially enjoyed learning about heirloom apple varieties in a talk given by Bill Moretz of Moretz Mountain Orchards. Mr. Moretz grows more than ninety varieties of apples in the five-acre orchard that’s been in his family for three generations. Looks like we may have found our perfect apple grower!
Jim and Bart went to this conference with several purposes in mind. They wanted to make more contacts with North Carolina growers, and they wanted to learn more about the farming way of life. Our goal is to create a model for bringing fresh, local produce to restaurants on a large, sustainable scale. We believe that we’ll accomplish this only if we create a win/win/win enterprise for our farmer partners, you (our guests) and us. We love the idea of answering to the notion of a “triple bottom line” of profit, environmental sensitivity and social responsibility, and we’re enthusiastic supporters of a “permaculture” ideal that falls in line with this notion. Permaculture, a term coined in 1978 by Dr. Bill Mollison (from Tasmania in Australia) is planning, “consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature while yielding an abundance of food, fiber and energy for provision of local needs.” He says, “Conventional agriculture is to Karate nature, but with permaculture you ‘Aikido’ it.” For posterity’s sake, which we think about even more with our dearly loved four-year old twins, we believe we must find ways “…to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” We’re confident that this is possible, if the successes we saw at the conference continue and become more widespread.
We hope to give back to our community even more as our Field Truck Initiative grows and develops. For more information about CFSA visit their website at carolinafarmstewards.org. We’re always open to developing partnerships with more farmers – if you have any leads, or ideas about our Initiative, please drop Bart a line at [email protected].
And it always feels good to get kind notes, so we felt mighty good when probably half of our guests went to the trouble of thanking us (or, more accurately, thanking Martha Schroeder, Sherrill Baker and the rest of our team) for the fine accommodations and courteous service. Most folks also mentioned their appreciation that we offered those displaced a rate that was $65 below our posted rate. The clouds that brought the freezing rain had a silver lining!