Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Farm Tour

My buddy Sarah and I went on the Piedmont Farm Tour this past weekend. We chose three farms to visit, and each was delightful in its own way.

We started at the Chapel Hill Creamery, home of the lesbian cheese farmers Flo and Portia, from whom I have bought many a block of paneer at the Carrboro farmer's market. We visited with many of their cows in the pastures, saw the milking area, and got a view of the cheese-making process. We also each had a delish fruit + yogurt smoothie.

(Sometimes even cows get itches. They scratch them on trees.)

Next we went to the farm where I bought the miraculously beautiful asparagus of last week's Wednesday market, Whitted Bowers Biodynamic Farm in Cedar Grove, NC.

When we arrived, we met Cheri Bowers, one of the farm-owners. I complimented her asparagus. She poured us strawberry lemonade. We ogled the most beautiful strawberries I have ever seen.

Her husband, Rob Bowers, the same gent who sold me the asparagus last week, showed us around his farm, explaining the biodynamic principles they follow. They plant according to the planetary and lunar alignment with the Earth, given our knowledge of the pull of the moon on the Earth's water systems. Since fruit are mostly made of water, they feel paying attention to these gravitational pulls has a strong impact on the plants. They also view the farm as it's own entity, it's own little ecosystem, and do things like only use rainwater to feed their crops, and make tincture-like composts with various herb mixtures to nourish the plants. Pretty amazing stuff, and it seems to have a huge impact on their produce: it is all so, so beautiful.

The family house, which collects many gallons of rainwater each month off the sloping roof.

Basil in the greenhouse. Huge and fragrant.

Asparagus, growing out of the ground! I'd never seen it in its full plant form before.

It takes three years for asparagus to really become a full crop. They planted two years ago, so they cannot harvest each stalk; some must stay in the ground to help maintain the roots.

The beautiful lake near the family house. On the other side are the farm's fig trees.

On our way out of the farm, we stopped at the u-pick strawberry fields and I gathered a pint.

These became yesterday's strawberry rhubarb crumble. The most beautiful strawberries, and some of the biggest, I have ever seen.

Last on our tour, we stopped at Captain John S. Pope lamb farm. I had purchased their ground lamb at the market before, and they always give out lots of recipes and free samples, so I was intrigued. They are also located right down the road from Whitted Bowers Farm.

A nice young man, perhaps twelve years of age, gave us a tractor-ride tour around the farm. He explained that around Easter they get a lot of orders. Also around another holiday -- maybe you've heard of it? -- called Passover. I asked him lots of social work type questions about what it is like to grow up on a farm. He explained that his favorite part is when they give the lambs their vaccinations, because they get to "manhandle 'em." There you have it.

Sarah and I ate lamb burgers at the end of our tractor tour. They were delightful.

The farm tour was fantastic! It is really amazing to see how unbelievaby hard our local farmers work to produce our food. It makes the sometimes steep cost of these fruits and veggies and meats feel absolutely worth it, and I feel very connected with these three farms in a different way than before, though I see them each at the market every week. Also, I really appreciate knowing what these plants look like growing out of the earth. Sometimes we forget when we are at the grocery store, or even at the farmers market, that everything we eat starts out in the dirt, a plant, growing.

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