Once upon I time I fell in love. It was a love affair with nature, with my local farm, and the discovery ofÂ all the wonderful things that local agriculture hasÂ to offer. There wasÂ a hidden passion there that I had been unaware of. It wasÂ a passion for soil, seed, and fruit; a passion that revealed itself through the care, hard work, and attention to detail that I saw in the farmers who worked the land. Itâs whatÂ got me into the kitchen. Thereâs nothing more inspirational than having premium fruits,Â vegetables, and herbs find theirÂ way into my kitchen on the very day they were picked. They just begÂ to be formedÂ into something amazing for my loved ones and I to enjoy.
You have to understand, however, Iâm no country girl. I live in a small suburban townhouse just outside of Philadelphia, whereÂ SUVs and shopping malls abound. My âgardenâ consists of a few potted tomatoes and herbs that I squeezeÂ onto my tinyÂ patio in hopes of having some connection with the natural world. Before my love affair with local and seasonal foods, I settled for under-ripe produce and tasteless meat from poorly raised animals. That lack of care and flavorÂ reflected in my cooking.
A few years ago, however, my affinityÂ towardsÂ cooking had a renaissance. I discovered Community SupportedÂ Agriculture, known simply as CSAÂ farms, where produce flourishes unaided by chemicals, and small grass-fed meat farms where happy cows get to munch on an all-natural diet. Every year I purchase a crop share from a local naturally grown farm.Â As a result,Â my little 4 year-old and I get to spendÂ afternoons on a glorious, pristine farm once a week throughout the summer. We return home with a large bag of premium produce that was sown and harvested by hand. Local agriculture got me, quite literally,Â out of the kitchenÂ and onto a farm where I discovered a world of vine-ripened produce and pastured meats.Â I returned with a true sense of inspiration.
The delicious results achieved by these farmers, with theirÂ careÂ andÂ attention to detail, is one of the primary reasons I beganÂ writing a food blog. Spend some time talking to them and youâll discover that theyâre anything but simple farmers. Theyâre scientists, artists, and customer service masters. I hearÂ it in a farmerâs voice as he passionately discusses the importance of good soil. I see it in howÂ beautifully they arrange a basket of fresh peppers, cucumbers, andÂ onions on their market stand. I feel it as I stand in a quiet field among rowsÂ of pick-your-own cherry tomatoes and a wonderfulÂ sense of calm and peace washes over me.Â Quality like this needs to be shared with the world.
The sweetness of community agriculture extends beyond the tangible benefits of amazing food. The intrinsic value isÂ just as sweet for me; supporting the local economy, protecting the earth for future generations, and especially having a relationship with the farmers and the soilÂ that nourish my family.
The connection to nature that I was having trouble finding on my patioÂ no longer alludes me. I owe a great deal of thanks for this toÂ my weekly adventures atÂ our local farm, ramblingÂ amongst the rows of summer squash and sunflowers. Iâm sure that Betsy, the farm dog in training, agreesÂ that itâs a connection we all should experience.
Want to meet purveyors who are making a difference with their customers? Check out BonAppetit.comâs âOut of the Kitchenâ, an ongoing exploration of the relationships that build and sustain the food industry. See how hyper-local food markets operate and how their focus on quality and service keep customers coming back for more.
Photographs taken at Living Hope Farm, Harleysville, PA.Â
Betsy hounds from Ledamete Grass Farm, Schnecksville, PA.
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