For the past six months I have been working on a sustainable farm on the western edge of St. Thomas. One of my last blog posts before ignoring this website for a while was about a few local farms. As it turns out, one of them is where I ended up spending many of my summer and fall days.
On Our Little Farm we run a CSA program (community supported agriculture) and raise pastured pork, chickens, and ducks. At the farm is a mobile wood-fired oven on a trailer. This oven at one time was parked outside the landowner's garage and each day at the farm I would walk by it dreaming of when we would fire it up. Now that vegetables are done for the year and the animals are taken care of by Mark (he and his family began Our Little Farm), everyone had a little bit of time to spare to see just what this beautiful beast could do. Timed with a pickup date for the pastured pork, Wednesday Dec. 3 was the perfect opportunity to do some baking in the oven.
I shared this picture on the Elgin Harvest facebook page last week after finding a stash of photos in a Julia Child biography. This was taken in early 2001 at the end of a pastry class while I was in chefs school. (As an aside: I went out for ice cream with a friend last night and he thought this was recent. I'd like to think I've changed somewhat but I'm okay if someone thinks I look 23.)
I make it no secret I'm not sure what direction to move in when the fall arrives. I have been back in the Elgin area off and on for the past 9 years and in that time I've done what I can to alter the perception and knowledge regarding high quality cuisine. Has it changed at all for the better?
I have no desire to be a line cook in a place that serves Caesar salad with Kraft salad dressings. I think french fried chips should be reserved for food trucks and diners and not served as a side option to every meal in the county. I refuse to purchase or use frozen pastry that came off a Sisco truck. Meat does not have to hold the largest piece of real estate on the dinner plate, nor does it have to come from industrial farm factories. I think some people spend too little money on food because they have been taught that food should be cheap. They have two cars in the driveway less than 3 years old, each have Iphones for themselves and children, 4 tv's in the house with cable and Netflix, go on vacations to Disneyland yearly, use the dryer during the daytime, buy soda pop, go clothes shopping once a month, but complain their food bills are too high. This map published yesterday outlines just how much - or little - each country spends on food each year and it's staggering to note the differences.
I do my best to support local producers whenever I can, much of it organic and sustainably produced. That often means I pay 50-400% more for some items than what you would pay in the grocery store or what a restaurant would pay for things ordered from a food distributor. My costs are higher, which means the prices for my goods should be higher, but it's an uphill battle when only a small percentage of the population (but an incredibly loyal & hungry percentage!) knows the difference between Pillsbury or not, including many of the area chefs - and price becomes the determining factor. "Such and such place is cheaper, I'm going to buy from them. It's what I know. It's what I'm willing to spend." Some people simply don't care either.
Well, why am I here if I am unable to find work where my skills are required and get paid a living wage?
Because of Elgin County farms like HOPE Eco Farms, Dancey Family Farm, and Our Little Farm.
Eating. Drinking. Sharing.