Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving at the Farm: All is Safely Gathered In

Once again, we pause to give thanks. We give thanks for the good times and the blessings, and if we are really brave and honest, we give thanks for the tough times, and consider what it taught us, and how it helped us grow.  
It’s the same at Restoration Farm.  Some things thrive and some things struggle, but we give thanks for it all. As Thanksgiving 2014 approaches, we gather again at the farm to share the final bounty of the season – root vegetables, Long Island Cheese pumpkins, winter squash, potatoes, stunning heads of broccoli and whimsical Brussels sprouts that look like sleigh bells.

Head grower Caroline Fanning talks about the unpredictability of the weather, and the cold snap that has gripped Long Island.  
“I thought we’d have beautiful lettuce for the members, but it didn’t make it,” she says. “The water was turning to ice on the ground as I washed the carrots.” 
Nothing is guaranteed.  We can only soldier on, hope for the best, and celebrate and be grateful for what we have.  
Members stream in for their Thanksgiving produce. The Tin House pulses with a sense of excitement at the bounty spread before us. 

The fields of Restoration Farm will take a brief respite, but even as they anticipate slumber, they are drenched in rich, emotional colors. It is a fiery, final celebration of the season that was. 

And, even still, things grow. As I walk in the fields, Glenn Aldridge pulls the truck to a stop in front of me and opens the passenger door.

“I have sage,” he says with excitement.  He passes me a handful of fragrant, slender leaves from a basket on the car seat, which I stuff in my coat pocket.  It smells like Thanksgiving dinner. 
At Apple Trace, the heirloom apple trees planted in memory of my dad Jim are shedding their leaves, but they grew extensively this season.  Some tower over me by three or four feet.  He would be amazed at how these trees have grown. 
I revel in the crisp beauty of it all for just a little longer, think about what germinated, blossomed and was harvested since that frigid New Year’s Day when we sat around the table selecting seeds, and wonder about the season that is yet to come. 

©2014 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Farm-to-Table Feast of Pastured Berkshire Pork

It is a grand finale to summer as the extended family at Restoration Farm dines on deliciously sweet, farm-raised Berkshire pork and exquisite sides made with vegetables grown on the farm.
Head grower Dan Holmes talks about the circle of trust needed to take on a pastured pork project for the first time, and the magic conjured among volunteers each day in the spirit of raising wholesome, healthy food.   

“Beyond eating pork, you are going to eat a piece of magic,” promises Dan. 

A magical, abundant feast it is indeed, dining under an expansive sky as the sun sets and the stars emerge.   

Our stomachs full and our spirits satisfied, we look ahead to autumn in anticipation of the next chapter…  

©2014 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Catching Blueberries

The warm summer breeze rustles the mass of blueberry bushes. The lanky branches sway and the berries dance playfully, like toddlers impishly attempting to escape the embrace of a parent. It is a game. Who can be more nimble, who can stay just out of reach? In the end, we know it is inevitable we will collide and collapse in an unruly pile of hugs and giggles. 
It is what I like to call Blueberry Jam Day, that one day in July when the sun is just right, and the blueberries are that perfect shade of ebony blue. I head out early to Patty’s Berries and Bunches on the North Fork of Long Island with basket in tow. My goal is to collect enough berries for jam and baking to last me well into the winter.
Patty’s blueberries are planted in long corridors that seem to stretch on for an eternity. I’m told the best options for picking will be well into the field so I head deep into the heart of blueberry world, with only the palpable whisper of the breeze, the cotton candy clouds, the swishing of the branches, and the chirping of a red wing blackbird to keep me company.
It is a game of skill, attempting to grab these blueberries that hope to elude capture. 
But, I am the blueberry catcher, and within time, I am victorious, with a mountain of blue orbs in hand. Immediately, I return to the kitchen to begin jamming.  

It is such a satisfying thing, capturing that thrilling moment in the field within a quilted glass jar. The sugar, lemon juice and pectin are added and the berries simmer and pop and transform into thick purple syrup. 
Now you can actually taste the sun, the breeze, the sound of the birds and the excitement of the chase.
Slathered on a warm muffin or piping hot slice of toast, my North Fork Blueberry Jam can evoke smiles, giggles and delicious memories of catching blueberries for some time to come.

©2014 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Visit to Historic Kerber’s Farm

If you’re a Long Island resident, you may realize that your home likely sits on property that was once farmland. When first settled, some three centuries ago, Long Island was a farming community. But today, split-level homes, strip malls, pharmacies and fast food restaurants have overtaken much of that fertile land. 

Kerber’s Farm is one of the last remaining, original farm stands in the heart of suburban Long Island and it has a new lease on life. I’m fortunate that through my association with Edible Long Island, I continue to make new discoveries about the area I call home. 
I first learned of Kerber’s Farm through a story by Meredith Shanley in the Summer 2014 issue of Edible Long Island.  
Established as a family farm in 1941, Kerber’s sold eggs, produce and pies on West Pulaski Road in Huntington for decades before falling on hard times.  The property was slated for development but was purchased last year by Nick Voulgaris III who had grown up in Huntington and had visited the farm as a child. Voulgaris completely renovated the building and reopened Kerber’s Farm in the autumn of 2013.  

Just moments from the busy main strip in Huntington Village, a visit to Kerber’s is like an escape in time to Long Island’s agricultural past. We make a Saturday excursion for a leisurely lunch and a touch of romantic rural nostalgia. 

We enter the screen door and marvel at the luscious jams and pastries in the bakeshop, and the vintage photos of an earlier era at Kerber’s.  The mellow sounds of Frank Sinatra fill the room.  
At the lunch counter, we place an order for two fresh lobster rolls and explore the vintage items on sale, which Kerber’s describes as “found objects.”  
There are weathered birdcages, rustic oars, a battered saddle and an oversized antique bread bowl amidst the summer vegetables.   

With nowhere particular to go, we sit for some time in the back garden, enjoying the shade of towering old pine trees, the silky lobster rolls and the bucolic summer afternoon.
Chickens frolic in a coop not far away. 

What better way to finish the meal, than with a Salted Caramel ice cream cone?
It’s enough just to watch the purple hydrangeas sway in the summer breeze. Kerber’s Farm has served us up a perfect July afternoon, and we’ve not strayed far at all from home to find it.
“In summer the song sings itself.”

-- William Carlos Williams

©2014 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved