By: Ryan Hodros, Culinary Arts Student
In the last block of the Culinary Arts Program, we start exploring exactly what this “farm-to-table” hullabaloo is all about. Not only that, we spend time learning what exactly goes into producing the ingredients we use on a daily basis in the classroom, at home, and in restaurants and food stands. We’re not done with the program quite yet (three weeks to go) but here’s a breakdown of where we’ve been and what we experienced while on these farms.
A somewhat more academic tour than I expected, Waste Farmers is both a CSA and a soil manufacturing concern. Don’t let that business-y term mislead you though—one of their goals is to make healthy and effective soils full of nutrients that generate food that is better for their customers and uses the available land more efficiently. On that note, the land they use to cultivate seasonally rotated crops is about as efficient as possible—not in that they cover their plants in poisons and artificial fertilizers, but in that they grow to avoid depleting the soil, damaging the surrounding water and air, and avoiding pitfalls like crops destroyed in harvest. Growing up in rural Ohio, I thought I knew a bit about farming. I was wrong. There is a lot to learn at Waste Farmers, and they are doing good work.
Black Cat Farm
The Farm part of a true “farm-to-table” experience, they supply produce to both the Black Cat in Boulder and the Bramble & Hare. You might remember that we did whole hog butchery last week. Well, that came on the heels of our time at this farm, where I and a few of my classmates built a new fence in order to encourage the Black Cat pigs to root in some of their old fields in order to remove old plants, fertilize the fields, and turn the soil. Black Cat and whole hog together gave me a real appreciation for what exactly goes into pork production. For example, sometimes the pigs get stressed and stop eating, and so the people at Black Cat will feed them apples (which they love) in order to keep their energy going and cheer them back up. It was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget.
I was always under the impression that raising chickens and other poultry was a filthy, smelly, dangerous endeavor (because chickens can be mean and attack at random). After some time spent at Carrie’s Clucks, my whole outlook on poultry has changed. Her chickens, turkeys, ducks, and other birds were some of the nicest, most well-behaved animals I’ve ever experienced, whether in a farm setting or in a domestic environment. Carrie’s explanation was that birds you treat well treat you well, and I can’t argue with that logic. These are birds that will come up to you and pose for pictures! If her idea catches on, it could revolutionize the way we look at poultry and egg production in America. Rather than explain every last detail in this blog, give Carrie a call and ask for a tour—she loves having people over to explain what she’s trying to do, and she does it in an engaging and interesting way. If anything, your kids will love it.
A farm experience I am somewhat more used to, Miller Farms combines the fun of a hay ride with the practicality of a trip to the produce section, with a massive and exciting playground for the kiddies sprinkled on top. They drove us around the farm, learning to harvest a variety of crops that we got to keep and use in class for a series of vegetable quickfire challenges. The corn that we harvested here was something of a cheat code in those tests, as all we really needed to do was roast the corn on the grill, cut it off the cob, and sprinkle it on your preparation in order to make it delicious. Fresh, seasonal produce really makes cooking anything a breeze—it’s less “how do I make this great?” and more “how can I not screw this up?” All you have to do with the veg from Miller Farms is heat it and slightly accentuate its natural flavors. It’s amazing.
To be completely honest, I was skeptical going into this part of the program. I appreciate the philosophy of farm to table, but the modern world is modern because it can transcend the limits imposed on us by nature. All that disappeared when I ate one of the tomatoes in Carrie’s CSA garden—it was one of the most flavorful, juicy, firm, and delicious tomato I’ve ever had in my entire life. I’ve written about whether or not farm-to-table is here to stay in the past, but in that one experience, I can say it better be. America’s been eating slightly white, under-ripe, watery, and flavorless tomatoes for years. America deserves Carrie’s tomatoes. Let’s hope that happens one day.