Once upon I time I fell in love. It was a love affair with nature, with my local farm, and the discovery of all the wonderful things that local agriculture has to offer. There was a hidden passion there that I had been unaware of. It was 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. It’s what got me into the kitchen. There’s nothing more inspirational than having premium fruits, vegetables, and herbs find their way into my kitchen on the very day they were picked. They just beg to be formed into something amazing for my loved ones and I to enjoy.
You have to understand, however, I’m no country girl. I live in a small suburban townhouse just outside of Philadelphia, where SUVs and shopping malls abound. My “garden” consists of a few potted tomatoes and herbs that I squeeze onto my tiny 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 flavor reflected in my cooking.
A few years ago, however, my affinity towards cooking had a renaissance. I discovered Community Supported Agriculture, known simply as CSA 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. As a result, my little 4 year-old and I get to spend 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, out of the kitchen and onto a farm where I discovered a world of vine-ripened produce and pastured meats. I returned with a true sense of inspiration.
The delicious results achieved by these farmers, with their care and attention to detail, is one of the primary reasons I began writing a food blog. Spend some time talking to them and you’ll discover that they’re anything but simple farmers. They’re scientists, artists, and customer service masters. I hear it in a farmer’s voice as he passionately discusses the importance of good soil. I see it in how beautifully they arrange a basket of fresh peppers, cucumbers, and onions on their market stand. I feel it as I stand in a quiet field among rows of pick-your-own cherry tomatoes and a wonderful sense of calm and peace washes over me. 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 is 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 soil that nourish my family.
The connection to nature that I was having trouble finding on my patio no longer alludes me. I owe a great deal of thanks for this to my weekly adventures at our local farm, rambling amongst the rows of summer squash and sunflowers. I’m sure that Betsy, the farm dog in training, agrees that it’s a connection we all should experience.
Want to meet purveyors who are making a difference with their customers? Check out BonAppetit.com’s “Out of the Kitchen”, 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.
Betsy hounds from Ledamete Grass Farm, Schnecksville, PA.
I totally agree with you! There is just something special about cooking with ingredients that are local and seasonal, grown in good soil without chemicals, and full of nutrients and quality, the way food was intended to be. It gives meaning to meals that could never come from conventional foods at the store. I actually have been looking for jobs working at small local farms and CSAs. I didn’t get one this summer, but I volunteer at a CSA near me once a week and really enjoy it. Being in the field working is quite relaxing for me, plus I get to learn so much about farming!
Becca, the thought of working at a local farm sounds wonderful. I worked at a greenhouse while I was in college doing piece work. Every day I came home dirty and tired, but I loved it. I know I went to college and got one of those career things, but I often longingly think back to that job. Sometimes good old fashioned hard work is the most satisfying. I hope you find your dream farm job this upcoming season!
dixya | food, pleasure, and health says
i live in a city and absolutely have no green thumb. thank you for sharing this post.
I don’t know what city you hail from, but Philadelphia has a vibrant farm co-op! And thank goodness for farmer’s markets!
I absolutely adore this post so much! I am a huge fan of CSA and also of growing your own! We have a large vegetable garden that we love tending and planting every year and we raise heritage breed sheep and chickens! it has changed so much about how I see the world and what my priorities are!
Your life sounds like a dream! A little homestead. Aside from the veggie garden, the sheep part of it sound wonderful. My question is, do you shear your sheep and spin your own yarn? If I were pressed to pick a hobby, it would be knitting. Especially when involves luxurious wool!
How lovely! I enjoyed reading this piece, and looking at your gorgeous photos as well. It was a HUGE change, switching to eating seasonally, and once I got the hang of the farm share that just became a part of our lives.
I now anticipate each coming season with relish, knowing that tomatoes will taste like tomatoes, strawberries will taste like strawberries, and yes, celery will taste like celery!
Lol! Yeah… my CSA has totally ruined me for store bought tomatoes and strawberries. Picking and eating strawberries on sunny early June day with my little one in tow and sticky is just about as close to heaven as I’ve been.
Marisa Franca @ All Our Way says
Local fresh ingredients are the best. That is really the Italian method of cooking. great information.
Thanks Marisa. Eating my way through Italy is something that’s definitely on my bucket list.
Cassandrea at chewsandbrews.ca says
Great post and wonderful photos! I need to start focusing on eating more seasonal and local – it is hard sometimes, up here in Northern Canada with our realllly short growing seasons, but I think I am going to try and go local/seasonal as much as possible!
Oye! Northern Canada is sooo cold! I have family up in PEI and they’re always lamenting the winters. They’ve mentioned local farms before, and it sounds like a lot of people raise meat. Local eating isn’t just for the fruits and vegetables!
This is such a beautiful post! I’ve only really started paying attention to seasonal produce this past year and I love it. There is so much inspiration to be found in each season. Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thanks Sarah, that’s so sweet! Don’t you just love how food tastes better when you eat seasonally?!
Byron Thomas says
I’m with you on this one! My partner and I have a regular date with our local Farmers’ Market every Saturday morning.
Farmer’s markets are such fun! My hubs and I like to take the kiddo to our local farmer’s market on Saturday mornings to buy any oddities we find, and to get some incredible, locally brewed coffee to wash down our fresh croissants.
Binjal's VEG Kitchen says
wow!! awesome post!! 🙂
Rosemary @anitalianinmykitchen says
Nothing like farm fresh, we started our own garden this year and there is no comparison. Everything tastes better.
Awesome for starting your own garden. I respect anyone who takes on that venture. It takes a lot of planning, watering, weeding, love, and time!
Loved going through your post. How I wish I could be more close to nature. My nearest bet is visiting Farmer’s Markets.
Farmer’s markets are still refreshing. All of the fresh produce with their bright colors under an open sky!
J @ A Hot Southern Mess says
Local and seasonal veggies are the best! What beautiful pictures! Love them!
Thanks so much!
Manju | Cooking Curries says
Beautifully written. We are lucky to be in a house with a tiny bit of a backyard and for the last few years, I have been growing some vegetables in a raised bed garden. It is so much fun and satisfying to see them grow, harvest them and cook with them.
How cool to have a little garden in your backyard. One of my besties started a couple of raised bed gardens this year with an overwhelming amount of success. Where I live it’s pretty humid and it seems like many of the vegetable actually do better with the added drainage from the raised bed. Plus there’s nothing like picking a squash and then cooking it 5 minutes later!
I am a country girl and have never thrived in the city, so seasonal produce has always been a part of the cycle of the year. But I am a huge supporter of farmers markets, community agriculture and anything else that connects people back to the land.
How fantastic to grow up in the country. My husband grew-up on a large property nestled between Amish farms. I tease him for being a “farm boy,” but his childhood had a little extra special something that mine didn’t.
Leslie @ Bessie Bakes says
Visiting farms and farmer’s markets are so important for our communities. We have lost touch with where our food comes from, so we must stay connected to who is growing our food, and what farming practices are they using.
Agreed Leslie! This posts was about the experience of visiting a local farm, but my decision to buy local runs deeper than that; the importance of protecting our soil for the future, and the importance of feed our communities with foods that nourish.
Joy @ Joy Love Food says
I absolutely love participating in CSAs and planning our meals around what wonderful things arrive in my box!
I always anticipate seeing what will be available each week. Just the right amount of uncertainty and surprise to add some extra excitement to my week!
You’re right. There is nothing better than fresh produce! I myself am hoping to start growing some of my own, starting small…maybe a herb garden.
I few potted herbs are something I’m able to do on my patio. They’re totally worth the effort as it’s so nice to have a little fresh parsley or basil on hand to garnish your favorite dish!
Molly Kumar says
This looked like such a fun outing. I absolutely love ‘Local Farm Produce’ and try my bit to help them. Love the pics especially the sunflower and the farm dog looks cute.
Thanks Molly! It was fun taking these pics.
Sara @ Life's Little Sweets says
So many of the things you said resonate with me, I am going to share it with others. There are so many wonderful farms out there, thank you for writing this post and I also love these pictures!
That’s so kind Sara, and thanks for sharing! I hope you’re able to enjoy the harvest season this month!
Those heirloom tomatoes, and the honey and the cow, I’m in love, I need to live on a farm.
LOL Agreed 🙂
Loved this post! Community farms have so much to offer us. We have several farm share programs here, and I love them!
Oana @AdoreFoods says
I just love this post! I am a big fan of CSA and would love growing my own! For the time being it’s just in pots but will have to change soon 🙂