Summer on a Plate: Cooking Classes and More at Appleton Farms

Posted: June 11th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Appleton Farms, Event, Farm, Ipswich | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

There were a lot of cooks in the kitchen—and it was perfect. We recently attended a terrific class given by Carolyn Grieco of Farm Cooking With Carolyn at the new Appleton Farms demonstration kitchen.

Before we describe the class, we want to let you know about the exciting food-related activities going at the farm. First, there’s a dairy & farm store selling milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, beef, eggs from the farm and an assortment of other locally sourced products. (The store is open Mon-Fri from 11:00 to 6:00 and Sat/Sun from 10:00 to 4:00.)

Second, there’s a new café offering salads, sandwiches, desserts, and beverages from 11:00 to 2:00 Wednesdays through Saturday. Third, on select Friday nights in July and August, there will be family farm dinners with pizza from the group’s just-built earth oven.

Finally, the Appleton Cooks series of classes and workshops has 30 events scheduled in June, July, and August with classes on cheesemaking, pasta making, gluten-free living, seasonal tapas, and much more. Prices range from $25 to $85 for non-Trustee members.

We thoroughly enjoyed the class we attended, coming away with food profile insights, great recipes, and new friends. We gathered in the kitchen, which was set up with workstations and ingredients, most from the farm. Carolyn went over the menu and then we split into groups of three or four to prepare the dishes.

The meal consisted of grilled zucchini hummus with homemade pita chips, spicy peanut noodles with snap peas, green goddess chicken salad with cucumber and avocado, a veggie-stuffed picnic loaf, and skillet strawberry shortcake. As we collaborated to prepare the meal, Carolyn demonstrated everything from knife skills to “temping” the poached chicken, arranging the composed salad, and tray rotation to get the pita chips properly crisped. She was full of energy and great tips for both seasoned cooks and new ones. She was happy to accommodate dietary concerns (a non-spice lover got her own chips without cayenne, and we prepared a salad without chicken for the vegetarian in the group).

While meal components were cooking/cooling, we took a short walk to the kitchen garden to pick herbs that we combined with farm butter. We spread it on baguette slices and ate it with freshly-picked radishes while Carolyn showed us the picnic loaf technique. These have to sit overnight, so she brought some already prepared for our meal.

And what a meal. Everything was incredibly fresh and flavorful. The green goddess dressing was amazing with the chicken, the blanched snap peas were the perfect contrast to the spicy noodles, the picnic loaf was full of balsamic-marinated vegetables and goat cheese, and the dessert was warm and luscious.

We are thrilled to see this 375-year old farm embracing the North Shore’s thirst for local food, farm-to-table, and new food experiences. See you on the farm!

Appleton Farms
Rt 1A, Ispwich
www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/northeast-ma/appleton-farms.html

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Field Trip to First Light Farm

Posted: April 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Farm, First Light Farm, Hamilton, News | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Want to learn more about sustainable farming? We’ve got just the thing: a conversation with Mike Raymond, owner of First Light Farm. The Hamilton farm is in its third season of community supported agriculture, having provided shares to 120 members last year and planning on at least that many this year.

As in the past, First Light CSA members pay $600 for a 20-week share that begins mid-June. Members can pick up their boxed share in Beverly or Danvers on Tuesdays, Topsfield on Thursdays, Ipswich on Saturdays, or (new this year) at the Salem farmer’s market on Thursdays. First Light will also be selling produce at the Georgetown farmer markets on Saturdays this year.

First Light operates a bit differently from other CSAs in the area (Green Meadows and Appleton Farms come to mind) in that there are no pick-your-own opportunities. That’s because Raymond doesn’t own the six acres of land he farms. Rather, he barters with Brick End Farm, a large composting operation. But don’t assume that means Raymond isn’t invested in the business—just the opposite.

Raymond graduated from University of Vermont nearly 20 years ago with a degree in environmental and resource economics and has been farming ever since. His passion for growing vegetables organically in the most sustainable way possible is infectious. On a tour of the hilly field where fast-growing crops like lettuce and herbs are planted, we immediately saw why Raymond is so excited. The field is divided into many small beds with strips of clover growing in between, a technique called permanent bed strip tillage in which the clover and the crops form a symbiotic relationship.

“We feed the soil, not the crop,” explained Raymond, a Beverly native. “And we don’t do anything in a field that doesn’t make sense.” Unlike most farms, the field is not plowed under each year. Rather, the clover strips provide the soil with the necessary fungus and bacteria, and when mowed during the growing season, they provide additional organic matter for the growing crops. In keeping with Raymond’s desire to use resources at hand, irrigation water is pumped from a small pond at the bottom of the field.

For shareholders, this unusual technique (along with strategic use of the farm’s greenhouse) means more variety in their shares each week, since each bed in the field is like its own little garden. It also means maximum production with minimum damage to the land—Raymond and his crew have gone so far as to modify old equipment to facilitate this updated version of back-to-basics farming.

Tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and other slower growing crops are planted in the farm’s upper field, which Raymond described as bio-intensive, meaning it’s designed to produce as much as possible in the space. An unusual moveable greenhouse is used section by section to maximize growth, and after each part of the field is harvested, a cover crop is planted to fertilize the soil.

Those interested in the CSA will be happy to find a picture of each week’s share from last year on the First Light site, along with delicious-sounding recipes for 40 vegetables and quirky descriptions of First Light team members. You can also e-mail Raymond directly for more information on the farm, his philosophies, and the CSA program.

First Light Farm
www.firstlightfarmcsa.com
firstlightfarmcsa@gmail.com

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