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Posts Tagged ‘farming’

The National Chefs Collaborative Summit took place in Seattle this week, and I’ve enjoyed many thought provoking tidbits posted on Twitter by participants.  On Monday during Ruth Reichl’s keynote address, New York Times writer Kim Severson broadcast a statistic that certainly got my attention, and was re-tweeted by 25 others:

Kim Severson ‏‪@kimseverson

Stunning stat: ‪@ruthreichl says only 2% of Americans have been to a farm. ‪#natlsum12

I did some very quick and unscientific fact-checking which was inconclusive about how many Americans have in fact visited a farm.  The 2% number is frequently sited as the percentage of Americans who live on a farm. But I’m not going to get hung up on the validity of that number; that’s not what motivated me to write today.

My first (and online) reaction to this small percentage of American farm visitors was this: it’s definitely not for lack of interest.  We field farm tour requests on a daily basis.  And when our city customers come to the town of Vashon and visit our butcher shop and restaurant, they frequently remark –usually with a detectable note a disappointment– that they were expecting the enterprise to be located within our actual farm.

The fact is we offer tours on a very limited basis; about four times a year, and this schedule falls woefully short of the demand.  If we could fling open the gates to every request, we’d be doing so every weekend, to dozens of farm-curious folk.  And it’s this very non-existent openness that our customers expect.  Isn’t that what healthy, small-scale farming is supposed to be about: transparency?  But it’s more complicated than that.  As I explain to many, we have electric fencing.  We have a bull.  Neither should be experienced on a self-guided “tour” of the farm.   Which means farm visits require a docent of sorts, and therefore one of our already-stretched-thin employees must stop milking the cows, feeding the pigs, moving the chicken tractors, etc. to serve as farm guide.  We’re not there, yet.

For now, the limited and scheduled “farm events” must suffice.  In fact, we are holding such an event next week and 36 guests will join us for a full tour during the afternoon milking, plus barrel sampling and cheese tasting from the cellar, followed by a harvest feast at the restaurant.  The event sold out quickly, affirming what I already know.  People are hungry for more than the food.

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I’ve never been slapped before. And I feel like my chances are dwindling. Although, our new chef Meredith is pretty feisty, so if I play my cards right…

Fresh is an uplifting video on the current thoughts on food production. We could have shown several different films on this topic. We choose Fresh, not only because it is a powerful film, but because the film-makers are boot-strapping their way through the distribution process; one house or small public venue at a time.

Sea Breeze has grown slowly over the years, not backed by shareholders, but by adding one customer at a time, much like the audience for Fresh.

We will be showing this film Sunday, March 14th at La Boucherie. The meal is, as always made available by the bounty from Sea Breeze Farm and from local vegetable growers on Vashon and in the Carnation Valley.

The 3 course dinner at La Boucherie will begin at 4:30, and the film (to be shown with truffled popcorn) will start around 6:00. After the film, we will put the tables together and share dessert as a group as we discuss the film.

The cost for this event is $50/person. We have begun taking reservations for this event and space is limited. Please call La Boucherie to reserve your seat: 206.567.4628.

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Chick Schtick

chix_field

We are asked about 3 dozen times a day at the farmers markets if we have chicken.  It is a valid question; here is a more in-depth answer:

Chickens are difficult to raise on grass.  Which is fine, I just wanted to mention it.  Poulet Nouveau is impossibile in March.  The difficulties of raising a variety of chickens all year predicates the decision to have chickens for just a short time of the year.

When we receive our first batch of ‘day-olds’ from the hatchery, it must be great weather in four weeks from that day in order to put them outside in our hoop coops.  Rainy, windy, and cold weather are severely deathly for still fragile four week old chickens.  We have tried to push this in years past, and we have learned it is not wise to do so,  for all parties involved.

Once they are outside in the sun and on the grass, new perils await their fate: raccoons.  The hoop coops, while extremely sophisticated, modern, and attractive–are not safe. In order to provide the fresh grass we want them to eat we will move each of these hoop coops once a day, the distance of its layout–creating a swath of fertilized pasture in its wake.  But if we drag carelessly, a chicken might get their legs caught underneath, or during the evening a raccoon will swipe a bird out from under the 2 x 4–as the pasture is not a level surface.

All of this to say that after 5 or 6 years of doing chickens an a larger scale–we’re getting better at it and have devised several methods to ensure their safety, and comfort.

I suspect that we will have chickens at the market July 1st.  Just in time for the grill.

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