Summertime marks bright and lively meals, courtesy of bountiful trips to our favorite farmers’ markets. And we say where there’s bounty, gratitude should follow. So we’re taking this opportunity to highlight a few community farms across the country that we happen to love. Want to show your support too? Many of these farms, as well as countless others, participate in local CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) that allow a share in the freshest, as-local-as-it-gets produce. Visit Local Harvest for information on a CSA near you. But first, take a look at these 10 inspiring family farms.
Location: Caledonia, IL
Website: Angelic Organics
John Peterson answers to Farmer John, though he’s much more than that. He’s a farmer, yes, but John Peterson is also a filmmaker—who earned accolades for the documentary The Real Dirt on Farmer John, by the way—and the author responsible for Farmer John's Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables So there’s Angelic Organics Farm, Peterson’s Chicago-area organic farm, featuring biodynamic herbs and vegetables. But then, as if that wasn’t enough, there’s a wealth of creativity that accompanies it—from award-winning films and books, down to lovely simple touches, like custom menu planning aids included in the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes to help buyers ensure they’re making good and inspired use of their bounty of produce. Inspired yet?
Location: Hopewell, NJ
Website: Double Brook Farm
In 2004, Jon and Robin McConaughy decided to opt out of the corporate machine in favor of farm machinery—but only the kind that runs of converted cooking oil. Since then, the McConaughy family has nurtured Double Brook Farm into a standout among community farms by dedicating their lives to a sustainable, energy efficient farm. But what really takes this farm family to the next level? A full-circle operation. Their recently opened Brick Farm Market and Brick Farm Tavern are both stocked by the harvest from Double Book Farm, which is then supported by any waste from the market and restaurant, which repurposed as animal feed or compost, making their small farming empire a self-sustaining one. Oh, and then there’s the matter of one very delicious BBQ Rib Recipe.
Location: Fresno, CA
Website: Masumoto Peach Farm
Award winning author and third generation farmer (now of the “Certified Organic” variety) David Mas Masumoto writes, well, quite poetically of his upbringing and the family farm he shares with wife Mary and their two adult children. “Biting into one, the juices would drip down my cheeks and dangle on my chin. Then, the nectar exploded in my mouth as the pulp slid past the tongue and down the throat. I stopped and savored the moment of pleasure: smacking my lips, sucking my tongue and still tasting peach. I gorged myself and grew fat (Letters from a Peach Farmer, Heyday Books, 2007)." The organic peaches seem to be the apple of the collective Masumoto eye, but they also produce organic nectarines and grapes.
Location: Napa, CA
Website: Rancho Gordo
We love Rancho Gordo’s website, “featuring glorious, old-fashioned heirloom beans, plus authentic instructions for good food prepared in the Rancho Gordo manner.” That’s a hard description to beat. Napa Valley vegetable grower Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo spends his days collecting heirloom seeds and growing delicious old-fashioned varieties of tomatoes, grains, chiles and beans. And when it comes to heirloom beans, his Rancho Gordo specialty food company may well be the ultimate source, sparking a culinary revival in this simple staple. Plus, they provide recipes! Give these Rancho Gordo Drunken Beans a try.
Location: Salesville, OH
Website: Mott Family Farm
The Mott family relocated from suburban life in Southern California to the Midwest when they purchased an Amish produce farm outside in Middlebourne, Ohio, now known as Mott Family Farm. Like many of the community farmers on our list, the Mott family is focused on sustainable practices, evening utilizing solar panels and a wind generator on the property. Of their work, Jeff Mott says, “In supermarkets, vegetables are large, uniform and tasteless. Our niche is to sell unique, and unique tasting, vegetables.”
Location: San Diego, CA
Website: Villa Bella Grove
Rio Hahn’s organic California avocado orchard, Villa Bella Grove, is really something special, as Rio Hahn is something special himself. A particularly “scientifically inclined” farmer, Hahn worked in a developmental capacity on the Biosphere 2 project in Tuscon, AZ, and in a soil laboratory seeking out sustainable, organic practices prior to his time at Villa Bella. He and wife Teresa Fiske now operate the 3.5-acre avocado orchard, along with their website, Organic Avos, where you can indeed purchase—you guessed it—Rio Hahn’s organic avos.
Location: Hillsborough, NC
Website: Coon Rock Farm
Located along the Eno River—and marked by a distinct riverside rock formation known historically as, you guessed it, Coon Rock—this land lovingly worked by the Holcomb family consists of a 120 year old working farm, though new to the Holcombs in 2004. Coon Rock Farm produces garden crops and pasture-raised, antibiotic-free, heritage-breed livestock, much of which ends up on the table at one of their two highly celebrated restaurants, Zely & Ritz and Piedmont.
Location: Aspers, PA
Website: Three Springs Fruit Farm
The Wenk family—make that seven generations of Wenks—have worked the farmland outside Philadelphia now known as Three Springs Fruit Farm. It all began in the 1840s, by the first of the Wenks on American soil, John Wenk of Switzerland. And they’ve been at it ever since. As such, it seems the Wenk family was meant for fruit farming, and the tradition is continued today by the young Ben Wenk, who returned to the family farm after graduating from Penn State with a specialized degree in Agroecology and Horticulture. On their site, you can find produce information, which includes a variety of apples, peaches, cherries, and beyond. But you can also find information on ripening and seasonality, or visit their blog and “Ask a Grower.”
Location: Napa Valley, CA
Website: Marshall's Honey
Spencer and Helene Marshall pride themselves on the unaltered state of their offerings. A good straining to remove bits of wax and debris is the only “processing” the over 25 varieties of Marshall honey undergo, allowing their sweet products the distinctions of natural, organic, gourmet, raw, 100% pure, unheated, uncooked, unfiltered and certified kosher. And as such, their products will literally last forever. Natural honey tends to harden, but it just requires a slight warm-up to restore it to its lovely amber liquid form.
Location: Carmel, CA
Website: Tomato Fest
We love a perfectly ripe, juicy, in-season tomato as much as the next guy, unless that guy happens to be Gary Ibsen. As author of The Great Tomato Book and founder of the formerly annual Carmel TomatoFest, we’re just not sure anyone loves tomatoes as much as Gary Ibsen, except perhaps his partner in tomato crime, Dagma Lacey. But we can certainly try to keep up, because Ibsen and Lacey’s online seed store offers 600 heirloom seed varieties and tomato growing tips. Don’t mind if we do!
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