Saturday, October 11, 2014

2014 Field to Fork Dinner

The weather was picture perfect for this year’s Field to Fork Dinner. Our guests thoroughly enjoyed the open space, green grass, brown cows, delicious food and a sense of community.  We can take our farm for granted now and then so we love having a chance to share what we have and to gain a new perspective. 

When we open registration, we immediately save places for the apprentices at Colchester Farm CSA.  This year all three apprentices, Taylor, Emily and Keifer, joined us.  I asked them to write about their impressions of the dinner and how they felt knowing they grew and harvested much of the food served.  Taylor shared the following and Emily took many of the photos.


 Our days are spent out in the fields of our small-scale, local farm operation, where we use organic practices (our hands mostly) to tend a great diversity of crops that change throughout the year with the seasons.  We all came to work at Colchester out of a desire to better learn where our food comes from and to better understand the benefits and challenges that locally based farmers experience.  One very important benefit we see from small-scale, local agricultural productions is the opportunity for an actual relationship between the farmer and the consumer, between the person growing the food and the one eating it.   

There are so many people in a great diversity of professions that contribute to the food system today, and the Field to Fork dinner was a great place to see that diversity.  Farmers, politicians, restaurant owners, educators and more all came together to celebrate the food we all have made a profession out of creating and supporting.  For us specifically, it was exciting to see people enjoying the vegetables we've grown this year, with tender love and care, like the arugula and sweet potatoes.  Only through local connections within our food economy do we have the opportunity to see the full journey of our produce, from the planting of seeds to the eating of delicious crops.  For us this was truly a field to fork dinner.  We’re grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the dinner and to enjoy our food in a setting that brought so many people together in a sense of celebration and comradery that only happens best when people share good food.
 Thanks to everyone for their support in making this year's dinner a huge success!





Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Action! Cut! Take Two! at St. Brigid's Farm

The Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association wanted to give the food bloggers who attended our Field to Fork Dinner a video of St. Brigid’s Farm.  So they hired producer David Pickel of Aardvark Video Works to shoot the film.  David, his grip and several MDA staff spent four hours on Sunday afternoon with us.  David actually said "Action" and "Cut".  Bob and I had a great time trying to tell our story in sound clips while looking at the camera and acting natural!  Bob did his spot at the tractors in one take.  When I finally viewed the video I was relieved and surprised at how good it is.  David did a terrific job.  Check it out!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Food for the Soul


As I looked down the long table at our 6th Field to Fork Dinner, I have to say I was pretty impressed. Here we are, a small, working, Mom and Pop dairy farm, and we had 150 people at dinner on a beautiful evening with amazing food! 

We start planning the event in April when we pick a date, select a beneficiary and line up the caterer.  This year we partnered with the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association to support the Maryland and Capital Area Food Banks.  Upon a friend’s recommendation, we chose Palate Pleasers from Annapolis to cater the event and were delighted with the result. 


The weather was perfect – 60 degrees and lots of clouds for great photos.  The catering crew was incredible.  In less than two hours they had transformed our pasture into an elegant dining setting. Staff dressed the tables with linen and burlap, tucked menus into napkins and set out the fine china.

The evening started with beverages including Lockbriar apple cider, Troegs beer and Crow Farm Chardonnay.   Chapel’s Country Creamery’s outstanding cheeses were served with figs, apple chutney and crackers.  Crab cakes set on slices of lemon and decorated with African Violet blossoms from my kitchen were passed to the great delight of guests 
Evening Stroll, featuring Rebecca Petri, provided the music for the cocktail hour.  She and her fellow band members were outstanding.  They had a great selection of songs and a wealth of talent.

  Chef Amy Daniels created a spectacular menu with local produce.  Dinner started with Arnold Farms’ butternut squash soup poured from a silver coffee pot and sweet potato ciabatti from Magnolia Bread Company.  Salad of Colchester Farm CSA arugula and beets with blue cheese followed.  The star of the meal had to be the St. Brigid’s Farm osso bucco with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables.  Guests were amazed by the tenderness and flavor.  Homemade pumpkin pie and apple crustada with Lockbriar vanilla and cinnamon ice cream made a perfect ending for a perfect evening.                                                                                                                       












Saturday, August 10, 2013

Summer Intern, Jessica Hill

Jessica Hill will be heading back to the University of Delaware for her senior year in one week.  She has spent the summer milking four evenings every week since the end of May.  I “found” Jessica when Bob and I were at her parents’ home looking at antique pedal tractors and celebrating the refurbishing of my Farmall H.  Jessica’s dad, John, had been working on the H since late spring and had just delivered her to the farm.  Jessica was home for the semester break and made the mistake of mentioning that she was an Animal and Food Science major.  “Want to milk cows this summer?”  I asked.  Poor girl had never met me nor given much thought to dairy cows.  She politely smiled but did not say no!  I took that as a good sign.
 

Shortly before her spring break, Jessica called and we scheduled a date for her to visit the farm.  She was inquisitive during the tour and genuinely interested.  So we agreed that she would start after school ended. I have been thanking my lucky stars ever since.
 On several occasions while in Chestertown (at the shoe store, at our friend’s home, at Brooks Tavern), people have said that they knew I had hired Jessica and that she was a good worker.  Jessica’s mom, Sherrie, is a cardiac rehabilitation nurse at the local hospital and knows everyone!!  Small town, USA.
 
Jessica is indeed a good worker, a good sport and a tough cookie.  She is a supervisor at the University of Delaware Creamery during the semester.  This summer she exercised four horses before breakfast and trained another after milking.  In addition, she found time to place second in a run/bike/canoe race last weekend with no training.  Oh, to be 21 again!!
We wish Jessica all the best back at school and will see her September 28 when she returns to milk the night of the Field to Fork dinner.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

C.O.W.S.


We think our cows are pretty comfortable, especially when they are outside on pasture, but our opinion is somewhat subjective.  This fall we had the opportunity to have an independent group assess our facility as well as cow behavior to determine cow comfort on the farm.C.O.W.S. stands for Comfort, Oxidative Balance, Well-Being and Sustainability and is a program developed by a graduate student at the University of British Columbia and managed by NOVUS to measure cow comfort.

C.O.W.S. Project Manager Lindsey Collings and Katie Hanehan, Jr. Project Manager arrived before morning milking to take measurements of the stalls, water troughs, feed bunk and to apply the electronic data loggers that measure total lying time on 40 cows 3 years and older.  After milking, they visually evaluated gait scores and hock health and conducted a survey of management practices such as frequency of hoof trimming and bedding.

The bright orange monitors remained on the cows for 5 days.  They were removed and mailed to NOVUS along with the transmitter.  Staff analyzed the data and found that...Our COWS are indeed comfortable.  While they were being monitored, the cows were in during the day and outside at night so we combined both housing options.

The level of lameness was very low as was the degree of hock and knee injury.  Our cows spend an appropriate amount of time lying down and have adequate space for eating and drinking in the barn. Cows spend about 5 hours per day eating, 12-14 hours resting, 3 hours standing, walking, grooming and hanging out, a half hour per day drinking and 3.5 hours milking.  Thus, about 70% of the cow's day is spent eating and or resting.

Studies and general observation show that cows like to feed together, to feed early in the morning and early in the evening and will push other cows out of the way with more than 500 pounds of force to get to feed if there limited bunk space available.  We will feed in waves or batches if we have too many cows to eat in one feeding.

While this evaluation showed that we do have comfortable cows, it also reinforces our philosophy of observing, measuring and monitoring to be sure we minimize situations that could negatively impact cow comfort and well-being.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Judy's Farmall H Story


When I was a teenager I spent summers on the farm tedding, raking and pulling wagons of hay with the Farmall H. My dad bought “the H”, as she was called, new in 1950 for $1900. When dad retired from making hay, he sold most of his equipment but not the H. She was my dad’s favorite and my inheritance!

The Farmall H, built by International Harvester and produced from 1939 to 1952, is the number two-selling tractor model of all time in North America with over 390,000 sold. Only the Ford 8N, due to its exclusive Ferguson Three Point Hitch system, was a better seller.  We use a Ford 8N and a 9N on St. Brigid’s Farm everyday.

The Farmall H was popular because it is an ideal, all-purpose tractor for diversified farms up to 160 acres and for specialized farms raising such row crops as potatoes or sugar beets. It pulled two 14-inch bottom plows, cultivated up to 35 acres of row crops a day and sped up other farm jobs in proportion.  My dad used the H to run the blower during silage harvest as well as to pull the manure spreader.  I bought him a “cab” for the tractor but I don’t think he ever used it!


The H, along with and two Case tractors that my dad purchased a few years back,  stayed in the barn in Connecticut for several years after Dad died.  This summer Bob’s nephew, Chuck Fry, arranged to have them back hauled to Maryland on an empty nursery truck. We unloaded them at Angelica Nursery and drove them two miles to their new home.

Shortly after they arrived, Alan Hill told us about John Hill, the person who had restored his old tractors.  We contacted John and he agreed to give the H a makeover.  He took her apart, sand blasted everything, ordered authentic replacement parts including a new identification plate, meticulously painted her and the put her back together with the help of Billy Clendaniel.  We visited John’s shop several times during the process and learned more about antique tractors than we could have imagined.  John has a cadre of fans who visit the shop and swap facts and stories.  We brought Ken Overton and his young son Tilden on one visit.  Tilden was quiet while he was in the shop but talked nonstop on the way home!



John was most impressed with the condition of my dad’s H.  He couldn’t believe how well preserved she was! My dad took pride and joy in his tractors and in making high quality hay.  We are sad that dad is not around to see the H as she must have looked when he bought her but we trust somehow he knows his pride and joy is now ours and looks great!

video

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The weather for the 5th Field to Fork Dinner was warm and breezy and while the forecast called for scattered showers, we never considered moving the event inside. By the time guests began to arrive, chance of rain was less than 10% and everything looked lovely. The local Crow Vineyard Chardonnay and the Mark Cascia Vineyard red wines were very popular and paired well with a sampling of Chapel’s Creamery Cheeses. Bill Schindler served up his Teté de Veau (calf head soup) and all the trimmings to those adventurous diners who wanted to taste the rich tasting broth steeped in French cuisine. Jim Stephanson and his band rocked from their perch on the deck. Judy and Roy Crow, Holly and Eric Foster and Trey Hill told those gathered about their farming enterprises and described the Bucket List Auction item they were donating.

At the very long table for 140, Bob welcomed all and took the now traditional show of hands of those who were farmers, who had attended previous dinners, who was from the area and who came from out of town. Jane Shey of Minneapolis, MN was recognized for traveling the furthest to be at the dinner. As guests dined on butternut squash soup, arugula salad and fresh baked bread from Evergrain Bread Company, baker Doug Rae educated us about the difference between Wonder Bread and his wonderful artisan breads. Theresa Mycek from Colchester Farms CSA explained that with Community Supported Agriculture consumers are invested and involved in the farming operation. While the beef stew and grilled vegetables were being served, Laura Phelps, representing Phillips Mushroom Farms, described the new facility in Warwick and how it benefits the local economy.

Just before dessert, Bob’s brother Ken, returned from his car with his umbrella and raincoat. When I asked what was up, he pointed to the very black sky rolling our way. Luckily, everyone had time to enjoy the delicious apple cobbler topped with Lockbriar Farms’ fabulous premium ice cream and listen to Sabine Harvey describe her trials, tribulations and finally success with the Kent County Middle School’s Victory Garden before the skies opened and our dinner abruptly ended. Too bad guests could not enjoy the Cafetin coffee and continue chatting but we were fortunate that the rain did not arrive any earlier.

We are pleased to announce that we will be donating $5,000 to the Victory Garden Project and look forward to watching the garden and students grow. Thanks to all who attended, donated and bid on the Bucket List auction items. Terri Burke, who attended her first Field to Fork Dinner, wrote us that “we weren’t quite sure what to expect at the Field to Fork dinner, but our group was game. What a wonderful cause, fabulous food and people. It was an incredible evening – way beyond our expectations“. That pretty well sums it up!