Friday, December 31, 2010

My End of Year 2010 Farm-to-Table Summation, Updated 2016

The end of the year cannot come and go without mentioning some stand out companies and institutions I came across in my travels through the southeastern United States. The ones that come most affectionately to mind are a restaurant, a college, a community garden, several farms, and a few wineries.

The Floataway CafĂ© in Atlanta, Georgia is a remarkable restaurant that started farm-to-table practices years before it was trendy. They opened their doors over 12 years ago (with the help of Star Provisions), in the industrial district of Emory Hills. They get much of their ingredients from Summerland Organic Farm. And according to their current Chef de Cuisine Drew Belline the restaurant’s menu consists of about 75 percent local ingredients.

Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina changed its campus to an arboretum almost a hundred years ago. Five years ago Dee Phillips, Director of Dining Services, and Chef Craig Mombert started recycling their cooking oil. Phillips and Mombert continued their sustainability practices with the support of college President Tom Ross. Today Davidson has a campus wide sustainability project. They make their own mulch by combining kitchen waste (including meat) with used office paper and yard waste in a large composting machine. It takes three weeks to heat, combine and cure.

Phillips is so passionate about sustainability she has worked tirelessly to make sure the college dining services buys as much local as possible and sets up contracts with companies that abide by the three tenets of sustainability: social, community, and environmental. Mombert does his part by making most Vail Commons’ dishes from scratch (many with local ingredients) and grows much of his own ingredients in a kitchen garden during the warmer months.

Community Garden
Nearby the college was the Davidson Community Garden that started with the help of volunteers from the Davidson United Methodist church. Equipment was donated by local businesses, and seedlings were donated by the Huntersville Correctional Facility. They grew squash, corn, herbs, sunflowers, potatoes, zucchini and several other vegetables all with organic methods in raised beds. What produce the pests didn’t eat was given to the Ada Jenkins food bank.

The Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard (in Hendersonville) just south of Ashville, N.C. where I picked a bushel of honey crisp apples expecting to give some of them back to the farmer but getting my first lesson in food safety. He said I had to pay for and take every apple I picked.

The Elma P. Lomax Incubator Farm program in Davidson, N.C. teaches individuals, with no previous farming experience how to become certified organic farmers.

The conventional blueberry farm just west of Charleston, S.C. that had high bush blueberries filled with berries because it had been too hot to pick. The day we went the heat index got up to 103 but that did not stop me from picking at least two buckets of ripe berries.  I went through three liters of water in two hours to keep hydrated.

Worden Farm in Punta Gorda, Florida is an organic Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm owned by Chris and Eva Worden. They won the Small Farms Conference Innovative Farmer ‘s Award this year. And after visiting their farm I understood why. The Wordens are passionate about educating people on how to eat seasonally.

Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina, is the only tea plantation on the continental United States. It grows tea using organic methods and hand weeding. I bought a first flush tea for only $15 a tin, a bargain by first flush standards.

Osceola Organic Farm in Vero Beach, Florida is redefining what it means to supply local produce. Owner Kevin O’Dare grows on demand vegetables and edible flowers for his many chef clients and CSA members.

Bluefield Organic Farm in Okeechobee, Florida that’s working with the University of Arkansas to grow thorn less blackberry bushes.

Lake James Cellars in Glenn Alpine, North Carolina has many varieties of wine. I tried practically everything on the list from chardonnay to cabernet sauvignon. The owner said she wished more North Carolina wines were featured on North Carolina restaurant wine lists.

Butterducks Winery tasting room is located deep inside Lane Southern Orchards (peaches, pecans, Indian River citrus) main retail shop in central Georgia. The wines were surprisingly good. I bought two bottles.

Henscratch Farms Vineyard and Winery in Lake Wales, Florida makes muscadine wines and has a u-pick-it grape farm. There are a lot of free ranging chickens at the winery that wander the grounds and hide under the wine tasting building. They rush anyone who drops a crumb onto the ground.

Rosa Fiorelli Winery and Vineyard in Bradenton, Florida, has several non-muscadine grape vines on its property developed and supplied by University of Florida. It also has several varieties of muscadine grapes developed and supplied by A and M University. It is a tasty place to visit.

I look forward to meeting and writing about many more interesting places and people in 2011.

Updated July 2016

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