Posts Tagged ‘farming’

Well, the farm internship is over.  I’m amazed it went by so quickly, but I’m definitely happy to move on.

market table











I now work here.

All I need is a place to live…

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So yes. it has indeed been awhile.  Ive been working on a farm for the past 2 months, living a totally different lifestyle than a cook would tend to lead. Up at 5:50am, out at 7 work till 1-ish, lunch, work till 6. In bed at, im embarassed to say, 9 or 10. Repeat. Saturday is easily my favorite day of the week because I get to go to the market and sell all the stuff Ive been planting, watering and growing. Rather, helping grow.  So yes, Ive been super busy and updates are at hand. This will be one for the books.

I took a quick weekend trip to Manhattan and ate at Greys Papaya, Artisanal (for champagne and cheese alone), Gramercy Tavern,  Magnolia bakery and Balthazar.  Everything was amazing especially at Balthazar and  Gramercy; Ive never had a bad meal there (Gramercy). This time was no different, but there was DILL on 5 out of 7 dishes. Weird. A little repetetive, but all in all delicious.

So back to farming. Why: Because I couldn’t find a job in NYC or DC, and Id love to grow some produce for my restaurant in the future, and know how to do it right. Where: Argyle, NY (30 min. north of Saratoga Springs).  Pleasant Valley Farm is the name, and we’re Naturally Certified. Same as USDA organic, but without all the fees and bs.

Right now, we are harvesting lettuce heads, scallions, last of the strawberries, beginning/middle of peas, swiss chard, yellow squash, zucchini, garlic, green beans, cucumbers, and about 15 different herbs.  Tomatoes are coming along; we’ve got about 500+ plants.  We have over 800 winter squash plants and as many leeks and more onions than both.  Ill get a photo of me on the transplanter called a waterwheel, where i sit and plant tons of plants in a fraction of time that it would take to transplant by hand. Lots of learning here, and tons of great produce.

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Utilization. That’s what you’ll hear in good kitchens everywhere. Whether it’s an expensive, rare ingredient, or an everyday chicken carcass, utilization is key.  After being on a farm for a month, i can tell you, nothing goes to waste.  Eggs that hens lay outside of the boxes go to the pigs or dogs because we’re not sure when they were laid.  If there’s leftover water in my glass, it goes into a plant somewhere, not the sink. Even the water in the shower, before it heats up, gets saved and used elsewhere…

This, however, is much more delicious than shower water, and very seasonal.


Everyone thinks ramps should be pickled. Yes, they’re good pickled. But cant we move away from the old pickle (which I enjoy) to something new and a little bolder?

About 2 weeks ago I scored 2# of ramps.


So, now to utilize.

Butter (tops, the leftover puree from making oil) and pickle (bulbs), Oil (tops – initial use of half the tops) and confit (bulbs – not shown), Pasta dough (tops):

Coincidentally, Alex just did ramp top cavatelli. This is straight up pasta dough, which is very different than his. Ravioli, paparadelle, and tortellini are all in the cards.  I just made a puree of the tops which I incorporated into a now-modified recipe.  I let the puree hang overnight to leech excess water, and used the excess ramp “water” in the dough.  Ill use the rest in a sauce.  I suppose if I wanted to be really soignee, Id make a “ramp explosion” a la Alinea. But I wont go there – perhaps for obvious reasons. I’ve still got ramp bulbs that I haven’t utilized in some form of quasi-preservation, so if anyone has any suggestions, im all ears.

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Back to Basics

In the career of every cook, a moment presents itself when you can follow one of two paths.  This moment may not be black and white, but might be difficult to discern. Not every cook may even see the second path.  But if you look very carefully, and listen to yourself, you might find out where it leads.

This brings me to my point. Ive decided to work on a organic farm for the upcoming season.  Its an opportunity to learn where all the amazing produce comes from, and what it takes to coax a leek from a tiny seed.   How to grow amazing tomatoes, carrots, beets, peppers, and tons of herbs.  I realize this is not a vision many cooks have, because all they see is the (small) paycheck dangling in front of them every two weeks.  The decision to make this temporary change took about 2 months of thinking, analyzing, and big-time debating with myself.  Ill be making far less money, working much harder (physically speaking), and learning a whole new craft.

The opportunity to connect with the earth, to be around friendly people, and to produce something that has enabled ME to do my job the past 9 years is a great opportunity.  These are photos from my recent trip to Pleasant Valley Farm in Argyle NY, Paradise Gardens and Farm in Reynoldsville PA, Bobolink Dairy in Vernon NJ, Evensong Farm in Sharpsburg MD, and Charlestown Farm in Phoenixville PA.

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