The vegetables and fruit that we see before us, glow like brightly colored jewels. We know that they will taste wonderful. We know that they are nutritionally healthy choices. We know that our government agencies have passed them all as being non-toxic. But, if you are like me, somewhere, lurking deep down in the consciousness is a small twinge of suspicion. As a non-scientist, I wonder — can mistakes be made? Exactly how much poison am I consuming when I eat these beautiful berries or tomatoes? Does it matter?
We really shouldn’t have to worry about such things, and so we buy organic when we can find it, hoping that we can trust the labels. But just imagine how much better it would be if it were not necessary to use huge amounts of pesticides or herbicides or poisonous substances to grow food. I, for one would feel more secure and would be willing to pay more.
Which brings me to ManoRun Organic Farm and the premise of “restoration agriculture.”
ManoRun Farm is in Copetown and is owned by Chris Krucker and Denise Trigatti. On the farm, Krucker and Trigatti are farming by using a different model from conventional agriculture. They are farming without using pesticides and herbicides and producing vegetables, beef, eggs, jam and pickles.
Their farm is modelled on an experimental farm in Wisconsin called New Forest Farm. New Forest Farm was founded in 1994 by Mark and Jen Shepard and is a working farm that is based upon Mark Shepard’s book called “Restoration Agriculture”. In “Restoration Agriculture”, Shepard explains how annual monocropping (that is, the conventional way of farming where only one crop is grown on huge areas of land) produces nearly all of the grain, meat vegetable and processed foods consumed today. These conventional practices require giant machinery, tilling and the application of chemical pesticides and fertilizers resulting in the eradication of biodiversity, the erosion of the topsoil and the contribution of 30% of global carbon emissions — more than from any other source. The goal of restoration agriculture — or permaculture or agroforestry or eco-agriculture — whatever you want to call it — is to move away from monocropping by designing and planting perennial ecosystems. By doing this, carbon dioxide is removed from the air, habitats are provided for wildlife, food is produced, soil erosion prevented and we begin the creation of ecologically sustainable human habitats.
Krucker, who has had Shepard as a visitor to his farm, notes that this is really a very old idea that has been around for centuries.
In a very simplified manner, it works like this: ManoRun has been planting trees to return the land to the original forest. The land was a type of forest known as “oak savannah”, a lightly forested grassland in which oak is the dominant tree. But this will be a forest that can be farmed. The tall trees will form an overstorey canopy of nut producing branches (protein); there will be a mid-level storey of fruits; then lower level grapes, berry bushes and vines. Livestock will graze under the canopy. Open and exposed to sunlight, the grassy forest will be ideal for biodiversity and in the open areas, vegetable crops will grow. It will be a naturally integrated plant, animal, and food production area.
Are you feeling skeptical? Sound like “pie in the sky”? Too inefficient? Too expensive to maintain? A pretty mid-summer’s night dream?
Likely you will have a lot of questions about how this actually works — and I certainly know that I do. Fortunately both Chef Ken LeFebour of Dundas’s Nellie James Gourmet to Go and Brantford artist Dave Hind have been won over to the Shephard/Krucker/Trigatti ideal and have become passionate advocates of the restoration agriculture plan. They are eager to help spread the word and tell the story and on August 13th, at the farm, there will be an evening of explanation and entertainment called “The Oak Savannah — a Story told in Five Courses”.
This will encompass a moveable feast in which guests will be treated to food created by LeFebour which will be about 89 percent organic. Our Go Cooking audience is well aware of the quality of LeFebour’s cuisine, but a description of the various courses is on the poster for the evening. The chef describes the meal as a five course feast which will include appetizers, 3 main courses and desserts. There will be several stations around the farm and diners will be sitting at small tables, enjoying the food while they learn how the principles of permaculture are applied at the farm.
Hind is a very well known metal sculptor who designates himself as a “thingmaker.” His artwork “Raising the Barn” was selected as the winner in the Hamilton Farmers’ Market District Public Art Competition. His painting on aluminum of an ancient oak tree that stands near ManoRun, has been used in the design of the poster for this event. Hind works with recycled materials and a few years ago, along with the interns on the farm, began building a fully functional, three season “cottage” out of re-cycled materials. The “cabin”, as he calls it will be ready to be shown at a special evening on September 20th, but on August 13th, he will be helping Chris tell the story and demonstrating several different artworks that he and the farm’s interns have created.
Krucker says that they have never had an event of this size on the farm and also notes that it would have been impossible without the help of the interns. He is very pleased to announce that Flat Rock Cellars will be providing the wine for the feast — five different kinds, one to go with each different course. The evening starts at 6 p.m. and Krucker says dress sensibly — it’s a farm, the ground is not level and forget the high heels.
I hope you can join us for a lovely and very civilized way to spend a midsummer’s evening. For more information and updates check out https://www.facebook.com/events/677906322296793/?context=create&source=49)
And here’s something to put on those beautiful tomatoes that are now in the markets.
Green Goddess Dressing
recipe from Epicurious
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives
2 tbsp. chopped scallion greens
1 1/2 tsp. anchovy paste
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp minced garlic
2 lb tomatoes cut into wedges
Purée all ingredients except tomatoes in a food processor until pale green and smooth. Thin with water if necessary. Season tomatoes with salt and pepper and drizzle with dressing.
This looks as wonderful as it tastes.