Storing Winter Squash
It’s that time of year when gorgeous winter squashes are widely available. If you love them, you can buy now and enjoy them almost all winter! Many will last from two to four months when properly cured and stored.
Delicata and spaghetti squash shouldn’t be cured at all. They’ll last two or three months in storage, so you should plan to eat those first. Hubbards and butternuts, on the other hand, are great keepers and will last 5 to 8 months under the right conditions.
Interested in giving winter squash storage a try? Here are a few tips that will help you prolong your stash:
Make certain your squash are properly “cured.” If you’re purchasing from a producer, ask whether they’ve been cured for storage. If so, you’re ahead of the game. If not, then you can do it yourself. Just leave the squash in a sunny, warm (80 to 85 degree) place for about 10 days. When your fingernail won’t cut the skin, the squash is ready for storage.
Store the squash in a single layer. You can use a basket or box of any kind—something breathable will help them store the longest. Place the squash in the box with crumpled paper between them to keep them from touching. Store only unblemished squash—you can preserve any with broken skins by freezing (but that’s a different blog entry!).
Keep the space cool and dark. Winter squash will store best between 50 and 55 degrees. If you can, keep the humidity at about 60%. Before I had a basement, I used to keep mine in a seldom-used guest room with the door closed.
If you’re unsure about whether your squash needs to be cured or how long it will last, Google it! Charts abound on the internet, so it won’t take you long to discover what you need to know.
Winter squash are delicious and nutritious, and with a little care you can enjoy the pies, soups, and other dishes to which they add their beautiful flavor and color. This is the time of year when many of our producers have winter squash on their buying pages. Enjoy!
Pounds of Plenty: How Our Producers and Community Members Come Together to Give Back
Members make a difference every time they purchase from Fall Line Farms and Local Roots. Every order brings you great fresh food and made-in-Virginia products like flower essences, goats milk soap, and beautiful flower bouquets. But did you know that every order also strengthens the local food system right here in RVA and Central Virginia by creating income and opportunities for small farmers, makers, and food entrepreneurs? You're doing good stuff!
And there's another way that we work to strengthen our Central Virginia market region. It's called 'Pounds of Plenty." With the touch of a button, you can donate food from FLF&LR to neighbors in need and other worthy causes. Pounds of Plenty is our way of collaborating with producers to make great food available to a food bank near you.
Producers choose what they can discount for donation during any particular week. You choose and order those items from a producer. We deliver what you ordered to the food bank closest to your pick-up location. Your donation goes directly from the producer to folks in your neighborhood who are in need!
Selections change weekly, depending upon the season and producers' supply of certain items. This week, you can donate natural deodorant or granola from Misty Morning Sunrise Farm, ground beef from Thornebrook Farms, and butternut squash or potatoes from Thistledowne Farm. Or you can choose to donate tomatoes to this week's featured program, the Culinary Arts Classes at Goochland High School.
Chef Dave Booth teaches Culinary Arts at Goochland HS. He's also chair of the Center for Rural Culture's Education Committee. Dave's going to be teaching his students how to can food, and some of our producers are banding together to get him tomatoes.
You can support this effort by going to the Pounds of Plenty page, then scrolling down to the section that says "tomatoes--bulk seconds." The tomatoes you order will go straight from the farm to Dave's classroom!
We're committed to LOCAL, and this is just one way that we take care of our market's region. Thank you for your support of this non-profit online farmer's market, and for your generosity in giving through the Pounds of Plenty program!
A Great Community Resource: The Hanover Cannery
by Phillip Perrow
The Hanover Cannery has been a community resource stretching back 3 decades. My personal experience there has been a mere 3 months. Within this short amount of time, I have come to realize the importance of the cannery. The cannery is more than a commercial kitchen. It is a bridge to our past traditions, to our current food sources, and to our future generations.
All are welcome to the cannery. As a commercial kitchen and processing facility, the Hanover Cannery offers the use of steam kettles ranging from 30-80 gallons, prep stations consisting of stainless steel tables and large basin sinks, a blancher, a mechanized food mill, an awesome corn cutter, a potato peeler and three large retorts capable of pressure or water bath processing. Basically, it provides the space and equipment you need to process your food items on a large scale in a respectable amount of time at a very reasonable price.
The cannery has the ability to process your products in either mason jars (pint or quart), or in size 2 ½ cans (3 ½ cups). If using jars, the price is $.30/jar for Hanover residents or
$.40 for out of county patrons. Jars are not provided by the cannery, so please bring the appropriate amount needed when visiting. If using cans, these will be provided by the cannery at a cost of $1.17 for Hanover residents and $1.32 for out of county patrons. All the equipment is priced at $1.25 per day.
Beyond the canning capabilities, the cannery offers a chance to preserve the art of food preservation. It’s a place where family recipes can become gifts. It’s a means to provide meals when the fields are rejuvenating. And it’s a chance to continue the traditions of a key aspect to homesteading. The experience becomes a point of pride as much as a way to provide sustenance. Canning offers complete control and transparency of what you put on your shelf and what you put in your body. And with the capabilities and efficiencies of the cannery, multiple batch processing, like you would typically do at home, is consolidated tremendously.
For any further inquiries or to make an appointment, please reach out to the cannery at 804-365-6484. Hours are limited for the remainder of the year, so appointments are highly recommended. Our address is 12491 Taylor Complex Lane, Ashland, VA 23005. You can also visit the Facebook page Hanover Community Cannery for more information and updates provided by the patron network of the cannery. We look forward to seeing you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Phillip Perrow was born and raised in Richmond, VA. His career in the food industry started at the age of 17 when he took a summer job washing dishes in a restaurant. His path led him to Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, SC where he graduated in 2002 with a Culinary Arts degree. Phillip returned to Richmond to work for Dale Reitzer of Acacia-Midtown and in 2012 left to open his own restaurant, Dutch & Co., with two other partners. Phillip left the restaurant world in 2018 in order to pursue other avenues connected to food. He now works as the Cannery Supervisor for Hanover County.
Easy Oven-Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic and Herbs
TOO MANY TOMATOES? WANT TO SAVE SOME SUMMER FOR WINTER?
We can help with this simple, delicious, freezable recipe!
All you need are tomatoes, garlic, basil, olive oil, and sea salt. You’ll also need a rimmed baking sheet and, if you want to peel the tomatoes, a set of kitchen tongs.
Any kind of tomatoes will work--even the little teeny ones. You can follow this method all the way to the end, or you stop at simply roasting them, and then packing them plain into a plastic container to freeze for use later. (Don’t skip the salt, though.) Or you can fancy them up a little with roasted garlic and wilted basil, as we’re doing here.
Wash your tomatoes.
Drizzle a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
If the tomatoes are large, slice them in half and arrange them on the baking sheet with the cut side down (peeling up). If they’re cherry tomatoes, you can just throw them on the cookie sheet in wild abandon.
Place the tomatoes in a 450 degree oven. Roast them until they begin to collapse a little. Begin checking them at about 10 minutes.
While the tomatoes are roasting, slice several large cloves of garlic. You can add as little or as much as you like. I usually slice about 3 large cloves per baking sheet of tomatoes.
TO PEEL OR NOT TO PEEL?
If you don’t like the peels on your tomatoes, then once they’re hot and the peels are loose, pull the sheet out of the oven and set it on top of the stove. At this point, you can easily remove the peels with a set of kitchen tongs and throw them in the compost. They’ll just lift right off of the tomatoes. If the peels aren’t loose yet, just put them back in the oven for a few minutes and check again.
Here’s an admission. If they are little tomatoes, I often just leave the peels in the mix. They don’t hurt anything. But you do you!
At this point, you should sprinkle sea salt over the tomatoes, to your taste. You can add some pepper, too. Then sprinkle the garlic slices over the tomatoes drizzle again with olive oil.
Roast until the tomatoes are jammy, caramelized, and not so liquidy. While they’re roasting, prepare your basil for wilting over top of them when you pull them out.
BASIL MAKES IT BETTER
I usually chiffonade the basil leaves (stack them on top of each other and then roll them into a cylinder, then cut so that the pieces come out in long strips). You can also just chop the basil or tear it and sprinkle it over the hot tomatoes, then stir to combine them.
Let the whole thing cool, then pack into freezer bags or freezer containers. When I’m using a freezer container, I usually put a thin layer of olive oil over the top just to create an additional air barrier. Be sure to mark the container with the date and the ingredients.
If you don’t like basil, feel free to substitute with any herb that suits your fancy. Oregano comes to mind as a great choice for tomatoes. Or use minced onion instead of garlic.
These tomatoes will bring August to your plate in February. Impress your company (and yourself) by warming them up and serving them with grated parmesan cheese over pasta or a cooked chicken breast. Add crusty bread and a fabulous salad for a wonderfully simple meal.
New Producer Spotlight: 7 Muffins a Day
MEET THE BAKER, JOANNA CHAVES
By her own admission, Joanna Chaves has “always been a big foodie.” That’s why, as founder of 7 Muffins a Day—our newest producer and maker of delicious foods that use gluten-free and dairy-free ingredients—she works hard to make sure that each of her products has the best possible taste and texture. It’s a point of pride for her that her foods are deemed delicious by anyone’s standards, whether they are gluten and dairy free or not.
“I’ve always loved good-tasting food,” she says. “Italian, Mexican, Thai—anything with great flavor. I want to share that with my customers.”
As for her culinary influences, she collects them on her travels. And she’s been traveling all her life. “My father’s work took him all over the world,” she explains. “We went with him to some of those places. I’ve lived in England, Africa, and here in America. Also, my son is half-Brazilian, so we like a lot of Brazilian food.”
One Brazilian food that her family likes is the pastel, a small hand pie similar to an empanada, but fried rather than baked. Pastels are filled with delicious savory meats and cheeses. Another of their favorites is the coxhina: a Brazilian chicken croquette shaped like a drumstick. Her doughnuts have an African taste in terms of the spices she uses. “They are baked, not fried,” Joanna says. “They come with packets of sugar so that (this is mostly for the ladies) you can control how much sugar you want on them.”
Years ago, Joanna realized that she needed to change her diet. Dedicated to making a major lifestyle change, she wanted to be able to keep enjoying the flavors she loved even as she guarded her health. “I’m borderline celiac,” she says, “and I have a sensitivity to dairy. Because of these factors, I began to try to live more naturally and organically. I lost weight. I noticed how much better I felt. So I started trying to develop recipes for the things that I liked.”
Joanna learned as she went, trying different flours until she figured out which combination would work for the particular item she was making. “You can’t use just one of these flours,” she says, “Most of the time, you have to combine them in order to get the texture you’re looking for. For instance, my tea cookies are made predominantly with arrowroot flour. But there are others in the recipe.”
Having been at this for a couple of decades now, Joanna lets her intuition and her knowledge of the characteristics of each flour guide her as she develops a new recipe. Through 7 Muffins a Day, customers are now reaping the delectable benefits of her experience and experimentation in the kitchen.
“Of course,” she says, “gluten-free flours are pretty expensive. A one-pound bag of quinoa flour is $11 to $14, depending on where you shop. Arrowroot is $7 for a one-pound bag. I try to reach a happy medium so that I don’t have to charge so much for my products.”
Judging from her first week of orders on Fall Line Farms and Local Roots, our members are enthusiastic about the gluten-and-dairy-free options. Sales were pretty brisk, so she seems to have hit the mark on her pricing—and we seem to have hit the mark in adding her to our producer lineup.
Because of her own issues with gluten and dairy, Joanna carefully maintains a dedicated pantry with its own set of pans and other baking equipment. “Flour can be suspended in the air for a time after a baker has finished,” she notes, “That’s why I don’t bake with wheat flour anymore. It can cross-contaminate a surface if you aren’t careful in how you maintain your equipment.” Joanna works with care, ensuring that her products not only taste wonderful, but are also are safe for everyone who needs to avoid gluten and dairy. Each of her products has a detailed ingredient list so that customers know what they’re buying.
“I use soy milk in place of regular milk,” says Joanna, “and vegan butter. I do use eggs. Even my chocolate chips are soy-based. When you are entertaining someone who has gluten and lactose issues, you can serve products from 7 Muffins a Day with confidence. If you make things with regular flour, a person who’s intolerant can’t enjoy them. But because my products taste so similar to mainstream baked goods, everyone can enjoy them--even people who don’t have special dietary needs.”
If you have a friend who can’t eat gluten or dairy, 7 Muffins a Day is the perfect place to find treats that they can eat. Joanna’s cakes are beautiful as well as tasty, but they are plain enough that you could take one home and decorate it for a birthday celebration. Instead of trying to bake a gluten-free, dairy-free cake yourself, you can let this accomplished baker do the work for you. Or you can serve gluten-and-dairy-free cookies at a bridal or baby shower. All your guests will enjoy them.
“When you think about history,” says Joanna, “all I’m really doing is going back to basics. A long time ago, we didn’t use just wheat. We used all of these things. Corn, oats, it wasn’t just all wheat. And it was all organic, too.” It’s also worth noting that the nutritional value of these alternate flours is almost always higher than that of regular flour. “Quinoa flour,” notes Joanna, “is a good example, It’s higher in protein and in fiber. And by the way, most of my flours are organic and non-GMO.”
SWEET, SAVORY, AND DELICIOUS!
The range of flavors offered by this accomplished baker is impressive. There’s sweet, there’s savory, and there’s everything in between.
Each package of tea cookies offers an assortment of jam-filled “thumbprint” cookies with the classic texture and taste. They are just the right level of sweet, and look beautiful spread out on a plate with the different-colored jam centers shining like stained glass.
The brownies are large, sweet, and fudgy with exactly the texture you’d expect. They’re also generously sized, so perfect for sharing with someone who deserves a chocolately treat as much as you do!
The coffee mocha cupcake is simply wonderful—the cake and the frosting are beautifully balanced—the tender, cakey bottom complements the creamy frosting. Each is just perfect in terms of sweetness, and the frosting achieves perfect harmony between the chocolate and coffee flavors.
The savory items are just as wonderful, which brings me to making an admission. I was driving home from picking up my market haul, and I opened the bag of 7 Muffins a Day croutons just to try one. Wow! They were a revelation! I really did mean to take them home and put them on a salad so that I could take pictures of them for social media, but they disappeared before I could make it home. True story.
Joanna uses her challah bread as the base for these addictive little bits of scrumptiousness, then flavors the croutons with rosemary, spices, and balsamic vinegar. The crunch is unbelieveable! Had they made it home, the croutons would have been the perfect companion to a fresh green salad or to a bowl of tomato soup. But alas, I will have to order again. And this time I will put them in the trunk of the car on the drive home so that I can at least snap a picture before I devour them.
Joanna offers some other wonderful savory foods. “I’ve been told that the tomato basil cornbread tastes like stuffing or like Thanksgiving,” she says. About the rosemary olive flatbread, Joanna explains, “it looks like focaccia but it has no cheese in it—just the specks of rosemary and the Spanish green olives with pimentos. It’s soft and very versatile and can be sandwiched with tuna or chicken salad and mayo, melted ham and cheese, made into a personalized pizza, or eaten on its own. It pairs well with white wine. You can also roll it up with a nice traditional Italian sausage then cut it into rounds secured with toothpicks and serve it for hors d’oeuvres, maybe with cheese or extra olives. You can also cut them into triangular strips and bake them dry to make chips for your favorite dips.”
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
When asked about the story behind her business’s unusual name, Joanna laughs and says, “That’s a good question! People ask me whether I mean that they should eat seven muffins a day.”
She pauses, then chuckles as she says, “Possibly! But actually, when I started this business in 2016, I had been laid off and it was with the goal of making money and also saving up money for my son’s college education. I wasn’t sure if anyone would buy my products at all, but I thought that if I sold at least seven muffins that first day, I would continue on.” Fortunately for Joanna (and for the customers who love her products), she sold her quota of muffins and now seems to be finding more demand for her impressive array of products.
Formerly in finance, Joanna now enjoys the creativity of developing and baking her recipes and the satisfaction of pleasing customers. She chose to join Fall Line Farms and Local Roots on the advice of another vendor who explained to her our mission as a non-profit online farmers market.
“It sounded like a good idea,” she said. “I could do Grubhub or some other for-profit company, or I could join [Fall Line Farms and Local Roots] and be part of something that’s helping the community. It just seemed like a great idea.”
Joanna thinks we’re a great idea, and the feeling is definitely mutual. She brings a new dimension and some great new products to our producer lineup. Now all we have to do is sit back and see what she bakes up next!
New Producer Spotlight: Curds and Whey RVA
The story of Curds and Whey RVA begins in Staten Island, New York, in the 1960s. John Ernst was just a kid working in a deli. Little did he know that he and his siblings—2 sisters and 3 brothers—would later end up running that deli themselves.
“We did everything,” he says, offering a long list. “Customer service, catering, cutting deli meats, stocking shelves, you name it.” Of course, part of that included making classic Italian deli foods, which John now sells through Curds and Whey RVA, here in Richmond. John has been delighting customers in the Richmond area for the past 25-plus years with his culinary creations—first as a chef, and now as a food entrepreneur—and we’re excited to have had him join the Fall Line Farms and Local Roots community, adding to our list of top-notch producers.
NORTH TO SOUTH
John first came to Richmond in the early 1990s. His brother-in-law had become the head chef at a restaurant on Broad Street called Pasta Luna, and he invited John to come be his right hand man. John moved south from New York, and a few months later found himself the head chef when his brother-in-law quit. For the next nine years, John's stellar dishes kept customers coming in for more.
A brief stint at Lakewood senior living followed, where John served as executive chef. Ever curious about food, he noticed the delicious spoonbread made by one of the ladies who had worked in the kitchen there for 25 years. “She gave me the recipe,” John says. “It’s totally traditionally Southern. At first, I made it just for fun. I made it because I liked it. Now, it’s one of my best sellers!” The inclusion of this classic Southern dish amongst all of the Staten Island fare is just proof of John’s culinary curiosity and his knowledge that a good recipe is a good recipe—no matter on which side of the Mason-Dixon Line he finds it!
After leaving Lakewood, John was owner and head chef at A Cappella, a German-Italian restaurant inside the Patrick Henry Inn in Richmond’s Church Hill. He then served as the Food Service Director at St. Christopher’s School for ten years. Curds and Whey RVA had been a sideline for the past 6 years until this past June, when he took the business full-time. Now, he works out of the kitchen at the Bishop Ireton Center in Southside Richomnd and sells his delectable food through several local outlets, including Fall Line Farms and Local Roots.
John’s hand-stretched mozzarella cheese has already proven popular with FLF&LR members. And with good reason. If you’re used to grocery store mozzarella, then you know that it can be bland and rubbery. Not so with this cheese. The Curds and Whey RVA version is much more flavorful, with a soft, wonderfully creamy texture. It has just the right touch of salinity, and a cheesiness that grocery store versions lack. If you slice some and leave it out for about 15 minutes, it’s perfect with tomatoes and basil in a caprese salad. It’s also delicious melted on a pizza or a hot sandwich. This is no ordinary mozzarella!
“I make the cheese myself,” John says proudly, “I stretch it by hand. I use a particular type of curd to make it. It’s best when it’s been out about 15 minutes. That brings out the creaminess.”
This mozzarella (which John pronounces “Moot-zah-rell,” with a slightly trilled “r”) is also different in the way that it’s packaged. Because it’s in a sturdy plastic container, you don’t have to rewrap it after each use, and it’s easy to slice. You can cut what you want and just leave the rest in the tub. The shelf life is two weeks, but it will be long gone before you need to worry about an expiration date!
MORE ITALIAN DELI CLASSICS
Lucky for us, spoonbread and mozzarella appear on up on the Fall Line Farms and Local Roots buying pages. And even luckier, Curds and Whey RVA offers pre-prepared classic Italian deli foods. There are delicious heat-and-serve hero sandwiches. There’s lasagna, eggplant parmigiana, and baked ziti with marinara sauce. All of these are made from scratch and come ready to heat up and serve. If you like to cook for yourself but also need a head start, you can buy fresh marinara sauce or fire-roasted peppers. And for dessert, you can choose a lovely chocolate mousse or some delectable tiramisu.
The Curds and Whey RVA version of tiramisu is the same one that pleased diners at Past Luna and A Cappella. This dessert is fabulously rich, but surprisingly light on the tongue—another achievement of culinary balance. No one flavor overpowers the others. John says that his recipe came from Ferraro’s in Little Italy, by way of a former employee of that establishment who taught him to make it. It is indeed a mouth-watering little taste of Italy and the perfect ending to a great meal, especially with a cup of coffee—or, better yet, expresso or cappucino.
The tiramisu shows John’s mastery of complicated dishes. But the mark of a good chef is an equal mastery of simple foods. Curds and Whey RVA’s Staten Island potato salad and Staten Island macaroni salad, sold by the pound, are simply wonderful. Again, John takes care with not only the ingredients, but also the method. “The potatoes need to be warm when you make the salad,” he says. “And you don’t want to overdo anything.” While some prepared salads are too salty or mayonnaise-y or onion-y, these are just right. These are perfect sides for a Curds and Whey RVA sandwich. They will also pair well with foods from other producers in our community. Think grass-fed burgers or freshly steamed shrimp.
Graciousness and a real desire to treat people to great food are hallmarks of the Curds and Whey RVA style. John had shared some of his handmade mozzarella with our own Market Manager, Becky Lillywhite. She loved it, declaring that “it is even better than [her] own!” John had been looking for a way to have an online presence for Curds and Whey RVA. Becky, having tasted his cheese, suggested that he consider joining our cooperative.
“Becky showed up just when I needed her,” says John, smiling. “If you’re good to people, if you put it out there, it’s gonna come back to you.” Looks like Curds and Whey RVA showed up just at the right time for our members, too.
GUEST RECIPE: Stuffed Squash Blossoms, from Chef Andy Howell
Recipe to stuff 12 squash blossoms.
¾ cup goat cheese at room temperature
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg yolk
Several turns of freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 cup self-rising flour or AP flour with 1 teaspoon of baking soda and a pinch of salt
½ cup corn starch
1 cup of ice water, adjust as needed
Oil for frying
• Mix all stuffing ingredients until fully incorporated. Add stuffing to pastry bag fitted with a medium tip or one quart zipper bag with a corner cut off.
• Squeeze mixture into each blossom leaving room to fold petals over the top to seal.
• Cover and refrigerate for half an hour or up to two days. Save any leftover stuffing and use as a topping for warm pasta dishes.
• Mix dry ingredients then slowly add water until you get the consistency of thin pancake batter.
• Pour an inch of oil into a heavy skillet and heat to 350 degrees or until a drop of batter gurgles brightly when dropped in the pan.
• Dust the chilled stuffed blossoms with flour, dip into batter, shake gently, then fry until golden; a couple of minutes on each side.
• Drain on a paper bag or towel.
• Serve over cold beans, arugula salad, risotto, or simply pass as an appetizer as you would with fried ravioli.
Recipe by Chef Andy Howell.
Photos by Jacqueline Murphy.
Chef Andy Howell has a long and distinguished history of restaurant entrepreneurship in Richmond. He apprenticed under Chef Bob DiCapri and went on to cook in some of Richmond’s finer establishments — The Brass Knocker, La Petite France, Poor Richards — before opening his first restaurant, the Zeus Gallery Café, at the age of 25. Over the next 29 years Chef Howell went on to open Portabella in Petersburg, and Avenue 805, Café Rustica, and Camden’s Dogtown Market in Richmond.
These days Andy is renovating a historic farm in Cartersville and reducing his recipes for two people. He’s available for special event catering until he’s ready to focus on his next culinary venture.
RECIPE: Garlicky Ground Pork (or Beef) Skillet Pasta
Our members already know that we choose our producers carefully. When it comes to meat, our farmers are dedicated to providing meat you can trust—sustainably and humanely raised, with no antibiotics or hormones (like the ground pork from Cypress Grove Farm, pictured here). Here’s a quick skillet dinner recipe that will make delicious use of some of the ground meat available on our pages. You can use pork (which is my usual) or beef from any of our wonderful producers. You could even use ground chicken.
3 cups of uncooked penne pasta
1 pound of ground pork (or beef or chicken)
½ cup of chopped onion
1 small green pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic, roughly minced
2 pints of home-canned tomatoes or two cans of stewed tomatoes, liquid included but reduced (see below)
Fresh or dried basil
1 medium zucchini or yellow squash, cut into ½” chunks or slices.
Cook the pasta as the package directs. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, reduce the tomatoes down until they thicken a little. (If you’re in a hurry, add half of a small can of tomato paste to help thicken the sauce. Or if you can tomato sauce, use a pint and a half of that instead of the canned tomatoes).
In a large skillet, cook the meat, onion, and pepper together. When the meat is no longer pink, add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.
Add the tomatoes, pasta, and squash and let simmer for five minutes, until the squash is just barely cooked.
Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Consider a double batch, as the leftovers freeze well and warm up beautifully. And I like the taste even better after it’s had time to develop. Experiment with your own touches, including hot pepper flakes or different herbs.
Makes about 6 generous servings.
Adapted from "Jiffy Ground Pork Skillet" on the Taste of Home webpage by Katie Hoffman, FLF&LR Marketing and Promotions Director.
New Producer Spotlight: ThorneBrook Farms
Jil and Brooks Davis (pictured above, with dogs) were high school sweethearts. They fell in love with each other passing notes in class. Jil laughs and says, “Brooks likes to tell people that we had chemistry between us, because we met in Chemistry class. He’s been telling that joke for 20 years now!”
As they look out over about 230 head of cattle grazing contently in thick meadows, the Davises explain that from the beginning, their plan included becoming independent cattle farmers with their very own farm, herd, and home.
“We are first-generation farmers," says Jil. “We started our herd from the ground up.” They began 14 years ago with a herd of 16 on 40 acres of leased land. Now, they graze over 200 head of cattle on about 500 acres. And they recently bought a farm in Cumberland County, where they are restoring a 4000-square-foot home and figuring out where to put the gardens and fences and, of course, some animals.
Brooks didn’t grow up on a farm, but he has always wanted to be a farmer. “He worked for several local farmers when he was in high school, helping with cattle and with hay and other crops,” Jil says. “Brooks was always serious about this. So he went to Virginia Tech and majored in Agribusiness. He’s doing what he was meant to do.”
Jil, who grew up on what she calls a “hobby farm,” loves animals and originally intended to go to veterinary school. But taking a few courses in bookkeeping introduced her to her true passion. She earned a degree and worked as a professional bookkeeper as she and Brooks saved money and followed their long-term plan: becoming full-time farmers.
Now, Jil's not only the bookkeeper for ThorneBrook Farms, but she’s also the marketer and social media guru. She’s responsible for the beautiful pictures on the ThorneBrook Farms website and social media accounts. She’s also a writer who offers thoughtful entries on her blog, using her farm, family, and faith as inspiration.
For Brooks, the climb from farm hand to farmer was slow, steady, and sweaty. He created a landscaping business and worked full time to make money. The couple stayed focused on the future, starting a plan for their farm in 2006 and buying their first cattle in 2007. That was the inception of the side hustle that has now become ThorneBrook Farms.
In 2009, “everything started changing,” said Brooks, including how he was raising his cattle. “I was raising grass-based cattle but there were some conventional methods in there.” As they learned more about sustainable farming, Brooks and Jil began to lean more in that direction. “We are people of faith, so we began praying about what to do. We’re also clean eaters, so making this change fit with our lifestyle. We wanted to offer others the kind of meat that we wanted to eat ourselves.”
Brooks and Jil spent their precious spare time reading up on sustainable methods in publications like The Stockman Grass Farmer, a magazine that’s been around since 1947 and is now edited by Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms. Salatin’s ideas have been a great inspiration to the Davises. So have other luminaries of the sustainable farming movement, including Ian Mitchell Innes of South Africa, Greg Judy of Green Pastures Farm in Missouri, and Sandy Fisher of Brookview Farm in Goochland.
Just as he had always dreamed, Brooks is now a full-fledged, full-time farmer. His love of what he does comes through when he talks about the animals. “One thing that I like about our beef,” Brooks explains, “is that they were conceived here and raised here. We even know what their mommas ate! These cows have 500 acres and no stress.” An active member in the Virginia Biological Farming Association, Brooks raises his beef organically. No pesticides or antibiotics, all grass-fed and finished. Over the years, he’s developed his own systems of watering and rotational grazing, resulting in lush meadow and grasslands. The cattle, able to move about freely and pick at the grass, thrive.
This year, the couple decided to “step out on faith,” as they describe it. “We are going to do it on our own,” says Jil. ThorneBrook Farms is now officially Brooks’s full-time occupation. Soon, they will move from their rented home in Goochland to their fixer-upper in Cumberland. Since they can’t keep all of their cattle on the 54 acres at their new place, they’ll leave most of them in Goochland, on 500 acres of leased land near Manakin.
As a longtime member who purchases most of her groceries through our online farmers market, Jil is excited about the fact that Cumberland has a pickup location for her weekly market haul. She’s also excited about becoming a producer. “I’ve always wanted to have a little store,” says Jil. “Now we can do it through Fall Line Farms and Local Roots! I’ve always loved that I can choose just what I wanted from the market. And we know most of the farmers, so we know that we have great colleagues.”
Though it makes Jil laugh when she talks about it, there really is substance to Brooks’ claim about good chemistry. The Davises definitely have it. And they are such a good fit for our market that we’re confident in the good chemistry they’ll bring as producers, too. Welcome, ThorneBrook Farms.
(by Claire Fortier, Center for Rural Culture Board Member, and Katie Hoffman, FLF&LR Marketing and Promotions Director)
New Producer Spotlight: delli Carpini Farm
The Colorado potato beetles have done his potatoes in, but Dominic Carpin is philosophical. “It’s been a good year for the alliums,” he says. “I’ve got plenty of great onions cured and ready to sell. They’ll store great! And I can plant a fall crop of potatoes.”
Dominic (pictured above on his vintage Farmall tractor) knows how to roll with the punches. He went into farming after being laid off from his job with Capital One. While still employed at Capital One, his love of gardening re-awakened when he became a team captain for a community service project at Chimborazo Elementary. Dominic was the subject matter expert for the team, overseeing the renovation of the grass lawns and the construction of an outdoor classroom. After being laid off, he began doing day labor for a friend in Goochland. He noticed that his friend had a 1500 square foot, deer-proofed garden that he wasn’t going to use. Dominic asked to use the garden, his friend agreed, and the seeds of delli Carpini Farm were sown. After working in several other locations, Dominic finally found his current 12-acre farm, where he is celebrating the five-year anniversary of his agricultural endeavor.
Italian Roots, Heirloom Branches
Delli Carpini Farm’s focus is on heirloom vegetables. Dominic notes that it all began with Italian heirlooms—an homage to his heritage. He waxes poetic as he describes what he loves best to grow: “Romanesca zucchini. Wow! They’re more flavorful than a normal zucchini and they have a harder texture. Some are shaped like a ball. And there’s Lacinato kale. And San Marzano tomatoes—large ribbed Italian sauce tomatoes—so dry they’re great for sauces. I also grow two or three Italian specialty eggplants. And very cool Italian radishes—Candle of Fire. And Neopolitans that look like carrots but one is hot pink—one goes from red to hot pink to white.” The list continues to include Italian lettuces, chicory, radicchio, escarole, endive, and wild fennel, among other things.
Though his emphasis still tends to be on Italian heirlooms, Dominic has added a number of other heirlooms to his offerings, including Japanese and Eastern European beans and a number of different types of potatoes (when the beetles don’t attack so ferociously). He is also interested in herbalism, and raises lots of crops with both culinary and medicinal uses—burdock, elderberries, spring oats for milky stage seed pods, and wild white rose flowers.
Farming With Nature
Despite the beetles and bugs, Dominic is committed to going as natural as possible with his farming. “I use biointensive techniques,” he says. “Also some biodynamic. I plant by the signs. I use only OMRI listed inputs. [OMRI is the Organic Materials Review Institute]. That includes things like rock powders, fish emulsion, granite dust, phosphate rock, wood ash. I'm not certified [organic], but I don’t spray anything stronger than soap and horticultural oil. Nothing strong, not even Captain Jack’s dead bug brew. It’s powerful, but I don’t use it anymore. Instead, I try to create an ecosystem that will benefit the beneficial insects. I use a lot of buckwheat, blue tansy. That brings in the beneficial bugs. And I use covercropping and rotation: legume leaf, root, fruit,”
Dominic is a man with a plan. He says, “One of my goals is to earn a living wage as a one-man army. No farm debt, no employees. I do use some casual labor and volunteers. Part of my plan is growing pure, clean food. I like to consider my farm a bumblebee sanctuary. I am catering to kids with food allergies--providing chemical-free foods that improve disorders and help alleviate allergies.”
Another part of his plan is forming relationships with others in the local food system. “Some of my best customers are restaurants like Alewife and Perch. I also work with Ellwood-Thompson’s. I like the idea that we’re building a farm community. For example, I collaborate with lots of other farmers. One is Allgood Acres. They’re meat farmers. The owner is a retired marine out of Nebraska. He let me use his heated greenhouse this year.”
When he isn’t digging in his fabulous farm dirt or driving his vintage Farmall tractor, Dominic is planning other farm-related activities. You might have seen him on TV a few weeks ago, talking about his farm on Virginia Currents. The Hanover County Master Gardeners are touring delli Carpini on September 8th, and he’s working with Alewife to plan a Canary Islands dinner on September 29th (more on that later). Dominic also plays music as a member of The Cashmere Jungle Lords.
Our members will find a lot of good things on the delli Carpini page. Check out the early white California garlic, which Dominic notes is mild and delicious, besides being one of the best storage garlics you can find. And there are Stuttgarter onions and Red Wethersfeld onions, cured carefully and ready for storage, sold in small batches or larger cartons. Get them while he has them, and you’ll enjoy them into the fall and winter. “The onions have spectacular taste, says Dominic. “They’re especially good this year.”