As the phrase “farm-to-table” has become more and more commonplace, for us it begs the question, “which farms, exactly?” Because every plant and animal product comes from a farm, and so it is a pointless phrase unless the restaurant knows the exact farmers who are raising their ingredients and the practices those farmers are using. It is not enough to read “cage-free” or “organic” on a price sheet, because those words can essentially mean anything. It is not enough to read that the animals had a vegetarian diet, or that they are from an Oregon company. Knowing the people who raise the animals, cultivate (and forage!) the plants and foster the probiotic cultures….that is the bedrock of the farm-to-table movement, and anything else is capitalizing on a catch phrase.
Operating a restaurant with ideals this strong takes constant attention, sacrifice and an amazing amount of flexibility. There is never enough time or money, and there is always more work than we can truly handle. At times, it can be incredibly disheartening. But getting to know our farmers has given us a strong sense of camaraderie, the feeling that there are countless others who are working even harder than we are in the fight for conscious food. We learn and grow so much, and the lessons never end. Together, with all of these people, we do as Wendell Berry says,
“…we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude,
for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make
and powers we cannot comprehend.”
We work with so many farmers, and it is my goal to introduce you to all of them over the course of time. For now, I would like to highlight an organic farm that we are particularly proud to call our supplier and friends: Persephone Farm
Please take some time to read about this amazing farm, and learn some of the reasons that we are so grateful to know and support them. Everything in quotes comes from their website, which holds much more information than I could ever write here. They emailed us the pictures and we have plans to visit Persephone Farm as soon as we can. They welcome anyone who wants to see what sustainability looks like in action. For more information, visit their website.
Certified organic by Oregon Tilth since 1985 and now certified Salmon Safe, the folks at Persephone Farm are beyond committed to true sustainability….they live, eat and breath their ever-growing strategy to make the environment better than they found it. They have a modest goal of cultivating farm and forest lands that can be used by the next THOUSAND generations, and they take their goal as serious as a heart attack. “We strive to produce the highest quality, most flavorful foods based on the belief that healthy soil creates healthy plants, which sustain healthy people.”
The farmers at Persephone do not rest comfortably on the laurels of their organic certification. They constantly work to improve their practices, and they think critically about each and every impact they have on the world.
“We grow and market only those crops which are adapted to our land and climate. Early production of tomatoes, peppers, basil and other crops requires supplemental heat and light to get the plants started in the winter, adding a heavy carbon footprint to out of season food production. If the organic solution to the problems of agriculture is to pour more limited resources into those problems, then what have we gained? We greatly appreciate the support of our many customers who respect the natural limits of our farm and willingly wait for Persephone’s harvest to arrive.”
“Several decades of organic soil building have reduced our need to purchase fertilizer, whiling seeing stabilized soil pH, improved soil tilth, increased cold tolerance in our crops and improved storability and flavors in our produce. The life of the soil is reflected in the vibrancy of the plants it supports.”
Permacultural is without a doubt the best way to describe Persephone Farm. There is always more to life than what is right in front of us. These farmers know that for the best results, they must focus not only on the farm itself, but also on what surrounds the farm.
“The forested and riparian areas that border our farm (and the natural wildness which creeps in past the fence line) are an important part of a balanced farm ecosystem. WE have invited birds and bats to join our insect pest reduction team by providing houses we’ve hung in trees and on fence posts. We’ve learned what pollinators and beneficial insects like about wild places and incorporated some of these natural features into the farm landscape.”
Of course, no conversation about sustainability is complete without a discussion about labor. The excessive exploitation of farm workers is rampant in this world. It is devastating to both humanity and the economy. Persephone Farm creates a working environment that is safe, supportive and fair. Beyond that, it seems that everyone has a really great time doing what they do. They have a variety of options for working on the farm, including seasonal farm work and internships.
“Regardless of which option you choose to purse. You will find that we take our work seriously and we enjoy doing it. If you work with us in any context you will have the opportunity to taste, cook and learn about new foods; to enjoy the season’s bounty; to gain some basic knowledge of organic farming techniques; and to meet and work with interesting and fun people.”
“The Greek goddess Persephone spends part of each year in the underworld, tending to the spirits of the dead. As her mother, Demeter, mourns Persephone’s absence, winter spreads over the earth. In spring, when crocuses bloom and announce Persephone’s return, the joy of reunion between mother and daughter fills each seed, bud, and bloom with enthusiasm to burst open and grow.
At Persephone Farm we are grateful for the abundance and beauty we experience in all seasons.
As the first frosts begin to nip at summer’s fruits, and foliage changes color, it feels right to let summer go and plant cover crops to nourish and give back to the soil which has given our lives so much richness.”