Since starting this series on how different families approach eating locally, we’ve tried to feature a range of Seacoast residents and cooking styles. So far, we’ve had guest posts from a working mother, a holistic health coach, a nutritional biochemist, and a pet and garlic lover. We were thrilled when Kate and Jeff Donald, of Stout Oak Farm, took time out of their busy lives to send us this post — yes, winter is just as hectic! From their unique perspective as farmers, they give us an “insider’s” view of eating locally:
We live at Stout Oak Farm in Epping, NH, where I grow organic vegetables and herbs for local farmers’ markets, restaurants and a small CSA. We’ve been here for about a year now, renting an old dairy farm, and turning it into a productive vegetable farm. During our first growing season here, we were able to preserve more of our own farm-grown food than we ever have before (a combination of canning, freezing, and drying) — this is mostly thanks to Jeff who takes the lead on our summer canning effort. We are now working our way through a cupboard full of jars — plenty of jam, salsa, canned corn, beans, and tomatoes. We have a good stash of potatoes, onions and garlic, and plenty of other things in the freezer that are easy to throw into a recipe — chopped peppers, roasted tomatoes, soup stock, pureed pumpkin, cubed squash.
The circa 1800 farmhouse we’re renting has a well-worn, rustic kitchen — no frills, minimal counter space, very basic. It’s a very cold room during the winter, which is good motivation to get a pot of soup cooking! Our most-used cooking implements are cast iron pans, enamel soup pots, knives, cutting boards, and a food processor.
Jeff and I both contribute to the day-in, day-out cooking tasks. Our meal planning is determined by a combination of: “What are we excited about cooking/eating?” and, “What needs to be used /what is in abundance?” Vegetables are often at the center of our menus. Most of the vegetables we eat come from our own farm, with a few extras from nearby farmer friends. Each year we buy ½ a local pig for the freezer, and occasionally we buy lamb, beef, and poultry from other farmers we know. Our milk, yogurt and eggs also come from other nearby farms.
We typically eat a few vegetarian dinners each week (which usually involve eggs), and our meals include some meat on the other days. We often try to stretch meat dishes into multiple meals, using scraps and bones in soups, or including leftover bits as a minor ingredient in a vegetable dish.
In thinking about how we define “local” and how we make our food choices, I would say that we prioritize buying directly from farmers we know, and farm businesses we want to support. What does that look like on a map? It turns out that most of our food is coming from farms within about 25 miles of where we live.
Note: Foods marked in bold have been sourced locally, with vegetables marked in green showing those grown at Stout Oak Farm.
• Omelets: eggs, milk, shallots, garlic, dried cherry tomatoes, bacon, cheddar (VT)
• Green salad of kale and spinach
• Meatball subs made with homemade meatballs and tomato sauce from the freezer! Made with ground beef, ground pork, onion, garlic, oregano, basil, eggs, bread crumbs, sourdough rolls from Borealis Bakery, our own frozen roasted tomatoes mixed with Valicenti Organico’s “red gravy”, mozzarella
• Green salad of spinach and tat soi
• Vegetable Stir Fry and Szechuan sausage: bok choy, carrots, onions, garlic, sunflower oil (Maine), sesame seeds, sausage from Popper’s Sausage Kitchen
• Pumpkin maple custard: milk, eggs, pumpkin, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg
• Butternut squash casserole: (butternut squash, onions, eggs, milk, thyme, cheddar (VT), breadcrumbs
• Sauteed Siberian kale: kale from our greenhouse, garlic, sunflower oil (Maine)
• Leftover squash casserole
• Our own canned green beans with caramelized onions and dried cherry tomatoes
• No cooking tonight. We went out to dinner with my mom!
• Corn chowder: our own canned corn (grown by Barker’s Farm, canned by us), smoked ham & bone, potatoes, onions, garlic, butter (VT), milk, oregano, celery seeds. This delicious soup is the last of a big batch I made and froze in December, when I was feeling inspired by a big leftover ham bone.
• Jeff’s homemade Ciabatta: flour, yeast, salt, sunflower oil (Maine)
Photograph: Kate and Jeff with their bounty of winter squash at the Winter Farmers’ Market in Exeter. Thank-you, Kate and Jeff!