We'll Get Better

The evening started with a ridiculously good meal at Sontes. Susan and I were joined by Eric and Lisa Klein of Hidden Stream Farm, who raise animals and vegetables that they sell direct, and have gotten so good at selling their own produce that they now sell meat and veggies from a lot of other farms. Every meal shared with a farm family is a blessing, and a time to reflect on the hard work that farmers do to feed all of us. We were also lucky enough to be joined by the owner of Sontes, Tessa Leung, who is a dedicated locavore, who's turned her own home over to an herb garden that supplies the restaurant. Tessa was gracious enough to provide a meal for us before hand.

Chef Bryce Lamb cooked up an array of local meats and vegetables, and fresh pasta. It's hard to describe how good it was. Each dish that was tried, from the elk, to the beef, to the beets, the lamb, the pork jowls, was better than the next. He walked it out to us personally, and shared stories of his travels around the world, including some time he worked on a farm in Austria. I can't emphasize enough how good this food was. One of the top meals I've ever had. 

We were so quick to eat it that we didn't even have time to take pictures :)

Susan and I had to leave to sell tickets at the Heintz Center. The space was graciously provided by Erin Meier and Lois Kennis and the rest of the good people at the Sustainable Development Partnership in Southeast Minnesota. It was another late arriving crowd, which certainly is not good for the nerves, but once again we were able to get dozens of people in the seats on a Friday night to watch a documentary about meat production- which is kind of amazing if you actually think about it. 

Dave Kotsonas, manager of the Rochester Farmers' Market. (Photo S. Yao)

The conversation following was hopeful, one that seemed to talk about all of the unrealized potential in the current food movement. Restaurants like Tessa's Sontes, are ahead of the curve in their community. 

Tessa, owner at Sontes, talks about being one of the first restaurants to source locally. (Photos S. Yao)

And as a pioneer they have to be patient and wait until everyone else catches up. Of course, it won't take long, since if people order some of Chef Bryce's food, they are sure to be back regularly. And Dan, of the People's Co-op, talked about the organizational advantages of new distribution models- the omnipresent Co-Ops throughout the state of Minnesota. Basically, everyone buys small shares, and everyone is an owner. It's more complicated than that, but I won't go there just yet. Co-ops throughout our country may just be finding the happy medium between the one-stop-uber-big-mega-plex-box-grocery-store and the charming but inconvenient sweet-corn-off-the-pick-up-truck food shopping experience.

Organic farmer Jerome talks about the numbers of acres and people needed to convert our food system. (Photo S. Yao)

 There were a number of farmers in the audience, of different backgrounds, from those who are just starting out, to those who've been at it decades. There was a lot of hope, a lot of belief. Dave, who runs the burgeoning Rochester Farmers' Market, and teaches Agriculture at an alternative high school, talked about teaching kids to grow tomatoes and can them. No that wasn't a typo, "can" is actually a verb that means to preserve fruits and veggies by putting them in cans. It's a lost art that is being retaught to people that want to once again learn self sufficiency,and want to be able to feed themselves and preserve foods themselves.

Lisa and Eric Klein enjoy a moment during introductions. (Photo S. Yao)

Eric and Lisa talked about how the demand for what they are doing expands each year, and how they cannot keep up with the people who want to buy the meat and vegetables they produce and distribute. With 6 healthy happy kids, and the free work force that comes with it, you tell by the look in their eyes that they are building a hugely successful farm, and that they are going to be able to teach and encourage a lot of new farmers in the years ahead. They mentioned the Land Stewardship Project's Farm Beginnings project which is essentially an incubator that helps people interested in agriculture gain the training needed to do so. 

Chris takes notes as part of our ever evolving and engaged conversation about agriculture in Minnesota. (Photo S. Yao)

As the evening concluded, one woman asked if the demand was increasing for local food. And each person said that it was, and each person seemed to be very aware that we have just begun to understand what we are capable of. The farms, restaurants, markets, co-ops, and organizations that are integral to this local food movement are making strides. But we're just at the beginning of what we're capable of and we'll get better at what we do, and we'll pave the way for the ones who come after us to do what we do better than we can imagine.

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published this page in Ruminations 2012-07-21 00:20:57 -0400