In “[It Really Was Quite] Outstanding In The Field” Part I, I focused more on the “what” behind Outstanding in the Field. The concept, the experience and the fully formed menu is so grand that one can forget momentarily the most important part: the why. The “why” is the farmer, the grower of the ingredients that inspire the chefs, who in turn inspire diners. In this case of farm-to-table eating, Blackberry Meadows was the farm of the hour!
For many of my peers and myself, we followed the established routes through life that were supposed to result in success and happiness, only to discover a lot of hype and intense questions- is this what we were supposed to do with our lives? With these questions, we have asked what is passion? What does it mean? What is my passion? Can my passion be my livelihood? What inspired me the most about this particular Sunday was the passion emanating from our hosts and farmers, Jen and Greg, who stood before us and humbly offered their story.
Both Jen and Greg came from suburban backgrounds, the type of upbringing that leads to locking doors and a moderate mistrust of everyone. When they decided to turn their interests in sustainability into a farming endeavor, a very different type of community awaited them. Blackberry Meadows Farm was one of the first, certified-organic farms in the area, and its pervious owners had been influential in many of the farmers markets and Slow Food endeavors in Pittsburgh. They mentored the couple, and they fostered a relationship between the novice farmers and their community sponsors.
After the first growing season, those same sponsors showed how strong their support was for Jen and Greg. The members of the CSA offered to help the couple financially, as they implemented their business model to pay off the farm. The overwhelming show of support proved to the couple the importance of their community, and they continue to return the commitment wholeheartedly.
Each week Jen and Greg greet their CSA members in person. They do not believe in anonymous drop-offs or dictating what a subscription contains. If a client wants a bigger squash, they offer him or her a bigger squash! Each Tuesday, the couple and interns do the bulk of their harvesting and then share a family-style meal together. For many students or young adults, this is a rare opportunity to share in a communal meal. The creation of the bread oven was another grand gesture to the community. They built the oven on the principle of Alan Scott, who started a system in which those who have built a bread oven become mentors for future builders.
Even in discussing hurdles and challenges, the couple was positive and enthusiastic. Their commitment to the land, to the community and to future generations was so palpable and inspiring. After sharing in their inspiration, we wandered through their field, to the long tables with linens and china and ate a meal like no other!
Extra Special Thanks To The Growers & Foragers :
Jen Montgomery & Greg Boulos (& Little Evelyn!)
Blackberry Meadows Farm
Briar Valley Vineyard & Winery
Cavan & Tom Patterson
Garfield Community Farm
And of course, thanks to all the chefs, food slingers and planners behind this event!