Saturday, August 24, 2013

Farm Bulletin: The Call of Community

To be part of a community is crucial to farmers, both for economic and personal reasons. Contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm outlines a few examples of both.

For years, we have strongly suspected that Tito was once a dog model who finally chucked the fast life and, after a streak of hard luck, wound up in the Newberg pound where we met him. The chief bit of evidence of his former life was a spread on urban picnics in the New York Times fashion supplement. The dog in the Open Bar picnic (top photo) is sitting on a $495 Luxembourg bench with an open bag of chips next to him, and looks just like our lovable cur, except he lacks Tito's black toenails. There were also some chips left uneaten, very un-Tito. But you can never trust digital photos completely, maybe they added the chips later or he was more disciplined in his modeling days.

Regardless of his past, Tito's modeling chops can be seen in this month's issue of Cucina Italiana (left, behind Carol), where he appears with the Cameron Winery's Jackson. The article is about a special tradition we have enjoyed since Cathy Whims and David West opened Nostrana, the farmers' dinner. Every October, Cathy and David invite a group of us for dinner and we meander our way through their menu and wine list. They, along with the staff at the restaurant, make it a fun and relaxed evening for the gang that spends most of it time at the back door. Nostrana is a comfortable place for a farmer at either door, and that is due to the respect Cathy and David have for our ilk.

We deliver to a variety of restaurants in addition to Nostrana. Each place has its own culture and expression of generosity. A container of tart cherry ice cream from Lovely's, a bit of cured pork from Greg Higgins, a jar of miso from Chef Naoko or a pastry with our plums from Giana at Roman Candle, these gestures all make the effort a little bit easier and fun. Good restaurants also make us better farmers by drawing us into the process. For example, the incomparable Borlotto Lamon is one of Cathy's contributions.

When we first moved to the farm and settled into the double-wide trailer at Ayers Creek, we decided we would be there for a long, long time so, heeding Malvina Reynolds' advice, we planted an apple tree and a couple of grape vines. One was Interlaken and the other was sold as "Sweet Seduction." We hated the silly name. In grapes as in other fruits, the character of the grape is defined by the blend of acids in the fruit as opposed to simple sugars. We felt if cute was needed, then "Acid Assignation" would be a more apt name.

When we decided to scale up our table grape production, we retained the late Lon Rombaugh to give us advice on varieties to plant. We mentioned Sweet Seduction as one variety we would plant. Almost two years ago, we enjoyed a early autumn dinner in the Hungry Gardener's yard and had some time to visit with Lon. That evening, he told us the grape we were growing had been mislabeled, was not Sweet Seduction, and he would get back in touch with us with the correct name. We were glad to be rid of a name better suited to chocolates or lingerie than fruit. Winter descended and Lon died too young. You can call it what ever you want, but for us it is now a grape with no name, a bittersweet remembrance of an inquisitive and kind fruit grower who we were lucky to have known as an advisor and friend.

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