Friday, April 15, 2011

Farmer Lee

Last week Chef came home giddy from work, which is rare.  "Farmer Lee is dining with us tonight!"  I began to rack my brain as to who was this Farmer Lee.  I know most of the farmers in our county and his name was not ringing any bells.  So, I asked. 

"Who is Farmer Lee?"

"You don't know who Farmer Lee Jones is?  Bow tie, overalls!  You know Farmer Lee!"

The iconic imagery definitely triggered some memory, but it wasn't until Chef blurted..."He is a legend, of Chef's Garden!  I am more excited to cook for him than I was to cook for Mick Jagger in '96!"

Chef's Garden, I know.  Anyone in the restaurant world who gives a rats ass about perfect ingredients knows the Chef's Garden, and you dear readers should be made of aware of what a treasure the little town of Huron, Ohio holds for our nation's culinary world.  The mantra of this extraordinary sustainable farm is "growing vegetables slowly and gently in full accord with nature." It is a mission statement that embodies the way all life should be raised.  Replace the word veg with "children" and think about it.

There are farms all over this country, that chefs can buy what makes the Jones family farm the top artisan produce grower in the country?  They use traditional farming methods to raise heirloom plant varieties while utilizing modern day efficiency and sanitation.   It is a combination that is the best of both worlds, balanced and productive...and the fact that it is location on Lake Erie is a veritable Mesopotamia with its rich loamy lake silt soil doesn't hurt either. 

Not only can a chef pick from over 600 varieties of heirloom vegetables and edible flowers, but he/she can also select the exact size they want the vegetable harvested.  Custom grown veg.  Amazing.  One thing I noticed as I purused their website is that the word organic isn't sprayed across every page.  In fact I didn't see it once. Words like traditional, heirloom, and sustainable fill its pages...which gives it a certain authenticity.

That night at the restaurant we set up a private table in our garden at 29 South for our friend Chef Thomas Tolxdorf and his special guest of honor, Farmer Lee Jones.  Chef paid them a visit while he was in between water taxi shifts that evening. We had house guests that week who were dining at The Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island, and he was their fishing boat chauffeur.

There was a strong northeastern wind blowing that night, which made for a gusty breeze on land, and a rough chop at sea.  Chef had a bit of trepidation about his journey and both the farmer and the chef wished him luck.  

There is a certain camaraderie between people who live on the coasts of large bodies of water.  Huron, Ohio is on Lake Erie, the thirteenth largest lake in the world.  The Jones family farm thrives because of this landlocked freshwater sea.  My chef's humble garden is flourishing due to our coastal Spring, and I am sure the Chef's Garden is waking up to the fresh season as well.   

Coastal farming is as old as agriculture itself, and the fact the the farmer of all farmers, Lee Jones, found his way to a table at our beach town bistro tells me that we are on to something.  As exquisitely said in the film Casablanca, "This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship."


Diana said...

"There was a strong northeastern wind blowing that night, which made for a gusty breeze on land, and a rough chop at sea."
Your writing moves my foodie heart more and more. Beautiful post, Nan. I've been an avid follower from this blog's inception. Keep up the great work! Diana (midwife friend of Stephen)

Nan said...

Thanks Diana! Glad you dig the blog. Hope life is treating you is wild how fast time flies. If you speak to Stephen tell him hello! Cheers.

Farm Crier said...

I completely agree with Diana! Your words touched upon all senses and weaved beautiful imagery of the evening. It is an honor to all of us on the farm that you and chef hold Farmer Jones in such high regard. And, Chef Thomas must feel the same way about you and your restaurant, since he took Farmer there!

Nan said...

It was an honor having Farmer there and we hope to make it up to your neck of the woods sometime in the near future! Thank you for all you do!