I’ve decided to include a weekly feature on the blog! Something to bring the blog back to the fact that it is affiliated with our farm because there is no doubt in my mind that throughout the week I will severely deviate from farmy things.
From now on, every Friday (okay, most Fridays) I am going to babble about some farm-related topic that I’m completely in love with. Sometimes it will be a person (a fellow phenomenal farmer). Sometimes it will be a farm (probably one that I follow on Instagram and know nothing about but envy endlessly). And other times it will be some silly farm product or seed catalog or new variety of vegetable that I think is totally awesome.
This week, I’ll be interviewing one of my very best friends and fellow farming lady: Bethanee Wright! I have the biggest farm crush on her. She is absolutely incredible and a constant source of inspiration for me. She is in her second year of running her own vegetable CSA and market farm: Winterfell Acres. She is a phenomenal farmer and always filled with new and exciting ideas to move her business forward. She’s totally brilliant and one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met. She also got married this year and we were (a little too) proud to show off our farm-lady-fitness in each other’s weddings (see picture above). Because she’s totally crazy, “on the side” she owns a CrossFit gym with her husband Travis and teaches yoga there a couple nights a week. She’s beautiful. She’s talented. She’s a major dreamer. And that’s why she is my current farm crush!
You’re a one women show and that’s total remarkable! How did you decide to make the giant leap into owning and operating your own farm?!
Thanks! I really just kind of fell into farming… I know that sounds so silly but I was the typical young romantic intern. I read some books (most notably The Dirty Life: On Food, Farming and Life), decided to get an internship on a small farm, changed my major, got another internship at the CSA Coalition and then got a couple wage earning jobs on other small farms. Eventually I landed a management position at a CSA farm where I ran a crew of 2-5 depending on the day and put together 220 shares every week. The owner let me use one acre to start my own CSA in 2014 which was great because I didn’t need to spend a lot of up front money on infrastructure because it was all there already! Now I own an established CSA with the income available to afford the minimal infrastructure since I moved off this land for the upcoming 2015 season.
I really feel like I found my passion and just kept following it down the rabbit hole and so far it has all worked out. I know that is due to a lot of hard work on my part but I also really believe that if you follow your passions, the path will reveal itself to you as you go! You might not be able to see more than 10 feet in front of you BUT you can see enough to keep moving and keep growing. I love every bit of it!
I also know that I could not have been able to do this without the amazing love and support of my husband, Travis, and my expert weeding and mowing parents, Wendee and Jim, and my business consultant brother, Jeff. I owe them everything to be where I am today.
What’s the biggest challenge of farming on your own?
Holding up a metal pipe while also trying to screw it into place… Lifting 20+ crates full of 40# of potatoes each… Holding plastic bags while simultaneously filling them with compost… Pulling plastic tight on the greenhouse while also connecting it to the frame… So many things!
This is honestly one of the biggest challenges of farming on my own: only having two hands and one brain! I will really miss having a crew around me helping me get everything done this season. As well as having someone to bounce ideas off of. But I am very happy to have some worker shares, help from fellow farmers (like Lauren and Kyle!) and the occasional help of my husband.
How do you deal with it?
Pay people in vegetables to help me! Lots of podcasts! Singing in the field! Growing another pair of hands.. oh wait… 🙂
Travis works very hard to pay a lot of our bills so I try hard not to use him too much around the farm.
It’s your second season of operating a CSA. What are you most excited to do differently (and maybe better) this year?
The number one thing I am most excited about for this season is being able to commit myself 100% to my own operation. Although I really believe that managing two farms last season was a blessing allowing me to safely start my very small operation, I was SOOOOO busy, usually working on my own CSA only on the weekends which left little time to do other things I love. I am most looking forward to growing as a farmer on my own operation and also having time to lead a more balanced life. Maybe Travis and I will even have time to get away a few weekends during the summer!
What are you most excited to grow this year?
Honestly, I am most excited about growing living aisles this year! Instead of having to weed the walkways in between the beds, I plan on growing clover that I will only have to mow instead of weed!
I am excited to experiment more with using less plastic mulch. Some plants like the extra heat in the soil but some just like the lower weed pressure. Farming is just one grand experiment for the most part!
Also I would like to get better at growing celery and celeriac this year.
What vegetable are you most excited to eat this year?!
TOMATOES! I love them.
Also arugula! And strawberries!
Do you have a favorite place to turn to when you’re looking for vegetable recipes?
Smitten Kitchen (but I always modify her recipes a bit according to what I have on hand) or I Google the main ingredient/veggie with “paleo” in the search box. We are a gluten-free household (our roommate is a Celiac) so we usually eat mostly paleo and I love sharing that eating style with all my CSA members (or at least offer it as an option as I know there are a lot of people out there with allergies).
What’s your favorite season?
That’s a really really tough question! I love all 4 for different reasons!!! Spring is sweet and full of excitement for the coming CSA season and warming temperatures and sugaring season! Summer is crazy busy and full of amazing food! Fall finally gives me time to breathe and enjoy the fruits of the season. And of course winter is really my time for reflection and relaxation- time to be the housewife again (the hubby is gracious enough to do a lot of the household chores during the summer) and to pick up one of my favorite hobbies: KNIT!
What would you be doing if you weren’t farming?
The only way I wouldn’t be farming is if I was pregnant and on bed rest!
You’re amazing Beth! So much love to my favorite farmer (who’s not my husband!)!!!
KALE & RICOTTA (OR AVOCADO) TOASTS
This yummy snack or light lunch could be varied in a million different ways. Like subbing in avocado for ricotta if you’re dairy-free or vegan. I loved both topping choices so we ate some of both. I’ve also made something similar with smashed white beans and a touch of lemon juice added to the kale but no rice vinegar and then put it on dry toasted bread (no ricotta, no avocado).
The recipe I kind of sort of loosely based this off of was from bon appetit and had delicious cremini mushrooms in it, just very slightly browned. I had been dreaming of this kale and mushroom and ricotta combination for days but then arrived home to stinky smelly mushy disgusting mushrooms so left them out. Much to my dissatisfaction. But you could (and probably should) include mushrooms if you’ve got some.
Makes: Enough for 1 or 2 hearty lunches or 4 appetizer sized portions
Takes: 15 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 extra large shallot, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
1 bunch kale, torn from stems and loosely chopped
1 tablespoons rice vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4-8 slices of nice bread, depending on how big they are
1 avocado OR 1/2 cup whole-milk ricotta
The amounts of bread, avocado and ricotta used are totally subjective. I had plenty of each lying around, so kept toasting bread until I ran out of topping and used a hefty spread of avocado or ricotta on each slice.
Start by putting olive oil in cast-iron or other heavy skillet. Add shallots and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes until very fragrant. Add red pepper flakes (if using) along with plenty of salt and pepper while cooking. Add kale, preferably just washed so it has a little water (if not, add 1 tablespoon of water). Saute for 3-5 minutes until kale is beginning to wilt. Add rice vinegar and cook only maybe 1 minute longer. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve atop warm bread spread with either avocado or ricotta.