MOSES Organic Farming Conference + Meal Plan + RECIPE: Tater Tot Shepherd’s Pie

3000+ farmers, academics and friends.

450 minutes of workshops attended.

Three new farming books purchased (including The Local Economy Solution, Rebuilding the Foodshed and Cold Antler Farm).

(Somehow only) four beers.

Two keynote speakers who were both storytellers, and both encouraging us to share our story of organic farming (!!!!!!).

One adorable man named Eugene who I met when the first keynote speaker asked us to share our story of how we got into organic farming with our neighbors. Eugene was a conventional farmer for most of his life, scared to “swim up stream” and shift to organic, but it fascinated him. He remembers lying in bed, reading organic farming magazines when he finally made the decision to transition to organic. Now he’s a retired farmer and an organic inspector for MOSA. Gene, you made my weekend.

170 trade show vendors.

Three arguments about farming with my husband. All of them resolved. All of them essential. All of them good.

A bazillion conversations with amazing people.

One CSA day celebration.

Five meals.

Twelve pages of notes.

Countless numbers of lessons and new ideas.

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Yup, that’s right. Last weekend was the MOSES Organic Farming Conference: the happiest weekend of the year. Is happiest the right word? Happy is definitely one of the emotions I felt. But also joy, inspiration, anxiety, hope, stress, love, fear, and immense pride.

I love this conference with every ounce of my being. I love the energy. I love the opportunity to catch up with people I don’t see enough because we are scattered all over the Midwest doing our own amazing things. I love the things I learn. I love the things I teach. I love the way it all continues to change year after year not because it actually changes but because I change.

I love it all. It has such a warm place in our hearts. It’s where we realized we wanted to grow food for people for the rest of our lives. It’s really an essential part of the process of beginning another year of farming.

This year was beautiful. As most years are. A blur of captivating presentations, conversations cut short as we rushed to the next event, and just enough time in between to ponder. I learned about how to have a more efficient “lean farm” from Ben Hartman. I sat captivated as Marshall Paulsen of The Birchwood Cafe described the eight seasons of local food (because by all we should all know that eating in season is so much more diverse than just tomatoes in summer and asparagus in the spring). I listened to my friend Vanessa from the Center for Integrated Agricultural Studies speak gracefully about how to get our products into local schools, daycares and hospitals. I learned about liability insurance from Rachel Armstrong of Farm Commons. It was terrible. But so helpful.

My Carrot and I chatted with Diana from the Rodale Institute and convinced her to start a podcast. We listened to the lovely Laura from Loon Organics discuss how to create the most efficient packing shed. (Oh hey, did I mention we’re plotting the construction of a building in 2017?! And a well. And a driveway. Much more on this later). Then we drove to Lancaster and picked up a rotary plow for our tiller. And spent the next twelve hours feasting. And then on Monday, we planted the first seeds of 2017 in our greenhouse.

It’s been a very good week. A very good week indeed.

Oh, and in food-related news, here’s what we’ve been eating.

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February 27th meal plan:
I’m already so excited about this decision to share my meal plans with you. Now when I get stuck in one of those moments of darkness in the kitchen where inspiration is non-existent and I have no idea what to make for dinner, I can look here and remember all the yummy things I made and that I’m not a total loser at cooking. This week involved a lot of leftovers from the Molly on the Range Cookbook Party (see meal item #1) so we only had to make five meals. PS I started a cookbook book club that’s also a potluck! Sunday was the inaugural event. 

Love,
Your Leek

P.S. All MOSES conference photos come from the lovely Laurie Schneider.

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TATER TOT SHEPHERD’S PIE
Inspired by and adapted from Molly Yeh

Serves 4
Takes 1 hour

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large parsnip, peeled and diced
3 carrots, unpeeled, ends trimmed and diced
1/2 yellow onion
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground venison (beef or lamb would also work just fine)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups beef broth
1-19 ounce bag frozen potato puffs or tater tots (we used these delectable roasted garlic all-natural ones available at our local co-op; Molly makes them from scratch!)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add parsnip, carrots, onion, salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally (often enough to prevent sticking but not so often that the veggies don’t have time to brown).
  3. Add venison and cook 10 minutes more until meat is well browned, almost crisped in places.
  4. Turn heat to high and add Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste. Saute for 1 minute quickly until incorporated. Add beef broth. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until most liquid has evaporated, 5-8 minutes.
  5. Top parsnip, carrot and venison mixture with frozen potato puffs or tater tots in an even layer (ideally so none overlap). Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Preheat the broiler to high and broil on the top rack of the oven for 5 minutes until browned and crispy.
  6. Serve warm. If you have happen to have leftover sriracha mayo from a Molly on the Range cookbook party then definitely toss some of that on top!

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