My husband and I spent last weekend at the Organic Vegetable Producers’ conference in Madison: a beautiful two day affair of organic pioneers, newbies, researchers and friends.
The tone at this particular conference (which is only in its third year) fills my heart with so much joy because in addition to the kinds of conversations and workshops you’d expect to find at a farming conference (things like production, growth, efficiency and how to overwinter onions), there are just as many conversations about relationships, balance, burn out, and broader systems change. It’s wonderful to see educational resources expanding. We aren’t just learning about how to produce high quality vegetables. We’re also learning how to do it in a way that will cause our whole food system paradigm to shift.
In general, it seems like the tone surrounding organic farming is changing. It’s no longer about how to sustain 100-hour work weeks for the long-term or how to balance on-farm and off-farm work; increasingly, it’s about how to change that definition of farming altogether. How do we create systems that can survive without us rather than systems that eat us alive? How do we make more calculated and strategic business decisions instead of just amping up production of everything? How do we make this sustainable?
I’ve been filled with so much abundant gratitude lately, and one of the pillars of gratitude I keep coming back to is my absolute luck and good fortune to exist and thrive at this specific moment in time in this specific part of the country: in the stunningly elegant and totally chaotic epicenter of the organic farming world. I am forever grateful for this opportunity to have an existence that matters so very much, that is capable of creating real, lasting change.
This particular year at the conference was also beautiful because with each workshop I sat through I increasingly realized how much we really know about farming; how much my brilliant husband knows about growing an amazing volume of vegetables with almost no formal training.
It sneaks up on you, this knowledge. I still can’t believe we are entering our seventh season of growing vegetables for our local community. We are getting overwhelmingly close to losing our title as a beginning farmer (the USDA definition of a beginning farm is someone in their first ten years of production). In some circles we have already lost that title. What then? Are we experts?!
I don’t feel three growing seasons away from that accolade but at the same time, we are also noticing our farm quietly and conscientiously become a leader in this movement. We share advice with younger farmers. We offer feedback on systems. We start conversations instead of meekly listening in as the more experienced growers talk. We have opinions. We share them.
The food at this conference too was surprising: an elegant array of beautiful sandwiches for lunch. I had the chicken salad even though, yes, chicken salad in winter feels weird to me too. But it was perfect and reminded me of a recipe I’ve been meaning to share with you since last spring so enjoy this little tribute to brighter days.
All my love,
BLUEBERRY & KOHLRABI CHICKEN SALAD
I have a real aversion to boneless, skinless chicken breast because I’m a farmer and I can’t handle eating meat that doesn’t at all resemble the animal from which it came from. I know boneless, skinless chicken breast is by far the most popular cut but I prefer split chicken breast halves. These breasts have bones and skin still attached making them much juicer when cooked up. The are also usually much cheaper. It doesn’t really matter too much which cut you use but know that the meat I call for likely takes 10-15 minutes longer to cook than just a plain old chicken breast. If you are using a different cut of meat, go low on the cooking time in the oven and use a meat thermometer to ensure it’s properly cooked.
Takes 1 hour
Makes 8 sandwiches
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 pounds split chicken breast halves*
2-1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
1-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed
1 kohlrabi, peeled and diced (about 3/4 cup, turnips are fine if you can’t find kohlrabi)
1/2 bunch scallions, white and pale green parts only (save the greens for another use), thinly sliced
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
Croissant or favorite buns, optional
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
- In a large heavy pan or cast-iron skillet (anything non-stick and oven-proof will work fine here), warm olive oil over medium high heat. Season chicken with 2 teaspoons of the salt, 1 teaspoon of the pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Please in pan and cook for 5 minutes until skin is golden. Flip and cook 5 minutes more on the other side.
- Place pan in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes. Again remember that cooking times will vary depending on the cut you ended up using. Use a meat thermometer to get the best and most accurate results. You want it to be at least 165 degrees. Remove from oven place in a bowl and allow to cool for 15 minutes while you dice your veggies.
- Shred chicken right in the bowl, removing bones but leaving the crispy skin in there. Add blueberries, kohlrabi or turnip, scallions and pecans. Stir to combine.
- In a small bowl combine yogurt, mayonnaise, vinegar, lemon zest, lemon juice and remaining salt and pepper. Stir until smooth then add to chicken mixture along with parsley. Use a spatula to fold sauce into chicken until well-incorporated.
- Serve at room temperate or chilled on buns or beds of lettuce. Keeps well in the fridge for 4-5 days.