As the Boston Globe reported recently, farm dinners are a growing trend. The chance to eat a high quality meal prepared by a chef with products fresh from the field in the bucolic setting of a farm is hard to resist.
Last night, I experienced my first farm dinner at the Boston-area Brookwood Community Farm. Although I’m sure the food, prepared by Brookwood board member and chef Suzanne Lombardi, was as fresh, delicious, and beautifully prepared as any such repast, I was even more delighted by Brookwood’s mission than the food.
The purpose of the dinner was to cultivate supporters for the visionary work of Brookwood Community Farm. This five-acre farm is scattered across three plots of land just south of Boston, including a Blue Hills Reservation site that was farmed for several centuries before it was deeded to the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation in the ’70s. The land sat empty for a couple of decades until Brookwood Community Farm got permission to plant its first acre in 2006.
Co-founder Judy Lieberman took our group of 20 or so on a farm tour, where she showed how she and other staff and volunteers intensively cultivate the fields and rotate the crops to make the most of the limited acreage.
Brookwood is not certified organic, but they follow the Northeast Organic Farmer’s Association organic pledge. I was surprised to see burlap coffee sacks from Equal Exchange being used to mulch between the rows! In addition to using sustainable farming practices, Brookwood shares the bounty. Lieberman told us that they donate 10-25 percent of their produce to local food pantries.
As the evening sun dipped in and out of the clouds on the warm August evening, we enjoyed the perfect pescovegetarian meal, featuring Chilled Green Gazpacho Soup with a Brunoise of Beet & Cucumber, Summer Tomato & Grilled Zucchini Squash Salad with Toasted Pistachio & Farm-Made Ricotta Cheese Crostini, and Grilled Wild Striped Bass, Baby Farm Potatoes with a Smoked Tomato Vinaigrette & Fresh Fennel Slaw.
“Judy and I saw the potential for local agriculture to help create a sustainable future,” co-founder Mark Smith said, as we savored our Peach Blueberry Bourbon Galette with Crème Fresh Whipped Cream, Mint & Marigold Petals.
Brookwood uses a variety of strategies to help people have access to healthy, fresh and affordable foods, Smith explained. In addition to running a Community Supported Agriculture program for 200 families, Brookwood helped create a Farmers Market in nearby Mattapan, a low-income Boston neighborhood that is rich in diversity, but lacking in places to buy affordable, healthy food. Brookwood lowers its prices when it sells at the Mattapan market.
Recently, Brookwood started a market at the Gallivan public housing complex in Mattapan, where residents can fill up a grocery back of produce for only $5 at the farm stand. The farm also provides a variety of educational, volunteer, and internship programs. They’re currently developing a training program to help youth develop life skills and confidence while they work on the farm.
As the sun set and this magical dinner drew to a close, I reflected on how lucky I was to be able to experience the good food, good company, and good work of Brookwood Community Farm. Brookwood embodies my pescovegetarian dream of making delicious, healthy, local food available for all. I can’t imagine a better way to use public land for public good.