Monday, June 29, 2009

From Dirt to Dinner

My "if-money-were-no-object" fantasy is to develop and manage a small farm just outside of town along with a small co-located restaurant where nearly all the food is grown or raised on the property. Naturally the menu would be seasonal, perhaps even changing daily depending on the vagaries of farming successes and failures. This fantasy would be the ultimate in eating local and farm-fresh-to-table. For those customers who want a stronger connection with their food, I'd encourage them to tour the farm before or after they eat. Maybe we'd also have a small farm stand to sell any extra produce.

This idea is half-baked at best, but my gut tells me it's doable, although perhaps not particularly profitable. I'd guess 10-20 acres could support a 5-10 table restaurant. That's asking the land to be a lot more productive than what we see currently in our industrial-farming paradigm, where it takes about 1.5+ acres to feed each man, woman, and child in the US. That is a real problem, by the way, because it's almost precisely the amount of arable land available per capita. As the graph below shows, the trends are troubling...


...because our population is growing and our arable land is disappearing (to erosion, depletion, and urban sprawl). What happens when we cross over? Do we become a net importer of food, dependent on foreign countries for our nutrition? Even now, with most of our food grown in the US, the average meal travels 1,500 miles to reach your plate. That's just nuts. And don't even get me started on the environmental damage done by the industrial farming mega businesses. Here's an industrial dairy's manure lagoon to whet your appetite:


Yum... I bet that's some tasty groundwater coming up from those wells in nearby towns. The really crazy thing is that the manure should be a valuable asset to the local agriculture, if it just weren't so concentrated in the feed lots and not full of pharmaceuticals and hormones. For a better way, see Polyface Farms, the place made famous in the book "The Omnivore's Dilemma".

What can you do? Lots of things. Buy local, eat lower on the food chain, grow some of your own fruits and vegetables. For those blog readers here in Santa Barbara County, consider signing the online petition to urge our leaders to preserve Goleta farmland.

...

But anyway... all that stuff above is not what I really intended to write about. All I really wanted to post was the two pictures below.

First picture shows a portion of what I harvested from my backyard on Saturday. The potatoes were mostly a failure because all I got from about 40 sq. feet was a single brown bag full. Most of the plants died from pests or disease. I think next time I'll try to grow them in containers. But everything else in the picture has been wildly successful. We have enough carrots and garlic to last for a year. In fact, I've been giving away most of the garlic. The onions have done well as have the squash. Rosemary is always around.


...and so we combined all that and tossed with some olive oil and roasted it for about an hour. Paired with herb roasted chicken and a mellow merlot, and this was dinner in our makeshift kitchen on our cheapo Corelle plates:

11 comments:

Rick "man of leisure" Vircavs said...

Awesome looking meal. We had very similar meals from our garden many times last fall. Can't wait til this year as an expanded root veggie section wil make excellent roasted veggies.

Take care.

Kk said...

That's what it's all about! being deliciously part of the solution. Such bounty! What does tableware matter when you have jewels on your plate!

Marco Fanelli said...

Well said, kk!

Rick, Cool that you grow food way up there!

Smitty said...

I'll be by with an empty bag for you to fill.

ueberdiebruecke said...

There is a little restaurant out in the sticks in New Hampshire, while not quite what you're after, is in that vein:
http://www.pickityplace.com/

They use, as I recall, a fair amount of their own, or locally-grown, stuff. They just do lunch, 3 seatings, and change the menu often. It was a pretty cool place, and I remember thinking "I'd like to do this". That was (what seems like) a lifetime ago now.

On the topic of sprawl and usable farmland ... this appeared in our local (Cleveland) paper today. Hope the link works:
http://www.cleveland.com/news/plaindealer/index.ssf?/base/cuyahoga/1246870636117330.xml&coll=2

Summary: in urban areas experiencing decay and population loss ... some are transforming the blight into usable urban farms.

Marco Fanelli said...

Thanks for those links, Brian! That NH restaurant looks great. Re the urban gardens: certainly better than empty, trash-filled lots... but I think infilling with places to live, work, and shop would be best. Something to stop the outward expansion into fertile land!

ps. good tt result at nationals! ...and nice results all this year and last, too. Maybe our paths will cross someday in a race, that is, if I ever train and get fit again. For now, our paths will just cross in rbr ...yes, I "stocked" you and figured out your identity over in that Nut House!!

ueberdiebruecke said...

Ha! Guess no one is really anonymous.

I was going to bet you a virtual 6-pack on Martin vs. Demarchi for nationals. Only neither of us would have won. A strange race from what I heard (but not as strange as the 40-44 finish).

Thanks for the congrats.

Blingerman said...

Marco - supporting urban ag is cool but before you sign a petition you should find out the motives behind any particular group. I don't know if this is one of them, but there are groups out there that try to restrict private property ownership rights under the guise of saving urban ag. These same groups then make it difficult for people to farm this same land. Essentially they simply want to keep open space and aren't really interested in urban ag. I find it hard to be sympathetic to the crowd that says, "I have mine so I'm not interested in providing opportunity to others."

Anonymous said...

The food grows out of town, the people live in town. Instead of the people going out to the food, it seems like it would be better for the environment if you only moved the lighter items in one trip- the food to an in-town restaurant.

Anonymous said...

There is a trade-off when talking about how far food travels. Food grows with much less energy expenditure in it's natural environment. If you grow something locally that isn't meant to grow here, are you really saving over getting it from it's natural environment? That is an important thing to consider too.

barlow said...

Marco...can I use your photos from the Ventura County Stage Race for next years VCSR? I've been tracking down photos and love a few of them that you took?

Also, my wife and I have taken a liking to your blog...she is super into the sustainable living thing. Thanks for sharing.

Here is a good blog...search for the Deliberate Agrarian...you will get sucked in so fast...like a good draft on the bike.

Let me know about those photos...

barlow3345@gmail.com