By Jacqueline Colt and Jessica McGlinchey
On our second weekend excursion, we Arcadians ventured over to Champlain Valley to see some of our potential capstone internship sites, learn more about the land and where our food comes from, and have some killer sing-alongs in the van. The folks at Pok-O-MacCready Environmental Education Center generously put us up for two nights and kept us well fed (with all local ingredients!) They even let us spend much of Friday night climbing at their beautiful indoor rock wall, the Crux. Big shout out to Brian, Tim, and Blithe at Pok-o!
After a long day of travel and climbing, we slept like rocks in the Pok-o bunk room and were, shall we say, a little bit less than thrilled to wake up at 5:45 on Saturday morning. Everyone can agree, though, that the day was worth it.
We piled into the van and drove to Essex Farm in Essex, New York, where we were joined by Natalia Singer, our Creative Expressions in Nature professor. Essex Farm is owned and run by Mark and Kristin Kimball and is the subject of the memoir, The Dirty Life, which we read in Natalia’s class. Though we were ready for a standard farm visit, meaning a tour, lots of weeding, and a brief chat with the farmer, we found nothing of the sort at Essex.
Mark greeted us with a huge grin on his face and almost immediately thrust whole cantaloupes into all of our still groggy hands. Within ten minutes of our arrival, he was literally juggling fire. If that doesn’t get your attention on a Saturday morning, nothing will.
During our time at Essex, on a thrilling, high energy tour led by Mark, we stood on each other’s shoulders, conceptualized the nitrogen cycle, zapped electric fences, jogged in our hiking boots, saw cattle, milk cows, sheep, chickens, horses, and Mark and Kristin’s adorable two young daughters, learned about Essex Farm’s world class soil, picked raspberries, searched for pigs, and ate more cantaloupe than any of us had ever eaten in our lives. Along with learning all about the inner workings of an incredibly interesting, progressive farm. All before noon.
The Kimballs’ farm is based on a full sustenance CSA model, meaning that members pay a set, up-front price at the beginning of the year and pick up all the food they need—produce, meat, grains, dairy, and even maple syrup and soap—week by week at the farm, year-round. It also means that Essex Farm is full of diverse and delicious home-grown food, and Saturday is certainly no exception to this.
When our long, exciting tour was over, Mark rounded us up in the kitchen. He assigned random groups of us to prepare various proponents of a meal for 16, to be ready in 30 minutes. We all cooked furiously using 100% Essex Farm food and set a big table in the barn. We ended up with beef hearts sautéed with tomatoes, chicken, Swiss chard, kale, garlic, basil, salad, porridge, yogurts, carrots, milk, and of course, cantaloupe. Despite our initial hesitations about eating a cow’s heart, it was unanimous that this was some of the best food we had ever tasted. After our delicious meal, and having heard all about Mark’s fascinating idea for an institute/network/school for up-and-coming environmentally responsible farmers, Mark made sure that our van was jam-packed full of beautiful fresh farm food before we went on our way. A huge thank you to Mark and Kristin and all the folks at Essex Farm for the wonderful morning and the delicious food we’ve been enjoying at every meal since!