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BETHEL — Nothing tastes better than farm-fresh produced picked that morning — except if it was picked that afternoon!
And if you never had food that fresh food prepared and served in the casual atmosphere of the farm where it was grown, then make your reservations now for Holbrook Farm’s last Farm Dinner event of the season on Sunday October 15.
After basically providing the cozy and quaint Bethel farm, located at 45 Turkey Plain Road (Route 53) to a caterer for such an affair a few years ago, Jessica Wong, resident operator/manager/farmer decided to try hosting farm dinners herself in 2015. But she found that the half-dozen dinners held that year were a little too much logistically because she partners with chefs and owners of the many restaurants Holbrook farm supplies.
“These people are busy running their own places, so it was really challenging to coordinate six of these dinners in one season,” she told The Newtown Bee during a visit to the second of three events held this year, on August 27 — an all-vegetarian meal prepared by farmer and chef Scott Drozd, caterer Matt Stanczak, who operates a food truck called “eggz,” and Aki Arai, chef and owner of the popular House of Yoshida in Bethel.
On that perfect late summer afternoon, guests arrived through a canopy of hundreds of huge sunflowers leading to the farm’s main yard and an appetizer table stacked with a bounty of cheeses, a juicy tomato and cucumber salad, Holbrook’s own wafer-thin bread & butter pickles, spicy baba ganush, tangy Holbrook Farm relish, and heavenly sourdough bread.
Except for the fresh grilled corn drizzled with a creamy tomato dressing carefully prepped by Chef Drozd, every single item on the menu was sourced from within the farm’s two-plus acres of growing space.
According to the farm’s website, Holbrook Farm is a family farm by definition; however, it is not the traditional version of a farm that has been tilled by the same family for generations. Although the Holbrooks have lived on the property for more than 40 years, the expansion of the operation to one that welcomes visitors is relatively new.
While not certified organic, “Holbrook Farm has been clean of pesticides and herbicides for at least the last 40 years that we have owned the land. We don’t spray with pesticides, we try to use beneficial insects and companion plants,” John Holbrook says, “and we don’t use herbicides. Weeds have a place in the ecological mix as long as they are controlled.”
The use of compost and natural leaf mulch aid in fertilization and weed suppression. The success of the farm relies almost entirely on soil health. After spending decades building the soil to its current state, there are more than enough nutrients for crops to flourish.
Ms Wong has been farming with the Holbrook family since 2012. After graduating Skidmore College with a degree in anthropology and East Asian studies, she started her career at a small marketing agency.
While short-lived, her one-year office job led her to pursue a different career path — one that didn’t involve sitting in an office all day.
With no farming or gardening experience, Ms Wong said she began by volunteering at another local farm in Wilton. But it wasn’t long until she found her way to Holbrook Farm where she started out as a novice volunteer.
With a natural curiosity and tenacity, she quickly became an apprentice under Mr Holbrook, and both soon discovered that farming was a natural fit. She rose from volunteer to manager to sole operator in just a few short years.
Ms Wong explained to her guests at the farm dinner that she has the passion and desire to continue to grow Holbrook Farm and build its relationship to the community, and the growing league of chefs and restaurateurs who depend on the farm’s bounty for their own recipes.
Those attending the August 27 dinner were treated to a meatless variety of delectable fare including a cold cucumber potage blended with onion, potato, and thyme into a creamy starter. It was followed by fennel salad and Chef Aki’s Somen Noodle, a Japanese wheat noodle drowned in a kelp stock along with finely chopped cucumber, tomato, shiso leaf, and shishito pepper.
After courses of chard leek and wonderful tiny potatoes and a roasted pepper, potato, and onion salad, the main service concluded with a mixed vegan curry smacking of ginger and garlic — and a sampling of roasted squash. Guests finished off as darkness fell, enjoying a drenched fresh peach dish with a tasty drizzle and ground nuts.
Ms Wong said her final farm dinner this year will revolve around dishes prepared by Jeff Caibe, who recently opened the Taproot restaurant in downtown Bethel, along with a possible companion chef.
On the farm side of the business, Ms Wong said she is testing a new type of CSA program that provides patrons with a debit-style card with which they can visit and choose a selection of the farm’s daily output in the variety and quantity of preference. She may limit certain items so all CSA members can have an opportunity to access certain limited quantities of vegetables.
Holbrook Farm is open weekdays 9 am to 6 pm, and from 9 am to 3 pm on weekends. After attempting to remain open through the winter for retail customers, Ms Wong said she hopes to expand the farm’s offerings through this coming winter.
Learn more, or make reservations for the October 15 farm dinner at Holbrook Farm, by calling 203-792-0561 or visiting holbrookfarm.net.