Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Full Circle

My love for all things farmland is not a new concept.  I used to live vicariously through all of the Little House on the Praire books when I was younger.  I was attracted to the simplicity of those stories: working in your own yard, making your own food, spending time at home with family.  My aunt and uncle own a farm, and I used to beg my aunt to let me collect eggs and vegetables and wildflowers when I'd visit.

Farms have become even more fascinating to me as I've gotten older, especially because of the way I view food.  There are stark differences between the family-owned farm and the factory farm, and those differences are precisely why I have become wary of the animal products I purchase and eat.

The following is a quote that I just love, from a well-known farmer and author:

“A farm includes the passion of the farmer's heart, the interest of the farm's customers, the biological activity in the soil, the pleasantness of the air about the farm -- it's everything touching, emanating from, and supplying that piece of landscape. A farm is virtually a living organism. The tragedy of our time is that cultural philosophies and market realities are squeezing life's vitality out of most farms. And that is why the average farmer is now 60 years old. Serfdom just doesn't attract the best and brightest.” -- Joel Salatin 

I'm delighted when I find a farm like the kind Salatin describes: friendly and caring people, healthy crops, well-treated animals, and a sense of community.  So when I find this type of farm and it's attached to a restaurant-- a pancake house-- I'm in heaven.

Heritage Farm

When we pulled up to the Heritage Farm Pancake House, I thought Ryan was going to make me turn the car around.  "I don't want to eat breakfast in some person's house!"  If that had been the case, we would have eaten there anyway-- I would totally enjoy talking to farm owners about their practices and how they sustain themselves in the factory-farm driven food economy.  Their house, as it turned out, was across the street.  This barn/house is actually the pancake house and the sugar house where they serve breakfast and their own maple syrup.

You order food by portion size.  Each breakfast portion comes with pancakes, eggs, and bacon or sausage.  A full portion comes with 2 pancakes, 2 eggs any style, 2 slices of bacon, either "soggy, crispy or dead" and potatoes.  You can choose from a menu of probably 20 different pancake flavors and even create your own variety.  I ordered a multigrain blueberry pancake for my half portion.  Ryan ordered one chocolate chip and one orange cranberry for his full portion.

You have the option of eating inside or out on the porch.  We opted for the porch because it was a beautiful day outside, but the porch meant we also had some breakfast visitors:

That chicken was named Shirley (there's another named Laverne) and the dog was named Fern.  Upon ordering our food we were told that the farm doesn't allow leftovers-- any food you can't finish goes to the animals out back, unless it's bacon, which goes to Fern the dog.  This notion of not wasting may have been my favorite thing about the farm.  Of course, I saved a little bit of food for the animals:

While Ryan stood by and caffeinated in case he needed the energy to save me from the jumping goats:

In Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, Joel Salatin talks about his farm being a tiny little ecosystem in itself.  The cows eat the grass, the cows fertilize the grass, the chickens eat the bugs and worms out of those piles of cow fertilizer (which is what they prefer to eat, not grains like the egg cartons tell you), the chickens produce eggs, the cows produce  milk, and the grass is planted with crops.  "I'm just the orchestra conductor, making sure everybody's in the right place at the right time" he says.  And I starred and commented on this page in the book that I love how simple it can be.  

We enjoyed our breakfast at Heritage Farm, but more importantly I enjoyed finding a place that strives to be ecological in its small business endeavor.  

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