Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Chef Camp: Introduction

The inspiration for my newly minted Chef Camp was a letter to the editor in WSU's school newspaper, The Daily Evergreen.  Here's the link to the letter I read.

A bit about ME. 
A.K.A. Why I feel qualified to stand on this particular soapbox.

Jason and I met the summer of 2006 at Boy Scout Camp.  When you are Boy Scout Staff, you always have some sort of kitchen duty because it is always impossible to find enough kitchen staff.  And they need breaks occasionally too.  (Maybe...)  Spending two summers helping occasionally in a commercial kitchen teaches you a lot about cooking for large numbers of people, cooking in general, and efficiency and cost in cooking.  Including the sometimes picky or difficult to please category of people otherwise known as children.  And people with allergies.  I learned a lot about those too while there.  That is important because I don't have any allergies.  (Go ahead, throw things at me...)

Starting in the Fall of 2006, Having lived in Bellingham, WA for nearly a year and spending more time with Jason and his expanded repertoire of home cooking, we discovered the Co-op.  Simply walking into the co-op evoked a whole new feeling to food.  The co-op had it's own special smell, you could find all sorts of varieties of greens to experiment with and they had a whole long aisle full of bulk foods.  Eventually, we moved into an apartment together and had to begin learning how to cook to please both of us and how to make our tastes fit our budget.

Fast forward to 2008.  We have a 10 month old, HannaMae and move in August to Pullman for college.  Jason gets an internship with Eric Zakarison and we move our sheep to the Palouse.  The next summer, I volunteered as the WSU Organic Farm's Harvest Crew cook twice a week.  I created meals for 10 from the produce that was available each week from the Organic Farm.  It was a wonderful challenge to learn to cook some vegetables ten different ways. and how to adapt it for a lot of people.  We also chose to purchase foods from the Moscow Food Co-op as much as possible when we did have to buy vegetables.  Shopping at the Co-op for fresh foods and bulk items wasn't much more expensive than purchasing items at Dissmores.  Although with our big Chevy truck as our only vehicle the gas cost to go to Moscow once a week or so may have made it a bit more expensive.  Sometimes I call it experience, sometimes I call it idealism.  Sometimes it can be called priorities.  (More on those in another post...)

In 2009, we become one of the founding vendors of the Pullman Farmer's Market.  Eric Zakarison purchased a year of booth space to take orders for his pastured poultry.  After selling out by July, he told us to use the space as our own since we were experimenting with a vegetable plot.  Omache Farm was officially begun.  We learned a lot about growing produce, as well as the amount of work that truly goes into bringing dinner to the table and how that translates into prices.  We also saw first hand the scale of economies principle.  Well, we saw the "hobby farm" end of it with our 20 ft by 100 ft plot of garden.  We also found out we were going to have Alli that fall and we were both attending school full time.  And we were taking out grants and loans to pay for it and thus budget conscious.

2011 marked our first Market season without school.  Jason and I both finished classes that winter.  We chose to have Jason be full-time farmer and stay-at-home Dad while I worked off the farm.  Jason likes to fairly point out that most of the farmers around here also had small children at home/on the farm while their wives worked off-farm.  He says that for 9 months of the year, he's a Farmer with some children to feed and for three months of the year, he's a stay-at-home Dad with some sheep to feed.

2012 was our first CSA season which meant having to put so many more of our vegetable learning to use in educating our customers on how to utilize the items showing up in their CSA box.  Learning how to better communicate and how to educate consumers on what we were filling their refrigerators with was a huge hurdle that we are still learning how to balance with the hands-on work of growing the food.

The 2013 growing season brought huge changes in a whole new set of partners/farmers in Jason's folks.  And house-mates, which means learning how to blend not only two whole households but also how to blend two different sets of eating habits.  We're still working on that one...

Don't forget that each year we spent tons of time trying to cut our food budget and learn ways to cook without having to be home so we didn't have to eat at McDonalds, again.  We also spent a lot of time trying to learn how to cook with all the different vegetables we were trying to grow.  We will always feel that the best way to sell something is to be able to teach others about it.  That meant learning about what its best for and other, more familiar vegetables that it is similar to so that one can infer what might make a good meal with that item.

To boil it all down, The letter to the editor that I read felt, to me, to be the epitome of all the paradigms and points of view that I have spent the last 8 years learning about and overcoming and figuring out how to educate others about.  If I can help even one person feel better about themselves in the kitchen or gain enough courage to begin using their kitchen to actually cook, I will have succeeded.

Happy eating!


All statements made within this blog are my own experiences and opinions only.

Part of Omache Farm’s mission is to educate consumers about our products and philosophies.  Please feel free to copy and distribute any information with citation.  Use information for your life that works for you and your family and feel free to discard the rest.  What works for one family doesn’t always work for another!

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