It’s the middle of winter. The grass is dead, many animals and bugs are asleep until spring, our bellies have graciously given us a little extra padding for the cold nights, and one would assume that local food had given up and hibernated like the rest of us. But that assumption would be wholly untrue. Thanks to new farming techniques, green houses, hoop houses, cold frames and other warming devices, farmers in Hampton Roads are still churning out a bevy of local produce in the most inauspicious months of the year.
New Earth Farms off Indian River Road in Pungo has been opening their farm to customers every Saturday in January, with greens, broccoli, and even some eggplant! Additionally, Mattawoman Creek Farms on the Eastern Shore has been producing lettuce for most of the winter in their greenhouses in addition to other produce. Much of this is being delivered to the new Whole Foods in Hilltop, which is striving to source much of their fresh produce locally, even during winter. More and more farms, farm stands, and farmers markets are expanding their seasons through the winter months. Mount Pleasant Farm on Mount Pleasant Road in Chesapeake is open year round with local sweet potatoes, onions, eggs, canned goods and more.
And let’s not forget local meat, which is more or less available all year. Farmers in western Tidewater are offering many kinds of meat options including cow quarters from Holly Grove Farm, individual cuts of beef and pork from Windhaven Farms and chickens, turkeys, pork and more from Full Quiver Farms. Most of these farms have drop off sites around the area. In Virginia Beach Pleasant Pasture Farm has fresh chicken and eggs that you can pick up on their farm off Head of River Road. (Call ahead to order: 204-4436).
Winter is also the time to be planning ahead. Signing up for a CSA should be on your list of to-do’s this month. CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Basically, a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included such as meats, flowers, herbs, eggs, and bread. Interested consumers purchase a share (or a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer. The farmers can plan in advance for their crops; it gives them income during their off-season and helps them get their product to the consumer. The consumer is rewarded with fresh produce every week, a relationship with the person growing their food, and they become exposed to products they may not have seen or tried before. Usually farmers have loads of suggestions for anything they grow. They are eating it, too!
Visit the Buy Fresh Buy Local website and go to “Food Guide” to see a list of Farmers who offer CSAs. Shares are limited, so don’t wait until spring to reserve yours – they fill up fast! In the meantime, enjoy this perfect-for-February recipe for “Grandmother’s Pot Roast”—courtesy of Karen Davis of Sweetwater Farm—which can be made with a local beef roast (chuck or rump roast will work great). Root vegetables would be a perfect accompaniment!
Here’s to a happy, hearty and surprisingly bountiful winter!
Grandmother’s Pot Roast
1 head of garlic, cloves divided
¼ cup chopped parsley, rosemary and/or basil (preferably fresh)
5-6 T. olive oil, divided
salt and pepper to taste
chuck or rump roast (3 ½-4 lbs)
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 large celery stalk, chopped
½ -1 c. red wine, divided (may use water)
2 T. tomato sauce or paste
1 c. stock (any kind)
28-oz. can of diced tomatoes
• Take one 3 ½ to 4 lb. roast and cut a dozen or so slits in it. Combine 1 T. olive oil, three mashed garlic cloves, and herb mixture and stuff the herb/oil mixture into the slits.
• In a heavy 6-qt. pot heat 4-5 T. olive oil and brown the roast on all sides, being careful not to burn it. Remove the roast from pan, and pour off all but 1-2 T. of the fat.
• Heat this fat over medium heat in the same pan. Add the onion, carrots and celery. Sauté the vegetables until the onion is browned.
• Add ½ cup of red wine, 2 T. tomato sauce or paste, stir, and cook until the liquid is reduced to about ½ cup.
• Add the roast back to the pot with 1 cup stock, 1 cup wine or water, and 1 28-oz. can of chopped tomatoes.
• Cook on the stovetop on a very low simmer for a total of 2 ½ to 4 hours, turning every 30 minutes or so.
Karen recommends tasting often, adjusting seasonings and liquid as necessary. Enjoy!
Rachel Burns is the director of Buy Fresh Buy Local Hampton Roads. Visit www.buylocalhamptonroads.org.
Rachel Burns is the owner at The Content Chop Shop, a small shop providing content marketing services to small businesses, designers and nonprofits. She is also the co-owner of Burn Both Ends, which develops and presents educational opportunities and resources for small businesses looking to grow. She is a local to Hampton Roads and a vocal spokesperson for all its myriad advantages, her favorites of which is the Atlantic Ocean. She has been published in The Virginian Pilot, Tidewater Women, and AltDaily, among others. She lives in the Hickory section of Chesapeake with her husband, two pugs and several feral cats.