This week as turkeys roast and glasses toast, let us give thanks to the farmers who connect our menus from field to plate. Perhaps more than any other holiday on the calendar, Thanksgiving isâ€”or at least should beâ€”the equivalent to a ticker-tape parade for farmer-heroes who make our feasts possible.
For those of us with urban farms, backyard or community gardens, or a few rural acres, Thanksgiving can mark our seasonal transition from outdoor duties to those quieter winter months inside, when we dive into the abundance of root-cellared, frozen or canned produceâ€”to enjoy the taste of the fruits of our labor.
So how are some of our farmer-heroes spending their Thanksgiving? We asked them, and hereâ€™s what they said:
Using Fresh, Not Processed, Ingredients
â€śFor us, itâ€™s all about the stuffing,â€ť says Logan Peterman with a smile. He and his wife, Katie, run Laughing Sprout Family Farm in central Wisconsin.
While they keep a mostly vegetarian diet, they do cook a turkey for visiting family on Thanksgiving. Satisfying their preference for vegetables, however, they prepare a vegetable-based stuffing to showcase their fall crops.
â€śI think too many people think stuffing has to come out of a pre-made, processed box,â€ť Peterman, says. â€śStuffing is surprisingly easy to make. In addition to the dry, hardened bread, Iâ€™ll add onions, celery and carrots, and season with sage, thyme and garlicâ€”showcasing the harvest from our farm.â€ť
Showcasing Their Roots
â€śMy family is Greek. My mother was born in Patras, so our menu often looks a little different than typical American fare,â€ť explains Neysa King, a young farmer outside Austin, Texas, who shares her beginning-growing experience through her blog, Dissertation to Dirt. â€śThere’s the turkey, of course, but in addition, we always have spanakopita, spinach and cheese baked inside filo dough, along with Greek-style potatoes baked with olive oil, white wine and oregano.â€ť
But King and her husband, Travis Czerw, will also bring new flavors to the family table when they head to her momâ€™s house in Dallas this week: â€śRoasted root vegetables were never something my mother made until I began farming and bringing home delicious and sweet beets, carrots and turnips. Now roasted roots are a standard at our Thanksgiving table.â€ť
Beth Osmund who runs Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm, the first meat CSA (community-supported agriculture) serving Chicago, shelves her boots and Carhartts at Thanksgiving and puts on running shoes.
â€śWeâ€™re starting a fresh tradition this year by participating in a local 3-mile Turkey Trot run/walk as a family,â€ť Osmund shares. â€śBoth my husband and I along with our three sons have been training together in order to keep our activity levels up as the weather cools off. The race is on Thanksgiving morning, so weâ€™ll get some good exercise before relishing that pasture-raised turkey from farm.â€ť
Setting Her Own Rules
Who said you must eat turkey on Thanksgiving? Thatâ€™s exactly what Kriss Marion of Circle M Farm in southern Wisconsin asked. She and her family celebrate Thanksgiving a week early.
â€śWe open our doors a week before Thanksgiving and have friends and family over for a traditional meal, including my one of the farm-raised heritage-breed turkeys and favorite squash soup with our heirloom winter squash,â€ť explains Marion. â€śOur actual Thanksgiving day is a very quiet, informal gathering with just my husband and kids, where weâ€™ll kick back with no responsibilities in the kitchen, hang out in our pajamas, and maybe pop into town and go out to eat. Itâ€™s fun and super-relaxing to have a totally free day like thisâ€”just what we need after the busy summer running our CSA.â€ť
Marion really plays by her own rules: â€śFor that early Thanksgiving meal with family and friends, if we sell all our turkeys to our CSA members, Iâ€™ll just cook chicken and ham instead.â€ť
So have a tasty Thanksgiving however you celebrate the food and the farmers who make it possible. Check back next week for techniques and recipes for one of our favorite classic holiday dishes: Eggs Benedict.