Clark Farm & The Sustainable Feast in the Barn

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When our friend Diana Rodgers (of Radiance Nutrition and Sustainable Dish) invited us to stay on her family’s farm, we couldn’t say “YES!” fast enough. This was a chance to not only to spend time with Diana, Andrew, and their adorable kids, but also to see up-close how and where good food is grown. Plus, the Double-Os would be able to roam around on the farm while we attended the Ancestral Health Symposium at Harvard — win-win!

Thankfully, the Rodgers didn’t kick us out after I almost burned down their 270-year-old farmhouse within a couple of hours of arriving, because we thoroughly enjoyed our week at Clark Farm

The farm has a long and fascinating history. The charming, two-and-a-half-story white clapboard farmhouse on the property was built in the 1740s, and the cavernous wood barn dates back a hundred and fifty years. Beyond these structures lie vast, rolling green fields, lush with vegetation and rich with loamy soil. When you close your eyes and think of what a quaint New England farm should look like, what you’re picturing in your mind is Clark Farm.

Employing sustainable, organic farming methods, Clark Farm is a model of locavorism. We often don’t think about how and where our foods are sourced, or who is responsible for providing us with the freshest, healthiest ingredients. I’ll admit it: I’ve taken farmers for granted in the past — but having spent a week on Clark Farm with the Rodgers family, I saw just a little bit of the work that goes into feeding us, and I was awestruck.

Please take a moment to read Diane Sanfilippo’s post on Balanced Bites about the tour of Clark Farm that we took on Sunday morning. It perfectly captures how I feel about the importance of supporting local farms like this one. Small farmers don’t have grand expectations of great riches; they choose this path because it’s a labor of love. And it’s up to all of us to support what they do.

Clark Farm will be starting a CSA soon, so if you’re in the greater Boston area, make sure to sign up for the farm’s email newsletter

I’m also forever indebted to the Rodgers family for giving our boys an unforgettable farm experience. Every morning, the four kids — all of whom got along famously — disappeared into the fields, collecting fresh eggs, catching fish, stomping around in the barn, scurrying after the Rodgers’ dogs, Otis and Chase, and generally having a blast with each other.

They’d visit the pigs as they rooted around in the soil and shrubbery…

…the sheep and goats grazing in the pasture…

…the ducks waddling around the perimeter of the farmhouse…

…and the chickens as they foraged for grubs and laid some of the freshest oeufs we’ve ever tasted. By the way, you can also buy pastured eggs on-site at Clark Farm and they’re definitely worth the drive — even all the way from San Francisco.

There was one other huge benefit to staying with the Rodgers: We had the shortest commute to the Sustainable Feast in the Barn at Clark Farm on Friday night. Without question, the feast was THE highlight of our trip to the East Coast.

Although the skies opened up the night of the dinner, the barn gave warm and welcome shelter to the more than one hundred guests who arrived at the farm…

…including the littlest ones who scampered to and from the farmhouse.

Fittingly, Diana was a radiant host, greeting the party-goers at the barn doors…

…who were treated to the sight of a barn transformed. With lights strung up around the rafters and music by the talented QWILL, the place was gorgeous. If you didn’t know that the venue was a working barn, you’d think it was a movie set — albeit one with live goats in a pen that the guests couldn’t resist petting. (Lil-O and Diana’s daughter also entertained guests by jumping in and out of the pen — something you don’t often see at suppertime.)

The menu was written out for guests to read while they mingled, lined up at the bar, and munched on the hors d’oeuvres served by Chive

…including curried lamb kabobs in blanched greens with spicy coconut cream…

…broiled Essex claims (served with a minty pesto)…

…and an herb omelette (made with Clark Farm eggs) with housemade spicy kimchi.

Me? I strategically situated myself between the ad hoc kitchen set up in the back of the barn and the bar in the front, knowing that the servers would be sure to come my way. My favorite bite was the wild boar belly and spiced-roasted beet appetizer, which I hunted down every time I spied another platter coming my way.

The kids dressed up for the event, but stayed only for the mix-and-mingle segment of the evening.

Still, they lingered long enough to reunite with Diane and Bill and Hayley

…and greet the Norrises, Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser, and others. (No joke: When Big-O spotted Robb, his jaw dropped open. Pointing excitedly, my little Paleo fanboy asked “Can I meet ROBB WOLF?” Yes, I have him nicely brainwashed.)

The littlest ones also worked briefly at the raffle table. Who doesn’t love child labor?

Read all about the dinner (and view more photos) after the jump!

As the barn filled up with attendees…

…I caught up with old buddies and met new friends while Henry ran around snapping photos. Everywhere we turned, we saw folks we love, like Matt and Stacy (the Paleo Parents)…

…the ever-effervescent Jude from Smart Sexy Paleo (all the way from Australia, and pictured here with Robb)…

…Shannon Doleac (of Paleo Nutrition Notes)…

Amy Kubal (here with Diana and Michelle Norris)

…Abel James (Fat Burning Man), Stephani Ruper (Paleo for Women), and George Bryant (the Civilized Caveman).

At dinner, Henry and I enjoyed the lively company of our tablemates: Stacy and Matt of Paleo Parents, the smart and funny Dan Pardi of Dan’s Plan, Lisa and her hubby (from Swiss Paleo), and two of my all-time favorite nutrition gurus, Chris Kresser and Stephan Guyenet.

Our fun and gossipy dinner conversation was punctuated with gales of laughter and chock-full of juiciness that I will never, ever repeat — not even under penalty of death.

And the food? Insanely fresh, beautifully presented, and bursting with flavor. We started with a Clark Farm heirloom tomato gazpacho with roasted chili oil…

…crispy baked zucchini fritters with fresh smoked bluefish and sea vegetables…

…grilled coulotte steak, roasted organic mushrooms, fresh greens, and baked eggplant…

…and homemade coconut milk ice cream with ginger roasted stone fruits, Taza chocolate, and macadamia nut bark.

The farm dinner was a Paleo social gathering like no other. Throughout the barn, guests circulated from table to table, chatting animatedly with friends, putting names to faces (or Twitter handles), and having a rollicking good time.

(Photo by Paul Cary Goldberg)

And did I mention the photo booth? Guests sat on bales of hay and snapped photos of themselves with their buddies, old and new.

Here’s Andrew, Ron Savenor (owner of Boston’s Savenor’s Butcher & Market), and Geoff Freeman

…and Diana — getting ready for her close-up by applying a Sharpie mustache.

Some of us blogging gals got in a group shot or two…

As did the boys.

Last but not least, Diana hosted the raffle drawing, with proceeds going to Land for Good, a non-profit that supports New England farmers.

It was an unforgettable experience.

As the guests drifted out of the barn and into the cool night, Dusty polled a group of us to ask if we’d ever consider dropping our current careers to become farmers like our hosts, Andrew and Diana. I replied in the negative. Knowing myself, I recognize that I’m much too selfish to make the sacrifices required. But having seen the passion and energy that the Rodgers put into their work every day, I have a renewed respect and admiration for my local farmers, and will make every effort to support them.

I hope you will, too. 


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