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My BFF (My Best Farmer Friend)

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It’s kind of baffling that Diana Rodgers can stand me. I mean, I was rude to her the first time we met, and a year later, I almost burned down her family’s 18th century farmhouse.

My BFF (My Best Farmer Friend) by Michelle Tam

I’m glad she doesn’t hold a grudge, and that we’ve become fast friends. We’ll be roomies again in a few days, when Diana’ll be back in the Bay Area to present at the fourth annual Ancestral Health Symposium. This year, the conference will be held at my alma mater, UC Berkeley (go Bears!), which means I’ll get to show Diana where I used to pick up bean and tofu burritos while clomping around town in my shiny black Doc Martens and listening to Pearl Jam on my Discman.

It won’t be quite the same, though, as when our family stayed at Diana’s farm in Massachusetts for AHS in 2012. 

My BFF (My Best Farmer Friend) by Michelle Tam

Our family still reminisces about our time as guests at Clark Farm, and how it changed the way we look at food. Ensconced in our little pocket of the Silicon Valley, we have no pets (save for a few neglected Furbies), and our yard produces nothing but weeds, so for my iPad-addicted kids, staying on a farm was like living on Mars. In a good way.

My BFF (My Best Farmer Friend) by Michelle Tam

The O’s loved the farm, and didn’t want to leave (or say goodbye to their new friends).


Last week, when Diana posted the first of several videos from Clark Farm about how she and her husband Andrew raise and harvest healthy food, my boys eagerly watched it with me.

Watch this video—you’ll learn a lot from Diana, Andrew, and their team (including their kids). It certainly made us wish we were hanging out on the farm again.

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Diana Rodgers’ Lamb “Dosa” Purses with Coconut Crème

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Diana Rodgers' Lamb "Dosa" Purses with Coconut Crème by Michelle Tam

A couple of years ago, I showed up at the inaugural Ancestral Health Symposium at UCLA exhausted and grouchy. After just coming off a week of graveyard shifts, driving 300 miles to Los Angeles, and staying up late eating various animal parts with new friends, I was a mess. I was slumped over in a folding chair, staring into my iPhone, when a woman came up to introduce herself. I stayed planted in my seat, and mumbled something back before she left.

Diana Rodgers' Lamb "Dosa" Purses with Coconut Crème by Michelle Tam

Henry, who was a few feet away, walked over to chide me. “Whoa. I know you’re tired, but you know that you were incredibly rude to that person, right?” (He actually used a stronger adjective than “rude,” but this is a family-friendly blog, so I paraphrased.)

He was right. I felt awful, and my stomach knotted up. I bolted from my seat and scanned the room, desperate to find the person I’d just blown off so I could apologize. But I failed. For months afterwards, every time I met someone new, I reminded myself to not act like a complete…rude person.

Flash-forward one year. Henry and I headed down to the first PaleoFX conference in Austin, and decided to stay in a house with a number of other Paleo blogging friends, including Diane Sanfilippo, George Bryant, Bill Staley and Hayley Mason, Liz Wolfe, and others. Diane’s roommate at the house was Diana Rodgers.

Diana Rodgers' Lamb "Dosa" Purses with Coconut Crème by Michelle Tam

Diana and I hit it off right away. While the rest of the house headed out for a morning CrossFit beat-down, Diana and I went on a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood and chatted. As moms of two young kids, we bonded over stories and jokes, and it became immediately evident that we both share an acerbic, sharp-edged sense of humor. When Diana learned that I’d be attending AHS in Boston, she invited our entire clan to stay with her on her family’s farm in Carlisle. I accepted on the spot.

But it wasn’t until that evening that it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks: Diana was the person I’d rudely blown off at AHS.

"IT’S YOU!" I exclaimed. Diana smiled and nodded.

It’s a testament to Diana that she was willing to stay in a house with me despite the way I’d acted. And Diana didn’t just tolerate me; she was warm and generous, and quickly became a close friend. Since then, we’ve stayed with her family in Massachusetts, playing on the farm, hanging out at the beach, chowing on good grub, and generally having a rollicking good time. (I’m pretty sure Diana even forgave me for almost burning down her house.) We shared a house in Texas again this year, and I’m excited that we’re going to hang out twice more this month in two different states.

Best of all: our kids love her kids.

Diana Rodgers' Lamb "Dosa" Purses with Coconut Crème by Michelle Tam

That said, even if I knew nothing at all about Diana, I can honestly tell you that I absolutely adore her new cookbook, Paleo Lunches and Breakfasts on the Go.

When transitioning to a Paleo lifestyle, a lot of people are stymied by the perceived lack of breakfast and lunch options. “What am I supposed to eat if I can’t have cereal or waffles or sandwiches?” My standard response has been “EAT DINNER FOR BREAKFAST” or something along those lines, but Diana’s gone the extra mile. The pages of her book are jam-packed with all sorts of quick, flavorful, Paleo-friendly meals—and not just for finicky children, but for adults with more grown-up palates, too.

Diana Rodgers' Lamb "Dosa" Purses with Coconut Crème by Michelle Tam

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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!

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AHS’12 Day Two (8/10/12)

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Yeesh. We got home from Boston late last night, and I’m already feeling the crush of all sorts of work-related and mommy duties to tackle — not to mention a backlog of several days worth of posts to write. 

Well, I guess I best get crackin’. Let’s pick up where we left off: Last Friday.

As you’ll recall, we were staying as the guests of Diana and Andrew Rodgers on Clark Farm, their place in Carlisle, Massachusetts. Not surprisingly, Friday’s breakfast of eggs, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe that Diana whipped up was incredible.

The eggs were freshly collected from the chickens on the farm, and were bursting with color and flavor. 

I savored it with a steaming cup of coffee and some zesty, crunchy homemade purple cabbage sauerkraut. Diana has mad skillz in the kitchen, and it was a rare luxury to be able to just sit back and enjoy someone else’s cooking for a change.

Meanwhile, the kids were already up and running around the farm. Before we were even done with breakfast, the boys had already caught a couple of catfish in the pond.

And then, we were off to Harvard Law School for Day Two of the Ancestral Health Symposium. If you followed my Twitter feed and/or Fitbomb’s (or followed the #AHS12 tag on Twitter), you know that we tweeted furiously throughout all the presentations, so I’m not going to recap the talks again. (There are, however, a bunch of different summaries of AHS you can find online, like this one and this one.)

After all, I’m all about the food. Speaking of which, at lunchtime, we headed outside for a big catered buffet by Boston’s Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q.

I piled a plate high with chicken, ribs, sweet potato mash, pickles, and collard greens…

…and chatted with friends while we ate.

A few more academic sessions later, we drove back out to the farm for THE social event of the conference: The Sustainable Dish Farm Dinner.

It was jaw-dropping — the barn at Clark Farm had been transformed into a rustic, glowing dining hall filled with locally-sourced food and libations. Diana’s guest list included a who’s-who among the Paleosphere, international travelers and locals alike.

With our kids running around (and in and out of the goat pen) and our friends and Paleo heroes all in the same room, I spent the night laughing and eating — my favorite activities.

I had a blast. I can’t possibly do the dinner justice in just a few sentences — so I’ll recap it in more detail (and with more photos) in my next post. Stay tuned! [UPDATED: Here’s my post on the farm dinner!]