Fabulous Farm to Table Family, Feast, and Fun
This past Friday, I had the very good fortune of attending the Farm Experience at Moon Valley Organics. This beautiful little organic farm and apiary is nestled in the Nooksack River Valley, located at the feet of Mount Baker, in northern Washington State. This verdant valley is where Moon Valley Organics grow flowers and botanicals for their line of organic body care products. So on a beautiful September afternoon, they opened the doors (and fields), broke out the games, and “put on the dog” with a very special guest chef at the stove.
Moon Valley Organics founders and owners are Kim and Aaron Otto. They operate their farm, apiary, and manufacturing facility with the help of a small band of employees and several WWOOFers (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), who are hosted on the farm for the summer. They are a USDA Organic farm and in addition to the flowers and herbs used for their product line, they have a huge veggie garden, a variety of farm animals, and an apiary to round out the working farm. Many of their beehives are located on other farms around Whatcom County, to take advantage of a diversity of flower sources that the bees convert in to delicious honey. The company is a Certified B Corporation which is (taken from their website) http://www.moonvalleyorganics.com/ ”Simply put, B Corporations are for-profit companies that pledge to achieve social and economic goals as well as financial and business goals. They are companies with a specific social mission and a desire to make the world a better place through the benefits of business.” For more information on B corporations please go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benefit_corporation. The business has also launched a program to educate the public about the protection of pollinators (bees). For more information, go to their website http://www.moonvalleyorganics.com/pages/help-save-the-bees. Access to the farm and information about their products, programs, and practices, were made available to the approximately fifty to sixty guests, along with games, giveaways and FOOD!
As soon as I arrived, I was greeted with beautiful wooden boards, loaded with tasty farm fresh appetizers. Not only were these impressive bites made with produce and proteins strait from this farm, but they were brilliantly crafted by Kim and Aaron’s long time friend and Masterchef Season 6 finalist, Stephen Lee. The former Washingtonian now farms and cooks in California. As of this posting, Stephen is one of the final three contestants competing for the title of "Masterchef", on the sixth season of the very popular Fox Network show. Stephen is known for his urban farming practices and his love of farm to table cooking to make beautiful, nutritious food.
On this unseasonably warm day for Northwest Washington, Stephen and a number of the farm staffers were hard at work in the large outdoor kitchen. They had set out refreshing fruit and herb flavored teas and waters to go along with the abundant appetizers. Some of my favorites were slices of summer squash that had just kissed the wood fired grill, then topped with a fresh little salad of watermelon and cucumbers. There was fresh caught grilled halibut with fresh chopped tomato. Slices of flat bread were coming straight from the earthen bread oven. Also making the rounds were home made sausages and bacon right from the farm. More wooden serving boards made the rounds with fresh fruit and veggie apps. The guests mingled and sampled right at the feet of the crew while they worked on the lunch to come. Before we sat down at the beautifully festooned tables, we were treated to a tour of the entire operation. We got to see first hand what labor goes in to the growing and preparation of the organic ingredients, the actual production of the soaps, lotions and slaves, then finally the packaging and final distribution. Almost every step is done by hand. Back to the food….We retired to canopy covered tables, dressed with white linens, china settings and beautiful flowers. The buffet was delivered to us on the back of a flatbed truck, decorated with hay bales and colorful fall produce and flowers. We dined on gorgeous grilled chicken that most likely been brined, then rubbed with a wonderful spice blend before smoked to perfection. I could wax on about the chicken but that was just the beginning. We had fresh gazpacho and minestrone soup served in giant pumpkin terrines, hand made ravioli, vegetarian croquettes, roast pork, dynamite sautéed greens, and platters of flat bread. Absolutely beautiful meal. Unfortunately, I had to leave before the dessert but I heard that fresh honey comb was part of the menu. Throughout the apps and the meal we were entertained by some of the musically talented WWOOFers. As with many great meals around a table, it was a lovely opportunity to meet new people and chat about our shared interests.
Sharing food around a table is truly one of the very best ways to commune with other humans and learn about common bonds. I found that everyone I met from the farm, owners and staff alike, to be welcoming and informative, but best of all…passionate and committed to their mission. Their long time friend and guest chef was a real pleasure to meet. I found him to be so engaging, with a killer smile but yet so genuine. In Stephen, I believe I have found a fellow farm cooking enthusiast, who is as passionate about highlighting REAL food and its source as I am. I wish him all the very best luck in the Masterchef finale and in future endeavors.
As the event began to wind down and the guest gathered themselves to leave, everyone was treated to goodie bags of prizes for completing in a scavenger hunt. It was an opportunity to try out some of their products, such as the luscious lip balm and melting body lotion. I am very impressed with the attention to detail that is given, from the appearance of the products to the exquisite packaging. I am anxious to try more of their products which are available on-line and in their "store front" at Pike Place Market in Seattle.
I left the Moon Valley Organics farm on Friday feeling sated and inspired. Farming and creating beautiful foods and products from the farm is in my blood. It has been a decade now since I had my own little farm. I make do with my smaller scale gardening and getting my "fix" from places like Moon Valley Organics. If you have never visited one of your local organic and/or small farms or even a farmer's market, I encourage you to do so. Seeing the source of your food and meeting the people who produce it, can really add a depth of understanding to how precious our food, flowers and herbs are. Food and body products created with such love and care will love your body back.
Thank you so much Kim and Aaron Otto, plus the whole Moon Valley Organics crew. Many thanks to Stephen Lee and all of your helpers for a fantastic meal. I hope see you all again soon.