As we sit cozily by a beautiful warm glowing fire, the clock ticks away edging us into a new year. Like every year on the farm, the last was full of what we have come to call “learning experiences.” A friend remarked how funny it is that we never know what we don’t know. How true! This year we were not without a generous share of challenges, but there were also tremendous successes and milestones that fed our souls and invited us to keep steaming ahead!
Looking back on some milestones of 2014…
We took our CSA down from 100 to 30 families, helping us manage our time better and put more energy and resources toward our farm table dinners, a critical move given the increased interest in them. The CSA members helped to jump start the season with a never ending supply of love and support!
It turned out to be a whopper of a season for our Farm Table Dinners. We sold out every dinner for the entire season in just over 24 hours! We are still in shock! The delightful collection of guests, old and new for each dinner provides us with so much energy! We’re grateful to all who joined us.
The most memorable dinner for us was Peking on the Prairie (the Duck Dinner). This invitation-only dinner was a project for the interns who raised the ducks, slaughtered and processed them, designed the nine-course menu, prepped the meal and served it while telling the story of their experience to those who attended. They will never look at a piece of meat on their plate or in their care the same again! Credit for menu design and preparation goes to intern Paul Wang, who worked on it for ten weeks! The other dinner that we have stowed away in our hearts was the Found and Foraged Dinner with our mentor and friend Jackie Dill. She is an amazing force, and we’re humbled each time we walk in the woods together.
We showed up weekly at the Cherry Street Farmers Market to sell produce and prepared food items. It was a great season for us there as well, and we loved seeing so many of our friends and guests. There is pride in standing behind our table of produce and food. It’s a fun time off the farm, being in the midst of such a great Tulsa institution, where we’ve been vendors for 10 years!
The year didn’t come without challenges. The tractor broke down when we needed it the most. It took seven weeks to get it back, impacting our finances dramatically. Weeds and harlequin beetles were two more major challenges. When we first started growing on this land, the soil was so depleted not a blade of grass could be found, just gnarly grey weeds that thrive in damaged soil, gabbing up the last remaining nutrients and moisture. Now after five years, it supports all kinds of life. Unfortunately we have to choose between the Bermuda grass or the tomato plant, the Harlequin bug or the cabbage. This became a very exhausting and contentious subject. Farming is easy, said no farmer ever. Linda reminded me of the bible, from Genesis 3,”Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.” So, this hard work is not something we just made up all by ourselves, as the interns might have believed. It’s been happening for a while! HaHa!
But then there was help from our friends! We began growing produce and raising chickens for eggs for Tallgrass Prairie Table, a new farm-to-table restaurant in Tulsa. Late summer they gave us the best gift ever: The Tractor Dinner. It was the brain child of Hope and Michelle to help us recover after the financial losses from the tractor. Chef Michelle and Lisa collaborated on a menu and we invited Tulsa for dinner! It not only rescued us financially, but the show of support from the Tulsa community made us fall in love with Oklahoma all over again. The generosity shown was so overwhelming we were able to share some of the profits with Cherry Street Farmers Market’s Double Up Food Bucks program!
Recently we took a vacation! Thanks to some dear friends, we celebrated Thanksgiving in New York and got to eat at the famed Blue Hill New York. It was truly an inspiring time, one that has gotten Lisa’s creative juices flowing and menu ideas rolling!
So what’s up with the farm in 2015? The energy is high! Your love and support have pushed us into making some pretty big and exciting changes. First, what we won’t be doing is spreading ourselves too thin. We’ll still be growing unique produce and raising eggs for Tallgrass Prairie Table in Tulsa, but we are finally taking the advice folks have given us over the years and will now focus primarily on offering Oklahomans and visitors a taste and experience of the soul, soil and flavors that make Oklahoma a jewel. Our Farm Table Dinners are taking center stage!
The farm and offering dinners are the work and life Lisa has dreamt about her whole career. It’s taken us a long time to get here. There is work to be done, fields to be planted, rare heirloom seeds to start and propagate, goats to be milked and cheese to be made, chickens to raise and eggs to be gathered. And there is food to be shared around our table with you. Our focus is on flavor! On bringing back old heirlooms and new varieties of vegetables that above anything else are revered for flavor…not production…not yield…not shelf life…flavor!
So in 2015 you can come to the farm and get a seat at our table every Friday and Saturday evening from April through October. We’ll still be reservation only (beginning in March), still BYOW, $75 per person. The table will be smaller, limited to 24 guests, to help make the experience more intimate. You can expect a farm tour first to explore the gardens and pluck a ripe cherry tomato off the vine! Then enjoy a 9- to 11-course dinner inspired by the whims of the garden and chef. We’re ready to take the plunge and give ourselves over to what the last 9 years have been pointing us toward.
Finally, we can’t go without mentioning Shelby and Pam Oakley, the owners of this beautiful land we are so privileged to steward. They continue to be mentors and a great inspiration to us. We are forever grateful for their advice and straight talk, always wanting us to succeed and always trying to talk some sense into us when we’ve gotten in over our heads! Everyone needs people like them in their lives. We are blessed, truly.
Can’t wait to see you in 2015!
You have our love and humble gratitude