I’m a blogger. Not a serious blogger, not a successful blogger, not a well-connected blogger. But I am a blogger. It is something that I’d like to take more seriously, like to be more successful at. So last summer when I was invited to an event for bloggers it seemed like something I should consider. The fact that it was hosted at a farm made my decision easier. If it were a glitzy event downtown I’d likely have found countless reasons I was unable to attend but I’ve always felt at home on a farm. I RSVPed my yes before I could talk myself out of it.
I say that because it fell in a busy week with several evening commitments and I was leaving town for the weekend. I was already feeling pangs of guilt for time away from my family and the disarray my home was in. But this was the perfect opportunity to work toward some goals and have a new experience. Since saying yes to new things is a focus this year I put Field to Fork on my calendar and looked forward to whatever it had to offer.
Perhaps my vision is romanticized but I’ve spent enough time on farms and with farmers to know that I’d fit right in. So I headed an hour or so south of my home to Dundas, Minnesota. We were told to go with dressy casual and practical shoes. I had the perfect denim dress and cork and leather wedges for such an occasion. When I pulled out of my driveway the sky was overcast but not threatening so I didn’t give a thought to checking the forecast or bringing a jacket. Just south of Minneapolis the sprinkles started and the further south I got the heavier the rain became. I debated about turning around but the rush hour traffic was in full halt going the other way. That and I’d made a commitment to attend and I’m not so sweet that I’ll melt so onward I drove.
Just off the highway, I arrived at the Wolf Creek Dairy. A dairy farm owned by Paul and Barb Liebenstein and home to nearly 500 cows. This event was put on by the Minnesota Blogger Bash in conjunction with CommonGround of Minnesota. CommonGround is a volunteer group of women farmers who educate the public on farming and food. Their slogan is Conversations About Farming and Food.
I parked my car and felt a bit like I’d won the lottery when I discovered I, in fact, did have an umbrella! Volunteers in rain ponchos directed us around. We were offered these nifty blue plastic knee-high shoe covers that were the perfect accessory to my ensemble. We broke into groups and split up to tour the farm. I was pleased to be in a group led by the owner of the farm, Barb, I’d never been on a large dairy operation and it was very interesting to learn the practices. Barb explained how the cows are cared for and her love for her farm and this life was evident.
We gathered for dinner in a barn with tables that were absolutely lovely. Minnesota-shaped cutting boards served as chargers, the centerpieces were a luxe combination of flowers and vegetables, and the tableware was black. There was some live music playing in the corner as the rain continued to tap its rhythm on the roof. Minnesota wines from Winehaven were served and the strawberry raspberry was sweet and delicious. We started our meal with crusty bread topped with fresh herb butter and a caprese and greens salad. There were appetizers served at the start but I missed those, dinner chit chat made me regret that as I was told they were amazing.
My table mates were a mix of a CommonGround volunteer, farmers, an educator, and another blogger. The conversation was engaged and genuine as we learned about each other. As this small world would have it the CommonGround volunteer seated next to me knew one of my husband’s coworkers, who is a customer of her family’s farm.
Our delicious family-style meal was catered by Chow Girls. It consisted of perfectly done beef tenderloin, melt in your mouth goodness with a classic bearnaise sauce. The plater of roasted vegetables included some options that even the farmers at our table couldn’t positively identify. Because this was a meat and potatoes type meal there was of course roasted potatoes as well.
Stephanie March of Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine and TALK 107.1 fame led a question and answer session with a panel of women from CommonGround. I was so impressed with the passion these women had for gaining knowledge about farming and sharing it with consumers. There is so much misinformation out there these days that leads to fear. In some cases guilt. I always wonder if I should be buying the stuff that is marketed as better – grass-fed beef for example, but it is so much more money that I just can’t swing it and sometimes I feel guilty about that. Turns out that a lot of that is marketing. It comes more down to personal taste preference than it does anything else. Our food supply is safe.
It is safe because family farmers love the land and their animals in a way that most of us don’t realize. They won’t succeed and be able to pass their farms to future generations if they aren’t careful stewards of the resources. Farming isn’t just a job. It is a life. One that requires a deeper commitment than most of us are willing to make. Farmers are faced with choices that will affect our food supply, their bottom line, and the children’s futures – they don’t take any of those decisions without deep consideration.
If you have questions or wonder about different food options the way that I did I highly recommend you visit the CommonGround website, it is a tremendous network of knowledgeable women who will gladly answer your questions. I also highly recommend Chow Girls Catering based on this meal – yum!
This experience was both educational and highly enjoyable, I’m so glad I didn’t let the rain or my nerves stop me from going. I hope to go again next year rain or shine without hesitation.