Know Your Food, Know Your Farmer: Shared Legacy Farms

Last Wednesday was a beautiful fall day. It was 75 degrees and sunny with clear skies. The evening was warm, but not stuffy, and the sun was bright as we drove up to Shared Legacy Farms in Elmore, Ohio. No, we were not lost. I wanted to meet the people I buy food from, and see where it grows.

Kurt and Corinna talking about their calling
Kurt (left) and Corinna (right) telling me (center) about their calling

Shared Legacy Farms is a 25 acre farm with 10 acres utilized for organic farming. Kurt and Corinna Bench are raising their two young boys on this beautiful farm, teaching them, and hopefully the rest of us, the story and the face behind the food we eat. I had to laugh when one of the boys picked off a giant kale leaf and was told “only pick it if you are going to eat it.” I laughed because I know in our home, we will make the strangest meals in order to use what we have, because real food is a precious commodity; we try not to waste and we try to appreciate. I think this is because we know the hard work that went into bringing that food to our table.

Kurt Bench
Kurt Bench

Kurt grew up farming. His family in Curtis, Ohio runs a conventional farm that started as a vegetable stand and took off from there. Kurt moved to the Chicago area, where he met and married Corinna, volunteering on a farm that offered Community Sourced Agriculture shares (a CSA). Not too much time later, with a little one on the way, they moved back to the greater Toledo area to begin raising their family. Corinna, being suburban raised, didn’t know a lot about farming but they decided to start a small, organic, CSA farm in addition Kurt working a full time job elsewhere. The first year they had 12 vegetable shares, and a goal to double the production the next year.

Shared Legacy Farms | Simply Jess

And it did! Their drive, their dream, their excellent produce, and their passion for getting to know those who buy the food from their farm continued to perpetuate the growth of their farm, to the point where they would farm late into the night in order to keep it growing. Finally, they took a step of faith and turned their dream of running an ecologically sustainable, green, organic farm for their involved community members, into a reality.

Shared Legacy Farms | Simply Jess

 

Today, the farm is their vocation. They love getting to know their customers on a personal level, learning about their families, and bringing people together across northwest Ohio. The farm specializes in organically grown vegetables, and partners with other businesses, forming a unique network. CSA members can get eggs from Weber Ranch, a local meat and poultry farm, fresh, weekly coffee from Maddie and Bella Coffee Co., and fruit brought in from neighboring farms. They also have partnered with local chefs to provide truly seasonal, local, nutritious, top quality produce to be served at area restaurants. Shared Legacy works hard to enhance the experience of customers all around the area at Fowl & Fodder, Element 112, Registry Bistro, Ballance Grille, and Maumee Wines.

CSA Oppertunities
CSA Opportunities

I was particularly interested in the way the farm works. I learned a lot about Integrated Pest Management, and how if you pay attention to what you grow and when, you can cultivate the soil to prepare for each season without having to add chemicals. Cover crops are not a new concept to many farmers, but Shared Legacy uses them, plus compost, mulching, fish emulsion, and chickens as well. Chickens, you ask? The particularly cool chicken palace, is a mobile coop that can provide the free-range chickens with a home and natural food, in addition to providing the farmers a service of picking bugs, bug larvae, and providing fertilizer to the land. The coop is moved every two days and in that time the chickens have nice lush grass to eat, along with plenty of protein from the bugs and larvae they consume. This not only provides highly nutritious eggs but prepares the soil for the next year. Then, the worst of the harmful bugs are gone when it is time to plant, calling for less need to use other, conventional pest control options. This blew my mind! How ingenious!

Chicken Palace
Chicken Palace

The camaraderie of the workers on the farm was apparent from the first moment Corinna brought me out to the field. This evening was a harvest night when a group of people from all different backgrounds come to the farm after their own full day at work to pick the produce in return for a vegetable share of their own. I’m pretty sure the amount of fun they were having with each other equaled the amount of work they were doing. From picking kale to peppers they labored hard that evening cracking jokes and smiling the whole way. They told me about how much they learn helping out on the farm and the appreciation you develop when you spend hours hand picking cherry tomatoes. “Food tastes better when you know what went into it.” [#Truth]. The return rate for employees and volunteers is excellent. They have fun, they are appreciated, they share in life events and become extended family members; (the kind that you look forward to being around).

The hardworking workers on a harvest night
The hardworking workers on a harvest night

Kids have something to learn too, and not just the ones who come while their parents help on the farm. They too learn where their food comes from, and get to share that at school when they have kale chips packed in their lunch, the ones that they got to help harvest just days before. The Bench’s have also started a Farm Science Camp in the summers. For a week, children can come to the farm to learn and have fun with the hope of instilling lifelong habits, education on farming, and proper nutrition. When kids have an opportunity to experience and connect with how their food is made it can change their life, bringing about a generation that values their community and what all members have to share.

Shared Legacy Farms | Simply Jess

Do you know how your food got on your table? How about where it came from? Now, who picked or harvested it and when? Who planted it? Do you know the name if the farm, the farmer, or what they look like?

 

What if you knew all of that information? What if you knew the hands that cultivated what you consume, and the care that was taken?

 

If you take one step into the fields that grow the food you eat, it could truly change your whole perspective.

Be Local.

~Jess

Shared Legacy Farms | Simply Jess

 

Holy Tomatoes!

These little spurts of chilly weather in late summer definitely brings the desire for bonfires, sweaters, hot tea, and warm soups. I love late summer and early fall, and like many others, I look forward to the traditional Ohio fall milestones. I no longer have to find that fine line of how-little-clothes-can-I-actually-have-to-wear-and-not-be-inappropriate, snuggling is far more welcome these days, it gets dark just early enough that I can light a bonfire in the backyard, I can hear the local football game from the high school nearby, apples are ready to be picked in the many orchards, and squash is showing up in my CSA bag. I am also ready for warm soup after the long stretch of summer salads.

Soup Two Ways | Simply Jess

What makes good soup? Tomatoes. To be honest, this all came about from the fact that I already canned 14 jars of tomatoes, made many dinners surrounding this fine summer fruit, and yet, I AM STILL PILED HIGH WITH TOMATOES! So, so many tomatoes!

Holy Tomatoes! | Tomato Soup Two Ways |Simply Jess

Don’t get me wrong. I am so thankful to have fresh heirloom tomatoes from a local farm, or gifted by friends and co-workers. These are guaranteed to be ripe, in season, and completely pesticide free! This kind of produce is a little pricey at the grocery store, and never as fresh and in season as the local fare. Since I love to cook, I accept all the veggies. But I also do not want them to go to waste. Ergo, back to soup.

Oven Roasted Tomato Soup | Simply Jess

I undeniably have a cook’s-crush on the Raw. Vegan. Not Gross. series on YouTube. Laura Miller has an unparalleled sense of humor about food. I learn a lot, and I laugh more. Even the formerly world’s pickiest eater (my husband) fell in love with kale due to her kale chip recipe. Luckily, this is the first one I tried on him so all of the others weren’t a struggle. At the beginning of the year Laura released a recipe for Oven Roasted Tomato Soup that was so unbelievably easy to make. I’m pretty sure I ate it all winter, but only using the best tomatoes I could dig up at the grocery store.

Tomato Soup | Simply Jess

While the numbers of tomatoes in my home were rising to counts that I began to fear an uprising, I remembered the soup! Eureka! And I could even make it on a weeknight. Take that tomato mob! Plus, since it is a vegan recipe, I can share it with all of my friends without worry of dietary preference, or allergies. Although I am not a vegan, this is one of the many reasons I love great vegan recipes; plus I love finding ways to show that food as close to its natural form can be so flavorful and delicious.

Oven Roasted Tomato Soup | Simply Jess

A week later, still a little fearful of the large numbers of tomatoes entering my door, my uncle described a great eggplant-tomato soup he had. Equal parts tomatoes and eggplant… that was all the info I could draw out of him. Well, I just happened to have two of those little, purple superfoods in my fridge too. They were getting a little too smitten with the milk.

Roasted Eggplant Tomato Soup | Simply Jess

Now it was time to use a little brain power. Easy soup with eggplant and tomatoes. Well, we use a lot of eggplant in Lebanese cuisine; a little coriander, salt, lemon juice… I could certainly plopp that in the blender too! With a little help from my husband, a few olives really made the dish.

 

So give them a try, I truly hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Go to the Farmers Market, or ask someone you know for local ingredients, it really made a world of difference. All of the produce and green spices I used were locally grown and completely organic. Now, that is food you can feel good about.

Oven Roasted Tomato Soup | Ingredients | SImply Jess

Oven Roasted Tomato Soup
By: Laura Miller – Raw. Vegan. Not Gross.

Makes 4 servings

2 lbs tomatoes halved or quartered
1 sweet onion, quartered
1 Tbsp thyme
1 Tbsp roughly chopped basil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
¼ c olive oil
1 Tbsp agave/or honey
¼ tsp cayenne
pinch salt and pepper
1 roasted garlic head (recipe below) *Very Important*

 

Prep The Garlic

Roasted Garlic: *Do this first*

Pre-heat oven to 400*F
Chop off the top each head of garlic to expose the cloves inside
Place garlic cut side down onto a baking sheet
Drizzle with olive oil
Roast, cut side down in oven for approx. 30 minutes, until browned and cloves are tender

Oven Roasted Tomato Soup | Simply Jess

Tomato Soup:

Pre-heat oven to 400*F
Roughly quarter tomatoes and onion and place in a large bowl
Add thyme, basil, lemon juice, agave/or honey, olive oil
Add a pinch of cayenne, salt and fresh ground pepper and toss
Place all ingredients (except roasted garlic) onto a baking sheet
Roast vegetables for 20 minutes
Once roasted, put all ingredients into a high speed blender
Add all cloves from 1 head of roasted garlic
Blend until smooth
Finish with black pepper and fresh basil

Oven Roasted Tomato Soup

 

Eggplant Tomato Soup | Simply Jess

Oven Roasted Eggplant Tomato Soup
By: Jess – Simply Jess

Makes 4 servings

1 lb eggplant roughly diced (about 2 small or 1 large eggplant)
1 lb tomatoes roughly quartered
1 large or 2 small red onions, quartered
1 Tbsp oregano
1 tsp ground coriander
2 Tbsp lemon juice
¼ c olive oil (2 Tbsp in soup + 2 Tbsp for topping)
2 Tbsp tahini
pinch salt and pepper
5 kalamata olives, pitted (plus additional sliced for topping)
1 roasted garlic head (recipe above) *Very Important*

Eggplant Tomato Soup | Simply Jess

Eggplant Tomato Soup:

Pre-heat oven to 400*F
Roughly quarter tomatoes, eggplant, and onion and place in a large bowl
Add oregano, coriander, lemon juice, 2 Tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper
Toss
Place all ingredients (except roasted garlic, tahini, and olives) onto a baking sheet
Roast vegetables for 20 minutes
Once roasted, put all ingredients into a high speed blender,
*You can reserve some of the smaller eggplant pieces to top soup before serving
Add tahini, and the whole, pitted olives
Add all cloves from 1 head of roasted garlic
Blend until smooth

Finish with sliced olives, a little drizzle of olive oil, and some of the roasted eggplant, if you reserved any.

Enjoy!

Be Local

~Jess

Oven Roasted Eggplant Tomato Soup | Vegan |Simply Jess