This Friday, Emily Brooks will visit the Higganum Village Farmers’ Market as a stop on her whirlwind book signing tour across Connecticut. Her new book, Connecticut FARMER & FEAST (Globe Pequot, 2011), is a thank-you card in support of all things local and farming in Connecticut. The book offers a peak into the working lives of farmers from each of Connecticut’s eight counties; she weaves the stories of their farms into the larger narrative of why local farming matters. Sprinkled throughout the pages are recipes from those farmers, too.
For someone who seems so young, Brooks has a long list of projects credited to her name. Not to mention, a degree in Chemistry-Biology from Ripon College in Wisconsin and a Culinary Arts Degree from Fox Valley Technical College, coupled with both a Master's and Doctorate in Holistic Nutrition. This eclectic mix of disciplines is the fertile ground from which she grows her ideas.
Brooks puts her face along with some of the farmers in Connecticut on the “Buy Local Connecticut” movement; “a sustainable business and consumer ethos that focused on locally produced foods and services which builds a Local Food Web and a Sustainable Community Food System."
It wasn’t too long ago that nearly everyone in America looked west for land on which to farm. We all know about the corn-belt and the breadbasket; “American feeds the world!” read the signs in the 1940’s during WWII. Big farms meant many productive acres; large scale farming practices were seen as improvements to the smaller family farms.
Family Farming fell out of vogue then, in the 1960’s all the way up to the millennium and the phrase “down on the farm,” meant something less than good somehow, less than chic. If you were called a “hayseed,” it was an insult. To call someone “a farmer” meant something less than complimentary. The only farms then making any money were the big conglomerates out west somewhere. Family farms in Connecticut were often sold for their land because the smaller farmers here could not compete with the bigger producers.
But, Brooks and lots of folks like her, agree that there is a local farming revolution happening right now and that it’s something to shout about. To have these hard-working folks and their stories written about is finally beginning to turn the tide towards changing common perceptions about our food and why we must care not only where it’s grown, but how it’s grown, too.
As the founder of the Edibles Advocate Alliance, Brooks encourages and cheers, “social entrepreneurs who support local agriculture, sustainable farming, and sustainable food systems, and passionately believes in changing the social norm towards agricultural sustainability and development through education and coalition building.” In short, Brooks “offers small business consulting and support for grass-roots and socially innovative organizations.”
In her book, she shares the stories of 43 “Connecticut Farmers and Producers who proudly produce Connecticut’s ‘locally grown’ produce, meats, cheeses and other food items featured in farm stands, farm markets, and top restaurants throughout the Nutmeg State.”
“Connecticut FARMER & FEAST is a revolutionary new cookbook that will introduce readers to Connecticut's agricultural bounty and those passionate individuals - Connecticut's farmers and producers - who toil endlessly to bring us our food. Brooks will help consumers to learn where their food comes from, eat healthier, and support the farmers and producers in their communities.”
Come out to the market on Friday from 3:30 to 6:30 PM on Higganum Green, at the Higganum Village Farmers’ Market to meet the author; she’ll have books available for purchase and will gladly sign one for you too.
While you are there, you may be inspired to shop for farm-fresh ingredients for one of Brooks’ recipes. Stop by the booth of Higganum’s own, Wellstone Farm, where owner Ian Gibson happily brings some of Deerfield Farm’s milk, cheeses and yogurt each week; Deerfield Farm from Durham is one of Brooks’ stories. Offered in the cookbook is owner-farmer Melynda Naples’ recipe for Macaroni & Cheese. You’ll have to make it without the yellow summer squash for now, but remember to add it when Connecticut’s bounty starts rolling in by the bushel-full!
Musical Guest for the market is Gale Gardiner from Farmington. She brings her lilting Celtic, blues and folk harmonies to the market with music from her voice, guitar, and Auto Harp; a perfect pairing of food for your soul and for your mind this Friday in Higganum. Bring an umbrella and water worthy shoes if rain threatens. Don’t forget your market bags!