Dede Boies began her career in agriculture because of a fierce love of animals, and a belief that animals deserve to live their best lives in return for nourishing us as food. Now she runs Root Down Farm, a farm located on 62-acres in beautiful, coastal Pescadero that raises pastured pigs and poultry with a focus on holistic practices that promote the health of both animal and soil. In honor of Mother’s Day, we are celebrating new mom Dede, and her vision for a world in which baby Eddy and you, her community, connect with the animals you eat. A world in which animals live happy and healthy lives.

We hope you will consider making a donation today to Kitchen Table Advisors, and join us in fueling not only the the farms and ranches in our program, but the families they sustain.

 

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Dawn breaks over Root Down Farm, a 62 acre slice of agricultural heaven in Pescadero, the heart of California's Central Coast. Owner Dede Boies leases from Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), an organization that protects and cares for open space, farms and parkland in and around Silicon Valley.

 
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Dede Boies wakes early to begin the work of caring for her animals. She started the farm five years ago with the goal of raising the healthiest animals possible, while working within her ecosystem to responsibly steward the land and improve soil health.

 
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Dede squeezes in a cuddle with farm dog Oaty before putting on her boots and heading out onto the farm. Her love of animals shapes Root Down Farm's mission to invest in the health and happiness of her flocks.

 
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Root Down Farm's chickens, ducks, turkeys and pigs spend their days running and rooting around the farm, feasting on bugs, grubs & grass. Their diets are supplemented with organic vegetables, apples and non-GMO grain each morning.

 
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Root Down Farm's sow, Betty, eagerly eats a breakfast of grains, after having given birth to piglets just one week before. Root Down Farm is bursting with new life this spring, including Dede's own newborn daughter, Eddy.

 
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Dede has often heard that meat eaters couldn't possibly love animals. The way she sees it, though, is that her work honors her animals' lives and their nourishment of families like her own. "They live the best life possible before we get to eat them."

 
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Root Down Farm grows and markets their own Delaware (heritage) and Red Ranger (hybrid) chickens, "old" breeds of poultry that grow at slow, healthy rates, reproduce naturally, thrive being active outside and, as a result, have better flavor.

 
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Everyday is an adventure with a newborn. Dede and her wife Melissa are constantly learning how to balance farm demands with a growing family. They make a schedule each day with the knowledge that it's a constant evolution.

 
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After taking care of farm tasks, Dede takes three-month old Eddy for a walk around the property to give Melissa a break from baby duty. She is thrilled to raise a child in this environment: surrounded by nature, eventually playing with the animals and (hopefully) getting dirty.

 
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Another benefit of raising a child on a farm, and within a community passionate about food: Eddy will grow up eating very well.

 
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Dede dedicates her life to raising animals that nourish other families. Now that she has her own child, eaters that invest in her small farm can in turn support Dede and Melissa in nourishing Eddy with good food.

 
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Melissa bounces Eddy while Dede takes an order. While Melissa isn't directly involved in Root Down Farm, she is Dede's biggest champion and supporter.

 
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Being a sole business owner can often be isolating, and sometimes it helps to have a thought partner outside the family. Another source of support is Kitchen Table Advisors. As Dede holds a sleeping Eddy, she and Farm Business Advisor Sarah Gearen review Root Down Farm's growth over the last year.

 
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"We are respected, valued and supported by our greater community." Post-Its scrawled with Root down farm's values are a source of daily inspiration. Over the last couple years, Dede has learned to identify core values and where ideals need to be evaluated to support running a sustainable business.

 
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After a long day of farm work, caring for a newborn and managing the operations of a small business, Dede, Melissa and Dede's father, Ed, relax in their living room for some cherished time with Eddy.

 

Donate today to continue building a food community where family farms can thrive.

 

It's around the holidays that I feel particularly blessed to live in California, and so close to the amazing year-round farmers market in Palo Alto. There is so much inspiration for what to make, so many beautiful produce options from Early Girl tomatoes in the summer, to acorn and kabocha squashes in the fall, to root vegetables in the heart of winter.

If you're like me, you're pretty tired of the Thanksgiving side of green beans in fatty cream sauce -- only slightly redeemed by crunchy chip-like onions on top. Do something different this season with the abundance of beautiful rainbow carrots. I wanted an alternative vegetable side dish that uses one of my favorite flavor combinations: sweet/salty/spicy. This is definitely a unique dish to bring with you to Friendsgiving celebrations, but can also serve to expand your family's horizons when eaten along with a traditional Thanksgiving spread.

  • 2 tbsp white miso paste
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 bunches of rainbow carrots (about 10-15 total)
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • Pepper to taste
  • Dry-roasted pepitas to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash and peel the carrots. Chop them into 1 inch thick chunks (optional). Toss in 1/2 tbsp of the olive oil and sprinkle with pepper and chili powder as desired.

In a cast iron skillet, heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil over medium heat until rippling. Add the carrots to the oil and allow to cook until darkened on the outside, and just soft enough to pierce through with a fork. They should still be rather firm.

In a small, separate bowl, stir miso paste, sesame oil and maple syrup until mostly smooth. When the carrots have softened slightly and browned, turn off the heat, pour the syrup mixture over them and toss. 

Add the carrots to the preheated oven and cook for about 20 more minutes, turning them over halfway and checking their texture. The syrup will become darker and sticky, and the carrots should be browned on the outside, but softer and easier to pierce through all the way.

Take them out of the oven and sprinkle pepitas over them. Serve warm.

If you're wondering where to collect your ingredients for this week's holiday meal, consider shopping at the Ferry Building's special Thanksgiving Farmers Market this Wednesday, where you can source produce, meats, and other delectable bites directly from your farmers, ranchers, and producers, including our client, Ground Stew Farms. 

The original recipe can be found on Megan's blog, The Bay Leaf Kitchen. Photos courtesy of Megan Leaf. 

Photo credit: Megan Leaf

Photo credit: Megan Leaf

As you create your Thanksgiving grocery list and flip through cookbooks over the next couple weeks, we invite you to discover the beautiful ingredients and delicious recipes from our KTA community. We are excited to make it a local Thanksgiving by connecting you with the growers and makers of your food.

For the main course, KTA client Root Down Farm is offering Certified Organic, Heritage Breed Thanksgiving turkeys that have been raised on pasture in their Pescadero home. They still have birds available for pick-up on November 20th and 21st. Reserve yours now! To complete your Thanksgiving table, Root Down Farm is also partnering with Blue House Farm on organic, fall vegetables and LeftCoast GrassFed on beef--all of which are available at Root Down's farm stand on turkey pick-up days. 

If Pescadero isn't in your neighborhood, check out our list of KTA clients to find a farm closer to your corner of the Bay Area. 

And finally, we leave you with some recipe inspiration, courtesy of Megan Leaf, for a Brussel Sprout appetizer or side (it could go either way really). This recipe will surely make your Sprouts shine on the table. Happy Thanksgiving meal planning!

 


Photo credit: Megan Leaf

Photo credit: Megan Leaf

Brussel Sprout Chips

By Megan Leaf of The Bay Leaf Kitchen

These brussels are lemony, crunchy, tangy, and somehow, a tiny bit creamy. They cook down, though, so make sure you buy a TON of brussel sprouts if you’re cooking for a crowd. This recipe can (and should) be doubled, tripled, quadrupled, etc. etc. 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound of brussel sprouts, leaves peeled apart
  • 2 Tbsp good quality olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp whole milk or whipping cream
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a bowl, combine olive oil, milk, garlic, lemon juice & zest.
  • Pour over the peeled brussel sprout leaves, mix well.
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper over the leaves, to taste.
  • Spread brussel sprout leaves evenly over a wax paper-lined baking sheet with ridges.
  • Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until the leaves are very browned and crunchy.
  • Allow to cool and crisp up before serving.

 

By Janet McGarry, CUESA Volunteer

Americans have become accustomed to jumbo portions of poultry, and few of us remember a time before oversized boneless breasts were the norm. These days, most chicken meat comes from birds bred to grow at an abnormally fast rate—as much as six pounds in six weeks. If humans grew this quickly, we would weigh 260 pounds at age two!

Accelerated growth takes a toll on birds’ health and quality of life. “Breeding for these qualities doesn’t produce animals that thrive in natural settings,” explains farmer Dede Boies of Root Down Farm. “Chickens’ legs and hearts can’t keep up with the weight gain, so they’re not able to move well. Turkeys’ breasts are so large that they are physically prevented from mating naturally, so they have to be artificially inseminated.”

Learning about the negative impacts of industrial animal agriculture inspired Dede to start Root Down Farm in Pescadero, where she raises heritage chickens, turkeys, ducks, and pigs humanely and sustainably.

“As I learned more about the food system and farming, it became a political passion as well as a love of the physical work,” she says. “Even though my farm is just a teeny tiny drop of change, I am trying to do the best I can to raise animals in a way that is healthy for each creature, the land, and the bellies they feed.”

Water-Wise Pasture Management

Raised in the New Jersey suburbs, Dede got her first taste of farming by volunteering through WWOOF in New Zealand and Hawaii. She later found herself at Pie Ranch in Pescadero and “totally fell in love with the place.” As she gained more farming experience raising baby goats at Harley Farms and helping to start Echo Valley Farm, she realized her heart lay in raising livestock.

In 2014, in the midst of California’s deepening drought, she decided to start her own project. Root Down set down roots on 62 acres owned by the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST). Having limited water has led Dede to certain decisions, like growing fewer annual crops and more perennials. She doesn’t irrigate the pastures, which impacts the cycle of rotational grazing, requiring longer periods of rest for each paddock.

“We get all of our water from the creek on the farm, and it almost dried up that first summer,” she remembers. “At first, I thought, ‘Wow, this is a crappy year to start a farm.’ But it actually turned out to be a good thing because we started the farm knowing that we had to deal with water issues, so we established drought-wise systems from the beginning.”

Animal Welfare Approved

The ranch is certified through Animal Welfare Approved (AWA), a program with rigorous animal welfare and environmental sustainability standards designed to ensure animals live in “a state of physical and psychological well-being” from the pasture to the slaughterhouse.

New Hampshire, Delaware, Barred Plymouth Rock, and Chantecler chickens—all heritage breeds—eat bugs, grubs, and grass on the pastures, and Dede supplements their diets with organic grain. They take 15 to 16 weeks to reach maturity, almost three times longer than industrially raised chickens. Similarly, the Bronze, Midget White, Bourbon Red, and Blue Slate turkeys on the farm take 27 weeks to reach maturity (compared to 16 to 18 weeks at large-scale operations). The slower growth of these heritage breeds increases the cost of raising each bird, but also improves the meat’s taste. 

“A chicken that is raised naturally, moving freely and developing muscles at a normal rate, has superior flavor,” explains Dede. “Meat is more evenly distributed around the bird, and it develops more dark meat. It’s amazing what a huge difference it makes to the taste.”

Due to its greater complexity, meat from heritage chickens needs to be cooked longer at lower temperatures. “Cooking requires more effort and time, but the end result is so worth it,” according to Dede.

Root Down also raises heritage pigs: crosses of Berkshire, Large Black, Red Wattle, Gloucestershire Old Spots, and Mulefoot breeds. They’re kept outside all day long and are fed a diet of organic vegetable scraps from nearby Blue House Farm. “We give them showers and wallows on hot days,” says Dede.

She divides the pigs into small groups of 12, rotating them to different pasture areas each week. This requires more work for Dede and the farm’s three part-time workers, but “when the groups are smaller, we can develop strong relationships with the animals and be more in tune with them,” she says. 

Humane Treatment On and Off the Farm

After investing so much effort and personal care in the animals, Dede says it can be difficult to say goodbye and send them to the slaughterhouse. “I feel better knowing that they had very good lives, that we gave them a lot of love, and that they are going into people’s bellies to nourish them,” she says. “I want people to recognize that bacon and pork chops come from living creatures, and that a ton of work and a whole life make the food possible.”

During the first year, Dede slaughtered all the poultry on site, which was labor-intensive and also limited where she could sell the meat, since meat sold at farmers markets and other off-farm locations must be processed at a USDA slaughter house. She now sends all the chickens that she brings to market to an AWA-certified processing facility in Stockton. “It’s all about speed so that the animal doesn’t suffer,” says Dede.

Root Down also offers poultry harvesting workshops to train others in how to humanely process chickens. “I get a lot of calls from people who want to bring their chickens to the farm to learn how to process them,” she says.

Deepening Roots

Dede credits Root Down’s successful start to supportive relationships she’s developed with other Pescadero farmers. “I feel like I wouldn’t be here without my community. You just have to lean on people with a range of skills to help you with building, equipment, and other advice.”

She has also benefitted from business and financial planning guidance from Kitchen Table Advisors, and infrastructure support from POST, which has invested in rebuilding the 100-year-old barn on the land she leases. “All of this support makes me feel like I’ve started the farm at the right time.”

She is delighted to share her love of raising livestock humanely and sustainably with others at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. “Public education is a big piece of what I’m doing,” she says. “So much of my story has to be told verbally. I’m really looking forward to engaging with customers face-to-face at the farmers market and letting them know how they can affect change.”

Support Root Down Farm at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturdays.

This article is a part of an ongoing series highlighting CUESA farmers and ranchers mentored by Kitchen Table Advisors. Together, CUESA and Kitchen Table Advisors are supporting the economic viability of the next generation of sustainable small farms by offering critical market and promotion opportunities and in-depth business and financial advising. You can read more articles about businesses supported by CUESA and Kitchen Table Advisors here.

Root Down Farm photos by Federica Armstrong. Market photo by Amanda Lynn Photography.

This feature was originally posted on CUESA's website on August 19, 2016. View it here.

Paige Schoening and her fellower Googlers at Root Down Farm

Paige Schoening and her fellower Googlers at Root Down Farm

At Kitchen Table Advisors, we're about people--helping, growing, motivating, and bringing together people. What we've found along this journey of ours is that we're not alone in this commitment. We are continually humbled and inspired by our community of small farm supporters, who are unrelenting in their quest to better people's lives. Paige Schoening is one of these shining lights in our extended KTA family. In her first year with us, she has not only generously volunteered her personal time and network, but also brought KTA to work with her. Grazing at the Kitchen Table marks Paige's one year anniversary as a volunteer and, in celebration of this occasion, she joins us to share how Grazing was the start of something beautiful in her life.

Words cannot express how much I admire the work of our local farmers. I want to do everything I can to support them because I know how hard it is to make it as a farmer. Our Bay Area growers are some of the most hard working, determined, kind, passionate, and relentless people I've ever met. They are the foundation of our local food system and community.

Google's visit to Root Down Farm

Google's visit to Root Down Farm

Needless to say, when I first learned about Kitchen Table Advisors' work empowering small farm sustainability, I didn't hesitate to get involved. Grazing at the Kitchen Table was the first opportunity to volunteer and it couldn't have been a better introduction. Everyone that I met at the event was warm, interesting, and passionate about KTA's work. Even though it was my first time volunteering, I felt welcomed and included right from the start. I was so pumped by the excitement of everyone at the event that it didn't matter I'd already worked an eight-hour day before starting my volunteer shift. In fact, it didn't occur to me that I was tired until I was standing outside waiting for a ride home. I was so happy to be in the midst of such a vibrant community that the energy in the room carried me through the entire evening.

In approaching the second edition of Grazing this September, I can hardly believe that it's already been a year since I started volunteering. And what a memorable year it's been! I've represented the organization as an ambassador at events, attended meet-ups, and have brought KTA to my day job. I work as a Farmers Market Specialist for a company called Guckenheimer at the Google office in San Francisco. I help San Francisco's Google cafes source local food in addition to educating and engaging Google employees in where their food comes from. I connected KTA with our office's Bay Area Farm to Table Group and we set up a volunteer day at Root Down Farm. A group of over 20 volunteers headed out to Root Down to help Dede mulch her apple orchard and learn about her operation. Being that it was an official GoogleServe volunteer project, Google donated money to KTA for each hour worked!

A gathering like Grazing is important to our local food shed because it brings us all together to celebrate our collective work. As farmers, chefs, eaters, and supporters, being in community is what brings us to life and unites us in a shared journey. Grazing is an experience that honors our strong food community, highlighting both the road that we've traveled together and what lies ahead. However big or small, we each contribute in our own way and, at Grazing, this communal commitment and contribution is palpable.

Decorators, kitchen crew, produce team, delivery drivers, and even a Salesforce hero -- we've got a volunteer role for everyone during Grazing at the Kitchen Table. Sign up now to get down with our community! Grazing at the Kitchen Table takes place from 6.30pm to 9.30pm on Thursday, September 22, 2016 at Dogpatch WineWorks in San Francisco. Follow #GrazeAndGive2016 for updates.