Don’t get her started. Farmer Patti Popp of Sport Hill Farm in Easton knows what she’s talking about when it comes to the power of food. Just try and tell her you buy tomatoes from the grocery store instead of buying them from a local farm or market. “No taste! They aren’t even like eating real food because the soil they’re grown in is dead. How can you grow good food in soil that’s been killed with chemicals? And how can you expect to be healthy if the food you eat is dead? Sheesh!”
You can’t argue with her reasoning and you can’t refute the fact that steady growth continues in local farms, farmers markets and backyard gardening. More and more of us want to eat food that has taste, was grown by people with a conscience and concern for the environment and that didn’t grow up on chemical cocktails aimed at increasing production and profit.
Patti is a force of nature herself. Hers is important voice in the local food movement, and together with her husband, they are responsible for local produce being featured on the menus of many restaurants in the area as well as in the school cafeteria of The Unquowa School in Fairfield. (What a victory it would be to feature local produce on the public school menus in this area…gee, wondered how many people have been working on that battle? I know “a few”!)
Patti and I, along with a growing number of others, share a common love of fresh, sustainably produced food. We love simple flavors and simple preparations and understand why it’s important for the environment, local economies and our health to eat locally as much as possible. If you think a “locavore” is a new coffee drink, here are three simple but important reasons to eat food produced close to home:
1. It’s fresh. Buying from a local farm means it hasn’t traveled thousands to end up on your plate…and that means more nutrients and enzymes have been retained. Why eat veggies if they aren’t going to be the freshest and most delicious?
2. It tastes better! Can you really try to deny that a tomato picked off a vine here and eaten at it’s peak of ripeness isn’t more flavorful and delicious than one that’s been flown in from California? Really?
3. Many local farmers abide by organic farming standards or do their best to minimize their use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Better for your health – duh – and better for the environment. Another benefit is that when you buy right from the farm, you have an opportunity to talk to the person who’s actually growing your food. You don’t get that at Stop & Shop. Ask questions, if he’s worth his salt, she’ll gladly educate you what she’s doing on the farm to bring you the best and safest produce possible.
So if you’re not in a football pool or counting how many games out your team is from the World Series, take a drive up to the market at Sport Hill Farm and taste what real food is all about. If you get there soon, you should be able to land a big ol’ bucket of tomatoes which you can use to make Patti’s favorite sauce. While you’re at it, make a double or triple batch and throw some in the freezer…it’s the perfect antidote to the cold, grey days that lie ahead.
Patti’s Easy Tomato Sauce
1 quart Juliet tomatoes (available at Sport Hill Farm, of course)
Salt & Pepper
Optional, sliced fresh garlic, a few fresh basil leaves & red/orange/yellow bell pepper seeded and chopped into medium pieces
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Wash tomatoes, slide lengthwise and place face down on cookie sheet, single layer. Add garlic and peppers, if using. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 30 minutes or until tender.
Cool slightly, scrape into a food processor or blender. Add fresh basil if desired. Process until desired consistency, pureed or chunky. Toss with your favorite pasta.