And you think you’re busy? Zoë Bradbury has three thousand strawberry transplants to plant, two acres of row crops to sow including a diversified mix of everything from carrots to beets to lettuce, thirteen and a half tons of lime to work into the soil for organic fertilizer and a team of draft horses galloping in any day now. And don’t forget the experimental celeriac patch. Add in the role of accountant, office manager and marketing chief and you cook up the range of farmer responsibilities resulting in their annual crazy spring schedule.
The farmers’ market season may not yet be in full swing so we don’t see — nor appreciate — the flurry of farm activity going on across the country as growers get ready to keep us freshly stocked all summer. But Bradbury, a fledgling Oregon farmer starting her growing venture this season, along with thousands of small-scale, family farmers across the country, have been putting in long work days for weeks.
At busy times like these, a farmer needs fast food. “After a twelve hour day in the field, my body needs good food fast to refuel,” Bradbury says with a smile. Twenty-eight year old Bradbury exemplifies the vibrant spirit of a new generation of young farmers leading the sustainable agriculture movement nationwide. “Yes, farming is a physically exhausting profession, but it’s also incredibly satisfying. After a twelve hour day in the fields, I still usually come into the house with a grin on my face.”
Replanting roots on the family farm where she grew up, Bradbury now farms in cooperative partnership with her mother and sister, each responsible for different crops that they sell to restaurants and loyal customers in the local area. “At the end of the day my body may feel tired, but my soul is satisfied and nourished. I draw enormous energy from being surrounded by these hills, the rush of Floras Creek cutting through the valley, the fresh coastal air,” adds Bradbury.
Bradbury and her family especially prioritize eating well during the spring season. “It’s important to take good care of your body this time of year,” adds Bradbury. “If we start letting our bodies get run down now, we’re never going to have the energy to make it through the season ahead.” In addition to farming duties, Bradbury also serves as a Food and Society Policy Fellow through which she writes and advocates for healthy food systems and provides a voice for young farmers. Share her farming journey through her “Diary of a Young Farmer” blog through Edible Portland.
Here’s some tips from Bradbury for quick healthy menu staples when time is short and appetites run high:
• Create a hearty quesadilla
“We live on quesadillas this time of year,” confesses Bradbury. To make a filling meal between two grilled tortillas, Bradbury adds scrambled eggs for protein and shredded cabbage for a cowl slaw inspired crunch.
• Super-size your salad
Bradbury’s sister Abby specializes in greenhouse salad greens, so there’s an abundance of lettuce mixes to eat. “Sometimes we need a bit more bulk in our salad so we’ll jazz it up with feta cheese, nuts or local dried cranberries,” notes Bradbury. The self-appointed family salad dressing queen, Bradbury keeps the pantry stocked with the basic staples to make a daily batch of fresh dressing: olive oil, sesame oil, rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, tahini, tamari and ginger (either fresh or powdered). “I generally use a three to one oil to vinegar ratio as a base, then add a splash of something else for flavor, depending on what I’m in the mood for. Maple syrup will add a sweet touch and mayonnaise gives dressings a creamy base.”
• Freeze single portions
Think convenience food without the packaging and processing. “My mom makes a big batch of homemade refried beans, then freezes them in individual servings,” Bradbury explains. “Each tin makes one burrito-sized serving, which we can quickly defrost whenever we need fast fuel.”
• Cook in bulk
“When we do cook more of a main dish this time of year, we make sure leftovers can last for several days,” sums up Bradbury. Chicken Tamale Pie ranks a farm favorite in this category, something Bradbury might cook for a Sunday dinner and have hearty leftovers for the week.
Groundswell Farm’s Chicken Tamale Pie
4 cups (1 quart) chopped fresh ripe tomatoes, or 1 can (28 oz)
Italian style plum tomatoes, with their juices
1 can (16 ounces) cream-style corn
3 to 4 teaspoons salt
1 medium sized onion, chopped
½ cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons chili powder, or to taste
1 cup milk
½ cup yellow cornmeal
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup pitted ripe olives
2 cups coarsely chopped cooked chicken
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Olive oil for drizzling
• Combine tomatoes, corn, salt, onion, olive oil and chili powder in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes.
• In a mixing bowl, stir together the milk, cornmeal, and eggs; add the tomato mixture and cook, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, until thick, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the olives and chicken.
Pour mixture into a lightly greased shallow oven-proof dish. Top with the cheeses. Drizzle with oil, and bake at 350 degrees until the pie is firm and the cheese is crusty, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve piping hot. Serves 6