Harvest Time with The Gentleman Farmer
by molly each
photography by kathryn barnard
Host with the Most
Because small-scale farming is an industry rooted in community, hosting a seasonal harvest dinner is an essential component of the mission of many local farms. The Gentleman Farmer hosted their first such dinner in September. To turn their harvests into culinary masterpieces, the Greens bring in one of the local chefs with whom they work, offering their guests recipes based on the most recent pickings. Gaetano Nardulli, formerly the sous chef at Schwa, recently opened Near Restaurant a few miles away from the farm in Barrington and sources much of his produce from The Gentleman Farmer. “I love knowing that the [produce] Dominic brings me is freshly picked and delivered that same day,” he says.
To craft this holiday meal (see menu, right), Nardulli utilized a bounty from The Gentleman Farmer (with several additions coming from neighboring Radical Root Farm and Tempel Farms Organics) of fresh-picked produce, pairing it in entrees and side dishes that suit both carnivores and herbivores alike. To complement the food— and the sprawling green acres and white fences that offer unbeatable ambience—the Greens set a long farm table with natural burlap, accentuating the fabric with pops of color via orange dinnerware and candles, and fresh-cut orange mums in Mason jars. A fire lit several yards away in a fire pit provides an autumn aroma and is also the site for post-dinner s’mores and conversation.
It’s the perfect setting for the Greens to host their CSA members, whom they consider part of their “farm” family, and any volunteers who have assisted them during the growing season. But the dinners also play into their greater community-building mission. “Our goal is to offer a real forum, to have a place to talk and hang out and learn,” Jessica says. “We hope to be able to provide more opportunities for hands-on exploration at the farm and offer more harvest dinners.”
Whether it’s hosting dinners, maintaining a relationship with their CSA members, or manning their weekly booth at the farmers’ market, the Greens’ efforts have been enthusiastically embraced by Chicago’s farm-loving community: The Gentleman Farmer has heard constant positive feedback from all corners. “I don’t think I’ve spoken to a single person who when we said we were embarking on this farming adventure didn’t say, ‘Ah, I’d love to do that!’ It’s that slice of life that everyone [wants to] tap into,” says Dominic.
But it’s at the harvest dinners, sitting down at the farm table brimming with food, surrounded by friends and extended farm family, that Dominic and Jessica truly see the fruits of their small-scale farm operation—and experience the most joy. “It’s a very clear job that we’re doing,” says Dominic. “We take a seed, put it in the ground, grow some food, and give it not to a wholesaler, not to a store, but to people. And we know that night they’ll be eating the food. It’s very visceral.”