“A guy was just trying to buy some organ meats. I figured he must be part of your Slow Food group,” smiled farmer Greg as he welcomed us to Rocklands Farm this past Saturday.
Around 10:30am — yes, on a Saturday morning! — 20 or so fans of local food gathered to begin a walking tour and introduction to the regenerative farming practices of the Poolesville area family farm. In a fun and engaging way, Greg gave us the rundown on his farm’s philosophy and practices. He explained that cultivating an appreciation for nature and a sense of wonder, and later a reverence for good food (even if it’s only one out of every 5 or 10 meals in our busy lives), will lead the next generation to become the environmental stewards we need to keep our planet healthy.
As Greg spoke of his early experiences in Kenya connecting farming and community, he explained the philosophy of what they are attempting to do at Rocklands. Immersive regenerative agriculture is a step beyond sustainable farming: it creates more for the next generation, not just maintaining the assets of the land but leaving the land better. The Rocklands team utilizes the concept of bio mimicry — the way that plants and animals naturally interact and thrive — to graze cattle, sheep, and chickens using minimal infrastructure and capitalizing on animals’ instincts to roam, scratch, eat a variety of grasses or bugs, and stay in groups. The resulting land is lush and fertile, and just a single acre of the 70-acre farm can absorb a LOT of rainwater — 20,000 gallons, in fact, after a solid 1-inch of rainfall. We need more of these kinds of farms (and farmers) in this age of climate change, declining green spaces, and increasingly heavy storms!
After the walking tour, we were invited indoors to a feast of a lunch, sourced from Rocklands and nearby farms and inventively prepared by Chef Michael of Pizza Brama, accompanied by Rocklands’ own wines. While he apparently makes a killer pizza, our tastebuds were first wowed by Chef Michael’s seasonal appetizers including shaved radish, fennel, and kohlrabi salad with a honey tarragon vinaigrette; roasted brussels sprouts and carrots with sage and garlic; and a mushroom medley featuring lion’s mane, oyster, and maitakes tossed with parsley, arugula, and a sherry-lemon vinaigrette. The gustatory delights continued with a kale-arugula lasagne and a Rocklands lamb lasagne. As we nibbled, Michael waxed poetic about his love for quality ingredients and the relationships he’s built with local producers. “You need a doctor once a year, but you need a farmer three times a day. Think about that.” We did. And then had a second helping.
Some of us managed to save room for the apple spice layer cake, loaded with sauteed apples, mascarpone whipped cream, and cranberry preserves. As we poured a bit more wine and lamented that we hadn’t saved quite enough room in our bellies to eat an entire slice of the decadent dessert, we were treated to a discussion with Claudia and Ellen, who had put together a beautiful book based around their experiences at the Montgomery County Agricultural Reserve. More than just a cookbook, Bread & Beauty traces some of the Reserve’s history, but also the contemporary challenges faced by family farms trying to establish a new generation, new farmers seeking land and markets, and the shared community efforts required to preserve this special place. Many of us left with signed copies of the book… and a plate of layer cake for the road. A delightful end to a wonderful event.
Many thanks to the team that put together this beautiful, informative, and delicious event! For more upcoming Rocklands events, check out their calendar here.