Every year, we hold our own version of the Oscars: the Local Hero Awards, wherein readers vote for their favorite local chefs/restaurants, farm/farmers, non-profits, culinary artisans, beverage producers and food or wine retailers, and the winners are awarded with a feature in our March/April print issue. Every weekday till the polling booths close on December 31st* we’ll be looking back at last year’s winners.
Today we’re highlighting Remembrance Farm! The below story originally appeared as part of our Local Heroes feature in the 2015 Spring issue.
*There’s still time to make sure your voice is heard! Vote here for your 2019 local hero chefs, farmers, non-profits and artisans.
THE CHANCES ARE GOOD IF YOU LIVE IN THE greater Ithaca area that you’ve seen or tasted the delicious, brightly flavorful salad greens from Remembrance Farm, but beyond that you may not have seen much of them. Nathaniel and Emily Thompson have been quietly honing their craft for the last 10 years at their farm in Trumansburg without much limelight or exposure, but with a deeply rooted sense of intentionality.
When Nathaniel Thompson moved to the Ithaca area from the Hudson Valley, where he got his start in the field, he experimented with and, as he says, came close to burning out on several farming projects before starting what is now Remembrance Farm. “It gave me the chance to start over,” says Nathaniel, who used the opportunity to carefully refine his mission: limit the scope of his operation in order to do it well. At the outset, the plan was intentional specialization—a focus on growing salad greens for restaurants was the name of the game. As the farm has grown, it has developed more diversity than planned at the outset, but Nathaniel still takes care to maintain his quality over quantity approach. Salad greens are still the farm’s focus, making up about 70 percent of the crops grown on their 100-acre plot. They produce about 1,500 pounds of greens a week, which translates to an impressive 15,000-20,000 servings of salad. “Everyone should eat more salad!” Nathaniel says with a laugh.
As a biodynamic farm, Remembrance takes the concept of growing organically a few steps further, emphasizing a holistic sensitivity to subtle natural processes, with the goal of balancing the overall health of the farm in order to produce truly nourishing food. The farm’s name comes from Nathaniel’s hope for his farming to reflect his own spiritual practices and meditations, of remembering oneself and being mindful of one’s presence in the land. “One of our central principles is collaboration—I don’t believe in competition,” he says. “The better each of us do, the more the potential for a healthy food system overall grows.” This commitment to working with rather than in opposition to is reflected in the Full Plate Collective’s joint CSA, created and run in partnership with Stick and Stone Farm, which is now in its 10th year of providing more than 500 members with weekly veggie shares nine months out of the year. The partnership allows each farm to excel in their own areas, and lessens some of the pressure of supplying a full CSA.
In keeping with their commitment to mutual support within the Ithaca area’s growing community, Remembrance Farm has been taking on apprentices since its early days. “Even when I barely knew enough myself to provide a learning opportunity to someone else, I did it anyways,” Nathaniel says. With the distinction of being the only certified biodynamic farm in the region, Remembrance now also provides formal apprenticeships through the North American Biodynamic Association Program. As the farm moves forward, Thompson says that he’s adapted his working life to include time with his two children, ages 1 and 2. It’s consideration of his family that now guides the development of the farm the most.
6294 Searsburg Road, Trumansburg, 607.342.5890, remembrancefarm.org
Lisa Barker is a photographer and writer living in Rochester, where, when not behind the camera, she’s most often found getting her hands dirty as an urban farmer, food educator and youth director of the Seedfolk City Farm.