EAT LIKE A FARMER: ANDREA BEMIS + TUMBLEWEED FARM

Take a moment to think about all the time, energy, aching muscles, sweat + tears that it takes to run a small, diversified farm. Now imagine that in addition to the responsibilities of being a full-time farmer, finding the time to write and photograph a full fledged cookbook. Impossible, right? Well, not for rockstar farmer (and newly minted cookbook writer) Andrea Bemis! Andrea and owns and operates Tumbleweed Farm with her husband Taylor, and she's the brains behind the wildly popular blog (and now cookbook) called Dishing Up the Dirt. I've had the pleasure of following Andrea's journey for the past few years, and if anyone knows what it means to eat like a farmer, it's this badass lady. 

This week Andrea's cookbook hits bookshelves everywhere, and I'm encouraging everyone I know to snag a copy. Andrea's recipes are vibrant, nourishing, seasonal, and refreshingly straightforward. And with spring just around the corner, the timing couldn't be more perfect to get some farm to table inspiration and get cookin' good lookin'!

I can't think of a better person to feature for this month's Eat Like a Farmer interview, and I'm so excited for you all to get a glimpse into Andrea's daily life at Tumbleweed Farm. Keep scrolling to dig in to this wonderful interview!

Photo Credit: Kate Schwager

Photo Credit: Kate Schwager

Photo Credit: Kate Schwager

Photo Credit: Kate Schwager

Photo Credit: Kate Schwager

Photo Credit: Kate Schwager

Photo Credit: Kate Schwager

Photo Credit: Kate Schwager

Photo Credit: Kate Schwager

Photo Credit: Kate Schwager

Where is your farm located and what to you grow? My husband and I own and operate Tumbleweed Farm in Parkdale, Oregon (about 1.5 hours outside of Portland, Oregon) We grow a diverse variety of mixed veggies and fruit for our CSA, local restaurants and farmers markets. We also raise chickens and have a loving and energetic farm dog who is king of killing gophers and chasing hungry deer out of the fields!

Walk us through a typical day on your farm and in your kitchen (ie what do you eat on a typical day)? Our schedule changes depending on what time of the year it is. In spring and summer we're up just before dawn fueling up with plenty of coffee. We usually make a veggie/egg scramble before heading out the door for chores. Depending on the season we'll spend anywhere between 8-12 hours a day out in the fields. In spring it's all about seeding in the greenhouses, transplanting, tilling, prepping beds, weeding, watering, rinse and repeat.  By the time summer comes rolling around we're in full blown harvest mode and our CSA, restaurant accounts and farmers markets are in full swing.  Between deliveries, and selling at the markets we really have to make the most of our time in the fields. We love interacting with customers and selling our produce but our hearts are always at the farm and we cherish the days that we don't have delivers so we can catch up on chores and keep up with irrigating. Depending on the time of year our meals are always changing. However, one thing that stays the same is that I whip up a double batch of salad dressing or a good sauce so that lunch (in particular) can be easy. We'll eat a hearty salad or grain bowl most days and load them with whatever veggies we're harvesting that week. Lunch is typically rushed but dinner is a slow meal and is where we find our peace! We'll kick back with a few beers and either fire up the grill or make pizza. Pizza is our favorite farm meal because you can load up every pie with whatever veggies are available--you really can go wrong!

What is your favorite fruit or vegetable grow, and what's your go-to method to cook it? This is easy---beets! My old farm crew back where we began farmer 8 years ago (Hutchins Farm) declared that beets were my spirit vegetable. I didn't know you could have a sprit vegetable but as it turns out-- it's a thing! I love their sweet earthy flavor and damn...they're stunning! With that being said, thinning beets is one of my least favorite farm chores but it's always worth it. I'll fantasize about all the great meals I'll whip up when they're ready for harvest as I'm down on my hands and knees thinning. I'll take my beets raw, roasted, steamed, mashed, or pickled. However, one of my favorite meals to prepare with this lovely root is Beetza (beet pizza) which is a recipe in my cookbook. Beets are cooked and pureed with a few spices and stand in for traditional tomato sauce. It's a go-to recipe at our farm and I hope you all give it a try!

What kitchen tools could you not live without? Good quality sharp knives; my Vitamix, and a wine & bottle opener!

Name the top three ingredients used most in your kitchen that don't come from your farm. Coffee, Salt & Pepper, Olive Oil

Favorite cookbook? The Art of Simple Food--Alice Waters

Do you have go-to methods for preserving your harvests through the year (ie jamming, pickling, freezing)? As our farm grows and the demands of every day chores increase the time to spend canning has quickly diminished. I usually dedicate one or two days for canning tomatoes and pickles with my neighbors every season but I wish I could dedicate more time. However, we're big fans of our chest freezer and we'll freeze a TON of fruits and veggies to fuel us through the winter. 

What advice do you give folks for cooking with your produce, especially when using ingredients they may not be familiar with? We write a newsletter every week for our CSA members that includes a list of what is in their share. Along with that we'll pass along recipe suggestions and cooking methods for particular veggies that may seem a little exotic or foreign to our customers. I always encourage people to taste test as their cooking and to have fun and not take it so seriously. It's amazing what a little oil, salt and pepper can do to liven up a simple vegetable. You don't have to be a gourmet chef to cook and eat well. Simple is best.

How has running a farm influenced your relationships with family, friends, and your local community? I've always loved the saying "it takes a village." Our farm would not be successful if it wasn't for the amazing folks who put their faith and money into our farm. We do everything we can to grow the best damn food we know how to grow in order to feed our community and loved ones with nourishing ingredients. We love when CSA members send us photos of their dinner plates with food grown by us turned into a beautiful meal for their family. Those emails always put an extra spring into our step and keep us going when the going get's tough. 

Please share a favorite recipe for a simple, straight from the farm dish that you are craving this spring.

KOHLRABI & GREEN OLIVE PESTO PIZZA

PREP TIME: 15 MINUTES    COOK TIME: 15 MINUTES    SERVES: 1 PIZZA

FOR THE PESTO:

  • 1 bunch of kohlrabi greens, (about 3 cups) tough stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 4-5 large brine-cured green olives, pitted
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons water + additional to thin if necessary

FOR THE PIZZA:

  • 1 ball of pizza dough
  • 1/4 cup pesto (recipe above)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 bulb of kohlrabi, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • small handful of pine nuts
  • large handful of arugula
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

PREPARATION:

  1. Heat the oven to 475F.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the chopped kohlrabi greens and blanch for 1-2 miniutes. Remove from the water with tongs and place in a colander to drain, gently pressing on the greens to release moisture.
  3. Blend the olives, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the kohlrabi leaves, balsamic vinegar, salt, cayenne and parmesan cheese. Process until roughly chopped. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and water. Process until smooth and creamy, adding a touch more water if necessary.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced kohlrabi and cook for about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  5. Roll out your pizza dough on a lightly floured surface. Spread pesto evenly over the dough. Add the kohlrabi, followed by both of the cheeses. Bake in the oven until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling. about 12-15 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven. Top the pizza with pine nuts, a large handful of arugula, drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. Slice and serve.