Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Meet Richard Andres of Tantre Farm, our featured guest chef this week

Richard Andres grew up in the Plymouth-Canton area in a small neighborhood. He fondly recalls the gathering of neighbors of varying ages and the sharing of foods with one another surrounded by fruit trees. This sense of community has directed Richard’s path in life and culminated on his Chelsea farm with wife Deb Lentz.

“I have always enjoyed gardening from a young age, just being outside, being with people and sharing food,” says Richard. “Gardening is very authentic.”

Together, Richard and Deb grow more than 50 vegetables and a handful of fruit varieties at Tantré Farm. Notably, their farm has been certified organic since 1993. This is not always an easy feat, though one to which they are committed.

“Running an organic farm requires an increased level of management,” says Richard. “You have to have different strategies for minimizing disease and you have to apply these strategies repeatedly throughout the seasons.”

The end result of this effort? “Crops are clean…beautiful; the effort is worth it,” says Richard.

Richard and Deb, who taught elementary school for 16 years, see the farm as an educational opportunity. Indeed, Deb is actively involved in the Farm to School program with 30 schools, where she visits classrooms and inspires kids to eat more naturally by sharing how agriculture is grown and the tasty rewards of eating foods plucked fresh from the ground. Visitors are welcome to their farm, where they are happy to give edible walking tours in the spring, summer and fall. You can also join their CSA.

When asked about the farm's springtime asparagus, Richard shares that you won’t see the soil when you visit. The 10-year-old asparagus field is covered in straw, which helps feed the asparagus. This will be the first year they are experimenting with mushroom strata underneath the asparagus; the mushroom crop will pop up and benefit from the fern of the asparagus plant that shoots out after the four-to-eight week asparagus season. (Did you know that asparagus is the only perennial vegetable?)

“The mushrooms help feed the straw, which helps feed the asparagus,” explains Richard. “We like to grow polycultures… many things growing together in combination. This saves space and benefits the plants and the farmers. It’s a symbiotic relationship.”

While Richard admires spring’s lush, green growth, he loves the winter season for his greenhouse spinach. “Winter is the best time for spinach,” he says.

Eating local food is about, “getting together and eating foods that make us feel better,” he shares. It’s also about, “knowing someone nearby who has fresh eggs and supporting their livelihood."

Sounds like a reason to eat at Yellow Door each week.

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