Tuesday, December 14, 2010

‘Tis the Season

December 3, 2010

‘Tis the Season

Winter is fast approaching and all efforts at the farm are changing dramatically. During the summer and early fall, most of the jobs around the farm consisted of daily harvests and overall maintenance of the farm and crops. Once the cold weather starts creeping into the forecast, the daily chores switch to winter preparations for the entire farm. The past few weeks have consisted of prepping the green houses and poly-tunnels, which act as seasonal extenders for the crops that Epiphany wants to keep harvesting year round. The main greenhouse, which is located in the back garden, will contain most of Epiphany’s plants, especially ones that have a hard time surviving the severe winter freeze. In fact, the large greenhouse in the back garden is basically where Epiphany all started.

Ken Myszka, the founder and head chef of Epiphany Farms Enterprise, mentioned that all of their tropical and garden plants were stocked in the greenhouse when he first moved back to Downs, IL back in January of 2009. He said, “The whole greenhouse was being utilized and them some”. He also mentioned it was extremely difficult to divide the limited amount of space in the greenhouse and share growing room for all his crops. Now, the whole Epiphany team has utilized the majority of the land in the back and a small portion in the front for more garden space.

The seasonal changes have a large impact on what happens on a daily basis here at Epiphany. The mornings that I work during the week start at 8a.m. when I walk into the kitchen and I’m immediately greeted by either Ken or Stu Hummel. They are always drinking coffee and staring at the television set propped above the fridge checking out the daily forecasts on the weather channel. In fact, the T.V. never changes channels. The weather is all they care about on the farm. It’s funny, whenever I try to make any sort of casual conversation with the guys and Nanam and I happen to mention a T.V. show or a movie, they never know what I’m talking about. All of them rarely have any free time to themselves. So, as you can probably tell, most of the “casual” conversation is usually only about work. That is how dedicated these motivated individuals are at what they do, and what they want to accomplish. Everyday, it is the same routine: chores, work, jobs, lunch, and more work until they finally make their way into the kitchen and fit in dinner party preparations for the night. It never stops for them. The amount of work they put in on one astounds me. However, the most awarding factor is how well they work together and how efficiently they get what needs to be done on the tightest of schedules.

One whole side of the wall in their office is covered with monthly planners and a staggering amount of multi-colored post-it notes full of upcoming meetings and dinner parties. Like the old saying goes, behind a good man, there is always a great woman. While the guys maintain the farm and prepare for dinner parties, Nanam is constantly working downstairs in the office on scheduling, accounting, and keeping in contact with their correspondents. She is the woman behind all the hard labor and what makes all of Epiphany’s operations run as smooth as they do. Now that winter has made itself evident in the last week or so, everyone at the farm has had to chip in and help prepare for the winter jobs. Today, Kevin Marquardt (intern), Nick Stuberg (volunteer) and I had to help with the morning chores consisting of distributing feed and water to all the animals on the farm, milking the EFE dairy cow, Pam, and grinding feed. Later in the morning all three of us lined the 1/3 of a mile long driveway with colored steaks as guidelines for snow trucks that come and plow the pathways on the farm. From there, we headed back to the the front garden and worked the seasonal extender poly-tunnels that incubate the winter crops from dying off. All three of us had to line the plastic covers with bricks and barrels of mulch in order to capture as much heat as possible. The poly-tunnels are the driving force that allows Epiphany to harvest all year round and still have organic ingredients for their high demanded dinner parties.

Overall, the beginning of the winter has been a dramatic switch of jobs and tasks on the farm, but has also presented the opportunity with more time to keep up with my journals, blogs and pictures. So I hope that all of you will stay in touch with Epiphany’s Facebook, website and blog to see behind the scene action of the farm and coming soon in January, construction at the restaurant location.

Tim Blakemore

Thursday, December 2, 2010

I am Thankful for Epiphany Farms: Thanksgiving Market Sale 2010

I am Thankful for Epiphany Farms: Thanksgiving Market Sale 2010

The anticipation had been building up for the last few weeks. Epiphany Farms had been promoting their daily harvests through local market sales for the last two weeks in front of their restaurant location on East Monroe Street in Downtown Bloomington. To all of them at Epiphany, the Thanksgiving Market Sale was the quintessential effort to provide Bloomington-Normal select sorts of their freshly picked organic harvests including:

o Assorted radishes

o Carrots

o Scallions

o Arugula

o Kohl Rabi

o Pak Choy

o Leeks

o Kale

o Turnip tops

o Mustard greens

o Head lettuce

o Fennel

o Napa Cabbage

o Salad green mixes

The harvests alone at the farm had been back-breaking work for the past few weeks since most of the crops were dying off from the threatening frosts of the fall and fast approaching winter. However, the weather had been extraordinarily mild for all of October helping with the prolonged harvest of most of the crops on the farm. I remember going to the Farm all of October wearing nothing but work jeans and an old beat up t-shirt embracing the unusually warm weather. However, I wasn’t the only one enjoying the warm weather. All of the fall crops had been basking in the warm sun, especially in the front garden which is solely divided on south facing slopes (at a 30 degree angle) in order to capture the full potential of the sun. It was peculiar though; every other sign outside told me that winter was fast approaching, the absent leaves, bare tree branches, grass turning a grayish green, but the warm weather allowed the farm to fully produce to its potential and make a killing at the end of the year market sales.

The morning of the Thanksgiving Market Sale, all efforts were focused on getting the harvest to the US Cellular Coliseum. The entire arena was invaded with trucks and stands of local farmer’s products ready to be engulfed by the swarm of market “goers”. The first hour before the actual sale started was saved for the very cream of the crop visitors who wanted to get a first stab at all the stands before the remaining crowd would flock into the stadium and snatch up everything in sight. The first few hours seem like a trippy blur that were spent continuously re-stocking the front stand and taking shouted orders from long lines of people who were lining up to get Epiphany’s fresh produce . Within only two hours, the stand was wiped clean. People were continuously disappointed to hear that most of their favorites were gone for the day. On the other side, everyone at Epiphany couldn’t have been happier with the result of the sale. At one point, I saw Ken Myszka and Stu Hummel were jumping up and down like little kids, joyously proud of the amount of produce they had all sold at the market in only a few short hours.

In the end, the success of the Thanksgiving Market Sale provided a huge sigh of relief to everyone at the farm, solely because of all the strenuous work that had put in during the fall harvesting season; including the never-ending dinner parties, week-long harvests, and the farm winter preparations. Overall, everyone couldn’t have been happier with the result of the Thanksgiving Market, myself included. The rest of the year, most of the work will be focused on booked dinner parties and efforts toward the new restaurant opening in the spring of next year. I hope everyone is excited as I am about the opening of the best fine dining restaurant in Central Illinois. Get ready!

Written by:

Tim Blakemore

(Epiphany Farms Marketing Intern)