The Honey Brook farm has added to its impressive resumé by publishing a cookbook, Field & Feast, Sublime Food from a Brave New Farm.
Dean Carlson is a former bond trader turned farmer. In 2009 he took a leave of absence from his job. Nothing was on his agenda except for relaxing, traveling, surfing and reading. Fate intervened when he started reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. In his book, Pollan theorizes that the demand for food will outlast the resources – specifically fossil fuels – that are needed to grow and produce it. According to Pollan, today’s farming methods require 10 fossil-fuel calories to produce one food calorie.
The book transfixed and transformed Dean. With Wall Street in his rear-view mirror, he bought a 320-acre, bank-owned farm that was in woeful shape. In his introduction to the book, Dean writes that in purchasing the farm, he was able to save the acreage from developers, and he did not deprive a new generation from working the family farm. His goal was to create a new-style farm that would become totally sustainable and serve as a classroom and community center for visitors.
Six years later, this new-age farmer is well on his way to achieving his goal. Demand for seating at the farm-to-table restaurant outpaced availability, prompting him to add an open-air pavilion that made its debut last summer. He also added star power to the kitchen by recruiting Chef Andrew Wood to oversee the menu that changes seasonally and according to what is available. Andrew and his wife, Kristin, own Philadelphia’s Russet, a farm-to-table restaurant that was recently named one of the city’s 50 Best by Philadelphia magazine. And, Dean has a mentor of sorts in Ian Knauer, who worked at Gourmet magazine for 10 years and went on to take over the family farm (located nearby), which served as the inspiration and backdrop for his own cookbook (The Farm) and television (PBS) show of the same name. Ian now operates The Farm Cooking School, which is located in Stockton, New Jersey.
Everything – from herbs to animals – is grown on the farm without using artificial fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, hormones or antibiotics. Many of the animals are heritage breeds (Berkshire, Gloucestershire Old Spots and Tamworth hogs) and rely on the land for nourishment (grass-fed Devon cattle and the free-range chickens). Visitors are more than welcome to tour the farm and gain a fresh perspective of the “farm-to-table” process. Many are so inspired that they enroll in the farm’s popular butchering classes.
Alternatively, the farm’s market can supply visitors with cuts of beef, pork and poultry, artisanal cheese, milk products and other goodies that are procured from area farms and companies such as Lancaster Farm Fresh.
The farm is also home to yoga classes (last summer they were held Saturday mornings) and live entertainment that begins in the spring with a music festival (April 30) and continues through the fall. Wyebrook-sponsored bike rides of varying lengths are also held (the first is May 21). Guest chefs – many from Philadelphia restaurants – bring their specialties of the house to Wyebrook for Chef Dinner events.
It was only natural that a cookbook would emerge and that it would be a collaboration of Dean (the visionary), Andrew (the chef), Ian (the wordsmith), Guy Ambrosino (the photographer) and Burgess Lea Press (a New Hope publishing company that specializes in restaurant-based cookbooks and contributes profits from the books to farm-related museums and organizations, which in the case of Wyebrook is Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Tarrytown, New York).
The cookbook, which contains 100 recipes, is a celebration of the farm and pays homage to its past, present and future. In Dean Carlson’s estimation, “When you purchase local, sustainably raised food, you contribute to changing our food system. The impact of our collective decision can be incredibly powerful. If Wyebrook’s customers feel like they are a part of something bigger, it’s because they are. They choose to spend their food dollars in a way that can make a difference. And, there is community inherent in that. We are all in it together to eat better and to live better.”