Who or what inspired you to become a supporter of local food?
It really started as a family tradition. I grew up in the Hudson Valley and we had large vegetable gardens. My mother was French. She was an avid, remarkable chef and gardener. We cooked seasonally from the garden; we wild foraged. So, it was really something that was born out of my childhood.
So, tell us what Pastures of Plenty grows.
We’re unusual in that we grow both a variety of wild flowers and vegetables, and fresh herbs. Greens and flowers really are our niche. We actually grow 70 varieties of flowers and even more vegetables.
Flowers came because…we bought a place in the country—which is still Pastures of Plenty. When we bought the place, we hadn’t quite embraced the idea of farming yet. So, we had the idea to grow peonies. I knew they were valuable. I knew they did well. The first thing we did is buy $10,000 of peonies because the first thing you do is buy the root stock. So, we planted all the peonies. After, I was slowly embracing the idea of doing farming on a larger scale. So that is when we started doing the salad greens and additional flowers.
Where can people buy your flowers, vegetables, etc.?
It’s mostly direct sales. It’s the whole key to new, successful small-family farming.
On occasion, I sell wholesale. Sometimes its successful, sometimes it’s not. I might explore certain restaurants but most of the restaurants that we sell to come to us. I haven’t really pursued that.
What gave you the inspiration to start the catering company?
So, I was one of the founders of Alfalfa’s. When working at Alfalfa’s, on the side, we did some catering for friends’ or acquaintances’ weddings. During that time, we were climbing Wheeler Peak, the highest peak in New Mexico, and we started getting into this really great, animated conversation. We were saying wouldn’t it be cool to get a place in the country some day. Not the f word, not farm. But you know. Just a place, few acres, have a big garden, raise the kids, and have these dinners, field-to-table dinners, featuring what was seasonal and local.
Fast forward, seven years later, well, I quickly realized I wasn’t going to support four kids no matter how many farmer’s markets I went to. So, I said, “Hey Sylv. I have an idea—we could start doing weddings and dinners here at our farm.” So, in 1996, we started the field-to-table catering portion.
In 2002, the Food Network contacted us, saying that Bobby Flay wants to do a show with you. We hear your are the pioneers of farm-to-table and I said you mean field-to-table. And she what? And that is the first I ever heard of farm-to-table. And that is when it started to become popular.
What’s your favorite part of being in the local food community?
Farmers Markets. I love Farmers Markets. I mean I still have that retail-thing. It is kind of that performance piece too. It’s fun to show up on a different level