I think I can see spring from here

Ahh, late February, a time of heavy snows, frigid nights, and days that get seconds longer as we approach March.

Shafts of bright sunlight stream across my office floor, and I can hear the scrape of snow shovels as businesses along main street deal with the 6 inches dropped on us a couple of days ago. Another dusting is threatened for the evening commute. Still, I can see that the sun’s a bit yellower now, heating up my car by the end of the day.

That sunlight’s also working it’s magic in the hoop houses clustered on nearby farms. Despite the piles of snow drifted at their bases, nearby sustainable farmers will soon use those warming enclosures to begin next summer’s harvest. They’ll tamp soil mixes into starter flats and initiate watering schedules to urge seeds to sprout. I couldn’t be happier. At Farm Table, we’re committed to purchasing our fruits and vegetables from farms using practices that work in our climate, build soil health, protect groundwater and manage livestock humanely. We support their growing practices because they help the environment while producing real food.

During the growing season, Farm Table buys about 80% of its produce, meats, dairy and eggs, and mushrooms from sustainable farms within 50-miles. In winter, we extend our reach and purchase from farmers’ cooperatives that meet our environmental stewardship and high nutrition requirements. ¬†This commitment helps create a web of relationships that benefits our Lower St. Croix Watershed, our farm lands, the local economy, and ultimately, the meals we prepare.

As I tap this out, music drifts in from the kitchen: staff is preparing for this week’s service. Because we purchase whole foods, this takes considerably more labor and time than in most commercial kitchens. ¬†Vegetables and fruits must be chopped, grains prepared, broccoli and carrots roasted, sauces simmered, lucious soups created, and meats skillfully prepped. Yes, it’s winter, and chef Sarah translates every season’s bounty into mouthwatering menus.

So, too, with baked savories and sweets. This morning, faithful volunteers worked with our pastry baker, Marlee, to make dozens of large pot pies. She also crafts the delectable, never-too-sweet desserts, with the focus always on quality and flavor. (Yes, I’m eating my way through our menus. No hardship there.)

March is just days away. One more flip of the calendar and we can start peeling off thermal layers. But today, we can turn our faces to the sun and enjoy the foods and flavors of this place — Farm Table, in Amery, Wisconsin.

I hope to see you here soon.

Sylvia Burgos Toftness, Interim Executive Director, and farmer