Working for Good, Clean, Fair Food for All - Slow Food Urban San Diego Convivium of Slow Food International


Get to Know Local Farmer Stepheni Norton, founder of Dickinson Farm

Slow Food Urban San Diego Board Farm Liaison, Stephanie Parker, recently interviewed Stepheni Norton, the owner of the local Dickinson Farm to learn more about how and why she farms. Before becoming a farmer Norton had a distinguished and decorated career as Chief Yeoman in the US Coast Guard.  Learn more about Norton’s journey to becoming a farmer in her own words.

Why do you farm?  It really started as a personal necessity and as my health improved has become a respite, a mission and as my husband says, a calling.

Tell us about Dickinson Farm’s beginnings.   A year-round heirloom fruit, vegetable & herb farm in National City, California…that all started because of a bug the size of a pinhead.

My husband Mike & I purchased the Wallace D. Dickinson homestead in February  2012, as our “forever” home. When we first started dating we half-jokingly made a list of everything we wanted in a home …it was really a delusional list….6 bedrooms, actual land (not a postage stamp), architecture and character, room for a 7 car garage and of course a view of the ocean, and must be in SoCal. It was certainly not something we expected to find.  Then we did, insomnia and the end of the internet, I found the house.  We saw it the next day and put an offer in right away.

When we bought the property, I was in the mist of pre-deployment work-up preparing for a 10 month OCONUS deployment – a few weeks later I was bit by a tick on San Clemente Island off the coast of South California. Unfortunately, Southern California Doctors are not Lyme literate, so I was left sick and untreated for the rest of work-ups and a 10-month deployment.

Almost a year later I returned home, I was still very ill and was bounced around from Doctor to Doctor to find a cure.  After 2.5 years of fighting an undiagnosed illness and looking for a Doctor, in July, 2014 I was diagnosed with Lyme disease and related co-inflections.

Right away I started daily IV treatment and my Doctor wanted me to eat as fresh and healthy as possible.  Each day after treatment Mike would drive me home and try find fresh organic food to make for dinner.

This is when they noticed fresh produce was hard to come by in National City.

So I asked my  Doctor if I could be outside and garden a little… with no real farming experience we planted a few fruits trees. Then we got advice from  a few different garden consultants and started planting a small garden patch …and with that the Farm began.

In the SoCal sunshine, the crops spouted up with ease providing excess in abundance of what they could eat. We started giving away the excess to friends, family and even a crop share. Then decided to give the excess to Dreams for Change to help feed those that couldn’t afford to buy their own.

All the while I sat in the IV chair researching how to make the Farm an actual business.

By January 2016, the few trees and garden patch became 16 raised boxes, orchard, hop patch 20 in ground rows, 4 coffee rows; 1/4 of an acre total. Plans were set and licenses obtained – and in January 2016 the little garden patch officially became Dickinson Farm.

How many varieties do you grow?  Currently we have 42 crops and 108 varietals.  We used fall 2015 and spring / summer 2016 to determined what grows best on our plot.  Starting with our Fall 2016 planting we will reduce the varietals to 2 per crop, focusing on growing what does best on our land which still providing options to our customers.

What made you decide to grow all heirloom varietals?  When we purchased the property, I spent a great deal of time researching the properties history.  We found that Wallace D. Dickinson in addition to being a savvy business man, was one of the top local hobby horticulturists.  He spoke a lot about how to grow a kitchen garden in a [early 1900] “urban environment”.  We wanted to be true to the property and land, what would have Wallace grown? That notion started us down the heirloom path, and the taste and quality of the produce kept us there.

Where do you find your seeds?  I never expected finding real heirloom seeds to take the amount of research it does, but after many hours and some duds, we stick with a few companies we trust… Baker Creek, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Annie’s Heirloom, Wood Prairie, & Sherck’s.

What’s been the biggest thing you’ve learned during this process?   You cannot control growth.  You are most likely going to be both elated and disappointed every day.  I am a data junkie and logical person. That works with lots of aspects of planning and farming…until the weather changes and the wind comes in.  Then all bets are off.

What’s been easy?  Really once you let go of perfection, it’s all easy.  I’ve had a more than a few mentors who taught me hard are the days you or your shipmates do not get to come home. Everything else is just a little heavy lifting and another day in paradise.

Anything you’re loving right now that you could share a recipe for?  Carrot tops! Seriously why do people throw these away? (FYI I do recipes like my G-Ma…measurements are swagged)

Carrot Top Pesto
Few cups washed carrot tops
Few basil leaves (1 leaf to each cup of carrot tops)
Small handful whatever nut you like, toasted – we use black walnuts as an homage to our family land in Southern Illinois.
Handful grated aged Parmesan cheese
One garlic clove or more (I use more)
flaky sea salt
extra-virgin olive oil to consistency

Blend in mini-chop or get an arm work out with mortar and pestle

Put on Burrata, grab a baguette … amazing

How can people support the farm?  Shop Small & Shop Local!  We are a small farm,  and we want people to be able to choose what they like.  We so offer a free choice of in season, harvested to order fruits, vegetables & herbs in any quantity or combination you choose. It’s a “design your own” box – and is perfect for specialty diets & picky eaters.

Each Thursday evening, we send out a Harvest alert with what will be ready for harvest Monday. Friday morning at 7:00AM our on-line store opens and customers can pre-order online until 7:00AM Monday. Orders are harvested Monday mid-morning, ready for The Market Monday evening at 7:00PM

Every Monday (except holidays) from 7:00pm-9:00pm we bring pre-orders and the remaining harvest to Machete Beer House (aka “The Market”)

The Market @ Machete Beer House
2325 Highland Ave
National City, CA
7:00pm-9:00pm

Thanks so much to Stepheni Norton for sharing your story with us!

Seafood Saturdays

13230112_10154229939483824_7682329547428895334_nJoin SFUSD, Chef Cindy and local fishermen Saturdays from 9-11am at Tuna Harbor Dockside Market to learn about San Diego’s local seafood, how to cook it, what it tastes like, where it was caught, and who caught it. Check out our Facebook page to see which Saturdays we’ll be there and what’s cooking.

Chef Cindy’s user-friendly recipes are always delicious and fun. Plus, local fishermen share how they caught the bounty and they might tell you their favorite ways to cook it. If you love seafood or don’t know what to do with it, this is for you.

Guest chefs and volunteers wanted. Meet fishermen, learn about local seafood, taste yummy dishes. email: Sarah@slowfoodurbansandiego.org

 IMG_2351Sheephead Recipes
Basic Recipe – Sheephead Salad
1-1/2 lb  Sheephead fillets, skin-on
¼ cup  Celery, diced
¼ cup  Red onion, diced
¼ cup Parsley, minced

To taste  Lime juice, salt and fresh-ground black pepperSteam fillets until just cooked (145 degrees), wrap and refrigerate. Chill completely, at least 2 hours. Flake the flesh off the skin, into a large bowl. Mix with celery, red onion, parsley and lime juice to taste. Continue with one of the preceeding recipes.

Sheephead Louie

Think the “king of salads” aka Crab Louie, a California favorite going back to the early 1900s!

1 lb  Sheephead Salad (basic recipe, above)
4  Eggs, hard-cooked, diced, sliced or wedged
¾ lb Heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
¾ lb Asparagus, par-cooked, bias-cut
12oz Crunchy lettuce, like iceberg, chopped, or hearts of romaine, cut crosswise ½” thick
1 cup Louie*, Thousand Island or Green Goddess dressing

Arrange lettuce on chilled plate. Top with sheephead salad. Garnish with egg, tomato and asparagus. Serve with your favorite dressing. Variations: Use avocado instead of asparagus. Add kalamata or other olives, pitted. Add cucumber and/or radishes, thinly sliced. Sub shredded brussel sprouts for the lettuce.

Louie Dressing

Traditionally a mayo-chili sauce blend, Evening Land president and sommelier Larry Stone kicks it up a few notches with this version.

1 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with ketchup, relish, lemon juice, garlic, Tabasco, Worcestershire, paprika and chili powder; season with salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.

Online at http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/crab-louie

Sheephead Cocktail
1 lb              Sheephead Salad (basic recipe, below)
¼ cup          Carrot, finely diced
1 Tbs           Capers, tiny, drained
1 tsp           Jalapeño, ribs and seeds removed, finely minced
¼ cup          Olive oil, high quality, extra-virgin
3 Tbs           Lemon juice, fresh (from 1 large lemon)To taste
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper


Optional  Seafood Cocktail Sauce

Combine sheephead salad with carrot, capers, jalapeno, olive oil and lemon juice in a large bowl. Gently fold ingredients together, being careful not to break up the fish too much. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding salt and pepper if needed. Serve immediately, or chill up to 6 hours. Divide mixture between 8 wine glasses. Optionally serve with your favorite seafood cocktail sauce. Inspired by a recipe from Sheila Lukins of Silver Palate Cookbook fame.

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Infused Peach Butter

by Rachel Helmer
SFUSD Board Member

peaches

The delicious fruits of spring and summer are popping up everywhere. Overflowing in grocery store bins, scattering tables at farmers markets, and if you are lucky, hanging heavily from the branches of trees in your yard. Peaches are one of my favorites and their season seems so short that I like to capture all that sweet summer stone fruit deliciousness and preserve it to be enjoyed well past the sunshiny season. This recipe for peach preserve can be infused with anything you fancy! A few of my favorites are vanilla bean and lemongrass. Try one, or both and enjoy this peachy sweet preserve on yogurt, waffles, and muffins or incorporated into salad dressings and sauces all year long!

Infused Peach Butter

Ingredients
Approximately 6 lbs of peaches (or nectarines if you prefer)
3 cups sugar
4 lemongrass stalks, smashed and cut into chunks
2 vanilla beans, split open lengthwise and cut in half
½ cup water
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Making the butter
First you need to remove the skins from the peaches. To do this fill your largest pot 2/3 full with water and bring to a boil. While you are waiting for this to boil prepare an ice bath in a large bowl, again filling only 2/3 full with water. Once the pot of water is boiling plop as many peaches as you can fit into the bubbling pot and allow to simmer for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon remove the peaches and add them immediately to the ice bath to cool for 2 minutes. Once the peaches have cooled you can easily remove their skins, just give the skin a pinch and it should peel off.

If you were unable to boil all of your peaches in the first batch repeat the process until all of your peaches have been simmered and skinned. Using your hands or a knife slice open the peach and remove the pit, cut away any bad spots on the fruit, slice the peach into a few different pieces and place the meat of the peach into a large bowl.

Add to this the sugar, gently combine and then cover the bowl to let the peaches sit and get nice and juicy for 1 ½ to 2 hours.

After a few hours have passed, strain the juice from the peaches into a large pot. Add to this your lemongrass chunks, vanilla bean, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and let simmer on low for 3o to 40 minutes or until the mixture thickens slightly. Turn off the heat and using a slotted spoon or a strainer remove the lemongrass from the syrup. Now you are ready to puree everything together. Using your blending machine of choice (vita mixer, blender, or if you have one an immersion blender right in the pot) blend the peaches and the syrup together until smooth.

Add this mixture and the lemon juice back to the pot (if it’s not already there). Stir and taste test, add more lemon juice and sugar if you like, and then cook on medium low until the mixture thickens to the consistency of baby food, about 30 to 40 minutes. If you don’t want to mess with the canning process you can store the peachy butter in containers and pop it in the refrigerator, just make sure you consume it within a few weeks. Otherwise you can proceed with your preferred method of canning and enjoy the peachy goodness all year long!