Farm to Table Field Trips Part 2-Day Tours Rock!*

Coming from an entertaining, educational child-friendly cooking class centered on the farm to table ideal, I was eager to participate in the adult farm to table field trip authored by Paula Creech, Recreation Specialist for Adult Programs at the Renaud Spirit Center.  I convinced a buddy of mine, a registered nurse and dietitian, to join me who I knew had a passion for organic foods, so we registered in anticipation of learning as well as having some time to ourselves minus the squirts.  We knew we were visiting two farms and a winery, but that was the extent of our knowledge due to my misplacement of the information (I am sure the information is hidden in the stacks on my countertop somewhere).  To be honest, we really did not care what we did or where we did it;  we were just thrilled with the idea of going somewhere.  Of course, I loaded my purse with book, camera, water, cellphone, and snacks while my buddy came prepared with a backpack.  She wore sensible athletic shoes while I opted for the flip-flops (“Wrong shoes,” my father-in-law warned me as I dropped the squirts at his house the morning of the trip).  Kisses, hugs, and promises of seeing them soon, we left the squirts in route for the bus.

We’re going on a bus trip . . .

At promptly 9:00 a.m., we loaded ourselves and our gear onto the air-conditioned motor coach.  We opted for a seat in the back and yapped the entire way.  Before we knew it, we were at our first stop, Vesterbrook Farm, a Certified Naturally Grown producer of vegetables, hay, tree and bramble fruit.  In addition, Vesterbrook Farm raises free-range eggs, heritage breed turkeys, and lamb.  Not quite sure what to expect, we watched as one of the most passionate (we soon came to learn) men I have ever seen wearing bib overalls approached our group- enter Mike Brabo.

Passionate Organic Farmer, Mike Brabo

He and his wife, Carol, along with their two children run this farm along with employees who earn living wages.

After offering an intriguing history of Vesterbrook Farm as well as a geology lesson of the area, which even I could follow, we were directed to the plastic bags.

Ready, Set, Grab a Bag

Not knowing until this minute we were going to participate in the farm to table process, I definitely knew I had the “wrong shoes,” but didn’t care.  Thus, we harvested such bounty as onions, garlic, turnips, purple carrots, lettuce, chioggia beets, and edible weeds.   Using the grass as a cleanser, Mike cut into the various vegetables with his pocket knife and allowed us to savor the crisp, earthy onion, the spicy garlic, and the sweet candy-cane-like beets.  Fierce competition ensued when Mike promised a pound of lamb to the one who picked the largest beet.

The Largest Beet Winner
The Chioggia Beet

Embarrassed to admit, this was the first beet ever to touch my palate, and now will certainly not be the last.  I was even able to persuade my girls to try the candy-looking slices which I brought home in my plastic bag, and they were sold.  Nearly two hours passed in a flash, and I could have listened and learned more.  Although Vesterbrook Farms’ Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is full for 2011, there is always next year or a Saturday visit to the O’Fallon Farmers and Artists Market.
Next stop on the bus tour, Overlook Farm, where we ate from their bounty at the Clarksville Station Restaurant.  A single piece of paper, titled Summer 2011 Menu was presented with seven or eight mouthwatering choices.  My buddy ordered the bleu cheese angus burger while I ordered the Hilty grilled chicken sandwich smothered in cheese.  Freshly-squeezed lemonade along with homemade potato chips with not too much salt and just the right amount of crunch accompanied our meals.  Since we shared sandwiches, I can say with absolute certainty (according to the buds in my mouth), both meals were juicy and straight-from-the-garden fresh.  We ate inside, but a beautiful lavender-colored courtyard complete with lilac-colored Adirondack chairs and light purple wisteria vines adjacent to the restaurant called to us for a return visit in the near future.

The courtyard framed by the windows at Clarksville Station Restaurant is calling for our return.

With bellies full, we loaded the bus and headed for the Crown Valley Port House.  Here we were offered a warm Clarksville welcome by Mayor Jo Anne Smiley and introduced to our bubbly tour guide who ushered us inside The Port House located on the private resort Tievoli Hills (“I love it” spelled backwards).

Crown Valley Port House
Crown Valley Port House Storage

After a brief oral background on the Crown Valley Port House’s history, we watched a short movie in a cool and comfortable viewing room which further told The Port House’s story.  After this restful portion of the tour, wine tasting commenced upstairs.  Given a wine glass with five tokens (to yield five tastings), we studied the wine list and socialized with trip companions.  Our section of the tasting bar unanimously praised Crown Valley’s Viognier perhaps due to Dionysus’ influence, and, fortunately received 10% off the purchase price.
Ready for naptime, our tour was not over yet.  On our return home, we stopped in downtown Clarksville for some perusal of handcrafted work by local Missouri artists.  We sniffed and tested various body spray and lotion combinations at the factory and retail shop Bee Naturals, tried on the beautiful glass jewelry crafted at Clarksville Glassworks, and fondled handmade leather purses and rings at The Bent Tree Gallery.

A picture at The Bent Tree Gallery after our homemade button bracelet purchase.

If you have never tried a group day trip, try.  If you tried, register for another one.  This happened to be my second day trip, and I am looking forward to number three.  Being able to learn and experience with others without the hassle of driving allows one to truly savor the moment as well as reduce our carbon footprints.

*This blog is dedicated to Cory, the Guard Donkey, a permanent member of the Vesterbrook Farm family once exiled from his previous place of residence for being quite the “ladies’ man.”

Cory, the Guard Donkey
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