Farm to table can be an amazing way to experience meals. There’s nothing like fresh-from-the-garden vegetables getting passed around your supper table (and y’all know in the South it’s supper, not dinner) and disappearing from your family’s plates. Not only does it do your heart good to watch your kids scarfing down all those healthy vitamins and nutrients that come from Mother Earth, but the taste is simply incredible.
Woodson Ridge Farms knows quite a bit about farm to table. Since 2011 Luke and Elizabeth Heiskell have been providing the best in locally-grown produce to Oxford and the surrounding areas, supplying fresh vegetables to some of the best restaurants in town and to the community.
The Heiskell’s are local growers in Oxford with Delta ties, Elizabeth having grown up in Rosedale and Luke being from Sumner. The Heiskell’s started Woodson Ridge Farms in 2011 with their partner, Sandy Sharp, who owns the farmland Woodson Ridge sits on. Along with their very active flow of business with Oxford and Memphis restaurants, providing fresh vegetables for many of the eateries’ menus; the Heiskell’s are very passionate about the Local Produce Club/CSA they have become involved in.
CSA stands for community supported agriculture and is a program that was started in the U.S. in the 1980s to support local agriculture. It’s a produce subscription service that emphasizes local produce and weekly deliveries for its customers. The Heiskell’s are extremely excited about the 2015 memberships and explain that joining the Local Produce Club or CSA is a life-altering experience.
“It’s one of the most exciting and phenomenal things a person could be involved in,” Elizabeth Heiskell said, “for both us as sellers and the community as a whole. It really can be life-changing. The person who joins is going to get the best we have to offer, eight different varieties of vegetables per week, sometimes flowers and herbs, and you’re always going to get a recipe with your order. It really does change the way that your family eats.”
Individuals, who are known as shareholders, sign up to receive a weekly share or sack of fresh harvest items from the farm. The seasons run during the peak of production for 14 weeks in the spring/summer and again for 14 weeks in the late summer/fall.
“Even calling it a produce club doesn’t do this program justice, because it really can be life-changing,” she said. “And we’ve made it so simple for the customer. We deliver your fresh bag of harvest items once a week. And here in Oxford, your pick-up is at Oxford Floral and for our Memphis customers, we deliver to Sweet Grass Restaurant. You don’t have to pick a garden or weed and water it, but you still get the benefits and bounty of fresh produce on your table for you and your family.”
Heiskell said with the Local Produce Club, the customer is getting variety each week that they can’t get anywhere else.
“If you’re like me and you go to the grocery store and buy the same vegetables each week, the Local Produce Club/CSA will give you so much variety each week that you can expose your family to the uniqueness and deliciousness of items you might not find in the grocery stores,” she said.
Plus, for 2015 members, Heiskell said they have an added bonus they’re including with this season’s memberships. Elizabeth also owns and operates Elizabeth Heiskell Catering and has been in the catering business for many years. She’s a chef as well as a produce grower and lover of all things garden-fresh and nutritious. This year for members of the Local Produce Club, the Heiskell’s are hosting a farm to table meal/event catered by Elizabeth Heiskell Catering.
“We’re having a farm to table event on May 17 at 5:00 p.m., prepared by me and my staff at Elizabeth Heiskell Catering,” she said, “in appreciation of our Local Produce Club/CSA members. The event is free to our members and their spouse or guest, but the public and additional members’ guests are invited to attend at $50 per person. We hope everyone will come out and join us.”
Luke Heiskell also believes strongly in the Local Produce Club/ CSA program; he said it benefits not only the community, but its local growers as well.
“It’s a nationwide program that a lot of farmers participate in,” he said. “Basically, what CSA does for the farmer is provide another avenue for selling their produce, where maybe before the only venue for some was farmer’s markets. And farmers have a tough time, because at the beginning of the season is when you have your biggest expenses, when you’re buying your seed and starting everything. You’re not selling anything because you don’t have anything coming out of the field yet. So, preselling a share of vegetables from your farm before the season starts is a tremendous boon for the farmer. And it provides such a great service to the community, in terms of variety and health benefits. We grow so many different varieties of vegetables so the customer gets something different in their bag each week.”
At Woodson Ridge, the harvest items are an array of produce that will have your taste buds salivating.
“We like to say we have everything from Arugula to zucchini,” he said, “from A to Z. In salad greens, we have Arugula, lettuce mix, spinach, Tokyo Bekana, Baby Kale and Baby Chard; just a long list of delicious salad greens. Plus your turnip greens, mustard greens and collard greens. And that’s just the greens that we have. We grow on 20 acres and we rotate crops. We always have three stages of crops going so that we can provide what the community needs throughout the seasons. The items we grow are so varied and diverse. We also provide these garden-fresh items to restaurants all over Oxford and Memphis. It’s a rewarding and satisfying profession and we love it.”
For more information on the Local Produce Club/CSA, Elizabeth Heiskell Catering or Woodson Ridge Farms, go to their website.
Angela Rogalski is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.