Third Annual Locavore Dinner

locavore dinner setting

On a lovely late summer Sunday, Cheenius and Mr.Dr. Cheenius graciously hosted a group of enthusiastic locavores for the third annual Locavore Dinner. The first two dinners (recapped here and here) were incredible successes with our small group of ethical-foodie friends and we eagerly anticipated a third dinner. We were not disappointed!

locavore dinner scoring

The Locavore Dinner is not just a potluck; it’s a competition. Dishes were scored for localness again this year, but the math was simplified, due to Cheenius and her garden always winning the most-local awards:

  • 1 point if an ingredient came from within 100 miles
  • 2 points if an ingredient came from within 50 miles
  • 3 points if an ingredient came from Charlottesville/Albemarle County

In addition to Most Local, two Best Tasting awards were also up for grabs.

As in years past, entries were mostly veggie-based, with the notable exception of Mr. HP’s sausage, which we thought was a shoo-in for Most Local (gaming the system again–see our entry from last year)… until we saw that the point system would not grant full credit to an item from just over the Albemarle County line in Nelson.

locavore dinner appetizers

For appetizers, we enjoyed Annie’s bruschetta (made from local tomatoes purchased at Integral Yoga), truffled goat cheese from Caromont Farm, homemade homegrown tomato jam that I received as an instructor gift when I gave an entomophagy presentation to a local environmental group, deviled eggs from Cheenius’ own chickens, and bread purchased from the Charlottesville City Market and MarieBette Bakery.

locavore dinner dishes

The main event featured Mr. HP’s sausage from Rock Barn; roasted potatoes with rosemary, both from Cheenius’ garden; and Roger’s sweet carrot and apple dish, with carrots and apples from Charlottesville City Market.

Dessert was Melissa’s delicious crumble starring Saunders Brothers peaches, which I voted for as Best Tasting; she was edged out by Mr. HP, who voted for himself four times to secure the victory. My tomato jam with MarieBette bread was the controversial winner of Most Local. Yay math! Prizes included a jar of honey from Cheenius’ bees, a felted wool pouch from a City Market artisan, and a special t-shirt from Cheenius’ childhood with a theme quite unrelated to this event.

locavore dinner japanese soda

No award was given for least local, but Jay would have won easily with his contribution of Japanese octopus-flavored soda. It was surprisingly inoffensive.

As we ate and caroused, we sipped local beer, wine, and cider. The Charlottesville area has no shortage of local alcohol. See: Brew Ridge Trail, Monticello Wine Trail, and the Virginia Cider and Apple Trail. We also have a few distilleries, none of which I have visited yet, but as I take my job of reporting on local culinary happenings very seriously, I will have to check them out soon.

The Locavore Dinner just gets better and better, thanks to the Cheeniuses’ generosity and gorgeous venue, and the participants’ creativity and conviviality. Can’t wait for Year Four!

locavore dinner setting

2014 Historic Farm Tour in Keswick

Saturday was the 5th Annual Grace Church Historic Farm Tour in Keswick. I’d been wanting to do it for years, and this year, when I was actually in town and free, I didn’t even know it was happening. Thank you Cheenius for the spur-of-the-moment adventure!

Having only a few hours, we decided to split our time among the Country Fair booths at Grace Church, the retired racehorses at Old Keswick, the antique cars at Linden Lane (where Cheenius’s father-in-law was an exhibitor), and the foxhounds at Keswick Hunt Club. The weather was ideal for a drive through the countryside, and we had a lovely time.

Farm tour map

Grace Episcopal Church

Grace Church

Grace Church, a gorgeous Gothic church built in the late 1800s, was hosting a Country Fair with craft booths, 4-H animal exhibits, dog adoption corrals, and food trucks. We bought our tour tickets and cruised through the fair, petting some animals and attempting to get some food (wait times were 30 minutes! food trucks are supposed to be fast, people!) before hitting the road to Old Keswick.

Llamas 4-H cow

(check out his drool!)

Old Keswick Farm

Old Keswick, a former racehorse breeding operation, is a foster home to several retired racehorses from the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, but there wasn’t much to see at this stop. We walked through the lovely barn where a couple horses dozed in stalls, popped into the Wildlife Center of Virginia’s tent to see a possum and an owl on display, and took off. Fortunately there was a horse near the fence on the way out who was happy to relieve us of the carrots we had picked up in the barn.

Old Keswick Farm Old Keswick Farm horse

Linden Lane

Linden Lane’s enormous front lawn was host to an antique car exhibit, and we stopped by to say hello to Cheenius’s father-in-law and admire his prize possession. It turned out he had dropped the car off and gone on his own farm tour adventure, but all was not lost, because the exhibit turned out to be really interesting (I had been skeptical). The cars were shiny and pretty and so different in layout and design from today’s cars. Clearly, I am a knowledgeable car person.

Antique PackardAntique Corvette

Shadwell Market

Shout out to Shadwell Market for feeding us when the food trucks could not. Cheenius and I shared some Power Balls (nut/date/honey/crack) from Mudhouse, Mr HP got a sandwich, and when I admired the Brussels sprouts in the hot food display case but lamented that they had bacon, the fabulous kitchen crew offered to stirfry me up a batch sans bacon. So nice!

Keswick Hunt Club Kennels

Keswick Hunt Club was the highlight of the tour for us. Foxhounds everywhere! We got to lean into a puppy enclosure and play with some younguns, after they peeled themselves off the pile of napping puppies to come say hi. The kennel was full of happy, goofy adults, half of which got to come out and run around for a demonstration with the huntsman, whip, and kennel manager. Even non-dog-person Cheenius was smitten and confessed she considered puppy-napping on last year’s tour when the resident puppies were tinier.

Keswick Hunt Club foxhounds foxhounds and huntsman


So, in closing, a recap:

  • Food trucks should serve food quickly
  • Old cars are cool, especially turquoise ones
  • Shadwell Market workers are friendly and accommodating
  • Foxhounds are adorable, but probably not good apartment dogs (ahem, Mr HP)

Celebrity sighting: Joel Salatin at the Paramount


Joel Salatin spoke at the Paramount in C’ville last Saturday morning, and Momma HP and I were there. Here’s the official event description:

Field School of Charlottesville is hosting Joel Salatin for a talk on “Healthy Boys” on Saturday, May 17th at 10:30 a.m. at the Paramount.  Salatin, who is featured in Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma as well the documentary film Food, Inc., is a full-time farmer and the owner of Polyface Farm of Augusta County, Virginia.  An outspoken proponent of non-industrial food production, Salatin will provide his thoughts on what we can do to develop healthy boys, through good nutrition, exercise, and raising good food.  Lunch will be provided to all participants following the presentation.  Field School is a 5th-8th Grade middle school for boys “developing well-rounded boys of character and accomplishment.  The event is sponsored by Field Camp, Blue Ridge Swim Club, Ashtanga Yoga, Mudhouse Coffee, and the Local Food Hub.

The bits specific to raising healthy boys weren’t so applicable to us (although Momma HP has a strapping young grandson), but there was plenty of improve-the-food-system and get-outdoors-and-play talk to keep us happy.


My main takeaways

Personal health

Eat real food. He told a vermicomposting story where the worms wouldn’t eat the processed snack food and it survived the composting process intact, and asked us to think about 1) why would we eat something a worm wouldn’t eat, and 2) why we would want to eat food that won’t rot–meaning, there’s nothing alive in it.

Or think of it as fueling your system with real food. We humans are host to about 100 trillion bacteria–in fact, our bodies are only 10% human–and we need to support those bacteria by feeding them quality food. The influence of gut bacteria on your body reaches far beyond digestion. Bacterial health may be related to chronic disease: malnourished digestive bacteria may allow toxins to leak into the bloodstream, causing a low-level inflammation which may lead to many of the chronic diseases prevalent today. Gut health may be linked to neurological health: “leaky gut” may contribute to depression, and gut bacteria may be able to influence our behavior. Salatin also encouraged the audience (who were sitting in a dark room on a beautiful day, I noted to myself) to get outside and play in the dirt, and pet some animals! Expose yourself to a broader range of microbes.

I recommend reading this article by Michael Pollan for a thorough discussion of one’s personal microbiome: Some of My Best Friends Are Germs. It’s a fascinating and important topic about which science is only just starting to learn.


Food system health

Care about what you eat. We, as a society, have abdicated responsibility for our food production. Why do we spend more time worrying over, for example, who should do work on our house than who produces the food that goes into our bodies? Start a garden and grow some produce, buy from your local farmers markets and small groceries, and even visit area farms themselves to see how the food is produced–and, of course, how the animals are treated. Try to eat food that you can look at and tell what it’s made from. Question the origin of those ingredients you can’t pronounce. Be mindful of what you’re consuming.

Here are some suggestions for simple ways to regain some control over your food.


Food’s impact on American healthcare

Americans are spending less on food and more on healthcare than ever before. 

This article shows Americans’ decreasing spending trends on food; this articleand this one discuss the meteoric rise in obesity and its associated healthcare costs in this country. People are buying more cheap, processed, sugary, chemically food and paying for it with their health. Do you think the two are related? If you doubt it, here’s another article.


And then we took our enchiladas out to Lee Park and sat on a bench in the sun. If you have the opportunity to see Salatin speak, go! Even if the topic seems slightly irrelevant, and especially if they give you lunch.

Butter Churning Skill Share

On Monday night, our daring dairy divas Cheenius and Butter Boy, after honing their churning technique at home, presented their butter knowledge to an eager group at a crowded Transition Charlottesville Skill Share session. The presentation was fantastic, complete with expert commentary, audience participation, butter trivia and jokes (we learned there are no funny butter jokes), and buttermilk shooters. We tasted the final product on tasty Great Harvest bread and those of us who paid attention to the email and brought containers (thank you for your spare, Rachel!) took home some of the freshly churned gold. Your intrepid reporter’s favorite aspect of the evening was learning about making butter in a jar: pour in some cream, shake it for about 25 minutes — OR throw the jar in a backpack and go for a hike, ride a horse, mountain bike, etc etc etc — and boom, you have butter. Look for a Haute Pasture Research Experiment Report on that soon.

Thank you Cheenius and Butter Boy for a delicious evening!

butter cream

(we started with this)

churning the butter

(then we took turns churning)

shaking the jar

(and we took turns shaking)

butter in the churn

(we peeked a couple times for status updates)

antique butter stamp

(we did not use Cheenius’ antique butter stamp)

jar of almost-butter

(the jar butter is almost done)

bread for our butter

(butter vehicles)

jar of butter

(it’s ready!)

butter from the jar

(the jar butter)

rinsing the butter

(rinsing the churned butter)


(we did it! let’s eat!)

Get your lamb fix here!

Guest post from Buzzy! Thanks, Buzzy!

I went on the “Meet Yer Eats” farm tour last week, and of course it was great — educational, interesting, blah blah blah.  But let’s get down to serious business:  Lambs are cute.  So this is your lamb fix for the week (I bet you didn’t even know you needed a lamb fix, did you?).  Special thanks to Everona Dairy for providing the lambs!

Everona lambs
They had lots of lambs.

Everona baby lamb
Some had even been born THAT DAY.

Everona lambs and kids
They had kids AND lambs together!

Lamb's ear
And for the cherry on top: they even grow Lamb’s Ear!

Fruit Grafting and Propagation Class

Guest post from Cheenius; also posted on the Transition Charlottesville blog.

You have to love a class where one of the first questions the instructor poses is: “Does anyone here faint at the sight of their own blood?” Good stuff. Luckily, Cheenius is known for being fearless and intrepid.

About a dozen current and wannabe orchardists met for a one day workshop led by Alexis Zeigler of Living Energy Farm. Alexis has hundreds of fruit trees at various properties, and this self-taught expert provided a wealth of information as well as hands-on experience. He pointed out that we have all been duped by a culture of deception when it comes to fruit, thinking that the shiny apples and plump peaches of the grocery store are desirable. In reality, those fruits have been sprayed with fungicides and pesticides up to 14 times during their growth. Meanwhile, because industrial farming only serves up a relatively small number of fruits varieties, we don’t realize that fruits like the paw paw, persimmon, and muscadine are much better suited for the mid-Atlantic and are incredibly disease and insect resistance. In some cases, these little-known fruits also offer more vitamins and even protein than we get from the ubiquitous red delicious apple. I was definitely inspired to think about my fruit tree choices in a completely different way.

Alexis Zeigler

After learning the characteristics and hardiness of some of the main fruit and nut tree families, we moved on to propagation. We covered seed and root cuttings, and then spent the rest of our time learning to graft. Turns out, once you know which parts to line up, it wasn’t that hard, but it was invaluable to have Alexis there — definitely not the kind of thing you can learn from a book. Along with knowledge, we all left with some actual grafts that we should be able to plant in 4-8 weeks. What did I end up with? Pretty excited about some blight resistant pears, hardy almonds, and some paw paw seeds that I’ve already put into pots. Planning to add kiwi and persimmon to my yard as soon as I can figure out a good location. Great class!

Grafted Plants

Thanks, Cheenius! Can’t wait to hear how your new plants turn out!

Locavore: Hunting and eating locally

Most of my life, I’ve been against hunting, for emotional reasons rather than logical. In the past few years, however, as Haute Pasture has expanded my thinking, I’ve come to see hunting more practically as a source of sustainable, ethical meat. After listening to hunter and Charlottesville native (and former vegetarian) Jackson Landers speak Thursday at a Virginia Festival of the Book session called Locavore: Hunting and Eating Locally, I’m not ready to pick up a weapon myself (yet), but I’m officially a supporter of hunting for food. Below are some of Landers’ points that I found particularly convincing. How do you feel about hunting?

Jackson Landers

Jackson Landers; image from

Hunting for food can be more sustainable than most vegetarian/vegan diets, and they share values:
  • Environment: One might walk into his backyard and shoot a deer, while commercial meat’s carbon footprint includes
    • Fuel
    • Shipping
    • Feed for animals
  • Land use: Commercial farms pollute neighboring land and waterways
    • Deer land is not dedicated to deer
    • Deer can share land for residential and transportation use (medians)
    • Deer can share public land (state/national parks)
  • Deer eat local produce (to gardeners’ chagrin); commercial farms feed their animals unnatural grain diets
  • “Blood footprint” of a soy burger can be larger than that of a venison burger
    • Soybean farms kill wildlife via chemicals and pollution, and combines kill animals in the fields during harvesting
    • Hunting a deer just kills that deer
  • Ethics: you don’t have to wonder if an animal suffered, or how it died, if you killed it yourself

In the US, a hunter may not sell venison from a deer he hunted. If you seen venison for sale in this country, it is likely from New Zealand, where it was factory farmed, grain fed, and shipped long distance. That is the opposite of hunted venison.

Landers has begun hunting for invasive species removal, what he calls the invasivore movement. Invasives are one of the main three causes of species extinction; the other two are climate change and loss of habitat. He eats what he kills and reports that most everything tastes like chicken, beef, or pork.

Some invasive plants and animals he has eaten include:

  • Kudzu: parboil young leaves and use in pesto or dolmas
  • Raccoon: tastes like roast beef
  • Lionfish: delicious
    • Interesting aside: Catfish and lionfish have the same venom. If you get stung by lionfish or catfish, warm the injured body part and the venom is rendered harmless
  • Silver carp: it tastes good and is incredibly easy to catch, as the fish literally jump into the boat, so why is creating a program to control them so difficult?
  • Deer: most bang for buck (sorry) taste- and quantity-wise
  • Pigeons: he chased them around near a playground in Central Park

He has not eaten a stinkbug, but has heard they don’t taste like they smell.

Hunting for food is a sustainable, ethical practice and I support it. If you are anti-hunting but haven’t really examined the reasons why, I encourage you to revisit the topic with yourself and see if any of the points above sway your thinking. If you’re still anti, please share why in the comments below.

Foodopoly reading and signing with Wenonah Hauter

Author and activist Wenonah Hauter visited New Dominion Bookshop in Charlottesville on February 13 for a discussion and signing of her new book Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America. Ms. Hauter, the executive director of Food and Water Watch, comes from a farming family, and is a long-time strategist and organizer for sustainable energy and food production.

Foodopoly reveals the behind-the-scenes lobbying, politics, and corporate power directing our food systems, and argues that consumers and farmers alone cannot fix the problem; a fundamental shift in food politics is required, as well. From the Foodopoly site:

In Foodopoly, she takes aim at the real culprit: the control of food production by a handful of large corporations—backed by political clout—that prevents farmers from raising healthy crops and limits the choices that people can make in the grocery store.

This talk was also timely for me, as I just got an overview of US food and farm policy from my Intro to the US Food System course. Read my notes here.

Wenonah Hauter signing copies of Foodopoly

Wenonah Hauter signing copies of Foodopoly

What I learned from Wenonah Hauter

The Past:

  • The Reagan administration changed antitrust laws, made it easier for monopolies to form
  • In 1996 US joined WTO and NAFTA; those partnerships lead to pressure to deregulate farm policy
  • The 1996 farm bill led to drop in corn and soy prices, saving the big food producers billions
  • ’98 price collapse
    • Congress began subsidies for commodity crops to support farmers
    • Half of small/medium farmer income is from subsidies, so if we get rid of them, we need to fix antitrust policies that keep prices low
  • Subsidies are a symptom of a dysfunctional system, not a cause of it

The Present:

  • About 20 food production companies control most of the grocery store brands
  • They need cheap ingredients, so lobby strongly for reducing and maintaining the low price of inputs
  • Big 4 groceries: Wal-Mart, Costco, Kroger, Target
  • 1/3 of our grocery money goes to Wal-Mart. They may be making an effort to work with smaller, local producers, but logistically, it’s difficult for any suppliers but the very large ones to work them
  • United Natural Foods, Inc is largest US distributor of organic foods
    • Since corp went public, it has focused mostly on Whole Foods and no longer delivers to small buying clubs and co-ops
    • Possibly colluding w/ Whole Foods to drive consumers there?
  • We need to vote with our forks, but also with our votes: keep elected officials accountable

The Future:

  • Need to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement
    • US would “harmonize” laws with other (less-regulated) countries, like the EU did when the US and the EU made trade agreement, and the EU’s laws were weakened to harmonize w/ the US’s
  • Tyson and Perdue are trying to change the rules: to raise poultry in Asia, and increase speed of slaughter to 200 birds/min
  • Can’t fix food system without fixing our democracy
  • Need to undo Citizens United (Read more about that here: Overturning Citizens United)
  • Need to be citizens, not consumers

Local Food Hub supplied local apples from Crown Orchard to thank guests for coming

Ms. Hauter was an excellent speaker (even with laryngitis); passionate, knowledgeable, and fluent in the topics discussed. If she comes to your area, I highly recommend you see her. I look forward to reading Foodopoly, and will surely post lessons learned from it on this blog.

For more information, visit the sites below:

Food and Water Watch

Food and Water Watch’s page about Foodopoly

Foodopoly site

Buy the book (or better, go to your local bookstore and buy it)

“Women and Land” Workshop

Guest post from Buzzy! Thanks, Buzzy!

Thanks to Haute Pasture, Buzzy recently attended the “Women and Land” workshop, put on by the Virginia Department of Forestry.  They gathered together four different federal, state, and local agencies, and introduced the 36+ women in attendance to all their services.  Turns out, the government actually offers some great programs and cost share incentives!  I would encourage anyone who has even a small amount of land to call the agencies directly; they seemed incredibly willing to do phone consultations, site visits, etc.  Here are some tidbits to get you thinking about the possibilities:

Essentially, farmers and ranchers have a whole panel of experts just a phone call away.  Buzzy’s got some dialing to do!

Meet Yer Eats 2012 Recap

Last year, our Meet Yer Eats route was planned around getting maximum bang for our buck: we picked three farms that were close to each other and a short drive from Charlottesville, and had a variety of animals and plants on display. We visited Ted’s Last Stand, Brightwood Vineyard and Farm, and Forrest Green Farm, an easy and fun trio I would recommend to Meet Yer Eats first-timers. This year, however, we had a more specific goal: to target farms that raise animals for meat, and learn a bit about humane care and respectful killing practices used by small-time producers. We chose a couple places we’d purchased from at the City Market and seen on local menus at places like Brookville and The Local: Babes in the Wood and The Rock Barn. We couldn’t drive through Caromont‘s neighborhood without stopping there, so we added it to the itinerary, and set off on a rainy Labor Day adventure.

First stop: Babes in the Wood

Driving into the farm, past the Pig Xing sign, we started spotting small groups of pigs napping, mudbathing, and rooting around. What a life! I already posted some happy pig photos here, but here are a couple more:

The very friendly, very knowledgeable proprietor led a group walking tour around a loop through the forest. The pigs have 75 acres to roam, at a density of no more than 2 or 3 pigs per acre. The herd is made up of several breeding sows (BIG girls), youngsters who will grow to 10 or 12 months before becoming pork chops, and boss hog Kevin Bacon (!):

Kevin lives in his own private enclosure, with visitor Monster (not sure if that’s a name or epithet) who cannot be contained by fences and goes where he pleases. The breeding sows consort with Kevin twice a year, and often have their litters in nests in the woods, showing up for mealtime a week later followed by a trail of piglets.

The pigs forage for acorns, berries, roots, mushrooms, bugs, and anything and everything edible in the woods. Their forest diets are supplemented with grain made from local corn. They naturally form cliques and don’t normally fight–so no need for cutting their tails or teeth as often done on industrial farms to limit injury. The low-stress environment, natural diet, and exercise contribute to happy pigs and healthy, tasty meat.

Read more about Babes in the Wood on their webpage. We very much enjoyed our visit to the farm.

Second stop: Caromont Farm

Our adventure took us from pigs to goats, and from quiet walk in the woods to chaotic kiddie land (ha, pun not intended). We stayed at Caromont briefly, only long enough to sample a couple cubes of delicious cheeses, pop our heads into the milking area and listen to a few minutes of the tour of the facilities, and take a couple goat pictures. There was soon to be a special cheese tasting with the cheesemaker, but we were worried about having enough time at stop 3, so pressed on. The goats seemed happy and safe, grazing in movable paddocks by day and coming into the safety of a barn at night. They’re milked twice a day–how do goat-keepers go on vacation?

Stop 3: The Rock Barn

Our last stop was, fittingly, an education on what happens to the pigs after they leave a farm like Babes in the Wood and reach the end of their porcine journeys. Will, the general manager, gave us an overview of the history and mission of The Rock Barn, which was started by Ben Thompson as a high-end catering company with special focus on local foods. They have since added whole-hog custom butchering to their offerings, which is of particular interest to this blogger, for their respectful, humane practices as described on their website:

 Whole-hog processing, or butchering “snout-to-tail,” is a practice that pays deserved respect to slaughtered animals by finding meaningful uses for all of each pig. By working in conjunction with environmentally-sound farms and humanely-operated slaughterhouses, Will oversees the processes that bring Rock Barn meat products from field to fork without sacrificing either craft or ethics.

We got an up-close and personal explanation of pig butchering, which was fascinating even for the squeamish pescatarian in the group.

As he carved, Ben hit on many butchering topics: various cuts of meat (Rock Barn offers different cuts than you find at the grocery store), the two types of pig fat (illustrating the difference between soft fat and hard fat by handing us fresh-from-the-carcass pieces to play with), how the pigs are killed (knocked unconscious by carbon dioxide or electric shock, then shot in the head with a .22 or a bolt gun), and the importance of bleeding out the pig within seconds of killing it (to prevent stress hormones from fouling the meat).

The scene in the meat room was very clinical: the carcass being operated upon was clean and dry, and the carving, weighing, and packaging process was smooth and efficient. Those guys are good at what they do.

Adding to the experience was the setting of the facilities: it’s housed in a cottage on the expansive grounds of Oak Ridge Estate. The stone dairy barn next door looked eerily pretty in the misty rain.

For more information about The Rock Barn, see:

And here are some great tips from Whole9 on how to get the most out of a farm visit.

Thanks to Market Central for the opportunity to see where our food comes from!