There’s only one thing better than eating in a farm-to-table restaurant—that would be eating on the farm itself. I was treated to this very experience when I visited Hope & Harmony Farms in eastern Virginia, on a food tour hosted by the National Peanut Board.
Before I get into what an incredible meal we had, courtesy of Chef Corey Duncan, who owns The Catering Place based in Suffolk, Virginia, you should know that my heart belongs in the country (no matter how much time I spend in the city), so farms just say home to me. (Isn’t that sentiment one of the reasons restaurants are all about this farm-to-table movement?)
On the NPB tour, each course featured a variation of the farm’s peanuts, starting with peanut hummus, then a lush kale salad with Surryanno ham, honey goat cheese, roasted peanuts, and cornbread crouton, followed by peanut-smoked pork tenderloin and peanut-dusted Virginia quail, rounded out with peanut collard slaw and pan-fried potato salad (cooked in peanut oil, of course). And a dessert to die for: a peanut butter scone “Bananas Foster” shortcake, sprinkled with peanut brittle.
If I could share bites, I would have—but the best I can do is share details about the gourmet peanuts available from Hope & Harmony Farms, featured in our Buyer’s Guide on page 46.
What I really want to share is how my perspective of sustainability was enriched by this visit to Hope & Harmony Farms. Sustainability, according to the farm’s fourth-generation owners Jeffrey and Stephanie Pope, is about keeping the farm alive to see another harvest. It’s about making decisions that are economically viable, that reflect their deep respect for the land and their unwavering commitment to live in harmony with the land. Simply put, Jeffrey says, “It’s being able to farm another year.”
To that end, the farm doesn’t seek to become organic. Instead, since fungus is the biggest threat to the crops, the farm takes preventive measures and treats the soil prior to planting to ensure the integrity and health of each harvest. “If we grew organically, there would be a ton of disease—and eating diseased peanuts would be more harmful than eating peanuts that grew in soil where pesticides were used,” he explained.
Nobody has a greater interest in maintaining the sustainability of their land and their crops than the Pope family—they eat the products and they have a vested attachment across generations—but they also rely on this land for their livelihood, as do the farmers around the country who are partnering with restaurant operators.
One of my hopes for the New Year is that we’ll all become more committed to sustainability—but do so with a mindset that considers the many ramifications of what such a commitment truly entails. No better way to start this than time spent on a farm.