Last summer I naively questioned if I was a country girl or a city girl. This summer, the answer came to me loud and clear as I collapsed into tears on the front lawn of Elmwood when it was time to drive home. If kicking and screaming were permissible grownup expressions of emotion, I would have gone that route. Sometimes it feels like New York is only good for 3 things- making money, spending money and eating Thai food in bed at 2am. After 10 years, it wears thin.
I've developed a new city life coping mechanism and it's called Stone Barns. A non-profit farm and education center located 25 miles north of the city on a former Rockefeller estate- Stone Barns and its partner restaurant Blue Hill are famous for their commitment to sustainable agriculture and local food. When I got an invitation to visit from Shannon Algiere, who started the growing operation with her husband 9 years ago, I jumped out of my skin.
Shannon is the head of the flower and herb program at the farm while her husband manages the produce (200+ varieties). We talked and toured the farm, smelling scented geraniums and popping sungolds into our mouths off the vine. When it grew dark, we scooted into the legendary Blue Hill to eat, me looking like I had rolled up in a beat up pickup truck, with muck boots, messy hair and a work coat. (I had.) Fancy florist, what?
There are, of course, no words to describe the dinner that may have stretched into the 3 hour mark. I had been to Blue Hill several times before but never to eat, mostly to work on weddings, peering at plates like a starving Oliver Twist-type. To sit down and eat with one of the farmers who's work sustains the restaurant was incomprehensible. Course after course, I was in awe. I mean, they slowcooked our potatoes in the farm's vegetable compost, 160 degrees overnight. Really.
To meet Shannon and dream up ways to collaborate through flowers was beyond inspiring. Stone Barns is the one bright spot on my city horizon, and I'm already scheming to drive up and become Shannon's number one flower farming volunteer and fan club president. Please stay tuned for more gushy details about our future projects together and in the meantime, drool over what they do here.