This year we joined a CSA – a meat CSA. Most people are familiar with vegetable CSAs but this was the first time I had heard of a meat CSA. We are very fortunate here in our little piece of heaven called Vermont, to have many amazing diversified farms, including one in our town, Applecheek Farm. For us, Applecheek is not just a place to get raw milk, free-range chicken eggs, delicious grassfed beef, or pastured pork. It is also a community hub. Since we have moved here we have been to numerous “Localvore Dinners” catered by and served at the farm, a pig roast, as well as several farm tours.

Applecheek has become a destination for our out of town guests that come to visit us and want to see and experience a real farm, where many animals co-exist together, grazing on green grass, as opposed to a feedlot where there are thousands of one type of animal grazing in, well, their own excrement.

(My step-daughter Gwen having fun with chickens, Jenn at the Welcome sign, Rocio w/ pigs and llamas, a real tractor, Jenn with a goat and the happiest cows you will ever meet).

At Applecheek people can get up close and personal with happy cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, turkeys guinea fowl as well as non-food animals like emus, llamas, draft horses and retired pet goats. It is also a place where the local community gathers to eat good food, learn about sustainable farms and spend time with each other.

Rocio and John who have recently taken over the farm operations from John’s parents John and Judy, and Jason and Sarah, who run the catering operation and the Localvore dinners became the first friends we made when we moved here. They have helped us immensely by providing tips for where to get various things locally and of course where the good eats are. We all share a love for good, nutrient dense foods as well as home-brewing, lacto-fermentation and food preservation.

Here is the Applecheek Farm philosophy:

“We strive to produce food that encompasses dignity for our animals, stimulates local economy, provides optimal nutrition for our customers and restores the ecological capital within our soils. Our priorities here on the farm begin with the soil and the nutrients that develop within our land and ultimately passed on to those who eat our food. From our perspective, this is a grass farm that converts grasses into meat, milk and eggs. While many people refer to our farm as a sustainable farm, we feel it is simply not enough to sustain. We are committed to a restorative approach to farming our land and animals in an effort to increase the quality of our soils.”

A dream come true. It is the kind of farm that all of us dream we had in our town after watching Food Inc. or reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Our dream was realized when we moved to this part of Vermont, and we are grateful for it daily, as inevitably some food item from Applecheek graces our table at least during one of our daily meals, be it fried eggs and sausages for breakfast, a delicious burger, or in this case a whole roasted duck.

I am getting really familiar with duck in this household since joining the CSA, which invariably make the fire department really familiar with us because no matter what, I cannot stop myself from frying potatoes in the fat from the duck – which always makes the house a smoky mess, and sets off our alarm! But look at this beautiful dish – it is totally worth it!

Besides that, I am always trying a new recipe with the duck, this time, I decided to make something simple, a classic French dish – roasted duck with olives, or Canard aux Olives. I pretty much followed this recipe, except that I used white wine instead of broth, added some lemons (also stuffed the bird with lemon wedges), skipped the vermouth and used all green olives. I also cooked it in a 350 F oven, instead of on the stove top. I served them with those delicious duck fat fried potatoes. The result was an incredibly good roasted duck that was unanimously declared to be the best duck I have prepared to date. The bones and leftover meat I used to make a delicious stock and soup. Nothing went to waste.

For dessert I made individual preserved plum tarts. I made a crust using almond flour and butter, vaguely fashioned after this recipe pressed it into my individual baking dishes, and baked for about 20 minutes at 350F. Then I placed some of my plum preserved in brandy-vanilla-cardamom syrup and topped with fresh maple whipped cream.

Now since Applecheek really is a special place, I don’t expect that all of you, my dear readers have access to such a farm. But I am sure that you do have farms in your area where you can buy free-range, organic eggs, or humanely raised meat, or if you are lucky raw milk. So support them, learn from them, ask questions and help to make the food on your table a little bit better for you and your family. The more we support these farms, the more farms like this will be available to us! To find farms in your area, check out LocalHarvest.