Thursday, February 11, 2010

The underground foodie scene in Pamplin, VA

Well, I'm just gobsmacked. The teeny-tiny town I grew up in (Pamplin, VA: population 200) has finally developed a few links to the outside world. Yesterday, while reading Serious Eats (one of my favorite foodie blogs) I discovered an old article about Frog Bottom Farm, an organic CSA farm in Pamplin. My reaction ran the gamut between "WTF? In PAMPLIN?!" and "That's so (expletive deleted) cool," and "Why didn't anyone tell ME about this?" I checked out Frog Bottom's website and discovered that although I don't know the owners (they moved down from Northern Virginia), they're the sort of people I want to know. Small, locally-owned, organic CSA farms are exactly what I was searching for all those years I lived in New York, and now here's one in my (former) backyard. What are the odds?

So I did some more Googling and discovered a wealth of local wineries, small organic free-range pig/poultry/lamb/goat farms, local apiaries, microbreweries, and even more CSA farms. There's a WINERY. In PAMPLIN. (Until about a year ago, Appomattox County was completely dry.) There's even an off-the-grid modern Danish kit house in Pamplin now, complete with solar panels and recycled insulation. The community of food outliers I'd always sought in New York, hanging out in the wilds of Central Virginia.

I was appalled that no one had bothered to tell me of these new developments, so I called my parents and asked them why they hadn't told me. "Well, you don't live here anymore," my mom helpfully pointed out. So I asked them about these new farms. "Whatever. Hippies," my dad said. I'm sure these small farms are struggling--the locals are notoriously wary of outsiders, and an organic CSA farm will win no favor with the townspeople, the vast majority of whom already maintain their own extensive vegetable gardens. In New York, when your options are 1) buy organic from the farmer's market or 2) go to the corner deli and pay $3 for a head of lettuce that's doused in pesticides, shrinkwrapped in plastic, and flown in from Chile, it's no wonder that people are increasingly turning to #1. But out in the country, where people already grow their own vegetables, there's no incentive to pay the premium for "organic" at either the grocery store or the farmer's market. I get that. I'm sure Frog Bottom's customers all come from the bigger cities in Virginia.

But it still warms my heart to see a burgeoning community of people who share my passions about food right in my own hometown. Now I want to locally source the food for the wedding, featuring the local organic veggies and pork and maybe even some local wines/microbrews. I realize I'll be the only person at the wedding that cares. But that's what the locavore movement is about, right? Supporting the farmers around you? I hope these ventures take root and become successful. I'm having pleasant daydreams of living in Appomattox Country again, surrounded by fresh-grown organic fruits and veggies, free-range chickens and pork, local wines and microbrews, sitting on the back porch after a good meal talking about all those things with fellow foodies. And trust me, never ever before this did I ever have a pleasant daydream about living in Appomattox County again. If they manage to conjure up a good cheese store, all hope may be lost for me.

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