I had a bad case of farm school envy.
Chefs and food bloggers, foodie friends and urban farmers I know have gone to Quillisascut Farm School (Rice, Washington). Owners Lora Lea and Rick were heralded at last year’s Chef’s Collaborative Sustainability Summit (held in Seattle) for opening their home and farm to those interested in walking down the path of sustainable farming, cooking and eating.
A few times I had made plans to attend – then had to cancel. I drooled on my computer keyboard at the notion of making cheese, honing my butchery skills and becoming a compost bin whiz.
I was determined to drive to the east side of Washington state and earn my farm school chops. I am just back from a 3 day stint of making bread and cheese, milking goats, watching hokey yet inspiring videos and making new friends. There are workshops about bees, basic culinary skills, livestock care, and homesteading basics.
It is reminiscent of adult summer [farm] camp. Guests all stay in a large home, share a large table and enjoy just-harvested meals. New friends and old friends (people come back for multiple camps, repeat teachers offer time, and city hipsters escape to ‘wwoof‘ and linger at the farm) share dish duties and cooking, and pal up to wage war on weeds.
Highlights: practicing cheese making and learning the nuances of bread baking especially pre-ferments, wet doughs, a range of starters and ‘soaks.’ We made and tasted all sorts of cheeses aged and raw. We huddled around pots and heated milk, strained curds and formed cheese into balls. What stood out to me: breads and cheeses both use a handful of ingredients, fermentation and few simple steps. Once you wrap your mind around the ingredients and process you can begin to play [with flavors, rubs, brines and more].
It is eye candy for me to be on a farm with camera in hand: farm kittens and smiling goats, a glass of rose wine on a fence post, the wood-fired oven smoking as it waits for the next batch of pizzas. I am glad I went and grateful to be counted among Quillisascut alumni.