Photo by Laura Mortelliti
As we kick off the Fall season of our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, we are excited to introduce you to one of our organic garden managers, Mary Bruce! We love the way Mary involves herself in so many different functions at White Oak Pastures: she’s also a leather craftswoman, a biodiesel chemist, and she oversees our pastured rabbit and honeybee programs. She is smart, engaged, and always has great ideas for making improvements on the farm. Meet Mary, and catch up on what she’s up to this Fall!
You began your career here as an intern. What motivated you to work your way up to a manager?
When I began working here I had no idea how many moving parts were in this farm ecosystem. My internship was really dynamic, and there were opportunities at every turn. I was lucky enough to be able to work with so many diverse departments. I soon realized that managers were entrusted with Mr. Will’s blessing to go out and conquer. The ability to orchestrate new projects, implement systems, and feel proud of the work that I was doing made me want to invest in the farm.
We have 10 different species on the farm. Which is your favorite?
The guinea fowl. They are wild, uncontained and sneak into the garden all the time! Those birds are just fun to watch, they look as though they are launching an attack when they travel in herds and let out battle cries as they advance through the open pasture. I have been startled by those feisty birds more than once. In addition to their entertainment value, they are the most succulent and flavorful poultry that I have ever eaten. The complexity of their taste is unmatched in stocks, soups, sauces, grilling, and roasting. If you haven’t yet taken the leap, make sure you invite guinea to your next dinner party!
What is the most satisfying part of your job?
Being able to fully engage in a project. There are so many opportunities to team up with other departments in order to make the system more dynamic. We have been using the rabbits to “mow down” garden crops that we are finished harvesting and fertilize the land that they are grazing. We have also introduced a set of piglets to the garden that act as four legged tractors. They till, eat roots and debris, and break up the compaction. Using animals as tools for change has really altered the way I view farming.
What is your favorite meal to cook at home?
Tacos, burritos, and carnitas with marinated steak, pulled/ground pork, and even Mediterranean style tacos stuffed with our lamb. My favorite farm fresh toppings include: vinegar cabbage slaw, onions, microgreens, radishes, pickled carrots, homemade chipotle garlic aioli (from our pastured eggs). We eat like kings on the farm. We have the freshest produce, and most scrumptious proteins. You cannot go wrong when you have all of this great food at your fingertips.
What has been your proudest moment since working here?
I have been blessed to work on a lot of diverse projects during my time here and each one had its pinnacle. Whenever something that I have directly had my hands on has been complimented or appreciated it really makes me proud of the work that I do. Two standout moments would be our first retail account for leather goods, and the first successful batch of biodiesel. Most recently, I have been delighted with the experimental hay pile garden. That patch of pasture is teeming with life above and below the surface, with so many plant species, beneficial insects, and even beautiful displays of fungal fruiting bodies. I am really proud of the habitat that is forming, and the things that it is teaching me.
What are you most looking forward to for the Fall season?
I am most looking forward to our annual CSA dinner (stay tuned for details!). This will be our third season hosting a dinner for our members. Last year was uniquely special; the full menu was crafted and prepared by the very same staff that plants, harvests and packs our CSA shares. Our members had the chance to spend time on the farm, see the full the process, and connect with their growers and farmers. This dinner gets to the heart of the CSA philosophy, connecting eaters with their farmers.
There’s still time to sign up for our Fall CSA at a prorated rate! Click here for details.