Stretching over 700 acres nestled among the rolling hills of Jefferson, MD, Fox Haven Organic Farm and Learning Center offers a plethora of learning experiences about growing, cooking, and savoring food. The farm operates according to principles of permaculture, which works with the land to nurture its natural productivity and vibrancy. Fox Haven grows organic fruits, vegetables, hay, and offers rotational grazing land for a local Organic Valley dairy farmer. Their agricultural methods help protect the Catoctin Watershed and utilize cover cropping, rotational planting and other environmentally friendly features like solar power and composting toilets.
Our Fox Haven Farm experience began with a tour of their vegetable field and greenhouse. Education and Operations Director Joann Coates-Hunter talked us through the farm’s history and philosophy on a beautiful damp fall day.
The reclining mountains served as a backdrop for her talk on the perils of glycosophate, the benefits of composting, and the need to support pollinators. According to Joann, Fox Haven currently wholesales their produce to restaurants and local food delivery service Hometown Harvest. Students were able to address questions related to their research and benefit from her extensive expertise.
The second half of our farm visit brought us to the farmhouse kitchen for a plant-based cooking lesson led by Lacey Walker, Community Garden Manager and Program Coordinator. Our class was greeted by a broad farm table spread with fresh produce, vegan cookbooks, and plant-based food products.
A bottle of locally-made digestive bitters was passed around which students were able to sample. Lacey explained the benefits of bitters to health and effective digestion. Students grimaced or thoughtfully pondered the complex flavor as we discussed the range of tastes in omnivorous and plant-based diets. Lacey’s background working in fine dining establishments such as Volt informed the experiences students were invited to share in Fox Haven’s kitchen.
Students were invited to assemble crostini using herbed Brazil nut cheese, spicy or regular sauerkraut, apple slices, watermelon rind pickles, and damson plum jam. After baking the crostini, the class could try dill water kefir, which had a surprisingly sweet and fruity flavor, and Holy Basil tea. Kefir is packed with beneficial probiotics, which have been linked to improved digestion, a strong immune system, and emotional well-being. Holy Basil is considered an adaptogenic herb that has a calming effect. Our plant-based snack was rounded out by greens cooked with avocado oil and herb-infused apple cider vinegar.
The final part of our visit to Fox Haven was a hands-on cooking lesson in sauerkraut-making led by Lacey. Students sliced, salted, and massaged cabbage while joking and chatting.
At the end of our visit, we drove off, our boots and college van muddied, our stomachs content, and our minds full of new ideas to ponder. And, we have a sauerkraut baby!
Fox Haven Organic Farm and Learning Center is an amazing resource in the community. They offer classes on cooking, foraging, yoga, meditation, and more, as well as seasonal events. Visit their webpage to learn more and find an event that interests you. It’s a beautiful place with warm and knowledgable people and one that shouldn’t be missed.