I and Me Farms, Mimi Edelman
Every farmer has a unique story says Mimi Edelman of I & Me Farms in Bedford Hills, NY. Hers included. Her story doesn’t venture far from her ancestry, her father and great grandfather were horticulturists and her grandfather bred dogs and horses. Her childhood was spent on the Greenwich Gold Coast on an estate tended by her father and grandfather. Being exposed early on to living with and through nature, eating what came from the land and the sea she jokes of TV dinners never eaten as a kid.
Destiny being what it is Mimi found herself at Cabbage Hill Farm where they are dedicated to the preservation of historic farm animals and the small farm. She stayed nine years there helping to foster farm based education, heritage poultry, cattle, pigs and sheep. The mission of Cabbage Hill Farm was to establish a self-sustaining farm, an edible education program with the likes of Stone Barns coming to them on a collaborative basis. Mimi’s background and passion was sure to have thrived there.
It was bound to happen that Mimi would start her own farm on an agriculturally nature preserved parcel of land owned by William Louis-Dreyfus. She began with an acre of land and has now grown to three cultivated acres.
Mimi started by opening up the land, letting it breath, and employing bio dynamic practices, utilizing the fertile soil and practicing the lessons learned by the peasants and taught by the calendar. Through spiritual philosophies and agricultural lessons learned, instinct, and dedication she hopes to become a vehicle of change. She believes small farming is a movement where you “humbly find your place in the living organism of the farm…”
Mimi has a grass roots sensibility believing that small, good works will create global awareness. She speaks of growing crops that have a story, ‘Ark of Taste’ vegetables. Ark of Taste is like the endangered animals list but instead it relates to produce, grains, fish, fruits and meats. She’s been quoted as saying:
“I have a Fish Pepper in my garden, it’s a little fickle and doesn’t have a great yield so along the way it gets passed over because it doesn’t have the predictability some farmers look for. But it has this great story about the seed that came over from Africa with the slaves to make the gruel that they were fed on the plantations more flavorful. It’s a wonderful story in that it also connected them back to their culinary traditions and culture. I love the idea of growing things that many people don’t necessarily choose.”
She’s thrilled that the Google Cultural Institute will soon include food to further many of these stories.
The secrets to her success are uncomplicated farm to table, in the truest sense not the diluted version it has become, collaboration between land owner and chef. She continually relates it to a marriage filled with trust, hard work, and shared philosophy. At first it was challenging, how does one solicit, but through advocacy, winter meetings to plan the spring growing season, farm tours, tastings, and events she has partnered with a limited number of chefs. They are each one in a thousand, she says, who are serious partners the likes of Chef Jay Lippin who is back in charge at Crabtree’s Kittle House, Chappaqua, NY. Mimi also cites the team at Restaurant North in Armonk, NY as supporters she’s grown along with since the beginnings of her farm.
Another secret to success is limiting the size of her farm. She has no intention of expanding and loves to be able to touch and visit every crop, every day. She is in touch with her land, she is able to recognize and react to changes. As an example she was able to isolate and remove a limited number of blighted plants off the farm and preserve the integrity of the rest of the crop. Its practices like these that continue her success but she has no illusions that she is in control of the elements.
She states quite eloquently that it takes a certain person to do this for a living. You either have it or you don’t. You must be comfortable being close with nature in its varying extremes. There is no romance on day five of a heat wave when you have to put on your boots and get outside in the fields. When asked if each farmer felt like there was “enough” to go round she was adamant in stating that even though there was common cause among farmers there was also struggle that must be overcome by increased awareness, education, and advocacy of the slow food movement. She is hopeful that all of the small good works will make a difference within our lifetime.
We very much enjoyed our discussion with Mimi Edelman and hope to watch her attain all of the lofty goals she’s set for herself through the alliances and collaborations she’s joining and fostering in Westchester and the Hudson Valley. Stay tuned, as we follow not only Mimi but her food as it reaches one of the most established farm to table kitchens in Westchester. We’ll be talking with Chef Jay Lippin at Kittle House for his take on the small farm, farm to table and what it means to him and how he’s working to utilize this precious commodity.