There was a lot of perks for me when I took the job as Executive Chef at Evening Star Cafe in Del Ray Alexandria, up in northern Virginia. The rooftop garden, the tight knit community (that I thank very much for welcoming me with open arms), free range, no pun intended, of menu creativity...pretty much all the things that every chef wants. But these perks weren't what sold me on the job. When I did my final interview I found out that the owner of the company I would soon work for not only had started several restaurants in the mid Atlantic, but had also started a non profit farm. This farm's name is "Arcadia center for sustainable food and agriculture", and it is a multi-faced marvel. I will only scratch the surface with what I describe to you, but over all this farm teaches veterans to become sustainable farmers, while educating children of the importance of preserving our resources, while bringing fresh produce into the inner city to help supply neighborhoods that will probably never see a farmers market.
So, once I found out that Arcadia existed and I knew an opportunity to be part of something that was bigger than myself and cooking existed...well no brainer, I immediately took the job. That was almost two years ago and since then I have gotten the chance to work with some of the vets and build relationships that I'm very fond of. Naturally the subject of foraging and mushroom growing has come up and it's an interest to one who enjoys the outdoors and even kinda grows plants (of any type...I'm looking at you DC). After a few meetings and walks, and a couple more meetings, a spot was selected and permission was given. Thursday my protegee Marc and I will mark out a rough trail to start a mushroom and forest farming teaching exhibit at Arcadia. As far as a mushroom cultivator I'm in my first years, but as an observer and collector I've been watching and studying them for well over a decade. Now I'm excited to try to mimic what nature does so effortlessly. So far I've had good success but failures are inevitable and I promise I'll tell you all about them. This will give me a chance to help educate the public on sustainable foraging practices and will give people a chance to find out more about what grows in their backyard....Discover your backyard!
What I'm really excited most about is several of the veteran farmers have expressed interest in learning about mushroom cultivation. As I mentioned I'm far from the expert in cultivation, but I will gladly share what knowledge I do have with them. Whether you believe in war or not these incredible folks have given part, most or all of their lives to make mine easier. I find it a privilege to be able to spend time with the vets and staff at Arcadia and help contribute a little of my passion to a truly good cause! I see great things on the horizon for Heritage Foraging and I'm excited to bring all of you on the adventure with me!