By EMILY RAMSEY
FARM LIFE: Guests to Living Kitchen Farm and Dairy take a tour of the farm, including its fruit and vegetable fields.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
I have never been one for country living. Actually, anything outdoors-y puts me quite far from my comfort zone. After about two outside hours, I head off in search of a clean bathroom, electricity and a comfy place to sit. None of those things, in my opinion, can be served by an outhouse, a tent or an ant-covered rock.
Not that I don’t love nature. I do. Truly.
I recently visited a friend who lives in a wooded area. I reveled in my afternoon with a glass of sangria and a good meal as I watched deer gallop through her backyard. I observed the trees stirring in the uncharacteristically cool summer breeze, deep green vines that had spread geometrically across an old stone wall, water glistening in the sunlight with its pitter-patter in the distance.
Try as we might, humans can’t create nature. It just exists, perfectly.
But let’s keep it at a slight distance, shall we?
Because my mind can’t deny that, along with nature, comes the inevitable ticks setting up camp on the deer, creepy-crawlies laying eggs in the trees, mice scurrying for food among the vines, and water moccasins hunting their prey in the pond.
Don’t even get me started on the dismay I feel when seeing chairs set around a natural water source and hammocks swinging from low-lying branches. Are those seats clean? How many cobwebs would I find on them?
And we can’t forget the hiding tarantulas and cockroaches.
That’s okay, they can have the chair.
I’ll just hover a few hundred feet away enveloped in bug spray.
It’s these truthful realities that make me gape at the individuals who, not just willingly but eagerly, traipse through a patch of turnips or a chicken coop with no concerns with what unexpected creature may be lurking there.
Lisa Becklund and Linda Ford are two such individuals. They run Living Kitchen Farm and Dairy, which sits on 400 acres in Depew, Okla. The farm is home to goats, cows, chickens, llamas, and fields as far as the eye can see to grow organic fruits and vegetables.
Becklund came to Oklahoma 10 years ago from Seattle, Wash. Born into a family of restauranteurs, Becklund continued in the family trade, attending culinary school and eventually opening her own restaurant, where she served as head chef.
A few years later, Becklund started purchasing food for her restaurant from farmer’s markets, soon finding herself yearning to learn how to grow her own food. For someone who couldn’t keep a house plant alive, though, that idea made Becklund slightly nervous, she admits.
However, after spending time at a friend’s farm in Oklahoma, she discovered in farming a real challenge that, “like a Rubik’s Cube, I didn’t want to put it down,” she says.
Becklund then traveled back to Seattle only long enough to leave her restaurant in the hands of her sous chef before returning to Oklahoma—this time for good.
“I already knew how to cook food,” she continues. “I was already thinking about it 24 hours a day; now I wanted to know how to grow it—I think growing your own food is the final frontier for a chef.”
She spent the first few years learning to operate a farm before starting to search for ways to expand her operations. Five years ago, she began hosting Farm Table Dinners. The six-course dinners, which run March through October, feature a specific ingredient or food interweaved into each dish, such as heirloom tomatoes, garlic, roses, strawberries and one of the most popular themes: lavender.
For her first ever Farm Table Dinner, Becklund served about double the expected amount of guests. And the popularity has continued. Many dinners, especially the ones featuring lavender, regularly sell out.
Farm Table Dinners do two very important things, says Becklund. During a pre-dinner tour of the farm, guests get to see exactly where their food comes from—“I find that people are hungry to connect with their food source,” she says.
Becklund and Ford also enjoy witnessing the outward change that occurs almost immediately after guests arrive. “Something happens when people come out here,” she says. “They calm down. We literally see them exhale.”
Something that only nature can provide.