Hello loyal readers. My name is Todd Heberlein and I am the new Chef at Volante Farms. I’ve been cooking for just over 20 years, with the last 9 at Wilson Farm in Lexington. I have been lucky enough to experience so many great people, kitchens, and meals, from cooking for the Emmys to cooking for my family. And all of this has led me here, to 292 Forest Street.
Since the beginning of my career, I have gravitated towards kitchens that focused on using fresh ingredients. I just don’t think I realized it at the time. Cutting my culinary teeth in some great restaurants in California, I saw menus change daily. If a farmer cut a new crop or the fisherman had a new catch, it was brought to the kitchen with great honor. As time went on, this seemed to be the right way to cook to me: using fresh, local food, seasonally. I even started my own gardens so I could enjoy the freshest ingredients when I cooked at home. I never would have guessed that when I was buying plants at Volante’s for my garden 10 years ago that I would become the chef. Now, as I enter my 10thyear of being a chef on a farm, I know I have found my calling and at Volante’s, a home.
As I sit here over my shiny box (that’s what I call my computer. Hey, I belong behind a stove, not a desk), my mind wanders to the possibilities ahead of me. Every edible crop grown here will pass through the kitchen at one point or another. I’m like a kid in a candy shop! This means that you, o’loyal patron, will have many ways to enjoy some of the best produce in New England. You’ll see dishes like Sweet Pea Ravioli with Spring Vegetables, Southwestern Corn Chowder, Heirloom Tomato Flatbread with Arugula Pesto, and Roasted Squash with Chestnuts and Caramelized onions, just to name a few. Each season will bring new inspiration. And just to tempt your taste buds, I plan on spending time sampling these new dishes so you get familiar with our prepared foods. But I won’t stop there! Down the road we will provide recipes of our new dishes so you can try them out on your own. We want you to enjoy our produce whether you cook it or you let us do it for you.
Looking for a great new deli and sandwich shop? Here we are! Not only will we carry everyone’s favorite, Boar’s Head meats and cheeses, but we will have a fantastic variety of Italian meats. We took on the daunting task of finding the best meats we could (ok, we loved every slice of it!) so you have plenty to choose from. This leads us to sandwiches, which are Steve’s real passion. We have come up with our list of sandwiches, our “Farm Standards”, and we think you will easily find your own favorite. Want to make up your own favorite? We will have a condiment list like no one else around. Who else can say they are using their own produce to offer you new ways to enjoy your lunch? And when we start our sandwich specials, be ready. We will dip into the same inspiration well to offer you local Beef Bulgogi with our own Brussel Sprout Kim Chi and Garam Masala Spiced Greens with Pumpkin Hummus on Warm Naan. Just want a simple turkey sandwich? Our pleasure.
“Ok” you say, “But what if I want a salad”? So glad you asked. Tired of the same old packaged salads? Questioning the freshness of the good old salad bar? Have we got a change for you! Introducing our build your own salad bar! We will have a selection of our favorites for you to choose from, but that’s just the beginning. You can come up to the salad bar and ask our salad whiz to make something really exciting from the large list of changing ingredients. Like I learned so many years ago in restaurants, a daily changing menu focusing on what’s best that day will yield the best results. Lettuces and other vegetables could change daily. If Lee brings in some beets one morning, they will be an option for you that day. If Ryan brings in the first-pick of green beans, well, you get the picture. And no processed dressings here with hard-to-pronounce ingredients. We will make them all from scratch. “But what will happen during the lean winter months?” you ask. We are dedicated to bringing you the best of what’s available then too.
Are you ready for the bakery? Yeah, me too. Don’t you just love the smell of freshly baked bread? What about the unmistakable sound of breaking off a piece of warm bread? There is nothing like it. We will be bringing in some of the best bakeries around to offer a little something for everyone. Got a sweet tooth (come on, don’t we all)? We have eaten cookie after cookie and pie after pie (at this point, you can tell we love our job) to procure treats to tempt even the finest palette. Gluten-free and vegan goodies will be available as well. Once we have our feet wet, we will be offering our own selection of baked goods to herald in the glorious spring, summer, and fall bounty that New England has to give. Think Rhubarb and Lavender Bread Pudding, Peach and Blueberry Tarts, and Spiced Pear Cakes. I can’t wait!
Aside from all of this, we still have a long list of goals to accomplish. To help to get to know you, I will be doing sampling and cooking demos in the store. From there we will start doing cooking classes, to give you some ideas on how to use our great produce. Finally, something near and dear to my heart: dinners in the field. We will create a menu using what is at its peak in the fields while you sit at elegant tables right at the center of it all. This is truly a great way to enjoy local at its core. Stay tuned for more information on all of these events. Who knows, maybe we will even ask some local chefs to have a friendly round of “Iron Chef” using a basket of our produce! Let us know what you think.
Thank you, weary reader, for making it this far. Who would have thought a chef was so full of hot air! Now I must ask of you one favor: please do not compare us to any supermarket or anything else remotely similar. We are truly unique and have so much more to offer. This family is committed to making your visit here a memorable experience, which is why I am proud to be here. Think of me as your personal chef, Needham. Need help with dinner? Head to the prepared food case. Have a cooking question? Come to our open kitchen and ask me. Want to know about upcoming new dishes? Just ask, that’s why I’m here. I’m ready to get cooking!
A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, so let’s get started!
and the place is starting to pop with life and color. While we have been updating you on our past, present, and future in our New @ 95 series the last several weeks, Spring at the farm has been coming along with speed.
The greenhouses are about half full. Pansies and violas are looking lush and starting to color up. The greenhouse crew has been transplanting impatiens, geraniums, and begonias this week and seeding peppers and eggplant. Most of our early spring hangers are planted and starting to branch out.
You might have noticed some green shoots popping up around your yard, crocuses are blooming around Needham now, and if you were able to plant some in the fall you might see the fruits of your labor soon. Or even better you took advantage of the trendy late fall pansy crop and put some Snow Angel pansies in your yard. With the mild weather I’ve had blooms straight through the winter at my house, though nothing as vibrant as the one here on the left.
The new farmstand is also coming together. We have slated March 31st as opening day, and it seems like we will be in right in the nick of time. This week we have taken advantage of the great weather and finished off some of the landscaping around the new building. filling planters with arborvitae and planting trees around the parking lot, which also got a fresh striping today. The gardens are getting a brand new irrigation system and a lot more lighting as part of the renovation too.
We have been moving in freezers, refrigerator cases, ovens, salad stations, and ice cream chests all week and starting to get a feel for the layout while finishing touches to the lighting and HVAC systems go on overhead. It is getting down to the details very quickly, with a chalkboard for the deli and tables and chairs arriving this week.
Speaking of the details, we should have a sneak peek at the menu very soon. Stay tuned here for that and more on other exciting new products soon to be available.
Don’t forget to follow our progress a little more closely you can catch us on Twitter @volantefarms, and get to know our new chef @VolanteFarmChef as he develops a whole new side to the farm you love.
Being a family-owned farm in Massachusetts, it has always been important for us to offer our community the freshest local produce on a daily basis. At times when the weather cooperates in the summer and fall, this task is easier. However, when poor weather, pests, or seasonal factors get in the way, accessing the best local products can become quite tricky. Through the nearly 100 years we’ve been in business, we’ve been fortunate enough to build some great relationships with many local partners, and we’re happy to share them with you. Whether we’re selling our homegrown produce to restaurants, purchasing other farmers’ produce, or we’re deciding which grocery products to carry, we’re constantly thinking about where the food is coming from and when that food was picked or packaged.
We work with a wonderful lineup of restaurants here in Needham. We sell our homegrown produce to Stone Hearth Pizza, Spiga Restaurant, Sweet Basil, Blue on Highland and Center Café on a regular basis throughout our growing season. The relationships we hold with these partners are important ones, and it is from creative cross-marketing that we both draw success. Throughout the summer, we invite each restaurant’s head chef to partake in cooking demonstrations with our produce. While each chef cooks up a tasty meal, they not only promote themselves and the restaurant they represent, but they promote the use of our homegrown produce. They provide a tasty example of why fresh ingredients make a huge difference in cooking. Year after year, these cooking demos prove to be very popular events at the farm for our customers. Of course, the free food doesn’t hurt either!
In addition to our connections with Needham restaurants, we also love to give back to the community. Tracy Firth from the organization Plant A Row for the Hungry is behind it all – she picks up donations from the farm three times a week and brings them to area food pantries. She has been at it since 2009 – sorting and weighing the produce, ensuring that each item is acceptable before loading each box into her car and delivering them personally. The donations consist largely of fruits and vegetables with minor imperfections that get taken off of the farmstand along with any bread that wasn’t sold the prior day. From June through October in 2011 alone, we donated over 8,400 pounds of fruits and veggies to local food pantries.
On Mondays and Wednesdays Tracy takes our donations to Rosie’s Place in Boston. Rosie’s serves approximately 1,250 women each month through their pantry and about 150 women and children each meal (lunch and dinner) seven days a week. That translates to about 109,500 meals per year. Each Friday Tracy splits our donation between the Norwood and Walpole food pantries. Norwood regularly serves 250 families and Walpole’s pantry serves 150 families. We are proud to be connected in this way to Rosie’s Place and the area food pantries, and we are forever grateful to Tracy for her relentless hard work. It is exciting to think of how much more we’ll be able to donate this year when we’re open year-round. Whatever we don’t use in our kitchen will be promptly donated to one of these stellar local organizations to help those around us.
In our greenhouses we grow a wide variety of plants for the home gardener. From annuals to vegetable plants to hangers to mixed patio pots, we have it all. While we grow a fair amount of the plants that leave our greenhouse ourselves, we also buy plants from various wholesalers in our community. Over time we have developed strong relationships with many of the growers in our area as we continue to cultivate new connections within the industry whenever we can. Some of our oldest growing friends are Cavicchio Greenhouses and J.P. Bartlett in Sudbury, D&D in Stow, Olson’s in Taunton, King Farms in Townsend, Standard Orchards in Hudson, J. Gilson Greenhouses in Groton, Berry’s Greenhouses in Medway, and Pioneer Farms in Walpole. In the past few years we have started new relationships with The Flower Hutch in Townsend, Atypical Farms in Norton, Glover Perennials in Cutchogue, NY and Judge’s Perennials in Old Lyme, CT. We get weekly plant deliveries from spring through fall which ensures that you’ll always find something new on our benches. We only accept the highest quality plants for your gardens and containers, so you can trust that the plants you buy from us will flourish. Now that we will remain open year-round, we are excited to explore new possibilities with what we can offer our customers from our greenhouses. With the help of our growing partners we hope to bring you the best variety and quality available in the area all year long!
Throughout the year we do business with many area farmers. Their years of expertise in sustainable farming practices allow us to stock our shelves with produce of the highest quality while continuing to preserve the environment. When we aren’t able to grow a crop due to space constrictions or simply the climate, the search begins for the best alternative. Usually that search ends on a small farm like ours that specializes in producing high-quality, great-tasting fruits and vegetables.
Since we don’t have enough space to grow our own tree fruit, we turn to expert farmers who have years of experience. For many years we have been working with multiple orchards that grow a wide variety of fresh apples, peaches, plums, nectarines, pears, and other tree fruit. Our peaches, nectarines, plums, and most of our apples come from Sunnycrest Orchards in Sterling. We also receive tree fruit from Brookdale Fruit Farms in Hollis, NH and Carlson Orchards out of Harvard, MA. Just like us, all the local orchards we buy from use Integrated Pest Management as the foundation of their sustainable farming plan. To learn more about IPM, click here to visit Ryan’s post from week four of our blog series.
In order to fill in gaps in our product offerings, we turn to our neighbors who specialize in growing specific crops. This past fall we started bringing in fresh and dried cranberries from The Berry Guys out of Carver. Throughout the summer and fall we are able to source delicious berries from Pell Farm in Somers, CT, winter squash and pumpkins from Araujo Farms in Dighton, and various other crops from Marini Farms in Ipswich and Verrill Farms in Concord. These farmers help us provide consistent, high-quality products for our customers all season long.
But we don’t just deal with local produce farmers. We have also developed great connections with dairy farmers throughout the state. High Lawn Farms milk, cream, and butter come to us from the western part of the state in Lee. Another western friend is Morning Beckons Farm which delivers fresh eggs from Uxbridge that we can’t keep on the shelves! Fresh mozzarella comes from Mozzarella House in Everett which sources all its milk and cream from local farmers.
We’ve had our own beehives on the farm for years – right at the base of blueberry hill at our home field. Because of the hives’ close proximity to our blueberry bushes, our honey always had delicious blueberry undertones. In the interest of our beloved bees, we had to relocate our hives during construction and were forced to look for alternatives. While we were sad to see our hives go temporarily, we found Reseska Apiaries out in Holliston that proved to be an outstanding source of honey. Thankfully, throughout last year we were able to continue to offer a delicious local honey with all its great health and allergy benefits.
I can’t wrap up this section without mentioning our fisherman friends at Cape Ann Fresh Catch in Gloucester. Their Community Supported Fishery (CSF) has become a booming success since its start in Needham last fall. If you’re interested (trust us, you’re interested!) just click here to check out their website and sign up to become a part of the tasty buzz. You simply can’t beat a homemade dinner with homegrown vegetables beside today’s fresh catch.
Aside from all of our locally-sourced produce offerings, we also offer a great selection of local baked goods and other grocery items. In our refrigerator case we have To Die For dips that come to us from Concord, and Dom’s Marinated Meats and Sausages that come from Malden. In the freezers we have more products that are made locally. We purchase tasty stuffed ravioli, tortellini, and pasta from Deano’s Pastacia in Somerville. All of the frosty dessert treats we sell are from local companies, too – Giovanna’s gelato and sorbet is made in small batches in Newton. Toscanini’s ice cream and sorbet comes from their shop in Cambridge, and Chilly Cow frozen custard is delivered fresh from Arlington. Since a scoop of ice cream goes best with pie, we also carry locally-crafted frozen pies and crisps to round out the perfect dessert! With our new farmstand, we’ll be scooping Crescent Ridge ice cream during the warmer months. This ice cream is a local favorite hailing from Sharon. We will also carry their half gallon tubs in our freezer along with our current icy treats!
There is no shortage of talented bakers in our area, but when we taste a product that we can’t live without, we want to share it with all of our customers! For years we have sold cookies from local bakers such as Effie’s Homemade in Hyde Park, Fancypants Baking Co. in Walpole, Lark’s Fine Foods in Essex, Boston Biscotti in Westwood, and the all-buttery Tate’s Bakeshop out of Southampton, NY. In addition to cookies, Ever So Humble Pie Company bakes delicious fruit and cream pies, whoopie pies, and cakes out of their Walpole location. Fudge and other sugary treats come from Eaton Farms Confectioners in Sutton, while Kathy Mahoney bakes her tasty butter cream biscuits in Natick which combine with our homegrown strawberries to make that perfect summer strawberry shortcake. As you can see, we have plenty of options to satisfy your local sweet tooth!
One item that has quickly grown in popularity is Amour Creation’s T’ART mix. This dry mix requires only a few ingredients and our fresh berries to make a simple, impressive fruit tart! It is made in Brookline and is often sampled out at the farm by its creator Linda. On a more savory note, Our Favorite salad dressings and barbecue sauces are made locally and pair nicely with a fresh mixed salad or sandwich.
And then there is bread. Fresh, crusty bread. In the past we have received daily shipments of bread from Nashoba Brook Bakery in Concord, Clearflour Bakery in Brookline and Iggy’s in Cambridge. We get traditional challah from Cheryl Anne’s in Brookline, and our newest addition is Susie’s challah which is baked right here in Needham! We are happy to share that we’ll also be baking our own bread in our new farm kitchen! That means you’ll be able to get all your favorite breads from the companies listed above, plus new choices as well.
In general, we will be able to sell many more local products since we’ll have more retail space. We will offer a selection of gluten-free, organic, and vegan bakery options in addition to more local breads and pastries. That’s not to mention the huge selection of unbelievably tasty homemade food from our farm kitchen and bakery – but there will be more on that in a later blog entry. We have also been hard at work scoping out the best sources for local meats and cheeses. Massachusetts and Maine dried beans are also on the list of new things to come. We will have a better variety of holiday and seasonal specialties as well.
We are proud to be involved in the community in so many different ways. Every aspect of our business has a local tie – the plants in our greenhouses, the produce in our coolers, the baked goods on our shelves, and even the places we donate to. It has always been our goal to offer the best products from the best sources in our area, and this new farmstand will provide us with a better location in which to display these products. In just a few short weeks you’ll be able to see for yourself the difference a little space can make.
We are thrilled to invite you to our Grand Opening on March 31st at 9am!