As someone whose passion for food came through farming, I am always trying to find ways back to the farm.
I started building Wilde Thyme at the end of 2016, and between building the truck, teaching myself on a steep learning curve how to run a small business, and operating the truck for half a year, I proactively planned in some time to reflect and relax after the whirlwind first season with the truck.
As part of that reflection and relaxation process I was interested in finding a way to incorporate 1) saying ‘hey’ to the sun mid-winter for survival purposes, 2) getting my hands dirty on a farm, and 3) trying a food I’d never had before. As it happens, I have a dear friend Luiza who is in her first year of starting a small business, a farm, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Luiza and I met 4 years ago on a farm in Argentina. We were both beginning farmers interested in learning about biointensive farming (a style of farming that maximizes the ratio of product to space through planting and fertilizing techniques, great for small or urban farms). We found friendship on a farm called CIESA outside of El Bólson. Between broken spanish, long hours weeding, and cold spring nights we became fast friends, and it felt easy reaching out to her despite the time and distance between when we last connected.
Luiza is starting a huge farming project on 14 hectares of newly acquired land. Luiza is developing her new farm by using agroforestry, or syntropic agriculture, practices she learned from Ernst Gotsch in Brasília. Agroforestry is a style of agriculture that emphasizes the cultivation and conservation of trees. It focuses on the importance of trees as a staple on the farm, and you build and design your farm around your intended forest. The diverse types of trees not only provide wood, fruit, nuts, and seeds but they also act as a base provider of shade and cut and drop compost. The trees are actively helping soil as well as dramatically changing the micro-climate of your farm, allowing you to plant more diverse produce in the rows at the base of your trees. For more information about this farming practice you can watch a short youtube video here.
Luiza and her partner João were in the beginning stages of their farm working largely on getting the details right in order to start up a long-standing sustainable farm. Aside from mapping out the property and discovering obstacles (like a dried riverbed!), they were collecting local seeds and clearing patches in order to start planting some of the slower-to-cultivate trees (like Açai and Mango).
It was an absolute pleasure to witness the start of this project, and I hope to continue to watch as their farm grows. Aside from the wealth of knowledge I gained about this farming practice, I appreciated the time I got to spend with Luiza, speaking broken languages, and eating too many mangoes in the hot sun talking about how hard and confusing and lonely it can feel to start a business based around something you’re passionate about. Despite our businesses being based in different countries, and focused on different stages of food development, and our different languages, we were able to fully understand the common experience we were sharing of starting something new and hard based on our shared passion and values for how food is cultivated and shared in our big world. And it’s moment like this, that a lone business owner doesn’t feel as lost or mystified about why she started a little truck in Baltimore.
And a note on Brazilian food- it’s diverse- because Brazil is huge! So it was hard to get a full grasp of all the country had to offer in just a few weeks. I focused on street food in Rio, state specialties that you were able to access in the city, and a few local ingredients that I had never heard of. I am continually in awe of how and what people sell on the street or out of mobile carts (or on foot!). I felt inspired to see the melting pot of cuisines as well as the traditional foods from across the entire country that you could access in Rio (so much of the world seems to have their version of a doughy street dumpling!). Some of what I saw and tasted directly influenced our spring menu (spinach and lamb Kibe, a Levantine dish made of bulgur, minced onions, and finely ground lean beef, lamb, goat, or camel meat with Middle Eastern spices, often baked as small pastries you could grab quickly just about anywhere), and other ideas will appear as specials or as part of our summer menu. For now, I will leave you with some documented highlights: