Over 100 years ago, Carnation Farms opened its gates and became one of the most prominent dairy production and genetic research facilities in the country. Although the 818-acre property has gone through various iterations over the course of its history, Rosy Smit, Director of Farm Based Education has opened a new and exciting chapter for the organic farm. Her team is inspiring people to live healthier lives through culinary workshops, garden tours, and farm-to-table dinners.
This month begins the Segis Prospect Supper Club series. Local chefs will visit the farm from August through October to create a true farm-to-table experience. Using fresh ingredients from the garden, dinner will be served outdoors at sunset while guests take part in the meal preparation. What better way to spend your evening?
Pieces of the Past
It's a beautiful, sunny day in Carnation, WA. and Rosy and I are driving through the grounds. There are 54 buildings on site (55 if you include the mobile chicken coop) all with iconic Carnation red roofs (or white with grey trim for non-agricultural buildings). The property has been preserved since 1899 and is in excellent condition.
"A lot of the buildings are historic and old but everything has been kept up really well," says Rosy. "The hay barn now has a climbing wall and basketball court. Things have been retrofitted. Moving ahead, we are trying to be innovative and keep pieces of the past. When Nestle bought the farm [in 1985], they built more lodging and a Purina dog kennel. The kennels are not in use right now but the garden center is in the old Friskies cattery building."
Inside the Hippodrome | Originally used for horse shows, the building can seat up to 500 people and is now used for weddings, conferences and other events.
The Great Lawn | An expansive lawn with lodging and a ropes course with wheelchair access to the right.
Segis Pieterje Prospect | The cow that started it all. For more information on the history of Carnation Farms, click here.
Inspiring Healthy Lives through Healthy Food
As we head into the kitchen, we meet with Executive Chef Kim. During the farm's grand opening in June, she offered culinary workshops on how to create healthier snacks for kids using primary ingredients from the garden. From gluten, dairy, egg, and soy free beet and garbanzo bean treats to protein balls made from seeds, sunbutter, and coconut (both of which I tried and were delicious), Chef Kim chooses recipes that are accessible to everyone and simple to make.
The kitchen, outfitted by Bargreen Ellingson, features a Carnation red floor, large dish pit, and ample storage for the 150 plants and produce growing in the garden needed to make the program a success.
"I head up a team to create programming around food system education, sustainable agriculture, organic production, and ecological education," says Rosy. "This year, we have a culinary gardener and I'm mentoring her and the garden team members so that next year they can grow things on their own. We have a really talented team. I have a masters degree in soil science and I always tell people I have dirt running in my veins because I was born and raised on a farm!"
Free Range Fun
In addition to the vast array of herbs, fruits, vegetables, flowers, and plants growing in the garden, the team recently adapted chickens (and some adorable kittens) into their program.
"We have 16 breeds of chickens and tried to choose ones that were really easy-going and docile. They are socialized and super-friendly so kids can interact with them" says Rosy. "I also have a rule with farm animals that they need to be utilitarian so 12 out of the 16 lay eggs of all colors to show diversity. We want to start slow and be successful with our animals because organic takes time and effort, and we want to make sure we are doing everything ethically production wise."
Patty, the smallest and the boss.
Making the Connection
As we enter the garden, the air is filled with the sweet smell of herbs and flowers. It's certainly an ideal spot for a farm-to-table dinner and a great place to connect people back to the origin of their food.
"Sitting beside your food, seeing where it comes from and how it's incorporated into the meal - it's almost therapeutic," says Rosy. "We try to create awareness around the food system. Farms grow varieties [of tomatoes] that you might not see in the conventional food system, and there are different flavor profiles that come with that. We have 19 varieties of tomatoes. Some chefs might like a lower acid tomato or if they're making sauce or soup they might want volume, so there's great potential to provide heirloom varieties that otherwise might not be accessible."
The educational component of the Segis Prospect dinners not only adds a fun twist to the evening in getting to meal prep with the chef but learning how to "identify raw food products and vegetables can really make an impact on your life," says Rosy.
Visit Carnation Farms at 28901 Northeast Carnation Farm Road, Carnation, WA.
All dinnerware for the farm-to-table dinners is provided by Bargreen Ellingson. Pictured below, third row, left - Rosy Smit. Fourth row, left - Southbend Ovens.