From the Ground Up – Buying Local in Connecticut

By C. Dennis Pierce

“Everyone loves fried chicken, Don’t ever make it. Ever. Buy it from a place that makes good fried chicken.”

Nora Ephron

As it is stated, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait a minute”. This week has given us record highs and record lows. Local gardeners and farmers are anxiously waiting for that first hard frost. Both want to get their garlic in the ground and nestle them with a blanket of straw while gardeners are in search of the best time to plant their bulbs just hoping that their monetary investment does better than the stock market and that the evil skunks, voles, mice, squirrels, chipmunks  and other creatures don’t ravish the crop before the flowers make their spring debut. 

This month I sought out a unique venture that has sprouted in Columbia, Connecticut. Before I share my exciting find I want to shed  some light on our history of buying locally. The roots of the “Farm to Fork” initiative stretch back to the 60’s and 70’s when consumers became increasingly dissatisfied with processed foods that they found bland. One of the first farm-to-table restaurants in America was opened by Chef Alice Waters who opened her restaurant in California in 1971. Her restaurant, Chez Panisse, featured fresh, locally grown ingredients as part of a seasonal menu. Waters was inspired by the sustainable community food movement she enjoyed when she lived in France. 

I had the honor of meeting Chef Waters at a conference at Yale . In 2001 Waters became interested in the culture of food at Yale when her daughter, Fanny Singer ‘05, joined Jonathan Edwards College as an undergraduate.  A conversation between Waters and Yale President, Richard Levin sparked the idea for an ambitious University undertaking: a project encompassing a sustainable dining program, a college farm, university composting, and increased education around food and agriculture. Driven by this ambitious vision, a steering committee of students, faculty, and staff tackled the dining program first, inaugurating a pilot project in Berkeley College’s (one of Yale’s twelve residential colleges) dining hall to serve all local, seasonal, and sustainable food. A group of students joined Joshua Viertel, the first director, to write a proposal to establish a campus farm. The proposal was approved by President Levin, and in the summer of 2003, the interns broke ground at the Yale Farm at 345 Edwards Street and ran a composting pilot to recycle waste from Yale’s dining halls. The conference that I attended, “Tilling the Soil; Turning the Tables” on Yale’s campus was attended by 170 people from 19 colleges and universities. And that my friend was the beginning of the Farm to Fork movement on college and university campuses.  

But now let me get back to a true local farm to fork initiative. Sure, local farmer’s markets and  Co-ops provide a cornucopia of fresh locally grown ingredients, but nothing stands close to the efforts of, “The GOOD Farm” located at 544, Route 87 in Columbia right down the road from Heartstone Winery. Jefferson Monroe and his wife Erin met  across the Vineyard Sound on New Year’s Day. After an 8-month courtship Erin moved onto the GOOD Farm where she and Jefferson weathered the pandemic with friends, fried foods, and farming. It started in 2021 when they found the farm in Columbia and they were able to purchase it from Walt and Nancy Tabor of Heartstone Winery. Erin has continued her lifelong passion for helping people as a Nurse Practitioner in the Hartford area while Jefferson spends his days raising animals and piloting the Twin Beaks trailer around northeastern Connecticut. So, you ask, what is the Twin Beaks trailer? That dear readers is the true “farm to fork” experience. The GOOD Farm pasture raises hundreds of chickens for the main purpose of becoming the best, gluten free (yes, gluten free) fried chicken that you have ever put into your mouth. My first experience was at the Andover’s farmers market this summer where Jefferson and Caroline Bayarsaihan, one of the members of the farm’s crew, let me experience culinary nirvana. At first glance when lifting the lid of the old fashion cardboard box the fragrance tempted me to jump right in but then upon my first glance I hesitated because the chicken did not look like Kentucky Fried. Adjusting my perception, I realized that because they are using potato flour to coat the chicken, thus making it gluten free, these savory morsels took on a whole different appearance. So, without hesitation I tore right into it,  and I can honestly say (having a culinary background) this is by far the best fried chicken that I have ever experienced in my life.     

Their website says it best: “Our culinary inspiration comes from the ground up – literally! We raise our animals with an eye towards their welfare and the carrying capacity of our land. What we sell grows out of that ethos and foods we love – many of our dishes were test run at employee meals for months before getting added to the menu. In fact, the idea of frying our delicious, farm raised chicken came from not one, but two separate employees before we even gave it a try. We strive to use flavors that complement our roots – that of our farm and the land we rest lightly upon.”

The concept of raising chickens and then offering the best fried chicken comes with a wry sense of humor and that is the name of their mobile offerings. Twin Beaks Fried Chicken combines some of their favorite things – barnyard puns, the mundane oddities of life and the (occasional) supernatural event or vision. They are  mostly just trying to have fun in a little old town called Twin Beaks, trying to get to the bottom of the mystery of:  “Who killed Leghorn Palmer?”, while serving and eclectic menu to delight the appetites of all. Since opening Twin Beaks Fried Chicken in 2023, the GOOD Farm has served their chicken, pork, lamb, and eggs as ready to eat takeout from their mobile/kitchen / trailer.  While they specialize in fried chicken, they love all of their delicious menu offerings. 

I hope at this point you are intrigued, anxious and hungry. The best place to find when Twin Beaks Fried Chicken will be visiting your town is to saunter down to their website and check out their master calendar, And that’s not all. If you still have not planned out your Thanksgiving dinner The Good Farm is still taking orders for their turkeys. GOOD Farm Connecticut Turkey Order Form 2023  is on their website under, “Where We Get Our Meats. They will be distributing their turkeys the week leading up to Thanksgiving so that your family can experience a delicious, pasture raised bird for the holiday. At this point I can go on and on but a recommend that you check out the GOOD Farm’s web site, to learn more about the history of their venture, Jefferson, and their full menu at Twin Beaks. Questions? Contact them at

Summer vegetables are waning. You  will be fortunate if you can still find a tomato at the farmer’s market and if you do grab it since it will soon be a collectors item or just a memory. But to try out the following recipe be on the lookout for fall chard. This tangy relish is a nice accompaniment  for pork, 

lamb, or a firm fish like swordfish. With its vinegar-soaked raisins it can be a substitute for cranberry relish if you double or triple the recipe.

Chard Stalk Relish With Pine Nuts & Raisins


1/3 of a cup of golden raisins, currants, dried cranberries, or regular raisins

2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons of water

¼ cup of pine nuts or slivered almonds

2 tablespoons of olive oil

½ cup of finely diced, red onion

A large pinch of red chili flakes or a small dried red chili, crumbled

½ teaspoon of minced garlic

Stalks from 1 large bunch of chard, preferably rainbow chard. Sliced ¼ inch thick and sauté until tender

Kosher salt


Place the raisins or dried fruit in a small bowl with the vinegar and water.

Let soak while to prepare the other ingredients

Place the nuts in a small frying pan over medium low heat. 

Toast, tossing occasionally until golden. Watch carefully as they burn easily.

Transfer to a plate and let cool.

Place 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.

Add onion and red chili flakes and sauté, stirring occasionally until the onion is tender.

Add the garlic, sliced chard stalks and cook for a few minutes.

Add a small splash of water, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the stalk are tender

Add raisins (or dried fruit) with their soaking liquid and bring to a simmer

Allow the liquid to cook off slightly

Remove from heat, stir in nuts and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season to taste with salt

Serve immediately or at room temperature.

If you hold the relish and serve later hold back the nuts and add them just before serving.  

I hope the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday provides you with the opportunity to gather with friends and family and maybe even dine on a turkey from the GOOD farm!

If you have a suggestion for a farm or a local grower or even a recipe that would feature a local ingredient, please let me know. I will do my best to share your suggestions in a future column.  Drop me a line at So, Peas be with you. Come celebrate with me and remember, every day is a holiday, and every meal is a banquet.  I’ll save you a seat at the table! 

From the Ground Up—Buying Local in Connecticut

By C. Dennis Pierce

The garden year has no beginning and no end. 

—Elizabeth Lawrence

The world of gardening is like drinking through a fire hose. You can never learn enough. For some time, I have considered myself somewhat of a gardener. Each growing season I had a simple relationship with the soil and I either introduced some seeds into my garden or, for lack of time and planning, relied on the local greenhouse’s “starter” plants. I watered and, when necessary, at least at first, weeded, until the weeds ruined my rapport with my plants. I would also load up with a spray mixture of Dawn dish soap and water as I engaged in a war against undesirable insects, often losing the battle. As the summer progressed, the only reward I hoped for was a few tomatoes and basil leaves to make the essence of a fresh summer salad.

If you read my column on a regular basis, you will recall that last fall I shared that I had signed up for the University of Connecticut’s Master Gardener program. Having retired, it was one of the many items that was on my “bucket list.” I applied in October, was accepted, and began classes in January. From January to May, I trekked up to Brooklyn every Friday for classes, only to find that what I thought I knew about gardening was pretty much nothing at all. Now it is September, and classes and volunteer hours have ended. Graduation will be in mid-October, and I will have successfully transitioned from what I call a “sprout” to a certified “permanent nametag holder”: Master Gardener.

You may ask, what is a Master Gardener? Certified Master Gardeners are members of the local community who take an active interest in lawns, trees, shrubs, flowers, and gardens. They are enthusiastic, willing to learn and to help others, and able to communicate with diverse groups of people that might have questions or challenges with their gardening activities. Master Gardeners receive extensive training and then provide information to the public via phone or email helplines, speak at public events, write articles for publications and the internet, and partner with other community programs, gardens, and educational facilities. The label Master Gardener isn’t simply a designation for someone who is good at gardening, but rather a specific title achieved through skill, hard work, and a passion for people. It is a designation overseen by the U.S. government and land-grant universities. Many universities offer Master Gardener programs through the Cooperative Extension System of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Master Gardeners are distinguished by two main traits:

  • A commitment to being a community resource for gardening knowledge as well as a desire to teach and mentor other gardeners
  • A dedication to volunteering and community service

Applications have opened for UConn’s 2024 edition of its Extension Master Gardener program, which blends educational instruction and hands-on volunteer work to instruct participants in the art of horticulture. The deadline for applications is Oct. 13, 2023, and formal instruction will begin on Jan. 8, 2024. The university has a long history of education through the Master Gardener program. It has been taught throughout Connecticut since 1978, at locations including Stamford, Norwich, Torrington, New Haven, and Brooklyn. Online, the UConn Extension Master Gardener program continues to engage individuals of all skill levels in the process of gardening. Participants do not just learn to build their own gardens but are also given a critical opportunity to spread their knowledge and enthusiasm with would-be gardeners and perform community outreach. The application and further details can be found at the official UConn Master Gardener website,, which also provides valuable resources and information on Advanced Master Gardener classes. 

While my experience was worth the effort, potential interns should be aware of the time commitment. To become a Certified Master Gardener, you must complete a 16-week course that meets once a week from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., starting in January and running through April. Individuals enrolled in the program receive training in botany, plant pathology, soils, entomology, pesticide safety, integrated pest management (IPM), woody ornamentals, herbaceous ornamentals, vegetables, tree and small fruits, turf grass, invasive plants, weeds, water quality, environmental factors affecting plant growth, and diagnostic techniques for the home gardener. 

Following formal classroom instruction, you will complete a 60-hour internship program. Thirty hours are dedicated to hands-on training in the Extension offices, where interns are supervised in researching and determining the answers to a broad range of horticultural questions, including insect and plant identification, diagnosing plant diseases, and providing sound horticultural recommendations. The remaining 30 hours are devoted to organized community outreach projects. Internships include plant clinics, educational displays at local county fairs and farmers markets, presentation of educational lectures, and working in demonstration gardens. During this past year, I have volunteered with the Friends of Goodwin Forest, maintained information tables at various events such as the Coventry and Andover farmers markets and the Lebanon and Woodstock fairs. In mid-October I will participate in the “graduation” ceremony, where I will receive a certificate and name badge officially verifying my achievements as a University of Connecticut–certified Master Gardener.

In the end, you might ask, was it all worth it? The guy who thought he knew enough to grow a tomato plant realized he was only scraping the surface. This may sound corny, but in a biblical sense the scales fell from my eyes, and I now have a different perspective on the nature that surrounds me. I have a better understanding of the plants, trees, and shrubs in my yard that I took for granted, how they rely on each other and the challenges they encounter, and how the ecological system that surrounds me survives. So, if you ever had the inclination to obtain the certification, do so now. As mentioned above, the application deadline for this year is October 13. 

 No time to commit, but you are an avid gardener? Remember that whenever you encounter a gardening issue, you can email the Master Gardener program and you will receive a response that will help you in your time of need. And best of all, it is a free service brought to you by UConn’s Master Gardener program and Extension offices:


Some of you may be putting your garden to bed, others may still have a lot of squash as a result of a successful production season. On the culinary side, we have a tendency to move to preparing thicker soups, such as a bisque, this time of year. These tend to be a hearty, smooth and richly flavored earthy soups, such as the pureed butternut squash soup described below:

Curried Butternut Squash Bisque

Serves 6 to 8

Preheat oven to 350 degrees


1 medium butternut squash (about 1¾ lb.)

1 tablespoon butter

¾ cup finely chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1 large cooking apple, such as a Cortland or McIntosh, peeled, cored, and chopped into ¼-inch pieces

1 teaspoon curry powder, or more to taste

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon tomato paste

½ cup half and half

1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves or 1/ teaspoon dried sage

salt and pepper to taste

whole sage leaves for garnish


Wrap the squash in aluminum foil and bake for 1½ hours or until squeezable in the center.

Remove and when cool enough to handle, remove seeds, scoop out pulp, and set pulp aside.

Melt butter in a large pot.

Add onions, garlic, and apple and cook over low heat until mixture is soft, about 10 minutes.

Add curry, nutmeg, and flour and stir until flour is mixed in.

Add this mixture, squash, and 1 cup of broth to a food processor and puree.

Return mixture to the pot and add tomato paste, half and half, minced sage, the remaining 3 cups of broth, and salt and pepper to taste.

Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until beginning to boil.

Serve in pre-heated bowls with a garnish of whole sage leaves.

Preparing a homemade soup is a process. Unlike the convenience of opening a can and reheating the contents, each step is an effort that involves all of your senses and the result is a unique experience that is one of life’s pleasures. There is nothing extraneous in any of the actions. That is what is called living. Life requires time and effort. If we eliminate time and effort, we eliminate life’s pleasures. Enjoy the processes in life, and every so often experience the flip side of convenience.

Lastly, I leave you with a poem by Robert Frost that is so suited as we approach the season of autumn.


O hushed October morning mild,

Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;

Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,

Should waste them all.

The crows above the forest call;

Tomorrow they may form and go.

O hushed October morning mild,

Begin the hours of this day slow.

Make the day seem to us less brief.

Hearts not averse to being beguiled,

Beguile us in the way you know.

Release one leaf at break of day;

At noon release another leaf;

One from our trees, one far away.

Retard the sun with gentle mist;

Enchant the land with amethyst.

Slow, slow!

For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,

Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,

Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—

For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

If you have a suggestion for a farm or a local grower or even a recipe that features a local ingredient, please let me know. I will do my best to share your suggestions in a future column. Drop me a line at Peas be with you. Come celebrate with me and remember, every day is a holiday, and every meal is a banquet. I’ll save you a seat at the table! 

Caption: John Lorusso, Erica DuPlessis, and Katie Wilcock.

C. Dennis Pierce

“I learned long ago never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”

George Bernard Shaw

There are times in your life when the unexpected turns your life around. Tom and Kyla Satkowski, current owners of East Willow Farm in Columbia, were living in Berlin and then Amston, Connecticut and were slowly outgrowing their residence and were in search of a larger piece of property. They had engaged a realtor who had introduced them to several options, however these were not quite right. Finally running out of viable options an opportunity arrived to visit a farm in Columbia. On the day of their visit, they were met by the current owner and to Tom’s surprise it was an old classmate who he had not seen in many years. The farm had hundreds of apple trees and Tom’s classmate, who was a former chef on the Cape, had come to conclusion that farming was not a career that was practical for him, and he offered Tom and Kyla a deal that they could not refuse.  So, that all took place a few years ago, and now, several years later, Tom and Kyla have created a “one stop” shop farm that continues to take Columbia by storm. 

Over the years while driving up Route 66, heading out of Columbia proper, while heading to Hebron, I have passed the farm sign on numerous occasions but never took the opportunity to stop in. If you are familiar with the area the entrance to East Willow Farm is right after the park and ride parking lot on Route 66. Visiting the farm, I was welcomed by an inviting avenue of trees that lined the road leading to the farm. While it was a warm day back in Mansfield, I was surprised to feel a fall-like breeze which brought a comforting coolness to the air. At the end of the road there was plenty of parking and a well-appointed farm store. Let me correct that. The “well appointed” description does not do it justice. 

Perhaps this is the best place to stop and explain a trend that I see local farmers are adopting. If you look back many years ago our state only hosted a few farmer’s markets. Now, most towns have a seasonal market that offers a wide variety of local fresh options. The farmers that are present at the market must spend a lot of time and energy to prepare for the market, load their trucks, set up and then tear down and subsequently unload, always hoping that the weather is conducive, and the market has a lot of customers that are interested in purchasing the farmer’s offerings. The trend I mentioned earlier is that some farms are finding that the markets are not the best opportunity and subsequently have created farm stands on their own farms. In essence some of the local farms have almost made a 360-degree change back to what it was in the early days.

Now, let me take you back to Tom and Kyla’s, East Willow Farm. Gone are the apple trees except for a few left standing while the land makes way for berry bushes and a field for the chicken tractors. You ask what is a chicken tractor?  A chicken tractor is a movable chicken coop lacking a floor. Chicken tractors allow free range feeding along with a shelter, this allows chickens fresh forage such as grass, weeds, and bugs, which widens their diet and lowers their traditional feed needs. Unlike fixed coops, chicken tractors do not have floors so there is no need to clean them out. They support a natural, symbiotic cycle of foraging through which the birds eat down the vegetation, deposit fertilizing manure, then go on to a new area. Tom moves their “tractors” daily, so the chickens are always foraging in a new area. 

Adjacent to the parking area is a greenhouse that provides an area to start the farm’s vegetable plants as well as providing starter plants for sale to the farm’s customers. The farm grows a variety of vegetables, raise pigs, chickens and soon turkeys as they prepare for Thanksgiving. While their produce is not certified organic, they do use organic practices and do not use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. The farm also has a small apiary that is used to help pollinate their gardens. Tom and Kyla operating a farm has become a labor of love and devotion. They started this farm because they found something worth sharing right in their own backyard. 

As the responsibilities are divided up Tom takes care of the gardens and livestock, and Kyla operates the well-supplied farm store. Their two children are right alongside them pitching in whenever they can. Now their farm store is not an ordinary store since they sell their own meat offerings, eggs, candles that are made by Kyla and extensive line of locally sourced dairy, honey, and bakery items.  

Back to the farm activities, Tom makes sure that the farm provides a stress-free setting for their animals. Tom has experimented with various strains of pigs in order achieve a hybrid vigor, the best attributes of various pig species combined. The farm’s pigs are pasture raised and they move from paddock to paddock as they go about clearing the land. Tom refers to them as his “construction workers”. Were they happy pigs? I can honestly say when I was taking a photo, I swear I saw some of them smiling. 

So why does East Willow Farm operate with such a caring philosophy? Because their initiative supports healthier and happier animals that are raised ethically in open pastures, animals that deserve to be fed what they are meant to eat. The farm’s efforts builds a stronger community which consists of the customers who wants to take back their control of the food they purchase, cook and eat in order to ensure a long term health and happiness for their friends and families. Lastly, the farm’s efforts are part of the overall stewardship of the soil since it is one of our most vital resources.

Here is a recipe to try out utilizing East Willow’ prized pork:

Maple Glazed Pork Chops with Roasted Corn Relish

Serves: 4 

Prepare Corn Relish prior to cooking chops on grill. You can make glaze prior to making corn relish. You might want to place dishes or serving dish, if you are using one dish to serve from in a warm oven ahead of time.

Maple Glaze / Pork Chops


6 tablespoons of maple syrup

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Freshly ground pepper

4, thick sliced pork chops


Combine maple syrup and vinegar in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat.

Simmer until reduced by half and just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. About 4 to 5 minutes.

Season with several grindings of fresh pepper and set aside.

Pre heat grill to medium high

Oil the grill rack with an oil spray.

Place pork chops on grill for a few minutes and then turn over and do the other side. This should have made grill marks on the chops.

Brush maple glaze on one side of pork chops and then turn the chops over and do the other side.

Cook until the internal temperature is 145 degrees.

Roasted Corn Relish


4 ounces of thick bacon diced.

½ cup of finely chopped red onion

3 scallions, white and light green parts coarsely chopped.

2 cups of fresh corn kernels (from about 4 ears). Substitute frozen if necessary.

6 tablespoons of maple syrup

1 red or orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeds removed and diced.

2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.


Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp.

Drain all but 1 teaspoon of fat from the pan.

Add onion and sauté until lightly cooked.

Stir in the scallions, corn, and bell pepper.

Raise the heat and add balsamic vinegar.

Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits.

Sauté over high heat, stirring constantly until vegetables are warmed but barely cooked, one to two minutes.

Remove from heat and season with salt & pepper.

When pork chops are done gently reheat corn mixture by either returning it to the stove or placing it briefly in the microwave.

Place corn mixture on plates and place pork chops on top of corn mixture. 

I would highly recommend stopping by East Willow Farm in Columbia. They are open Tuesday through Friday from 10:00am to 5:00pm and Saturday and Sunday from 9:00am to 4:00pm. I would suggest a visit not only because of the variety of options they offer but because their farm meats and their farming philosophy make this farm differ from others. Pasture raising their animals is an extremely rewarding process for them.  It’s a way to connect their animals with the earth in a healthy and stress-free environment.  When they can almost eliminate some grains and introduce high quality grasses and nutrient rich soils, their efforts produces an amazing tasting meat.  When grains are being used for their livestock, they are purchased with a specific diet mix from a farm in Scotland.  

​ When animals can roam free, it generates more oxygen in their bloodstream and creates what’s called myoglobin.  Myoglobin is a mixture of water and proteins, which move oxygen to muscle cells.  You will find their pork is of a finer quality than store bought.  You will also taste the difference in their chicken. Since they are pastured raised it is a tender and more favorable meat like no other. Interested in being part of their meat CSA? You can join anytime during the year. Their CSA runs in 6 moth increments. Pick-ups are the first Saturday of each month during normal store hours. For more information give them a call.  East Willow Farm’s phone number is 860.538.2747. They also host a Facebook page at 

If you have a suggestion for a farm or a local grower or even a recipe that would feature a local ingredient, please let me know. I will do my best to share your suggestions in a future column.  Drop me a line at So, Peas be with you. Come celebrate with me and remember, every day is a holiday, and every meal is a banquet.  I’ll save you a seat at the table!

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November  2023 Issue

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