What’s Germinating At Plantin’ Seeds? Farmers, Friends, Food
Brandon Scimeca preparing a Friday night bread and soup dinner.
By Lisa Green
It’s both refreshing and a little frustrating when an organization’s creators can’t deliver a definitive answer when you ask about their mission statement.
“We’re not sure what we are,” says Dale McDonald, when I ask her what the Plantin’ Seeds Farm Kitchen is all about. “It’s not a normal concept in any form.”
Perhaps, then, it’s helpful to look at this farming-focused venture in Canaan, Conn. by parsing out what it isn’t, with caveats. It’s not a restaurant — but it serves sublime farm-plate meals Friday through Sunday. It’s not a community center — but it holds lectures, classes and discussion groups. It’s not a market — but its mini grocery vends locally produced beans, grains, maple syrup, honey and coffee.
Plantin’ Seeds grew out of the conversations McDonald initiated with farmers after she bought Poms Cabin Farm in Falls Village, Conn. A former options trader, she had many questions about working the land, and invited local farmers to her dining room table to talk about ag issues. Caring deeply about food and farming, she wanted to bring the community into the conversation to — according to its Facebook page’s description — “explore and cultivate the culture of food, farming and farmers for benefit of the land.”
Photo courtesy of Plantin’ Seeds.
She found a storefront on Main and Railroad Streets, installed a gleaming commercial kitchen, and fashioned a cozy, homespun dining room that would inspire convivial gatherings. She called in a former farm manager, Tracy Hayhurst (lately of Chubby Bunny Farm) and a chef, Brandon Scimeca (formerly of Morgan’s at the Interlaken Inn) to cook and run the programs.
“It’s clear to me that we’re of the land, not on the land,” McDonald says. “Plantin’ Seeds is a holding space for the seeds of ideas. We’re all a part of the system and this is a place where we can raise awareness for farmers and provide a location where they can talk to each other and where people who care about these issues can get in on the conversation.”
In just over a year, the organization (funded by McDonald until it receives its nonprofit status) has managed to program an impressive calendar of activities. Workshops have covered eating whole foods, edible foraging and pie baking. Once a week, Plantin’ Seeds invites farmers to the kitchen and serves them a well-deserved meal, allowing them rare time to get together.
And then there are the breakfasts, brunches and dinners. Friday nights are bread and soup nights (one recent menu featured Korean-inspired broth with rice noodles, kimchi, poached egg, scallions, mushrooms, and pickled turnips with a choice of wild white shrimp or tempeh, plus homemade sourdough bread and dessert). On Saturday, there’s a farm plate meal inspired by the season’s bounty; Sunday features a vegan brunch. All of the ingredients are from local farms, of course. And here’s another reason it’s not called a restaurant: there’s no charge — all meals are by donation.
A recent Sunday plant-based brunch cheffed by Tracy Hayhurst: tartine with smashed carrots and side of green, pumpkin soup with orange and thyme, and gingerbread with pear granita. Photo by Tracy Hayhurst.
Diners can watch Hayhurst and Scimeca do their magic through the large kitchen window, but the two are the servers as well as the cooks. Bringing out the plates gives them an opportunity to spur talk about the food — and where it comes from — among the guests.
Also available at these times are the grocery items, which are offered to supplement what’s for sale at the local farmers market. They are sold at cost, with all of the proceeds going directly to the growers. Some of the dining room cupboard shelves are stocked with cookbooks by local authors and other food-related items.
Plantin’ Seeds is still germinating, and McDonald says she wants to know what people are interested in exploring.
Scimeca echoes the spirit of the open-ended project. “We’re excited about where we’re at, and where we’re going,” he says. “It’s about dreaming what we can be and seeing where it can lead.”
Plantin’ Seeds Farm Kitchen
99 Main St., Canaan, CT
Friday 5-8 p.m.
Saturday 8 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
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