Welcome back to our Local blog... we have been really busy opening a restaurant and getting it up and running, but now we are finally able to get back to blogging about some of our favorite things! This month I want to introduce you to one of our favorite farms-- Ironwood Farm, situated on twenty acres just east of the Rio Grande and located in the South Valley of Albuquerque. The farm is run by Farmer & "Farmacist" Chris Altenbach and his family... they have owned the land since 1980. This farm goes above and beyond "typical organic practices"-- not only are they chemical-free, but they also use ecological methods and permaculture concepts that build soil health, integrate livestock and support native wildlife.
One thing we have been getting a lot of lately from Chris has been broccolini-- a hybrid vegetable developed by a Japanese seed company and first released in 1993. It's a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale, and it has a complex, slightly bitter flavor which goes really well with milder flavors like eggs, risotto and cheese. We are using it in our frittatas, along with a local, all natural italian pork sausage from Kyzer Farm-- for an article and video about broccolini and our frittata recipe, you can visit both Edible Magazine and the Albuquerque Journal.
Ironwood Farm provides my restaurant, Hartford Square, with wonderful produce almost year-round. They also take away our compostable kitchen scraps every week, which we love because we can't have a compost pile at the restaurant. Some of it gets fed to the pigs and some goes into their compost pile. Ironwood pays a lot of attention to its carbon footprint, and keeping everything local is a big part of that-- they source their supplies locally as much as possible, just like we do. The farmhouse is a straw bale structure powered by solar energy. The pump house and well are solar powered, too. The fields are irrigated on a regular basis by flooding from the old-school ditch system used throughout our north and south valleys. And there is an amazing rotation sequence going on all the time, where small farm buildings are moved around along with the crops, creating a way to renew and replenish each productive area.
A number of crops are grown or at least started indoors or under row covers, which also serves to lengthen the growing seasons for many of the crops-- that's how we can get arugula in February! There is a pool inside one of the greenhouses, where fish live and then help to fertilize the surrounding herbs and vegetables that grow right below it.
You can find Ironwood at the new Railyards Market, in the old Blacksmith shop off First St & Hazeldine SW on Sundays from now until November. Chris says it's been a while since they have done a market, but this one has been pretty successful for them so far. Maybe you can stop by and say "hi" the next time you go....
There are three generations of Altenbachs working this land-- Chris' dad is right next door and his young son and daughter help out quite a lot. His son gave me a tour of the farm and then went off to get the tractor back up and running, and his daughter often helps deliver our produce and carry away the compost scraps.
Thanks to places like Ironwood Farm, we can all feel REALLY good about where some of our food is coming from.