Dave's farm: Get the 'best' in town
Judging by his history, Dave Matthews would make an unlikely organic farmer.
"Brad and I used to stuff bad pizza and bad beer down our throats and fix ourselves a Pepto-Bismol chaser," he told Food & Wine Magazine last October, describing his and his friend Brad McCarthy's eating habits when they were bartending. (McCarthy now runs Matthews' Blenheim Vineyards.) Things didn't get much better when Matthews got a band together and hit the road. Back then, he said, dinner meant "microwavable hamburgers at the Quik Stop."
Of course, now that the former bartender hauls in an estimated $20 million a year, things are a little different. Like being able to buy 1,260 acres near Scottsville, start an organic farm, and name it after one of his songs.
Still, the transition from Quik Stops to his own Best of What's Around Farm involved a change of heart nearly everyone can relate to.
"What I learned from Farm Aid," Matthews told Food & Wine, "was this very unhealthy way that big farms work, this mass farming, this poisoning of the land. So I started looking for good foods, whole foods."
So thanks to Farm Aid founders Willie Nelson and Friends, Matthews' good fortune is about to become good news for local veggie lovers.
Starting in April, Best of What's Around will deliver fresh organic vegetables, flowers, and herbs to people who sign up for their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. CSA is a nationwide movement that provides farm produce to people who pledge financial support– and a little physical labor– to a local farm in advance.
The Best of What's Around program costs $675 plus two hours of labor for the season– April to November (or the first killing frost). That buys a bushel basket (enough to feed a family of four for a week) of veggies, herbs, and flowers (raspberries and strawberries, too, when they're in season) every week. Pickup is available at one of several drop spots around town or at the farm.
Half shares cost $375 for half a bushel (enough to feed two people) a week, and the farm will subtract $300 for folks willing to work at the farm two hours a week throughout the growing season.
According to What's Around farm manager Keith Dix, that's quite a deal.
"One of the reasons why people don't sign up for this program a second year," says Dix, "is that they get too much food." Indeed, Dix says that What's Around will offer 50 different kinds of vegetables and herbs, including broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower in the spring; peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, and chard in the summer; and squash and pumpkins in the fall. They'll even throw in some fresh flowers!
Obviously, not everyone might know what to do with three eggplants and an armful of okra every week. Still, Dix thinks it's a good thing.
"It challenges folks to use vegetables, because you get so much," he says. Dix, who took over as farm manager in the fall, has been farming organically for 20 years on his own farm in Nelson County.
In addition the its CSA program, Best of What's Around is opening a farm store this summer and starting an intensive eight-month internship program for young organic agriculturists. They also have several orchards growing, says Dix, but it will be a few years before they begin to produce.
The Dave posed with a pair of bovine friends last fall amid his celebration by Food & Wine as "the wine world's #1 rock star."
PHOTO BY DAVE MCNAIR