by Anne Obelnicki, Chefs Collaborative RAFT Grow-Out Coordinator
Like most Tuesdays, I was working from home yesterday. At lunchtime I took my two dogs out for a quick stroll around the three wooded acres where we live. When we approached my tiny patch of sunlit garden nestled among the trees, I was surprised to see something that definitely hadn’t been there the day before: Five little Marfax bean seedlings had broken through their covering of compost, still bean-capped, leafless and bent over, they were nevertheless making their way towards the sun. I’ve been gardening for years, and I love it, but I surprised even myself with the childish glee with which I observed the seedlings. There is a reason there are so many cliché sayings about planting seeds. I could suddenly see my whole bean-filled summer garden unfolding before my eyes, and I had equally vivid images of my bean-filled belly come harvest-time this fall!
All over New England, this little bean miracle is playing out on a much larger scale than in my tiny garden. Marfax beans are one of the sixteen varieties of heirloom vegetables we’ve asked twenty-eight farmers in the Providence, Portsmouth, and Boston areas to grow for the RAFT (Renewing America’s Food Traditions) Grow-Out project Chefs Collaborative is piloting this year. When their much larger fields of Marfax beans are mature, we have thirty-five chefs lined up, eager to buy, feature and promote them on their menus. At Chefs Collaborative, we hope that the community building we’re promoting during the Grow-Out establishes connections between farmers and chefs that grow beyond the bounds of the project. But community building will not be the only source of interesting connections to come out of this project; growing Marfax beans establishes a significant connection between all the participants and the rich agricultural history of New England.