We're starting a little blog series to showcase our wonderful apprentices here at Swallowtail Farm. If you haven't had the pleasure to meet one of our fine 2016 apprentices, this will give you a quick glimpse at who these people are. First up, our one and only Emily Sylvestre. Make sure to say Hi to her when you see her at market.

1.  Where are you from?

Minneapolis, MN

2.  What are you most looking forward to as an apprentice at SF?

I am most looking forward to working with the bees, growing vegetables and flowers, and being a part of this amazing community of neat and kind people.

3.  If you could cross-breed two plants on the farm to make a dream food, what would they be?

If we could grow sunflowers that tasted like blueberries, I think that would be my ideal plant.

4.  Tell us something funny or unique about you?

I have an unfounded fear of buoys. When they cross my path while swimming I leave a wide berth.
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AuthorNoah Shitama
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Sometimes when people ask me what kinds of things I do in my free time here, I exaggerate my productivities, just by a little bit. “Oh, you know, I do laundry, read books, write in my journal, play guitar, email friends, clean my room, make collages, pick flowers, those kinds of things,” I’ll say, depicting a dreamy set of accomplishments that is not altogether untrue, but a tad bit of a stretch. (Especially the clean room part. Please do not fact-check that one.)

In reality, you can most frequently find me doing three things after five o’clock on the farm: 1. Writing in my journal (but actually), 2. Catching up on news & cultural happenings (I’m trying my damndest to stay in touch with the outside world, I swear) and 3. Going on a run.

I rarely admit to this third activity because I am embarrassed about it, because it’s kind of insane, because I work for nine-plus hours a day outside doing physical work. “You go running after farming?! Why?” people will ask when I admit to this act. Or, “How far do you go?”

“Oh, you know, anywhere between four and eight miles,” I’ll answer honestly. The conversation doesn’t get much further than this, as it becomes evident I am deranged. Even the cows seem to be judging me as I run past them, their eyes full of bewilderment, their postures wary. “Why is this bizarre creature sprinting in rainbow spandex and blasting dubstep through these dusty roads?” they seem to be questioning, right before they themselves begin to sprint in the opposite direction out of fear. Just kidding, I don’t sprint, I’m much more of a jaunter. A trotter. A runner who has just farmed all day.  

So why run? Because I need it. Before you cast me off as a running junkie, hear me out: Yes, I need it for mental health, just like any other addict out there; but I also need it for physical perspective. Running through rural Alachua provides me with a peace of mind as well as a clearer lens to view the little patch of land we call Swallowtail. The land around the farm here is beautiful – rolling green hills, old oak trees with Spanish moss tossing like a mop in the breeze, all that poetic jazz. It’s rich and lush and sometimes spooky and often filled with good scents, and the roads wind up and down, and it’s all very quiet. At times the sky opens up with roaring sunsets and I get to run beneath it, sneakers churning through white sandy roads glowing under the red and orange splay.

Whenever I explore this territory by foot, it gives me a newfound sense for just how strange our 30 acres of land must seem to others. This is rural America, of course – where each property contains singular commodities or themes. There’s a lot of pasture. A lot of cattle. Some trees. A few horses. There’s a Holly Factory that seems to be quite prolific. But mostly it’s mono-land, property that contains similar shapes and colors, greens and greens and cattle and greens. 

And then there’s Swallowtail. I'm not sure how to describe the difference here without sounding chauvinistic, and agrarian chauvinism is not my intention in the slightest, but it's a fact: It’s different here. There’s a lot for the senses to take in. Cows, chickens, sheep, pigs. Dogs, cats, kids, hippies. (Just kidding… kind of.) Rows of multi-colored plants like red oak lettuce, purple cabbage, orange calendulas, dill that almost looks blue when it’s covered in dew. There’s a lot to greet the eye. That’s what strikes me post-run; I return to a patch of land with contrasts, a home of many multitudes. 

“You must be in amazing shape,” my mom has said to me on the phone; we’ll be talking as I’m stretching, i.e. attempting to eradicate the incredible aches in my neck / shoulders / hamstrings / IT band / etc (the list could go on). “I guess so,” I’ll say uncertainly, wondering if my lower back will ever be the same. It is not easy on the body, this life. But I certainly am thankful to be active, to be eating fresh vegetables and eggs every day, to be outside, to have a life filled with movement. “Farmers work like dogs and live like kings,” Emily has reminded us. I have learned here that sometimes a good life is not necessarily an easy life. Thus I run.

the cows really do run away in fear which makes me feel both guilty and thrilled (i rarely intimidate other beings) 

the cows really do run away in fear which makes me feel both guilty and thrilled (i rarely intimidate other beings) 

who wouldn't want to run free through this wide-open sky? (photo taken right before it gets dark and scary)

who wouldn't want to run free through this wide-open sky? (photo taken right before it gets dark and scary)

just your friendly neighborhood horse on a foggy sunday morning

just your friendly neighborhood horse on a foggy sunday morning

here's a shot of the land across the street in the depths of january. the grass is always greener on the other side (though is it always all-natural on the other side?)...

here's a shot of the land across the street in the depths of january. the grass is always greener on the other side (though is it always all-natural on the other side?)...

it's not just the landscape that's multi-colored here. 

it's not just the landscape that's multi-colored here. 

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AuthorParis Achenbach
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Talented and imaginative Chef Chase Rossi, from Gainesville's notable restaurant The Top, was given the freedom to use Swallowtail's farm fresh vegetables and livestock to create a memorable culinary experience centered on the importance of local food culture and sustainable agriculture. For most, it is a rare occurrence when you're aware of the exact origins of your dinner, and experience the peace of mind it provides. Here at Swallowtail, we hope to close the gap between growers and consumers, and to provide attendees with rewarding opportunities to experience firsthand the origins of what we put on our plates.

Using Swallowtail’s produce and livestock, the following dishes were presented:

·         Light and creamy Napoli carrot cumin soup, finished with a dollop of mint yogurt and crushed pecans.

·         Fresh and beautifully colorful arugula salad, topped with cubed purple sweet potatoes, a thin sliver of French breakfast radish, feta crumbles, all tied together with a refreshingly sweet grapefruit basil vinaigrette and vibrant calendula petals.

·          Herb marinated grilled lamb skewers (cooked to a perfect medium rare), paired with a decadent cauliflower puree and balsamic braised Tuscan kale, perfected by a drizzle of fragrant Italian salsa verde. (A tempeh skewer substitute for vegetarian/vegan accommodations)

·         For dessert, guests were presented with a uniquely savory and sweet combination of coconut congee (Asian rice porridge), served with ginger macerated strawberries, toasted coconut, sprinkled with bitter-sweet cacao nibs.

The mixed variety of bread and cheeses featured were from the following local sources:

·  Big Cyrpress Bakery - Sourdough, olive loaf, fennel and raisin

·  Cypress Point Creamery - Flatwoods feta

We hope to welcome newcomers and previous attendees to our next Farm to Table, for more information of upcoming events, please follow us on Facebook or contact us at 352-327-1175.

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AuthorJessica Johnston