In the earl 1990s, Alison and her husband Paul received one of the first Kentucky organic certifications for their Au Naturel Farm near Mammoth Cave. They then piloted the use of high tunnels -- unheated hoop-style greenhouses -- for winter salad vegetable production.
Alison said a University of Kentucky professor, Dr. Emery Emmert, developed the technique in the 1940s and 1950s, and then Kentucky growers pretty much forgot about Dr. Emmert's discoveries. Alison also credited Eliot Coleman of Maine's Four Season Farm, who has written several books on winter vegetable production and organic farming, some of them with his wife, Barbara Damrosch, who writes a weekly column, A Cook's Garden, for the Washington Post. Eliot Coleman's most recent book is The Winter Harvest Handbook.
The Wiedigers, whose first high tunnel came from the garden section at Wal-Mart, now are national experts on high tunnels. They have written Walking to Spring, a book about using high tunnels to grow food year round, and lead workshops on the topic around the country.
In 2009, central Kentucky has no high tunnel winter greens producer. Alison pointed out to the potential farmers present that although farming never makes one right -- people farm, she says, "because they can't NOT farm" -- the winter vegetable production and local sales are the most profitable part of Au Naturel's business.
I doubt Alison got to eat anything during the Cornbread Supper, although some tomatoes from her farm showed up at the table in a beautiful caprese-style salad. Here's some of what Alison missed eating, according to the dish descriptions left behind:
- Corn fritters w/honey
- Pesto walnut salad w/tomatoes, feta & olives
- Homemade wild blackberry ice cream
- Beer Bread
- Organic stir fry
- White Chicken Chili
- Whole Wheat & Oat Choc. Chip & Almonds (also butter & eggs)
- Weisenberger Cheese Grits with Candy Onions & Kenny's Asiago Cheese
- Bacon-Corn-Leek-Shallot-Candy Onion-Garlic-Parmesan Cornbread