Cooking Fresh from the Farm
Sandra Broussard can’t remember the last time she went into a grocery store.
“I don’t eat processed or packaged food anymore,” she says.
That wasn’t always the case. Fourteen years ago, when she didn’t land a full-time teaching job at the start of the school year, she was made an offer by Bill Brammer, the owner of Be Wise Ranch, Inc. in Santa Fe Valley—about eight miles east of San Diego. He offered Broussard, who had been working part-time at his farmstand, a full-time job in sales. Broussard was puzzled.
“I knew nothing about farming and nothing about sales,” she admits. But Brammer and his wife recognized Broussard’s intelligence and strong work ethic and took a chance on her. “Bill taught me everything,” Broussard says. “I kind of learned by trial and error, by spending time with him, with people in the fields, with buyers, [at] stores.”
A self-proclaimed “take charge kind of person,” Broussard soon learned everything she could about the farm, which has been producing certified organic produce since 1977. Today, she is the director of sales and operations. She oversees the daily operations for over 100 employees, as well as the sales both locally and nationally to stores and distributors such as Ramona Family Naturals, Jimbo’s Naturally, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods Market.
Broussard also supervises the ranch’s community supported agriculture (CSA) program with over 2,500 members. Despite its large size, Broussard says they have stayed true to the tenets of a CSA. “My idea of a CSA program is buying from a farm that grows at least 90 percent of the produce in the box. We’re still old-school like that.” Relationships are integral to their success as well. “We do PayPal and checks, no credit cards,” explains Broussard. “We want that personal connection with people, with more face-to-face interactions and phone conversations.”
It is personal connections with farmers and ranchers that have helped shape Broussard’s food philosophy. “I’ve built really good relationships with farmers and ranchers, and it’s changed how I buy food and prepare food at home. I get everything—my produce, my eggs, my sheep’s milk—from farmers and ranchers I know,” she says proudly.
She has also mastered homesteading skills ranging from canning and pickling to yogurt and cheesemaking. “I want to know what’s going into my food,” says Broussard. “Where did my sheep’s milk come from? When I make my sauce, where are the herbs from? I know that buying local and seasonal means the food is the best it can be for me and my family.”
Broussard hopes to inspire others to purchase and cook with locally sourced, seasonal foods that are not only tastier and healthier but also reduce our collective carbon footprint.
“People can start out small,” she recommends. “Try making your own ricotta cheese, which is really easy. Do it for a while. Then maybe change out plastic products in your cabinets and replace them with glass. Sign up for a CSA box. Sign up for a local class through the Berry Good Food Foundation or at Be Wise Ranch.” (The ranch has offered classes on topics such as fermentation and cold-pack canning.)
Broussard, however, has one request: “The only thing we ask is that once you learn, you pass that on to someone else.”
For more information about Be Wise Ranch, Inc., its CSA program, and its upcoming classes, please visit bewiseranch.com.
Apple Fennel Salad with Walnuts
- ¼ cup chopped shallots
- ¼ cup apple juice
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons walnut oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 cups baby arugula
- 2 Fuji or Gala apples quartered, cored and sliced thin
- 1 fennel bulb halved and cut into
- thin slices
- ¾ cup walnut pieces
Whisk together shallots, juice, vinegar, walnut oil, and salt in a large glass bowl. Add arugula and apples. Toss gently to coat with the dressing. Transfer to a plate and top with walnuts.