Sunday Send-off to One of Our Favorite Farmers Was a Bittersweet Good-bye

I remember many years ago the days my CSA box from Green Cay Farms would arrive. I’d come home from work and it would be on my porch, bursting with fresh off-the-farm cukes and tomatoes and green peppers and corn and whatever was in season on the small farm Nancy Roe and her husband Charlie worked back then.

I believe that was before anyone was using the “farm-to-table” expression but that is what it was and I can clearly recall all these little kitchen epiphanies (like thinking I had never, ever before tasted what a real cucumber was like!) and eagerly awaiting the next box. Nancy worked the farm that belonged to Ted Winsberg and his wife Trudy, small bell pepper farmers in Palm Beach County for more than 40 years who had retired. The Winsbergs sold 100 acres of their land to the county in 1999 and it became Green Cay wetlands in 2005 (as opposed to cashing out at full market value to a commercial developer) and Nancy farmed what was left.

Nancy is retiring now, and Sunday was her send-off—a brunch at Green Cay Farm in the packing house hosted by our local Slow Food group and some of the county’s most prestigious chefs—people who have used Green Cay vegetables for years at their restaurants. One after one, the chefs stood up and said “how easy” Nancy made their lives with her fresh produce delivery.

And Sunday morning was no exception.

As the torrential remnants of Tropical Storm Alberto slammed the tin roof of the old packing house, Chef Rick Mace of Café Boulud served country ham and buttermilk biscuits, smoked fish spoon bread and grits. Chef Daniel Ramos from Red Splendor served spigariello licsca, homemade Italian sausage with Green Cay herbs and tomatoes. Chef Manlee Siu from Angle at Eau Palm Beach served a Green Cay salad of eggplant, heirloom tomatoes, compressed watermelon, cucamelon, almond puree and purple basil with grilled eggplant, pepper, butternut squash and herb salad verde. Oceano Kitchens Jeremy and Cindy Bearman served a tortilla Española and a Heritage Hen panna cotta; John Thomas of the former 32 East served a Swank Farm mixed greens salad and Buccan’s Chef James Strine delivered an heirloom succotash of Green Cay farm vegetables I am still pining for.

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Nancy said her good byes in her usual self-effacing way, and the room, filled with foodies and farmers, smiled and applauded and thanked her again and again. The rain kept coming down and you could see the fields where Nancy had worked through the open packing house door and I knew something wonderful had come to an end. I know that there are more CSA farms now, and other small farmers but I will always think of Green Cay as “my” farm, where I learned what real food tasted like.

Best of luck to you, Nancy.