Accessible Finesse

By on December 20, 2016

A filmmaker and a chef want to change your world with what’s on your plate.

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JACKSON HOLE, WY – The benefits of joining a CSA are multifold, from access to fresh produce to supporting and strengthening the local agricultural economy. But who hasn’t picked up a pre-paid basket of veggies and stared bewildered at heaps of bok choy and collard greens. Or maybe you sidestep the cooler labeled “pork belly” at the farmers market because, well, who knows what to do with the stuff?

While those who participate in supporting local farmers have both good taste and good intentions, they may not always know how to approach the bounty that shows up on the kitchen counter every week.

Three years ago, something similar happened to Jackson native and co-creator of the Just Picked web series, Arden Oksanen. Known for producing award winning footage of high adrenaline action sports and adventure film documentaries for National Geographic and TGR, Oksanen down shifted after his wife was diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder where gluten damages the small intestine.

As they focused on finding solutions to combat the disease and begin the healing process, fresh unprocessed foods from Cosmic Apple became part of the cure.  But, like many other CSA shareholders, they were sometimes at a loss for what to do with their weekly bounty.

Galvanized by the positive impact locally grown food had on his wife’s health and the health of their family, Oksanen decided to turn his talents to learning more about food and helping get producers and consumers on the same page.

“I decided it was time to limit the risk in my career and create a project that would have a positive impact on our local community … I wanted to show people where their food was coming from, teach them how to use it, and take away the intimidation factor.”

CSAs can be problematic for some. When people invest in shares, he noted, they may choose not to renew if they feel that they have wasted foods, items they’re not sure how to cook. But sustainable farming involves planting crop varieties that are not only healthy for humans but also necessary to add valuable nutrients to the soil.

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To tackle the issue, Oksanen called his good friend Chef Eric Wilson. This time, he wanted more than a few ideas for bok choy prep. He wanted to pitch the idea to start a food and community focused organization, FoodTerra, and a season of 17-minute cooking shows called Just Picked with the tag line, “Change your food, change your world.”

Wilson’s answer was yes, and he committed one day a week out of his busy summer calendar to cook outdoors in front of the camera, making dishes that run the gamut, from coal roasted cabbage with spicy peanut vinaigrette to pork belly infused collard greens with a spicy rhubarb chutney.

Of course, filming “on location” and the crew’s reliance on using what was literally just picked introduced some challenges.

“The studio was a farm, a ranch, a riverbank, cooking on a grill in the middle of a hay field.  Everything was on the fly from the location to not knowing what ingredients were going to be on hand,” Oksanen recalled. “One day, I was standing behind the camera and looked back over my shoulder and watched this massive bank of black storm clouds coming up over the valley.” The team took shelter in a truck and waited out mother nature’s wrath.

Erika Eschholz and Ken Michael, owners of Teton Full Circle Farm in Victor, Idaho, were in Maine last week, exploring the work of gardening expert, Eliot Coleman, who developed techniques for planting and harvesting winter crops. They took time to answer a few questions about the Just Picked episodes they hosted. “CSA members who had been tuning into the episodes seemed to be getting a sense of spark and excitement about their vegetables,” Eschholz said. “We found ourselves excited to see what [Erik Wilson] was going to make using our produce.”

Michael added, “A lot of the people who were already comfortable in the kitchen were able to take it to the next level and change their approach to the vegetables that they cook every day. People were branching out and trying new things, discovering flavors and combos they didn’t know about.”

Full Circle happens to be exploring ideas for winter cultivation, as Oksanen and Wilson are also looking to the snowy months for their next project, Winter in Wydaho, an in depth exploration of the farmers, crops, and food purveyors along the Wyoming/Idaho border who are making things happen amid the ice and snow.

To view episodes of Just Picked, check Foodterra.com PJH

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