It is two weeks later and I am still talking about my experience in Rhode Island. To be honest, it was a place I never really had on my list of places to go. As my husband joked before I left, “Rhode Island, neither a road or an island.” So funny, right? I found out quickly that Rhode Island is anything but a joke. Now, I can’t wait to go back and spend more time because I am certain there are things I missed. I even have to do this travel guide in multiple posts to do it justice!
It amazed me how every purveyor, farmer, chef or vendor distinctly said the same thing. They were not concerned with spreading their brand across the U.S. but instead spreading the knowledge of their craft. If importing their products meant sacrificing quality, it was not attractive to them. While each place we visited had many accolades to their name, the adoration of their community is what means the most. As explained by Mike Repucci, owner of Sons of Liberty Spirits Company, “We just want to win our hometown.” That was the general although powerful message put forth by every place we visited on this trip. That is not to say that there are not innovators in Rhode Island community. As they create and cultivate they still maintain respect for the traditional way of doing things. Rhode Island is certainly not a state to just pass through or visit for a day, as I had thought before.
Walrus and Carpenter Oyster Farm
At first glance this group of guys may appear to be that group of guy friends that everyone remembers in high school. I was completely overwhelmed by the dedication and sheer genius that are putting behind their farm. While I am completely happy slurping down oysters and gushing over the Alice in Wonderland inspired name, these guys are being serious scientists! I didn’t know that Acquaculture was an actual area of study until these guys started explaining diploids, triploids, and the process of creating their own sugar kelp.
After listening to owner, Jules Opton-Himmel speak I suddenly found myself wishing I had stayed awake in all my science classes. Oyster farming isn’t all swimming around in the sun and playing in the sand. These guys are out there in the freezing cold, all year round, sawing through ice tending to their oysters. They have a system that keeps track of each oyster and there are about 3 million of them! I can’t even keep track of where my car keys are. Jules and his team are committed to the science, sustainability, and quality of their product. The next time I take down a dozen oysters I am going to have to stop and have a moment of silence for the science.
For information about Walrus & Carpenter Oyster Farm visit: http://www.walrusandcarpenteroysters.com
If there is a such thing as reincarnation than I would aspire to come back as Ann Marie Bouthillette, the driving force behind Blackbird Farm. This more than just a business but a labor of pure love. Within the first five minutes of hearing her speak you know she wears her heart on her sleeve when it comes to the livestock she raises. She cannot be anything but honest about the reality of the work her family does and the cattle farming industry. Ann Marie tells stories of the trials and setbacks that she has dealt with as she has built this farm up to its current status. I could not help but feel something in my soul as we toured the farm with her, and that was without even seeing a burger!
Blackbird Farms humanely raises 100% Angus beef. When they say humanely, they mean it. The cows are treated more like family members and not just as their given numbers. This contributes to the quality of meat that is produced. They are not just buying whatever cow is for sale at auction. After listening to Ann Marie explain the process I realized it takes years to breed these cows and a serious knowledge of genetics. She could not stress enough all the details that go into ensuring they are breeding healthy, all natural Black Angus cows. Along with cows the farm also breeds 100% Berkshire pigs.
The next best thing to this farm tour would be to watch Ann Marie at an auction going head to head with the other guys in this male dominated business. Her knowledge is extensive and her confidence in her craft is evident. Not because she read a lot of books but because she lives it everyday.
For more information about Blackbird Farm visit: http://blackbirdfarmri.com
Stay tuned for more parts of my Rhode Island experience coming up next week!