01 Jun Interview with Phoebe Cole-Smith
Meet Phoebe Cole-Smith
Phoebe Cole-Smith… farmer-chef and owner/operator of DIRT ROAD FARM.
Dirt Farm Road is a small farm on a dirt road in Weston, Connecticut. Phoebe and her husband, former NHL executive Mike Smith, produce wood-fired maple syrup from their 350-tap stand of sugar maples, keep honeybees and laying chickens, and grow herbs, vegetables and fruit on their 5 1/2 rocky, hilly acres.
In addition to providing Phoebe’s cooking business, PICNIC, with Dirt Road Farm produce and goods, value to the farm business is added through the sale of eggs, honey, and maple syrup, as well as pickles and preserves. Beyond what Dirt Road Farm provides for Phoebe’s cooking, she also sources directly from nearby farms, farmers’ markets, and purveyors for locally grown, raised and artisanal goods.
Siobhan: I’m so intrigued by your passion for your culinary and farming endeavors. Your farm is amazing and I still have to experience your barn suppers. I hope to be there this season!
How did you find the barn?
There was an old barn on our property when we moved here in 1992. It was sadly beyond repair and we finally constructed a new barn on the original footprint in 2015.
Did you envision what it has become from the onset or was it an evolving process?
Kind of a combination. It was indeed a dream to have a separate space where I could welcome guests. When I finally had the space as inspiration, settled in the middle of all my gardens, the events took on a shape of their own.
What inspired you to pursue this creative endeavor?
I have been cooking and entertaining all my life. I decided to go to culinary school for formal training when my children were high school age, studying at the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center) in Manhattan. I catered and cooked privately for more than a decade before we built our barn, and now I am so happy being able to create the whole experience, including the food.
What can the public expect when they visit Dirt Road Farm?
Dirt Road Farm is sort of a micro-version of what most people envision as a farm. We grow plenty of food, we keep chickens and bees, we have a good-sized stand of sugar maples from which we produce maple syrup (which is what gave us farm status in 2011) — but we are not a full-scale operation like many of the farms I source from for my barn suppers and private events.
What is the experience like to host the Barn suppers and what has the feedback been from your diners?
It is beyond thrilling for me to host the barn suppers. It is extremely hard work, beginning with the gathering of local and seasonal produce, and sustainably raised/wild caught meat, fish and dairy direct from local farms and from our local farmers’ market, the Westport Farmers’ Market. everything I make, with the help of my incredible crew, is from scratch and by hand. Much of what we use, from flowers,herbs and vegetables to eggs, honey and maple syrup, has been grown or raised or produced at our place. I think this is apparent on the plate, on the table and inside the barn and I believe most of the people who have attend a barn supper witness and feel this kind of attention to quality and detail and are extremely appreciative. I have had an overwhelmingly wonderful response to my barn suppers.
How do the natural elements play a role in your calling?
The natural elements have everything to do with my calling.
My work is highly dependent on the rhythm of the seasons and I feel closely connected to our little piece of the planet and all the domesticated and wild creatures and plants we harbor here.
What is your future vision for your creative projects? What is your dream?
If i am lucky enough to keep doing what I am doing, then I am living my dream. I would love to do a book, obviously food-related but in addition to recipes, I want to talk about sourcing local seasonal food, living with the seasons. my mission is to encourage diners (that is all of us!) to support their local farmers, and grow at least some of their own food, for the health of their communities and our Mother Earth.
Siobhan: I love this vision! I am thrilled to share this with my audience because I completely share this point of view as well.
What are some of your upcoming events this summer?
We are doing more and more private events, weddings, special birthdays, etc., at the farm, as well as a number of our “signature” barn suppers — one in particular that I am very excited about is a collaboration with local award-winning chef and restaurateur Bill Taibe, and his chef de cuisine Anthony Kostelis, on June 20th.
What are your thoughts on natural beauty and do you have any natural beauty remedies or treatments that you recommend?
I do not spend a lot of time on my skincare — and i wish that I could go back in time and take better care to avoid excessive sun exposure, ah well! — but I am definitely on the same page as ORGANACHS with an insistence that any products I use be non-toxic and botanically based (of course!). I am definitely not perfect, I do color my hair!
As you can imagine, I believe that what one puts in one’s body is of the utmost importance for achieving a clear, hydrated complexion. They are not local, but I eat my share of coconut and avocado and citrus, but mostly my diet consists of lots and lots of local vegetables in season, broths made from local pastured animals, our own raw honey and pure maple syrup, pastured eggs from our own chickens who live the ultimate healthy life! I do try to avoid excessive gluten and dairy but I eat everything in moderation (ideally!), and I enjoy the best possible meat, just not frequently.
What is your definition meaning of beauty?
Live your best life, be happy, indulge every now and then, don’t sweat the small stuff. I, too, would like to look like Gisele, but i feel lucky to be here, doing what I love.
Siobhan: Great advice. Thank you, Phoebe, for sharing your story and your beautiful farm with our community. It’s a pleasure to have such a wonderful and rich resource right in our backyards.
COMING TOGETHER THROUGH THE LOVE OF NATURAL BEAUTY, WELLNESS, FOOD, AND SUSTAINABILITY