Great Food from Great Farmers in Warren
By Charles Dubow
Photos by Zandria Oliver
There are few things more satisfying than observing someone do something at which they excel. Watching, for example, LeBron dunk a basketball, Yo-Yo Ma play Bach or Jacques Pépin carve a roast chicken is not only a delight but, more importantly, also a reminder that talent is not always shared out equally.
I had such a satisfying encounter in early spring when I visited Earth’s Palate Farm in Warren. It was there I met Renée Giroux and Kevin MacPherson. This young couple exudes sweetness and sincerity. For a moment you might consider them just two more earnest farmers who have a starry-eyed notion about living off the land and, hopefully, growing good things to eat. But then you talk to them and you realize that these people are total pros.
Renée—who despite her name is actually not French but, amusingly, her husband Kevin is—is a serious farmer who graduated from Naugatuck Valley Community College with a degree in horticulture. She honed her knowledge of organic farming in New Mexico and was the farmer for New York City chef and restaurateur David Bouley. Kevin is a master patissier, chocolatier, and chef who trained in Paris and has worked all over the world before settling in Connecticut. Together they work their farm, where they produce a range of good things to eat from spinach, lettuce, and chard, to eggs and sirloin steaks and croissants and macaroons and chocolates—and much, much more. (I highly recommend everything but Kevin’s croissants are the best I’ve eaten outside of France. He’s a genius.)
While everything they grow and make is available for purchase on their website, they also operate a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and provide their goods to a number of restaurants and markets in the area, including Community Table, Swyft, Le Gamin, and Bantam and Northville markets.
And if running a year-round 40-acre organic farm with four greenhouses wasn’t enough, they are also raising two children, a flock of 400 chickens and two Great Pyrenees. But that’s not all—Renée gives a series of lectures on organic gardening, and, God knows where she finds the time, is also the manager of the Northwest Connecticut Regional Food Hub. The NWCT Food Hub works with over 30 local farmers and 20 wholesale buyers to provide fresh food to not only local restaurants and markets but also to schools, senior centers, and Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington. “We’re so fortunate to live where we do,” she says. “And the community here has been so supportive. One of the programs that we really hope to grow is to keep providing fresh produce for food-insecure low income residents in Torrington and Winsted. We’d love to expand our reach to other towns in Litchfield County.”
It’s hard not to be impressed by two people who are committed to making the world around them a better place. Elizabeth Chandler, a member of the Warren Land Trust’s board, was so impressed that she decided to make a documentary about them. “Farming is already an incredibly challenging job,” she says. “But they are such resourceful people who have demonstrated over and over their ability to cope with whatever life throws at them: crazy weather, COVID, you name it. So far they are pulling it off.”
“You know, they remind me of that Marisa Tomei character in My Cousin Vinny. You remember when she takes the stand and the prosecutor asks her about cars? He has no idea that when she opens her mouth she is going to be such an expert. That’s what Renée and Kevin are like. They’re just so good at what they do.”
66 Town Hill Road, Warren, earthspalatefarm.com