Leading up to our Slow Meat 2 event on May 10, we’ll be placing the spotlight on the farmer-chef pairings we’ve put together for this special event.
Next up is the pairing of Jeff and Zach Hawkins – the father and son team from the Hawkins Family Farm – and Erin Till, musician turned chef turned operations guru at ClusterTruck.
For both parties, the connection between food, place, stewardship of the land and community is undeniable.
“Farmers and chefs share in the work of creating a foundational element of culture — food,” said Zach Hawkins. “Collaborating with a chef like Erin is a pleasure because, ultimately, it contributes to a regional conversation about what we should eat and how we should grow it. The resulting dish is an expression of shared experience — of weather, topography, history, culinary traditions — and every bite tells us a little bit more about who we are.”
For Erin, the feeling is mutual.
“One of the most sacred aspects of cooking is the hand-off from the farmer to the chef. He is literally handing the chef his work; his painstaking work,” she said. “He entrusts the chef to prepare this product with care; to do it justice, and in this case, to wholly honor an animal’s sacrifice of life. Cooking enables me not only to share the story of the farm through its product, but also to continue the conversation about the food we eat and how it’s grown.”
Words turned into action when proposed statewide legislation challenged the livelihood of small farmers. Chefs rallied to the cause.
“During the most recent legislative session when the Indiana General Assembly threatened to impose outmoded, overly burdensome regulations on the state’s small farmers,” explained Zach. “Chefs were instrumental in alerting the public. They used chicken raised and slaughtered on our farm to create extraordinary dishes, then posted pictures to social media with the hashtag #keepchickenonthemenu and encouraged diners to contact their representatives. In the end, the bill was changed and we, as Hoosiers, had a better sense of what we stand for: small-scale, independent, enterprising family farms are at the roots of Indiana’s agricultural identity and are worth defending.”
Erin appreciates the effort and impact the family’s campaign had on the conversation. “The Hawkins have done an extraordinary job spotlighting this conversation with #keepchickenonthemenu, she said. “They teamed up with chefs to defend the direct-sale relationship between restaurants and the smaller, independent farms that are the foundation of agricultural tradition in Indiana. The changes made to HB1267 protect Hoosiers’ accessibility to wholesome, responsibly raised poultry.”
Come talk to Jeff & Zach Hawkins about their farm and taste Erin’s handiwork at Slow Meat 2, May 10 6:30pm at Flat 12 Bierwerks & Smoking Goose Meatery.
Hawkins Family Farm
In 1957, after years of farming on leased land and saving their earnings, Josh Leo and Velma Hawkins purchased a ninety-nine acre farm outside of North Manchester, Indiana, in the Bluffton Till Plain region, choosing the place for its excellent soil and tending it with care. Three generations later, the Hawkins family continues to steward the farm. Today the farm raises poultry, hogs, cattle and vegetables. By following the examples of our forbears and using the health and wholeness of soils, waters, plants, animals and people as our standard, Hawkins Family Farm is community supported agriculture at the confluence of nature and culture.
Erin has been passionate about food from an early age. After graduating with a music degree from Butler University, she turned her efforts toward culinary school in Chicago. After school she returned to Indy, just as the culinary scene really started to gain steam. Her experience at Neal Brown Hospitality, one of Indy’s premier independent restaurant groups, helped grow her interest in a slow lifestyle into a lifelong passion. Erin recently joined the team at ClusterTruck, a new tech-driven food delivery startup.