Brittany Baldwin isn’t your average caterer. The owner of Portland Home Chef creates fresh, healthy meals for her clients using ingredients from her own half-acre farm. Here’s her own description of how she got started, along with a peek at what she’s growing (and raising) on the property.
A couple of years ago, after renting a farmhouse on 40 acres for three years, I bought my first home on an acre just outside Portland. I inherited two old apple trees, a pear tree, a few plum trees, a cherry tree, a small raspberry patch and a Concord grape arbor. All of them had been neglected for years, and I’ve spent the past two years coaxing them back into production.
When I bought the property, I loved that it had a creek in back and that it was flat. My prior place had been on a hill, which required small terraces to be formed during the planting season.
The creek, in addition to being beautiful, brings another zone for possible food production because it is damp enough year-round for self-inoculated mushroom logs. A chicken coop sits in the back corner, where it’s coolest in the summer. It houses 15 birds that provide fresh eggs for my clients and who consume all of the organic vegetable waste from my catering business and garden. In the same structure I keep the compost space, which is designed to bring a little heat to the birds in winter. Both sit by themselves on the opposite side of the yard from the vegetable gardens.
When I moved, there was a small existing garden just outside the back door. I wasn’t sure what was grown there or what was used on the soil, so I’ve let it rest for two years. This year I’m making it into a small, English-style perennial herb garden.
The first year I tilled up a medium garden just behind the future herb garden to grow vegetables. The next year, I established a garden in another space three times the size, allowing greater diversity and proper crop rotation. I also have a small space in the front that holds blueberries, a new raspberry patch, cardoons and radishes grown in their shade.
In the future, I dream of building a wood awning under the grapevines where I can set up a long table. Next to it I would have a small garden shed with an insulated room built into it for winter vegetable storage. Off to the side, I hope to build a covered outdoor kitchen with counter space, a sink and my grill close by. Then I can serve farm dinners, teach cooking classes and use it as a general garden station when re-potting plants or processing veggies. And someday, like every gardener, I dream of a greenhouse to help extend the seasons.