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Chefs from Louisville’s Brown visit Depauw for an education in produce

The chefs dressed in white and seated on bales of hay looked a little out of place on the hayride. But, if Joe Castro’s message is taken to heart, the chefs will probably give more thought to life on the farm.
Castro, head chef at The Brown Hotel, took fellow chefs, executives and guests of The Brown on a ‘field trip’ to Churchill’s Countryside Farm on Saturday to educate them on local farming practices and to illustrate the importance of bringing fresh, locally grown produce into the kitchen.
Brian Churchill co-owns and operates the Depauw farm with his wife, Kelley. Stretching across 700 acres, some owned and some rented, the farm grows a variety of produce and plays host to several beehives.
Trips to the Churchill farm are something of a tradition for restaurateurs that began with four field-day events which included lunch at Blue River Caf’ in Milltown. These were largely made possible by Bob Holmes, a former food broker to Louisville restaurants.
Holmes left the business and the field day fell by the wayside.
Churchills tried delivering orders to Louisville restaurants. ‘We tried to do a little independently. It really got to be tough to run in there for small amounts, our business here had grown so much,’ Kelley said.
Luckily, the Churchill family maintained ties with Castro ‘ the head chef of The Brown’s four-star restaurant, The English Grill ‘ and he organized Saturday’s event. He even prepared a four-star lunch.
He said chefs should know their growers. ‘The relationship between chefs and farmers is an important one,’ Castro said.
During the field trip, Brian Churchill spoke about the farm’s use of integrated pest management. While the produce is not organically grown, spraying is conducted only when and where it is necessary. Spraying is only done at night when the bees are in the hives.
The farm also uses plastic, photo-degradeable mulch. Rolls are spread out with irrigation lines running underneath. Holes are poked in the plastic in order to sow crops. All told, 14,000 tomato plants were planted in the mulch at the time of Saturday’s tour.
‘I think everybody is eating better these days,’ Castro said. ‘We believe in the produce Brian has been producing. We try to use great ingredients, picked at the farm and straight to the people.’