Is there any agricultural pursuit more easy to get carried away with romantic thoughts about than the orchard? Fruit trees are beautiful, mysterious and - at just the right time of year - brimming with the warmth and juiciness of an endless summer day. We're not at all surprised that Laura and Fabio got caught up in the daydream of Westwind Orchard, and we're so glad that they've made it a reality. We plan to visit as soon as berry season strikes.
When did you know that you wanted to work in food?
Our first love was nature, and nature brought us to food. Fabio and I were also raised in a way to appreciate food and how it's grown, which has always had a big impact on us. The act of sharing food or a meal is symbolic of the communal love and support shared between family, friends, and the community in general.
How did you get your current good food job?
Fabio and I were originally looking for a weekend getaway for our family. We just happened to stumble upon this overgrown orchard, which our realtor was reluctant to show us, and that was it. We fell in love with the serene stretch of land and majestically gnarled, old trees; it took us back to our Italian roots. Fabio's passion and devotion to saving the 30-70 year old trees was inspiring and everything has spiraled from there. We are so grateful to have had this opportunity to contribute and be a part of keeping this dream a live. Westwind Orchard has brought a new life for us and a sense of community that we could never have imagined.
How did your previous work or life experience prepare you for a good food job?
Fabio grew up in Rome and spent his summers in the countryside where his father farmed a small plot of land, and I was born in Southern Italy on a farm before immigrating to Brooklyn at 4 years old. Fabio, a fashion photographer, and myself, a fashion stylist, have worked freelance for many years, so we understand the concept of feast or famine and know how to budget ourselves because consistency was not always a luxury, as it is not in farming. We are lucky to still be surrounded by our family - aunts, uncles, mothers - who are so supportive and giving of their time to help out on the farm. They are a source of constant inspiration and knowledge. Farming is in our blood, and a tradition that we are happy to have the opportunity to experience in a hands-on way.
What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing your Good Food Job dream?
When we bought the farm we had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into. We went into this with our hearts, not our heads. Though the apple orchard looked beautiful when we first acquired it, it was completely unmanaged. We were told it would be a money pit, and were advised to clear the land. But we couldn't kill them and just throw away all of the history behind them. Fabio sought guidance from the local farming community, read up on books, and went to seminars, but I think a lot of the learning and education came from wholesome experiences. Mistakes were made, we learned from them, and success was generated from those learning experiences; the trees bore fruit a year later. It's really a juggling act for Fabio & I - through the years and between photo shoots, we have simultaneously had to deal with hurricanes, a dried well, losing hives over the winter, and white garlic rot...to name a few. We still have a lot to learn. The past 14 years have been a lot of trial and error. There were definitely moments when we thought about quitting, but the more that people became interested in supporting our efforts, the stronger it pushed us to keep going.
Name one positive thing that a former employer taught you that you continue to appreciate?
I wouldn't say I was taught this by any of my previous bosses, but my mother did instill in me to always have a passion, work hard at it, be kind and compassionate while doing so, and look at each experience as an opportunity to learn.
What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now?
There's been a noticeable shift in values. We've traded convenience for quality and craftsmanship and in that, we've entered the renaissance of domesticity. The "homemaker" is now the creator, the artist, and the innovator. DIY is commendable - opting out of quick food, celebrating superior ingredients, and making extraordinary meals. Farmers are the original homemakers and there are endless opportunities now for them to give back through their craftsmanship. In the communities where the farms exist, more jobs are being generated and more future generations are being educated on sustainable food practices, which is working to help uplift the global economy.
If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?
To this day, when friends and family come to my house, or vice versa, we share with one another the wine that we've made, bread that we've baked, vegetables that we've grown, or even a hat that we've knit. Anything that is made by hand and by heart is the most valuable reward.