The Farm to Table Life
Andy Fles, vineyard manager of Shady Lane Cellars in Michigan, fondly remembers helping out on weekends at a friend’s U-Pick apple orchard. From fall harvests to winter pruning, the orchard was his first glimpse into a lifestyle of farming. He later took a horticulture course and realized, “Okay, this is taking the farming that I enjoy and opening up some doors to careers where you get your hands dirty.” And the rest, as they say, is history.
Farming the vineyard is the career Andy was looking for, but his love of working with the earth and its bounty extends into his personal life and hobbies. An avid gardener, Andy and his coworkers planted a garden on the vineyard to make use of some of the open space. Between the vineyard garden and his home, he grows tomatoes, peppers, garlic, six varieties of potatoes, beets, carrots, kale, chard, broccoli, flowers, herbs, and can wax poetic on the treasure that is cilantro. Because he is in a colder climate, he has a root cellar to store things like potatoes, carrots, and beets.
When he’s not tending to the grapes or the garden, Andy is busy creating, from scratch, an array of culinary delights in the kitchen with his garden goodies. Inspired by Latin American and SouthEast Asian flavors he also mentions, “I’m a big fan of fermented foods. I’ve been making kimchi because it really utilizes all of your harvests and helps preserve a lot of the veggies.” In addition to kimchi, he loves to experiment with hot sauces and creates a vast array of flavor profiles from sweet pepper to Thai spice ginger, and highly recommends putting a whole cantaloupe into a habanero sauce, “You get some fun tannins from the rind.” Another one of his go-to veggie dishes is curry - simply add coconut milk to some spicy vegetables and there’s a delicious meal.
Andy is not one to follow recipes and laughs with delight when asked what the best part of having a garden is,
“Anyone that knows the value of the freshness and flavors understands how much better homegrown food is.”