Farm fresh

Local, organic, and grow-your-own all raise readers’ interest

By Devra First
Globe Staff / November 10, 2010

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Devra First: Spurred by an increasing interest in farm internships, I headed to the Farm School in Athol for a recent story. Would you be interested in participating in such a program?

Marc H: If I had time, I’d love to do something like that. I think the whole “farm-to-table’’ thing and the bad economy are making people think more and more about growing food on their own, which is a great thing, in my eyes.

D.F.: On a statistical, nationwide level, I’m sure the increase in interest is inconsequential. We’ve still got a disordered big ag system. But on a cultural level, I do think it’s significant. It reflects a shift that will influence people.

Meg: In summer I live in Maine and I always go to the local farms for my food. Nothing tastes as good. I try to buy organic whenever I can, but it can be mixed and expensive to do so. I think people want to buy the freshest organic food possible, so I hope it continues.

Joel: Farm-fresh food from places like Verrill’s is great, but unfortunately organic in and of itself does not always translate into good-tasting.

Sarah B: I believe that, unfortunately, the interest in farm-to-table is still a luxury afforded only to those of us with the resources to shop organic and local and/or have land and time to grow gardens. So many people in our country are fast-food poor, shopping for processed food at minimarts and bodegas because of lack of transportation or investment in their communities. Devra’s right. The disorder in our food system, and our ag system, is massive. It’s going to take a lot to change it for everyone.

D.F.: There is a lot of interesting work being done to ameliorate the food desert situation. For one, an AmeriCorps program called FoodCorps is starting up next year, focusing on farm-to-school initiatives and school gardens.

Allstonian: I concern myself far less with organic and focus as much as I can on locally grown from small farmers. I’m well aware that I’m lucky to live in a region where that’s an option.

Bostonburger: Agree. Organic is great, but in reality I want the best-tasting ingredient, preferably local, at the end of the day.

Sarah B: I’m also less fired up about the organic part of it. Organic vs. non-organic isn’t as relevant a public health issue as real food vs. fake food. More Americans need to be eating fresh vegetables rather than processed boxed junk.

Joel: I agree with Allstonian, Bostonburger, and Sarah B. What I want is something fresh, local, and good-tasting, whether organic or not.

D.F.: I think a lot of people feel this way, and it is a shift from a few years ago, when everyone was really focused on organic.

D.F.: Let’s talk about former restaurants we still miss. What long-gone establishments continue to have a place in your heart?

Debbie: I miss Zon’s in J.P.

Allstonian: Love YoMa, but still miss Mandalay. Not a restaurant, but still bitterly mourn the loss of Delphin’s Gourmandise in Coolidge Corner. There’s just no good French patisserie to be had in the Boston area anymore.

Marc H: Angelo’s in East Arlington (that goes WAY back), the Kitchen in Lexington, Acropolis in Cambridge, Dedo in Bay Village, Classic India in Quincy, Jack and Marion’s in Brookline, and Harold’s in Chestnut Hill.

D.F.: I miss Eat, which used to be in Union Square. That bartender got me started on sidecars. And WuChon House, also in Union. And Sai Gon, a Vietnamese restaurant in Allston. Nicest people, best food. I can practically taste it now.

Joel: Going way back, I still miss Le Bocage in Watertown: the owner-host Enzo and his family, the classic cooking, and the great wait staff.

Marc H: Not long gone, but I really miss Eastern Pier on the waterfront. Good, cheap Chinese food, nice people, and a killer view of Boston Harbor.

D.F.: Also not long gone, but I miss Pho Republique. I lived right over it, and it made me feel like Eloise at the Plaza. People of all kinds came to hang out. The Gallows is helping ease the pain, though.

Frank Enbean: I miss Pewter Pot on 114 in North Andover and Ford’s Coffee Shop in downtown Andover. They were special places as a kid to enjoy a doughnut or muffin with my dad.

Charlie: Benatti in Inman Square. It was great while it lasted.

D.F.: Oh, Benatti! Scuse me while I sob a minute. It was my favorite Italian in the area for a brief, luminous moment.

Excerpted from Devra First’s weekly chat. Go to today at 11 a.m. to chat live about your favorite dishes, recipes, and restaurants. First can be reached at