A fresh, tiny, delicate microgreen, tossed onto a gourmet sandwich for color. Alas, vegetable confetti.
An array of purple and green lettuces, creating a crispy and flavorful bed for other vegetables to make the perfectly sophisticated salad.
A bouquet of bright green basil, waiting for a fat clove of garlic and toasted pine nuts to become a refreshing pesto.
Some may assume all of these vegetables — used by Columbus’ most trendy chefs in their farm-to-table movement — were grown in a modern, urban garden in the city.
But, they each came from organic seeds planted behind an 1890s white farmhouse between London and West Jefferson. Admittedly, fellow Madison countians know nothing of the 23-acre farm at the corner of State Route 142 and Gregg Road.
“We don’t have any signs,” said Todd Shriver, who owns Rock Dove Farms with wife, Heather.
The couple, in their mid-30s, seemed to stumble upon the land. With the help of some family members, they purchased the land and began their journey to transform the former grain farm into a certified organic vegetable farm.
Rock Dove Farm was started in 2010 — the same year they were married; the wedding came with the farm, Todd joked.
In June 2014 the farm was certified organic by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA). There are about 800 organic farms in the state, according to Renee Hunt, OEFFA’s program director.
While Heather doesn’t come from a farming background, it’s all Todd has done his entire life. He grew up on a grain and livestock operation and studied cheese making in Vermont before attending college in Columbus and discovering his passion.
Heather works full-time as a physical therapist at Columbus City Schools and during the summers helps Todd, who works full-time on the farm.
Rock Dove is a member of the Great Rivers Organics cooperative, a farmer-owned nonprofit. The cooperative is built out of a network of organic farms which grow a diverse range of locally and organically-grown produce.
Upscale restaurants will reach out to the cooperative to find the freshest, local and organic produce. Rock Dove specializes in salad greens and lettuce, meaning the busiest seasons are in the spring and fall. The Shrivers also sell basil to Whole Foods.
Other produce grown includes arugula, escarole, friseé, tomatoes, leeks, onions, beets, carrots, radishes, bok choy, kale, chard, strawberries and turnips.
In addition to the cooperative, Rock Dove is a regular contributor to the Farmers Markets in Worthington and Clintonville. Due to the farm’s specialized items, it’s not necessarily feasible to participate in markets in Madison County, where shoppers’ tastes may not align with the farm’s products, Todd said.
The Shrivers are also members of the National Young Farmers Coalition. Members of the Columbus-area chapter were on hand at the farm to visit with U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Upper Arlington) on Tuesday.
Stivers took a tour of the farm and sampled some basil, plucked directly from beds in the greenhouse.
When asked by the congressman what policies would be most helpful for young farmers, Todd was quick to answer releasing graduates from mounds of student loan debt. He suggested a loan forgiveness program be in place for young farmers to allow recent graduates to make capital purchases.
“It’s a red mark on your balance sheet with nothing to offset it,” said Todd.
Stivers agreed tuition costs are too high — not just for young farmers but for all students.
“The raising cost of tuition is manifesting itself in a large amount of debt that limits people to start a business,” said Stivers. He said he would look into the matter.
Stivers also asked what can be done to further the advancement of the farm-to-table movement. Rachel Tayse, OEFFA’s board president, suggested food education — not just for the average resident but for chefs, as well.
“You have to make chefs understand farming,” she said. “If you want radishes now, you can’t always have them.”
Instead chefs need to work with the seasons and manipulate their menus accordingly. Restaurants using the farm-to-table method in Columbus best include Acre, Skillet and Harvest Pizzeria, Tayse said.
For more information about Rock Dove Farms, or to join their CSA, visit www.rockdovevegetables.com.
Andrea Chaffin can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619 or via Twitter @AndeeWrites.