Farming runs in Katie Kraemer and David Pitre’s blood. Katie’s father was a citrus farmer in California, and she says now, “I used to be so proud to write ‘farmer’ for my parents’ occupation when I had to fill out forms in school or for college,” Katie says, laughing. Katie and David met in college and shared similar dreams of forging a connection to the land. ”David always knew he wanted to be a farmer–he was never interested in anything else but growing food,” she says proudly. The 65 acres in Manor, Texas they have named Tecolote Farm, after the owls that also call the farm home, produce some of the area’s finest produce–heirlooms and the highest-quality hybrid varieties of peppers, squash, eggplant, tomatoes, alliums, green beans, herbs, gorgeous leafy greens, and the okra I used in this recipe. Their CSA understandably has a waiting list several years long.
Farming in Central Texas isn’t easy, and it’s been even harder at Tecolote over the last several years–well after well has gone dry on the property, a circumstance never seen before, even through previous years of significant drought. Attempts to discover whether development is the culprit have yielded unsatisfying results, and brought to light inherent inequalities in flawed but long-standing “right of capture” laws and county water regulations that clearly favor development over the production of healthy, local food.
Katie and David work as hard as ever, though, and grow intensely flavorful, highly sought-after vegetables for their own CSA members, a few local groceries, and discriminating chefs throughout Central Texas. When I ask David why he chooses to grow organically, he looks at me like I’m crazy, “I’ve always grown organically. I studied Agro Ecology in college and interned at Green Gulch Farm at the San Francisco Zen Center. I never would have considered chemical agriculture.”
Okra Fritters with Shrimp & Peach Salsa
1 ripe tomato, chopped
1 peach, chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
1/4 c. cilantro leaves
Heat a small skillet over high heat. Drop in shrimp and saute quickly. As soon as they are cooked through, add remaining ingredients and remove from heat. Season to taste with salt & pepper.