June 9, 2010

Soup to Nuts: Wedding bell peppers . . .

. . . and other earthly delights from the garden of Julia Davis and Andy McLeod, who are taking the local-food movement to a whole new level in the name of love.

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Julia Davis and Andy McLeod plant tomato seedlings as Gabbie supervises.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

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Outstanding in their field: Julia Davis and her fiance Andy McLeod, with Gabbie, in the 7,500-square-foot garden in Washington from which they hope to produce nearly all of the food for their September wedding dinner.

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below


YOU CAN FOLLOW this couple as they grow their wedding garden by reading Julia Davis' blog, "A Local Food Wedding, From Seed to Plate," at localfoodwedding.wordpress.com

IT COULD CHANGE between now and their Sept. 25 wedding day, depending on their whims and the weather, but here's what Julia Davis and Andy McLeod have planned for their wedding dinner so far. Some recipes come from two cookbooks, "Moosewood Cooks for a Crowd" and "The New Best Recipe" from America's Test Kitchen. Others, such as the cubed Hubbard squash with kale, are dishes that the couple made up together and like.


Veggie sticks (carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower, green peppers, etc.)

Homemade hummus

Fruit (cantaloupe, watermelon, apples, etc.)

Bread from a local bakery


Homemade pesto


Roast chicken, raised by the happy couple

Autumn gold squash soup

Oven fries

Cubed hubbard squash with kale

Green salad

Caprese salad (tomatoes, basil, mozzarella and olive oil)

Asian cabbage slaw

Pickles made from Davis' great-grandmother's recipe

Bread from a local bakery


Pie made by the bride and groom's moms

Ice cream from John's Ice Cream Factory in Liberty

"We're keeping track of how much we're planting," Davis said, "and we're going to keep track of how many pounds we get out of the number of plants or the number of rows that we plant of each crop."

Based on an estimate of 100 guests, the couple used a spread sheet and examined yield estimates from seed catalogues to figure out how much food to grow. They'll plant more than they actually need to cover their bases, and hope to have some food left over to keep or sell. There will be, among other things, 27 pounds of butternut squash, 40 pounds of potatoes, 12 pounds of cabbage and 15 pounds of carrots.

Fertilized with goat manure scavenged from a nearby goat farm, the ground has already been planted with onions, potatoes, pumpkins, butternut and Blue Ballet hubbard squash, beets, carrots, corn, dill, lettuce, at least five different kinds of tomatoes and lots of cucumbers.

"I really like pickles," Davis said. "That's why we're growing so many cucumbers. I have this recipe from my Jewish great-grandmother for half-sour dill pickles."

In trays, waiting to be planted, are watermelon, cantaloupe, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, basil, dill, sweet and hot peppers, and more tomatoes.

Some foods will be directly seeded into the garden -- green beans, more cucumbers, peas, turnips, more beets and carrots, cilantro, two kinds of cabbage for slaw, and more lettuce that will be planted closer to the wedding date.

"We'll be disappointed if things fail on us, but that's sort of farming," Davis said. "We definitely learned that lesson last year, when we were working for this farm across the street and it was a bad year. And even though it wasn't our farm, it was still disappointing to put our work into it and see things fail."


They're open to buying food from a local farmer if part of their crop fails, and they will be purchasing ingredients such as olive oil, spices, cheese and bread and other things they can't grow or make themselves.

"But we didn't plan anything with mangos or avocados," McLeod said.

Both former vegetarians, Davis and McLeod built their own chicken tractor to move their 50 Freedom Ranger chickens around the pasture so they'll always have fresh grass and insects.

The chickens will likely be one of the more expensive parts of the project. The couple budgeted $250 for the chicks and for slaughtering, but still have to pay for feed. They haven't decided yet if they'll use organic feed, since it costs about twice as much as non-organic.

Davis is keeping detailed records of expenses, from the $94 they spent on Johnny's Selected Seeds down to the $3 they spent on screws at Marden's when they were building the chicken tractor. So far, they have spent $385 growing vegetables.

The budget for the entire wedding is $6,600. About $1,000 to $1,500 of that has been earmarked for food.

Compare that with the $16,626, including site rental fees, that the average Maine couple spends on their wedding reception, according to a nationwide survey of more than 20,000 couples that TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com conducted last year. (The national average is $12,838.)

Diane York, a Portland wedding planner, says the average Maine couple with 120 wedding guests will spend $8,000 to $10,000 on food and alcohol.

Those tabs include the cost of labor. Davis and McLeod's staff will be friends and family, which fits right in with the casual and low-key affair they are planning. Instead of a church or fancy private venue, they've rented out a camp on the shores of a central Maine lake so that guests can stay the weekend if they like.

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Additional Photos

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Julia Davis and Andy McLeod are growing virtually all of the food that will be served at their Sept. 25 wedding.


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