Harvesting From Italy To Georgia

What happens when a girl gets a Bachelor's degree in History and can't find a job? She learns a trade. And for Lauren Cox, that meant serving in a restaurant in her hometown in Arkansas.

"It was crap. The food was from Sysco, there was no passion," Cox said. "I started to develop an overall consideration for what I was putting into my body and became interested in how food was made."

So she pursued her passion to learn the history and education behind food and attended University of Gastronomical Sciences in Italy. After a one year Master's program filled with field trips to European culinary hotspots like Crete and Barcelona and a three month internship working at a radio station in Tanzania and Uganda, Cox knew that food had forever changed in her mind.

"There has to be a story behind the food, and it starts with consistency and quality," Cox said.  "One field trip I met an 80 year-old man who woke up at 5 every morning to begin making his cheese, starting with putting the rennet in the cream. That inspired me."

In Africa, Cox was amazed that the African people weren't using their traditional agricultural practices to provide themselves with food. Instead they relied on food aid such as low quality bread and margarine.

Returning from the apprenticeship, she was ready to influence others. She started with Lucas Caffettani, an Italian whom she had met in a bar during her Master's program. A boy was the last thing on her mind, but their relationship continued while Lauren worked in Africa.

When she came back to Italy, Lauren convinced Lucas to try WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) around Europe. The couple harvested olives in Spain, and in Italy produced miso and learned to make sausages from Cinta Senese, a traditional Tuscan pig that eats chestnuts.

"Lauren introduced me to a whole new picture of food. I grew up with home cooked food but wasn't interested in the artisanal side and preparation until I had those farming experiences," Caffettani said.

Lauren brought Lucas back to America and the couple began interning at Burge Organic Farm in Atlanta, before starting their own Certified Naturally Grown farm called Le Tre Lune.

"The name follows our philosophy that farming is connected to nature. The moon's cycles have different effects on the land and harvesting," Caffettani said. "It connects our passion with Italian food and we share that culture with our customers."

After getting married, they pooled the money from their wedding gifts to start the farm. Lauren and Lucas have faced many situations most couples wouldn't deal with if they worked in separate jobs. The two both have strong beliefs, but their skills compensate each other.

"I feel grateful because it is rare to spend so much time with your partner," Caffettani said. "Since farming is part of your living, we are working 24 hours together, but we're constantly growing to learn more about one another."

The couple still has a lot to learn, not just with their relationship, but with managing the farm as well. Last year, they planted 300 beds of Napa cabbage and within a month the entire crop was destroyed by flea beetles. The farm had expected eight-pound cabbage heads, but instead could not sell a single one.

However, Le Trune Lune has been successful in bringing new foods to the customers at the farmers market. Radicchio is a popular green in Italy but not as well known in the states. The process of harvesting the crop is much different in Italy than America. After radicchio is harvested, it is put in a dark room and the farmer runs a cold water bath through its root system for one week straight. This process causes the leaves to curl and makes the greens taste sweeter.

"I liked the challenge of seeing how crops were traditionally produced and seeing how Lucas and I could recreate it here in America," Cox said. "While we can't produce our radicchio in that exact method, we can share recipes because everyone loves the idea of eating amazing food." She suggests serving radicchio in a risotto with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Now in their second summer harvesting, they provide their 50 CSA members and farmers markets with an abundance of Italian-inspired vegetables such as radicchio, broccoli rabe, eggplant and heirloom tomato varieties such as Dr. Wyche's, Cherokee Purple and Orange Icicle. Local Atlanta chefs from restaurants such as No. 246 and Cakes & Ale enjoy the unique offerings to color their summer menus.

Le Trune Lune sells at Decatur Farmers Market on Saturday morning and the Grant Park Farmers Market on Sunday morning in Atlanta, Georgia. Their CSA is available to join for Spring/Summer or Summer/Fall.