When my son was four years old, he was diagnosed with multiple allergies. As the doctor put it, he was allergic to the world. Grass, dust, bees, every pollen, all animals. We couldn’t go outside; we had to tear up all of our carpets and curtains.
What I could have never predicted at the time was that this diagnosis would lead to me becoming an advocate for food sovereignty and farmers, and even starting my own farm–The Farm at Woods Hill in Bath, New Hampshire–to provide organic ingredients to not one, but two, of my own restaurants in Concord, Massachusetts.
It started with an exploration of raw foods. I had heard that raw milk could be a cure for allergies, so I tried it myself. At the time, the thought really disgusted me, but then I tried it and loved it. It tasted like the best milk I had ever had. I slowly gave it to my children and soon, my son was completely cured of all of his allergies and asthma.
For years we had the raw milk in our fridge, and I also learned about the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nutrition advocacy and nutrition information foundation based on ancestral health. The foundation’s namesake, dentist Weston Price, found that indigenous societies didn’t have the same degenerative diseases as we did in America. When they ate proteins, their meat was wild or pastured or fish just caught off the line. When they ate vegetables, they were unsprayed. When they ate dairy, it was raw and unprocessed. If they ate grains, they were soaked. There were numerous things in their diets that kept them healthier that were the complete opposite of the processed food diet of the American culture.
My family ate like this for a very long time; it’s how I raised my kids. I was in a raw dairy club, a grass-fed meat-buying club where I bought directly from a farmer, and a vegetable CSA. But in 2009, I found out that dairy clubs or food-buying clubs like mine were being raided around the country. That was the beginning of my filming Farmageddon: The Unseen War in American Family Farms.
The stories I heard had a profound effect on me. I heard about food healing stomach cancer, tumors, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. And when I was traveling, I stayed at a lot of farms. I was very impressed that there was a food culture where the chefs were supportive of the farmers and the farmers were supportive of the chef, and the food writers were supportive of all of it. I came back feeling like I had a national voice and a lot of connections, but I didn’t have that in my own town–an advocacy culture, a supportive culture of food and farms–so I created it.
I wanted to serve our town healthy foods and teach them how to create healthy foods, and I really wanted to raise the demand for farm fresh foods. So I bought the building for the restaurant, but quickly realized that if I wanted 100-percent pasture-raised meat for the volume I was expecting, at the prices I was planning, I would have to have my own farm.
Before this, I had never owned a restaurant or a farm. I was a waitress years ago, but it was nothing that prepared me for this. Once my farm was in place, I opened Woods Hill Table, a sustainable New American restaurant in 2015. Next came Adelita, an organic Mexican restaurant I opened in March.
The name Adelita ties back to this mission. Meaning “female Mexican revolutionary warrior,” Adelita speaks to how this farm and these restaurants came to be.
At my restaurants, I don’t expect people to go raw. They’re not raw food restaurants. I would love to have a raw food restaurant at some point, but I don’t try to dictate my diet to people. Our grains are soaked, our grains are organic, our meat is wild, and we have a lot of raw foods. At Woods Hill Table, we have a complete raw bar with raw oysters, tartare, poke, ceviche, raw clams and a raw cheese tray. At Adelita, we currently only offer raw ceviche, but I would love to increase the number of raw offerings at some point.
We work with sustainable fisheries and area farmers known to walk in hours before service, but I wouldn’t call ourselves “farm-to-table.” It’s a term that has become so overused, something a restaurant that even just buys anything from a farm can say. We go above and beyond that.
We raise all of the beef, pork, chicken, lamb and eggs, and we use the entire animal. The fact that we had so many leftover trimmings from Woods Hill Table, where guests expect a certain cut–and the fact that we can only make so many sausages and charcuterie plates–led us to opening Adelita. The trimmings make amazing tacos, so we’re able to use the whole animal and fill a need for Mexican, especially organic Mexican, in our area.
“It’s my job to make their dish not only taste amazing, but, most importantly, nourish them and, in turn, nourish my staff, nourish the environment, and take care of the animals. All of the above.” – Kristin Canty
And while the high-end Woods Hill Table has already brought people together for anniversaries or to celebrate, Adelita does the same at a lower price point. A woman got a meal of organic Mexican rice and an organic taco for her child the other day that cost $11, and it’s all non-GMO.
But running the restaurants hasn’t been without its challenges. The person leaving a Yelp review that their food took a little bit too long has no idea that we raise the animals and move the animals daily to keep them clean, and slaughter them at a certified organic slaughterhouse, and that once they get into the chef’s hands, these chefs from New York City with incredible experience are making every single solitary thing, controlling their own costs, making everything from scratch. We don’t have any industrial oils in the building. It’s completely non-GMO and we compost everything. We pay everybody well; all of our chefs have health insurance.
But I don’t want to be preachy about the food. I just want you to come in and think you’re having a delicious meal.
My goal was to feed people nutritionally and supply food that is nutritious, healthy and accessible to families that don’t have time to cook for themselves. Soaking our grains and beans, and getting our grass-fed meat from our farm is labor-intensive. My goal was to eliminate the labor to families and enable them to have healthy meals, and to have a great place to get together.
The guests might not have any idea how much care we put into everything to take care of them and to nourish their body. It’s my job to make their dish not only taste amazing, but, most importantly, nourish them and, in turn, nourish my staff, nourish the environment, and take care of the animals. All of the above.