Nearly two years ago I set out on a journey hoping to uncover local foods and generate greater awareness of the ample resources at our fingertips in and around Central Ohio. What I discovered was much greater than anything I could have imagined. With each destination I have met incredible people willing to share their unique and inspiring stories and Val Jorgensen of Jorgensen Farms in Westerville is no exception. This might sound ridiculous to those who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her, but Val’s benevolent nature and ambitious demeanor inspires you to follow your dreams and, in fact, this mother, nurse, farmer, breast cancer survivor, teacher and community leader has this goal front and center on her endless to-do list.
Val Jorgensen may have started a new chapter of her life in her 50s, but taking care of those around her was anything but a new concept. In 1992, she purchased 65 acres which surround an 1800s farmhouse as a place to raise her four young sons. She smiled as she recalled when they were growing up and how she loved baking for them. Val never made the typical single batch of cookies, it was at least double, triple or even quadruple the recipe and the mountain of sugar disks would be piled as high as the ceiling. As I would soon come to learn, Val doesn’t really follow suit when it comes to keeping things small. Having grown up on a now 4th generation dairy farm in Michigan, she learned the ins and outs of traditional farm life and chose to pass these lessons of gardening, canning and raising animals along to her boys. For 20 years she was completely consumed with raising her children, and although she temporarily put her aspirations aside she was quick to point out that the different stages of her life each offered challenges and opportunities. It wasn’t until 2001, after her two eldest children graduated from high school, did Val decide to focus on farming full time. Farming was deep in her roots and coupled with her nursing background she felt it was her purpose and mission to get people to eat nutritious local food and more importantly to come to the realization that doing such is not difficult task. Thus, she gave birth to her last baby, Jorgensen Farms.
Even in the middle of December, Jorgensen Farms was alive with mellifluous sounds and smells. As we walked around the certified organic grounds, Val pointed out the edible landscape growing around her home including rosemary, parsley, oregano, lavender, and dill. She proudly noted that you don’t need a 65 acre farm to grow your own food, you can very easily make use of the space you have. As we walked back to her five passive solar greenhouses we had a sweet shadow of cats following our every move. The six kitties that call the farm home (Mom Jill and babies Peppermint, Basil, Sage, Girl Thyme, and Lovage) take their job of mouse control very seriously! Besides the cats, you would think there was a football team of workers helping complete the laundry list of tasks on the farm, but Val relies on just a handful of people to keep things running smoothly. She aims to make the farm as balanced and sustainable as possible by having a small number of livestock, a few laying hens, year round herbs, greens and root vegetables, and honey. She also has her hand in making ready-to-go products like her parsley pesto, herbal infused honeys and organic honeybee healing nutrient (to which my dry winter lips are now happily addicted!).
Besides all of the above, there is more to life on Jorgensen Farms. Staring in March and held once a month through December Val hosts a Sunday Supper celebrating what she has grown on the property. She explained to me that suppers were a part of her childhood. On the farm, dinner is served around 1pm and supper is enjoyed after you finish your work for the day. Jorgensen Farms Sunday Suppers are not to be missed. Along with the suppers, the farm has become the premier destination for local weddings and events. Maintaining 65 acres, hosting Sunday Suppers and private events would be enough to make ones head spin, but Val doesn’t stop there. She also helps run a program supported by the Gahanna Convention and Visitors Bureau called Girl Thyme, where a group of 5-12 women come and experience a day on the farm. In her spare time, Val is working with the City of Westerville Parks & Recreation teaching seniors. If you can’t make it to any of her events, don’t fret because you can find bits and pieces of Jorgensen Farms sprinkled throughout Central Ohio. Her herbs are featured at many Columbus area restaurants including Due Amici, Northstar Café, and Worthington Inn as well as sold at Whole Foods and Green Bean Delivery. As if that isn’t enough, she also participates in the New Albany, Clintonville and Worthington Farmers Markets where you will typically find her selling her wool products including duvets, fleece, yarn and socks. It seems like the only thing she doesn’t sell is a magic bottle full of her energy. PS Val if you started selling this I would buy it!!
Val Jorgensen proves it is never too late to pursue the path you were destined to follow. From her days of baking cookies to her evenings of hosting Sunday Suppers, nothing Val has done or will do is minute in scale and to say she works hard to put food on everyone’s table and share knowledge to those willing to learn is quite an understatement.
The Jorgensen Farms lemon thyme (pictured left) traveled 19 miles to Columbus, while the thyme (pictured right) traveled roughly 345 miles to Columbus.
Although there are over sixty different varieties of thyme, all have significant health benefits and a beautiful perfume making it worthy of adding to any dish.
Thyme possesses anti-oxidant properties and has shown to have antimicrobial activity towards a number of different types of bacteria. Its essential oil has been proven to prevent contamination and scientists are using it to create a natural food preservative. Go ahead and add thyme to your favorite foods, especially produce items that are eaten raw.
Roasted Halibut w/ Lemon Thyme & Root Vegetables
If your resolution to eat healthier and more local has fallen by the wayside, get back on track with this hearty and nutritious dish.
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