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Couple combine best of Idaho, South
Kelly Lawrence and Tonya Judd sell vegetables from their Barrows Mill Road garden and some farmland at the base of Chestnut Mountain. He is from here and she is from Idaho, but when it comes to gardening and cooking fresh produce, they have found that much is the same. Not so with breads: Judd learned to make biscuits after she arrived here. Back home, Judd said, they made yeast-based rolls and breads instead. (Bulletin photos by Holly Kozelsky)
Garden produce makes summer dinners easy and delicious, according to Kelly Lawrence and Tonya Judd of Barrows Mill Road.
Their cooking combines his traditional Southern roots and her family favorites from Idaho. They have found that the two styles meet in the middle when it comes to meals cooked with fresh vegetables.
The couple live on Barrows Mill Road, where they farm a few acres. They also work on his family’s 400 acres at the base of Chestnut Mountain, between Glade Hill and Sontag.
That 400 acres was his family farm, Fangorn Organic Farm, when Lawrence was growing up. His parents, Earl and Carolyn Lawrence, did organic farming and sold the produce at the old farmers market, which was located uptown near the city bus parking area is now, Lawrence said.
Now Lawrence and Judd are in their first season selling their produce at Martinsville’s Uptown Farmers Market.
When he was 13 years old, the family’s house burned, and the family moved to Martinsville, Lawrence said. His parents since have returned to Franklin County.
Lawrence, 45, also manages his father’s rental property. He always has remodeled houses.
Judd, 38, was raised in Idaho. She “worked in doing irrigation and landscaping, and worked in ski resorts in winter,” she said.
The couple met at a pizzeria in Idaho. A mutual friend was playing there in a band, and both came to see him.
They have been together for 21?2 years, she said, and “he convinced me to come back here” to Martinsville last year.
Temperatures above 100 degrees are nothing unusual to people in Idaho, the couple said — but it’s the humidity here that does Judd in. “She had never heard of the heat index,” Lawrence laughed.
Also, “there are a whole lot more bugs here,” Judd added.
She also misses “the mountains and open space” in her home state, Judd said.
When they arrived here, “we worked the land a lot so we could start planting,” Judd said. The couple grow everything following organic practices, but they do not have official certification as organic farmers, they said.
Their meals come from their farm, and anything they don’t eat immediately or sell at the market is canned or frozen for later in the year. The couple have two freezers and also put away 100 quarts of vegetables.
They hope to start producing their own meat. They’ve started with poultry; they have 25 meat chickens.
In the spring, Lawrence likes greens fried with bacon or steamed with vinegar. In the summer, he is happy with fried squash and onions. When red potatoes are in, he loves them cooked with olive oil, rosemary and garlic.
Lately, Judd said, she has been preparing stir-fry quite often. It’s a convenient and adaptable way to prepare whatever is fresh in the garden, such as squash and beans. She enjoys soups in the winter.
When it comes to Southern cooking, “I guess I’m getting pretty good at fried chicken,” Judd laughed.
Because much of her cooking in Idaho used fresh vegetables, such as greens, Lawrence “said I was a Southern cook before he met me, so that was something he liked about me,” she said. “That translates wherever you’re from, though, if you grow your own garden and cook” from it.
She introduced him to a new way of cooking green beans. She fries “a little bit of bacon,” then puts snapped beans in the skillet with it “like you do with a green.” After 3 or 4 minutes, once the beans have turned bright green, they are ready.
Judd’s grandmother was Danish and Swedish, and she uses their recipe for Swedish meatballs. “I also do more (fruit) crisps than cobblers,” she said.
The couple make five gallons of sauerkraut each year and can it. It’s a staple in their household, often served with pork loin or sausages.
Something new to learn here was how to make biscuits. “She learned for my benefit,” Lawrence said, “and she’s learned to make gravy.” In Idaho, she said, she and her family made yeast-based breads and rolls instead of biscuits. Her grandmother and mother grew wheat, which they ground into flour for the bread.
Lawrence added that his family, also, grew wheat for their bread. He has two brothers, and his mother made sure they learned how to prepare food.
Lawrence said, “I always cooked too, but now that she’s here, I like to help in the kitchen.”