Get into a Relationship with Your Farmer

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Food is about relationships, says Jennie Schmidt, a registered dietitian who works full-time farming in Maryland with her family. “Food is nourishing to our bodies. Conversation is nourishment for our souls.”

Because many of the food dialogues have been driven by people who know little or nothing about farming, Jennie says it’s more important than ever for farmers to advocate for agriculture. We must correct misinformation and point out when statements have been taken out of context. We also must allow consumers to get to know farmers, so their confidence increases about the food they eat.

Many Americans take their food for granted, says Jennie.  Because they’ve never seen empty grocery shelves, they assume the food is industrial and easy to produce. Some Americans can afford to be arrogant about their food, so they try to dictate to the rest of the population. They want to regulate some foods and ban others. Mostly, they criticize others’ food choices when they don’t align with their own.

The need for farmers to connect and help educate consumers became more apparent to Jennie when she was selected as the 2011 Northeast Region Farm Mom of the Year. She then joined Common Ground, a grassroots movement that encourages conversations between the women who grow food and the women who buy it. Today, Jennie blogs at The Foodie Farmer and many of her posts are also shared on Stone Soup, a guest blog written by members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

In addition to blogging and farming, Jennie also manages vineyards. Farming is all about nutrition for animals, soil and plants after all. Because Jennie was a registered dietician when she married Hans, who was raising hogs and cattle with his brother and their father, she decided to put her nutrition degree to use on the farm.

The Schmidt family has always tried new ventures, and Jennie became interested in growing grapes to further diversify the farm plus make a “niche” for herself. From there, she launched a vineyard management company that is expanding to new areas including Delaware.

Farmers can diversify into grape production if they have a good understanding of crop load and pest management, says Jennie. Unlike commodities, grapes are grown for quality and crop reduction is often necessary. It’s not necessarily a good thing to have high tonnage when the result is poor quality.

Growing grapes is as labor intensive as tobacco, says Jennie whose first job was working tobacco in the fields of western Massachusetts. Her best friend’s dad was a dairy farmer, and Jennie loved helping him haul hay. Although she wasn’t raised on a farm, time spent on her friends’ farms prompted her to minor in International Agriculture.

After college, Jennie spent two years working in Botswana, Africa helping the Ministry of Agriculture develop a 4­-H program. Her master’s thesis was about food and agricultural biotechnology, so it’s no wonder that agriculture and food production are so near and dear to Jennie’s heart.

As a tribute to Maryland where she farms, today we’re featuring a recipe for Crab Cakes with Lemon Dill Sauce. We’re also linking to the Taste of Home website where you can download a recipe to make a side of Chesapeake Slaw.

Be sure to also check out the Stone Soup website for a modern twist on American classics like Blueberry Chipotle Ketchup and Coffee-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin. Guests RD’s also offer tips for pairing oils with foods including this recipe for Warm Asparagus Salad with Walnut Oil Vinaigrette.

Crab Cakes with Lemon Dill Sauce


Crab Cake Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 2 Tablespoons red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon fresh basil, minced
  •  1 teaspoon fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 pound fresh lump crabmeat, picked over and cleaned
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons oil

Crab Cake Directions:

  1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet and sauté onion, garlic and red pepper until wilted (about 2 minutes).
  2. Add cayenne, cream and Dijon mustard. Cool slightly.
  3. Add beaten egg, basic, parsley, ½ cup bread crumbs and crabmeat. Mix lightly.
  4. Mold into 16, 2-inch wide patties.
  5. Combine ½ cup remaining bread crumbs and cheese in shallow dish.
  6. Roll patties in crumb and cheese mixture. Chill at least 1 hour. (Can be made early in the day.)
  7. Combine oil and remaining 2 tablespoons butter over moderate heat in large skillet.
  8. Sauté crab cakes 3 minutes on each side.
  9. Serve with Lemon Dill Sauce.


Lemon Dill Sauce Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon parsley, minced
  •  2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon peel, grated
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed

Sauce Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in medium bowl Chill until mixture thickens.


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