January 20th Log Lunch With Local Farmer, Florist, and Chef Tu Le

On January 20th, the Log Lunch community had the privilege of hearing from local farmer, chef, florist, entrepreneur and activist Tu Le. Over a delicious meal of North African soup with lentils, beans, and millet, Moroccan flatbread, Lebanese slaw and rice flour cookies made with produce from Mighty Food Farms, Tu explained how his small farm combines innovative agriculture, art, and social impact.

Tu and his husband Matt began their farming journey in Pittsburgh, where they started an urban garden and provided organic produce to their local community. However, following a devastating house fire, the pair decided to head east and start anew. On their way to explore Burlington and Brattleboro Vermont, they passed through Williamstown, and haven’t left since. Situated just a mile from campus, they began to farm on a property now notable for Matt’s bicycle-inspired sculptures, which line both fences and garden beds. They began with raised beds, choosing from the start to challenge notions of what can and should be grown in New England. They learned through the process of farming, harvesting seeds that didn’t become edible plants, and continuously reevaluating which crops they wanted to prioritize. Tu resisted the pressure to conform to traditional models of farming, instead choosing to do things their own way; they created a unique CSA, allowing customers to choose from a weekly menu and providing recipes for them to follow, and eventually also creating a flower CSA. By learning to grow plants rarely found in New England, such as a number of asiatic chilies, Tu pushed the definition of localism, allowing local patrons to redefine what local food looks, tastes, and smells like. 

On just a half acre of land, Tu and Matt grew enough food and flowers to provide food for local restaurants like Mezze and Tourists, and tea leaves for Wild Soul River. They have done a number of pop-up events at local restaurants, provided food to Mass MOCA, and even grown flowers for weddings. Focused not on monetary outcomes but on their own creative interests, the pair is working towards opening a farmstand at Greylock Works that will provide asian groceries to the community. Tu is also participating in an upcoming exhibit at Mass MOCA entitled “To See Oneself in a Distance,” which will highlight BIPOC artists and the African flowers Tu has grown at 328 North. Surely, whatever Tu does next is worth following, as it will surely continue to innovate and uplift the culinary, cultural, and environmental landscapes of the Berkshires. 

Log Lunch is a CES program hosted every Friday at noon. During Log Lunch, a vegetarian meal prepared by Williams students is served, followed by a talk on an environmental topic. Speakers are drawn from both the student body and faculty of Williams, as well as from local, national, and international organizations. Learn more here.