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Local Spotlight: Wood Duck Farm

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WHAT: Gorgeously fresh local produce from a guy who's had more careers than Liz Taylor's had husbands. Yes, Van Weldon has had a rather unorthodox career path. He's gone from tractor salesman to oil purveyor to stockbroker to energy trader to farmer. If that last one sounds odd, keep in mind that the decision to go from finance to farm wasn't made lightly. But the economy was grim and he lived on a large piece of land; rather than attempt another roly-poly career, why not try to live off an already-owned asset? So he worked. And worked. And worked. From dawn till dusk. Seeding, sowing and rarely sleeping.

More than a decade later, his diligence has paid off in the form of a farm full of fresh fruits and vegetables -- carrots, broccoli, beets, corn, chard and more. With each new year comes a new challenge as Wood Duck Farm adds something to its harvest calendar. Indeed, Weldon says his produce provides "a culinary adventure, fresh from the garden," and it's easy to see what he means. In the field, he's a self-taught farmer; in the kitchen, he's a self-taught chef. His daily life is an adventure. But that doesn't mean he hasn't had some gentle neighborly help.

Invigorated by the growing community of support, Weldon has recently begun offering farm-fresh dinners. For $75, patrons receive a farm tour, plus a five-course meal prepared by a special guest chef; anything that's not grown on the farm is purchased from nearby vendors, making it almost entirely local. Interested? Look for more farm dinners (plus hay rides -- what, what!) in October and November.

By ten a.m. at the Wood Duck Farm station on a recent visit to the Bayou City Farmers' Market, we saw that Weldon had already sold out of green beans. Client after client stopped by to say hello, and he greeted each one with an earnest smile. Within minutes, the last ten containers of microgreens had sold, and the squash was going fast. Looks like this career is going to stick.

WHERE: You might have had Wood Duck Farm produce at Branchwater Tavern, Rainbow Lodge, Pesce, RDG/Bar Annie, Catalan, Bistro Zelko, Trevisio, The Grove, Yelapa, Haven, Brennan's, REEF, Stella Sola, Ousie's Table, Mockingbird, Mark's, or - literally -- dozens of others around town. Whew! You'll also find Weldon's produce at the Bayou City and Grogan's Mill farmers' markets -- or sign up for the Wood Duck Farm CSA service: 10 weeks of vegetable delivery. The Spring/Summer installment has passed, but this year Wood Duck Farm is offering a Fall/Winter version too. Check out the Web site for more information.

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