Gourmet's 50 Women Game Changers in Food: # 37, Severine von Tscharner Fleming

Here's another Game Changer who's completely new to me. Those of you on the west and
east coasts may be more familiar with her. Most of this post was taken directly from an interview Erik Hoffner had with Severine which I read HERE, as how could I possibly say it any better than Severine herself? Reading her words is the best way to understand her passion for farming. 

This week we meet activist Severine von Tscharner Fleming. Severine is the 
daughter of urban planners from Cambridge, Mass. She was attending college when she had a ‘‘violent allergic reaction to L.A.." 
She says:
"I was organizing a lot of events, lectures, parties, magazines and other things at UC Berkley. And we were organizing a film festival and noticed that there weren’t any films about the future of agriculture that were positive, it was all about doomsday erosion, doomsday farm labor, doomsday–you name it. We felt like we were all interested in farming and had been farming and were in touch with the community of people who held very strongly to a vision that was quite positive. We thought we should make that vision more accessible through film and that we could share some of these narratives and get a sense of the kind of community momentum that existed around sustainable agriculture."

At any rate, Severine took off in a pickup truck and visited farmers on the West Coast. She then fo
rmed the Society for Agriculture and Food Ecology at the UC Berkeley. It was founded in a basement and her whole movement started with that film, which they called The Greenhorns, with the idea that this glorious and burgeoning movement ought to be documented and then share the excitement with more young people who might be inclined to enter agriculture professionally. But soon they realized that making a movie takes a long time, and that they'd better start communicating in other ways as well. So they started a wiki for relevant resources, a blog for news and video ephemera, then they got a weekly radio show and podcast on Heritage Radio Network, they began to tweet, etc.

Severine felt films on food and agriculture focused more on problems than solutions. When she set out to make this documentary about young farmers, she became one herself. So, Greenhorns soon evolved into a movement. "It's about the community of young farmers in this country. We are a nonprofit organization that works to promote, recruit, and support young farmers. Mostly what we do is produce media -- print resources, new media, and programming for young farmers."

As von Tscharner Fleming and her film crew traveled around the country to make The Greenhorns, they found and organized a national community of young farmers. Von Tscharner Fleming co-founded the National Young Farmers Coalition to promote progressive farming policy and founded the Greenhorns organization to connect people new to farming through events (37 last year) and a website that offers networking and advice.

‘‘Farming is an attractive path for people who are getting out of school and feeling like there’s kind of a toxic consumerism and not feeling too excited about working for the Man, especially seeing as he’s been spoiling our politics and a lot of our ecology,’’ she said. She started serveyourcountryfood.net, an interactive map charting farmers under 40.

One season she ran her own farm, Smithereen Farm, in the Hudson Valley of New York. They
planted an orchard, raised pigs, rabbits, laying hens, a few fowl, and about three-quarters of an acre of vegetables, flowers, and herbs. They sold to three fancy restaurants, an organic grocery store, and a farmers market. They also dried 2,000 marjoram plants and sold them to Formaggio Kitchen, a fancy food store in Cambridge, Mass.

"Severine has a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners perspective on the young farmers movement.
Make no mistake, this woman is dedicated and smart." Access to land is a major issue for young farmers. It's a lot easier to find land in smaller towns away from major cities. It's of course a lot easier if you have cousins or uncles who own some land, and it's also a lot easier if you are friendly, responsible, hardworking, and lucky!

"We have the advantage of youth. Brave muscles, a fierce passion, and probably pretty savvy 
marketing insights. We have the advantage of eager eaters, dilapidated (but standing!) barns, plus sophisticated e-networks to access seeds, nursery stock, rare livestock breeds, training opportunities, season extension technologies, etc. We also have the advantage of dozens of institutions founded by our elders like organic certification bodies, regional sustainable-ag groups and networks, and land trusts. We have a generation of wise, thoughtful, and experienced mentors willing to teach us."

The Greenhorns site is where the young farming movement can be found, and its podcast is a
great way to hear how new young farmers are making their way in the world. Check out the Greenhorns HERE

Between conference calls, von Tscharner Fleming continues to work with young farmers—on 100
acres in New York’s Hudson Valley.


Of course, there are no recipes, but I found a wonderful cookbook called Farmstead Chef which, as described by Amazon, tells a "quirky, homespun tale of how we can eat well, nourish our bodies, and restore the planet. Rediscover the benefits of homegrown food and homemade cooking, preserving the harvest, and stocking the pantry, all while building community." 

There was a delightful recipe for some leek pastries in this book that sounded marvelous. And so they were. A great appetizer for company, easy enough to make, using frozen puff pastry to make things simpler. I made the leek mixture ahead and refrigerated it. (I'd bet you could freeze this too. I hope so anyway, as I have some in the freezer right now.) When I was ready to serve, I followed the puff pastry suggestions for baking. Frankly, I don't know what was up with the thumbprint idea, because it didn't work, so I just stuck them in the oven, they puffed up, and when I removed them, I broke the puff and put the leek mixture right in the break and put them back in then oven. Turned out perfectly. Next time though, I'm going to prick the center with a fork and see if that works better.

Creamy Leek Pastries
From Farmstead Chef

6 cups leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced (2 large leeks)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick) divided
1 package pastry sheets
1/2 cup half and half cream
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded
paprika for garnishing


Preheat oven to 400F
Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter and add the leeks. Saute about 15 minutes until the leeks are soft. Don't allow them to brown. Mix in the cream, thyme, sugar and salt and cook over low heat until it's thick and the leeks are coated with the cream. Remove from heat and allow to reach room temperature. Add the cheese.
Roll out a puff pastry to a square 10" by 10". With a 2" biscuit cutter, cut out circles of the dough and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Make an indentation with your thumb in the center of each circle, which will make the sides come up. (It didn't)

Melt the remaining butter and brush the the tops of the dough. Bake for 10 minutes or until they start to puff and are slightly brown. Remove from the oven, add about 2 teaspoons of the leek mixture to each round and return to the oven for about 5 more minutes or until brown and the cheese melted.
Sprinkle with paprika for serving.

Join Mary from One Perfect Bite and all the other participants in this fun series.

Val - More Than Burnt Toast
Joanne - Eats Well With Others
Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed
Susan - The Spice Garden
Claudia - A Seasonal Cook in Turkey
Heather - girlichef
Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney
Jeanette - Healthy Living
April - Abby Sweets 
Katie - Making Michael Pollan Proud
Mary - One Perfect Bite
Viola - The Life is Good Kitchen
Sue - The View from Great Island
Kathleen Van Bruinisse - Bake Away with Me 
Kathleen - Gonna Want Seconds
Martha - Lines from Linderhof
Amy - Beloved Green

 Ciao Chow Linda


  1. What an interesting career for a young woman. And a lot of very hard work to raise pigs, vegetables and plant an orchard. I'm amazed.

    I'm always fond of anything with leeks. Love your creamy leek pastries Barbara. They are so underused in this country as compared to Europe.

  2. Severine is such a fascinating young woman. Thanks for sharing this recipe Barbara.

  3. Those look and sound wonderful! I am a big fan of leeks.

    An interesting woman.



  4. These game changer posts are my favorites. I am learning so much.

  5. I always enjoy reading about this series. The pastries look great!

  6. The creamy leek pastries sound delicious and would be wonderful as an appetizer at a party.

  7. Yum! These are MY kind of snacks! I can just imagine these with a nice crispy cold white wine! Great pick from the farmstead kitchen!
    Severine is a very cool person ... driven and dynamic. Great post!

  8. She's new to me too. Thanks for the "introduction"!

  9. What an interesting story, great post, she's completely new to me. The tarts look delicious!

  10. Loving your delicious leek pastry here!

  11. Loving your delicious leek pastry here!

  12. I'm a sucker for anything with gruyere...yum!

  13. Oh...puff pastry...gruyere...WANT! Such a fantastic choice, I bet I could eat a bunch of these.

  14. These pastries look amazing Barbara:)

  15. What a fantastic recipe. They look marvelous. I think Severine was one of the most difficult subjects we've had to date, but you did a fantastic job with the limited information that is available. Have a great weekend. Blessings...Mary.

  16. Hi Barbara,

    Great to read about what others are doing and I enjoyed reading about Severine and her interesting life.
    The creamy leek pastries, look so good and thanks for all you share.

    Have a lovely weekend

  17. Her quote about farming as a career alternative for people who are concerned about the toxic direction of society was so interesting to me. I've wanted to better understand why so many younger people are getting into farming, and that just nailed it. (And the leek pastries look fantastic, Barbara!)

  18. Yup, never heard of her but loved to read about her. What an amazing cause to champion since they say the average age of a small farmer is 55 and most have children who would rather die than take up that amazingly tough lifestyle. I am in awe of anyone who decides to do it. The work is hard, no vacations most of the time and disaster is around every corner. I can't help but think that soon 95% of the population will eat from factory farms tended by peasants in hellish conditions and the rest will eat beautifully from boutique farms where everything will be well raised.

    Young farmers could buck that trend. Great post.

  19. Great post, Barbara. It's very exciting to see the enthusiasm of young farmers here in the Pacific NW. Family farms are very much a way of life here and the new generation of farmers brings so many new ideas and energy into the business.

  20. Oh I love leeks with cream and pastry! Reminds me of a tart my mother used to make with puff pastry, leeks and salmon. This young woman's smile says it all.

  21. nice combination of leks and thyme !!Bravo pierre

  22. Love the term "brave muscles." What a game-changer!

  23. What a champion for farmers she has been! What a delightful recipe too - these would make delightful appetizers. They look delicious!

  24. This is an interesting recipe you've chosen. Love the paprika for garnishing, adds a bit of heat to this creamy tart. Definitely something I'd love to try! :)

  25. This was a fascinating post. So glad that you are participating in this. Love the leek appetizer.

  26. boy-o, her name's a mouthful! what a lovely selection you've made and prepared--these look quite satisfying and tasty!

  27. What an inspiring lady she is! I love the look of these delicious pastries -- leeks are always a favorite!

  28. Barbara dear! Hello!!!!

    First of all, thank you for coming to visit me yesterday and leaving a kind greeting for my 30th anniversary. WOW times is a precious thing! NOW....this post and recipe....oh, how I so wish there was more of a HOMESPUN attitude here in the states regarding not only farming, but other professions that would keep jobs and good craftsmanship HERE! But anyone such as this woman who is willing to take on the challenges and hard work to make farming WORK is brave and perhaps a trailblazer to get us back to basics. When I was in France, it was nice to see and TASTE the simple delights of farm-fresh produce and products. These leek tarts sound wonderful!


  29. Anything that involves puff pastry and cream has got my vote! Looks scrumptious!

  30. Severine sounds like a real dynamo. It is so interesting to read about how young people find their way in the world. Really it's a theme that this whole game-changer series has highlighted: how do you make a career and a life for yourself when your path ahead is less than obvious? It's inspirational.

    Do you think that the Greenhorns group is connected to the Slow Food movement?

  31. Thanks so much for stopping by and letting me know about this post! I have been out of town and might have missed it! Although, I always try to catch up with you when I get back home.

    I'm going over to check out their site...



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