For the past few years, the owners have shared their passion for producing delicious and artful food with the community in a refurbished 100-year-old barn with weekly ‘farm dinners’ under the direction of chefs Sam Hilmer and Joanna Duley, co-managers of Claverach. Menus change for each meal and are inspired by the produce harvested that week.
The nonpareil experience of Claverach Farm raises a thorny question: Once I’ve attended one of the popular Saturday suppers, should I share the experience with others or keep it all to myself? Located near Eureka, the farm is close enough for convenience but isolated enough for a true escape—an escape rooted in geography and gastronomy that not only arouses all the senses, but also awakens childhood memories of cookouts, camping, and a slower time when food was enjoyed among others, close to the land. Proprietors Sam Hilmer and Joanna Duley understand that great dining is about far more than the food.
To find the farm in Eureka, leave the beaten path behind. Cross a rickety one-lane bridge, then drive down a narrow private road along the Meramec River, gravel popping and grinding under tires, until you see the magnificent barn. Its bones are original, at least a century old, the posts and beams made of rough-hewn cedar logs harvested from the 300-acre farm’s rocky hillsides. Sam Hilmer’s family has tended Claverach Farm for generations.
Twenty miles outside of St. Louis, the 300-acre Claverach Farm got its start by growing specialty produce and microgreens and selling to local restaurants, such as Sidney Street Cafe, Stellina, Oceano Bistro and Farmhaus, and at farmers’ markets. Today owners and chefs Joanna Duley and Sam Hilmer share their passion of producing farm-to-table meals for the community in their 100-year-old refurbished barn with Saturday ‘farm dinners’ featuring fruits and vegetables from their farm.
Today Claverach shares its passion for producing delicious and artful food with the community in its refurbished 100-year-old barn with weekly ‘farm dinners.’ Four courses, drinks and hors d’oeuvres are served at long communal tables, with ample time for touring the property’s gardens, orchards and vineyards.
Overseeing the fields at Claverach Farm is a passion for [Sam] Hilmer, but that passion certainly doesn’t end there. ‘I love having the ability to go out to the field and pick something that’s at its absolute, most perfect expression,’ he explains. ‘But then to prepare it with respect, put it on a plate and then to see peoples’ reactions—because a lot of people have never really experienced something like that before—that’s what keeps me motivated.’
Claverach Farms, St. Louis’ purest incarnation of the slow-food movement, is the place to truly experience the often touted but not-so-often realized farm-to-table movement.
The St. Louis area is blessed with bountiful agriculture and sustainably raised animals, and right now the most exciting thing for me is to watch it unfold at Claverach Farm. Sam Hilmer and Joanna Duley are growing beautiful produce, raising delicious eggs, producing French-style Rosé, all the while hosting great events like Slow Food St. Louis’ Feast in the Field and their own monthly Sunday Suppers. If you haven’t been there, you are missing out.
Whoever decided that Mother’s Day had to be celebrated in the morning or early afternoon didn’t know about Claverach Farm’s Sunday Suppers. At least once a month, the farm’s Sam Hilmer and Joanna Duley host guests in a refurbished barn on their working farm. Suppers begin at 5 p.m., with an aperitif from the farm’s vineyard, followed by a family-style, multi-course dinner prepared from whatever happens to be sprouting, growing, or “laying” around the farm. Current seasonal items, for example, might include sunflower, radish, and pea shoots, as well as pasture-raised eggs.
Once night fell, the barn glowed magically in the dark, and the fire pit’s smoke wafted through the air, recalling memories of bonfires past. Lit hurricanes lining the path guided us to our car as we walked away, reluctant to leave such a special place.
It’s very beautiful and idealistic what we’re doing here, but we are also still in the process of trying to figure out how to make it sustainable for us, how to make a real living over time... That is why Sam and I decided on the direction we are taking this farm. We’ve rehabbed our barn, and we want to have people come here and eat, and have an experience on the farm.
Hilmer attended Chaminade High School, then earned an anthropology degree from Webster University. ‘When Sam graduated from college, he told us he wanted to be a farmer. We about died,’ said his mother, Jean Hilmer. But his mom needn’t have worried. Apparently Hilmer had thought the idea through, and the farm has been a big success in the St. Louis organic gardening and slow foods movement.
Claverach produce doesn’t just allure [Gerard] Craft with its looks. ‘You can eat the salad greens without dressing,’ he said. ‘Joanna and Sam know how food is supposed to taste.’Impeccable flavor requires impeccable soil. At Claverach Farm, the soil is naturally high in calcium and is amended with compost and minerals.