Sign up for our Newsletter

Tom Geppel, his wife Carol Festa and their two children, Max and Olivia at 8 Hands Farm in Cutchogue in 2017. (Credit: Randee Daddona)

For our new series on healthy meal ideas, we’re going straight to the source: the people behind the North Fork’s pristine produce, seafood and poultry. Learn what a day of eating looks like at their homes.

Carol Festa | 8 Hands Farm

Carol Festa started 8 Hands Farm with her husband, Tom Geppel, to be part of a change they felt needed to occur in the food system: moving away from an industrial model and building a connection between the people of a community and the food they eat through their farmer. And the way she eats reflects that. Festa’s day begins in the late morning after some of the farm work has been done. Although she admittedly has a crazy sweet tooth, most of her breakfasts are savory, but there’s always coffee involved. For dinner, it’s all about the produce in season and lots and lots of homemade bone broth.


In our household, we coined the term “Monday is Sunday.”  Since we work weekends on the farm, we don’t have the time to enjoy a leisurely weekend breakfast together, so we made Monday our Sunday. And thanks to my son’s remote learning schedule on Monday, it can truly be a family affair.

Because we practice time restricted eating, our breakfast tends to be later in the morning and a hearty affair, which almost always includes bacon from the farm. Today, it’s accompanied by a savory oatmeal. I cook the oatmeal in a combination of bone broth and water and at the end add parmesan cheese and grass-fed butter. I top the creamy bowl of oats with a poached egg and warmed leftover garden greens sautéed in garlic and roasted butternut squash. Delicious!

Because of our late breakfast, a handful of pecans and an iced matcha tea with coconut milk are just enough to hold me over until dinner.

8 Hands Farm in Cutchogue. (Credit: Sara Austin)

We recently started bartering with a local fisherman. It’s a great arrangement, and we love getting the call from him as he is pulling his boat into the dock. The call today is about blackfish. I had quite a few herbs in the refrigerator from the garden, so I sauté the fish in olive oil and butter and at the end, add cilantro, dill, parsley, lemon and sautéed garlic.  Cruciferous veggies are some of my favorites, and they are abundant at the farm stands around the end of the year. To accompany the fish, I cut up a head of cauliflower into florets I had purchased from a local farm stand and toss them with olive oil and salt, and roast them until they are nicely browned. This year we grew a kale variety called winterbor. It’s a curly variety and wonderfully eaten raw. It makes regular appearances at our dinner table at the end of the meal. Tonight I toss it in olive oil, which I usually massage into the greens to make sure it gets into all the little ruffles in the leaves, add some pumpkin seeds for crunch and a little bit of balsamic vinegar.


I have to be at the farm early on Tuesdays so some black coffee will have to do until I get home later in the morning. At home by 11, I immediately head to the coffee machine for a coffee made with Aldo’s coffee beans and steamed milk and then head to the beach for a walk.

I really enjoy a smoothie most mornings. For me, this meal needs to act as breakfast and lunch, and I find a smoothie is a great way to get quite a bit of protein and calories in one meal. I start with a base of coconut milk, which I make myself with dried coconut flakes that I rehydrate with hot water for a couple of hours then put through a blender and strain. I usually add some banana, which I chop and store frozen. I prefer the bananas to be greener because they are a resistant starch at that stage and a prebiotic food which feeds good gut bacteria. I add wild frozen berries and frozen greens from our garden. For protein I add hemp seeds, collagen powder and nut butter, as well as ground flax seed.

Later in the afternoon, I have a hot cup of bone broth. When the weather gets cooler, I try to make bone broth every week, which the instant pot is great for. I use either the pork, lamb or chicken feet from the farm, toss in some vegetables, garlic, apple cider vinegar and ginger. In what would normally take several hours on a stove top, takes two and a half using the pressure cooker. I not only drink it but I also use it in recipes during the week.

Over the weekend, we had a pig roast for our employees and so there was lots of pork leftover. For dinner, I make Cuban-style black beans, substituting ham hock with the leftover roast pork.   The dish also allows me to use some green and jalapeno peppers which are still growing in abundance at the farm. Served with some white rice and hot sauce, the meal is a hit.

A Tamworth pig and Icelandic sheep at 8 Hands Farm in Cutchogue, one of the stops on the tour. (Credit: Randee Daddona, file photo)

After dinner I’m feeling a craving for something sweet and usually chocolate is perfect for satisfying that. I try and avoid having most sweets around the house because I have a sweet tooth and very little self-control, so I find it’s better to eliminate the temptation. I do make an exception for chocolate though. My favorite chocolate is Alter Eco. I usually buy the dark, at least 70 percent. Dark chocolate and sea salt is my favorite variety and a square of it is creamy and delicious and satisfies my craving.


It’s a beautiful morning for a walk on the beach followed by yoga to stretch some sore muscles. I was feeling a little hungrier than normal this morning and knew that I wouldn’t have much time to eat during the day, so my late breakfast needed to have protein to keep the hunger away until dinnertime. Some leftover chicken from a couple of nights before which I had roasted in the oven with Za’atar spices does the trick. I quickly steam some broccoli rabe that we have been growing this fall to eat along with the chicken and in an effort to purge the fridge of leftovers, pull out some of the roasted cauliflower from the night before. I also pour myself a glass of kefir. I love the tart flavor.

Knowing that I won’t have a lot of time to make dinner later in the day, I throw some squash in the oven to roast so I can make a quick soup later on.

When apples are in season you can always find them on my kitchen counter. I usually only eat them in season so I make sure to eat lots of them. I’m trying a new variety today called Ruby Frost which I really enjoy.

Tonight is a recipe mash up. I’m crossing a butternut squash soup with dal, a kind of porridge made with red lentils and aromatic spices. The end result is a soup with warm spices and some heat, but also some nice sweetness from the squash. The dal is cooked with ginger, garlic, onions, jalapeno, cinnamon, paprika, turmeric and cumin seeds which I sauteed in ghee. To this, I add some of the bone broth I made earlier to cook the lentils. Once the lentils are cooked, I add the squash and coconut milk and puree it all together. The coconut milk gives it wonderful creaminess and offsets some of the heat.  A little squeeze of lime juice at the end helps to brighten it up. I garnish with cilantro. The usual kale salad accompanies the soup.