For Justin Naylor, growing food and cooking have always been intertwined. After a conventional upbringing in Wilmington, Delaware, Justin discovered cooking during a year off from college while working on an organic vegetable farm in Pennsylvania. Wanting to cook in a way that honored the quality and integrity of the vegetables he was helping to raise, he began a serious study of the writings of Marcella Hazan, and her classic work The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking became the foundation of his own philosophy of cooking.
Justin met his wife Dillon at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland. They traveled to Italy in 2005, working on farms and cooking with their host families in the northern regions of Emilia Romagna and Lombardy. Upon returning to the US, Justin staged at Osteria Pane e Salute in Woodstock, VT, an experience which convinced him to commit to agriculture and cooking.
In 2007, Justin and Dillon purchased a small farm in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Having been inspired by their travels, they decided to recreate a model they had seen abroad: a restaurant as an organic outgrowth of a farm. The farm, restaurant, and cooking classes began as a part-time effort, becoming a full-time commitment in 2014.
Today at Old Tioga Farm, the Naylors raise vegetables for 30 families on about an acre and operate a tiny on-farm restaurant, seating 18 guests every Friday and Saturday evening. Each evening is one seating of a set, five-course menu of classic Italian cooking that changes monthly. Justin’s approach to both farming and cooking is the same: to produce the most nourishing and delicious food possible, food which is elegant but straightforward and lacking pretension.
Justin teaches cooking both at the farm and also in Italy. Throughout the year, he offers small groups of clients a week-long culinary adventure with daily cooking classes, restaurant meals, and cultural excursions in Rome, Bologna and Venice.