Friday, September 07, 2007

Upstate-Downstate Food and Farm Caravan Day Three


By Hank Herrera
Managing Director, New York Sustainable Agriculture Working Group

September 5, 2007 – Day 3
Ithaca, Berkshire, Norwich, Delhi and Watsonville

We are eating our way across New York State. Wednesday began with breakfast at the Ithaca Bakery, hosted by owner Gregar Brous. The bakery started originally as a bagel shop so we started the day with local breakfast bagels and fair trade coffee. We next went to top of the steep hillside west of Cayuga Lake to West Haven Farm, a ten-acre certified organic vegetable and fruit farm situated on the crest of the hill, a glacial moraine formed by glaciers that left rich soil for farming. The farm provides shares to its 200 CSA members. We toured the farm and loaded up boxes of sweet, crispy summer apples. We made sure to sample them, of course, and they passed our test of deliciousness quite easily.

Now our caravan became longer. Greg Swartz of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Joe and Karen Livingston from Camillus and Lael Gerhart from Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County all joined us at West Haven Farm. From there we drove back down to lake level, across the valley and then up again to the top of the hill east of the lake to the Dilmun Hill Student Organic Farm at Cornell. There the student manager of the farm, Ben Scott-Killian, gave us a tour and several other students and faculty members described Cornell’s programs in sustainable agriculture. The students sell much of their produce to a cafĂ© at the Mann Library on Cornell campus, delivering the veggies in bicycle-powered wagons. As Ben said, it is easy going down the hill.

Olivia’s Restaurant provided lunch, and what a lunch! Chef Greg Silverman uses as much local food as possible all the time. He served salads with local greens and goat cheese, the most delicious hamburgers imaginable made from locally produced grass-fed, pastured beef, and a roasted peach with currants dessert. The rich flavors of Greg’s amazing local food lunch awakened a special awareness of how local food satisfies the palate and even better soothes the soul.

We headed south to Berkshire, New York and Kingbird Farm in the rugged hills of Tioga County. Michael and Karma Glos have certified organic operation producing vegetables, pork, chicken, turkey, eggs, culinary herbs, a variety of vegetables and grassfed Angus beef. They use horse traction for plowing and other work we associate with petroleum-powered engines. Their farm has a spiritual feeling emerging from them as they talk about their farming, from the emerald grass in the paddocks, from the cattle loudly chewing that grass, from the beautiful plow ponies. New York State agriculture has such diversity and depth. We are so privileged to witness these farmers and their work on the caravan. We loaded boxes of Kingbird Farm vegetables and meat and moved on.

Now the caravan turned east toward Norwich. There we met Dave and Sue Evans, owners of Evans Farm Creamery, located on their small-herd dairy farm. They produce yogurt, milk, and cheese on the farm, selling throughout New York State with the marketing assistance of Steve Holzbaur from the Center for Agricultural Development and Entrepreneurship in Oneonta. Dave’s operation serves as a model for building local food self-reliance. I asked Dave what keeps farmers from following his lead. He responded, “Fear of change.” At the farm Dan Barber joined the caravan. Dan is a vegetable farmer and Deputy Commissioner of the NYS Department of Agricultural and Markets. After tasting the amazing yogurt, cheddar cheese, a drink of non-homogenized milk—all followed by an incredible homemade ice cream sandwich—we loaded up with yogurt and cheese and headed to the Catskills.

We drove to Delhi, in the heart of the Catskills, where we visited the farm of Fred Huneke and his family. Fred rents his land to a dairy farmer—“a good cow man”—and grows organic vegetables with his daughter, Beth. From there we went to the Delaware County Historical Society Museum for another local food feast, topped off with sweet, creamy ice cream made by Karen Caskey and her fiancĂ© Jake Fairbairn on their Lazy Crazy Acres Farm in Arkville. We drive from one delicious local foods meal to another even more amazing local foods meal, in places that most folks don’t know anything about.

We drove another hour to the home of Dan Barber’s sister, Susan, who put us up for the night, in Watsonville. Watsonville! Who knew that we have a Watsonville in New York, in the Schoharie Valley, the breadbasket of the Revolutionary War? That is where we stayed, just a few yards away from Watsonville, in a home build during the Revolutionary period. Amazing!

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