Farm Tables: Dining in the Field

The facts about farming speak for themselves:

  • America has been losing more than an acre of farm and ranch land every minute to development.*
  • New York State has lost almost half a million acres of farmland to subdivisions, strip malls and scattered development in the last 25 years which threatens food security and local economies.*
  • New York’s remaining farmland can only produce enough food to feed 6 million of the state’s 19 million residents. That’s just 30 percent of the population.*
  • The average age of the American family farmer is 57 and the fastest growing group of American farmers is age 65 and older.*

Here in the Hudson Valley, where we have some of the richest soils and farmland in the country, where water is — still — plentiful, where major urban markets are easily accessed and where young farmers are eager to put down roots, we could well be a model of sustainable farming for the nation.

Indeed, there are those in our region who want to see that happen and they are working in a variety of ways — on farms, in kitchens and in communities — to achieve that goal. One of the most enchanting ways of encouraging people to re-connect with food sources, their surroundings and one another is over a splendid meal served literally where the food has been grown — at their feet, in the field.

Since 1998, Outstanding in the Field, which describes itself as a roving culinary adventure,  has been setting out long farm tables in fields from one end of the country to the other to pursue their mission to “re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it.”

Over the next few weekends, foodies and farm fans in the Hudson Valley are being offered several wonderful opportunities to take a closer look at our essential local farms. With a fine twist on the farm to table to field scenario, these local farms will be partnering with talented local chefs to support critical local community organizations in the region.

On Saturday, July 16th, in Kinderhook, Katchkie Farm and Great Performances, the renown caterers, will offer their third annual Farm to Table Dinner at Katchkie Farm,  featuring a 100 Mile Menu and showcasing what’s local and in season.  Katchkie Farm, a 60 acre year-round organic farming operation, is unique in that it’s owned by Great Performances reflecting the company’s strong commitment to celebrating local flavors while supporting sustainable agriculture and good earth practices.  The Farm to Table Dinner will benefit both the Columbia Land Conservancy and The Sylvia Center, Katchkie Farm’s educational arm that shares farm and cooking to inspire children to eat well.

S.E.E.D. (Smart Eating Every Day), a Hudson Valley partnership with Healthy Children Healthy Futures and Mentoring USA, will be the beneficiary of a festive Hudson Valley meets Argentina Churrascheria in the midst of Grieg Farm in Red Hook. Locally sourced food — including a Northwind Farms pit-fired whole hog — will be supplemented by specialties, drinks and music of Argentina, Italy and Spain. Organized by Gigi’s Market, the dinner has been rescheduled from next week to the fall. For reservations or more information contact, telephone 845-758-8060.

A Seat at the Table, is the Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s elegant five-course farm field dining experience, and it will be held this year on Saturday, August 6th at the farm. The event is a fundraiser for the multi-faceted PFP which, in addition to its CSA and two Poughkeepsie Farmers Markets, works in the areas of food justice, education and young farmer training. The event starts with cocktails and farm tours, and then brings together local farmers, chefs and members of the community — at one long linen-draped table. “It’s a chance to talk to farmers and food providers, to learn about local food production and the love that goes into it,” says event chair Sarah Lee. “It’s a celebration of our community and its bounty.

In a variation on the theme, Green Peas TV, the new internet food and cooking show for the Hudson Valley and Berkshire regions will present Meet the Chefs: A Farm-to-Table Benefit Brunch in collaboration with Millerton’s No. 9 restaurant on Sunday, July 24th. Proceeds from the tented outdoor brunch will go to the North East Community Center Farm and Food Education Program. The dazzling menu will be prepared by an equally dazzling collection of top local chefs: Tim Cocheo, No. 9; Michel Jean, The Stissing House; Sara Lukasiewicz, Red Devon; Peggy McEnroe, Back in the Kitchen; Josephine Proul, Local 111; Noah Sheetz and Rebecca Joyner, Chefs Consortium; and Mark Strausman, Agriturismo.  “Everything — right down to the water, the eggs, the butter, the cheese, the meats, the flour for the breads and scones — is being sourced locally from our region,” says Green Peas TV’s Jane Watson.

And if you are waiting for your star-turn, this could be your moment. The brunch will be filmed as an episode of Green Peas TV, which showcases local farms, distilleries and other food sources, by organizing and filming events featuring top chefs in unique and unusual settings.

                                                      Statistics from American Farmland Trust* and USDA**

About Diner Dialogues

Didi Barrett was elected to the New York State Assembly in a special election in March 2012 and re-elected to a full term in November 2012. Her district, the 106th AD, covers some of the most beautiful parts of Columbia and Dutchess Counties. She has deep roots in the Hudson Valley and came to elected office after a career as a community activist, writer and longtime leader of not-for-profit organizations. Didi is passionate about the agricultural, natural, cultural and historic resources of the Hudson Valley and their critical importance as economic engines and job generators. She is also a great fan of the iconic diners that dot the region. As a member of the Assembly she serves on the Committees on Aging; Agriculture; Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry; Mental Health; Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development and Veterans Affairs.
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