How I Learned To FarmOn! (And You Can Too)

[This is a guest post by Tessa Edick, author of Hudson Valley Food & Farming: Why Didn’t Anyone Ever Tell Me That?  FarmOn! will be having a Harvest Festival on Halloween Saturday, October 31st.]

My food legacy: Born and raised in Upstate New York, I fled farming life for a city mentality, a cosmopolitan lifestyle, success and glamour. I traveled around the world in search of education, a career and like- minded people. Funny thing about traveling in search of something is that everything you need is always within you, never where you are going. Ironically, I ended up back in an agricultural community—the kind of community that made me so happy in my youth.

Having traveled the world, I’ve experienced farming in many forms, but the commonality is the connection to your food. Somewhere along our food ways, we lost our way with food. We swap convenience for nutrition. We demand cheap food, and instead of giving value to our family, community and farmer, we let our ever-packed “to-do” list sideline family dinners for “activities.” But being cheap with our food means we’re cheap with our health—something we rarely value until it is too late.

Living in Europe convinced me that the age-old tradition of eating what’s in season and what comes from the local terroir is sustainable and the only way to live. Eat strawberries or corn until there is no more left to pick and eat. Then switch to what’s available next. There is no other way. to get all of the nutrition your body craves and needs to optimize health and, ultimately our common goal, to look and feel great. You eat in moderation and in the rhythm of the seasons based on climate and yield, culture and availability. It’s what all-natural eating should represent but has come to be meaningless on our over-processed, heavily distributed packaged food system.

Stand up for your farming community and local food choices and sources.

When you eat today, thank a farmer. He works hard to feed you well. He just needs more of us to buy from him directly. That small choice three times daily to eat quality fresh food is vital to our health, the health of our children and our communities and our welfare. Wouldn’t you want to stand up for your farming community and food choices if you knew the upside? Ask: what is my criteria for buying food? How do my choices impact the family farm? Who do they benefit? How do I help preserve farming in America?

I want you to think about what you eat not based solely on taste and convenience but also why we must eat and base it on these three easy-to-remember thoughts:

Responsibility: who made it?

Quality: where did it come from?

Nutrition: how was it made?

New York farmers are reestablishing a foundation of values and wellness that are pure goodness and make me inspired to bridge rural-to-urban marketplaces and inspire a re-education in food and eating that starts in public schools and with our children into what the “mother” of American food, Alice Waters, calls an “edible education.” We can all re-create this model in our own communities.

One of the best ways to celebrate our farmers is to eat their food! I helped Jean-Georges Vongerichten build out a citified CSA at his renowned Manhattan restaurant, ABC Kitchen. Every week, subscribers to the ABCSA get armfuls of freshly picked produce from our favorite New York State star-mers (as I like to call them). His Kale Salad, below, is one of my favorite ways to enjoy the beautiful bounty (it also happens to be one of first lady Michelle Obama’s favorite recipes too):

Farm On Kale Photo

 

Kale Salad with Lemon, Serranos and Mint (serves 4)

By Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten
Adapted for Seriouseats.com from Home Cooking with Jean-Georges

For the dressing:
7 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1⁄2 piece of garlic, germ removed
1⁄2 piece Serrano chili
5 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons kosher salt
Pinch black pepper, finely milled
11⁄2 cups sunflower oil
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Method for the dressing:
In a blender, combine red wine vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, Serrano chili, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper together. Combine first set in vita prep and puree. Slowly add the oils together until emuslified.

For the croutons:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sourdough-like bread, crust trimmed off, 1⁄8-inch cubes (slightly frozen, sliced on slicer)
kosher salt & 
black pepper, freshly milled

Method for the croutons:
Liberally coat the bottom of a sauté pan with oil and heat until smoking. Add bread and sauté until all sides of the croutons are golden. Place croutons on paper towels, and season gently with salt and pepper.

For the pickup:
1 bunch Tuscan kale, washed and dried, ribbons
1⁄2 cup dressing
16 leaves mint, medium-sized, ribbons
3 serrano chili slices, rounds sliced extremely thin
24 pieces croutons
Lemon, to zest
black pepper, freshly milled

Method for the pickup:
In a bowl, mix the kale with dressing and mix well.
Evenly place the salad on a plate and top with mint, Serrano slices and croutons.
Finish with lemon zest and freshly cracked black pepper.

The above excerpt and recipe is from my book, Hudson Valley Food & Farming: Why Didn’t Anyone Ever Tell Me That? It’s a love-letter to farmers and part of my broader mission to change the way America eats, shops and farms.

FarmOn! Foundation established a working farm in 2014 in New York’s Hudson Valley dedicated to educating the next generation in the business of food about the art of sustainable farming. Young people are more and more aware of the importance of their food choices, which has reignited an interest in farming. In order to maintain that interest, these young entrepreneurs need to understand how they can make a living in agriculture. In the first-ever partnership of its kind, students at SUNY Cobleskill, Morrisville State College and the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will be able to live and work at the Foundation’s working farm– FarmOn! at Empire Farm in Columbia County in New York State gaining real life experiences in the food production field. Learning will range from seed and soil crop planning to growing food, harvesting it, producing, and cooking food in a commercial teaching kitchen and extend all the way to custom growing for New York’s institutions, caterers, retailers and chefs.

Want to support local farming in America? Buy my book! All proceeds benefit FarmOn! Foundation… Or come visit us at the farm! Address: FarmOn! Empire Farm 556 Empire Road Copake, NY, 12516, Columbia County NY Phone number: (518) 329-FARM. Check out our list of upcoming family-friendly farm events.

Chef Jean-Georges’s family-style kale salad at the FarmOn! annual Hootenanny! Benefit Dinner 2014. Courtesy Cayla Zahoran.

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