By night Bill Telepan, of Telepan, a high-profile Upper West Side restaurant, serves inspiring dinners featuring farm fresh foods from the Greenmarket and Hudson Valley Farms. By day Telepan serves lunch in the cafeterias of the New York City public school system in an effort to improve the quality of food consumed by over 850,000 students daily. A true food professional he works from within the system, developing recipes and communicating effectively with school foodservice personnel about nutritional requirements, while bringing farmers into the schools and educating children about healthy food and the farms it comes from.
Over 30 town officials and land trust representatives from the Upper Hudson Valley convened November 16th to talk about agriculture and farmland protection at the municipal level during a roundtable organized by American Farmland Trust, in cooperation with the Columbia Land Conservancy, at the State University of New York at Albany. Officials shared stories and discussed the challenges of directing development away from their towns’ agricultural land. Concerns ran the gamut from keeping up with the changing face of agriculture, the critical role of rental land and the challenge of facilitating communication between suburban residents and rural farmers.
The city of Rochester, New York is home to one of the oldest continuously operating farmers markets in the country. Originating in 1827, the Rochester Public Market now bustles with as many as 45,000 customers on any given week during peak season. The visitors come hungry for delicious, locally-grown produce from more than 200 vendors, including approximately 70 regional farmers. Given the longevity of the Public Market, it’s not uncommon to find fourth or fifth generation vendors returning to sell their family-favorite goods at a fair price.
Customers will likely see familiar faces each year as the Public Market not only attracts new vendors, but also maintains life-long farmers, some now in their 50th or 60th year at the market. Because the market holds onto the best vendors year after year, customers feel as if they are growing up alongside local farmers.
“One of the most unique aspects of the Public Market is the longevity of some of the vendors; many are fourth or fifth generation. I know one personally who’s been a vendor for over 60 years,” explains James Farr, market manager. “The customers grow up and watch the vendors grow up, and then they watch family members take over.”
Farr has worked with the Public Market since 1995 and has an appreciation for its history. In 1905, the market moved to its current location off North Union Street, a site that provides 9.5 acres for the market, held year-round on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The city of Rochester began operating the market in the 1950s under the Department of Parks and Recreation, and the non-profit Friends of the Public Market help with promotions and marketing.
“We are very excited about winning the award,” Farr says. “I’ve been to markets around the world, and they are always a vital and exciting part of the city. Even in small towns, that’s where people meet.”
Other familiar Market faces that have made an enduring impression include Cindy De Coste, Market Manager, who has been with the Market for well over two decades; and Communications/Special Events Coordinator Joan Hildebrand, the “Voice of the Market,” who is well known and loved for her entertaining announcements over the P.A.
The Rochester Public Market is located in the middle of the city, in a challenged neighborhood. Like other farmers markets across the country, the Rochester Public Market accepts EBT Tokens, a program spearheaded by the Friends of the Public Market. The program is extremely successful, with more than $200,000 worth of tokens purchased last year, giving food stamp customers the chance to buy affordable and healthy food at the market. The Market also gathers the community for many wonderful special events during the year, including: Flower Days at the Market, Harvest Jamboree and Country Fair, Holidays at the Market, Night Markets and Bands on the Bricks , and Savor Rochester Festival of Food and more.
“New immigrants to the city will come to shop (at the Public Market) because it is more similar to the markets they are used to in their native country,” says Farr. According to research from the University of Rochester, on any given day, you can hear 29 different languages spoken at the Public Market. And with upwards of 2.5 million annual visitors, the market offers a busy setting for people from all cultures to find unique produce.
“Western New York is blessed with a climate that is much milder than a lot of people give us credit for,” Farr explains. The shoreline of Lake Ontario is perfect for growing peaches, while Wayne Country (next to Monroe County, home to Rochester) is the biggest apple growing region in the country. “We have a lot of fruits, and since we have a long growing season, you’ll find cantaloupes, watermelons, great root vegetables, potatoes, sweet corn, and just about anything you can think of.”
Of the 300 vendors on a typical Saturday, about 60 percent are farmers. The market is also home to bakers, fish mongers, meat purveyors, and general merchandisers. Even with the market’s diversity, farmers hold priority. Farr explains that many farmers enjoy selling their products directly to consumers. With 27 farmers markets operating in Monroe County, growers have several different choices for selling their products. The Public Market, like other markets across the country, gives farmers the chance to stay in agriculture.
“I know families in our market that say if it weren’t for our market or other markets, farming wouldn’t be viable for them anymore,” Farr says. “We don’t tend to have large production farms like they do in the Midwest. We have some growers that sell a lot of product to Wegmans (a locally-owned grocery store chain), some do 3,000 acres, and the Public Market gives them another outlet to sell. For some of them, it’s just their tradition. They just like coming to the Rochester market.”
David Haight, Director of American Farmland Trust’s New York State office led the crowd in a rousing cheer for the Rochester Public Market’s victory in the contest and stressed the importance of agriculture to the health of the state’s economy and people. David told those assembled that New York State is losing its farmland at the rate of 3 and half farms a day, drawing gasps from the crowd. He stressed the urgent need to protect the farmland that serves as the foundation of the state’s $23 billion farm and food industry.
Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy, candidate for lieutenant governor on the Democratic ticket with gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo, also spoke enthusiastically in praise of Rochester Public Market and was followed by state Commissioner of Agriculture Patrick Hooker who spoke highly of both the market and American Farmland Trust.
Additional speakers included: Lovely Warren, President of Rochester City Council; Luis Burgos, Commissioner of City of Rochester Department of Recreation and Youth Services; Barrita Shanks, of Seven Bridges Farm, a market vendor that sells pasture raised meats produced on their Lima, New York farm; and Mary Lou Lawson, President of the Friends of the Market.
Following the event soup and salad made with locally grown ingredients were served by Foodlink, a regional food bank that also operates Freshwise, a fresh foods catering service whose sales benefit the food bank. Rochester Public Market has been a pioneer in working with the state’s Food Stamp (SNAP) program. Between January and August 2010 over $200,000 worth of fresh produce was purchased at the Rochester Public Market with EBT tokens. Read more about the event
Battenkill Fibers, located in the Upper Hudson Valley Town of Greenwich, is buying fleeces from regional sheep, goat, llama and alpaca farms. The mill offers custom processing as well as their own product line which features a 100 percent New York produced wool, certified by the Pride of New York, named Easton, after a nearby town. The mill will also have a factory store on site. Mill owner Mary Jean Packer expects to process 100 pounds of wool a day. The average sheep fleece weighs 10 pounds.
Packer anticipates that half of the mill’s business will be in custom work with the other half in sales of Battenkill Fibers products. According to Packer, who owns two other yarn shops, there are 1,200 yarn stores in the United States with 29 of those in the five boroughs of New York City. Packer has been making preliminary sales calls. Her inquiries have been answered with what Packer calls “a resounding ‘Yes’” from yarn shop owners.
Packer also plans to seek grant funding to offer education to farmers on how to produce high quality wool and what types of wool are coming into fashion. “We can tell farmers what the market trends are,” says Packer. “For example, the fashion forecasts for this fall are calling for big chunky yarns.”
Battenkill Fibers is funded with a loan from the Washington County Local Development Corporation. “This is another way for farmers to add value to their products,” says Packer. “Such economic opportunities help farms stay in business.”
The rural town of Parma, located outside Rochester, was New York state’s first town to adopt an agriculture and farmland protection plan. It is now putting that plan into action. Last month, residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of using town funds to purchase the development rights to 114 acres of farmland. This land is farmed by the fourth generation of the Martin family and produces soybeans, wheat and vegetables. The town will pay half the cost of the agricultural conservation easement. The remainder will come from Monroe County’s Greenspace Initiative grant, which is funded by a Philip Morris tobacco settlement.
This new food processing and contract packaging facility in a retrofitted cafeteria at Tech City, a former IBM plant in Kingston, is an economic shot in the arm for Hudson Valley farmers.
Farm to Table Co-Packers, the brainchild of partners Jim Hyland and Luc Roels, is fully licensed and includes a dedicated processing line and a full bakery. The facility has three loading docks and storage space for refrigerated, frozen and dry goods. The range of foods includes frozen vegetables, pies, soups, jarred pickles, sauces and meat products.
The project was funded by the Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation, which obtained money from the federal government with help from Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY). "The opening of Farm to Table’s operations at Tech City represents a new era of opportunity for farms in the Hudson Valley," said Hinchey. "There is a strong demand for local food from the Hudson Valley and Farm to Table will help meet that demand in a very impressive way that will benefit local farms and create jobs here in the Hudson Valley."
“We are here. Our doors are open. We are ready for opportunity,” declared Farm to Table partner Jim Hyland And so were their clients including companies such as Rick’s Picks, a pickler of locally produced veggies and The Manhattan Chili Co., whose owners hope to leverage their new processing location into better connections with local farmers.
Saratoga County’s 15th annual Sundae on the Farm event was held on Father’s Day, June 20th at Arnoldhaven Farm, a Charlton dairy farm. Fifty years ago there were 1,800 farms in Saratoga County. Today only 641 remain. Sundae on the Farm allows people to visit a real working farm. Over 2,000 people visited Arnoldhaven Farm to tour the dairy barn, pet farm animals, go on horse drawn wagon rides and much more. This annual event is sponsored by a partnership of local organizations including American Farmland Trust whose New York office is based in Saratoga Springs.
|Photo credit (left and right): Times Union
See more pictures from the event.
Western New York Roundtable
American Farmland Trust hosted a roundtable in Western New York to discuss municipal agricultural and farmland protection plans and town support for agriculture. The roundtable was held at the Genesee Community College in Batavia on June 15th. Sixty participants, including town officials, planners and others involved in local land use planning shared strategies, questions and concerns. Over 25 towns participated along with representatives from Senator Ranzenhofer’s office, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the Genesee Valley Conservancy, the Western New York Land Conservancy, the Genesee County Cornell Cooperative Extension, the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning and the Genesee County Department of Planning.
Central New York Roundtable
Over 50 farmers, town officials, county representatives and local planners gathered at the Roundtable Discussion on Municipal Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plans hosted by American Farmland Trust and held at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cayuga County in Auburn. “This was a wonderful opportunity to share ideas and know that we are not alone in the process of creating a farmland protection plan for our community,” said one participant. View sample completed town plans:
Hudson Valley Fresh Screenings
A series of screenings of the documentary Fresh, hosted by American Farmland Trust and Edible Hudson Valley has drawn crowds and inspired discussion about farms and food in the Hudson Valley, which American Farmland Trust’s Farming on the Edge study ranks as the nation’s 10th most threatened agricultural region. Screenings were held at the Stone Barns Center for Agriculture, in Tarrytown, The Moviehouse, in Millerton, and the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. Each screening was followed by a panel discussion with David Haight, Director of American Farmland Trust’s New York Office, and local farmers, chefs and farm and food policy makers.
View the full-size flyer for the screenings.
Read Liz Neumark's Huffington Post article about the film and the panelists.
Listen to an interview with AFT's David Haight about the film on WHDD Robin Hood Radio.
|Fresh panelists, David Haight, Cheryl Rogowski, Todd Erling, Daniel Turgeon, and moderator Jen Small
||Students attending the Fresh screening at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park
Read bios of the panelists from each of the events:
Family Preserves Madison County Farm
On a chilly October morning Matthew and Juanita Critz welcomed community and state leaders to their Cazenovia farm, while the fields thronged with schoolchildren picking pumpkins. Cups of hot cider were lifted in celebration of the permanent protection of this farm with a grant for the purchase of development rights from New York’s Farmland Protection Program. “This is a positive for the local economy,” said Matthew Critz, who’s farm employs over 50 people and recently built a new barn. “We have immediately invested back into the community by buying local products from the hardware store, the lumberyard and equipment dealers.”
Green Valley Farms, LLC, is located in the heart of farmland protection activity in Cayuga County and will become the latest in the region to be protected. The 760-acre soybean and corn operation has within it an enterprise that roasts, grinds and sells soybeans to nearby dairies for feed, creating a nucleus of cooperative farms. GVF’s goal is to work in conjunction with neighboring farms to strengthen the viability of local farming. The Du Monds: Eric, Marjorie, and son Todd feel that protecting their land is a natural progression in the growth of their business and the agricultural area.
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