MORRISVILLE, N.Y. — “You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together,” said Chef Anthony Bourdain. This was the premise built around Madison County Cooperative Extension’s first ever, Food for Thought, unique dining experience.
The free dinner brought together insightful, passionate farmers, consumers, educators, and an award-winning chef to help facilitate conversations about farming and food, understand the diversity of Madison County agriculture and inspire investment in a local economy while sharing a feast, worthy of a 5-star restaurant.
“The Food for Thought program, supported by a grant from The Central New York Community Foundation, is a 4-part series which seeks to bridge the gap of knowledge between farmer and consumer, and start robust conversations about our food system here in Madison County”, said co-organizer Susan Parker. “Due to the influence of misinformation on the internet and a decrease in Americans who are involved in agriculture, Americans tend to have a lack of trust regarding the sources of their food.”
“To address the disconnect between Americans and their food sources, the Food for Thought program will create an opportunity for community members and farmers to discuss agriculture and enhance the communication and understanding between these individuals. As the demand for locally produced food increases, the need for connecting with local farmers has grown even more important. How do we meet that need? How do we make local foods available across our county to the broadest socioeconomical range? The Food for Thought series will attempt to address questions such as these.”
Surveys have shown an increasing disconnect between farmers and consumers which erodes our sense of community and the value that farms play in it. Madison County reported an 18% loss of farms and 8.5% loss of farmland in the latest Ag Census and there are divergent views over farming practices as social media misinformation circulates.
“Our goal of the night is to start a relationship. Consumers have questions, and farmers have answers. We want you to walk away tonight knowing more about our local food system and the entire seed to table process. We encourage you to feel comfortable asking questions,” said Johanna Bossard at the event. “A healthy dialogue and common respect is where education starts.”
The stage was set for farm-to-table pioneer and award-winning chef Alicyn Hart and assistant chef Pauline Drumm to serve a 5-course extravaganza which highlighted each farmer’s offered local ingredients. In Food Network style, Hart described the courses and waxed inspirational about the food that had been simmering and sourced that day. The 1st amazing course featured Sue and Claude Braun’s Lucky Moon Farm baked apples paired with Bruce Rivington’s Kreimhild dairy crème fraîche and Mosher Farm’s cider reduction. Between every course, Johanna Bossard would hand the microphone to the featured farmer to tell their story as the next course was being prepared.
The 2nd course was a winter squash bisque with its own toasted seeds, baked kale crisps and a watermelon radish slice sourced from Hartwood Farm in Chittenango, NY. The 3rd course was a cornucopia of baby kale, dried shiitake mushrooms, lion’s mane fritters and pickled daikon radishes which exposed the guests to the hard work of KC & Kristi Mangine from The New York Mushroom Company in Lebanon, NY and from Salt City Harvest Farm in Kirkville, NY.
The 4th course featured a slow-cooked, Beak and Skiff cider braised, beef brisket from Meadowood Farm in Cazenovia, NY paired nicely with a parsley-celeriac soufflé and garlic confit. The dessert course aptly ended an exquisite local dining experience with a New York State Maple short bread served with a light, creamy, goat cheese crouton from 7 Trees Goat Farm in Perryville, NY. A standing ovation was offered to the chefs, farmers, and extension staff for all their work to make the evening a success.
The staff took a number of good questions from the guests that were discussed further: “Can you get these great local products into schools and universities locally? What are the differences between certified organic, organically grown, and conventional production? What are the labor issues on dairy and seasonal produce farms? What are the dogs in the field of sheep? How can I best prepare winter meals with local ingredients? What’s the best approach to get younger people to the table of discussion? What’s the most effective way to support our farms?” A survey was taken afterward and revealed farmer’s challenges were labor shortages, weather, marketing and scaling up production.
“We love working with these types of events that bring local ingredients together on a plate. It just shows the intricate relationships between farmers that are so vital for our area,” said Cory Mosher. Guests indicated the program was a positive, delicious experience. “It was even more interesting than expected and I feel more connected with my community and the local farmer,” expressed one guest. Chef Hart ended the evening with a simple, poignant statement: “It’s important work we all do here.”
The next Food for Thought will be held December 7 @ 6pm Registration is required. Seating is limited, COVID precautions followed. https://reg.cce.cornell.edu/foodforthought-2_225
Contact Susan Parker at email@example.com
Cornell Cooperative Extension is an employer and educator recognized for valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans, and Individuals with Disabilities and provides equal program and employment opportunities
–Troy Bishopp of Madison County SWCD &
Susan Parker of Cornell Cooperative Extension Madison County