Squash and Saunderskill

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We’ve been talking a lot about beans for this week’s Valley Café…

Butternut squash is also an essential ingredient in tomorrow’s menu. Besides from being a delicious and classic fall harvest, squash is also related to the bean. Squash, beans and corn are known as the “three sisters” because they were the three main agricultural groups for Native Americans. This week the  Valley Café offers a Three Sisters stew! Butternut squash is an essential ingredient in both the stew and the soup and comes from right here in the Hudson Valley.

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Saunderskill Farms has been growing in Accord, New York since 1680 having been passed down through 12 generations of the Schoonmaker family. Today the farm is owned by Dan and Cathy with the help from Dan’s father Jack, Dan’s brother David and Dan and Cathy’s two daughters and son in law (who were all once asked to star in a reality TV show on family farms).  Saunderskill Farms is made up of 450 acres that grow produce like asparagus, strawberries, sweet corn, tomatoes, apples and pumpkins. Also on the property are 13 greenhouses heated by corn from the farm and filled with annuals, perennials, hanging baskets and vegetable plants. The stone farmhouse, built in 1787, is the home to Grandpa Jack and Grandma Alice. Just a mile down the road is the farm market selling home grown produce and freshly prepared baked goods, coffee, sandwiches, salads, Sheppard’s pie, lasagna and their famous chicken and tuna salads.

Dan and Cathy’s oldest daughter Jennifer describes her father as a “an extremely smart businessman”. He has been an essential role in the development of the farm market and has dedicated a lot of his time to getting to know and befriend its customers. Dan is also involved in the wholesale business that sells to  farm markets in Burgen County, New Jersey, Price Chopper Grocery Stores and other local areas…like Poughkeepsie! Jennifer describes her mother Cathy as a busy woman who “wears many hats of the business”. Cathy also helped get the farm market running and has since been taking care of whatever needs to be done–washing dishes, answering phones, training new employees or making the Sheppard’s pie.

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Grandpa Jack and his other son David are the dedicated farmers. Jack has farmed all his life and has worked hard to maintain Saunderskill farm for the generations to come. Jennifer expresses her pride in her grandfather and says that his family admires him for the “strong, hardworking, loving man that he is”. David is up in the fields at 4:30am and is often still on the tractor by dark. He is known for his extensive knowledge in plants and the environment–he knows exactly how to manage the planting and harvesting, especially concerning the flowers in the greenhouse.

Dan and Cathy’s daughters also help around the farm. Renee works alongside David in the greenhouses and helps Dan with various tasks. Jennifer has been involved in managing the bakery at the farm store and her husband Ryan helps open the market and grill the meat for the chicken salad and sandwiches.

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Saunderskill Farms is clearly a team effort grounded on passion for people and food. A huge thank you to the Schoonmaker family for supplying the butternut squash in this week’s Valley Café meal!

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Please Note: Many other ingredients in this week’s bean meal were also sourced locally. The bell peppers in the soup and salad are from J. Glebocki Farm. The onions in the salad are also from Saunderskill Farms. The corn in the stew is from Kingston, New York and the chicken is organic and hormone free from the region.

(Pictures courtesy of Saunderskill Farms)

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