local farms

Local Corn is Sweet Corn

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Tomorrow the Valley Café celebrates Native American Heritage Month with a delicious luncheon in the student center. Native American cuisine contains the historic staple crops, one of which is corn. As an essential element in Native American culture, this week’s Corn Stew could only come from a local favorite.

Gill Farm in Hurley, New York is well-known in Ulster county for its sweet corn. The farm harvests 1,500 acres of a variety of yellow, white and butter and sugar corn each year between April and mid-July. With so much corn in demand, the farm needs about 100 employees working during the harvest to operate two corn pullers, eight tractors, many wagons and pack, stack and load the corn to be delivered to local customers and retailers like ShopRite. John Gill, owner of the farm, is passionate about his sweet corn and knows that tenderness, flavor and dark green husks are key to a successful harvest. Add his expertise with the naturally fresh flavor of local crops and the Gill corn is perfection.

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The business began with John’s grandfather, who also happens to be named John Gill.  He established the Gill Farm in 1937 at the base of the Catskill Mountains, less than an hour from the Marist campus. In addition to farming, John served the United States in the 5th marine division and fought on the shores of Iwo Jima. He eventually passed the business on to his daughter Charlotte and her husband Jack. At 91 years old, John now watches his grandson John and his wife Loretta run the family farm. However, it is still very much a family effort. John and his brother David manage the farmland while Loretta and Charlotte run the market and greenhouses also present on the Gill Farm property. Loretta is well-known for her famous corn chowder which is served at the farm’s popular fall festival that also includes hay rides and a pumpkin cannon.

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Like the Native Americans, the Gill family is very passionate about their corn, earning themselves a positive reputation in the Hudson Valley. Tomorrow’s Valley Café could not be possible without this starring ingredient! Taste the hard work of the local Gill family in the Corn Stew from 11:30 to 1:30 in the Cabaret.

See you then!

Please Note: Many other ingredients in this week’s Native American meal were also sourced locally. J. Glebocki Farm in Goshen, NY supplied the leeks, sorrel, dandelion greens and poblano pepper. The red pepper came from Davenport Farm in Stone Ridge, the cilantro from Migliorelli Farm in Goshen and the jalepeno from Sorbello Farm across the river in Highland.

(Pictures courtesy of Gill Farm)

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Multiple Farms to Thank

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This week at the Valley Café we give thanks to the many members of the culinary staff at Marist, so we might as well celebrate multiple farmers as well!

AG Enterprises in Broad Brook, CT supplies the cauliflower in our Italian marinated vegetable and olive salad. AG Enterprises in a younger farm compared to many of those we have already mentioned. Doug Baggott began farming in 2000 after graduating from the University of Vermont. His farm works as a team with Baggott Farms and Windsor Farms (owned by Doug’s father and uncle, respectively) with additional help from his wife Erin and their son Tyler. Doug enjoys the independence that farming gives him and his family and the diversity and challenges that come with the job.

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The butternut squash in the Native American soup comes to Poughkeepsie from the banks of the Connecticut River at Horton Farms. The family business began in 1860 with a single red barn and a farmhouse. Today the farm has expanded to seven barns on 35 acres of land producing vegetables, tobacco and dairy products. The antique red barns have become a symbol for the farm and a favorite picturesque sight for visitors. The barns and farmland have even attracted celebrities. In 1993, Billy Joel visited Horton Farms to film the music video for his top ten hit “River of Dreams”.

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Celebrate Thanksgiving early at the Valley Café from 11:30am-1:30pm and show thanks for both the Marist culinary staff and the farmers who have prepared our delicious meal!

Look forward to seeing everyone tomorrow.

(Pictures courtesy of FreshPoint CT and The Hartford Courant)

Close to Home At Cecarelli Farms

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As you well know, none of our meals at the Valley Café would be possible without the help of local farmers. The food industry generally defines “local sourcing” as grown within 150 miles from where the food is consumed. In past posts I have written about local farmers in New York but, based on the 150 mile rule, local farms can also be from other states. This week the Valley Café comes from Connecticut. 

Many of the vegetables in tomorrow’s Ukrainian meal (such as the bell peppers) come from Cecarelli Farms in Northford, CT. The Cecarelli family first came to America in 1912 from Caserto, Italy when Frank Cecarelli decided there was an opportunity to make a living as a farmer in the United States. A family tradition was born and Frank passed the farming lifestyle on to his eight sons and four daughters. A big family and their many hands were needed to help maintain the land.

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Last September the farm celebrated 100 years of family farming.  Today, Frank’s grandson Nelson and great-grandson Nelson Jr. grow seasonal vegetables like peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, green beans and green peas on 140 acres of land. In an interview with FreshPoint Connecticut (the wholesale company who sources from the farm and brings the produce to Marist), Nelson expressed the satisfaction that comes through hard work on the farm: “Every day here is different, every season is different. There’s always variation from year to year and it’s so rewarding when you overcome adversity and have a crop come through.”

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This week’s local farm is especially exciting for me because of its relation to my home in Connecticut. The Northford farm is located right next to my hometown and is a mere 10 minute drive away. I have never been to Cecarelli Farms before, but now that we have a connection I am much more interested in paying them a visit. I expect my meal at the Valley Café tomorrow to be that much more delicious now that I know there is a special taste of home in it.

Join us at tomorrow’s Valley Café from 11:30-1:30 for a chance to visit the Ukraine and honor the Cecarelli family through the Eastern European menu.

We look forward to seeing you there!

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Please Note: Many other ingredients in this week’s Ukrainian meal were also sourced locally from Thomas E. Baggot farm and other farms associated with FreshPoint Connecticut.

(Pictures courtesy of Cecarelli Farm, Newmans Own Foundation and Fairfield Green Food Guide)

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)

Tastes from Around the World, Brought Locally

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Although Myanmar is a country on the other side of the world, the tastes enjoyed at this week’s Valley Café have been brought to you by farms in the local area.

J. Glebocki Farms is located about forty miles away in Goshen, NY and has supplied the Valley Café with the bell peppers used in the Burmese Salad and Burmese White Cabbage & Noodle Curry available on tomorrow’s menu. The farm is owned and operated by John Glebocki, a fifth generation farmer with his wife and two daughters. The farm grows a wide variety of vegetables in New York’s extremely fertile soil of the Black Dirt Region, the largest concentration of such soil outside of the Florida Everglades and some of the most rich muck soil in the world.

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Glebocki Farms is very involved in their community by providing fresh produce to farmer’s markets in New York City and wholesalers in the tri-state area (that’s how Sodexo supplies Marist’s ingredients!). The farm also offers a Community Service Agriculture veggie box program in which members purchase a “share” of land from the farm and receive a weekly variety of fresh produce. For each 2013 CSA share sold, Glebocki Farms also donates one box of produce each week to local food pantries. It  turns out that this is an additional connection Glebocki has with Marist besides the Valley Café. Glebocki employee Kelly (who oversees CSA) told me that they’ve had a “very positive response” to the program, including at Marist. They are in front of the Hancock Center every Tuesday delivering the boxes of produce ordered by students and faculty.

It’s great to see such active community involvement by a local business like Glebocki Farms, especially just within our campus. As you taste the fresh bell peppers in tomorrow’s Valley Café lunch, be sure to think of John (and, let’s be honest, his two incredibly adorable daughters).

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Please Note: Many other ingredients in this week’s Myanmar meal were also sourced locally. The tomatoes in the Burmese Chicken Soup and Burmese Salad are from Saunderskill Farm in Accord, NY. The leaf lettuce also in the Burmese Salad is from Migliorelli Farm in Tivoli, NY. The chicken in the soup and curry has also been sourced from the region and is hormone free.

(Pictures courtesy of J. Glebocki Farms)

A Trip to Meadow View Farm

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I think it’s safe to say that most people’s favorite part of a meal is dessert. This week at the Valley Café, one of the desserts includes a sweet Raspberry Financier made with sugar, sliced almonds and, of course, fresh raspberries. The raspberries are not only an important ingredient for the treat, but also a proud product of Meadow View Farm in New Paltz, New York.

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Meadow View Farm was founded by Bart Colucci and his wife Doris in the late 1990s. The couple were originally the founders of Colucci Real Estate where they worked for 30 years as honest and dedicated employees. Meadow View Farm was established in their retirement based on Bart’s interest in delicious and healthy food and responsible farming practices. As a Certified Naturally Grown Produce farm, Meadow View does not use any pesticides on their crops, provides humane treatment for their livestock (including grass fed beef and cage free eggs) and uses crop rotations or cover crops to protect their land. Bart and Doris sell their produce, dairy and meat products at the Farm Stand on their property. After housing much of Ulster County, farming is an additional way that Bart and Doris can care for the well-being of their family, friends and neighbors.

Since New Paltz is an easy and scenic drive from campus, I decided to take a trip to Meadow View Farm and see the place where our Valley Café meal is coming from.

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The farm is nestled in the rolling hills of Ulster County with a view of the white cliffs of Minnewaska State Park in the background. There is a big red barn to welcome you into the grass parking lot and the Meadow View Farm Stand is a small red hut on the side of the road. Inside is freshly picked lettuce, arugula, radishes, potatoes and peppers. In the fridge are eggs and packages of beef and chicken also produced on their land. And the raspberries, of course.

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But the best part is that the farm stand is self-service. So when it came time for me to purchase some green beans I was trusted enough to write down my order, put the money into the unattended cash box and take the proper change. The simplistic set-up really reflected the close-knit and respectful community of the farm. The brochure in the store wrote a “Hello to all our Neighbors”, showing just how much Meadow View Farm values their customers and community. The brochure continued to explain that, “We grow this way because we care about our families’ and workers’ health, the health of our friends and customers purchasing and enjoying our food, and because we want to be good, sustainable stewards of the small portion of this earth that has temporarily been put under our care”.

It only seems natural that a farm built on such an ethical foundation and with a strong love for its community would provide the important ingredients for the meal we eat this Tuesday at the Valley Café. As you enjoy your Raspberry Financier tomorrow, make sure to give a thank you to Bart and Doris.

Please Note: Many other ingredients in this week’s French meal were also sourced locally. The cremini mushrooms for the Chicken Fricasse are from Bulich Mushroom Farm in Catskill, New York and the apples for the Apple Tarte Tatin come from Migliorelli Farm in Tivoli, New York. Other ingredients such as the tomatos, onions, heavy cream and chicken have also all been sourced from the region.