local sourcing

Hudson River Fruit Distributors

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Apples were in abundance at this week’s Valley Café inspired by the Victorian household knowledge of Mrs. Isabella Mary Beaton. The apple soup, apples and rice, and butter apples were not only delicious, but also fresh from the local area.

Hudson River Fruit Distributors grows its apples less than 10 miles from campus across the Hudson River in Milton, New York and also just east of Poughkeepsie in Pleasant Valley. They are a vertically integrated company, meaning they do everything–grow, package, sell, ship and store the apples in order to ensure their produce is the highest quality possible. The Valley Café only sources from the best.


The business was started in July of 1963 by Isadore “Izzy” Albinder who immigrated from Russia in the 1930s. When he arrived in New York City he bought a pushcart to sell apples in the neighborhoods around Brooklyn. After some time Izzy became frustrated by the low quality of apples, so he traveled north to the Hudson Valley and formed relations with the apple growers. Eventually, Izzy and his son Harold purchased land and a packing house that has since developed into Hudson River Fruit Distributors. Izzy’s grandson, Dan, and Dan’s daughter, Alisha, have since helped run the business which has expanded to over 400 acres of apple farms in New York and southern Vermont.


The hard work and crisp local taste of Hudson River Fruit Distributors were apparent in Tuesday’s Valley Café meal. My friend and I were chatting with one of the workers at the event on Tuesday about how delicious the dessert was and she was very proud about how fresh the apples were, having been peeled and chopped and baked in the kitchen rather than defrosted. It is farmers like Hudson River Fruit Distributors that allow The Valley Café to keep the passion for fresh, healthy ingredients alive. And we are proud to support the local community in return.


See everyone after spring break for more locally sourced lunches at The Valley Café!

(Photos courtesy of Hudson River Fruit Distributors and from the Valley Cafe Luncheon)


See You in the Spring!

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Yesterday’s Valley Café sampler of the Hudson Valley fall harvest closed the semester on a great note. The Valley Café has had great attendance the past three months and Dining Services would like to thank the Marist community for its continued support!

I have had a great time working with the Valley Café and its local farms this semester. Have a wonderful winter break and the Valley Café will see everyone again in January!

Wrapping Up the Fall Semester with the Fall Harvest

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Fall is, without a doubt, my favorite time of the year. I love the changing colors of the trees, the crisp evening air and the kick off of soccer season. But most of all, fall of is full of the best food and flavors  like apple pie, pumpkin muffins and cranberry sauce.


The taste of fruits and vegetables are the most fresh when they are in season and the fall harvest does not disappoint with options. Favorites like sweet potatoes, pomegranates, pears, arugula, cauliflower, grapes, celery, peppers and kale are just some of the produce harvested in the late summer and fall season. Classics like apples and squash are a symbol for the season itself.

It’s fun to join in on the fall harvest spirit. Things like apple picking, hay rides and pumpkin patches are a simple way to celebrate fall and support the seasonal harvest. Even I get really into it… (c’mon, how cute is that tiny apple?!)


On Tuesday the Valley Café celebrates the fall harvest that has provided our meals all semester. The event will be an acknowledgement of locally grown food and also fresh and flavorful seasonal food. It only seems appropriate to end the Valley Café semester with a menu that brings the whole experience together. On Tuesday we’ll taste the seasonal favorites we have enjoyed all semester while continuing to thank the many local farmers who have grown for us this fall.

Pumpkin, squash, apples and potatoes will be overflowing at the Valley Café on Tuesday. Come join for the last event of the semester in the Cabaret from 11:30 to 1:30!


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.


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.


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)

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.

Baggott Farms

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”.


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)

Award Winning Growers

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The local farms are at it again, providing the Valley Café with the ingredients it needs to make an exciting new lunch.

This week’s Korean menu comes from Elba, New York located between Buffalo and Rochester. The cucumbers in in the Spicy Cucumber Salad and the cabbage in the Dak Galbi Spicy Chicken have been grown by the family at Torrey Farms.

Torrey 3

The Torrey family left England in 1626, first settling in Connecticut and then moving into New York in search of better soil. They landed in the nutrient rich muckland region and are still growing 11 generations later. Charles Torrey is credited with getting the farm up and running when he took over in 1954. His farming skills, work ethic and vision for the future helped turn the farm into the prosperous 10,000 acres that it is today. His children John, Mark and Maureen currently own the farm and oversee its growing and packing operations. Molly, Travis, Shannon, Jordyn, Lucas, Jed and Maxwell are the next generation in line to inherit one of the largest vegetable crop farms in New York.


Owner Maureen is known for her initiative in tackling tough issues. She has spoken in front of the Committee on Agriculture regarding the 2007 Farm Bill and has presented statements to Congress on the topic of immigration reform, after the farm lost many high quality migrant workers after an I-9 audit. Torrey Farms also makes food safety a priority through their USDA and Global Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification. They are also well known for giving back to the community through donations to food banks and local Elba organizations.

This past September, Torrey Farms was awarded for its many efforts by receiving the National Grower Achievement Award in Washington, D.C.

It’s not every day you get to have award-winning produce for lunch.

Taste the Torrey cucumbers and cabbage in tomorrow’s Valley Café from 11:30-1:30 in the Cabaret. We look forward to seeing you there!


Please Note: Many other ingredients in this week’s Korean meal were also sourced locally. The onions in the Spicy Chicken are from Rapasadi Farms in Canastota, NY. The pepper comes from Sheppard Farms and additional cabbage also comes from Cecarelli Farms.

(Pictures courtesy of Farm Progress and Torrey Farms)

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.


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.”


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!


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)