Tag Archives: farm to table

Race and the “good food movement”: a conversation with Sam Bloch

Sam Bloch is a reporter for the digital magazine The New Food Economy (and an ’09 graduate of Vassar College). He visited our class to talk about his reporting on agriculture big and small, the economic and agricultural sustainability of small farms, and the question of whether the larger “good food movement” that we’ve seen in the Hudson Valley  has a problem with race.

Digest of topics in this video:
0:00:00 what The New Food Economy (the digital magazine) covers
0:08:18 what the “new food economy” (the concept) encompasses
0:15:35 the Hudson Valley and other centers of the U.S. food movement
0:19:25 how sustainable is “small acreage” farming
0:26:04 Mark Bittman, race and the good food movement
0:35:52 the industrialization of “good food”
0:39:08 food trends in Vassar College dining

Sam co-wrote a widely shared article for the New Food Economy about the December 2017 Young Farmers Conference (held at Stone Barns in Westchester County), where prominent food writer Mark Bittman and and Ricardo Salvador (of the Union of Concerned Scientists) gave a keynote address calling for radical land redistribution for young farmers as a means to remedy, among other things, the agricultural land that government and white farmers have seized from farmers of color. In the Q&A that followed, controversy erupted when Bittman answered a question posed by chef/educator Nadine Nelson, “How do you hold yourself accountable to communities of color, and vulnerable communities?”, with what many felt was an inadequate and dismissive response.

For our readings and discussion, Sam pointed us to two further articles that elaborate on the challenge to Bittman and other prominent “good food” advocates who (it’s contended) are unreflective of the privilege they wield in this movement:

Zenobia Jeffries, “What White People Can Do for Food Justice,” Yes! Magazine, January 24, 2018.

Nathan Rosenberg and Clay H. East, “Sorry, pretty much everyone: young farmers are the least diverse – and smallest – group of farmers in the country,” New Food Economy, March 20, 2018.

Our engaging and wide-ranging class conversation ended with the students telling Sam about all the new dining trends at Vassar’s All Campus Dining Center, a.k.a. “The Deece.” After class, I took Sam to the Deece where he took note of how the college is adopting (perhaps superficially) many of the marketing and preparation practices associated with the good food movement. We await his critical follow-up to Malcolm Gladwell’s famous podcast about Vassar’s dining priorities.

From Tomatoes to Tomato Sauce

After weeks of exploring various farms in the Hudson Valley last Friday we got to see where some of that food goes at Farm to Table Co-Packers, where fresh produce is turned in to value-added products and packaged to be sold.Value-Added ProductsThe company was founded by Jim Hyland, who realized there were a lot of people like himself that wanted healthy, local food during the winter and a lot of farmers who aren’t able to sell their surplus during the harvest season and so had to let it go to waste. He created Farm to Table Co-Packers so that the two problems could solve each other; surplus food in the harvest could be absorbed and turned into products with a higher shelf-life, allowing farmers to sell and people to buy all year round instead of just during the short harvest season. He is his own best customer, with his other business, Winter Sun Farms, flash-freezing local produce during the harvest season at Farm to Table Co-Packers. Winter Sun then distributes the frozen food during the winter to those who’ve purchased a membership, like a CSA farm would distribute food in the summer.Liquid Nitrogen Flash FreezerWe saw the machine where produce is frozen with liquid nitrogen and the freezer where the food is stored afterwards. There were many other machines as well, such as a corn shucker and vegetable washer that had been modified from a dishwasher left over from when the building was an IBM cafeteria. Some clients provide recipes to make goods like tomato sauce or jam, which the company does as well. After fresh food like tomatoes or cucumbers are made into value-added products like tomato sauce or pickles, they then must be packaged, put in jars, labeled, boxed, and transported to the clients who will sell them, whether that be at a supermarket or a farmers markets.Pickles Ready to be LabledFarm to Table Co-Packers has many clients with food coming in from as far as Mexico to keep them working during the winter, but the company was founded for local farmers, so they are very flexible in dealing with small farms. The creation of value-added products not only allows farmers to sell their surplus harvest to places like Winter Sun, they can also get their own products back with a longer shelf-life. This means they can keep stands open at farmers markets for longer, bringing in more income and creating more customer loyalty. The relationship with local farmers is also good for the co-packers as the parts of the fruits and vegetables that can’t be used can be picked back up by the farmers to be used as compost, which means the co-packers don’t have to deal with the waste.When touring Farm to Table Co-Packers it was impressed on us how complicated an operation it is, organizing various suppliers and farmers and clients, meeting their different needs, transporting goods that need to be kept frozen or refrigerated, keeping up with changing food safety levels, and running basically 24/7 during the harvest season. The work is worth it though and they provide an important service to the Hudson Valley, making sure local, healthy food is available to people all year round.

To learn more about Farm to Table Co-Packers, you can visit their website here!

conversation with Eric Steinman of Edible Hudson Valley

Eric Steinman, food writer and editor of Edible Hudson Valley, came to our class this week to talk about what he does and how he thinks about food and sustainable agriculture in the Hudson Valley.

Some references in this conversation:
6:03 – Milk Thistle Farm dairy
9:53 – rate of farm loss in New York
13:17 – culinary traditions of the Hudson Valley and New England
19:30 – Quilted Giraffe restaurant (New Paltz and NYC)
20:20 – Depuy Canal House (Hide Falls)
24:24 – Sprout Creek Farm cheese
29:21 – changing interest in “local food” among food publications
33:20 – farm-to-table movement
35:40 – agri-tourism
38:15 – farmers markets in NYC and the Hudson Valley
39:20 – selling directly to restaurants
39:47 – Paisley Farm (Tivoli)
42:48 – Coach Farm (Pine Plains)
43:50 – No Goat Left Behind
45:03 – Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park)
47:15 – influence of NYC on Hudson Valley agriculture
51:48 – Michael White (chef)/Marea restaurant (NYC)
56:41 – local movement to bring “added value” to agriculture
57:41 – Farm to Table Co-Packers (Kingston)
59:14 – Glynwood Center’s Apple Project (hard cider)
1:07:43 – New York state’s Farm Distillery Law
1:08:30 – Hillrock Estate Distillery (Ancram)