Know your Growers

Produce - News

By Lael Gerhart

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County is excited to launch the Third Annual Celebration of Local Foods this August. The first annual Celebration in 2005 was inspired by the “Eat In Act Out” week initiated by The Food Project, a Boston based sustainable food systems and youth development organization. Organizations interested in improving our food systems were invited to participate in planning events for their communities that would call the public’s attention to how supporting local farmers is a key link in developing a sustainable present and future.

When Gandhi said “We must be the change we want to see,” he couldn’t have said it better. If we take a look around at our local food system, there is a lot happening right now, right here, that is the change we want to see for a sustainable food system in our community. The Celebration of Local Foods is intended to do just that–celebrate and highlight the bounty of local food and farms around Ithaca and Tompkins County. Supporting local farms is about being a part of the change that will maintain our working landscapes, preserve the quality of our soil and water, build a vibrant local economy, and perhaps most importantly, produce food that tastes like food, nutritious food that is full of flavor and nuance with a story that is connected to our community.

This year Cooperative Extension Tompkins County, GreenStar Cooperative Market, the Cayuga Nature Center, and eight of our local farmers will host the August 19th Farm Trail Open House and Brunch to give people an opportunity to hear and see the story of our food–who’s growing it, where, how and why.

Many farmers in the area are pretty passionate about growing healthy food for the community while respecting the land and the animals raised on it. On the trail, you’ll have a chance to see local farms practice what they preach. You’ll see fields full of produce tended with love, red barns, and happy roaming farm animals. You’ll meet farmers Karma, Robin, Aaron, Evangeline, Erick and more. You’ll have a chance to pick blueberries, learn about CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and maybe even pet some long-haired cows! So if you haven’t been out to meet these folks or see their farms, this is a great opportunity to see where your food does or could come from and to see farms that actually look like what most people think of when they think “farm.”

Chefs and restaurants that support local farmers are a large part of the local food systems story, too. This August the Local Foods Culinary Passport will help guide diners to fifteen area restaurants, cafés, and delis that will feature farm fresh local products on their menus and specials.

Why do restaurants buy local? Pam Guelder from Juna’s Café makes it clear, “Serving local food means continuing the cycle of support that sustains my business. I am proud of our local farmers who work so hard in such an inconsistent and weather dependent industry. I am really glad they have chosen to be farmers because, to me, having fresh food to cook with is what keeps cooking fun and exciting. I am happy to support their livelihood because supporting other local businesses supports our whole community.”

Diners who visit participating restaurants and order a locally sourced dish will not only be delighted by the flavors they will find and have a chance to win some really great culinary prizes, they’ll also be co-authors of the story of which we all want to be a part–the story of building a strong, healthy and vibrant community.

For a comprehensive list of local food events this month, see page 4 or go to http://counties.cce.cornell.edu/tompkins/localfood/events.html