We were able to get upstate to visit several farms right before the hard frost hits this weekend. Along peeping at the kaleidoscope of colors from the foliage, we also learned about various farming and production methods from four female-run operations. Overall it was an inspiring and gorgeous farm trip.
First Stop: Uncouth Vermouth, Saurgerties, NY
Producer: Bianca Miraglia
I met Bianca several years ago at the Slow Food Summit at Glynwood, which was the first year the conference brought in local wine, spirits, and brewers. Her vermouths that she had to sample astounded me, along with her strong opinions on the farm-to-glass movement. She makes a variety of seasonal dry vermouths using an array of locally sourced botanicals that she infuses into Red Hook Winery wine. Some of her seasonal creations have included: Hops Vermouth, Yellow Beet Eucalyptus, Wild Flower, Serrano Chili Lavender. We are currently using her standard apple mint at the PRINT. bar in a version of the Negroni Sbagliato. It was a treat to taste two of her newer flavors – rhubarb and a limited edition sour cherry – while cooking up supper at her new production site and home in Saugerties.
Second Stop: Rise & Root Farm, Chester, NY
Farmers: Jane Hodge, Lorrie Clevenger, Karen Washington, D. Rooney, Michaela hayes, Maggie Cheyney
Rise & Root Farm is wrapping up its first year. They came into PRINT. in late March asking if there was anything in particular we would like them to plant and immediately I knew these ladies were dedicated to growing heirloom varieties and offering a unique level of custom farming. They are growing in a valley located in the Black Dirt region of Sullivan County that has been turned over as a commercial agriculture site to being a space for small organic farms to utilize. They started out this year with 3 acres but may expand next season. The black dirt as seen in photo below is extremely fertile, and because of that not only do plants love it but so do weeds, so keeping weeds low is one of their greatest struggles. In those three acres, they have a wild variety of flowers, most of them edible, tomatoes, and greens ranging from collards to chrysanthemum which they sell directly to restaurants and wholesalers and at the Union Square Greenmarket on Fridays. They came together through their passion for urban food activism in NYC and continue to work on those projects ranging from Black Urban Growers to Farm School NYC. All in all it is an inspiring farm with gorgeous diverse produce run by a talented and dedicated group of farmers and activists, and we are proud to support all they do.
Third Stop: Straight Out of the Ground Farm, Roxbury, NY
Farmer: Madalyn Warren
This gorgeous 10-acre farm is located in the East River Valley of the Catskills. Their farming practices are detailed on their website for their CSA members: NO insecticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers or GM seeds are considered for use. Planting starts with just about every seed variety FEDCO seeds has to offer, producing an incredible diversity of flavors and nutrients to enjoy throughout the season. We use mechanical means to deal with weeds and pests (hoeing, tractor mounted weeders, covering plants to keep off the flea beetles, etc). Soil health is boosted with compost from a neighbors horse farm, seaweed tea field applications and cycling out fields for one year to cover crop.
These farming methods show the product we get from them each week is impeccable, and when I saw it in the fields I was astounded at how pristine everything looked even this late in the season. There was a group dinner that evening, so we harvested an array of turnips, radishes, mustard greens, pea shoots, lettuces, and more for a salad and braising. Other chefs and restaurant managers from NYC had returned from last year to enjoy this friendly farm, beautiful scenery, and of course to eat the immaculate produce. Thus it was a feast of many senses, we had about 20 dishes on the table such as sautéed komatsuna with garlic and chilis, quick daikon kimchi, garlic scape kimchi, braised turnips and greens with miso, and roasted winter squash with chills and ginger. It went on and on, and we all said we had never seen so many greens on one table (there was some grass-fed grilled beef too). Dessert was an apple crisp with hand-whipped fresh cream, donated by their solo cow, Isadora (image below).
In the morning we helped to twist and break apart dried garlic bulbs into cloves for planting. Then we joined in on an impromptu yoga class in the fallen leaves, lead by a WWOOFer (Willing Worker On Organic Farms). The farm takes volunteers who want to trade a night’s stay in the farm house for a day of work, and they also provide housing and meals for WWOOFers. Aprile, our line cook at PRINT., had worked on the farm this spring for several weeks and that is how we were introduced to the farm and their produce. Generally there is a great atmosphere on the farm of sharing knowledge and pooling skills and resources. We hope to go back with more PRINT. staff in the spring and do some planting. If you are interested in working on their farm here is a link to their site with contact email: http://www.straightoutoftheground.org
Fourth Stop: Berried Treasures, Roscoe, NY
Farmer: Franca Tantillo
Franca’s stand is always one of the most popular at the Union Square Greenmarket, and rightfully so. She hawks her incredible produce with unabashed enthusiasm and makes her regulars feel like the stand in their home. She’ll shove a handful of beans into your bag after you have paid and say”‘take these crowders, they’re incredible.” Her focus is on unique and flavorful varieties, which all began with the tri-star strawberry and has lead to heirloom discoveries in other categories from potatoes to squash. Some of my personal favorites include the Papa Chau Chau, a Peruvian potato with a rich egg yolk yellow flesh and a dense creamy texture. The Trombolini squash was another winner, a small tender light green squash with a bulbous end that turns almost custardy when cooked. But the list could go on. Basically, every year you will find something new at Franca’s stand. And every year you will be happy to hear her calling out her latest phrase, which recently has been shortened from “Tasting is Believing!” to a “YUMMY!” Needless to say, to finally visit her farm was an experience in and of itself, riding to the fields in her Camaro, picking up her forager Tony and grilling next to a bonfire on her river front property. Here are some photos from our tour and our feast.