A harvest happening in Red Hook featured local products — and spread a
message about sustainable farming
Oh well! Neither Willie Nelson nor Neil Young showed up. But 500 other people made their own beautiful music together while chowing down on delicious food at the Harvest Barbecue at Gigi Market in Red Hook in September. The meal celebrated two events: the first Farm Aid concert held in New York and the final leg of Sustainable Table’s Eat Well Guided Tour of America.
Although separate organizations — Farm Aid was founded by Nelson in 1985 (Young sits on the board), Sustainable Table is a Manhattan-based nonprofit — the two groups have a common goal: supporting family farms and educating the public about food-related issues. In early August, Diane Hatz, founder and director of Sustainable Table, climbed aboard her biofueled bus in California and set off on a 38-day cross-country jaunt. And like a rock star singing her greatest hits, Hatz was belting out a message: the importance of environmentally responsible, sustainable food production and small family farms. “What we are seeing,” says Hatz, “is that local family farms are not only alive and well, but that a younger generation of American farmers are committed to sustainable ideals.” The tour cruised through the country, making stops in places like Missoula, Montana (where a local chef shared his vegetable shopping methods with the group) and Ann Arbor, Michigan (where pie judging, pie eating, and a pie walk attracted close to 100 people). In the Hudson Valley, Hatz pulled in at the Millbrook Winery and Plankenhorn Farm in Pleasant Valley, whose owner, Sam Simon, is the founder of Hudson Valley Fresh, the milk cooperative whose product is now sold at outlets throughout the metropolitan area. Enthusiastic about joining forces with Farm Aid, Hatz felt the location of the event was especially significant. “The Hudson Valley, with so much of its history and life based upon agriculture, was the logical place to join up with Farm Aid, which since its founding has raised over $30 million to keep farming alive,” she says.
At the Gigi Market shindig, local farmers and producers, including the dynamite new Chatham Brewery, celebrated with the exuberant crowd. Volunteers from the Culinary Institute of America served a Hudson Valley-based buffet. Hors d’oeuvres ranged from local seasonal vegetables to cured meats from Fleisher’s Butchers in Kingston; entrÃ©es included locally grown and produced slow roasted Berkshire pork, heirloom tomato salad, and Northwind Farms’ barbecued chicken with Mr. Mink’s stewed harvest peppers; local fruits were served for dessert. “The lines were long for dinner, but tempers weren’t short. It’s because there was a real feeling of celebration that we were all together to taste and eat what even 10 years ago wouldn’t have been available up here,” said one reveler.
Although some at Gigi were hoping for a glimpse of Willie or Neil, they can comfort themselves with the thought that, most likely, the superstars weren’t eating quite as well as they were that night. — Jan Greenberg