Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Views from the field: Conor Crickmore

Views from the field is a series of essays from our business members on the experience of farming and producing local food. Here we learn about the experience of raising "slow grown" chickens from Conor Crickmore of Neversink Farm in Neversink, NY. The farm was a recipient of a Pure Catskills Sustainable Agriculture Development Grant earlier this year. With the funding provided, on-farm poultry processing equipment was purchased for their flock of slow growers.

Neversink Farm has the only slow grown organic chickens in the northeast. As a reformed vegetarian of 20 years, having broilers was a hard decision but how to raise them was not. Our philosophy from the start has been to produce the best possible food while doing it in a way that felt right and to sort out the costs later. We will put the chickens on pasture early, let them roam freely, and feed them GMO-free organic local whole grains ground fresh on the farm.

The problem was we didn’t see the sense in putting birds bred for factory life on pasture. In a quest for raising poultry cheaper the fast growing chicken was created and is now used almost universally. A fast growing hybrid chicken grows from egg to slaughter in six to seven weeks. This fast growth results in difficulty walking and standing. That growth rate just didn’t sit right with us. It gives the bird no time on pasture and a quality of life that we wouldn’t feel good aboutInstead we found a French variety of chicken that can easily forage and be outside from two weeks old. These birds take 12 weeks to mature, giving them ten weeks on pasture.

The common pasture cage was also not an option for us so we built a moving shelter that allowed true free access to roam the pasture and eat fresh grass and clover. When it comes time for slaughter, we wanted to do it in the most humane way we could using professional equipment on the farm, by us and in the open air. The cost of professional equipment for our small farm was prohibitive and the grant from the Watershed Agricultural Council enabled us to bring this improved product to market. We will also provide a means for other local farmers and homesteaders to rent such equipment. We feel that our slow grown, certified organic chickens that are raised on pasture are very content and are also the best tasting.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The expanding market season

This winter will see the expansion of year-round farmers’ market opportunities in the Catskills. Over the last few years, Cooperstown and Saugerties have kept their markets going through the winter months. This year, they’ll be joined by Callicoon and (just across the river…) Rhinebeck. Most markets will take a bi-monthly approach to their events by setting up stalls every other weekend. Saugerties will capitalize on monthly holiday weekends to promote their Sunday market with programming highlighting everything from St. Patrick’s Day to Passover. Expect to find featured products such as prepared foods, dairy, storage crops, baked goods, meat and crafts. Nearly every market will offer special events at their markets. Community groups will share information and skills, local chefs will demonstrate cooking techniques, and musicians will entertain the crowd. Most market managers tell us that their markets have developed due to customer demand. Communities are looking for a way to stay connected with farmers and an opportunity to socialize with their neighbors during the long winter season.

CALLICOON Delaware Youth Center
Creamery Road, Callicoon
December through April, 11am to 2pm
Dates include December 19; January 2, 16 & 30; February 13 & 27; March 20; April 10 & 23
(Note, April 23 is a Saturday market)
email: manager@sullivancountyfarmersmarkets.org

101 Main Street, Cooperstown
1st and 3rd Saturdays through April, 9am to 2pm
Contact Lynn Weir at lyn@lynweir.com

RHINEBECK Rhinebeck Town Hall
80 East Main Street
Alternate Sundays through April, 10am to 2 pm
Contack Cheryl Paff at info@rhinebeckfarmersmarket.com

SAUGERTIES Saugerties Senior Center
207 Market Street
Holiday weekend Sundays through May, noon to 4pm
email: contact@saugertiesfarmersmarket.com

Monday, October 18, 2010

Meet the Delegates

We couldn't be prouder to announce that Pure Catskills will sponsor its third Catskills delegation to attend Terra Madre in 2010. The group will head to Turin, Italy this Wednesday to spend five days meeting farmers and food producers from around the world. Over 5,000 delegates will be present from over 100 countries. The event includes workshops, tastings, regional meetings and a marketplace of sustainably produced foods.

Slow Food International organizes the event every two years. Slow Food USA selected our delegation through a competitive application process. Slow Food will provide housing, meals and transportation to the delegates during their time in Italy. Partial funding for travel from New York to Italy have been provided by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection through the Watershed Agricultural Council.

The Catskills region has been represented at this biannual gathering since we sent our first delegation in 2006. A group of farmers, chefs, retailers and advocates have attended each year. The delegates return to their businesses inspired by the experience. Delegates have made real changes in their operations as a result. Some have added new livestock varieties while others have grown their relationship to their neighboring businesses and community members.

In selecting this year's delegation, we called upon the twelve past delegates to nominate and select peers they felt would most benefit from the experience. The group did an excellent job selecting a diverse group from three counties in the region. So let's meet the delegates!

Thornwood Farm eggs at the Larchmont Farmers' Market.

Paula Allen, Thornwood Farm
Sidney Center, Delaware County

Thornwood Farm is a small family run farm that offers all natural pasture-raised eggs, chicken, pork and turkeys for Thanksgiving. All animals are raised antibiotic and hormone free. Paula travels to farmers' markets near and far including those in Franklin, Liberty, Callicoon and three in Westchester County-Armonk, Larchmont and Scarsdale.

Inside the Masonville General Store.

Masonville, Delaware County

The Masonville General Store strives to weave community, environment, and ingenuity together in an ethical and conscious manner. The store offers a fantastic and diverse selection of local and regional products that exemplify quality, health, and sustainability. Kendall educates her customers about the impact their choices make when shopping for food. The shop has been providing a location for rural residents to access healthy, delicious food since 2006.

Sonja handing milking one of her goats.

Callicoon Center, Sullivan County

Apple Pond Farm produces lamb, goats, eggs and wool and dairy products. They are also very active in offering agri-tourism programming and educational workshops to locals and regional visitors alike. Visitors can spend time in the guest house on a farm stay. The farm is a showcase of renewable energy practices including solar, wind and bio-diesel.

Marybeth with her husband Devin and their daughter Madeline. Devin, chef at The Peekamoose, will also attend Terra Madre!

Big Indian, Ulster County

The Peekamoose Restaurant features an ever-changing menu inspired by the farmers and artisans of the Catskill region. Chef Devin Mills, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, hails from some of the finest restaurants in New York City. Marybeth manages the front of the house and so much more! The restaurant has become a gathering place for locals and visitors to taste the best of Catskills farm products.

Mary Tonjes with her husband Tim in their cheese plant on the farm.

Mary Tonjes, Tonjes Farm Dairy
Callicoon, Sullivan County

Mary manages Tonjes Farm along with her husband Tim and numerous family members. The farm is a grass-based dairy specializing in farmstead artisan cheeses, raw milk cheeses including 'Beachwood Blue,' made and aged in their underground cave. Fresh cheeses and bottled milk are made with morning milk: Mozzarella, Ricotta, Fromage Blanc, Yogurt, Kefir, and Buttermilk. Whole milk gently pasteurized. The products are sold at regional farmers' markets and retailers.

Keep an eye out for a wrap up of the experience next month. A special event is also in the works for the delegates to share their experiences (and some delicious food!) with our community in mid-November.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A fall visit to Heather Ridge Farm

One of my favorite things about the Catskills are all the down to earth spots to grab a great bite to eat. Sure, you might need to head a little off the beaten path - around the bend, down the valley. But the trip is worth it since there's always something great to eat and welcoming people at the end of the road! Your meal will be filled with the kind of food you would make if you had the time, the know-how or the amazingly fresh ingredients only found on a local farm.

The Bee's Knees Cafe at Heather Ridge Farm in Preston Hollow is just such a place. Sitting on a sunny hillside in southern Schoharie County, their menu offers up delicious soups, sandwiches, salads and desserts. Farm raised beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, eggs, garlic and honey are all highlighted in the menu.

Inside you'll also find the farm store. Products offered include the farm's own meat and honey as well as regional products such as wool, mushrooms (in season) and specially products like olive oil and coffee sourced directly from farmers abroad.

From mid-October through the spring, the farm is open Saturdays, 10 am to 2 pm. The farm is located at 989 Broome Center Road in Preston Hollow.

Carol Clement
on the front porch of the farm store.

Farmer John presses wild apples gathered on the hillside property.

Some of Heather Ridge's, dare we say, famous Lemon Honey.

Linda Hahn with the Euphoria Olive Oil she imports from a farm family in Greece.

Beautiful yarn in vibrant colors from Kate Henderson of neighboring farm, Sheepy Valley.

And here's the money shot! Fresh pork and chicken fill the cooler.

The hard working kitchen staff after a busy lunch service.

Mustards using the farm's honey.

The wonderful view from the top of the ridge.