Tag Archive | "slow food"

Myron Levine

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DSC_0012 By Stephen J. Kotz

How did the idea of holding a memorial dinner for your son first take shape?

After the accident, we were contacted by the East End chapter of Slow Food. They wanted to know if we would agree to do a benefit with the money going to his children. We said if they wanted to have a dinner in his honor, we’d be willing o do that as long as it would fund something related to organic farming.

Ted Conklin of The American Hotel agreed to donate The American Hotel for the dinner. Everything was donated. The first year, it was sold out.

We raised $12,000 to $15,000 and we used the money fund two interns for Sylvester Manor.

This year the fourth annual Joshua Levine Memorial Dinner will take place on Sunday, April 6. What have you got planned differently this year?

The dinner itself will again be at The American Hotel, but this year Dodds and Eder said they would like to host the pre-dinner party. Their space is gigantic, so we can get 250 people in that space and it wouldn’t seem crowded.

We were never able to have a silent auction before because we never had the space, so we have been going out in the community to get items for that. The generosity is unbelievable. We’ve gotten donations for foursomes from The Atlantic, The Bridge, East Hampton, Noyac, Hampton Hills, South Fork, and Sebonac [golf clubs] a two-night stay at The Huntting Inn and a gift certificate to The Palm; Topping Rose, Sen, the Cuddy, the Living Room, Marders, you name it.

Who will be the beneficiary of this year’s event?

The second year, they told us about the edible schoolyard project. That really appealed to me. If anything, that would really memorialize Josh and what he was all about. It was really about helping kids to understand. It has evolved now so what they learn in the garden is integrated into the classroom. These kids are passionate about it.

They felt they needed to bring some stability to the program by having master farmers who would work with the schools. We decided that first year we needed three master farmers. Slow Food East End actually had an application that went out to the farming community with a stipend of $4,000 each.

We did the same thing last year, but with 18 to 20 schools now involved, we needed an extra master farmer.

This year we are hoping to raise $40,000. Now there are 25 or more schools, so we’ll need one or two more master farmers. We are also trying to raise money for projects some of the schools need.

How did your son find his way from the city to farming?

Josh was doing real estate in the city. He was successful. He just didn’t like it.

We had been out here since 1979. I do a lot of gardening, so l guess it was in his blood. His wife, Anne, was born on a farm in Virginia and he just wanted to learn about it. He applied for an internship at Quail Hill with Scott Chaskey. Scott hired him and the next year promoted him to be the market manager.

He was looking to get an education and then looking to use it to do something else. He wanted to start a business helping families make organic gardens and then he’d come and help them care for them.

What does the future hold for the Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation?

The principal purpose of the foundation will be to continue to support the edible schoolyard program and other things Josh might have been passionate about.

It’s gotten a life of its own now. These gardens are really important. It’s not just about growing food, it’s about learning about life…. There are just so many lessons you learn in this program.

It’s also important for my grandchildren. There’s a selfish part to this. I want my grandchildren to know who their father was.

The Fourth Annual Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation Dinner will be held on April 6 at The American Hotel with a pre-dinner party and auction at Dodds & Eder in Sag Harbor. For more information or to buy tickets, visit joshualevinefoundation.org.

 

 

Kate Plumb

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web Kate Plum

The Sag Harbor resident, former owner of the health food store Provisions, member of Slow Food Long Island and organizer of the East Hampton Farmers’ Market talks about why she thinks the East End is poised to return to its sustainable roots.

Where was your interest in local farming and food culture born?

I was thinking about that and I actually think my first experience with health food was in 1968. I was living in Vermont in an unheated log cabin near Goddard and one of the fellows would buy buckwheat groats, cashews, almonds and such for the commune we were living in. It was the first time in my life I distinctly remember eating that way. I came from baloney sandwiches and fish sticks. My parents both worked with five kids in the city and would have our monthly delivery of frozen meats, so that was what we ate –that and fish sticks. But in Vermont we ate this other way, eating rice, buckwheat, nuts, dates and things like that. One day someone brought a chocolate cake in and I had not had sugar in my system for so long I got violently ill. I think that awakened my interest in eating and how important food is. Since then, I have always been interested in food, which I think is healing. It really landed full square in 1982 when I lived in Sag Harbor in a rented room with Linda Sherry and Linley Pennebaker (Whelan) asked me to join her in buying Provisions, which was where D.J. Hart is now … In those days, health food was nothing. Don Katz said to me years later that he bet his wife $100 we would not make it. The oatmeal craze, to lower cholesterol was the first big hit we had and it just sort of took off. People came in looking to buy one item and bought more. It was effective, and that was that.

Farmers’ markets on the East End have grown in popularity in the last five years. When did you see this trend take hold and why is it so popular to eat locally?

In 2004, Brian Halweil got onto the village Harbor Committee after he and his wife Sara bought their home in Sag Harbor after summering here for a number of years. As trends move from west to east, he suggested we have a Farmer’s Market in Sag Harbor as a part of HarborFest and the girls at Dockside allowed us to use their lawn. It was suppose to be a one-day event, but we finished out the month of September and went through October. I was involved with that market as a founding member of the EECO [East End Community Organic] Farm, which I was on the board of and whose farm stand I helped run for a number of years. There were about six of us that Brian got together to compose the first Sag Harbor’s Farmer’s Market.

Elise Collins had already started a market in Westhampton Beach, but there were not many before 2004. Certainly since then it has grown. Montauk just started its market on Thursdays and Southampton Village has opened theirs. We have another at Hayground in Bridgehampton on Fridays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. that is just wrapping up and Friday mornings we have the East Hampton market at Nick and Toni’s, and of course, there is Sag Harbor on Saturdays.

I think they are popular for a number of reasons, perhaps the most overarching one being what happens to you when you shop at a local farmer’s market – the emotional quotient of seeing your neighbors, talking to the person who is producing your food – it becomes a fun place to shop. There is that side, and of course, the taste of the food because it was just harvested that morning, not shipped over the last week from California or Florida. But most importantly, the farmers’ market has become a community center, which is how it traditionally has been in Europe and Central America. They are the center of a village. They also enable young farmers to sell to their customers and get the most return. This will in the long run help local farmers like the Wesnofske Brothers in East Hampton, a third generation Polish farming family, that will be able to continue farming because of opportunities like this. It is a way of making a living as a farmer once more.

What is your hope for the future for local farmer’s markets?

I think there should be one in every village and hamlet. I hope they get bigger. I encourage more people to produce, catch and make their own products. It would be great to find a building year round for the markets. It would help farmers’ grow year round, which is possible. We need a building – that would be the wave of the future.

Amagansett does not have a traditional farmers’ market, although the Peconic Land Trust did purchase the Main Street farmers’ market and has leased it to Eli Zabar of Manhattan. Would that kind of space suit a year round farmers’ market?

I think that would be fine, although the space is not heated so whether it could be used year round would require some investigation. Someone has suggested the Polish Hall in Southampton and I do not know what Southampton Town has planned for the old Marders Building once the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton has completed construction [and moves out of the Marders Building]. It would be great to have a year round farmers’ market with a commercial kitchen in it, opening the space up to allowing people to make prepared foods and teach classes.

As a member of the local chapter of Slow Foods, what are some of the initiatives you would like that organization to tackle locally?

I am so happy that Josh Viertel is now the president of Slow Food USA. They have taken on this whole real food in schools initiative because Congress is getting ready to re-authorize the Child Nutrition Act in the fall and the money government reimburses to our schools mostly is for transportation, hard costs, not for food. Slow Foods strongly wants to ask Congress, and Labor Day is a national day of action, to up the ante and add one dollar in reimbursements per child so schools can have local foods in their cafeterias. We will locally host an Eat In at the Bridgehampton School from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Labor Day. There will be 250 of these events nationwide.

What are some of your favorite local farm stands?

I go to the farmers’ markets a lot, but when I go to farm stands it is usually what is on the way. I go to Marilee Foster and Pike Farms because that is on my way to Sagg Main Beach. When the apples come into season, I will go to the Milk Pail.

What chefs on the East End do you think embrace sustainable food culture?

Ted Conklin of The American Hotel was a pioneer because he was a farmer before he was a restaurateur. Also, Nick and Toni’s in East Hampton has been on the forefront. Like Ted, they have a garden at their restaurant. When [former owner] Jeff Salaway was alive he and Joe Realmuto and Mark Smith showed a deep commitment to local food, which Joe and Mark continue today. It’s a very special place. Talking to Balsam Farms is a good way to see what chefs are using local products because they know who is buying it. I know James Carpenter at The Living Room at The Maidstone Arms is focused on it and I hear Rugosa is as well, although I have yet to eat there. When I worked with the EECO Farm I delivered to Della Femina, and I know Yama-Q is very conscientious. Our farmers’ markets have a lot of chefs placing orders with the vendors.

Given the wealth of local food products at the end of the summer, what is your ideal Labor Day menu at home?

Eric Braun of East Hampton Farmers’ Market, one of the last of the dying breed of bay men, his fish and his scallops are divine. He also smokes his own bluefish. I would get corn from Balsam Farm and tomatoes from Marilee. I would get peaches from Wesnofske Brothers and blueberries from Pikes. Melons are just delicious right now. Balsam also has some wonderful fingerling potatoes and Sang Lee Farms has wonderful greens for a salad. And then there are pickles … I could just go on and on. I can’t think of anything better than all these different foods. The fruit pies are heaven right now. We are really so blessed with everything that is available to us right now. I feel very grateful.


Kate Plumb

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web Kate Plum

The Sag Harbor resident, former owner of the health food store Provisions, member of Slow Food Long Island and organizer of the East Hampton Farmers’ Market talks about why she thinks the East End is poised to return to its sustainable roots. 


Where was your interest in local farming and food culture born?

I was thinking about that and I actually think my first experience with health food was in 1968. I was living in Vermont in an unheated log cabin near Goddard and one of the fellows would buy buckwheat groats, cashews, almonds and such for the commune we were living in. It was the first time in my life I distinctly remember eating that way. I came from baloney sandwiches and fish sticks. My parents both worked with five kids in the city and would have our monthly delivery of frozen meats, so that was what we ate –that and fish sticks. But in Vermont we ate this other way, eating rice, buckwheat, nuts, dates and things like that. One day someone brought a chocolate cake in and I had not had sugar in my system for so long I got violently ill. I think that awakened my interest in eating and how important food is. Since then, I have always been interested in food, which I think is healing. It really landed full square in 1982 when I lived in Sag Harbor in a rented room with Linda Sherry and Linley Pennebaker (Whelan) asked me to join her in buying Provisions, which was where D.J. Hart is now … In those days, health food was nothing. Don Katz said to me years later that he bet his wife $100 we would not make it. The oatmeal craze, to lower cholesterol was the first big hit we had and it just sort of took off. People came in looking to buy one item and bought more. It was effective, and that was that.


Farmers’ markets on the East End have grown in popularity in the last five years. When did you see this trend take hold and why is it so popular to eat locally?

In 2004, Brian Halweil got onto the village Harbor Committee after he and his wife Sara bought their home in Sag Harbor after summering here for a number of years. As trends move from west to east, he suggested we have a Farmer’s Market in Sag Harbor as a part of HarborFest and the girls at Dockside allowed us to use their lawn. It was suppose to be a one-day event, but we finished out the month of September and went through October. I was involved with that market as a founding member of the EECO [East End Community Organic] Farm, which I was on the board of and whose farm stand I helped run for a number of years. There were about six of us that Brian got together to compose the first Sag Harbor’s Farmer’s Market. 

Elise Collins had already started a market in Westhampton Beach, but there were not many before 2004. Certainly since then it has grown. Montauk just started its market on Thursdays and Southampton Village has opened theirs. We have another at Hayground in Bridgehampton on Fridays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. that is just wrapping up and Friday mornings we have the East Hampton market at Nick and Toni’s, and of course, there is Sag Harbor on Saturdays.

I think they are popular for a number of reasons, perhaps the most overarching one being what happens to you when you shop at a local farmer’s market – the emotional quotient of seeing your neighbors, talking to the person who is producing your food – it becomes a fun place to shop. There is that side, and of course, the taste of the food because it was just harvested that morning, not shipped over the last week from California or Florida. But most importantly, the farmers’ market has become a community center, which is how it traditionally has been in Europe and Central America. They are the center of a village. They also enable young farmers to sell to their customers and get the most return. This will in the long run help local farmers like the Wesnofske Brothers in East Hampton, a third generation Polish farming family, that will be able to continue farming because of opportunities like this. It is a way of making a living as a farmer once more.

 

What is your hope for the future for local farmer’s markets?

I think there should be one in every village and hamlet. I hope they get bigger. I encourage more people to produce, catch and make their own products. It would be great to find a building year round for the markets. It would help farmers’ grow year round, which is possible. We need a building – that would be the wave of the future.


Amagansett does not have a traditional farmers’ market, although the Peconic Land Trust did purchase the Main Street farmers’ market and has leased it to Eli Zabar of Manhattan. Would that kind of space suit a year round farmers’ market?

I think that would be fine, although the space is not heated so whether it could be used year round would require some investigation. Someone has suggested the Polish Hall in Southampton and I do not know what Southampton Town has planned for the old Marders Building once the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton has completed construction [and moves out of the Marders Building]. It would be great to have a year round farmers’ market with a commercial kitchen in it, opening the space up to allowing people to make prepared foods and teach classes.


As a member of the local chapter of Slow Foods, what are some of the initiatives you would like that organization to tackle locally?

I am so happy that Josh Viertel is now the president of Slow Food USA. They have taken on this whole real food in schools initiative because Congress is getting ready to re-authorize the Child Nutrition Act in the fall and the money government reimburses to our schools mostly is for transportation, hard costs, not for food. Slow Foods strongly wants to ask Congress, and Labor Day is a national day of action, to up the ante and add one dollar in reimbursements per child so schools can have local foods in their cafeterias. We will locally host an Eat In at the Bridgehampton School from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Labor Day. There will be 250 of these events nationwide.


What are some of your favorite local farm stands?

I go to the farmers’ markets a lot, but when I go to farm stands it is usually what is on the way. I go to Marilee Foster and Pike Farms because that is on my way to Sagg Main Beach. When the apples come into season, I will go to the Milk Pail.


What chefs on the East End do you think embrace sustainable food culture?

Ted Conklin of The American Hotel was a pioneer because he was a farmer before he was a restaurateur. Also, Nick and Toni’s in East Hampton has been on the forefront. Like Ted, they have a garden at their restaurant. When [former owner] Jeff Salaway was alive he and Joe Realmuto and Mark Smith showed a deep commitment to local food, which Joe and Mark continue today. It’s a very special place. Talking to Balsam Farms is a good way to see what chefs are using local products because they know who is buying it. I know James Carpenter at The Living Room at The Maidstone Arms is focused on it and I hear Rugosa is as well, although I have yet to eat there. When I worked with the EECO Farm I delivered to Della Femina, and I know Yama-Q is very conscientious. Our farmers’ markets have a lot of chefs placing orders with the vendors. 


Given the wealth of local food products at the end of the summer, what is your ideal Labor Day menu at home?

Eric Braun of East Hampton Farmers’ Market, one of the last of the dying breed of bay men, his fish and his scallops are divine. He also smokes his own bluefish. I would get corn from Balsam Farm and tomatoes from Marilee. I would get peaches from Wesnofske Brothers and blueberries from Pikes. Melons are just delicious right now. Balsam also has some wonderful fingerling potatoes and Sang Lee Farms has wonderful greens for a salad. And then there are pickles … I could just go on and on. I can’t think of anything better than all these different foods. The fruit pies are heaven right now. We are really so blessed with everything that is available to us right now. I feel very grateful.


Art Ludlow

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The proprietor of Mecox Bay Dairy on “slow food,” farmer’s markets and leaving potatoes behind

It’s a beautiful property here, how big is it?

The whole farm is roughly just under 100 acres

How many cows are there here on the property?

 I’m milking 10 right now, we’ve got about a dozen or so that are of lactating age. Then in total from babies to full grown there is about 27. I am the only cow dairy left on the island. There are some goats and there are some cows, but I am the only operating cow dairy.

How long has your family had the farm?

It’s a family farm –I grew up on the farm – I grew up in this house actually. This house was built by my great grandfather in the 1870’s and we used to grow potatoes. Back when I was growing up my dad had cows and potatoes and around the 1960’s is when he got rid of the cows and went with potatoes, which is where we stayed until 2001. And that was my brother and me, in 2001 we decided to separate our businesses. So he does the corn maze, the farm stand and the vegetables, and I do the cow farm, the cheese and the dairy.

So you have two sons, Peter and John, do they help out around the farm as well?

Yes they are both in college now but they have been helpful, they help me a lot during the summertime. My oldest one is going to graduate this year, but he actually wants to come back and farm. That’s Peter, my oldest. And John my youngest is a sophomore in college.

Could you tell me about the different kinds of cheese?

I’m actually making five different types of cheese. There are a couple different reasons why I’m doing that – it’s kind of a lot for 10 cows, but it enables me to sell more cheese locally, it saves on transportation. I am selling 80 percent or more or better of my production within a 15 mile radius from here. The five different cheeses are really five different styles of cheeses. It goes from the camembert, that’s the Atlantic Mist, which is similar to a brie and a camembert. And then I have a washed rind cheese which is a type of tomme. And the washed rind means that instead of having the opportunistic molds grow on the surface and create the rind of the cheese, I wash it with salt and water and that allows a bacteria to grow on the surface. That bacteria is what gives it its flavor, it makes it a strong pungent flavored cheese so when you think of stinky cheese, you are thinking of a style of cheese that is a washed rind. And that one is called Mecox Sunrise. I have another tomme, which is a natural rind tomme, it is really almost the same as the washed rind, but it’s a natural rind, where I let the opportunistic molds grow on the surface. And they create the rind. So that’s the third type. I make a cheddar which is the fourth type and I make a gruyere, which is another type, that is what may be called an alpine style of cheese so its typically aged. I had some this year that were aged a year and a half. It just really adds character to cheese, and it was really popular. So it’s a very firm cheese and it will age for a very long time and it improves over time.

What was your inspiration to switch from potatoes to dairy?

Well let’s see, I always liked cows, ever since I was a kid and I used to work on the farm here when we had cows. I never expected to get into having cows. But when my brother and I were into raising potatoes, we were just thinking that, here we are, growing a commercial crop, that we are really selling off the island and we are competing with the whole Northeast in potato production. When you are producing a crop, the main goal is to have a low cost production, so you produce as much as you can for as little as you can and try to sell it for as much as you can. Which is difficult. We are then selling to a broker, who then sells it to a wholesaler, who then sells to a retailer, who then sells to a consumer. We are so far removed from the consumer that the product actually loses its identity before it gets to the consumer. We thought in this area, what’s the point? Is there something better we could or should be doing? And mainly because we have such a long growing season and we have such excellent soils to produce these things, and we really have a market at our back door because of the people here and the proximity to New York City, we just thought that potatoes were not the best we could do. The other thing was that growing the potatoes – we didn’t have enough land of our own so we had to rent land from other people and that was becoming a scarce resource. We’d lose a little bit each year, and we thought if our kids really wanted to farm – the next generation, would potatoes be a viable thing in the future? So we said let’s make a change. And we both had these ideas of our own that we wanted to pursue and remember thinking that at that time we might be a lot better off doing it than ten years later. To put it in a nut shell – I like to say that when somebody is visiting the farm and the question they ask is why are you growing potatoes? And the answer is – because we always have – that is not sufficient, that’s not a good answer so I decided to change it.

So now what’s your answer for visitors to your dairy farm?

Aside from the initial answer of having lost all of my senses and totally gone off the deep end, I find it challenging, rewarding – not necessarily financially but it is rewarding to produce something and be able to sell it directly to the person who is going to eat it, and have them comment on it. Most of the comments are very favorable, and that is about as rewarding an instance a farmer could ever get. That is the short answer. The other thing is that it is the part of the challenge to create something that is sustainable, so we are experimenting with a system where I can utilize the waste products. I’ve got the manure from the cows; I can stock pile and make fertilizer to use on the land. I have pigs I am feeding the whey that I would normally throw out.  It’s all a matter of producing the best quality food that is possible; this is something that people are interested in now. So I want to be a part of the desired element.

There does seem to be a greater interest in buying locally, and using organic products and because of that the farmer’s markets are doing very well. I know you are a part of the Sag Harbor Farmer’s Market, can you tell me how you got involved in that?

Brian Halweil initially started that, he had the vision of a farmers market, he came out and visited. He was testing the waters, and I think that first year he asked me and I said sure. It went on again the next year and I would say in the last two years it has really taken off. That’s a very positive development.  Since then, there is now a farmer’s market in East Hampton, which I just started this year, and I like doing that, but I can’t be in two places at one time. And my time is needed here. So I figure one market is all I can do in a week. This summer, since I have two sons that came home, I said John you are going to East Hampton and Peter you are going to Westhampton Beach. 

What kind of sales do you get from the Sag Harbor Farmer’s Market if you could put a percentage on it?

I would say 15 percent. I’m guessing that it’s not as much as 20 but its more than 10. It’s really a good thing. It satisfies many purposes. One is, well, I enjoy doing it. I enjoy the interaction. The people that are buying at the farmers market like that because they are getting that same interaction from the people who are producing the food and the vendor can sell for a retail price rather than a wholesale price. And you can spend a little more time, and you are getting more for your time so that really makes it a positive.

So how is your production split up? Where does the bulk of your cheese go?

Year-round I’ve got some shops; Schiavoni’s IGA, Cavaniolas Gourmet Cheese Shop, and then in Bridgehampton I have Bobs Village Market, Lucy’s Way, in East Hampton, she just opened. Then Citarella in East Hampton is taking some cheese.  And then in Southampton I have The Village Cheese Shop and they also have a shop in Mattituck. So that’s what I do year-round. In the summertime I have the farm stands, Sang Lee on the North Fork, the Green Thumb, Country Market on Millstone Road and my brother has a farm stand here, and he sells an awful lot of my cheese here. He probably sells another 15 percent right there. And then I have a few shops in New York, so really restaurants are not a big item. But the Maidstone Arms gets it, the American Hotel gets its, and Atlantica, but they all buy it from time to time, they are not regular. And a lot of restaurants might get my cheese from the cheese shops but I wouldn’t even know it.

Can you elaborate on what the slow food movement means to you?

Slow food is part of the whole movement of getting people interested in where their food is coming from and the nutritional value of what they are eating. Slow food is an organization that is getting people familiar with this sort of this thing.