How far would you need to travel to make a meal with ingredients that are all considered local? The sun is shining but night time freezing temperatures, ground still frozen and winter weather still a looming possibility it seems like a difficult proposition unless ‘local’ includes Florida. The Delaware County grass-roots organization FARM CATSKILLS was just the group to take on the challenge and not only succeed but triumph over the palettes of teens with rave reviews.
On March 10, the dining facility at Delaware Academy was offered additional helping hands as a purely local menu was offered to all the students and staff. Delhi Schools Food Service Coordinator Chris Miller welcomed members of Farm Catskill into the high school kitchen after several weeks of cooperative planning.
The lunch menu was described as delicious, really good, super, excellent, surprisingly great – can I get more and very tasty. When asked what their favorite food was that they tried, student choices spanned every item that was offered from the meatloaf to mashed potatoes and of course the apple crisp. Maybe these favorites are no surprise but when some students listed the beets with yogurt that they dipped carrot sticks into and even the parsnips as delicious, you know that the local foods were a hit. Most had never tasted tilsit cheese or celery root before so it was a lunch of new experiences. One diner stated that they couldn’t believe how many choices there were of things that were from nearby farms.
The local foods were served by Farm Catskill Board Members with the help of the schools food service personnel as they gave brief explanations and encouragement to student diners. In front of each menu item were signs that indicated what farms the individual ingredients had come from and how close by they are. The furthest traveled food was yogurt from Evans Farm House Creamery just 52 miles away. There was maple syrup from Paul’s Maple Products 8.5 miles away, apples from Middlefield Orchards 44 miles, the ground beef from Tom Hutson’s farm 8.5 miles, tilsit cheese from Brovetto Dairy 27.5 miles and red potatoes traveled the least distance, only 2 miles to the Snyder Farm. Beets, carrots and parsnips came from The Carrot Barn 50 miles away and the onions and celery root came 8.5 miles from Lucky Dog Farm.
Trying new foods especially when they are healthy and local is a great way to really taste foods and offers an opportunity for comparison, to pay attention to what is being eaten. This is a basic introduction to food ethics that can inspire questions and create interest in where our food comes from. Local dairy farmer Barb Hanselman talked about how food is viewed in United States, differing from all other countries in the world. This country wants to spend money on eating out and entertainment, opting to spend the least percentage of wages on food. It becomes more of an issue to eat as cheaply as possible in order to have fun.
Surveys indicate that a majority of Americans eat their evening meals while being entertained by the television. Tastes, textures, preparation and presentation of food are barely an issue and have become less important in a nation that has ample opportunity for healthful, diverse foods. Obesity, animal rights, food safety, health issues and social skills all become part of issues that Americans have with food.
Another interesting point of this lunch being offered at this time of year is that Native Americans, early settlers and westward bound pioneers called late winter and early spring ‘the starving time’. During the winter, preserved and stored foods were consumed but often times as winter was drawing to an end, when it is too early to harvest even the earliest of spring crops was a time of great hunger. Desperation during this sparse time of year led starving people to eat their seed potatoes, beans and pea seeds that had been carefully set aside for planting knowing that it would put them in peril during the coming year. This ample and diverse lunch was served during this ‘starving time’ of year from produce farmers in this region who are skilled growers that know a great deal about food storage.
With support of the Delaware Academy and its food service professionals this day of local foods dining was made possible by Farm Catskills and the local farmers whose talents made it to the mouths of adventurous and appreciative high school students. Find out more about Farm Catskills, who they are and what they do by visiting their website at www.farmcatskills.org, email email@example.com or write to 87 Sal Bren Road, Suite 1, Delhi, NY 13753. Become a part of the future of sustainable farming, educated consumers and available healthy, local foods.
Farm Catskill Board Member Denise Warren who played a major role in making this day of local foods possible serves the hearty portions that were requested to Delaware Academy students including Senior Keith Stroppel during lunch on March 10 while Director of Food Services Chris Miller helps out.