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Farm Parties

July 19, 2017

Farmers. God bless them. I’m serious.

On the one hand, it’s easy to fetishize farmers. I’m guilty of that.
On the other hand, it’s easy to vilify them. I’m guilty of that too.

Regardless of whether a farmer is big or small, conventional or biodynamic, local or abroad, without farmers we would have no food. We would have no beer. We would have no coffee. The physical work is strenuous, the emotional strain is taxing, and the payoff isn’t great. There’s always a tremendous amount of risk and uncertainty. So it’s probably no surprise that their numbers get smaller every day.

But there are bright spots. And there are organizations dedicated to help support farming and farmers. Today, I want to tell you a little bit about two local ones, and share how going to a party or two can improve the state of farming in New York.

To make the deal even sweeter, the parties might provide the best food you’ve had all year.

Let’s start with the newest addition to the local farm scene: Pitney Meadows Community Farm. Perhaps you know the DocSconz blog. Well, the good doctor happens to also be on the board of this organization. And he clued me into what was going on up in Saratoga Springs.

It has nothing to do with horses. Although the event does happen after the 2017 meet opens. As much as I may have to say about this event, I thought this would be a good chance to bring in someone who is a bit more succinct, Francine Dingeman, who wrote the following:

A big tent is the usual solution for nonprofit organizations holding big summer fundraisers. That’s the approach Pitney Meadows Community Farm took last year when it was just beginning its effort to preserve and acquire the Pitney Farm on West Avenue in Saratoga Springs with the goal of becoming a major regional hub for sustainable farming and education in agriculture.

This year, Pitney Meadows is creating an entirely different experience. When guests arrive at its “Fire Feast on the Farm” on Tuesday, August 1st, they’ll be welcomed to the nonprofit’s new greenhouse, a “high tunnel” one-tenth the size of a football field. Flowers, herbs, and vegetables will be growing in newly planted beds that run along the structure’s two sides, stretching 148 feet.

“You can’t get any more ‘farm-to-table’ than this,” smiles event organizer John Sconzo, the Pitney Meadows board member and founder of Slow Food Saratoga who has assembled an all-star team of chefs and bartenders to provide devotees of fine food a meal unlike any they’ve ever had. “This will be a signature Saratoga Springs event.”

All proceeds from the Fire Feast on the Farm will further Pitney Meadows’ educational mission, supporting the high tunnel, establishment of a Children’s Garden and Greenhouse, and development of trails on the 166-acre property, which PMCF acquired last December from the Pitney family with a $1.13 million contribution from the City of Saratoga Springs’ Open Space Fund.

“We’re off to a very fast start,” said Katie Petronis, Pitney Meadows president and chair of the board of directors, noting that construction of 55 plots in the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens is being completed on virtually the same schedule as the greenhouse. “We couldn’t have done any of this without the tireless efforts of our volunteers and the generosity of our donors.”

The focus of the August 1st event, which will run from 6 to 10 p.m., will be five live-fire pits directed by celebrated guest chefs whom Sconzo has enlisted from around the country to prepare an unforgettable multi-course meal.

Supporting each lead chef will be a “pit crew” that includes a distinguished local chef and local culinary students. Each pit also will have an open bar directed by a mix of prominent national and local bartenders pairing a cocktail with the dish from that pit. Each station also will prepare a vegetarian/vegan dish.

The dinner will start with Gulf shrimp and oysters prepared by Alex Harrell, who fuses the culinary traditions of New Orleans and Alabama’s Gulf Coast at his superb New Orleans restaurant, Angeline.

Guests then will be treated to striped bass, pork, lamb, and beef prepared by:
Jaime Young, the former chef de cuisine at Atera who in 2016 launched the critically acclaimed Sunday in Brooklyn;

Francis Derby, master of meat and more at such legendary NYC restaurants as WD-50, Tailor, Momofuku Ssam Bar, and The Cannibal;

Joel Vielhand, former chef of the highly regarded Community Table in Connecticut and now opening the anticipated Ore Hill and Swyft;

Matt Lightner, a 2 Michelin-star chef formerly at 2 Michelin-star Atera in New York City.

Dessert will be a blueberry gelato prepared by Daniel Burns, chef/owner of Burns Gelato of Brooklyn.

Bartenders from New York City include Eamon Rockey, general manager of Betony NYC; Chase White who, after three years with Saison in San Francisco, is preparing to open his own New York City venue; Will Wyatt, bartender at The NoMad Hotel, and L.J. Sconzo, bartender at Eleven Madison Park, named Number 1 Restaurant in the World for 2017 by the prestigious World’s 50 Best Restaurants List. Bartenders from Saratoga Springs include Brendan Dillon, owner and bartender of Hamlet & Ghost, and Drew Janik, bartender at Henry Street Taproom.

Local artists performing at the event will include world jazz group Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius & Heard; acoustic Americana act Cradle Switch; award-winning jazz pianist and composer Nick Hetko, and The North & South Dakotas with their blend of blue grass, mountain folk, honky tonk and rock and roll.

Items offered at the silent auction will range from tickets to a Red Sox/Yankees game at Fenway Park to a hot air balloon ride over the southern Adirondacks.

The new greenhouse will be equipped with an immense sensor-controlled polyethylene sheet that — on a night in early August — will roll up automatically to allow heat to escape. “Dress will be ‘farmhouse fashionable’,” says Sconzo.

Seating is limited. For more information and to buy tickets, go to the PMCF web site at or call 518-290-0008.

Wow. Wow.

And the above doesn’t even cover all of it. Josh Coletto is helping to design the fire pits used for the cooking. Nick Ruscitto will be there lending a hand. Michael Lapi is helping to procure local proteins. I’m quivering with excitement.

Just a few days before this incredible Fire Feast is the FarmOn! Foundation’s 7th Annual Hootenanny with Chef Terrance Brennan. Yelp is once again a sponsor of the event, so I’ll be heading down with a few lucky members of the Yelp Elite Squad. But the reason why I’ve chosen to sponsor this for three years running is to help get exposure for the good work Tessa Edick is doing down in the Hudson Valley.

Here’s a summary of what the foundation did last year:

FARM ON! at EMPIRE FARM community center and Ag-Academy opens year two!

AG-ACADEMY GRADUATED 8 STUDENTS: Provided $3500 cash scholarships to each, 12 college credits, room/board, cooking and job placement for youth age 17-22 to learn the business of food by doing in a NYC chef custom growing educational program at Empire Farm for Jean-Georges Vongerichten, ABC Kitchen, Gotham Bar and Grill, April Bloomfield, Fish & Game and Terrance Brennan

SUMMER CAMP FarmOn! 20 Students visited farms & companies daily for a 5-day program to learn the business of food as teams to create a profitable solution in agriculture and pitch the concept to a “shark tank” building confidence and talking money.

MILK MONEY SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM FUNDED 12 school districts and provided local Hudson Valley Fresh milk cow to kid in 36 hours for 35,000+ kids daily.

BUILT SCHOOL GARDENS to SLAM DUNK YOUR VEGGIES with the NBA at Poughkeepsie and Millbrook Central School Districts

FarmOn! BIG APPLE “CRUNCH” TWO MILLION folks statewide took the bite with a FarmOn! Pledge to Eat Local NY. Led together with NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo Administration, we gave away TWO MILLION APPLES grown on family farms

The Hoot! which this year is being held on Saturday, July 29 and the fun kicks off at 6 o’clock with cocktails and a farmers market style sampling village. Last year, that may have been the highlight of the event. There were grilled pizzas, fresh shucked oysters, and more meats and cheeses than anyone should eat before dinner.

Here is the official blurb about this event:

Shake the hardworking hands that feed you! Kick off at Empire Farm 6-8pm and shop local at the farmer’s market cocktail hour complete with live music, vendors, silent auction and local libations in the student run Victory Garden with tour and tasting in the fields the Ag-Academy students grow! Indulge in a Hudson Valley cheese course, oyster boat and save room for an organically grown sustainable farm fresh feast! Farmers & friends will be our guests enjoying a family-style dinner prepared with ingredients from within five miles of your plate by Chef Terrence Brennan . To cap off the night, guests enjoy live music and dancing under the stars with a barn party to follow dessert.

New York Times and agree FarmOn! is the “Best Event of the Hudson Valley!” Dinner overlooking the Victory Garden at Empire Farm featuring a delicious meal prepared by Chef Terrance Brennan and sourced locally from the farmers sitting at your table! 500 guests from New York City, Connecticut, Berkshires, Saratoga Springs, Capital District and the Hudson Valley attend the benefit dinner that changes the way you think and connects you to where your food comes from in an authentic and meaningful way.

It’s true. This is a fabulous event, and I look forward to it every year.

While neither of these events are inexpensive, the monies raised go towards a good cause. And if you’re into food, this is something you should absolutely care about. Maybe I’ll see you there.

One Comment leave one →
  1. sweetloveginger permalink
    July 23, 2017 6:53 pm

    This sounds absolutely amazing and I am so incredibly sad that I won’t be able to attend. Like Seriously sad about this. I look so forward to your review, and to attend next year when hopefully I won’t have a new born.

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