2011-07-31 Register Star


'Friends of the Farmer' a success in first year

Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2011 1:00 am
By Lisa D. Connell

Hudson-Catskill Newspapers

COPAKE — If you missed the first Friends of the Farmer celebration at the Copake Country Club on Saturday, fear not.

Its successful inaugural event earned it the chance to become an annual celebration.

Set on the manicured grounds of the Copake Country Club with a gentle breeze from nearby Copake Lake offering respite from the 80 degree-plus sunshine, vendors and visitors to the day-long happening didn’t know what to expect.

No matter.

Most vendors, such as Mary Woodburn of New Paltz’s Winter Sun Farms, a community supported agriculture (CSA) group that delivers fruits and vegetables to 1,300 customers all through the winter, found that the day encouraged people to come and learn more about the Hudson Valley Food Lovers Festival.

A CSA is akin to Christmas in July.

Customers never know what assortment of local produce will be delivered to their doorstop. CSAs are becoming more popular and more people are familiar with its services, Woodburn said.

A short distance from Woodburn, Heidi Bock, representing the Columbia Land Conservancy, stood near a display representing the 25-year-old land conservancy. As was the case with other sponsors and supporters, a large white tent shielded Bock and event attendees from the sun.

“We thought it was a perfect fit for us to come take part in this,” Bock said.

Questions posed to her earlier in the day, she paused to think, focused on the natural beauty of this area of the state.

People are always surprised by how agriculturally dense this area is, she explained.

“It’s kind of nice to be reminded of much agriculture we have here and open space,” she said.

Other sponsors sharing a table under the tent included Pawling’s Duncan Brine, a principal landscape designer with Horticultural Design, Inc., and his wife; to handcrafted, custom fishing rods by Will Hoefft of Ossining.

It was as though everything fell into place for event organizer Tessa Edick.

Numerous activities, each catering to a different age group, simultaneously went on throughout the afternoon.

At an adjacent pond, children and parents learned to fly fish as part of the “Little Farmers Tent” activities, while the Feather Ridge Farm sponsored an egg toss.

Meanwhile, from the “Sounds of Summer Stage” WDST Woodstock 100.1 FM broadcast pop tunes as people made $500 minimum bids on decorated wooden picnic tables during a silent auction.

English teacher Tonya Frickey, faculty advisor for the Harvest Club of Taconic Hills High School, worked with students to prepare for the day.

Samples of fresh pizza and pesto were available for sampling. Near 4 p.m., almost all of the samples were gone.

AgriMark farmers and couple Karen and Jim Davenport, of Ancramdale’s Tollgate Farm, sampled Cabot cheddars.

“People have been very interested into really what Cabot Coop is all about and what Hudson Valley Fresh is,” Karen said. “We only have 60 cows. We’re hanging in. It’s nice to have the support.”

Hudson Valley Fresh is a group of eight farms in Columbia and Dutchess counties that produce high quality, farm-to-city-within-36-hours milk.

In addition to Tollgate Farm, the other local dairy producers are Shenandoah, BosHaven, Kiernan, Plankenhorn, Coon Brothers, Hahn and Conklin farms.

Susan Kiernan, a fourth generation farmer, said: “It’s a wonderful living but it’s a hard life.”

She and her husband David, her brother-in-law Walter and her father-in-law Bill, work regularly at Kiernan farm.

Will there be a succession for a fifth generation?

She is hopeful and unsure at the same time.

That’s a key reason why Edick’s passion for fresh, locally produced food and the farms from which that food and sustenance comes prompted the Friends of the Farmer festival.

A whirl of energy, Edick explained why the day itself meant so much to her. Jon and Kim Urban, owners of the Copake Country Club and participating sponsors, stood by.

First, it’s so beautiful here with a great restaurant overlooking the lake, Edick said. Second, she credited Chef Glenn Strickland of the club’s the Greens restaurant for sourcing local products from the club’s farm.

The third point cinched the question. The day was to “celebrate the farms as the celebrities,” she said. “Someone needs to cheerlead that effort.”

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