Farm chic raises funds for local ag at Empire Farm Hoot!

Posted: Friday, July 3, 2015 12:00 am
By Tessa Edick
For Columbia-Greene Media


It’s on! You are all invited to the farm and the table July 18 in Columbia County to get your FarmOn! at Empire Farm in Copake to celebrate local agricultural with executive chef Jonathan Wright of the iconic Rainbow Room, who will host this year’s Hoot! benefit dinner.


The Hudson Valley Hootenanny! summer benefit is loved by all and sure to be legendary, complete with 100 local farmers and dozens of carefully crafted and consciously curated menu items to share with family and friends for a great cause I founded on a mission to stand up for my farming community with food education and farm preservation.


This year marks the first time this benefit dinner will be held on Empire Farm, a 220-acre historic farm formerly owned by Henry Astor III (he designed himself and sometimes referred to in his time as Astorville), then John Benedict “Ben” Ackley (who founded the Taconic Telephone Corp.) and now serves as the FarmOn! Foundation headquarters and hosts an agricultural academy, community center and working farm in Copake that invites us all to change the way we eat through farm experiences, where you meet your farmer and support succession on family farms.


The HOOT! dinner mid-month is a farm fresh commitment to celebrate our foundation’s fifth anniversary and showcase the fresh local bounty of the Hudson Valley in an authentic farm-to-table dinner.


You are encouraged to shake the hands that feed you as food and libations are sourced from 50-plus family farms in the Hudson Valley for a family-style meal on the newly acquired property, to indulge in smoked slow roasted grass fed meat, so many seasonal organic vegetables prepared dozens of ways, fire poached fruit, organic grains, Hudson Valley dairy and provisions that define responsibly crafted honest eating complete with of the moment desserts.


Mooooove over meatpalooza, these farmers are providing protein raised just down the road 3 miles from your plate as chef Wright plays with fire for the perfect flavor.


Do your know where your food is from?


Bruce Conover raised the Berkshire pig that chef will honor from Sir William Farm as the centerpiece for the festivities. Jeremy Peele’s grass fed organic beef brisket from Herondale Farm will be smoked and barbecued to perfection and the pastured free range chicken from Heather and Rob Kitchen of Pigasso Farm are sure to delight us all as we eat with the people that truly make our food.


The event will kick off with a 5 p.m. cocktail hour featuring a Hudson Valley cheese course, including Old Chatham Sheepherding, Chaseholm Farm Creamery, Cabot, Jacuterie, Bread Alone, Oliva Provisions and Lady Jayne’s Alchemy, as well as a variety of local libations, such as Hillrock Estate Distillery, Dutch’s Spirits, Harvest Spirits, Hudson Valley Distillery, Sovereign Cider, Hudson Standard, Saratoga Water Co., Harney & Sons, Chatham Brewing and Wine Enthusiast magazine’s celebration of Charles Merinoff’s very own USA wine selections.


Guests will also be able to enjoy a farmer’s market, where they can graze, taste and shop for local products straight from the featured makers, like Field Apothecary, Field Goods and family farms.


Following the cocktail hour, the cowbell calls for a seated family-style dinner prepared by Wright, his Rainbow Room staff and Mazzone Hospitality. With all of the food sourced directly from many surrounding farms, including Empire Farm, and from students of the piloted ag-academic program announced at the event by SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimphor, we aim to please as you eat with the people that make your food and change the way you think about what you eat, why and that every bite impacts our health and wellness beyond taste.


The menu will feature dishes with Rainbow Room flair, like wood oven roasted fennel with straciatella, lamb bacon and arugula, Bloody Mary smoked jam and whipped ricotta, peaches grilled to perfection with local goat cheese, fried chicken with smoked bacon waffles, fried green tomatoes with roasted leeks and buttermilk, ragout of summer squash, strawberry and verbena cheesecake and plenty more.


This is an epic way to get you to visit a farm while raising funds and awareness to support the important work of the FarmOn! Foundation. With a mission committed to revitalizing a respect for farming as a noble profession, inspiring youth careers in agriculture for academic, vocational and entrepreneurial pathways and linking rural and urban marketplaces to rebuild local economies, you will fall in love with farming too.


Five years since the inaugural launch, the FarmOn! Foundation has created and funded programs that inspire youth, fund scholarships and community outreach and develop a local school milk initiative called #MilkMoney, making lunchrooms smarter and bringing local nutrient dense milk cow-to-kid in 36 hours, in partnership with Hudson Valley Fresh Dairy, to regional school districts.


The foundation also hosts and funds CampFarmOn! Aug. 3-7 for 25 youth in grades 8-11. This year, it offered five scholarships for students ages 17-19 on Empire Farm this summer to teach them the business of food on a working farm while learning the economics and fostering the entrepreneurial spirit in agriculture.


Throughout the evening, guests can pledge support for educational programming and bid on silent auctions items that offer unique experiences ranging from cheese making on a farm to celebrity meet-and-greets to helping raise additional funds for the FarmOn! Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and public charity.


To cap off the night, guests enjoy live music by the bonfire and dance under the stars on this historic family farm now complete with the legacy of the Rainbow Room too. Don’t miss the fun. FarmOn!


A tremendous thank you to the generous sponsors and local farmers feeding us well: Rainbow Room, Whole Foods Market, Mazzone Hospitality, SUNY, Maple Hill Creamery, Hudson Valley Fresh Dairy, Hudson River Tractor, John Deere, Local Economies Project, Kohler, Herrington’s, Benjamin Moore, Modern Farmer Magazine and Saratoga Water Company, Field Goods, Columbia-Greene Media, Charles Merinoff and CJ Mack Foundation.


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