Farm On! feeds hundreds, announces new center

Posted: Sunday, July 27, 2014 12:30 am | Updated: 12:30 am, Sun Jul 27, 2014.
By Arthur Cusano Columbia-Greene Media


COPAKE — The Fourth Annual Hootenanny Farm Fresh Benefit Dinner drew hundreds to Copake Country Club Saturday evening for a night of locally grown food and fundraising, and the announcement of a new initiative.


The event was a fundraiser for the FarmOn! Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit which also sponsors the Friends of the Farmer Festival.


“This night is for the farmer, and we’re celebrating you and the hard work you do to feed us,” said Executive Director Tessa Edick.


The biggest news of the night was the launch of a brand new initiative. FarmOn! At Empire Farm is a community center, an apprentice program to teach agriculture to young people and a best practices working farm. The 217-acre property is just down the road from downtown Copake at a farm currently owned by the Ackley family.


“Mary Ackley called me up and said we may be ready to move on from this farm, and we heard maybe you were doing something so we think you should come over and we should have a chat about it, so we did,” Edick said.


More information on the new endeavor will be revealed at the FarmON! Farm Fest Sept. 27, Edick said.


For Saturday’s meal, award-winning chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten prepared a “farm to table” menu for those in attendance, which included nearly 100 area family farmers.


“All the food came sourced from within 40 miles, and all the people are either family farmers, students of agriculture we fund or supporters of this cause,” Edick said.


Whole Foods Market sponsored a golf cart drive-in movie. There were silent and live auctions and people enjoyed fruits and ice cream from nearby Ronnybrook Farm Dairy.


Executive board member Stephen Mack discussed the foundation’s endeavors this year as those in attendance under a large tent ate and drank.


Among their programs are ABC CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) created through the restaurant ABC Kitchen in New York City. The program supports Hudson Valley farmers through membership fees, for which members receive a bi-weekly delivery of fresh produce, cheese, meats, and other provisions.


The foundation also has a Local Milk School Initiative, which brings higher quality local milk to the nearby Taconic Hills Central School District. The children’s milk consumption has increased by 300 percent, Mack said. The foundation plans to bring the program to other school districts and SUNY colleges in the coming years.


Another program is Camp FarmOn!, which aims to foster farming and the entrepreneurial spirit among youth by allowing them to pitch agriculture-based businesses to a board of venture capitalists. Some of the participants in the program attended Saturday’s event.


“The camp is to get young people interested in farming, to show them that it is a business and that it is viable and it is needed,” Mack said.


“We’re bringing the whole community in with the school systems, funding local milk and getting them involved in the new farm,” Edick said.


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