Checking in with the NOFA-NY Staff

12 Sep

At almost the half-way mark for the month, we thought we’d share how we here at NOFA-NY, Inc. Headquarters are doing.  We are in an ideal spot for farming, with the Western New York Dairy and Fruit Belts to our West, the Finger Lakes to the East, fabulous livestock farmers to the North and dairy and grains to our South towards the Pennsylvania border.  Still, taking this month to be even more mindful of our farm-to-table habits has provided us with new experiences and a few difficult moments.

Matt (Education and Outreach Coordinator) has been hitting up his garden plot hard for some local produce.  He plans to bring a fiery salsa to a friend’s potluck supper tonight (which reminds us…have you found a potluck for September 25th? Don’t forget to tell US so we can count your participation!):

We’ve got a lot of tomatoes that need to be picked, as well as some very hot peppers. With the garlic and onions that are available at the markets right now, this is a perfect way to enjoy the season’s bounty.

Tomatoes- 3 lbs., diced. Mixed varieties if available. We’ve got lemon drops, gold medals, and a few mystery heirloom varieties growing in our garden.
Hot peppers- 2 or 3 (depending on size, heat, and your tolerance level), minced. We’re growing Joe’s Round this year, a small, cherry bomb-looking guy that is very very hot.
Cilantro- ½ – ¾ cup chopped. Cilantro is something I used to detest, and have grown to love. Ours didn’t do too well this year, so we’re buying from the market.
Garlic- 3 cloves, minced.
Onions- 2 or 3 smaller ones (roughly ¾ lb.)

Chop up everything, combine in a large bowl, and add a little salt and pepper to taste. If it weren’t Locavore Month, I’d suggest a little lime juice as well. Nice for dipping, but also delicious over eggs, on top of chili, etc.

Stephanie (Administrative Assistant) enjoyed a visit to the Lexington Food Co-Op in Buffalo, NY (where she used to work and live, respectively).  She also has been cooking and eating a strong foundation of products from her community garden plot and CSA share.

Katie (Membership and Registration Coordinator), through great fortune of living (and working) at Firefly Farm, is a lifelong locavore, but she has been striving to avoid sugar and some of the standard non-local ingredients that are generally at the year-round table.  She tried both maple syrup and honey as her coffee sweetener, and prefers the honey (a personal choice, other members of the office prefer the maple flavor).  She has been happy to rekindle her relationship with the Rochester-area farmers’ markets!

Lea (Assistant Director) learned that her ancestors were some pretty tough Rochesterian urban farmers in the 20’s and 30’s.  We won’t spoil that story today…stay tuned!  One of her frustrations has been waving the Locavore flag at family tables (such as the six-course meal during which she learned of her urban farming heritage) and while eating out with friends: “I have been at nearly 100% when eating at home, but eating out is difficult.  There are a few great farm to table restaurants in Rochester, but they are expensive, and I feel bad asking friends to go out for dinner and the only two restaurants I can go do start at $20 a plate.  I have been succeeding at just going for drinks and apps though.  Thank you NYS wines!”  She has been sharing the experience with all those around her, including intervening in her housemate’s cooking at just the right moment to swap in a local-ingredient recipe on a few occasions.

Rachel (Beginning Farmer Coordinator) agrees, the social aspect is difficult, though she has been mostly eating in at home anyways, and choosing restaurants carefully for those few meals out.  Even though the meals out have not been totally local, the initial where-to-go conversations have caused her to discover a well-kept secret of a Rochester restaurant (through a conversation with a farmer who mentioned how much produce they were supplying to that restaurant) and to realize that there is a bit more local produce being used at area restaurants than she had originally thought, if she just makes the point to investigate.  The no-coffee plan has worked out well, minus a few specific incidences of enjoying expertly-brewed cups from a local coffee roaster/cafe during a Slow Food Rochester event (ok, and on her own a few times).  She misses the grocery store brand ice cream that used to live in her apartment’s freezer, though she knows she could just make her own with local ingredients, if it weren’t for all the vegetables and make-ahead meals she has been stuffing into the freezer.  Cold melon, honey and local yogurt have been an immensely satisfying option.  Rachel has been doing some marathon chopping, cooking, canning and dehydrating of the season’s produce to ensure that she can still enjoy all the Locavore flavors later this year.  She’s also learned that having the shared experience of the Locavore Challenge to chat about with her mother has brought the two of them closer!  Though her mom is in Rhode Island, so the local foods are different, the two of them have been exchanging e-mails about the great meals they’ve been having, and Rachel feels like her mom is starting to really *get* what Rachel is involved in (though Locavore challenge coordinator isn’t technically her job description).

Kate (Executive Director) has been out of the country for most of the month, but we are anticipating her arrival back in the office, full of stories from the country she has been in, which is notorious for its slow-food culture that does not even comprehend using anything but local products for the bulk of your meals.  To be fair, it’s nice when “local” includes olive oil, citrus, seafood and a seriously long tradition of amazing and simple foods.  Stay tuned for tales from her trip later this month.

Brett (Communications and Event Planning Assistant) was thrown into the Locavore challenge right as he started his year-long internship with us.  He has gotten up to speed quickly about what the local food scene is here (he’s not from the area), and has mastered the art of manning an information table for us at some key locavore events!

We hope you see that we are all challenged by this month of consciousness.  Just because our work here at NOFA-NY brings us into constant contact with farmers and our food system does not mean we have it all figured out.  We’ve each taken the challenge to mean something different, and while none of us has totally avoided food from outside our 250-mile radius, we are definitely thinking more about the decisions we make and have enjoyed this year’s twist of the mini-challenges to push ourselves to think and act on our convictions.  Having an office full of support really helps, so if you feel all alone while challenging yourself, reach out to a buddy for support (and make sure they register so we can count them in the movement as well).

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One Response to “Checking in with the NOFA-NY Staff”

  1. Timothy Saur September 13, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    Hello at NOFA-NY staff. Refreshing to hear even you struggle. I decided to do this because it seemed like a good challenge and the right thing to do. Part way in I am not only proud of how it is going but also amazed at how difficult it is to determine the source location of the food. As a business leader I am trying to recruit more to join me but alas not yet.

    One great ‘side’ benefit of the challenge is that I have met some great people as a result of merely discussing the challenge when I am out. By asking at a local pub if they have local grown food on the menu (the answer is usually NO) I met a local brewer at Roc Brewing who was also at the Pub. I visited his place last Friday and we had a great time. Incredible what Roc Brewing co. is doing with local grown hops!

    The discussion starter that I am a locavore for September has also resulted in lengthy conversations about food production methods and support for local farms. It is has been great fun, educational, and very difficult. I now go to the public market, buy locally sourced beef (Seven Bridges is great), and have eaten much healthier than I otherwise would have at 39 and the start of the football season. I hope to continue to learn – and educate – as I meet more people. One of your suggested books is en route to my home so that is next. Thanks for the blog and keep the information / ideas coming!

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