A Tale of Two Meals

09/03/2014 10:25 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Wednesday was a typical day at Katchkie Farm; CSA harvesting & packing and a small group of Sylvia Center students were engaged in garden work, harvesting and cooking their meal. The weather was crazy beautiful and I was looking forward to my visit.

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Chef Bob Turner of the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck was there, looking to learn about The Sylvia Center program by participating with a group. My dear friend (community garden movement leader) Karen Washington was across the street at neighboring Roxbury Farm - along with our colleague Jane Hodge - participating in a farmer training program. I was to pick them up at lunchtime as neither had ever seen Katchkie Farm. Finally, I had met a young Ecuadorian farmer at a community garden in Williamsburg the previous week, Victor, and lured him out of Brooklyn with the promise of a visit to an established Hudson Valley farm. His girlfriend Rachel, a JTS student, came along. Whitney Reuling, Program Manager of our Sylvia Center City Programs, rounded out the foursome in my car.

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On the menu: Sylvia Center students prepared vegetable dumplings, rolled veggie nori rolls and made wicked fried rice. Chef Bob harvested some magnificent heirloom tomatoes, cilantro and parsley for a luscious salad. I (the vegetarian) had cooked a brisket and a duck egg veggie quiche the night before and added that to the buffet.

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Farmer Bob and Kristy joined us for the meal. It was a diverse collection of individuals all united in love of agriculture and a desire to learn from others - and by 1 PM - all very hungry. It was one of those moments when you look down a 24' stretch of orange picnic tables at an unlikely collection of faces and truly feel the blessing of the meal ahead. For bringing this group together, for the bounty on the table, for our freedom to gather and talk about anything, for the seeds we would sow in creating new friendships that day - we are grateful.

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The talk was of farms, cooking, activism, ag politics, crazy weather patterns, farming, teaching, schools, Brooklyn, community gardens, struggles, hope and food. There was so much cross-pollination going on; the buzzing was intense. It could only happen at a place called Farm.

A few days later, we had the honor of hosting the annual Labor Day BBQ for the U.S. Senator of New York Kirsten Gillibrand and her community of family and supporters from Columbia and neighboring counties, for a fundraising event for the Senator's Off the Sidelines PAC. It's a really big deal to host a Senator (there are only 100!) so Farmer Bob and crew worked hard to make sure the farm looked great while Mother Nature took care of the weather - a perfect day with cool breezes and abundant sun.

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Photograph courtesy of Michael Molinski

Our chefs let seasonal ingredients determine the menu and it was a vibrant array of salads with colors and flavors. Kinderhook Farm provided their signature hamburgers and hot dogs. (After 5+ years of vegetarianism I was sorely tempted to wolf down a hot dog. The tantalizing aroma!!) Local Chatham beer and Millbrook Wine, along with local water infused with local watermelon & basil, local apples & stone fruit, incredible local pies, and local cheese (get the picture?) rounded out the offerings. NY at its finest.

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Photograph courtesy of Michael Molinski

No one could remember a tastier gathering. And it was all prelude to hearing Senator Gillibrand talk about the need to continue the fight to protect our farms, support women's rights, make sure our kids have access to healthy food, fight against hunger, build jobs in our local communities and ensure a just society.

It was an inspiring call to action and a wonderful moment of feeling the power and critical importance of leadership and vision.

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Photographs courtesy of Michael Molinski

Two meals on these two perfect summer days, in fields where many of our own dreams have been realized, set the agenda for the work that is ahead. What resonates so wonderfully is that both meals created a strong sense of community, which in turn strengthens our resolve to work together to find solutions to the problems confronting us and help us commit to mentoring and guiding one another.

Let's plan more meals on farms.

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Photograph courtesy of Michael Molinski