On a recent trip up to the Catskills, Red and I stopped at a local organic farm that came highly recommended from her colleague, Yolanda. As we edged the rental car along a dirt path that had very clear driving and parking instructions on hand-painted signs, we knew instantly that we were in for a treat. Located in Cochecton, NY, River Brook Farm had some of the best looking fruits and veggies we'd seen in a while. We were greeted by Alice, our affable hostess and farmer-in-charge, who encouraged us to take pictures. "It took a lot of hard work to grow them so I'm happy you appreciate it enough to photograph them." And appreciate we did.
After much debate we ended up buying corn, scallions, pears, strawberries, and a Brazilian broccoli hybrid that we'd never seen (you know, just a little light shopping). As we were checking out, we struck up a conversation with Neil, Alice's husband, who let us sample some just-ripened grapes that were like eating candy. He offered to show us around the farm and we eagerly joined him for the grand tour. Situated on just under 3 acres, River Brook's fields contained a host of fruits and vegetables, chickens, ducks, and goats. The goats instantly took to Red as their shepherdess.
While walking around the farm, we were schooled on what you need to take into consideration when farming in the Catskills, tax laws, and the divided local opinions on fracking. We also spoke at length about the challenges of farming and the hardships that smaller family-run operations like River Brook face. It was humbling to hear and see firsthand how our food system doesn't support those that are just trying to make a living by producing some of the best food around.
As Brooklynites, it gives us pause about the trendy urban farming movement, knowing that there are people like Alice and Neil selling pears for $2/lb, scraping to get by, while people flock to the store to pay $4 for a bunch of basil grown on a rooftop. Don't get us wrong, any way that people can learn about, produce, and access healthy, real food locally is a good thing. We just hope that people will remember that there are farmers across the country that have been doing this for years, generations, in some cases, that need your support too. Their hard work goes unrecognized on a daily basis and we're reminded every time we shop at farmers' markets that the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, sweeter than sweet corn and the most delicious grilled scallions we've ever had. If you can, take a road trip to a farm or strike up a conversation with a farmer at the next greenmarket you hit up. You'll be able to taste their hard work, hear their story, and appreciate the food on your plate a little more. I know we did. --Brown