Our first “farm” was on the rooftop of our New York City apartment building. Our first “crop” was the purple cherokee tomato, an heirloom variety tomato that we thought was the most delicious thing that we had ever put into our mouths.
At the time, we didn’t really know the significance of the word “heirloom” and we certainly had no idea that there were heirloom vegetables beyond those in the nightshade family.
5 years later we were growing 110 different varieties of heirloom vegetables and enamored of the purple carrots, the snowball tomatoes, and the pale yellow cucumbers that tasted completely different than any of their counterparts on the shelves of the local supermarket.
Heirloom varieties play an important role in maintaining genetic diversity in our food supply, but a casual conversation at a birthday party spurred another thought:
How might raising public awareness about heirloom varieties and creating a greater demand for them in NYC restaurants help small scale and family-run farms?
When we struck up a conversation about gardening at the party, we had no idea that the person sitting next to us on the sofa was the head of marketing at Sotheby’s. Right there, over spinach dip and white wine, we concocted the idea for an auction of “edible heirlooms”.
Just in time for the harvest season, this first-of-its-kind event, titled The Art of Farming, will celebrate edible heirlooms and the art involved in their creation. The novel concept provides a unique platform for local farmers, purveyors, celebrity chefs, food industry experts and high-profile New Yorkers to join together for a shared interest in the vitality of the Greenmarket and raise important funds for the GrowNYC New Farmer Development Project and The Sylvia Center at Katchkie Farm. The event is supported by leaders and visionaries in the sustainable food and farming movement, including Eric Ripert, Ruth Reichl, Martha Stewart, Bette Midler, Dan Barber, Liz Neumark, and others.
The Art of Farming evening will begin with a cocktail reception with “local” hors d’oeuvres by renowned restaurant Rouge Tomate, which strives to address social and environmental issues, taking pride in farm to table cuisine and implementing sustainable practices such as their firm dedication to composting. Jamie Niven, Chairman of Sotheby’s North America, will lead a live auction of Heirloom vegetables from more than 20 local farmers from the tri-state area, including Beekman 1802, John Gorzynski of Gorzynski Ornery Farms, Russell Glover of Consider Bardwell, Tom Culton of Culton Organics, and Richard Ball of Schoharie Valley Farms. All seeds for the produce on sale have been donated to the farmers by Landreth Seed and Seed Savers.
Also on the block will be incredible food and drink experiences such as summer farm internships for students, field trips for school classes, celebrity chef dinners, vegetable futures, farm-to-table dinners, New York wine country getaways, Brooklyn brewmaster tastings, and a bountiful silent auction of delectable items.
Following the auction, there will be an exclusive four-course dinner for benefactors, designed by a line-up of renowned celebrity chefs, including Jeff Gimmel of Swoon Kitchenbar in Hudson, New York, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Chef of Jean Georges, Roberto Alicea, Executive Chef of Andaz 5th Avenue, and Dominique Ancel, Pastry Chef of Daniel. The decadent menu will be created using fresh, seasonal ingredients like those on sale at the auction, donated by local organic markets and livestock providers. Each table will be hosted by a local farmer.
To complement the evening’s festivities, earlier the same day Sotheby’s will also host a series of high-profile gallery talks illuminating how art and food, flavor and culture, and trade and sustainability all impact- and are affected by- the journey from farm to table. The afternoon’s line-up, led by Karen Karp, President of Karp Resources, includes industry veterans Scott Exo, Executive Director, Food Alliance; Mitchell Davis, Vice President, James Beard Foundation; and others.
The Art of Farming will coincide with and kick-off the 2010 Eat Drink Local week in New York City, the annual celebration of the local food chain, co-produced by Edible magazines and GrowNYC. All proceeds from the event will benefit the GrowNYC New Farmers Development Project, which identifies, educates and supports immigrants with agricultural experience to become local producers and establish farms in the region, and The Sylvia Center, a program that inspires and teaches children to eat well through hands-on experiences at Katchkie Farm and in school and community centers all over New York City.
About Paulette Tavormina:
About Eat Drink Local Week:
Eat Drink Local week is a celebration of the local food chain—a restaurant week with a mission. It runs statewide from September 26-October 6, 2010, with the collaboration of all Edible magazines in the Empire State, and involves partners from the entire food chain—including restaurants, wine shops and wineries, breweries and beer bars, farms and food artisans, and cultural institutions that celebrate food.
Eat Drink Local week is co-produced by Edible magazines and the GrowNYC Greenmarket. For more information visit, www.ediblemanhattan.com.