Artisanal Food and Agriculture
The Culinary Arts program at Questar III follows the ProStart curriculum developed by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, which gives students the opportunity to learn about the art of cooking and managing restaurants by training with professional chefs and getting classroom instruction, while also earning college credit and making money while they’re in high school.
TV culture of celebrity chefs and cooking-related programming has awakened a surge of interest in culinary arts, but one of the more recent popular concepts around food has been sustainability and farm-to-table restaurants. Questar has a Farm-to-Table unit in the Culinary arts program that teams up with Sylvia Center at Katchkie Farm, where students visit the farm, learn about food deserts, and source local produce to create dishes on-site. This experience further solidifies a hands- on learning experience while teaching strong lessons in sourcing and sustainability that will shape how these student think about the food industry and quality ingredients.
Culinary Instructor Peter Desmond says, “Some of our students would not normally get the opportunity to do this without the program. K farm has been very generous in collaborating with us on this program and it really helps students to learn about healthy foods, how they are grown, and more.”
Although most Questar III students continue their studies at organizations like SCCC (please give full names here) or CIA, some students have received scholarships to Johnson & Whales University, or end up going directly into the workforce to use their skills in job throughout the region.
In anticipation of ACE’s upcoming Washington County Farm Tour on July 15th, I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the planned tour stops from Agricultural Stewardship Association’s Executive Director, Teri Ptacek. Having moved to Upstate New York just over a year ago, I was excited to explore a part of the region that tends to fall under the radar for most of us outside of Washington
County. This region is so rich with cultural and agricultural assets that it’s easy to get caught-up in the towns where we live and work. That’s a mistake. To say that I, a woman who has lived the majority of her life living in America’s concrete jungles, was taken by the beauty and allure of what I saw on my Washington
County tour would be an understatement.
As we drove to our first stop, Teri explained to me the work that ASA does to safeguard the future of the farming communities of New York’s Rensselaer and Washington Counties. With the help of ASA, farm owners are able to conserve their land, which permanently protects it from development, and ensures that future generations can continue to enjoy the local agricultural traditions, landscapes, and products. The importance of this work was driven home as I watched the stunning vistas pass by through the car window.
We arrived at our first stop, the brand-new Bunker Hill Organic Creamery. We were welcomed by the sounds of nearby goats who wanted to make sure we came and said hello. After making their acquaintance, Teri brought me to the cow barn. The cows here eat and roam at their leisure. Teri showed me some of the equipment needed for the cows, such as a cattle headlock feeder and hay bales. It was really interesting to see. Thanks to two DeLaval robotic milking machines, the cows also milk at their leisure. These magical machines are able to identify the cow (so they aren’t being milked too often), sense the teats and milk the cow without aid of a human. That gives a level of freedom to the cow and to the farmer, who can use that time for other tasks around the farm. It’s a truly incredible system. As Teri told me, happy cows make the best milk. We’ll all be able to test that theory when Bunker Hill finishes their bottling building and are able to start selling their milk. They will be the only farm in Washington County to sell organic milk with the cream on top. In the meantime, they sell organic beef and pork in their shop.
Our next stop was at Gardenworks Farm, owned by third-generation farmer, Meg McEachron Southerland. What was originally a poultry farm started by her grandfather, now boasts endless fields of raspberries, blueberries, flowers, pumpkins and more. One could easily spend a whole day here. Start your day picking blueberries and raspberries. Then enjoy a delicious lunch prepared with locally-sourced ingredients in their café, followed by a tour of the art and antique farm equipment on display. Finish with some shopping in their market that sells everything from local meats, cheeses and veggies to jewelry to beautiful dried flowers that Meg dries on-site. There’s even a B&B on the property if you just can’t bring yourself to go home… and I wouldn’t blame you. I could have easily spent a lot more time here.
But leave we did and headed to our third stop, Lavenlair Farm. Row after row ofmagnificent lavender plants await you as you pull onto the property. It’s hard to feel anything but relaxed here. Between the photo-worthy scenery and the fragrant lavender, Lavenlair Farm is a peaceful retreat from the bustle of daily life.
As soon as I stepped out of the car, I could feel the calm spreading over me. There is even a 100ft diameter, lavender planted, Petit-Chartres labyrinth – “Lavenrinth” – for meditative strolling. The on-site shop sells a variety of lavender items giving visitors the opportunity to take the Zen vibe home with them. Note: There are bee hives on the farm, so they caution visitors to not wear bright colors or wear strong perfumes.
Our last stop was Hicks Orchard and Slyboro Ciderhouse. We were fortunate to enough to have owner, Dan Wilson, spend some time with us and share his thoughts on the future of cider. As New York’s oldest U-Pick apple orchard, starting a ciderhouse was a natural addition to the farm. They make all their cider on-property and have a charming tasting room where you can sample them and take your favorites home with you. Dan sees a huge future in the evolution of cider, and is planting new and unusual varieties of apples at Hicks in an effort to develop complex ciders. Because cider uses a similar fermenting process as wine and pairs well with food, he doesn’t see why cider couldn’t become an everyday drink as well. I think he may be on to something big here.
Driving back to ASA, I was struck by the abundance and beauty I had seen and then by the realization that I had barely scratched the surface of what Washington County has to offer. I will definitely be making a point of coming back and discovering more. This City Girl has a future spending quality time in the country.
Do not miss the opportunity to experience these wonderful places for yourself. Buy your ticket for the ACE Washington County Farm Tour and get your own inside look at what makes each of these places unique.
In addition to these four farms, the tour starts and stops at Hubbard Hall where you can start the day at the Farmer’s Market and end it with a beer at Argyle Brewing (opening especially for this tour) and conversation with WAMC’s Joe Donahue. A tour of Hubbard Hall by Executive & Artistic Director David Snider will available as well.
Tickets are $55 each and include transportation on a chartered, air-conditioned bus to all tour stops, tour/entrance fees, cider tasting and a custom tote bag for transporting all your goodies.
Tour date: July 15, 2018
Time: 12pm – 6pm
Purchase tickets and get additional details at: upstatecreative.org
Agricultural Stewardship Association
Washington County Tourism
Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation
Workforce Development Institute
Glens Falls National Bank and Trust Company
Special thanks to Salem Farm Supply for their generous support.
Guest post by Rachel Dunn, Marketing Consultant & Strategist
Rachel Dunn is a freelance Marketing Consultant & Strategist, who has spent 20+ years thinking about how to sell other people’s stuff. She is a recent transplant to Saratoga Springs from Florida, and enjoys exploring her new surroundings, provided it’s not too cold outside.
Photos and article by Ska City Photography; photos from the ACE Creative Economy Mixer on April 23, 2018.
Nine Pin Cider Works is a thriving business that retains the appeal and loyalty of a family-run endeavor despite growing their wholesale footprint to 3 states and housing a large tasting room in the heart of the Capital District.
Bottles are still hand labeled on-site, all employees are empowered to contribute future batch ideas, and the canning line is as likely to be manned by the owner as it is by the Head of Packaging, Justin. Seven massive tanks dominating the warehouse are playfully named after the Seven Dwarves, while 26 smaller capsules are on hand for creating a constantly changing menu of retail seasonal and specialty blends.
Spend a few minutes with Nine Pin Founder and Cider Maker Alejandro del Peral and you will quickly realize that their success is no accident: Alejandro’s infectious enthusiasm, entrepreneurial spirit, degrees in Biology and Hydrology and experience in Engineering uniquely combine to set a casual, dedicated atmosphere. Asked to have his portrait taken in front of whichever Dwarf tank best fit him on the day of our visit, he walked to Dopey without hesitation. This humility and having mother Sonya (an attorney by day) as the company Business Manager keep Alejandro grounded while leading one of the fastest growing creative businesses in the region.
Location: 929 Broadway, Albany NY [map it!]
Employees: 13 Full-Time, 17 total
In business since: 2013, with the first batch production in February 2014
Products: 4 wholesale cider core products, and 100-150 small batch blends annually
Was any single experience or moment the trigger for your company progressing from an idea to reality?
Alejandro del Peral: It really stemmed from when I was in Grad School – I became very interested in food systems and what I ate and where it was grown. Sustainable food systems usually involve sourcing everything locally, but ‘local beer’ was made with ingredients from all over the world. It was ‘local’ but it wasn’t driving the economy. When I heard that New York had the second largest apple crop in the country that was my “Eureka” moment.
What advice would you give to a person starting a creative business?
AdP: First, you need a lot more money than you think you do. Secondly, you must realize that as much as you want to be creative it is about what your market and customers want and you must be open to being creative within the parameters set by the market you are serving.
What inspires you?
AdP: Inspiration comes from the involvement of everyone in the company. New York produces the most varieties of apples in the country and working with the team to find new blends is inspiring. Having the Tasting Room gives us an outlet to experiment; with our wholesale products we are more reserved with what we produce because there is so much more invested. We can make a 50-gallon batch, put it on tap here and even if it doesn’t turn out incredible we get the feedback from the consumers and it isn’t a huge loss.
Was there a particular moment or milestone where you thought “Ok, now we’ve ‘made it’”?
AdP: I was at a bar and overheard a conversation about our cider and realized the brand had grown beyond just me and those associated with me and my mom. It has its own image out there and it’s not totally in our control any more. Still, there hasn’t been a feeling that we’ve ‘made it’ because we are still in Start-Up mode. Things are going well, but we are not there yet.
ACE and the Center for Economic Growth have concluded our 2018 Creative Economy Roundtable Tour.
This six-county tour, held in February and March 2018, brought more than 700 attendees to Capital Region cultural institutions and creative agencies for open discussions on our regional identity, business challenges and opportunities, and everything related to our region’s Creative Economy. At the sessions, facilitators also shared new data showing the economic contributions from the creative industries, one of the largest and most dynamic regional employment sectors.
Special thanks to our event partners Fingerpaint and WMHT Educational Telecommunications, our event designer 2440 Design Studio, and our hosts: Overit, WMHT Educational Telecommunications, the Hyde Collection, Proctors, SPAC’s Hall of Springs, and Hudson Hall at the historic Hudson Opera House. ACE and CEG also thank the many local companies who provided refreshments for our Roundtable Tour, including Berben & Wolff’s, [forged], Fort Orange Brewing, Mazzone Hospitality, Sunhee’s Farm and Kitchen, and 22 2nd Street Wine Co.