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October 05, 2015
State Agriculture Commissioner Hosts Taste NY Culinary Tour in the Hudson Valley
Tour Builds on Success of Two Previous Tours; Connects Restaurateurs with Regional Producers and Growers
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today hosted the State’s Taste NY Culinary Tour in the Hudson Valley, which provided more than 30 leading restaurateurs and chefs from the Hudson Valley, New York City, Western New York, Central New York and Capital Regions a first-hand look at the quality and diversity of New York agriculture in the region.
Following two successful Taste NY Culinary Tours in the Finger Lakes and on Long Island in August, today’s tour included visits to three farms and processors across Dutchess and Ulster counties. As a result of the three tours, nearly 100 chefs and restaurant owners from across the state have been introduced to some of New York State’s best agricultural food and beverage producers.
Commissioner Ball said, “We’ve seen great connections made between our upstate growers and producers and restaurateurs from across the State at the first two Taste NY Culinary Tours. Today, we had another great opportunity to build on those connections. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s efforts to increase the exposure of our state’s growing number of agri-businesses, today’s tour allows us to foster new relationships with restaurant owners who want to bring the freshest, highest- quality ingredients to their customers.”
The Culinary Tours were organized following the Governor’s Farm to Table Upstate-Downstate Summit in an effort to connect restaurateurs with regional producers and growers, and highlight the many opportunities for the sourcing of local foods.
The Hudson Valley region is known for its strengths in the agricultural industry—its rich soils, abundant water supply and proximity to metropolitan markets. Dutchess County agriculture comprises over 170,000 acres, one third of its total acreage), producing $44.8 million in market value products, a large part of the county’s $438 million tourism industry. Agriculture is also the county’s third largest employer. Ulster County also has a long agricultural history and is home to a diverse array of agricultural enterprises including fruit and vegetable production as well as dairy and egg.
The three stops on the Hudson Valley Culinary Tour included Hepworth Farms in Milton, Ulster County (vegetables), Bad Seed Cider in Highland, Ulster County (cider), and Hudson Valley Fresh in Wappingers Falls, Dutchess County (dairy farm).
Hepworth Farms is a seventh generation family farm that produces more than 400 varieties of vegetables using organic practices on its 250 acres of farmland. Produce is sold to restaurants, processors and at farmers’ markets, and the farm works with several local distributors to sell its vegetables in the wholesale marketplace. While at Hepworth Farms, participants had the opportunity to tour the packinghouse and get a firsthand look at operations.
Participants also visited Bad Seed Cider in Highland, which makes its cider with 100 percent fresh pressed apples, some of which are grown at neighboring Wilklow Orchards. Manhattan Beer sells the cider wholesale throughout the Hudson Valley and New York City area.
At Stormfield Swiss in Wappingers Falls, one of the dairy farms in the Hudson Valley Fresh cooperative, participants toured the farm, learned about the dairy cooperative enterprise, and sampled various dairy products. Hudson Valley Fresh produces whole, skim, low-fat and chocolate milk along with half and half, heavy cream, yogurt, ice cream mix and sour cream. Milk is locally sourced, processed and distributed to local businesses.
Jennifer DeForest, owner of Stormfield Swiss, one of 9 farms producing Hudson Valley Fresh milk, said, “We feel it is important to provide these tours so that the consumer has the opportunity to see firsthand where their product comes from. They also see the care that goes into a product which they use every day. This is what sets us apart from the large factory production farms. Local agricultural products are increasing in demand because people like to know where their food comes from.”
Amy Hepworth, owner of Hepworth Farms, said, “Anytime anyone in the food industry knows more about agriculture as it pertains to their food and food supply, the better. It’s very important for chefs and others to understand agriculture first hand and this is what this opportunity presents. Chefs influence people. They use the product. If they understand the agriculture corridor near them, they will better access and use the high quality and fresh produce available to them. Buying local is important for so many reasons—it stimulates the economy, it's healthy, fresh is best, and frankly, many of the crops grown in the Hudson Valley taste better.”
Having Co-owner of Bad Seed Cider, Devin Britton, said, “Having Bad Seed as a stop on the Taste New York Culinary Tour helps us connect with chefs and restaurant owners to showcase just one of the many value added products that can be produced from New York apples."
Todd M. Erling, Executive Director of the Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corp, said, "The Hudson Valley is blessed with talented farmers and access to world class market opportunities. The Taste NY program allows us to showcase and use tours like today to develop additional relationships through collaboration with partners like New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and The Culinary Institute of America."
Taste NY is an initiative launched by Governor Cuomo in 2013 to promote New York’s food and beverage industries. It is overseen by the Department of Agriculture and Markets and has created opportunities for local producers to showcase their goods at large public events such as the Great New York State Fair, as well as special events with the New York Racing Association. The program has also opened stores at Thruway rest stops and New York City airports and transportation hubs, enabling travelers to buy New York State’s homegrown and homemade products. Approximately 1,100 local companies have participated in these opportunities, further linking their products and the state’s growing food and beverage market to consumers from across the globe.
The Taste NY Culinary Tour concluded with a tour of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. A reception to kick-off Hudson Valley Restaurant Week will cap off the evening with more than 300 guests. Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo announced The Culinary Institute of America as an education partner for the Taste NY program to promote New York’s food and beverage industries. As part of the partnership, The Culinary Institute of America is creating programs targeted to food enthusiasts, including Taste NY-branded boot camps and one-day cooking classes at the college’s campus along with a series of instructional cooking videos featuring New York State products. A campus restaurant, The American Bounty Restaurant, hosted three Taste NY-themed Farmer’s Dinners during the fall 2015 harvest season.
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