Eating Local — For Free!

Today Meredith and I went to the 10th annual CSA in NYC conference, hosted by Just Food, an organization devoted to linking local farms to city neighborhoods since 1995. CSAs, or community-supported agriculture programs, enable city families to fund farmers in the winter, and then receive the farmer’s wares during harvest season (I explained this more thoroughly in a previous post).

Meredith and I went to CSA in NYC as a part of our Master’s project on the efforts to improve lunches in New York City schools. The all-day conference at the Teacher’s College of Columbia University focused on all aspects of bringing local food to cities: the challenges on the farm, the challenges for buyers in the city, the environmental and logistical elements of small farms, the problem of access for low-income households. Just Food began as an organization whose aim was to bring the farm to the city, but as their popularity (and the CSA movement in general) has grown, their focus has shifted now to systemic changes through advocacy and policy. Our interest was in the changes taking place to bring local food to New York City’s School Food program, but we learned a lot about the local food movement in general.

The rind on the coupole looked almost like a brain, but it was mmm mmm good!

Our favorite part of the day was definitely the expo at the end. Vendors from local farms, both CSA participants and wannabe CSA participants, set up shop in the cafeteria and handed out free samples. Our favorite stands by far were the Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery, which had three different kinds of aged goat cheese and a creamy goat cheese drizzled with honey and a little black pepper. The coupole was amazing — creamy and slightly runny on the inside, with a pleasantly tangy rind. Also delicious? The cultured butter with sea salt. I’ve never enjoyed bread and butter so much!

We also loved the Grandaisy Bakery, which is located very conveniently in Soho, Tribeca and the Upper West Side. Grandaisy had a bunch of different flatbread pizzas: potatoes with onions and rosemary, cremini mushrooms with onions and thyme, zucchini with gruyere and breadcrumbs, cauliflower with gruyere and breadcrumbs (so good, and would be even better with some red pepper flakes) and tomato sauce. I will definitely be heading over there the next time I’m downtown.

Argyle Cheese Farmer also had some deliciously rich greek yogurt and we loved the chocolates from Magui’s Artisanal Chocolates on the Upper West Side. Our favorite drink was the Peak Organic IPA, which was crisp, citrusy and conveniently located next to the Vermont Creamery stand.

It was rough getting up for the conference’s 8:30 a.m. start, but the free food (we got comped lunch too!) was definitely a nice bonus.

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