Farmland: Part 2(a) – NYC Food Faces its Farmers!

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The New York ‘on-the-ground” Food Journey Begins

The roadway to Farmland (the movie) is paved with Farmland to Food connections. And even though I’ve spent a lifetime connecting the trails from producers to brands to end users, and back again, I would never in a million years have anticipated what happened next. (Note: you may need to refer to the previous post to completely follow this post).

Caught up in all the emotions brought on by the first sight of the Freedom Tower, the grumbles of my hungry stomach reminded me that I was on a mission to find lunch. At this point, just anyplace that was clean would do. After passing a couple of places that were little more than dives, I saw some happy-looking diners, and looking up, I saw this sign:

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Looked like a winner! And in yet another moment of random surprise or ‘it was meant to be,’ this happy food cart signage made me certain I would eat at this place:

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Never before, in any region of the country had I ever seen a restaurant that so boldly acknowledged that FARMS and FARMERS were something to be grateful for! I was hooked from that moment on! Of all the places in the world, NEW YORK is perhaps one of the last that I would have expected to see something like this! This restaurant sources food from both organic and conventional growers (emphasis on organic), but makes a real effort to source as many ingredients as possible back to it origin – the FARM from which it came! How serious – well – see for yourself . . .

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American Flatbread is a chain of approximately 12 Vermont-based restaurants in the Northeast, founded purposely to source food from as many regional growers as possible in their immediate foodshed. Not only do they say they do, they go to the trouble of identifying their growers with nametags and where they can be found. I LOVE this effort, and this belief in bolstering their local food economies! If you walked into a restaurant in your area of the country, and asked them where the farms were that produced the food they sold, how many restaurant managers or servers could answer the question? (Why not try that the next restaurant you go into?!?!)

A closer look at the Foodshed map revealed there was an additional reason to love American Flatbread – I was startled to realize I have actually met one of their cheesemongers!

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Cooperstown Creamery is owned by Gina Tomaselli, a cheesemaker I had met a year earlier in Raleigh at an American Cheese Society conference. She had entered an award-winning tomme, an Alpine cheese, in the ACS competition. (I have no idea which of her cheeses that American Flatbread has chosen to serve). She told me she sourced her milk from a herd of nearby Brown Swiss cows – the protein in their milk helps create her unique cheese flavors. Gina’s cheeses have even been served at the last White House Inaugural Luncheon that began President Obama’s second term.

A bit more about American Flatbread’s philosophy on foods and farming was found on another wall:

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The pizza was one of the best I’ve ever had, perhaps because it had the added ingredient of ‘sourcing from your farm neighbor!’ But as I left, I had to laugh, because I realized the pineapple on this pizza probably was not grown in a tropical forest in Brooklyn!

During the evening, the Angel of Music drew me to Broadway. The Phantom of the Opera has often been a companion on driving trips to cattle shows and sales, but to experience the elegant production up close and personal, Music of the Night, indeed!

Just down the street from the Majestic, the Phantom’s home stage, a police horse and mounted NYPD officer calmly monitored the crowd in front of a world-famous restaurant.

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Yet again, another connection to Farmland, and the foundation for this journey. The Bright Lights of Broadway would be very dim, and a lot less safe, without hay and oats for horses. Where would Sardi’s and other gourmet restaurants be without the beef, chicken, and grains, fruits and vegetables plated which are the origin of their deliciousness?

And the last Farm-Foodland connection for the evening, but certainly not the least – one of my all-time favorite food pleasures:

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Through the years, I’ve enjoyed many encounters with farm friends in Vermont, mainly through dairy cattle and dairy industry efforts. Those beloved Woody Jackson images are a vivid reminder that FARMS and FARM ANIMALS are the launching pad that enabled Ben and Jerry’s gourmet ice cream to ride the carpets of pop-culture puns to an affiliation with a global food company. Unilever, now the parent company of Ben and Jerry’s, operates one of the world’s biggest ice cream plants in my home state of Tennessee.

Whew, what a day! Much as the Phantom is the muse in the background that inspired Christine’s beautiful melodies, so is FARMLAND the muse for the GREAT AMERICAN LIFESTYLE.

More to come.

Farmland is Foodland.

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