Inspiring was the first word that entered my mind as I drove into Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, NY. What had been a tangled mess of scrub brush, weeds, and rocks just 7 years ago had been transformed to a vibrant, year round organic farm certified by NOFA-NY Certified Organic LLC. As I pulled in the drive and stepped out to meet my guide, Julie Cerny, my eyes quickly feasted on the rows of vegetables and flowers, brimming greenhouse, and the bordering woodland preserve. Julie explained to me that the transformation was made possible by the imagination of chef Liz Neumark, owner of the catering company Great Performances, the vision of farm manager Bob Walker, and the lively energy of children and young adults participating in the on-site Sylvia Center.
Katchkie Farm is dedicated to building connections between food professionals, families, and healthy delicious local food. Katchkie prides itself in holistic stewardship of the land and its bounty, celebrating local flavors, and through its partnership with the Sylvia Center, inspiring children to eat well.
Katchkie supplies Great Performances with fresh produce for special events, as well as farmer’s markets and Great Performance’s cafes. This focus on farm to restaurant meant a few pleasant surprises for me. I was treated to the taste of my first summer tomato from the high tunnel, a sample of an unbelievably sweet strawberry from a field – and perhaps my favorite, a nibble of a flower from a bok choy that had been let go specifically for the purpose of providing edible flowers for salads. They are a lovely yellow and taste like a brassica. Katchkie also supplies an 800 member CSA.
Katchkie Farm also hosts the Sylvia Center, which is a non-profit organization that works with over 1000 youth and their families each year. Through its garden-to-table program, the Sylvia Center inspires young people to discover good nutrition on the farm and in the kitchen. Julie toured me around the rainbow shaped garden, where children and young adults are able to taste fresh food right out of the garden and learn to plant, tend, harvest and cook food for their own fresh meals. A popular spot is the amazing wood-fired pizza oven, designed in the French style and impressively stationed in the nearby gazebo overlooking a pond and meadows. I had to stop and admire the flowering bee garden that made up part of the rainbow.
At the end of my visit, Julie helpfully gave me a copy of a calendar with tips on eating locally grown food year round. For more information about Katchkie Farm and the Sylvia Center, you can check out their website at http://www.katchkiefarm.com.