The event was an afternoon celebration, from 1 to 5 p.m., full of free local food, live music, and fundraising for New Paltz Flood Aid.
“The idea for Farm Fest originated last fall, when we wanted to do a local food and farm celebration around the harvest time,” said fourth-year physics major and event coordinator Joseph Ruotolo. “This year, Oct. 2 through Oct. 9 is the first Village of New Paltz Local Food Week, which has been the catalyst for the coordination and implementation of Farm Fest. Additionally, Flood Aid has been extremely helpful in coordinating relief efforts to farmers and people.”
Farm Fest was created to unite the whole New Paltz community and “highlight the connection between food producers, food preparers, and food consumers.” According to Ruotolo, New York is one of the primary sources of organic produce in the country and Ulster County, specifically, boasts the greatest amount of diversity in local food production, especially through community supported agriculture (CSA) farms.
Farm Fest also came at a time when many small farms in both New Paltz and the nearby area are still suffering from devastating losses and damages in the wake of Hurricane Irene. As a result of this, Farm Fest partnered with Flood Aid to raise money for those affected most in the community.
“All proceeds will go to the farmers, families, and first responders in New Paltz who were most impacted by the floods,” Ruotolo said. “We are coordinating a silent auction art raffle to raise money to support New Paltz Flood Aid, and we are currently taking donations to benefit this local charity organization.”
Homegrown New Paltz musical acts Sarah Citrin, Kyle Miller, Tom Christie, Upstate Rubdown and Just the Tip provided the background music for the day, which featured food from multiple local restaurants including Harvest Café, Slash Root Tech Café, Main Course, Grimaldi’s Pizzeria and The Bakery. The farms that set up booths were Dressel Farms, Wright Farms, Tweefontein Herb Farm and the Brook Farm Project. Brook Farm Project representative Sean Sluys gave out fresh watermelon to attendees and said the farm participated to support the college.
“That’s kind of our niche I’d say; there are so many small scale farms in the area, everyone’s kind of got their thing and ours is relations with SUNY,” Sluys said. “So we feel it’s a good thing to keep our presence known and keep our relations here pretty tight, especially the Students for Sustainable Agriculture club. They’re just great buddies of ours so it’s just fun to give them a hand.”
Sociology major Michael Conway and geography major Jared Pazienza, both fourth-years and environmental studies minors, sat at their table offering attendees chestnuts and information about permaculture. According to Conway, permaculture is “a new set of ethics and ideals” for how individuals think about setting up their society and how they function. He said that it is about learning to create and design more “resilient communties” that can continually sustain themselves.
The ideas behind the event and what it offered seemed to garner much student interest.
Third-year student Michele McGrath sat on the grass enjoying the live tunes and said she found the event to be a success and appreciated that it stood for a good cause.
“I definitely support the whole sustainability idea and how they’re raising money for New Paltz Flood Aid and for those that got flooded,” McGrath said. “The music is a nice touch and it couldn’t be a more perfect day for it also. I give it a thumbs up.”