A toast to community: Food&_ Redux

In late 2015, I was selected to put together a photo essay for a special feature about Communities on UK-based online food journal, Food&_. Between gathering the stories and publishing, the publication folded. Even though most of this is in my portfolio already, I decided to republish it here anyway, as a reminder of how awesome our community is when it comes together. And this just skims the surface.

I’m lucky enough to make my living documenting the bounty, the culture, and the heroes of our sustainable food system here in Ithaca and the surrounding Finger Lakes. I hope that my work promotes the people and actions I believe in: from small local businesses, to a regional food system, to simply better bread. These photographs highlight just a few of the hundreds of businesses, organisations, and people working together to make our Finger Lakes community a beautiful place to live and thrive.

Wide Awake Bakery is near and dear to my heart. They bake with flour made from locally-grown grain, then distribute their loaves in collaboration with our regional CSAs and like-minded shops. They not only practice but preach. In 2014, bakers, millers, and agronomists from across the country gathered at Wide Awake Bakery to test-bake with whole grain organic flours as part of a long-term project to revive our once vibrant north-east wheat crops.

In our visit to Lively Run Goat Dairy this spring, head cheesemaker Pete Messmer gave us a tour of the facility and an introduction to his craft. We then tasted his cheeses, chowing down on chèvre cheesecakes.This is the dairy’s take on that sweet New York delicacy, but using goat cheese instead of traditional cream cheese. Pete is one of the second-generation cheesemakers at Lively Run, proving that our region’s farming history and agricultural innovation can coexist.

Finger Lakes is home to tens, if not hundreds, of farms that distribute through a CSA model, with many others selling at our markets. These farms are the backbone of our community, and tough it out through our harshest seasons. Our winter CSA crops come from greenhouses and root cellars. These photos are from Early Morning Farm, one of the largest CSA-model farms in the region.

Throughout the harvest season, dinners are used to raise funds for Healthy Food for All: a farmer-driven initiative to make fresh produce accessible to limited income households. The October 2014 Harvest Dinner pictured here included a farm tour with the host, Remembrance Farm. It also included a dinner prepared onsite by executive chef Andre Jacquet of AGAVA, and wine pairings from Damiani Wine Cellars. The funds raised from each dinner financially supports one CSA share (six months of fresh produce) for fifteen families that would otherwise struggle to put healthy food on their tables.

Many of our region’s farms use the community supported agriculture (CSA) model of distribution. Consumers pay the farms in advance for a share of their crops with families receiving a set portion on a weekly basis throughout harvest (either as a boxed share or free-choice pickup). This model builds closer relationships between farms and their customers. With everyone involved investing in the future of our farms, we are building a regional food system as a community.