PAUL SMITHS - A group of about 15 people feasted on locally sourced food at Paul Smith's College Thursday afternoon.
This wasn't just a normal lunchtime at the college's St. Regis Cafe, though. This was the last stop on the annual Franklin County Legislators Agricultural Tour.
Kirby Selkirk, who runs Kirbside Gardens lamb and wool farm in Chateaugay, explained that Cornell Cooperative Extension of Franklin County, the New York Farm Bureau and Franklin County Soil and Water team up each year to put together the agricultural tour.
A locally sourced lunch at Paul Smith’s College’s St. Regis Cafe is finished with wild berry shortcakes, topped with black berries picked in the area.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
"It's to highlight agriculture to our county legislators," Selkirk told the Enterprise. Or, as another retired farm owner on the tour put it, it was to show how important agriculture is to the economy of the county, and to let legislators know how important it is to keep taxes low for the farmers of the region.
Only two county legislators made the tour this year: Sue Robideau, R-Brushton, and Guy "Tim" Smith, D-Chateaugay. Board Chairman Gordon Crossman, the Democrat who represents Brighton, the town Paul Smiths is in, was supposed to come but had to cancel.
Robideau and Smith said they were going to save copies of the menu from the lunch and show their fellow legislators so they could see what they missed.
According to a handout given to each person on the tour, there are 604 farms in Franklin County, most of them focusing on either dairy or beef. Some 155 farms in the county provide employment for 645 workers and have a combined annual payroll of $5.41 million.
The handout also broke out the number of the 245 farms that participate in the state's Agricultural Environmental Management program in the district of each legislator in Franklin County. Paul Maroun, who represents Tupper Lake and Santa Clara, has the least with only one in his whole district. David "Billy" Jones, who represents Bellmont, Burke, Chateaugay, Constable and part of Malone, has the most with 100.
The tour had already stopped at the Brushton-Moira Central School, where students help with a maple sugaring operation, work in a garden and grow fruit and Christmas trees, Robideau told the Enterprise.
Then the tour stopped at Harmony Hills Farmstead in Duane. Legislators and other people on the tour learned about how the farm, owned by Tom and Michelle Asseline, grows meats in an all-natural way without pesticides, herbicides, added growth hormone, steroids, animal-based byproducts or antibiotic applications.
At Paul Smith's College, student chefs cooked pork from Harmony Hills, as well as a number of vegetables, fruits and other products from local farms like Tucker Farms in Gabriels, Selkirk's farm and ThunderCrest Farm in Burke.
The menu included potato salad, turnips, pak choi and braised greens, and a chilled potato and green garlic soup with scape pesto that included ingredients Paul Smith's students grew in a garden outside the cafe. The meal was topped off with wild berry shortcakes, rosemary iced tea and lemonade with fresh mint in it.
Paul Smith's culinary professor Kevin McCarthy showed the group around some of the college's culinary and pastry classrooms before bringing them into the cafe for lunch. McCarthy told the Enterprise the college's staff tries to let students work with locally sourced ingredients at the cafe as often as possible, though it's not always an option.
Robideau said she enjoyed learning about the agricultural offerings in the area. She thought it was interesting to see the full circle of farming, from meeting pigs walking around Harmony Hills to eating one of their brethren at Paul Smith's.
"Not only do we see it cooked; we see it walking, too," Robideau said as McCarthy showed off the full hunk of pork before it was sliced up to be served.
Smith grew up on a farm in Chateaugay, still lives on one and said he would have worked on his own farm Thursday if he hadn't gone on the tour. He said he knows a lot about farms in the area already, but it was interesting to see the college using products from them.
Contact Jessica Collier at 518-891-2600 ext. 26 or email@example.com.