GERMANTOWN — Grow Germantown, a first-time celebration dedicated to the agricultural community of the town, was held Sunday with a buffet of locally-sourced food, a film screening and speeches by the farmers who produced the food.
The event sprouted after Otto’s Market owner Tracy Martin attended a conference at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck called “Making Peace with the Earth” earlier this year. The conference focused on seeds, the stories behind them and the importance of sharing those stories, Martin said, adding Sunday’s event was made to spread awareness of how residents can better support farms.
“That inspired us to organize something in Germantown for the farms in the area to celebrate them during harvest and to bring awareness to some of the issues they are facing,” she said.
Farmers have faced global warming and weather-related issues, which have affected crops, and small tasks such as composting can help the environment, Martin said.
“At Otto’s we compost, everything we have there is compostable,” she said. “We offer a compost drop-off service.”
The event was free to visitors because the farmers donated the ingredients and many created the recipes; some of the dishes were prepared by staff from Otto’s or Gaskins, a restaurant in Germantown, Martin said.
“Everything you see here is made locally,” she said. “Other people have just [given] their time and energy and expertise to help set things up.”
Martin wanted to have a few more farmers speak Sunday, but they couldn’t come because they were doing their jobs, she said. She hopes to have them speak next year.
“It’s nice weather today and they had to actually be farming,” Martin said.
Martin and other event organizers want to establish a seed library at the Germantown Library in the future, she said.
“People come and give seeds and take seeds, [with] the idea that there’s always this give and take in the community,” Martin said.
Ben Shute, the owner of Hearty Roots Farm in Claverack, is a first-generation farmer who became passionate about it after working on a farm and finding a bur, or seed with hooks, clinging to his sock, he said.
“I was living in a rural area and decided to get a job on a farm because I was curious and wanted to learn something and needed a job,” Shute said. “I guess that’s when the bur kind of caught on my sock and I didn’t even notice it, but it stayed there for a long time.”
When Shute moved back to New York City after his farming experience, all he wanted to do was farm. He was a frequent visitor to the local community garden and attempted to start community-supported agriculture programs. He began Hearty Roots 15 years ago.
“I was doing everything I could to live a farm life in a city — I spent my free time on my roof trying to grow strawberries in a kiddie pool,” he said. “The bur on my sock was starting to grow.”
Patty Baker, of Germantown, works at Otto’s Market as a cashier and the owners supply the store with plenty of local produce, she said, adding she buys local wherever she can.
“I love to buy local,” she said. “I go out of my way to buy local.”
Baker appreciated that the food and music by Miles T. Sweeney and Max Pitman were all local.
“Everything’s local — local artists,” Baker said. “It’s a very close-knit community.”
Chad Williams, of Germantown, enjoyed tasting the turkey dish and apple cobbler, both prepared by Otto’s Farm, and the message behind the event, he said.
“I think it’s the best way to get their messages out,” Williams said of the local farmers. “Anything that brings the community together is great.”
Community-oriented events like Grow Germantown are a reason why Santiago Suarez, of Germantown, moved to the area from Connecticut.
“I’ve met four people in Connecticut,” Suarez said. “I’ve met more people [here] than I have in 20 years.”
Suarez said he enjoyed the beer, turkey and alluring setting of Palatine Park, which surrounds a small lake.
“The environment is cool,” he said.
The food served at the event was “excellent” and the gathering served as a chance for residents to mingle, Lilly Nimmer, of Red Hook, said.
“The squash and greens are amazing,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for everyone to get together.”
To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.