by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

GENEVA, NY — A growing number of people want to know who raises their food and how. To help put a face on a farm and promote local foods and beverages, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ontario County hosted Farmer and Chef Fair: Cut, Prep, Pair, a “Meat and Greet” event recently, which involved 10 area producers and local restaurant chefs.

Fifty-four guests filled the Scandling Campus Center kitchen at Hobart and William Smith Colleges to watch local chefs cut, prep and prepare dishes made with locally-raised meat, followed by sampling of their dishes, paired with New York-sourced beverages.

Guest chefs were Orlando Rodriguez of Veraisons Restaurant in Dundee, Carl Bray of Geneva on the Lake in Geneva and Max Spittler of Kindred Fare in Geneva.

Michael Williams, operator of Williams Cattle, LLC in Marion, thought that participating in the event “would be a good way to get the word out,” he said.

He finishes about 30 head of beef per month, working with processors that deal directly with restaurants.

“Direct sales isn’t as easy for us to do,” Williams said. “But it’s good for the public to be comfortable with the farms in the area.”

He also hopes that more publicity will help increase name brand recognition for his farm’s beef so that “some restaurants could be asking for my meat and that’s always good for my farm.”

Pilar McKay, Agriculture Economic Development Resource educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension, Ontario County, said visitors traveled from several counties to attend.

Cornell Cooperative Extension offices from Ontario, Seneca, Yates and other counties in the Finger Lakes area announced a call for farm vendors and farmers signed up to participate.

“It’s a bit of an open process, and we are always looking for more meat producers to be involved,” McKay said. “Meat and Greet is intended to bring farmers and consumers together and have fun while they learn more about Finger Lakes agriculture.

“We have many meat producers in our area, and we want consumers to purchase meat directly from them but connections need to be made for this to happen.”

Connecting both parties — local meat producers and consumers — can help increase knowledge of their products and sales. Many of the producers are small businesses with limited means to promote and market their products. Each participating business set up a vendor table with displays and printed information and some with products to sell on-site. Others offered order forms for people interested in buying their meat.

“Consumers can find sources for high quality, local meat to cook at home,” McKay said.

She added that the chef demonstrations helped guests learn more about how to prepare meat purchased directly from the farm, such as how to prepare a leg of lamb with de-boning, trussing and marinating, “while also having the opportunity to talk to a farmer about their animals, what breeds they have, and what products they have for sale.”

The presenting chefs prepared each dish live, with a video feed showing a close-up viewpoint displayed on a large screen. That helped the audience better see what was going on at the countertop. The chefs had prepared samples available for guests to try. Attendees took home recipes and directions for each dish they sampled.

By pairing locally produced beverages with the chef demonstrations, Meat and Greet shared with guests a few ideas on flavors work well with different kinds of meat.

The event also helped guests learn more about their local farms. Farms with community supported agriculture programs, agritourism, or other forms of income were able to promote those aspects of their farm.

“It’s opportunities like this that can help our farmers meet new customers and educate them on new products like CSA shares that may be unfamiliar to people who are not connected to farms,” McKay said.

She also believes that the event draws positive attention to local agriculture in general.

“We are all encouraged by the community support,” McKay said. “We are grateful people spent a lovely Saturday afternoon with our farmers and chefs to learn more about local meat producers. The organizations involved will be discussing where to go from here, but we were very encouraged by the turnout and the experience at the event.”

Participating farms were Cayuga View Farm, Union Springs; Clearview Farms, Palmyra; Edler Acres, Ontario; Fire Creek Farms, Livonia; My Little Farm, Penn Yan; Rugenstein Family Farm, Canandaigua; Rosenkrans Natural Beef, Seneca Falls; Schrader Farms Meat Market, Romulus; The Farmette, Dansville; and Williams Cattle, LLC, Marion.