Winter Reflections from Katchkie Farm

By Jon Ronsani

If I could give a picture of a farming season it would be akin to a voyage out to sea. Once we set sail, there is no turning back. To quote the old English poem “The Seafarer”

 

True is the tale that I tell of my travels
Sing of my seafaring sorrow and woes
Hunger and hardship’s heaviest burdens
Tempest and terrible toil of the deep
Daily I’ve born on the deck of my boat”
Then one day “land ho.”

 

Winter is here and we get to dock our metaphorical boat. The rains, droughts, and long days are but distant memories. At that point, they seem more like wise teachers than “hardship’s heaviest burdens.”

 

The main work on the farm during the shorter days is spent creating the plan for the upcoming growing season which is no small task. The crop plan and outcome of the previous season is reviewed. Changes and improvements are noted and will be put into the upcoming growing season. Then, the big question of what the farm is growing and for whom has to be answered. The answer to this question drives the whole shape of the farm for the upcoming year. If we were growing tomatoes for canning and U pick pumpkins, the plan would be very different than it would if we were growing 50 different crops harvested over 22 weeks for a CSA. In general, the more diverse the range of crops, the more nuanced the management must be. Answering all questions from the number of plants needed, projected yield, crop revenue, needed yield, seeding dates, nutrient needs, field preparation, harvest dates, crop rotations, distribution and labor needs for each crop is what creates the plan. The aforementioned plan is essential, but this is one part of the farmer’s work in winter.

 

I tend to think that some of the most important work of the farmer happens in the longer nights of winter. This is the time that the farmer can rekindle their love with farming and the farm. For me this happens in many ways. One is while spending more time with the family. Children have such a unique way of doing any task. This can be eating dinner, drawing, painting, playing board games, and building, among other things. They are not so concerned with the “rules” as they are with fully immersing themselves in what they are doing. This really reminds me not to connect with solely the plan of the farm, but to also connect with why I made the plan. Children also have such an innate sense of wonder that is very inspiring as well.

 

Farming is full of natural processes that I could chemically explain, but if you asked me with that knowledge to make a leaf of lettuce, I would be completely at a loss. I would still need a lettuce seed to make that leaf of lettuce. Reconnecting with that sense of wonder is so essential for me. Experiencing that sense in my children also inspires me to look at the farm in a different way during the day.

 

While I walk around the fields in the winter, I cannot help but wonder what is slumbering under the soils and what shape the fields will take as they start to grow our food. Looking at the snow-covered fields is really like looking at a blank canvas. Crop by crop, the fields will become full again creating a new composition unique to each season. Those long winter nights are also the perfect time to study agriculture. I had recently come across what the farmers of the ancient Persian empire studied. They studied mathematics, art, music, astronomy, and medicine. I have to admit that my depth of knowledge does not go that far, but delving into some of the great works of literature or study of the stars is something that can only be savored in the winter nights.

 

After about two months of this kind of this nourishment, it is time to set sail for another voyage and start the season again. I do have to say that with each voyage the breadth of vision is a little wider and the ups and downs of the farming season are easier to navigate.

2022 KATCHKIE FARM IN REVIEW

By Jon Ronsani

Katchkie Farm is Great Performances’ NOFA-certified organic farm located in upstate New York. A source of ingredients and inspiration, it is managed by Jon Ronsani who lives on the farm with his wife Jen and three children. Each year, Katchkie Farm offers a CSA available at select Great Performances locations for community pickup and at participating workplaces. To learn more and find out how to participate in the CSA, visit our farm site by clicking the link here.

The farm fields are covered in snow as the earth beneath lies in its deep winter slumber. Walking across them, following deer tracks with my children, one would never know the visible vitality that the earth held many months ago. This seems like a different farm from the ever fruitful one that bore so much in the summer sun. Now the farmers breathe deeply in the frosty air and take a moment to enjoy the sparkling of the snow and their children’s laughter.

Wintertime is upon the farm, and it is the time the course is mapped for the next season. However, before the course onward is charted, the course already traversed must be weighed in upon. The metrics are garnered through all of our weekly harvest records and compared to those that were anticipated before planting. Some crops were on target, some were below, and others exceeded expectations. One of those crops that did not exceed expectation was also one my favorite stories of the growing season. This year was the first time we have attempted to grow popcorn during my tenure on the farm. The first attempt at growing any crop is usually more of a learning experience than anything else. This was no exception. The variety “Dakota Black” was chosen for its superior eating quality as well as its open pollinated nature, which would allow us to save seed if it was a good fit for the farm. Much care was taken into preparing the soil for planting and tending the crop to reach its full potential. My two sons even got involved in pulling weeds under the tree like canopy that the leaves developed by mid-summer. Once we got close to harvest time, every critter within walking distance decided to make a visit to the farm. Foxes would stop by and pull whole ears off the stalks and take them back to their den for their winter store of food. Grey squirrels and red squirrels were dragging ears back to their trees to shell and store the kernels away safe and sound. Crows would stop by to perch on the corn stalks and peck kernel after kernel off of the ears. All in all, we harvested an armful or two of ears, but the fact that so much diversity abounds on the farm is another way for us to tell we are not producing our crops at the expense of nature.

Our two most outstanding crops this year were our field tomatoes and sweet potatoes. The prior year brought endless summer rains that hampered the development of these crops substantially, but with all the heat and irrigation available this year, we had bumper crops. There were days in August that were solely dedicated picking tomatoes. Crate after crate would be filled in the warm summer sun, staining our hands and shirts greenish black from the sap of the plants. This was everything that was hoped for and even more. The sweet potato crop shared equal success. Little by little the plants grew and made a vibrant green carpet of leaves catching all of the warmth of summer, bringing it down into the earth to produce the vibrantly colored roots. Crate after crate was filled with them and stored, until our cooler could hold no more sweet potatoes.

The course for the 2023 growing season is slowly coming together. Finding a balance between what is wanted, what grows well, what is profitable, and what will contribute to the health of the farm is the puzzle that must be put together every year. Finding a hibiscus that will flower in Upstate NY, planting more chicory, cauliflower, broccoli, and herbs would be wonderful pieces to add. 2023 will also bring my wife Jen into the fields and greenhouses to add a flower element to the farm. With all of the potential, I look forward to embarking on the journey ahead.

COOK LIKE A CHEF: KATCHKIE FARM'S CSA WITH AYA MOHAMED

By Aya Mohamed

Great-Performances_Katchkie-Farm_CSA__Cook-Chef_Aya-Mohamed_Quinoa-Veggie-Cakes-After

Dual functionality was the goal with my CSA bag.

My mission: Make a delicious meal and also meal prep for my ever-so-food-curious 11-month old.

First, I took my wonderful CSA share filled with the brightest of squash, rossa lunga onions, eggplant and carrots and finely chopped and sautéed with all of the other vegetables I had in my fridge (fennel, celery, bell peppers and cauliflower). I seasoned it with cumin, paprika, and onion powder, all of which are baby friendly spices. I combined that mixture with grains and lentils that I had on hand: quinoa, spelt, farro, brown rice, lentils and chickpeas. I ran the grains and beans through the food processor to breakdown the grains a bit. Adding some flaxseed is a great substitute for egg, making this dish vegan. Once it’s at a texture that’s desirable and seasoned to taste, I used a  portioned scoop on a parchment lined sheet pan and baked them for 30 mins at 350 degrees.

This is a great way to get everything but the kitchen sink in and fortify your kids’ meals with them knowing. That alone is a mission accomplished for many parents with young kids.

These are great because I freeze half of the batch once they’re baked and re warm for a quick meal when baby gets hangry and daycare meals.

My husband and I accompanied our cakes with a cucumber and heirloom grape tomato salad, using the carrot tops and the stems from the onions to make a bright, citrus-forward dressing.

With plenty of lovely eggplant left over, I decided to prepare lunch the next day with a tempura fried eggplant and cauliflower, finished with furikake and a miso aioli. I also grated the rest of the carrots and chopped some of the onions to use in a forbidden ramen stir fry with tamari braised chicken. Suffice it to say, the older kids truly enjoyed the eggplant’s dual role of crunch and meaty.

There’s so much versatility with the crops I received  this week and getting the kids involved in tasting the ingredients as we cook lunch goes such a long way.

Mission accomplished — Bon Appetit!

THE SYLVIA CENTER'S 14TH ANNUAL SUMMER CELEBRATION AT KATCHKIE FARM

By Great Performances

Each year, we’re honored to plan and cater The Sylvia Center’s summer benefit at Katchkie Farm. Over the years, the event has evolved, most recently becoming a farm-to-picnic-table (or blanket!) celebration in the Learning Garden at the farm. This year, 250 people attended and were able to enjoy the beauty of our farm from the fields full of summer vegetables and sunflowers to the Learning Garden framed by the rolling Catskills on one side and woods on the other.

With a menu curated by Chef Georgette Farkas and featuring ingredients sourced directly from the fields, it was a delicious event that highlighted the best of summer flavors. Read on to learn more about the experience. To donate to The Sylvia Center and learn more about future events, visit their website by clicking here.

It was a beautifully warm, sunny day in July, and one could feel the anticipation and excitement as guests walked along the path (or rode in one of the golf carts!) flanked by fields of sunflowers. As guests registered for the event and bought raffle tickets, happy chatter turned to exclamations and warm hugs as familiar faces were spotted and friends reunited. The Sylvia Center Executive Director Jonathan Cetnarski was on hand along with CEO and Founder of Great Performances, Liz Neumark, to meet guests and towards the registration table Guests were greeted at the registration table by The Sylvia Center team, including Executive Director Jonathan Cetnarski, and by Liz Neumark, CEO and Founder of Great Performances. After registering and joining the raffle, they proceeded to the food tent where they picked up their picnic bags and headed to the Learning Garden where there was plenty of space to spread out and enjoy their feast. Drinks were served under the shade of the Pavilion, which also hosts the pizza oven we used last year. This year, Rafi Bildner brought his Hilltown Hot Pies pizza truck and served his pizzas – always a fan favorite!

 

Delicious food highlighting the best that summer in New York has to offer was packed in cooler bags that guests picked up on their way to their tables. The menu included fresh, flavorful foods like NY Collection of Cheese & Charcuterie, Dried Apricots, Assorted Flatbreads; Gazpacho; Parker House Rolls (cultured local butter); Sweet Pepper Roast Chicken (cippolini onions, smoked paprika aioli); Corn and Cherry Tomato Succotash (edamame, swiss chard, feta cheese, roasted sunflower seeds, lemon-basil miso vinaigrette); Roasted Sweet Yellow Peppers (cherry tomatoes, black olives, capers, anchovy, yellow raisins, basil); Watermelon & Radish Salad – featuring both watermelon and watermelon radishes – (kale, cucumber, black beans, ginger lime vinaigrette); Lemon Grilled Baby Zucchini (whole wheat apricot couscous); our fan favorite Eggplant Chermoula; and Peach – Blackberry Crumble Bars.

As a special thank you to our guests, Farmer Jon picked cherry tomatoes fresh from the fields and we paired them with a savory basil parmesan pesto.

Rafi Bildner debuted his Hilltown Hot Pies pizza truck and served made-to-order Neapolitan style pizza with his own artisanal, wild-yeasted dough featuring produce picked from the farm and local cheeses and meats.

COOK LIKE A CHEF: KATCHKIE FARM'S CSA WITH CHRIS HARKNESS

By Chris Harkness

One of the benefits of working at Great Performances is access to farm fresh produce from our own farm. Our weekly delivery of our farm share from Katchkie Farm, our own organic farm in Upstate New York, has been a great source of inspiration and helps me feel more connected to the planet and grounded. One of the best things we can do as chefs is bring out the natural flavors of the produce and find ways to entice the eye and the appetite. Check out what I’ve done with last week’s farm share below.

In this week’s share, I received carrots, Swiss chard, cucumber, cherry  tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, and eggplant.

I also harvested some produce from my own personal garden: rosemary, cucumbers (I needed more cucumbers as I was feeding three people!), basil, and peppers.

As I looked over my offerings, a dish I love, ratatouille, immediately came to mind. I also had a free range chicken, so I thought I’d roast them together. It’s a great way to add flavor to both the chicken and the squash. I added some small Italian canned tomatoes for more acidity and some rosemary to flavor the chicken.

I also had some great fennel on hand, so I decided to caramelize them for the swiss chard.

The rest of the ingredients felt like a wonderful salad. I kept it pretty rustic, peeling the carrots and slicing them into long wedges, halving the cherry tomatoes, thinly slicing the radishes, and chopping up the peppers. I decided to present the cucumber as long ribbons – this adds visual interest and are just fun to eat that way. I dressed the salad with lemon juice and olive oil and finished with sea salt and basil. 

Everything came out beautifully and highlighted the fresh flavors of the season.

CELEBRATING SUMMER WITH THE SYLVIA CENTER

One of the things we look forward to the most each year is our Farm to Table Event with The Sylvia Center, a nonprofit dedicated to educating youth and their families on the connection between food and health. We support The Sylvia Center and host them at Katchkie Farm, helping their students learn about where food comes from and how to prepare various ingredients to create delicious, health supportive meals. From planting vegetables, to tending crops, and ultimately harvesting and cooking them, they get hands on experience with the full lifecycle of produce.

Each summer, we host The Sylvia Center’s Farm to Table Event at Katchkie Farm, our organic farm in upstate New York, to help them raise funds for their programs that run in under-resourced communities throughout Columbia County and New York City. Their programs are helping to develop the next generation of healthy eaters, cooks and advocates that can fundamentally change the future of food.

Georgette Farkas, our culinary ambassador, has created the menu for this year’s event. We promise an informal evening of dining al fresco in the fields on a farm inspired menu.

Event details: Saturday July 24, from 5 to 8pm, at Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, NY

Purchase tickets here: https://donate.sylviacenter.org/event/the-farm-event-2021/e335176

If you can’t make it but would like to help support The Sylvia Center, you can donate at the link here: https://donate.sylviacenter.org/give/335176/#!/donation/checkout

Check out some images from last year’s event!

COOK LIKE A CHEF: KATCHKIE FARM'S CSA WITH GEORGETTE

By Georgette Farkas

How many jobs come with a local farm CSA attached? Despite a lifelong culinary career, this is the first time I’ve had the privilege of taking home a weekly haul of Hudson Valley vegetables – during the local growing season, of course. Great Performances is the proud owner of Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, NY. While most of Katchkie’s produce goes into our catering menus and educational programs for the Sylvia Center, some is also set aside as a very welcome perk for the GP culinary team. As a result, every Thursday, when I receive my vegetable stash, I feel I’m taking part in my very own private edition of “Chopped” or “Top Chef”. I’ve challenged myself to use everything in the “mystery basket”, although usually in several different dishes. This week, I confess I did gift some of my red beets to a dinner guest who was eying them jealously. Although I did keep the picture-perfect beet greens for myself to compose a sort of chimichurri to dress my grilled zucchini. I can’t help but ask what the judges would think. Read on for a taste of this week’s Katchkie Farm vegetables.

Chilled Swiss Chard & Garlic Scape Soup

This is a twist on the classic French “soupe de laitue”. Greens, onion and just a little bit of potato are sautéed, then simmered with stock or water and then puréed to a silky-smooth consistency. It’s also a cousin to vichyssoise, only made here with approximately three parts greens and only one part potato. I finished the soup with nonfat yogurt. The ratio I like is about two parts vegetable mixture to one part yogurt. While I haven’t tried them myself, you could experiment with a non-dairy nut or oat-based yogurt, if you prefer a vegan soup. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a final dollop of crème fraiche makes for a decadent accent.

 

Swiss Chard & Thai Chili Summer Rolls
cucumber, carrot, rice noodles, ginger-sesame dipping sauce

This is my farm inspired version of the classic Vietnamese summer roll. I used blanched Swiss chard leaves (stems removed) in place of traditional rice paper wraps. My filling includes tamari-marinated carrot and cucumber, as well as rice noodles blanched and tossed in sesame oil, plus some of the Thai chili dipping sauce spread on the chard before wrapping,

Some of the CSA beets (steamed and shredded) would have been a fine addition to the rolls, but I gifted them to my beet loving dinner guest!

Learn from my mistake! I thought I could get away with not peeling the cucumber and imagined the skin would add extra crunch appeal. Bad idea! The bitterness in the cucumber skin is a deal breaker. 

 

Grilled Zucchini & Whole Wheat Couscous Tagine
apricot, beet greens, toasted pistachio

The success of this dish calls for boldness. Start by getting a really good char on the zucchini, using a stove top grill pan if you’re cooking indoors. Once grilled on both sides, douse zucchini generously with plenty of lemon juice. For the couscous, sauté spices such as cumin, coriander, fennel and ginger in olive oil. Add the amount of boiling water required for the couscous and then pour it over the grain, along with some chopped dried apricot, and cover. However much seasoning you think is enough – double it! I finished the dish a lemony beet greens dressing, because I had beet greens! First blanch the leaves and toss with plenty of lemon and olive oil. Alternately, fresh coriander and/or parsley will do just fine. 

Pro tip: I really never use store bought spice blends, but happily make an exception for the ones made by my friend Chef Lior Sercarz at La Boite. Here, I used his Marrakesh No. 6

 

 

Katchkie Farms Catered Events Venue

Say "I Do" at Katchkie Farm

With dramatic views of the majestic Catskill mountains to the West, flanked by a row of sky high evergreens and framed by a glistening pond, the fields at Katchkie are the perfect spot to grow vegetables, gather children to learn about healthy eating or just watch the sunset at the end of long hot summer day.

Katchkie Farm Wedding and Events

About Katchkie Farm

We founded Katchkie Farm, located in the town of Kinderhook, NY, in the spring of 2007. Its fields had been overgrown and neglected for years. We built roads and greenhouses, a barn, an outdoor pavilion with a pizza oven, put up fencing and established an organic vibrant farm. We welcomed the Sylvia Center to create a 2-acre learning garden in the center of the farm, where children would come to learn about where their food comes from and how to cook it.

We hosted an annual fundraiser which grew over the years from 80 guests under the stars to 300 guests under a tent. We welcomed visitors to Spring Planting Day and families to a celebratory Fall Harvest Day. But when asked if we would rent our farm to a wedding party, we consistently declined.

But love conquers all, and after the bruising year of 2020, we have decided it’s time to say YES, We Do! We want to welcome celebrations to our farm and fields. We want to open our gates to couples who want to start their lives together at our beloved Katchkie Farm.

We are not a ‘catering hall’, there is limited infrastructure (bring your own bathrooms), and we are a working farm – but it is been a magical place for us to put down roots. Now, we are ready to share the love!

Learn more about Katchkie Farm Wedding and Events Venue. 

It’s been a year of change for us at Great Performances. From moving to the Bronx and getting involved with our new neighbors (read about our Thinkubator project) to dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and all the pivots, we haven’t had a moment to pause.

But right now, we want to take a moment to share some holiday spirit.

We’ve updated our Katchkie Farm CSA Cookbook first produced in 2015 by Suzannah and Andrew, our 2015 Katchkie Farm NYC CSA Team. We’ve kept many of our favorite recipes, but added some new ones from Georgette Farkas, our culinary ambassador, and from Emilia Sochovka, MS, RDN, CPT, who works with us on Embrace Wellness.

Download the Katchkie Farm Thanksgiving Recipes Cookbook

Our favorite recipes from Great Performances' CSA

We hope you enjoy these recipes as much as we do — and share your photos with us @gpfood and @katchkiefarm.

To go with the recipes, our young neighbors who participated in the Thinkubator project have submitted a playlist that’s sure to get your feet tapping and heads bopping as you prepare these recipes.

More Thanksgiving Recipes & Tips

Spiked Apple Cider

  Morgan Golumbuk shared her tip for creating batch cocktails so guests can serve themselves with ease. We loved the idea of her spiked cider,

Read More »

A Pizza Farm In Upstate New York

Katchkie Farm Pizza Popup

You’ve heard about organic farms, dairy farms, and poultry farms, maybe even wind farms, but have you heard of a pizza farm in Upstate New York?

Up at Katchkie Farm, we’ve got more than just fantastic produce growing in our fields; we’re delighted to announce Rafi Bildner as our chef in residence this summer, slinging artisan sourdough pizzas at a pop-up version of his Hilltown Hot Pies. 

On weekends through September, he’ll be using produce fresh from our fields and locally sourced meats and cheeses to create Neapolitan-style pizzas fired in our wood oven.

The pies are available by pre-order only and can be either picked up or, if there are tables available, enjoyed at the farm.

A portion of the sale of each pie will be donated to The Sylvia Center, the nonprofit dedicated to teaching nutrition and healthy cooking to children and their families in underserved communities in Columbia Co. and New York City, which maintains its Learning Garden at Katchkie Farm.

The flavors are fresh and exciting, including the Beetza, basil pesto, roasted beets, sweet caramelized onions, fresh mozzarella, chevre; the Field & Forest, plum tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, roasted mushrooms, pickled onion and soppressata; and Garlic Goat,  green garlic  sauce, zucchini, chevre, fresh mozzarella, toasted pine nuts, chili flakes.

Vegan pies are also available, changing weekly to reflect the bounty of the farm.

Order your pies early — they sell out quickly!

You can order them online at https://hilltown-hot-pies-at-katchkie-farm.square.site/for pick-up Thursday through Sunday from 4 to 8 p.m. at the outdoor Pizza Pavilion on Katchkie Farm, 745 Fischer Road Extension, Kinderhook, NY 12106.

As you’re waiting for the deliciousness, check out some photos of the farm, the pizza, and Rafi in action!