Since 2001, Jen Small and Mike Yezzi, passionate advocates for farmland protection and producers of pasture-raised pigs, have spent a lot of time working the Greenmarkets and delivering to restaurants in New York City. Jen and Mike realized long ago that for New York farms to be successful, the NYC chefs who influence the nation’s food trends must be successful using local agricultural products. And so, Jen and Mike set out to learn as much as possible about the restaurant industry to better serve the needs of these customers. Jen and Mike co-founded the original Farm to Chef Express. Over the years, many chefs made their way up to the farm for a weekend stay. These weekend stays were filled with great food and great conversation. Jen and Mike learned more about the issues facing NYC chefs, and chefs saw, first-hand, the life behind the hog hanging in their walk-in.
In an effort to share this experience with more people, Jen applied for an agri-tourism grant from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, and the agency responded with generous support to help establish Farm Camp for Food Professionals. In keeping with Jen’s vision, the 19th century barn at Flying Pigs Farm has been transformed from a listing heap to a center for learning. There is a communal table for food professionals and farmers to share meals and ideals. There is a back porch for drinking great wine and discussing the historic landscape. There is a well-equipped kitchen where cooks can roast a chicken they have slaughtered and fry eggs they have gathered.
A connection is forged between the cook, the farmer, and the land. And both farmers and chefs emerge with new bonds and renewed energy to create a lasting partnership between the Empire State’s rural farms and its renowned urban restaurants.