The local nonprofit Amagansett Food Institute, thanks to a partnership with Stony Brook University at Southampton campus, is expanding its commercial kitchen to support farmers and food producers throughout the East End region. With the new collaboration allowing its impact to reach far beyond its initial scope of Amagansett, also comes a name change, to East End Food Institute. The institute continues to build on its farm-to-community and farm-to-school programs. It also is launching a new program to help train new farmers on the skills of the trade. Heather Meehan, the East End Food Institute’s program coordinator recently dished on some of its ongoing and upcoming ventures.
Tell us about the CRAFT program.
This is a program that started in 2013. The East End Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training is a cooperative effort of local farms organized to enhance educational opportunities for farm apprentices. Apprentices that participate in the CRAFT program experience a diversity of successful farm models and join a community of fellow apprentices and farmers. In 2019, 11 farms and food businesses participated in our apprentice matching program, with 40 apprentice applicants, and our educational CRAFT events served over 100 participants.
What have been some of the successes of the Farm to Community Program?
During the 2018-19 growing season, we processed over 5000 pounds of locally grown produce for distribution to Long Island food pantry partners through our Farm to Community program. The program has helped get food on the table for over 1000 individuals across the East End, in partnership with Share the Harvest Farm, Springs Food Pantry, Heart of the Hamptons, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and Stony Brook Medicine. Tote Taxi assisted in transporting produce and frozen products.
Have you implemented any other new programs?
Our six-month pilot program of Culinary Immersion Classes for the medical residents at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital concluded in May and will continue this fall. They were taught concepts with a hands-on approach, and student doctors were able to apply their education and newfound skills in the kitchen with support from myself. The classes were hosted at South Fork Kitchen and featured locally sourced ingredients. Medical residents were introduced to the importance of sourcing ingredients by meeting and learning from local farmers and other food producers. The program also led to the establishment of a new CSA program with Sang Lee Farm for hospital staff and community members.
In what ways do you connect with local schools?
The East End Farm to School Project — a coalition comprised of Southampton, Tuckahoe, and Bridgehampton schools with East End Food Institute as a community partner — was selected to attend the inaugural Farm to School Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. Our team will receive ongoing support to expand our farm to school program over the next year. This builds on the success of a grant-funded pilot project enacted by the school districts.
What is the institute’s plans going forward?
The Balm Foundation will fund the Farm to Community program at $30,000 this year, expected in October. We are excited to announce that Chef Jay Lippin is our chef-in-residence this year. Chef Jay will expand our program by directing the preparation of value-added goods for farm members and designing our café menu. Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Coalition for Women’s Cancers are teaming up with the East End Food Institute to offer a series of unique, hands-on nutritional cooking seminars to be taught by trained experts in clinical nutrition and local food. The East End Food Institute will host the program in our café and demonstration area at the Southampton campus of Stony Brook University.
What are your recipe tips utilizing fall farm goods?
We work with local farms to preserve the seasonal bounty by creating pesto from herbs and greens, jarring tomatoes, and concocting fruit jams. You can also put aside summer crops by simply freezing them for later use or stop by Green Thumb Organic Farm, Amber Waves, Milk Pail, and Sylvester Manor to pick up a jar of one of our “farm stand favorites.” We love making breakfast bowls with savory fall vegetables. You can prepare a base (quinoa, rice, cauliflower rice) in a large batch to eat throughout the week and mix and match different add-ins. We like to roast large batches of fall vegetables (sweet potato, squashes of all varieties, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc.) with some olive oil and salt and then top it off with a hard-boiled egg and some green pesto.
Learn all about the institute at www.eastendfood.org.