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Food News: Locavore Hero Award Nominees Announced

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Photograph by Sedat Pakay ©2010

Eleven nominees have been announced for the new Victoria A. Simons Locavore Award, a prize established by Ms. Simons just weeks before her death last March following a brief battle with cancer. 
“I contacted Vicki and asked, ‘Is there some kind of local legacy you’d like to leave?’, ” says Lael Locke, a philanthropist and Chatham Village Board Trustee, who had known Simons for twenty years.  “We kicked some ideas around, and she decided she would like to do something for Columbia County Bounty,” a non-profit that promotes local agriculture by connecting farmers, chefs, and consumers. Simons helped found the organization and was its first executive director. 
Fittingly, the winner of the first Victoria A. Simons award of $1,000 will be announced on Monday, September 6—Agriculture Appreciation Day—at the Columbia County Fair, an event produced by the Columbia County Agricultural Society.  In 1996, Simons, the longtime editor and co-owner with her husband Tony Jones of The Independent, a newspaper serving Columbia and southern Rennselaer counties, became the first woman ever to serve on the Society’s board.  (The couple sold the paper in 2001; it ceased publication last February.) 
Despite it’s Columbia County pedigree, the annual award honoring someone in local food production is not limited to those living and/or working within that county. “Vicki was quite adamant about that,” says Locke.  This year’s nominees come from Columbia, Dutchess, and Berkshire Counties.  One, Josephine Proul (above), Executive Chef of Local 111, a restaurant in Philmont, is cited for her creative exploration and use of local ingredients, and for her tireless enterprise in maintaining a wide network of relationships with local farmers.
The other nominees include:
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Carin Quirke deJong, New Lebanon; following closure of her town’s only supermarket this year, she inaugurated the New Lebanon Farmer’s Market—complete with child care and acceptance of food stamps and other vouchers—to make local meat, produce and bread available to everyone.  The market also has become a community networking center.
Dutchess County Tourism, Poughkeepsie, for its extensive agri-tourism activities designed to enhance awareness and understanding of local agriculture, while developing new markets for local farmers. Teaming with Metro North, the agency’s Farm Fresh Getaway Package has drawn over 2,300 urban visitors, introducing them to the benefits of locally grown, including a Farm Fresh coloring and activity book for children.

Beth’s Farm Kitchen, Stuyvesant Falls, for using more than 55,000 pounds of local produce for jams, pickles and chutneys in a successful business that has grown over 30 years and currently employs 8 people. Owner Beth Linskey is a long-time vendor at the New York City Greenmarkets and is active in the Slow Food Movement.

Joseph Gilbert
, owner of The Berry Farm, Chatham, was a pioneer of the Locavore Movement long before it had a name.  For nearly 30-years, he has been a passionate advocate for and provider of local farm products, including his own chemical-free berries and produce. Over the years, his farm store has introduced and championed many other local providers.
Karyn Novakowski, Education Director, Sylvia Center at Katchkie Farm, Kinderhook, has introduced the Locavore Movement to the next generation by inaugurating a Columbia County Healthy Kids section at the 2010 Taste Of Columbia County Bounty annual fundraiser.

Liz Beals, Niverville, (in the red apron) is “head jammer” at Beth’s Farm Kitchen and a notable food volunteer, serving as a Columbia County Bounty board member as well as having done a stint as administrative assistant there.  She is nominated for her overall robust commitment to local food, including her successes in persuading more farms to donate fresh fruit and vegetables to local food pantries.
Rural Intelligence Food Brian J. Alberg, Executive Chef and Director of Food & Beverage, Red Lion Inn, Stockbridge, demonstrates his passion for farm-to-table with his special “Sustainable Foods Menus” at the Inn’s four restaurants, which result in $400,000 per year in purchases from local farmers and growers.  In addition to his tireless advocacy of the Locavore Movement as a chef, he is also notable as an educator through the Railroad Street Youth Project, which introduces kids at risk to the profession of cooking and consequently the benefits of the locavore movement.  Alberg is also a partner in a farm that raises heritage-breed pigs.
Shaker Mountain Canning Company, New Lebanon, is a new business that extends the farm market season by offering local food, lightly preserved, year-round with a commitment to 100% “traceability” to individual farms of their “Farm Down the Road-label products.

Marilyn Burch, Stuyvesant, is founder and volunteer manager of the Stuyvesant Farmer’s Market at the historic Stuyvesant Landing Depot since 2006.  She is also an organizer of the Hungry Hedgehog Food Coop and is a tireless promoter of the benefits of eating fresher, safer, tastier local produce.
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Todd Erling, Livingston, Executive Director of Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation, is extending the Columbia County Bounty banner to sister undertakings in Dutchess, Orange and Ulster counties, a first step in creating a cooperative Hudson Valley Bounty organization.
Contributions to the Victoria A. Simons Locavore Award Fund can be made c/o Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation, P.O. Box 1189, Hudson, NY 12534.

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