LAKE PLACID - For the second year in a row, people gathered for the Adirondack Farm to School Initiative to learn about and eat healthy, local foods.
Farmers from the Tri-Lakes and beyond showed off their fresh produce in the Lake Placid Middle/High School on Friday.
Ruth Pino, a culinary arts professor at Paul Smith's College was the lead organizer. She created the group last year.
Lauren Richard, left, and Jennifer Jubin of the Adirondack North Country Association serve an assortment of beet-themed treats during an Adirondack Farm to School Initiative event Friday at the Lake Placid Middle/High School. The carrot man in the background is Cody Barry, a junior at the school.
(Photo — Matthew Turner)
"I got an email last year from the National Farm to School program, and I was like, 'How cool,'" Pino said. "So I contacted some local farms, and we had it in Saranac Lake (last year)."
Pino originally set a goal to have the Tri-Lakes schools buy 15 percent local produce by 2015.
"It seemed like an achievable number," Pino said.
And it was. Pino said the Saranac Lake Central School District currently buys the most locally grown foods at 35 percent. She did not have the numbers in front of her for Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, but said they passed 15 percent. The goal is to raise the bar higher and have the schools buy even more local foods, she said.
"We're happy to have it grow," said Kevin McCarthy, an assistant culinary professor at Paul Smith's College. "Buying and utilizing local products is not just 100 percent or 0 percent. It's not all or nothing."
There were many booths set up with tasty local food. Asgaard Farm & Dairy, a 1,500-acre dairy farm based out of AuSable Forks, makes goat cheese products. Caitlin Aherne was serving up an assortment of cheese spreads.
Joe Orefice of North Branch Farm in the town of Saranac had fresh produce on display.
The Adirondack North Country Association got creative by making beets in several different ways. ANCA representatives Jennifer Jubin and Lauren Richard handed out samples of beet/apple juice, roasted beet salad, beet chips, pickled beets and beet brownies.
"They grow here, and they're under appreciated, I think," Richard said.
"Since its Farm to School, we wanted to pick something locally grown from around here," Jubin said.
Eleventh grader Cody Barry, who was dressed in an orange carrot outfit, was a fan.
"I like how beets can be turned into so many different things," Barry said. "I liked the beet brownies."
"It's all how you present it and incremental," Pino said of young people picking up healthy eating habits. "We deal with kids who are accustomed to foods they are accustomed to, so it's a slow process."
The Lake Placid Middle/High School is already attempting to serve more locally grown foods to students, said Carl Bowen.
Bowen, the food service provider at the school, was serving meals to the crowd Friday night. The dinner served in the cafeteria was prepared with local ingredients like hot dogs made in Vermontville, local chili and spinach salad.
"We started this spring, bringing in local farmers," Bowen said.
Bowen said the school buys eggs from near Plattsburgh and apples from Peru. This upcoming school year, they will begin to buy food from Fledging Crow Vegetables of Keeseville and Harmony Hills Farm of Malone.
"Oh yeah," Barry said when asked if he liked his food. "The salad itself is just so fresh, and the pizza is handmade."
Mark and Kristin Kimball of Essex Farm, based out of the town of Essex, spoke about farm life and eating healthy.
"For me and Kristen, there are a number of motivations to eat healthy," Mark Kimball said. "We think it's everybody's responsibility, but also as parents, to feed our kids the absolute best to give them the strength in their bodies, so they can be the best that they can be."
The Kimballs own an 80-acre farm that produces dairy, beef, pork, chicken, hay and vegetables. Mark's been farming since 1993, for a total of 11 seasons.
They sell their products to Keene Central School District and Schroon Lake Central School District.
"We have worked very closely with Keene and Schroon Lake schools, and they have been excited about getting local vegetables back on the menu," he said. "It's been an inspiration."
He hopes that will catch on and spread in the North Country, a place he said has the potential to be self-sustainable.
"If 10 more schools want our help, we can produce it, but we know there are farms around here producing cheese, meat, grain and vegetables," Mark Kimball said. "Everyone needs to be excited about this for their own well being. ... Kids will do what their peers are doing, and I think that's the cool part of tonight's talk."