Oswego, NY – It was just recently that best selling author Julie Powell headlined the sold out Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County “Harvest Dinner” event at the American Foundry, and the message and passion she spoke to, continues to reverberate throughout the County.
“Not only did we want to celebrate our local growers’ fall harvest, but we also wanted to promote healthy eating by using fresh farm products,” said Paul Forestiere II, Executive Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County. “We knew that Julie could bring the right perspective in her message, and is it turned out, she was perfect for the mission of this event.”
“The people that attended the event recognize the importance of our local growers, and they’re energized by the passion of Julie’s words that evening,” he added.
Powell is the author of the critically acclaimed 2005 New York Times best selling memoir, Julie & Julia: My year of Cooking Dangerously. In 2002 Powell thrust herself from obscurity to cyber celebrity when she began the Julie/Julia Project, a yearlong blogging and cooking journey through all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. According to Forestiere, Julie Powell spoke very passionately about fresh and organic, local farm products at the event.
“I think that the push for sustainable agricultural practices, after long being a sort of esoteric concern, is finally moving into the mainstream, and this can only be a good thing,” stated Powell. “As long as nutritious, locally grown, environmentally sustainable and ethically sound food is considered a luxury, rather than a right and the backbone of both a healthier country and an economically viable national agriculture, real practical change remains nearly impossible.
“I’m a big fan of the work of food activists like Alice Waters, and what she’s done with, for instance, her school programs, but ultimately the problem is bigger and more essential than making perfect organic peaches available to underprivileged kids,” Powell added.
According to Powell, Waters is an American chef, restaurateur, activist, humanitarian, one of the most influential people in food in the past 50 years, and has been called the mother of American food. She is currently one of the most visible supporters of the organic food movement, and has been a proponent of organics for over 40 years.
Waters’ work and philosophy is based on the principle that access to sustainable, fresh, and seasonal food is a right, not a privilege and believes that the food system needs to be “good, clean, and fair.”
“What Alice Waters and other passionate food activists do is essential to raising awareness and educating,” said Powell. “But a two-pronged attack is necessary if we’re to revamp our nation’s agricultural system in a positive way. Clearly our system is broken when it’s cheaper to feed our children high-fructose sodas and heavily processed foods than vegetables and fruit, or when massive recalls of produce and meat due to E Coli contamination is a regular event. Large-scale industrial farming is necessary to a certain extent, and will always have a place in this country. But the industry must evolve; when the companies devoted to feeding us are allowed to base their business decisions solely on subsidies and incentives and a lucrative bottom line, they’re doing the country and, I believe ultimately themselves, a grave disservice.”
According to Forestiere all of the dishes at the event were created by local chefs using only newly harvested farm fresh fruit, meats and vegetables grown within Oswego County, and Powell, while not a small farmer herself illustrated her strong support for what they do and proved her passion for the quality of good food.
“That’s where I think small farms come in. Smaller farmers, producing food for their own neighbors by transparent methods, responsible for the quality of their products, represent the seeds of another model of farming for this country, one that I hope we can expand upon. One that focuses on accountability and community,” said Powell. “The idea of people, rather than corporations, feeding us might be quixotic, but I think and hope not. I think with determination and honesty, we can rebuild a broken system, and our local farmers are the example we should look to and support as we do.”
Powell concluded the evening by stating, “I’m no expert, clearly – just a memoirist with a passion for good food and the people who make it. I’m sure many in the Oswego community have much more definite, practical ideas for how to improve our agricultural system, support our farmers, and feed our children and ourselves well. All I can do is support those efforts, try to understand the issues, and keep pushing forward in any way I can toward a better system.”
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County is located at 3288 Main Street in Mexico, New York. Their mission is to interpret, disseminate, and deliver research-based information and knowledge on issues relevant to Oswego County youth, individuals, families, farms, small business, and communities, and further, to contribute to improving the quality of life through education and empowering volunteers and staff to lead, guide, and teach. Program areas of particular importance include Agriculture, Youth Development, Human Ecology, and Natural Resource Management. For additional information on the programs and resources call (315) 963-7286.