By Debra J. Groom
OSWEGO, NY – What better way to explore the many tastes and textures of Oswego County agriculture than to put it on a plate as part of a hearty dinner?
That’s exactly what Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County has done for the past five years during its Oswego County Harvest Dinner. The most recent event was Oct. 3 at The American Foundry in Oswego.
“Everything that can be grown in this state is grown in Oswego County,” said Jonathan Schell, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County’s agriculture team coordinator.
“We wanted to show you all the great things that you can do with Oswego County food,” said Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County Executive Director Paul Forestiere.
And for the fifth year in the row, they did.
Producers from about 40 different farms throughout the county came to The American Foundry and dropped off various vegetables such as onions, potatoes and Brussels sprouts, fruits like apples and blueberries, dairy products like cheese, milk and cream and meats such as beef, lamb and even a whole pig.
The chefs then performed their special magic, skillfully turning these Oswego County foods into some of the most scrumptious dishes ever.
Just listen to this tantalizing menu:
Honeycrisp apple and leek soup. Corn and winter squash fritters. Roasted beet salad on bib lettuce. Beef and lamb kabobs with shallots, barbecue sauce and Tzatziki sauce. Onion tart. Smoked pork, homemade applesauce and Brussels sprouts. Strawberry-rhubarb crisp with blueberry sauce.
The event’s guest speaker, horticulturalist Terry Ettinger who produces “Garden Journeys” on Time Warner Cable, said the dinner “was amazing,” not only for its deliciousness, but also for what is showed those in attendance.
“People don’t know where their food comes from,” he said.
He told a story about his own son, Corey.
He said Corey always loved carrots. Even as a little boy, his son was a huge fan, Ettinger said.
So, one year he decided to work with Corey to put in a garden and plant some carrots.
Corey was intrigued and would check on the garden almost every day to see what was happening.
Finally, it was time to harvest some of the carrots.
“We pulled them out of the ground and he said, ‘I’m not eating those,'” Ettinger said of his son’s reaction. “I said, ‘Why, you love carrots.’ And he said, ‘They came out of the ground.'”
He said in his gardening career, he has always tried to show people what can come from the land.
“You all should make an effort to introduce the young people in your lives to the natural world – get them to dig in the soil,” he said. “It’s a great way to learn about nature.”
Ettinger also told those at the dinner that it’s important to bring fresh foods to urban areas where there are “food deserts,” learn what fresh, local food actually should cost and take in more experiences with different types of local foods.
“This was such a wonderful experience and I had no idea all this existed here in Oswego County,” said Jean Smith of Oswego, a first-time Harvest Dinner attendee. “We have to remember if we lose our farms, we lose our food.”
“The dinner was wonderful,” said Assemblyman Will Barclay. “The food was wonderful, there was a packed house and they were able to showcase our local products. This is a very diverse agricultural area with our muck farms, lettuce, dairy and apples and it was great to showcase that.”
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County employees emphasized many times that their mission day after day is to educate people about what the county has to offer.
County legislator and dinner attendee Amy Tresidder said they were successful with the Harvest Dinner.
“What a great way to educate people about the link between farmers and residents,” she said. “This was a great way to showcase the county – the proof is in the tasting.”