First, people gathered under the pavilion for a cocktail hour out of the sun’s heat and enjoying the tasty and refreshing whole-wheat, sweet-corn tart and tomato-watermelon consumé with fresh mint prepared by Gardiner’s Café Mio chef, Michael Bernardo.
“It’s a whole wheat tart with sweet corn and tomato salsa, with goat cheese from Acorn Hill Farm with a raspberry balsamic,” Bernardo said. “I thought on a hot day it would be refreshing, and it includes so much of the taste of summer that is being harvested right now.”
He, like many other café owners, restaurant owners, and caterers utilize Phillies Bridge, as well as many area farms and farm markets for fresh, local fruit and produce as well as freshly prepared meat and cheeses.
“We use Phillies Bridge Farm, Meadow Brook Farm, Wright’s Farm, Acorn Hill, really all of the farms in the area to create our appetizers and entrees,” he said.
This was echoed by Agnes Devereux, who owns the Village TeaRoom in New Paltz. Devereux, along with Justine and Phil Leger of Bridge Creek Catering, were up on the hill utilizing a makeshift outdoor prep kitchen in the midst of a vineyard to prepare two of the main courses for the Meal in the Field.
Devereux had prepared a cold summer squash soup with Four Winds Farm zucchini, Meadowview Farm onions, Acorn Hill Farm feta cheese, Hudson Valley fresh cream, Phillies Bridge Farm herbs, topped with an olive oil bread stick.
“I love Phillies Bridge Farm,” said Devereux, as she delicately scooped the cool soup into elegant white bowls. “I was happy to participate in this dinner because this is one of the most beautiful farms in the Hudson Valley. We’ve been members here for ten years, we utilize much of their farm produce and being here is breathtaking.”
As Devereux talked, she gestured out over the fields with the Shawangunks rising above, goats grazing to the left and the several large tables with white tablecloths and glass jars filled with fresh wildflowers decorating the landscape.
“It’s great to be part of the community,” added Justine Leger, who along with Bridge Creek Catering prepared the “meat offering” course with cumin-crusted Old Ford Farm and Fleisher’s chickens, marinated with homemade Hudson Valley fresh yogurt, succotash of wild hive wheat berries, Wallkill View corn, and Phillies Bridge green beans, cherry tomatoes and basil.
“We’re right in the bounty of the farm region here,” she said. “It’s really a celebration of how rich this area is in its farm offerings and its cafés, restaurants, caterers. We are able to create such fresh, healthy, organic food because of these farms, and what could be more beautiful than a dinner out in a farm field at Phillies Bridge?”
It had the festive feel of a wedding, with guests talking with old friends and meeting new ones under the pavilion and as they walked past the rustic barns, Discovery Garden, goats and onto a nature path that led them up to the field where dinner was being prepared and served.
David Gilmour and his wife and children attended the dinner.
“We’re members of Phillies Bridge Farm and our family has a full share,” he said. “We have the berry share, the corn share and it’s the farm community in our region which really draws us and keeps us here.”
He said that his kids attend the Phillies Bridge Farm summer camp, and that they enjoy picking up their farm share as a family every week “walking down to the stream, picnicking.”
“It’s just a beautiful place with a wonderful mission, and I’m thankful for the Ottaways, who originally donated this to become a CSA farm.”
Karma Road of New Paltz created the vegetarian dish and Lagusta Luscious the desserts.
Frank Kratt, a longtime supporter, board member and Phillies Bridge Farm Project enthusiast, thought that the event was a “fantastic idea.”
“It was really the brainchild of Jessica Pasqual,” he said of the woman who is now the farm board’s president. “It was her enthusiasm which brought this all together and she’s been an incredible, integral part of the farm since she first began here as an intern, then as farm manager and eventually president of the board.”
What the farm project has achieved since its inception in 1995 “is that it became the flagship for the local organic farm movement in this area,” Kratt said. “Before Phillies Bridge, there were no CSAs and now there are numerous farms who are engaged in organic growing, harvesting, encouraging an organic lifestyle and way of living.”
The second biggest achievement has been “the involvement of children at the farm.”
“There are more than 1,000 children that visit the farm each year, whether with their school programs, pre-school, as part of the summer camp, with their families to pick up their shares,” he said. “And that is really the key to the future of organic farming, to get the children involved, educated, helping to grow and pick their own produce, see that connection.”
Pasqual said that the idea came to her after she recently had her own wedding at Liberty View Farm.
“It was great to have a wedding at a farm, with farm fresh food and such scenic beauty,” she mused. As president of the farm, she felt that she wanted to create something similar at Phillies Bridge, although not a wedding, but a “community party.”
“All of the local farms and businesses and restaurant owners were so generous in helping us put this together,” she said. “And there are a lot of people here tonight who have never been to the farm before, so it gives us greater exposure, provides a beautiful night out for people, with farm-fresh gourmet food and serves as a bit of a fundraiser for the farm.”
Although she was delighted with the turnout and the generosity of so many local farms, chefs, wineries, she said that next year she’d like to make it “bigger, bring in more farms and really shine a spotlight on this entire farm region.”
For more information, call 256-9108 or visit philliesbridge.org.