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Local farmers connect with chefs and consumers in new dining experience

Tom Magnarelli
Staff and diners at Sky Armory talk about some of the food at the Farm to Fork 101 event in Syracuse.


A new dining experience in Syracuse brings local farmers, chefs and consumers together to teach people how to buy and cook local food year-round.


Before Alan Gandelman became the owner of Main Street Farms in Homer and Cortland four years ago, he was a high school teacher.


Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News
Alan Gandelman (left), the owner of Main Street Farms.

“One day I decided that I was going to start a farm and try to focus on doing a lot of educational programming and getting kids to the farm and connecting children to vegetables," Gandelman said. "That would entice them to eat more fresh vegetables and hopefully local vegetables.”


Gandelman recently donated some of his produce to be used at a Farm to Fork 101dining event in Syracuse where professional chefs showcased local ingredients on the evening's menu.


Gandelman said he has to sometimes teach people how to cook some of the vegetables he grows such as bok choy, kohl-rabi and garlic scapes.


Mark Pawliw who is a waiter at Francesca's Cucina in Syracuse and organized the event, said Farm to Fork 101 is about educating consumers. Pawliw took a class at Syracuse University with the same name and realized a need for more access to fresh food in downtown Syracuse. Pawliw said the goal is to combine a local food market downtown with a teaching facility so people can learn how to cook new dishes.


“So you don't have to worry about processed food all the time and you don't have to get stuff out of a box or a can," Pawliw said. "They're going to see how stuff tastes, how much nicer it tastes, when it's fresh.”


Pawliw said he thinks Farm to Fork is the start of something big in the food world. 


Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News
Some of the food at Farm to Fork 101.

16-year-old J.W. Simmons works on his family's farm, Shotwell Brook Farms in Skaneateles, which donated pastured raised meat to the recently held Farm to Fork event. Simmons said reaching more customers at events like this sells more of their products.


“Because people become so far separated from where their food comes from," Simmons said. "This gives them an opportunity to meet the farmers, to shake a hand and to see, 'Wow, I know that chicken was raised 14 miles away or two miles away or two doors down.'"


Michael Wood works at his family's Longhorn Ranch in Bernhards Bay where they have 40 grass-fed Texas Longhorn cows. The Longhorn Ranch also donated some food to the event. 


"It's really building a relationship, that's what it comes down to," Wood said. "Knowing your farmer, knowing where it comes from, know the people and know that it comes locally and you're helping someone else out.”


Diners will get to cook alongside chefs at a restaurant in Syracuse for another event, scheduled in August. 




Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.