Third annual event scheduled for July 30
by Alison Rooney
It’s hard to keep up with all of Beacon’s new dining options. New eateries appear on a constant basis. Handily, Beacon’s Third Annual Firefly Feast — to be held on Saturday, July 30 from 4 to 9 p.m. — can help the inquisitive and hungry food-focused by gathering many of their chefs up in one place, where one can tote one’s plate along to individual cooking stations and sample away. Even better, it’s all in aid of a good cause, Common Ground Farm’s many donation, food access and education programs. This third incarnation has grown, as has CGF itself, stemming from the partnership it entered into with Obercreek Farm three years ago.
“This is an event that is about celebrating the greater community and region, recognizing some of the farms that produce our food and nourish us with it, and the chefs that bring it to our plates every day,” says Ben Giardullo, president of Common Ground’s board of directors. Brewers, too. This year, in addition to seven participating breweries, there is, according to Giardullo, a “farm-based cider maker with absolutely delicious ciders.”
Each chef will be cooking in his or her own tent and diners will receive small plates which they can refill as often as they like while interacting and chatting with the chefs. Although it’s a family event, with free admission for the under-12s, and an adjacent playground for the younger set to decamp to, the range of dishes is “designed for an adult’s palate,” Giardullo says. Along with the food there’ll be plenty of music, from local favorites The Big Takeover, The Chases, The Costellos and Steamboats.
CGF’s food donation and education programs have grown substantially in the past three years. They currently farm nine acres of land leased from Stony Kill Environmental Center, in Wappingers, just north of Beacon off of Route 9D. CGF, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is dedicated to educating people of all ages about agriculture that is ecologically sound and economically viable. Giardullo explains that they are currently “seeking key strategic partnerships and financial support to support our mission and to realize the full potential of the farm. We have the exciting opportunity to expand onto approximately 100 adjacent acres, which would enable us to distribute more fresh food throughout the greater Beacon, Newburgh, and Poughkeepsie communities for many years to come.”
In rebuilding the farming program, including increasing the amount of food donated to food pantries and kitchens, fine-tuning and expanding distribution has been key. CGF works to sell the foods and also, under the banner of “food justice” to get it to those who need it, either at low or no cost. Along with expanding the number of food pantries and food kitchens they work with, they carefully monitor what is being donated, avoiding the frequent model of sending off whatever food is available, where the priority “isn’t always the most healthy, most local,” Giardullo explains, continuing, “We’re growing [the food] for them as a customer. We want to provide them with what they want, when they want it, and not give them leftovers. It’s our first priority: equitably distributed food, throughout the community. To do that we figure out how much to see at full cost, and go on from there.”
CGF has expanded out to Fishkill and points in Putnam and Westchester counties, and has recently been working with Dutchess Outreach in Poughkeepsie. Next on the wish list is to form partnerships in Newburgh and other places across the river.
CGF is always seeking volunteers. Areas of need include labor on the farm, event support, board service, fundraising and assistance with educational outreach. The best way to express interest in volunteering is to go to the website and locate the person or people responsible for that area on the staff/board page and make contact with them directly.
Firefly Feast, as well as being fun and satisfying to the belly, is an important part of CGF’s fundraising goals and its outreach to the community. Participating farms at this year’s event include Obercreek Farm, Fishkill Farms, Glynwood, Blooming Hill Farm, and Hudson Valley Harvest and CGF itself.
Participating chefs and food establishments include Barb’s Butchery, Beacon Bread Co., Beacon Pantry, Café Macchiato, Ella’s Bellas, Harry’s Hot Sandwiches, Homespun Foods, Kitchen Sink, Marbled Meatshop, Poppy’s Burgers, Stock Up, The Kitchen, Ziatun and Zora Dora’s.
Beverages will be provided by Hudson Valley Farmhouse Ciders, Chatham Brewing Co., Two Way Brewing Co., Newburgh Brewing Co., Pull Brewing Co., Peekskill Brewery, North River Brewing Co., Mill House Brewing Co., Drink More Good, Tas Kafe and Ella’s Bellas.
Firefly Feast will take place at 4 Hanna Lane in Beacon. Tickets are $40 at store.commongroundfarm.org or $50 at the gate; kids under 12 are admitted free. Tickets include food from local chefs and food establishments, as well as unlimited soft drinks. Additional drink tickets will be available for purchase on-site.