Local food arrives on big screen

GHENT–Carlo DeVito says it’s an agricultural story that has never been told, so he tells it in his new 57-minute documentary film called, LOCALS: Greenmarkets, Farm Markets and the People Who Grow Your Food.

The idea to make the film came to Mr. DeVito as he worked at the Hudson Farmers Market under a 10-by-10-foot tent selling wine produced at the Hudson-Chatham Winery, which he co-owns.

“I was amazed by all the different stories I heard. Each person had a little bit of the story to tell,” he said in a recent interview. And as he took photographs of the baskets, bottles, jars and wedges of locally produced food and the farmers who produced it, he says, it came to him that this was a story that needed to be told from the farmers’ point of view.

LOCALS begins with a historical account of agriculture in the Hudson Valley, when it was once known as the nation’s breadbasket, and fresh farm products made their way down the Hudson from Albany to New York City, 300 years ago.

Still photos of the countryside, farm animals, farm products and farmers’ faces are interspersed with thoughtful agriculture-related quotes and filmed interviews with farmers and green and farm market organizers.

In this era, the Union Square Market in New York City was started by its organizers because they knew what a good tomato tasted like and could not find one anywhere in New York City. So they set about trying to convince farmers that there was not only a market for their produce in the city but that they should go there and sell their products directly to city residents.

Today, as when it started, the major draw of the green market is that the food is the freshest and the best tasting plus you get to meet your farmer, says one person interviewed in the film, Mike Hurwitz of the city’s Department of Green Markets.

Asked in the film what it’s like to make the trip to the Union Square Market, cheese maker Doug Ginn of the Pampered Cow says he has to leave Ghent by 3:30 a.m. to get to Union Square between 6 and 6:30 a.m. There are no words to describe it, he says, “It’s a lot like being a roadie for Metallica… It’s an 18-hour day.”

Dan Gibson of Grazing Angus Acres in Ghent, a producer of grass-fed Black Angus beef, says that while the trip is time consuming and the animals still have to be tended to when he gets home, he is a believer in direct marketing to the consumer, because when a farmer has to deal with a middle man, “something goes wrong” and someone is looking to take a nickel out of his pocket.

Also appearing in the film are Beth Linsky of Beth’s Farm Kitchen in Stuyvesant Falls, who likes the experience of interacting with her customers so she can hear firsthand what they think about her jams and chutneys; the owners and operators of Red Oak Farm, an organic CSA farm in Stuyvesant; and Virginia Ambrose of Scarecrow Farm in Hollowville.

There is nothing slick or high tech about the film, which Mr. DeVito put together over 18 months using a handheld camera, his cell phone and a laptop computer. Besides the voices of the people who speak, the soundtrack is a catchy little tune played on a piano.

Mr. DeVito, 47, is a publishing executive. He’s a self-proclaimed “tri-state baby”–born in New Jersey, attended grade school in Connecticut, high school in New Jersey and college in New York.

He and his wife, Dominique, bought the old Ralph Cooley farm off Route 66 in Ghent 4½ years ago. His twin 11-year-old sons, Dylan and Dawson, attend the Chatham Middle School.

In addition to making wine on the property, they also make maple syrup in honor of Mr. Cooley, who started out as a dairyman milking Ayrshires and was a legendary maple syrup maker in his later years.

Mr. DeVito says he believes the local food movement is significant and not just about good local food. He also sees it as supporting a way of life and preserving history.

A showing of the film LOCALS will take place at The Chatham Real Food Market, 15 Church Street, Chatham Friday, January 29, at 5:30 p.m.

To contact Diane Valden email .

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