ALBANY, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — Farmers in New York and around the Tri-State are suffering during the coronavirus shutdown after losing a primary market in restaurants that have been closed by stay-at-home orders.
The Stone Barns Center in Pocantico Hills is now working to fill that void by partnering with Blue Hill Restaurants to develop a series of food and farm boxes that people can purchase to help support farmers and regional producers.
Dan Barber, the chef and owner of Blue Hill Restaurant and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, says the joint effort will support farmers and their staff.
“When we closed the restaurant in the middle of March, we had a problem with the farmers that had been supply us for 20 years and we were their exclusive customer and cutting off the revenue for these farms would have been absolutely disastrous,” Barber explains.
He says overnight, his team decided to continue to buy from the farm and hire back their employees to create the food boxes to allow a revenue stream for the farmers again.
Barber says the program offers a wide variety of food options as well.
“We’ve become a sort of supermarket that allows people to go online and choose different boxes with different beefs. There’s a fish box with different fishes caught off a dayboat from fishermen on Long Island. There’s meat boxes of pork from local farmers – grass-fed beef from local farmers. There’s a vegetable box of different vegetables from local farmers and on and on,” said Barber.
Blue Hill is also using the partnership to help frontline workers and some vulnerable communities.
“We have three hospitals right outside our door,” Barber said. “It would be negligent beyond words to ignore the issues that they are confronting right now, so we have partnered with those three hospitals. We are taking this this produce and the goods from these farmers, repackaging them into these boxes, where we can serve very informal, very quick, easy – but very nutritious and delicious meals to our front line workers,” Barber said.
He added that they are also working to feed public school children, “who over spring break were facing a severe cutback in school lunches and are facing that again as the summer approaches.”
Barber said he doesn’t want people to be intimidated by the boxes either.
“We will give you all the instructions, sort of hold your hand, and give you all the instructions on how to prepare this at home in a very easy, very loving way that allows you to enjoy the whole animal from nose to tail – well it’s not just the whole animal from nose to tail, it’s actually the whole farm from nose to tail,” he said.