MARCELLUS | One tenet of the movement urging people to support local growers is that food brings a community together.

Baltimore Woods Nature Center brought dozens of people together to learn more about food production in the region, as well as share a meal prepared by a local chef.

People attending Sunday's Local Harvest Dinner: Conversation and Cuisine had a panel of six experts to explain their approaches to the ancient art of farming and animal rearing.

The six people answered questions regarding grass feeding of farm animals, under-appreciated vegetables and the local food movement. Represented were J.W. Simmons of Skaneateles' Shotwell Brook Farms, Darren Maum of Salvere Farm, Lindsey Jakubowski of Kriemhild Dairy, Anton Burkett of Early Morning Farm, Allan Gandelman of Main Street Farms, and Tricia Park of Creekside Meadows Farm.

After an hour of questions, chef Luke Houghton of Pure Catering & Events presented a menu featuring mainstays from area food producers. Houghton's focus was to showcase the region's delights, such as one dish's cured Iberian pork from Simmons' farm, shallots and onions from Greyrock Farm in Cazenovia and fingerling potatoes from Weedsport's Horsford Farm.

“Good food starts with good farms,” Houghton wrote in his menu.

The panel offered tips to those who want to boost the amount of locally produced foods they buy.

“You have to eat seasonally,” Simmons said. “You've got to realize that at the supermarket, there are no seasons.”

The 14-year-old added that the tomatoes found there now are picked when green and turned red.

Gandelman agreed with Simmons, saying that people should look to what is naturally growing at the time they shop.

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“You're going to have to change your diet. If you want to eat avocados and bananas, that's fine but you're not going to find those here,” he said. “You're going to eat root vegetables now in central New York - beets, potatoes and carrots.

Moderator Neil Miller, of Farmshed CNY, said that people can look forward to all sorts of treats and food staples throughout the year, not just during the summer.

“It's not about suffering through the winter. It's about enjoying the seasonality of it,” Miller said.

Park suggested people consider buying a freezer to stuff full of items purchased “at the peak of freshness.”

Freshness and accountability were two themes consistently brought up by the food producers as reasons to support regional growers.

Maum and Park reminded the audience about the economic value of keeping money in the community that would otherwise go to large corporations and farms in other states.

Burkett was one of a few panelists who spoke about being concerned about the loss of small farms and the implications of large food producers on food safety, workers' health and environmental practices.

“I was kind of distraught at the level of industrialization of the food system,” he said, explaining how he became interested in farming.

In response to a question from the audience, Simmons, Jakubowski and Park discussed the treatment of animals, all pointing to the fact that the animals' treatment translates to the quality of their meat or products. That means they grass-feed the animals and allow them space to live.

“How these people treat animals, it's not even comparable [to big industry],” Burkett said. “It's night and day.”

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