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The Sweet Smell of Success Sweet Sprig... A "Natural" Soap Opera
pg. 4 PUBLISHER / FOUNDER Stephanie Sittnick COPY EDITOR Elisabeth Allen
“Beyond the Dining Hall Table”
WEBMASTER Tony Rivera
How Matthew Bartik Turned Forks into Art
ADVERTISING SALES Stephanie Sittnick - Director of Sales ( 860) 227-8199 firstname.lastname@example.org CONTRIBUTORS Carol St.Sauveur Ferris, Karen Richman, Rona Mann Chandler Stevens, Lawrence White, Kirsten Ferguson, Susan Brink, Vanessa G. Ahern, Joseph Raucci, Crystal Cobert Giddens, Nellie Ackerman-Vellano, Kristina Watrobski
"Good is NOT Good Enough, Gotta Be Perfect!" ... and it is at Clement Frame Shop & Art Gallery pg. 22
COVER Matthew Bartik “Jazz Trio Splash”
Welcome to our April issue! As we leave March behind, spring flowers have started to bloom, the days are getting longer, and winter's chill is fading away. The month of April perks us up and our mood uplifts knowing summer is now in sight.
The Guardians of the Soil How the Agricultural Stewardship Association is protecting precious local farmland from development
Our April issue is full of amazing people following their dreams. Although each story in itself is unique, you will soon find what they all have a common is the love for what they do and their drive to succeed. So please find a warm sunny spot, sit back and enjoy the April issue. As always, our goal is to deliver authentic, and unique content about creative people and interesting places. We hope you love this issue as much as we do.
Stephanie Sittnick Founder / Publisher
Correction - March issue page 20 - dancer Julia Kool
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www.518PROFILES.com Vol 2 Issue 6
Old World Italian Charm Meets New World Cuisine at Cafe Capriccio
Not a Hologram In lockdown, Troy electronic artist, Madeline Darby embraces her creative, DIY side.
The Interfaith Seder that Became a Legacy
LIFEspa Eating Seasonally
UNPLUG & GET DIRTY Clay Camps for Kids 6-16 THIS SUMMER Choose from 14 half-day week-long summer camps with options for full day Learn hand building & wheel throwing Have fun, make art & make friends Register online TODAY!
photo by Stephanie Sittnick
The Sweet Smell of Success Sweet Sprig... A "Natural" Soap Opera by Rona Mann She was just a teenager growing up on a small hobby farm in the Catskills when she picked up a spatula, some spoons, lye, a thermometer, and other tools deemed necessary in the process of making one's own soap. Young girls often like to do that for fun, make their own soap, but eventually, most of them grow tired of the diversion and move on to something else. But to this young girl, this was way more than a diversion from schoolwork. This teenager didn't tinker at making soap "on and off" throughout the years. "There was never an on and off," Leah LaFera says firmly. "I have been making soap since 1997, and I never stopped. I was always making soap - experimenting, designing, learning new things all throughout throughout high school and continuing during my college years. The business of making soap just grew with me, it's my art form." Those college years were spent earning a degree in Library Science, a career LaFera pursued for more than 13 years as a degreed librarian, yet she continued to always craft soap on the side knowing that one day this dream would become her only career. Much as the painter has their canvas, the sculptor their clay, and the metal worker their laser cutting machine, Leah's workspace is the body and soul, and she is totally committed to the natural nourishment of both through her art. Much like a dietitian, a physical therapist, or any other serious artist, Leah LaFera is a nourisher. She is not merely someone who dabbles in crafts, but an artist who carefully and purposefully composes artisan soaps, natural body creams, and soy candles to bring a bit of luxury and a large helping of nourishment to
the bodies and souls of those with whom she comes in contact...and that body of proof is constantly growing. At Sweet Sprig, nothing is ever mass-produced, for Leah looks upon every soap as an individual work of art that she as a dedicated environmentalist creates for her clients, and those clients are many and varied. Her customers, and the way in which she conducts business, is found through online sales, wholesale through shops who feature her products across the United States, and those who find her and continue to come back through farmers' markets and ongoing events all over the Capital District. Hers is indeed a story of a dream not deferred, but kept within, worked on, and carefully nourished for nearly a quarter of a century. A librarian who was deeply involved in her chosen career, she knew that when the dream would finally come to fruition, it would be time. It was, and always has been, her passion for creation that empowered her and drove that dream to become Sweet Sprig. "This invigorates me," Leah says simply. So it was little more than a year ago that LaFera felt it was time and left the Schenectady County Public Library behind for a full time
commitment to Sweet Sprig and the people it would benefit and delight. She knew she was choosing to take a gamble versus leaving a position of security; however, what she didn't count on was a pandemic, which came full force just days after she left the library for Sweet Sprig. But the artisan had complete faith in herself and in her products, so there was never a thought of turning back. She set to work and began to build her product line and her customer base. "I was always able to figure things out. At one point I lived in such a small space that my living room was also my studio, so I worked behind the couch. But I got it done." So work she did, and the customers continued to order throughout the past difficult year, bringing a strong measure of success to an uncertain time.
They wanted to do something beautiful for themselves, and Sweet Sprig's products were the answer to feeling healthy and beautiful. LaFera's all-natural skincare is made in small batches to ensure freshness at all times, and whenever possible, she sources local or certified organic because high quality ingredients make for a more enticing skincare experience. Leah uses essential oils which are compounds extracted from plants, capturing the plant's natural scent or flavor, hence its "essence." All packaging used by Sweet Sprig is recyclable and includes biodegradable cellophane bags, kraft paper boxes, and plant fiber ribbons. If you love animals, you will love the fact that LaFera only uses ingredients that are cruelty free and vegan and always eco-friendly. One of the many benefits of dealing with Leah and Sweet Sprig is the individuality of design and scent. There is something for both men and women, and her customer base spans all
Pg 7 photos by Stephanie Sittnick
SPECIAL EVENT! Leah will host an Open House and Studio Tour on Saturday, April 24th from 10am-3pm right at her studio at 14 N. Church Street, Schenectady. Come see how the soaps are custom crafted and designed, purchase some all-natural body creams or perhaps some soy candles to light up your life. Getting married? Need a shower gift or a favor? Having an event of your own? Leah will design soaps with names, colors, logos, or anything that makes them intensely personal and very special for you and your guests.
demographics, all tastes, all preferences. After the very rough year everyone has had, isn't it time to do something healthy and wonderful for yourself and those you love? Chances are, Sweet Sprig has it!
Although she does not have a storefront at this time, Sweet Sprig does much of its business online and is a popular vendor at Farmers' Markets and events throughout the Capital District. Events are always on the www.sweetsprig.com website
A sprig is a small stem taken from something larger that bears leaves or fruit or flowers. What an apt name, then, is Sweet Sprig for the business Leah LaFera has grown and flourished, watered and fed and nourished all these many years and holds dear. It is her ultimate joy and purpose in life to share it with a community of people who appreciate taking care of themselves naturally.
"I could never go back to a nine-to-five job," Leah concludes. "This is so fulfilling for me, I get so much from it. It's a very private thing for me. You have no idea how labor-intensive it is, but I love doing what I do, and the person who buys my products is getting a moment of luxury which is priceless. to us both."
gallery featuring local and equine art
office supplies s w e at s h i rt s
greeting cards gifts
and so much more!!!
fine art restoration
Beyond the Dining Hall Table How Matthew Bartik Turned Forks into Art By Kristina Watrobski can waste hours at daily as a student. For most, it’s a place to decompress, catch up with friends and enjoy some subpar food. But for others, it’s a place where reative lightning can strike.
“Laying In Wait”
The college dining hall... A boisterous, fun, sometimes slightly offputting haven at school. A place one visits and
That’s exactly what the dining hall at the State University of New York at New Paltz turned out to be for Matthew Bartik. A Mariaville native, Bartik was originally drawn to the school because of their art program. Art had always played a major role in his life. “Some of my earliest memories were sitting down at the coffee table and just drawing on paper,” Bartik says. “Whatever I could draw.”
He was exposed to art at a very young age, thanks to his parents who weren’t thrilled that paper wasn’t always involved when their son would draw at the coffee table. They brought him to museums frequently, and as added stimulus, his mother occasionally painted throughout his childhood. “I’ve always doodled, drawn, painted, and sketched,” says Bartik. But art didn’t become something he pursued more seriously until a little later in life. I sixth grade he chose to follow the art track, as opposed to music, and then eventually took two advanced placement art courses in high school. Those experiences helped lead
“Jazz Trio Splash”
him to SUNY New Paltz, which is where the infamous dining hall comes back into play. It was November of 1999. Bartik and his friends were freshmen, and they were looking for ways to entertain themselves in the artsy but quaint town of New Paltz. One weekend, they visited the dining hall, and things quickly turned into more than just an average dinner. “We were just trying to
Nipper in New York State Museum stomach the food,” Bartik tells me. “All of us were taking art classes, and we were all weird and creative people.” The group of friends put their “weird and creative” heads together that night and came up with a bit of an out-of-class art project — a
food village. Broccoli bushes, potato cars, and more lined the sticky table. The decidedly less-than-stellar food was given a second, and arguably more extraordinary, life. As they built their village more and more, it was Bartik who had the finishing touch. That lightning bolt came down and struck right in the middle of the vegetable forest. “I started thinking, ‘well, if you’re going to have all that, you’re going to need street lights,’” says Bartik, and to accomplish just that, he picked up some forks and got to work. Minutes later, beautiful street lights lined the roads next to the broccoli bushes, and Bartik unknowingly had something that would permanently set him apart in the art world.
Unfortunately, the village couldn’t stay standing forever. Bartik put his streetlights, along with the rest of the re-imagined food and utensils, into the bus bin; however, it wouldn’t be too long before he picked up a fork again, and it wouldn’t be when sitting down to another subpar meal in the dining hall — or even when laying out blueprints for another home for steak and green beans. The following semester at SUNY New Paltz, Bartik found himself in a 3D art class. He was assigned a project where he had to somehow incorporate an everyday object of his choosing, so it certainly isn’t hard to imagine what he chose. His final project was a sculpture that consisted of 100 forks. “After that, I was off to the races,” says Bartik. And race he did. Soon after that sculpture was handed in, he was racing all the way down to New York City. This time, for a different class project, but that project quickly became the lesser focus. While they were there, his friends encouraged him to sell his fork art on the sidewalks of the city; reluctantly at first, he agreed. “I sat myself down in front of The Metropolitan Museum of Art,” says Bartik, “and with the little time I had to myself in NYC, I sold forks.” And in that little time, he found instant success. Countless people strolling through Manhattan were intrigued by the young artist and wanted to get their hands on one of his extraordinary creations. Initially, Bartik was selling pieces he had already made, but he quickly started to take requests. Sometimes even on the spot. The journeys to NYC continued for years after. Whenever Bartik could make the trip and return to his sidewalk roots, he would. And that wasn’t the only place to which he traveled — he also attended art festivals in Seattle, Las Vegas, California, you name it. Any new area he could share his work with. One of these areas even happened to be a highway in Alaska, where he constructed a moose made out of forks just minutes after a man requested it. Over two decades later, Bartik has managed to turn what started as a sudden idea in the dining hall to a passion and a livelihood — and impressive ones, at that. On his website, you can find an array of items you’d never dream were transformed from your dinner utensil. Bracelets, rings, baseball players, pianists, wall hangings, and more. Whatever you can imagine, Bartik can make a reality. A lack of hesitation and an ability to think outside the box is what has continued to drive Bartik’s career today. He says that once he began to view forks as modules and became willing to try more and more new ideas, no matter how out of the ordinary, his work turned a corner. Now he even compares the forks to something else: LEGOs. He likens the two to how a LEGO is not simply limited to what it looks like. It can be used to construct so much more. And that’s what Bartik
'Lawerence from beyond the pines”
“1932 Ford Model A Hot Rod” keeps in mind when diving wholeheartedly into new projects.“It’s grown to the point where the only thing that really stops me is physics,” Bartik says. And that would appear to be true because not even a pandemic has halted Bartik. Although he’s certainly not traveling to any festivals right now, he has been able to pursue his passion in new ways. “With the pandemic and the fact that I have a four-year-old now, it’s realigned my desire to do things,” says Bartik. “I have decided to ground myself a bit.” And ground himself he has right in his own backyard. In recent months, Bartik has spent time working with Electric City Barn in Schenectady, something he has been associated with throughout his career. Electric City Barn is a place where creative minds in the community can come together to collaborate on projects and realize their true potential. Currently, Bartik is spending lots of time there in hopes of helping other people with their own realignment. However, the experience has been just as beneficial to him as well. He is able to use the building as a
studio space, rather than his living room — something his wife is quite happy about. And that space has opened up even more doors for him.“There I’ve been able to do pieces I would’ve never thought I’d be able to do,” Bartik says. “The space and the community are allowing me to work in a much different capacity than ever before.” Being grounded for perhaps the first time in Bartik’s career has been a blessing in disguise. He has been able to develop his passion further, as well as discover a new one - immersing himself in his community. For the time being, he is more than happy to put his focus there. But when the time is right again, he’ll be ready to fork over more of his creations around the country. www.fork-art.com - Info@Fork-Art.com
LIMITLESS FORM MS OF EXPRESSION DISCOVER. EXPLORE. CREATE. SAW’s Cary Hill Sculpture Park remains free and open to the public! Experience the healing power of art and nature in one beautiful setting.
19 Cary Lane Salem, NY 12865 www.salemartworks.org | 518.854.7674
"Good is NOT Good Enough, Gotta Be Perfect!" ... and it is at Clement Frame Shop & Art Gallery by Rona Mann photos by Stephanie Sittnick
Possessions. Treasures. Mementos. Who can say what's valuable to one person, but not to another? Fact is, whether it's a photograph, a military medal, a child's ribbon for coming in fourth at a swim meet, an old letter, a pressed flower, or something else, there is no way anyone can put a dollar amount or emotional value on a memory. That's why Tom Clement and his brother Ray who own and operate Clement Frame Shop & Art Gallery in Troy are in the business of preserving memories. From an early age, these brothers learned what was important and have dedicated their business to keeping that sacred. Tom Clement relates that he was born in Waterford, "just north of Troy on the other side of the Hudson River." About the time he reached his teenage years, Clement was taking an avid interest in art. There were no specific classes at his high school from which he could take advantage, so he explored Ray and Tom Clement
his interest on his own. In 1968 he got into SUNY Albany and began pursuing a degree in Art; however in 1968 times were decidedly different in the approach to the discipline. "What I wanted was a full and complete art education, focusing on realism," but that was not being offered." Clement vividly remembers one teacher (who shall go nameless!) whose words and attitude had a strong influence on him, but in a very negative way. "He had the students mix oil, water, and turpentine in coffee cans and pour it onto canvas.. I was off in a corner doing a 'real' painting, and he told me to take it down because it was annoying him!" The teacher, who was deeply rooted in a bent toward the abstract went on to tell the young student, "If you want realism, go get a camera!" Not only was that a caustic remark, but the instructor had no idea how that really hit home with Tom as he had gotten involved in the family business - a camera shop - while still in high school. His father, Ed Clement, ran the Albany Camera Shop in those years, but he could see the handwriting on the wall and could sense what was coming. The "big box" stores were starting to move into the Capital District, and
people were beginning to flock to them to purchase their cameras and supplies at a cheaper price. So Clement's father wisely changed directions and began to veer off into the framing business. Eager to learn, Tom got himself an apprenticeship at a well established frame shop in Troy when he was just 15 years old. He was joined by his brother, Ray, and together the young men learned valuable lessons that would serve them well and forge a path for the rest of their lives. "The old man who owned the shop instilled in us that only the highest quality of workmanship would be their standard of performance. "Good is not good enough," the man told them over and over, "it has to be perfect."
26 The brothers learned at the altar of the best and learned well, keeping pace with all the newest trends as they evolved. Believing that framing is as much an art as what it is that is actually being framed. Tom said, "Art continuously evolves. It goes through many stages, and although at the time I was concerned that humanity would lose their ability to portray realism, it has come back as a genre, living quite comfortably with the creative beauty of abstract art.
Both brothers look upon their art as conservation, since they are carefully conserving, preserving, and encasing irreplaceable objects - family heirlooms. In 1967 Tom and Ray bought a building in downtown Troy that had not only a wonderful location just down the block from the shop where they started, but had the bonus of a glass front offering much greater visibility and the perfect opportunity to expand the small gallery space he had at the original location.
He paused for a moment then reflected,"word of mouth is the best advertising," Tom said. "It always has been that way, and it always will be. That word of mouth is based solely on one thing: the product you put out." And in rendering that product good enough to please their customers and keep the positive word of mouth evolving as does their art, Tom and Ray hearken back to that long ago lesson they were taught, the one that continues to power their business: "Good is not good enough, it has to be perfect." Yes, the Clement Brothers are indeed in the business of memories, for they learned a long time ago that what's even more important than cherishing those memories is preserving them, and that's why they unlock that door on Broadway every day, the one they hope you'll enter, trusting them with your memories and knowing they're in the best of hands.
"We are a serious part of Troy Night Out," said Tom, this being a town-wide event held the last Friday of every month when shops, restaurants, and art venues open their doors to the community for a coming together of commerce and fellowship. Clement Frame Shop & Art Gallery has also showcased a winter salon, featuring a group of 20 artists, which has been extended since they cannot yet have artist receptions at the Gallery. "People can either visit us online if they're more comfortable doing so, or they can come down and explore the gallery in person," Tom says. Despite the pandemic restrictions of the last twelve months, the Clement brothers attest to the fact that their business is more active than ever. "When people were locked down and confined all that time, they had nothing to look at except their own walls, day in and day out," Tom begins. "So when we finally re-opened last June, people started bringing in their framing projects, and we've been very busy ever since."
Clement Frame Shop & Art Gallery is located at 201 Broadway in downtown Troy NY www.clementart.com (518) 272-6811
Old World Italian Charm Meets New World Cuisine at Cafe Capriccio
Stuffed Eggplant Capriccioso
31 When you walk into Cafe Capriccio, you can just feel it. It's warm and comfortable. The staff and owners get excited when they see you. "Come here, I want to show you this. Come with me!" the owner Jim Rua excitedly says to me just minutes after I walked through the door after a short introduction, meeting him for the very first time. He takes me all over the building, and while you know he's given this tour over a thousand times, it feels like he's telling his stories about every part of Cafe Capriccio for the very first time. Jim, born in Albany, New York, grew up in an ItalianAmerican family. Traveling abroad for years with a keen interest in Italian culture, food, and wine peaked Jim's desire to open an authentic Italian Restaurant, which led him to open Cafe Capriccio in 1982; 39 years later, Cafe Capriccio still stands, just a short walk to downtown Albany. "Many people accept the challenge of opening a restaurant because they may like cooking, or the social aspects, or the perceived glamour of restaurant life, but I quickly learned that there is far less glamour than there is the required discipline and hard work in the life of a restaurant owner - and that earning a dollar is not so easy." Jim tells me, "Perhaps the best part of this is that my son, Franco Rua, joined me after his college experience and shares the same visions and objectives. I’m especially delighted watching Franco take Café Capriccio to a new level of excellence. This is my satisfaction and reward." This father and son team are now embarking on a new endeavor, soon offering downtown Albany The Café Capriccio Marketplace, with fine imported Italian products, as they work closely with small farms and vineyards in Italy.
Chef Mike started working at Cafe Capriccio as a teenager from 2001-2005, and they welcomed him home with open arms when he came back to Albany in 2019 to raise his family. "I was a private chef who was traveling a lot. I left that behind to build a family and to return to a restaurant that has always felt like family," said Chef Mike. Cafe Capriccio offers authentic Italian cuisine daily, along with the incredible upscale new world menu created by Franco Rua and Chef Mike. They also offer artisan woodfired pizza baked in an oven from Modena, Italy, and make all their pastas fresh in-house.
The Shrimp Gambino is wild shrimp, tomato confit, lemon white wine butter sauce, and toasted breadcrumbs on pasta.
The Stuffed Eggplant Capriccioso is a Capriccio Classic! Eggplant sliced so thin, stuffed with sautéed spinach and roasted peppers, topped with four cheese blends, served with seared polenta & vegetables.
If you asked me to pick a favorite dish here, I can't. I genuinely enjoyed every item I tasted. So much so, that after photographing and experiencing much of their food all day, I had my husband meet me here for dinner that night.
The Boscaiola is a delicious Truffle-mushroom cream sauce, with house imported Tartufino cheese from Tuscany over arugula & pasta.
I have personally experienced how Cafe Capriccio not only makes their staff feel like a part of their family, they have this way of making everyone who walks through their door feel welcomed as well.
The Chicken Scarola is a tender roasted chicken leg with a crisp skin, escarole, olives, and white beans with saffron risotto and vegetables. The Sautéed Shrimp & Sausage grilled with roasted tomato, cherry pepper, and garlic cream rests on crispy polenta cakes Golden Beets, oranges, pistachios, goat cheese, and arugula dressed with orange vinaigrette makes for a refreshing salad. Shrimp Gambino
Sautéed Shrimp & Sausage
Head Chef, Mike Scattergood, sincerely shared that "Cafe Capriccio is where it all started for me. It’s where I fell in love with the industry. So while other options may present themselves, none are as special to me as Cafe Capriccio."
Cafe Capriccio is located at 49 Grand St, Albany, NY 12207 Happy Eating! Nellie Ackerman-Vellano, Feed Me 518™ Instagram: @FeedMe518 FB: www.facebook.com/FeedMe518 Website: www.FeedMe518.com
The Guardians of the Soil How the Agricultural Stewardship Association is protecting precious local farmland from development Story and Photos by Lawrence White I was recently traveling with an old friend who is a 3rd-generation Saratoga farmer when we were stopped for road work on Rt 29 not far from Fish Creek. My friend looked out the side window and motioned at a new strip of asphalt covering a large area off the road.
come, while that which replaces the land often lasts a couple of decades at the very most.
“You see that?” He said with obvious sadness. “I used to farm that piece of land. Best bottom soil in the entire country. “He paused briefly, then turned away. “Once was, anyway.” Then with a sense of resolve added, “It sure ain't anymore.”
The good news is that some have taken up the cause of protecting these resources and have developed a working strategy that is effective and geared for the long run.
Unfortunately, that is the course our society too often sets. Instead of thoughtful conservation, we choose the irretrievable destruction of precious natural resources for short-term gains. Left alone, the land would be there for eons to
And what do we lose? The phrase, “no farms, no food,” comes to mind. Time after time we are selling our future and getting nothing in return.
One such group is the Agricultural Stewardship Association (ASA) based in Greenwich NY. They have helped conserve over 24,000 acres on 144 properties in Washington and Rensselaer counties in the Upper Hudson River Valley. They are associated with the American Farmland Trust (AFT) which is the national policy group
with an office in Saratoga Springs advancing many of the same issues as ASA such as more state and federal funds to help protect farmland in Saratoga County and across the country. ASA offers several options to landowners who are interested in permanently protecting their land from development. They can help farmers apply for government funding to reimburse them for giving up their development rights in perpetuity. This can be a significant financial sacrifice for the landowner and illustrates how much affection they have for their profession and the land.
Also, whenever government funding is not available, landowners may be able to donate their development rights by giving up those rights to the organization at no cost which will likely provide the landowner certain tax advantages. Stone Wall Hill Farm When I ask ASA Executive Director, Teri Ptacek how important farmland is in these uncertain times she responds, “Local farmland is essential if we want to have access to locally produced food. Think of it as an enormously valuable and limited resource that once developed is gone forever. That’s why it’s critically important to protect as much local farmland as possible so that we always have a nearby land base for farmers to produce food for us and for future generations. Of course, it’s also extremely important that we support our farmers so that they can stay in business. Buy and eat locally produced food and also support organizations like ASA that help farm families conserve their land and keep America strong.”
Planting tomatos at Moses Farm
Ms. Ptacek continues, “ASA is a communitysupported organization that’s here for the long haul. We rely on the generosity and compassion
Otter Creek Farm
Richview Farm Barn of our supporters, friends, and neighbors to help us, particularly now that the world is in crisis.” I ask about the environmental aspects of farming and Ms. Ptacek responds, “Farms help maintain open land and a balance with nature as well. Thirty to sixty percent of the average farm in our region is made up of woodlands, pastures, marshes, and streams in addition to cropland.” “Considering all that farming provides in terms of food, farmland also provides massive environmental benefits such as food and habitat for local wildlife. The wetlands and forests help control flooding by absorbing water, and then there is also the scenic benefits farms provide. What’s more, healthy soils can play a huge role in offsetting the effects of climate change. On the other hand, converting farmland to development has detrimental long-term impacts on the quality of our environment and drastically diminishes the positive effects that open land provides.” With true passion, Ms. Ptacek declares, “It’s more critical than ever to support local farms by buying their products directly from farms and farmers markets and at grocery stores. Those who are interested should continue to follow ASA on social media and help support our initiatives and programs. Once the coronavirus has passed and it is safe, we hope to see more people volunteer to help us. It is not only vital to the cause; it is fulfilling to know you are doing something meaningful and positive in a world with problems that too often seem beyond us.”
able to meet this need. We recognize that everyone is hurting, but farms and forests are an important part of our local food system, health, and local community, and our help is needed now more than ever before.”
When I ask Ms. Ptacek about some of the farms, they work with she mentions Simply Grazin Farm in Washington County. “They are a large organic operation that had been squeezed by development in New Jersey and Virginia and chose our area to locate their f a r m s and headquarters because of the productivity of the land and highly developed farming infrastructure. Now, since protecting two farms already, they are working towards protecting two more. They sell their meat to most of the resellers on the east coast including Whole Foods, Fresh Direct, Applegate, and Wegmans.”
In a heartfelt appeal, Ms. Ptacek states, “The urgency and need for farmland protection have been steadily growing, outpacing our ability to serve farmers. Now with the coronavirus, it’s even more important to be
Simply Grazin Farm
Denison Farm providing the food we eat. Therefore, we offer a variety of programs to engage children from farm tours, farm photography lessons and visits to local fairs and farmers’ markets. One of our more popular is our Farm to Fork program where we take kids from Troy to different farms, learn about and cook with the products produced by these farms. This five-week program ends with a tour of the Troy Farmers’ Market and tokens to purchase food.” Earnestly, Ms. Ptacek goes on, “Farms are vital small businesses providing products critical to our local food supply. Farmers are our friends and neighbors, many of whom have been here for generations. Young people want to farm, but they can’t compete with development prices. That’s one of the reasons why protecting farmland and making sure it’s there for the generation is so important.”
“Another great farm is the Gibson Family Farm in Valley Falls,” she continues with enthusiasm. “This a true family farm that practices regenerative, sustainable agriculture. They believe in a farming method that improves the health of the soil. They sell meats including beef, chicken, and pork that have been naturally raised in open fields, so the livestock is healthier, the meat more wholesome and the land is maintained ecologically.” When I ask Ms. Ptacek about how they are reaching out to the next generation I can see the excitement in her eyes. “Educating the next generation and their families is crucial. Most people haven’t grown up on farms or have a direct connection to them. Too often we take our food for granted and don’t even understand the important role farms and farmers play in Gibson family
Fifth-generation farmer John Hand stands in on open field on his 425 acres of land in Washington County and says, “My father’s ashes are spread on this field, As I was considering whether or not it made sense to work with the ASA to preserve this land, I heard that a neighboring farm was being sold for housing and a big box store. The thought of that Patrica and Douglas Fuller happening to this field did not sit well with me. That was the turning point in my decision to work with the ASA in conserving this land forever.” The Hand Melon Farm is solar-powered and features sweet corn, melons, squash, tomatoes, and is also a favorite location for picking your own strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, and fall squash. Mr. Hand now serves on the board of directors of the ASA.
"The staff at ASA are terrific. It is an enormous satisfaction to both Michael and I, to know that the land is now safe for farming forever and cannot and will not be developed. The beauty of the kind we enjoy here in upstate NY is so precious -indeed, so remarkable -- yet so fragile and so easily ruined that conservation is the way we can make sure that the loveliness of the landscape, as well as the farms and farmers, will be preserved for future generations." During the writing of this article, Governor Cuomo announced that more than $31.5 million is being awarded to strengthen the Farmland Protection Implementation Grants program. This will protect 15,600 acres on 22 New York dairy farms plus eight non-dairy farms. Since 2018, New York State has made available more than $117 million for farmland protection. Agricultural Stewardship Association www.agstewardship.org
Author Ruth Leys, Ph.D., Harvard and Professor Emerita of the Humanities at John Hopkins and Michael Fried, noted art critic and professor emeritus of art history at John Hopkins, donated tan easement on he 62-acre piece of land they own together and currently lease at low prices to various farmers in Rensselaer County. When I ask Ms. Leys her impression of the work ASA is doing her comments truly sum it all up.
Michael Fried and Ruth Leys
Many have asked and few have begged. Now, after many a gratifications delayed we present...
VEGAN GLUTEN FREE SOURDOUGH!!! Come try many of our new and exciting options as we return from Break.
Fine Art Photography
www.ericseplowitz | instagram: @eseplowitz | fb: @ericseplowitzphotography
Photo by Kiki Vassilakis
Not a Hologram In lockdown, Troy electronic artist Madeline Darby embraces her creative, DIY side. By Kirsten Ferguson The new video for Madeline Darby, a Troybased experimental-electronic artist, starts with a flash of disorienting images and a persistent, monotone beat. An archaic font from the early days of home computers types out the song title, “Innovation.” Darby—whose non-stage name is Sarah—appears on the staticky screen as a disembodied head in a box, her eyes ringed in black like Alex from “A Clockwork Orange.” The wink to old-school technology puts the video in the realm of a DIY public-access television show, while the soundtrack of clanky noises and metallic beats recalls the futureforward music of German electronic innovators Kraftwerk. It seems a bit ironic, then, that a song
are members—were putting on some of the best live music shows in the region on a weekly basis, primarily at Saratoga Springs bar Desperate Annie’s. “I miss playing music so much and going to shows,” she says. “Just talking about it makes me jump out of my seat. It’s been a rough year. If we rely on technology to be the way we int e r act with people, are we creating an invisible world to live in within a real one? I’m an extrovert who wants to be around people.” Super Dark has since kept busy, though, putting on a YouTube television show for a while—in the vein of old-school public access shows—and planning their next moves. “The TV show was our way of saying to the bands [who played Super Dark shows], ‘We still love you and support you, don’t break up.’ That was our labor of love.”
Photo by Kiki Vassilakis with the name “Innovation”—also the title of Madeline Darby’s first full-length solo project— is presented in such a retro way. “I hate technology,” Darby says over FaceTime, talking about how the pandemic has reduced interactions to screen versions of real human contact. “I don’t want to be living in a little box. My whole album is about wasting away in technology. I have this line in one of my songs, ‘I can feel myself rot.’ It’s like I’m just becoming a hologram. I don’t want to be a hologram. I want to be an in-flesh musician. I like performance art and going to galleries. I’m not an Instagram shopper.” Darby, like most of us, is fed-up with being pent-up indoors. Prior to the pandemic, which shut down local music performances over a year ago, she and the Super Dark Collective— of which she and her partner Shane Sanchez
Although the isolation of the pandemic has taken its toll on Darby—and everyone else—it sparked her creativity as well. Music during COVID-19 gave her something to do. “I just needed a project to focus on,” she says. “I needed to challenge myself.”
spooky spoken word about “decay, dust, maggots and meal worms” with an insistent, ominous beat and glinting metal percussion. It makes for excellent head-phone listening. “I’m not a seasoned producer, so my stuff is raw sounding” Darby says. “In my early 20s, I was really into electronic club music, like jungle and drum and bass. I thought you had to be really proficient to make music in a specific way. Now I realize if you have an iPhone, you can make a masterpiece.” When conditions allow, Darby expects to perform live again, backed by Sanchez and fellow Super Dark member Gary Ziroli. The trio make up a group called Thinner Friends, playing “weird, disjointed camp counselor music.” Darby also does freelance art: digital commercials and advertising, and paintings by commission. “Innovation”—mixed and mastered by local musician Paul Coleman—is available on orange-colored cassette tapes or on streaming and digital music sites.
She and Sanchez would “let off steam” playing improvisational music together as Dominated Swine, a synth-fueled, stream-of-consciousness duo inspired by fear and paranoia. And for all her hatred of technology, Darby harnessed it to express herself musically with “Innovation,” even in an old-school way inspirational for its do-it-yourself, creative ethic. “I have a distaste for the way technology tells you how to use it,” she says. “Like if you want to make a video, this is how you should do it.” She made beats for “Innovation” on GarageBand, sometimes running her iPad through a guitar pedal and layering the beats or looping a contact mic and running it though a guitar pedal. The track “The Science of Horses” is a catchy dystopian cover of a song by Sanchez’ Ghoul Poon project. “Paranoid Café” combines
Visit madelinedarby.bandcamp.com or madelinedarby.com
The Interfaith Seder that Became a Legacy by Karen Richman "If you're not careful, you can turn yourself inward," a member of his congregation once said. And that is precisely why Rabbi Avraham Soltes of Temple Sharey Tefilo started a long tradition of interfaith Passover Seders. He first initiated the effort at Sharey Tefilo, and after he moved on to other congregations, he packed the successful tradition and took it with him. He even brought the interfaith Seder to the West Point Military Academy where he served as Jewish chaplain for more than 20 years. Rabbi Soltes was a maverick in his day, and the early '60s much like today, were times of unrest. Yet Soltes refused to entertain any notion that an interfaith Seder would not work. It was Passover, the Seder being
the ritual feast that marks its beginning and its end, and it had always been one performed by a family or a community involving the retelling of the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt...the story told in the Book of Exodus. The Seder is the ritual feast that recounts that story, celebrates freedom, and is the most commonly celebrated Jewish ritual performed worldwide. While many Jewish holidays revolve strictly around the synagogue, the Seder is conducted in the family home or a communal place, and it is commonplace to invite guests, strangers, or others in the community to partake. So Rabbi Soltes thought it would be wonderful to invite local church leaders and their youth groups to join us at our Seder. He was met initially with a good deal of resistance and reticence on the part of
45 the other religious leaders in the community. They didn't know if it would be somehow "proper" to bring their youth to a "Jewish temple.”
reinforced that Passover was a time of praise and thanksgiving and was a re-dedication to the ideal of liberation.
The Catholic church gave a flat out "no," But still the rabbi persevered and was able to convince several area church leaders that this would be both fun and a learning experience. Slowly, and with great trepidation, small groups of youth filed into the hall on the lower level of the synagogue. There on the stage was a master Seder table (think head table) at which would sit Soltes and a few select members of his temple's youth group to conduct the Seder. The room was set with tables of eight, and we were given strict orders not to sit together with our friends. The rabbi wanted each of us to sit with the other young people from the churches and make them welcome, so we were scared as well!
As the rituals unfolded, Rabbi Soltes made the Seder more and more inter-active with participants at each table taking part in the traditions, first reluctantly, then vying for who would pour the next glass of "wine" and who would be first to make the matzo sandwich with lots of chopped apples and honey and just a bit of the bitter herbs. Each part of the Seder had a meaning...salt water for tears, the asking of the four questions which explains the story of the Passover explaining why "tonight is different from all other nights," the matzo, the shank bone, and more. Then came the search for the afikoman, the large piece of matzo that had been broken off early in the Seder and hidden. It is traditional that children play a sort of religious hide and seek looking for it, but Rabbi Soltes felt we were all children, so off we went, all of us from different cultures and religious backgrounds with but one single thought: find the afikoman! Whoever did was awarded a prize.
Each participant was given a "yamaka" or "kippah," a skull cap worn inside a synagogue to show reverence, the rabbi insisting our guests take them home to tell their family about their experience. As the Seder unfolded and the rabbi began to explain the traditions and significance of symbols and foods in his calming, friendly manner, everyone seemed to rivet their attention on what was happening. And what was happening was a lot more than just a Seder; it was a coming together of young people breaking matzo, drinking wine (Welch's grape juice), sharing not only solid nourishment, but spiritual nourishment, and sharing the story of the Israelites and their exodus from the slavery of Egypt. It
By the second year of the Interfaith Seder, word had caught on throughout the community, and we were joined by even more church groups. Some, who had been there the first year, asked for a more active part in the Seder, and the rabbi willingly obliged, seating them at the big table on stage with him, letting them lead the order of the Seder.
We were about to begin when the back door to the hall opened, and in came a small group of young people, followed by their priest and a nun. Representing St. Rose of Lima, the largest Catholic church in town, they looked nervous as the priest asked, "Do you have room and enough yamakas for some curious Catholics?" Rabbi Soltes' face broke into the widest smile I had ever seen as he shot back, "We always have room and plenty of food, fun, and storytelling for anyone, Come in! David, grab the box of yamakas, and let's get these folks a seat." That was the beginning. Each year thereafter, the Interfaith Seder grew larger until eventually we had to take reservations in advance. It was a joyous wonderful celebration of faith and friends and tradition. Soon we were invited to events at the Baptist church, the other Protestant churches, and one day, Easter Mass at St. Rose. The Interfaith Seder brought this New Jersey community together for many years. Sadly, a few years hence, Rabbi Soltes moved on to another congregation and then died at the very young age at 66, but his efforts toward ecumenicism have served as a legacy that endures to this day. At the end of every Passover Seder it is customary to say, "Next year in Jerusalem." Rabbi Soltes would then always add, "And next year may we all be together right here in fellowship, friendship, and in God."
Eating Seasonally By: Crystal Cobert Giddens, LE, INHC I have been a “foodie”, since I was about 6 years old. I loved the smell of fresh oranges, the taste of the perfect strawberry and guacamole was (is) my favorite food. The thing is, I don’t come from a farming family and I’ve never farmed. I don’t think I ever set foot on a farm until I was in my late 20’s. But ask me about the pick up trucks with all the produce on the side of the road….I knew where they were located, the farmer’s name and I could tell you who had the best strawberries and avocados before I had my first sleep over. My grandmother had figs, walnuts, oranges and persimmons in her yard and a greenhouse with herbs and flowers. My grandfather had honey bees with the most beautiful golden honey that he would put in a tiny little coffee cup with cream and a splash of coffee for me on Saturday mornings. That greenhouse was my playhouse on Saturdays and I would sit on the cobblestone floor and play with the dirt, flowers and pots. I would go out in the yard, climb the little ladder and pick fresh figs as my snack before going back to my little potting area on the ground. Lunch would be an avocado sandwich with chips and then back outside to the green house. An orange for my mid afternoon snack, then cartoons, coloring books and water colors. Life as a 6 year old was pretty great back then. We ate with the seasons and didn’t even realize it. We had all the good stuff during the summertime…grapes, strawberries and watermelon and oranges. I was always sad that my strawberries and oranges weren’t available during the colder months and I’m pretty sure I was the only kid in my kindergarten class that couldn’t figure out why we couldn’t have guacamole all year long (sigh). Eating seasonally is basically eating locally. It’s eating what is available from your local environment…your geographical area. For those of us who have access to farmers’ markets or CSAs, it’s enjoying what’s fresh and readily available. When we shop at large conventional grocery stores, it’s harder to get a sense of what’s local and in season. We have a bounty of food from all seasons, but most of the time, it’s being shipped from across the country or globe. Have you ever craved something…like a BLT in January? The bacon is wonderful, but the tomato is mushy or hard and has no flavor and no tomatoey smell. It looks like a tomato, but it doesn’t taste like one. As I’ve learned to eat more in season, I’ve lost cravings for certain foods out of their normal growing period because they don’t taste good to me. There is a physical need to eat seasonally grounding foods, clearing foods and ultimately cooling and hydrating foods. In the fall and winter season, we gravitate towards food that will ground us and give us the warmth we need during colder months. We might have root vegetables–carrots, parsnips, rutabagas–things that grow beneath the ground. Brothy soups, chilis and comforting foods that tend to feed our souls as well as our bodies. In the spring and summer, eating these foods can be taxing and make us feel slow and heavy. That’s when we crave greens, peas, asparagus and rhubarb, then lighter and cooling foods, such as berries, cucumbers, zucchini and melons.
STRAWBERRY RHUBARB BARS INGREDIENTS • • • • • • • • • • • •
2 cups fresh strawberries 1 and ½ cups diced rhubarb 1 tablespoon sugar ¼ cup water 1 tablespoon cornstarch + 1 tablespoon cold water 1 and ½ cups rolled oats 1 and ½ cups flour ¼ teaspoon salt ¼ cup coconut sugar ½ cup melted butter 1 tablespoon olive oil Optional: additional sliced strawberries + blueberries for topping, whipped cream
INSTRUCTIONS 1. Slice strawberries and rhubarb. 2. Combine with 1 tablespoon sugar and ¼ cup water on the stove, cooking for 10 minutes on medium-low heat. 3. In a separate bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon cornstarch into 1 tablespoon cold water, and then whisk it into the strawberry rhubarb filling (adding it directly to the hot liquid will clump the cornstarch). 4. Let the filling mixture cool on the stove or in the fridge to speed up the process and preheat the oven to 350. 5. Mix the oats, flour, salt, and sugar together, and then drizzle in melted butter and olive oil. Knead it with your hands and then pack ¾ the crust mixture into the bottom of a 8x8 pan, covered in parchment paper. Prebake the crust for 5 minutes.
Choosing food that is local and in season connects us to the energy and vitality of the region and brings our body into balance. Now is the perfect time to explore the local farmers’ markets or farms and lean into seasonal eating!
6. Once the crust is prebaked, spread the cooled strawberry rhubarb paste on top. Add the additional crust mixture by crumbling it on top, a sliced strawberry or two, and a few blueberries, pressing gently to secure.
Crystal Cobert Giddens LE, INHC FACES of Saratoga - 489 Broadway, Suite 3, Saratoga Springs, NY www.facesofsaratoga.com 518-396-7403
7. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 and let them cool completely before slicing.