Food Not Frack: Chefs for the Marcellus Celebrate What's Great About New York State

Chefs fof the Marcellus gather at Brooklyn Winery. 

What do you think about when you think of the Marcellus region of New York?  While there are plenty of good answers, this past Thursday at Brooklyn Winery, chefs from all around the New York City cooked up a few responses you might not expect: sungold tomato gazpacho with smoked trout and burrata cream; steel-aged chardonnay; smoked lamb belly with a summer bean salad; and world-class Belgian style ales.

Before there’s any confusion: no, I haven’t suddenly become a food blogger.  The delicious food and drink (all locally sourced) were part of a smorgasbord-style fundraiser for Chefs for the Marcellus – an organization dedicated to protecting vibrant and growing New York regional foodshed from fracking.  The event served to highlight an important fact that often gets lost in the fracking debate – there’s already a lot to love and protect about New York State’s local communities.

For example, did you know that New York is home to over 100 breweries, 200 wineries, and 800 organic farms?  Having sampled the products of some of these last Thursday, I can say that this is definitely great news.  The bad news is that many of these lie on top of the Marcellus and Utica Shales, which may put them at risk from fracking. 

With this in mind, here a few thoughts I had after the event about local food and drink produced in the state:

  • Clean Soil, Clean Air, and Clean Water – I like a strong drink just as much as anyone, but I probably would think twice about buying beer from a brewery, or wine from a vineyard, sitting right next to a fracked well.  And I’m not the only one.  Recently, the Park Slope Food Cooperative , which buys upward of $3 million worth of products from New York farms, decided to stop buying products from areas with hydrofracking.  The fact is, every food product grown or produced in New York State requires clean soil, clean air, and clean water— all of which could be put at risk by fracking.
  • Jobs, Jobs, Jobs – The agricultural industry in NY employs over 110,000 people – a number that doesn’t include those employed in food processing, distribution, preparation, or marketing, or the people employed in selling or servicing farm supplies and equipment.  Not surprisingly, many of New York’s farms and businesses have already recognized that fracking is not good for their bottom line.  That’s why over 1,000 farms and businesses have come out against fracking in New York State.
  • Something Your Grandchildren Might Do One Day – No matter how rosy your outlook on the economic prospects of fracking may be, one thing is for certain, a job at any given frack well today is not one that will still be there in 40 years.   Once the shale is fracked and the gas sucked out, that’s it.  By contrast, the farming industry in New York has been employing people in the state for centuries, and, with any luck, will continue to do so for the indefinite future.

Local food and drink is a special resource for all New Yorkers and the economic backbone of many of New York’s local communities (not to mention that it’s also delicious).  No one knows better the importance of these industries than the local communities of the Marcellus region themselves.  That’s why it’s imperative that New York’s municipalities maintain their home rule authority to determine if and where fracking can occur within their borders.  That way we can all keep celebrating (and eating) all New York has to offer.


PS –  For those interested, the food  and beverage participants at the event were:  Gramercy Tavern, Krescendo, Back Forty & Back Forty West, The Meatball Shop, Fatty ‘Cue & Fatty Crew, Telepan, The Stanton Social, PRINT. Restaurant, The Green Table & Cleaver Co., Brooklyn Winery, Brewery Ommegang, Eve’s Cidery, and Tuthilltown.