The Media Mob Featuring Bob Barnett and Jack Kliger | Disney’s Fabulous New Foodie

Lunch At Michaels

Lunch At MichaelsIf you were to find the appropriate food metaphor for a Wednesdays at Michael’s I’d say it’s a tasty stew served hot with a number of surprise ingredients that can spice things up at a moment’s notice. That’s precisely what happened today when I was joined by passionate foodie and patron saint of farmers everywhere Tessa Edick, founder of FarmOn!, a 501 (c)3 organization, which she launched in 2011 and which was recently featured on Forbes.com. She describes FarmOn! as “a social responsibility that supports the local food system and funds educational opportunities in agricultural for students pursuing farm-related careers.” In short, Tessa’s mission through FarmOn! is to get the world — or at least all of New York — starting with the Hudson Valley — to recognize the important role farmers (who she calls “starmers” — get it?). My pal, the tireless and terrific Judy Twersky brought us together along with Beyond PR Group’s partner Beth Feldman today and believe me, I learned more about where the food we eat comes from than I could ever hope to tell you in the time allotted to write this column. My head was spinning like never before by the time we said our goodbyes. Trust me, I’ll never buy a container of hard-boiled eggs while driving on the New Jersey Turnpike again.

Tessa Edick and Diane Clehane
Tessa Edick and Diane Clehane
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Dynamic Tessa is a one-woman empire who has an exciting new deal with Disney (more on that later), has a new book out in September (ditto) and is sure to be a name you’ll know, if you don’t already, very soon. Born and raised in upstate New York, Tessa told me she was born with a passion for food that was nurtured by her Italian-born mother (her great grandparents owned a dairy farm). Despite growing up in an economically depressed area, she and her siblings were “happy and healthy” due in large part, she says, to the way they ate food purchased from local farmers. But, she explained, as she grew older she wanted a life away from the country and went off in search of “glamour and success” in the big city. At 27, she returned to her roots and started her own food company, Sauces n’ Love with her ex-husband (she sold the company to him in 2010). Just as Tessa was extolling the many virtues of buying from your local farmer (or, at the very least, knowing where the food you are eating comes from), proprietor Michael McCarty sauntered over to our table. When I introduced him to Tessa and told him about her mission on behalf of the farmers, he told us he was once a duck farmer way back when in 1976 when he had the first foie gras farm in the United States. Small world, no?

I found it quite intriguing to listen to Tessa’s stories of helping her local farmers through FarmOn! while balancing the high-profile gigs she’s landed in the increasingly star-centric foodie universe. Tessa has created product lines for celebrity chefs, including Todd English and Tom Colicchio, and has also guided new-product development for Whole Foods, Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table and Royal Caribbean, among many other companies. In 2011, she in addition to creating her foundation, launched Friends of the Farmer, which produced the first Hudson Valley Food Lovers Festival, a regional food event celebrating the farm-to-table movement. This summer, Friends of the Farmer have three amazing events benefiting FarmOn! Foundation’s youth education programs. The first is a Hoedown! benefit concert on July 18 at 6 p.m. with Lukas Nelson (son of Willie Nelson) and other performers at Club Helsinki Hudson in Hudson, New York. Next up, there’s the 4th Annual Hootenanny Fundraising Dinner sponsored by designer John Varvatos, Helsinki Hudson, Radio Woodstock and Taste NY, which will take place on Saturday, July 26 at Copake Country Club in Columbia County. At this event, diners will enjoy a farm-to-table dinner prepared by ABC Kitchen’s Michelin-star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten under the stars with Varvatos, actor/director Griffin Dunne and other celebrities from fashion, food and entertainment. On September 27, the day-long FarmFest! at Empire Farm in Copake, New York, will cap off the season with a family-friendly event where everyone can “learn, dance and play.” Says Tessa: “Bring a kid to a farm and they’re totally happy. They get it.”