CIA grad’s Earth to Table nourishes, educates community

Whether you find yourself ordering pizza at 3 a.m. or putting together a home-cooked meal with a group of friends, food plays a major role in our daily lives. For this very reason, some people may push themselves to stick to healthier, more organic food options by purchasing from vendors, like Earth to Table, at Vassar’s Winter Farmers’ Market.

Although Earth to Table was established four years ago, Joe Baldwin’s company is still relatively new to the Vassar community, having joined the Arlington Farmer’s last summer.

Founder and 1974 Culinary Institute of America grad Chef Baldwin wrote in an emailed statement, “Earth to Table [brings] fresh food [every week], we only use food we grow. You have to show everyone the importance of it and to show how easy it is to use.”

Baldwin said, “The business came about to help the world establish the Slow Food Movement. I do work alone, I grow my own food and cook everything. I saw the need to do this from working on the Brigg’s Farm with the Disabled and from working at Arlington High School for 5 years, teaching the kids how to eat healthy at the J&R Gourmet Deli.” While Baldwin handles his own business, he helped his son Russell—the ‘R’ in ‘J&R’—in opening up Rusty’s Farm Fresh Eatery in Red Hook, New York. In 2011, the father and son worked in tandem to plant The Red Hook Community Garden.

The garden provides food for Rusty’s as well as other wellness diners and soup kitchens throughout Poughkeepsie and the county. Additionally, aided in the startup of The Bard Farm Project and the running of the farmers’ market at Marist for the last three years.

Local Foods Intern for College Committee on Sustainability Tamsin Chen ‘15 discovered Earth to Table and helped establish a rapport between the company and the College.

“I first learned about Earth to Table…when scoping out vendors’ interest in participating in an indoor market. What initially caught my eye were the beautiful leafy greens, but what kept me at the table was chef Joe Baldwin’s infectious enthusiasm about Earth to Table’s philosophy. Earth to Table teaches market-goers how to bridge the gap between raw, fresh produce and the final delicious product on your plate through cooking demonstrations and Joe’s casual conversation with passers-by,” Chen wrote in an emailed statement.

Chen explained that incorporating Earth to Table into the college community was in line with the Committee’s goal of promoting local food, an initiative embraced by the Vassar community as a whole. She said, “[We] thought it’d be valuable to bring the market indoors so that it could stay running during the winter-to-spring months. Moreover, we hoped the indoor farmers’ market would help the Vassar and Poughkeepsie communities reduce food miles (our foods are all sourced from within a 40-mile radius of Vassar!), support more sustainable agricultural practices, support local businesses, foster closer community ties, and have access to fresh, tasty and healthy seasonal foods.”

Yael Schwartz ‘15, a frequent customer of the vendor, expressed a similar passion for Earth to Table’s mission and philosophy.

In an emailed statement she said, “Earth to Table and Slow Food encourage the importance of the locality of our food, the impact that the production and distribution of food has on the environment, and the health impact that the nutritional composition of the foods we eat.”

Schwartz continued, ”I too am influenced by these beliefs. While I was already on this path, Joe continues to introduce me to new foods, such as nettle tea, which has a numerous medical benefits, including acting as an anti-inflammatory, to reduce asthma, and anemia.”.

At the moment, Baldwin is a big advocator of Stevia, a natural alternative to sugar. He hopes to educate people on the benefits of incorporating it into their diet.“Stevia grows locally. It has no enemies, deer do not go near it or any other animal. It’s better than Agave or any other sweetener because it does not raise the glycemic index at all. It’s the only one that doesn’t. Stevia started 5 years ago when I worked at New Horizon with the disabled, and now that I have pushed it for 5 years, it is finally taking off,” he explained. Of course, while Baldwin hopes to reach out to as many people as possible through Earth to Table, he wants to focus on college students for the time being.

He concluded, “It’s important to every man, woman and child on this earth. It fits into any age or school,  but because of the mandates in K-12, bringing this type of information to the students is very difficult. With the mandates of Universities, Earth to Table ideas fit better and students are more receptive. They can use this information for the rest of their lives.”

Baldwin will be holding open cooking demonstrations at the Earth to Table booth for the last two Thursdays in February. The cooking sessions will focus on seeds, like pumpkin, in his cooking. This will be a nod to Vandana Shiva, the environmental activist visiting Vassar in early March.

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