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South Fork Kitchens (East End Food Institute)

South Fork Kitchens (East End Food Institute)

"Throughout the United States the small family farm is really struggling," says Kate Fullam, Executive Director of the East End Food Institute. "And the East End of Long Island faces significant challenges - geography, seasonal tourism, high cost of land and business operations. 2/3 of farms on Long Island are under 50 acre plots and 1/3 are between 1 and 9 acres of land. Most of them have to highly leverage the retail margins through sales during the tourist seasons, so we're trying to help these family farms wholesale and create value added goods in order to survive."
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Originally founded in 2010 as the Amagansett Food Institute (by food business owners in Amagansett looking to combat a tough economic climate), the Institute has expanded its scope in recent years to tackle food distribution issues throughout the region in an effort to create a more sustainable, equitable and smarter food system. For example, their 2018 Farm to Community Program brokered deals between local farms and Long Island Cares Harry Chapin Food Bank to sell their surplus food at low wholesale rates to people in the community in need. 
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"The food system is kind of broken," says Kate. "It's actually easier to get food that has traveled hundreds or sometimes thousands of miles than it is to get food from right up the road from the person who grew it. Which is puzzling, right? 
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In 2014 the Institute took over the underutilized Stony Brook Southampton Commercial Kitchen and converted it into South Fork Kitchens, a regional center for producing value added goods for farms, aggregating and processing surplus produce and as rental space for food entrepreneurs not quite ready to commit to brick and mortar. Notable achievements include working with Harvest Farm in East Hampton to produce longer shelf life goods from their surplus food like pestos, dressings and dips; converting surplus apples, peaches and blueberries from the Milk Pail in Watermill into preserves. And recently, they worked with Wolffer Estate Vineyard to create a wildly popular tomato jam (featured in our Hamptons Box).
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"We found that a high volume of restaurant and wineries were looking to use local products but they didn't either have the kitchen space or the time to process the local produce," says Kate. "So Wolffer reached out to us last year because they wanted to stop ordering quince paste and instead use something local. So we looked at the menu and created this tomato jam product for them as well as local pickled vegetables using the Wolffer Vinegar. They put it on their tasting menu year round and it was so popular like this Tomato Jam Fan Club sparked up haha. We had to start putting it in retail sized jars. This is all growing quicker than we originally thought, which is a nice problem to have." In 2018 the Kitchen also minimally processed 5,000 pounds of surplus local farm produce - vacuum sealed and froze it - and distributed it to food banks and local food pantries.
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"For us as a non-profit, we can leverage public donations and grants to solve a problem that doesn't make good business sense to solve but makes a whole lot of sense to fix for the health, the economy and the environment of our community," says Kate. "It's difficult for a lot of people that are our neighbors to be able to afford local food. So we would love if people would make a contribution to support our work and help create a more efficient and equitable food system."