Francesco Mastalia & Red Hook panel probe what “organic” really means

Ethel Barone of Red Hook Farm (photo by Francesco Mastalia)

Ethel Barone of Red Hook Farm (photo by Francesco Mastalia)

Historic Red Hook and the Red Hook Community Arts Network, in conjunction with the Village of Red Hook, will host a panel discussion at the Elmendorph Inn on Sunday, November 16 at 2 p.m. to discuss the question, “What does organic really mean?” The panelists will explain from their own personal perspective about what the word “organic” means to them in terms of producing, distributing and consuming food. How has the movement helped raise awareness, and how has it become a buzzword for big food? How does the term encompass more than just food, and what is the economic impact on the farmer, chef and ultimately the consumer?

The panel will be moderated by photographer Francesco Mastalia, whose beautiful book of images Organic: Farmers & Chefs of the Hudson Valley (PowerHouse Books) was released last week. To create the book, Mastalia photographed more than 100 Hudson Valley farmers and chefs using the labor-intensive wet-plate collodion process, a technique developed in the 1850s when the art of photography was in its infancy. As his work on the book progressed, Mastalia discovered that “organic” is one of the most misunderstood and often-misused words describing food today.

The panelists include Laura Pensiero, chef/owner, Gigi Hudson Valley; Richard Beizynski, farmer, Northwind Farms; Ethel Barone, farmer, Red Hook Farms; Liana Hoodes, executive director, National Organic Coalition; and Jennifer Brizzi, healthy living educator at Mother Earth’s Storehouse and Almanac Weekly columnist. Before and after the presentation, guests are invited to view a display of photographic images of farming and farmers, circa 1900, from Historic Red Hook’s own glass-plate negative collections.

Following the discussion at 3:30 p.m., everyone is invited to a post-discussion exhibition closing reception and book-signing at the Red Hook Community Arts Network Gallery, just down the street at 7516 North Broadway. Refreshments will be served. Copies of Organic: Farmers & Chefs of the Hudson Valley will be available for purchase at the reception, and those panelists who have portraits featured in the book will also be taking part in the book-signing.

All parts of this event are free. The Historic Elmendorph Inn is located at 7562 Route 9 in Red Hook. For information, call (845) 758-6575 or go to

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