Jersey Girls to be featured at Beard Foundation Dinner in NYC

By Cynthia Prairie

Chester’s own Jersey Girls Dairy will receive the honor of being featured by the James Beard Foundation at one of its rare Chef-Farmer Dinners, to be prepared by Chef Jason Tostrup of the Weathersfield Inn.  The dinner, which will be held on June 4 at the foundation headquarters — the late James Beard’s home in New York City – will feature veal raised by Jersey Girls Dairy farmer Lisa Kaiman. Kaiman will be in attendance to speak with the 80 or so guests and discuss her farm.

Lisa Kaiman at Jersey Girls Dairy/Photo by Cynthia Prairie

Beard was a noted food lover, cookbook author and early proponent of local food. He died in 1985, but his legacy was continued by friends and admirers through the foundation, which holds hundreds of chef-prepared dinners throughout the year. Learn more about James Beard here. Here’s more information about the foundation.

Kaiman says she will be taking a whole veal for Tostrup to prepare. She raises her veal calves, she says, the way she raises all her animals.  “It’s just not industrial, conventional farming,” she says. “I let my cows be cows and my chickens be chickens. I don’t try to manage them … I just make sure they have what they need to manage themselves.”

Humanely grown

Her veal calves are 4 months old and weigh 400 pounds when they are taken to the slaughterhouse.“I use a certified humane slaughterhouse,” she says, adding, that she limits her veal calves to “whatever bull calves were born” in her herd.

Unlike some conventional veal producers, Kaiman says, her calves will have lived both indoors and out and will be with other animals. Those conventional veal farms keep the calves in a box that won’t allow them to move around. “The farmers make them anemic” in a number of ways, she says, all to keep the meat white. They are also on milk replacer and not real milk.

“I don’t know where the white meat ideal came from,” says Kaiman, “but in a red meat animal why would you want to see white meat?”

Tostrup agrees: “Lisa has what veal is supposed to be … rosy pink (meat) … clean .. grass-like taste that is sweet, minerally and garlickly. If the animal is healthy, they taste good.”

Izabela Wojcik, director of House Programming for the Beard Foundation, said that chefs usually come alone to tell their own story through their food. “But on this day, a chef brings a farmer and represents the farmer” through the food. “This highlights the terroir … regionality is what we are celebrating here.”

She added that while the foundation has had “a handful” of chef-farmer dinners, this is the first time for a veal farmer. And, Wojcik said, this dinner is also special because the farmer is a woman. She added that Tostrup is “so passionate about her (Lisa’s) commitment.

“Jason has been here before,” she continued. But he “reached out to let us know about what Lisa was doing … He felt this is the ideal platform to shine a little light on what Lisa is doing. … What a special menu he has crafted around her (meat),” Wojcik said. You can see the menu here and learn more about the event.

Tostrup, who has been collaborating with Kaiman for five years — buying off her farm, then from her WAAWWE market at the corner of Routes 10 and 103, said the dinner is a chance “to celebrate Lisa outside of the farm. Consumers should be able to celebrate (her veal). … Veal in a dairy state is something we should be consuming.”

Kaiman, who has been “milking cows” for more than 20 years, began her agriculture career by working on a variety of farms to gain the experience of how different ones operate. “But I also observed the cows … to (see) through a cow’s eyes, what they want to do, what they don’t want to do.”

Jersey Girls, which Kaiman established in 1999, adheres to her Old World philosophy. “My oldest cow is 10. But the average age of a commercial dairy cow is 42 months. They are production units.” She calls that “a waste.”

“My cows live into their teens,” she says of her herd of 20. “Every day, I remind myself that without me, she’s still a cow. But without them, I’m no longer a dairy farmer. They give me what I need.”

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Melody Reed says:

    Congratulations to my neighbor, Lisa!

  2. Rebecca says:

    Lisa is such a gift to this area – when I first moved here from New Mexico, I could not believe that affordable, raw milk was available right in Chester! I am so happy for her. Thanks for sharing this story, Cynthia.

  3. Cynthia Prairie says:

    Hi Kathy, We post these updates on facebook in several places including http://www.facebook.com/ChesterTelegraph. But we encourage you and all our readers to pass along the links to everyone you know!

  4. Kathy says:

    Congrats to the Jersey Girls Dairy! It sounds like a wonderful honor as well as a great way to promote a humane and healthy way to raise cows. Is there anyway to link this article to Facebook? It is articles such as these which I enjoy sharing with my non-Chester friends to make them aware of the fine people who make Chester home.