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Entries in Devin Mills (1)

Thursday
Dec012011

Eating Out Pays... Okay, helps your neighboring farmer and the Bovina Library...

This week in the CMN two stories about dining and dollars and helping folks out. One on the Thanksgiving dinner hosted at the Peekamoose to help Bob Kiley and RSK Farm of Prattsville who lost everything in Irene. Check out the pictures... And a farm dinner this Saturday at the Bovina Library featuring food from farmers in Bovina and benefitting the library. Dine out and do good, folks.

 Before and after at RSK

Thanksgiving this year at the Peekamoose restaurant in Big Indian was a big affair: 200 pounds of turkey, some 20 pounds of cranberries, another 20 pounds each of Brussels sprouts and rutabagas and 240 individuals pies (80 pumpkin, 80 apple and 80 chocolate bourbon pecan), and that’s not counting the potatoes or squash or beets or trout or pork.

All that food, though, wasn’t simply to serve the 200 guests the restaurant was expecting but also to help one of its key suppliers, RSK Farms owner Bob Kiley. Over the eight years since the restaurant opened he has not just provided them with produce (including potatoes about which owner Marybeth Mills swoons) but become a close family friend. And the reason he needs assistance? Hurricane Irene.

Farm was destroyed
His entire farm in Prattsville was wiped out, and in the true spirit of Thanksgiving, the Peekamoose’s proprietors, Devin and Marybeth Mills, wanted to give thanks and help out. They donated all proceeds from the evening to Kiley and his family. Even the staff gave their time. “They all volunteered to come in and work for free,” Marybeth says.

“They have children and their own families, but still they wanted to be here.” The so-called Table to Farm Dinner raised more than $4,000 for RSK.

On the day before Thanksgiving the kitchen was humming – literally. Christmas tunes played and four people were slicing and dicing, roasting cipollini onions, peeling apples and potatoes and roasting nuts. Among the helpers was Bob Kiley himself. He peeled all 20 pounds of rutabagas singlehandedly not to mention the other prep work. He was in the kitchen because he wasn’t comfortable with accepting charity, Devin explains, and describes his friend as soft spoken and proud and not easy with asking for or accepting assistance.

Kitchen labor
“Eight hours in the kitchen is hard work even if you are a farmer,” Devin explains. “If you’re not used to it, just standing on the tile floors that long will kill you.” He wanted to give Kiley a stool, but he wouldn’t even sit, lest he become less helpful.

Marybeth says about the fund-raiser, “We just wanted to do something to help, and we cook, we do food, so we did Thanksgiving.” Kiley had lost everything he’d ever worked for. “Where there were 12 acres of prime arable land,” she explains, “there’s now river rock. I can’t imagine not simply losing everything but it also being irreplaceable with no chance of fixing it.”

Devin shakes his head and says, “All he was left with was his house and farm stand and still he was grateful. Every year farmers face hardships. Nature’s against them and yet they keep doing it, and you have to wonder how. But the reason is they love it. Bob loves farming.”

Marybeth adds that Kiley is someone fighting to preserve heirloom produce varieties. “When McDonalds is out there saying everything has to be a bland Idaho potato, Bob is out there driving bushels of rare breed potatoes for miles to restaurants on $4 gas because he wants to keep these rare varieties going.”

While the Peekamoose does a Thanksgiving dinner each year, this is the first one that’s ever sold out at the restaurant. “To be honest it’s never been our biggest day,” Marybeth explains. “We usually do just one seating, but we’re doing two and they sold out more than two weeks ago.” Some people who couldn’t come made donations to RSK Farm, and others paid and said to give their spots to someone who needs a meal out.

Very grateful
When reached on the phone a couple days later, Kiley said, “I feel humbled by the whole thing. It’s not a position I really know how to be in.” He grasps for words to describe the dinner and generosity. “But Devin and Marybeth and my other customers have been great. It gives you the energy to carry on. When you take a reality check, it’s difficult to imagine and to take a hard look at things. It’s tough not just for me but the whole community and town.” In his understated way, he adds “And having the dinner on Thanksgiving was a little emotional for me.”

Click here for more information on RSK Farm.