Sullivan County Backyard Farms

With Sullivan County farmland a mere 85 miles north of Manhattan, local is an apt descriptor. But it goes a step further in our case, where the conduit has a solid connection to Chef Burke as well.

Rick Laakkonen is thrilled to be part of David Burke’s world again. Their paths first crossed in 1986, when Rick, fresh out of the Culinary Institute of America, took a job cooking at the River Cafe, where David Burke was sous-chef. Rick stayed on and be- came his sous-chef when Burke eventually took over the kitchen. From there, their worlds diverged. Laakkonen went on to garner three-star New York Times reviews and Michelin stars at restaurants throughout his 25 years in the business, and he eventually branched out and started working with various brands in the beef industry, as well as Sullivan County Farms, which is owned by longtime fish vendor and acquaintance Rob Doherty.
“Our vendors are much like our knowledge, our knife kits, and our help in the kitchen,” explains Laakkonen. “They are an integral part of our world as chefs, and so Rob and I formed a strong relationship that continues today.” With tremendous market contacts through his beef and protein connections, Laakkonen knew he could make a difference helping the farmers in Sullivan County who “are great at making terrific products but not so good at accessing a market for them.” “Given that the David Burke Group is driven by product, it was a very natural fit for me to pitch them on our local quality products,” explains Laakkonen. “And after all these years, I’m tickled to be rubbing shoulders with David Burke again!” Sullivan County Farms currently supplies David Burke Kitchen with eggs, maple syrup, and milk, with plans to expand those offerings to include fresh produce, small chickens, and artisan cheeses and butter produced in Laakkonen’s own Sullivan County Dairies.

Danny Brey is a fourth-generation egg producer and one of only two major commercial egg producers south of Albany. In turn, he supports other local farmers by having them grow corn specifically for his chickens that he takes and mills on his property. This clean feeding translates into happy chickens, and the quality of the eggs speaks for itself. “Most eggs take two to three days to be scanned and washed before they are sent to a distributor. When you get them through us, it’s 24 hours to your doorstep. You won’t get a fresher egg in all of Manhattan!”

John Garigliano supplies Sullivan County Farms with pure, unblended, organic maple syrup. “Think of his syrup like you do wine production. Most companies blend in from different years to smooth out the bad batches and use up the leftovers. Not John. His maple syrup is a truly unique artisanal product!” With close to 100,000 trees tapped on more than 800 acres of land, this family business is the largest producer in New York State.

At one point in time, Sullivan County used to supply New York City with 97 percent of its milk. Sadly, that figure’s now just 3 percent. “Milk in Sullivan County is head and shoulders above the rest, a combination of climate, soil, and grass that makes it particularly rich.” Chuck Theibold’s Jersey cows supply milk that is immediately noticeable for its 4.16 percent butterfat richness.

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