November 14, 2011

“Festival Mixes Food and Stories”

Date published: 10/13/2011
Publication: Albany Times Union

By Bryan Fitzgerald

TROY — Just off the banks of the Hudson River at 3337 6th Ave., Ellie Markovitch is bringing together young city dwellers with freshly picked fruits and vegetables.

The first harvest for the small Collard City Growers garden is a chance for the 38-year-old RPI student to hand down not just her love of homegrown food but also the stories and bonding that bloom when it’s celebrated together.

She was born and raised in Goiania, Brazil, a small farming community 500 miles west of South America’s Atlantic coast.

“The fondest memories of my childhood are those with me and my family around my grandfather’s farm at harvest time,” where main crops were sugarcane and corn, Markovitch recalled. Her mother has seven brothers and sisters; her father 10. Markovitch joked that she has too many cousins to count and can’t remember all of their names.

“There was a story behind everything we did with our food, from how it was picked to how it was cut and cooked,” she said.

On Saturday, the Collard City Growers, whose name is a pun on Troy’s industrial heyday, and the Sanctuary for Independent Media present StoryHarvest: A Celebration of Art and Food from Seed to Table.

At 4 p.m., communal stew-making with local chefs will feature a potluck feast and a viewing of “Ciclovida: Lifecycle,” a film from Brazil that tracks a group of farmers on a bicycle journey across their country.

Anyone interested in participating just has to show up at the Sanctuary for Independent Media, a former century-old church down the road from the garden, at 3361 6th Ave.

Markovitch calls StoryHarvest a conversation about food with people sharing what a harvest means to them and how food has transformed their lives, in large or small ways.

Markovitch, who worked as a photojournalist for the Herald News in New Jersey before moving to Troy with her husband, said her love of storytelling stems from the way her mother handed down stories, which were always linked to food.

“She would tell us about how to measure rice and how years ago the slaves in the fields would grab a fistful and how that was measured to enough for one person,” Markovtich said.

She became a photojournalist to tell stories. She said she felt the need to start telling people’s stories again when she stopped working to go back to school. She wanted to try something new that could touch young people and relate to them growing up a world away from the Brazilian countryside.

“One day I realized that the memory and connection people have with photography is a lot like the memories they have with food,” Markovitch said. “The senses relate and remember things in the same way, trigger the same reactions. I started to realize this and that’s when I started to get really excited.”

Reach Fitzgerald at 454-5414 or at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @BFitzgeraldTU.

Stirring stories

What: StoryHarvest: A Celebration of Art and Food from Seed to Table.

Where: Sanctuary for Independent Media, 3361 6th Ave., Troy.

When: 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 15

What: Celebration of food and storytelling, screening of the Brazilian film “Ciclovida: Lifecycle,” potluck dinner and a communal stew-making with local chefs

How: Simply show up at Sanctuary for Independent Media.

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