Since the book “Organic: Farmers and Chefs of the Hudson Valley” showed up on my doorstep a couple of weeks ago, I’ve shown it to many of the people who have come into my house. The portraits in this book are stunning.

Cover of Organic book about farmers and chefsTaken by artist Francesco Mastalia, the photos are not digital. They are ambrotypes, a photographic process that dates back to the 1850s. The photographs are made by hand with an original lens from the 1870s. They look like old photos, and they are beautiful and raw. There is something about each of these photos that draws my eye right to the eyes of the subject. The sentiment behind the saying “the eyes are the window to soul” suddenly becomes very clear. I fell in love with several souls as I paged through this book.

There are 103 portraits of farmers and chefs in “Organic,” and each one is accompanied by a short interview of the subject of the photo. Interviews are on the left side of the page, large photos are on the right side of this 9x12.5 inch book. Each subject shares a little history of how they came to farming or cooking and then answers the same question in the interview: What organic means to me. Here’s something that comes as no surprise. Very few of their answers have anything to do with the USDA’s organic seal.

Actor Mark Ruffalo, who wrote the forward, says the farmers and chefs in this book are “artists and teachers” who are leading a revolution with their “store of knowledge hat was all but wiped out by the industrial farming craze.”

Meet a few of these artists and teachers.

Brother Victor-Antoine D’avila-Latourrette

Brother Victor-Antoine D’avila-Latourrette (Our Lady of the Resurrection Monastery in Longville, New York) farms in a natural way with the cycles of the seasons and the earth. The vinegars produced by the monastery are fermented the old-fashioned way so they taste “clean and pure.”

Sam Wildfong, Obsercreek Farm, Hughsonville, NY

Sam Wildfong’s Obsercreek Farm in Hughsonville, New York, uses organic practices but is not certified organic. “We don’t have the time to do the paperwork or the money to spend on it,” she says. That doesn’t harm their business because when they sell their produce. They are there to explain their farming methods to their customers.

Dwayne Lipuma of St. Andrew’s Café

Dwayne Lipuma (St. Andrew’s Café, Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York) is a chef-instructor and teaches students about sustainable and organic food. He teaches his students about eating with seasons and that “simple is better.”

There are 100 more farmers and chefs from the Hudson Valley that “Organic” can introduce you to. I'll be keeping this book on the table by the couch for a while — not stored away on the bookshelf — so others can enjoy it.

I’ve never been to the Hudson Valley, a region that’s teeming with organic farms, farm-to-table restaurants and farmers markets. Now I want to go and eat my way from one end to the other.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

'Organic' spotlights Hudson Valley farmers and chefs with stunning photography
Part work of art, part tribute to farmers who love the earth they work, this new book deserves to be out where people can see it.