Celebrating the Harney Family

NECC is pleased to present our not-quite-annual Community Service Award to the Harney Family this year, at the Chef and Farmer Brunch.  After managing the White Hart Inn in Salisbury for many years, John Harney started Harney & Sons Tea and his wife launched Elyse Harney Real Estate, both based in Salisbury, CT.

Over the years, John’s sons, Mike and Paul, and Elyse’s daughter Elyse Morris have all joined the family businesses. The tea company opened a factory in Millerton in 2003, where they hosted two highly successful “Tea Party” fundraisers for NECC in 2004 and 2006.

The Harneys have been partners with NECC in many ways – not only through the Tea Parties, but Alex, a third-generation Harney, is a musician who has played at Spring for Sound, and a filmmaker, contributing several terrific short films about NECC programs to our 25th Anniversary gala.  Brigitte, the manager of the tea shop, has supported the Farmers Market when it was at Railroad Plaza, and Fall for Art. Mimi Ramos served on NECC’s board for six years, where she was chair of the events committee and co-founder of the thriving music festival Spring for Sound.

The Harneys are one of the most important employers in the region, with over 200 employees, and their philanthropy supports many nonprofit organizations in the area. We are proud to work with them and to honor them with the Community Service Award.

Why Have a Chef and Farmer Brunch?

To explain the origins of the Chef and Farmer Brunch, I should go back to the beginnings, in 2007, of the Millerton Farmers Market.  A community member named Karen Kisslinger approached me about starting a Farmers Market, and I agreed as long as we could connect it to our teen programs, to teach them about farming, food access, healthy eating and get them involved in the market.  The Millerton Farmers Market launched in July 2007, with a small group of teens running a stand, helping the farmers set up and sell, and visiting farms to help with any tasks that were needed, whether it was weeding, making pickles, or feeding cows.

As the market grew, so did the Farm and Food Education program, which now enrolls ten teens each summer for an 8-week job experience doing all that and much more: maintaining the school garden, harvesting food for the Summer Lunch Box, and making products to sell at the market.

Fast forward 5 years. A filmmaker named Jane Waters approached NECC to offer to organize a Chef and Farmer Brunch, that would highlight local farmers and how the best chefs in the area were using the produce grown here. She partnered with Taryn and Tim Cocheo of Number 9 restaurant and produced a lovely event for about 50 guests.  That event grew slowly alongside our other two big events, Spring for Sound and our annual fundraising benefit, until we realized a few years ago that the Brunch itself could not only promote the farm-to-table movement, it could also shine a light on our work: ending hunger, supporting families, providing education and enrichment to children, job experiences for teens, transportation for residents of six towns, and so much more.

Now the brunch is our main fundraising event of the year, and this year for the first time we are combining it with our Community Service Awards.   Silo Ridge Field Club is hosting, and we are so grateful for all our sponsors, who make it possible for every dollar of ticket sales and funds raised at the event to go directly to our programs. 

Miraculously, we have sold out all available seats but do visit this page to sign up to be on the waiting list if we are able to add more or if we have cancellations.

–Jenny Hansell