Sotheby's is foraying into treasures of the edible kind: the famed auction house will be selling $1,000 crates of purple cauliflowers, black cherry tomatoes and other produce gems Tuesday night.
The second annual Art of Farming event is designed to celebrate what local farmers and sustainable food supporters call edible heirlooms, and the process and care it takes to cultivate them.
"You educate the people and teach the people where you are and what you do," said Brian Gajeski, a farmer from Riverhead, Long Island.
Gajeski, 35, is one of the 25 New York farmers supplying produce for the Sotheby's event. His family has worked the land in Riverhead for four generations. They grow 15 varieties of tomatoes, onions, cauliflower, corn and a slew of other vegetables and fruits.
These produce prizes are usually stacked and sold at their Sound Avenue farm stand or at farmers markets. But on Tuesday, they're going straight to Sotheby's on the Upper East Side, where they'll be sold for $1,000 each. In all, ten crates will be sold.
The money raised from the auction will support programs at GrowNYC and the Sylvia Center at Katchkie Farm, which help sustain current farmers and educate the next generation of farmers and healthy food ambassadors.
"Sustainable farming and preservation of heirloom varietals are true art forms," said Amy Todd Middleton, senior vice-president of worldwide marketing for Sotheby's. "We are proud to support our local farmers."
Gwen Gajeski, the family farm stand manager and Brian's mother, said the family treasures the truly local aspect of farming for a community.
"We like when it goes from a seed all the way to the harvest and the person's table, and they say this is grown on Long Island," she said.
"It's not always an easy life," said Brian Gajeski. "It's more 5-to-9 than 9-to-5. But plant something, grow it and sell it, then see the smiles on people's faces when we bring something in."
"It's great to see that," added Gwen Gajeski. "I wonder how many people will be eating our vegetables tonight."
For more information, visit www.artoffarming.org.