The first time that I ever heard of The Oles Family Farm was when I read a menu at Trattoria Aroma on Bryant. Some of the menu items denoted that they came from this farm on the outskirts of Buffalo. It was then that I began to realize the importance of the farm to table movement, which was just beginning to bubble up in the city.
It wasn’t long after, that my wife opened up a restaurant on Main Street, so we reached out to the owner of the 240-acre farm, Daniel “Dan” Oles, who told us that he was not currently accepting new accounts, because he was suddenly very busy. But we hounded him, and eventually he invited the two of us to his farm. When we arrived, he showed us around a couple of the farmhouse buildings. Then he toured us around the farm, inviting us to pick and eat anything that we liked. It was the first time that I had walked a farm since I was little – I remember that everything exploded with taste.
A year and a half ago, I ended up attending one of Trattoria Aroma’s Vine to Table dinners that was held at The Oles Family Farm (my friend Cat Miller wrote about it here). By this time, the farm to table movement had taken hold in Buffalo – it seemed that everyone was talking about it, and more importantly, it was being promoted at restaurants, farmers markets, farm stands, etc. Dan Oles was a leader in the movement. Much of what we have seen transpire can be attributed to his foresight that this new trend was long overdue. The community had lost touch with the land and its bounty. Dan began to work with community activists, restaurant owners, and anyone else who understood the importance of bringing locally sourced, wholesome foods to the kitchen table via the Promised Land CSA.
It is with a heavy heart that I bear news that Dan Oles has passed away. It’s a hard pill to swallow, because here was a guy who was not only salt of the earth, he was the earth itself. Build-wise, he looked looked like he could snap someone like a twig effortlessly – a guy you didn’t want to mess around with. Yet his outward demeanor was nothing but kindness, which he passed along in the form of educational tidbits. Nobody understood this better than Dave Cosentino, owner of Trattoria Aroma.
“I would prefer to speak of Dan Oles in the present tense, as I believe that the ripples of Dan’s life and legacy will live on indefinitely,” Dave told me. “I met Dan about 10 years ago and we realized an instant rapport. I liked him the moment I met him. It seemed the feeling was mutual and we soon developed a relationship that blossomed, like the vegetables The Oles family grow so well. When I first proposed the idea to Dan that we bus groups of people to invade his property on coveted weekend summer evenings, to eat his produce, drink wine, and celebrate locally grown/raised foods, he said sure! Sounds great! We enjoyed 10 years of Aroma and The Oles Family Farm Dinners. Over the 10 year period, we entertained, educated, fed, and partied with over 3,000 patrons that looked forward to the these dinners year in and year out. They were wonderful celebrations that I will cherish forever – I will never be able to thank the Oles family enough for allowing me such access to their farm, their food, their family, and especially their lives! My wife Lisa and I thank you, Dan and Jane, and the entire Oles family for all you have done, and continue to do, for Buffalo – your legacy is all around us.”
Lead image: Cat Miller speaking with Dan Oles