Veterans’ Stories Shared over Food and Farming

Dairy farmer Chris Peck and Chef Anton Guzman defended our country’s freedoms through their military service. Both men continue a life of service by producing and preparing food for their communities. The two veterans hosted a live cook-along on Veterans Day to share their passion for military, food and farming. Each veteran says their military training prepared them for their current careers.

The Chef

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Chef Anton Guzman, who served in United States Army National Guard, is now the head chef of Native Eatery and Bar in Rochester, N.Y.

“I’ve always been interested in the Army, Guzman said. “I had friends and family in the military. Growing up I always watched old Army movies and my Grandfather was big into military history especially, and that kind of turned me on to it at a very young age.”

The Dairy Farmer

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Following his father’s footsteps, Chris Peck is a military veteran and dairy farmer.

“My father was a Vietnam veteran and an inspiration to me,” Peck said. “He instilled in us kids the duty to serve our country. I was 18 when 9/11 happened.”

Chris is a fourth-generation dairyman at Marks Farms, in Lowville, N.Y. He served in the United States Marines and deployed to Afghanistan twice, and then went to college. Chris came back to the farm in 2011, where he’s been ever since.

Chris also works to support and connect veterans through Operation Second Chance, a non-profit that assists vets transitioning back from work to be back at home. “We wanted to give back as a farm, as a business, so we have veterans come into our community to our farm and we host hunts twice a year.” Groups of veterans, usually between 5 to 10 veterans per group, are brought to the farm for a weeklong retreat. “And they hunt on the farm and they’re exposed to the dairy lifestyle and just every aspect of what we do for a living.”

The Virtual Farm Tour

Photos along the office walls of Marks Farms tell its history.

“We do a lot of farm tours, showing people dairy, and it’s just a progression of how the dairy grew and changed to a progressive dairy with free stalls. It’s just neat to look at over the years,seeing the barns go up and all the work that it took to get the dairy farm to where it is today,” says Chris.

His grandfather started the farm with about 200 cows in the 1980’s. Today, the farm cares for 10,000 cows with the help of 72 employees, and grows all of the hay, alfalfa and corn used as part of a nutritious high-quality feed for cows. Three times a day, the cows leave their comfortable sand bedding to come into the milking parlor for five minutes to be milked. Within 48 hours, milk makes its way from the farm into local grocery stores and families’ kitchens.

From the Chef’s Kitchen: Chicken and Biscuits 

“We’re going to make buttermilk biscuits that are a little more versatile and a cream-based chicken gravy,” said Chef Anton from his home kitchen, where he demonstrated to the nearly 1800 viewers watching the cook-along how to make a chicken and biscuits recipe.

Chef Anton turns to local farmers for inspiration for his menu development, using local and seasonal fresh foods for maximum flavor. While farmers support the chef by supplying the food, the chef supports farmers buy buying local. The quality of the ingredients leads to a quality recipe.