Women’s Work: The New Face of the Small Farm Is Female

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Diane Zlotnikov, Z Farms Organic Food

The face of the American farmer has changed over the decades, from a man on his horse-drawn plow, to a man on his tractor, to a man overseeing other men on a factory farm. Now America is returning to its agricultural roots, embracing small farms run with natural practices. And often as not, the face of that small farm is female.

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Sarah Simon
Farm Director, Common Ground Farm

Located on nine acres leased from Stony Kill Environmental Center, in Wappingers Falls, Common Ground Farm has a small footprint but a big mission. Part of a larger nonprofit that focuses on food access and education, it donates half the organic produce it grows, operates farmers’ markets that accept food benefits, and is working with schools to get more locally grown food on kids’ lunch trays.

Farm Director Sarah Simon says Common Ground relies on volunteers and supporters, as well as partnerships with local businesses, to keep the mission going. Sallyeander Soaps, in Beacon, uses the farm’s organic flowers in his calendula dandelion soap, and gives part of the revenue back to Common Ground. The farm has a similar arrangement with another Beacon business, Drink More Good, which uses the farm’s cucumbers, mint and jalapenos in its seasonal soda syrups. Hudson Valley Brewery is also working on a beer made from the farm’s fresh herbs.

“These value-added producers turn our perishable produce into a more shelf-stable and diverse array of products,” she says.

Simon would like Common Ground to be a connection between the local farm movement and food access in our communities, so that small farmers can help prevent hunger while running viable, resilient businesses.

“Every community needs strong local businesses to provide meaningful employment and quality products,” she says. “Farms are an especially important part of this picture because they preserve open spaces, provide food security in an otherwise fluctuating global marketplace, and offer a way for people to remain connected to their food and the means of agricultural production, which otherwise frequently results in worker exploitation.”

She says it’s important for farmers to focus on the well-being of their workers, and for the general community to be aware of the financial challenges many farmers face.

“The minimum wage in New York State is going up, which is a very good thing but a challenge for many small farms,” she says. “When you look at the price of local produce, it’s important to understand that you are helping support local jobs.”

Common Ground Farm
Stony Kill Environmental Center
Wappingers Falls, NY
845.231.4424
sarah@commongroundfarm.org
CommonGroundFarm.org

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Elizabeth Ryder
Owner, Ryder Farm

Family farms were once the mainstay of American agriculture, but the industrialization of farming pushed most families off their land and out of the business. Not so with Ryder Farm, which is proof positive that with tenacity, good management and fair government, the family farm can survive and thrive.

“Our family farm goes back to 1795,” says Elizabeth Ryder. “In 1975, the pressure of rising taxes was weighing heavily upon our fallow farm, and we acted upon a new initiative put forth by New York State in an effort to save small family farms such as ours.” As the Ag District Law provided some tax relief to operations meeting certain requirements in agricultural production, the Ryders decided to go organic.

Now Ryder Farm produces organic vegetables, herbs and flowers, and it recently acquired Red Angus beef cattle. It also won a Natural Resources Conservation Service grant to enhance its pastures for grazing. One younger family member founded an artist retreat center, Space on Ryder Farm, to engage local residents and give them access to the farm. “Space has proclaimed their dedication to keeping agriculture here on the farm in the foreseeable future,” Ryder says. The farm also welcomes farm visits and offers programing that’s open to the public.

By keeping the farm viable, Ryder says, the family hopes to retain the rural character of the Westchester-Putnam area. “That’s a challenge,” she admits. “Our proximity to New York and local transit encourages population growth and the associated loss of open space. I’ve always felt that farms provide the working landscape of open space. A farm such as ours gives people an opportunity to buy local farm products from a known and trusted source, while helping preserve the area’s historic character.”

It makes sense that Ryder is very supportive of other local farmers, whom she sees as collaborators in a greater mission. “We understand that feeding the soil is what feeds the plant that feeds us,” she says.

Ryder Farm
400 Starr Ridge Rd.
Brewster, NY
845-279-4161
ryderfarmorganic@aol.com
RyderFarmOrganic.com

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MaryKate Chillemi
Partner/Farmer, Meadowland Farm

Meadowland Farm is a small small farm, a market garden operated by just two people, MaryKate Chillemi and her partner, Chris Hausman. It is located in Clinton Corners in Dutchess County, on an original homestead that dates back to 1790. Over the years, the farm has been home to dairy and livestock animals. Now Chillemi and Hausman use biodynamic growing methods to produce heirloom vegetables, fruit, mushrooms, flowers, herbs and honey.

“We’re students of biodynamics and continue to educate ourselves on such practices,” Chillemi says. “We use the biodynamic planting calendar and make our own compost, herbal teas and preparations. We are also transitioning this property to no-till, and by next year all of our beds will be permanent. It’s overall better for our soil not to be compacted by tractors, and for our rocky soil, it is the most manageable for our scale.”

She and Hausman lease their pasture to Dirty Dog Farm, whose grass-fed cows provide the manure necessary to build Meadowland’s compost, which Chillemi calls “the heart of the farm.” They are also building a greenhouse on site, which will eliminate the long drive to rented greenhouse space at a neighboring farm 30 minutes away. Future plans include introducing some high tunnels to the operation and improving the farm’s overall infrastructure.

Farming is hard work, physically and logistically, Chillemi says, but it’s worth the good results: closing the carbon footprint, giving more people access to organic, local food, and empowering small communities to resist the encroachment of national corporations.

“It’s not easy or lucrative, but you don’t farm if you’re trying to make money,” she says. “For us, it’s a spiritual journey, one we see as playing an important role in the world. And for that I feel very proud and honored.”

Meadowland Farm
689 Schultzville Rd.
Clinton Corners, NY
914.400.3298
MeadowlandFarmNY.com

diane

Diane Smolyar-Zlotnikov,
Manager, Z Farms Organic Food

Diane Smolyar-Zlotnikov, M.D., is an internal medicine doctor and endocrinologist who works in general practice and urgent care online, through telemedicine. Oh, and she runs Z Farms Organic Food in Dover Plains, handling day-to-day operations, management, organic certification and even beekeeping.

“It’s my hobby-turned-small-business that I do part time,” she explains. “I turned to farming to connect to the land and show appreciation for its beauty and bounty. Transforming an abandoned parcel that was last farmed in 1940—overgrown fields, falling-apart fences, a totally wrecked 18th-century farmhouse—into a fully functional certified organic farming operation gives us pride and sense of accomplishment.”

The Z Farms farm stand is open 365 days a year, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., selling certified grass-fed beef, lamb and goat; pasture-raised poultry; eggs and berries. It also delivers to customers in local zip codes within 22 miles from the farm (with a one-time $70 minimum order).

Zlotnikov says she was surprised at first by the high cost of running a certified organic local farm—a cost that must be factored into the price of organic produce, making it unaffordable to some people. “We participate in the Farmers Market Nutrition program, both at the Pawling farmers market and at the farm stand, to somewhat help the situation, and we are trying to restructure certain aspects of operations to make prices more affordable. It is a work in progress for us,” she says.

She’s hoping the farm can establish a local volunteering program, which would ease their labor shortage and enable them to charge less for their products. The farm also might launch a “pick-your-own” program for berries and apples, once those crops are in full production.

As a physician, Zlotnikov sees the farm’s mission as educational as well as agricultural. “Ideally, the farm is not only a source of high-quality food but also an educational center, promoting healthy lifestyle and safe environment. We will gradually develop programs and classes for the community.”

Ultimately, she says, organic farming doesn’t just promote human health; it also promotes the health of the land.

Z Farms Organic Food
355 Poplar Hill Rd.
Dover Plains, NY
917.319.6414
zfarmsorganic@gmail.com
ZFarmsOrganic.com

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Bethann Bruno
Farm Manager, Fable: From Farm to Table

Bethann Bruno has been farming for 20 years. When not working as the farm manager for Fable: From Farm to Table, she creates small vegetable gardens and edible landscapes for local homeowners. She also teaches gardeners how to use their land more efficiently.

“I began farming at a very young age,” she says. “I have always had a love of the field and placing my hands in the soil. I love watching everything grow. Seeing a seed turn into a seedling, and then produce a crop, really lights me up.”

Fable, a farm in Ossining, is operated by a strong, close-knit team of farmers who work year-round producing organic, nutrient-rich herbs, fruits and vegetables, including leafy greens, herbs, tomatoes and garlic. They use modern technological advancements such as greenhouses, hydroponics and vertical farming to grow their produce as sustainably possible. They also keep pasture-raised chickens for eggs.

Local residents benefit from Fable in many ways, Bruno says. “We supply them with fresh, organically grown produce that we sowed and planted by hand. They can also come volunteer and learn from us. We can show them how to work the fields, and they can apply that knowledge to their own garden. We can also show them how hydroponic growing works in our 200-tower greenhouse. Locals are always stopping by to volunteer and visit and are full of questions. We appreciate their help on the farm, and we hope they leave happy, with the answers they needed.”

Of course there are challenges to farming, she says. “When I wake up in the morning, my list of daily tasks depends on the weather. And I spend a lot of time tilling the fields and laying the plastic and irrigation by hand. A plastic mulch layer and tractor is on my wish list.”

Fable: From Farm to Table
1311 Kitchawan Rd.
Ossining, NY
914.862.0205
FableFoods.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natural Awakenings Foodie Guide

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Find local, natural and organic food and drink options here in Natural Awakenings’ Foodie Guide for Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess NY.

 

CAFÉS

BREAD ALONE BAKERY

45 Market St., Rhinebeck NY

845.876.3108

BreadAlone.com/Rhinebeck-cafe

 

Good Choice Kitchen

Seasonal.Organic.Vegan

147 Main St. Ossining, NY

914.930.1591

goodchoicekitchen.com

 

Hayfields, LLC

1 Bloomer Rd

North Salem, NY

HayfieldsMarket.com

914.669.8275

 

The Freight House Cafe

Natural. Local. Good

609 Route 6, Mahopac, NY

Behind music store

845.628.1872

TheFreightHouseCafe.com

 

The Union Hall Market

Coffee. Pastries. Local Meats

2 Keeler Ln, North Salem, NY

914.485.1555

FB: The Market at Union Hall

 

COFFEE & TEA

BIG BANG COFFEE ROASTERS

1000 N. Division St. #9
@ The Hat Factory, Peekskill
914.402.5566
BigBangCoffeeRoasters.com

 

FARMERS’ MARKETS

 

DOWN TO EARTH FARMERS MARKETS

From our Farms to Your Kitchen

914.923.4837

DowntoEarthMarkets.com

 

GOSSETT’S FARM MARKET

& GOSSETT BROTHERS NURSERY

1202 Rt.35, South Salem, NY

914.763.3001; Gossettnursery.com

 

HUDSON VALLEY FARMERS MARKET

Greig Farm, 223 Pitcher Lane, Red Hook, NY

914.474.2404

Facebook.com/HudsonValleyFarmersMarket

 

HUDSON VALLEY REGIONAL FARMERS MARKET

Sundays, 12am-2pm

15 Mount Ebo Road South

Brewster, NY

845.878.9078 x 4115

 

PEEKSKILL FARMERS MARKET

Outdoor June-November 21

Bank Street, Peekskill, NY

PeekskillFarmersMarket.com

 

FARMS

Fable: From Farm to Table
1311 Kitchawan Rd, Ossining, NY

Sat & Sun & 9am-4pm

FableFoods.com

 

HARVEST MOON FARM & ORCHARD

130 Hardscrabble Rd

North Salem, NY

914.485.1210

HarvestMoonFarmAndOrchard.com

 

HILLTOP HANOVER FARM & ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER

1271 Hanover St,

Yorktown Heights, NY

914.962.2368

HilltopHanoverFarm.org

 

THREE FEATHERS FARM

Grass-fed beef & eggs
371 Smith Ridge Rd, S. Salem
914.533.6529; jhaberny@aol.com

 

 

 

 

FARM STORE

 

BONI-BEL FARM &

COUNTRY STORE

301 Doansburg Road, Brewster

T-F 3:15 – 6pm/Sat 10am – 5pm
greenchimneys.org/countrystore

 

 

 

 

Rochambeau Farm

214 W. Patent Rd, Mt. Kisco, NY

Open: Thurs.-Sunday

914.241.8090

RochambeauFarmNY.com

JUICE

 

living

7(1/2) servings of organic

vegetables in one serving

of green juice to go.

914.763.6320; drinklivingjuice.com

 

MARKETS

BEWIES HOLISTIC MARKET

Organic Juice & Smoothie Bar

430 Bedford Rd., Armonk NY

914.273.9437; Bewies.com

 

Green Organic Market

275 S. Central Park Ave.

Hartsdale, NY

914.437.5802

FB: GreenOrganicMarket

 

Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market
575 Boston Post Rd,
Port Chester, NY
914.708.1985

1 Ridge Hill Rd, Yonkers, NY
914.378.8090

110 Bloomingdale Rd,
White Plains, NY
914.288.1300
WholeFoodsMarket.com

 

RESTAURANTS

Clock Tower Grill

Local. Sustainable. Organic

512 Clock Tower Dr., Brewster

845.582.0574; ClockTowergrill.com

JOLO’S KITCHEN
Always Vegan, All the Time
412 North Ave, New Rochelle
914.355.2527
Instagram.com/jolokitchen

JOLO’S
Vegan Dining Venue
& Art Gallery
49 Lawton St, New Rochelle
914.336.2626
Facebook.com/jolosvenue

SPECIALTY FOODS

KONTOULIS FAMILY GROVES

Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil

914.834.1525

KontoulisFamily.com

 

PETROPOULOS FAMILY GROVES
First Cold Pressed Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
347.849.8167
petropoulosfamilygroves.com

To join Natural Awakenings’ Foodie Guide in both PRINT and ONLINE, call 914-617-8750 or email Dana-NA@WakeUpNaturally.com.  Find additional Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess NY local food resources on our Eat Well page on WakeUpNaturally.com.