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

farm-14f225ad

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.

sarah

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

elizabeth

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

marykate

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

bethann

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Bittman to Speak at Bedford 2020 Food Forum

b20-foodforum-emailart-v3On March 4, 2017, Hudson Valley residents are invited to celebrate local food, farming and cooking at the first Bedford 2020 Food Forum, featuring two “food-world rock stars”—New York Times food journalist Mark Bittman and sustainable food pioneer Michel Nischan, a three-time winner of the James Beard Award.

An event for all community members—home gardeners, chefs, cooks, teens, parents, activists, health-conscious individuals, or anyone who wants to learn more about local food—the forum will be held March 4 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Fox Lane High School on Route 172 in Bedford. Participants can engage with experts about our food system and the benefits of local farms and food, and explore initiatives to eliminate food waste and increase food distribution to the needy.

The Bedford 2020 Food Forum was born out of an overwhelming desire from community members to come together to learn, meet the stakeholders and share information about the local food scene in Northern Westchester and surrounding areas,” says forum Co-Chair Olivia Farr. “Our goal is for each attendee to leave the event with inspiring information and one or two specific action plans relevant to their own personal food, health and community priorities.”

The event is organized around four central food themes: Eat (celebrating and advocating for local food, and exploring strategies for better local cooking); Buy (exploring ways to evaluate, purchase and afford local foods; Grow (learning how to cultivate a backyard harvest); and Share (learning about local food security and accessibility, eliminating food waste and how to get involved and help throughout the community).

The keynote presenters will set the stage for the event’s themes of local food and taking action. The opening session will feature Bittman, a renowned author and self-proclaimed guru in “making food in all its aspects understandable.” Later, a general session will be led by Nischan, who founded Wholesome Wave, a leading organization aimed at ensuring affordable, healthy, local food for all.

“We are thrilled to provide the opportunity for community members to interact with these eminent thought leaders in the world of food. Both Mark and Michel bring an incredible depth of knowledge, a deep passion for local food and a unique ability to help individuals make beneficial food choices in line with their own personal goals,” says forum Co-Chair Karen Simons.

The Bedford 2020 Food Forum will also offer dynamic interactive workshops and expert panel discussions on the subjects of Buy, Eat, Grow and Share. Among the topics are The Skinny on What’s Really in Our Food; The Inside Scoop on Shopping a Farmers’ Market Like a Chef; Increasing Healthy Food in Our Schools; How to Get Involved With and Drive Food Policy; Local Success Stories in Feeding the Hungry Among Us; Backyard Bees and Chickens; and The History of the Food Movement in Our Area.

“With nearly twenty workshops, there will be something for everyone,” Simons notes. “A special set of workshops will be tailored to high school students who want to learn about topics from being a food justice leader to careers in food and agriculture.”

The Bedford 2020 Food Forum Expo, a hands-on display and learning venue, will feature an indoor famers’ market, live cooking demonstrations, a book corner, gardening and composting demonstrations, and lively discussion around food health, sustainable food systems, food justice advocacy, food waste and more.

“We anticipate over 50 expo booths at the food forum,” says Bedford 2020 Program Manager Ellen Calves. “The selection criteria for expo participants requires they provide a highly experiential, hands-on opportunity for people to dig in to local food.”

The $25 admission price includes keynote sessions, three self-selected workshops, the expo and a lunch made from seasonal local food. Students are admitted free, and scholarship tickets are available.

This event is anticipated to sell out. Purchase tickets at Bedford2020.org/foodforum. For more information, email Info@Bedford2020.org or call 914.620.2411.

 

Pastoral Life on Harvest Moon Pastures in Westchester

Harvest-Moon

by Christine Covino

Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard might be located on Hardscrabble Road, but life on this family farm is anything but hardscrabble for the cows that graze its rolling pastureland.

Located in North Salem, Harvest Moon produces grass-fed beef year-round from cows raised right on the farm. While it is not certified organic yet, Harvest Moon practices organic and natural farming methods.

The animals live very peaceful lives—they’re outside, free to graze, 365 days a year. During the colder months they eat hay the family has harvested from its own fields. They drink water from the same well system that provides drinking water to the homes and retail store on the property, and they do not get any grain or other supplements except for a salt lick and an occasional apple as a treat in the fall.

The farm keeps two separate herds, Scottish Highlands and Red Devons, the latter of which are a new addition and won’t be ready for a year or so. The Highland beef, which is currently in stock at the farm’s country store, is extremely lean—there’s almost no “bad” or saturated fat, given the animals’ diet. Beef that is 100 percent grass-fed is loaded with nutrients, especially omega-3 fatty acids, and it has fewer calories than conventionally raised meat, making it a much healthier option.

The Highland cows at Harvest Moon live for two or three years before slaughter—ample time for them to develop and grow on a natural schedule. In fact, the cows live at least twice as long as their conventionally raised, mass-produced counterparts, as they are allowed to mature without the use of growth hormones, antibiotics and fatty grain to speed up the process.

Inevitably, naturally raised beef is more expensive than mass-produced beef. The corn that factory farms use as animal feed costs less than grass, and the sheer amount of land required to give the herd a constant grass supply is staggering when compared to the cramped, unsanitary feedlot quarters of conventional beef cattle. So given their cows’ longer lifespans, more expensive feed and greater land usage, small, family-owned farms like Harvest Moon spend a great deal more money raising them. That’s why grass-fed beef has a higher price point when it goes to market.

Harvest Moon sells grass-fed beef throughout the year at its country store, which will be open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through March 19 and then seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Soon the farm will be selling shares of bulk beef and pork, all raised on site. Those interested can call or email the farm for more information.

Harvest Moon Farm & Orchard is located at 130 Hardscrabble Rd., North Salem, NY. For more info, call 914.485.1210 or visit HarvestMoonFarmAndOrchard.com.

SOUP’S HOT at Local Neighborhood Eateries

Pumpkin soup on served tableby Rinku Bhattacharya

Cold, snowy days bring with them the joys of celebrating home and hearth, indulging in warm and satisfying meals, and taking time to pause over a steaming bowl of soup. When done right, a good bowl of soup will warm the body and give you the much-needed nourishment to keep you healthy through the winter. In perusing local offerings, we found enough diverse and delicious soups to keep us nourished and happy. Neighborhood eateries are right up there when it comes to providing you a good bowl of soup, and often they are the next best thing to making the soup yourself.

Here is a short list of some of our favorite soup spots.

Bread Alone: Located in Rhinebeck, this European-style café offers more than just bread. It also brings to your table a good selection of breakfast offerings, salads and comforting soups that are perfectly complemented by their assorted breads (my personal favorite being the whole-wheat sourdough). The bakery is usually a common fixture in area farmers’ markets and is committed to working with locally procured ingredients.

45 E. Market St., Rhinebeck, NY; 845.876.3108

 

Ladle of Love: Located in Mount Kisco, this farm-to-table food shop has its roots in the simple, nourishing soups that proprietress Leslie Lampert initially made for two friends who were battling breast cancer, and later for Millwood, NY, firefighters working at Ground Zero after 9/11. Her menu offers a diverse selection of handcrafted soups and stews, ranging from her signature chicken and dumplings to hearty vegetarian offerings such as the Tuscan tomato, as well as salads and paninis for the “grab and go” customer. Café of Love, an award-winning farm-to-table bistro, is located above the food shop, while the newly launched Love On The Run delivers Ladle’s food to customers all over Westchester County. In keeping with its original mission, Ladle of Love continues to support local charities and community efforts each month.

11B South Moger Ave., Mount Kisco, NY; 914.242.9661

Skinny Buddha: Also located in Mount Kisco, the Skinny Buddha offers a fresh, clean approach to food and cooking, with healthy daily menus that offer organic soups that are usually vegan and gluten-free. The rest of their menu consists of salads that have optional add-ons for meat or sustainable seafood, such as their tantric tuna salad. The emphasis here is on a wholesome approach to eating and a natural lifestyle, with a mission to help people change the way they eat.

159 Lexington Ave., Mount Kisco, NY; 914.666.9646

 

Jolo’s Kitchen: Our fourth find for good and hearty soup is in New Rochelle. This family-owned business dishes up comforting vegan food straight from the heart. Whether you are in the mood for the hot soup of the day or want to try your luck at the raw cashew and vegetable bowl, this place is the spot for a delicious, plant-based bite. Their menu encompasses small plates, soups and entrées, all prepared with fresh and sustainable ingredients.

412 North Ave., New Rochelle, NY; 914.355.2527

 

Now Serving Fall Soups at The Blue Pig in Croton-on-Hudson, NY

Yummy, with locally-sourced ingredients

Blue PigCrisp autumn days and nights call for Thai Butternut Squash Soup, a popular recipe from The Blue Pig restaurant in Croton-on-Hudson. “It’s a vegan soup that uses fall harvest butternut squash,” says Blue Pig owner Lisa Moir. “It’s thick, creamy and perfectly spiced.” The restaurant adds three homemade soups to the menu beginning the second week of October. They’ll be locally sourced from such producers as Hilltop Hanover, Do Re Me and Daisy Hill farms, and a vegetarian option will be available each day. The soups will be available in pints and quarts for taking home, or diners can enjoy them in the Blue Pig’s brick courtyard. “Along with new LED lights, we have purchased outdoor patio heaters so we can sit outside in comfort even if there’s a chill in the air.” says Moir. Hmmm…soup first and ice cream second, anyone?

 

Thai Butternut Squash Soup

2 T coconut oil

2 medium sized onions

3 cloves garlic (minced)

1 T minced ginger

1 T curry powder

1 T turmeric

2 c. water or veggie broth

1 large (3 lb.) squash

1 t salt

1 14 oz. can coconut milk

2 T lemon juice

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place squash cut side down on oiled sheet. Roast for 30 to 40 min., turning every 15 min. until soft with some browning on top. Cool and scoop out flesh.

Sauté onions, garlic and ginger in oil for 5 min. Sprinkle in curry and turmeric, cook another min.

Pour in broth and bring to boil. Add in squash and salt, simmering for 10 min.

Add coconut milk and simmer 5 more min. Add lemon juice and puree the mixture. For a thinner consistency, add more broth or water.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

 

The Blue Pig is located at 121 Maple St. in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. For more information, call 914.271.3850 and visit TheBluePigIceCream.com.