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

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Port Chester Resident Launches Community Gardens

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Weber Community Garden gardeners

Port Chester resident and community advocate Alex Payan has launched Port Chester Community Gardens (PCCG), a registered public charity in New York State. The goal is to help break down barriers to food access, healthy eating and environmental sustainability while promoting volunteerism and civic engagement.

“As a resident of Port Chester, I have enjoyed helping members of my community gain access to fresh-grown produce through the development of Weber Community Garden,” he says. “I’m proud to be part of the team that transformed vacant land into sustainable gardening space, thanks to the Port Chester Housing Authority.”

Low-income focus
According to Payan, PCCG will use highly collaborative and member-driven efforts to promote access to locally grown food, inform the community about healthy eating and sustainable living, and reuse vacant or underused land, all through the operation of community gardens as well as advocacy and education about their benefits.

In a partnership with the Port Chester Housing Authority, PCCG will oversee the transformation of vacant plots of land into sustainable gardening space, he says.

“By supporting food security and financial savings for individuals, especially the unemployed and those with low incomes, we will equip local housing authority residents with 29 garden beds. That will enable residents to grow their own organic vegetables and herbs, thus supplementing their food supply.”

He cites a study called “Hunger in the Town of Rye,” which found that 11 to 13 percent of town residents are hungry every day, and 85 to 90 percent of them live in the Village of Port Chester. Payan says it’s especially important that residents in the housing authority, who are among the poorest citizens in Rye, have healthy food that they can provide for themselves.

“Our goals are to grow food and forge new community bonds and relationships through mutual hard work,” he says. “We’ll offer neighborhood youth a place to develop and grow through hands-on learning, so they can later share their knowledge of healthy and sustainable living. Port Chester Community Gardens will encourage food, social and environmental sustainability through practice, awareness and advocacy in public policy supporting community gardens.”

A sustainable model
Weber Community Garden was the first of the Port Chester Housing Authority community gardens and a model for future gardens. Established in April 2016, it covers more than 2,000 square feet, with 19 raised beds, four composting bins, a shed full of garden tools, two spigots and a wheelbarrow.

“It is a robust, volunteer-run garden where residents do more than grow food—they grow community,” Payan says.

Last year the Port Chester Housing Authority received a grant from the Westchester County Board of Legislators to construct two additional community gardens at their senior housing locations. Then in April 2018, Drew and Terrace Community Gardens were established, each with five elevated beds, a vertical shed, a 150-gallon storage bench, garden tools and one spigot.

“With the help of community partners and donor support, Port Chester Community Gardens will act as a beacon of permanence and a reassurance that the gardens continue to thrive,” Payan says.

Future plans include tours, classes, a farmers’ market, a composting program, community bottle gardens, Earth Day festivities, a fall cleanup, an internship program and a scholarship fund.

For more information or to volunteer or make a donation, contact Alex Payan at 914.623.3077 or email PortChesterCommunityGardens@gmail.com. Visit Port Chester Community Gardens online at PCCommunityGardens.org or on Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy MedMex Restaurant Opens in Scarsdale

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Shrimp Tacos at PopoJito

A new, 30-seat restaurant in Scarscale is offering gluten-free, Mediterranean-inspired cuisine with a Mexican sensibility. PopoJito, located at 47 Christie Place across from the Scarsdale train station, is the latest culinary venture of Chef Constantine Kalandranis. He also owns 8 North Broadway in Nyack and 273 Kitchen in Harrison. Like those other restaurants, PopoJito offers creative, fresh fare featuring locally-sourced proteins, seasonal vegetables and classic flavor elements like smooth tahini and bright citrus.

Healthy with a Twist
What makes PopoJito different is its Mexican-inspired dish structuring, using freshly made corn-based tacos and tortillas to encase an array of grilled, cured or roasted proteins, along with chunks of lemony vegetable salads.

Every dish on the menu is designed to be both delicious and healthy. There are no gluten-based products used in the restaurant, and the menu is paleo-friendly. They are also fully organic, incorporating locally sourced ingredients that contain no GMOs, antibiotics, refined sugar or trans fats.

The food at PopoJito’s can be enjoyed either on the go or in the good-vibes-only restaurant. For visitors who choose to dine in, the space has a casual, welcoming atmosphere that invites them to relax and linger over their food. For those diners, PopoJito’s offers a tequila bar along with wine and beer.

Melding Meals
The name PopoJito merges the Greek word for “wow” (popo) and the Spanish word for “beautiful” (jito).

“It’s delicious and practical to meld elements of Mediterranean classics with Mexican sensibility to create super-tasty, healthy and portable dishes like grilled octopus with lemony tomato and cucumber drizzled with tahini and wrapped in a freshly made warm tortilla,” Kalandranis says. “Our customers in Westchester want great-tasting food that is straightforward, satisfying and easy. We’ve designed PopoJito’s essence around convenient and sophisticated food that is commuter-friendly.”

Kalandranis trained at the Culinary Institute of America, where he learned about cooking techniques, service and professionalism. Before opening his own restaurants in Westchester, he worked at esteemed dining establishments including Gotham Bar & Grill, Brasserie Perrier, Veritas, L’impero, The Tasting Room and Anthos, which received a Michelin Star. He also cooked for President Barack Obama at the White House.

After falling in love with the Hudson Valley during college, Kalandranis returned to the area to open 8 North Broadway. In 2015, he opened 273 Kitchen as well as 251 Lex in Mount Kisco.

PopoJito is open Monday through Sunday, from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Contact the restaurant at 914.713.8946. For more info or to see a menu, visit PopoJito.com.

 

 

Rochambeau Farm Stand Opens with More Space and Products

Family-owned Rochambeau Farm Stand has been feeding the Westchester community for several years, both with its own organic vegetables and with specialty items from other local businesses and farms. When the store opens for the season on May 4, 2017, it will have a larger physical space and offer more products than ever, says Farm Manager Natalia Cardona.

“The farm stand will still carry the signature products our customers love, but it has also worked with great new vendors to bring nothing but the best to its shelves,” she says. “Because of the farm’s seasonal nature, it is heavily reliant on what Mother Nature is able to provide—with a little help from our head farmer’s green thumb.”

Rochambeau Farm has long staked its reputation on its organic vegetables (although it’s not “certified organic”). It grows a variety of vegetables, including but not limited to lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, spinach, swiss chard, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, garlic and onions. It also sells baked goods, marmalades, local honey, grass-fed meats, NY-based cheeses, gluten-free and paleo products, local soups, hummus, oils, marinades, flowers, herbs, nuts and butters. “Among our customers’ favorite products are Marta’s salsa, pesto, guacamole and gazpacho,” Cardona says.

Store hours are Thursday and Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Shoppers are welcome to visit with the farm animals, including a baby goat born in January.

Rochambeau Farm is located at 214 W. Patent Rd., Mt. Kisco, NY.  For more information, call 914.241.8090 or visit RochambeauFarmNY.com.