LEP & Farm Hub E-News Winter 2016
  • Announcing our 2016 ProFarmers
  • Winter at the Farm Hub
  • What Does the Next Economy Look Like?
  • Pennings Farm Cider
  • Winter Wildlife: Birds at the Farm Hub
  • NOFA-NY Conference

Announcing our 2016 ProFarmers

We are pleased to introduce Jesse Goldfarb, Jess Clancy, and Andrew Pezzullo, three talented young farmers who have been selected to join the Farm Hub’s ProFarmer Program this spring.  All three share a commitment to creating positive change in the food system through pursuing careers in agriculture in the Hudson Valley.

Under the direction of Jean-Paul Courtens, Associate Director for Farmer Training, the ProFarmer trainees will make up a cohort that includes experienced crew members at the farm, some of whom have worked on the Farm Hub land for as many as twenty years.  Through day-to-day training activities and skill-sharing workshops, together they will be informing and enriching the co-creative learning environment that is foundational to the Farm Hub’s expanding farmer education programming. 

We look forward to welcoming Jess, Andrew and Jesse in April! 

Read more about our 2016 ProFarmer trainees.

ProFarmer is a multi-year residential training program for experienced farmers who aspire to own or manage a farm enterprise in the Hudson Valley. Our hands-on curriculum is designed around thematic areas that include: ecological synergy, economic security, food justice, and local stewardship.  Read more about the program. 

Photo (left to right): Jesse Goldfarb, Jess Clancy, and Andrew Pezzullo

Winter at the Farm Hub

At the end of the fall, as the last of the harvest comes in and the days start getting shorter, work on the farm shifts into a lower gear. “Winter is a much calmer time of year for us,” Farm Hub Associate Director Jean-Paul Courtens told us recently. “Unlike the busy schedule demanded by the growing season, these months allow us to go back to a more regular work week.” With the seasonal workers gone, the farm buildings take on a quiet that matches the stillness out in the fields.
Nevertheless, there are essential tasks that go on during the winter, including maintenance of farm equipment and farm buildings, crop planning, staff training, planning programs for the coming year, and clearing around fields. With the sudden need to plow after a snow storm, things can quickly become busy. In February, we begin prepping the greenhouses and starting seeds, and soon enough we’ll be back in the fields planting. 

Video clip: Jean-Paul discusses winter on the farm

What Does the Next Economy Look Like?

Contributed by Bob Dandrew, Director, Local Economies Project

At LEP, we talk a lot about building a new economy that reflects the values that are most important to our families and communities.  This is no small task, we realize, and one that will ultimately require a commitment from people in all facets of society.  There are many ways to begin this process.  For us, the pathway starts with our food system.  The fundamental act of eating serves as our springboard for making change – first at the personal level, secondly within our communities, and finally in our region and beyond.

Talking about economics can quickly become an academic exercise, and I think many of us are looking for concrete examples of change.  I thought it would be helpful in this issue of our newsletter to share some on-the-ground activities that are changing the way we do business in the food system.


Pennings Farm Cider: Building a Sustainable Farm Business

Running a successful farm in today’s economy requires creativity and versatility.  In addition to managing crops and anticipating the weather, farmers must be expert business planners, marketers, and communicators. For Pennings Farm, a 100-acre apple orchard in Orange County, this has meant a thirty year evolution that includes a farm market, pub, garden center, ice cream stand, beer garden, hop yard, and, starting in the spring of 2016, a cidery with a taproom.

Expanding from an orchard to a series of small on-farm businesses was motivated by economic necessity as Pennings, like other traditional family-run orchards, found it harder and harder to compete in today’s markets. The goal was to expand the retail operation by attracting new customers like local food enthusiasts, and day trippers from New York City by offering on-farm activities for the whole family. It hasn’t been an entirely smooth process. “A lot of what we did on our own was trial and error and hope for the best,” Steve Pennings told us recently, “and that got us into a position that wasn’t very healthy financially. You can only get away with that so many times before you’ve got to bring in some kind of consultation.”

That consultation has come in part from the Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation (HVADC), an LEP grantee partner that provides economic development tools to support local farm and food businesses. “We take the model we’ve seen in nonagricultural economic development and we apply it to developing the local food system,” HVADC’s founder and Executive Director Todd Erling explains. 


Photo courtesy of Pennings Farm

Winter Wildlife: In Search of Birds at the Farm Hub

Contributed by Anne Bloomfield, Field Technician, Hudson Valley Farm Hub

It is a common misconception that all birds fly south for the winter. In reality, winter offers the unique opportunity to see certain species of birds that only spend the colder months in our area. Winter in the Hudson Valley brings a timely succession of sparrows, waterfowl, raptors, and other birds that spend the warmer months of the breeding season farther north.

This winter, the Farm Hub participated in two efforts that allowed us to learn more about the birds that call the farm home during the non-breeding season: a winter raptor survey conducted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. These two projects contribute to regional and national initiatives that monitor bird populations and, in turn, aid in informing decisions concerning the conservation of wildlife. 


Photo: Red-tailed Hawk, courtesy of the Hawthorne Valley Farmscape Ecology Program

More Than 1,000 Farmers Come Together for the NOFA-NY Conference 

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) held its annual Winter Conference in January, bringing over 1,000 farmers and organic enthusiasts from across the Empire State to Saratoga Springs for three days of workshops on the theory, business, and techniques of organic farming. 

On the first night, keynote speaker Rosalinda Guillen set the stage for one of the principal conference themes - equity in the food system. Founder and executive director of Community to Community, a grassroots organization working to build connections between popular movements for social justice, Ms. Guillen has been intimately involved in the farm labor movement since she began working on a farm in Washington State at the age of ten. The message she brought to the NOFA conference, that farm workers and small family farms are natural allies in the struggle against industrial agriculture, clearly resonated.

On Saturday, Kathie Arnold of Twin Oaks Farm was presented with the NOFA-NY Farmer of the Year Award. She shared her personal story and spoke about legal protections that can help farmers be prepared for the unexpected.

With workshops ranging from creating a mission-driven farm to raising pastured rabbit, the conference covered a wide range of topics. As a conference sponsor, LEP was pleased to join so many sustainable agriculture enthusiasts from across New York. 

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