All posts by matalbot

The Hudson Basilica Farm and Flea (Mary’s Independent Field Trip)

On Sunday I visited the second day of the “Farm and Flea,” a combination vintage fest and farmer’s market in at the Basilica Hudson building in Hudson, New York. Basilica Hudson is a gigantic former factory turned cultural hub (like DIA Beacon, among other places in the Hudson Valley). To quote their pamphlet, the building acts as “a non-profit multidisciplinary arts center in Hudson, NY, supporting the creation, production and presentation of arts and culture while fostering sustainable community…Basilica Hudson makes its home in a spectacular solar powered reclaimed 1880s industrial factory on the waterfront.”

After a leafy, windy, farm-filled hour on the road from Poughkeepsie, we pulled up to the Basilica Hudson building and paid five dollars for entry. Our biggest mistake was bringing barely enough cash to get in: many of the vendors only took cash, and we had incorrectly assumed there would be an ATM. The building is stunning—aesthetically, it falls between Pinterest and Dwell (leaning closer to the former), with a spacious, brand-new, super-clean, industrial look, strings of lights hanging from one side of the interior to the other, and massive skylights.


While I knew that the two-day event would have prepared food, a bar, vintage clothes, and handmade crafts and gifts, I also imagined that “farm-fresh food” meant stands with offerings like greens, vegetables, eggs, and meat. To my surprise, although a few stands were from farms, almost everything being sold was value-added! My housemates, boyfriend, and I had been planning to pick up some veggies for dinner, but almost everything at the Farm and Flea was too expensive for us. Of course, it may be that farms were only selling yarn, tallow soap, and charcuterie (two different stands), because it is early yet in the growing season. However, I think the value-added products were designed to match the clientele: incredibly young, and incredibly hip, looking for fancier gifts. Behind the counter? Also young and hip. One of my housemates, from Brooklyn, told me that many people from the City are moving to Hudson, and after visiting the Farm and Flea, I believe it.

List of vendors (slightly blurry!).
List of vendors (slightly blurry!).

We arrived starving and ate DELICIOUS but pricey food at the dining area (bacon-goat cheese-pickled onion sandwiches on a baguette for three of us, a farrow bowl with greens and a poached egg for the fourth). Sitting and eating at the communal wooden table, I realized that my boyfriend and the man across from him both had tattoos on their knuckles. The Farm and Flea was full of tattoos, cool glasses, and lots of babies (since even the attendees who were parents were still young). We walked around, looking at pottery, felted animal toys, ginger health elixers, homemade jewelry, grow-your-own mushroom stands (I talked to the guy behind the counter, who told us his friend had thought of the business and that they operate out of Rochester but sell all over the country online), and tons of vintage clothing. I bought a walnut brownie for $5 that I realized had tiny dried flowers on it. There was also a goat outside, seemingly present for petting purposes only (it was very cute).

My housemate's flower strewn chocolate cupcake with Himalayan sea salt.
My housemate’s flower strewn chocolate cupcake with Himalayan sea salt.
Smugtown Mushroom's grow your own mushroom logs.
Smugtown Mushroom’s grow your own mushroom logs.

All in all, I really enjoyed looking around at the Farm and Flea, and it definitely confirmed much of what we’ve talked about in this class: much of the capital to support farmers (and local artisans?) seems to be coming from NYC or ex-NYCers, and it seems that for farmer’s to compete in a market like the Farm and Flea, they have to leave veggies at home and bring only specialty items (for instance, while Sawkill Farms was there, they were only selling yarn and soap).

Cards from the Farm and Flea.
Cards from the Farm and Flea.

Stormfield Swiss Farm

On Friday April 1st, our class visited Stormfield Swiss, a mid-size dairy farm run by married couple Jennifer DeForest and James Lawrence. The farm is a partner in Hudson Valley Fresh (HVF), a dairy cooperative run by Sam Simon, a former orthopedic surgeon who retired and started his own dairy farm (he had grown up in a dairy farming family). Simon was also present at our visit and talked to us about his program and many elements of dairy farming in the Hudson Valley. After Simon returned to farming, he realized that small and midsize dairy farmers were losing profits, as they were being paid the same amount for their product as a dairy farmer in the 1970s, and not being compensated for the additional expenses that accompany higher quality milk production. He started his own cooperative label, HVF, in 2007. Each of the nine family farms who participate are all equal partners and receive a static price for their milk, which is much higher than they would receive for generic. To Sam, sustainable agriculture is about economic sustainability for farms and farmers. In fact, Jenn said that if they had not joined HVF in 2009, they would probably not still be able to operate their farm. Sam told us, echoing ideas we discussed in class both with Professor Nevarez and with Ed Steinman, that HVF’s economic inflows mostly come from New York City. NYC coffee houses are the biggest purchasers of their milk, because the higher fat content makes great lattes!

Stormfield Swiss milking barn. (Photo by Sophia).
Stormfield Swiss milking barn. (Photo by Sophia).
Sam Simon. (Photo by Baynard)
Sam Simon. (Photo by Baynard).

Although rain was predicted, it was 75 degrees and sunny by the time we got to the farm, where we got to pet, see, talk to, and take selfies with cows and calves, peacocks, goats, chickens and a guard llama. Jenn, James, and Sam were all incredibly welcoming, showing us around the pastures, milking barn, and milk storage room.

Mary and Julianne with a COW!
Mary and Julianne with a COW! (Photo by Mary and Julianne).
Llama princess. (Photo by Baynard).
Llama princess. (Photo by Baynard).
Week-old male calf. (Photo by Julianne).

Stormfield Swiss was owned by Jennifer’s great grandparents who bought the farm in 1920. Ultimately, the price of land in the Hudson Valley made it impossible for her family to continue to operate the farm, but after the farm was bought by a man who had once worked there, he allowed Jenn and her husband to rent the land for their own dairy farm. They have about 80 cows, most of which are Brown Swiss, making them the smallest partner in HVF. They have no employees, and milk their cows twice a day, once at 5 am and once in the afternoon. During the morning milking, Jenn sets up two cots in a room adjacent to the milking barn for her two young children to sleep while she works.

We learned a lot of interesting things, but two ideas in particular surprised. First, Jenn and Sam explained why HVF coop farms do not pursue organic certifications, noting that the organic label is difficult to attain for small farms due to expense, and that all of their milk is free of anti-biotics, ensured by rigorous testing. They also emphasized that local is very important, and that organic can be from anywhere in the country. Finally, Jenn told us that since she cares about her animals, it feels wrong to her to withhold medicines that would be disallowed under the organic certification. This surprised us because it seemed at odds with the dominant narrative surrounding local/organic foods.

Another interesting thing that Sam talked about, speaking from his experience as an orthopedic surgeon, was the importance of children drinking milk, in particular whole milk. Speaking to the importance of absorbing and storing calcium using the Vitamin found in higher fat contents for people under the age of 20.

We ended our visit with delicious samples of HVF chocolate milk and yogurt and drove back to campus with lots of great pictures and maybe a little bit of cow snot on our jeans!

Yum! (Photo by Baynard).
Yummm Yum! (Photo by Baynard).
Yummm Yum! (Photo by Baynard).

–Julianne and Mary