Tag Archives: ENST 291

It’s All in the Family at Wallkill View Farm

For my independent exploration of Hudson Valley agriculture, I paid a visit to Wallkill View Farm in New Paltz. It is a family-owned and operated farm with an extensive permanent farm market on-site. They sell fresh produce and flowers grown on the farm, as well as products like jams, soaps, and gardening supplies and seeds. The wide range of offerings draws customers in an area abounding with apple farms.

View of the fields


Located in the center of the roughly 200-acre property is the farm market, a group of buildings including the produce market, several large greenhouses full of flowers and vegetable plants for sale, and a bake shop. Standing in the parking lot, you get a view of the brick buildings of New Paltz to the east and of the distinctive formations of the Mohonk Preserve to the west. To the south, invisible to visitors, runs the farm’s namesake stream, the Wallkill.

view of the garden center

Three generations of the Ferrante family have farmed this land and sold their produce on-site. Founders Peter and Carol have been succeeded in the business by four sons and three grandchildren, although Tim, one of the sons, mentioned that his father still works there.

The open season at Wallkill View stretches from the end of March until Christmas Eve, and they offer varying produce and products during those times. According to their website (check out http://www.wallkillviewfarmmarket.com/), in spring they offer a wide range of annual and perennial flowers and herbs, as well as trees and shrubs. Summer is the right season for fresh fruit and vegetables, including seasonal favorites like sweet corn and berries. In fall they have a pick-your-own pumpkin patch and hayrides, and regional favorites like apple cider and cider doughnuts are available inside. To round out the open season, they sell Christmas trees in December–these they don’t grow on the farm.

asparagus season!

It is currently asparagus season–something of a controversial vegetable, in my experience; people either love or hate it. I asked Tim about vegetable popularity–surely there are some that just don’t sell as well as others? He agreed, of course there are hot-ticket items like corn and tomatoes, which sell very well. On the other hand, he said “You grow some stuff and you can’t give it away.” However, he explained that, as in any business, it’s a learning process to discover which crops work and which don’t with the customer base.

We also talked a bit about the family-farm dynamic. Tim remarked that the reason he stayed in the business was to be with his family, and he’s happy to see that the younger family members are keeping up with the tradition. When asked why he thought the average age of farmers in the US is fairly advanced, and what he thought the challenges facing young farmers were, he suggested, “The biggest problem of starting up is probably the cost–you know, the land, the equipment.” Small farms, though, are likely more manageable, as long as you market well, he remarked. Having a farm in the family is also helpful, since we saw many farmers this semester who have to search for and rent land; the young Ferrantes already have the land to farm, should they want to continue the practice.

IMG_4132Wallkill View was an interesting contrast to the other farms we visited in class. As a family-owned and family-run business, it differs from some of the other farms whose farmers and owners were not one and the same. Wallkill View also seems a bit more commercial than some of the other farms, offering products and produce from other farms as well as their own. They also were, if my memory serves me, the only farm I saw that relies on its own store instead of taking its produce to market. Overall, it seems like a charming and accessible option for New Paltzers and travelers alike to buy produce and locally-made products.

Main Course Is My New Main Squeeze

New Paltz is a town known for its unique array of shops, proximity to the great outdoors, and the youthful, granolay, nature-loving population it attracts. The Main Course is one culinary hotspot that has placed New Paltz at the vanguard of the Hudson Valley’s local agricultural movement and contributed to the town’s trendy vibe.

Outside shot of the Main Course restaurant on Main Street in New Paltz.
Outside shot of the Main Course restaurant on Main Street in New Paltz.

Located at the head of Main Street, Main Course is a farm-to-table restaurant and catering business that was started 26 years ago by chef Bruce Kazan. The menu features an eclectic mix of fresh salads, sandwiches, soups, and entrees that are made with seasonal foods and locally sourced meats. Since its opening, Main Course has been committed to providing customers with quality local ingredients and has sprouted up as a dining hotspot within the New Paltz community.

Some fresh samples of various menu options on display.
Some fresh samples of various menu options on display.

On a spring afternoon, I visited Main Course to get a taste of the Hudson Valley’s fresh produce. After enjoying a delicious eggplant sandwich that combined roasted red peppers, Portobello mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese, I had the opportunity to chat with Hogan, the Assistant Director of Catering. Hogan is a graduate from the Culinary Institute of America and a self-declared foodie, so working for Main Course has been a perfect way of combining his culinary skills and passion for quality food. Hogan emphasized the restaurant’s dedication to sustainability, consistency, and community.

Main Course depends on a number of purveyors that stretch across the valley for its meats and produce, including Sprout Creek Farm in Duchess County, Russell Farms in Rhinebeck, the very local Phillies Bridge Project in New Paltz, and Baldor, a company that distributes local produce throughout the Northeast. While the restaurant does not require purveyors to don the organic label (mostly due to the fact that the term “organic” has become a liberally used buzzword that is no longer indicative of quality or freshness), they do ensure that each vendor has high standards in terms of animal welfare, low environmental impact, and sustainability. Hogan made it clear that The Main Course only uses food that is local and “sourced responsibly.”

The Main Course also sells a collection of local products made by some of their purveyors.
The Main Course also sells a collection of local products made by some of their purveyors.

The catering business is just as dedicated to serving local, low environmental impact food as the restaurant. Kazan and his team prepare seasonal custom menus for each venue they cater, which typically include weddings, corporate events, and banquets. According to Hogan, they are already set to cater nearly 30 weddings in 2017.

The Main Course’s popularity can be accredited to its commitment to cultivating a more intimate relationship between people and the food they eat. The restaurant values open communication and transparency as necessary elements of every step of food production, whether that means maintaining a dialogue with each purveyor or visiting the farms for a first-hand look at where their ingredients are coming from. By supporting local farmers and providing consumers with the confidence that they are eating in a more sustainable way, The Main Course creates a unique foodie environment where people can enjoy a delicious, locally sourced meal and feel more connected to the agricultural communities that sustain the Hudson Valley. As Hogan beautifully summed it up during our conversation, with all of the negative environmental and social impacts that stem from the industrialization of agriculture, eating local is simply “the right thing to do.”


An inside look at the Main Course's kitchen.
An inside look at the Main Course’s kitchen.

Union Square Greenmarket

Last week, I boarded the green line of the Metro North Railroad and embarked on a scenic train ride down the Hudson River to 14th street and 5th avenue.   After emerging from the subway stop in the middle of Union Square park, I was greeted by many rows of colorful tents and farm stands occupied by equally colorful proprietors.Union Square Greenmarket

I initially took one cursory stroll down the main thoroughfare in order to waft the sweet smells of crisp produce and observe the diversity of local merchandise.  The products varied from morning-baked muffins, specially-cured meats, home-made iced teas, and even freshly-potted plants! However, the main focus is obviously locally-grown fruits and vegetables.  I conducted some secondary research on the Grown NYC website and learned that after its founding in 1976, the Greenmarket now boasts 140 regional farmers, fisherman and bakers and approximately 60,000 regular attendees.  While the patrons are mostly local Manhattan and Brooklyn residents, some vendors travel from as far as Burlington, Vermont in order to participate in the exchange.

One such vendor was Chris Wheat from the Hudson Valley Duck Farm, whose agrarian surname pre-destined his tenure at the Greenmarket.  Mr. Wheat told me that the 200-acre, cage-free operation, originally a chicken farm based out of Allenville, Pennsylvania, is now located in Ferndale, New York, and they’ve been doing business for close to 20 years.  They specialize in Moulard ducks, but they also raise a special heritage breed called Lola.  Not surprisingly, their main commodities are various duck meats (breasts, legs, sausage, bacon, salami, prosciutto), but they also export value-added products like rendered duck fat and foie gras.

I also spoke with Lou from Roaming Acres Farm in Montclair, New Jersey, whose idiosyncratic focus is ostrich meat.  Although this exact business was founded in 2005, its primary owner Todd, has been in the meat industry for 15 years.  Like Mr. Wheat’s duck farm, their feed is notably 100% vegetarian, and their output varies from standard cuts of ostrich meat to eggs, leather, oil and even soap! Lou particularly sold me on his ostrich jerky, asserting that it was both higher in iron than beef and lower in fat than chicken without its skin.  I tried a little of this red meat poultry for myself, and it was indeed very delicious.

These two merchants numbered among dozens of different farmers and artisans that constitute Wednesday’s market.  However, on other days of operation, there is an entirely different cast of characters offering their unique, local merchandise, so I would encourage all enthusiasts of local agriculture to hop on a train to the city and check it out!